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WRTI Arts Desk
6:30 am
Mon April 27, 2015

A New World Was Needed to Create This Symphony

A native of Bohemia, Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) was a minority in the Austrian Empire and in the classical music world. But he had risen to the top of it all when a millionaire patroness hired him to direct the brand-new National Conservatory of Music of America in New York City. It would train all students without regard to race or ability to pay. There, in 1893, Dvořák’s eyes were opened to the possibilities of an "American" music.

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WRTI Arts Desk
6:07 am
Mon April 27, 2015

Duke Ellington: The Influential, Elegant Genius

Duke Ellington (1899-1974)

Duke Ellington wrote and performed hundreds of musical works, and changed the way people thought about jazz. And, as WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, his contributions went beyond the music.

Terry Teachout's Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington is published by Gotham Books.

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Now Is the Time
8:03 pm
Sat April 25, 2015

Tango Nuevo

from the CD Entangoed, Eliane Lust, piano

The tango spins and snaps to a halt on Now Is the Time, Saturday, April 25th at 9 pm. If there’s a meaning behind Mean Old Pony Tango by Michael Kurth, we’ll let it go by to revel in the string quartet antics, and Adrienne Albert combines rock energy with the smooth ride of L.A. Tango Nuevo. A solo piano is overcome with romance in Robert Elkjer’s En-tango-ed, and James Adler gnarls a Twisted Tango with his own self at the piano, accompanying saxophone.

Ingrid Arauco’s Divertimento for an unusual trio includes a tango among its movements. Kenneth Froelich has no obvious tango in Clockwork Automata, but do we detect its spirit among the spinning and clicking? Finally, a string quartet returns to play Tanguori by Jeremy Cohen, snapping the program to a close.

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Jazz Appreciation Month Local Favorites
12:52 pm
Wed April 22, 2015

Appreciating The Jazz In Our Own Backyard!

MINAS, Orlando Haddad and Patricia King

Our Jazz Appreciation Month celebration continues during the week of April 20th by shining the spotlight on artists right here in our region. Our jazz hosts present their favorite recordings from a local jazz artist each night at 7 pm, 9:30 pm 12:30 am, and 5:30 am.

Bob Craig, Zivit, Bob Perkins, Jeff Duperon, Maureen Malloy and J. Michael Harrison have some great tunes cued up for you! Here are some of their favorites:

1. Jeff Duperon: Orrin Evans - Don't Fall Off the L.E.J - Captain Black

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Listen on Sunday, April 26 at 5 PM
12:03 pm
Wed April 22, 2015

Charles Abramovic Keeps Surprising

His own piano teacher told him he wouldn’t get into Curtis, but that he ought to audition anyway, for the experience. So, two weeks after traveling from Pittsburgh with his mother to play for Rudolf Serkin and Eleanor Sokoloff, Charles Abramovic received a letter from the Curtis Institute of Music. He was accepted.

Abramovic has been surprising people his whole life, and it’s easy to see why. His family had almost no interest in music of any kind, let alone classical, although he does remember a Dave Brubeck record in the house. What did he like most about the LP? The bass player.

He did begin piano lessons at age six after his kindergarten teacher noted that he reacted to music “differently” from the other kids, and four years later was playing in the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra. Playing double bass, that is, although he would take on symphonic piano parts, too.

By this time he was studying piano with Natalie Phillips, whose husband Eugene was a violist and violinist in the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra as well as composer, and whose sons Daniel and Todd would one day be renowned violinists in the Orion String Quartet. Abramovic remembers private lessons morphing into coaching and chamber music soirées with the Phillips family. Before long he was playing the Rachmaninoff Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini on a Pittsburgh Symphony Young People’s Concert. It was clear that music was calling him.

Or maybe it was psychoanalysis. His “light reading” in eighth grade, he confesses, was The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud. But Abramovic decided against that as a profession and went with music, although he later discovered that a large part of private teaching is helping students of all personality types and backgrounds. He wonders if it may have produced another benefit, as he did marry the daughter of a psychoanalyst, the cellist, conductor, and composer Heidi Jacob.

After Curtis (where he also played double bass in their orchestra) and Peabody, he earned his DMA at Temple University, with the music of Croatia as his research topic. The Abramović (pronounced Abramovich) family is from that area, and the music fascinates him.

