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Nov 30
Sergey Prokofiev
When Sergei Prokofiev's First Piano Concerto premiered in 1918 in New York, one critic called it "a duel, a battle to the death between the pianist and the piano." He said the piano could be heard "shrieking, groaning, howling, and fighting back." Funny how what's outrageous to listeners in one century is embraced by another. The concerto now gets a warm reception from audiences. We'll hear Bulgarian pianist Plamena Mangova performing it in Madrid, Spain.
Nov 29
Johannes Brahms
When it came to writing symphonies, Johannes Brahms was a late bloomer. He didn't publish his first symphony until he was in his mid-forties. He claimed that the shadow of Beethoven was looming too large over him. Brahms ultimately overcame his uneasiness about it, and wrote four symphonic masterpieces. We'll hear his fourth symphony in today's show, performed by Christoph von Dohnanyi and the Philharmonia Orchestra in London.
Nov 27
Aaron Copland
In a 1980 interview with NPR, composer Aaron Copland chuckled when he talked about misconceptions people have about his ballet, "Appalachian Spring.""I was not thinking about the Appalachian Mountains when I wrote it. People are very disappointed to hear me say that." In today's show, the story of how the "Ballet for Martha" became "Appalachian Spring," and a performance by the Knights in Stillwater, Minnesota. Plus, Bruce Adolphe stops by for a new Piano Puzzler.
Nov 26
Ukrainian pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk saw everything slip away in an instant seven years ago, when a car crash led to a month-long coma. Gavrylyuk has fully recovered from that accident, and his playing is more powerful and poetic than ever. We'll hear him play Chopin and Scriabin Etudes in concert in Miami. And another musician who has come back from a potentially devastating injury: violinist Peter Oundjian lost full use of his left hand due to a repetitive stress disorder. So he took up conducting. Today he'll lead the Toronto Symphony in excerpts from Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 4.
Nov 25
Cantus
Today we'll meet the newest PT Artists in Residence, the nine men of the vocal ensemble Cantus. They'll be involved with the show over the course of the musical season. Today, we'll hear Cantus in a special Thanksgiving Day perfchat. They perform a number of songs, including Jean Sibelius'"Finlandia," the Shaker tune "Simple Gifts," and Bobby McFerrin's setting of the 23rd Psalm. Plus, a string quartet by a man who had a profound impact on American music, Antonin Dvorak.
Nov 24
Aaron Copland
In a 1980 interview with NPR, composer Aaron Copland chuckled when he talked about misconceptions people have about his ballet, "Appalachian Spring.""I was not thinking about the Appalachian Mountains when I wrote it. People are very disappointed to hear me say that." In today's show, the story of how the "Ballet for Martha" became "Appalachian Spring," and a performance by the Knights in Stillwater, Minnesota. Plus, Bruce Adolphe stops by for a new Piano Puzzler.
Nov 23
The Parker Quartet
The members of the Parker Quartet were Performance Today's Artists in Residence last season. We'll check in on what they've been up to lately, and hear one of their performances, a Haydn quartet recorded in our St. Paul studio. And be sure to tune in to Thursday's show, where we'll meet this season's Artists in Residence: the men of the vocal ensemble Cantus.
Nov 22
Sergei Rachmaninoff
It's expected for an artist to sign his or her work in the bottom corner of a painting. In this hour, the musical signature that Sergei Rachmaninoff used in a number of his works. It shows up at the end of his Second Piano Concerto. We'll hear a performance by pianist Alexander Kobrin and the KBS Symphony Orchestra of South Korea, and the sweet Schumann encore Kobrin played when it was over.
Nov 20
Manuel de Falla
This weekend, a performance of a suite from Manuel de Falla's ballet, "The Three-Cornered Hat," by the New York Philharmonic. There were two advantages to having Pablo Picasso working on the premiere for the ballet in 1919. The first was having him paint the stage curtain with a swirling bullfight scene, in a way only Picasso could do. The second happened at a party following the opening of the ballet. Picasso grabbed a pencil and drew a celebratory laurel wreath on de Falla's bald head. Plus, composer Bruce Adolphe, who earns his laurel wreath each and every week with his Piano Puzzlers.
