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The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert on WRTI: French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet plays Lizst

Pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet
Elisabeth Caren
Pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet

Join us on Sunday, Jan. 7 at 1 p.m. on WRTI 90.1, and Monday, Jan. 8 at 7 p.m. on WRTI HD-2 when our Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert series brings you the encore presentation of a stunning performance from April 2022.

French conductor Stéphane Denève, music director of the Saint Louis Symphony, is on the podium as French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet returns to The Philadelphia Orchestra to play Franz Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in A major.

The concert also features the Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life) by Richard Strauss.

Richard Strauss was only in his 30s when he began work on his massive autobiographical tone poem Ein Heldenleben. But he had already produced many of his best-known orchestral works, making a strong impression on audiences, critics, and his colleagues.

Not all the attention was complimentary—by this time Strauss inhabited the most modern end of the musical spectrum, and had endured his fair share of critical brickbats. In A Hero’s Life he eloquently turned the tables on his musical opponents. As he commented to a friend about the work, “All you need to know is that it portrays a hero in combat with his enemies.” (Strauss made it clear that he was the artistic hero in question!)

This week’s concert opens with music by another kind of superhero of the 19th century: Franz Liszt, who was lionized for his brilliant virtuosity at the keyboard.

Pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet is featured in Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in A major, definitely a vehicle for virtuoso fireworks. However, Liszt wrote it once he had given up his life as a touring virtuoso, and didn’t even play the piano at the premiere. After years thrilling audiences with his musical wizardry, he accepted a conducting position in the German city of Weimar, and focused for the first time on writing and conducting orchestral works such as this one, which he called a “symphonic concerto.” It features an innovative single-movement structure with two primary themes, transformed throughout the work in various guises.

Conductor Stéphane Denève talks with WRTI's Susan Lewis about the music of Liszt and R. Strauss.

Listen during the broadcast for producer Susan Lewis’ interviews with pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Stéphane Denève.

Detailed program notes from the concert.

Liszt: Piano Concerto No. 2 in A major
R. Strauss: Ein Heldenleben, Op. 40

The Philadelphia Orchestra

Stéphane Denève conductor
Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano

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.