Philippe Tondre

Musicians Behind the Scenes: Philippe Tondre

Posted by:  The Philadelphia Orchestra on September 29, 2021

Each month in the Orchestra’s Playbill, we feature one musician in a question-and-answer segment. Below is that feature in its entirety.

Philippe Tondre Principal Oboe, Samuel S. Fels Chair

Where were you born? I was born in Mulhouse, Alsace, France.

What piece of music could you hear over and over again? So many! Maybe in first place in terms of orchestral repertoire: Mahler’s Second Symphony (over and over is obviously impossible with this one). For chamber music repertoire, I am in love with Pavel Haas’s Suite for Oboe and Piano, the most powerful music in sense of emotion as far as I am concerned. The geopolitical context of the Second World War (the time of composition) and the vocal writing (it was initially meant to be for voice and piano) gives a unique beauty to the piece.

What is your most treasured possession? I am not meaning this egoistically or in the sense of “possessing” someone, however honestly my family, my friends, and my colleagues are treasures for me. There is nothing more beautiful than “social” in life. 

What’s your favorite Philadelphia restaurant? Upfront I would say Parc. However since moving here, I have discovered some other incredible places, like Zama.

Tell us about your instrument. The oboe is a fascinating one. I see it as a tool, after all it’s a piece of grenadilla wood. It helps me to sing and express what I want to say. I know there is much to explain about reeds and technique. But in the end those elements lead to one ultimate goal: to say something, to deliver a message. The oboe never leaves you indifferent, the sound takes you, you can put weight in it and every oboe player can show identity with it. I like the instrument because it’s very honest. 

What’s in your instrument case? Apart from oboes, reeds (of course), knives, reed equipment, oboe repairing tools, extra keys (just in case), masks (COVID compulsory), oil for wood treatment, some “oboe socks” to keep them warm on stage when not playing, a hygrometer (to check humidity in the case) and some Boveda Hygro Bags, sometimes an apple or an orange.

If you could ask one composer one question what would it be? “What the hell is going on up there while writing X.” Chapeau to all of them! I admire all composers. 

What piece of music never fails to move you? Voice compositions go to my heart straight away, especially from the Renaissance period; Tomás Luis de Victoria is my favorite. He was a genius. His music is more than beautiful, it’s subjuguant (captivating). The piece I love from him is “O magnum mysterium” for soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. 

When did you join the Orchestra? I joined officially on September 14, 2020. 

Do you play any instruments? I don’t play any other instruments yet. Let’s see. Maybe one day.

What’s your favorite type of food? I love Korean food and the spicier, the better!

What books are on your nightstand? Right now I read a lot by Timothy Gallwey, excellent for psychology and understanding mental action on sports and physical activities. I love sports so this fascinates me a lot. 

Do you speak any other languages? I speak French (obviously), English, and German. I understand Italian quite well now and Spanish (I am still working on that) and I can understand a little Japanese and Korean, but just a little.

Do you follow any blogs? I don’t really follow blogs. I regularly follow one French TV show that puts forward political or geopolitical debates: C dans l’air (not “c’est la vie”). I always learn something.

Do you have any hobbies? I love sports! That’s so important to me. Jogging, swimming, cycling, tennis, football. Apart from that I love going to jazz clubs, theaters, and cinemas. I also like to cook.

Do you have a favorite movie?Yes! It’s a French-British masterpiece: La Grande Vadrouille with one of my favorite actors, Louis de Funès. It’s a comedy about two French men (with totally contrasting characters) during World War II trying to help British pilots reach the free zone from the occupied side of France. 

Is there a piece of music that isn’t in the standard orchestral repertoire that should be? Good question! Yannick Nézet-Séguin introduced many of us to the Second Symphony of the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, Joseph Bologne, for a Digital Stage concert this past January. This was incredible! I hope we play more of his symphonies.

What’s the last recording you purchased? It was The Philadelphia Orchestra, Yannick, and pianist Daniil Trifonov’s Rachmaninoff cycle. 

What’s on your iPod? I think Tomás Luis de Victoria, Bach, Miles Davis, U2, the Beatles, Brahms, Schumann … 

When was the first time you heard The Philadelphia Orchestra? I think it was on CD: Richard Strauss’s Symphonia domestica with Wolfgang Sawallisch on EMI.

Other than Verizon Hall, where is your favorite place to perform? I love Verizon Hall! Apart from our home, I love the Berlin Philharmonie, Tokyo’s Suntory Hall, Carnegie Hall, and the Musikverein in Vienna, but my absolute favorite is La Maison Symphonique de Montréal. Incredible sound! 