Nov 19
Gustav Mahler
Nothing against Gustav Mahler's nine symphonies, but most of them are massive, angst-ridden affairs. They ponder great questions on the meaning of life and death in ways that can be downright, well, ponderous. Which makes the smaller, lighter, tender Fourth Symphony all the more charming. We'll hear three movements from Mahler's Fourth, from a concert at Amsterdam's Concertgebouw. Plus, Johannes Brahms giving credit where credit wasn't due: his "Variations on a Theme by Haydn," which wasn't by Haydn at all.
Nov 18
Leos Janacek
It's too bad there's no DNA test to help determine who wrote a piece of music. In today's show, an orphaned symphonic prelude performed by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. Some say Anton Bruckner wrote it, no doubt about it. Others say no way. It was Gustav Mahler, no doubt about it. The fact is, there's more than enough doubt to go around. We can't definitively say who wrote it. And from that same concert in Amsterdam, a work of much more certain parentage: a flashy, brassy orchestral work called the Sinfonietta. Leos Janacek wrote it for a gymnastic society in 1926.
Nov 17
When flutist Emmanuel Pahud wants to play a concerto, he has a fairly large cache of great flute music to choose from. But when he performed with the Quebec Symphony this past summer, he made a somewhat surprising choice: the Violin Concerto by Aram Khachaturian. Pahud managed to pull it off in grand style. He gave a fierce performance of Khachaturian's rollicking 40-minute concerto, veering from brash rhythms to languid, jazzy melodies to charming Armenian folk tunes.
Nov 16
Ludwig van Beethoven
A sparkling party quartet by Carl Stamitz, and a brainy string quartet by Beethoven. We'll hear the Quartetto Colori play a Stamitz Quartet with their unusual line-up of two mandolins and two guitars, in concert in Eisenach, Germany. And Daniel Harding leads the Bavarian Radio Symphony in an orchestration of Beethoven's "Grosse Fuge."
Nov 15
Shostakovich
In 1957, Dmitri Shostakovich wrote a letter to a friend. "Working on a new piano concerto," he reported. "Has no artistic value whatsoever." Well...with all due respect to Shostakovich, we happen to disagree with that assessment. In today's show, Finghin Collins plays this uncharacteristically light-hearted concerto with Alan Buribayev and the RTE National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland. Plus, musical settings of some of the stories from Greek mythology.
Nov 13
Antonin Dvorak
He was a relatively unknown composer, 33 years old. Getting to a point where, if you're still an unknown composer, you're likely to remain an unknown composer. But despite a slow-moving career, 1875 was a good year for Antonin Dvorak. He was newly and happily married. And there was a glimmer of hope for his career: Austria gave Dvorak a stipend based on the promise of his work, some real encouragement to continue. Over the course of about ten days in May, he wrote a lilting String Serenade. This weekend, we'll hear music by the not-yet-famous Dvorak, in concert at Carnegie Hall.
Nov 12
Domenico Scarlatti
From Domenico Scarlatti's "Cat Fugue," where his cat is said to have composed the melody by walking across his harpsichord, to this week's 21st century work, part of a film score for National Geographic's "Great Migrations" series, we've got an hour of musical critters today. Plus, his teacher predicted that he was doomed to obscurity. But Anton Arensky's music still gets played fairly often. We'll hear his lovely piano trio, from a concert at the Strings Music Festival in Colorado.
Nov 11
Felix Mendelssohn
Is an unfinished piece by a long-dead composer a historical artifact to be preserved as is? Or is it ripe with possibilities, waiting for someone to come along and finish in his or her own way? In 2007, an Italian composer did just that with Mendelssohn's unfinished Third Piano Concerto. We'll hear the result, from a concert in Calgary, Alberta. Roberto Prosseda solos with the Calgary Philharmonic. Plus, in honor of Veterans Day, we'll hear the story behind the famous bugle tune "Taps."
Nov 10
sir_edward_elgar
On November 10, 1910, Edward Elgar led the premiere of his Violin Concerto in London. Fritz Kreisler played violin that evening. On the 100th anniversary of that concert, we'll hear a 2010 concert performance featuring that very same violin. Nikolaj Znaider plays that amazing instrument, Mark Elder conducts the Halle Orchestra, in concert in Manchester, England.
Nov 9
Jean Sibelius
Music always plays an important role in celebrations like weddings. In today's show, we'll hear Mozart's "Haffner" Serenade, written for the wedding of a nobleman's daughter. But classical music also proved to be indispensible at another very different sort of celebration: the 25th anniversary of a plywood factory in Jyvaskyla, Finland. The proud purveyors of plywood hired Jean Sibelius to write them a piece of music in honor of the occasion. We'll hear his "Andante Festivo," from a concert in Toronto.
Nov 8
beethoven
We think of Beethoven as a giant, a composer who revolutionized music. We'll go back to the beginning of the Beethoven revolution: his Symphony No. 1, by a young and ambitious composer just finding his distinctive musical voice. Jaap van Zweden conducts the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, in concert at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.
Nov 6
beethoven
A rocky island, surrounded by black water, with a dark sky overhead. A boatman is rowing toward an out-cropping where, presumably, his ghostly white passenger will spend the rest of time. It's a painting by Arnold Bocklin called "The Isle of the Dead." Sergei Rachmaninoff was so taken with the painting that he wrote a tone poem called "The Isle of the Dead." In the opening moments of the piece, low strings and winds rock gently but ominously back and forth. The water lapping against the rocky shores, just as in Bocklin's painting. In today's show, Alan Buribayev leads the Brabant Orchestra in a performance, from a concert at Amsterdam's Concertgebouw.
Nov 5
"The Pines of Rome," by Ottorino Respighi. It's not just about the the sights and sounds of nature. Respighi wanted the ancient pines to tell the history they had seen. He wrote: "The centuries-old trees which so dominate the Roman landscape became witnesses to the events of Roman life." In today's show, ancient history uncovered by the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos conducts a concert performance of "The Pines of Rome."
Nov 4
king's singers
If only someone had invented the photocopier a little earlier. In 1914, composer Ralph Vaughan Williams sent the one and only copy of his Second Symphony to a conductor in Germany. Then the First World War broke out, and the symphony was lost forever. Vaughan Williams and a few friends spent a couple of years arduously putting it all back together from sketches and scraps and memories. We'll hear his reconstructed work, from a concert by conductor Mark Elder and the Halle Orchestra. Plus, we'll hear the King's Singers in a recent performance at our PT studios.
Nov 3
Isle of the Dead IV
A rocky island, surrounded by black water, with a dark sky overhead. A boatman is rowing toward an out-cropping where, presumably, his ghostly white passenger will spend the rest of time. It's a painting by Arnold Bocklin called "The Isle of the Dead." Sergei Rachmaninoff was so taken with the painting that he wrote a tone poem called "The Isle of the Dead." In the opening moments of the piece, low strings and winds rock gently but ominously back and forth. The water lapping against the rocky shores, just as in Bocklin's painting. In today's show, Alan Buribayev leads the Brabant Orchestra in a performance, from a concert at Amsterdam's Concertgebouw.
Nov 2
Felix Mendelssohn
"This is the mark of a true genius." So says conductor Riccardo Chailly about a quick sketch the 20 year-old Felix Mendelssohn made during a trip to Scotland in 1829. Mendelssohn kept that scrap of paper for 13 years, then finally used that idea as the opening of his Symphony No. 3, his "Scottish" Symphony. Riccardo Chailly talks about the connection between the sketch and the final symphony, and leads Mendelssohn's own orchestra, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, in both the sketch and the finished version of the piece.
Nov 1
"True pleasure is a serious business." That phrase, or rather the Latin version of it, is inscribed in the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, Germany. Otherwise known as the home of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, a group dedicated to the business AND the pleasure of music-making. In today's show, two performances by the Gewandhaus Orchestra, with Riccardo Chailly conducting. Soloist Janine Jansen joins them in Max Bruch's concerto for violin, AND his romance for viola.