By Vivien Schweitzer
From PlaybillArts.com - 22 Jan 2007
Christoph Eschenbach will mark his last season as music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra with premieres, homages to the upcoming Bernstein and Messiaen anniversaries, and a performance of Mahler's gargantuan "Symphony of a Thousand."
Given Eschenbach's impending departure — announced last October and reportedly due to tension with the Philadelphia musicians over repertoire and interpretative matters — particular attention will be paid to guest conductors, some of whom could be under consideration to replace him.
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, one possible interim music director could be the 73-year-old Spaniard Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, who is reportedly popular with both audiences and musicians. Frühbeck made his debut with the orchestra in 1969 and has returned dozens of times; he will conduct Brahms's Symphony No. 3 and excerpts from Wagner's Götterdämmerung on April 3-5, 2008.
One guest conductor who will be closely scrutinized, according to the paper, is the 34-year-old Russian Vladimir Jurowski, who made a very successful debut with the orchestra in 2005. Jurowski will lead the Philadelphians in mostly Russian repertoire next month; in April 2008 he returns to conduct Ligeti's Atmosphères and Lux aeterna; Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra and Nikolaj Znaider in Brahms's Violin Concerto.
Simon Rattle returns for one week in November to lead the orchestra's first performance of Schumann's seldom-performed oratorio Das Paradies und die Peri. Other returning conductors include Miguel Harth-Bedoya, who conducts Revueltas's La Noche de los mayas in November; Robert Spano, who conducts Stravinsky's Dumbarton Oaks and Capriccio for piano and orchestra with pianist Peter Serkin in February; and James Conlon, who leads Varèse's Amériques and Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 ("Emperor") with Hélène Grimaud in December.
Charles Dutoit, who is music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra's summer season in Saratoga Springs, New York, leads two programs in February, including Debussy's Jeux and Strauss's Alpine Symphony. Antonio Pappano makes his debut with the orchestra in December with Prokofiev and Rachmaninoff; also making first appearances with the orchestra are conductors Stéphane Denève and Eschenbach protégé John Axelrod.
Other prominent guest conductors on the 2007-08 lineup include Osmo Vänskä, who returns to Verizon Hall with Sibelius in October; Jirí Belohlávek, who brings Martinu in November; and Alan Gilbert, Leonard Slatkin, Nicholas McGegan and Peter Oundjian.
The intergenerational pianist lineup includes Radu Lupu, Peter Serkin, Rudolf Buchbinder, Leif Ove Andsnes, Horacio Gutiérrez, Grimaud, Stephen Hough, and Simon Trpceski. Guest violinists are Anne-Sophie Mutter (whom Eschenbach conducts in Brahms's Violin Concerto for the season's opening night on September 29), Znaider, Vadim Repin, Sarah Chang, Joshua Bell and Jennifer Koh.
Eschenbach will lead the U.S. premiere of a new (and as yet unnamed) work by Marc-André Dalbavie, co-commissioned with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Messiaen's birth. Recent compositions by living composers Wolfgang Rihm, Herbert Willi, Thierry Escaich and Anders Hillborg will also be performed.
The orchestra and Eschenbach finish their Mahler cycle, which began in the 2003-04 season, with the Symphony No. 8 (the "Symphony of a Thousand") in late April and May. The cast of singers includes sopranos Christine Brewer, Michaela Kaune and Marisol Montalvo, mezzos Charlotte Hellekant and Stephanie Blythe, tenor Paul Groves and bass James Morris, along with the Philadelphia Singers Chorale, the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia and the Westminster Symphonic Choir. Except for a performance under James Levine at the Mann Center in 1977, it will be the first time the piece has been performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra since Stokowski gave the work its U.S. premiere in 1916.
In January and February, Eschenbach will lead a Leonard Bernstein festival to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the composer's birth. For the occasion, the orchestra has commissioned two works from Philadelphia-based composer Jennifer Higdon to be premiered during the festival: Concerto 4-3 for string trio and orchestra, and a still-untitled work for violin, chorus and orchestra, with Jennifer Koh making her Philadelphia Orchestra debut.
Eschenbach finishes up his tenure on May 17 with two symphonies by Schubert: No. 8 in B minor ("Unfinished") and No. 9 in C major ("the Great").