Although the New York Philharmonic has recently been hailed by
New York Magazine as "the most boring major orchestra in
America," its Shanghai debut is warmly anticipated after the
winter's dearth of first-class orchestras.
The orchestra, oldest in the United States, will perform
Wednesday and Thursday at the Shanghai Grand Theater under the
baton of Lorin Maazel, music director since 2002. A free concert is
also expected but details have not been announced.
The Wednesday program features Beethoven's "Coriolan Overture,"
Mendelssohn's "Symphony No. 4, Italian" and Tchaikovsky's "Symphony
No. 6, Pathetique."
On Thursday, the orchestra performs Rossini's "Overture to La
Scala di Seta," Mozart's "Horn Concerto No. 2" with Philip Myers
and Brahms' "Symphony No. 4."
The orchestra has long been known for being staid and
unimaginative. Music critic Peter G. Davis of New York
Magazine recently gave it the "most boring" label.
But changes appear to be in the works.
"For years, America's oldest orchestra has epitomized the
stick-to-the-classics, no-surprises school of orchestra
programming," music critic Alex Ross wrote recently in The New
Yorker magazine. As if to prove the point, the orchestra
kicked off the current season with a festival titled "The
Tchaikovsky Experience." Last year, the spotlight fell on
"All the same, there are signs of life at the Philharmonic,"
New and 20th-century works are proliferating. Three notable
younger conductors have made debuts this season. More changes are
on the way: a celebrity composer-in-residence, a contemporary
series, and in 2009, a new chief conductor, the "musically assured,
intellectually questing" Alan Gilbert.
"Critics may not have the old Philharmonic to kick around for
much longer," Ross says.
The New York Philharmonic, organized in 1842, is the oldest
active US symphony orchestra. It has superior players who can
deliver the organic unity of the Cleveland Orchestra, the surface
brilliance of the Chicago Symphony and the electricity of the Los
It includes many Asian musicians such as associate conductor
Zhang Xian and principal oboist Wang Liang, both from China. Wang
will play Monday night in Hong Kong but not in Shanghai.
Local music critic Li Yanhuan admires the Philharmonic's way of
introducing classical music to ordinary audiences through its
official Web site.
"I was stunned that the 'broadcasts and recordings' section
included many recordings of its recent concerts, which enables
music lovers around the world to appreciate its concert within two
weeks and pulls us closer to the orchestra," he says.
Li says the Web site includes detailed introductions of the
repertoire and performers, augmented by video explanations by the
Maazel will lead 18 musicians to perform with the Student
Orchestra of Datong Middle School and talk with students in the
Date: 7:15 pm, February 20-21
Venue: Shanghai Grand Theater, 300 People's Ave.
Tickets: 280-1,880 yuan
Tel: 021-6217 2426
(Shanghai Daily February 18, 2008)