Classical Iowa

belcantocedarvalley.org

  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.

http://web.stanford.edu/~pmoser/

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.

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.

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.

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[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. 

Editor's note: it's a pleasure to offer another in our series of classical reviews by IPR's panel of guest experts - this one by Dubuque native, cellist, author, and Boston Public Radio producer Will Roseliep (see below for his bio and links).

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Jean Sibelius "created Finnish national identity in music." Asked to characterize their culture, Finns "invariably mention… ‘our Sibelius.’” But

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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.

Margareta Mitchell

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).

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 Welcome to IPR's Classical CD Review Page! Check in weekly for new reviews by IPR staff and friends near and far.

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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.

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It's that time again! If you have any classical-music Halloween favorites, write to us at classical@iowapublicradio.org. 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 Cumparsita by Argentine composer Pablo Aslan:

http://www.davidfinckelandwuhan.com/

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 the Ames Town & Gown Chamber Music Association, now in its 65th season.

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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?

simonestesfoundation.org

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:

http://www.midoriandfriends.org/

To paraphrase my previous post, if you think women have it bad in classical music, take a look at supposedly contemporary arts like film, literature, rock, jazz, blues, and country

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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

Join us Monday at 7 PM to hear the Quad City Symphony in Beethoven, Brahms, and ... Bancks. In March, the orchestra premiered a work by local composer Jacob Bancks specifically about the Quad Cities.

NPR’s Anastasia Tsioulcas just wrote a scathingly brilliant post about the “fat-shaming” of the gifted Irish mezzo Tara Erraught by a plague of British critics, who sounded like teenage boys as they dissed not Erraught's singing but the supposed flaws of her body.

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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.

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Before there was "Who's on first?" there was the similar routine, "Weinstein? Einstein!" by the Yiddish standup team Dzigan & Schumacher.

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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):

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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 (bsherman@iowapublicradio.org)  - and whatever you choose, Happy Shakespeare Day!

www.dunedin-consort.org

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. 

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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.

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