Many of us were stunned to hear that the fine pianist-conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch had died this weekend. A beautiful tribute and remembrance by the Philadelphia Orchestra at Sunday’s concert in Verizon Hall. I reviewed the program for American Record Guide‘s spring issue. Here is the section about Maestro Sawallisch. I was lucky enough to see him conduct about a dozen times before he retired and his concerts were always joyful, instructive and had a sense of musical occasion.
~But sad news eclipsed all of the excitement about the Rite of Spring 100th observance when Nézet-Séguin walked onstage and handed a mic to concertmaster David Kim who informed the audience that Wolfgang Sawallisch, conductor of this orchestra from 1993-2003 had died at his home in Germany at aged 89.
Mr. Kim spoke for many in the orchestra who played under Sawallisch in remembering his stellar leadership. He remembrance of a telling moment with the conductor when the orchestra was on tour in Ames, Iowa. Before they went onstage Kim commented to the maestro that maybe the orchestra should focus on a big upcoming date in Chicago and Kim recalled that Sawallisch “gave me a withering look and said ‘We give 100 percent, everything, every time when we go onstage.”
Nézet-Séguin then switched up the program and cued Richard Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll, in his predecessor’s honor. Indeed, a fine elegy, and not lost on this audience, those Wagnerian strings in such pristine control. At the conclusion, there was a moment of silence that was indeed utterly silent, and then Nezet Seguin turned and exited his hands clenched together.