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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Concert Preview: Philharmonic 360

A return to an old venue and an amazing 2012 finale.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
A seating chart for the Philharmonic's upcoming concert at the Park Avenue Armory.
All images © 2012 the New York Philharmonic.

The New York Philharmonic are ending the 2012 season in grand style with Philharmonic 360, a concert presented in collaboration with the Park Avenue Armory.

It will host the orchestra for two performances on June 29 and 30. The concerts feature an unusual program bridging three centuries of music-making, and an unusual venue, the drill hall of the Armory, itself an historic building dedicated in 1880.

These concerts mark the orchestra's first performances of Gruppen by German composer and enfant terrible Karlheinz Stockhausen. This work (first played in Gotham by student orchestras) is written for three seperate orchestras, with the audience seated in the middle. Talk about sensory overload.

Stockhausen is an important 20th century German composer who was a pioneer in the field of electronic music, creating dense, complicated sound structures that are nonetheless eerily beautiful. His more unusual compositions include the 7-day opera Licht which includes a string quartet incorporating helicopters. Stockhausen's piece won't include any air support, but it still requires three conductors: music director Alan Gilbert, composer-in-residence Magnus Lindberg, and Matthias Pintscher.

The Armory's enormous Drill Hall was home for many years to the famed Seventh Regiment. It was known as the "Silk Stocking Regiment", a military reserve unit made up of New York's social elite. 
The Philharmonic played concerts here in 1884, with a chorus of 3,000 singers.
Today, the Drill Hall is used for art exhibits, concerts, and even opera, including a 2008
Lincoln Center Festival performance of Zimmermann's Die Soldaten. 
Did we mention it's the size of a New York city block? It's big.
A special stage setup will be built for the performances in this artist's model.
The 360 concert also features:

  • Pierre Boulez' Rituel en memoriam Bruno Maderna, a large-scale chamber music composition designed for eight groups of musicians.
  • Charles Ives' The Unanswered Question, a musical dialogue for strings, flutes and a distant solo trumpet. 
  • The finale of Act I of Mozart's Don Giovanni. In this private party at the title character's manor, the Don entertains his guests with three seperate small orchestras onstage, each playing different music. This is in addition to the singers and the players in the main ensemble, a challenge for any conductor.

Watch this short documentary about the creation of Philharmonic 360.
For more videos and information on the concerts, visit the official site Philharmonic 360. 
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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.