When Samuel Barber’s violin concerto was rejected by the man for whom it was commissioned in 1939, he turned to his alma mater — The Curtis Institute of Music — where the concerto was performed to acclaim, leading to its official premiere with The Philadelphia Orchestra. WRTI’s Susan Lewis talked to a panel of artists about Barber’s legacy, and the pleasures and perils of creating and performing new work in Philadelphia.
Listen to WRTI on Sunday, June 26th at 4 pm for a concert broadcast of Barber and Beyond: Symphony in C and Astral present Composing Philadelphia, featuring music by Barber, Michael Djupstrom, Melinda Wagner, and Efrain Amaya.
Radio feature script:
MUSIC: Samuel Barber, Violin Concerto
Susan Lewis: Curtis graduate violinist Nikki Chooi says Barber’s influence is still alive at the conservatory.
Nikki Chooi: There’s a feeling of Barber just having a presence there.
SL: Barber and several Philadelphia-area composers are the focus of a program led by Symphony in C Music Director Stilian Kirov.
Stilian Kirov: In Philadelphia, we have a very, very diverse musical scene.
SL: Now, as in Barber’s time, commissioning new music can be rife with uncertainty. Composer Michael Djupstrom.
MUSIC: Djupstrom, Suite from The Wedding
Michael Djupstrom: I think that commissioners are taking a big risk. As a composer I’m grateful for that, but I have to recognize all the time that commissioners don’t know what they’re getting.
SL: But the unknown has its own excitement. Pianist Henry Kramer, who’s playing a concerto by Melinda Wagner.
MUSIC: Wagner, Extremity of Sky
Henry Kramer: I’m only the second person to perform Extremity of Sky. I feel like a cowboy in the wild west, just marking my territory.
SL: The immigrant influence is also important, says Clarinetist Benito Meza, who performs a work by Efrain Amaya.
MUSIC: Amaya, Wuaraira Repano
Benito Meza: Irish, Russian, and Italian immigrants — also German.
SK: The opportunity in being free in what you create as an artist — that is the most valuable thing.