Tours de Force

Classic Arts Features   Tours de Force
A look back at the Philadelphia Orchestra's long history of international tours, as the group prepares for a tour of Asia.

Fifteen concerts, five countries, eight cities, 24 days on the road. Over 20,000 pounds of cargo, 6,000 pounds of luggage, and 115 instrument and wardrobe trunks, in addition to 130 musicians and staff. This is The Philadelphia Orchestra's 2005 Tour of Asia, which embarks in May following the conclusion of the Orchestra's Philadelphia subscription season.

The 2005 tour is Music Director Christoph Eschenbach's first visit to Asia with the Orchestra, and will be highlighted by the Orchestra's first performances in Kyoto, Japan, and Singapore. It will also feature return trips to Tokyo and Yokohama, Japan; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Hong Kong; Taipei, Taiwan; and Seoul, Korea.

"I am so pleased to bring The Philadelphia Orchestra's unsurpassed music making to Asia," says Eschenbach. "The Philadelphia Orchestra is known around the world for its great artistry and I look forward to sharing our partnership with audiences in Asia this spring."

The Orchestra's 2005 tour opens in Tokyo's Suntory Hall on May 19. Performances follow at Minato Mirai Hall in Yokohama (May 20) and Kyoto's Concert Hall (May 21), then the Orchestra travels back to Tokyo for additional performances on May 22 and 23. The Philadelphians perform two concerts each in Kuala Lumpur's Dewan Filharmonik Petronas (May 26 and 27), the recently opened Esplanade in Singapore (May 28 and 29), the Hong Kong Cultural Centre (May 31 and June 1), Taipei's National Concert Hall (June 3 and 4), and the Seoul Arts Center (June 6 and 7).

"The Philadelphia Orchestra has been a cultural ambassador for the Philadelphia region and the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania since our first tour of Europe in 1949," says Philadelphia Orchestra President Joseph H. Kluger. "We are looking forward to the Orchestra's first trip to Asia with Christoph Eschenbach, which will give us another opportunity to use the international language of music to build bridges of camaraderie and commerce."

Maestro Eschenbach is pleased to be able to continue the Orchestra's five-year Mahler cycle on the tour by performing the First, Fifth, and Ninth symphonies. The Orchestra will also perform Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5, Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra, and Dvorák's Carnival Overture.

Celebrated cellist Yo-Yo Ma joins the Orchestra for the first time on an international tour performing Dvorák's Cello Concerto on the tour's opening concert in Tokyo. A frequent guest with the Orchestra, Ma's most recent appearance was performing Strauss's Don Quixote at Carnegie Hall's season opening concert in October 2004, which was broadcast later that month on PBS.

Also joining the Orchestra for eight concerts on the tour is international piano sensation Lang Lang. A frequent collaborator with Eschenbach, Lang Lang made his Philadelphia Orchestra debut in May 2001. Shortly afterward he traveled with the Orchestra on its 100th Birthday Tour of Asia, performing to packed audiences in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Lang Lang gives one performance of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 in Tokyo and performances of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto in Yokohama, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taipei, and Seoul.

Two of The Philadelphia Orchestra's own musicians also perform as soloists on the tour. Concertmaster David Kim performs Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in Seoul; he performed this work with the Orchestra in February 2005. Principal Oboe Richard Woodhams performs Mozart's Oboe Concerto in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taipei. He last performed as soloist with the Orchestra in Strauss's Oboe Concerto in January 2005.

The Philadelphia Orchestra has a long and distinguished touring history throughout the world. Just four days after its inaugural concert on November 16, 1900, it was already on the road, traveling to the neighboring city of Reading. The ensemble was the first American orchestra to make a transcontinental tour, in 1936, when it played 34 concerts in 36 days, from Boston to Holdredge, Nebraska, and from Toronto to San Francisco. In 1949 Philadelphia was the first American orchestra to cross the Atlantic after World War II, and the first to cross the ocean since 1930, with a special three-week concert tour of Great Britain. Since that time, the Orchestra has criss-crossed the globe on a regular basis, becoming one of the most-traveled American symphonic ensembles.

The Philadelphia Orchestra's first tour of Asia occurred in 1967, with performances in Osaka, Kanazawa, Nagoya, and Tokyo, Japan. In 1973 the Orchestra, under Eugene Ormandy's direction, became the first American orchestra to perform in the People's Republic of China, at the special request of President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. The Orchestra returned to mainland China 20 years later, in 1993, and most recently in 2001, both times led by Wolfgang Sawallisch. In 1999 the Orchestra became the first American symphony orchestra to visit Vietnam. The 2005 Tour of Asia marks The Philadelphia Orchestra's 28th tour outside North America and 12th visit to Asia.

Through its tour concerts, the Orchestra has generated interest and enthusiasm for symphonic music among tens of thousands of people across the globe. "We were struck by the intense longing in all cities to hear great and inspired music," Leopold Stokowski said after returning to Philadelphia from the 1936 transcontinental tour. "In addition to a desire to enjoy the sensory pleasure of listening to beautiful tone, and the delight of sound woven into organic design, there is everywhere a thirst for music as a channel leading to cultural growth. Of course, the tour was very strenuous, but it was a thousand times worthwhile because of the privilege of being able to bring the beauty and mystery of music to thousands who are thirsty for its inspiration." This timeless sentiment is still true today.

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