I was working on a post about a fascinating footnote to American cultural history: that half of our popular Christmas songs were written by my people, the Jews. Before I'd made it through the first draft, I tuned to Iowa Public Radio and discovered that I'd been scooped by Here & Now, to which I can only say, "Phew!" Here is their "A Goyische Christmas to You," about a show done annually by pianist/vocal coach extraordinaire Steven Blier.
In 2014, two American composers whose name begin with "John" and end with "Adams" were surprised to find themselves in front-page headlines. One of them, John Luther Adams, says he never imagined that he'd win the Pulitzer Prize - but it was bestowed in April on his orchestral work Become Ocean (here's the All Things Considered story).
As promised, the classical Halloween countdown continues - thanks for your input! Yesterday I posted eight picks; here are five more classical scares to bring my total Web count up to 13. Most of these pieces (and a few others) will get an airing Friday, either during my shift (1-5 pm) or before or after; meanwhile, here are some youtube versions.
It's that time again! If you have any classical-music Halloween favorites, write to us at email@example.com. Tonight I'll post a few possibilities just to get the conversation started; tomorrow night I'll post a few more. Then, on Friday afternoon, tune in to hear what we end up with! To start things off:
When the Folias Duo came to Iowa, the husband-wife pair's first stop was Cedar Falls, where they played a live set in IPR Classical's Studio Two. They'd been on the road for seven hours, but their zest was irresistible. Try it: here's a video of their IPR performance of Cumparsita Vals, a waltz-time reimagining of the classic tango La Cumparsitaby Argentine composer Pablo Aslan:
Iowa's orchestras, choirs, bands, & operas are awesome, but let's not forget our chamber music! Tune in 7AM Saturday or 8PM Sunday to hear two recent highlight from theAmes Town & Gown Chamber Music Association, now in its 65th season.
In what ways could music relate to the human voice without Auto-Tune or even, necessarily, language - or, for that matter, even singing? New classical CDs are exploring a fascinating range of possibilities, and several are either by or about Iowans. In reverse chronological order, here are five standouts:
He would have cranked up his radio louder and louder as his hearing got worse, but there's no doubt that if public radio had existed, Beethoven would have been an addict. And according to Jan Swafford, "People who knew Beethoven said politics was his favorite subject." So in addition to IPR Classical, I'd bet LvB would have had a preset for IPR's News/Talk stream. Do you seriously think this man would have missed an episode of All Things Considered?
In May, Simon Estes came to IPR to talk about his life and work, and one hour seemed way too short! His history is extraordinary: his grandparents were slaves, his father was a miner in Centerville, IA , then a major coal town, and he grew up to become one of the world's greatest opera singers. He broke many color barriers, including becoming the first black man to sing lead roles at the Bayreuth Festival (founded by Richard Wagner to showcase his operas). Dr.
In my post Is Parity Time Here for the Classical Violin? I mention a list I put together of classical solo violinists born after 1970, which I said illustrates my thesis that the field has attained gender parity. I mentioned, however, that the list is provisional - the best I could come up with from my perch in northeast Iowa - and that I welcome your input. Let me know what I missed, but meanwhile, here's the list:
Listen below to a podcast of a live set from our studio Monday featuring four stellar young musicians from ChamberFest Dubuque. Dubuque native Michael Gilbertson founded the festival in 2009; since then his compositions have won the Israel Prize and major awards from ASCAP and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and have been performed by the Washington National Opera, the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, a
When sworn enemies shrug and say, “What was THAT about?” it’s worth noticing, especially when they add, “You know, you’re making some good points.” Something like that may be happening in classical music performance.
Even I am a little stunned by how exciting, original - and abundant - the classical concerts are in Iowa this weekend. Here's a list (and please let me know if I've missed something! I'll add it - bsherman at iowapublicradio.org):
It MAY be SHAKEspeare's BIRTHday, SO they SAY, and WHAT muSIcian can reFRAIN from PLAY? That is (to drop the iambic pentameter) from the fun of listing favorite Shakespeare-inspired classical works? Below are a couple of lists from other sources, followed by my own additions and comments. What would make YOUR list? Let us know on our Facebook page or on twitter @IPRClassical, or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) - and whatever you choose, Happy Shakespeare Day!
Careful writers think twice before using superlatives, but it's safe to say that Bach’s St. Matthew Passion is the greatest musical work ever written for Good Friday services. It is sometimes called “the opera Bach never wrote,” but I doubt it, in part because Bach calibrated it for use in Leipzig’s liturgy, and in part because, as musicologist/performer John Butt once told me, it goes far beyond Baroque opera in its musical, dramatic and psychological complexity.
What led three awesome soloists - Julia Bullard (viola), Hannah Holman (cello), and Susanna Klein (violin) - to form an ensemble, and why did they call it "Trio 826"? Hear the answers, and examples of their superb playing, in the live session they broadcast from IPR's studio last fall.
Mozart was 23 when he wrote a concerto so rich that not even he would ever surpass it. It's for Violin and Viola (K. 364) and when Orchestra Iowa performed the work recently, instead of bringing in touring soloists, they shined the spotlight on their own first violinist Luke Witchger and principal violist Lisa Ponton. They were amazing:
Just an ordinary weekend in Iowa: Sure, if you were in London you could hear the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra's Beethoven and Bruckner, and next weekend, see Sadler's Wells dance a Stravinsky double-bill. But think of the traffic and the cost of living! Meanwhile, here in Iowa? This month's Iowa Arts Showcase, which you can hear Saturday at 11 or 5, gives some in-depth background, but meanwhile - check it out:
It's Bach's Birthday! - or is it? The calendars in Eisenach on the day of his birth read March 21st, but back in 1685 Thuringians were still using the Julian calendar, so our equivalent date is "March 31st," ("equivalent" in being about ten days after the vernal equinox). But old habits die hard, especially addictive ones, and Bach is by far my primary addiction. How about if we just party for ten days?
This year marks the Des Moines Metro Opera’s 42nd Festival Season. The season includes Verdi’s La Traviata, Dead Man Walking by Heggie, and Rossini’s Le Comte Ory. New this year will be their 2nd Stage Series presentation of Peter Brook’s Tragedy of Carmen, a riveting pared-down version of Bizet’s Carmen.
The Des Moines Metro Opera was founded in 1973 by Robert Larsen as Artistic Director and Douglas Duncan as Managing Director. Today it is regarded as one of the leading Summer Opera Festival Companies in America.
I’ve put it off all week, but the public clamor is getting overwhelming…um, would you believe a single email?... so: On to the follow-up! In my last post, I explained why my trusty ideas about “what makes music classical” now seem confused, and I promised to follow up with a more viable approach. Here's a start. I don’t want to oversell it; at best, it’s only part of the answer. But for me, it helps clear at least some of the fog.
If you missed the in-studio live set of Renaissance music by Fathom, not to worry - Fortune has smiled on you! You can listen to the mp3 with the widget below or to a WAV file at this link. The group performed music written from the 1400s through February, 2014 (by Mary Larew, a native of Iowa and member of Fathom), all of it focused on the theme of Lady Luck. The six members of Fathom each have distinguished careers in early music (and in some cases, new music as well). They are: