Category Archives: Uncategorized

Composer Corner: Schumann

Robert Schumann (Joseph Kriehuber/Wikimedia Commons)

June’s composer of the month is Robert Schumann.

 

Born: June 8, 1810

Died: July 29, 1856

 

Five facts:

• Schumann’s first known work was a piece for piano, written in 1830.
• In an effort to be a better piano player, he built a device from a cigar box and wire that was meant to strengthen his fingers. Instead, he permanently damaged two fingers on his right hand.
• Schumann married Clara Wieck — also a composer — in 1840.
• The year he and Clara were married was also his most prolific, by far. Most of his known work for solo voice (nearly 168 songs!) was composed between February and December of 1840.
• In 1854, he tried to take his own life, and spent his last two years in an institution.

 

Three important works:
• Carnaval (1835)
• Dichterliebe (1840)
• Symphony No. 1 in B-flat (1841)

 

Audio Backpack playlist: Robert Schumann

Composer Corner: Chopin

March’s composer of the month is Frédéric Chopin.

 

Born: March 1, 1810

Died: Oct. 17, 1849

 

Five facts:

• Chopin was already composing at age six, and performed his first concerto at age eight.
• As a child, he would play in the dark, blowing out the candles before sitting down to play. Even later in life, when playing at parties he would often ask that the lights be extinguished.
• When he was 15, Chopin played piano for the Tzar of Russia. The Tzar was so impressed, he gave the young Chopin a diamond ring.
• The pianist/composer arrived in Paris in 1831, never returning to Poland. While he was there he made friends with composers like Liszt, Berlioz, and Mendelssohn.
• Chopin’s body is buried in Paris, but his heart is buried in Warsaw.

 

Three important works:
• Nocturne No. 2 in E-flat Major, Op. 9, No. 2 (1831)
• Prelude Op. 28, No. 15 in D-flat Major (1838)
• Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat Minor, Op. 35 (1839)

 

Audio Backpack playlist: Frédéric Chopin

Composer Corner: Adams

February’s composer of the month is John Adams.

 

Born: Feb. 15, 1947

 

Five facts:

• Adams is widely considered to be the most-performed living American composer.
• Now and then, you can find Adams — a baseball fan — attending an Oakland A’s game.
• His 1985 work Harmonielehre was inspired by a dream of an oil tanker leaving San Francisco Bay, and by a theory-of-harmony book written by Arnold Schoenberg.
• The composer’s Chamber Symphony draws inspiration from Schoenberg, as well as Ren & Stimpy cartoons.
• He won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2003 for his work, On the Transmigration of Souls, which commemorated the attacks of September 11.

 

Three important works:

• Harmonielehre (1985)
• Short Ride in a Fast Machine (1986)
• Nixon in China (1987)

 

Audio Backpack playlist: John Adams

$2.5M grant awarded to Philadelphia Music Alliance for Youth

It was announced this week that the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has made an unprecedented $2.532 million multi-year grant to the Philadelphia Music Alliance for Youth (PMAY) — a consortium of music education organizations serving students all over Greater Philadelphia.

The grant will help prepare the most committed young musicians in the area, ensuring that they possess the necessary skills and talents to excel in conservatory, college, or university settings.

Participating organizations from the PMAY include: Musicopia, Philadelphia Sinfonia, Philadelphia Youth Orchestra, Play On, Philly!, Project 440, School District of Philadelphia Office of Music Education, Settlement Music School, Temple University Music Preparatory Division, The Philadelphia Orchestra, and The Primavera Fund.

In a recent press release, Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance President Maud Lyon says, “This is a tremendous example of how our arts organizations make Philadelphia unique. Settlement and the PMAY coalition are breaking new ground in music education, creating an unprecedented collaboration that will have profound impact upon the careers of emerging musicians. This transformative grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is a strategic long-term investment that ensures that talented young musicians, regardless of their resources or background, will have access to the incredible array of arts education opportunities that these organizations provide.”

