All classical WQED-FM 89.3 is the official voice of the Pittsburgh Symphony. The station has broadcast weekly Pittsburgh Symphony concerts since 1974 hosted by Jack Sommers, Bob Calvert and beginning in 1980 Jim Cunningham. Broadcasts are heard fifty two weeks of the year on Sundays at 8pm. WQEJ Johnstown at 89.7 also carries the concerts and they can be heard with streaming audio on the station’s website. With underwriting from the Bayer Corporation, Richard Rauh, the Musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the Pennsylvania Council on thee Arts. WQED-FM has produced concerts for national distribution since 1983 on Public Radio International and National Public Radio.
The broadcasts are recorded digitally with B&K and Schoeps microphones and are edited using Magix Sequoia digital editing technology. The host and executive producer of the broadcasts is Jim Cunningham. Additional interviews are contributed by producers Stephen Baum, Ted Sohier and Anna Singer. The shows are produced in the Bayer Broadcast Center for the Arts with engineer Tom Ammons. Heinz Hall recordings are made by Ray Clover. Music editing and Carnegie Music Hall Chamber Orchestra recordings are by Riccardo Schulz.
WQED-FM began sending correspondents on tour with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in 1985. The daily tour reports are heard at 8:30 am and 5:30 pm are archived on the WQED radio website. There have been radio tour reports from Tokyo, Osaka, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Sydney, Melbourne, Beijing, Moscow, St Petersburg, Salzburg, London, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Lucerne, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Montevideo, Montreaux, Rome, Milan, Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels, Bonn, Berlin, Wuppertal, Munich, Dusseldorf, Cologne, Zagreb, Budapest and Dublin.
The station has broadcast live from the Tanglewood Festival in 2001 and 1995. In 1987 WQED-FM co-produced the first live international digital orchestra broadcast from the Salzburg Festival working with the ORF and WGBH Boston. Complete concert broadcasts of tour concerts have been presented from the Salzburg Festival, the national Concert Hall in Dublin Ireland, the concert hall of the Warsaw Philharmonic in Poland, from Hong Kong, Tokyo, Beijing, Benaroya Hall in Seattle, the Royal Albert Hall concerts of the BBC Proms concerts series, the Musikverein in Vienna and the Berlin Philharmonie.
From 1998-2006 WQED-FM broadcast the orchestra’s outdoor concert live from Point State Park in downtown Pittsburgh with the Fourth of July Holiday celebration including fireworks. Over 100,000 listeners hear the Independence Day concert in the park.
When the Pittsburgh Symphony celebrated its Centennial in 1987 by returning to Carnegie Hall in Pittsburgh where the Orchestra was founded, WQED-FM broadcast the concert live with Lorin Maazel conducting and Leslie Caron narrating.
Opening night has been broadcast live each year since 1991, as have numerous special events including Sir Neville Marriner’s visit and John Williams conducting the Planets by Gustav Holst, the James Galway Festival from the first national arts convention and meeting of the American Symphony Orchestra League in Pittsburgh in 2004, the Pittsburgh Symphony Centennial celebration from Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland with Lorin Maazel and Leslie Caron and as special concert marking the Anniversary of the French and Indian War at Fort Necessity. There are four annual live broadcasts from Heinz hall each season.
WQED-FM regularly records concerts of chamber music by members of the Pittsburgh Symphony, including several programs given by former music director Andrew Previn and members of the Orchestra. Each week of the subscription season the regular underwriting announcements remind listeners of upcoming events at Pittsburgh Symphony Heinz Hall. Symphony guest soloists and conductors are often heard on the Bayer Sunday Arts Magazine broadcast Sundays at 4 pm. The station’s Sunday Night at the Opera broadcasts on Sundays at 7pm is hosted by the Pittsburgh Symphony’s Program Annotator and Community Spokesperson Ken Meltzer. The QED Morning show includes weekly At the Symphony features presenting interviews with conductors, soloists, composers and symphony members. The At the Symphony features can be found on the audio on demand page of the WQED website.
From 1995-2005 Pittsburgh Symphony Now! and Symphony Weekend with Mariss Jansons presented a weekly preview of the concerts at Heinz Hall with guest conductors, soloists and weekly comments from Music Director Mariss Jansons. Symphony Weekend was underwritten with a grant from the Bayer Foundation.
