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The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert: Gil Shaham pulls double duty in an all-Mozart program

courtesy of the artist

Join us on Sunday, July 7 at 1 p.m. on WRTI 90.1, and Monday, July 8 at 7 p.m. on WRTI HD-2 when The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert brings you a performance from the Orchestra’s 2023-24 season, recorded live in January 2024. Gil Shaham, a favorite with Philadelphia audiences, is featured as soloist and leader of the Orchestra in this all-Mozart program, in which two of the composer’s violin concertos frame a pair of single-movement miniatures.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed five complete violin concertos over a short period in his late teens, and never again wrote a complete concerto for the instrument. At the time he was serving as concertmaster of the court orchestra of the Archbishop of Salzburg, and very likely was the soloist in the first performances of these works. As Gil Shaham comments, Mozart “was apparently a virtuoso violinist. There are letters from his father urging him to play more violin – basically saying, ‘If you only applied yourself, you could be one of Europe's great violinists.’ People praised him for his technique and for his tone. And he wrote these five concertos when he was a teenager, and then never played the violin again.” This Philadelphia Orchestra concert opens with the Concerto No. 2 in D major and closes with the Concerto No. 5 in A major, written about six months later.

Gil Shaham (and his violin) break down Mozart's melodies
Gil Shaham (and his violin) break down Mozart's melodies

Once Mozart stopped playing the violin, he remained in the Archbishop’s service as a composer, but gave up his concertmaster position. His successor was Antonio Brunetti, who apparently also performed Mozart’s violin concertos. But he took issue with the slow movement of the Fifth Concerto, terming it “too artificial.” Brunetti asked Mozart to write an alternative, and the composer complied, offering him an Adagio in E major. Today that work survives as a freestanding piece for violin and orchestra, and it’s one of two short works at the center of Gil Shaham’s program. The other is a Rondo in C major, also written for Brunetti.

Listen during the broadcast for producer Alex Ariff’s’ interview with Shaham, who comments on the innovations Mozart was trying by the time he wrote his Fifth Violin Concerto. “Everything about the piece is innovative and fresh and it's longer, and maybe broader in its emotional statement, than anything before it.”


Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 2 in D major, K. 211

Mozart: Adagio in E major for violin and orchestra, K. 261 

Mozart: Rondo in C major for violin and orchestra, K. 373 

Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K. 219 (“Turkish”)

The Philadelphia Orchestra

Gil Shaham, leader and violin


Melinda Whiting: Host

Alex Ariff: Senior 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 favorite 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.