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The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert on WRTI: Dvorak, Barber, and a new work by Mason Bates

Eun Sun Kim and Juliette Kang in the spotlight
Margo Reed
Guest conductor Eun Sun Kim and first associate concertmaster Juliette Kang in performance with The Philadelphians.

Join us on Sunday, May 8th at 1 PM on WRTI 90.1, and Monday, May 9th at 7 PM on WRTI HD-2 when The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert series brings you a performance from the Orchestra’s 2021/2022 season, recorded live in February.

Guest conductor Eun Sun Kim, the music director of the San Francisco Opera, makes her Philadelphia Orchestra debut in music with American origins, including Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony, Barber’s Violin Concerto, and the world premiere of a new work by Mason Bates. Juliette Kang, first associate concertmaster of The Philadelphia Orchestra, is soloist in the Barber concerto.

Written in 1893, the Symphony No. 9 in E minor by Antonin Dvorak was both an expression of American influences on the Bohemian-born composer and a wellspring of inspiration for American musicians of the time. That year, the Bohemian-born Dvorak was invited by Jeannette Thurber, an American music patron, to head a new conservatory of music in New York. Mrs. Thurber was seeking not only a celebrated name to head her school, but a prolific composer who would jump-start American musical life itself, and reflect America’s unique culture in a series of new works.

Dvorak embraced the challenge. The symphony he subtitled “From the New World” was the first of a half-dozen major pieces he wrote during more than two years in the United States. He eagerly absorbed influences such as Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and African-American spirituals sung to him by his conservatory student, Harry Burleigh.

In Iowa, spending a summer among Bohemian-born prairie settlers, he witnessed displays of Native American music and dancing. To varying degrees, these influences found their way into the Ninth Symphony, perhaps most notably the pseudo-spiritual melody of the slow movement, which later was set to words and known as “Goin’ Home.”

The centerpiece of this week’s concert is Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto, Op. 14, which The Philadelphia Orchestra premiered back in 1941. Though only in his late 20s at the time, Barber produced a lyrical masterpiece. From its first bars, we’re reminded that the composer was himself a gifted singer. Melody remains at the fore throughout most of the work, until the brief and virtuosity from the soloist. In this concert, first associate concertmaster Juliette Kang takes the solo role.

Opening the program is the world premiere of a Philadelphia Orchestra commission, The Rhapsody of Steve Jobs, an orchestral suite from Mason Bates’s 2017 opera The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, inspired by the visionary who presided over the creation of the iPhone.

Violinist Juliette Kang talks with Susan Lewis about Barber's Violin Concerto

Listen during the broadcast for producer Susan Lewis’ interviews with Eun Sun Kim and Juliet Kang.

There’s also a brief chamber music break from The Philadelphia Orchestra’s “Our City, Your Orchestra” series of online music videos, as two orchestra members perform a movement from Samuel Barber’s Sonata for Cello and Piano at the Woodmere Art Museum in Chestnut Hill.

Read detailed program notes from the concert here.


Bates: The Rhapsody of Steve Jobs
Barber: Violin Concerto, Op. 14
Barber: Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 6: I. Allegro ma non troppo
Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 93 (“From the New World”)

The Philadelphia Orchestra
Eun Sun Kim, conductor
Juliette Kang, violin
Hai-Ye Ni, cello
Natalie Zhu, piano

Listen to The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcasts, every Sunday at 1 PM 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 PM on WRTI HD-2. Listen for up to two weeks after broadcast on WRTI Replay.

Melinda has over 30 years of experience in classical music public radio. As an award-winning broadcaster, she created and hosted classical music programs and reported arts news for NPR, WQXR—New York, WHYY–Philadelphia, and American Public Media. WRTI listeners may remember her years hosting classical music for WFLN and WHYY.
As senior producer of arts and culture, Susan writes and produces stories about music and the arts. She’s host and producer of WRTI’s TIME IN online interview series, and producer of The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert series, to which she also contributes weekly intermission interviews. She’s also been a regular host of WRTI’s Live from the Performance Studio sessions.