Simon Rattle, the British-born conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, is one of the best-known classical musicians alive. His influence shows up in all sorts of places: at the Metropolitan Opera, where musicians still speak of his presence there in reverent tones, and in West Philadelphia where his advocacy of Venezuela’s El Sistema helped inspire trumpeter Stanford Thompson to create Play On Philly, a music education program that touches hundreds of lives.
In recent times, Philadelphians have been made well aware of the fiscal challenges of sustaining a symphony orchestra. Now, around the country, other cities are experiencing such problems first hand. Serious doubts hang over the immediate viability of orchestras in Atlanta, Minnesota, St Paul, Indianapolis, and San Antonio with others likely to soon follow suit.
Yet in Camden, New Jersey, a city whose very municipal infrastructure is under threat, its orchestra - Symphony In C - continues to garner and grow support, audience, and reputation.
Some rough-and-tumble opening chords can mean only one thing to opera lovers - Puccini’s La Boheme. The iconic work is back in Philadelphia for what could feel like the 300th time since first arriving here 114 years ago. Audiences rarely tire of the story of starving artists in 19th-century Paris, or the famous arias that convey the rapture of young love. But they might also feel like it’s a rerun.
The Opera Company of Philadelphia is furthering its commitment to the creation of new American works with the recruitment of star baritone Nathan Gunn to lead its American Repertoire Program. The project aims to produce an American work in each season for the next 10 years.
The Kimmel Center is the venue for the world premiere of a monumental symphonic gospel work. Several amassed choirs bring to life an evening-length work by Hannibal Lokumbe, the stubbornly unclassifiable jazz trumpeter and composer.
The new piece is titled, Can You Hear God Crying, the composer's tribute to his great-great grandfather who was born in the Sahara desert, kidnapped in Liberia, sold into slavery in Charleston S.C., but escaped and made his way as a free man to Texas, where L0kumbe was born and still lives.
Neither arms nor diplomacy has achieved peace in the Middle East, but ten years ago an Israeli-born Philadelphia Orchestra cellist became convinced that music might help further the prospects for people in conflict learning to live in harmony.
Avi Avital is one of the world's leading classical mandolinists, gracing concert halls from Tel Aviv to Munich to New York. But the young Israeli says he discovered the mandolin only by coincidence.
"When I was a kid, I had a neighbor who played the mandolin — the neighbor from upstairs," Avital tells NPR's Guy Raz. "It was one of those buildings where all the doors are open and all the neighbors are friends and more close than relatives. It was like one big family.
The four musicians in the Canadian Brass, who perform works in the classical repertoire with daring leaps into jazz and popular standards, were joined by renowned organist Jeffrey Brillhart last March in Verizon Hall. On the heels of their latest album release, Canadian Brass Takes Flight (January 31, 2012), this special organ and brass program included works from their recent album, along with new arrangements and collaborations with the impressive talents of Brillhart, the director of music and fine arts at the Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church.
Arabella Steinbacher first came to public attention in 2004 when, at short notice, she substituted for an ailing Kyung Wha Chung to perform the Beethoven Violin Concerto with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France under Sir Neville Marriner.
Steinbacher’s continued success since is due, in large part, to her diverse and deep repertoire, which includes more than 40 violin concertos extending from the classical period to the music of twentieth-century composers such as Barber, Berg, Prokofiev, and Stravinsky.