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The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert on WRTI: Benjamin Beilman, Higdon & Debussy, May 10, 1 PM

Violinist Benjamin Beilman

Join us this Sunday, May 10th, for WRTI's Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcast, which pairs the music of Philadelphia’s own Jennifer Higdon, one of today’s leading composers, with one of her personal favorites: Claude Debussy.

Composer Jennifer Higdon with Beau.
Credit Candace diCarlo
Composer Jennifer Higdon

Higdon trained at the Curtis Institute of Music, where she now teaches. And although The Philadelphia Orchestra has given many performances of her compositions, this concert - performed this past February at Verizon Hall - marked the ensemble's first performance of her Violin Concerto, which won Higdon the Pulitzer Prize in Music in 2010.

The violinist playing this remarkable work is the extremely gifted Benjamin Beilman, the recipient of the prestigious 2014 Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship, a 2012 Avery Fisher Career Grant, and a 2012 London Music Masters Award. He made his Philadelphia Orchestra debut in 2009 at the Mann Center, and he is nothing less than sensational.

Conductor, pianist, composer, and pedagogue Robert Spano, now in his 14th season as music director of the Atlanta Symphony, will be on the podium for Sunday's performance. This imaginative conductor has quietly been responsible for nurturing the careers of numerous classically trained composers and conductors; his commitment to American contemporary music is reflected in the Atlanta School of Composers.

Also on Sunday's concert broadcast, we'll hear Ms. Higdon's "blue cathedral," which was commissioned by Curtis to celebrate its 75th anniversary: “Blue, like the sky," as the composer puts it; "Where all possibilities soar. Cathedrals—places of thought, growth, spiritual expression, serving as a symbolic doorway into and out of this world.”


While Higdon offers listeners visions of a soaring edifice in the clouds, the opening work of the broadcast emerges from the depths of the sea. Debussy’s “The Sunken Cathedral” was inspired by the medieval legend of a mythic structure that was submerged in water, but would on occasion be revealed. Debussy originally composed the work for piano, in his first set of Preludes, but we'll hear it in Leopold Stokowski’s evocative and mysterious orchestration.

WRTI's Susan Lewis speaks with composer Jennifer Higdon

The concert concludes with Debussy’sIberia, a musical travelogue inspired by the music and culture of Spain. The three-part piece: “Through Streets and Lanes;” “The Fragrances of the Night;” and “Morning of a Feast-Day,” is itself part of the composer’s larger triptych, entitled "Images."

Lots of color, brilliant orchestration, and masterful violinism by young Ben Beilman should make for a most enjoyable concert!

We hope you'll be listening. That's Sunday, May 10, from 1 until 3 pm on WRTI 90.1 FM, and online at WRTI.org.

Detailed program notes from The Philadelphia Orchestra


Claude Debussy: “The Sunken Cathedral,” from Preludes - orch. Stokowski

Jennifer Higdon: Violin Concerto

I. 1726

II. Chaconni

III. Fly Forward

Benjamin Beilman, violin


Jennifer Higdon: blue cathedral

Claude Debussy: Iberia

I. Through Streets and Lanes

II. The Fragrances of the Night

III. Morning of a Feast-Day

Robert Spano, conductor

Listen to The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcasts every Sunday at 1 pm on WRTI 90.1 FM and online at WRTI.org. Gregg Whiteside is producer and host.

Gregg was the host of WRTI's morning drive show from 2012 until his retirement from WRTI in January, 2021. He began producing and hosting The Philadelphia Orchestra In Concert broadcasts in 2013, joining the Orchestra in Hong Kong for the first-ever live international radio broadcasts from that island in 2016, and in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem for two historic broadcasts in 2018. You can still hear Gregg as host of the Orchestra broadcasts every Sunday and Monday on WRTI.