Skip to main content
  1. AXS Entertainment
  2. Arts & Entertainment
  3. Music

The Philadelphia Orchestra dazzles with Casella, Prokofiev, and Saint-Saens

See also

There are three certainties in life. The first is death. The second is taxes. The third is that when an orchestra plays pianissimo, someone in the audience will have a violent coughing fit. Saturday’s performance of Saint-Saens’ Symphony No. 3 (“Organ”) by the Philadelphia Orchestra was no exception.

Nevertheless, even the most convulsive cougher could not dampen the glory of Fred, that is the Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ in Verizon Hall. The third tier was apparently the place to be during the orchestra’s thunderous performance of the organ symphony where concert-goers sat mere inches from the organ’s towering pipes. Played by organist Michael Stairs, organ music is as much a tactile experience as an audible one when, backed by a full symphony orchestra, the vibrations shake the very floorboards.

The Symphony No. 3 is written in only two movements. The poco adagio passage at the end of the first movement is one of the most beautiful passages in all symphonic music, a sad/sweet dialogue between violins and cellos (it was here that the cougher made his debut). Conductor Gianandrea Noseda was clearly spent after vigorously leading organ and orchestra through the symphony.

The concert opened with Alfredo Casella’s Symphonic Fragments from La donna serpente, a piece consisting of two suites. According to the program notes, La donna serpente (The Snake-Woman) originally premiered as an opera in Rome in 1932. The first performance of the Symphonic Fragments took place in 1933.

As twentieth century music, the piece is very accessible. The second movement opens with muted cellos and a haunting oboe solo which returns again in the following Interlude. A rousing War March begins the second suite, rising to a raucous climax with pounding strings, causing a number of broken bow hairs throughout the section.

In addition to Saint-Saens and Prokofiev, Saturday’s concert also featured violinist James Ehnes playing the Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 2. After a flawless, dazzling performance, Ehnes concluded with the third movement of Bach’s Sonata No. 3 as an encore. Mr. Ehnes plays the 1715 “ex-Marsick” Stradivarius violin.

Advertisement

Today's top buzz...

  • Jack White
    Reddit users have fun photoshopping an angry Jack White at a Cubs game
    Music Buzz
  • Kliff Kingsbury
    Kliff Kingsbury reads a series of flattering tweets praising his good looks
    Video
    Today's Buzz
  • Jamaal Charles
    Kansas City Chiefs make Jamaal Charles the second highest paid running back in NFL
    NFL Buzz
  • Slash
    Slash and The Conspirators crush it at Hard Rock, AP Awards
    Camera
    20 Photos
  • Monks of Mellonwah
    Exclusive interview: Monks of Mellonwah talk music, touring and more
    Camera
    9 Photos
  • Nikki Bella
    How will fans react if the WWE decides to turn Nikki Bella into a heel?
    Camera
    5 Photos