Classical Iowa

Chris Wahlberg, courtesy San Francisco Symphony

When the San Francisco Symphony appointed the American conductor, composer, and pianist Michael Tilson Thomas as its music director, the chemistry was perfect from the start. The orchestra and "MTT" inspired each other creatively, and conveyed the artistic excitement to listeners. That was in 1995, and since then the orchestra has gained even more international renown than it already had, winning the most prestigious international prizes, including the Gramophone Award, France's Grand Prix du Disque, Japan's Record Academy, and no fewer than 11 Grammy Awards.

Tim Schoon, University of Iowa

Our classical request show has been so much fun that we're planning to bring it back monthly. The next edition goes live this Friday, July 21st from 2 PM - 4 PM. What pieces would you like to share with other IPR listeners? Send your requests to classical-request@iowapublicradio.org by Thursday, July 20th. Please ask for two pieces, in case one of your choices has been broadcast recently.

Barney Sherman

A number of you have asked about the Spring Silent Drive spot featuring some of IPR's youngest supporters:

EUYO YEC 2015 (c) Peter Adamik.jpg at wikimedia.com

Join Barney from 2-4pm today (Friday) for the inaugural spin of IPR Classical's monthly request show. Your requests filled up the two-hour playlist quickly, with welcome favorites and neglected delights. Tune in to hear what you and other listeners chose!

Peter Adamik By Euyo editor - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46860288

Is there a classical piece you'd love to share on Iowa's airwaves? Now you can. IPR's monthly classical request feature will debut on Barney's show on Friday, March 31st, from 2-4 PM, and it's easy to participate. Here's how:

 1.) Send your request by email to classical-request@iowapublicradio.org by midnight, Thursday, March 30th.

Monika Rittershaus / per OTRS - Pressestelle der Stiftung Berliner Philharmoniker

At 4 PM Sunday or 7 PM Monday, tune in for a Carnegie Hall concert of Beethoven's 4th and 6th ("Pastoral") Symphonies by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle. After 16 years as principal conductor in Berlin, Rattle is heading home next year to the UK for a new post with the London Symphony Orchestra. But first he and the Berlin wanted to do the Beethoven cycle, and here's a chance to hear part of it in concert!

Lou Brutus at Wikipedia

Just how much is classical music about classics? According to the 2016 Mega-Meta-List, about 80%. Yes, I'm joking when I answer a complex, subjective question with a number (trust me, it was funny in Douglas Adams), but quantifying the unmeasurable is sort of what the meta-list project does.

city_of_dis, Wikimedia Commons

For this year's classical mega-meta-list, I found 70 "best classical of the year" lists from 27 countries,  entered them into a spreadsheet, and hit "sort." A few albums soared to the top, and in Part 1 I celebrated tho

Michael Daugherty at http://michaeldaugherty.net

Hearty congratulations to Cedar Rapids native Michael Daugherty on winning not one but three Grammy Awards, for an album that includes a work written for Iowa and first broadcast on IPR. The album, Tales of Hemingway (Naxos 8.559798), won "Best Classical Compendium" for Daugherty and for the performers, the Nashville Symphony led by Giancarlo Guerrero.

In 2007, I read that the "dispute about classical recording is whether it is dying or dead," but in 2016 it seemed as frisky as kids swarming a playground. So many albums came out that trying to winnow them to a "best-of-the-year" list could make you empathize with an Ivy League admissions officer. Yet the challenge didn't daunt hundreds of critics worldwide, and their choices were fascinating. In recent years I've been aggregating all the lists I could find into a "meta-list," and I wasn't ready to stop just yet, so ... welcome to IPR's 2016 Classical Mega-Meta-List!

Matthew Coley

Holiday marimba music is here! Iowa Public Radio’s Performance Iowa is excited to present internationally acclaimed percussionist Matthew Coley’s Heartland Marimba Festival holiday program live from Studio One in Cedar Falls. His solo spectacular will feature beautiful holiday favorites that he has arranged for this tour. Check out this festive edition of Performance Iowa right here!

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.

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.

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.

(c) Marco Borggreve / Juilliard School

Has classical music become a worldwide music culture in which non-Europeans are full, equal members and no nationality has special privileges? And does Japan scramble cultural storylines and stereotypes more than most countries? I make both cases in contemplating a giant of Bach interpretation, the keyboardist / conductor Masaaki Suzuki. 

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 City).

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 hear - tonight!

 When Martha Argerich plays piano, says Alex Ross, 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....

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.”  

 

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.

Simon Estes Foundation

  In 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 from his mother - advice she had first given him when he was a child in Centerville, Iowa.

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.

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.

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 Dallas correspondent, Wade Goodwyn, hosts the weekly broadcasts. Tune in!

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.

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:

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:

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.

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.]

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