The 2011/2012 season for the Philadelphia Orchestra was filled with turmoil as they battled bankruptcy and began the transition to a new music director. Such a tumultuous period could have resulted in lower attendance or lower quality performances, but just the opposite was observed in every concert I attended. The strategy to build attendance in a potentially off year meant that Philadelphia Orchestra concerts were the best bargain in town if you took advantage of the multiple discount ticket offers available. Those bargains resulted in high attendance in many concerts. As for the performance of the orchestra? Rave reviews in the USA and Europe confirm my own observations that this was a spectacular season.
I used my remaining $10 ticket on 4/19 to attend my first "Beyond the Score®" concert. These "cheap seats", complements of large discount via PECO, were the actually in one of the best acoustic locations I've ever experienced in Verizon Hall. They were dead center, front row of the orchestra tier and since I rarely sit in the middle, I almost jumped out of my seat when the woodwinds came through so clearly that I thought the musicians were in the seats right beside me. There was a large screen above the orchestra upon which a movie ran while the two actors narrated and the orchestra played excerpts to demonstrate the presentation.
Beyond the Score® was created by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and is available for free in its entirety on their web site. If you missed the Tchaikovsky Presentation at the Kimmel Center then I highly recommend watching it online. Of course, even the finest of home entertainment system equipment won't match a live performance, but it may help you appreciate the symphony more when you can hear it live. The San Francisco Symphony has a similar program called "Keeping Score" which has been broadcast on PBS. Though not available online, it may be purchased on DVD. An immersion into Mahler's symphonies via the viewing of these programs combined with a presentation by the Philadelphia Fans of Classical Music in the fall of 2011 was so enthralling that it produced a wave of interest in the composer for many in the group. In fact, I wrote about that experience here if you'd like to read more. These programs are so well constructed that those new to classical music and experts alike will almost surely find them of value. They cover so many topics: political, sociological, art, and musical history, history of the composer and influences on his life, musical influences on the composer, etc., that it would be a rare person who did not learn something in the entertaining program.
The Beyond the Score® program introduced Tchaikovsky's 4th in the first half of the evening and then the Philadelphia Orchestra performed the work, uninterrupted, after intermission. I listened to it with "new ears" and a new appreciation for the world of influence on Tchaikovsky when he composed the work. I was also encouraged by the number of students at the concert. They were attentive and applauded enthusiastically, so I hope that the program inspired at least a few to explore classical music beyond the Kimmel Center walls.
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