The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert on WRTI: Principal Flute Jeffrey Khaner in the spotlight
Join us on Sunday, Dec. 4 at 1 p.m on WRTI 90.1, and Monday, Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. on WRTI HD-2 when our Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert series brings you a performance recorded live in May, 2022.
Guest conductor Fabio Luisi, music director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, is on the podium to lead two works by Danish composer Carl Nielsen: the Helios Overture and the Flute Concerto, with Principal Flute Jeffrey Khaner as soloist. The second half of the program is devoted to Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in E minor.
Tchaikovsky’s Fifth is a work preoccupied throughout with fate, both cruel and ultimately triumphant. One key theme, associated with “fate,” recurs in all four movements, transforming itself with each appearance. It is introduced at the outset as a mournful funeral march, then in a more energetic guise, dominates the first movement. In the second movement the fate theme dramatically interrupts a glorious, melodic nocturne, and eventually prevails. The third movement, a charming and brief waltz, is also capped by the recurrence of the ominous “fate” motive at its close. For the finale, Tchaikovsky recasts the fate motive yet again. Now in the major mode, it alternates with a joyful second theme, and propels itself toward triumphant victory in an exultant brass fanfare.
The concert’s first half is devoted to two works by Carl Nielsen, both inspired by trips to southern Europe. It was February 1903 when Nielsen left the dark Scandinavian winter of Copenhagen on a trip to Greece to join his wife, a sculptor who was working in Athens at the museum of the famous Acropolis. When he arrived, he found himself in a transformed world. Brilliant Mediterranean light reflected off ancient temples and whitewashed buildings, with dazzling effect. This was the inspiration for a concert overture named for the Greek god of the sun, Helios. It traces the sun’s trajectory through the course of a day: from a mysterious, silent dawn, through its blazing majesty at midday, and on to its slow descent over the blue Aegean until it drops below the horizon into renewed silence.
More than two decades later, Nielsen once again found himself traveling south toward the sun. This time, he headed for Italy, where he worked on a concerto for flute and orchestra in between excursions around Florence and the Tuscan countryside. While the Helios Overture depicted the mystery and power of the sun itself, the whimsical and witty Flute Concerto seems to embody the sunny character of Nielsen’s Italian surroundings, while remaining free of any specific programmatic associations. But the composer was specifically thinking of the soloist for whom he was writing…the flutist of the Copenhagen Wind Quintet, whom he greatly admired. He wanted to challenge his friend, and also capture something of his character as soloist Jeffrey Khaner relates in his conversation with producer Susan Lewis.
In that conversation, Jeffrey Khaner also talks about the flute's versatility, and the different styles of music it can bring to life. Listen to him play these classic songs:
Nielsen: Helios Overture
Nielsen: Flute Concerto
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 in E minor
The Philadelphia Orchestra
Fabio Luisi, conductor
Jeffrey Khaner, flute
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 on WRTI Replay.