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May 31
Cantus
It's Memorial Day, a day on which we honor those men and women who have died in service to their country. From Dublin, Ireland, we'll hear Aaron Copland's memorable "Fanfare for the Common Man," written to inspire Americans during World War II. And the men of Cantus sing Lee Hoiby's "Last Letter Home," a setting of a letter from a U.S. soldier to his family, written just two weeks before he was killed in Iraq. Plus, two performances of Samuel Barber's iconic "Adagio for Strings."
May 29
Paul Hindemith
In 1938, composer Paul Hindemith fled Nazi Germany and later came to the U.S. One of his first projects here was to write a ballet based on themes by Carl Maria von Weber. Weber's tunes were charming but insubstantial. But Hindemith took that music of limited possibilities and turned it into something spectacular. His "Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes by Weber" is in today's show, performed by the Norwegian Radio Orchestra.
May 28
Performance Today comes to you from the Virginia Arts Festival today and Monday. The VAF is a six-week celebration of arts and culture centered in and around Norfolk, Virginia. Host Fred Child is there, broadcasting from the studios of WHRO in Williamsburg. On today's show, we'll hear a recent VAF performance by the Orion String Quartet, playing Beethoven and Bach.
May 27
Ralph Vaughan Williams
Composer Ralph Vaughan Williams was fed up with people trying to attach hidden meanings to his music. When one critic tried calling Vaughan Williams' sixth symphony his "War Symphony," the composer had enough. He sniffed, "It never seems to occur to people that a man might just want to write a piece of music." We'll have that music-without-a-deeper-meaning, the sixth symphony, in today's show. Jaap Van Zweden leads the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, in concert in Amsterdam.
May 26
Jean-Fery Rebel
The book of Genesis tells the story of God creating order and beauty out of chaos and darkness. Today's show starts with some astonishing music for its time. In 1738, Jean-Fery Rebel depicted that primordial chaos in his ballet, "Les Elemens" ("The Elements"). It's wild and discordant, but quickly turns into a charming set of dances. We'll hear the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, in concert in Germany. Plus, Bruce Adolphe returns with the Piano Puzzler.
May 25
Paul Hindemith
In 1938, composer Paul Hindemith fled Nazi Germany and later came to the U.S. One of his first projects here was to write a ballet based on themes by Carl Maria von Weber. Weber's tunes were charming but insubstantial. But Hindemith took that music of limited possibilities and turned it into something spectacular. His "Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes by Weber" is in today's show, performed by the Norwegian Radio Orchestra.
May 24
What happens when an orchestra known for a big, intense sound is launching a new organ in its home hall? They play a piece on which the organ' sound is as big as the orchestra's. Olivier Latry joins conductor Christoph Eschenbach and the Philadelphia Orchestra for Saint-Saens' large-scale masterwork at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia.
May 22
beethoven
Every artistic movement has a life span, like a living thing. From its boisterous, rebellious youth, to its conservative middle-age, to its waning old age, we'll trace the evolution of Romanticism in music. Pretty much everyone agrees it all started with a guy named Beethoven, great at bending and even breaking musical rules. We'll feature music of Beethoven, Schubert, Tchaikovsky, and Englishman Gerald Finzi.
May 21
Heimbach power plant
Two giant turbines loom large on the stage. Black iron hooks and chains dangle from the ceiling. No, it's not a medieval torture chamber. It's a concert venue, although an admittedly unusual one. It's the Heimbach Power plant in Germany, site of the Spannungen Chamber Music Festival. We'll hear a Dvorak piano quintet from Heimbach today on PT.
May 20
Shostakovich
Ever since Dmitri Shostakovich premiered his fifth symphony in 1937, critics and musicians have been arguing over what it means. The work is powerful; no one disputes that. But is it power that defies authority, or celebrates it? That's the sticking point. You can hear the final two movements on today's show and decide for yourself. Yuri Temirkanov leads the St. Petersburg Philharmonic of Russia, in concert in Birmingham, England.
May 19
An hour of folk-flavored fare reaches a climax with a fiery performance of the Dvorak Cello Concerto. At a concert at Budapest's Palace of Arts, Pieter Wispelwey performs one of the great works for his instrument, in the company of conductor Ivan Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra. And Bruce Adolphe has the week off, so no Piano Puzzler today. Bruce will be back with a new Puzzler next week.
May 18
Trio Mediaeval
It's long been known that music has the ability to help transport us out of our daily lives. It's one of the reasons so many of us listen to it. In today's show, we have a whole hour of music about other realms of being, and higher planes of existence. "Visions of Another World," by Karim Al-Zand, "Music of the Spheres," by Josef Strauss, and a Transcendental Etude by Franz Liszt. Plus an ethereal Norwegian vision of heaven from the women of Trio Mediaeval.
May 17
YL Choir
Get ready to be joiked. Joiking is a form of native singing in Lapland, in the far north of Scandinavia. Today's special guests, the YL Male Voice Choir of Helsinki, Finland, join host Fred Child for music and conversation, including a joiking demonstration. They also sing music by Finnish composers Jean Sibelius, Einojuhani Rautavaara, and Toivo Kuula, shaking the rafters of Minneapolis' Orchestra Hall with their powerful sound.
May 15
Bruce Adolphe
Composer Bruce Adolphe joins host Fred Child with one of his entertaining weekly compositions. Adolphe re-writes a familiar tune in the style of a classical composer. A PT listener calls in, and tries to guess the composer whose style Adolphe is mimicking, and the hidden tune. Play along with this week's celebrity caller, the host of American Public Media's "Pipedreams," Michael Barone.
