Editor: Marc Bridle


Webmaster: Len Mullenger





WWW MusicWeb

Search Music Web with FreeFind

Any Review or Article


Seen and Heard International Concert Review


Philadelphia Music: After the Sopranos, the Cellists–by Bernard Jacobson


Rather like Noah’s Ark, the music season in Philadelphia seems to be filling up with pairs. After the two sopranos who began, respectively, the Philadelphia Orchestra season and the Kimmel Center’s own classical programming, it was the turn of two cellists–two musicians, this time, with an important link between them. Daniel Müller-Schott, the soloist in Strauss’ Don Quixote with the Philadelphia Orchestra in Verizon Hall on 23 September, numbers among his teachers Steven Isserlis, who opened the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia’s season three days later in the Center’s smaller Perelman Theater with Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1.


Müller-Schott makes a lovely sound and phrases most musically, so that his contribution to Don Quixote, abetted by a vivid portrayal of Sancho Panza by the orchestra’s principal violist, Roberto Díaz, made an excellent impression. I did not feel that the closing section, depicting the Don’s decline and death, was quite as moving as it can be, but that is perhaps an aspect of the solo part that this young cellist will take possession of with increasing maturity. The orchestra, under Christoph Eschenbach’s direction, played splendidly, as they had in the opening work on the program, Trainwork, by the American composer Augusta Read Thomas. Heard on this occasion for the first time in Philadelphia, the piece offered some arresting sonorities and some equally telling musical ideas, but, like a number of other contemporary concert-openers, it seemed to me to end–after a mere nine minutes–too soon to allow of a really satisfying working out of those ideas.


At all three Philadelphia Orchestra concerts I have heard this season, the absolutely wonderful sound of the orchestra itself has been a delight. Happily, after some structural work associated with the installation during the summer of the organ console, Verizon Hall has finally realized its potential as a great concert environment–just about on schedule, since the architect and acoustician warned us from the start that it would take three years for the sound to be fine-tuned to full satisfaction. At any rate, the orchestral balance now sounds pretty well ideal, and the strings–especially the violins–are now heard with a bloom, a sheen, and a strength that were not abundantly in evidence before this season.


Our second cellist of the week, Steven Isserlis, was making a welcome return to the Chamber Orchestra’s series in collaboration with Ignat Solzhenitsyn, now promoted from his previous principal-conductor role to full responsibility as music director. As I have warned readers before, I am associated with the Chamber Orchestra as program annotator and pre-concert lecturer, so I shall not go on at length about the orchestra’s playing. But I think it fair to say that Isserlis’s no-holds-barred take on the Shostakovich concerto surpassed any performance I have encountered in music that can too easily sound a shade lightweight. Not this time, for Isserlis dared all in the way of uninhibitedly incisive articulation and richly resonant tone, and carried all before him as a result. The concerto emerged much closer in stature than I have previously thought it to the composer’s Second Cello Concerto, a great musical and human document that deserves to be heard much more often.


As it turned out, there was a string soloist also on the Philadelphia Orchestra’s second subscription program of the season, but it is perhaps kinder not to say too much about Sarah Chang’s performance of the Dvorák Violin Concerto: the sparkling finale brought some impressively feathery articulation from this young player, but to maintain the same kind of high-octane tight vibrato in the slow movement deprived the work of any trace of repose. Several members of the audience, in consequence, expressed themselves less than enchanted by the concerto itself, which is a pity, because in the hands of master it can indeed be a bewitching piece, especially in that central Adagio.

On this occasion there was, fortunately, plenty to enjoy on either side of the concerto. Making an overdue debut with the orchestra, the Czech conductor Jiri Belohávek began the evening with a riveting interpretation of Martinu’s radiant Frescoes of Piero della Francesca, and ended it with the most beautiful performance of Dvorák’s New World it has ever been my good fortune to hear. The slow movement, in particular, was a dream of loveliness, floating apparently effortlessly on the conductor’s clear, graceful, and mercifully unsubdivided beat. I can only hope that it will not be long before Belohávek is invited back. He is one of those relatively rare conductors who really work on orchestral sound, and the dividends were amply apparent throughout this inspiriting evening.


Bernard Jacobson

Back to the Top     Back to the Index Page






MusicWeb - The International Web Site Founder: Len Mullenger [UK], Classical Editor: Rob Barnett [UK],  Regular Reviewers:   Steve Arloff [UK], Guy Aron [Australia], Tony Augarde [UK], Terry Barfoot [UK], Melinda Bargreen [USA], David J. Barker [Australia], Rob Barnett [UK], Nick Barnard [UK], Robert Beattie [UK], Dave Billinge [UK], Peter Bright [UK], Byzantion [UK], Colin Clarke [UK], Dominy Clements [Netherlands], Michael Cookson [UK], Hubert Culot [Belgium], Evan Dickerson [UK], Gavin Dixon [UK], Robert J. Farr [UK], Christopher Fifield [UK], Göran Forsling [Sweden], John France [UK], Patrick Gary [USA], Pierre Giroux [CAN], Paul C. Godfrey [UK], Michael Greenhalgh [UK], William Hedley [France], Gary Higginson [UK], Neil Horner [UK], Robert Hugill UK], David Jennings [UK], Bill Kenny [UK], William S Kreindler [USA], Ian Lace [UK], Em Marshall-Luck [UK], Oleg Ledeniov [USA]Rob Maynard [UK], David A McConnell [USA], Kirk McElhearn [France], Robert McKechnie [UK], Ralph Moore [RMo] [UK], Dan Morgan [UK], Margarida Mota-Bull [UK], Glyn Pursglove [UK], John Quinn [UK], Carla Rees [UK], Brian Reinhart [USA], Donald Satz [USA], Mark Sealey [USA], John Sheppard [UK], George Stacy, Kevin Sutton [USA], Bert Thompson [USA], Simon Thompson [UK], Zane Turner [Australia], Steve Vasta [UK], Johan van Veen [Netherlands], Raymond Walker [UK], Derek Warby [UK], Brian Wilson [UK], Jonathan Woolf [UK] Leslie Wright [USA]. A complete list of contributors can be seen here


Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Past and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

MusicWeb International thank Naxos for the no-strings use of their server to mount the website.