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The Philadelphia Orchestra on WRTI: Valerie Coleman's "Umoja," and Works by Dvorak and Bartok

Join us on Sunday, February 21st at 1 PM on WRTI 90.1 and Monday, February 22nd at 7 PM on WRTI HD-2 to hear a rebroadcast of one of the first concerts of The Philadelphia Orchestra’s 2019/2020 season, the Orchestra’s 120th. The three works on the program all have roots here in America: the world premiere of a Philadelphia commission, Umoja, a colorful orchestral work by American composer Valerie Coleman; then pianist Hélène Grimaud performs Bela Bartok’s Third Piano Concerto, a work he nearly completed after fleeing his native Hungary for America; and, after intermission, Antonin Dvo?ák’s great Ninth Symphony, “From the New World.”

Valerie Coleman’s Umoja, Anthem for Unity, was originally a simple song arranged for women’s choir, which Ms. Coleman later arranged for her Imani Winds ensemble, (she herself is a flutist), and finally she turned it into the brilliant orchestral piece we’ll hear Sunday.

Backstage at Verizon Hall, pianist Hélène Grimaud speaks with WRTI's Debra Lew Harder.

Hélène Grimaud made her Philadelphia Orchestra debut in 2000 and has enjoyed many collaborations with her good friend Yannick Nézet-Séguin, and she returned for this season-opening concert to perform a concerto whose last measures were unfinished at Bartok's passing. It was actually former Philadelphia Orchestra violist Tibor Serly who orchestrated those final measures of the Piano Concerto No. 3, and The Philadelphia Orchestra gave the work its world premiere in 1946, with Eugene Ormandy conducting, and György Sándor as soloist.

Coming up on The Philadelphia Orchestra's Digital Stage: Pianist Michelle Cann Plays Florence Price

To conclude the concert, Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 in E minor, which was the first in a series of important works Dvo?ák wrote while in America. And although the composer called upon American musical resources for his "New World" Symphony—spirituals he had heard sung by an African-American student at the National Conservatory, and Native American music, for example—he didn’t actually use any of those melodies, instead composing original themes embodying the local idioms.

In fact, as formally constructed, the “New World” Symphony calls on a Germanic heritage drawn both from the symphonies of Brahms and the symphonic poems of Liszt, while bathed in a Czech spiritual glow.

Credit Chris Lee
Yannick Nézet-Séguin

During intermission, Debra Lew Harder visits with Hélène Grimaud backstage, and Susan Lewis speaks with Yannick Nézét-Séguin.

That’s Sunday, Feb. 21st, from 1 to 3 PM, on WRTI 90.1 and streaming worldwide at WRTI.org! Listen again on Monday, Feb. 22nd at 7 PM on WRTI HD-2.


Valerie Coleman: Umoja, Anthem for Unity

Bartok: Piano Concerto No. 3

Hélène Grimaud, piano


Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 in E minor (“From the New World”)

The Philadelphia Orchestra

Yannick Nézét-Séguin, conductor

The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcasts on WRTI 90.1 FM in Philadelphia and streaming online at WRTI.org, every Sunday from 1 to 3 pm, and re-broadcast Monday nights at 7 pm on WRTI HD-2.  Gregg Whiteside is host.

Gregg was the host of WRTI's morning drive show from 2012 until his retirement from WRTI in January, 2021. He began producing and hosting The Philadelphia Orchestra In Concert broadcasts in 2013, joining the Orchestra in Hong Kong for the first-ever live international radio broadcasts from that island in 2016, and in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem for two historic broadcasts in 2018. You can still hear Gregg as host of the Orchestra broadcasts every Sunday and Monday on WRTI.