Imagine an orchestra season with live multimedia presentations, an International Festival of the Arts involving dozens of local organizations, bold new works by today's top composers, and live choreography on the Kimmel Center stage: all against a backdrop of the most-beloved orchestral repertoire. Welcome to the 2010 _11 season just announced by The Philadelphia Orchestra and its chief conductor, Maestro Charles Dutoit, which offers a wider array of concert formats, special events, and educational programs than ever before in the Orchestra's 110-year history.
"In addition to the central repertoire and the conductors and artists who have always formed the backbone of the Orchestra's activities," Dutoit says, "we are pleased to offer a rich diversity of programs during the 2010-11 season, including a reprise of our series of Beyond the Score concerts; special focuses on French music, and on Stravinsky and Henri Dutilleux in particular; a new citywide International Festival of the Arts exploring music and culture in Paris during the early 20th century; and a continuation of our popular eZseatU initiative for university students."
The season also offers world premieres, monumental masterworks including Berlioz's The Damnation of Faust, debuts of important young conductors and soloists from around the world, a historic collaboration with the Finnish choreographer Jorma Elo, the Orchestra's Chamber Music Series, and programs of global perspectives on Asia, Latin America, and the Yiddish theater in America. In addition are the popular holiday performances of Messiah and "The Glorious Sound of Christmas," the New Year's Eve concert, School Concerts, the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute Concert, the 154th Academy of Music Anniversary Concert and Ball, and a penultimate concert set featuring Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.
The season culminates with Berlioz's massive The Damnation of Faust for soloists, chorus, and orchestra: a work of such operatic and dramatic breadth that its composer called it a légende dramatique. A world-renowned exponent of the music of Berlioz, Maestro Dutoit concludes his third season as The Philadelphia Orchestra's chief conductor with a star cast that includes Paul Groves in the title role and Susan Graham as Marguerite.
Among the new works to be presented in 2010-11 are a Violin Concerto by Scottish composer James MacMillan featuring violinist Vadim Repin, a joint commission with the London Symphony and ZaterdagMatinee; a Flute Concerto by New Jersey-born composer Jonathan Leshnoff commissioned by Principal Flute Jeffrey Khaner; the first Philadelphia Orchestra performances of a Piano Concerto by Iranian-born composer Behzad Ranjbaran featuring pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet; and the Oboe Concerto by American composer Christopher Rouse with Principal Oboe Richard Woodhams as soloist.
Gerard McBurney again hosts Beyond the Score, a dynamic series of programs developed by the Chicago Symphony in which a single masterpiece is explored in historical and cultural context through a wide-ranging presentation, then performed in its entirety. Once again this season Maestro Dutoit conducts all three Beyond the Score programs: focusing on Shostakovich's turbulent Fourth Symphony, Strauss's semi-autobiographical Ein Heldenleben, and Gustav Holst's The Planets.
The Orchestra seeks to present an ever-wider variety of formats, said Orchestra Vice President of Artistic Planning Jeremy Rothman, "that are inviting to our familiar audiences and welcoming to newcomers alike." Toward achieving this end is a new Multimedia Series of programs with a global outlook: Chinese-born composer Tan Dun will present his The Map, Concerto for Cello, Video, and Orchestra, and place it in its cultural contexts; Peruvian-American conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya presents Music of the Inca Trail; and Michael Tilson Thomas will introduce The Thomashefsky Project featuring music and memories of his late grandparents, Boris and Bessie Thomashefsky, stars of the Yiddish theater of late- 19th and early-20th-century America.
In April 2011 the Kimmel Center will launch its first International Festival of the Arts, partially funded by a $10 million grant from the Annenberg Foundation. This month- long, citywide arts festival will aim annually to involve all eight Kimmel Center resident companies, the nine Kimmel Center Presents series, and other organizations around the city. As part of the Orchestra's three-weekend contribution to this year's Festival focus on early-20th-century Paris, Orchestra Associate Conductor Rossen Milanov presents the complete ballets of Falla's The Three-Cornered Hat and Stravinsky's Pulcinella, the latter featuring choreography by Jorma Elo and dancers from Pennsylvania Ballet; David Zinman leads a program of Berg's Lulu Suite and Mahler's Fourth Symphony; and Maestro Dutoit conducts Stravinsky's Apollon musagète and a complete concert performance of his monumental Oedipus Rex featuring tenor Paul Groves in the title role, mezzo-soprano Petra Lang as Jocasta, and bass-baritone Robert Gierlach as Creon.
Maestro Dutoit further underscores the French contribution to the symphonic repertoire with works by Saint-Saëns, Lalo, and Roussel, and with three compositions by the nonagenarian Henri Dutilleux: Métaboles; Timbres, espace, mouvement, ou La Nuit étoilée; and the first Orchestra performances of L'Arbre des songes for violin and orchestra, featuring violinist Renaud Capuçon in his Orchestra subscription debut.
Also notable are first Philadelphia Orchestra performances of Strauss's Second Horn Concerto featuring Principal Horn Jennifer Montone: a bittersweet, autumnal homage to the composer's late father that is a world apart from his youthful First Concerto. Gianandrea Noseda in his Orchestra debut performs the Orchestra premiere of Sibelius's tone poem Hakon Jarl, based on the legend of a Norwegian warrior, and Robert Spano presents the first complete Orchestra performances of the Suite No. 1 from Sibelius's The Tempest.
Much of the 2010-11 season has a "Russian accent": In addition to the music of Stravinsky and Shostakovich, Maestro Dutoit will conduct Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony. Prokofiev is represented by Romeo and Juliet, the Piano Concerto No. 5 with soloist Garrick Ohlsson, and the Sixth Symphony featuring conductor Vladimir Jurowski. Other Tchaikovsky works to be heard include his Sixth Symphony led by Kurt Masur, the Violin Concerto with soloist Leonidas Kavakos, and the relatively rare Piano Concerto No. 2 with soloist Stephen Hough.
Also making Orchestra or subscription debuts are conductors Semyon Bychkov, Jonathan Nott, Vasily Petrenko, Jun Märkl, and Fabio Luisi (conducting Franz Schmidt's Fourth Symphony), pianist Jeremy Denk, and bass-baritone Jonathan Lemalu. Among the familiar faces not already mentioned are conductors Christoph von Dohnányi, Yannick Nézet-Séguin (conducting Mahler's Fifth Symphony), Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, James Conlon, Stéphane Denève, and Donald Runnicles (conducting Bruckner's somber Seventh Symphony); pianists André Watts, Andreas Haefliger, Hélène Grimaud, Imogen Cooper, and Marc-André Hamelin; violinists Joshua Bell, Lisa Batiashvili, and Gil Shaham; and cellist Han-Na Chang.
The Orchestra will again offer the eZseatU program, in which college students can purchase a $25 pass that gets them into any concert during the season; with the pass comes an initial free concert at the beginning of the season, which has in the past drawn as many as 2,000 students.
In the midst of a variety of concert formats, Dutoit says, the 2010-11 season also strives to present "the full breadth of the orchestral repertoire, balanced internationally with repertoire and artists, balanced in terms of small-orchestra versus large-orchestra, and spread chronologically from Baroque to Contemporary, always with a core of the heart of the symphonic repertoire."
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Paul Horsley, performing arts editor for the Independent in Kansas City and a freelance critic and teacher, was The Philadelphia Orchestra's program annotator and musicologist from 1992 to 2000.