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Inon Barnatan plays Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 24., and Osmo Vänskä leads Beethoven's 'Eroica'

Marco Borggreve

Join us on Sunday, Nov. 26 at 1 p.m. on WRTI 90.1 and Monday, Nov. 27 at 7 p.m. on WRTI HD-2 as The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert brings you an encore presentation of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (“Eroica”), Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24, and the Study for Orchestra by Julia Perry. Guest conductor Osmo Vänskä is on the podium and Inon Barnatan is soloist in the Mozart concerto.

The concert opens with Study for Orchestra by 20th-century Black American composer Julia Perry, whose works are beginning to see a revival after decades of undeserved obscurity. Born in 1924, Perry earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Westminster Choir College. By 1951 she was studying at Tanglewood with the renowned Italian modernist composer Luigi Dallapiccola. Perry continued her lessons with him in Italy, where her Study for Orchestra was premiered in 1952. Studies with the eminent French pedagogue Nadia Boulanger followed. On her return to the U.S., the New York Philharmonic premiered a revised version of the Study for Orchestra. But her rapid ascent soon stalled, due to her race, gender, and persistent health problems. An important but neglected figure of the 20th century, Perry is beginning to receive renewed recognition in the 21st.

Pianist Inon Barnatan says Mozart's piano concertos are his best music

A great piano concerto of the classical era follows: Mozart’s Concerto No. 24 in C minor, with piano soloist Inon Barnatan. It’s one of an extraordinary series of 12 piano concertos completed during a four-year period in the 1780s. Each is a masterwork, and each is unique. As Barnatan says in a conversation with WRTI’s Susan Lewis, “all of those things that make Mozart great, to me, find their pinnacle in the piano concertos.” The 24th piano concerto is one of only two that Mozart wrote in a minor key, and it combines drama, mystery, and eloquent lyricism in a way that seems almost Romantic and certainly ahead of its time.

“Eroica” — the name that Ludwig van Beethoven gave to his Third Symphony — is truly apt. “Heroic” perfectly describes this Symphony in E-flat major. It is heroic in scope and scale, the loftiness of its musical ideas, and the grandeur of its conception. When it premiered in Vienna in 1805, nothing like it had ever been heard before, in terms of its length, difficulty, ambition, and sheer power.

Osmo Vänskä on how being a clarinetist has informed his conducting

Today the Eroica is so venerated and familiar that it’s easy to forget how many barriers Beethoven broke through in this one work. He confronts his listeners from the very start, with two explosive E-flat major chords. These establish the basis of the main themes of the massive first movement, which traverses a stunning spectrum of keys in an exhilarating emotional journey. The second movement is a noble funeral march expressing profound grief. The third movement scherzo puts all sadness aside, hurtling forward with bustling good humor. The finale is a set of variations on a theme Beethoven had used repeatedly in earlier works. Like the first movement, the finale begins with a dramatic gesture — a precipitous onrush of energy. The ingenious variations that follow range from whimsical to forceful to humorous, concluding with an exuberant coda.


Perry: Study for Orchestra

Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 24 in c minor, K. 491

Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major (“Eroica”), Op. 55

The Philadelphia Orchestra

Osmo Vänskä, conductor

Inon Barnatan, piano


Melinda Whiting: Host

Alex Ariff: Senior Producer

Susan Lewis: Consulting Producer

Joseph Patti: Broadcast Engineer

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, accessible from the WRTI homepage (look for Listen to The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert On Demand).

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.