Arts Desk

Throughout the week

Listen to WRTI's Arts Desk features for a daily look into the world of music, arts, and culture. Listen to brief features throughout the day!

Wikipedia Commons

In the early 20th century, Leopold Stokowski was transforming The Philadelphia Orchestra into a major force in classical music, while roughly 6 ½ miles away in the nearby suburbs, Albert Barnes was amassing his now world-famous art collection.

It’s rare that avant-garde music gets time in the spotlight these days. WRTI’s Maureen Malloy gives you some history on the free jazz movement, and a glimpse into its future. Check out the October Revolution of Jazz and Contemporary Music organized by Ars Nova Workshop and Fringe Arts, from October 4th to 7th.

Johannes Plennio/Unsplash

It was the summer of 1934. At his villa in Switzerland near Lake Lucerne, Sergei Rachmaninoff wrote his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43 comprised of 24 variations. The Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Leopold Stokowski, premiered the work in November, 1934 with Rachmaninoff himself as soloist in Baltimore. It was an immediate success.

Skillful young athletes might get their career bearings on a pro team, but what’s the equivalent for promising artists in the classical music world? One organization has mentored some of the best in the field, including guitarist Jason Vieaux, pianist Simone Dinnerstein, flutist Mimi Stillman, soprano Angela Meade, and the string trio Time For Three.

A melody in Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony was made famous to fans of Eric Carmen’s pop tune “Never Gonna Fall in Love Again.” But in the symphony, that melody leads to one of the most beautiful, and difficult, clarinet solos in the literature. WRTI’s Susan Lewis has the story.

By Office of Emergency Management [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

America was celebrating its bicentennial when Michael Tilson Thomas first became intrigued by a Carl Sandburg poem. As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, nearly 40 years later,  he premiered his musical setting of  Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind with a cautionary message still relevant today.


Jordan August/Mann Center for the Performing Arts

It's football season! We're excited to watch the plays on the field from the snaps to the passes to the touchdowns. Football also means music. WRTI's Susan Lewis went to NFL Films in Mount Laurel, NJ to get the scoop about how football films use the rich sound of orchestral music to help tell their stories.

Klezmer music so beautifully expresses the joys and pains of life. WRTI's Debra Lew Harder takes us into its rich world and heritage with Klezmer scholar and musician Hankus Netsky. A Happy and Healthy New Year to all of our listeners celebrating the Jewish High Holidays!

Four Philadelphia Orchestra brass players routinely sit together in the back of the orchestra. But for a new work by Jennifer Higdon, they all move to the front of the stage—as soloists and chamber musicians. WRTI’s Susan Lewis talked with the quartet and composer about the surprising sounds we don't often hear from the low brass.


They say all good things come to an end. And today we’re sad to say our longtime news anchor and arts reporter Meridee Duddleston will retire from the WRTI airwaves as of August 31st.

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