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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Now here's a creative way to promote your upcoming symphony season and up your brand: Strap your conductor in a motion capture suit, switch on a dozen high-tech cameras, and get an artist to translate the data into kaleidoscopic shapes and colors.

Jan Regan / Philadelphia Orchestra

The Philadelphia Orchestra is back from its debut in Mongolia, where planned full-orchestra concerts needed to be canceled due to a nation-wide financial crisis. Instead, a contingent of 18 musicians spent two days in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar. Now, the Philadelphia Inquirer's David Patrick Stearns asks what this could lead to.

A New Take on Timpani

Jun 19, 2017

There aren't many concertos composed for timpani. But, as WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, Maurice Wright has written a work that celebrates the instrument and its often untapped range.

So, you want to know how vocalist Kevin Valentine is making it as a musician after leaving behind a full-time legal career? As WRTI’s Meridee Duddleston found out, it takes more than talent.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art; Bequest of Charles C. Willis, 1956

Composer and conductor Dirk Brossé has written a new composition based on American paintings from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The first movement musically re-interprets a beloved folk painting by a Quaker artist, with the help of some unusual instruments.

Every year on Bloomsday, which falls on June 16th, the Rosenbach Museum and Library near Rittenhouse Square organizes more than 70 volunteers to read aloud James Joyce’s once-banned novel Ulysses. But, as WRTI’s Meridee Duddleston finds out, a full appreciation may require more than reading.

Steve Prince

Composer Hannibal Lokumbe continues to take his music into the city's communities on June 15th, 16th, and 17th, highlighting the roles music can play in fostering forgiveness and healing. This is his second extended visit to Philadelphia, as part of his three-year, composer-in-residency with The Philadelphia Orchestra.

The songs, or standards, known to us today as "The Great American Songbook" flourished from the mid 1920s to about 1950. Singer Carmen McRae popularized the term with her 1972 album, The Great American Songbook. As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, a new book on the subject shines light on the role of jazz in the rise, fall, and rebirth of these great American songs.


The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Jazz Masters award, which comes with a $25,000 prize, is widely described as United States' highest honor for jazz. Today, the NEA announced its four newest recipients of the prize: pianist Joanne Brackeen, guitarist Pat Metheny, singer Dianne Reeves and producer Todd Barkan.

Sergei Rachmaninoff was so distressed by the negative reaction to the 1897 premiere of his first symphony, he stopped composing for nearly three years. What restored his confidence to compose his much-loved Piano Concerto No.2? WRTI’s Susan Lewis has the story.

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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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