VAIL — So how fabulous are the Philadelphians of The Philadelphia Orchestra?
When the orchestra went to China last summer on tour, and its flight from Beijing to Macao was delayed for three hours, members of the string section broke out in an impromptu performance of Dvorak.
Hopefully, The Philadelphia Orchestra’s trip west to Bravo! Vail went a bit more smoothly as the Philadelphians present three tremendous concerts at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater Saturday through Monday as Bravo! Vail welcomes the second orchestra of the season.
Yes, violinist Josh Bell is the headlining soloist tonight with Bruch’s First Violin Concerto, yet The Philadelphia Orchestra is presenting three signature symphonic works in as many nights — Tchaikovsky’s Fourth, Mahler’s First and Brahms’ Third.
Bell opens the festivities with the Bruch. He is playing a 1713 Stradivarius that, at one point, was stolen from its owner and painted over in black to disguise its origin. Bell happened upon it in 2001 in Great Britain.
Just as Bell’s violin disappeared, so did the score for Bruch’s work. The composer gave the score to his friends, Rose and Ottille Sutro, to sell in the United States, but he died in 1920 before that happened. In 1949, it surfaced at the Frick Museum in New York.
Like the works of Mahler, Bruch’s repertoire fell off the playlist throughout Europe during the 1930s and ‘40s, even though the latter was not Jewish.
Bruch’s concerto is very much influenced by Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. And in a related development, that was the piece that Bell played the last time he was here in 2012.
Tchaikovsky’s Fourth is a constant of the classical repertoire, but it’s always fun to go back and see what critics said of the work at the time.
The New York Post in 1890: “If Tchaikovsky had called his symphony ‘A Sleigh Ride Through Siberia’ no one would have found this title inappropriate.”
A German review in 1897: “The composer’s twaddle disturbed my mood.”
This work is certainly not twaddle. Judge for yourself.
Mozart and Mahler are linked by their heritage with Mozart seen as iconic Austrian work, while the latter is “modern” Austrian. Both composers did not live long — Mozart died at 35; Mahler at 50.
Aside from their vastly different styles, they also differed in production of work. Mozart was prolific. He wrote his 36th Symphony, which opens Sunday’s concert, in five days.
Mahler made his living conducting and teaching, writing nine-and-a-half symphonies — the 10th is a long adagio, but the rest of the work was never finished before his death in 1911— as well as songs, including the cycle “Songs of the Earth,” which was performed at Bravo! Vail for the composer’s centennial in 2011.
Mahler’s “Songs of Wayfarer” cycle is incorporated into the First. While there is no vocal portion to the work, this is an important marker in his symphonies.
Mahler drew on Beethoven’s Ninth, which opened Bravo! Vail last week, in moving song into his later symphonies — Nos 2, 3, 4 and 8 — on a much greater scale.
And, no you aren’t hearing things — that is “Frere Jacques,” in the third movement.
While Mahler’s work has a justifiable reputation of being long, the First, or “Titan,” is less than an hour and moves briskly, an excellent introduction to the composer’s work.
More Mozart opens Monday’s concert with the composer’s 27th Piano Concerto. Not only is it an unlikely coincidence that No. 27 was picked in Bravo! Vail’s 27th season, but Mozart’s final piano concerto is a fascinating look at “what if.” Had not Mozart died of rheumatic fever — no. Salieri didn’t off him as the movie “Amadeus” suggests — one only can wonder how much more work he would have composed.
The 27th, as well as his other later piano concerti, suggests that Mozart was working his way from Classical to Romantic on his own, though Beethoven often (and rightly) gets the credit for that conversion.
The festival’s own artistic director, Anne-Marie McDermott, does the honors on the piano.
And speaking of Romantic, there is nothing more so that Brahms’ Third Symphony, which concludes what should be a satisfying evening of music.
Sports Editor Chris Freud is also the Vail Daily’s resident classical-music fan and can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.