May 6, 2015 |
Great music isn't a stranger to the Church of the Advocate on Diamond Street in the urban frontier of North Philadelphia. Just inside the French Gothic sanctuary, a large greenish angel points its trumpet heavenward. And only a few feet beyond that, on certain nights, stands the Prometheus Chamber Orchestra, in one of its regular season of free concerts - the second season concludes on Saturday - with hardly any budget and, what's more significant, no conductor. "It saves on overhead," says bassist Jerrell Jackson with subtle, smart-aleck irony.
April 19, 2015 |
What does it mean that the Philadelphia Orchestra is now stocking its subscription series with lighter works it once used to draw crowds to the Mann Center and as musical primers at children's concerts? French conductor Stéphane Denève is here for two weeks of populist programming that began Thursday night in the Kimmel Center's Verizon Hall with a reprise of a Peter and the Wolf film the orchestra brought to the Mann in 2007. The hall was filled with plenty of grown-ups and a scattering of children who, by their general level of happy buzz, indicated approval.
March 25, 2015 |
Though choice of soloists is often an important component of Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia's sense of alternative symphonic experiences, previously unknown guest conducting talents can feel like an even more welcoming ambush. Sunday's headliner at the Kimmel Center's Perelman Theater ostensibly was Sean Chen, a young pianist who has placed well in competitions (the Van Cliburn, for one) and is a nominee for a 2015 Leonore Annenberg arts fellowship award at Penn. But the concert started with Haydn's little-known overture to the opera Armida , conducted by the lesser-known Nir Kabaretti with a solidity not heard consistently since Ignat Solzhenitsyn's departure and, more than that, a distinctive, glistening personality.
March 15, 2015 |
Beethoven and Falla. Only one conductor would dare to pair such radically dissimilar composers with the Philadelphia Orchestra: the late Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos. Planned by him before his death last year, the program on Thursday fell to the orchestra's conductor in residence, Cristian Macelaru. He is as strong-minded as anyone standing before the orchestra this season and, overall, made the evening work in a manner hugely different from Frühbeck de Burgos'. Beethoven was represented by his least severe orchestral work, the Symphony No. 6 ("Pastoral")
February 24, 2015 |
Has Ligeti's Atmosphères lost some of its shock value in the decades since its use in 2001: A Space Odyssey ? Maybe not. Amid our current orchestral odyssey of making programs as obsequious as possible, the classic from 1961 is regaining ground as a stroke of wondrous impertinence. British conductor Robin Ticciati made it so Friday night, even while constructing a Philadelphia Orchestra program in Verizon Hall of sly interplay among pieces. Another conductor might have aped the film, pairing it with Also sprach Zarathustra . Ticciati instead connected this Ligeti with an antecedent: Wagner.
January 31, 2015 |
Though the Philadelphia Orchestra has a steep climb ahead in its largest-ever fund-raising campaign effort, several key pieces helping to smooth the path are falling into place. The Philadelphia Orchestra Association has secured the stability of its artistic, administrative, and board leadership - an important checkoff on the list of many foundations and philanthropists. Board chairman Richard B. Worley will stay on another three years, as will president Allison B. Vulgamore. And the orchestra and music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin have committed to another five years together.
December 24, 2014 |
* MOZART IN THE JUNGLE. Amazon Prime, today. COMPLETE this sentence: Change is [BLANK]. How any of us answers likely has a lot to with whether we're driving the steamroller or lying under it, but "inevitable" is a one-size-fits-most reply. Which is why the classical-music dramedy "Mozart in the Jungle," the newest original series from Amazon Studios, doesn't require a degree in music or orchestra season tickets to appreciate. Developed by cousins and entertainment royalty Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman, with writer-director Alex Timbers, and loosely based on a memoir by musician-turned-journalist Blair Tindall, "Mozart in the Jungle" is set in the apparently cutthroat world of classical music.
November 25, 2014 |
As a crucible, the act of guest conductor meeting orchestra may be uniquely tricky. The conductor's path to self-actualization lies rather deceptively in coaxing the ensemble to become the highest form of itself. It's not a spiritual exercise but a practical one when an ensemble's identity is as strong as the Philadelphia Orchestra's, which is why Susanna Mälkki's debut with the Philadelphians on Friday afternoon was remarkable. She seamlessly handed off woodwind timbres into strings in Respighi's Botticelli Triptych . If Brahms' Symphony No. 4 's first movement seemed curiously bloodless in its stepped-down tempo, she revealed good reasons.
November 21, 2014 |
PRINCETON - The boy-wonder conductor is about to turn 70. Yes, compulsively youthful Michael Tilson Thomas is now an elder statesman, though still very much a musician who has fascinated and challenged the music world while maintaining a constant evolution that makes his work ever more fully realized. Still, his current East Coast sweep with his San Francisco Symphony Orchestra wasn't immune to the vagaries of touring on Tuesday at the McCarter Theater, where it warmed up for Carnegie Hall with a performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 7 . The five-movement piece itself is exactly the sort of dark, unconventional work - perhaps the least-loved of the composer's output - that Tilson Thomas handily sells to a larger public.
November 16, 2014 |
The fashion world has long popularized clothes that appear to be turned inside out. Why shouldn't the Philadelphia Orchestra do its own version of that every so often? How could that work? Dvorák's Symphony No. 8 was so significantly reimagined by guest conductor Jakub Hruša that you'd think the prevailing, mellifluous tradition of Wolfgang Sawallisch never existed. The music was a rougher ride but full of incident. Orchestral sonorities that are normally string-dominated shared the sound picture more equally with brass and winds.