Yannick Nezet-Seguin conducts works by Haydn, Beethoven, and Vaughan Williams on this Sunday's Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcast - a live concert recording from March, 2015 at Verizon Hall.
You'll hear one of Haydn’s most ambitious essays, the Symphony No. 92, known as the “Oxford” because he conducted a performance at the illustrious University in July 1791, when he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Music.
Join us this Sunday, May 10th, for WRTI's Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcast, which pairs the music of Philadelphia’s own Jennifer Higdon, one of today’s leading composers, with one of her personal favorites: Claude Debussy.
This past season, the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia celebrated its 50th anniversary. Started as the Concerto Soloists in 1964, by then-Music Director Marc Mostovoy as a way for audiences to hear Baroque and Classical chamber works, and to provide performance opportunities for young professional musicians emerging from the Curtis Institute of Music and other regional training programs, the ensemble's reputation has only grown stronger over the years.
British pianist Peter Donohoe has been a guest soloist with Philadelphia's Renaissance, Baroque and Classical chamber ensemble, Vox Ama Deus, for several years - performing in one concert per season. Valentin Radu, music director of the ensemble, told us that audiences have loved Donohoe's performances so much, that he asked him to perform in two concerts this season.
We can almost see the music on Now Is the Time, Saturday, May 2nd at 9 pm. Robert Moran took snippets of words from a 30-year correspondence with John Cage and worked them into this delicious three-part work for chorus, Seven Sounds Unseen.
Nicolas Scherzinger spins musical motifs within a chamber ensemble and imagines what they would sound like if held up to Fractured Mirrors. The particular sand of the Gobi Desert, they say, sings when the wind blows a certain way. Bright Sheng conducts two ensembles in The Singing Gobi Desert, Music from China and the Prism Saxophone Quartet, with whom he imagines hearing the sand and viewing a mirage—the archetype of seeing and not-seeing.
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.
The tango spins and snaps to a halt on Now Is the Time, Saturday, April 25th at 9 pm. If there’s a meaning behind Mean Old Pony Tango by Michael Kurth, we’ll let it go by to revel in the string quartet antics, and Adrienne Albert combines rock energy with the smooth ride of L.A. Tango Nuevo. A solo piano is overcome with romance in Robert Elkjer’s En-tango-ed, and James Adler gnarls a Twisted Tango with his own self at the piano, accompanying saxophone.
Ingrid Arauco’s Divertimento for an unusual trio includes a tango among its movements. Kenneth Froelich has no obvious tango in Clockwork Automata, but do we detect its spirit among the spinning and clicking? Finally, a string quartet returns to play Tanguori by Jeremy Cohen, snapping the program to a close.
When you come across someone described as "versatile," you often find they can certainly do a lot of different things, but each only adequately. Pianist Jonathan Miles Freeman is not one of those people. Freeman does everything, and he does it excellently.
Forms traditional, and those not so, arise on Now Is the Time, Saturday, April 18th at 9 pm. Composers often wrestle over titles, hoping to trumpet putative musical originality with a never-seen-before moniker. Paul Moravec, however, writes a piece for string quartet plus piano and calls it what it is: Piano Quintet. With the Lark Quartet, with pianist Jeremy Denk, and with his keen ear for profound energy, Moravec has that ease to call things what they are, and we are rewarded.
John Hodian’s six-part MMU-14 is mysteriously-titled but engagingly entertaining. Written way back in the 1980s, it’s a work of surface repetition, but listen closely, as it’s rare that any two measures are exactly like the next two. For overdubbed acoustic instruments, MMU-14 uses just a soupçon of electronics to produce an attractive yet propulsive drive.