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“A Collection of Everything that’s Great in Music … without Boundaries”

January 19, 2016

The Philadelphia Orchestra Announces its 2016-17 Season

Photo by Chris Lee

That’s how Yannick Nézet-Séguin describes The Philadelphia Orchestra’s 2016-17 season, his fifth at the helm of the Fabulous Philadelphians. A bold statement to be sure, but as Will Rogers (among others) once said, “It ain’t bragging if you can back it up.” And boy can he! Consider the following:

  • The season includes a collection of music inspired by Paris, with a three-week festival at the heart. Celebrations of Rachmaninoff, Mozart, and a complete cycle of Brahms’s four symphonies are complemented by music of prominent Americans such as Christopher Rouse, Mason Bates, Christopher Theofanidis, and Pat Metheny. Centuries of music covers ground from Bach to electronica, from Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle to John Williams’s score to E.T. live with film.
  • Fantastic soloists sharing the stage with the Orchestra: legends such as André Watts, Radu Lupu, Midori, and Yefim Bronfman; rising stars like Benjamin Beilman and Daniil Trifonov (our Grammy-nominated recording partner); dear friends including Leonidas Kavakos, Yuja Wang, and Garrick Ohlsson; and our own Principal Viola Choong-Jin Chang, Principal Bassoon Daniel Matsukawa, and Principal Percussion Christopher Deviney.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin and The Philadelphia Orchestra. Photo by Jeff Fusco

  • Conductor Laureate Charles Dutoit returns, plus Principal Guest Conductor Stéphane Denève leads multiple weeks; notable guest conductors include Simon Rattle, Michael Tilson Thomas, Itzhak Perlman (who also performs), close colleague Cristian Măcelaru, Herbert Blomstedt (celebrating his 90th birthday), as well as returns by Gianandrea Noseda, Fabio Luisi, Tugan Sokhiev, and Alain Altinoglu, and debuts of Jane Glover (on subscription) and Louis Langrée.
  • The classics everyone loves, including Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, Orff’s Carmina burana, and Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, plus Mahler’s Third Symphony, Britten’s War Requiem, and Bernstein’s “Jeremiah” Symphony (looking ahead to Bernstein’s centennial in 2018).
  • Acclaimed voices to stir the heart, including Susan Graham in selections from Songs of the Auvergne; Michelle DeYoung and John Relyea in Bluebeard’s Castle; Karen Cargill in the Mahler Third; and Tatiana Monogarova, John Mark Ainsley, Matthias Goerne, the Westminster Symphonic Choir, and the American Boychoir in Britten’s War Requiem.

Audiences will travel to Paris with Yannick and the Orchestra in January 2017.

  • Important commissions and premieres, including a brand new Organ Concerto from Christopher Rouse for the 10th anniversary of the Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ, featuring Paul Jacobs; the world premiere of our own Christopher Deviney’s Duo Concerto, based on music by Pat Metheny; Alternative Energy by Mason Bates (with the composer joining the performance); and the world premiere of transcriptions of Brahms’s organ Choral Preludes by Detlev Glanert.
  • And then there’s just plain amazing: Denève leading the Orchestra in three live screenings of E.T.: the Extraterrestrial; our Halloween Organ Extravaganza; a Valentine’s Day event concert; and the Glorious Sound of Christmas!

Amidst all the musical riches embodied by these wonderful artists, let’s not forget the main attraction: the Orchestra itself. Renowned for over a century as one of the world’s greatest musical ensembles, The Philadelphia Orchestra is revered everywhere for the astonishing talent of its musicians, its unmatched cohesiveness, and of course the Philadelphia Sound, what Yannick calls its “resonating soul.”

And while we’re on the subject, let’s acknowledge Yannick’s accomplishments. In a brief four years, he has taken the Orchestra to new musical heights, honoring its storied past while infusing it with even more energy, passion, and joy. And recently the music world recognized what we’ve known here in Philadelphia for a long time when he was named Musical America’s 2016 Artist of the Year.


Set design by Dezső Zádor for the 1918 premiere of Bartók’s
Bluebeard’s Castle, which will be performed March 2-4, 2017.


Yannick himself will wield the baton for some of the upcoming season’s most unforgettable programs, including our season opener with pianist Yuja Wang; Mozart’s Mass in C minor; the complete version of Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloé (“a work that’s dear to my heart,” says Yannick); the Rouse Organ Concerto; Brahms’s towering Fourth Symphony; Bluebeard’s Castle; Bernstein’s “Jeremiah” Symphony; Mahler’s Third Symphony; and many others.

