A new biography reveals what it was like to be the first woman to enter the all-male sanctum of The Philadelphia Orchestra in 1930. WRTI’s Meridee Duddleston discovered the powerful combination of talent and fear.
On September 14, 1930, the headline of the Philadelphia Public Ledger read: "Solo Harpist to Be First Girl in Philadelphia Orchestra." A young Edna Phillips entered the single-sex fortress of The Philadelphia Orchestra in 1930 - a year after pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff called it "the finest orchestra the world has ever heard." She’d played the harp for only five years when she was hired as the first female member and principal harpist. Her "musicalité" may have been obvious to the pioneering Leopold Stokowski, but was she ready? What was it like to be the only woman among men at a time when gender equality and workplace mores were far different from what they are today?
Author Mary Sue Welsh worked with the observant, warm, and funny Phillips on her story during Phillips’ lifetime, completing it after the first harpist’s death in 2003. True to Phillips’ desire, it’s as much about the challenges and triumphs of her own life, as about how the Orchestra grew and responded to its conductors - particularly Leopold Stokowski.
This Sunday on WRTI, listen to The Philadelphia Orchestra in a recorded program of music spanning 200 years, as the eminent Spanish conductor Rafael Fruehbeck de Borgos conducts a Stokowski Bach transcription, Philadelphia favorite André Watts performs Beethoven's Emperor Concerto, and Liszt’s Les Preludes gets its first performance by the Philadelphians in 16 years!
We’ll also hear Paul Hindemith’s festive and pleasant Concert Music For Strings and Brass from a concert in early February.
Join host Gregg Whiteside on Sunday, March 10, from*1 to 3 pm for The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert, from The Kimmel Center's Verizon Hall – *one hour earlier than usual – on WRTI 90.1 FM and the All-Classical stream at wrti.org.
Join us this Sunday as Yannick Nezet-Seguin conducts The Philadelphia Orchestra in a recorded program from late January at Verizon Hall that features two composers who were not only contemporaries, but who actually met during the premiere of Tristan und Isolde in 1865, Richard Wagner and Anton Bruckner.
This Sunday at 2 pm on The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert - a new weekly radio series on WRTI - Music Director Yannick Nezet-Seguin takes to the podium to conduct a symphony by one of the composers who is closest to him. WRTI’s Jim Cotter has more.