JPR Classics

Classical music posts.

Humpback whales don't just sing songs — they compose with the whales around them, singing a song that evolves over time. Scientists didn't know that until they started recording whale sounds in the 1960s and spent years listening. The evolution of this "culture of listening" among researchers is the focus of Morning Edition's weekly summer series, Close Listening: Decoding Nature Through Sound.

The denouement of a 35-year drama takes place Thursday at the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan. And I trust that my father, virtuoso violinist Roman Totenberg, who died three years ago, will be watching from somewhere.

For decades he played his beloved Stradivarius violin all over the world. And then one day, he turned around and it was gone. Stolen.

While he was greeting well-wishers after a concert, it was snatched from his office at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Mass.

The discovery of a 1922 version of Happy Birthday means that the 1935 copyright is no longer valid.

Deborah O’Grady

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 1st 2015, JPR's Eric Teel talked with Camden Shaw and Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt of the Dover Quartet, and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Adams about the quartet's mindset when performing the music of a composer in attendance, and Mr. Adams' thoughts on his place in the continuum of classical music.

It's a story that could have been taken from a breaking news report: A soldier, gravely wounded in a brutal battle, flees the fighting to try and make his way home. Only this story is set during the Civil War.

The Metropolitan Opera is poised to make a big change.

When the fall production of Verdi's Otello opens next month, its lead character will not be wearing the traditional blackface-style makeup.

The Met tells NPR by email that its upcoming production of Otello will be the first without dark makeup since the company first produced the opera in 1891.

A Mahler Symphony Squeezed In A Squeezebox

Aug 4, 2015

When Gustav Mahler said a symphony "must be like the world. It must embrace everything," I suppose he meant embracing accordions, too.

Gustav Mahler's sprawling Ninth Symphony is a 90-minute journey brimming with the joys of life, haunted by death and with a lot happening along the way. Accordionist William Schimmel has squeezed this immense musical canvas down to just 6 1/2 minutes. That takes some guts.

Sound Design: The Art Of The Album Cover

Jul 30, 2015

Calling all design geeks and fans of cool album art! Check out this thing we made.

It tells the story of graphic designer Denise Burt and her album covers. Read about her process, see the art — and hear the music that inspired her.

Shortly after Burt moved to Copenhagen in 2000, she landed a job creating album covers for Denmark's Dacapo Records. Trouble was, she didn't know a thing about the contemporary classical music the label specialized in.

Unassuming Czech Pianist Ivan Moravec Dies At 84

Jul 28, 2015

Ivan Moravec, a Czech pianist known for his lyrical and selfless approach to music, died Monday in a Prague hospital, according to a management representative, Linda Marder of CM Artists in New York. Moravec had been treated for pneumonia. He was 84.

Song Of A Haunted Childhood

Jul 28, 2015

Even the clearest recollections from childhood tend to be coauthored by time and imagination. Looking back on early memories, fun or frightening, we know the mind can play tricks on itself. Did everything happen exactly as our adult brains remember?

One Feisty Victorian Woman's Opera Revived

Jul 24, 2015

Ethel Smyth was not your typical Victorian lady. She defied her father, a stern army general, to pursue a career in music. She loved women, played sports and played an important role in the women's suffrage movement in Britain in the early 20th century. Along the way she composed chamber and orchestral music, an acclaimed Mass and six operas.

The board of directors for the Astoria Music Festival has resigned, as first reported by The Daily Astorian, citing unresolved differences over the festival’s future in a statement given to OPB.

The eight outgoing board members and the managing director, Carol Shepherd, said they are leaving in order to allow artistic director and festival co-founder Keith Clark to take the lead in developing the organization’s structure.

Cuban dancers and the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, founded by Alicia Alonso, are known all over the world. Now that diplomatic relations have been restored between the United States and Cuba, opening the island up for more cultural exchange, what will that mean for Cuba’s ballet scene?

Here & Now’s Meghna Chakrabarti spoke with José Manuel Carreño, a Cuban-born former principal dancer with the American Ballet Theater, who is now artistic director of Silicon Valley Ballet, based in San Jose.

JPR is once again hosting the Pre-Concert Conversations at the Britt Classical Festival. Prior to each concert, there are informal talks in Britt's new Performance Garden beginning at 7pm for those who want to learn a little more about the music and composers.

Amateur Musicians Go Pro With The Baltimore Symphony

Jul 20, 2015

What would it sound like if you put a bunch of amateur musicians onstage with a professional orchestra and told them to play? Probably a bit like a rehearsal at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore last month.

Seventy years ago, shortly after defeating Nazi Germany, three victorious leaders met in Potsdam, just outside Berlin. President Harry Truman was there with British and Soviet leaders Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin. Stuart Canin was also there — he was a 19-year-old GI from New York City who played the violin.

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
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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.