Philadelphia mixing music and money in European tour

 Allison Vulgamore, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Philadelphia Orchestra announces the group's 2015 European tour. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Allison Vulgamore, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Philadelphia Orchestra announces the group's 2015 European tour. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The Philadelphia Orchestra has begun a 3-week tour of Europe, during which it will play 14 concerts in 10 cities, including Berlin, Paris, Vienna, and London, playing standard repertoire and a newly commissioned work from the young American composer Nico Muhly.

But it’s not just about the music. It’s about the economy.The Orchestra has toured Europe 18 times over the last 60 years, but this will be the first time it will travel with a significant entourage of officials from both the Philadelphia and Harrisburg trying to bolster business relationships in Europe, particularly Germany, France, and England.

“We typically used universities and businesses when we travel overseas and wanted attract trade and investment,” said Wilfred Muksen, deputy secretary of international business development for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. “But we think there’s a natural connection between one of our best-known attractions — very famous around the world — making that connection with economic development.”

The Commonwealth maintains offices in several European cities, including Lyon and London, for building business relationships in those regions. For more than a year the Orchestra has been coordinating with city and state officials to line up a series of networking events with key figures.

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While the Orchestra plays Beethoven, Shostakovich, and Rachmaninoff, officials and business leaders will be hosting receptions to talk about things like manufacturing, health care, and plastics.

For example, a company making health care products — Sanofi — has an office in Malvern, Pa., but is headquartered in Lyon, France. At a reception for the Orchestra’s concert in Lyon, Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger will be pressing flesh to see if Sanofi might consider expanding their Philadelphia operation.

“When we go to Lyon, meet with businesses whom we’ve been meeting with for a while,” said Greenberger. “The orchestra and the exchange of gifts make those conversations easier. Makes it easier to convince them to be here.”

This will also be the first European tour since the Orchestra has emerged from bankruptcy, and the first led by music director Yannick Nezet-Seguin. From the perspective of the Orchestra, the tour is a way to show Europe that it is still one of the best in the world.

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