“This season is something like 27 cities, with totally different pieces, contracts, vocal requirements, stamina. It’s complex!”
Welcome to the whirlwind world of Sasha Cooke. The Grammy-winning mezzo-soprano appears with The Philadelphia Orchestra May 3, 5, and 6 at Verizon Hall and May 9 at Carnegie Hall, in Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony No. 1 (“Jeremiah”).
Sergei Rachmaninoff’s exceptionally close, collaborative relationship with The Philadelphia Orchestra began in earnest with his second appearance with the ensemble in March 1919. His first appearance had been in November 1909, during his initial three-month tour of America. Following this tour, Rachmaninoff went home to Russia and did not return to the United States for almost 10 years. When he did, it was as an immigrant exile; he and his family had fled the Russian Revolution in 1917 and had come to America to live a year later.
Sergei Rachmaninoff’s debut with The Philadelphia Orchestra occurred in November 1909, during his first American tour. When he set sail for the United States for this tour in the fall of that year, he was 36 years old and already a major star in his native Russia and in many parts of Europe, highly regarded as a pianist, composer, and conductor. Promoters had been trying to lure him to America for several years, but he was reluctant to make the trip and kept putting it off.
The Orchestra’s assistant conductor, Kensho Watanabe, likes to say he grew up with The Philadelphia Orchestra. He fell under its spell shortly after his family moved from their native Japan (where he first picked up a fiddle at age two) to Connecticut. Riding the school bus with his trusty Walkman, he’d listen to the Orchestra’s recording of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony with Riccardo Muti.
“Philadelphia has the finest orchestra I have ever heard at any time or any place in my whole life. I don’t know that I would be exaggerating if I said that it is the finest orchestra the world has ever heard.”—Sergei Rachmaninoff
Sergei Rachmaninoff and Eugene Ormandy looking over a score at the Academy of Music. Photo: Philadelphia Orchestra Archives/Adrian Siegel Collection
Principal Percussion Christopher Deviney says performing Imaginary Day, Duo Concerto for Vibraphone, Marimba, and Orchestra, was a bit of a shock. It had taken years to get his idea of arranging the music of jazz guitarist Pat Metheny onto a Philadelphia Orchestra program. Imaginary Day finally had its world premiere Thursday evening, March 30, with repeat performances Friday afternoon and Saturday evening.
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