JPR Classics

Classical music posts.

It's difficult enough to start an orchestra, but Zuhal Sultan founded the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq (NYOI) as a teenager in the middle of a war. She brought together 40 young musicians from different Iraqi cities and sectarian backgrounds in an effort to unify a divided nation. Now, six years later, the Euphrates Institute has named her Visionary of the Year.

When Mikhail Baryshnikov says, "I'm really afraid to get bored with myself," he means it.

As one of the greatest ballet dancers in history, he's captivated audiences around the world. He was also the artistic director of American Ballet Theatre, has danced to his own heartbeat, had a run as Carrie Bradshaw's part-time lover on HBO's Sex and the City, and so much more. (His list of credits and awards is long and eclectic.)

Autumn Serenade: The Fall Music Puzzler

Sep 23, 2015

Welcome to the first day of fall — at least for us in the Northern Hemisphere. There's a noticeable chill in the air, the leaves are starting to shift color and perhaps you find yourself turning a little more inward in your mood and your musical tastes.

Composers and songwriters have plenty to say about the changing seasons. To mark the Autumnal Equinox, try this fall music quiz stocked with songs of wistful introspection. Score high and revel in autumn's golden glow. Score low and feel the sadness of earlier and earlier sunsets.

Farewell To Blackfaced Otellos At The Met

Sep 22, 2015

When the curtain rises on the Metropolitan Opera's new production of Verdi's Otello tonight, opera fans will quickly notice what's not there. For the first time since the opera was first staged at the Met in 1891, a white singer performing the title role will not be wearing makeup to darken his complexion to play the Moor at the center of the tragedy.

Sharon Isbin On Song Travels

Sep 21, 2015

Renowned classical guitarist Sharon Isbin has released more than 25 albums, toured worldwide and premiered some of the finest new guitar works of the last century. Trained by the legendary Andrés Segovia, Isbin is the first and only female guitarist to win a classical Grammy. She's also the founder and director of the guitar department at the Juilliard School of Music.

On this episode of Song Travels, Isbin's mastery is on display as she shares notable recordings of her work and performs from her classical repertoire.

Kevin Sylvester says that when most people see a 6-foot-2-inch, 260-pound black man, they don't expect him to also be a classically trained violinist. A recent exchange with a woman in an elevator, when he happened to have his instrument with him in its case, drove that point home.

Why Can't Artist Bios Be Better?

Sep 21, 2015

Over in London, the Independent's arts editor, David Lister, recently published a scathing commentary about the paucity of valuable or even interesting information in artist biographies. He wrote it in a fury after paying £4 to obtain the program for a Proms concert he attended, featuring the excellent German violinist Julia Fischer.

Mystical, monk-like, reclusive — those are a few words often used to describe Arvo Pärt. His music gets labeled as timeless, spiritual and meditative. The Estonian composer, born 80 years ago today, is perhaps all of these things ... and maybe none of them.

Review: Yo-Yo Ma & Kathryn Stott, 'Songs From The Arc Of Life'

Sep 10, 2015

When it comes to artistic partnerships, there's a lot to be said for the fireworks of musicians joining together for the first time. But there's another kind of collaboration that can yield profound pleasure: a recording with two artists who know each other deeply, in a relationship that has unfolded over years or even decades.

Honk And Purr: The Big Bassoon Puzzler

Sep 9, 2015

Even Judith LeClair, principal bassoonist in the New York Philharmonic, says there are issues with her instrument. "A lot of people call it an oboe," she once told CNN. "It's not as recognized as a flute or a trumpet." And it certainly doesn't sound like those, either.

Piano Twang: Steven Mayer Plays 'Le Banjo'

Sep 8, 2015

New Orleans can proudly be called the birthplace of jazz, but the city has also been a cradle for classical music. Opera was heard there as early as 1796. And just a few decades later, in 1829, the city produced America's first musical superstar — Louis Moreau Gottschalk.

It may be the most famous song in the world — but you probably don't know it by the name it was originally called. "Happy Birthday to You," that little ditty that floats above cakes and candles the world over, was written by Mildred and Patty Hill, two sisters from Louisville, Ky.

The sisters wrote the song in the 1890s for Patty's kindergarten students — and they'd intended it to be sung in classrooms, as "Good Morning To All."

Trouble Sleeping? A Composer Wants To Help

Sep 3, 2015

British composer Max Richter spent about two years writing and recording a piece of music which, if it's successful, few people will hear in full. It's a composition called Sleep and it runs eight hours long — the perfect length for a good night's rest. The full version of the piece will be released as a digital album Friday.

Itzhak Perlman: Charting A Charismatic Career

Aug 31, 2015

The well-established soundscape at Burning Man is an audio layer cake of dubstep and techno. More than 60,000 people will gather in the Nevada desert next week for the annual arts festival — and many of them will spend their nights at post-apocalyptic raves, spinning fiery hula hoops and passing ChapStick around the dance floor.

"Eat, sleep, rave, repeat. Eat, sleep, rave, repeat," was the refrain of one song played all over the playa last year.

During the Britt Classical Festival, JPR hosted special pre-concert conversations in the Performance Garden with Britt soloists, guests, and orchestral members.

On Saturday, August 16th 2015 (closing night of the classical festival), JPR's Don Matthews spoke with Britt Principal Percussionist Tony Edwards.  Edwards had major roles to play in the 2015 season repertoire, and he'll talk about his early days of leaning percussion, and his work on a movie set!