National Philharmonic presents virtual ‘Music That Travels Through Space’

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'Music That Travels Through Space' (Part 1)

Stargazers recently watched Jupiter and Saturn align for the first time in 800 years.

This Sunday, the National Philharmonic presents “Music That Travels Through Space.”

“Composers throughout history have been fascinated by nighttime and the stars and the planets,” music director and conductor Piotr Gajewski told WTOP. “This is a collaboration with NASA. They’re providing some really fantastic imagery.”

The virtual event starts at 2 p.m., streaming a chamber performance captured at AMP.

“This current season, we are not able to play in front of any live audiences, but we are presenting concerts online and on the WETA TV station here in Washington every other Sunday,” Gajewski said. “We are following all the guidelines and definitely social distancing. Our musicians actually wear masks with the exception of wind players.”

The performers include Laura Colgate (violin), Julius Wirth (viola), Lori Barnet (cello), Chris Gekker (trumpet), Suzanne Gekker (clarinet) and Elizabeth Hill (piano).

“The musicians are really fantastic artists, most of them members of the National Philharmonic, others regular collaborators with the National Philharmonic,” he said.

The pieces include living composers such as Alistair Coleman’s “Acquainted with the Night,” Osvaldo Golijov’s “Tenebrae” and Carson Cooman’s “Moon Marked.”

“[Coleman] is perhaps the most promising composer of this young generation,” Gajewski said. “He went to Walt Whitman High School. He is now a student at the Curtis Institute, which for us musicians is the pinnacle. … It’s full scholarship and incredibly elite. … Alistair was the one guy accepted the year he applied.”

You’ll also hear Lili Boulanger’s “Nocturne pour violon et piano,” Luise Adolpha Le Beau’s “Nachtstück,” Manuel Ponce’s “Estrellita” and Claude Debussy’s “Beau Soir.”

What is it about space that is so rich for orchestral music?

“Music can be very majestic,” Gajewski said. “It can also represent the stillness of nighttime and also a mystery. You’ll notice that all of this music doesn’t have any singers or any words. … There’s a mysticism and mystery that’s akin to looking up at the sky.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'Music That Travels Through Space' (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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