Over the course of more than four decades, the New York Philharmonic has welcomed numerous guest artists to share the stage at its beloved summer parks concerts. There have been turns by Broadway luminaries including Angela Lansbury, Audra McDonald, and Tony Randall; superstars from the world of opera, including Marian Anderson and Robert Merrill; jazz and popular artists, from Benny Goodman to Wynton Marsalis; keyboard legends such as Vladimir Ashkenazy, Van Cliburn, and Andr_ Watts; and, of course, a host of memorable appearances by remarkable visiting conductors. This summer's guest-artist roster is equally starry, with one big difference: in addition to an impressive lineup of individual performers, there will be the first-ever turn by a guest orchestra, in this case the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra (SSO). The SSO, one of China's oldest and finest ensembles, will be representing its hometown, which is currently making headlines around the globe as the site of World Expo 2010.
Recalling the ecstatic reception the Philharmonic has received on its tours in China, New York Philharmonic President Zarin Mehta expressed pleasure at being able to host the SSO: "On the New York Philharmonic's travels as musical and cultural ambassadors of the City of New York, we have enjoyed such warm welcomes. We are pleased and honored to be able to reciprocate by showcasing the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra at one of New York City's most iconic cultural events," he said.
Long Yu, who became music director of the SSO in the fall of 2009, said of his ensemble's upcoming appearance: "We are delighted to perform in the heart of New York City in a concert dedicated to this year's World Expo, which is hosted by our home city. The musicians and I are very excited to be a part of this unique event."
The SSO will perform on the opening night of the New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks, Presented by Didi and Oscar Schafer, Sponsored by Target and MetLife Foundation. The collaborative concert on Tuesday, July 13, at 8:00 p.m., will take place on the Great Lawn in Central Park. It will open with the New York Philharmonic, led by Andrey Boreyko, performing the Polonaise from Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, and Ravel's Bol_ro. after intermission, the SSO will take the stage, performing the Overture to Wagner's Tannh‹user and arias by Rossini, Gounod, and Mozart sung by soprano Ying Huang and baritone Changyong Liao. As befits an orchestra known both for its championing of music by Chinese composers and for its mastery of Western repertoire, the SSO will then play Jin Fuzai's Go and See the World, the official song of World Expo 2010. It will conclude its set with Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue; the piano soloist will be Lang Lang, an audience favorite around the world, from his native China to New York.
After bidding their new friends adieu, the New York Philharmonic returns to Central Park's Great Lawn on Wednesday, July 14. There, Mr. Boreyko will lead Liadov's Baba-Yaga; Glazunov's Concerto for alto Saxophone, with Grammy award _winner Branford Marsalis in his Philharmonic debut; Schulhoff's Hot-Sonate for alto Saxophone, again with Mr. Marsalis; and selections from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet.
The scene shifts on Thursday, July 15, to Cunningham Park in Queens, and on Friday, July 16, to Prospect Park in Brooklyn. On these concerts Mr. Boreyko leads the Polonaise from Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, and selections from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet.
When presenting a series that's as cherished as this annual New York City event, it important to preserve the best of the past. So while this year's schedule injects an element of the new, the outdoor concerts in Manhattan and Brooklyn will conclude with a beloved parks concerts tradition: a fireworks display by Grucci.
After the last Concert in the Parks, the Philharmonic's free offerings to New York are not yet over. The Orchestra's summer in the city concludes with two Free Indoor Concerts, Presented by Didi and Oscar Schafer, Sponsored by Target and MetLife Foundation. These performances will be given by the New York Philharmonic Brass and Percussion Ensemble, led by Philharmonic assistant Conductor Daniel Boico : the first at the CUNY Center for the arts, Staten Island, on Saturday, July 17, at 8:00 p.m.; the second in the Bronx, at the Hostos Center for the arts, 450 Grand Concourse, Monday, July 19, at 7:30 p.m.
Reflecting on the survival of free parks concerts over 46 seasons : even in challenging economic times : Mr. Mehta offered special thanks for those private and corporate citizens who make these events possible: "The Concerts in the Parks are one of the true delights of summer in New York and we are proud to again be visiting each of the boroughs of New York City with free concerts this summer, continuing this time-honored tradition of bringing great music to all the people of the city," he said. "Events like this would simply not be possible without the generous contributions of great New Yorkers like Didi and Oscar Schafer. I'd like to also express our deepest gratitude to the Target Corporation and MetLife Foundation for providing corporate sponsorship of the Concerts in the Parks again this season : and, of course, to the Global Sponsor of the New York Philharmonic, Credit Suisse." The tens of thousands of New York's denizens and visitors who will again be able to enjoy free music under the stars surely share his sentiment.
Madeline Rogers, former director of Publications of the New York Philharmonic, is the principal of Madeline Rogers Creative services, consultants to non-profit cultural and civic institutions.