He’s especially enthusiastic about three weeks of programs next January, which brings us to the “without boundaries” part of our story. Yannick says he likes to have a theme across the season “of somewhere we’d like to travel, in music.” Recent seasons have seen musical trips to St. Petersburg and Vienna. “You know, when it’s January, and it’s after the holidays, and it’s winter here … sometimes our minds and our bodies would like to explore the rest of the world. So we give you, at The Philadelphia Orchestra, the opportunity of joining us on a musical journey abroad, to one of the cities that has generated so much great music, and where everybody still wants to travel: Paris.”

This metaphorical journey (we’re not actually leaving the Kimmel Center!) takes place over three weeks in January 2017. We’ll hear from French composers: Ravel (Menuet antique), Fauré (Pavane), Saint-Saëns (“Bacchanale” from Samson and Delilah), and Chabrier (Joyeuse Marche); composers who moved to Paris and made an indelible mark there: Chopin (Piano Concerto No. 1 with Louis Lortie) and Stravinsky (Petrushka); and composers who looked beyond France for inspiration, with resounding success: Berlioz (Harold in Italy with Principal Viola Choong-Jin Chang) and Ravel (Rapsodie espagnole, and, of course, Bolero). We’ll also hear from these French masters outside the festival, throughout the season. Yannick sums up: “I think Paris will be full of poetry and imagery to make us travel!”


Conductor Laureate Charles Dutoit returns March 23-25, 2017,
with Britten’s War Requiem. Photo by Chris Lee


Building on the thrilling success of his performances of Strauss’s Salome, Yannick brings another deeply psychological and gripping opera score to audiences with Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle. “It’s especially remarkable for its orchestral writing. It’s a piece that is very compelling dramatically, and that we will combine with a ballet suite from Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky, which is again an exploration of how our Orchestra can define itself in repertoire that is associated with other forms of art, like vocal music or dance music.”

Of course, the Orchestra is renowned for its mastery of European classics, which will be displayed brilliantly in the 2016-17 season. But Yannick is also increasingly bringing in new American sounds, such as Broadway, jazz, spirituals, film, and now electronica. And he’s chosen a dazzling selection to highlight this in the new season.

In his second week of concerts, Yannick will lead the Orchestra in Rainbow Body by Christopher Theofanidis, “one of the most-played, and I think really more promising and interesting pieces of recent American music,” he says.

Yannick is also very eager to lead a work called Alternative Energy by Mason Bates. “It’s a fascinating piece because it brings a new definition of what is American music.” In addition, the composer himself will join the Orchestra onstage to produce the electronic components of the piece. Another new work is a Duo Concerto for Vibraphone and Marimba based on several pieces by jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, as arranged and orchestrated by Principal Percussion Christopher Deviney.

There’s also a new Organ Concerto commissioned from Christopher Rouse, “one of the most important American composers living today” says Yannick. Soloist Paul Jacobs will perform on the matchless Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ.


Principal Guest Conductor Stéphane Denève leads
the Orchestra in three performances of the classic
film E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial October 14-16, 2016.


Finally, no collection of American music would be complete without the works of Leonard Bernstein. Leading up to his centenary in 2018, the Orchestra will present his jazzy Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs and Symphony No. 1 (“Jeremiah”). “So this is, I think, a nice picture of American music,” says Yannick, “not only of our time, but connecting the past, the present, and the future.”

Speaking of American music, what’s more American than a brilliant movie soundtrack by the incredible John Williams? And what could be more thrilling than watching the unforgettable E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial in Verizon Hall, while Principal Guest Conductor Stéphane Denève leads the Orchestra in this timeless score? Denève, a fervent champion of Williams’s music, calls these three special performances next October “a dream come true,” and we think you’ll agree.

An amazing season, with superstar artists, classic masterworks, the best of American music, and even a trip to Paris. We’ll let Yannick have the last word: “A season with The Philadelphia Orchestra can be one week of all Mozart. It can be also Stéphane Denève bringing all his passion to the score of E.T. And it can also be a week where we do the Shostakovich Fourth Symphony.” In other words: “A collection of everything that’s great in music … without boundaries.”

Steve Holt, managing partner at re:Write, is a veteran journalist and musician.

E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial is a trademark and copyright of Universal Studios. Licensed by Universal Studios Licensing LLC. All rights reserved. ©A.M.P.A.S.®