After 21 years as the artistic director and principal conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s annual summer season at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Charles Dutoit has stepped down to pass the baton to a successor yet to be named.
Chantal Juillet, concert violinist and the director of the Saratoga Chamber Music Festival at SPAC’s Spa Little Theater since 1991, is also vacating her position this year because she and Dutoit (husband and wife) are moving on to other artistic pastures elsewhere.
So on Thursday night, SPAC president Marcia White put the two of them together on the same stage with the magnificent Philadelphia Orchestra, brought out the champagne for the audience at intermission and concluded the evening’s celebration with a fireworks display.
Dutoit and the orchestra started the first set with Shostakovich’s “Festive Overture, Op. 96” and then launched headlong into Korngold’s “Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35” with Juillet’s violin in both a state of impassioned emergency and exquisite sensitivity.
In the second set the orchestra gracefully tackled Debussy’s “La Mer,” with its lovely three movements. The evening closed with a wonderful interpretation of Respighi’s “The Pines of Rome,” with its four movements named after pine trees in different locations around the Italian capital city – those of the Villa Borghese, near a Catacomb, of the Janiculum and of the Appian Way. It was a fitting finale, resonating with many in the audience who drove into SPAC that night on the Avenue of the Pines.
During the fireworks display, Charles Dutoit raised a toast backstage to friends and collaborators in the Philadelphia Orchestra, acknowledging the two-decade-plus partnership and the success of the evening’s brilliant performance.
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk