On August 5, 1942, a very young conductor‹he was only 12 at the time‹stepped up to the podium at Lewisohn Stadium and led the New York Philharmonic in his first appearance with the Orchestra. The Philharmonic's annual summer series at Lewisohn, located at 136th Street and Convent Avenue, was hugely popular, in large part because it took place in the great outdoors, where audiences could savor the heady combination of great music and sparkling sky. That young conductor returned in 1943 and 1944, and he went on to forge quite a career: Capping a legendary life in music, Lorin Maazel became the Philharmonic's Music Director in 2002; since then, he has led the Orchestra both at home in Avery Fisher Hall and around the world.
This summer Mr. Maazel again leads the Orchestra in an outdoor setting, this time in Central Park at the last of the summer's eight New York Philharmonic Time Warner Concerts in the Parks. It's his first concert in the park since he became Music Director, and his first in Central Park since 1975‹and both Mr. Maazel and the park are in fine form. So is this great New York tradition, which celebrated its 40th summer last season, and which marks another anniversary this year: the tenth season of the Orchestra's partnership with Time Warner, whose generosity makes these concerts possible (see sidebar, left).
Lorin Maazel's appearance on the parks podium will follow a week of concerts led by another member of the Philharmonic family: Xian Zhang, the Philharmonic's Assistant Conductor, who will lead performances in Prospect Park, Brooklyn; Central Park; Cunningham Park, Queens; Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx; Heckscher State Park, East Islip, Long Island; and PNC Bank Arts Center, Holmdel, New Jersey). A mini-tour of the metropolitan area is a great way for audiences to get to know this rising star, and for the Orchestra and Ms. Zhang to build an even closer rapport. She has been the Philharmonic's Assistant Conductor since 2002; first led the Philharmonic at a Young People's Concert in 2003; and made her subscription debut earlier this season on a challenging program that included a World Premiere-New York Philharmonic Commission, Scherzoid, by British composer Mark-Anthony Turnage. These concerts will mark her parks debut.
So this summer, fans of the Philharmonic can savor a particularly tasty musical movable feast in the parks: the Orchestra's Music Director and Assistant Conductor at the helm, the debut of brilliant young violinist Karen Gomyo, the return of acclaimed cellist Lynn Harrell, and a chamber concert on Staten Island. And as always, fireworks will provide a rousing finale in all locations except New Jersey. This year, with Mr. Maazel and Ms. Zhang in charge, expect fireworks onstage, too.
Robert Sandla writes frequently on the performing arts.