Arts Desk

Check out stories and album of the week features by Susan Lewis, Debra Lew Harder, Kevin Gordon, Maureen Malloy, Matt Silver, and Bobbi Booker.

Among Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s hundreds of compositions are 27 piano concertos.  In 2014, WRTI’s Susan Lewis talked with the young pianist Jan Lisiecki about why he is so drawn to their musical purity, emotional complexity, and sense of fun.

January 25th, 2021. Michael Tilson Thomas is artistic director and founder of Miami's New World Symphony, music director laureate of the San Francisco Symphony, and conductor laureate of the London Symphony Orchestra. On top of that, he's also a composer. His latest recording with San Francisco Symphony juxtaposes two poignant works; his earliest, From the Diary of Anne Frank, and his latest, Meditations on Rilke.

The Story Behind the Presidential Anthem "Hail To The Chief"

Jan 20, 2021
Getty Images/Brendan SMIALOWSKI /AFP

(Originally published in 2017). Even though it's not a universal favorite among presidents, "Hail to the Chief" remains their official entrance theme. WRTI's Meridee Duddleston has more on the origin of the march that begins with the ultimate in fanfare, not three, but four "Ruffles and Flourishes."  

Ryan Donnell

Philadelphia Orchestra concertmaster David Kim, who has played Bruch’s First Violin Concerto as soloist many times, has his own routine to prepare for a performance with The Philadelphia Orchestra.

January 18, 2021. As the newly appointed principal guest conductor of The Philadelphia Orchestra, Nathalie Stutzmann can now add an additional honor to her resumé—her newest album, Contralto, with her Baroque ensemble Orfeo 55.

Michael Perez

It was quite a place to grow up for a young man. His home at 1927 Federal Street in South Philadelphia was the place for musicians to hang and jam with his much older brothers: saxophonist Jimmy Heath and bassist Percy Heath. Young Albert Heath, named “Tootie” by his grandfather for tutti-frutti ice cream in his youth, was also named a 2021 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master.

January 18, 2021. Many today believe America’s cultural divide has reached an inflection point, a time where society has no choice but to seriously reckon with issues of race, class, civil rights, opportunity, and dignity in a way it hasn’t since Nina Simone first sang protest songs.

January 11, 2021. Sunset in the Blue, vocalist Melody Gardot’s new album, works on the listener in a deliberate, almost methodical way, as though it knows it’s playing a long con. So if you find yourself preoccupied or not fully present at first listen— if you haven’t yet had your daily yoga, or engaged your mindfulness app, or done whatever it is one must do in early 2021 to attain clarity and presence, don’t despair. Gardot’s fifth full-length, studio album, and first in five years, will work on you anyway.

Josh Pelta Heller for WXPN

Latin jazz percussionist Pablo Batista has developed a reputation as one of most versatile and hardworking players in Latin jazz and modern jazz, and in R&B and funk circles. Born to immigrant Puerto Rican parents in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Batista honed his skills playing in school bands. But his main love was playing Afro-Cuban and Latin music, which he started at the age of nine with his mentor and master percussionist Miguel Candia, also a teacher of the renowned drummer Giovanni Hidalgo.

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?

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