The Philadelphia Orchestra is one of the preeminent orchestras in the world, renowned for its distinctive sound, desired for its keen ability to capture the hearts and imaginations of audiences, and admired for a legacy of innovation in music-making. The Orchestra is inspiring the future and transforming its rich tradition of achievement, sustaining the highest level of artistic quality, but also challenging—and exceeding—that level, by creating powerful musical experiences for audiences at home and around the world.
Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin triumphantly opened his inaugural season as the eighth artistic leader of The Philadelphia Orchestra in the fall of 2012. He follows an extraordinary history of artistic leaders in the Orchestra’s 114 seasons, including music directors Fritz Scheel, Carl Pohlig, Leopold Stokowski, Eugene Ormandy, Riccardo Muti, Wolfgang Sawallisch, and Christoph Eschenbach, and Charles Dutoit, who served as chief conductor from 2008 to 2012. Under such extraordinary guidance The Philadelphia Orchestra has served as an unwavering standard of excellence in the world of classical music—and it continues to do so today. Yannick’s highly collaborative style, deeply-rooted musical curiosity, and boundless enthusiasm, paired with a fresh approach to orchestral programming, have been heralded by critics and audiences alike. The New York Times has called Nézet-Séguin “phenomenal,” adding that under his baton, “the ensemble … has never sounded better.” He is embraced by the musicians of the Orchestra, audiences, and the community itself. His concerts of diverse repertoire attract sold-out houses, and he has established a regular forum for connecting with concert-goers through Post-Concert Conversations.
Philadelphia is Home
Philadelphia is home and the Orchestra continues to discover new and inventive ways to nurture its relationship with its loyal patrons who support the main season (September-May) in Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. The Kimmel Center, for which the Orchestra serves as the founding resident company, has been the ensemble’s performance hall since 2001. The Philadelphia Orchestra Association also owns the Academy of Music—a National Historic Landmark and the oldest operating opera house in the nation—as it has since 1957. Each year the Orchestra returns to the “Grand Old Lady of Locust Street”—where it performed for 101 seasons before moving to the Kimmel Center—for the Academy Anniversary Concert and Ball, one of the city’s most highly anticipated and attended events. Beyond its robust concert offerings at the Kimmel Center, the Orchestra also performs for Philadelphia audiences during the summer months at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts, as well as in venues across the region, including Penn’s Landing, Longwood Gardens, and the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Many of these performances are part of the ensemble’s free Neighborhood Concert Series as well as its educational and community partnership programs—all of which create greater access and engagement with classical music as an art form.
Commitment to Education
The Philadelphia Orchestra continues its decades-long tradition of presenting learning and community engagement opportunities for listeners of all ages across the Delaware Valley—a tradition dating back to 1921 when Leopold Stokowski initiated concerts exclusively for children. Today the Orchestra introduces orchestral music to a new generation of listeners through programs for children and adults, from Sound All Around (designed for children ages 3-5) to Family Concerts (aimed at children ages 6-12 and their families) to eZseatU (allowing full-time college students to attend an unlimited number of Orchestra concerts for a $25 annual membership fee). The Orchestra engages adult audiences more deeply in its performances through learning programs, including free PreConcert Conversations, which occur before every subscription concert, and Lecture/Luncheons with guest speakers. Musician-led initiatives, including recent highly-successful PlayINs, shine a spotlight on the Orchestra’s musicians, as they spread out from the stage into the community, and serve a key role in growing young musician talent and a love of classical music in their own dedicated roles as teachers, coaches, and mentors. The Orchestra connects with the youth of Philadelphia through its Billy Joel School Concert Program, which improves access to the Orchestra’s School Concerts for underserved city schoolchildren and serves elementary and middle schools chosen from within the School District of Philadelphia. The Orchestra’s School Partnership Program also offers students incomparable exposure and access to The Philadelphia Orchestra and its musicians inside the classrooms of five selected schools in the Philadelphia region. The program’s teaching artists work side-by-side with classroom teachers using curriculum and materials created by the Orchestra’s education department. Finally, The Philadelphia Orchestra collaborates with schools interested in having Orchestra musicians work with their students through the Musicians in the Schools program. These school visits take the form of assembly programs, performances or demonstrations, clinics, and master classes or sectionals.
