Join us for another broadcast in our series of operas from the Academy of Vocal Arts. AVA Opera Theater is currently presenting Charles Gounod’s Faust, in a series of performances throughout the Delaware Valley. Additional performances are scheduled for Centennial Hall at the Haverford School, Haverford on May 5th, and Central Bucks East High School, Doylestown on May 9th. Listen on WRTI this Sunday, May 3, from 3 to 6 pm.
The acclaimed Philadelphia Youth Orchestra, under Music Director Louis Scaglione, returns to WRTI with a Mother's Day concert broadcast. The program, recorded at the Kimmel Center's Verizon Hall this past February, opens with a performance of Shotsakovich's lively Festive Overture. Then, Philadelphia Orchestra violinist Richard Amoroso plays the Beethoven Violin Concerto. The closing work on the program is a Tchaikovsky favorite, the Symphony No. 5 in E minor.
Jack Moore is your host on Sunday, May 10 at 3 pm on WRTI.
We can almost see the music on Now Is the Time, Saturday, May 2nd at 9 pm. Robert Moran took snippets of words from a 30-year correspondence with John Cage and worked them into this delicious three-part work for chorus, Seven Sounds Unseen.
Nicolas Scherzinger spins musical motifs within a chamber ensemble and imagines what they would sound like if held up to Fractured Mirrors. The particular sand of the Gobi Desert, they say, sings when the wind blows a certain way. Bright Sheng conducts two ensembles in The Singing Gobi Desert, Music from China and the Prism Saxophone Quartet, with whom he imagines hearing the sand and viewing a mirage—the archetype of seeing and not-seeing.
For the final week of Jazz Appreciation Month, we're presenting our favorite hidden gems from our jazz library. Join us at 7 pm, 9:30 pm, 12:30 am and 5:30 am as we uncover these precious pieces, and tell you why they are so special to us. Bob Perkins, Zivit, Jeff Duperon, Maureen Malloy, Bob Craig and J. Michael Harrison have had a blast featuring their favorites for you this April. Please continue to tune into the station that appreciates jazz every month!
1. Bob Perkins: Patrick Williams Big Band - Mandeville - Aurora
Join us for a live broadcast of Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera (A Masked Ballroom Dance), conducted by Met Music Director James Levine. This is Maestro Levine's first network broadcast of this opera since 1997. Piotr Beczala makes a network role debut as the self-destructive King Gustavo III of Sweden, opposite Sondra Radvanovsky as Amelia, the woman he loves.
It’s always a special occasion when Philadelphia native Sarah Chang appears with The Philadelphia Orchestra. And she’ll be here on May 7, 8 and 9 for performances of Antonin Dvorak’s Violin Concerto, conducted by the Philadelphia Orchestra's Conductor-in-Residence Cristian Macelaru.
On Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection, Saturday May 2nd, 5-6 pm... It’s a symphony from 100 years ago, from someone not known for writing symphonies. Or is it even a symphony? Richard Strauss calls his own 50-minute work An Alpine Symphony, and the composer ought to have some authority here, but he referred to his earlier Domestic Symphony as a tone poem. In 22 continuous movements, not four separate ones, An Alpine Symphony certainly sounds like a symphonic poem, and not a symphony.
He did write two symphonies, No. 1 when he was 16 and No. 2 when he was 20, but they hardly saw the light of day. When he was in a position to record his own music, he never bothered with them. As he became older and more adept at using larger and larger orchestral forces, Strauss looked for newer means of expression, often referring to “the symphony” as outmoded. The tone poem, with its literary and philosophical underpinnings, each one with a form unique to itself, became his signature. The sunny From Italy led to Don Juan and Death and Transfiguration, then Macbeth and Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, then his monumental grapple with Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra. They all poured out in less than 10 years. Don Quixote followed, then the autobiographical A Hero’s Life and Domestic Symphony.
Strauss created operas and many, many other works during this time, but by 1915 he was able to work on this, the final version of the Alpine Symphony. He had begun sketching it in 1899 and seems to have wanted to make it into an actual symphony, but described the process to a friend as “torturing.” Then he came up with the idea of making it a picture—with philosophical undertones—of a hike up and down a mountain. It depicts an 11-hour excursion, from night through sunrise, forests, meadows, pastures, a wrong turn, a glacier, the summit, a storm, a hurried descent, sunset, and night again.
Major themes work their way through it but what is most arresting about An Alpine Symphony is Strauss’s mastery of the orchestra. He calls for a gigantic ensemble about twice the size needed for even large orchestral works. At one point, an offstage band mimics a hunting party going by—its music has nothing to do with the onstage music and it’s never heard again—but that alone requires an extra 16 brass players. There’s a wind machine, thunder machine, cowbells, and if that were not enough, an organ.
Strauss, recognized by all as the consummate orchestrator among his colleagues past, present, and future, joked that he finally learned how to orchestrate with this piece. He would live to 1949, but this would be the last purely symphonic work he ever composed.
So whether it’s a symphony or not, An Alpine Symphony, from 100 years ago, is in many ways a summit in the career of Richard Strauss.
Eric Owens has come a long way from Philadelphia's Central High School. This once-fledging oboe player has evolved into a bass-baritone who has opera productions built around him. One is Opera Philadelphia's current Don Carlo, where he's singing the role of lonely, powerful King Philip, but took time to share trade secrets with The Philadelphia Inquirer's David Patrick Stearns.
In the 1940s, when jazz singer Billie Holiday was at the height of her power and artistry, she always performed wearing at least one white gardenia in her hair. WRTI's Meridee Duddleston visits Drexel University professor and fashion scholar Alphonso McClendon, who looks at the meaning behind that statement and fashion in his book Fashion and Jazz: Dress, Identity and Subcultural Improvisation.
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.