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SPAC Welcomes Back The Philadelphia Orchestra, Violinist Joshua Bell

The orchestra's shortened season, which will take place August 11–14, will mark its first concerts at SPAC since 2019.

The Philadelphia Orchestra returns to SPAC this August 11–14. (SPAC)

It’s time to brush up on that hushed “inside voice” you’ve been letting slide since the pandemic hit. The Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) today announced that The Philadelphia Orchestra would be returning to its summer home for a shortened residency, performing a quartet of concerts from August 11–14.

Under the baton of Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin for all four programs, the residency will also feature a finale performance with Grammy Award–winning violinist Joshua Bell. Highlights also include a string of SPAC premieres by women or BIPOC composers, including works by Philadelphia Orchestra Composer-in-Residence Gabriela Lena Frank, Valerie Coleman, Florence Price and Louise Farrenc.

The performances will be offered in compliance with the current guidelines from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to ensure the health and safety of the artists, audience members and staff. In order to provide guests with the safest possible experience, all attendees will be seated in safe, socially distanced pods.

“After more than a year of a shuttered, silent amphitheater stage, it feels miraculous to announce the return of Yannick and The Philadelphia Orchestra,” says Elizabeth Sobol, president and CEO of SPAC. “Though, sadly, it was necessary to shorten the residency this year in the face of the enormous financial and other challenges posed by the era of COVID-19, we are excited about the richness of diversity of the programming. From the opening notes of a Mozart piano concerto, with Yannick himself at the piano, to a closing concert featuring Joshua Bell in Beethoven’s sublime Violin Concerto—and powerful SPAC premieres by women and BIPOC composers—throughout the week, we will savor every sweet and precious note of the Orchestra’s 2021 residency.”

The orchestra’s Nézet-Séguin echoes Sobol’s excitement for the upcoming concerts. “Our time in Saratoga is always treasured, but last year’s absence makes this cherished summer tradition even more special,” he says. “We look forward to sharing the dynamic music of Florence Price, Gabriela Lena Frank, Louise Farrenc, Valerie Coleman and others with our SPAC family.”

Below, find the full schedule of performances:

Return of The Philadelphia Orchestra – Wednesday, August 11 at 8pm
Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor and piano
Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 12
Price’s Symphony No. 1

Opening Night of The Philadelphia Orchestra’s residency includes a “first” for SPAC audiences, as Nézet-Séguin leads the orchestra from the piano. Written following his arrival in Vienna, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 12 is “very brilliant, pleasing to the ear, and natural, without being insipid,” in the composer’s own words. Listen for its melodic opulence and thrilling cadenzas.

Also highlighting the evening is the SPAC premiere of Symphony No. 1 by Florence Price. In 1933, Price’s First Symphony was the first symphonic work by a Black woman to be played by a major American orchestra. Steeped in American folk music, spirituals and church hymns, her celebrated work reflects her experience as a Black woman raised in the post–Civil War South.

Violinist Joshua Bell. (Phillip Knott)

Bach & Brahms – Thursday, August 12 at 8pm
Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor
David Kim and Juliette Kang, violins
Coleman’s Seven O’Clock Shout
Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins
Brahms’ Symphony No. 1

This special program, dedicated to health care workers, opens with the SPAC premiere of Seven O’Clock Shout, composed as a tribute to frontline workers during the pandemic by American composer Valerie Coleman. Performance Today‘s 2020 Classical Woman of the Year and one of the Washington Post’s “Top 35 Female Composers in Classical Music,” Coleman is among the world’s most performed composers living today. Says Coleman of her composition: “To me, Seven O’Clock Shout is a declaration of our survival. It is something that allows us our agency to take back the kindness that is in our hearts and the emotions that cause us such turmoil.…We cheer on the essential workers with a primal and fierce urgency to let them know that we stand with them and each other.”

The evening continues with Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins, featuring Concertmaster David Kim and First Associate Concertmaster Juliette Kang, and Brahms’s lyrically lush, Symphony No. 1.

Yannick Leads Frank & Mozart – Friday, August 13 at 8pm 
Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor
Ricardo Morales, clarinet
Frank: selections from Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout
Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto
Farrenc’s Symphony No. 2

The Philadelphia Orchestra’s Composer-in-Residence, Gabriela Lena Frank, who is widely celebrated for exploring her multicultural heritage through her work, mixed elements from the western classical and Andean folk music traditions in Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout. Frank says that Leyendas “draws inspiration from the idea of mestizaje, a mixing of ethnic and cultural groups, as envisioned by the Peruvian writer José María Arguedas, where cultures can coexist without the subjugation of one by the other. As such, this piece brings together elements from the Western classical and Andean folk music traditions.”

The work will receive its SPAC premiere alongside Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, performed by Philadelphia Orchestra Principal Clarinet Ricardo Morales. Another SPAC premiere and a piece that is “unjustly-underperformed,” according to Maestro Nézet-Séguin, is Louise Farrenc’s stunning Symphony No. 2 from 1845, which closes the evening.

Return of Violinist Joshua Bell: Saturday, August 14 at 8pm
Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor
Joshua Bell, violin
Price’s Adoration
Beethoven’s Violin Concerto
Mozart’s Symphony No. 25

Joshua Bell returns to SPAC to perform the illustrious Beethoven Violin Concerto. A new arrangement for solo violin and string orchestra of Florence Price’s Adoration receives its world premiere, while Mozart’s Symphony No. 25—a work written when the composer was just 17 and never before performed at SPAC—closes The Philadelphia Orchestra’s residency in Saratoga.

The concerts will all be approximately 90 minutes with no intermission. All programs are subject to change.

Tickets will be available on June 1 to SPAC members, depending on one’s membership level. Amphitheater tickets for the public will go on sale on June 7, while lawn tickets will be available to purchase at a to be announced. Designated two-person pods will be allocated and reserved for ticket buyers in the amphitheater. Amphitheater tickets start at $80 per pod, which seats up to two people. Single tickets will be extremely limited and available starting at $40 for the amphitheater. Advance ticket purchases are strongly advised as ticket availability will be limited. If available, tickets will be on sale on the day of, but are subject to an additional fee.

Will Levith

Will Levith is Editorial Director at Saratoga Living and Capital Region Living magazine. He's a native Saratogian and graduate of Saratoga Springs High School. His work has been published by Esquire, Playboy, Condé Nast Traveler, Men's Health, RealClearLife and many others. He lives in Troy with his wife, Laura, and dog, Esopus.

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