The Philadelphia Orchestra at SPAC

Saratoga Performing Arts Center August 7 to 24

By: - Feb 25, 2013


The Philadelphia Orchestra, one of the preeminent orchestras in the world, will return to its summer stage at Saratoga Performing Arts Center from August 7 – 24, to present an extraordinary season of classical and contemporary programs. Highlights of the season include: the world premiere of a new work by Richard Danielpour commemorating the 150th Anniversary of Saratoga Race Course;  Saratoga premieres of works by Jennifer Higdon, Béla Fleck and Bramwell Tovey; world-renowned guest conductors including a first-time SPAC appearance by celebrated maestro Keith Lockhart;  foremost soloists including Yo-Yo Ma, Sarah Chang, Gil Shaham, Daniil Trifonov and Colin Currie; a Bernstein celebration hosted by Jamie Bernstein and featuring New York City Ballet dancers; a pops tribute to Elton John and a multi-media concert featuring Disney’s Fantasia.

“We are thrilled to present a magnificent program by The Philadelphia Orchestra, rich with classical masterworks and innovative treasures that will showcase the artistic depth and range of this premiere orchestra,” said Marcia J. White, SPAC’s President & Executive Director.

“Great programming in the hands of brilliant musicians has the power to inspire and exhilarate; each and every evening of our spectacular 2013 orchestra season has been curated with that goal in mind,” said White.

Opening Night

 Opening Night of The Philadelphia Orchestra’s 2013 Season will feature conductor STÉPHANE DENÈVE and violin virtuoso GIL SHAHAM, one of the world’s foremost violinists.  Sought after throughout the world for concert appearances with leading orchestras and conductors, Shaham last appeared at SPAC in 2011.  The violinist will perform Sibelius’ Violin Concerto, a work with a reputation as one of the most difficult in the repertoire with virtuosic runs, arpeggios and double-stops. Virtuosos have taken it to heart, making it the most often recorded 20th-century concerto.

Alongside the Concerto on the program is Sibelius’ “Lemminkäinen’s Return,” the final movement of Sibelius’ symphonic poem based on the adventures of Lemminkäinen, a legendary Finnish folk hero, and DvoÅ™ák’s  harmonically and structurally rich Symphony No. 8. 

Conducting the inaugural evening of the orchestra season is French-born conductor STÉPHANE DENÈVE, Chief Conductor of the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra and former Music Director of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Denève, who first conducted at SPAC in 2011, has quickly become a favorite with classical music audiences worldwide for his charismatic and “kinetic presence on the podium.” In 2012 he was shortlisted for Gramophone’s “Artist of the Year” award.


Saratoga 150” World Premiere featuring Conductor Keith Lockhart

On Thursday, August 8, SPAC will pay tribute to the 150th Anniversary of Saratoga Race Course by presenting the World Premiere of Serenade, an original orchestral composition by Grammy-winning American composer RICHARD DANIELPOUR. Commissioned by Saratoga Performing Arts Center for The Philadelphia Orchestra, and made possible by the generous gift of Saratoga 150 Chair Charles V. Wait and his wife Candace, the premiere highlights an innovative equestrian-themed program that includes selections from award winning films Seabiscuit and War Horse as well as traditional favorites such as the William Tell Overture by Gioachino Rossini.   The special orchestral evening is one of the premiere events of the Saratoga 150 celebration, a five-month-long celebration of the 1864 founding of the track.

Leading the program will be famed conductor KEITH LOCKHART, who marks his debut appearance at SPAC that evening.  Conductor of the Boston Pops and principal conductor of the BBC Concert Orchestra, Keith Lockhart is one of America’s most visible maestros. During his 20 years with the Boston Pops, he has led more than 1,400 concerts, commissioned several new works, made numerous recordings and made more than 73 television shows with the ensemble.  In June, the conductor led the BBC Concert  Orchestra in the Diamond Jubilee Concert for Queen Elizabeth II which was broadcast live to millions around the world.

