by Michael Caruso
The Philadelphia Orchestra opens its 2014-15 season this weekend, Sept. 26-28, with a trio of concerts in the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall. Music director Yannick Nezet-Seguin will conduct a program that includes Richard Strauss’ “An Alpine Symphony” and Curtis Institute of Music alumnus Lang Lang as the soloist in Mozart’s “Piano Concerto No. 17 in A major.”
Of no less interest to local lovers of classical music and supporters of the “Fabulous Philadelphians” is the addition to the Chestnut Hill community of the ensemble’s conductor-in-residence, Cristian Macelaru, his wife, Cheryl, and their children, Benjamin and Maria. The Romanian-born maestro was named assistant conductor in 2011 and was promoted to associate conductor the following year. Alongside his elevation to the position of conductor-in-residence this year, Macelaru was also named the 2014 winner of the Solti Conducting Award, named in honor of the Hungarian-born Georg Solti, the longtime music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
In one of those peculiar proofs that the world of classical music is very small, indeed, former Philadelphia Orchestra music director Riccardo Muti is now the music director in Chicago. No less noteworthy is the point that Hungary produced several other acclaimed conductors: Eugene Ormandy, who was music director of the Philadelphians for 44 years; Fritz Reiner, another former music director in Chicago and longtime conducting instructor at Curtis; and George Szell, the legendary music director of the Cleveland Orchestra.
Macelaru first came to the U.S. in 1997 to study violin at the Interlochen Center for the Arts. “I first came to the Philadelphia Orchestra in 2010,” he said, “as a ‘cover conductor,’ which gave me the unique opportunity to learn and absorb music from such a prestigious institution. I was fortunate enough to have the orchestra accept me as their assistant conductor, so naturally I jumped on the opportunity to make music with the finest musicians one could find.”
And why did he choose Chestnut Hill as his home in Philadelphia? “My family and I fell in love with Chestnut Hill all the way back in 2011 when we moved to Philadelphia,” he answered. “Finding the right home and making Chestnut Hill our community was just a matter of time. Now that we’re here, we could not be happier.”
ST. PAUL’S CONCERT
The music season at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Chestnut Hill, got underway in spectacular fashion Sunday afternoon, Sept. 21. The parish hosted the Schola Cantorum of Oxford in a concert conducted by James Burton and heard by an audience that packed the church’s sizable number of pews.
What particularly impressed me about the singing of the Schola Cantorum Sunday afternoon in St. Paul’s Church was not so much its technical perfection. Anyone who has heard, either in concert or on recording, performances by English choirs knows that they have established and maintained the highest standards in the world, none more so than the Roman Catholic Westminster Cathedral in London.
What set this choir apart was its ability under Burton’s direction to discernibly transform its characteristic sound to suit the music being sung. Each score was given its own sonic personality so that each came across as the material manifestation of the composer’s intention. It was never a matter of producing the “Schola Cantorum of Oxford sound.” Rather it was a fidelity to the music at hand that was the goal and the likes of which I’ve never encountered over so broad a repertoire.
St. Paul’s Church will host its first Choral Evensong of the season Sunday, Sept. 28, 5 p.m. Music by Bairstow, Whitlock and Dering will be sung.