Music Features

When Michael Stairs sits at the organ console, the result is nothing but perfection. He is indeed the organist's organist. Stairs has been organist for The Philadelphia Orchestra since his appointment by Riccardo Muti in 1985. He taught at the Haverford School for 25 years and was beloved by his students. A graduate of Westminster Choir College, he also holds an Artist's Diploma from the Curtis Institute of Music.

Everything's numbered on Now Is the Time, Saturday, February 21st at 9 pm. Rudy Davenport comes up with Seven Innocent Dances for harpsichord, and for piano are the Bagatelles of Paul Chihara, subtitled Twice Seven Haiku.

The Ancia Saxophone Quartet performs David Bixler's Heptagon, and Joel Chadabe electronically modifies the playing of Esther Lamneck on the tarógató, the Hungarian single-reed instrument related to the saxophone, in Many Times Esther. Lucas Ligeti writes about three places he's visited in Triangulation, for the electronic percussion instrument called marimba lumina.

Join us this Sunday, February 15th for WRTI's Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcast. You'll hear a performance from this past December, 2014 that saw British composer, conductor, and pianist Bramwell Tovey performing in all three roles!

Warren Oree's Lifelong Arpeggio

Feb 10, 2015

Growing up, Warren "Butch" Oree never had dreamed of becoming a musician. Though jazz was a constant presence in both his home life and social activities, the thought of actually getting on stage didn't cross his mind until he wandered into a music shop in his mid-twenties.

Upon learning that Oree had a long-standing interest in the upright bass that he had never pursued, the shop keeper, James Mitchell, accused him of cowardice - one thing that Oree, who was then a respected gang member, deeply resented.

The Musical Heart of Michelle Cann

Feb 3, 2015

Pianist Michelle Cann's musical evolution started early.

Her father, the music teacher at the local parochial elementary school, made sure that she had ample access to experiment from a young age.

At seven years old, Cann began piano lessons in earnest, hoping to become as successful with the instrument as her older sister, who had been taking lessons for years.

Ice Canyons

Jan 30, 2015

It's ice and echoes on Now Is the Time, Saturday, January 31st at 9 pm Eastern on the all-classical stream at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Figure-skating and Stravinsky inspire Joan Tower's gliding Petroushskates, and Allen Ginsberg narrates his own poem in Echorus by Philip Glass, for two violins and strings. From the CD Winter is Eric Ewazen's Elegia, for trumpet and piano.

The Tibetan Heart Mantra is at the center of Echoes by Paul Fowler, for the women of The Crossing, and Peru echoes in the harpsichord work by Kent Holliday, Dances from Colca Canyon. Barton McLean runs environmentalist John Muir's descriptions of glaciers through his own software to construct Ice Canyons. The echoes of minimalism by way of Steve Reich close out the program, in this recording of New York Counterpoint arranged by saxophonist Dave Camwell for his CD Time Scape.

One of our favorite guests - and one of yours, as you've told us - returns to Crossover this week. Violinist Nicola Benedetti discusses her CD, Homecoming: A Scottish Fantasy. (This is a re-broadcast from September, 2014.)

Venissa Santi: A Cultural Voyager

Jan 27, 2015

Vocalist Venissa Santi's musical journey has been one of intimate self discovery. Since childhood, her Cuban parents familiarized her with the sounds of her culture, but not until adulthood did she make pilgrimage to Havana and truly fall in love with the country's songbook.

This week's Crossover guest is one of the most well-known pianists in classical music - Emanuel Ax.  Mr. Ax is a multiple Grammy winner in both solo and chamber performances, and has enjoyed a career that has spanned over four decades.

Emanuel Ax was born in Lviv in western Ukraine in the summer of 1948, and raised in Poland.  His first piano teacher was his father, who started him on the keyboard at age 6.  At 7, he started official studies at the Miodowa School in Warsaw, eventually winding up in Winnipeg, in Manitoba, Canada when the family moved there two years later.  There he studied piano in school, and as a member of the Junior Music Club of Winnipeg.

In 1961, the family moved once again to New York City, where Mr. Ax began studies at Juilliard under Mieczyslaw Munz, eventually winning the Young Artists Award in 1973.  He came to prominence in 1974, after winning the first Arthur Rubenstein International Piano Competition in Tel Aviv.  He followed that in 1975 with the Michaels Award for Young Artists, and the Avery Fisher Prize in 1979.  From there, he has embarked on a career that has taken him around the world, performing solo, and with some of the most prominent chamber ensembles and orchestras in classical music.

Since 1973, Mr. Ax has been Yo-Yo Ma's main duo recital partner.  He also formed a quartet with Ma, Jaime Laredo and Issac Stern, releasing several CD's for Sony/CBS before Stern's death in 2001 adjourned the ensemble.

Emanuel Ax's latest CD is called, "Variations: Haydn, Beethoven and Schumann," on the Sony Classics label.  The pianist points out that each of these sets of Variations is unusual, “each revolutionary in its own way.” He has also discovered that they go very well together in a concert program. Now, surely to the worldwide delight of fans of virtuoso classical piano performance, he presents them together on a recording as well.  In the world of the pianist, says Mr. Ax, “we’re so centered on the sonata style. What’s nice sometimes is to look at other ways to deal with structure, other ways to deal with expression, other ways to deal with forming your thoughts.” 

Listen for Jill's conversation with pianist Emanuel Ax, and music from his CD, "Variations: Haydn, Beethoven and Schumann," on Crossover, Saturday morning at 11:30 am on WRTI-FM, with an encore the following Friday evening at 7 pm on HD-2 and the All-Classical web stream at wrti.org.

Winter Spirits

Jan 23, 2015

It’s time for some warmth in the midst of winter on Now Is the Time, Saturday, January 24th at 9 pm. From The Crossing’s 2013 Christmas Daybreak CD is Benjamin C. S. Boyle’s Three Carols for Wintertide, holding up for our consideration a rose, holly and ivy, and rosemary. For Nothing is Fred Frith’s music considering the Buddha nature; it’s for contralto with the unusual string quartet of two violins, cello, and viola da gamba. Katherine Hoover paints the image of a Native American flutist in Winter Spirits, and Adrienne Albert offers the soft Winter Solace for saxophone and piano.

And in the middle of our winter program is a powerful statement of warmth and lyricism; it’s the Symphony No. 1 of Steven R. Gerber.

Pages