May 11, 2014 |
When it's all that it can be, the 100-minute musical volcano known as Richard Strauss' Salome goes to a place of barely contained frenzy in its story of a princess who desires John the Baptist right down to his severed head. The Philadelphia Orchestra's season-ending, mostly staged version Thursday went a step beyond, often seeming without restraint. That usual space between the music and its listener often vanished - as with Herbert von Karajan's live performances and, more recently, those of Gustavo Dudamel and Yannick Nézet-Séguin on good days.
December 18, 2011 |
The Kimmel Center's grand opening 10 years ago was a model of how not to do it. The performing arts center was so far from finished in its opening week that at one concert musicians gamely wore hard hats. Verizon Hall's out-of-control air-conditioning led bejeweled patrons at the opening gala to joke about seeing indoor snow flurries. The acoustics inhabited the opposite end of the weather index: The Washington Post's critic called the hall "an acoustical Sahara. " "You ask, 'My gosh, why wasn't this done right the first time around?
August 6, 2009 |
The Philadelphia Orchestra's search for its eighth music director has entered a particularly treacherous stretch. Conductors' datebooks being what they are, filled three or four years in advance, the orchestra will have to act soon. But it doesn't have quite enough information on several of the candidates. Rock, hard place. The search committees have vowed that no one will be hired before making more than one visit to the podium - an unimpressive act of restraint when you consider how critical a decision this is. And yet here at the Mostly Mozart Festival Tuesday night was the young Montrealer who is the current front-runner: Yannick N?zet-S?guin.
July 30, 2009 |
Defenders of the status quo will tell you two things about African Americans and the American symphony orchestra: The reason there are so few blacks in orchestras is that the talent just isn't out there, and racism can't be the issue because auditions are played behind screens. Several years ago I wrote about the fact that 16 years after announcing a cultural-diversity initiative, the Philadelphia Orchestra still had the same three African American members it hired in the 1970s.
February 26, 2009 |
If you shut your eyes at Tuesday's Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra concert at the Kimmel Center, your musical memories could have taken you to a darker, distant place and time, far from Vienna or Philadelphia - Lincoln Center in New York's messy early '80s. During the first three movements of Schubert's Symphony No. 9, I kept hearing the New York Philharmonic during that depressed era in its history. An unhappy time-travel experience, it was one whose common denominator, then and now, was Zubin Mehta.
March 6, 2008 |
Suddenly significant Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel makes his first appearance in Philadelphia, the Vienna Philharmonic returns, Daniel Barenboim plays an all-Liszt recital, Cassandra Wilson performs her own tunes, and La La La Human Steps dances its Swan Lake- and Sleeping Beauty-inspired Amjad during the Kimmel Center's 2008-09 season. Kimmel programming czar Mervon Mehta says the Kimmel Center's own presentations - distinct from those of the Philadelphia Orchestra and seven other resident companies - will remain steady at more than 200 events in the Kimmel's eighth season.
August 3, 2005
Gun-bill backers It's no surprise that Sen. Rick Santorum (R., Pa.) has aligned himself with the National Rifle Association, cosponsoring and voting for a bill to provide immunity from negligence lawsuits for gun manufacturers. What is close to shocking, however, is that the senior senator from Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter, has chosen to do the same. One would think that Specter, with his growing reputation as a truly independent Republican, would do his best to distance himself from such a shameful and transparent effort to garner votes and campaign contributions from gun supporters.
May 26, 2005 |
Elsa Hilger, 101, the first woman in the world, other than harpists, to be a permanent member of a major symphony orchestra, died May 17 at Wake Robin Retirement Community in Shelburne, Vt. Philadelphia Orchestra conductor Leopold Stokowski hired her as a cellist in 1934. She never missed a performance - except the day her son was born - until retiring in 1969. And she retired only because of union rules. Ms. Hilger, who gave her last recital in 2002 at age 98, moved to Lake Dunmore, Vt., in 1977.
May 20, 2004 |
Sentimental and historical factors aside, there may be no better place in the world to hear Brahms than the Musikverein. Yes, Brahms worked and listened in this hall; and yes, the Philadelphia Orchestra has an authority and polished intensity with the composer that are a rare pleasure anywhere. But hearing them together Tuesday night in the Brahms Violin Concerto was an unexpectedly powerful experience. The strings drew on a reserve of inexhaustible depth and warmth, Richard Woodhams' important oboe part was penetrating and elegant, and Gil Shaham's solo-violin sound bloomed - aggressive though it may be. Altogether, the performance flourished in an acoustic for which Brahms' music seemed to have been specifically written: a perfectly balanced, resonant sound environment that heightened each instrumental section's character, yet still blended.
August 26, 2003 |
Philadelphia Orchestra music director Wolfgang Sawallisch recently spent two weeks in the hospital, experiencing the same blood-pressure problems that forced him to cancel performances here in the spring. "The poor guy is very frustrated," said Philadelphia Orchestra spokeswoman Judith Kurnick. "He's still dizzy, and they still don't know what's causing it. His blood pressure goes up and down. " Sawallisch was in a hospital in Munich, Germany, but is now back home in Grassau, according to Kurnick.