Israeli conductor Lahav Shani becomes chief conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic in September, taking over from Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Join us on WRTI 90.1, Sunday, May 13th from 1 to 3 pm to hear his Philadelphia Orchestra debut from this past March.
Shani will become the youngest chief conductor in Rotterdam Philharmonic history, and in the 2020/21 season, he succeeds Zubin Mehta as music director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
This fast-rising star in the conducting world will lead a concert on WRTI featuring a first-ever performance by the Philadelphians of a trumpet concerto by the contemporary Swedish composer Christian Lindberg, and a couple of works by Russian composers that have been in the Orchestra’s repertory for many decades — the 1919 suite from Stravinsky’s music for the ballet The Firebird, and the Symphony No. 5 by Prokofiev.
The Lindberg concerto is a jazz-inflected, three-movement work, inspired by a range of traditions, as its title indicates: Akbank Bunka, a combination of Turkish and Japanese. (Akbank is the name of a Turkish bank, and bunka means culture in Japanese.)
The soloist is Philadelphia Orchestra Principal Trumpet, David Bilger, and in this concerto his considerable virtuosity is tested early and often, as not only technical agility is required, but the trumpet’s “singing” abilities. Lindberg has composed long cantabile lines not usually associated with the instrument.
Igor Stravinsky’s music for The Firebird ballet proved an immense success when it premiered in Paris in 1910; it is not an exaggeration to say that it made Stravinsky famous overnight.
And he capitalized on this newfound fame, deriving three suites from the ballet: a short one in 1911, a more extended one in 1919 that incorporated revisions to the orchestration, and a final version from 1945. Of these three, the 1919 one is the most often performed, and that’s the version we’ll hear on Sunday.
World War II inspired an unusually large quantity of significant music, and nowhere more so than in the genre of the symphony, with the two leading Russian composers of the day both making hugely important contributions: Dmitri Shostakovich with his Seventh Symphony, the “Leningrad” in 1941, heard here just a few weeks ago on a WRTI Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcast, and Sergei Prokofiev with his Fifth Symphony in 1944.
These works were composed in times of unimaginable horror for the Soviet citizenry. Americans embraced both symphonies. Shostakovich was hailed on the cover of Time magazine in August of 1942 and Prokofiev appeared on the cover three years later, after the premiere of the Fifth Symphony in January of 1945.
The path to Prokofiev’s great 5th symphony was not, however, an easy one.
Like other prominent Russians, including Stravinsky and Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev left Russia after the 1917 Revolution, made a long journey through Siberia, stopped off in Tokyo, and finally arrived in New York City in early September, 1918.
He would live in America, Paris, and other Western cities for nearly 20 years. And then, with timing that boggles the mind, in the summer of 1936, he moved back permanently to the Soviet Union with his wife and their two young sons. Prokofiev would spend the rest of his life there, riding a roller coaster of official favor and stinging condemnation. He died on March 5, 1953, the same day as Joseph Stalin.
Prokofiev was endowed with prodigious lyrical gifts, and they are much in evidence in a symphony that has it all – epic grandeur, tenderness, haunting tragedy, extraordinary writing for strings, winds, brass, and percussion. There is an inexorable quality to it, as it builds to a frantic, marvelous coda.
During intermission, WRTI’s Debra Lew Harder speaks with David Bilger, and Susan Lewis interviews Lahav Shani backstage at the Kimmel Center.
Don’t miss this exciting concert, Sunday, May 13th, on WRTI 90.1, the WRTI mobile app, and streaming at WRTI.org.
Lindberg: Trumpet Concerto (“Akbank Bunka”)
David Bilger, trumpet
Stravinsky: Suite from The Firebird (1919 version)
Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5
The Philadelphia Orchestra
Lahav Shani, conductor
Gregg Whiteside is producer and host of The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcasts, every Sunday at 1 pm on WRTI 90.1, streaming online at WRTI.org, and on the WRTI mobile app! Listen again on Mondays at 7 pm on WRTI HD-2.
The Philadelphia Orchestra In Concert broadcasts on WRTI are brought to you, in part, by Penn Medicine. The Penn approach to treating hip and knee arthritis gets patients back to enjoying life again. More information.