Support Performance Today with your Amazon.com purchases
Search Amazon.com:
Keywords:
  • News/Talk
  • Music
  • Entertainment
Performance Today homepage
Sep 30
Charles Ives
American composer Charles Ives had a day job selling insurance, so he could feed his family. But in his free time, he fed his own soul by writing music. Ives' third symphony is peppered with hymn tunes that most audience members of the day would have easily recognized. Today, those kinds of cultural references might not be so easily understood. See how many tunes you can recognize as the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya perform Ives' third, nicknamed "Camp Meeting."
Sep 29
Nicolas Slonimsky
Nicolas Slonimsky was one of the great characters of 20th century music. An unrivalled storyteller, who also dabbled in conducting, composition, piano, and writing about music. Slonimsky was a friend of everyone in the new music scene for 75 years, from Ravel and Gershwin to Frank Zappa and John Adams. When the 101 year-old Slonimsky died in 1995, John Adams wrote a piece in memory of his hyper-kinetic energy and good humor: "Slonimsky's Earbox." On today's show, Donald Runnicles leads the BBC Scottish Symphony, in concert at the 2009 Proms in London.
Sep 28
Leonard Bernstein
Legendary Swan Songs: the final concert performances by three 20th century masters. Leonard Bernstein was almost 72 years old in the fall of 1990, conducting a concert by the Boston Symphony. He'd been suffering from emphysema for several years. In the third movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 7, Bernstein began coughing and couldn't stop. The concert almost came to a halt, but somehow Bernstein controlled his coughing fit, and kept going. We'll hear the final movement from that performance...which turned out to be the last notes of Bernstein's final concert. Also, the final delicate encore from Vladimir Horowitz at age 83 in Hamburg. And highlights from the last concert by violinist Nathan Milstein, in Stockholm in 1986.
Sep 26
Quartet San Francisco
Quartet San Francisco is Jeremy Cohen's way of combining his two great loves in life: classical music and non-classical music. Their new project is Cohen's arrangements of jazz classics by Dave Brubeck. We'll stop in at a legendary jazz club in San Francisco, Yoshi's, to hear the Quartet San Francisco, play "Take Five." And Jeremy Cohen talks about the challenge of arranging and playing jazz for string quartet.
Sep 25
Imani Winds
The Imani Winds is commissioning ten new works to celebrate their ten years together. On today's show, we'll hear the world premiere of Jason Moran's "Cane," written for the Imani Winds. In it, Moran tells his own family history, centered near Louisiana's Cane River. Moran traces his ancestry through a slave woman named Coin-Coin. She won own freedom, and then became a successful plantation owner, earning money to purchase her own children's freedom. "Cane" is our weekly 21st-century feature.
Sep 24
Nikolaj Znaider
Violinist Nikolaj Znaider is a big name in the world of classical music. And yet, he says there's nothing harder than playing Mozart. Many artists would agree. The legendary pianist Artur Schnabel said that Mozart is too easy for children, but too difficult for professionals. Meaning that it's not the notes that are the problem, it's bringing out the beauty of the notes in just the right interpretation. On today's show, Znaider proves he's up to the task, performing Mozart's fifth violin concerto with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.
Sep 23
Quartet San Francisco
Quartet San Francisco is Jeremy Cohen's way of combining his two great loves in life: classical music and non-classical music. Their new project is Cohen's arrangements of jazz classics by Dave Brubeck. We'll stop in at a legendary jazz club in San Francisco, Yoshi's, to hear the Quartet San Francisco, play "Take Five." And Jeremy Cohen talks about the challenge of arranging and playing jazz for string quartet.
Sep 22
"Brooklyn Rider" is musically omnivorous. Every member of this string quartet is classically-trained, but having toured with Yo-Yo Ma and his Silk Road Ensemble for ten years now, they're open to musical flavors from around the world. They'll join Fred in the studio for day two of music and conversation. Brooklyn Rider will play the final movement from Dvorak's "American" Quartet, a set of hauntingly beautiful Armenian folk songs, and a wildly eclectic piece by a member of the group, Colin Jacobsen.
