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2015 Europe, May 18: And They’re Off!

May 19, 2015

With the cheers of rapturous audiences in the Kimmel Center and Carnegie Hall still resounding in their ears, the musicians of The Philadelphia Orchestra have set off on their first tour of Europe under the leadership of Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

Those last two stateside concerts form the backbone of the tour … and if the reaction of hometown (and Big Apple) audiences and critics—“shimmering, exciting playing” (The New York Times); a “dress-to-kill program” (The Philadelphia Inquirer)—is any indication, Europe is in for some awesome concerts. They’ll hear the Philadelphians in dazzling renditions of Nico Muhly’s Mixed Messages, commissioned by the Orchestra and just given its world premiere at the Kimmel Center on May 13; Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto with the brilliant Lisa Batiashvili; Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 3 (composed specifically for the Orchestra); Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto with Emanuel Ax (fresh off a stunning rendition of the piece at Carnegie Hall); Grieg’s Piano Concerto with Jan Lisiecki; Brahms’s Third Symphony; Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony; and the Suite from Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. This musical feast kicks off Thursday, May 21, in Luxembourg, and proceeds through the great cities of Germany, France, Austria, and the Netherlands, before reaching a grand finale at the Royal Festival Hall in London on June 5 and 6.

Cellist Richard Harlow entertains Associate Principal Bass Mike Shahan and the Tour’s doctor, Glenn Newell, with a tune on the harmonica as the three wait at Philadelphia International Airport to begin the start of the European Tour. Photo by Jan Regan.

Not surprisingly, the players are psyched. As they boarded a charter bus en route to Philadelphia International Airport, Principal Oboe Richard Woodhams admitted he’d be happy to climb on and relax; getting ready for the trip meant making enough reeds to last for three weeks. (See? It’s not ALL glamor and excitement.) He’s especially looking forward to the tour stops in Paris and London; there are instrument makers there he’s anxious to visit.

Violinist Yayoi Numazawa says she can’t wait to see the European audiences react to Yannick: “It’s going to be really exciting!” Principal Bassoon Daniel Matsukawa predicted “We’re just going to really play our hearts out; Yannick is so inspiring, and it makes us really put it out there every single night!”

Across town at the Independence Visitor Center, the start of the European trip was marked by a special sendoff hosted by Orchestra President and CEO Allison Vulgamore, highlighting the economic and cultural exchanges that are a major element of this tour. (We’ll have more on this in future posts).

Between her remarks at the Tour’s launch event, Philadelphia Orchestra President and CEO Allison Vulgamore introduced a video from Yannick that included a brief clip of the Orchestra in concert, performing Rachmaninoff’s Third Symphony, which will be showcased on the Tour. Photo by Will Figg.

 Mayor Michael Nutter addresses the crowd of Tour sponsors and partners at the launch event. The Philadelphia Orchestra joins with two delegations representing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the City of Philadelphia on the Tour, to introduce Europe not only to the Orchestra under the leadership of Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, but also to promote Pennsylvania as a global destination for tourism, trade, and business development. The Tour’s primary partner is the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; supporting sponsors are HSBC, the Rhône-Alpes Region, Saint-Gobain, Pepper Hamilton, and Brian Communications. Additional support is provided by BDO France, Team PA, the City of Philadelphia, Visit Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau, and John McFadden and Lisa Kabnick. Photo by Will Figg.

Gathered after the launch event, which was held at the Independence Visitor Center, are (left to right): Matt Cabrey, executive director, Select Greater Philadelphia; Alan Greenberger, deputy mayor for economic development and director of commerce, City of Philadelphia; Dina Pokedoff, senior manager of brand, Saint-Gobain; Brian Tierney, CEO, Brian Communications; Mayor Michael Nutter; Philadelphia Orchestra president and CEO Allison Vulgamore; Jeremy Heep, partner, Pepper Hamilton LLP; Wilfred Muskens, deputy secretary, Office of International Business Development, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; Cheryl Bullock, regional director, Senator Robert Casey’s Philadelphia Office. Photo by Will Figg.

Speaking to a host of Tour sponsors and partners, including state, city, and business officials, Mayor Michael Nutter made the key point: He wanted to make sure that the musicians know that, “while they travel around the world and go make other people happy … Philadelphia is home!”