JPR Classics

Classical music posts.

Songs We Love: Nordic Affect, 'Clockworking'

Jul 16, 2015

Iceland might be small and isolated but the country's music scene is substantial, resonating far beyond the island nation. One Icelandic group that thrives on both new and old classical music is Nordic Affect. Formed in 2005, the quartet of women is equally at home playing 17th century dance music and newly commissioned works like Clockworking, the title track from its forthcoming album.

Jon Vickers, Intense Canadian Tenor, Dies At 88

Jul 13, 2015

When the first Palestinian uprising began in the late 1980s, the images from the intifada showed exploding tear gas canisters launched by Israelis, answered by Palestinian youngsters shooting slingshots and hurling rocks. A photographer snapped a photo of a boy with tears in his eyes, an 8-year-old named Ramzi Aburedwan. The image came to represent the rage and frustration of life in the refugee camps. But although his face was famously stuck in time, Ramzi's life changed dramatically when he was introduced to music at age 16.

Classical Composers' Feathered Influences

Jul 13, 2015
Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



Time now for some "Talkin' Birds."


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It's a bird show. I like that. I love birds.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Ray Brown's Talkin' Birds.

That tight four-part harmony is unmistakable. And it's been around for a long time.

Barbershop quartets trace their roots back to the late 19th century, when African-Americans would gather in barbershops and on street corners to sing (it was called "cracking a chord"). The term "barbershop" was originally a put-down, but the 1910 song "Play That Barbershop Chord" put that to rest; by then, close-sung harmony was a national hit.

Everyone has had the dream in one form or another. You are about to take a big test when you realize you don't know anything about the subject. You are on stage but you haven't memorized the lines. You have to make a speech but you haven't written it.

It's your basic performance anxiety nightmare.

But if you are a musician, performance anxiety, better known as stage fright, can ruin your career — maybe before it even gets started.

Classical pianist Simone Dinnerstein is just back from Havana, where she performed with Cuba's National Youth Orchestra. She is also working with young people back in her hometown, New York. One of her goals? To introduce students to the composer she's best known for performing — Johann Sebastian Bach. She's taking digital pianos into public schools in a program she calls "Bach-packing."

A new chorus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is helping transgender men and women find their voices – and community. The Butterfly Music Transgender Chorus was founded by Sandi Hammond, a singer and vocal teacher, who wanted to help trans men and women learn to use their changing voices in a safe space.

Unearthed In A Library, 'Voodoo' Opera Rises Again

Jun 26, 2015

About eight years ago, as a grad student, Annie Holt was working in Columbia University's Rare Books and Manuscripts Library when she was assigned to catalogue the work of Harry Lawrence Freeman, a largely forgotten Harlem-based composer from the early 20th century.

"It was fabulous!" she says. "I had the honor of going through all the cardboard boxes that came right from his family's house and unearthing everything, and I, for myself, discovered how amazing his story was and how amazing his music is."

James Horner, Oscar-Winning Film Composer, Presumed Dead

Jun 23, 2015
Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit




'The Most Beautiful Offerings': Terry Riley At 80

Jun 22, 2015

Composer Terry Riley turns 80 Wednesday. He's been called the father of minimalism for his groundbreaking 1964 work In C. But his influence has spread far beyond, sparking the imaginations of many artists, from cutting-edge electronic musicians to rock gods.

How To Annoy Your Dad: Play The Harpsichord

Jun 15, 2015

"The harpsichord is an easy target, isn't it?" Those are the fighting words of Mahan Esfahani, a good-humored harpsichordist who is a proud defender of his instrument.

If you see any blockbuster films this summer, chances are you'll hear Michael Giacchino's music.

Artistic revolutions are rarely born easy. They complained about cubism, they grumbled about the "talkies" — and boy, did they bellyache over Wagner's trailblazing operas, especially Tristan und Isolde, which debuted 150 years ago Wednesday.

Evenly Odd: Carl Nielsen's Distinctive Symphonies

Jun 9, 2015

"Quirky" is a descriptor that seems to have stuck to Danish composer Carl Nielsen, born 150 years ago on June 9, 1865.

"The monastic life is very plain and ordinary," says Father Cassian Folsom, the founder and prior of the Monks of Norcia, ensconced in the St. Benedict Monastery in central Italy. "You get up, and you pray, and you do your work and go to bed and then the next day you do the same thing."

A large portion of the monks' daily routine is singing. "We chant the Divine Office and the Mass every day," Folsom tells NPR's Scott Simon. "And if you put all of those moments together it takes about five hours a day. Three hundred sixty-five days a year."

Leonard Bernstein often said: "Every author spends his entire life writing the same book." The same could apply to composers.