Arts Desk

Throughout the week

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!


Thinking about the legacy of jazz pianist Bill Evans, you might be surprised to know that some cool cats named Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Igor Stravinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, and—especially—Johann Sebastian Bach helped shape his sound.

Mahler ends his Fourth Symphony with a song about child’s vision of heaven. Its messages about joy and music fuel the passion of one of today’s rising conducting stars. WRTI’s Susan Lewis has more from Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla about Mahler, music, and life.


Credit: GDLoft

J.S. Bach wrote hundreds of sacred cantatas for voices and orchestra on liturgical texts. One season in Bach’s life reveals some of the cantatas he thought would endure through generations.

Although the song “Danny Boy” has come to symbolize the Irish Diaspora and Irish national pride, its author was not Irish at all. Frederic Edward Weatherly (1848-1929) was a busy English lawyer who also wrote novels, children’s books, libretti, and the lyrics to some 1500 ballads and songs.

Al Ravenna, courtesy of The Library of Congress

What did “faith” mean to Leonard Bernstein? Although to many his name is synonymous with music, he described his life’s work as a search for a solution to the 20th-century crisis of faith. 

Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony premiered in 1808 and was praised as "one of the most important works of the time" by critic E.T.A. Hoffman. WRTI’s Susan Lewis explores why, in the more than 200 years since, the work retains its extraordinary appeal.


Benjamin Ealovega

Music for Food is a national effort to fight hunger at the local level, through funds raised at classical music concerts. Pianist Jonathan Biss has spearheaded the inaugural year of the Philadelphia chapter of Music for Food with help from Curtis Institute of Music faculty and students.

Photo Credit Nic D'Amico

Swan Lake was Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's first foray into classical ballet, with a debut in 1877. Today if you ask someone to name an iconic ballet, Swan Lake is one that usually comes to mind. Believe it or not, that probably would have surprised the composer. 

What You Don't Know About The Iconic Olympic Theme Song

Feb 22, 2018

If you watch the Olympic Games, surely you recognize the heroic “Olympic Anthem” that’s played on TV. But do you know the story behind this piece of music? Who composed it? How did it become so iconic? Well, here’s the inside scoop…

It was the fall of 1802 when Ludwig van Beethoven confessed his nearly fatal despair about his growing deafness, in what’s now known as his "Heiligenstadt Testament." His music then took a daring new turn. WRTI’s Susan Lewis talks with conductor Michael Tilson Thomas about Beethoven's Symphony No. 3, "Eroica."

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