A Legacy and a Future: The Philadelphia Orchestra's New Season

Classic Arts Features   A Legacy and a Future: The Philadelphia Orchestra's New Season
The Philadelphia Orchestra's 2011 _12 season marks the final year under current chief conductor Charles Dutoit. Here is a preview of what audiences can expect.


A searing musical portrait of the vengeful princess Elektra, an Impressionist legend of the two mythic lovers Daphnis and Chlo_, outsized symphonies by Mahler (the Sixth) and Shostakovich (the "Leningrad"), one of the finest Concertos for Orchestra since Bart‹k (that by Jennifer Higdon): The Philadelphia Orchestra's 2011 _12 season is a celebration of the music that has made this ensemble great, but it also includes some big surprises. In addition to repertoire fundamental to any 21st-century orchestra, the line-up features a stellar roster of international and American conductors, a bevy of pianists as impressive as any the Orchestra has fielded in recent years, a focus on the music that has formed the Orchestra's 111-year legacy, and an acknowledgment of artists and repertoire long associated with the city of Philadelphia and with the Curtis Institute of Music. In addition special projects will also help highlight both the Orchestra's longtime friend and current chief conductor, Charles Dutoit, and its music director designate, Yannick N_zet-S_guin, while new works such as the Violin Concerto by Esa-Pekka Salonen will underscore the Orchestra's ongoing commitment to living composers.

"This season, my final one as chief conductor of The Philadelphia Orchestra, is about strong artistic relationships and old friends, and in that regard it is thrilling for me to welcome back such dear colleagues as Maurizio Pollini and Lang Lang," says Maestro Dutoit. "I am also honored to be able to share the podium with so many great friends of the Orchestra, including Christoph Eschenbach, Simon Rattle, Rafael Fr‹hbeck de Burgos, Herbert Blomstedt, and Vladimir Jurowski. In particular I am so pleased that Esa-Pekka Salonen has accepted my personal invitation to conduct the Orchestra after an absence of 25 years."

The 2011 _12 programming is designed, partly, to celebrate Dutoit's three decades of collaboration with the Philadelphians, through music he has helped form into cornerstones of the Orchestra's repertoire. "We want these to be really stand-out, celebratory performances to celebrate the Dutoit legacy," says Vice President for Artistic Planning Jeremy Rothman. "We're bringing in a lot of his dearest friends and performing the repertoire that's closest to him: celebrating, with him, his tenure as chief conductor."

"The repertoire we've programmed for 2011 _12, including masterpieces by Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, Rimsky-Korsakov, Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff, and Bart‹k, showcases the great Philadelphia Sound," Dutoit says. "One of the many highlights for me is the opportunity to conduct Richard Strauss's revolutionary opera Elektra with these great musicians and the extraordinary soprano Eva Johansson in the title role. The orchestral writing is some of Strauss's most powerful and demanding, and it deserves to be heard in its full glory. This is such an important work in the history of music, and I'm so delighted to be able to present this operatic tour de force in Philadelphia."

N_zet-S_guin's much-anticipated return in 2011 _12 is celebrated with three concert weeks. Two of those programs juxtapose different-sized orchestral forces: Bach and Mahler, Mozart and Brahms: and the third celebrates music introduced to the world by The Philadelphia Orchestra, including Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (with Curtis-trained pianist Yuja Wang as soloist) and Curtis-based composer Jennifer Hidgon's sensational Concerto for Orchestra, which received its world premiere during the Kimmel Center's first season and has become a hit among audiences nationwide. Initially one of eight works commissioned by the Orchestra in honor of its Centennial, Higdon's Concerto is "one of the most successful works that this or any orchestra has commissioned in the last 10 years," Rothman says.

Monumental symphonies are the order of the day, including Brahms's First, Tchaikovsky's Fourth, Sibelius's Second, Shostakovich's Seventh, and the Seventh and Ninth ("From the New World") of Dvoršk. Other favorites include Bart‹k's Concerto for Orchestra, Debussy's La Mer, Rimsky-Korsakov's Sheherazade, Stravinsky's Petrushka, and Elgar's "Enigma" Variations. A season-wide celebration of the music of Beethoven (with a particular focus in the month of January) will include performances of the Third, Fourth, Fifth, Seventh, and Eighth symphonies, the Second and Third piano concertos, the Violin Concerto, and the Overture to The Creatures of Prometheus. Five of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos appear on the subscription series, with the first four led by McGegan and the fifth featuring N_zet-S_guin conducting from the harpsichord; the Sixth will appear on the Orchestra's Chamber Music Series.

With a mix that is balanced both chronologically and in terms of orchestral size and scale, the 2011 _12 season strives to be "one that is really going to create deeply meaningful experiences," Rothman says, adding that "there is a lot of repertoire that highlights the great Philadelphia Sound: repertoire that this Orchestra is known for and that celebrates the great legacy of Charles Dutoit."

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