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WRTI is proud to partner with Astral to present members of its outstanding roster of rising classical talent in this new video series. Hosted by WRTI producer Susan Lewis and recorded live in WRTI's performance studio, these programs are "performance portraits" that capture the range and ingenuity of these exceptional artists.

WRTI Presents ASTRAL: Harpist Emily Levin

Emily Levin
Harpist and Astral laureate Emily Levin in the WRTI Performance Studio, February 2022.

When she’s not on stage as principal harp of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Astral laureate Emily Levin plays, well, just about anything she wants on her harp.

In this program, recorded in the WRTI Performance Studio in February 2022, she performs three works written or transcribed for harp and shares her thoughts about exciting possibilities for new repertoire.

In conversation, Emily glows with passion for her harp: its texture, timbre, range of colors. And “it’s such an intimate instrument to play,” she says, “because we use our fingers; so we have a lot of control over the sounds.”

Emily’s program here features a selection of music that highlights the range and versatility of this ancient and timeless instrument, beginning with her transcription of Brahms’s most famous pieces for solo piano: Brahms’ Intermezzo, op. 118, no. 2. “It brings out the richness of the harp,” she says, “in so many great ways.”

Her next piece is a new commission, the idea for which came after Emily and her partner, composer Jonathan Cziner, saw an exhibition of Hilma af Klint, in which the Swedish artist examines and deconstructs visual motifs in a series of paintings. Emily describes Jonathan Cziner’s Music for the Temple, as an exploration of musical motifs that change and develop over the course of the work. 

Luckily for us, the composer was in the studio for the recording session and shared his reflections about writing for harp—particularly with a harpist in his midst at home!

The idea of home is an important one to Emily, who is spearheading an ambitious initiative called Groundwork(s), commissioning 52 composers across America—one from each state, and Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia—to create harp centric premieres in their hometowns.

And to close this program, Emily performs Marcel Grandjany's work, The Colorado Trail, a piece that means a lot to her as a native of the state nicknamed Colorful Colorado and The Centennial State.

Learn more about Emily Levin and her projects.

Astral is a Philadelphia-based, nonprofit intensive mentoring program that specializes in developing the early careers of extraordinary classical musicians.

Emily Levin
Dario Acosta
Emily Levin

Susan writes and produces stories about music and the arts. She’s host and producer of WRTI’s TIME IN online interview series, and contributes weekly intermission interviews for The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert series. She’s also been a regular host of WRTI’s Live from the Performance Studio sessions.