Barney Sherman

Classical Music Host

Barney Sherman joined Iowa Public Radio member station KSUI in fall 2001 as Classical music host. In his role with Iowa Public Radio, Barney hosts weekday and Sunday afternoon Classical programs. He has written about music in books for Oxford and Cambridge University Presses and in articles for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Journal of the American Musicological Society, Early Music, and many other publications. Another topic he has written about is Iowa, for The Atlantic (and for Iowa Public Radio!).

Ways to Connect

George Kobreek at

Nicholas Roth - a professor of piano at Drake and a renowned recording artist - is performing Monday at 7:30PM at Sheslow Auditorium in Des Moines. You should definitely take the opportunity to hear this Yamaha Artist live! Meanwhile, you can hear audio from an earlier recital of his on IPR's University Concert series tonight (Sunday) at 8PM. And this week we'll post audio from Dr. Roth's interview with Barney Sherman last week. The Monday-night recital is part of Drake's "Keys to Excellence" series; be there if you're nearby, but meanwhile, tune in to sample Roth's art!

Two renowned musicians - violinist Sarah Plum of Drake and pianist Francine Kay of Princeton - are giving a series of concerts in Iowa this week. You can hear them live in Des Moines Wednesday at noon at St. John's Lutheran Church and at 7:30 at Sheslow Auditorium at Drake - but you can get a live preview at 1 PM on IPR! Barney will host them live, as they perform Beethoven's Violin Sonata no. 10 and Bartok's Violin Sonata no. 2.

Grinnell College

 In 2008, Grinnell's Jennifer Williams Brown won a major award from the American Musicological Society for her edition of Francesco Cavalli's 1651 opera La Calisto. Want to hear what it sounds like when performed using her discoveries? You're in luck! IPR will broadcast a recent performance from Simpson College Opera tonight at 7 PM and again Sunday October 25th at 4PM.  Brown, who chairs Grinnell's music department and directs its Collegium Musicum, served as scholar-in-residence, dramaturg, musicologist, and coach for this production.

Great news: Curt Snook's The Choral Tradition and Michael Barone's Pipedreams will return to our airwaves on Sunday, November 1st! Curt retired on June 30th (after three decades) and has been enjoying some time off - but we're delighted that he'll again be sharing his extraordinary knowledge and love of choral music with our state.

© Peter Serling

 The LA Philharmonic concert broadcasts return to IPR Wednesdays at 7PM -  and the first concert features a Pulitzer-winning composer trained in Iowa! David Lang won that Pulitzer (and a Grammy) for his incredibly moving little matchgirl passion, and has also been Musical America's Musician of the Year. along with other honors. But before all that, he came to Iowa to study composition at the University of Iowa. He  says "I was happy I did. It was really a kind of golden age. I really loved it." 

  The 2015 Black Hawk Chamber Music Festival culminates Monday night at 7:30 with a Renaissance / Baroque concert at Iowa City's Congregational United Church of Christ. Last Thursday, the soloists - flutist Jeffrey Cohan and plucked-string master Oleg Timofeyev - came into our Iowa City studio t0 give Iowa a live preview. They were interviewed by Barney, who hosted from Cedar Falls. (Listen by clicking the arrow below!)

Jim Poynter

A NOTE FROM THE EDITOR (Barney Sherman): Hebrew was in ancient times a living language. Then, like Latin, it “died” – it ceased to be a native tongue for everyday speech, and was instead used only in liturgy, scholarship, and literature. But in the 20th century it was brought back to life as a daily language. The revival of spoken Hebrew had no precedent and has been challenging to duplicate. Would a similar revival be just as unlikely, then, in music?

Pianist Bruce Brubaker, born and raised in Des Moines, is  one of today's most admired pianists - and a renowned collaborator with such major composers as John Cage, Philip Glass, and Meredith Monk. Bruce is in Iowa this week to work with some other major Iowan musicians in a SummerMusic concert centered on Terry Riley.

Marco Borggreve

Join us on Wednesdays at 7PM to hear concerts from the latest Salzburg Festival. Mozart's hometown focuses, naturally, on the music of its great native son, though in coming weeks we'll also hear other great Austrians, but for the opener, it's all Mozart - and what a program! It begins with the ballet from one of his great operas, Idomeneo; then comes what some people regard as his greatest piano concerto, No. 17 in G major (it's almost an opera for instruments).

A French woman in 19th-century France equaled her male peers in composing music. What can we learn from her story about how to close the gender gap today?

"Conrad Tao, November 2011" by Mingfang Ting, from Wikipedia

Imagine a competition in which pianists don't compete - they don't even know they're being considered! That's the Gilmore Keyboard Festival, held in Kalamazoo, Michigan every two years. Between festivals, the  judges keep their ears tuned for the most exceptional talents emerging in the piano world. The judges confer, and then select the year's artists - who are notified before the Festival itself begins.

Orchestra Iowa has a new concert master, Dawn Gingrich. She says she fell in love with the violin when she was three.

“I was constantly exposed to lots of great concerts,” she says. “When I was three years old, there was a women playing the violin at a concert I attended with my parents, and she had a terrific dress on. That’s really what stuck with me. I was reportedly insistent about violin lessons after that.”