Philippe Tondre Principal Oboe, Samuel S. Fels Chair

Where were you born? I was born in Mulhouse, Alsace, France.

What piece of music could you hear over and over again? So many! Maybe in first place in terms of orchestral repertoire: Mahler’s Second Symphony (over and over is obviously impossible with this one). For chamber music repertoire, I am in love with Pavel Haas’s Suite for Oboe and Piano, the most powerful music in sense of emotion as far as I am concerned. The geopolitical context of the Second World War (the time of composition) and the vocal writing (it was initially meant to be for voice and piano) gives a unique beauty to the piece.

What is your most treasured possession? I am not meaning this egoistically or in the sense of “possessing” someone, however honestly my family, my friends, and my colleagues are treasures for me. There is nothing more beautiful than “social” in life. 

What’s your favorite Philadelphia restaurant? Upfront I would say Parc. However since moving here, I have discovered some other incredible places, like Zama.

Tell us about your instrument. The oboe is a fascinating one. I see it as a tool, after all it’s a piece of grenadilla wood. It helps me to sing and express what I want to say. I know there is much to explain about reeds and technique. But in the end those elements lead to one ultimate goal: to say something, to deliver a message. The oboe never leaves you indifferent, the sound takes you, you can put weight in it and every oboe player can show identity with it. I like the instrument because it’s very honest. 

What’s in your instrument case? Apart from oboes, reeds (of course), knives, reed equipment, oboe repairing tools, extra keys (just in case), masks (COVID compulsory), oil for wood treatment, some “oboe socks” to keep them warm on stage when not playing, a hygrometer (to check humidity in the case) and some Boveda Hygro Bags, sometimes an apple or an orange.

If you could ask one composer one question what would it be? “What the hell is going on up there while writing X.” Chapeau to all of them! I admire all composers. 

What piece of music never fails to move you? Voice compositions go to my heart straight away, especially from the Renaissance period; Tomás Luis de Victoria is my favorite. He was a genius. His music is more than beautiful, it’s subjuguant (captivating). The piece I love from him is “O magnum mysterium” for soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. 

When did you join the Orchestra? I joined officially on September 14, 2020. 

Do you play any instruments? I don’t play any other instruments yet. Let’s see. Maybe one day.

What’s your favorite type of food? I love Korean food and the spicier, the better!

What books are on your nightstand? Right now I read a lot by Timothy Gallwey, excellent for psychology and understanding mental action on sports and physical activities. I love sports so this fascinates me a lot. 

Do you speak any other languages? I speak French (obviously), English, and German. I understand Italian quite well now and Spanish (I am still working on that) and I can understand a little Japanese and Korean, but just a little.

Do you follow any blogs? I don’t really follow blogs. I regularly follow one French TV show that puts forward political or geopolitical debates: C dans l’air (not “c’est la vie”). I always learn something.

Do you have any hobbies? I love sports! That’s so important to me. Jogging, swimming, cycling, tennis, football. Apart from that I love going to jazz clubs, theaters, and cinemas. I also like to cook.

Do you have a favorite movie?Yes! It’s a French-British masterpiece: La Grande Vadrouille with one of my favorite actors, Louis de Funès. It’s a comedy about two French men (with totally contrasting characters) during World War II trying to help British pilots reach the free zone from the occupied side of France. 

Is there a piece of music that isn’t in the standard orchestral repertoire that should be? Good question! Yannick Nézet-Séguin introduced many of us to the Second Symphony of the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, Joseph Bologne, for a Digital Stage concert this past January. This was incredible! I hope we play more of his symphonies.

What’s the last recording you purchased? It was The Philadelphia Orchestra, Yannick, and pianist Daniil Trifonov’s Rachmaninoff cycle. 

What’s on your iPod? I think Tomás Luis de Victoria, Bach, Miles Davis, U2, the Beatles, Brahms, Schumann … 

When was the first time you heard The Philadelphia Orchestra? I think it was on CD: Richard Strauss’s Symphonia domestica with Wolfgang Sawallisch on EMI.

Other than Verizon Hall, where is your favorite place to perform? I love Verizon Hall! Apart from our home, I love the Berlin Philharmonie, Tokyo’s Suntory Hall, Carnegie Hall, and the Musikverein in Vienna, but my absolute favorite is La Maison Symphonique de Montréal. Incredible sound! 

 Photo by Nikolaj Lund

 

 

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