Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection
3:10 pm
Thu June 5, 2014

Opening and Closing Centuries: Prokofiev, Reger

Max Reger at the organ, 1913

On Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection, Saturday, 5 to 6 pm. For convenience, we divide time with round numbers and mark the beginnings of eras with an 800 or 1600 or 1900. But that convenience may hide real divisions, those watershed moments before which something ends and after which something begins.

One hundred years ago, June 1914 marked the end of the world as it had been known, with the shooting of an archduke precipitating the First World War. Then, the Russian Revolution of 1917 began much of what we know as the 20th Century. This ridge of history may be symbolized by two familiar works, heard with new ears.

In his early twenties and at the cusp of a brilliant career, Sergei Prokofiev outdid himself in 1917. He began a cantata and the Third Piano Concerto, and completed, along with this Violin Concerto No. 1, major piano works and the evergreen First Symphony, called the “Classical.” But premieres were canceled because of the upheaval of the Revolution. The violin concerto, the first of two, would not be performed until 1923.

Feeling artistically stymied, Prokofiev left Russia for America to try to make his way as a composer, performer, and conductor: to make a living, in other words. He received permission from a People’s Commissar, even though he was told that, as a “revolutionary” composer, he should remain with the Revolution. He would indeed return to his country, renamed the Soviet Union, as one of the most famous composers in the world, but not until 1936, after years in Paris.

If Prokofiev looks forward, Max Reger looks back, which even his most fervent admirers grant. He was a contrapuntalist when harmony was—in any of its clothes—king. While Debussy invented evanescent wisps of sound, while Schoenberg forged new, gray girders of pitches from the lava of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung, Reger composed interlocking lines of relentless notes that recalled Bach. In a world of uncertainty Max Reger wrote fugues.

Like Bach, and like Bruckner and Messiaen, composers of earlier and later generations whom we still don’t know what to make of, Reger was an organist. His fugues and toccatas and variations are scarcely known today except by cognoscenti, as are his many songs, choral works, and other pieces. This is regrettable. The mighty Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Mozart has often been performed, but not as much now as in the recent past.

The theme is from a Mozart piano sonata and the music is redolent of Brahms, his model, with Beethoven, of “absolute” music, or music that need not refer to any art outside itself. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms: Reger inhaled them all and breathed out, in a relatively short time, a volume of work that is remarkable. In 1914 he wrote the Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Mozart; in 1915 it was premiered; in 1916, at the age of 43, he would be dead. It was almost as if he was not supposed to see 1917.

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3:09 pm
Thu June 5, 2014

Mandolinist Avi Avital: Between Worlds

Avi Avital

"Forgetting borders" is what he calls it in the liner notes of his latest CD. He's mandolin virtuoso Avi Avital, and that CD on the Deutsche Grammophon label is, Between Worlds.

The disc is a journey with, and a tribute to, those 20th-century classical composers who used music based on folk traditions in their own works. A genre-defying tour of the globe, the program on Between Worlds ranges from Dvořák, Bloch, Villa-Lobos and Piazzolla to folk dances from Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Spain and Cuba.  

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The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert on WRTI
12:05 pm
Thu June 5, 2014

It's Beethoven, Shostakovich, and The Philadelphia Orchestra on WRTI: June 8, 1 PM

Danish-Israeli violinist Nikolaj Znaider performs Beethoven's Violin Concerto with the Philadelphians on WRTI, June 8 at 1 pm

This season, The Philadelphia Orchestra juxtaposed Beethoven’s path-breaking symphonies and concertos with those of the great orchestral master of the 20th century Dmitri Shostakovich...we’ll be treated to such a pairing Sunday afternoon at 1 pm.

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Creatively Speaking
4:29 pm
Wed June 4, 2014

Philadelphia Orchestra Musicians "At Play" on their Asia Tour

The Philadelphia Orchestra's "Team Firebird" about to challenge the baseball team from the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra.

The Philadelphia Orchestra’s current 2014 tour of Asia and Japan has been rough and tumble enough with moldering halls in remote Chinese capitals and residency activities amid challenging acoustics and blistering heat. Is that what drives some of them to jump off the top of the 700-foot Macau Tower? The Philadelphia Inquirer’s David Patrick Stearns reports what orchestra members are going to some extremes to get a break from night after night of concerts.

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Station Announcements
3:25 pm
Tue June 3, 2014

Francesca's Letter

Francesca Martinez (center) and her family

Last Wednesday, I read a moving letter on the air from Francesca Martinez when I inducted her family into the Sousalarm Club. So many of you responded to her heartfelt message, and asked if you could read it online, that we have posted it here (see below), with Ms. Martinez's consent. It's a poignant reminder of how transcendent the power of music can be, and of why this work, this station, and this art form matter so much.

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Jazz Hot 11 Countdown
11:55 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

Jazz Hot 11 Countdown: June 2, 2014

WRTI's Jazz Hot 11 is a weekly countdown of your favorite new jazz releases in rotation.  
This week's Hot 11:  
1. The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra - Hat's Dance - L.A. TREASURES PROJECT  

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Creatively Speaking
3:53 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

Violinist Nikolaj Znaider's Beethoven Odyssey

Ludwig van Beethoven tried certain musical forms only once. One opera, one violin concerto, was all he wrote.

Violinist Nikolaj Znaider says he spent years preparing to take on, what he says is, one of the most difficult pieces for his instrument. It took age, and its attendant personal and artistic growth, for him to get beyond what he describes as "mere graphical representation of the music, those black dots on white paper."

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Creatively Speaking
12:57 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

The Philadelphia Orchestra "Pops Up" in Macau

The ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral, which dates from the late-15th century, was the site for a sweltering pop-up concert in Macau.

One of the better ideas of The Philadelphia Orchestra’s tour of China and Japan turned out to be one of the toughest concerts of all: a Saturday morning pop-up performance by a quartet of French horn players at the ancient ruins of St Paul's Cathedral in Macau. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s David Patrick Stearns withstood the tropical heat right along with them.

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Creatively Speaking
12:56 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

Great Composers Memorialized in Fairmount Park

Bust of Franz Schubert by Henry Baerer, 1891 in West Fairmount Park, east of Horticultural Hall. Bronze sculpture with limestone base and granite with bronze plaque.

Among the hundreds of outdoor sculptures that dot Philadelphia’s urban landscape are three classical music masters. But they're not where you might expect to find them.

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Creatively Speaking
12:28 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

Written in Secret Musical Codes: Shostakovich's 10th Symphony

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906 - 1975)

Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich, who had been in and out of favor with Soviet authorities for decades, wrote his 10th symphony in 1953 - the year Stalin died. As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, the work is both political and personal, with parts written in musical code.

On Sunday, June 8, 2014, on WRTI, Stephane Deneve leads The Philadelphia Orchestra in a performance of Shostakovich's 10th Symphony and Beethoven's Violin Concerto.

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