The Philadelphia Orchestra on WRTI: Higdon's Low Brass Concerto with Four Soloists

Feb 1, 2019

The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert on Sunday, Feb. 3rd at 1 PM on WRTI 90.1 and Monday, Feb. 4th at 7 PM on WRTI HD-2 begins and ends with the colors of Hungarian folk music, and features the first Philadelphia performance of a concerto by Jennifer Higdon. Cristian Măcelaru conducts.

Zoltan Kodály’s Dances of Marosszék were completed and published as piano pieces in 1923, and Kodály orchestrated them seven years later, creating a brittle, crystalline sound, which allows the folk melodies to literally shine.

Composer Jennifer Higdon onstage with Orchestra members in February, 2018.
Credit Jessica Griffin/Philadelphia Orchestra

It’s not very often that we hear a concerto for four soloists, but Jennifer Higdon’s Concerto for Low Brass will see Nitzan Haroz, Philadelphia Orchestra principal trombone, Matthew Vaughn, co-principal trombone, Blair Bollinger, bass trombone, and Carol Jantsch, principal tuba standing at the front of the stage before their colleagues in the Orchestra.

Higdon’s concerto, structured as a single, continuous movement with clearly delineated sections, is composed to highlight not only the muscularity of the brass instruments, but their capacity to play with subtlety and lyrical beauty. Hear more about the concerto.

Following intermission, it’s the witty and vivacious 8th Symphony of Beethoven, composed in the fateful year of 1812, complicated for Beethoven by failed romantic relationships, and his impending deafness. Yet the 8th is a symphony full of wit, humor, and sheer joy.

The concert concludes with a return to the folk language of Hungary. Johannes Brahms began writing and arranging his 21 Hungarian Dances while still in his teens, and he continued adding to them for the next 17 years, setting the dance numbers for piano four-hands. Three of these were original compositions in the style of Romany music; the rest were settings of gypsy tunes in various combinations, most of which have now been identified by scholars.

Brahms orchestrated only three of these dances himself, Nos. 1, 3, and 10. The other orchestrations, which we’ll hear on Sunday’s concert, are by Johann Andreas Hallén (No. 2), Paul Huon (No. 4), Sam Dennison (No. 8), and Albert Parlow (No. 16). The selection will conclude with the 10th, Brahms’s own orchestration.

During intermission, WRTI’s Susan Lewis will have a conversation with Jennifer Higdon and the four low brass soloists, and Debra Lew Harder interviews Maestro Măcelaru.

It's a varied and fun concert. Plan on listening!


Kodály: Dances of Marosszék

Higdon: Low Brass Concerto

     Nitzan Haroz, trombone

     Matthew Vaughn, trombone

     Blair Bollinger, bass trombone

     Carol Jantsch, tuba


Beethoven: Symphony No. 8

Brahms: Select Hungarian Dances

     No. 2 in D minor (orch. Hallén)

     No. 4 in F-sharp minor (orch. Juon)

     No. 8 in A minor (orch. Dennison)

     No. 16 in F minor (orch. Parlow)

     No. 10 in F major (orch. Brahms)

The Philadelphia Orchestra

     Cristian Măcelaru, conductor

Gregg Whiteside is producer and host of The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcasts, every Sunday at 1 pm on WRTI 90.1, streaming online at, and on the WRTI mobile app! Listen again on Mondays at 7 pm on WRTI HD-2.