Arts Desk

Listen to WRTI's Arts Desk features for a daily look into the world of music, arts, and culture. Listen to brief features throughout the day!

Mention the music of Vienna, and some of us automatically think of a waltz. But as WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, the city was a musical magnet for composers, especially from the late 18th century through the 19th and beyond.


Credit: William P. Gottlieb

A romantic ballad launched one career, revived another, and became a beloved standard for generations of musicians. WRTI’s Susan Lewis has more on Thelonious Monk's " ‘Round Midnight." The work was recorded first in 1944—but not by Monk.


All eyes are on Rio de Janeiro as it hosts the 2016 Olympics. And while Brazil is famous for its rainforests, its beaches, and its diverse riches, it is music that helps make it a cultural powerhouse. WRTI’s Debra Lew Harder delves into one unique sound of Brazil: choro.

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In the run-up to the November elections, political ads proliferate. WRTI’s Susan Lewis looks at how music contributes to the message.

The world is laughing at Florence Foster Jenkins once again in the new film of the same title. Meryl Streep plays the 1940s society matron who thought she was good enough to sing at Carnegie Hall, but was so sorely mistaken. The Philadelphia Inquirer's David Patrick Stearns, however, has stumbled onto the theory that Jenkins was laughing last.

It took ten years to write Whisper Not, The Autobiography of Benny Golson, by tenor saxophonist and composer Benny Golson and his longtime friend, writer Jim Merod. Walking down the “corridor of life” Golson says, there are surprises, delightful and not.

Does a song, or even a symphony, trigger memories of important moments and milestones in your life? For violinist Hillary Hahn, a little-known, 19th-century concerto is an important part of her history and her current repertoire.


Photographic proof by Victor Kraft / Library of Congress

A manuscript of a J.S. Bach cantata casts a new light on how Bach intended the piece to be played. A singer gains insight from a line in a Porgy and Bess manuscript that differs from the final lyrics. The Music Division of the massive Library of Congress in Washington, DC,  is a place where performers, composers, scholars and the general public make discoveries of the musical kind.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is now known as a classical music giant. But in 1866, he was a young man who had switched careers and was tackling his very first symphony. WRTI’s Susan Lewis has more on this early work – titled by the composer, Winter Daydreams.

Arriving in theaters this week, a new film starring Meryl Streep tells the story of Florence Foster Jenkins, the notoriously untalented singer and socialite who, in 1944, gave a historically dreadful public performance at New York's Carnegie Hall. Now, the Philadelphia Inquirer's David Patrick Stearns attempts to understand the legend.

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