Abramovic as pianist with Mimi Stillman’s Dolce Suono, here playing Astor Piazzolla’s Libertango:

He loves, and plays, the standard piano repertoire, but Abramovic likes to take surprising paths. A favorite is Charles Ives. He’s performed the monumental Concord Sonata (which hardly anyone will attempt), but knows the entire Ives catalog, which has inspired another surprise: Charles Abramovic, composer. His piece Unanswered Hands, for three pianists—piano six-hands, that is—throws in “as many musical memories from childhood” as he could fit. In the same way that Ives uses hymns, marches, and everything else in a piece like The Unanswered Question, Abramovic “out-quotes Ives,” he claims, in a work filled with nostalgia and humor.

He has been a professor at Temple since 1990, and enjoys a career in Philadelphia and beyond as a sought-after soloist, accompanist, chamber musician, and recording artist. One of the most affable and humorous of musicians, he nevertheless cannot hide a ferocious talent that has left not a few shaking their heads over the ease with which he negotiates the most blistering piano writing.

Whether it’s Ives, Babbitt, tango, jazz, rags, new music, his own music, or simply making the impossible look easy, Charles Abramovic is ever full of surprises.

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The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert on WRTI
12:56 pm
Tue April 21, 2015

The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert on WRTI: New Sound Worlds! April 26, 1 PM

Listen to Gil Shaham perform Berg's Violin Concerto with The Philadelphians on WRTI, Sunday, April 26 at 1 pm.

Four compositions, notable for their unusually imaginative explorations of distinctive sound worlds, are all featured on WRTI's Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcast this Sunday, April 26 at 1 pm.

On the podium is guest conductor Robin Ticciati, principal conductor of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, who directs the radiant opening to Wagner's opera Lohengrin, the Prelude to Act I, depicting the gradual unveiling of the Holy Grail, attended by a host of angels.

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WRTI Arts Desk
12:29 pm
Tue April 21, 2015

Exploring PA's Historic Coal-Mining Culture...Through Song

Composer Julia Wolfe, composer of ANTHRACITE FIELDS, a Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia commision, has won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Music.

The Mendelssohn Club Choir mounted its biggest-ever production last April, 2014 with the premiere of Anthracite Fields by the cutting-edge composer Julia Wolfe, who is exploring the coal-mining culture in her Pennsylvania roots. The Philadelphia Inquirer's David Patrick Stearns met with her...inside a coal mine. 

Update:

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WRTI Arts Desk
3:33 am
Tue April 21, 2015

Alban Berg's Violin Concerto Laments a Young Girl's Life Cut Short

Composer Alban Berg (1885-1935)

Twentieth-century Austrian composer Alban Berg dedicated his Violin Concerto to the memory of the 18-year-old daughter of a friend. As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, the work evokes emotion not typically associated with the 12-tone style.

Gil Shaham performs Berg's Violin Concerto on The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert on WRTI, Sunday, April 26, 2015 at 1 pm.

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WRTI Arts Desk
1:37 pm
Mon April 20, 2015

McCoy Tyner Visits WRTI

Two legends! McCoy Tyner and Bob Perkins at WRTI on March 31, 2015

Mayor Michael Nutter and the City of Philadelphia invited jazz pianist and composer MyCoy Tyner back to his roots for an official recognition of his contribution to the city’s jazz legacy on April 1st. It was a wonderful way to kick off Jazz Appreciation Month in Philadelphia.

Born in 1938, Tyner grew up in West Philadelphia, played for John Coltrane’s historic quartet from 1960 to 1965, and then moved on to place his own voluminous stamp on the music, with ever-changing compositions, arrangements, albums and performances.

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WRTI Arts Desk
11:07 am
Mon April 20, 2015

Listen To This: The Dreamiest Chopin You've Ever Heard

Pianist Chad Lawson's "The Chopin Variations," performed with violinist Judy Kang and cellist Rubin Kodheli, presents the music of Chopin in a whole new way.

After being featured on NPR's All Things Considered, Chad Lawson's CD, The Chopin Variations, shot to No. 1 on iTunes Classical before it was even released in September, 2014. Lawson's interpretation of Chopin's nocturnes, preludes, and waltzes involves a surprising reconfiguration of the piano, and offers a sense of intimacy with the music that is likely new to most listeners.

WRTI’s Meridee Duddleston learns about the power of simplicity in her conversation with pianist Chad Lawson.

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