Philadelphia’s Home Team Advantage by Curtis Rittenhouse

By on December 23, 2012

phils3The Philadelphia Eagles are concluding a terrible year in football. I expect Andy Reid to get a pink slip once it’s over. The once mighty Phillies did a swan dive into an empty pool this season, so to speak. High expectations but low performance. The 76-ers are near the bottom of their league. The Philadelphia Flyers aren’t even playing thanks to the National Hockey League Lock Out. So what team is really rocking in 2012?

The Philadelphia Orchestra— out of bankruptcy, and now lead by the exciting and impressive Yannick Nezet-Seguin. It is good to report that one of the world’s great symphonic teams is back and playing at the top of their game.

Noseda2I had a chance to see ‘the team’ ‘scrimmaging’ at a rehearsal December 13 with returning guest conductor Gianandrea Noseda. The program was a different one for American audiences, the Borodin Prince Igor Overture, well-known but seldom actually played in concert, the Elgar Cello Concerto getting a rare airing with cellist Alisa Weilerstein, the heroine of last month’s NYP Brahms Double Concerto, and finally the rarely programmed but crowd-pleasing Third or Polish Symphony of Tchaikovsky.

weilersteinRapport between the orchestra and this guest conductor was excellent as expected. He circulated among the members before they started rehearing, greeting them by name and listening.  Each piece got a good run-through with later attention to details like emphasis and bite. Weilerstein brought her big tone to the Elgar and had the piece including markings and letters in her head, rehearsing without a score. Finally to the five movement Tchaikovsky which Noseda played like it was his favorite. the first movement starts slowly and builds to a breathless climax. The spirit of the dance is never far away in any movement. The elegiac third movement can break your heart. The fifth, from which the Symphony gets its nickname, swaggers triumphantly through a military Polonaise to a thumping conclusion.

philsThe Philadelphians playing these pieces for the first time in quite a while did it all proud. A conversation with some longtime members at a break gave substance to the enthusiasm that surrounds this new season. “I expect this honeymoon period to last a long time” one of them told me about their new music director.” And their spirited playing and cohesion during rehearsal showed it.

I stayed and heard the concert that night. Verizon Hall was packed. All three pieces came off superbly. The audience stood and cheered through several repeat bows. Everyone on the stage looked pleased. The Fabulous Philadelphians are back.

Curtis Rittenhouse

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