With all the excitement surrounding the papal visit, and the Orchestra’s starring role in it, you might forget that the 2015-16 season is about to begin. But it is, kicking off with a bang on September 30 with the Opening Night Concert and Gala at the Kimmel Center. This fourth season under Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin is highlighting the legendary Philadelphia Sound, lauded for a century, and very much alive today.
Photo by Jessica Griffin
The Orchestra is almost as legendary for its record-breaking achievements (first symphony orchestra to make electrical recordings; first orchestra to make a commercially sponsored radio broadcast; first to appear on a national television broadcast, among many, many others) as it is for the Sound, so it’s fitting that this season begins with a tribute to one of the ensemble’s many breakthroughs: performing the soundtrack for Walt Disney’s immortal Fantasia, 75 years after its dazzling premiere. Selections from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker will be performed with the actual movie: the famous dancing flowers, mushrooms, and snowflakes will be projected above the Orchestra. Also on the program: Leopold Stokowski’s orchestrations of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor and Debussy’s “Clair de lune.”
Yannick says conducting Fantasia is one of the privileges of being music director of this orchestra. “This is still the greatest music, not only in our own history, but the film was important in getting this music to a broad public; many people heard classical music for the first time by watching this film.”
Yannick adds that performing Fantasia is symbolically important, given the Orchestra’s history of being in the forefront of new technology. “There’s no better way of celebrating the 75th anniversary than to play some of the music in the film [recorded in multi-track stereo way back in 1939], giving the audience an opportunity to listen to this orchestra put their special stamp, their special Sound at the service of this great repertoire.”
Fantasia is being rereleased nationally on November 8 for a very limited run. The movie opens with a newly taped video introduction from Yannick that will include clips of the Orchestra rehearsing some of the Opening Night repertoire from the movie.
Looking ahead to the season, how will the Orchestra explore the Philadelphia Sound? “It all starts with the repertoire. We’ve been focusing in my first few years on the special heritage of Stokowski; now we’re shifting to Eugene Ormandy’s special heritage. Our first subscription concert is a great example. Ormandy recorded Sheherazade many times, and he also recorded Rachmaninoff’s Fourth Piano Concerto twice, once with the composer.” (Daniil Trifonov is the soloist in these concerts, as he does on our recent Deutsche Grammophon recording of Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini). Ormandy was also a great champion of Ravel, whose Une Barque sur l’océan rounds out the program (and was given its U.S. premiere by Ormandy and the Orchestra in 1953).
Yannick concludes: “This is not only an opportunity to remember our history; we also feel we have to reinvent it every day and season. The Sound is not set in stone; it’s ever alive. It has to be informed by its own history, by listening to our own recordings and also to the older members of the Orchestra who are transmitting their knowledge and perception of the Sound, day after day. The repertoire we perform helps create and actualize our Philadelphia Sound for 21st century audiences.”
Visit our website to learn more about the season or to purchase tickets.