Presto! Philadelphia Orchestra sweeps through Amsterdam

The Philadelphia Orchestra breathlessly swept through Amsterdam during its European tour, staying in the city of canals for less than 24 hours. It performed a program of Shostakovich and Rachmaninoff at the historic Concertgebouw, a 19th-century concert hall with some of the best acoustics in the world. The orchestra’s stay in Amsterdam felt just barely longer than Concertgebouw’s 2-second reverb.

In the audience were musicians from Rotterdam, a short train ride away, where the orchestra’s Yannick Nezet-Seguin is the also music director of the Rotterdam Philharmomic. They got a chance to hear the sound of his other gig “across the pond,” as Nezet-Seguin told the audience before an encore of Rachmaninoff’s “Vocalise.” Nezet-Seguin has announced that he will leave the Rotterdam Philharmonic when his contract is up in 2018.

Unlike many other cities on this tour, where audiences offered enthusiastic applause but seemed shy about standing ovations, Amsterdam leapt to its feet at the final note of violinist Lisa Batiashvili’s impassioned delivery of Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No.1. Flowers arrived from stage right. However she offered no encore.

Across a park from Concertgebouw is the Rijksmuseum, holding masterworks of Dutch art, including Vermeers, Rembrandts, and Van Goghs, along with a pair of monumental, melancholy cartoon figures. These are by KAWS, a former street artist who has become a pop art sensation and was asked by Amsterdam to participate in a summer-long festival of public sculpture. Philadelphians might remember that in 2013 KAWS installed a similar cartoon figure — seated with his face in his hands — at 30th Street Station at the invitation of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

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The orchestra is in the final stretch of its three-week tour, wrapping up with two weekend concerts in London.

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