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The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert on WRTI: Yannick opens the 2022-23 season with Dvořák and Coleman; Trifonov tackles Liszt

Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducting The Philadelphia Orchestra in the concert 'Trifonov Returns,' Oct. 2022.
Jeff Fusco
Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducting The Philadelphia Orchestra in the concert 'Trifonov Returns,' Oct. 2022.

Join us on Sunday, March 19 at 1 p.m. on WRTI 90.1, and Monday, March 20 at 7 p.m. on WRTI HD-2 when The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert series brings you an encore presentation of the opening performance from the Orchestra’s 2022/2023 season.

Music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin leads the orchestra in Valerie Coleman’s Umoja: Anthem for Unity  and Antonín Dvořák's tuneful Symphony No. 8. In between, pianist Daniil Trifonov is featured in Franz Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1. The broadcast features an engaging conversation between Yannick and producer Susan Lewis.

Yannick Nezet-Seguin talks with Susan Lewis about transformation, Valerie Coleman's 'Umoja,' and Dvorak's Symphony No. 8.

Umoja is the Swahili word for “Unity,” and Coleman was first inspired to write music on this theme in 1997, in a short work for women’s choir. Later, she rescored the piece for Imani Winds, her wind quintet. In 2019, Coleman created a third version of Umoja — considerably expanding its scope, themes, and length on a commission from the Philadelphia Orchestra, who premiered it later that year.

Coleman has commented that her Umoja “embodies a sense of tribal unity through the feel of a drum circle, the sharing of history through traditional call-and-response form, and the repetition of a memorable, sing-song melody.” Joyful and engaging, Umoja draws on Afro-Cuban, jazz, and classical styles. It has quickly become a favorite of the Philadelphia audience, making it an ideal season opener.

For Franz Liszt’s First Piano Concerto, Yannick and the Philadelphia Orchestra welcome soloist Daniil Trifonov, a frequent collaborator since 2013. Liszt was one of the great piano virtuosos in the history of the instrument, and essentially the 19th century’s equivalent of a touring rock star. He may have planned his two piano concertos with the intent of playing them on his wildly successful concert tours. But with little experience writing for orchestra, he didn’t get very far. Writing for solo piano was more in his wheelhouse, and he turned out reams of pieces designed to exploit his technical brilliance, mastery of drama, and poetic mode of expression.

Daniil Trifonov performing with The Philadelphia Orchestra, Oct. 2022.
Jeff Fusco
Daniil Trifonov performing with The Philadelphia Orchestra, Oct. 2022.

Eventually, though, Liszt tired of the touring life. He settled down in the German city of Weimar to concentrate on composing. As he worked on a series of symphonic poems, and without the distraction of constant touring, he quickly developed a distinctive and colorful orchestral voice. He returned to the unfinished concertos, completed their orchestration, and premiered the final version of the First Concerto in E-flat major in 1855, playing the solo part with no less a conductor than Hector Berlioz on the podium.

This broadcast culminates in a performance of what Yannick calls “the perfect symphony” — Dvořák's Symphony No. 8 in G major. Today we think of Dvořák as the quintessential Czech nationalist composer, and this reputation is certainly earned. But to stop there is to considerably underestimate his actual import. Notes Yannick: “I don't know of any symphony in the entire repertoire that has more incredible melodies.” And indeed the tunes just keep coming, one wonderful musical idea after another. Dvořák's mentor and friend Johannes Brahms once marveled at this lyric gift, saying any composer, himself included, would be happy to have come up with the ideas that Dvořák discarded.


Coleman: Umoja: Anthem for Unity

Liszt: Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major

Dvořák: Symphony No. 8 in G major, Op. 88

The Philadelphia Orchestra

Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor

Daniil Trifonov, 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 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.

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.