Seven PSO Musical Directors (l to r): Victor Herbert 1898-1904; Emil Paur 1904-1910; Antonio Modarelli 1930-1937; Fritz Reiner 1938-1948; William Steinberg 1952-1976; André Previn 1976-1984; Lorin Maazel 1988-1996
The Pittsburgh Symphony has been heard on the radio since radio began in Pittsburgh with early broadcasts on Pittsburgh’s KDKA in the 1920’s. Its first network broadcasts appeared on the NBC Blue network in 1936 sponsored by PPG. That same season the orchestra broadcast a special Mobilization for Human Needs concert from Carnegie Music Hall on all three existing national radio networks with Otto Klemperer conducting Mozart’s Overture to the Marriage of Figaro, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave a plea for contributions to local community chests to help those in distress during the depression.
George Gershwin was the subject of a Fox Movietone newsreel when he brought the first ticket sold in Pittsburgh to a Sunday afternoon concert at the Syria Mosque celebrating the change in Pennsylvania’s “blue laws” that prevented Sunday events.
Regular broadcasts on WWSW-FM began in the 1950’s and were hosted for many years by Ray Lehman until 1974. Numerous network radio broadcasts were produced for NBC and the Voice of America including broadcasts with Fritz Reiner for the Orchestras of the Nation series in 1946 and 1948 and the Alliance for Progress Concert in 1965.
Music Director William Steinberg became a regular presence on WQED from its first weeks of regular broadcasts in 1954. Steinberg presented previews of upcoming Syria Mosque concerts beginning in April of 1954 and appeared on the cover of the station’s first program guide.
In 1966 WQED produced Steinberg Conducts for national broadcast on the National Educational Television Network. The black and white program included interviews with Steinberg and sequences of Steinberg rehearsing Bruckner at the Syria Mosque and walking on the shore at his Connecticut home.
When the Pittsburgh Symphony returned home after their record breaking three month 1964 State Department Tour of Europe and the Middle East WQED broadcast a special Welcome Home concert from the Civic Arena with five cameras directed by Sam Silberman.
A New Home for the Arts, the inaugural concert from Heinz Hall was produced by Jack Sommers for PBS national broadcast in 1971. William Steinberg conducted Mahler’s Symphony No 2 “Resurrection” and a six minute piece commissioned for the occasion, Fadograph of a Yestern Scene by Samuel Barber. Gregory Peck appeared as head of the National Endowment for the Arts and John Heinz II gave the dedication speech.
Previn and the Pittsburgh became the second most extensive PBS broadcast series by an American Orchestra in 1977 with over twenty broadcasts across five seasons. The Emmy Award winning programs presented the Pittsburgh Symphony at Heinz hall and in the WQED studios with John Williams conducting his music from Star Wars and ET. Composer Miklos Rosza appeared as a guest to hear the Pittsburgh play his score for Ben Hur. Previn and the Pittsburgh programs featured Ellla Fitzgerald, Betty Comden and Adolf Green, Horacio Gutierrez, Oscar Peterson, Sir Yehudi Menuhin, Yo Yo Ma, Sir William Walton, Sir Michael Tippett, Nathaniel Rosen and Itzhak Perlman.
WQED produced a one hour portrait of Music Director Lorin Maazel who wore a “Maestro cam” mounted to a baseball cap for a rehearsal. Stacey Smith of KDKA narrated and Lyn Squilla produced.
WQED’s On Q has hosted the Pittsburgh Symphony Brass, Mariss Jansons, Manfred Honeck, Hilary Hahn, Tympanist Timothy Adams and other individual members of the orchestra. There have been a dozen tour reports and three half hour specials produced from the Pittsburgh Symphony’s European and Asian tours produced and hosted by Jim Cunningham. Pittsburgh Symphony Resident conductor Daniel Meyer took the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra on tour to Leipzig, Budapest, Prague, Vienna and Litomysl in the Czech Republic. Jim Cunningham produced, hosted and photographed a half hour special on the tour that aired as part of the On Q series.
The Pittsburgh Symphony recorded the score for a series of UPMC television commercials featuring a commissioned arrangement by Don Sebesky of the theme from Cinema Paradiso by Andrea Morricone. The orchestra was seen in film from Heinz Hall and a smaller ensemble of players played on location at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater including Principal Horn William Caballero.