The newly-funded program — known as the “PMAY Artists’ Initiative” — will start this spring with musician recruitment, and the first group of around 75 student participants will be chosen by the summer. Each student will benefit from tailored plans to help set them up for future successes as they pursue future music schooling.

 

Composer Corner: Poulenc

January’s composer of the month is Francois Poulenc.

 

Born: Jan 7, 1899

Died: Jan 30, 1963

 

Five facts:

• Poulenc was born into a rich family of pharmaceutical manufacturers.
• At a time when he was relatively unknown as a composer, he was asked to write “Les Biches” by the great Serge Diaghilev.
• Along with Georges Auric, Louis Durey, Arthur Honegger, Germaine Tailleferre, and Darius Milhaud, Poulenc was a member of “Les Six” — a group of six French composers who worked in Paris in the 20th century.
• Poulenc was also an acclaimed pianist, and became an accompanist for Frenchman Pierre Bernac (for whom he also composed a number of songs).
• In 1950, a critic named Claude Rostand referred to Poulenc as “half monk, half thug” — a phrase often used to describe the composer.

 

Three important works:

• Mouvements perpétuels (1918)
• Les Biches (1924)
• Sextet (1931-32)

 

Audio Backpack playlist: Francois Poulenc

‘Pipedreams’ host Michael Barone pulls out all the stops

Laura Caviani, jazz pianist extraordinaire, grew up idolizing Pipedreams host J. Michael Barone as her local church organist in the St. Cloud, Minn., area. On Wednesday, Dec. 14, as part of Classical MPR’s Pop-Up Classical series, Caviani came and played the grand piano in the sanctuary of Central Presbyterian Church in downtown St. Paul — really charming renditions of holiday carols.

Afterward, Laura reunited with her organ idol and, well, here’s two minutes of Christmas cheer…

The piece they’re performing is Caviani’s own “Russian Strut,” modeled after Tchaikovsky.

(Kudos to Classical MPR’s Joe Trucano for Pop Up Classical, and thanks to MPR engineer Michael “Ozzie” Osborne for the spontaneous iPhone video!)

On The Air This Week

Highlights from Nov. 15 to 22

Tuesday, 8:45 a.m. John Birge interviews Minnesota Opera Das Rheingold singers and conductor, with in-studio performance.
1 p.m. Performance Today.
Wednesday, 7:30 a.m. & 5:15 p.m. New Classical Tracks with Julie Amacher.
1 p.m. Performance Today.
12 midnight Euro Classics: Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra/Marek Janowski, conductor; Anna Vinnitskaya, piano; Bartók: Piano Concerto No. 3, Sz. 119 — recorded at the Philharmonie in Berlin.
Thursday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
3 p.m. Regional Spotlight: Verona String Quartet.
Friday, 7:15 a.m. Moveable Feast with John Birge and Minnesota Monthly‘s Rachel Hutton.
11 a.m. Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Spotlight: Vivaldi: Concerto in F for Violin and Orchestra, RV 293, Autumn.
1 p.m. Performance Today.
3 p.m. Friday Favorites with Steve Staruch.
Saturday, 9 a.m., New Classical Tracks with Julie Amacher.
10 a.m. Saturday Cinema with Lynne Warfel.
5 p.m. A Prairie Home Companion: Hosted by Chris Thile with guests Trey Anastasio, The Staves, and Tig Notaro, live from the Ellie Caulkins Opera House at Denver Performing Arts Complex, Denver.
8 p.m. Euro Classics: São Paulo Symphony Orchestra/Stéphane Denève, conductor; Poulenc: Les Biches, suite – recorded at the Concert Hall in São Paulo.
Sunday, 6 a.m. Pipedreams: Raymond Daveluy (1926-2016): In Memoriam.
12 noon From the Top.
1 p.m. SymphonyCast: Oregon Symphony/Carlos Kalmar, conductor; Augustin Hadelich, violin.
8 p.m. Sunday Night Cantata, Choral Stream.
Monday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
Tuesday,1 p.m. Performance Today.

