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The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia on WRTI: Dances and Alternate Routes, Feb. 19, 5 PM

Composer Raphael Fusco

The third Sunday of the month on WRTI at 5 pm is our broadcast of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, and this month we present a delightful mix of pieces from three different concerts. We begin with the brilliant music of Rossini, who often put off writing overtures to his operas until the last minute. His Overture to The Italian Girl in Algiers is filled with the fluid melodies and orchestrational effects we expect, and one unusual percussion instrument, the mezzaluna. The “half moon” is shaped just like the chef’s chopping implement of the same name, but is larger and festooned with tiny cymbals. Mounted to a pole which is struck on the floor, it is not only a spectacle, but adds the flavor of Moorish or Arabic music. Percussionist Martha Hitchins provides this exotic touch to one of the great operatic overtures.


The three suites of Ancient Airs and Dances show the playful, soft-spoken side of Respighi. He brings his love of the Renaissance, the Baroque, and Italy to full flower in this music. The introspective Third Suite is for strings alone.


We may forget how revolutionary Gluck was to the world of opera in the 18th century. He wanted to bring the natural rhythms of speech back into vocal writing; opera at that time was often a formula-driven showcase for virtuosity. Orpheus and Eurydice was his 1762 shot across the bow of the opera world with this new way of composing. His fame was international, and he inspired generations of composers, starting with a young fellow named Mozart.


Raphael Fusco wrote the original version of Alternate Routes as a saxophone concerto for Branford Marsalis, who premiered it in Wayne, PA in 2015. Fusco then re-worked it into different versions, including this one, a concerto for chamber orchestra. It’s a melange of “jazz sonorities and classical techniques,” says the composer, and in three sections, Alternate Routes travels through jazz, funk, and hip hop, always with lyricism energized by the spirit of improvisation.


Listen to the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia on WRTI, Sunday, February 19th at 5 pm.


Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868): Overture to L’Italiana in Algeri (1813)?

     December 5th, 2016, Dirk Brossé, conductor?

Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936):  Ancient Airs and Dances, Suite No. 3 (1932)
Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787): Dance of the Blessed Spirits from Orfeo ed Euridice (1762)
    November 7th, 2016, Kynan Johns, conductor
Raphael Fusco (b. 1972): Alternate Routes (2015)
    December 5th, 2016, Dirk Brossé conductor,  Perelman Theater