The Philadelphia Orchestra’s three-week summer residence at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center begins Wednesday Aug. 1. Long-time fans will receive an unexpected gift: two weeks with the orchestra’s music director Yannick Nezet-Seguin.
“Yes, it’s the first time since maybe the Ormandy days to have the music director coming for so long,” Nezet-Seguin said from Germany where he was recording Mozart’s “Magic Flute” for Deutsche Grammophon .
This is Nezet-Seguin’s fifth summer at SPAC by his reckoning — he became music director in 2012, but he said the extended stay was part of his commitment to give more than a week to the venue. His time won’t all be about work though.
“People may not be aware that for every day there’s a concert there is a morning rehearsal,” he said. “Usually I rest in the afternoon because there’s not so much free time. But if there is, I go with other musicians to Sacandaga Lake where they rent cottages and do barbecue or swim or boat. I love that lake. It’s my favorite.”
Time is still at a premium for Nezet-Seguin. As of Sept. 1 he will officially become the Metropolitan Opera’s music director and will immediately begin working the Met orchestra for four weeks to “get them back in shape and performing together” until their season opens Sept. 24.
But the few rehearsals the Philly musicians have on this summer’s repertoire is more about getting acquainted with the soloists and touch-ups on music the orchestra has already played this past season.
“It’s the best of what we have done,” Nezet-Seguin said. “It’s what we want to share. But the soloists are all new. I’ve never worked with soprano Janai Brugger who will do the Mahler (Aug. 8). The Dutch pianists Lucas and Arthur Jussen (Aug.9) I knew from the Netherlands (where he was the music director of the Rotterdam Symphony). I’d heard them years ago and thought I’d like to eventually collaborate with them. And Canadian pianist Serhiy Salov (Aug. 15) I knew from Montreal where he was the winner 12 years ago in a competition. He’s a special artist — a genius in his own right and I wanted him to be discovered beyond Canada.”
While Nezet-Seguin said he feels he must “always be on the lookout for which names are on the rise,” he also loves to welcome back an old favorite: violinist Joshua Bell. And Bell is equally excited about returning for two days: Aug. 17 and 18.
“Yannick is one of my favorite conductors around on the planet,” Bell said. “It’s great the orchestra has him. The Philadelphia sound is still there with its ideal rich string sound. And with Yannick. . . now is a great time to be listening to the orchestra.”
The orchestra and SPAC have great significance for Bell.
“The Philadelphia has a very special resonance for me. I was 11 at Meadowmount (a summer string camp in Westport) and I came down on a field trip to hear Dutoit and the orchestra. It was my first time at SPAC and I never dreamed I’d be performing there.
But in 1982 at 14, I made my debut with the orchestra and Ricardo Muti in Philadelphia. It was the biggest life changing experience.”
After decades of international gigs and numerous returns to the venue, Bell said he still looks forward to SPAC.
“I love the atmosphere,” he said. “I’ll drive up from New York City and this time for the first time I get to stick around for two days.”
Bell performs Bruch’s concerto Aug. 17 and his recent Sony CD “Bruch Scottish Fantasy” of the piece will be on sale; on Aug. 18 he’ll perform the violin part to the film “The Red Violin.”
Deneve opens season
Nezet-Seguin won’t be coming until the Aug. 8 concert. Prior to that favorite French conductor Stephane Deneve opens the season with Pennsylvania Ballet dancers in a program that includes Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” complete with cannon and fireworks.
Deneve follows on Aug. 2 (the first of three Thursday matinees) with music inspired by Shakespeare’s plays with five guest actors; and Aug. 3 will be women from the Albany Pro Musica chorus in Holst’s “The Planets” and images provided by NASA. It is the second of six offerings in the new SPAC series “Out of This World” in which science writers, astronaut Nicole Stott, virtual reality space expeditions, telescope viewings and other astronomical experiences provided by the Dudley Observatory will be presented at 6 p.m. Aug. 2, 3, 8, 9, 11, 16. Tickets, $20.
Three film nights
There will be three film nights: Aug. 4 (“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”); Aug. 11 (“Star Wars: A New Hope”); Aug. 18 (“The Red Violin”).
Free concert talks are one hour before each concert.
WHEN: 8 p.m. Aug. 1, 3, 4, 8, 10, 11, 15, 17, 18; 2 p.m. Aug. 2, 9, 16
WHERE: Saratoga Performing Arts Center
HOW MUCH: $110-$40; under 15, $20; lawn, $31. Matinees on Aug. 2, 9 and 16, $50-$30; lawn, $15
MORE INFO: 518 -584-9330; www.spac.org