Yannick Nézet-Séguin walked on stage and raised his baton, and with the first strains of the National Anthem the audience in Verizon Hall stood. And so began The Philadelphia Orchestra’s 115th season.
This season is the third for the Fabulous Philadelphians’ adored music director, who addressed concertgoers with an enthusiastic welcome and an explanation of the year-long 40/40 Project—40 works not heard on subscription in at least 40 years—all in honor of his 40th birthday, which he will celebrate in March. Three 40/40 works, all chosen by the audience, were performed during the weekend’s opening concerts: the “Bacchanale” from Camille Saint-Saëns’s Samson and Delilah on Friday night; Alexander Borodin’s In the Steppes of Central Asia on Saturday night; and John Williams’s Essay for Strings on Sunday afternoon.
That leaves, as the maestro says, 37 40/40 works to go. Look for the 40/40 icon in the 2014-15 season concert listings (www.philorch.org/online-brochure#/) for a complete schedule.
Photo by Will Figg
The guest artist for the opening concerts was superstar Chinese pianist Lang Lang, a Philadelphia favorite and Curtis Institute of Music grad who brought his trademark inimitable flair to performances of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17. He wowed the crowd with his Friday night encore, the composer’s Turkish March (the “Rondo alla turca” third movement from Piano Sonata No. 11)—“a stunning act of subtle, rhythmic push-and-pull, a technical flash on the order of Horowitz.” (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
The concerts concluded with Richard Strauss’s epic Alpine Symphony, showcasing wind and thunder machines and powerful brass, not to mention 125 incredible musicians. Other works by the Bavarian-born composer will be featured throughout this season, as they were last season as well, in honor of the 150th anniversary of his birth.
After the journey through the Alps, audience members were invited to stay for a post-concert talk with Yannick and Orchestra President and CEO Allison Vulgamore—the first of many conversations this year that will further enhance a season already off to a phenomenal start.