Music Features

The three works on WRTI’s Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcast this Sunday, June 21st, all hail from France. To varying degrees, each echoes the marvelous 17th-century fables of Jean de La Fontaine, familiar to this day to every French schoolchild. It’s unfortunate that these compositions are usually confined to children’s programs, as there is much music in them that has universal appeal.

We are all connected on Now Is the Time, Saturday, June 20th at 9 pm. We just learned that composer Brian Fennelly passed away on Wednesday; his loving celebration of his granddaughter was already programmed for this week’s broadcast, so we will close our look at contemporary American music on a bittersweet note with that work, Fennelly’s “Sigol” for Strings.

I never met him, but going back a few years, to my time at the Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music, I had infrequent, but memorable, correspondence with Brian Fennelly. He was always warm, always sincere, and always interested in what I was doing. He was humble and kind, and when I asked him to send me some of his music for Now Is the Time, I discovered, as many already had, a composer of deep feeling and care.

Opening the program, Paul Lansky’s Threads takes the form of a Bach cantata, but for percussion quartet, mixing sonorities in ever-delightful ways. Michael Colquhon performs on flute his own You Can’t Get There From Here, and Martin Rokeach in North Beach Rhapsody sends us a postcard of San Francisco and the energy that connects all of us, no matter where we live. May music continue to connect us all.

On this week's Crossover, we take to the stage to hear about the Philadelphia Theatre Company's new musical comedy, Murder for Two, running now through June 28 at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre in Center City, Philadelphia.

With book and music by Joe Kinosian, book and lyrics by Kellen Blair, and direction by Scott Schwartz, the hilarious whodunit features a two-man cast, with one actor investigating the crime and the other playing all the suspects – and both playing the piano.

Emil Rhodes, Family Collection

Harpist Edna Phillips was only 23 when she joined The Philadelphia Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski in 1930. The story goes that the orchestra was looking for a second chair harpist, and Phillips' teacher at Curtis, Carlos Salzedo, insisted that she audition.

She was somewhat reluctant.  After all, she'd only been playing the harp for five years, coming to the instrument late in life after spending time with the piano.  But sometimes all it takes is being in the right place at the right time.

After her audition, Stokowski revealed that the orchestra's principal harpist had been badly injured and would not be returning.  He wanted Phillips to fill the chair.  This would make her not only the first woman in The Philadelphia Orchestra, but the first woman to be a principal player in ANY American orchestra.

In Phillips' later years, she was chair of the Bach Festival of Philadelphia where she hired Mary Sue Welsh, a retired editor of children's books. The two would become close friends.  At one point, Phillips suggested to Welsh that they work together on a memoir of her life as a harpist. But, when Phillips passed on in 2003, Welsh tossed it aside.  

Eventually, Welsh returned to the idea, and started working on a Phillips biography, talking to the harpist's family, friends, and co-workers, and using archival material.  Recently published, the book is called, One Woman in a Hundred, and is part of the University of Illinois Press' "Music in American Life" series.

Listen for Jill Pasternak's conversation with author Mary Sue Welsh on the life and times of Edna Phillips, and hear excerpts from the author's taped conversations with the harpist, along with music performed by her, on Crossover, Saturday, June 22nd at 11:30 am on WRTI-FM and the All-Classical stream at wrti.org, with an encore the following Friday evening at 7 pm on HD-2 and the All-Classical stream.

Fran Kaufman

A complete musician. That's what the Canadian publication La Presse said about our good friend, pianist and concert artist Marc-Andre Hamelin. Here's the actual quote:

Streetscape

May 23, 2015

It's all spontaneous fun this weekend on Now Is the Time, Saturday, May 23rd at 9 pm. Paavo Järvi conducts a substantial orchestral work by Charles Coleman, Streetscape, then Patrick Beckman plays his own Funky, from his all-piano CD Street Dance. On the CD Dream Streets violinist/composer Cornelius Duffalo performs with an imaginative use of electronics; we'll hear introduction and cosmic clouds.

From a piano concerto whose movements are all in the key of D, Stefania de Kenessey has assembled a solo piano work Spontaneous D-Combustion. Charles Coleman returns with another Järvi, Kristjan, conducting his Absolute Ensemble in Young Worlds.

When traveling, some take the main routes - the safe, predictable, comforting roads. But others eschew the main routes, venturing off the beaten path. They're curious where the "roads less traveled" can lead them, and excited to share the discoveries most may not know about. This describes the Duo Gazzana, pathbeaters who say it's the trip that counts, not just the destination.

This past January 27th would have been Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's 259th birthday. To celebrate, virtuoso violinist and Crossover favorite, Rachel Barton Pine, released a CD of his five violin concertos.

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.

Yannick talks about Haydn:

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.

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