Classical Iowa

Classical Iowa showcases classical music - from artists and concerts across the world to local artists and performances here in Iowa. Hosted by Barney Sherman, Jacqueline Halbloom, and Curt Snook, Classical Iowa shares the world of classical music with you. Have a question or a comment? Contact Us.

Todd Rosenberg, courtesy of Hancher

At its 1892 premiere, Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker went over like a stocking full of coal. St. Petersburg critics called it a "failed experiment" and "an insult." Only in Cold War America did it become the Christmas ballet, and while that process began in San Francisco, what made it a national tradition was a refugee who had danced the Nutcracker as a teenager in Russia, George Balanchine. For his New York City Ballet, Balanchine created a magical version in 1954 ; it was broadcast nationally in...

CREDIT BY LOLWHYNOT3498 - OWN WORK, CC BY-SA 4.0, / Wikimedia

We're not sure what to call them - "long-forms"? "essays"? - but some IPR posts take extra time to explore the landscape of classical music and what it tells us about our world. IPR's new Classical Barn page lets you find these posts quickly and easily. Click on the link to explore for yourself!

Frans Jansen

Wednesday at 7PM is your chance to hear a concert featuring a great new South African soprano and a young woman who is the talk of the conducting profession. Lithuanian conductor Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla just took the reins of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra; at 29, she is its first woman Music Director (a post previously held by Sir Simon Rattle and Andris Nelsons). Mirga. who served as Associate Conductor of the LA Philharmonic and Music Director of the Bern Opera, came to...

Des Moines Metro Opera

"An ideal introduction to the art form.... the most cogent [ Manon ] in memory" - that's what Opera News said about Des Moines Metro Opera's "meticulously crafted" Massenet. Hear it Saturday at 8PM or Sunday at 3PM on IPR's "Operas in October" series, hosted and produced by Jacqueline Halbloom. The Des Moines Register wrote, "If you’re looking for high theatrical glamor and exceptionally fine singing , you can hardly do better." Opera News agreed: "Sydney Mancasola was an enchanting Manon,...

(c) Marco Borggreve / Juilliard School

Has classical music become a worldwide music culture in which non-Europeans are equal, full members and no nation has special privileges? And does Japan scramble cultural storylines and stereotypes more than most countries? I make both cases in contemplating a giant of current Bach interpretation, the keyboardist / conductor Masaaki Suzuki. I’m looking forward to this afternoon, when from 1-3 I’ll be on the air with Suzanne Bona, whose Sunday Baroque really should be part of your weekend...

The Iowa floods of 2008 destroyed thousands of structures, including the University of Iowa's Voxman Music Building. The University decided to construct a new one, and - after eight years of work - it opened just this week. The new Voxman is better than its predecessor in every way. Its acoustics and aesthetics are both state-of-the art, its interior design makes collaboration easy, and its location couldn't be more convenient (it's at the corner of Clinton and Burlington in downtown Iowa...

John Frantzen

Tune in at 5PM to hear the Quad City Symphony premiere a work written for them by Maquoketa native John Frantzen - broadcast on the nationally syndicated show, Performance Today with Fred Child. The piece is called "Beyond a Wild Dream," and Frantzen wrote it for the QCSO's 100th anniversary season; music director Mark Russell Smith conducted. Frantzen has won many awards for his music, has been performed at Carnegie Hall and by the Philadelphia Orchestra, and has written a piece you want to...

When Martha Argerich plays piano, says Alex Ros s , her “rivals become mere fans” and critics find their “well of superlatives running dry.” She combines qualities "seldom contained in one person": " brain-teasing technical agility" meets "an unaffected interpreter whose native language is music.... A lot of pianists play huge double octave, [but] few have the unerring naturalness of phrasing that allows them to embody the music rather than interpret it." Want to hear Argerich at her best? B...

