JPR Classics

Classical music posts.

Famed soprano Renee Fleming has performed numerous times at the Metropolitan Opera, she sang the national anthem at the Super Bowl and she’s won several Grammy awards for her classical recordings. But until this year, Fleming had not made a holiday album.

Now she’s released “Christmas in New York,” where she collaborates with musicians including Wynton Marsalis, Chris Botti and Rufus Wainwright.

Antonio Stradivari, the master violin maker whose instruments sell for millions of dollars today, has been dead for nearly three centuries. Only 650 of his instruments are estimated to survive.

But the forest where the luthier got his lumber is alive and well. And thanks to the surprising teamwork of modern instrument makers and forest rangers, Stradivari's trees are doing better than ever.

Sharon Isbin, Guitarist Extraordinaire

Dec 4, 2014

Sharon Isbin has been called “the preeminent guitarist of our time,” and was voted “the best classical guitarist” by Guitar Player magazine.

She was one of the first woman musicians in a field where there are few. And she’s a guitarist in the classical world where few believed the instrument deserved a place.

After decades of pushing against those limitations, Isbin now has three Grammy Awards and numerous other awards under her belt, and has collaborated with many world class composers and musicians of various genres.

Dublin Guitar Quartet: Tiny Desk Concert

Dec 4, 2014

Don't ask the members of the Dublin Guitar Quartet to play the time-honored classics of the Spanish repertoire. They might play traditional Spanish style classical guitars, but they're not your standard guitar ensemble. The Dubliners are strictly devoted to contemporary music. They've been commissioning new pieces and adapting others for both acoustic and electric guitars since 2002, when the group formed at the Dublin Conservatory of Music and Drama.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Editor's note: This story contains racial slurs.

A new musical work pays tribute to an unlikely and little-known civil rights activist: Booker T. Wright. You won't find his name in history textbooks. But his story is a testament to the everyday experiences of blacks in the Jim Crow South.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

There are lots of ways to say thank you today that don't include turkey or cranberry sauce. For example, there is music.

(SOUNDBITE OF FELIX MENDELSSOHN ORATORIO, "ELIJAH")

CHORUS: (Singing in German).

The words of the Stabat Mater come from an ancient Latin text describing Mary weeping at the cross over her son, Jesus. While the Catholic poem has been set to music by many — from Vivaldi to Arvo Pärt — three contemporary composers have put their own spin on the old verses.

Alissa Firsova was born in Moscow, but has lived in England since she was 4.

Guest DJ Jessye Norman: From Augusta To Valhalla

Nov 25, 2014

On December 6th at 10am, JPR's Classics & News Service is proud to kick off the Metropolitan Opera's 84th season of Saturday broadcasts with Rossini's Il Barbiere Di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville). This year, all broadcasts begin at 10am except Die Meistersinger on December 13th, which starts at 9am.

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II may have been one of the most successful writing teams in Broadway history — think of Oklahoma! and The Sound of Music, just to name a couple of their hits.

For The Season, Trio Mediaeval Spans Centuries

Nov 24, 2014

For all those who just can't bear to hear "Jingle Bell Rock" or any of the other Yuletide earworms that will invade shopping malls and radio waves in the coming months, Norway's Trio Mediaeval has some new old music for the holiday season.

Gilberto Reyes is a musician who grew up to Mexican parents in Southern Texas. He says as a kid he was not afraid of El Cucuy, or the boogeyman. He was more concerned about Camelia La Tejana, or Camelia of Texas.

"I remember when I was a kid listening to the songs, thinking, 'Wow. Una bandida,' " Reyes says. "This incredible woman with power to make men do whatever she wants at her will, you know."

Musicians' Brains Really Do Work Differently — In A Good Way

Nov 20, 2014

"Did you know that every time musicians pick up their instruments, there are fireworks going off all over their brain?"

A Flurry Of Premieres For American Orchestras

Nov 20, 2014

How about some good — even great — news from American orchestras? Today and tomorrow, four of the country's biggest ensembles are playing world premieres by prominent composers.

Brundibár, a children's opera that premiered during World War II, became both a symbol of hope and resistance and a Nazi propaganda tool. Now, Petite Opera, a small company in suburban Chicago, is reprising the opera, originally performed by Jewish children held in a concentration camp in occupied Czechoslovakia.

Uncovering The Heart Of Chopin — Literally

Nov 17, 2014

Power And Struggle In A Soviet Symphony

Nov 10, 2014

It's not unusual for musicians to play through pain. But instead of blisters or cramps, members of the Danish National Chamber Orchestra recently endured the searing throb of hot peppers. And it was on purpose: Each musician ate one of "the world's hottest chili peppers" whole, as they played a tango.

Robert Lee Watt fell in love with the French horn at an early age. He met a lot of resistance from people who thought his background and his race made a career with the instrument unlikely — but he went on to become the first African-American French hornist hired by a major symphony in the United States.

He became the assistant first French horn for the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1970, and stayed with the orchestra for 37 years. His memoir, The Black Horn, tells how he got there.

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