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The Philadelphia Orchestra on WRTI: Israeli Conductor Lahav Shani Conducts Lindberg, Stravinsky, and Prokofiev in 2018

Jessica Griffin/The Philadelphia Orchestra
Lahav Shani conducting The Philadelphia Orchestra on March 22, 2018.

Lahav Shani succeeded Zubin Mehta as music director of the Israel Philharmonic in 2020, and became principal conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic back in 2018, taking over from Yannick Nézet-SéguinJoin us on Sunday, Nov. 21st at 1 PM on WRTI 90.1 and Monday, Nov. 22nd at 7 PM on WRTI HD-2 to hear his Philadelphia Orchestra debut from March of that year.

Credit Marco Borggreve
Lahav Shani

This fast-rising star in the conducting worldleads a concert on WRTI featuring a first-ever performance by the Philadelphians of a trumpet concerto by the contemporary Swedish composer Christian Lindberg, and a couple of works by Russian composers that have been in the Orchestra’s repertory for many decades — the 1919 suite from Stravinsky’s music for the ballet The Firebird, and the Symphony No. 5 by Prokofiev.

The Lindberg concerto is a jazz-inflected, three-movement work, inspired by a range of traditions, as its title indicates: Akbank Bunka, a combination of Turkish and Japanese. (Akbank is the name of a Turkish bank, and bunka means culture in Japanese.)

The soloist is Philadelphia Orchestra Principal Trumpet, David Bilger, and in this concerto his considerable virtuosity is tested early and often, as not only technical agility is required, but the trumpet’s “singing” abilities. Lindberg has composed long cantabile lines not usually associated with the instrument.

Igor Stravinsky’s music for The Firebird ballet proved an immense success when it premiered in Paris in 1910; it is not an exaggeration to say that it made Stravinsky famous overnight.

And he capitalized on this newfound fame, deriving three suites from the ballet: a short one in 1911, a more extended one in 1919 that incorporated revisions to the orchestration, and a final version from 1945. Of these three, the 1919 one is the most often performed, and that’s the version we’ll hear on Sunday.

World War II inspired an unusually large quantity of significant music, and nowhere more so than in the genre of the symphony, with the two leading Russian composers of the day both making hugely important contributions: Dmitri Shostakovich with his Seventh Symphony, the “Leningrad” in 1941, and Sergei Prokofiev with his Fifth Symphony in 1944.

These works were composed in times of unimaginable horror for the Soviet citizenry. Americans embraced both symphonies. Shostakovich was hailed on the cover of Time magazine in August of 1942 and Prokofiev appeared on the cover three years later, after the premiere of the Fifth Symphony in January of 1945.

The path to Prokofiev’s great 5th symphony was not, however, an easy one.

Like other prominent Russians, including Stravinsky and Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev left Russia after the 1917 Revolution, made a long journey through Siberia, stopped off in Tokyo, and finally arrived in New York City in early September, 1918.

He would live in America, Paris, and other Western cities for nearly 20 years. And then, with timing that boggles the mind, in the summer of 1936, he moved back permanently to the Soviet Union with his wife and their two young sons.  Prokofiev would spend the rest of his life there, riding a roller coaster of official favor and stinging condemnation. He died on March 5, 1953, the same day as Joseph Stalin.

Prokofiev was endowed with prodigious lyrical gifts, and they are much in evidence in a symphony that has it all – epic grandeur, tenderness, haunting tragedy, extraordinary writing for strings, winds, brass, and percussion. There is an inexorable quality to it, as it builds to a frantic, marvelous coda.

David Bilger speaks backstage with WRTI's Debra Lew Harder.

During intermission, WRTI’s Debra Lew Harder speaks with David Bilger, and Susan Lewis interviews Lahav Shani backstage at the Kimmel Center.

Listen on WRTI 90.1, the WRTI mobile app, and streaming at WRTI.org.


Lindberg: Trumpet Concerto (“Akbank Bunka”)

     David Bilger, trumpet

Stravinsky: Suite from The Firebird (1919 version)


Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5

The Philadelphia Orchestra

     Lahav Shani, conductor

Listen to 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.