Philadelphia Orchestra concertmaster promises ‘killer season’ at SPAC

The Philadelphia Orchestra opens its season on Wednesday at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, and
David Kim (Photo by Ryan Donnell)
David Kim (Photo by Ryan Donnell)

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Philadelphia Orchestra opens its season on Wednesday at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, and no one is more excited than its concertmaster, David Kim.

“The season lineup, from top to bottom, is one of the very best. It will be a killer season,” Kim said in early July before heading west to the orchestra’s short residency in Vail, Colorado. “It’s why I love SPAC: great conductors, great season, great music.”

Although Kim will be playing only the first and third week of the festival — he’s going to South Korea during the second week to play as concertmaster in a new orchestra — he had plenty to say about the season.

He pointed out that a different program every concert becomes a challenge, even in pieces the orchestra knows well, because the conductors and soloists aren’t the same as during the regular season.

Philadelphia Orchestra

When: Aug. 5-22 at 8 p.m.

Where: Saratoga Performing Arts Center

How much: $87-$24 (lawn); $10 more for Aug. 5, 7, 13, 21, 22

More info: 584-9330,

On Wednesday, the orchestra shares the bill with vocalist Bernadette Peters in her debut, and her conductor, Marvin Laird. Stéphane Denève will also conduct.

“I’m a fan like everyone else,” Kim said. “The first half is classical and we know all that stuff. The second is Broadway and Stéphane is terrific working in all genres.”

Thursday welcomes favorite pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet to play Saint-Saens’ Concerto No. 5 along with a Berlioz overture and selections from Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet.”

“Jean-Yves is one of the great pianists and we play with him a lot,” Kim said, “and Stephane is his good buddy. The Prokofiev is our bread and butter.”

Legendary cellist Yo-Yo Ma comes on Friday.

“With Yo-Yo it’s a special event. With guys like him, there’s always a burst of electricity when they walk on stage. There’s a reason they’re soloists. I always try to soak it all in. I’m never jaded. I do have the best seat in the house,” Kim said.

Saturday is “Pixar in Concert” with conductor Cristian Macelaru, in a program the orchestra does in Philadelphia. Kim said audiences there enjoy it.

All-beethoven program

Famed pianist Emanuel Ax is the soloist Wednesday, Aug. 12 in an all-Beethoven program with Macelaru conducting.

“Manny is a special friend and did the recent three-week European tour with us,” Kim said. “This past May he celebrated his 25 or 30 year Philly debut. He’s fantastic and is good as it gets. Classy.”

Steven Reineke conducts Thursday’s pops concert with vocalist Megan Hilty.

“Steve is a superb pops conductor, but Megan is new. But she’d have to be world-class to be put on. She’ll have to be on her A game,” Kim said.

New York City Ballet Dancers and conductor Bramwell Tovey are Friday and Kim like everyone else will be trying to “sneak a peek” at the dancers. Cellist Johannes Moser is a new friend for the orchestra on Saturday with Tovey conducting.

“The Elgar cello concerto is heartbreakingly gorgeous and Holst’s “The Planets” is one of our staples,” Kim said. “Bramwell is a favorite. He’s charming and funny.”

Music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts the final week: Kim performs the Mendelssohn Concerto on Wednesday Aug. 19 (“a great opportunity and my first time doing a solo with Yannick”).

Flexing muscles

On Thursday small ensembles and the orchestra will “flex its muscles” in Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony; and on Friday “rock star” violinist Joshua Bell will be in a “sublime, blockbuster program” of Brahms, Dvorak and Bruch.

The Tchaikovsky finale on Saturday has newcomer pianist Beatrice Rana (“She’s gotta be good if Yannick signed off on her”) along with cannons and fireworks.

Kim will also give the Aug. 5 pre-performance talk.

Season lineup

Aug. 5: Classical highlights, Broadway. Bernadette Peters, vocalist; Stéphane Denève, Melvin Laird, conductors

Aug. 6: Berlioz, Saint-Saens, Prokofiev. Jean-Yves Thibaudet, pianist; Deneve

Aug. 7: Ravel, Haydn, Strauss. Yo-Yo Ma, cellist; Denève

Aug. 8: Pixar in concert. Cristian Macelaru, conductor

Aug. 12: All-Beethoven. Emanuel Ax, pianist; Macelaru

Aug. 13: Broadway hits. Megan Hilty, vocalist; Steven Reineke, conductor

Aug. 14: Rimsky-Korsakov, Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky. NYC Ballet dancers; Bramwell Tovey, conductor

Aug. 15: Delius, Elgar, Holst. Johannes Moser, cellist; Tovey

Aug. 19: Brahms, Mendelssohn, Beethoven. David Kim, violinist; Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor

Aug. 20: Saint-Saens, Massenet, Ravel, Tchaikovsky. Orchestra ensembles; Wu Han, pianist, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, pianist and conductor

Aug. 21: Dvorak, Bruch, Brahms. Joshua Bell, violinist; Nézet-Séguin

Aug. 22: Glazunov, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, Muhly, Tchaikovsky. Beatrice Rana, pianist; Nézet-Séguin. Cannons, fireworks

Pre-performance talks

WHEN: At 7 p.m. on performance nights, in the Hall of Springs


Aug. 5: David Kim

Aug. 6: Jean-Yves Thibaudet

Aug. 7: Stéphane Denève

Aug. 8: TBA

Aug. 12: Emanuel Ax

Aug. 13: Steven Reineke

Aug. 14: Bramwell Tovey

Aug. 15: Johannes Moser

Aug. 19: One of the PO musicians

Aug. 20: TBA

Aug. 21: Yannick Nézet-Séguin


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