World of Music

The Philadelphia Orchestra has appointed 35 years old Yannick Nézet-Séguin as chief conductor of the orchestra in starting in 2012. 

Yannick, a native of Montreal, is a much sought out conductor globally. He has conducted for all of the orchestras in Canada and is currently music director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra and is Artistic Director of the Orchestre Métropolitain (Montreal).

Nézet-Séguin has been a strong contender in the orchestra‘s maestro search in the last two years after maestro Christoph Eschenbach abruptly announced his departure after just a five year tenure. Nizet-Seguin has distinguished himself globally and has developed a strong artistic relationship with the orchestra as guest conductor. His appointment is being welcomed as the end of a tumultuous few years for the Philadelphia Orchestra fraught with administrative, fiscal and artistic problems.

The new conductor is in the orchestra’s old tradition of appointing 30 something conductors which would include an elite roster starting with Leopold Stokowski, Eugene Ormandy and Riccardo Muti (all with maestrodivo hair). The Canadian was chosen not only for his musical reputation with diverse repertoire, but for his charisma on the podium, not to mention the locks.  

Meanwhile current Associate Conductor Rossen Milanov, kicks off the orchestra’s summer series this week at the open air Mann Center in Fairmount Park. They opened with a crowd pleaser program of two heavyweight classics highlighted by a-star-is- born performance by 19-year-old pianist Hoachen Zhang, a current student at the Curtis Institute. Zhang just won the Van Cliburn Competition and it easy to see why as he masterfully attacked, caressed and otherwise illuminated Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1.

Containing some of Tchaikovsky’s most romantic orchestral drama and decorous keyboard runs, this can be a predictable crowd pleaser. Milanov and Zhang go for more. The pianist’s technique never showy and his dynamic at the keyboard kept drawing us deeper into the music. Milanov really amped up the strings to fit the outdoor venue and with this music enveloping the park environs with the skyline in the distance, there was musical triumph.

Classical Philly

Conductor Rossen Milanov kicks off the orchestra’s summer series this week at the open air Mann Center in Fairmount Park. They opened with a crowd pleaser program of two heavyweight classics highlighted by a lightening performance by 19-year-old Curtis pianist Hoachen Zhang who won the Van Cliburn International Competition last year. It is easy to see why as he masterfully attacked, caressed and otherwise illuminated Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1.

Containing some of Tchaikovsky’s most romantic orchestral drama and decorous keyboard runs, this can be a predictable crowd pleaser. Milanov and Zhang go for more. The pianist’s technique never showy and his dynamic at the keyboard kept drawing us deeper into the music. Milanov really amped up the strings to fit the outdoor venue and with this music enveloping the park environs with the skyline in the distance and a slip of a moon hovering, there is the triumph of music and nature.

Jazz & the eternal Holiday

Jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater let the spirit of Billie Holiday appear with her raucous tribute concert To Billie, With Love at the Annenberg Center. The show was a make up appearance for a Feb 11 date that was snowed out, but this week a sold out crowd was back for the Lady Day tribute.

The jazz legend was after all born here. Actually, her mother was visiting from Baltimore, so it’s a technicality.

Making up the current DBQntet is Craig Handy on saxes and flute, Edsel Gomez on piano, Ira Coleman on one meaty bass and Cuban drummer Ignacio Berroa. Bridgewater did much more than cover well-trod Holiday territory in melding her instinctively perfect phrasing with the jazz titan who influenced everybody.

Edsel‘s dynamic orchestrations paid tribute by representing all aspects of her career, but avoided archival arrangements of Billie‘s most famous songs, instead the band opened these songs up to more blues punch, basa ballade and most potently, era traveling riffs.

Dee Dee, tres elegant in an iridescent pinkish wrap over a black ensemble, announced that she refuses to look at Billie as a tragic figure. Her life as a woman and an artist was cause for celebration. Bridgewater’s tone and intonations show her complete understanding to what Holiday’s artistry gave to jazz.

Bridgewater vocally just opened up all of the songs to valid and often times joyous interpretation. On early Billie novelty tunes like Miss Brown to You and My Mother’s Son-in-Law she vamped, on Billie’s signatures Lover Man and Don’t Explain, she laced Billie’s wily phrasing into her own. Fine and Mellow (famously aired on CBS with Holiday in late career top form reunited with Lester Young and a stellar group) was played like a low down, hot house blues and Dee Dee was all belter.

Gomez punctuated with dense virtuosic keyboard runs on several numbers and Gomez’s lag tempo brushes simmering. Handy’s alternately blue fire and blistering progressive horn lines that never obliterate the melody. On Strange Fruit Billie’s voice floats illuminating the song historical, personal and musical importance. Dee Dee is transcendent.