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The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert on WRTI: Conductor Daniele Rustioni debuts with Mussorgsky and Beethoven

Italian conductor Daniele Rustoni
Davide Cerati
Italian conductor Daniele Rustoni

Join us on Sunday, March 17 at 1 p.m. on WRTI 90.1, and Monday, March 18 at 7 p.m. on WRTI HD-2 when our Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert series brings you a performance recorded live in January 2022.

Italian conductor Daniele Rustioni makes his Philadelphia Orchestra debut with this concert, which opens with Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3 and closes with Mussorgsky’s Pictures from an Exhibition as orchestrated by Maurice Ravel.

In between, Philadelphia Orchestra Principal Viola Choong-Jin Chang is soloist in The Desires, a concerto by Philadelphia-based composer Ke-Chia Chen.

Beethoven’s massive and varied output includes just one opera, Fidelio. He struggled with its composition, and one persistent dilemma was the opera’s overture. He wrote a total of four, the last of which is what we now call the Fidelio Overture. The first three came to be known as the first, second, and third Leonore overtures, after the work’s heroic female protagonist.

These survive as freestanding concert works, and the third is the finest, compressing all the intense drama of the opera into a thrilling musical narrative.

Ke-Chia Chen composed her viola concerto The Desires in 2006, a few years after she moved to the U.S. from her native Taiwan to pursue graduate studies. Now based in Philadelphia, she writes in a style combining gestures from traditional Taiwanese folk music with Western genres. This performance of The Desires features Choong-Jin Chang, the Philadelphia Orchestra’s principal violist since 2006.

Modest Mussorgsky originally wrote Pictures from an Exhibition for solo piano in 1874 to honor the memory of a dear friend, the painter Viktor Hartmann, who had died the previous year at age 39. Attending a retrospective exhibition of Hartmann’s works, the composer chose a selection of images to depict in music, and conceived the stately “promenade” theme that represents the viewer entering the exhibit, and then moving from one picture to the next.

Mussorgsky worked quickly on his homage, producing the final score in just over three weeks. Ravel’s orchestration came much later – nearly 50 years after Mussorgsky’s original inspiration. It is this form of the work that is most often performed today.

Composer Ke-Chia Chen and violist CJ Chang talk with Susan Lewis about "The Desires."

Listen during the broadcast for producer Susan Lewis’ interview with Choong-Jin Chang and Ke-Chia Chen; and Mike Bolton’s interview with Daniele Rustioni.

There’s also a brief chamber music break from The Philadelphia Orchestra’s “Our City, Your Orchestra” series of online music videos, as three Orchestra members perform an arrangement of “O welche Lust,” the chorus of freed prisoners from Beethoven’s Fidelio, in a poignant setting: a house that served as a stop on the Underground Railroad in the 19th century.

Detailed program notes from the concert.


Beethoven: Leonore Overture No. 3
K.C. Chen: The Desires for Viola and Orchestra
Beethoven, arr. Kang: Fidelio: “O welche Lust”
Mussorgsky, orch. Ravel: Pictures from an Exhibition

The Philadelphia Orchestra
Daniele Rustioni, conductor
Choong-Jin Chang, viola
Juliette Kang, violin
Kirsten Johnson, viola
Daniel Matsukawa, bassoon

Listen to The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcasts, every Sunday at 1 p.m. on WRTI 90.1, streaming at WRTI.org, on the WRTI mobile app, and on your favorite smart speaker. Listen again on Mondays at 7 p.m. on WRTI HD-2. Listen for up to two weeks after broadcast onWRTI Replay.

Melinda has worked in radio for decades, hosting and producing classical music and arts news. An award-winning broadcaster, she has created and hosted classical music programs and reported for NPR, WQXR—New York, WHYY–Philadelphia, and American Public Media. WRTI listeners may remember her years hosting classical music for WFLN and WHYY.
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.