JPR Classics

Classical music posts.

On a long drive, Itzhak Perlman will sometimes listen to classical music on the radio and try to guess who's playing.

"There is always a question mark," he says. "If it's good, boy, I hope it's me. If it's bad, I hope it's not me."

Instead of marking a half century with a few of her greatest hits from the ballet, Broadway or modern dance, the woman who has transformed dance in our time is on the road with two new pieces. Twyla Tharp says Preludes and Fugues, set to music by Bach, is "the world as it ought to be," and a jazz piece called Yowzie shows "the world as it is."

At 74 years old, Tharp is lean, limber and silver as a greyhound, with unblinking brown eyes behind round, owlish glasses.

When she thinks a question is wrong, silly or just obvious, she corrects it.

When the opera Appomattox premiered in 2007, it put on stage a piece of history that was more than 140 years old.

But creators Philip Glass and Christopher Hampton recently decided the story wasn't over.

When the Washington National Opera wanted to stage the opera, Glass said it needed a rewrite — to reflect what's happened in the U.S. since the premiere.

"In the last seven or eight years there have been profound and really horrific changes in the way this country understands itself," Glass says.

John Adams Mines Beethoven's Mind

Nov 10, 2015

All composers have obsessions. For John Adams, a composer who decidedly broke with the past, that obsession is Beethoven, as heard in the new album Absolute Jest.

You don't often hear "football" and "bel canto" in the same sentence. How about the same opera?

Richard Strauss' Musical Mountain Climb

Oct 28, 2015

Up until this year, composer John Williams had scored every single Steven Spielberg movie, save one, since the director's big-screen debut in 1974. In a storied collaboration that has lasted decades, they've worked together on films like Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Indiana Jones and Schindler's List.

That streak comes to an end this weekend, though, with the release of Spielberg's new Cold War drama, Bridge of Spies. The movie, the director's 28th feature film, is only the second he's made without the help of Williams.

Tigran Hamasyan won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition in 2006, but the music that resonates even deeper for him is centuries removed — and a sound world away — from jazz.

The Diverse World Of Yo-Yo Ma

Oct 7, 2015

Stephen Sondheim is widely viewed as the greatest living composer in American musical theater. "Send in the Clowns," from the show A Little Night Music, may be his most famous work — and yet you might not recognize the song as reimagined for solo piano by Ethan Iverson of the band The Bad Plus.

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.