At the end of this month, three principals of The Philadelphia Orchestra will give premieres of concertos written specifically for them. With the clock ticking, what does a musician do? “I’ve been practicing it furiously!” says Principal Flute Jeffrey Khaner, who will give the world premiere of Behzad Ranjbaran’s Flute Concerto in less than two weeks. “Technically it’s a very challenging piece. It requires a lot of stamina,” says Khaner, who has devoted countless hours to the piece since receiving it in July.
Khaner has been practicing with a pianist to familiarize himself with the orchestration because—believe it or not—there won’t be a full orchestra rehearsal until October 29—just two days before the performance. “That’s the way it is. And yes, it is very unnerving,” he says laughing. “The first rehearsal is a real adventure. … I’m looking forward to it. I can’t wait to hear what it’s going to sound like.”
The Flute Concerto will premiere with two other new works—David Ludwig’s Pictures from the Floating World for bassoon and orchestra, featuring Principal Bassoon Daniel Matsukawa; and Tan Dun’s Nu Shu: The Secret Songs of Women, Symphony for Microfilms, Harp, and Orchestra with Principal Harp Elizabeth Hainen—as part of the Philadelphia Commissions Micro-Festival from October 31-November 2. Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts.
The three works will be paired differently each night. The Flute Concerto premieres the first night, but is second on the program, after Tan Dun’s Nu Shu. Khaner says the night of the performance—the waiting will be the hardest part. “That’s the worst thing of all: waiting to go on,” he says. “Typically once you are on stage, it’s great. You relax into the piece. It’s that buildup when you are waiting, standing backstage, that is really stressful. You’ve got the adrenaline going. You want to go. You want to go. You want to go. But you can’t.”
While Khaner has been working hard to prepare, he says he hopes the audience, too, will take an active role in getting ready to hear the new works. Learning about the background of the piece, going to a pre-concert talk, or even just reading the program notes, can be illuminating, he says. “The enjoyment level will be much greater, the more knowledge one has,” Khaner says. “The more you know about classical music, the more you’ll enjoy a classical music concert.”
And for those who might be generally intimidated by the prospect of new music: “I think it’s important for people to know … just because something is
new doesn’t mean it’s hard work to listen to,” he says.
Khaner gives the world premiere of Ranjbaran’s Flute Concerto on Thursday, October 31, at 8 PM in Verizon Hall. For tickets and more information, click HERE.
“The thrill and the honor of being the very first one to play a piece is really tremendous,” Khaner says. “It’s one of the things musicians live for.”