A Season for Opening Doors

Classic Arts Features   A Season for Opening Doors
The Philadelphia Orchestra looks ahead to its 2004 _2005 season.

From the time music was first created, it has given expression to the most uplifting human achievements as well as to humanity's darkest moments. Music has passionately voiced the emotions, thoughts, and dreams that cannot be articulated in words alone. For their second season together, Christoph Eschenbach and The Philadelphia Orchestra will offer listeners a variety of meaningful perspectives from which to approach, to experience, to discover, and to be moved by music.

"The influence of music is unimaginably large," says Maestro Eschenbach, "and because it has no barriers of words, it can be understood by all. I hope that by hearing the essence of composers' lives, whether Wagner's celestial resolution of problems or the saddest ending of Tchaikovsky's last symphony, our listeners can feel even deeper connections to their own humanity."

The Orchestra's 2004-2005 season will have two main focuses. One will consider music as a reflection of national identity exemplified in works by Dvorák, Janácek, and other Central European composers. The other will examine the late works of great composers‹Mozart, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Strauss, Berio, and Beethoven‹during a four-week festival conducted by Mr. Eschenbach.


The season's focus on Central European composers, in Mr. Eschenbach's own words, "should send the audience home dancing." Beginning with the opening concerts, which feature the flowing pastoral melodies of Dvorák's Eighth Symphony, to concerts later in the season that highlight the traditional dances of Dvorák's homeland in the Op. 72 Slavonic Dances, the Orchestra will pay tribute to the beloved Czech master. A leading conductor from the Czech Republic, Jirí Belohlávek will conduct Dvorák's "New World" Symphony, along with his Violin Concerto and Bohuslav Martin?u's Frescoes of Piero della Francesca. During the season, Dvorák's Seventh Symphony and his rarely heard symphonic poem The Water Sprite will also be heard, in addition to Janácek's Sinfonietta and Smetana's Three Dances from The Bartered Bride.


The Second World War brought devastating atrocities to Central Europe and the Czech homeland. In response, many of the oppressed and persecuted took solace in music, through works that expressed their transcendent spirituality and belief in humanity. The Second Symphony of Viktor Ullmann is one such work. A Czech composer who faced his own death at Auschwitz, Ullmann wrote his Second Symphony, an edifying and life-affirming work, while imprisoned at the Terezín concentration camp. James Conlon, a great advocate of Ullmann and other persecuted composers from this period, will conduct the Second Symphony on a program that includes Dvorák's Scherzo capriccioso and Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto featuring pianist Yefim Bronfman. The season's first Chamber Music concert, scheduled for the same week, will include music from Terezín poignantly interwoven, at Mr. Eschenbach's suggestion, with poems written by the children of Terezín.

Mr. Eschenbach will conduct another work that reflects on the Holocaust, Schoenberg's A Survivor from Warsaw, paired with Brahms's A German Requiem. A Survivor from Warsaw is a gripping work that recounts one survivor's personal report of the Warsaw ghetto rebellion, where Jews found courage by singing the traditional confession of their faith, the "Sh'ma Yisrael." Mr. Eschenbach will perform the two works without interruption to underscore their poignant textual connections and, in this context, suggest new meaning for Brahms's familiar work.

Martin?u's Memorial to Lidice is programmed on one of the season's final concerts. It is, says Mr. Eschenbach, "a memorial to the horror story of how an entire Czech city was killed by the Nazis."


Many composers, nearing the end of their careers, have looked back reflectively on their own lives, whether deliberately or intuitively, and created music that contemplated their mortality. In a four-week festival that groups late works by Mozart, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Strauss, Berio, and Beethoven, the Orchestra draws attention to the diversity of life circumstances that shaped these works. Each piece reveals reflections of the composer's life, his final years, or his period in history. The Late Great Works Festival gives insight into moving stories of human life and creativity that inspired some of the most prominent symphonic compositions.

The Festival will open in January 2005 with Mahler's Ninth Symphony, written with the full knowledge that he had only a short time to live. Also included will be Act III of Wagner's Parsifal, one of the most spiritual of works, paired with the U.S. premiere of Stanze, thoughtful poetry settings by Luciano Berio, who died just last year. The Festival's final program will open with Mozart's Clarinet Concerto and conclude with Tchaikovsky's beloved Sixth Symphony ("Pathétique"), a work that both evokes and has come to be associated with a sense of mortality.


