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NEWS
May 8, 2015 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
At what point does music become more of a tourist experience than art? Philadelphia Orchestra conductor in residence Cristian Macelaru walked all over such not-so-fine lines on Thursday at the Kimmel Center in a winningly idiosyncratic program bookended by two travelogues in sound from his native Romania - with folk elements cleaned and polished to a high gloss. Such music - Ligeti's Romanian Concerto and Enescu's Romanian Rhapsody Op. 11 No. 1 - can be a point of pride or a source of embarrassment to those who know the less-mediated roots of it all. But Macelaru had a whale of a time, also using these crowd-pleasing pieces for a more serious examination of great composers on the cusp of greatness with Dvorák's Violin Concerto featuring Sarah Chang, and Beethoven's Symphony No. 1 . Nothing trivial about that.
NEWS
May 7, 2015 | By Peter Dobrin, Inquirer Music Critic
Philadelphia's All City Orchestra, the School District's little orchestra that could, is joining the ranks of its bigger, better-funded musical brethren and going on a foreign tour. The 115-or-so-member ensemble, drawn from public schools and recent alumni, will play five concerts in Italy in nine days starting June 20. It is the first tour for the program, says Don S. Liuzzi, the Philadelphia Orchestra timpanist who has led the orchestra for a decade. "There is no musical experience quite like taking your collective work on the road and musically giving and sharing with another country or culture.
ENTERTAINMENT
May 6, 2015 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
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.
ENTERTAINMENT
April 29, 2015 | By Peter Dobrin, Inquirer Music Critic
Now that the Barnes Foundation has left its ancestral home, the award for most cloistered leading arts group in our city might belong to the Academy of Vocal Arts. Several decades of creating bespoke environments for experiencing art have not touched AVA's tiny theater - a cramped railway car-proportioned space of bourbon-colored walls, Arcadian murals and a grand hearth. It's paradoxical that AVA prepares opera students for the real world by having them perform in a venue unlike any other they will ever encounter.
ENTERTAINMENT
April 28, 2015 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
CAMDEN - A large, blue package with one of the largest bows in the history of gift-giving sat in the Symphony in C box office Saturday, containing a recording of every concert departing music director Rossen Milanov has conducted over the last 15 years with this orchestra. One major performance was, of course, missing: his Saturday farewell at the Gordon Theater with Bruckner's Symphony No. 4 , which was, unsentimentally speaking, one of his best with this postgraduate ensemble. In his preperformance speech, Milanov spoke of growing up in front of the New Jersey public with the freedom to experiment - though he smartly took into account a conservative public that doesn't hear as many concerts as its counterpart across the river.
NEWS
April 19, 2015 | By Peter Dobrin, Inquirer Music Critic
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.
NEWS
April 12, 2015 | By Peter Dobrin, Inquirer Music Critic
I never know whether to laugh or scream when someone tells me that it was obviously a great concert because the musicians looked so happy. No one on stage looked particularly cheerful Friday afternoon after Paul Goodwin led Beethoven's Overture, "The Consecration of the House" with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Some of the musicians, in fact, looked downright put out. And yet, so terrific was Goodwin's sweep and detailing in the piece that it was a revelation. Musicians are sometimes the last to know how they sound.
ENTERTAINMENT
April 4, 2015 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
As eternal as Bach's St. Matthew Passion seems, it changes significantly over time, accommodating each new generation's artistic relationship with the music - and then some. What unfolded at Verizon Hall on Wednesday bore surface resemblance to the St. Matthew Passion Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducted with the Philadelphia Orchestra two years ago, with some of the same soloists and a similar stage setup, a cruciform platform creating a runway that divided the orchestra. Yet the experience was much more evolved, building on 2013 and perhaps emboldened by the trend toward externalizing Bach's drama with physical action.
NEWS
March 29, 2015 | By Peter Dobrin, Inquirer Music Critic
After the bold individualism in his Philadelphia Orchestra program last weekend, conductor Gianandrea Noseda's Mahler Symphony No. 5 Thursday night arrived with high expectations. Audiences come to this piece loaded for bear, spiritually speaking. Its "Adagietto" is nothing if not classical music's great inspirational altarpiece. Noseda, though, was doggedly earthbound (his eyes often score-bound). His was a rather objective view. He passed over chances for wrenching moments of transition in the first movement, and led the "Adagietto" with momentum held in higher esteem than spiritualism.
ENTERTAINMENT
March 25, 2015 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
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.
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