Arts Desk

If you missed any of our short Arts Desk features on the air, you can always find them right here, along with additional related content. Check out stories by WRTI arts reporters Meridee Duddleston, Susan Lewis, David Patrick Stearns, Debra Lew Harder, Kile Smith, and Maureen Malloy. Arts Desk and Arts News Submission Guidelines

This year’s One Book, One Philadelphia features the novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon. There’s a musical analog to this imaginative tale; Curtis Institute of Music Post-Bacc composition student and Rhodes Scholar Nick DiBerardino read the book and conjured a piece for percussion. His composition "Homunculus" premiered on January 25th at the Free Library of Philadelphia's Parkway Central Library.

The great Ella Fitzgerald was born on April 25th, 1917, and sadly she died in 1996. As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, "The Queen of Jazz" - also called "The First Lady of Song," left a lasting legacy on American song and jazz.

Even without Appalachian Spring, Aaron Copland might still be considered the greatest American composer. WRTI’s Kile Smith thinks that the key to Aaron Copland is heard more clearly in Appalachian Spring than in any other of his works.
 


Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie have been credited with changing the face of jazz in the mid 1940s. They kicked it up a notch, and ushered in an era known as "modern jazz"—which some dubbed "bebop."


George Frideric Handel was born in Germany in 1685, and moved to Britain as a young man. He spent his most productive years there, and became a naturalized British subject in his early 40s. His now-famous Water Music suites, commissioned for King George I for a ceremonial boat ride on the River Thames in London, were first performed during the summer of 1717.

Do you want to know what made the composer Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) so special? I'll tell you. Aside from revolutionizing the piano itself, enlarging its scope, the genres it lent itself to, and its breadth of color, Chopin essentially invented the scherzo and instrumental ballade as virtuoso piano movements, and reinvented the etude as a musically engaging genre, rather than a mere exercise.

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.

“Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’, ” “My Funny Valentine,” “The Lady is a Tramp,” “The Sound of Music." With over 900 songs to his name, composer Richard Rodgers (1902-1979) left an indelible mark on American musical theater. His songs became an important part of the Great American Songbook, in part because jazz artists and singers loved to re-invent them. If Rodgers had had his way, though, he wouldn’t have let anyone else change a note. Why not?

André Watts, Credit: Adrian Siegel Collection / The Philadelphia Orchestra Archives

Born in Germany in 1946, André Watts moved to Philadelphia with his Hungarian mother and American father when he was 8 years old. As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, after decades of performing, the celebrated pianist still finds new inspiration and challenges in the music.

The path to landing a full-time position as an orchestral musician can be a rocky and competitive climb.  As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, one successful percussion player says it's all about staying with it, and  "Sticking It Out," which is the title of a new memoir by Patti Niemi.


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