Randy Darst

In response to a brilliant online dialog about classical radio, I took the opportunity to pull together a few of my own thoughts about the nature of classical music, the missions of public radio and classical radio, the so-called "curse of knowledge," and more: How often in 2016 do you read a genuinely civil online disagreement between smart, informed people? Even better, about your own profession? This week, t wo notable composers, Kurt Knecht and Daniel Gilliam , had exactly such an...

Photo by John Pemble

For 20 years, the Red Cedar Chamber Music ensemble has been led by a husband and wife dedicated to performing classical music they commissioned in rural venues like the community center in Central City. This is a town with less than 2,000 people near Cedar Rapids. On a Friday night, 50 people are listening to Red Cedar perform a new piece by Stephen Cohn titled “Curfew Shall Not Ring Tonight.” The acoustics here don’t favor the flute, violin, guitar or cello, something co-founder and...

Janette Beckman (copyright Trio Settecento)

Violin superstar Rachel Barton Pine is in the headlines because a pilot refused to let her carry on her Guarneri -but that precious instrument is only the most famous of her fiddles. Rachel is also a master of its Baroque and Renaissance predecessors, and she brought one to Ames for a concert of Italian Baroque music with her Trio Settecento. You can hear the result on this week's University Concert. They played Veracini, Locatelli, Geminiani, and an honorary Italian named Handel (known...

Simon Estes Foundation

I n the 1970s , Simon Estes - the son of an Iowa coal miner and grandson of slaves - was triumphing in Europe's most legendary opera houses. He starred at La Scala , Covent Garden, Salzburg, Glyndebourne, and the Bayreuth Festival (where he was the first male of African descent to sing lead roles) . But here in his home country, top opera companies ignored him, and the reason was obvious: race. That slight could have embittered almost anyone, but not Estes. What saw him through was guidance...

Phil Mauss

Red Cedar Chamber Music is marking its 20th anniversary with a first-ever passing of the baton. The founders of this unique cultural resource, Jan Boland and John Dowdall, will retire - but only after they searched carefully for the right successors. They eventually settled on another husband/wife team, cellist Carey Bostian and violinist Meira Kim, and happily, the Iowa City couple accepted the offer. Bostian and Kim resigned from their positions as principals of Orchestra Iowa so they can...

anonymous4.com

When critics chose their favorite classical disks of 2015, they mentioned hundreds of albums at least once, several more than once, and a select few way more than that. To get the details, my annual " mega-meta-list " tallied 67 best-of-year lists, which included over 160 writers from around the world . Last week, I posted their most frequent picks - the 28 albums chosen by at least six writers and as many as eighteen. This week, I'm posting the next tier: the 28 albums chosen for four or...

copyright Marco Borggreve (jaapvanzweden.com)

If you could use an extra Wade Goodwyn fix - or just want to hear an American orchestra that is thrilling critics worldwide - join us Wednesday nights at 7 for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in concert. The orchestra's extraordinary music director, Dutchman Jaap van Zweden, kicks off the series tonight with Mahler's First Symphony (including the extra "Flowers" movement), preceded by Ravel's sparkling, soulful Piano Concerto played the noted French-Sephardic pianist Helene Grimaud. And NPR's...

Today's output of classical albums is (pardon me while I scribble on the back of an envelope) something like triple what it was a generation ago. I won't vouch for that exact ratio, but I will for Anne Midgette's description of how it feels: "Keeping up with the stream of new releases is like trying to drink from a fire hose." Now imagine trying to capture a hose's jet-spray in a bucket, and you'll see why making a classical "best-of-year" list in 2015 struck many writers as a thankless task,...

Luther College

Our holiday offerings continue throughout Christmas Day with lovely specials from St. Olaf, the Rose Ensemble, Chanticleer, the Christmas Revels, Christmas at Luther, and a live performance of Handel's Messiah. Here's a complete list for Dec. 25th: 8am-9am: A Chanticleer Christmas - This unique vocal ensemble’s beloved offering, a favorite with audiences and critics alike. Its warmth and profundity are revealed in a telling of the Christmas story in Gregorian chant, Renaissance polyphony,...

