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Rachmaninoff in Philadelphia

March 21, 2017

The Philadelphia Orchestra’s Rachmaninoff Festival explores the composer’s unique three-decade relationship with the Orchestra and the City

Pre-Concert Plays and “Russian Salon” Postludes, free with the evening’s concert ticket, create special “value-added” components

(Philadelphia, March 21, 2017)—The relationship composer Sergei Rachmaninoff and The Philadelphia Orchestra enjoyed was unique, compelling, and prolific, and Principal Guest Conductor Stéphane Denève has created a festival that reveals many of its most fascinating aspects. From an opening panel discussion with the Historical Society of Pennsylvania on April 18, to the last note of the chamber Postlude on April 29, The Philadelphia Orchestra and Denève have drawn together a myriad of exhibits, plays, and concerts that reveal that fruitful artistic synergy to the fullest.

One of the hallmark characteristics of Stéphane Denève, recently renewed for another three years as Philadelphia Orchestra principal guest conductor, is programming that reveals not merely a work, but a rounded view of the composer―which he demonstrates in this Festival through his work on the podium, at the keyboard, and as host. With the Rachmaninoff Festival he has created an opportunity for Philadelphians to look back through time at an artistic partnership rare in the annals of the orchestra world. The evenings have been through-constructed from start to finish, with pre-concert plays―specially commissioned by The Philadelphia Orchestra—orchestral concerts, and “Russian Salon” Postludes. Denève has personally curated the post-concert performances, which, like the pre-concert plays, are free with ticket(s) to the evening’s concert.

“Philadelphia should be recognized as the mecca for Rachmaninoff,” Denève says, “and I wondered, what would be a special way to honor and curate his music? And then came the simple idea of a festival—but a festival that would focus on the great man and his relationship with this unique institution and this special city.

“I proposed to perform, in a single week, all the piano concertos—the four numbered ones and the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini—as well as the Symphonic Dances, which for me is his most important testament piece, and which he composed for The Philadelphia Orchestra. Those six pieces show a fascinating trajectory of a life in music, from the First Concerto, composed in 1891, when he was only 18 years old, to the Symphonic Dances, which were premiered 50 years later, in 1941, just two years before he died.”

Rachmaninoff said when he composed it was the sound of The Philadelphia Orchestra that he heard in his inner ear. Certainly, when invited to write for Gramophone magazine in 1931, he voiced his appreciation in no uncertain terms. “To make records with the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra is as thrilling an experience as any artist could desire,” he wrote. “Unquestionably, they are the finest orchestral combination in the world.”

Support for these performances of the Rachmaninoff Festival is provided by Tatiana Copeland. Mrs. Copeland’s mother was the niece of Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Tatiana Copeland was named for the composer’s daughter, Tatiana Sergeyevna Rachmaninoff.

The Concerts:

It was as a pianist that Rachmaninoff first distinguished himself, and the three concerts celebrate his virtuosity as composer for the keyboard. Chinese phenomenon and Curtis Institute of Music graduate Haochen Zhang and Russian sensation Nikolai Lugansky share pianistic laurels by performing all four of Rachmaninoff’s piano concertos and the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.

All three performances begin with Rachmaninoff’s signature Vocalise, once for strings (heard with Rachmaninoff and The Philadelphia Orchestra via recording), once for piano four-hands (including Stéphane Denève), and once for voice and orchestra. The repertoire for the performances April 27-29 also includes a work without which any Philadelphia Orchestra Rachmaninoff celebration would be incomplete: the composer’s Symphonic Dances. Rachmaninoff’s final completed work, it was dedicated to Eugene Ormandy and The Philadelphia Orchestra, and premiered by the ensemble in 1941.

In fact, half the orchestral works in this Festival were premiered by The Philadelphia Orchestra. The composer himself was at the keyboard when the Orchestra and Leopold Stokowski gave the premieres of the Piano Concerto No. 4 and the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, in 1927 and 1934, respectively.

The Plays:

During November and December 1939, Ormandy and the Fabulous Philadelphians devoted a series of concerts solely to Rachmaninoff, performing in Philadelphia at the Academy of Music and in New York at Carnegie Hall. This was the culmination of a 30-year relationship between Rachmaninoff and The Philadelphia Orchestra. Three symphonic plays, The Rachmaninoff Trilogy, which will be performed pre-concert, were commissioned by The Philadelphia Orchestra and written by Didi Balle, the creator of the “Symphonic Play” genre, in which actors and musicians share the stage. Balle will also direct the five actors. The trio of plays brings the unique Rachmaninoff/Philadelphia Orchestra musical relationship to life, revealing aspects of that intense period. All three plays begin in 1939 at the Academy of Music and, through flashback, revisit crucial periods in Rachmaninoff’s life that relate to the repertoire on the orchestral concerts that follow. The first, “Catharsis,” recounts how Rachmaninoff came to compose the Piano Concerto No. 2. The second, “Praxis,” returns Rachmaninoff in memory to Moscow during the 1917 Revolution, as he revises his Piano Concerto No. 1 with his world falling apart around him. The third, “Theosis,” concerns the rich, final phase of Rachmaninoff’s creative life. All three plays will feature Rachmaninoff’s presence through a player piano replicating his own performances.  