Photo by Nate Ryan / Minnesota Public Radio; used by permission

This May, the Minnesota Orchestra became the first US orchestra to perform in Cuba since the normalization process began. Tonight you can hear the first concert they gave at 7PM when IPR Classical airs SymphonyCast (or you can stream the concert at Minnesota Public Radio).

 For three decades,  Curt Snook shared with Iowa the music he loves, plus a trove of fascinating facts, insights, ideas, and stories. Curt reached retirement on Tuesday, but after his last air shift stayed in the studio a little longer to chat with me (and all of us) about his life and career. What a pleasure it was!  To hear the audio, click on the arrow below.

Barney Sherman

In 2009, Michael Gilbertson - a young man from Dubuque who has become one of America's leading composers - wanted to raise funds for his alma mater, the Northeast Iowa School of Music.

  Where can you find a thriving classical new-music scene playing to capacity audiences that love the premieres even more than the chestnuts? In small Iowa towns - if you realize that "new music" includes not just the challenging fare that wins Pulitzers but also a growing repertory of pieces for chorus. The 21st-century renaissance of new choral music also thrives outside of Iowa, of course - our neighbor to the north, Minnesota, is one of several states to have played key roles, and so are a number of countries, including many near the Baltic and North Seas.

Rachel Barton Pine spoke to me in January about her new Mozart concerto set - and since then it has earned great reviews and been chosen as one of our $15/month pledge premiums. The Telegraph said that Rachel's playing reveals "subtleties alongside the grace and exuberance that render the music endlessly fascinating and appealing"; it also praised the "ever-stylish" Sir Neville Marriner and his Academy of St.

Join Suzanne Bona & Barney Sherman on Sunday starting at 11AM for an on-air Bach Party. They'll share some of their favorite Bach recordings - and also some of yours! For the broadcast, Suzanne will pre-empt the last hour of Sunday Baroque, and co-host with Barney until 1 PM; then he'll continue until 4. Do you have a special favorite Bach recording? Let us know what it is and why you like it. Email (put "Bach Favorite" or something like that in the subject line), or go to our Facebook post about the Bach Favorites Party and comment there.

Red Cedar Chamber Music

A century ago, a couple named the Brintons from Washington, Iowa, assembled one of the world's great collections of silent films.

Sunday Baroque

 Suzanne Bona, flutist and host of Sunday Baroque, knows her Bach. In honor of his birthday, this Sunday from 8am to noon she's devoting her entire program to his music. Suzanne appreciates many different styles of Bach playing and has a keen ear for performances that turn out special. Which works and recordings will she choose? Tune in and find out!

Afterwards, Barney will host four hours of music that's NOT by Bach - although some of it will be by Bach's family members, predecessors and devotees. Stay tuned to hear that (and also, Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony).

In researching two posts on copyright (one on a study of Italian opera composers, and the other on cases involving Jean Sibelius), I found it useful to make myself a simple chronological timeline of laws on copyright duration. Just in case you find it useful too, here it is:

Last week, a suit over a Marvin Gaye song put copyright into the headlines; but last year, the top copyright stories involved classical music. I wrote about one of those stories in a previous post, and now want to tell you about an even more memorable one. (Sussie Ahlburg)

   It's International Women's Day - and you can hear some great women musicians on IPR this afternoon! On my show until 4PM I'm focusing on music by women composers (with three exceptions: Bach, Mozart, and Brahms conducted by women in performances that can't be surpassed). Tune in - I guarantee you'll discover at least one new favorite piece! Meanwhile, on The Folk Tree, Karen Impola is focusing on female folk performers. 

Here are links to a couple of posts I wrote last year about women in classical music:

Tony in Devon on Wikimedia commons

Editor's Note (by Barney): In 1951, Dylan Thomas spent some time in Iowa. Two years later, his now-classic play Under Milk Wood premiered in New York City at the 92nd Street YNow, Susan Scheid, who spent some years in Iowa before moving to New York, tells us below about a Welsh composer who recently dared to set Under Milk Wood to music.


Today at 2PM you have a rare chance to experience a live performance of Handel's great oratorio, "Esther." Then, stay after for a reception and meet IPR's  Jacqueline Halbloom and Curt Snook. In "Esther," Handel wrote some of his most inspiring music to tell the story of the Jewish Queen of Persia whose courageous action saved her people from genocide.

Do classical players focus too much on the written notes for the good of the music? Simone Dinnerstein explained why she thinks so when we talked last week.

Rachel Barton Pine, who performed recently in Ames as part of the period-instrument group Trio Settecento, has just released her first recording with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields and Sir Neville Marriner - and last week, she talked with me about it. The set includes all of Mozart's concertos for violin and it's outstanding. In 0ur interview, she talks about why each concerto is a mini-opera, the value of writing your own cadenzas, the lessons a "modern-instrument" player can learn from playing period instruments (although she uses her modernized Guarneri  on this set), and more.


[UPDATED Jan 18: Expanded to include 36 publications and over 100 critics - yielding some new rankings:] What were the best classical releases of 2014? Don't ask me!- or any one person alone. After all, thousands of releases came out last year, and nobody had the time or money to listen to every contender. Besides, we're more likely to hear about artists from our own necks of the woods. And that neck is defined not only geographically but also musically, since most critics have specialized tastes and expertise.