Mary Sue Welsh discusses the life and career of Edna Phillips on Crossover, June 22nd, 2013.
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.
On Sunday, June 23 at 2 pm, WRTI’s broadcast of The Philadelphia Orchestra In Concert features a world-renowned singer who is at home in many genres. Simon Rattle leads the Philadelphians in a program that features soprano Barbara Hannigan singing Berg’s Three Fragments from Wozzeck, and Ligeti’s Mysteries of the Macabre. While Hannigan’s repertoire includes a wide range of classical masters, she’s become especially renowned for her innovative performances of contemporary music.
The concert also includes Webern’s Passacaglia and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6.
Simon Rattle will be back on the podium this Sunday at 2 pm for a Philadelphia Orchestra performance from late May of Beethoven’s "Pastoral" Symphony, with its vivid scenes of gathering thunderstorms, wandering brooks, and breezy countrysides. We’ll also hear Webern's Passacaglia, and Three fragments from Alban Berg's shattering opera Wozzeck, both of which received their U.S. premieres in Philadelphia as part of Leopold Stokowski's vision for 20th-century music.
We're happy to offer a discount for all WRTI listeners to a special performance: The Philadelphia Orchestra at Longwood Gardens Meadow - A Night of Beautiful Music Under the Stars. It's on Friday, July 19th at 7:30 pm. Save $5 per ticket by using Discount Code: GARDENS13. (*Discount only applies to Friday night concert.)
This Sunday from 2 to 4 pm, The Philadelphia Orchestra renews its historic connection with the great Finnish master Jean Sibelius (Stokowski led the U.S. premieres of his last three symphonies) as Simon Rattle will conduct the final two symphonies, Nos. 6 and 7, together without interruption, from a May, 2013 concert.
This week’s WRTI Sunday radio broadcast of The Philadelphia Orchestra features Englishman Simon Rattle, music director of the Berlin Philharmonic, on the podium. WRTI's Susan Lewis has more on this much sought-after international conductor, who has a bond with the Philadelphians nurtured over the last 20 years.
Listen to Simon Rattle's conversation with Susan Lewis.
Listen to WRTI on Sunday, June 16th at 2 pm to hear Sir Simon Rattle leading The Philadelphia Orchestra in a program featuring symphonies No. 6 and 7 of Sibelius, Norman’s Unstuck, and Beethoven’s piano concerto No. 3. Pianist Lang Lang is soloist.
Philadelphia Orchestra members with autistic children during an in-school program at a Youth Center in Shanghai. Percussionists Christopher Deviney (front) and Angela Zator Nelson work with one student as he tries his hand at the drums.
Credit Jan Regan
During this same program, the children have a chance to return the favor--showcasing their musical talents for Philadelphia Orchestra musicians.
Credit Makiko Freeman
Violinist Philip Kates visited Shanghai Children’s Medical Center to perform for patients. The power of music to heal is an incredible thing.
In the title of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s 2013 China Tour and Residency, the word “residency” is as important as the word "tour." And this, as the Philadelphia Inquirer’s David Patrick Stearns now reports from China, is bringing the musicians face-to-face with many who may never see the inside of a concert hall.