Alex Jones Plays Mozart

The Mozart Clarinet Concerto (K. 622) is one of those iconic works that all clarinetists learn as students, study throughout their playing career, and always find new expression and joy in its performance.  One of the last works Mozart completed, it was written for Anton Stadler at a time when the clarinet was still an evolving instrument.  The clarinet Stadler used and for which the piece was written would have been based on the 5 key clarinet at the time, but his was customized for an extended lower range by two tones (from e to c).   Even then, at the premiere there was controversy about Mozart writing for the extended instrument.
The concerto score wasn’t published until after Mozart’s death.  The published version was edited (sometimes poorly) with octave shifts to work with the standard clarinet range for the obvious improved performance utility.  Stadler, who had possession of the autograph of the work (its not clear if it was gifted or acquired through nefarious means) pawned the manuscript prior to its publication, losing the original version forever.  It wasn’t until recently, during the late 20th century, that these facts came to light allowing music historians to “recreate” the original intent, correcting the contours of the music to avoid some of the awkward non-Mozart construction of the edited version.

While modern extended range “basset-clarinets” have been manufactured for the express purpose of performing the concerto (and a handful of other Mozart era works), newly edited versions of the concerto have been released to better map to the modern clarinet range.  For this performance, I have taken concepts from two of these edited versions as well as some of my own modifications to create the version [...]

Rachel Smith on the Lalo Cello Concerto

Philharmonic’s Principal Cellist Rachel Smith on the Lalo Cello Concerto:
I played this piece when I was much younger and was unable to grasp how much fun Lalo had while writing his concerto. While relearning it, his language opened up to me. There is a reason why there are so many different artistic interpretations to what he has written; it speaks differently to everyone. He was a master of all string instruments (studying both violin and cello in conservatory) and his violinist flare really shows throughout the whole piece. He’s able to move seamlessly from heavy, emotional recitative openings into energetic, showy, sometimes even silly, thematic sections while still keeping the material cohesive and interesting. At the time of this concerto’s publication, cello concerti were very few. Composers doubted the cello had the ability to be exceptional solo instruments. I feel Lalo proved them wrong and did an excellent job of using the cello’s range and versatility to explore the wide spectrum of musical musings he had in mind.

Come hear Rachel perform the Lalo Cello Concerto October 27 and 29th at Autumn Leaves.
Learn more and purchase tickets here.

Meet Dustin Cramer

Dustin Cramer is the new Principal Flute of the Pittsburgh Philharmonic! We asked Dustin to introduce himself and how he started playing the flute:

When you think of stories you can share laughter by telling, one is most certainly how I chose the flute. In third grade, staring at the board where the music teacher wrote the instruments and rental prices, it was a reminder of all the big questions I’ve already asked during what was then my short time on Earth – hard NO’s to a four wheeler, camper, and an in-ground swimming pool. You kind of get a feel for what price point to aim for, so the flute and clarinet were the most opportunistic choices if I were to get a yes from any of them. Here I am, playing the flute. I got the ‘yes’.

I joined the Pittsburgh Philharmonic when our wonderful, former Principal Flute, Jamie, asked if I would like to play as second. The position was open, so I auditioned and began my tenure with the Philharmonic – no turning back, now! It is a joy to play wonderful music with Maestro Leonard. With ongoing attention to the quality of our musical output, we most certainly manage to have fun.

The first piece I learned was the Mickey Mouse march, by ear, on piano. Does that count, or should you be more interested in the Mozart Flute Concerto in G? I started playing music when I was three, with the help of a keyboard and a miniature xylophone. It wasn’t before long when I could play all the preset keyboard tunes by ear. Music was kind of the obvious path for me, early on.

When someone asks for my favorite musical [...]

Premiering Chris Massa


Chris Massa is the winner of the Pittsburgh Philharmonic’s 2017 Young Composer Contest, a competition designed to provide local composers under the age of 35 with the chance to showcase their talents with a full symphonic orchestra.

Born in 1981 and raised in Dover, PA, Chris Massa began percussion studies at the age of six, and began composing when he was sixteen. By the time he graduated from high school, he had performed at Westminster Cathedral, Carnegie Hall, and the White House. Chris graduated summa cum laude from West Chester University, where he studied composition with Robert Maggio and Larry Nelson.

Based in Pittsburgh, PA, Chris has worked with many of area’s leading independent artists, including Brad Yoder, Ben Hardt, Joy Ike, Autumn Ayers, Boulevard of the Allies, and Yours Truly. He is also the vocal and instrumental arranger for Re-Creation U.S.A., a non-profit organization whose main service is to America’s Veterans Affairs Medical Centers and State Veterans Homes.

As a composer, Chris has written a wide variety of works, including two cantata/oratorios, Love Came Down and Behold the Lamb, for the combined choirs of Berks Christian and Conestoga Christian schools; Improvisations on Four American Folk Hymns and Rondo for Black Orchid String Trio; Variations on “Idumea”, for bassist Ryan McMasters; Jubilee, commissioned by the York Youth Symphony Orchestra; Colors!, commissioned by the Dover Area High School Symphonic Band; North Salem March, commissioned by the North Salem Elementary Symphonic Band and performed at the 2012 PMEA conference; and An American Requiem​, commissioned by Chamber Orchestra of Pittsburgh for the fifteenth anniversary of September 11, 2001. He is a resident composer and project manager with OvreArts, one of Pittsburgh’s premiere new music ensembles, and serves as assistant director of music ministries at Church of the Ascension. He lives [...]

And the Winner is…

Pianist Enoch Hsiao is the winner of the Pittsburgh Philharmonic’s Young Artist Concerto Competition. A North Allegheny Intermediate High School sophomore student, Hsiao studies piano privately. Additionally, he participates as an assistant concertmaster in the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra. Currently, Marina Lupinacci and Rachel Stegeman teach Enoch piano and violin respectively ever since Enoch moved to Pittsburgh almost four years ago. Through their insightful and inspiring teaching, Enoch had learned much and gained great joy and confidence. Through his hard work and discipline, he had acquired multiple rewards as he won prizes in several piano competitions: 1st Place of Division 2 in Social Music Works 2014, as one of six winners of the Musical kids of WQED 2014, a Honorable mention of the 2014 international of Piano Competition at the Ithaca College School of Music, as one of the winners of Pittsburgh Concert Society 2015, and, 2nd place in the junior group of Duquesne Young Artist National Competition 2015, etc. Besides playing his instruments, he enjoys other activities such as watching sports, doing math, and hanging out with friends.

Oh Night Divine- talking with composer Mark Fromm

A highlight in our holiday program comes from the Philharmonic’s own Mark Fromm, a prolific composer and our principal bassoonist since 2013. His “O Night Divine” is an innovative arrangement of the familiar carol “O Holy Night.” Mark’s arrangement is both modern and beautiful. As Mark describes, “I use variations on the typical major and minor scales that allow me to create unusual harmonies and new countermelodies that flow underneath the main melody.” Although composed for a full orchestra, the arrangement often uses a variety of smaller combinations of instruments to present the melody, which Mark notes can produce “the feel of chamber music within a larger group.” Mark’s work also includes sections of new music based on fragments of the carol’s well-known melody.

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Mark says that “at an early age, I knew I wanted to compose music.” Mark started composition lessons in the 10th grade, and he stayed in the area for most of his musical training, with a BFA in Composition from Carnegie Mellon University and a Ph.D. in Music Composition and Theory from the University of Pittsburgh. You may remember his works “Frick Gates,” which the Philharmonic commissioned and performed in 2014, and “What Child is This, Lully, Lullay” from the 2015 holiday concert. A skilled performer as well, the Philharmonic is fortunate to have Mark among our ranks and we are thrilled to be playing his music again.


Welcome Concertmaster, Kathleen Andrews!

