I rarely attend performances by the Philadelphia Orchestra anymore. Concerts are usually scheduled for Thursday and Saturday evenings and Friday afternoons, and I work the 3 to 11 shift at the paper those days. And it hurts to admit it, but too often, year after year, the programing has been unimaginative. I find I can hear more inspired concert-making by looking around at smaller, less famous or even amateur groups.
I was pleased, though, when I looked through the program guide for 2015-2016 (they’ve tracked me down in Norristown) and found a few programs that will be worth taking a night off for. To be sure, next season has its share of seat-filling pap ― anyone up for Yo -Yo Ma in John Williams’ Cello Concerto? ― as well as chestnuts, such as the November performance Appalachian Spring. (You know, Copland did write other stuff. I’d like to hear Statements sometime.) And yet there are some Easter eggs hidden under the straw.
In February, just a little under a year from now, James Levine will lead the orchestra in Ives’s Three Places in New England, which it played under Ormandy years ago and hasn’t programmed since. Levine conducted a memorable performance of the piece at Juilliard a while back, and I’m excited to hear what he can do with the Philadelphians. The program also includes the Brahms Second (yay), and the Saint-Saens Organ Symphony, which I guess is the price we pay for Ives.
Then, in April, Cristian Macelaru will conduct Stravinsky’s complete Soldier’s Tale, with actors, dancers and a narrator. You don’t get to see that very often. The program also includes The Rite of Spring, which is overplayed, but never gets old.
There will also be four performances of Mahler’s Symphony of A Thousand in March ― and the fourth is even a Sunday matinee. This work has not been performed in Philadelphia since the mid-1970s.
I should also mention the premiere of a new Timpani Concerto by the fine Philadelphia composer Maurice (pronounced Morris) Wright.