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The Philadelphia Orchestra’s 2015 Tour of Europe: A Triumphant Success

June 11, 2015

(Philadelphia, June 11, 2015)—The Philadelphia Orchestra returned from its highly-anticipated European Tour with Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin on June 7, 2015, following 14 performances in 10 of Europe’s most storied and historic music halls in Luxembourg, Germany, France, Austria, the Netherlands, and England. Across the board, European audiences and critics alike lauded the Fabulous Philadelphians under the leadership of Nézet-Séguin, with Vienna’s Der Standard commenting, “A cornucopia of perfection and dynamic fury—this is just a taste of what the Philadelphia Orchestra brought to its first evening performance of its two-day residence at the Wiener Musikverein. … Yannick Nézet-Séguin is considered by many to be one of the most thrilling conductors of our time, and his interpretation of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony with the Philadelphia Orchestra was a consummate masterpiece of sheer perfection.” Overall, the Tour’s successes were threefold: as an artistic venture, with the Orchestra and Nézet-Séguin receiving glowing reviews; as an opportunity for furthering the Orchestra’s educational mission through residency activities in Lyon and London; and as a moment for promoting Pennsylvania as a global destination for tourism, trade, and business development, alongside two delegations representing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the City of Philadelphia.

“I imagined this would be something extraordinary, one of the great moments of our history,” said Yannick Nézet-Séguin. “It was every bit as great, even greater. Every single Orchestra musician gave their all to bring the Philadelphia Sound to European audiences, and I couldn’t be more proud of what we accomplished. I’m also so thrilled to have been able to bring along on this tour three amazing soloists, all friends of mine and of the Orchestra’s: violinist Lisa Batiashvili, pianist Emanuel Ax, and pianist Jan Lisiecki.”

An Artistic Victory: News and Reviews
“…it’s proving a remarkable partnership [Yannick Nézet-Séguin and The Philadelphia Orchestra] if this thrilling concert—the orchestra’s first in London since his appointment—is anything to go by.” Tim Ashley, The Guardian, London

“The glory of this Philadelphian performance was the sumptuous and unalloyed playing. The intensity, passion, and sheer perfection were nothing short of breathtaking.”  -Richard Landau ClassicalSource.com, London

“…sumptuous, voluptuous strings, homogeneous sections…lustrous, incisive brass…clear and flowing, with no pathos.” –Michael Le Naour, ConcertClassic, Paris

“One does not hear a great performance like this every evening…” -Felix Stephan, Berliner Morgenpost, Berlin

A Focus on Community Initiatives
In addition to outstanding performances in Europe’s most important music capitals, the tour featured a series of special community engagement and cultural exchange activities in the cities of Lyon and London.

On May 30 three groups of Philadelphia Orchestra musicians performed Pop-Up Concerts at Place Louis Pradel and the Museé des Beaux Arts Gardens in Lyon. On May 31, four musicians participated in an hour-long side-by-side chamber performance with musicians of the Orchestre National de Lyon. This special concert was presented in partnership with the Orchestre and the City of Lyon, and featured a performance of a Smetana quartet by Philadelphia Orchestra musicians, and a side-by side performance of the Mendelssohn Octet, led by the Orchestre’s concertmaster Jennifer Gilbert, the sister of New York Philharmonic Music Director Alan Gilbert.

In London, musicians brought the Philadelphians’ tradition of collective music-making and partnership across the pond. On June 5 Assistant Conductor Lio Kuokman led a string sectional with a quartet of musicians from The Philadelphia Orchestra and a group of students from the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. The sectional preceded a side-by-side community concert held on June 6 at St. Paul’s Way Trust School. The concert was for residents of the Poplar community, a former industrial borough of East London currently experiencing a cultural revitalization.

Fostering Global Partnerships
Finally, understanding the unique opportunity around the Orchestra’s 2015 Tour of Europe, a group of Philadelphia-based civic, cultural, business, and economic development organizations came together with a commitment to fostering new relationships, cultivating business opportunities, and participating in cultural exchange. Trade delegations from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the City of Philadelphia sponsored a variety of activities for stakeholders in conjunction with the Orchestra’s concerts in Berlin, Dortmund, Vienna, and Amsterdam.  These events included receptions, seminars, and networking opportunities as a means of showcasing the best of the Commonwealth’s arts and culture for stakeholders’ clients and business associates. The deepest of these partnerships were in London and in Philadelphia’s sister city, Lyon.

