Yannick Nézet-Séguin and The Philadelphia Orchestra Celebrate the Centennial of the U.S. Premiere of Mahler’s Monumental “Symphony of a Thousand”
(Philadelphia, March 2, 2016)—Almost 100 years to the day that The Philadelphia Orchestra gave the U.S. premiere of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, the ensemble presents four performances of the monumental masterwork under the baton of Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, March 10 through 13 at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. Known as the “Symphony of a Thousand” due to its scale, Nézet-Séguin marshals the tremendous talents of sopranos Angela Meade, Erin Wall, and Lisette Oropesa; mezzo-sopranos Stephanie Blythe and Mihoko Fujimura; tenor Anthony Dean Griffey; baritone Markus Werba; bass John Relyea; the Westminster Symphonic Choir; the Choral Arts Society of Washington; and the American Boychoir for these landmark performances.
“Whenever an orchestra performs this work, it is a major event, but I believe that doing it in Philadelphia as an anniversary celebration gives us a chance to reflect on what has happened in the 100 years since its premiere,” said Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, “particularly, understanding the beginning of the 20th century when the Orchestra rose to international fame. Mahler’s Eighth Symphony is an imposing and impressive piece, perfect for showcasing the Philadelphia Sound. It’s an extraordinary work, reaching deeply secretive corners of our souls, eventually bringing us to a sense of peaceful harmony.”
When Mahler’s Eighth was given its world premiere in Munich in 1910, in the audience sat 28-year-old Leopold Stokowski, who described the work as a “flashing insight into infinity.” Stokowski was determined to bring the masterpiece to America. Despite its high cost, the work received its U.S. premiere by The Philadelphia Orchestra on March 2, 1916, at the Academy of Music. Joining the Orchestra’s 110 musicians were eight soloists, a children’s choir of 150, and 800 adult singers on the stage.
“This was a pivotal moment in the Orchestra’s history,” said Orchestra Vice President for Artistic Planning Jeremy Rothman, “launching the Orchestra and Stokowski onto the international stage.”
In advance of the performances, The Philadelphia Orchestra joins the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in a panel discussion as part of HSP’s Memories and Melodies program series. The discussion, Tuesday, March 8, at 6:30 PM, features Yannick Nézet-Séguin, historian Jack McCarthy, and professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Pennsylvania Simon Richter, and explores the connection between the “Symphony of a Thousand” and the international emergence of The Philadelphia Orchestra. For tickets and more information, please visit hsp.org.
The Symphony of a Thousand
March 8 at 6:30 PM — Tuesday evening — The Historical Society of Pennsylvania (1300 Locust St., Philadelphia)
Almost 100 years to the day, The Philadelphia Orchestra gave the U.S. premiere of Mahler's Symphony No. 8. Join the Historical Society of Pennsylvania for a panel discussion including Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, historian Jack McCarthy, and University of Pennsylvania’s Simon Richter that explores the intimate connection between the “Symphony of a Thousand” and the international emergence of The Philadelphia Orchestra. This panel will be moderated by Orchestra Vice President of Artistic Planning Jeremy Rothman.
Tickets are $10 for HSP members and $15 for nonmembers, and are available on hsp.org.
“Symphony of a Thousand”
March 10 at 8 PM — Thursday evening — Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
March 11 at 8 PM — Friday evening — Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
March 12 at 8 PM — Saturday evening — Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
March 13 at 2 PM — Sunday afternoon — Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
The Philadelphia Orchestra
Yannick Nézet-Séguin Conductor
Angela Meade Soprano
Erin Wall Soprano – Philadelphia Orchestra Subscription Debut
Lisette Oropesa Soprano – Philadelphia Orchestra Debut
Stephanie Blythe Mezzo-soprano
Mihoko Fujimura Mezzo-soprano
Anthony Dean Griffey Tenor
Markus Werba Baritone – Philadelphia Orchestra Debut
John Relyea Bass
Westminster Symphonic Choir (Joe Miller, director)
The Choral Arts Society of Washington (Scott Tucker, artistic director) – Philadelphia Orchestra Subscription Debut
The American Boychoir (Fernando Malvar-Ruiz, music director)
Mahler Symphony No. 8 (“Symphony of a Thousand”)
The nickname “Symphony of a Thousand” may be an exaggeration; there will be “only” four hundred or so singers and musicians in these performances. But Mahler’s masterful Symphony No. 8 is otherwise immune to hyperbole. It’s an enormous, ambitious, soul-stirring work that simply must be experienced live.
Yannick Nézet-Séguin marshals these tremendous forces to produce a sublime realization of Mahler’s absolute belief in the profound importance of this music. These performances mark the 100th anniversary—almost to the day—of the Symphony’s U.S. premiere by The Philadelphia Orchestra. It played a pivotal role in launching our now-renowned ensemble onto the international stage. Leopold Stokowski (who’d seen Mahler himself conduct the world premiere in Munich in 1910) insisted that his Philadelphians should be first to perform the work in America, despite the cost and difficulty. The reverberations from that performance continue today.
These performances are made possible by the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Additional support has been provided by the Presser Foundation.
These concerts are sponsored by Elizabeth C. Weigers.
These concerts are currently sold out, but ticket availability does change frequently. Please visit philorch.org.
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