Heard live anywhere, Gershwin’s Lullaby for Strings charms. Outdoors, though, its seems to work in tandem with the breeze. Harry Potter is an escape in the movie theater. But backed by the power of a live orchestra and experienced in a venue with 10,000 other fast-reacting fans, it packs an extra thrill.
This summer gives us a chance to hear a lot of music removed from its normal setting. It’s not clear whether the city sights and sounds enhance or distract from the avant-garde, but listeners will judge for themselves when Bowerbird boards a double-decker bus and makes its way around town in three concerts on wheels.
The Mann Center, the prime city-country experience for many a summer classical listener, has spiffed up its grounds, which is certain to enhance the pleasure of the place. New to the big shed this summer: 4,500 seats with cup holders, ceiling fans that should bring down the air temperature in the balcony, and two screens straddling the stage promising to raise the emotional pitch by capturing visual aspects of the performance.
The Mann’s main stage also has a new name this summer: TD Pavilion, in recognition of a five-year sponsorship whose financial terms were not disclosed.
Just ahead are a Beethoven Ninth outdoors, opera in movie theaters, movie star Bradley Cooper on the stage of Verizon Hall with the orchestra, and crossover singer Katherine Jenkins at the Jersey Shore. In other words, a traditional concert hall experience might be the last thing on your list for this summer.
Kimmel Center Organ Day (June 15, Verizon Hall). Organ Day rumbles on this year with six hours of programming, including the silent film Cops with Buster Keaton accompanied live by organist Jackson Borges, and a tribute to Verdi played by Jeffrey DeVault. One of the most intriguing pieces is for children: The Child’s Book of Beasts: An Entertainment for Organ and Narrator with music by Richard Proulx set to verses by Hilaire Belloc, performed by narrator M’Balia Singley and organist Parker Kitterman. The work from 2001 is a bit like The Carnival of the Animals, but lighter and quirkier. “The nonsensical verses, which are read in off-kilter rhythms along with the music, dispel any notion that this is ‘serious’ music,” says Kitterman. (215-893-1999, kimmelcenter.org)
Bowerbird Double Decker Concerts (June 16, July 28, Aug. 25, meet at Fifth and Market Streets). “An intimate mobile concert experience on an open-top double-decker bus,” this concert series from new-music presenter Bowerbird is billed as unique, and it’s hard to argue. Hosted by tour guide Sebastian Petsu, each of the concerts features different artists: Ursula Rucker and Madam Data in June; Jaime Branch in July; and Rosali and Seraiah Nicole in August. Tickets are sold out, but Bowerbird is accepting names for a waiting list. (267-231-9813, bowerbird.org)
Bradley Cooper Tries on Leonard Bernstein (June 20-22, Verizon Hall). As he prepares for a Leonard Bernstein biopic, Cooper joins the Philadelphia Orchestra’s staged production of Bernstein’s Candide for three performances. He and actor Carey Mulligan narrate, with a cast that includes Denyce Graves, Alek Shrader, Kevin Vortmann, and Erin Morley. The orchestra aims to take full advantage of the laws of supply and demand, instituting a dynamic pricing system for tickets that has pushed them higher than any other orchestra ticket price I can remember seeing here: starting at $300 plus a $30 handling fee the last time I checked, and up to $395 plus a $39.50 handling fee. Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts. (215-893-1999, philorch.org)
Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s Mann Center Debut (June 24, Fairmount Park). The Philadelphia Orchestra regularly brings its music directors to its summer homes in Vail and Saratoga Springs, but Mann audiences have gotten the short end of the baton for years. Nézet-Séguin, then, arrives with some pent-up demand perhaps when he marks his Mann debut conducting a Beethoven Symphony No. 9. But before that Beethoven, Nézet-Séguin conducts the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra in the Overture to Egmont, and Nolan Williams Jr. leads a choir and instrumentalists in excerpts from Philadelphia Community Mass, a multi-composer piece that echoes Bernstein’s Mass with contemporary social overtones. (800-982-2787, manncenter.org)
Metropolitan Opera Encores (June 26, area movie theaters). La Bohème in its venerable Franco Zeffirelli staging includes soprano Kristine Opolais and tenor Vittorio Grigolo as Mimì and Rodolfo with Stefano Ranzani conducting in this retransmission to local movie theaters of a 2014 performance. Later in the summer come repeat performances of Il Barbiere di Siviglia (July 10) and Aida (July 17). (fathomevents.com)