Maestro Eschenbach's 2004-2005 season includes many fresh, invigorating interpretations of orchestral masterpieces beloved by generations of Philadelphia Orchestra audiences. On Opening Night, he will welcome his close friend, soprano Renée Fleming, for Strauss's ravishing Four Last Songs. (They will reprise this performance when The Philadelphia Orchestra opens Carnegie Hall's season in October, joined by cellist Yo-Yo Ma.) Mr. Eschenbach will also continue the Orchestra's first complete Mahler cycle with performances of the monumental Ninth and the emotionally charged Fifth symphonies.

In addition, Maestro Eschenbach will conduct favorite concertos with some of today's leading artists, including the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Shostakovich's First Violin Concerto with Vadim Repin, and Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto with Lang Lang, as well as Richard Strauss's Oboe Concerto with Philadelphia Orchestra Principal Oboe Richard Woodhams and Mozart's Clarinet Concerto with Principal Clarinet Ricardo Morales.

Conductor Laureate Wolfgang Sawallisch will be joined by violinists Leonidas Kavakos and Orchestra Concertmaster David Kim for the concertos of Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, respectively. Maestro Sawallisch also will collaborate with two outstanding pianists; the young Chinese sensation Yundi Li, who made a stunning Orchestra debut last summer, will play Grieg, and the beloved André Watts will perform Mozart's Concerto No. 9, K. 271.

Conductor Charles Dutoit will return for another thrilling collaboration with pianist Martha Argerich; the great Emanuel Ax will play Mozart under Mr. Eschenbach's baton; and violinist favorites Hilary Hahn and Sarah Chang will also be welcomed back this season.

Other international conductors returning to the Philadelphia podium will include Roger Norrington, Yakov Kreizberg, Nicholas McGegan, and Orchestra Assistant Conductor Rossen Milanov. Donald Runnicles will make his Philadelphia Orchestra debut along with pianist Andreas Haefliger in a program of Beethoven and Elgar.

Christoph Eschenbach is a great believer in the promise of the next generation of artists. "The range of new talent has multiplied in recent years," he says. "It is a wave of inspiration for us all." Among the "discoveries" Mr. Eschenbach will share with us next season are cellists Anssi Karttunen and Daniel Müller-Schott and soprano Michaela Kaune.


Mr. Eschenbach is equally enthusiastic about the range of talent among living composers. "Composers today don't want to be imprisoned in 'schools,'" he says. "They have freed themselves from 'isms.'" And the range of styles and sounds is broader than ever.

Several intriguing programs will include music by living composers who hail from all parts of the globe. Two Philadelphia Orchestra commissions will receive their world premieres: American composer Richard Danielpour's Songs of Solitude, with baritone Thomas Hampson, and the English Horn Concerto from Englishman Nicholas Maw, who was chosen specifically by Elizabeth Starr Masoudnia to write this work for her.

Orchestra audiences who remember the success of Puerto Rican composer Roberto Sierra's Concerto for Orchestra, commissioned for the Orchestra's centennial, will welcome his Double Concerto for Violin, Viola, and Orchestra, led by Mr. Eschenbach. A co-commission of The Philadelphia Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Symphony, the work will feature Philadelphia Orchestra Principal Viola Roberto Díaz and Pittsburgh Symphony Concertmaster Andrés Cárdenes.

Internationally renowned Chinese composer and conductor Tan Dun focuses his energy on creating multicultural, multimedia programs that break the boundaries between classical and non-classical, East and West, avant-garde and indigenous art forms. He will lead the Orchestra in a special program featuring his own The Map (Concerto for Cello, Video, and Orchestra), a multimedia piece featuring young cellist Anssi Karttunen in his Philadelphia Orchestra debut.

The Philadelphia Orchestra continues its international journey through music of our time with the first Philadelphia Orchestra performances of works by Esa-Pekka Salonen (Finland), Augusta Read Thomas (U.S.), Matthias Pintscher (Germany), and James MacMillan (Scotland). All are young composers in the forefront of the international music scene, and each has an individual expressive bent.

If one were to sum up the feeling of the 2004-2005 season, one might say that it is a season that opens doors to understanding and experiencing music anew. There are doors to new meanings on music, doors to the lives of composers, doors to new artists and new works, and, perhaps most important, doors to our own lives, experiences, and emotions.

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