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Philadelphia Organ Festival, Takács Quartet, 'Carmina Burana'

This week offers an embarrassment of riches in Philadelphia, with a jam-packed schedule of live classical music in nearly every shape and size imaginable. From the grandeur of Carmina Burana to the intimacy of 15th century music for wind consort, take your pick and enjoy!

Spotlight: Philadelphia Organ Festival — March 15 through 22, various locations

The City of Brotherly Love will pull out the stops, literally and figuratively, for the “king of instruments'' in the first-ever Philadelphia Organ Festival. This eight-concert celebration of all things organ — organized by Partners for Sacred Spaces, from March 15 to 22 — features an acclaimed series of acclaimed soloists and historic organs in churches and synagogues across Greater Philadelphia.

The festival’s opening weekend admirably emphasizes the organ’s extraordinary range: on Friday, organist Chelsea Chen opens the festival at Girard College Chapel with a program of solo works by Bach, Liszt and her own arrangement of Ravel’s Bolero. On Saturday afternoon, Philadelphia stalwart Matthew Glandorf daringly improvises accompaniment to Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1928 silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc, while on Saturday evening, Amanda Mole turns the focus to minimalist masterworks by Steve Reich, Arvo Pärt and Nico Muhly.

Opening weekend concludes on Sunday with a concert honoring the legacies of Marian Anderson and Florence Price. Joined by the Marian Anderson Society Scholars, Alan Morrison — the Haas Charitable Trust Chair of Organ Studies at the Curtis Institute — will undoubtedly make the most of the resplendent acoustics of South Philadelphia’s Tindley Temple United Methodist Church. Keep an eye on wrti.org for more information about the Festival this week, including an interview with its artistic director, John Walthausen.

Chelsea Chen: March 15 at 7 p.m., Girard College, 2101 South College Avenue, $10-$30; tickets and information

Matthew Glandorf: March 16 at 3 p.m., St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 5421 Germantown Avenue, $10-$30; tickets and information

Amanda Mole: March 16 at 7 p.m., First Presbyterian Church, 35 West Chelten Avenue, $10-$30; tickets and information

Alan Morrison: March 17 at 7 p.m., Tindley Temple United Methodist, 750 South Broad Street, $10-$30; tickets and information

Amanda Tipton
Courtesy of the artist
Image by Amanda Tipton Photography | FB- Amanda Tipton-Photographer | IG - @amandatiptonphotography

Takács Quartet — Friday, Perelman Theater

The conductor Jeffrey Tate once described the string quartet as “the most perfect expression of human behavior.” But what does the form have to say about the natural, non-human world? The revered Takács Quartet probes this question in the Philadelphia premiere of flow, a new work by Nokuthula Ngwenyama (and a Philadelphia Chamber Music Society co-commission) inspired by an array of natural phenomena, including black hole collisions, protein sequences, and Madagascar lemur songs. The imaginative program is bookended by repertoire warhorses by two composers who were also acutely attuned to nature: Haydn’s Sunrise Quartet and Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 8.

March 15 at 7:30 p.m., Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, 300 South Broad Street, $30, tickets and information

Pianist Emanuel Ax
Lisa Marie Mazzucco
Pianist Emanuel Ax

Carmina Burana — Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, Verizon Hall

Since its 1937 premiere, Carl Orff’s cantata Carmina Burana has reliably gobsmacked audiences the world over. Next weekend, Philadelphians will have the chance to take in this epic meditation on love, nature, revelry and fate in the soon-to-be-renamed Marian Anderson Hall, with guest conductor Fabio Luisi corralling the enormous combined forces of The Philadelphia Orchestra, Mendelssohn Chorus of Philadelphia, Boys Choir of Philadelphia, Girls Choir of Philadelphia and three vocal soloists. The concert’s opener is equally enticing: Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25, K. 503, played by Emanuel Ax, one of the composer’s greatest living interpreters.

March 15 at 2 p.m., March 16 at 8 p.m., March 17 at 2 p.m., Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, 300 South Broad Street, $48-$181, tickets and information.

Anthony Dean
Courtesy of the artist

The French (Italian) Connection — Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, Various Locations

In the early 1490s, the Franco-Flemish composer Alexander Agricola became the subject of a bidding war between King Charles VIII of France and King Ferrante of Naples, both of whom coveted his services as a creator of clever, consummate counterpoint. In the first of its two spring 2024 concerts, Piffaro, joined by tenor James Reese, zoom in on the contributions of Agricola and his contemporaries Loyset Compère, Johannes Ockgehem, and Antoine Bruhier, investigating how these composers drew on both French and Italian styles to create wholly original forms and sounds.

March 15 at 7:30 p.m., Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, 19 S. 38th Street.

March 16 at 7:30 p.m., Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, 8855 Germantown Avenue.

March 17 at 3 p.m., Christ Church Christiana Hundred, 505 Buck Road, Wilmington, DE.

$21-$54; tickets and information

Transformations of Desire — Friday and Sunday, Philadelphia Film Center

Few composers churned the sociopolitical tumult of the 20th century into biting satire as effectively as Francis Poulenc and Kurt Weill. Curtis Opera Theatre offers an opportunity to hear works by both composers in ‘Transformations of Desire,’ an edgy double-bill featuring Poulenc’s 1945 opéra bouffe Les Mamelles de Tirésias, a send-up of militarism and gender norms, and Weill’s 1933 The Seven Deadly Sins, a “sung ballet” with a libretto by Bertolt Brecht.

March 15 at 7:30 p.m. and March 17 at 2:30 p.m., Philadelphia Film Center, 1412 Chestnut Street, $24-$69, March 17 sold out; tickets and information

Woodwind players in Tempesta di Mare, Philadelphia's Baroque Orchestra.
courtesy of the artist
Woodwind players in Tempesta di Mare, Philadelphia's Baroque Orchestra.

Vivaldi’s Juditha Triumphans — Saturday, Irvine Auditorium

Indulge me a moment to sing the praises of my amazingly gifted colleague Meg Bragle: in addition to spending weekday afternoons with you on WRTI, Meg is an internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano specializing in Renaissance and Baroque-era repertoire. On Saturday, Meg stars in the title role of Vivaldi's Juditha Triumphans, a rarely-performed 1716 oratorio based on the biblical story of Judith. Vivaldi’s colorful score will be brought to life by Philadelphia’s Baroque orchestra Tempesta di Mare, along with soloists Kristen Sollek (playing the antagonist Holofernes), Rebecca Myers, and Gabriela Estephanie Solís. For more context, be sure to check out Bruce Hodges’ superbly reported story.

March 16 at 4 p.m., Irvine Auditorium, University of Pennsylvania, 3401 Spruce Street, $35-$55, tickets and information

You Are Who I Love — Sunday, Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill

After six years of gestation, Harold Meltzer’s composition You Are Who I Love will at last receive its premiere next Sunday in a performance by Philadelphia’s ever-intrepid vocal ensemble The Crossing and the Brooklyn-based quartet Sandbox Percussion. The Crossing describes Meltzer’s work, which sets texts by the Eritrean-American poet Aracelis Girmay, in dynamic terms: “The voices and instruments are constantly in dialogue; they fuse, clash, dance, parry, and meld into a rich, ever-evolving texture of love.” Anyone who’s experienced the The Crossing up close and personal knows that they will deliver on this alluring promise, and then some.

March 17 at 5 p.m., Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, 8855 Germantown Ave., $20-$35; tickets and information.

Zev is thrilled to be WRTI’s classical program director, where he hopes to steward and grow the station’s tremendous legacy on the airwaves of Greater Philadelphia.