Music Features

El Niño

Dec 13, 2014

It's John Adams's Nativity oratorio El Niño on Now Is the Time, Saturday, December 13th at 9 pm. We'll fit in as much as we can, since the concert-length work is too long for our one-hour show.

Adams says that the birth of his daughter in 1984 was like a miracle. "Four people were in the room, and then there were five," he says, and that became the inspiration for his take on the Christmas story. Along with Latin and English, much of El Niño is in Spanish. The director Peter Sellars, who worked closely with the composer to create this, says that it's like a triptych that cannot be seen all at once. Unfold a panel to see what's there, and you hide another.

Dawn Upshaw, Willard White, and the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson sing alongside chorus and orchestra in this grand Christmas-time pageant.

David Hughes: Taking Time

Dec 12, 2014

What David Hughes seems to love best about music is the journey. As an artist, he embraces the growth process of taking on difficult pieces. As a performer, he delights in guiding audiences through a complete musical experience. He didn’t always know how to pace himself, though.

The entire Philadelphia Orchestra family was saddened this past summer by the death of a great friend of the Orchestra, and a musician of exemplary standards. The eminent Spanish conductor Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, who passed away in June, 2013, is featured in a rebroadcast of a program performed in February of 2013, one of his last performances with the Philadelphians.

The Piano’s 12 Sides

Dec 5, 2014

Maybe Thanksgiving is making us burst at the seams on Now Is the Time, Saturday, December 6th at 9 pm, but we're chock-full of music on this program. There's not even enough time to play all of Carter Pann's substantial work for solo piano, The Piano's 12 Sides. It comes in at over an hour, so we'll trim just a bit and give over the entire show to this one work.

Pann dedicated each of the movements to a separate pianist, and we hear distinct personalities throughout the work. What we hear in Carter Pann is a composer at ease with music; he breathes with music in the many styles he assembled in this piece from 2011-12. Silhouette, White Moon over Water, Classic Rock, Soirée Macabre, Grand Etude Fantasy, and Irish Tune are some of the movements. This isn't eclecticism (not that there's anything wrong with that) per se, but all the personalities are expressed by one big personality, unafraid of either plain speaking or lovely sound. Joel Hastings is the splendid performer.

Giving Thanks

Nov 28, 2014

We're thankful on Now Is the Time, Saturday, November 29th at 9 pm at and WRTI-HD2. Film composer Victor Young (Shane, Around the World in Eighty Days) was a benefactor of the music department at Brandeis University, so when John Harbison had the opportunity to compose something for them, he wrote Thanks, Victor, echoing "When I Fall in Love" and other great tunes in this string quartet. Lawrence Dillon's Second String Quartet, "Flight," evokes flying and fugues, with, among other subjects, Daedalus and Icarus, birds, and paper airplanes.

Daedalus and Icarus also appear in William Bolcom's Inventing Flight for orchestra, as do Leonardo da Vinci and Orville and Wilbur Wright. Bolcom is grateful for the gift of flight, and we're grateful for the triumphant collaboration of this composer, his wife, mezzo-soprano Joan Morris, and librettist Arnold Weinstein in the ever-green Cabaret Songs. The program finishes with a fun, live recording of Vol. 4.

Soprano Diana Damrau usually sticks with her forte of mainstream opera. Indeed, she's made her name in such demanding roles as Mozart's Queen of the Night, Strauss' Zerbinetta, Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor and Verdi's Violetta. But not long ago, she had this itch that needed scratching. And scratch she did, to excellent result.

All In The Family at Curtis

Nov 25, 2014

For pianist and composer Andrew Hsu, music and family go hand in hand. From an early age, his father made sure that Andrew and his two siblings were each instilled with a love of good music. Classical was the household’s preferred genre, and the family piano its most beloved medium. Initially enraptured by the wonders of the instrument’s mechanics, by age seven Hsu began learning how to play properly, to replicate what he heard on the radio. 

Different quartets evoke different textures on Now Is the Time, Saturday, November 22nd at 9 pm at and WRTI-HD2. Geology dominates Paul Lansky's Textures. It's for two pianists and two percussionists, and movement titles use words like striations, substrates, granite, and round-wound (makes me think of bass guitar strings). Hammering keyboards and lyrical mallets comprise this unusual foursome.

Philip Glass composed a string quartet, his fourth, in memory of the artist Brian Buczak, who died in 1987, and was a friend. The lilting, pulsing music carries a smooth sadness as its predominant Glassian texture; the great quartet Kronos brings this to us to close the program.

Every so often, we like to check in with artists who've appeared on Crossover in the past to find out what they're up to. This week's returning guest is Anna Bergman, cabaret singer, concert artist, chanteuse.  

Listening to Ms. Bergman is an exercise in sophistication. From Francis Poulenc to Carole King, and everything in between, she performs opera, operetta and the so-called Great American Songbook, thrilling audiences worldwide with every bit of it.

Was it fate or a divine hand that brought together a young drummer from Australia, an even younger visually impaired pianist, and a legendary jazz artist?