Bill DiCecca

Back Before Bach: Piffaro's Musical Journeys

A local Renaissance band brings its virtuosity to a new recording of music J.S. Bach may have heard. Piffaro’s CD, Back Before Bach: Musical Journeys , released in July 2017, is the pinnacle of over 35 years of experience. It’s the climax of countless concerts, the building of Piffaro’s vast collection of early music instruments and its honed concept of sound.

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As we remember our War of Independence from Great Britain, you might be surprised to know that Americans deployed a surprising secret weapon—music. WRTI's Debra Lew Harder has more.

The Smithsonian Institution

The national melody that’s notoriously hard to sing owes its musical roots to a private men’s club. WRTI’s Meridee Duddleston hears the “the bombs bursting in air” anew.

How does music—without words—respond to political and social turmoil? WRTI’s Susan Lewis considers FREEDOM, a recording featuring flute, piano, and cello. Created independently, each of three works speaks in its own way to artistic freedom and the human spirit.


Jessica Griffin


On Tuesday, June 20th, Allison Vulgamore announced she will be stepping down as President and CEO of the Philadelphia Orchestra when her contract expires in December, 2017. WRTI’s Debra Lew Harder spoke with her the next day about her biggest achievements as well as the biggest challenges she faced during her tenure with the Orchestra, which began in 2010.

The summer jazz festival season is about to start. Blockbuster performances at the “Big Three” longest-running summer jazz fests still engender re-makes and recordings. These historic performances live on as benchmarks. Now, starting with the Montreux Jazz Festival — founded in 1967 — WRTI examines highlights from Montreux, Newport, and Monterey.

The second movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7—the Allegretto—has captivated listeners since the symphony’s 1813 premiere, when it was so popular that the orchestra used it as an encore. WRTI’s Susan Lewis has more on why this particular movement continues to engages us.

Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection, Saturday at 1 pm, starts the Independence Day weekend with that most independent of American composers, Charles Ives. His music is wild, grand, humorous, poignant, and, at times, ornery. Most of all, though, it is shot through with that very American streak of independence.

In his early twenties, Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983) won the title "Argentina's Great Musical Hope" with works such as the ballet score Estancia, and popular piano pieces like Danzas argentinas, which strongly evoke the rhythm and flair of the folk music of Argentina.

It's now officially summer, which means it's time to kick back, pour out a glass of rosé and listen to the ever-timeless Overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream, by composer Felix Mendelssohn. The German composer wrote the Overture (Op. 21) when he was only 17, but by then he was a seasoned composer with numerous operas and string symphonies under his belt.

In 1959, the peak of his playing years, Thelonious Monk did something he'd never done before: record music for a film. Released in the U.S. as Dangerous Liaisons, the French film Les Liaisons Dangereuses featured nearly 30 minutes of Monk's music, none of which ever made it to a record. But the master tapes resurfaced last year, and were first released as a vinyl exclusive on Record Store Day this April.

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WRTI Arts Desk

While Samuel Barber is best known for his moving Adagio for Strings, he wrote a lot of other music that continues to inspire musicians and listeners to this day. WRTI’s Susan Lewis talked with filmmaker Paul Moon about his documentary, Samuel Barber: Absolute Beauty, which had its Philadelphia premiere on Saturday, July 15, 2017 on WHYY-TV.   An encore performance will air on Friday, July 21st, at noon. 

The Mann Center for the Performing Arts has resided for over 40 years in its West Fairmount Park home. WRTI’s Susan Lewis has more on how this Philadelphia venue for summer music came to be.

Midori's Passion Beyond the Concert Hall

Jul 19, 2017
Credit: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

The Curtis Institute of Music recently announced  that violinist Midori will be joining its faculty in 2018. Midori  has been performing with major orchestras since her 1983 New Year’s Eve debut at age 11 with The New York Philharmonic. While still in her teens, she developed another passion, which she will continue in Philadelphia.

In an era when women had little voice, 12th-century abbess Hildegard of Bingen founded her own women's monastery, authored volumes of sacred text, served as a physician to her community, wrote the oldest surviving musical morality play, and produced plainchants of great expression and beauty. She was canonized in 2012.

Bill DiCecca

A local Renaissance band brings its virtuosity to a new recording of music J.S. Bach may have heard.  Piffaro’s CD, Back Before Bach: Musical Journeys, released in July 2017, is the pinnacle of over 35 years of experience.  It’s the climax of countless concerts, the building of Piffaro’s vast collection of early music instruments and its honed concept of sound.

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