Tag Archives: Philadelphia Orchestra

Xian Zhang’s fresh Beethoven Ninth at Mann

Philadelphia Orchestra, Xian Zhang, conducting, Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, the Choral) Othalie Graham, soprano, Margaret Mezzacappa, mezzo-soprano, Zach Borichevsky, tenor, Luis Ledesma, baritone, The Philadelphia Singers Chorale, David Hayes, music director. J.S. Bach. Concerto for Two Violins & String Orchestra , Juliette Kang, violin, Kimberly Fisher, violin.  Mann Music Center, June 27, 2012, Review for WRTI, 90.1 fm

Beethoven’s Ninth (Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125, “Choral)”, is so familiar we almost don’t hear the notes – waiting for the singers!  Chinese-American conductor Xian Zhang used the Choral Symphony as her calling card with the Philadelphia Orchestra Wednesday night.  Her program of Beethoven and J.S. Bach opened the orchestra’s six- concert series at the Mann in Fairmount Park. Her Beethoven was fresh and focused. As focused as the unidentified bird that chirped through a stretch of the Scherzo, like a scat singer doing syncopation. Zhang, born in 1973, is the music director of Milan’s Gisueppe Verdi Symphony.  She led from memory.

Zhang’s leadership was dynamic no push- pull theatrics with the famous score. She’s got discernment. One mentor was Lorin Maazel. The strings that play so large a part had clarity in every register, violin themes and murmurs, the cellos and basses’ dark alacrity. The Scherzo’s stops and starts compelled; assertions not aggressiveness: when the theme returned it was the better for not being simply louder. There was more instrumental delight from horns and winds and Peter Smith’s oboe. The slow movement came like a breeze. By now the soloists had walked on stage.  Now it gets real, someone in the audience said.  Wrong.

Wednesday’s soloists were quality, Tenor Luis Ledesma began with a confidence and tone he didn’t quite sustain; baritone Zach Borischevsky and mezzo-soprano Margaret Mazzecappa were good choices. Othalie Graham’s soprano had pitch problems. All of the quartet sounded under-rehearsed. The  backup was the thriller – Philadelphia Singers Chorale could sing the finale to the Ninth upside down. Wednesday squeezed on stage behind the instrumentalists their joy thrilling. That inspiration was oddly lacking from all concerned when excellent principals Juliette Kang and Kimberly Fisher opened with J.S. Bach’s Concerto For Two Violins and String Orchestra in D Minor.  An auto pilot version of music that could have been so much more. Clearly the maestra’s attention had been on Beethoven.

Fa la la… Orchestra mixes it up for Xmas

The Glorious Sound of Christmas, Philadelphia Orchestra, Rossen Milanov, cond., Mendelssohn Choir,  Alan Harler, director, soloists from the Curtis Institute and Academy of Vocal Arts;  Pat Carriocchi, narrator. Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center, Dec. 15-17, 2011, Review of Dec. 17 for WRTI, 90. 1 fm.

To celebrate its 10th year at the Kimmel Center, the Philadelphia Orchestra wanted to include the musical community in its annual Christmas concert at Verizon Hall, maestro Rossen Milanov told the cheerful crowd at Verizon Hall Saturday night. The Mendelsohn Club offered a selection of carols, J.S. Bach (from The Mass in B Minor) and Handel;  pretty women from the Curtis Institute bowed away at Vivaldi’s Concerto for Four Violins in B Minor.

The Glorious Sound of Christmas was a potpourri of musical entertainment. Excerpts from The Nutcracker included two arrangements by Ellington and Strayhorn that showed bassist Mike Shaham and clarinetist Sam Caveziel’s gifts of improv and guest saxophone player Larry McKenna. On the other end of sentiment, newscaster Pat Carriocchi  narrated (very well) “The Night Before Christmas.” Whomever put together the orchestra’s holiday program took the kitchen sink approach.

The famous opening  scene from La Boheme was enacted on stage.  Curtis soprano Elizabeth Zharoff and AVA tenor Zach Borischevsky have superb voices. They did a terrific job staying in character through the long scene in front of maestro Milanov. They had some trouble powering  over the orchestra – which is to be expected -most Mimis and Rodolfos do not sing at these posts! Borischevsky was singing at the 11th hour for the tenor who took ill.

Nice to hear the Mendelsohnians whose esprit is unrivaled. The after- intermission number, Bass’s Gloria was richly legato.

Milanov is a smooth leader and genial host. Peter Conti at the organ did a fine job and  how swell his essential instrument looked with the colored pipes mimicking holiday ornaments.

Next up- gifted women worth knowing: English leader Jane Glover’s “Messiah,” and young Sarah Hicks’ Viennese New Years’ program.

Yannick’s Italian Program

Philadelphia Orchestra, music director- designate Yannick Nezet-Seguin, cond., Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center,  Nov. 10-12,  2011. Review of Nov. 10 for WRTI, 90. 1 fm.

Francesca da Rimini (symphonic fantasia, after Dante, Op. 32) isn’t a top- drawer opera but the tone poem Tchaikovsky made of it came off magnificently Thursday night when the Philadelphia Orchestra’s music- director-designate steered its gale winds through Verizon Hall. Yannick Nezet –Seguin’s enthusiasm for Dante’s doomed lovers (in that 14th Circle of Hell) was apparent. The instrumentalists over rode the fantasia’s edges of bombast moving from beauty to beauty across storms. The orchestra’s response to its almost-music director was captivating.

Then a shift to thinner textures and shifting moods with Mendelssohn’s Fourth Symphony. (Symphony No. 4 in A Major, Op. 90 “ Italian.”). Yannick and the ensemble were agile.

Some of Yannick’s choices for the program bore unavoidable comparison to his Italian predecessor.  “La Forza del Destino” opened the second half, the Verdi overture that Riccardo Muti often played – as encore. It was heartwarming: musical rather than forced. Not all musicians are musical but the ebb and flow of Yannick’s lines reflect his choral strengths – and operatic.

Respighi’s The Pines of Rome concluded. This too made multiple good impressions especially the delicacies from the woodwinds. The drop- down from cacophony to near silence was tremendous by the orchestra.  The glitter and blaze of textures in this programmatic suite is a winner every time. The finale, when the brass positioned from the rear balconies ring out – was thrilling. Perhaps not so fiery a moment as with Muti’s historic return to the Academy of Music but memory does not always serve.

Thursday night’s performance was of very high order. Yannick can  follow Muti,  yes, but he is also walking in the footsteps of Eugene Ormandy. This week’s program has Ormandy all over it and every piece a pleaser.

“He’s  an enthusiastic young fellow,” one woman said of Yannick. “I didn’t expect that.”” In agreement were dozens of Drexel students clearly enjoying themselves. Not music students: Health.

Yannick: It’s easier

Philadelphia Orchestra, Yannick Nezet-Seguin, music director designate, cond., Matthias Goerne, baritone, Dorothea Roeschmann, soprano, Westminster Symphonic Choir, Joe Miller, director, Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center, Review of  Nov. 4 m

L.A. has the Dude. Philadelphia has Yannick. “It’s easier to say” than Maestro Nezet –Seguin, a man in Verizon told his wife, unsurprised when Allison Vulgamore told the audience to be sure to return for the “talk back” with Yannick after the orchestra’s performance of the Brahms requiem. It was Friday afternoon and the players, the Westminster Symphonic Choir and soloists Matthias Goerne and Dorothea Roeschmann were clearing the stage. When the orchestra president settled into the Verizon Hall chat with Yannick, one puzzle was explained. Why the wonderful soprano had sung from high in the choral loft. The perch did not do her solo justice.

Yannick said the fifth movement has both ”ethereal and maternal qualities” since it evokes Brahms’ late mother. The baritone role is earth-bound, prophetic. Goerne stood close to the podium where he was entirely compelling.

As they did after last season’s Mozart Requiem, the president and the maestro sallied back and forth about A German Requiem, Op. 45. They took questions. No one mentioned the orchestra’s dire straits. Curioser and curiouser were the questions fielded as Yannick said he looks forward to more recordings and plans hard to conjure in the current fiscal crisis. Thank goodness the Philadelphians’ playing unlike the money continues to flow is full of bite and nuance. Joe Miller’s Westminster Choir is not yet Joe Flummerfelt’s tremendous instrument. The whispered seligs were blessed at their quietest but an underlying thinness kept the orchestra the master when these forces should be equal. Goerne’s vocals were the ones to savor, emotive bursts of wisdom and consolation. The gem of Roeschmann’s soprano needs a better setting.

Mozart’s great Symphony in G Minor, No 40, K. 550 opened with its engaging lulls and repetitions. On Thursday we have Yannick’s The Pines of Rome. A tough act to follow after Maestro Muti’s.