IPR Classical's holiday programming continues December 24th with specials that will add joy to your day. (There's more to come on the 25th; we'll post those tomorrow.) Highlights include A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols live from the UK, the Spelman-Morehouse Christmas concert from Atlanta, the wfcsymphony from Cedar Falls, Amahl and the Night Visitors from Des Moines, Christmas at Luther , Doug Brown's classic reading of A Christmas Carol, and more. Here's the complete schedule: 8am-9am...

So many exceptional classical albums came out in 2015 that reducing them to a "Top 10" came to seem counterproductive - and part of the solution was recognizing that Iowa-related classical musicians deserved a page of their own. Here it is! (The other part was to not limit myself to 10 - here's a link to what I came up with from outside of Iowa.) Below are 2015 releases by musicians who either live in Iowa or were trained here. I'll put composers first, and then performers, with both lists in...

Every day, IPR’s sound-engineer extraordinaire Phil Maass solves knotty problems that demand thinking outside the box. So it's not surprising that when I was trying to whittle down my list of classical releases for Charity Nebbe’s year-end show, it was Phil who came up with the fix. Why, he asked, does it need to be the Top 10? Why not 15 or 17 or whatever number it comes out to? [UPDATE: I stopped at 21... see below.] Phil and I had been talking about how the classical music world seems to...

"Gallen-Kallela Symposium" by Akseli Gallen-Kallela - http://www.sibelius.fi/english/kuvituskuvat/080803/symposium.jpg. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gallen-Kallela_Symposium.jpg#/media/File:Gallen-Kall

Jean Sibelius was a father figure not only for Finnish music but for Finland's emergence as an independent nation. His music, with its references to Finnish lore and its awe at the power of nature, was considered old-fashioned by some in the mid 20th century - but today sounds especially relevant to many of our leading composer (and music lovers!). On IPR tonight at 5PM, Performance Today will devote much of the program to him , including JoAnn Falletta conducting his Fifth Symphony, which...

Barney Sherman

Violinist Sarah Plum won a gold medal at the International Stulberg Competion (other medalists have included Joshua Bell and Jennifer Koh) and went on to become a great violinist - but less renowned than she deserves to be, because she usually focuses on new music, including a CD this year of two concertos composed for her . But she also can play Vivaldi and Beethoven like a god, as she's demonstrated in performances at IPR's studio. (At her recent visit, she also played Bartok - I'll post...

www.sundaybaroque.org

Sunday, Suzanne Bona - host of Sunday Baroque - will join Barney Sherman on IPR Classical for a year-end pledge special. Suzanne will be heard as usual from 8AM; Barney will take over at 11; then t he two of them join together from noon-2PM. (Barney will remain until 4pm). And from 11Am to 4PM, a special thank-you gift will be available at a reduced price: Stile Antico's beautiful new "Wondrous Mystery" CD. Classics Today calls the disc "jubilant ..consistently entertaining and often...

George Kobreek at nicholasrothmusic.com

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 his recent interview with Barney Sherman (and some samples of his playing) by clicking on the arrow below. 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!

copyright Paul Clancy

This weekend, the innovative violinist Lara St. John is performing Astor Piazzolla's The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires with Orchestra Iowa . And yesterday she released an irresistible new CD of pieces inspired by music of Eastern Europe, titled Shiksa . She spoke to me about: why she chose that title; how the word has lost its offensiveness since the heyday of Philip Roth and has taken on a positive meaning; how a "random Canadian" could grow up surrounded by Piazzolla's tango-infused music;...

sarahplum.org

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. Dr. Plum won the Gold Medal at the prestigious International...

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. You'll have two chances to hear his show: Sundays at 7AM, and a repeat broadcast the following Saturday at 7PM. (If you missed Curt's "farewell interview" with...

© 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!) Jeffrey, who comes from Davenport, has been called "the flute master" by...

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 . W ould a similar revival be just as unlikely, then, in music? Could composers today create music in...

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