Sep 21
Liszt
According to Greek Mythology, Orpheus was the first poet-musician, combining the two art forms into something more powerful than either alone could achieve. Franz Liszt loved the myth of Orpheus. On today's show, we'll hear his tone poem, "Orpheus," and hear the words Liszt wrote about him. And another, more modern, musician-writer appears on the show. Noted blogger and pianist Jeremy Denk performs with violinist Ani Kavafian and cellist Gary Hoffman, in a New York City performance of Mendelssohn's Piano Trio No. 2.
Sep 19
Strauss
Is it a 40-minute joke? It certainly has humor, but the 1903 Symphonia Domestica by Strauss is a serious symphony...that just happens to be inspired by an average day at home with the family. It has musical descriptions of putting the baby to sleep, the alarm clock going off in the morning, playful fights between husband and wife, etc. Our concert was three weeks ago at the Royal Albert Hall in London, Donald Runnicles leads the BBC Scottish Symphony.
Sep 18
Tchaikovsky
Dante's "Inferno" tells the story of Dante's journey to hell, guided by the poet Virgil. He visits the nine circles of hell, and sees all the suffering souls there. At the second circle, a woman named Francesca da Rimini tells Dante her story of her love for Paolo, her marriage to Paolo's evil brother, and the adulterous affair that ensued. Tchaikovsky's tone poem, "Francesca da Rimini," paints vivid pictures of swirling windstorms, remembered love, and eternal, unfulfilled longing. David Robertson leads the BBC Symphony in a performance, from a recent Proms concert.
Sep 17
Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos
As the Los Angeles Philharmonic gets ready to welcome new music director Gustavo Dudamel to the podium next month, it's easy to forget that other conductors deliver exciting, powerhouse performances with the Philharmonic. One such memorable concert occurred last season. Spanish conductor Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos led the L.A. Philharmonic in Beethoven's Symphony No. 8 at Disney Hall. We'll take you there, on today's show. And we'll have highlights from Dudamel's debut concert, coming up on our October 9th show.
Sep 16
Strauss
Is it a 40-minute joke? It certainly has humor, but the 1903 Symphonia Domestica by Strauss is a serious symphony...that just happens to be inspired by an average day at home with the family. It has musical descriptions of putting the baby to sleep, the alarm clock going off in the morning, playful fights between husband and wife, etc. Our concert was three weeks ago at the Royal Albert Hall in London, Donald Runnicles leads the BBC Scottish Symphony.
Sep 15
Guitarist Jason Vieaux
The great American guitarist Jason Vieaux is back for day two of music and conversation. Vieaux plays the Spanish classic "Capriccio Arabe" by Francisco Tarrega, Variations on Mozart's Magic Flute by Fernando Sor...and his own classical-style arrangement of a tune by jazz guitarist Pat Metheny. Vieaux also talks about meeting and playing with Pat Metheny. (He says: "It was like meeting a Beatle!")
Sep 14
Ludwig van Beethoven
It may be the gentlest, sweetest version of the Ode to Joy you will ever hear. Last month, the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain invited audience members to bring their ukuleles to a concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London. They even scheduled a rehearsal, and a thousand ukulele players learned their arrangement of Beethoven's Ode to Joy. We'll hear how it came together in concert.
Sep 12
John Adams
Composer John Adams was astonished at the reaction to his sprawling 1982 piece for two pianos, three singers and orchestra, his "Grand Pianola Music." Adams says the "piece genuinely upset people...I meant it neither as a joke...nor as a provocation of any kind. It was rather, in its loudest and most hyperventilated moments, a kind of Whitmanesque yawp, an exhilaration of good humor, certainly a parody and therefore ironic." We'll hear it in all its yawping glory, from a concert last month by the London Sinfonietta at the Proms in London.