Sign up for the Classical Post Newsletter

Get these weekly programming highlights delivered straight to your inbox every Wednesday. Visit this page to subscribe.

Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ and why you should listen to it

One of the most familiar pieces of early 18th century music (and perhaps classical music in general) is Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons.”

But what makes it so memorable and significant? As teacher Betsy Schwarm notes in the Ted-Ed video “Why should you listen to Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’?”, part of its allure and importance lies in its use of programmatic elements.

Schwarm points out a few of the components of musical imagery that Vivaldi portrays in the piece:

• Spring — birds welcome spring with a happy song,  a thunderstorm, followed by more birds (wet and frightened from the rain).
• Summer — a singing turtledove and a hailstorm.
• Autumn — hunters dashing about in search of prey.
• Winter — teeth-chattering cold, taking refuge by a crackling fire, and back out into the storm.

Watch the Ted-Ed video below to learn more about the underlying musical narrative in “The Four Seasons,” and see the entire lesson on Ted-Ed’s website.

On The Air This Week

Highlights from Oct. 18 to 25

Tuesday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
Wednesday, 7:30 a.m. & 5:15 p.m. New Classical Tracks with Julie Amacher.
1 p.m. Performance Today.
12 midnight South America Classics: São Paulo Symphony Orchestra/Marin Alsop, conductor; Denis Kozhukin, piano; Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11 — recorded at the Concert Hall, São Paulo.
Thursday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
3 p.m. Regional Spotlight: Twin Cities American Guild of Organists, Reger Centenary.
Friday, 7:15 a.m. Moveable Feast with John Birge and Minnesota Monthly‘s Rachel Hutton.
11 a.m. Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Spotlight: Mendelssohn: Concerto in E Minor for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 64.
1 p.m. Performance Today.
3 p.m. Friday Favorites with Steve Staruch.
8 p.m. Minnesota Orchestra: Josefowicz Performs John Adams; Edward Gardner, conductor; Leila Josefowicz, violin; live from Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis.
Saturday, 9 a.m., New Classical Tracks with Julie Amacher.
10 a.m. Saturday Cinema with Lynne Warfel.
5 p.m. A Prairie Home Companion: host Chris Thile welcomes guests Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, Anaïs Mitchell, and John Hodgman; live from the Fitzgerald Theater.
8 p.m. Euro Classics: Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra; Leonidas Kavakos, violin; Sibelius: Violin Concerto, Op. 47 – recorded at the Danish Radio Concert House, Copenhagen.
Sunday, 6 a.m. Pipedreams: Pipedreams Live! at Indiana University (Part 2 of 2).
12 noon From the Top.
1 p.m. SymphonyCast: Los Angeles Philharmonic/Nicholas McGegan, conductor; Martin Chalifour, violin; Nathan Cole, violin; Ariana Ghez, oboe; Whitney Crockett, bassoon; Robert deMaine, cello.
8 p.m. Sunday Night Cantata, Choral Stream.
Monday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
Tuesday,1 p.m. Performance Today.

Sign up for the Classical Post Newsletter

Get these weekly programming highlights delivered straight to your inbox every Wednesday. Visit this page to subscribe.

Composer Corner: Reich

October’s composer of the month is Steve Reich.

 

Born: October 3, 1936

 

Five facts:

• Reich’s music was not well-received initially, and he had to work as a taxi driver and social worker to earn a living.
• In 1967, Reich formed a collective ensemble with fellow composer Philip Glass. They also formed a moving company — Chelsea Light Moving.
• Reich was inspired to visit Ghana in 1970 to study with master drummer Gideon Alorwoyie, resulting in his 90-minute work, Drumming.
• Critic Kyle Gann has stated that Reich may be considered “America’s greatest living composer.”
• Steve Reich won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for his Double Sextet.

 

Three important works:

• Piano Phase (1967)
• Clapping Music (1972)
• Music  for 18 Musicians (1974-76)

 

Audio Backpack playlist: Steve Reich