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Yannick Nézet-Séguin and The Philadelphia Orchestra Launch 2015-16 Season Celebrating the Philadelphia Sound

September 25, 2015

Season Highlights Explore Works that Exemplify the Inimitable Philadelphia Sound, including Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 (“Symphony of a Thousand”) and Other Works Premiered by The Philadelphia Orchestra


Orchestra Continues Tradition of Premiering New Works with Three World Premieres, including Hannibal’s One Land, One River, One People; and a Commissions Weekend, featuring Maurice Wright’s Timpani Concerto and Jonathan Leshnoff’s Clarinet Concerto, Written for Principal Players Don Liuzzi and Ricardo Morales


(Philadelphia, September 25, 2015)—The Philadelphia Orchestra and Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin launch the 2015-16 season celebrating the world-renowned Philadelphia Sound the illustrious body of work it has inspired on Wednesday, September 30, at the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall. For over 100 years, the Sound has captivated audiences around the globe and attracted the world’s most accomplished composers and soloists—from Rachmaninoff, Sibelius, and Stravinsky, to John Williams, Yo-Yo Ma, Lang Lang, James Levine, and more. Chief among the works embodying the Philadelphia Sound is Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 (“Symphony of a Thousand”), which received its U.S. premiere by the Fabulous Philadelphians under the baton of Leopold Stokowski at the Academy of Music in 1916. The masterpiece will be featured prominently in the 2015-16 season, along with 11 other works that received world or U.S. premieres by The Philadelphia Orchestra.

Continuing its tradition of premiering new works, the Orchestra adds to the repertoire three pieces commissioned by the ensemble: One Land, One River, One People, an oratorio by American composer Hannibal; and two works written especially for Philadelphia Orchestra principal players, Maurice Wright’s Timpani Concerto written for Principal Timpani Don Liuzzi, and Jonathan Leshnoff’s Clarinet Concerto written for Principal Clarinet Ricardo Morales. The season also features a three-week festival focusing on the music of Vienna; a tribute to composer and conductor John Williams led by Principal Guest Conductor Stéphane Denève featuring cellist Yo-Yo Ma and, in a separate, special event, the composer himself; and guest appearances from the world’s most esteemed and revered conductors and soloists, including James Levine, who returns to Philadelphia for the first time in 20 years.

In addition to artistic programmatic achievements, The Philadelphia Orchestra’s 2015-16 season showcases its deep bond to the city of Philadelphia. Tomorrow, the Orchestra will perform on the world’s stage as His Holiness Pope Francis makes a historic visit to Philadelphia for the 2015 World Meeting of Families. Under the leadership of Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the Philadelphians will perform in front of Pope Francis at the Festival of Families on Saturday, September 26, and provide the liturgical music for the Papal Mass on Sunday, September 27, in front of millions present on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and watching around the globe. Appearances at the grand opening of Wawa’s newest Center City location at the corner of Broad and Walnut Streets on September 18 and at Citizens Bank Park for Yannick to throw the first pitch at the Phillies’ game on September 29 bring the Orchestra off the concert stage and into the lives of music-lovers throughout the City of Brotherly Love.


Mahler’s Monumental “Symphony of a Thousand”

Mahler’s Eighth Symphony—the “Symphony of a Thousand”—is among many works with famous Philadelphia connections. The Philadelphians gave the U.S. premiere of the masterpiece at the Academy of Music on March 2, 1916, with Leopold Stokowski conducting. A 28-year-old Stokowski had heard the world premiere in Munich in 1910 (describing the symphony as “a flashing insight into infinity”) and was determined to bring it to America. In addition to the 110 musicians of The Philadelphia Orchestra, there were eight soloists, a children’s choir of 150, and 800 adult singers on stage for that premiere. Orchestra management, concerned that performers would outnumber the audience, need not have worried: Nine performances sold out. The Philadelphia Orchestra was launched onto the international stage.

On the 100th anniversary of that pivotal moment in Philadelphia Orchestra history, Yannick Nézet-Séguin again marshals the tremendous forces needed to present this unparalleled work, which also embodies the Philadelphia Sound. Joining Nézet-Séguin on the Verizon Hall stage for four centenary performances (March 10-13) will be approximately 400 singers and instrumentalists, including the musicians of The Philadelphia Orchestra, the Westminster Symphonic Choir, the Choral Arts Society of Washington, the American Boychoir, and eight soloists: sopranos Angela Meade, Erin Wall, and Lisette Oropesa; mezzo-sopranos Stephanie Blythe and Mihoko Fujimura; tenor Anthony Dean Griffey; baritone Markus Werba; and bass John Relyea.


Orchestra Commissions include the World Premieres of Hannibal’s One Land, One River, One People; and Maurice Wright’s Timpani Concerto and Jonathan Leshnoff’s Clarinet Concerto, Commissioned for Principal Timpani Don Liuzzi and Principal Clarinet Ricardo Morales

The Philadelphia Sound takes center stage in several new works commissioned for The Philadelphia Orchestra. American jazz trumpeter and composer Hannibal’s One Land, One River, One People was commissioned by The Philadelphia Orchestra and receives its world premiere November 13-15. The Orchestra performed Hannibal’s highly acclaimed African Portraits, detailing the slave experience, in 1997, and two years later gave the world premiere of his One Heart Beating, one of the Orchestra’s Centennial Commissions. The new oratorio—in which Hannibal explores, with a flowing river as the symbol, the connections among communities and all those who live in them—features a combined choir including those from Morgan State University, Delaware State University, and Lincoln University with choral direction by Donald Dumpson; soprano Laquita Mitchell; tenor Rodrick Dixon; and text written by the composer. Nézet-Séguin leads the world premiere in a program that opens with Sibelius’s Finlandia and Copland’s Appalachian Spring.

