Saturday Classics

Saturday, 6 to 11 am

Wake up to a great variety of classical music every Saturday morning with host Rolf Charlston. You'll hear works ranging from Baroque to contemporary--from a gentle waltz to a bright tango--from old favorites to something new.

Composer ID: 
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Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection
5:59 am
Wed April 29, 2015

Is This a Symphony or Not?

The Zugspitze, the Alps, near the home of Richard Strauss, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

On Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection, Saturday May 2nd, 5-6 pm... It’s a symphony from 100 years ago, from someone not known for writing symphonies. Or is it even a symphony? Richard Strauss calls his own 50-minute work An Alpine Symphony, and the composer ought to have some authority here, but he referred to his earlier Domestic Symphony as a tone poem. In 22 continuous movements, not four separate ones, An Alpine Symphony certainly sounds like a symphonic poem, and not a symphony.

He did write two symphonies, No. 1 when he was 16 and No. 2 when he was 20, but they hardly saw the light of day. When he was in a position to record his own music, he never bothered with them. As he became older and more adept at using larger and larger orchestral forces, Strauss looked for newer means of expression, often referring to “the symphony” as outmoded. The tone poem, with its literary and philosophical underpinnings, each one with a form unique to itself, became his signature. The sunny From Italy led to Don Juan and Death and Transfiguration, then Macbeth and Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, then his monumental grapple with Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra. They all poured out in less than 10 years. Don Quixote followed, then the autobiographical A Hero’s Life and Domestic Symphony.

Strauss created operas and many, many other works during this time, but by 1915 he was able to work on this, the final version of the Alpine Symphony. He had begun sketching it in 1899 and seems to have wanted to make it into an actual symphony, but described the process to a friend as “torturing.” Then he came up with the idea of making it a picture—with philosophical undertones—of a hike up and down a mountain. It depicts an 11-hour excursion, from night through sunrise, forests, meadows, pastures, a wrong turn, a glacier, the summit, a storm, a hurried descent, sunset, and night again.

Major themes work their way through it but what is most arresting about An Alpine Symphony is Strauss’s mastery of the orchestra. He calls for a gigantic ensemble about twice the size needed for even large orchestral works. At one point, an offstage band mimics a hunting party going by—its music has nothing to do with the onstage music and it’s never heard again—but that alone requires an extra 16 brass players. There’s a wind machine, thunder machine, cowbells, and if that were not enough, an organ.

Strauss, recognized by all as the consummate orchestrator among his colleagues past, present, and future, joked that he finally learned how to orchestrate with this piece. He would live to 1949, but this would be the last purely symphonic work he ever composed.

So whether it’s a symphony or not, An Alpine Symphony, from 100 years ago, is in many ways a summit in the career of Richard Strauss.

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WRTI Arts Desk
3:30 pm
Mon April 27, 2015

Bass-Baritone Eric Owens: Not Taking Anything For Granted

Bass-baritone Eric Owens

 

Eric Owens has come a long way from Philadelphia's Central High School. This once-fledging oboe player has evolved into a bass-baritone who has opera productions built around him. One is Opera Philadelphia's current Don Carlo, where he's singing the role of lonely, powerful King Philip, but took time to share trade secrets with The Philadelphia Inquirer's David Patrick Stearns.

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The Metropolitan Opera on WRTI
9:55 am
Sat April 25, 2015

The Met Opera on WRTI: The Enduringly Popular "CAV" and "PAG," April 25, 1 PM

Soprano Patricia Racette as Nedda with Marty Keiser, Joshua Wynter, and Andy Sapora in Leoncavallo's "Pagliacci."

Join us for The Metropolitan Opera's live broadcast of opera’s most enduring, tragic double bill. Marcelo Álvarez rises to the challenge of playing the dual tenor roles of Turiddu in Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Canio in Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. Eva-Maria Westbroek (Cav) and Patricia Racette (Pag) are the unlucky heroines, and George Gagnidze sings both Alfio and Tonio.

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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
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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The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert on WRTI
5:47 pm
Thu April 16, 2015

The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert on WRTI: Gergiev Conducts Russian Masterworks, April 19, 1 PM

Valery Gergiev

It's always an exciting occasion when Valery Gergiev conducts the Russian masterworks. And on this Sunday's Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcast at 1 pm on WRTI, Maestro Gergiev will be on the podium to direct three of the treasures of the Russian repertoire, in what was his only American symphonic guest conducting appearance this season. 

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WRTI Spotlight
11:55 am
Tue April 14, 2015

The Met Opera on WRTI: LADY MACBETH OF MTSENSK, April 18, 1 PM

Eva-Maria Westbroek as Katerina in Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk.
Ken Howard

Join us this Saturday for a rare revival of Dmitri Shostakovich’s searing drama Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, heard in an archived Met Opera performance from November. Shostakovich’s towering tragedy of adultery and murder stars the commanding dramatic soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek as the heroine who suffers the vicissitudes of her treachery. Brandon Jovanovich is her co-conspirator and lover, and James Conlon conducts. Saturday, April 18, 1 to 4:15 pm on WRTI.

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The Metropolitan Opera on WRTI
11:12 am
Sat April 11, 2015

The Met Opera on WRTI: Yannick Nezet-Seguin Conducts DON CARLO, April 11, 1 PM

James Morris as the Grand Inquisitor and Ferruccio Furlanetto as Philip II in Verdi's DON CARLO.
Ken Howard

Join us on Saturday, April 11th for our weekly broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera - live from Lincoln Center. This week, it's Verdi's DON CARLO, with Yannick Nezet-Seguin on the podium.

Ferruccio Furlanetto first sang Philip with the Met in 2005, and then again in 2010 and 2013, and has portrayed the tormented monarch around the world. His other recent roles at the Met have included Silva in Verdi’s Ernani, and Jacopo Fiesco in Simon Boccanegra, which he will reprise at the Met next season.

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BrAVA on WRTI
3:33 pm
Thu April 9, 2015

Stars of AVA Sing! Academy of Vocal Arts Gala 80th Anniversary Concert on WRTI: April 12 at 3 PM

Tenor James Valenti, AVA alum '06

Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center was filled with opera lovers - and some of the best-loved singers on the scene today - during BrAVA 2015, the Academy of Vocal Arts' 80th-anniversary celebration in late March. 

Christofer Macatsoris conducted the full AVA Opera Orchestra, in an evening of favorite arias and ensemble pieces featuring performances by AVA Alumni and resident artists.

WRTI brings you the magic of that evening on Sunday, April 12th 3 to 5 pm. Thor Eckert hosts. 

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The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert on WRTI
12:43 pm
Tue April 7, 2015

Pianist Imogen Cooper Plays Beethoven: The Philadelphians on WRTI, April 12, 1 PM

Pianist Imogen Cooper
Benjamin Ealovega

Join us for a Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcast from this past February, that looks back to a time when concerto soloists and members of instrumental ensembles led their colleagues, while also performing themselves.

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