KDKA-TV and host Ken Rice broadcast A Knight to Remember live on opening night in 2006 with a Chjristmas Day rebroadcast. Sir Andrew Davis conducted Yo Yo Ma playing the Dvorak Cello Concerto. The concert also featured occasional popping helium balloons which expanded as the temperature rose near the ceiling.
In September of 2008, Manfred Honeck: Pittsburgh’s New Maestro, a one hour portrait of Music Director Manfred Honeck was produced by Michael Bartley with on location scenes from Pitttsburgh’s PNC Park, the Austrian Cultural Room at the Cathedral of Learning, Heinz Hall and Manfred Honeck’s home in Vienna. Manfred Honeck visited Viennese locations including the Johann Strauss apartment, a former home of Beethoven and Mozart
Mr Rogers neighborhood produced by Family Communications Inc. at WQED has featured guests of the Pittsburgh Symphony on numerous programs including Van Cliburn, Wynton Marsalis, Yo Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Hilary Hahn, and Timothy Adams.
In 1994 WQED presented three programs on PBS of Marvin Hamlisch and the Pittsburgh Symphony Pops.
Classical music became a regular feature of WQED’s programming from the station’s first weeks in 1954. Station Music Director Colin Stern presided over a wide range of offerings. Composer Roy Harris presented a series of music education programs with his wife Joann Harris playing the piano in the WQED studio. The WQED Heritage series produced for NET by Sam Silberman included a profile of American composer Walter Piston and a profile of Louis Armstrong.
Stern later founded the Renaissance and Baroque Society of Pittsburgh. He performed on recorder with his wife Roberta in a program produced in 1971 to celebrate the opening of the Carnegie’s Scaife art gallery. Pittsburgh Symphony Principal Clarinet Thomas Thompson and colleagues from the symphony winds performed on the steps of the gallery.
Many jazz musicians have been featured in Pittsburgh Symphony Pops concerts from Heinz Hall and jazz has been a regular feature at WQED with Johnny Costa providing the music for Mr. Rogers Neighborhood joined by guitarist Joe Negri, Handyman Negri, bass Carl McVicker and Bob Rawsthorne, drums.
Among WQED’s founding employees in 1954 was Fred Rogers. Fred and his pianist wife Joanne Rogers have been lifelong concertgoers and supporters of the Pittsburgh Symphony. Fred Rogers graduated with a degree in music from Florida’s Rollins College. His compositions and songs have been played on numerous occasions by the Pittsburgh Symphony in children’s programs and pops concerts.
Walt Harper at Fallingwater was presented nationally on PBS in 1975. WQED’s production truck became mired in mud at the site adding to the production problems of including a grand piano at the site.
Pittsburgh born jazz pianist Errol Garner appeared on the youth oriented WQED production of The Place. He wouldn’t play for the cameras insisting that it might dilute sales for his concert at Carnegie Music Hall.
Vocalist Billy Eckstein was a guest on Jazz Beat. On September 20, 1975 saxophonist Stan Getz recorded for Jazz Beat. He refused to play until WQED’s Jim Sweenie presented the check with his fee from the business office. Within a few months Charlie Mingus and Mary Lou Williams also appeared to tape for Jazz Beat directed by Hugh Downing. Sam Silberman had arranged with the Shadyside jazz club The Encore to have the club guests record a half hour set the day of their Pittsburgh appearance.
Pittsburgh Symphony guest conductor Pinchas Zukerman conducted for My Father Stravinsky in the Kennedy Center Tonight series in 1985. The program included the memories of Soulima Stravinsky about his composer father Igor. Composer David Stock wrote the theme music for the programs. WQED’s Kennedy Center Tonight series also presented an 80th birthday tribute to Aaron Copland with Leonard Bernstein and Mstislav Rostropovich conducting the National Symphony. Copland served as narrator in his Lincoln Portrait. Kennedy Center Tonight also featured tributes to Eubie Blake at 90, Lionel Hampton, and a performance of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass on the 10th anniversary of the premiere.
Other Pittsburgh Symphony related programs on WQED have included visits from Aaron Copland who appeared with violinist Sydney Harth on a CMU Music program in the station’s original studio location (now the University of Pittsburgh Department of Music). The first film made by dancer and choreographer Martha Graham was produced by Nathan Kroll for WQED with help from Chatham College. A Dancer’s World presented Martha Graham speaking to the camera about the art of dance and in a separate film her company danced Appalachian Spring to Copland’s score. Both films have been reissued on DVD from Criterion in September 2007.