Free Library of Philadelphia

The novel, Cold Mountain is a searing story of a Confederate soldier who walks away from the Civil War back home to the Blue Ridge Mountains and his love Ada. The best seller, published nearly 20 years ago, has already inspired a movie and most recently, an opera.

This year’s One Book One Philadelphia selection is Charles Frazier’s novel Cold Mountain.  From now until March 30th, the Free Library will host a series of reading groups, lectures, cooking classes and more as part of this mass reading event. This year, One Book coincides with the East Coast premiere of the opera, Cold Mountain, adding a musical dimension to its literary litany. 

It's a novel, a film, an opera, and now it's the recently announced One Book, One Philadelphia selection for 2016.

The Free Library and the City of Philadelphia officially kicked off the yearly collective read, which will be the National Book Award fiction winner, Cold Mountain.

Curtis Institute of Music composition student TJ Cole is only 21, but she already has a string of impressive commissions under her belt. Last year she was chosen to write a piece of music based on the Free Library's 2015 One Book, One Philadelphia selection - Orphan Train, a novel by Christina Baker Kline.

It’s the story of 91-year-old Vivian, who lost her family as a child, and 17-year-old Molly, a foster child who also knows what it’s like to be alone and unwanted.  

in the digital collection of the Fleisher Collection, the Free Library of Philadelphia

On Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection, Saturday August 2nd, 5-6 pm... The gentleman from Philadelphia was heir to a textile business but his passion was music. An amateur violinist and violist, he founded a club for young people to play music at a time—1909—when there was no instrumental music instruction in the Philadelphia schools. He obtained a building, hired a conductor, and brought the students in to play orchestral literature, as much as he could buy. He called it the Symphony Club.

Edwin A. Fleisher (1877-1959) quickly realized, however, that he would need to go to the source of orchestral music. Music publishers did not have the international reach, through agents and distributors, that they would later have. So Fleisher traveled to Europe, purchased music, signed agreements, and shipped scores and parts back to the United States.

He was building what would become the largest library of orchestral performance material in the world. It was the library of the Symphony Club, and is now called the Edwin A. Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music. It is housed in the Free Library of Philadelphia.

The Symphony Club held readings/rehearsals every week, for younger and older students, for strings only and for full orchestra. They learned chamber music and theory, and even had a choir. Occasionally they’d give public concerts. Boys and girls, blacks and whites, rich and poor all took part, with Edwin Fleisher footing the bill, paying for salaries, music, and later, the hand-copying of instrumental parts where none existed.

The library grew to include American and Latin American music, but in the beginning the music was European through and through, the spine of orchestral literature, music popular at that time and music that had been popular in previous decades.

Because of Fleisher’s access to European publishers, the Symphony Club often premiered works in Philadelphia that would later become staples of orchestral programs. That’s the case for the two Czech composers on Discoveries today. Josef Suk’s Serenade for string orchestra and Vitezslav Novák’s Slovak Suite, which show up on programs all over the world, had their very first Philadelphia hearings on Symphony Club concerts.

Suk and Novák, born within a year of each other, were colleagues and friends, and in the vanguard of the new generation of composers reaching beyond folk influences to a more international sound. They could not escape—nor did they really wish to—the teaching and influence of Dvořak. Suk, in fact, had married the master’s daughter. But the future of Czech music continued bright and world-renowned in large part to their own legacies.

So it was, that when Edwin A. Fleisher toured Europe in the early years of the 20th century, prodding publishers for the latest in orchestral music, he returned with works by Josef Suk and Vitezslav Novák (as well as by Dvořak). Philadelphia first heard these works because of the Symphony Club, because of its library, and because of the gentleman from Philadelphia who founded them both.

The Free Library of Philadelphia's One Book, One Philadelphia selection for 2014 is The Yellow Birds, written by Kevin Powers, an Iraq War veteran. He says he didn't set out to write a sweeping epic about the war, but rather tried to create a complete picture of the psychological, emotional, and physical experience the war has on 21-year-old Private Bartle. 

As the Free Library of Philadelphia continues its celebration of A Year of  Dickens, WRTI's Susan Lewis considers the lasting appeal of the 19th-century writer - 200 years after his birth.

The exhibition AT HOME ON THE STAGE: Charles Dickens and Theatre  is at the Rare Book Department of the Parkway Central Library through January 3rd, 2013.  A variety of Dickens-related programming is also scheduled, including literary salons that are considering a different Dickens novel each month. 

WRTI's Susan Lewis looks at the life and legacy of Charles Dickens as the Free Library of Philadelphia continues its year-long Dickens celebration with special exhibits and programming.

Jim Cotter takes a walk through Adventures in Modern Art: The Charles K. Williams II Collection, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and speaks with its organizer Innis Shoemaker.

David Patrick Stearns profiles the very talented pianists who perform daily at Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market.

Jason Peifer takes us to the Simeone Foundation Museum, home to a world-class collection of historic sports and race cars.

Susan Lewis looks at the history and evolution of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

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