Colin Currie Performs Jennifer Higdon’s Grammy-Winning Percussion Concerto

International percussion superstar COLIN CURRIE will make his debut appearance at SPAC on Thursday, August 15, performing the Saratoga Premiere of Jennifer Higdon’s Grammy winning Percussion Concerto, a work commissioned by the Orchestra and created for Currie.  Positioned front and center onstage, Currie  will maneuver among nearly 20 instruments including the bass drum, bongos, brake drum, castanets, clave, cowbell, gong, vibraphone, temple blocks, timbales and the marimba, a favorite of Currie. Higdon says of the concerto, “It’s a little bit like an Olympic event. I always tease him and say Colin deserves a gold medal for making it through all of the parts…”

 JENNIFER HIGDON will be present for the premiere. A Pulitzer Prize winner for her Violin Concerto, Ms. Higdon is one of the most performed living American composers working today, enjoying several hundred performances each year of her works. Her Percussion Concerto earned her a 2010 Grammy for “Best Contemporary Classical Composition.”  

Currie, a champion of new music and favored soloist for many of today’s foremost composers, is regarded as one of the world’s top percussionists.

Béla Fleck Premieres Concerto for Banjo & Orchestra

BÉLA FLECK, widely considered to be the premiere banjo player in the world, makes his debut appearance with The Philadelphia Orchestra at SPAC on Wednesday, August 21, performing the Saratoga premiere of his Concerto for Banjo – one of the first written for the instrument. Fleck performed the world premiere of the work in September 2011 to critical acclaim including one reviewer who called the work, “beautifully idiomatic and breathtakingly virtuosic…”

Regarded as one of the world’s most innovative and technically proficient banjo players, Béla Fleck is best known for his work with the bands New Grass Revival and Béla Fleck and the Flecktones. With an eclectic style that fuses jazz, rock, bluegrass, classical and other genres, Fleck has taken the banjo into new musical realms. Fleck has earned 15 Grammy Awards during his career and been nominated in more categories than any other artist.

Gabriela Lena Frank's Concertino Cusqueño

The season will also include the August 10 Saratoga Premiere of Gabriela Lena Frank’s Concertino Cusqueño, a work commissioned by The Philadelphia Orchestra and premiered in October to honor Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s inaugural year as the eighth Music Director of the legendary ensemble.  In this composition, Frank, the California-born daughter of a Peruvian immigrant, blends her South American heritage with an affinity for the music of the 20th-century English composer Benjamin Britten. The principal theme of the one-movement work is spun from a religious melody ("Ccollanan María") and a simple motif that opens Britten's Violin Concerto. Frank, praised by the Los Angeles Times as an “exciting and necessary voice” among contemporary composers, enjoys a rising profile as a composer and is known for creating rich works with strong cross cultural themes.

Maestro Bramwell Tovey and the Saratoga Premiere of Urban Runway

BRAMWELL TOVEY, an internationally renowned conductor who won over SPAC audiences in 2011 with his combination of musical mastery, humor and charisma makes a command performance on August 15, leading an innovative program that will include the Saratoga Premiere of the conductor’s own composition, Urban Runway, a work co-commissioned by the Los Angeles and New York Philharmonic orchestras in 2008.

In his program notes, Tovey says that the concept for the jazz-influenced work grew out of his observations regarding the strut of the fashion conscious that frequent the boutiques of 5th Avenue and Rodeo Drive, transforming the sidewalks of these famous thoroughfares into “urban runways.” Based upon a simple ostinato figure housed in a cakewalk rhythm, the score is laced with jazz and minimalist flavors.

The Grammy Award-winning conductor, composer and jazz pianist is the Music Director of the Vancouver Symphony, Principal Guest Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, and founding host and conductor of the New York Philharmonic’s Summertime Classics series at Avery Fisher Hall.

100th Anniversary of The Rite of Spring

In commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of Igor Stravinsky’s tradition-shattering masterpiece, The Rite of Spring, the Orchestra will present a performance of the work on August 17 with Gianandrea Noseda on the podium. Originally written by Stravinsky for Sergei Diaghilev’s groundbreaking Ballets Russes, the premiere of the piece in Paris in 1913 provoked outrage and riotous protests from the audience. Its startling costumes and choreography, pagan themes and dissonant score were perceived as shocking. Yet less than a year later at its performance as an orchestral concert piece, the same composition elicited rapturous response. Since that time, it has been generally recognized as one of the seminal works of the 20th century. The Philadelphia Orchestra and Leopold Stokowski gave the United States premieres of the piece in both its concert and staged versions in 1922 and 1930 respectively.

