Arts Desk

Throughout the week

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

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.

Deborah Grimmett

Iman Habibi was one of several composers commissioned by The Philadelphia Orchestra as part of its 2020 celebration of Beethoven's 250th birthday. The young Iranian-Canadian composer wrote Jeder Baum spricht (Every Tree Speaks), which explores climate change, a subject about which Habibi believes Beethoven—as a lover of nature—would have had a lot to say.  The piece was premiered by The Philadelphians last March, in an empty hall, in their last performance by the full orchestra as the pandemic was taking off.

Ludwig van Beethoven, who lived from 1770 to 1827, is one of the most popular composers of all time.  Although he began to lose his hearing in his late 20s, and went completely deaf by his mid 40s, his deafness did nothing to defeat his ability to compose. Beethoven’s influence around the globe has not been hampered by geography, wars. or even pandemics. Let’s examine the pervasive appeal of Beethoven, which has transformed him from musical genius to Promethean hero to demigod.

December 7, 2020.  What do Antonio Vivaldi and Astor Piazzola have in common? The German violinist Arabella Steinbacher. Her new album Four Seasons features the seasons heard through the music of Vivaldi, with his most famous work, The Four Seasons, and Piazzola with his Four Seasons of Buenos Aires.

November 30, 2020. In his concerto for guitar and orchestra, Chris Brubeck pays homage to his father, the late jazz great Dave Brubeck. The pianist and composer, whose centennial we celebrate on December 6th, passed away in 2012. Brubeck's piece is the title track of our Classical Album of the Week. Guitarist Sharon Isbin's Affinity features music inspired by different cultures and genres, and has a personal story behind each work. 

Pages