Welcome our cultural exchange partner, Bejing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts Orchestra.
An enduring musical partnership and a tour-de-force showcase of the Orchestra's brilliance: These concerts are the consummate kickoff for the season's subscription concerts! Emanuel Ax (“We are totally captured by his intensity and pianistic achievement”—Los Angeles Times) returns to Verizon Hall to join the Fabulous Philadelphians in Mozart's final piano concerto. Yannick and the Philadelphians explore the passion and tragedy of Dvorák's Othello Overture, with Tchaikovsky's fiery Fourth Symphony a fitting finale.
Bruckner, says Yannick, is the only composer he feels as if he had conducted in a previous life. You’ll understand why he’s sealed his international reputation as a true Brucknerian when he leads the Orchestra in this epic symphony, the last the composer completed. It’s “the summit of his art,” says Yannick, with a final coda that conjures “all the bells of the world ringing at the same time.” A smaller ensemble and the “lovely turns” (New York Times) of concertmaster David Kim open the program with Bach’s airy and melodic Violin Concerto No. 2, an intimate contrast to Bruckner’s intricate masterpiece.
Frequent guest Donald Runnicles is an illustrious figure on opera podiums from San Francisco to New York to Berlin. This program highlights his mastery, from the fairy-tale charms of Hansel and Gretel to the powerful mythological romance of Tannhäuser. A renowned symphonic conductor as well, Maestro Runnicles will reveal all the charm and profundity of Mozart’s “Prague” Symphony. We open with Vaughan Williams’s 16th-century retrospective Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, featuring the uniquely lush Philadelphia strings.
“There is no question that his whole heart is in what he’s doing,” says the Washington Post of Christoph Eschenbach, and that heart will be on full display when our former music director returns to lead the Philadelphians. Cello virtuoso Alisa Weilerstein (“truly a phenomenon”—The Telegraph) brings her incredible musicality to bear on Schumann’s Cello Concerto. Never performed during the composer’s lifetime, this intensely personal work now lives in the pantheon of cello compositions. From its indelible four-note opening to the rousing finale, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony never fails to enthrall. Der Freischütz (The Freeshooter) was a triumph for Carl Maria von Weber; the Overture alone makes clear why the work inspired composers from Wagner to Berlioz.
Principal Trumpet David Bilger takes center stage in Christian Lindberg’s eclectic, virtuosic Akbank Bunka (“unadulterated jazz with the flirtatious unpredictability of a butterfly”—The Scotsman). Stravinsky’s indelible dance music for The Firebird and Prokofiev’s fervent Fifth Symphony are also led by the brilliant young Israeli conductor Lahav Shani, just named to be the new principal conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic. Don’t miss this rising star in his Philadelphia Orchestra debut.
Period ensemble expert Nicholas McGegan returns for an intimate performance of Italian-style Baroque and neo-classical music. Plus the Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ is featured in one of the many great Handel concertos for the instrument with the skillful Peter Richard Conte at the keys. The Italian Baroque concerto grosso tradition inspired Respighi and Stravinsky to write historically inspired works that bookend this program. And no program of Italian music would be complete without the definitive national voice of Rossini, telling the Cinderella tale in his Overture to La Cenerentola. Two performances only!