Founded in 1993 by artistic director Karl Middleman, the Philadelphia Classical Symphony is a professional chamber orchestra committed to promoting new ways to understand and present the history of music to today?s audiences.
The story of music is more than notes on a page; it is a mirror of history, itself ? a saga of passion, inspiration, intellect, politics, religion, philosophy, and patronage. We invite our audiences to join us in making the music matter. Yes, you will hear the music but you will also eat the food, don the garb, dance the dance, talk the talk, walk the walk, and become utterly immersed in the period that gave birth to the notes.
For nearly two decades, the Philadelphia Classical Symphony (PCS) has delighted and astounded Philadelphia-area audiences with performances that shock them off center and engage them viscerally and intellectually. This success is not a product of serendipity but of a purposeful strategy designed to dramatically revitalize the traditional concert experience.
The PCS is widely recognized as the only musical organization in the United States dedicated to transforming traditional classical music concerts into interactive experiences. It has invented a truly novel syntax that combines scholarship with showmanship. Musical connoisseurs and novices alike discover and appreciate the joy of listening to music afresh through PCS? novel forms of audience engagement. Take, for example, these recent programs:
Mozart and the Dance
Prior to a lively re-imagination of an 18th century Viennese court ball, theaudience feasted on Wienerschnitzel, German Potatoes, Linzertorte and Café Vienna. Following the ball, members of the New York Historical Dance Company stepped instructively with the audience through dances not danced for centuries.
Shostakovich and the Magic of the Silent Screen
Shostakovich?s career as a pianist-composer for the silent movies is little known but hugely influential. By juxtaposing clips from the composer?s favorite movie directors (Charlie Chaplin and Sergei Eisenstein) with a PCS performance of Shostakovich?s First Piano Concerto the audience discovered powerfully compelling connections between classical music and popular culture.
Charles Ives Goes to Church
The PCS boldly challenged Ives?s contemporary reputation as a hall-emptier with its performance of this American musical pioneer?s First String Quartet, playing the piece?s core hymn tune on a solo trombone simulated the Salvation Army bands Ives heard as a child. Then the audience sang with great organ accompaniment much the way Ives?s audiences did when he was a prominent organist in New Haven. Prepped by their own full-bodied singing, PCS audiences identified with Ives? music in a wholly new manner. Participation helps make music matter.
Part of PCS's freshness also comes from venturing into uncharted territory. PCS has commissioned and performed over 70 new works in the past decade alone. Recent projects include:
Re-Awakenings of American Indian MusicThe only ongoing commissioning and music education project dedicated to the American Indian experience. ?Re-Awakenings? has been:
? Spotlighting the culture of a large, underserved, and culturally marginalized population ? Lenape Indians ? and promoting greater appreciation of their heritage;
? Underwriting distinguished composers? American Indian-themed contributions to the repertoire by established and emerging American composers;
? Introducing the public to a unique concert music modality;
? Encourging new and younger audiences to find new portals for music appreciation.
Philadelphia Composer Connections
This initiative advocates for worthy composers and outstanding Philadelphia-based performers by partnering them to create and perform new repertoires specifically written for underused solo instruments and the great performers who champion them here in Philadelphia. The program is now in its fifth year.
Gateways to Global Music
The PCS has collaborated with folk instrument ensembles from China and Bali in friendly battle-of-the-bands concerts. Wildly enthusiastic audiences at these side-by-side, cross-cultural forays--unheard of in Philadelphia since the halcyon days of Leopold Stokowski--prove again that music is an international language whose communicative thrust goes beyond spoken words directly to the heart.
No wonder that the Philadelphia Classical Symphony has been consistently hailed by local critics and regional commentators in hyperbolic terms, that is has received three Best of Philly awards, and enjoyed national awards and international recognition.
PCS?s historic achievement results from two forces. The first is the institutionally rich musical environment of Philadelphia; the second, the particular genius of PCS?s founder and artistic director Karl Middleman, a celebrated conductor, composer, educator and champion of new music.