Twenty-six young, world-class pianists from across the globe have been competing this week in the inaugural Midwest International Piano Competition. Iowa Public Radio speaks with the founders of the competition, Dmitri Vorobiev and Sean Botkin. Hear the two University of Northern Iowa Piano Professors describe the origins of this inaugural event as they give us a peek behind the scenes.
Iowa Public Radio Classical recently headed to Studio One with singers from the Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre’s Mikado production. The Young Artist cast, along with conductor John Hollins and pianist Tony Nickle, performed selections from the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta while giving us a glimpse behind the scenes of their upcoming performances at the historic Brucemore Mansion in Cedar Rapids.
To become a Van Cliburn gold medalist, what kind of piano should you learn on? Steinway? Yamaha? Jon Nakamatsu’s international career began on the keys of a humble toy organ. Concerned that at the age of four he would never be serious about playing the piano, Jon’s parents did not want to invest in an expensive instrument he would not use. Jon steps up to perform one of the most challenging pieces in the piano repertoire with the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra.
Three of the world’s best young pianists will be competing in the finals for the first ever Midwest International Piano Competition, hosted by the University of Northern Iowa’s School of Music at 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 7. Iowa Public Radio’s Jacqueline Halbloom and Al Schares will host a live Performance Iowa broadcast, presenting taped interviews with the finalists and commentary from the competition founders, UNI’s Assistant Professor of Piano Dmitri Vorobiev and Associate Professor of Piano Sean Botkin between the concerts.
Outside the concert hall at Occidental College, in Los Angeles' Eagle Rock neighborhood, children are invited to test out the instruments the Santa Cecilia Orchestra will play later. Alexa Media Rodriguez, 8, says she and her family have never before been to an orchestra concert. She heard about the orchestra when some of the musicians visited her school.
"I brought my dad, my stepmom," she says, "my sister, my brother and my sister's cousin ..."
That's the thing about this orchestra, says conductor Sonia Marie De Leon De Vega: The children are bringing the parents.
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.
In 1950 famed architect Franck Lloyd Wright completed constructing one of his most comprehensive Usonian-styled homes called Cedar Rock. The house, perched high above the Wapsipinicon River is located in the Cedar Rock State Park outside of Quasqueton. Agnes and Lowell Walter, former owners of the Iowa Road Building Company, commissioned Wright to build a “modest home to be designed and built on a limestone bluff” on the Wapsi River. Lowell wanted to show that a beautiful house could be constructed in his home town without having to go to Florida or California.
Join us tonight at 7PM to hear the wcfsymphony premiere a work by Decorah-based composer Brooke Joyce and perform Mahler's First Symphony. Below are my impressions of the April concert (which I posted here on April 9th) - tune in and see what YOU think!
Singer Yuri Vedenyapin, who teaches Yiddish language and culture at Harvard's Davis Center, and has also taught at Columbia, Moscow State University, and the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, MA. He studied in Moscow at the Schepkin School of Acting and the Maimonides Jewish Academy; his doctoral thesis is on Yiddish stand-up comedy.
Russian-born singer/scholarYuri Vedenyapin - a renowned expert inYiddish folklore - will be in our studios Wednesday with Russian-guitar virtuoso Oleg Timofeyev to introduce us to the little-known repertory of Russian songs in Yiddish.
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):
When the 16-month lockout of the Minnesota Orchestra ended in January, the orchestra had no conductor. Music director Osmo Vanska, whose conducting had propelled the orchestra to international fame, resigned last yearin support of the musicians, and without him... well, what exactly was Plan B?
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 (email@example.com) - and whatever you choose, Happy Shakespeare Day!
Join us Thursday afternoon to hear one of the great musicians of our time, Simon Estes, as he tells us about his extraordinary work as a musician, humanitarian, and educator. Born in Centerville, IA, where his father worked as a coal miner, Estes was the first black male artist ever to appear at the Bayreuth Festival (he is one of the rare singers to triumph in all of Wagner's major operas) and has sung lead roles with all of the world's great opera houses and orchestras.
The 2008 Cedar Rapids flood literally capsized the Paramount Theatre's Wurlitzer organ, leaving it badly damaged. But a coalition restored the historic instrument to its full glory, and Orchestra Iowa unveiled it this March in a triumphant concert that you can hear rebroadcast tonight at 7PM on IPR Classical.
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.
Violist Nadia Sirota - a leading advocate of new music, and former student of Jason Weinberger - recently joined the WCFSymphony to perform "beautiful music of a higher order than anything else you will hear this year" - works written for her by Judd Greenstein and Daniel Bjarnson. Then Weinberger led the orchestra in the sumptuous (but violin-free) Serenade no. 2 of Brahms. Hear the concert on Symphonies of Iowa, Sunday at 12 noon or Monday at 7 PM on IPR Classical.
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:
When someone shouted "Osmo, come home,” it touched off "five minutes of clamorous applause, which quickly turned rhythmic." That demonstration was in Minneapolis this weekend, says the New York Times, which adds: "since management lifted its 16-month lockout of the players" of the Minnesota Orchestra "over a contract dispute, in January, the musicians have typically been greeted as conquering if
Back by popular demand from last season, Iowa Public Radio presents the Symphonies of Iowa series, showcasing the Des Moines Symphony Orchestra’s Grieg Piano Concerto and Mahler 5 concert on Sunday, March 30 at noon and Monday, March 31 at 2 p.m. On this program, the Des Moines Symphony presents one of the most beloved and recognizable works of all time, Greig’s Piano Concerto, performed by guest artist and Van Cliburn Silver Medalist Joyce Yang.