Philadelphia Daily News

January 19, 2004

Eschenbach's theme for 2nd season: Humanity and hope

By Tom Di Nardo

For his second season as the Philadelphia Orchestra's music director, Christoph Eschenbach has embedded the schedule with an undeniably personal stamp. His main focus is the humanity expressed in music, with a series of ongoing celebrations covering a huge span of the repertoire.

The many highlights include:

- Mahler's Fifth and Ninth symphonies, continuing the five-year symphony cycle.
- Music by six great composers from very late in their careers.
- Nine new works, including two Orchestra commissions.
- A celebration of Dvorak's centenary, with music by other Czech composers.
- Debuts of three conductors and 10 soloists.
- Opening night with soprano Renée Fleming, and the televised opening of the Carnegie Hall season with Fleming and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
- Five Orchestra members in solo roles.
- Conductor-laureate Wolfgang Sawallisch, returning for four weeks.
- Act III of Wagner's "Parsifal," in concert version.
- Conductor/composer Tan Dun's Concerto for Cello, Video and Orchestra.

Eschenbach will lead 13 weekend programs, beginning the season with one and then returning in November, January and March. He'll finish up the season with pianist Lang Lang in the Tchaikovsky Concerto before the Orchestra's Asia tour. The televised Oct. 6 program from Carnegie Hall is a real coup, giving the Orchestra national exposure.

Eschenbach's choice of "Late, Great Works" covers some of the sublime masterpieces of the literature from some masters' final years, with two opportunities for the Orchestra's solo players. Besides the Mahler Ninth Symphony, some of those works include Mozart's Clarinet Concerto (with principal Ricardo Morales), Strauss' Oboe Concerto (with Richard Woodhams as soloist), and Tchaikovsky's final "Pathetique" Symphony.

The conductor will also lead the two huge Mahler works and point up his positive message by following Schoenberg's bleak "A Survivor From Warsaw" with the sublime Brahms Requiem - without pause.

The well-crafted season features three new conductors - Dun, Czech master Jiri Belohlavek and Donald Runnicles. Returning podium figures include Charles Dutoit, Roger Norrington, Nicholas McGegan, Yakov Kreizberg, the Orchestra's assistant conductor, Rossen Milanov, and Sawallisch.

A superb list of guest artists dots the season, including: pianists Martha Argerich, Andre Watts, Emanuel Ax, Yefim Bronfman and Lang; violinists Sarah Chang, Julia Fischer, Hilary Hahn, Leonidas Kavakos, Vadim Repin and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg; baritone Thomas Hampson; and soprano Fleming.

Several highly regarded artists also make their debuts. We'll hear the phenomenal young pianist Yundi Li, sopranos Barbara Bonney and Michaela Kaune; cellists Anssi Karttunen and Daniel Muller-Schott, pianist Andreas Haefliger and Pittsburgh Symphony concertmaster Andres Cardenas.

World premiere commissions include Richard Danielpour's "Songs of Solitude," sung by Hampson, and Nicholas Maw's English Horn Concerto, with Orchestra principal Elizabeth Starr Masoudnia as soloist. Roberto Sierra's Double Concerto for violin, viola and orchestra, a co-commission with the Pittsburgh Symphony, will be performed by Cardenas and the Orchestra's principal viola, Roberto Diaz. Besides Tan's multimedia work, the other new pieces are Augusta Read Thomas' "Trainwork," James MacMillan's Third Symphony "Silence" and "Herodiade Fragments" for soprano and orchestra by Matthias Pintscher.

The Dvorak centenary, spotlighting the Seventh, Eighth and Ninth symphonies, also features masterworks by Smetana, Janacek (his Sinfonietta), Martinu ("Three Frescoes of Piero Della Francesca" and "Memorial to Lidice"), Ullmann and Weinberger.

Sawallisch returns in February for four weeks, hosting concertos by violin soloists Leonidas Kavakos (Beethoven), and our own David Kim (Tchaikovsky Concerto), plus pianists Li (Grieg) and Watts (Mozart No. 9).

The usual Halloween, Marian Anderson Award, "Messiah," "Winter Wonderland," New Year's Eve, Martin Luther King Jr. and Valentine's Day concerts, as well as the chamber music series and the student and family programs, will continue next season. In addition, the Canadian Brass will team up with the Orchestra's brass players for three concerts of holiday music.

Copyright © 2004 The Philadelphia Daily News