RI Philharmonic opens 75th season

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Last Saturday night was a busy one in Providence, with WaterFire attracting thousands of people Downcity, along with a Bruins hockey game, and the opening of the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra’s 75th season.

The concert was delayed nearly 20 minutes as people fought their way through gridlocked traffic caused by people looking for parking spaces, as the city, in their ultimate wisdom, closed the State House parking lot where Vets patrons traditionally parked, taking a shuttle bus to the auditorium.

Bramwell Tovey’s Inaugural was a rousing success, as he led the orchestra in Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto, with the acclaimed Russian pianist Yefim Bronfman showing how it should be done. Bronfman was literally on his way to perform at Carnegie Hall’s opening concert. The audience wouldn’t stop applauding his incredible talent, and he returned for an encore.

After intermission, Tovey led the orchestra in Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra, taking the time to explain the piece and tell us about the composer. When the audience wouldn’t let him leave the stage, he led the orchestra in a short Hungarian piece.

Those of us who were not worried about the traditional Rhode Island “beat the crowd” stayed for the brief conversation with Tovey immediately following the concert. Tovey speaks to his audiences like he is an old friend having an intimate conversation. He told about his bout with cancer, which caused weight and hair loss, but assured us that he was “feeling fine.” He didn’t wear his customary tails because they didn’t fit but donned a dapper black suit.

He answered questions about how the season programs were selected, his relationships with the guests artists, and an explanation of the upcoming concert that will feature his own short composition, “Urban Runway,” which will open the concert that also features Barber’s Violin Concerto, with guest artist James Ehnes and Holst’ “The Planets,” featuring Christine Noel and the Women of the Providence Singers on October 19. Tickets to that concert are available at 248-7000.

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