Arts Desk

Throughout the week

Listen to WRTI's Arts Desk features for a daily look into music in the Philadelphia region.

January 11. 2021. Icelandic pianist Vikingur Ólafsson’s third release for Deutsche Grammophon captivates with every note and poses an intriguing question. What connects two French masters—Claude Debussy and Jean-Philippe Rameau—despite the difference of over a century, the difference of the keyboard instruments they wrote for, and the difference of two contrasting stylistic eras of music?

Jacqueline Smith

Philadelphia composer Kile Smith's many works have been earning him increasing accolades, with recordings and performances around the country and in other parts of the world in the past few years. He's sharing a new virtual piece for choirs during these difficult times, has discovered a love for working outside, and has recently stepped up his game in another form of artistic expression: photography.  

Diego PH/Unsplash

(Originally published in 2016). Even if you’re not familiar with the Broadway musical Carousel, you’re likely to have heard the uplifting message and melody of the song "You’ll Never Walk Alone." Its roots in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical extend far beyond the story of love and loss.

January 4, 2021. Prelude, Fugue, and Allegro in E-flat major, BWV 998, is a musical composition by Johann Sebastian Bach, intended for either lute or harpsichord. But Bach was constantly re-inventing his music for different instruments, and on this disc guitarist Sean Shibe gives us an elegant demonstration of how well-suited this work is to the classical guitar.

December 28, 2020. You may know Sheku Kanneh-Mason, the young cellist who performed at the 2018 royal wedding, but did you know his six siblings also play classical music? In this season of family celebrations and traditions, our Classical Album of the Week is the debut recording of the Kanneh-Masons, ages 11 to 24, playing Saint-Saens's Carnival of the Animals and a new musical setting of Grandpa Christmas, a story by Michael Morpurgo.

December 21, 2020. Let’s face it—holiday music can divide a room faster than Santa’s globe-circling sleigh on Christmas Eve. This is the time of year we set aside our usual debates, about cheesesteaks and such, and find ourselves either relishing in the cozy nostalgia and cheery jingle of holiday music or feeling a bit worn out by it all.

A 1962 record of holiday music by The Philadelphia Orchestra and the Temple University Concert choir "went gold" in 1963 and continues to be sold today. WRTI’s Susan Lewis explores its ongoing appeal with violinist Herb Light, who played on the original recording of The Glorious Sound of Christmas.

December 14, 2020. It’s been a turbulent year, but a glowing and glimmering note for Philadelphia has been the continued skyrocketing success of the young Dover Quartet. And just in time for Beethoven’s 250th birth anniversary celebration, the first installment of the ensemble's complete Beethoven String Quartets cycle was released over the summer.

Courtesy of The Philadelphia Orchestra Association Archives

During the Cultural Revolution of 1966 to 1976 in the People's Republic of China, Western classical music all but disappeared from Chinese cultural life. The Philadelphia Orchestra's trailblazing 1973 trip to China helped turn that around. Led by Music Director Eugene Ormandy, and part of a larger plan of cross-cultural exchange, the tour planted the seeds for a relationship between China and the Orchestra that has grown and blossomed in the last three decades.

Stanley Gordon

Beethoven. Sure, he was the deaf, scowling musical genius with the wild hair. But those who knew him thought of him a little differently. We’ll take a look at some little-known quirks of the great composer, culled from documented recollections of his friends and acquaintances, biographies, and my conversation with John Suchet, author of Beethoven: The Man Revealed.

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