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The Philadelphia Orchestra on WRTI: Beethoven, Brahms, and Higdon's Low Brass Concerto

Jessica Griffin/The Philadelphia Orchestra
(Left to right) Philadelphia Orchestra musicians: Nitzan Haroz, principal trombone; Matthew Vaughn, co-principal trombone; Blair Bollinger, bass trombone; Carol Jantsch, principal tuba in the lobby of the Kimmel Center

The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert on Sunday, May 16th at 1 PM on WRTI 90.1 and Monday, May 17th at 7 PM on WRTI HD-2 begins and ends with the colors of Hungarian folk music, and features the first Philadelphia performance of a concerto by Jennifer Higdon back in early 2018. Cristian M?celaru conducts.

Zoltan Kodály’s Dances of Marosszék were completed and published as piano pieces in 1923, and Kodály orchestrated them seven years later, creating a brittle, crystalline sound, which allows the folk melodies to literally shine.

Credit Jessica Griffin/Philadelphia Orchestra
Composer Jennifer Higdon onstage with Orchestra members in February, 2018.

It’s not very often that we hear a concerto for four soloists, but Jennifer Higdon’s Concerto for Low Brass sees Nitzan Haroz, Philadelphia Orchestra principal trombone; Matthew Vaughn, co-principal trombone; Blair Bollinger, bass trombone; and Carol Jantsch, principal tuba standing at the front of the stage before their colleagues in the Orchestra.

Higdon’s concerto, structured as a single, continuous movement with clearly delineated sections, is composed to highlight not only the muscularity of the brass instruments, but their capacity to play with subtlety and lyrical beauty. Learn more about the concerto.

Following intermission, it’s the witty and vivacious 8th Symphony of Beethoven, composed in the fateful year of 1812, complicated for Beethoven by failed romantic relationships, and his impending deafness. Yet the 8th is a symphony full of wit, humor, and sheer joy.

The concert concludes with a return to the folk language of Hungary. Johannes Brahms began writing and arranging his 21 Hungarian Dances while still in his teens, and he continued adding to them for the next 17 years, setting the dance numbers for piano four-hands. Three of these were original compositions in the style of Romany music; the rest were settings of gypsy tunes in various combinations, most of which have now been identified by scholars.

WRTI's Debra Lew Harder speaks with Maestro Cristian Macelaru.

Brahms orchestrated only three of these dances himself, Nos. 1, 3, and 10. The other orchestrations, which we’ll hear in this concert broadcast, are by Johann Andreas Hallén (No. 2), Paul Huon (No. 4), Sam Dennison (No. 8), and Albert Parlow (No. 16). The selection will conclude with the 10th, Brahms’s own orchestration.

During intermission, WRTI’s Susan Lewis has a conversation with Jennifer Higdon and the four low brass soloists, and Debra Lew Harder interviews Maestro M?celaru.

It's a varied and fun concert. Plan on listening!


Kodály: Dances of Marosszék

Higdon: Low Brass Concerto

     Nitzan Haroz, trombone

     Matthew Vaughn, trombone

     Blair Bollinger, bass trombone

     Carol Jantsch, tuba


Beethoven: Symphony No. 8

Brahms: Select Hungarian Dances

     No. 2 in D minor (orch. Hallén)

     No. 4 in F-sharp minor (orch. Juon)

     No. 8 in A minor (orch. Dennison)

     No. 16 in F minor (orch. Parlow)

     No. 10 in F major (orch. Brahms)

The Philadelphia Orchestra

     Cristian M?celaru, conductor

Gregg Whiteside is producer and host of The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcasts, every Sunday at 1 pm on WRTI 90.1, streaming online at WRTI.org, and on the WRTI 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.