The Philadelphia Orchestra on WRTI: Valerie Coleman's "Umoja," and Works by Dvorak and Bartok

Feb 16, 2021

Join us on Sunday, February 21st at 1 PM on WRTI 90.1 and Monday, February 22nd at 7 PM on WRTI HD-2 to hear a rebroadcast of one of the first concerts of The Philadelphia Orchestra’s 2019/2020 season, the Orchestra’s 120th.

The three works on the program all have roots here in America: the world premiere of a Philadelphia commission, Umoja, a colorful orchestral work by American composer Valerie Coleman; then pianist Hélène Grimaud performs Bela Bartok’s Third Piano Concerto, a work he nearly completed after fleeing his native Hungary for America; and, after intermission, Antonin Dvořák’s great Ninth Symphony, “From the New World.”

Valerie Coleman’s Umoja, Anthem for Unity, was originally a simple song arranged for women’s choir, which Ms. Coleman later arranged for her Imani Winds ensemble, (she herself is a flutist), and finally she turned it into the brilliant orchestral piece we’ll hear Sunday.

Hélène Grimaud made her Philadelphia Orchestra debut in 2000 and has enjoyed many collaborations with her good friend Yannick Nézet-Séguin, and she returned for this season-opening concert to perform a concerto whose last measures were unfinished at Bartok's passing. It was actually former Philadelphia Orchestra violist Tibor Serly who orchestrated those final measures of the Piano Concerto No. 3, and The Philadelphia Orchestra gave the work its world premiere in 1946, with Eugene Ormandy conducting, and György Sándor as soloist.

Coming up on The Philadelphia Orchestra's Digital Stage: Pianist Michelle Cann Plays Florence Price

To conclude the concert, Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 in E minor, which was the first in a series of important works Dvořák wrote while in America. And although the composer called upon American musical resources for his "New World" Symphony—spirituals he had heard sung by an African-American student at the National Conservatory, and Native American music, for example—he didn’t actually use any of those melodies, instead composing original themes embodying the local idioms.

In fact, as formally constructed, the “New World” Symphony calls on a Germanic heritage drawn both from the symphonies of Brahms and the symphonic poems of Liszt, while bathed in a Czech spiritual glow.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Credit Chris Lee

During intermission, Debra Lew Harder visits with Hélène Grimaud backstage, and Susan Lewis speaks with Yannick Nézét-Séguin.

That’s Sunday, Feb. 21st, from 1 to 3 PM, on WRTI 90.1 and streaming worldwide at WRTI.org! Listen again on Monday, Feb. 22nd at 7 PM on WRTI HD-2.

PROGRAM:

Valerie Coleman: Umoja, Anthem for Unity

Bartok: Piano Concerto No. 3

Hélène Grimaud, piano

INTERMISSION

Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 in E minor (“From the New World”)

The Philadelphia Orchestra

Yannick Nézét-Séguin, conductor

The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcasts on WRTI 90.1 FM in Philadelphia and streaming online at WRTI.org, every Sunday from 1 to 3 pm, and re-broadcast Monday nights at 7 pm on WRTI HD-2.  Gregg Whiteside is host.