Sep 11
Robert Kapilow
Every Friday, Performance Today features 21st century music. This week, it's a co-creation of composer Robert Kapilow and a voice you may recognize: Fred Newman does vocal sound effects on A Prairie Home Companion. Their new choral work is "Crosstown M42," named after a bus line in New York City. Fred Newman vocalizes New York sound effects, with supporting vocal effects (and even some singing!) from the Young People's Chorus of New York City.
Sep 10
Henry Purcell
Henry Purcell was born 350 years ago today...maybe. Birthdays were not as big a deal in 17th century England as they are for us, and Purcell's family kept no record of the date of his birth, or even his baptism. Whether it's the exact date or not, Thursday is a fine day to celebrate the 350th birthday of this great English composer. We'll hear highlights from his Ode for Saint Cecilia's Day, and three miniatures by Purcell.
Sep 9
Joseph Pereira
Conductors often encourage timpanists to play quietly, to avoid drowning out the orchestra. But in Mozart's Serenata Notturna, the timpani emphasize the comic folksiness of the music, and in concert performances of this piece, conductors sometimes let timpanists off their leashes. We'll hear Joseph Pereira having a field day on the timpani, in concert with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Sep 8
John Adams
Composer John Adams was astonished at the reaction to his sprawling 1982 piece for two pianos, three singers and orchestra, his "Grand Pianola Music." Adams says the "piece genuinely upset people...I meant it neither as a joke...nor as a provocation of any kind. It was rather, in its loudest and most hyperventilated moments, a kind of Whitmanesque yawp, an exhilaration of good humor, certainly a parody and therefore ironic." We'll hear it in all its yawping glory, from a concert last month by the London Sinfonietta at the Proms in London.
Sep 7
Christopher Theofanidis
American composer Christopher Theofanidis says it was "almost embarrassing" to compose a piece with "three happy movements." But he'd written a series of works with dark undercurrents, and wanted to create what he calls "uplifting, happy-to-be-alive music." The result was "Visions and Miracles," his 1997 piece for string orchestra. We have a concert performance from the 2009 Strings Festival, in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
Sep 5
Erich Kunzel
We remember Cincinnati Pops conductor Erich Kunzel, who died Tuesday at age 74. Plus, Purcell from the Proms in London. Robert Spano guest-conducts the Cleveland Orchestra in a concert performance of the Mathis der Maler Symphony by Paul Hindemith. And Bruce Adolphe joins Fred in the studio for this week's Piano Puzzler.
Sep 4
Joshua Bell and Jeremy Denk
Two weeks ago, Joshua Bell played the Brahms Violin Concerto for an audience of 5-thousand at the BBC Proms in London. Reviewers in London used words like "memorable,""magic,""stunning," and "triumph." You can come up with your own superlatives after you hear it. Joshua Bell, with conductor Osmo Vanska the BBC Symphony Orchestra, playing Brahms at the Proms.
Sep 3
Ludwig van Beethoven
Poet Rita Dove has a new book about Beethoven, his best friend in 1803, and the piece they premiered together. Beethoven wrote an astonishing sonata inspired by the virtuosity of mulatto violinist George Bridgetower. But over drinks the two friends got into a fight, Beethoven took Bridgetower's name off the music...and they never spoke again. Rita Dove has re-imagined their relationship in her new book, "Sonata Mulattica." She joins Fred to guide us through their story, and through the piece that's become known as Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata.
Sep 2
Erich Kunzel
We remember Cincinnati Pops conductor Erich Kunzel, who died Tuesday at age 74. Plus, Purcell from the Proms in London. Robert Spano guest-conducts the Cleveland Orchestra in a concert performance of the Mathis der Maler Symphony by Paul Hindemith. And Bruce Adolphe joins Fred in the studio for this week's Piano Puzzler.
Sep 1
Susan Graham
American mezzo-soprano Susan Graham sang at the funeral of Senator Ted Kennedy this past weekend. She joins Fred to talk about the experience. And we'll hear Graham at the 2009 BBC Proms, the summer music festival in London, sing a heart-breakingingly beautiful love song by Reynaldo Hahn, "A Chloris."