The legendary New York Philharmonic performs at Hill this weekend

BY BEN VANWAGONER
Daily Fine Arts Editor
Published March 3, 2009

The New York Philharmonic
Tomorrow at 8:00pm
Sunday at 7:00pm
Hill Auditorium
$10-100

This seems to be a banner year for fine arts performances at Michigan in terms of the breadth and the notoriety of guests, and the New York Philharmonic is perhaps the biggest name yet to grace campus.

It would be disingenuous to say that the New York Philharmonic is the best orchestra in the nation, but certainly no orchestra has had a greater presence in American classical music. The Philharmonic was established in 1842, making it the oldest symphony orchestra in the United States by a sizable margin, and the orchestra is enormously prolific, performing some 180 concerts yearly. On December 18th, 2004, it gave its 14,000th concert — no other orchestra in the world can claim so many performances.

Of course, quantity does not necessarily imply quality, but this fact remains unchanged: Whether in a good light or bad, the Philharmonic sets the standard by which other American orchestras are judged.

The Philharmonic has a strong history of musical innovation, both in pioneering new artists and works (see: Dvorák's Symphony No. 9 and Gershwin’s "An American In Paris") and in encouraging media exposure for orchestras and classical ensembles. In 1922, the Philharmonic was one of the first orchestras to begin regular radio broadcasts. Today, it is featured in the annual PBS broadcast “Live from Lincoln Center” and the nationally syndicated radio broadcast “The New York Philharmonic This Week.” The orchestra even performed live at the Grammy Awards in 2003. But the Philharmonic isn’t just a winner by the numbers — it has been (and still is) propelled as much by its illustrious conductors as its enormous media presence.

This will be Music Director Lorin Maazel’s last year with the Philharmonic after taking the position in 2002. Maazel’s time with the orchestra has been celebrated by many and decried by some, but he has been undeniably influential in shaping the orchestra’s new, international presence. Maazel has moved the orchestra further into the international eye than ever before, taking it on several world-tour excursions, which includes the first-ever American orchestral performance in North Korea. He follows an impossibly famous line of conductors that includes Mahler, Toscanini, Szell and Leonard Bernstein.

Each of this weekend’s performances features different pieces from a wide range of Romantic works. Their selections were perhaps chosen to give a sense of the musical period's richness and depth. Saturday’s program consists of Mendelssohn’s "Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture," a Schumann symphony and Mussorgsky’s "Pictures at an Exhibition." The choice of Mussorgsky, an innovative Russian composer, promises to make it a particularly interesting performance.

This is one of those rare, this-may-be-your-only-chance performances (especially given Maazel’s imminent retirement). This show is akin to a final concert by Luciano Pavarotti, and should definitely not be missed. Tickets to the performance may be hard to come by, but a number of student rush tickets and full-price tickets will be on sale this morning.