Philadelphia Orchestra Free Neighborhood Concert (June 28, Penn’s Landing). Kensho Watanabe leads the full orchestra in a program whose repertoire is as-yet unannounced. Reservations are encouraged. (215-893-1999, philorch.org)
The Carillonneurs (June 30-Sept. 22, Valley Forge Carillon and Longwood Gardens). It’s not being billed as such, but with visits this summer from about a dozen players, performances at these two venues amount to a carillon festival. Some of the carillonneurs will play both the Washington Memorial National Carillon in Valley Forge, which opened in 1953, as well as Chimes Tower at Longwood, which features a 62-bell set dating from 2000. Performers are coming from as far as Antwerp, where Liesbeth Janssens is a city carillonneur, and as close as Valley Forge, where Doug Gefvert is in residence. (610-265-5211, wmchapel.org; 610-388-1000, longwoodgardens.org)
Philadelphia Orchestra Outdoors (July 2, Longwood Gardens). Few summer orchestral concerts have a program as smartly curated as this one — absolutely accessible, with nary a warhorse in sight. Kensho Watanabe leads the Philadelphians in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1, preceded by a triptych of 20th-century Americana: Gershwin’s Lullaby; Morton Gould’s superbly jazz-tinged American Symphonette No. 2; and the cartoonish Flamingo by Michael Daugherty that gives the tambourine, the orchestra’s most jittery character, its due. (610-388-1000, longwoodgardens.org)
The Princess and the Pops (July 3, Independence Hall). Susan Egan, who played Belle in the original Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast and who was the voice of Megara in the movie Hercules, joins the Philly Pops for this year’s free Independence Day celebration (a day early, on July 3). Musical forces gathered for last year’s concert but, threatened by rain and lightning, they dispersed before showtime. Now, Todd Ellison is slated to make his first appearance with the Pops as its official music director in a concert that includes a Peter Pan medley, "Philadelphia Freedom,” and various patriotic tunes. Also on the program: Jule Styne’s “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” Here’s hoping it doesn’t. (215-875-8004, phillypops.org)
Curtis Summerfest Faculty Recitals (July 19 and 26, and Aug. 1, Curtis Institute of Music). School’s out, but the elite music conservatory on Rittenhouse Square keeps going with a summer academy featuring public concerts. Among the performers this year are Imani Winds, oboist Katherine Needleman, pianist Natalie Zhu, violinist Ray Chen, and organist Patrick Kreeger. (215-893-7902, curtis.edu/summerrecitals)
Philadelphia Orchestra: Harry Potter and Star Wars (July 20 and 26, Fairmount Park). One of the most gratifying aspects of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s current concentration on live orchestra-to-film concerts is, well, you. Films in the Star Wars and Harry Potter franchises bring out the kind of fan who knows every twist and turn, and so visceral audience reaction becomes part of the experience. Best of all, these fans are good listeners, too, and they tend to stay through the credit-roll at the end of the movie to make sure the orchestra gets a few minutes of ovations. This year’s presentations of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (music by Patrick Doyle) and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (John Williams wrote the score) are likely to produce no less a wave of gratitude for the ensemble. (800-982-2787, manncenter.org)
Elim Chan, the Philadelphia Orchestra and Rachmaninoff (July 23, Fairmount Park). Born in Hong Kong, conductor Elim Chan starts as chief conductor of the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra this fall, and has had assistant stints with the London Symphony Orchestra and Los Angeles Philharmonic. Here, she takes on an all-Rachmaninoff program that provides an open canvas for individuality: the composer’s big-shouldered Symphony No. 2, his sweet Vocalise, and — with Curtis-trained pianist Tianxu An — the ever-popular Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. (800-982-2787, manncenter.org)
Philadelphia Young Pianists’ Academy (Aug. 2-11, Academy of Vocal Arts and Perelman Theater). The faculty of this annual piano institute lead master classes but also perform several substantial public recitals. Artistic director Ching-Yun Hu opens with a concert at the Perelman Theater, followed by recitals at AVA by Alon Goldstein, Mac McClure, Dang Thai Son, and recent Van Cliburn International Piano Competition gold medalist Yekwon Sunwoo. Sara Davis Buechner finishes out the series with a recital of Mozart, Brahms, Gershwin, and Kouji Taku. (215-869-4060, pypa.info)
Katherine Jenkins (Aug. 11, Ocean City Music Pier). The popular Welsh-born crossover mezzo will sing with the Ocean City Pops Orchestra in a concert being billed as the only U.S. appearance on her current tour. (609-399-6111, oceancityvacation.com/boxoffice)