JPR Classics

JPR Classics is a place to come for all things classical in the State of Jefferson.  We'll honor our rich classical heritage while looking to the future, showcasing inspired performances by the next generation of classical musicians. The classics live on JPR!

When Oscar Paz Suaznabar plays the piano, he does so with feeling.

The Alexandria, Va., resident has played at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center and on the NPR show From the Top. He is 9 years old.

Oscar started playing his older sister's keyboard by ear when he was just 2. The sorrow he conveys when he plays "The Lark" by Russian composer Mikhail Glinka is drawn from the kind of loss any 9-year-old can understand.

Bruce Brubaker's Flowing, Meditative Glass

May 26, 2015

In his new memoir, Words Without Music, Philip Glass tells the story of how he slugged a man in the jaw in Amsterdam. At a concert, a quarrelsome audience member climbed onto the stage and began banging on the composer's keyboard. That was in 1969, when Glass' repetitious, slowly evolving music fell on many ears like a needle stuck in the groove of a record.

You wouldn't normally expect one of the great composers of the last few centuries to be meek, but how's this for humility?

"Bach and Beethoven erected temples and churches on the heights. I only wanted to build dwellings for men in which they might feel happy, and at home."

We rarely invite Tiny Desk alumni back to the confines of Bob Boilen's work space, but we couldn't resist this time. Harpist Yolanda Kondonassis and Grammy-winning guitarist Jason Vieaux have both given solo Tiny Desk performances. Since then they've paired up for concerts and a new album of works composed especially for their combination of instruments.

When a Broadway musical feels as effortlessly right as Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's did to audiences in 1956, it's easy to imagine that it simply sprang to life that way. Not My Fair Lady. The musical, based on George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, is filled to bursting with some of the best-known songs in Broadway history — "The Rain In Spain," "Wouldn't It Be Loverly," "On the Street Where You Live" — but it turns out the show originally had other tunes that almost nobody knows.

The Juilliard String Quartet was established in 1946 as an all-purpose quartet that would embrace music from every era. Its founders' intent was to "play new works as if they were established masterpieces and established masterpieces as if they were new."

After Thaw, Minnesota Orchestra Returns To Cuba

May 18, 2015

The Minnesota Orchestra plays Havana this weekend. It's the first professional U.S. orchestra to perform in Cuba since the United States and the island nation began the process of normalization last December. For the musicians, this trip is about healing — both diplomatically and for themselves.

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Lang Lang In Concert At The Met Museum

May 12, 2015

For more than half of his 32 years, Lang Lang has been in the spotlight, as an international star and arguably the most crowd-pleasing classical pianist on the planet. From venues as diverse as the Beijing Olympics and Brazil's World Cup to New York's Central Park and Stockholm's Nobel Prizes, Lang Lang routinely crisscrosses the globe playing to innumerable masses. Last month he filled London's cavernous Royal Albert Hall two nights in a row.

András Schiff's Confessional Schubert

May 12, 2015

Twenty years ago, pianist András Schiff did not hide his disdain for the fortepiano — the smaller, quieter precursor to the modern grand piano. In the liner notes of five separate Schubert albums Schiff released in the early 1990s, he wrote: "Schubert's piano music has luckily not been discovered yet by specialists playing copies of Graf fortepianos."

Flower Songs: A Springtime Opera Puzzler

May 7, 2015

Spring finally seems to have arrived with an abundance of flowers. In the old poem, it's April showers that bring May flowers. But in opera, flowers pop up for a variety of reasons, and not all of them are pretty. While operatic flowers can be enjoyed for their beauty, their allure can also spell trouble. This springtime fleurs de l'opéra puzzler includes some lovely blossoms you might not want to sniff. Score high and come out smelling like a rose. Score low and feel yourself wilt with inadequacy.

In a recital hall at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, a group of musicians got together to play Jean-Baptiste Singelée's 1857 quartet for saxophones on some very old, very special instruments.

Brooklyn Rider Blurs Classical Boundaries On 'Almanac'

Apr 29, 2015

Some 30 years ago, the Kronos Quartet created a sensation by releasing an album of chamber music that included an arrangement of Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze." Now Brooklyn Rider, another gifted string quartet, is again blurring the boundaries between classical and more popular kinds of chamber music. Fresh Air classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz says he admires that blur.

Dazzling Trumpeter Rolf Smedvig Dies Suddenly

Apr 28, 2015

Trumpeter Rolf Smedvig, praised for his beautiful tone and virtuosic style, died Monday afternoon at his home in West Stockbridge, Mass. The cause of death, according to his long-time manager Mark Z. Alpert, was a heart attack. Smedvig was 62.

The Sacramento Philharmonic is resurrected, in more ways than one, with a little help from their friends in Detroit.

Craig Henry

The WFMT Radio Network's American Opera Series returns to JPR's Classics & News Service on Saturday, May 16th following the conclusion of the Metropolitan Opera season. 

The studies may not be so scientific, especially after a few glasses of chardonnay, but some are saying music can affect the taste of wine. (You might want to conduct your own study.)

The World Music Education of Philip Glass

Apr 27, 2015

It was 1964 when the young Philip Glass found himself in Paris. He was on a Fulbright scholarship to study with the revered pedagogue Nadia Boulanger. It was a career move carefully planned. Glass wanted to be a composer and he knew Boulanger's rigorous lessons in traditional Western harmony and counterpoint would sharpen his skills.

The vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth consists of eight classically trained singers incorporating Tuvan throat singing, Appalachian yodeling, operatic trills, rhythmic exhalations and whispered speech into music written by some of the most exciting young composers of the 21st century.

A student at Fresno State University is commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide with new music by contemporary Armenian composers. The concerts organized by Joseph Bohigian include original compositions inspired by his family, many who were killed by the Ottoman Turks around World War I, and music by other Armenians who live in Armenia and in the U.S. From the Here & Now Contributors Network, Alice Daniel of KQED has our story.

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