Also premiering are two new works written specifically for Philadelphia Orchestra principal players. Principal Clarinet Ricardo Morales performs the Clarinet Concerto by Jonathan Leshnoff and Principal Timpani Don Liuzzi headlines the Timpani Concerto by Temple University’s Maurice Wright. The concerts additionally feature Bernstein’s Suite from Fancy Free and Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 7; Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts (April 14-16).


Three-Week Vienna Festival Highlights Viennese Tradition as Cornerstone of Philadelphia Sound

Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts three weeks of a January 2016 Music of Vienna festival, exalting Vienna’s fashionable society while also recognizing the city’s dark side and its importance historically as well as culturally and musically.

The journey to Vienna begins with Vienna Melodies (January 13-16) featuring Johann Strauss Jr.’s “Tales from the Vienna Woods” Waltz and the first Philadelphia Orchestra performances of H.K. Gruber’s Charivari and Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 11 in an orchestration by Mahler. Jan Lisiecki joins the ensemble for Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4. The symphonies of Haydn and Bruckner are highlighted in the second week of the festival. (January 21-22) Nézet-Séguin leads the Orchestra in Haydn’s Symphony No. 103 (“Drum Roll”) and Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4 (“Romantic”). The Orchestra bids Farewell to Vienna (January 28-30) with Leif Ove Andsnes performing Schumann’s Piano Concerto on a program that opens with Webern’s Im Sommerwind (premiered by The Philadelphia Orchestra in 1962) and concludes with Brahms’s Symphony No. 2.


Principal Guest Conductor Stéphane Denève Presents a Two-Week Tribute to John Williams with Subscription Concerts featuring Yo-Yo Ma and a Special Benefit Concert with the Legendary Composer Himself on the Podium

In the spring of 2016 The Philadelphia Orchestra honors the legendary composer and conductor John Williams in concerts lead by Principal Guest Conductor Stéphane Denève and featuring the legendary cellist Yo-Yo Ma and violinist James Ehnes. Ma performs Williams’s Cello Concerto—which Williams wrote for Ma—on a program that also features the composer’s Tributes! For Seiji. Rounding out the concerts are selections from Debussy’s Nocturnes (“Clouds” and “Festivals”) and Musorgsky’s Pictures from an Exhibition orchestrated and arranged by Stokowski in a showcase of the Philadelphia Sound (April 28-May 1).

In the second week of his residency, Denève welcomes Ehnes for performances of Williams’s Violin Concerto, written in 1976 as a tribute to his late wife. Ravel’s Pavane for a Dead Princess and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 complete the program (May 5-7).

Williams himself joins the Orchestra on May 4, 2016, to lead a special benefit concert featuring his legendary film scores, such as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, E.T., Harry Potter, Schindler’s List, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and more.


Guest Conductor James Levine Returns to Philadelphia after 20 Years for a Subscription Weekend at the Special Invitation of Yannick Nézet-Séguin 

Legendary conductor James Levine leads The Philadelphia Orchestra for the first time in 20 years, conducting Ives’s Three Places in New England, Brahms’s Serenade No. 2, and Saint-Saëns’s “Organ” Symphony with guest organist Paul Jacobs. Levine returns to Philadelphia under the special invitation of Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin.


Daniil Trifonov’s Recording of Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphians Earns Recording of the Month Distinction from Gramophone Magazine

In August 2015, Deutsche Grammophon released Rachmaninoff Variations, a studio album featuring The Philadelphia Orchestra, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, and pianist Daniil Trifonov performing the composer’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. The Philadelphians’ connections with Rachmaninoff are particularly visceral, as The Philadelphia Orchestra was his favorite North American ensemble and gave the Rhapsody’s premiere in 1934, with the composer himself at the piano. In September 2015, Gramophone magazine named the disc Recording of the Month, declaring, “The opening bars tell you this is going to be a good ‘Pag Rap.’ As things turn out, it’s a great one, clearly up there with the very best.” Daniil Trifonov returns to Philadelphia to perform Rachmaninoff’s Fourth Piano Concerto October 1-4 at the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall.

Take Me Out to the Ballgame! Yannick Nézet-Séguin Throws First Pitch at Citizens Bank Park, September 29

Yannick Nézet-Séguin returns to Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday, September 29, to throw out the first pitch before the Phillies game against the Mets. The game begins at 7:05 PM, with the first pitch scheduled slightly before that. During Yannick's welcome day in Philadelphia in June 2010, after being named music director, he made a very memorable stop at the ballpark to conduct Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the seventh inning stretch. The relationship between the Orchestra and the Phillies has grown in recent years, with numerous appearances by musicians to perform the National Anthem, and visits to concerts by the Phillie Phanatic.

For a complete program listing for the 2015-16 season, please visit the Orchestra’s Press Room on philorch.org.


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