Throughout their time in Lyon, business leaders from Philadelphia and Lyon gathered to create new connections and share best practices for trade, investment, and tourism. This exchange merged business, arts, and culture, and highlighted Philadelphia’s commitment to working together for economic prosperity and global business expansion. Partners included Global Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development, Visit Philadelphia, and the City of Philadelphia.

The Orchestra concluded the tour with a three-day community celebration, with activities taking place across London. Sounding the Liberty Bell: A Weekend of Innovation, Music, and Art, began on June 4 with a Philadelphia-London business and enterprise discussion and reception, which brought business leaders together to engage in meaningful conversations and cultural exchange. The event included a special tour, taking the delegation to the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, where Philadelphia’s iconic Liberty Bell was originally cast.

Traveling with Board Leaders and Supporters from Home
In addition to the trade delegations representing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the City of Philadelphia, a group of 26 patrons, board members, and supporters, including Chairman Richard B. Worley and his wife Leslie Anne Miller, also travelled with the Orchestra on its tour.  Activities of the patron tour included attending concerts in Paris, Lyon, Amsterdam, and London; participating in dinners with Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin and President and CEO Allison Vulgamore;  and joining with the musicians and special guests for a celebratory champagne toast concluding the tour in London.

The Philadelphia Orchestra’s 2015 Tour of Europe marked Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Orchestra’s inaugural tour of Europe together, as well as the 60th anniversary of the Orchestra’s first visit to the European Continent. Beginning on May 21, 2015, the Orchestra made debut appearances in Dortmund, where Nézet-Séguin is the Konzerthaus’s artist-in-residence, and Lyon. The Orchestra also made appearances in Luxembourg, Cologne, Dresden, Berlin, Paris, Vienna, and Amsterdam, concluding on June 6 in London. Pianist Emanuel Ax, violinist Lisa Batiashvili, and pianist Jan Lisiecki joined the Orchestra as soloists on the Tour.

The Philadelphia Orchestra
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 imagination and innovation on and off the concert stage. The Orchestra is 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’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 since his inaugural season in 2012. He is embraced by the musicians of the Orchestra, audiences, and the community itself. The New York Times has called Nézet-Séguin “phenomenal,” adding that under his baton, “the ensemble … has never sounded better.” Under Nézet-Séguin’s leadership the Orchestra returned to recording on the Deutsche Grammophon label. The Orchestra also reaches thousands of listeners on the radio with weekly Sunday afternoon broadcasts on WRTI-FM.

Through concerts, tours, residencies, presentations, and recordings, the Orchestra is a global ambassador for Philadelphia and for the United States. Having been the first American orchestra to perform in China, in 1973 at the request of President Nixon, today The Philadelphia Orchestra boasts a new partnership with the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing that calls for tours and residencies in China’s major cities and outlying provinces, and which has been hailed by the US Department of State for exemplary people-to-people exchange. In 2015 Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Orchestra toured Europe together for the first time. They were joined by the Commonwealth and the Pennsylvania Governor’s office as part of a trade exchange with the major capitals of Europe. Domestically the ensemble annually performs at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center while also enjoying summer residencies in Saratoga Springs, New York, and Vail, Colorado.

The Philadelphia Orchestra has a decades-long tradition of presenting learning and community engagement opportunities for listeners of all ages across the Delaware Valley. Current initiatives that take musicians off the traditional concert stage and into the community include the highly-successful PopUP Concerts and PlayINs; SingINs, and ConductINs. The Orchestra’s musicians, in their own dedicated roles as teachers, coaches, and mentors, serve a key role in growing young musician talent and a love of classical music, nurturing and celebrating the wealth of musicianship in the Philadelphia region.  

For more information on The Philadelphia Orchestra, please visit philorch.org.