The Pittsburgh Philharmonic is pleased to welcome, violinist  Kathleen  Andrews as our concertmaster. Ms. Andrews holds  degrees  in  Violin Performance  from  Eastern Michigan  University  and  The  Hartt  School. Her  primary  teachers  have  included Daniel  Foster,  Yehonatan  Berick and  Anton  Miller.    While  attending  the Hartt  School, Ms.  Andrews participated  in  the  long-­‐term  Suzuki  teacher-­‐training  program  with renowned  pedagogue  Teri  Einfeldt.

Since  moving  to  Pittsburgh  in  2012,  Ms.  Andrews  has  performed  with many  local orchestras  and  chamber  ensembles,  including  the  Chamber Orchestra  of  Pittsburgh, Alia  Musica,  Ovre  Arts,  the  West  End  Trio and  others. She  is  concertmaster  of  the Pittsburgh  Philharmonic  and  a member  of  the  first  violin  section  of  the  Butler County  Symphony. Kathleen  is  also  the  violinist  of  the  contemporary  music ensemble, Wolftrap. Ms. Andrews  has  long  been  a  passionate  chamber  musician and has played in masterclasses  for  members  of  the  Emerson,  Daedalus, Brentano  and  Vermeer  string  quartets  and  has  performed  with members  of  the  JACK  quartet. In addition  to  an  active  performing schedule,  she  teaches  violin  and  viola  at  Lincoln Park  Performing  Arts Charter  School  and  Hope  Academy  of  Music  and  the  Arts, where  she takes  joy  in  bringing  music  into  the  daily  lives  of  her  students. Kathleen lives  in  Pittsburgh  with  her  husband,  composer  and  bassist  Ryan McMasters.

Summer Student Side-by-Side: Interview with Zan and Marella

Each summer the Pittsburgh Philharmonic has some guest musicians performing with us.  These are participants in our Side-by-Side program.  They are music students of high school age who are selected by audition to play with the Philharmonic side-by-side with our regular members.


We decided to ask them some questions so that we could learn more about them.


Zan Husain is performed with our cello section this summer.  He started playing the cello when he was in the fifth grade.  He chose it because he knew he wanted to play a stringed instrument and he thought the cello looked cool.  He now plays on a black cello made by Louis and Clark Company.  It is black because it is made of carbon fiber.


Zan’s favorite piece is Capriol Suite by Peter Warlock.  His favorite composer is J.S. Bach because of all the music he wrote for the cello.  When Zan is not playing his cello he enjoys playing video games, looking at science related videos, exercising and hiking.

Zan really enjoyed the repertoire we played this Summer. He learned how to find repeats faster and turn pages for his stand partner.


Marella Carpenter has been playing in our clarinet section.  She started playing the clarinet when she was 9 years old. Music was always a big part of her life, and she was given the opportunity to learn an instrument in school in 4th grade.  Her cousin played the clarinet, so that inspired her to pursue it as well.


Her favorite piece to play is “Sonata for Clarinet and Piano” by Saint-Saens. She loves how each movement brings a unique energy to the overall piece.  Her favorite composers are Saint-Saens and Mozart while her favorite bands/singers are The 1975, James [...]

Pittsburgh Philharmonic Featured in IN Hampton

Looks like we celebrated our 40th Anniversary in a “grand and lively” style! Thank you again to all our audience members, donors, and musicians for a job well done. Read more in this IN Hampton feature!


And… come see us for our summer performances!

Meet our Guest Artist!

Alyssa Wang earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Carnegie Mellon University with a major in violin performance and a double minor in conducting and creative writing. Music has taken her all across the world, playing in venues internationally in Great Britain, Spain, Germany, Austria, Canada, and Norway. In 2016, she was the winner of the Carnegie Mellon School of Music Concerto Competition, the Pittsburgh Female College Association Prize, the Carnegie Mellon Women’s Award, and the Senior Leadership Award. Alyssa studied with Andres Cardenes (Concertmaster, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, 1988-2010) at Carnegie Mellon University, and will pursue a Master’s Degree at New England Conservatory in the fall with Malcolm Lowe (Concertmaster, Boston Symphony Orchestra).

Alyssa will perform the Glazunov Violin Concerto with the Philharmonic on May 20 and 21, 2016!