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Sunday Classical: New Release Highlights for March 2024

Neave Trio, whose album 'A Room of Her Own' champions the works of female composers.
Jacob Lewis Lovendahl
Neave Trio, whose album 'A Room of Her Own' champions the works of female composers.

On the first Sunday of every month, WRTI broadcasts a special edition of Sunday Classical, focused on classical new releases. The program is hosted by Mark Pinto, who highlights some of the music here.

Fanny Hensel: Charakterstücke - Works for Solo Piano
Sontraud Speidel (piano)

Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel was a musical prodigy, an outstanding pianist and conductor, and the closest confidante and adviser of her more famous brother Felix. Her unexpected death at age 41 came at a time when she was just beginning to appear in public as a composer. This new release invites us to discover some of the piano works that Fanny herself published, many in first recordings as performed by award-winning German pianist and Steinway artist, Sontraud Speidel.

Edvard Grieg: Symphonic Dances
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Edward Gardner (conductor)

Norway’s Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra with their principal conductor Edward Gardner presents works by favorite son, Edvard Grieg. The best known here are the four Symphonic Dances of 1898, based on Norwegian folk tunes. Two other pieces, one featuring a narrator and the other a choir and vocal soloists, set texts by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, Grieg’s close friend who received the 1903 Nobel Prize for Literature. Rounding out the album is a funeral march by Grieg which Johan Halvorsen orchestrated while traveling to Bergen to attend Grieg’s own funeral.

Plucked Bach II
Alon Sariel (mandolin)

Bach on solo mandolin? Seriously? Seriously!!! Alon Sariel, prizewinning Israeli multi-instrumentalist, presents his second volume of a project focusing on his own transcriptions of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. In distinctive and groundbreaking performances, Sariel breathes new life into the iconic Toccata and Fugue in D minor as well as the Violin Sonata No. 2 in A minor, excerpts from the Violin Partita No. 3 in E major, and one of the lute suites.

Puccini: Symphonic Suites
Welsh National Opera Orchestra, Carlo Rizzi (conductor)

In a release coinciding with the centennial of Giacomo Puccini’s death, Welsh National Opera Orchestra chief conductor Carlo Rizzi invites you to experience two of Puccini’s greatest operas in a new way. Rizzi’s two symphonic suites synthesize major themes, arias, and choruses from Madama Butterfly and Tosca. The suites are presented here alongside performances of three of Puccini’s early symphonic works.

A Room of Her Own
Neave Trio 

The Grammy-nominated Neave Trio once again champions the works of female composers in their new recording of piano trios by four 20th century women. Three French and one English composer are represented here in performances of Cécile Chaminade’s critically acclaimed First Piano Trio, the Trio of Germaine Tailleferre (which was more than 60 years in the making), the Trio of 22 year-old Ethel Smyth, and two pieces by Lili Boulanger, whose life was cut short at the age of 24.

Jean Sibelius: Karelia Suite; Rakastava; Lemminkäinen
Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Susanna Mälkki (conductor)

There can be no doubt Finland’s Helsinki Philharmonic lives and breathes the music of Jean Sibelius. Frequently led by Sibelius himself during his lifetime, the orchestra premiered most of the great Finn’s major works. This new outing with the orchestra’s now chief conductor emeritus, Susanna Mälkki, focuses on Sibelius’ music from the years 1893-96, a period when he was beginning to establish himself as a composer and a time of national awakening for Finland.

Gershwin, Tower & Stucky: Works for Piano & Orchestra
National Orchestral Institute Philharmonic, Kevin Cole (piano), David Alan Miller (conductor)

We get back to basics with George Gershwin in this album of premiere recordings of three classic Gershwin pieces utilizing the new Gershwin Critical Edition. Alongside Gershwin’s Cuban Overture, the National Orchestral Institute Philharmonic renders the Rhapsody in Blue and the Second Rhapsody. American music champion Kevin Cole is pianist. Based at the University of Maryland, the NOI Philharmonic comprises talented young players from across the country. Symphonic works by contemporary American composers Joan Tower and Steven Stucky are also featured.

Smetana: Mȧ Vlast
Czech Philharmonic, Semyon Bychkov (conductor)

March 2nd marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of “the father of Czech music,” composer Bedrich Smetana. In celebration, the Czech Philharmonic and chief conductor Semyon Bychkov offer a fresh take on Smetana’s symphonic masterpiece, Mȧ Vlast (My Homeland). Completed in 1879, the cycle of six symphonic poems celebrates the landscape, history and legends of Bohemia. Czech it out!

A Philadelphia native, Mark grew up in Roxborough and at WRTI has followed in the footsteps of his father, William, who once hosted a music program on the station back in the '50s.