Entertainment » Music

The Philadelphia Orchestra and Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin

by Andrew Clark
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Oct 11, 2017
The Philadelphia Orchestra and Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin

The Philadelphia Orchestra opened its 118th season last week with a beautiful new retrospect of their version of The Three B's. Traditionally a term for the work of Bach, Beethoven, & Brahms after their sequential mastery of traditional composing, this program moved Bach out for a more modern master, Leonard Bernstein. This makes quite a lot of sense considering Bernstein's various connections to Philadelphia, and to the Philadelphia Orchestra specifically. Making his Orchestra debut almost 70 years ago, Bernstein's music has survived decades and become classic across countless genres and stories.

Led by Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who recently signed on as Director through 2026, and staged in the cinematic Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center, the Orchestra was in fine form throughout its opening night. The program started admittedly a little bit slow, with the full orchestra performing the "Symphonic Suite" for the 1954 film, "On The Waterfront." A quote from Bernstein highlighted in the program book matched my response to the music as he expressed dissatisfaction writing a score, "whose chief musical merit ought to be its unobtrusiveness." While technically impressive, I found the Suite to be lacking in excitement.

Luckily, the Beethoven concerto and Brahms dance numbers introduced some excitement into the program, in no small part due to the joy of watching young prodigy Harmony Zhu's considerable talent. She worked her way solo through Beethoven's "First Movement from Piano Concerto No. 1," and then side by side with Emanuel Ax as they picked up the pace for Brahms' "Hungarian Dance Nos. 1 & 5." The full Orchestra's power is what many may come to the Orchestra for, but the quieter, enthralling work of Zhu on the piano opened the program up to the expanse of the great composers' work.

The upbeat Brahms dances lead seamlessly into the headliner, Bernstein's "Symphonic Dances" from "West Side Story." The crowd lit up with excitement as the Prologue fired into action, complete with the famous snaps from members of the Orchestra, and this pace didn't let up for the full 20 minutes of the beloved score.

As diverse and engaging as any recent program, the Philadelphia Orchestra's opening night was an exciting reminder of the dynamic things that classical music can be, as well as a strong showing of the company's power and versatility. While this exact program won't be performed a second time, it's clear that artistically the Orchestra's season is off to the right start.

The Philadelphia Orchestra season opener was held on October 5 at Verizon Hall, 300 S Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19102. For information or tickets to the Philadelphia Orchestra's season, call 215-790-5800 or visit www.kimmelcenter.org

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