The “Russian Salon” Postludes:

Each orchestral program will be followed by a chamber Postlude, with selections specifically chosen by Denève to reveal new elements about the orchestral music that has just been explored. Works range from the Valse and Romance for piano six-hands, with Denève, Lugansky, and Zhang, to the Caprice No. 24 from Szymanowski’s Three Paganini Caprices (inspired by the same Paganini Caprice as Rachmaninoff’s work).  

The Exhibit:

Before and between events at the Kimmel Center, concertgoers can enjoy “Rachmaninoff in Philadelphia: A Historical Partnership,” an exhibit curated by archivist and historian Jack McCarthy. Photographs, concert programs, newspaper clippings, and other archival items―particularly on the 1939 Rachmaninoff Cycle mentioned earlier―will give patrons much to wonder over and contemplate. 

The Panel:

Kicking off the festivities will be a panel on April 18, “Rachmaninoff’s Philadelphia,” at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Participants will include Stéphane Denève; one of the world’s finest Rachmaninoff scholars, David Butler Cannata of Temple University; and exhibit curator Jack McCarthy. McCarthy will begin with an illustrated presentation on “Rachmaninoff’s Philadelphia,” and the discussion will be moderated by Orchestra Vice President of Artistic Planning Jeremy Rothman.

Orchestra on Demand:

The Philadelphia Orchestra is making further information about the Rachmaninoff Festival available for free streaming on its popular web portal Orchestra on Demand. Philadelphia Orchestra produced videos and podcasts, featuring conversations between Denève and Philadelphia Orchestra Board of Directors member Michael Cone, explore the Rachmaninoff/Philadelphia Orchestra relationship. The information will be available prior to the Festival.   

And More:

The Philadelphia Orchestra is honored to welcome Ruth Slensczynka, Rachmaninoff’s only surviving piano student, to the Rachmaninoff Festival.

For the Rachmaninoff Festival, The Philadelphia Orchestra and Garces will partner to provide specialty themed Russian and Rachmaninoff-inspired food and beverage options for patrons to purchase pre-concert and during intermission(s).

Tatiana Copeland, the composer’s great-niece who was named after Rachmaninoff’s daughter, has a particular reason for supporting this Festival. “When Uncle Sergei was young, his father lost everything, and my grandfather supported him financially. Later, when my grandparents and their children (including my mother) lost everything they had in Russia, Rachmaninoff supported all of them. I can now extend this tradition, this cycle of family caring and giving, by supporting The Philadelphia Orchestra, the orchestra that meant so much to him. And to have the performances conducted by my great friend Stéphane Denève is a dream come true.”

A Guide to the Rachmaninoff Festival

“What is music? How can one define it? Music is a calm moonlit night, a rustling of summer foliage. Music is the distant peal of bells at eventide! Music is born only in the heart and it appeals only to the heart; it is Love! The sister of Music is Poesy, and its mother is Sorrow!”—Rachmaninoff, 1932

Quote selected by Stéphane Denève, Conductor and Curator of the Rachmaninoff Festival

April 18

Historical Society of Philadelphia

1300 Locust St., Philadelphia

6:30 PM

“Rachmaninoff’s Philadelphia”

Panel discussion participants include Philadelphia Orchestra Principal Guest Conductor Stéphane Denève, Rachmaninoff scholar David Butler Cannata, historian Jack McCarthy, and moderator Philadelphia Orchestra Vice President of Artistic Planning Jeremy Rothman.

Tickets are free for HSP members, $5 for students and teachers, and $10 for nonmembers, and are available at hsp.org.

April 27-29, inclusive

The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

“Rachmaninoff in Philadelphia: A Historical Partnership”―A Curated Exhibit

April 27—The Creative Breakthrough

Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center

6:30 PM

“Catharsis” by Didi Balle

8 PM

The Philadelphia Orchestra

Stéphane Denève Conductor

Haochen Zhang Piano (Concerto No. 4)

Nikolai Lugansky Piano (Concerto No. 2)

Rachmaninoff                           Piano Concerto No. 4

Rachmaninoff                           Piano Concerto No. 2

 

Chamber Postlude immediately following the orchestral concert:

Rachmaninoff                          Valse and Romance, for piano six-hands (with similar themes to the Piano Concerto No. 1)

                                           Stéphane Denève, Nikolai Lugansky, and Haochen Zhang, piano

Rachmaninoff                          Etude-Tableau in C minor, Op. 33, No. 3

                                           Nikolai Lugansky, piano

Rachmaninoff                          First movement from Cello Sonata in G minor

                                           Hai-Ye Ni, cello

                                           Marcantonio Barone, piano

 

April 28—The Musician in Exile

Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center

6:30 PM

“Praxis” by Didi Balle

8 PM

The Philadelphia Orchestra

Stéphane Denève Conductor

Nikolai Lugansky Piano

Rachmaninoff                         Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, for piano and orchestra

Rachmaninoff                         Piano Concerto No. 3

 

Chamber Postlude immediately following the orchestral concert:

Szymanowski                        Caprice No. 24 in A minor, from Three Paganini Caprices

                                         Juliette Kang, violin

                                         TBD, piano

Rachmaninoff                        Prelude in G major, Op. 32, No. 5

                                         Prelude in G-sharp minor, Op. 32, No. 12

                                         Nikolai Lugansky piano

 

April 29—Finding a Musical Home

Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center

6:30 PM

“Theosis” by Didi Balle

8 PM

The Philadelphia Orchestra

Stéphane Denève Conductor

Haochen Zhang Piano

Rachmaninoff                           Piano Concerto No. 1

Rachmaninoff                           Symphonic Dances

 

Chamber Postlude immediately following the concert:

Rachmaninoff                           String Quartet No. 1

                                            Mark Rovetti, violin

                                            Wiliam Polk, violin

                                            Kerri Ryan, viola

                                            Yumi Kendall, cello

Rachmaninoff                           “C’était en avril”

                                            Soprano TBA

                                            Stéphane Denève, piano

Rachmaninoff                           Romance in A minor

                                            Ying Fu, violin

                                            Piano TBA

Tchaikovsky/                            “Lullaby”

trans. Rachmaninoff                  Haochen Zhang, piano

 

Ticket information

All concerts listed in this calendar are currently on sale. Prices range from $40 to $152, and each concert ticket includes the pre-concert play and the “Russian Salon” Postlude.

Tickets may be purchased in the following ways:

Online: Visit the Orchestra’s website at philorch.org.

In person: At the Kimmel Center Box Office, Broad and Spruce Streets, Philadelphia (Open daily, 10 AM to 6 PM, or through the first intermission of the last performance in the venue.)

By phone: Call Ticket Philadelphia at 215.893.1999 (daily, 9 AM to 8 PM)

By fax: Fax Ticket Philadelphia at 215.893.1833

For information on subscription ticket packages, please call Subscriber Services at 215.893.1955.

The Philadelphia Orchestra’s Community Rush Program: The Philadelphia Orchestra makes a limited number of community rush seats available for $10 at the Kimmel Center Box Office between 5:30 PM and 6:30 PM the day of most subscription concerts (11:30 AM–12:30 PM for 2 PM performances). Seating will be throughout the hall and is subject to availability. Please note that the number of available tickets varies by performance and there is a limit of one ticket per person for each purchase. More information can be found at www.philorch.org/community-rush.

For College Students: For a one-time $25 membership fee, students can join eZseatU and reserve tickets to subscription concerts without paying any additional cost per ticket. eZseatU membership is valid from October 2016 through May 2017 and only for Philadelphia Orchestra subscription concerts at the Kimmel Center. Participants must be full-time college students and have a valid student ID to participate. Students may redeem one ticket per membership per concert. Students with a valid student I.D. may also purchase student rush tickets for $10 before each subscription concert. Tickets may be purchased at the Box Office on the day of the concert from 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM for 8 PM performances and from 11:30 PM to 12:30 PM for 2 PM performances. Handling fees apply to all website purchases. Only one ticket may be purchased per I.D., and tickets are subject to availability. All student tickets issued are general admission. Seating location is dependent on availability. The eZseatU program is made possible with support from the Amy P. Goldman Foundation and an anonymous donor.

A $6.50 service fee applies to all telephone, fax, and online orders. Each ticket price over $10 includes a $4 Kimmel Center, Inc., surcharge for facility maintenance. American Express, Visa, MasterCard, and Discover cards accepted.

About Stéphane Denève

CONTACT:

Patricia O’Kelly

phone: 202.999.9806

e-mail: pokelly@philorch.org

Liz Baker

phone: 215.450.6382

e-mail: lbaker@philorch.org 

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