"Summertime and the livin' is easy." Maybe for some, but Gershwin might have sung a different tune if he had seen The Philadelphia Orchestra's 2007 summer schedule. This year the Orchestra will be involved in five — yes, five — different programs or concert series.
There will, of course, be the concerts at the Mann Center, and the free Neighborhood Concerts will return. Still, while many Philadelphians will be going East to the shore, the Orchestra will be making much of its music in the other direction as it heads out West.
The big news of the summer is that the Orchestra will spend a week in the heart of the Colorado Rockies giving six concerts at the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival, July 7-14. It will be the Orchestra's first year of a three-year residency with the prestigious summer festival.
The Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival began in 1987 as a mountain retreat for chamber music. In time it added resident orchestras to the mix, creating an assimilation of chamber and symphonic performance that is utterly unique. Equally unique is its main venue, the breathtaking Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, which is actually built into the side of a mountain.
For its 20th season the Bravo Festival will have more than 40 chamber musicians, and three resident orchestras: the Rochester Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic, and The Philadelphia Orchestra. Nabbing New York and Philadelphia in the same festival is quite a coup, and orchestra lovers are already salivating at the prospect.
For Philadelphia's weeklong residency, Music Director Christoph Eschenbach, Associate Conductor Rossen Milanov, and Houston Symphony Music Director Hans Graf will each conduct two programs. Soloists include soprano Marisol Montalvo, violinists Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and Karen Gomyo, and pianists Jon Kimura Parker and Jonathan Biss.
The programming is a showcase of the fabled Philadelphia sound. Among the classic works that will bounce off mountaintops are Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto and Fourth Symphony, Debussy's La Mer, Ravel's La Valse, and Stravinsky's Firebird. Philadelphia's Jennifer Higdon has been the Festival's first composer-in-residence, so the residency will end with her Philadelphia Orchestra Centennial Commission, the Concerto for Orchestra, as well as Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. For more information, please log onto www.philorch.org or www.vailmusicfestival.org.
"California Dreamin'" — U.S. Tour, May 15-June 3
The Vail residency will actually be the Orchestra's second trip out West. The summer begins with a three-week tour of the U.S., beginning in Kansas City, Chicago, and Omaha, then concentrating on the Pacific Coast, with six concerts in California — Costa Mesa, Davis, Los Angeles, San Diego, and two in San Francisco — and one each in Eugene and Seattle. It ends back East with a tour "coda" in Washington D.C.'s Kennedy Center.
Maestro Eschenbach will conduct the entire tour and will proudly let the Orchestra "toot its own horn" with Mozart's Sinfonia concertante on the central program. The work features four principal wind players as soloists: Richard Woodhams, oboe; Ricardo Morales, clarinet; Daniel Matsukawa, bassoon; and Jennifer Montone, horn.
The Mozart is followed by either that ultimate orchestral showcase, Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, or Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5, a recording of which the Orchestra released this year on Ondine Records; expect the CD to be sold in tour lobbies! Other programs have baritone Matthias Goerne performing Schubert songs, Schoenberg's Chamber Symphony No. 1 (an Eschenbach specialty), and Brahms's Symphony No. 1.
The Orchestra will make two consecutive weekend appearances in San Francisco; the San Francisco Symphony generously gave Philadelphia two prime concert times. The Orchestra will also make its debut in Los Angeles's dazzling new Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Hall, as well as new halls in Omaha and in Costa Mesa.
The Orchestra will keep the public up to date on tour happenings with daily postings, photos, and blogs on its Web site, www.philorch.org. The Orchestra's appearances in Omaha, Chicago, Eugene, and Seattle are sponsored by CertainTeed Corporation.
"Down by the Riverside" — Neighborhood Concerts
Not all the Orchestra's summer traveling is coast to coast. For the eighth straight year, the Philadelphians will tour the neighborhoods of the region, celebrating their vitality with free concerts. For the fourth year in a row, the Orchestra's Neighborhood Concert Series is sponsored by Wachovia.
In addition to two locations yet to be announced, the Orchestra will be returning to Camden for the fourth year. The concert is the culmination of the Orchestra's Camden Community Partnership Initiative, a three-year commitment to bring music to Camden residents on multiple levels. Partners include the Camden Creative Arts High School, Respond, Inc., and Cooper University Hospital.
Attire is strictly informal, and BYOB — Bring Your Own Blanket — is the rule. Associate Conductor Rossen Milanov will lead all three programs. Dates and venues will be announced at a later date. Please visit www.philorch.org for more information.
"Summer in the City" — Mann Center Season, June 26-July 29
The centerpiece of the Orchestra's summer activities in Philadelphia remains its series at The Mann Center for the Performing Arts. Rossen Milanov is artistic director for the Orchestra's season at the Mann, which runs for nine concerts over three weeks, beginning June 26 with the U.S. Tour's Higdon-Beethoven Ninth program, and continuing the weeks of July 18 and July 24.
Other program highlights include the annual Tchaikovsky Spectacular with fireworks and the presentation of a new film version of Peter and the Wolf with live orchestral accompaniment. Soloists include superstar violinists Itzhak Perlman and Midori, and pianists Lang Lang and André Watts. Guest conductors include the new music director of the Orchestre National de Lyon, Jun M‹rkl.
Milanov likes to create various "leit-breeze" motifs to waft throughout his summer evening programming; for example, there will be East-meets-West summits with such Asian artists as pianist Lang Lang (Yellow River Concerto) and conductor Long Yu, music director for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Beyond the music is the Mann experience itself: an outdoor amphitheater with a spectacular skyline view, dining at the new Bravo Grill or do-it-yourself picnicking on the hill, and the brand new Welcome Center and Peco Plaza. For a full schedule, visit www.philorch.org or www.manncenter.org.
"Into the Woods" — Saratoga, August 1-18
The August series at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, located in an idyllic state park, may be the Orchestra's best-kept secret. This may be the year Philadelphians get in on it, however, and finally head to upstate New York, because artistic director Charles Dutoit has invited a few of his friends to appear as soloists.
And what friends: Emanuel Ax, Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Steven Isserlis, Joshua Bell, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, André Watts, Erich Kunzel, and conductor-composer Krzysztof Penderecki. This musical treasure trove runs August 1-18, with full information available at www.spac.org.
Commenting on the Orchestra's summer season, Philadelphia Orchestra President James Undercofler says, "The Philadelphia Orchestra is known and loved on the concert stage in Verizon Hall, in neighborhoods across Greater Philadelphia, throughout the United States, and around the world. We create ever-widening circles of Philadelphia Orchestra fans when we travel outside our home base. This affords us the opportunity to build relationships and bring the joy and the transformational power of music to different audiences. We look forward with pleasure to meeting new music-lovers and visiting with old friends throughout the Orchestra's upcoming summer season."
Andrew Preis was formerly The Philadelphia Orchestra_ã_s director of communications and now lives in New York City.