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New York Philharmonic,
July 2007

Philharmonic Summer: The Ins and Outs

By Peter W. Goodman
03 Jul 2007

The hard-working New York Philharmonic keeps playing all through the month of July, from neighborhood parks to the mountains of Colorado.


Where will you find the Philharmonic this summer? Indoors, outdoors, and all around the tri-state area and points west! Starting with indoors, the Philharmonic reprises its popular Summertime Classics series at Avery Fisher Hall. Moving outdoors, of course, means another season (the 43rd) of New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks, now presented by Didi and Oscar Schafer, with corporate support, for the second year, by CIT. It also means a trip upstate to the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in the Catskill Mountains (July 7), and finally, a return to the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival for the Orchestra's fifth annual residency in that Rocky Mountain retreat (July 20-27).

Bramwell Tovey will again conduct and host the Philharmonic's Summertime Classics series (June 28-July 6). "It's hard to believe it is the fourth year," Mr. Tovey said in a recent interview from Los Angeles. "I've done every concert from the beginning." Asked to define how these programs differ from the Orchestra's offerings during the subscription season, Mr. Tovey explained that a summertime piece is "a piece that is well known but that the orchestra hasn't played, or has not played very often. It is the popular repertoire, and unashamedly so." He mentioned the piano concertos by Liszt and Grieg, two works that are on the schedule, played respectively by Markus Groh, in his Philharmonic debut, and Joyce Yang, who last appeared with the Orchestra in November 2006. (See full schedule, page 17) The series of four themed concerts will also feature the Philharmonic debut of actor Kevin Kline, who will narrate Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf (July 5 & 6, and also at Bethel Woods on July 7), and the world premiere of Kevin Puts's Two Mountain Scenes, a co-commission with the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival for its 20th anniversary (July 3 & 4), which Mr. Tovey will also conduct in Vail during his two-concert stint there (July 25 & 26).

Bramwell Tovey
photo by epix studios
The genesis of the Summertime Classics series dates to 2001 when Mr. Tovey, who was making his Philharmonic subscription-season debut, led Webern's Symphony, Op. 21. Philharmonic President and Executive Director Zarin Mehta, knowing of the British conductor's ability to charm listeners while explicating music, asked if he would talk to the audience about the knotty, spartan work. His friendly analysis of this major piece of the Second Viennese School "really seemed to connect, and that gave Zarin the idea for Summertime Classics," Mr. Tovey recalled.

While the British-born Tovey has had plenty of experience conducting out of doors (he cut his teeth, starting at age 10, on outdoor services in a Salvation Army band), most of his concerts -- with the exception of those in Vail -- will take place within the confines of Avery Fisher Hall. Not so for Ludovic Morlot, who will lead the Orchestra in six New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks (July 10-16), or Sir Andrew Davis, who will conduct the series' final concert on The Great Lawn in Central Park (July 17). Sir Andrew has some advice about performing outdoors: "Just pretend you're indoors!" He knows whereof he speaks, having led the Philharmonic in the parks twice before, in 1979 and 1988.

One thing the musician must not do, he said from his home in Chicago, where he is music director and principal conductor of Lyric Opera of Chicago, is to play too hard: "You think, 'Oh God, I've got to put out a lot of sound,' because there is nothing coming back to you. You sort of force it. But you have to trust whatever sort of artificial assistance is being provided. Just play the way you play normally."

That's advice sure to be heeded by both soprano Measha Brueggergosman, who will appear with Sir Andrew on July 17 in her Philharmonic debut, and violinist Stefan Jackiw, who will be making both his Philharmonic and his outdoor-concert debuts in six performances of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with Mr. Morlot. "I haven't gotten any specific tips," Mr. Jackiw said in a recent interview from Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he was finishing up his studies at both Harvard University and the New England Conservatory of Music. "A lot of my friends grew up in New York and attended these concerts. They've kind of tried to give me a picture of what it will be like. I can imagine the thrill of playing for so many people. I am so excited about this. I'll be playing with the Maestro for the first time. That's another thing I am looking forward to; I've heard so many wonderful things about him."


Peter W. Goodman, a former music critic for Newsday and author of Morton Gould: American Salute, teaches journalism at Hofstra University.





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