November 29, 2009 |
Conductor Yannick N?zet-S?guin seems too amiable to be an original. And yet originality is exactly what seems to have emerged from the up-and-coming 34-year-old Quebecois in the year between his last Philadelphia Orchestra engagement and the one coming this week. Music that's normally considered second-rate suddenly sounds substantial under his direction. His programs are full of important, provocative new music. And among established masterworks, normally urbane Maurice Ravel works lose their cool in his soon-to-be-released EMI recording debut with the Rotterdam Philharmonic, where he is music director, leaving you wondering why that doesn't always happen.
October 10, 2009 |
The money difficulties of the last year, the reportedly poor ticket sales of last week, and the future questions of musical leadership all seemed distant if not vanished - however momentarily - when the Philadelphia Orchestra played unusually fine performances of mostly standard repertoire with the smashing young pianist Yuja Wang for an audience that knew what it was hearing and loved it. The program (which also opens the orchestra's Carnegie Hall...
October 3, 2009 |
The Philadelphia Orchestra now has a compelling, if regrettable, story line: Finances are a mess, but it plays great. The orchestra advanced that narrative with new details Thursday night, arguing in effect that the beauty of which it is capable outstrips the financial turmoil by several degrees of severity. This seems to be a time of reckoning, and as if on cue, Charles Dutoit's program of Brahms and Bart?k laid open several critical issues. After a summer of playing with variable precision and commitment under other conductors, the orchestra is more than ever dependent on podium direction.
September 28, 2009 |
If it were your job to find a new friend for classical music - say, someone from the pop-culture side of the fence who could bring in more friends - Alec Baldwin might not be your first pick. The actor seems to be in a good place now, what with a second shiny statue for his work on 30 Rock. And yet something about him - his recurrent bad-boy routine perhaps? - makes him an unlikely hero in the service of a delicate, perpetually fretting artform. But classical music has a way of picking its acolytes, as Baldwin found out. One minute, he's listening to Charles Dutoit lead the Philadelphia Orchestra in Carnegie Hall; the next he's standing in front of an orchestra himself.
September 25, 2009 |
Three of the Big Five orchestras are launching seasons with Berlioz: Alan Gilbert started his New York Philharmonic tenure with the Symphonie Fantastique; the Boston Symphony Orchestra begins its Carnegie Hall series with the Roman Carnival Overture. But only the in-distress Philadelphia Orchestra is playing the intoxicating, rarely heard Te Deum, abetted by the Philadelphia Singers Chorale in repertoire they do best; the grand, newish, ultra-versatile Fred J. Cooper organ; and the sure interpretive hand of chief conductor Charles Dutoit.
June 20, 2009 |
'Fortunately, the hall is solid . . . it can stand the strain. " So reads the caption to a Hector Berlioz cartoon showing the composer conducting an array of hardware appropriate to battle as well as music, probably inspired by the Requiem that left Verizon Hall wowed but unrattled in the Thursday finale of the Philadelphia Orchestra's Kimmel Center season. Brass choirs were positioned at four corners of the hall for the famous musical apocalypse that Berlioz envisioned. Later, tenor Paul Groves sang from the hall's upper rafters; the effect was celestial.
June 6, 2009 |
Scanning the Philadelphia Orchestra's program for this week promised ultimate predictability: pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet and chief conductor Charles Dutoit reprising their well-regarded recording of Ravel's Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, while Dutoit returned to the Rachmaninoff Symphonic Dances, having recorded the piece years back with the orchestra. A rerun in the making? On Thursday, it was anything but. Musicians naturally evolve in their view of any given work, but I didn't foresee such a dramatic transformation when the usually well-mannered, sometimes-bland Thibaudet began such a boldly drawn reading of the Ravel concerto.
March 21, 2009 |
Right out of the box Tuesday afternoon in Carnegie Hall, The Firebird was a complete object. It was only a rehearsal - a read-through, really - but there's an aspect to Charles Dutoit's rapport with the Philadelphia Orchestra that's immediate and visceral. Sometimes it's more about chemistry than intellect. By the time Stravinsky's ballet score (the complete one, not the suite) was unwrapped for the public Thursday night in Verizon Hall, two changes were obvious: The chemistry had only intensified, and players who had been able to hear each other at Carnegie were now having a difficult time synchronizing cross-stage doublings.
March 19, 2009 |
On March 11, the Philadelphia Orchestra slashed 20 percent of its staff. The next day, Leonore Annenberg, the most generous donor in the orchestra's history, died. That was last week, and - as tends to happen with the orchestra - this week the tone has brightened considerably. On Tuesday, the orchestra announced that the William Penn Foundation had offered a challenge, pledging $250,000 if the orchestra could raise $500,000 more by July 31, the sum of which would help offset a threatening deficit.
October 4, 2008 |
In some cities - Los Angeles and Chicago come to mind - a music director gets hired after leading a program or two. In more risk-averse Philadelphia, things can take a little longer. Charles Dutoit has conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra more times than anyone else in its history save Eugene Ormandy, president James Undercofler told Thursday night's Verizon Hall audience. In fact, that's not true, an orchestra spokeswoman said yesterday, but Dutoit has visited the orchestra hundreds of times, which earned him the right, finally, for the first time, to take the podium Thursday as the orchestra's new - well, we'll get to that title in a moment.