September 17, 2008 |
In a surprise move, still-new Philadelphia Orchestra president and chief executive officer James Undercofler will step down next summer. Undercofler, who has been in the job for only two years, said yesterday that he would leave on July 31, when his contract expires. He said that his decision - announced as Christoph Eschenbach exits as music director and chief conductor, and artistic adviser Charles Dutoit arrives - "was made freely," and that he would stay in Philadelphia to pursue freelance projects in arts education.
August 26, 2008 |
The Philadelphia Orchestra burned through a lot of music-director prospects last season. At the outset, in September, the roster brimmed with nearly a half-dozen conductors whose reputations or previous visits raised expectations. Then they conducted here. And that was that. Among players, the tantalizing rumor is circulating that the candidate pool has been winnowed down to one: God. With such Talent not on the roster at CAMI or any of the other classical-talent agencies, the orchestra might think back a mere five years for a reality check to the conductor before last.
August 9, 2008 |
Sometimes an orchestra and conductor form an interpretation so finely detailed it seems to pop off the stage with the full-dimensional complexities of sculpture. And then there are performances like the Beethoven Symphony No. 5 the Philadelphia Orchestra constructed Wednesday night to open its annual three-week residency at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. While hardly rough, it still came across as a work in progress. This bit of news is actually a hopeful bellwether - the fact that right after vacation and with only an hour's worth of rehearsal the orchestra could achieve a Beethoven 5 that, if not terribly evolved, had a high level of polish, sweep and purpose.
March 14, 2008 |
Last week was Carmina Burana. This week, the Philadelphia Orchestra plays The Planets. The next subscription series is Pictures at an Exhibition. Is this the Greatest Hits Immersion Festival? Is there any reason for so much familiarity in close succession other than perhaps desperate marketing? For those who have had enough of The Planets for one lifetime, the consolation is that conductor Charles Dutoit is a colorist most likely to give the piece taste, sonority and class, which meant that the performance was an optimum experience Wednesday at the Kimmel Center, as far as it was capable of going.
March 12, 2008 |
FOR 28 YEARS, conductor Charles Dutoit has been a familiar figure on the Philadelphia Orchestra podium. Besides being a frequent guest conductor, he was music director of the Mann Music Center for a decade, and he has been their summer season director at Saratoga Springs, N.Y., since 1990. Beginning in September, Dutoit will succeed the orchestra's seventh music director, Christoph Eschenbach, as chief conductor and artistic adviser, a unique, four-year position created for him. Dutoit's presence gives the orchestra a shrewd, multi-year opportunity to work with a wide range of conductors before choosing a new music director.
February 23, 2008 |
Titles are nice, but in the murky study of orchestra alchemy, music director is as music director does. Charles Dutoit is only the Philadelphia Orchestra's chief conductor and artistic adviser - and not even that until September. Yet already he is a fully present force, leading concerts - and, apparently, rehearsals - with the kind of authority only the titular head of an ensemble can exercise. Maybe we should just call him boss and leave it at that. Dutoit is a reenergized sight on the podium, making moves Thursday night I could not recall from my nearly two decades of watching him. His new juice no doubt stems from an alleviation of the rheumatoid arthritis that plagued him several years ago, and also perhaps a response to what he's getting in return from the orchestra.
February 17, 2008 |
The Philadelphia Orchestra no doubt has its share of subscribers who could put the Beethoven Grosse Fuge through a rigorous harmonic analysis with one hand tied behind their backs. A larger portion of the orchestra listenership might be better versed in humming populist scores that entered the bloodstream early in life - say, La Mer or Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5. And then there are, of course, those for whom the music is all well and good, but the point of going out is to see and be seen.
February 15, 2008 |
As a paragon of Gallic moderation and charm, Charles Dutoit isn't likely to proceed into his 70s prodding his longtime Debussy/Stravinsky repertoire for new and deeper truths. It's enough, perhaps, simply to maintain the emotional presence and sonic glow that have been his trademarks. Yet, when he entered less-trammeled territory, as he did in his Philadelphia Orchestra concert Wednesday performing Janacek's Sinfonietta, it produced the cumulative experience that leads you to say of senior conductor performances, "The maestro has spoken.
November 20, 2007 |
The last time the Philadelphia Orchestra hired a music director, in 2001, the prospects were slim. Simon Rattle, the clear choice, had said no. The orchestra was in a "cold panic" - as even the Los Angeles Times, way over on the other coast, could see - and hired Christoph Eschenbach. This time, the dynamics of classical music's strangest courting ritual are shaping up quite differently. There are no firm favorites for the job at this point. Not enough reliable information is available: Sometimes a guest conductor comes in and sweeps players off their feet, then displays a completely different artistic personality on the next visit.
August 4, 2007 |
It was the same orchestra and the same piece. But the Beethoven Symphony No. 9 that opened the Philadelphia Orchestra's annual residency at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center Wednesday night was in many ways nothing like the Beethoven 9 at the start of the Mann season just a few weeks ago. Rossen Milanov was on the podium at the Mann, where he turned in a pleasant if routine performance, while here at Saratoga, for the 18th year, Charles Dutoit...