May 14
Fazil Say
Every Friday, Performance Today features 21st century music. This week, the "Istanbul Symphony" by Fazil Say, dedicated to the city he calls home. We'll hear three movements, each of which paints a musical picture of a scene in Istanbul: the ferry motoring to nearby islands, the bustle of the train station, and the sound of Turkish music shimmering on the night air. Howard Griffith conducts the world premiere performance by the West German Radio Symphony.
May 13
Shai Wosner
Franz Schubert's music can sound warm and sunny one moment, then suddenly become angst-ridden, and just as quickly, go right back to being bright and cheerful. Pianist Shai Wosner joins host Fred Child to talk about the seductively fickle emotional world of Schubert. And Wosner gives a thrilling performance of Schubert's Sonata in A Major (D. 664). Speaking of emotional quick-change artists -- Johannes Brahms used a similar technique in his Hungarian Dances, turning on a dime from brooding reflection to boisterous celebration. We'll hear five Hungarian Dances from a concert last month in Paris.
May 12
Bruce Adolphe
Composer Bruce Adolphe joins host Fred Child with one of his entertaining weekly compositions. Adolphe re-writes a familiar tune in the style of a classical composer. A PT listener calls in, and tries to guess the composer whose style Adolphe is mimicking, and the hidden tune. Play along with this week's celebrity caller, the host of American Public Media's "Pipedreams," Michael Barone.
May 11
Emmanuel Pahud plays a flute made from 14-karat gold. Does it sound better than a silver flute? According to a scientific study, even professional flutists couldn't distinguish between the sounds of flutes made from silver, gold, and platinum. But Pahud swears by his special golden flute, and hearing the beauty and expression of his playing, who are we to argue? We'll hear Pahud in a pair of concert performances: with harpsichordist Trevor Pinnock, playing a Bach Flute Sonata in Athens, Georgia. And with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, playing Mozart's Flute Concerto No. 1.
May 10
William Walton
A pair of great cello concertos in concert today. Conductor Christopher Hogwood and cellist Gautier Capucon team up with the North German Radio Philharmonic for Haydn's Cello Concerto No. 1, in concert in Germany. And in hour 1, a rarely played gem: the 1955 Cello Concerto by William Walton. Daniel Muller-Schott solos, Mark Wigglesworth conducts the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, in Gothenburg, Sweden.
May 8
Mother's Day bouquet
Sunday is Mother's Day. In honor of moms everywhere, we've got some musical bedtime stories. Heroes and villains, magical creatures and places. It's Maurice Ravel's "Mother Goose Suite," with tales of Beauty and the Beast, Tom Thumb, Sleeping Beauty, Prince Charming, and more. Charles Dutoit leads the Los Angeles Philharmonic, in concert at a most appropriate location: Walt Disney Hall.
May 7
Mother's Day bouquet
Sunday is Mother's Day. In honor of moms everywhere, we've got some musical bedtime stories. Heroes and villains, magical creatures and places. It's Maurice Ravel's "Mother Goose Suite," with tales of Beauty and the Beast, Tom Thumb, Sleeping Beauty, Prince Charming, and more. Charles Dutoit leads the Los Angeles Philharmonic, in concert at a most appropriate location: Walt Disney Hall.
May 6
Tango dancers
The tango is a slow and sultry dance. A couple locked in a close embrace, snaking their way around the dance floor. But the tango isn't for the faint of heart. It can be rough, even a bit coarse. Quartet San Francisco delivers a proper tango in today's show: smooth on the outside, crunchy on the inside. "Tango Toscana" was written by quartet founder Jeremy Cohen. Plus, pianist Francesco Tristano Schlime gives us a tango from an unexpected source: Igor Stravinsky. And the Cleveland Orchestra performs music from Stravinsky's ballet, "Pulcinella."
May 5
It all started in 1862 when a small but determined Mexican army defeated a French force twice its size. It's since gone on to become an international celebration of Mexican history and culture. It's Cinco de Mayo, and we're celebrating today. Performances of Mexican music, Mexican conductors, and a Mexican orchestra are on the show today. Plus, Bruce Adolphe drops by for a new Piano Puzzler.
May 4
Clara Schumann
Johannes Brahms was madly in love with Clara Schumann. But Clara was in love with her husband, composer Robert Schumann. Brahms wrote to her, "I can do nothing but think of you. What have you done to me? Can't you remove the spell you have cast over me?" Brahms also poured out his anguish in a piano quartet. He subtitled it "Werther," after a fictional character who takes his own life over an unrequited love for his best friend's wife. The "Werther" quartet is in hour one, from a concert in Boston.
May 3
Mozart
Nikolaus Harnoncourt played cello in the Vienna Symphony in the 1950s and 60s. But he was so unhappy with the way conductors told him to play Mozart symphonies, he quit the orchestra and became a conductor himself. Instead of being gentle and elegant, he felt Mozart's work should be fiery and passionate, witty and emotional. Harnoncourt joins host Fred Child to talk about his approach, and we'll go to Amsterdam to hear Harnoncourt lead the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in a fiery and emotional performance of Mozart's Symphony No. 35, the Haffner Symphony.
May 1
leif ove andsnes 02
Some pianists approach Rachmaninoff's second piano concerto as something to be conquered by force. They make it sound every bit as difficult as it is. But Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes overcomes all those technical difficulties and gets to the heart of the piece like few others can. We'll hear a performance by Andsnes and the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra in Bergen, Norway.