Lyon applauds Philadelphians, and vice versa

LYON, France ― The audience at the Auditorium Lyons came to its feet for the Philadelphia Orchestra on Friday night, not letting piano soloist Manuel Ax leave the stage after his masterful performance of Beethoven’s 3rd Piano Concerto. (He had to give them a quick solo encore of Schumann’s “Evening” before breaking for intermission.) 

At the end of the concert, they forced conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin back for three curtain calls. He impishly gestured for sleep at his final bow.

The concert opened with a new piece by composer Nico Muhly, “Mixed Messages,” commissioned by the orchestra for this European tour. You can hear an excerpt, above.

The concert capped a day in which the Philadelphians had applauded Les Lyonsais for maintaining a city that points to Philadelphia’s full potential.

In many ways, Lyon is a sister city to Philadelphia. Geographically, the downtown is bounded by two rivers, whose banks are treasured by its residents (Philly would be wise to take note). The dense, walkable city has a long gastronomical reputation; by comparison, Philadelphia’s foodie rep is barely established. There are parklets installed on sidewalk curbs at cafes and a very popular bike-share program.

None of this was lost to officials with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the city of Philadelphia, who came to Lyon to talk business.

“It feels a little Philadelphia-like in its character,” said Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger. “We feel much at home here.”


Lyon, France, lies between two rivers, much like Philadelphia.

Greenberger and Wilfred Muskens, deputy secretary of international business development for Pennsylvania, used the orchestra’s presence in Lyon to leverage economic development efforts between the Rhone-Alps region and the state of Pennsylvania. According to Muskens it’s the only state-to-state partnership between the United States and the European Union.

Officials met with business leaders and entrepreneurs looking to expand into American markets, possibly to be based in Pennsylvania.

A post-concert reception at the Auditorium Lyon, with Nézet-Séguin as the celebrity draw, was a social mixer after a long day of meetings and presentations.

“It’s all about creating deeper cultural connections between two cities, so there can be deeper business connections, social connections,” said Greenberger. “It’s how the world works. It’s how the world should work.”

For many — including Greenberger and most of the orchestra musicians — the reception was also a place to get something to eat. The day’s squeeze of travel and performance hardly left time for anybody to properly take advantage of one of Lyon’s finest attributes: its food.

Funding for coverage of the orchestra tour comes from Visit Philadelphia.

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