Music Director Christoph Eschenbach conducts the Philadelphia Orchestra.

The Philadelphia Orchestra

To launch its 25th anniversary season, Eugene's Hult Center invited what many people consider to be the nation's premiere performing, recording and touring orchestra to perform. Music Director Christoph Eschenbach will conduct the Philadelphia Orchestra in a performance at 8 p.m. Sunday, May 27, in the Hult Center for the Performing Arts, Silva Concert Hall. A reception in The Studio will follow the concert.

"I am very excited to bring The Philadelphia Orchestra to its many fans in Oregon," said Eschenbach in a press release. "In particular, I am thrilled to feature four of our principal wind players in Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante to kick off the Hult Center's 25th anniversary celebration in Eugene. This is a wonderful opportunity for us to share the power of music and the magnificent artistry of this fine orchestra with audiences who do not often have the chance to hear us in person."

The full 110-member orchestra and Eschenbach are on a rare three-week national tour and Eugene will be its only stop in Oregon. The orchestra will make debut performances in Peter Kiewit Concert Hall in the Holland Performing Arts Center in Omaha, Neb., and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. The tour also includes the Orchestra's 29th visit to Chicago and stops in San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

The Philadelphia Orchestra has been at the forefront of the elite orchestras since its founding in 1900. Its reputation has been well-established through concerts, international tours, recordings, broadcasts, technological innovations and dedication to young music lovers.

For Denise Huizenga, violinist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the trip to Eugene will be a return to familiar territory and friends. "I was in the Oregon Symphony for five years and I fell in love with Portland," Huizenga said in a phone interview. Huizenga, who grew up in New York state, has performed at the Bach Festival in Eugene and the Newport Beach Festival. Her years with the Oregon Symphony were at the end of James DePriest's tenure. "The feeling was so much like a family," Huizenga recalled. "It united us all on that stage. It was wonderful."

Huizenga found moving to Philadelphia and playing with the orchestra to be a phenomenal experience. She was struck by the level of artistry and the budget the orchestra works with, which enables it to attract the most famous conductors and composers. "The Philadelphia Orchestra was the orchestra in New York. I grew up knowing the names of these players, like kids with sports cards. Now I'm on the stage with these people. How crazy is that?"

For Huizenga the Philadelphia Orchestra is the top orchestra in the country. "It's a national treasure," she said. "There's some sense of wanting to connect with that history. It belongs to everyone."

When she's not rehearsing or playing with the orchestra, Huizenga is working in one of the partnerships the orchestra has with seven inner-city schools. She teaches recorder to third graders in Camden, N.J., a Philadelphia suburb, and one of the country's most violent cities at No. 7 in the nation in 2005 for murders.

"How can I make them feel this is a tool for their own well-being in the midst of all they face in their lives," Huizenga asked herself. The students come to the orchestra's school concerts prepared for what they would be hearing. It makes it possible for them to take part in the process. "This highfalutin' music has something to contribute."

With so many music programs dropped from the schools, Huizenga noted that there are fewer and fewer ways for young people tho come into contact with classical music.

"It's not in the culture," she said. "It's less likely that parents will take them to concerts. Classical music has so much to offer. It's something we need in music, to hear things expressed in this way. Once they get past their preconceptions, it has everything they need and get in pop music. But it's like a full meal vs. cotton candy. You always can find new things in it — it makes the experience deeper. They sink deeper into the experience they need."

The audience at the Hult performance will hear Berlioz's "Symphonie Fantastique, Op. 14." Huizenga said of the piece, "It has huge major switches of emotion and lots of attention-getting sound. It's a crowd pleaser."

Also on the program is Mozart's "Sinfonia Concertante for Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn and Orchestra in E flat Major, K297 b." Huizenga pointed out that the piece spotlight's the orchestra's master musicians playing chamber music, particularly principal oboist Richard Woodhams. "He's the top oboist in the country," Huizenga said. "He brings so much color, artistry to everything he plays."

For more information about the tour, see www.philorch.org, click on "About the Orchestra," "News" and select the March 12 news release, "Christoph Eschenbach and The Philadelphia Orchestra Tour the American Heartland and from Sea to Shining Sea on 2007 United States Tour."

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