Classical WETA's ongoing series featuring performances from the National Symphony Orchestra, hosted by Nicole Lacroix. This special radio series is made possible by WETA's Friends of Classical Music, including Patricia Sagon. The National Symphony Orchestra’s radio programs are generously supported in part by The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation.
From Heaven to Hell and In Between
Wednesday, March 4, 2015 - 9:00pm
March’s NSO Showcase starts with a sneeze. No, it’s not flu season, it’s Zoltán Kodály’s Háry János Suite. As the story begins, the Hungarian soldier, János (John) is in a pub, recounting his highly exaggerated adventures in the Napoleonic wars. His audience is enthralled except for a skeptical student, who sneezes to express his disbelief. This delightful suite taken from the opera Háry János has many high points, including the rousing battle scene where our intrepid hero describes his imaginary conquest of Napoleon.
Neeme Järvi conducts the National Symphony Orchestra in this performance recorded in November, 2013 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
In March, 2014, just a few months before his death in June, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos led the NSO in Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with guest pianist Daniil Trifonov, winner of the 2011 International Tchaikovsky competition. In his Classical Conversation with WETA’s Deborah Lamberton, Trifonov interprets the Rhapsody as a warning to artists that they should always keep their dedication to the true meaning of art and not sell their soul to the devil. During Paganini’s lifetime, many believed that he was inspired by Satan, and Rachmaninoff reminds us of this by blending the theme from the last of Paganini’s 24 Caprices with the Dies Irae from the Requiem Mass in this devilishly difficult work.
Finally, the March NSO Showcase program ends on a “high” note. Christoph Eschenbach leads the orchestra in an April, 2011 performance of Mahler’s 4th symphony, whose last movement describes a child’s view of heaven. The soprano soloist is Dawn Upshaw, who once inspired the great Robert Shaw to say: “It’s her nature to sing, just like it’s a bird’s nature. That’s why she’s here on earth.” Or, in this case, in heaven, where, as Mahler states in the last line of his symphony, “The angelic voices delight the senses, for all things awake to joy.”
Enjoy this step through time charting WETA's history from its founding in the 1950s as an educational television station, the addition of a public radio station, and evolution into a major national producer for PBS.