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Daniil Trifonov plays Gershwin; The Philadelphia Orchestra performs Still and Anna Clyne

Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts The Philadelphia Orchestra at Verizon Hall on Oct. 6, 2023.
Allie Ippolito
The Philadelphia Orchestra
Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts The Philadelphia Orchestra at Verizon Hall on Oct. 6, 2023.

Join us on Sunday, May 26 at 1 p.m. on WRTI 90.1, and Monday, May 27 at 7 p.m. on WRTI HD-2 when The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert brings you an encore performance that opened the Orchestra's 2023/2024 season.

Music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin leads the orchestra in George Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F major to open the program, with soloist Daniil Trifonov. Gershwin’s contemporary, William Grant Still, is represented by his Symphony No. 4 (“Autochthonous”), which the orchestra is performing for the first time in this concert. In between, Yannick leads the Philadelphians in This Moment, a work written for them by American-based British composer Anna Clyne.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin works to create a fusion of eras and styles in the season opener
Yannick Nézet-Séguin works to create a fusion of eras and styles in the season opener
Yannick Nézet-Séguin and The Philadelphia Orchestra at Verizon Hall on Oct. 6, 2023.

By his mid-20s, Gershwin was already a star. His Broadway shows, popular songs, and the electric Rhapsody in Blue had established his position in the musical firmament, both as a composer and as a pianist. When he was commissioned to write a piano concerto, he noted to friends that many had thought that his Rhapsody was, as he put it, “only a happy accident.” He added that in this concerto, he intended “to show them that there was plenty more where that came from.” And indeed there was.

This time, Gershwin orchestrated the work himself rather than delegating that task to an arranger. And though it makes use of popular elements such as a Charleston rhythm in the first movement and a bluesy quality in the second, its form lives fully within the traditions of European classical music. Gershwin scored another brilliant success at the concerto’s premiere in 1925.

Trifonov, soloist for this performance, says of Gershwin: “He has a true gift of a melody writer, which is quite rare. It just flows out of him. His musical language, the one he speaks, is so sincere and natural and so fluent that it feels very organic.”

In 2023, the British-born, U.S.-based composer Anna Clyne was commissioned by The Philadelphia Orchestra to write a new work for performance during the orchestra’s annual residency at the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival in Colorado. At the premiere, the new work was to share the program with Mozart’s Requiem, and this provided partial inspiration for Clyne’s This Moment.

She included references to the famous Mozart work in her score, but also looked to Eastern spirituality, unearthing a quote from the Vietnamese Buddhist monk and Zen master and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh: “This moment is full of wonders.” Yannick says that Clyne “is a composer reacting to our times,” and that this work reflects how “Mozart's legacy meets the preoccupations of our world: what we find beautiful about it and what we're concerned about.”

Anna Clyne breaks down her piece 'This Moment'
Anna Clyne breaks down her piece This Moment
Composer Anna Clyne with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and The Philadelphia Orchestra, after a performance of her piece 'This Moment' on Oct. 6, 2023.

The culmination of this concert by The Philadelphia Orchestra — what Yannick calls “the main dish of our meal” — is the Fourth Symphony by William Grant Still, which the composer called his “Autochthonous” symphony. This was actually the third of Still’s symphonies to be completed, and he had seen significant success with the two that preceded it. Both highlighted different periods and aspects of the Black American experience.

The First, titled the “Afro-American Symphony,” represented, in Still’s words, “the Negro of days not far removed from the Civil War,” while the Second Symphony depicted Still’s vision of a more integrated America, only partially realized at that time, as in our own. He called it “The Song of a New Race.” With the symphony we hear on this concert, the “Autochthonous,” Still was pursuing a more abstract concept, which Yannick characterizes as what people of African descent living in America had “created from scratch, in dialogue with the American land” on which they lived and worked. This idea takes musical shape through Still’s characteristic easy mingling of traditional classical forms and American vernacular music.

The broadcast features conversations with composer Anna Clyne and music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin.


Gershwin: Piano Concerto in in F major

Rameau: Les trois mains (encore)

Clyne: This Moment

Still: Symphony No. 4 ("Autochthonous")

The Philadelphia Orchestra

Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor

Daniil Trifonov, piano


Melinda Whiting: Host

Alex Ariff: Senior Producer

Joseph Patti: Broadcast Engineer

Production Assistant: Melanie Spiegel

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 or at The Philadelphia Orchestra 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.