Presenting: the brass family! Philadelphia Orchestra musician Matt Vaughn will guide the audience through this regal instrument family.
Mahler summons a large orchestra to explore the full range of human emotions in his Fifth Symphony, a work that Yannick returns to with the Philadelphians for the first time in 9 years. Schubert himself struggled to play the Wanderer Fantasy. More than just a technical challenge, the piece is an ingenious set of variations on the composer's song “Der Wanderer,” transformed by Liszt into a rarely heard piano concerto. The four movements are played without a break, building intensity until the mesmerizing finale.
With these concerts our esteemed colleague Stéphane Denève begins his sixth and final season as our principal guest conductor. Soviet-born American composer Lera Auerbach says she was drawn to the myth of Icarus because of “his wish to reach the unreachable, the intensity of the ecstatic brevity of his flight, and the inevitability of his fall.” Her adventurous musical palette exploits the full sonic range of the orchestra: shimmering, soaring, and ultimately dying away. Stravinsky describes a different myth about feathered flight in his Firebird.
The Orchestra returns to the Academy of Music for its first subscription concerts since moving to Verizon Hall in 2001. It's a fitting venue for Rachmaninoff's nostalgic, romantic Symphony No. 3, premiered by the composer's cherished Philadelphians in 1936 on that very same stage, with Leopold Stokowski conducting. The gentle, lone piano chords that open the Fourth Concerto were a radical construct when Beethoven premiered the wide-ranging and emotional work in 1808. Yefim Bronfman says he's always been drawn to its tenderness.
What exactly is Elgar's "enigma?" We may never know but we can still enjoy these 14 charming variations on a theme that Elgar composed "to my friends pictured within." British conductor Edward Gardner, chief conductor of the Bergen Philharmonic and principal conductor designate of the London Philharmonic, makes his Philadelphia Orchestra debut, and keyboard virtuoso Paul Jacobs returns to the Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ.
Italian conductor Fabio Luisi returns to conduct a program that opens with Bent Sørensen’s Evening Land. The piece was inspired by an image of the evening light that Sørensen recalled from his childhood in Denmark. Principal Flute Jeffrey Khaner is especially pleased to be performing the Nielsen Concerto. “I love the back and forth in the orchestration; it's a lot of fun to play and listen to!” Famous for its ingenious use of a “fate” theme, Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony progresses from a somber beginning to an uplifting, triumphant march in the final movement. It's Tchaikovsky at his soulful best!
Bruckner is “one of the great symphonists of all time,” says Yannick. His music is “spiritual, romantic, dreamy, imposing, cataclysmic … music that excites all the emotions and magnifies the results of the symphony.” A Bruckner champion and world-renowned interpreter, Yannick's deep affinity for the composer shines in passionate performances of the thrilling Third Symphony, “an unquestioned masterpiece, a citadel that no critic can pull down.
Principal Timpani Don Liuzzi and Principal Percussion Christopher Deviney at Eastern State Penitentiary. Photo by Jeff Fusco.