The New York Philharmonic's current season is still gaining momentum, but it's not too early to look at what lies ahead. Last month the Philharmonic announced its upcoming 2006-07 season; subscribers are already signing up, so it's time to leaf through brochures, pull out the PDAs and Blackberries, and otherwise plan ahead. There will be a lot going on: 117 subscription concerts over 32 weeks, world premieres, stellar guest artists, and much more. All the details can be found on the Philharmonic's Website, nyphil.org. Here's a look at some highlights.
The central figure is, of course, Music Director Lorin Maazel, who will be in his fifth season at the Philharmonic's helm. At the Gala Opening Night, September 13, a Live From Lincoln Center telecast, he will conduct Beethoven's Egmont Overture and Symphony No. 3, "Eroica," and Emanuel Ax and Yefim Bronfman will essay Mozart's Concerto in E-flat major for Two Pianos. The very next night, Mr. Maazel and the musicians will demonstrate their range with the U.S. premiere of a work by Hans Werner Henze, Sebastian im Traum, co-commissioned by the Philharmonic.
There is more new music in Mr. Maazel's Philharmonic season: on February 22-24, 2007, he will lead the world premiere of Melinda Wagner's Trombone Concerto, commissioned by the Philharmonic for Principal Trombone Joseph Alessi. In November and December, Mr. Maazel will lead the New York premiere of Hindemith's Piano Music with Orchestra (Piano: Left Hand). The 1923 work, lost until 2002, only received its world premiere in 2004 with Leon Fleisher, who will also be the soloist for the Philharmonic's performances.
Mr. Maazel and the Orchestra will not neglect more familiar music, including the Fourth and Seventh Symphonies of Mahler‹a composer with whom Mr. Maazel is closely identified. Starting in February 2007 he will conduct the music of Brahms in a six-program cycle, encompassing the composer's four symphonies, four concertos, Ein deutsches Requiem, and other orchestral works.
The Philharmonic's podium will also be graced by several guest conductors. Returning for two weeks each are former Philharmonic Music Director Zubin Mehta and Music Director Emeritus Kurt Masur. In addition, three conductors‹Riccardo Muti, David Robertson, and Alan Gilbert‹have been invited by Mr. Maazel to spend multiple weeks with the Orchestra.
Mr. Muti's four weeks offer richly diverse repertoire: an all-Italian program, featuring pianist Gerhard Oppitz in his Philharmonic debut; Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5, "Emperor," with Lang Lang; and Hindemith's early one-act opera, Sancta Susanna, are but some of the works he will lead. Of his last appearance with the Orchestra, in April 2005, one critic commented that "the Philharmonic played with gleaming sound and technical cohesion."
David Robertson, who has led the Orchestra more than 35 times since his debut in 2001, will spend two weeks with the Philharmonic during the 2006-07 season, as he did the last time, in 2004. "When you work with an orchestra that you've known for a while," he observes, "you are able to have what might be termed frequent 'conversations' about music. You can approach the music with the orchestra absolutely in mind, in much the same way that if you work with a soloist or a singer you consider the score with a specific sound in mind." For instance, he says, "I really appreciate the extraordinary colors the New York Philharmonic produces. In next season's programs with Finnish and French music, I look forward to hearing how they evoke the colors of the North Sea, the Baltic, and the Atlantic in each piece, while my Mozart and Stravinsky program requires the type of clarity of articulation that the Philharmonic brings."
Alan Gilbert‹who also made his Philharmonic debut in 2001, and has conducted the Orchestra 15 times since then‹is looking forward to his two weeks in February and March: "For our first program, we will perform Daniel Börtz's Parodos, Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 2, with soloist Lars Vogt, and Debussy's Images. Börtz is one of my favorite Swedish composers and I'm happy to bring his very compelling music to New York." His second program, in March, includes Ligeti's Violin Concerto, which he calls "one of the masterpieces of the genre written in the 20th century." The soloist will be Christian Tetzlaff, "a phenomenal player. I'm very excited to be working with him." Mr. Gilbert's March program will include 20th-century transcriptions of works by J.S. Bach: "Bach more than any other composer is able to withstand reworkings of his music," he says. Webern is represented, as is Stokowski who, says Mr. Gilbert, "undoubtedly made some of the greatest arrangements ever of Bach's music."
A Philharmonic debut is a very special experience and this coming season the Philharmonic will have two notable conductors making first appearances with the Orchestra in the same week. Leading Handel's Messiah at The Riverside Church‹an annual Philharmonic tradition‹ will be Harry Bicket, who will conduct the reduced forces appropriate to this repertoire. The other half of the Orchestra will also be performing Baroque music, but at Avery Fisher Hall, under the expert direction of Bernard Labadie, whose program will include works by J.S. Bach, Handel, and Corelli.
For a change of pace, the Orchestra will make significant forays into jazz, Broadway, and film. On March 7‹10, 2007, the Philharmonic will continue its long association with composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim with concert stagings of his groundbreaking 1970 musical, Company, conducted by Paul Gemignani and directed by Lonny Price, who also directed the Philharmonic's 2004 production of Bernstein's Candide and the performances of Sondheim's own Sweeney Todd in 2000. Soprano Audra McDonald‹who, like the Philharmonic, easily shifts from the Broadway boards to the concert hall‹will take center stage on New Year's Eve. This follows an early December collaboration with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, in side-by-side Tchaikovsky and Duke Ellington- Billy Strayhorn versions of The Nutcracker. The Philharmonic will be led by Bramwell Tovey.
The Orchestra's explorations of popular genres kicks off October 19‹21, 2006, when Philharmonic Associate Conductor Xian Zhang leads Prokofiev's score for Sergei Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky while the monumental 1938 film is screened; mezzo-soprano Meredith Arwady will make her Philharmonic debut, joining the New York Choral Artists.
Mozart. Stravinsky. Beethoven. World and U.S. Premieres. Handel. Jazz. Film. These are just some of the highlights in the coming season. To borrow a line from Broadway, who could ask for anything more?
Robert Sandla writes frequently about the arts.