A Cultural Ambassador Abroad
Through concerts, tours, residencies, presentations, and recordings, the Orchestra is a global ambassador for Philadelphia and for the United States. Outside of Philadelphia, the Orchestra performs annually at Carnegie Hall and enjoys a three-week summer residency at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in New York—a venue that was built for the Orchestra—as well as a strong partnership with the Bravo! Vail music festival, which brings the world’s finest orchestras to Colorado each summer. The Orchestra also has a long history of touring, having first performed outside of Philadelphia in the earliest days of its founding. The Philadelphia Orchestra was the first American orchestra to perform in the People’s Republic of China in 1973. In 2012 the ensemble reconnected with its historical roots in China and more deeply embraced its role as a cultural ambassador by launching a new partnership with the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) in Beijing, a pilot residency that united the Orchestra with talented young Chinese musicians and composers to further develop their orchestral skills. The residency also served to bring orchestral music, through performances and master classes, not only to China’s major cities but also further into the provinces, and to connect through the hearts of local musicians to their supporting communities, through the sharing of musical talents between its own musicians and Chinese musicians, engaging in music education, and spreading the joy of classical music with citizens in residential neighborhoods and at landmark historic sites. The success of this pilot program was confirmed when the Orchestra and the NCPA signed a long-term agreement to extend this partnership into future residency programs, and in May-June 2013 the Orchestra triumphantly returned for its Residency and Fortieth Anniversary Tour of China—with over 50 activities in 15 days. This past June The Philadelphia Orchestra completed its 2014 Tour of Asia and China Residency (May 20-June 6), marking Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s first tour with The Philadelphia Orchestra. With the 2014 China Residency, the Orchestra built upon the tremendous success of its previous two years of residency work in China and continued to engage Chinese music lovers both in concert halls and through community engagement.
An Orchestra that Understands the Power of Innovation in its Art Form
The Philadelphia Orchestra has long pushed the boundaries of convention in the classical music realm. Signature to such a reputation are world or American premieres of such important works as Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 (“Symphony of a Thousand”), Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder, and Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances. The Orchestra maintains a strong commitment to collaborations with cultural and community organizations on a regional and national level. Since Orchestra President and CEO Allison Vulgamore’s arrival in 2010, The Philadelphia Orchestra has reinvigorated and launched new partnerships with Pennsylvania Ballet, Philadelphia Live Arts (FringeArts), Philadanco, Opera Philadelphia, the Curtis Institute of Music, Ridge Theater Company, and stage director James Alexander, among others. As part of its commitment to bringing classical music to audiences where they are listening, the Orchestra returned to recording under Yannick’s leadership with a CD on the prestigious Deutsche Grammophon label of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and Leopold Stokowski transcriptions of three of Bach’s most famous organ works—his Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, Fugue in G minor (“Little”), and Toccata and Fugue in D minor—as well as his transcription of Stravinsky’s “Pastorale.” This continues the Orchestra’s remarkable history in this area, having made its first recording in 1917 and having amassed an enormous discography in the intervening years. The Orchestra also currently makes live recordings available on popular digital music services such as iTunes and Amazon, among others. In Yannick’s inaugural season the Orchestra has also returned to the radio airwaves, with weekly Sunday afternoon broadcasts on WRTI-FM. These recent initiatives carry on a legacy that boasts an extraordinary record of media firsts, including being the first symphonic orchestra to make electrical recordings (in 1925), the first to perform its own commercially sponsored radio broadcast (in 1929, on NBC), the first to perform on the soundtrack of a feature film (Paramount’s The Big Broadcast of 1937), the first to appear on a national television broadcast (in 1948, on CBS), and the first major orchestra to give a live cybercast of a concert on the internet (in 1997). The Orchestra also became the first major orchestra to multi-cast a concert to large-screen venues through the Internet2 network.