Guest Artists & Conductors

Award-winning cellist and icon of the music world, YO-YO MA (Aug 10), brings his stunning musical gifts to the Orchestra stage in a performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto, a cornerstone of the solo cello repertoire.  Arguably the world’s greatest living cellist, Yo-Yo Ma is a champion of musical innovation and cross cultural exchange, which he has pursued through initiatives such as the Silk Road Project and countless cross-genre collaborations, including his latest, the Goat Rodeo Sessions with Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile.

Hailed as one of the world’s great violinists, SARAH CHANG (Aug 16), has performed with the foremost orchestras, conductors and accompanists internationally in a career spanning more than two decades. Making her return to SPAC’s stage, the violin virtuoso will perform the Barber Violin Concerto, one of the pillars of the concerto repertoire. She has earned wide acclaim for her breathtaking performances including from the New York Times: “Her gifts are at a level so removed from the rest of us that all we can do is feel the appropriate awe and then wonder on the mysteries of nature. The ancients would certainly have had Ms. Chang emerging fully formed from some Botticellian scallop shell.”

American pianist JONATHAN BISS (Aug 17) makes his first appearance at SPAC since 2006, performing the innovative and contemplative  Piano Concerto No. 4 by Beethoven.  Biss, lauded by the New Yorker for his "unerring sophistication," has earned an international recognition for his orchestral, recital, and chamber music performances and award-winning recordings. He performs a diverse repertoire ranging from Mozart and Beethoven, through the Romantics to Janáček and Schoenberg as well as works by contemporary composers such as György Kurtág.

Russian piano prodigy, DANIIL TRIFONOV (Aug 24) who won medals at three of the world’s most prestigious international music competitions, will mark his debut at SPAC and with The Philadelphia Orchestra performing Rachmaninoff’s powerful Piano Concerto No. 2. Electrifying the international music scene with his Tchaikovsky Competition Gold Medal and Gran Prix win, the young 21-year-old virtuoso has been sought after for solo appearances with the world’s leading orchestras and concert halls. He has also won the admiration of critics worldwide with rave reviews from publications such as the New York Times, “Mr. Trifonov has scintillating technique and a virtuosic flair. He is also a thoughtful artist…he can play with soft-spoken delicacy, not what you associate with competition conquerors.”

Returning to SPAC in 2013 to conduct on two evenings is renowned maestro GIANANDREA NOSEDA, (Aug 16 - 17) Music Director of Italy’s Teatro Regio, Chief Guest Conductor of the Israel Philharmonic and Conductor Laureate of the BBC Philharmonic. Coming off a seminal period that saw his international acclaim heightened as a result of a string of extraordinary performances, Noseda has been in demand by the world’s leading orchestras. He garnered positive critical acclaim for his 2012 engagement conducting Macbeth at the Metropolitan Opera and is scheduled to lead two new Met productions in the 2013 – 2014 season.

Champion of new music and contemporary composers, conductor GIANCARLO GUERRERO, (Aug 21 – 22) Music Director of the Nashville Symphony, returns to SPAC in the 2013 Season to lead two programs, his second appearance following his 2011 debut. The conductor, who also holds the position of Principal Guest Conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra Miami Residency, led the Nashville Symphony to a 2012 Grammy win for a second consecutive year with their recording of American composer Joseph Schwanter’s Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra.

Leading the Orchestra in an energetic conclusion to the season will be CRISTIAN MÄ‚CELARU, Associate Conductor of The Philadelphia Orchestra, who will lead the Fantasia program and the popular Tchaikovsky Spectacular, the traditional finale of the Orchestra’s Saratoga engagement. The Romanian-born conductor has earned numerous accolades for his artistry, including the 2012 Sir Georg Solti Emerging Conductor Award, a prestigious honor awarded only once before in the foundation’s history.  The 2012-13 season marks Mr. Măcelaru’s highly-anticipated debuts with a number of orchestras including Montreal’s Orchestre Métropolitain and the Florida Orchestra as well as a return to the Baltimore Symphony.

Repertory Highlights

 On August 15, conductor Bramwell Tovey conducts the orchestra in a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, which some scholars say is the last work the composer conducted before succumbing to almost total deafness. Despite this, the symphony is among Beethoven’s most optimistic and upbeat. From the time of its wildly successful premiere, the work was noted for its unbridled and dance‐like qualities, propelled by driving, insistent rhythms.

Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 3 (Aug 16) and No. 5 (Aug 22) are among the major orchestral works to be performed during the Orchestra’s season. The composer’s Third Symphony contains many dance-like themes leading Russian choreographer George Balanchine to choose it as the final section of his three-act ballet Jewels in 1967. The Fifth Symphony, much like the symphonies immediately preceding and following it, resonates with themes of fate and destiny. 

French-born conductor Stéphane Denève brings mastery and native affinity to works by French Impressionist composers  Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel including Debussy’s beautiful La Mer, (Aug 10), his three-movement impression of the ocean and Ravel’s vaguely ominous La Valse, a tribute to a lost era.

SibeliusFinlandia, his famous, patriotic tribute to his homeland, highlights the August 16 program conducted by Gianandrea Noseda. Opening with dark, ominous tones to convey the Finns hardships in the 19th century, the tempo gradually increases ending in a triumphant fervor.

 Special Programs and Pops

 “A Bernstein Evening” with Jamie Bernstein & NYCB Dancers

 Legendary composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein (1918 – 1990) was a pivotal force in 20th century music. His renowned works and influence spanned the worlds of classical music, theater, jazz and ballet. An obituary of the great artist in the New York Times called Bernstein “one of the most prodigally talented and successful musicians in American history.”

On Friday, August 9, the composer’s daughter JAMIE BERNSTEIN, will join The Philadelphia Orchestra to host a special program celebrating her father’s extraordinary legacy. An accomplished narrator, writer and broadcaster,  Ms. Bernstein will share personal insights and anecdotes about her father and his music with the audience.  Featured Bernstein works include Fancy Free and Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, based on original stage works that were both created in collaboration with choreographer Jerome Robbins.

A special feature of the program will be the accompaniment of NEW YORK CITY BALLET dancers who will perform select dance sequences from Fancy Free and West Side Story on a specially installed dance floor in front of the amphitheatre stage.  The tradition of including New York City Ballet dancers on an Orchestra program was revived during last year’s Orchestra program after an absence of 25 years.

Ravel’s La Valse will also be included on this program.

Pops: Elton John and Beyond

 MICHAEL CAVANAUGH, star of the hit Broadway show Movin’ Out, joins New York Pops Conductor Steven Reineke for a Wednesday, August 14 pops program of hits made famous by music megastar Elton John. Cavanaugh, dubbed the “new voice of the American Rock and Roll Songbook” by Billboard Magazine, will perform chart topping favorites including, “Your Song,” “Tiny Dancer,” “Candle in the Wind,” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” “Philadelphia Freedom” as well as hits by other songmakers including Paul McCartney, the Eagles, Chicago and more.

Leading the program will be celebrated New York Pops Conductor STEVEN REINEKE. A favorite with SPAC audiences, the dynamic maestro has quickly become one of America’s premier pops conductors. In addition to the New York Pops, he holds conducting posts with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Disney’s Fantasia; A Philadelphia Orchestra Legacy

 The magic of Disney’s FANTASIA, the 1940 groundbreaking marriage of symphonic music and animation that has evolved into a classic, comes to SPAC’s Amphitheatre on Friday, August 23. Musical excerpts will be performed as corresponding film sequences are projected onto SPAC’s cinema screens. Selections will include Stokowski’s orchestration of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, Tchaikovsky’s Suite from The Nutcracker, Excerpts from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 (“Pastoral”), Stokowski’s orchestration of Debussy’s Claire de Lune and Dukas’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

The film was originally conceived by Walt Disney and Leopold Stokowski, the Music Director of The Philadelphia Orchestra from 1912 – 1941. It was recorded over five days in April 1939 with Leopold Stokowski conducting The  Orchestra in a performance of the score.   The Philadelphia Orchestra’s 2012 – 2013 Season includes a Stokowski Centenary celebration marking the 100th Anniversary of when he became Music Director of the Orchestra.

Ticket prices for SPAC’s Orchestra performances start at $24 for lawn seating; inside seating ranges from $32 to $80. The Kids in Free program entitles children 12 and under to free lawn admission for Orchestra performances. The Student Discount program allows students of all ages to purchase 25 percent discounted lawn and inside seating. Tickets go on sale online to the public beginning March 18 at