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The Philadelphians in Concert on WRTI: Pianist Daniil Trifonov and Beethoven's "Emperor" Concerto

Dario Acosta
Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov

The 2019-2020 Philadelphia Orchestra season was built around two themes – BeethovenNow (in the 250th anniversary year of his birth), and WomenNOW. And our Sunday, April 18th re-broadcast at 1 PM on WRTI 90.1 and repeated on Monday, April 19th at 7 PM on HD-2 begins and ends with compositions by French women of the 19th and early-20th centuries, with Beethoven right in the middle.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin talks about the program with WRTI's Susan Lewis.

Daniil Trifonov is the soloist in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5, and Yannick Nézét-Séguin conducts.

The women on the program are Lili Boulanger, who was the first woman to win the coveted Prix de Rome in 1913 at age 19, and Louise Farrenc, the only female professor of music to be hired in the 19th century at the famous Paris Conservatory. She was a great pianist, as well as composer.

Credit Wikipedia Commons/Library of Congress
French pianist Lili Boulanger lived only 24 years before her death in 1918.

As a piece of orchestral scoring, Lili Boulanger’s Of a Sad Evening is right up there with Debussy’s La Mer, but as an emotional expression, it is devastating.

This was the last piece of music that Boulanger was able to score by hand. Her writing actually trailed off and became almost unintelligible toward the end ofher short life. Her sister Nadia filled in the dynamics. Lili Boulanger would die peacefully in her sleep in shortly after finishing it in 1918. She was 24 years of age.

Back with The Philadelphia Orchestra is the pianist who was the winner of Musical America’s 2019 Artist of the Year, the Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov. He made his subscription concert debut with the Orchestra just weeks after Deutsche Grammophon released his Grammy-nominated recording with Yannick and the Philadelphians of Rachmaninoff’s Paganini Variations.

In this performance, he takes on a concerto that Beethoven begins in a way like no other, with the piano playing virtuoso, cadenza-like material! The nickname "Emperor" was not given to the 5th Piano Concerto by Beethoven himself, but the moniker certainly fits. It’s as grand and regal as anything Beethoven ever composed.

Following intermission, a work by one of the 19th century's most admired composers, Louise Farrenc, many of whose works we’ve been sampling throughout our WRTI broadcast schedule. Her Symphony No. 2, which openly, and cleverly, acknowledges the influence of Beethoven’s 2nd, is tuneful, dramatic, breezy, and fun. A beautifully orchestrated work, I think in the manner of Weber, it’s a symphony that’s been shamefully neglected. You will love it, and want to hear it again.

Susan Lewis interviews principal bassoon Daniel Matsukawa.

During intermission, Philadelphia Orchestra Principal Bassoon Daniel Matsukawa sheds some light on Farrenc’s brilliant and playful wind scoring in conversation with WRTI’s Susan Lewis. Also during the break, Debra Lew Harder speaks with Daniil Trifonov backstage, and Yannick surveys the concert’s program with Susan.

Boulanger: Of a Sad Evening
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-Flat, Op.73

Daniil Trifonov, piano

Farrenc: Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 35

The Philadelphia Orchestra
Yannick Nézét-Séguin, conductor

Gregg Whiteside is host of  The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcasts, every Sunday at 1 PM on WRTI 90.1, streaming online at WRTI.org, and on our mobile app! Listen again on Mondays at 7 PM on WRTI HD-2

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.