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A moment backstage during The Philadelphia Orchestra rehearsal with composer Iman Habibi

Iman Habibi
Iman Habibi on a Zoom call backstage at rehearsal with The Philadelphia Orchestra

I just got off an uplifting Zoom call with Iranian-Canadian composer Iman Habibi, who was speaking to me from a backstage dressing room at Verizon Hall, as The Philadelphia Orchestra rehearsed onstage.

Iman was the last person I interviewed for WRTI’s Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcasts, in March of 2020, just before the world shut down. His piece, Jeder Baum spricht, commissioned by the Orchestra to be in dialogue with Beethoven’s 5th and 6th symphonies. It was performed to an empty hall and broadcast live on WRTI on March 12, 2020.

Now, the Orchestra is returning to its home, playing in front of live audiences, and Iman’s piece is among the first works the Orchestra is performing that way. Audiences heard  Jeder Baum spricht on Sunday, October 5th, and the Orchestra will play it again at Carnegie Hall’s opening night!

We reminisced about the ideas behind his piece. The music reflects Iman’s desire to protect the environment from climate change, something he believes Beethoven would also care deeply about, if he were alive today. We also talked about the trauma of the last year and a half.

“My piece was about climate change,” he says, “and the circumstances of the premiere gave it a new meaning overnight: It very much became about the pandemic.”

Listen to his music; it’s powerful, dramatic, and hopeful. And listen to his message: we can all work together to save our world.

Here is Habibi's Jeder Baum spricht at 4:50 in this video of The Philadelphia Orchestra performing the piece, as well as Beethoven's 5th and 6th symphonies in an empty hall on Thursday, March 12th, 2020. 

Susan writes and produces stories about music and the arts. She’s host and producer of WRTI’s TIME IN online interview series, and contributes weekly intermission interviews for The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert series. She’s also been a regular host of WRTI’s Live from the Performance Studio sessions.