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Esa-Pekka Salonen Conducts The Firebird

Location: Avery Fisher Hall (Directions)
Price Range: $33.00 - $134.00
Duration: 2 hours with intermission
Thu, Oct, 16, 2014
7:30 PM
Fri, Oct, 17, 2014
8:00 PM
Sat, Oct, 18, 2014
8:00 PM

The 2014-15 Season

Program To Include (Click the red play button to listen)

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King Stephen Overture

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN (1770–1827)
King Stephen Overture (1811)

The King Stephen Overture abundantly reflects the splendid occasion for which Beethoven composed this music: the dedication of the opulent new Hungarian National Theater in Pest (which later became part of Budapest). He was commissioned to write incidental music for two historical plays by August Friedrich Ferdinand von Kotzebue, also commissioned for the event: King Stephen or Hungary’s First Benefactor (a prologue) and The Ruins of Athens (an epilogue). (A third play was rejected for being too political.) The martial character of this overture is appropriately stirring and heroic, with a stately opening in the winds and horns that proceeds to rousing strains, and its final bars will, no doubt, remind listeners of passages in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

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Piano Concerto No. 1

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN (1770–1827)
Piano Concerto No. 1 (1795, rev. 1800)

Beethoven’s reputation as a piano virtuoso was already well established in Vienna by the time he premiered his Piano Concerto No. 1 (actually composed second, but so numbered because it was published first). He left us no fewer than three cadenzas for the first movement alone — a reminder that he was aware of his own prodigious pianistic abilities and how these might translate into income-producing performances. Things to note as you listen include the very long orchestral introduction, after which the piano finally enters: some Mozart-inspired measures, followed by cascading keyboard runs; an introspective and deeply felt lyrical slow movement; and a spirited concluding Rondo. Perhaps you will agree with Beethoven’s fellow composer, Johann Tomášek, who was deeply affected upon hearing this music: “stirred me strangely to the depths of my soul; indeed I found myself so profoundly shaken that I did not touch my piano for several days.”

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The Firebird (complete)

IGOR STRAVINSKY (1882–1971)
The Firebird (1910)

The Firebird, Stravinsky’s first ballet, catapulted the young composer to spectacular international fame. The score’s vibrant colors glitter and pulse with fantastic effects, from primitive to luminous, created by a “wastefully large orchestra” (so said Stravinsky later). The ballet’s exotic scenario overflows with the stuff of legends: a prince, 13 princesses, the Firebird’s magic feather, and the enchanted garden of the evil ogre Kastchei and his malevolent minions. The sound world Stravinsky created is a masterful combination of inspiration from his musical “godfathers” (Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov) and utterly original, daring inventions, such as shifting accents, repeated patterns of melodies and rhythms, and bold orchestral colors. Among the many familiar memorable passages — most of them known from one of the suites the composer created — are the lustrous dance of the Firebird herself, the menacing dance of Kastchei and his band of evil-doers, and the Lullaby and Finale, a spectacular, shimmering climax proclaiming that the prince and princess will live happily ever after.

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Conductor

Esa-Pekka Salonen

Esa-Pekka Salonen is principal conductor and artistic advisor for London’s Philharmonia Orchestra and conductor laureate of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he was music director from 1992–2009 and was widely credited with revitalizing that organization as well as bringing the idea of the symphony orchestra into the 21st century. At both organizations, he has pioneered several award-winning festivals, installations, and collaborations. As a composer, his pieces Floof and LA Variations have become established modern classics, and new compositions continue to be performed around the globe. In addition to his work with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Philharmonia Orchestra, he performs frequently as a guest with the world’s top orchestras. During the 2013–14 season, he makes appearances with the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, and Filarmonica della Scala.

Mr. Salonen has an extensive recording career of wide-ranging repertoire including works by Bach, Beethoven, Debussy, Mahler, Bartók, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Berlioz, Pärt, Sibelius, Janáček, Lutosławski, Dutilleux, and Strauss, and he has earned a Grammy Award and two Grammy nominations. Recordings of his own works include the Violin Concerto and Nyx, with Leila Josefowicz and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, a CD of his orchestral works performed by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, and a CD with his Piano Concerto (which the New York Philharmonic co-commissioned and premiered), along with Helix and Dichotomie.

In 1995 he received the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Opera Award and two years later the Society’s Conductor Award. He was awarded the Litteris et Artibus medal, one of Sweden’s highest honors, by the King of Sweden in 1996. In 1998 the French government awarded him the rank of Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He was also honored with the Pro Finlandia Medal of the Order of the Lion of Finland. Mr. Salonen has received seven honorary doctorates in four different countries. Musical America named him its Musician of the Year in 2006, and he was elected as an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2010.

Learn more about Esa-Pekka Salonen

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Piano

Jeremy Denk

Pianist Jeremy Denk, who is making his New York Philharmonic debut in the 2014–15 season, was named a 2013 MacArthur Fellow and is also Musical America’s 2014 Instrumentalist of the Year. He has appeared as soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, and the symphony orchestras of Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and London. He regularly gives recitals in New York, Washington, Boston, Philadelphia, and throughout the United States.

In the 2013–14 season Mr. Denk performs Bach’s Goldberg Variations in Boston, Chicago, and Washington, and returns to Carnegie Hall on tour with the San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25, which he will also perform with the Cincinnati Symphony and Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra conducting from the keyboard. He will serve as performer and artistic director of the 2014 Ojai Music Festival, for which he has composed the libretto to a semi-satirical opera inspired by Charles Rosen’s The Classical Style, and featuring the characters of Mozart, Beethoven, and Haydn.

Mr. Denk’s writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic, and in The New York Times Book Review; his Website think denk, recounting his experiences of touring, performing, and practicing, was recently selected for inclusion in the Library of Congress Web Archives.

In 2012 Mr. Denk made his debut as a Nonesuch Records artist with a pairing of masterpieces old and new: Beethoven’s final piano sonata and György Ligeti’s Etudes. His recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations is being released in 2013. Mr. Denk has a long-standing attachment to the music of American visionary Charles Ives, and his recording of Ives’s two Piano Sonatas was selected for many “best of the year” lists. He has toured frequently with violinist Joshua Bell, and their album French Impressions was recently released on the Sony Classical label, winning the 2012 Echo-Klassik Award. 

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Special Thanks

Esa-Pekka Salonen's appearance is made possible through the Charles A. Dana Distinguished Conductors Endowment Fund.

Photo of : Katja Tahja

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