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
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).
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
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.