Friday, February 27, 2009

Texas Public Radio will speak with all the candidates for the San Antonio Symphony Music Director Search and have them on Classical Spotlight. You'll get a chance to learn more about the maestros - don't forget to attend the symphony and fill out the questionaire as well!

(See a larger version here)
This week we talk with Harvey Felder. John Clare asked about the program, music and his start in conducting.

Finding Your Voice

Artur Rubinstein was not only a great pianist but a composer as well. The only problem Rubinstein said "was after a while my music sounded like Chopin or turned into Debussy. Leonard Bernstein commented that he knew too much music and had to continually fight to keep his compositions from evolving into Mahler, Strauss or Tchaikovsky.

This is a problem that Judith Zaimont has successfully combated. She and her sister were concert pianists appearing together on radio and television in the 1960's and while her sister became a conductor, Judith turned to composition and has become one of America's most original and listenable musical voices.

Hear the Music and Words of Judith Zaimont on the Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 on member supported KPAC and KTXI.

host Randy Anderson

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Artist Interview: Hélène Grimaud

Last weekend pianist Hélène Grimaud played Brahms' First Piano Concerto in d minor, Opus 15 in Houston. Originally the program had her playing Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto with the Houston Symphony and guest conductor Xian Zhang.
But Zhang cancelled because of her recent child birth and another conductor Hannu Lintu was hired to fill in for the concerts.
Also on the program was to be Bernstein's Three Dance Episodes from On the Town and the Suite from The Three-Cornered Hat by De Falla on top of the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4. Instead, Stravinsky's Divertimento from The Fairy’s Kiss and Ravel's La valse were on the program. An obvious question was about the program change, and polling friends, colleagues and listeners, they wanted to know about Grimaud's association with wolves. As I have been listening to the new Bach release, it was the natural place to start. You can take a listen to her answers and more as we chatted Saturday afternoon in the hotel lobby.
Listen to our interview here. (mp3 file)
You can also hear our previous conversation at Carnegie Hall here and my first interview over the phone here.
Thanks to Ernie Villareal for taking these pictures during our chat, and to Amanda Ameer for setting things up.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Free Music: John Williams

Air and Simple Gifts, the classical work composed to celebrate the historic inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States, has been released by Sony Masterworks exclusively via the iTunes Store. The work, written especially for the talents of cellist Yo-Yo Ma , violinist Itzhak Perlman, pianist Gabriela Montero and clarinetist Anthony McGill by the American composer John Williams, was first heard at noon on January 20, 2009, by millions of people around the globe, as Barack Obama officially became President.
Air and Simple Gifts is the first classical quartet to be played at a Presidential inauguration. Williams based the piece on the familiar nineteenth-century Shaker hymn “Simple Gifts” by Joseph Brackett. The source piece is famous for its appearance in Aaron Copland’s score for the ballet Appalachian Spring. Williams chose the selection knowing that Copland is one of President Obama's favorite classical composers.
“We are thrilled to be able to make this historic piece of music available to the public as a special memento of the inauguration,” commented Alex Miller, General Manager of Sony Masterworks and the Victor label. “The public’s response to Air and Simple Gifts was as immediate and dramatic as the occasion itself, and captured the optimism and hope of the nation at a pivotal moment in America’s history.”
“I was deeply honored to be invited to participate in the Presidential inauguration with Itzhak Perlman, Anthony McGill and Gabriela Montero,” Yo-Yo Ma stated. “I am thrilled that this composition by John Williams, which so beautifully expressed the magnitude and emotion of the occasion, can continue to inspire people everywhere."
Get your own free copy of John Williams' Air and Simple Gifts by leaving your name, and email address below - the first four entires will win a free download!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Great things in Little Packages

Some times size doesn't matter. Take the case of Eugene D'Albert, born in Scotland of a French mother and an Italian father. Eugene studied music with a number of composers including Arthur Sullivan who found it tiring to go through all of D'Albert's compositional studies, so Eugene packed up and went to Weimar to study with Liszt and discovered that he was German after all, telling anyone who would listen that he learned nothing in the land of fogs and now only exists to advance the Glory of German Art. Liszt found him an apt pupil and after the early death of Karl Tausig, it was D'Albert that became New Music's star pianist.

There were lots to do and Eugene did it composing 21 Operas, in German of course, concertize, teach and marry and divorce six times! Of the many Liszt pupils that lived long enough to record it was D'Albert who gives us the wildest and most exciting performances.

You can hear more about the 5 foot tall Eugene D'Albert; the man Liszt smilingly called Albertus Magnus on the Piano, this Sunday afternoon at 5 here on KPAC and KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Welcome to the Modern Day Record Store

I grew up in a small city, not one which had many opportunities for the record buyer.

I bought my first real records at the Goodwill Store. They were 78s and I had a player which made them sound to my young ears like a million dollars. Of course, back then all turntables still had variable speeds which allowed them to rotate at 33⅓, 45 or 78 rpm. Some would even play spoken word records at 16 rpm.

Fast forward to 1967 when I arrived at UT-Austin and found the record stores which then were up and down Guadalupe Street, known as “the drag.” Seraphims and Victrolas regularly sold 3 for $10 and my record collection began to put on considerable heft. By the time I moved to San Antonio I already owned 100s of records and then I met Ron Moore. Of course, he discounted records when he could and guided me into heretofore uncharted waters. My collection grew into the 1000s of LP records.

Part of this collection moved to Mexico with me for 6 years, while I continued to collect whenever I could. When the Mexico City Philharmonic, with which I was playing, went for consecutive weekend concerts at the United Nations and then Kennedy Center, I looked like a pack animal as I returned through customs at the Mexico City airport. I had no idea how I would explain the stacks of records I had bought in New York City, nor the new turntable which was packed into a billowing outer pocket on my horn case. Sweat beaded on my forehead as the line snaked through the customs inspectors. Suddenly the orchestra manager came out of the supervisor’s office and signaled members of the orchestra to follow him. We effectively bypassed customs, with an immense sigh of relief.

Back in San Antonio, I started that painful transition we have most all had to make, replacing our collections with the more convenient and somewhat more durable compact disc. There was a golden age of reissues and we in San Antonio were fortunate to have several good resources for continuing to build our collections. But as many of you know, there is no such thing now as a real record store in San Antonio, I mean one which has massive stockpiles of classical and opera and jazz recordings. Something called the internet took over and Amazon dot com, in particular, grew into a giant marketplace. We thought the future had arrived. Little did we know that only a few years later we would be buying most of our recordings online as digital downloads. Welcome to the brave new world of the 21st Century record store.

Many fear technology. I embrace it. Let me give you a little primer on music downloads, hopefully calming your fears and reservations. We all need to know how to do it. There is no brick and mortar Sound Warehouse in our future. The biggest seller of recordings is now iTunes, the service invented by the same folks who gave us the iPod. I use iTunes with regularity, but also give a fair share of my business to eMusic dot com. You can even, and I do, purchase and download music from Walmart.

iTunes is the biggest player and also has the best user interface. It’s still an imperfect system. You can spend hours searching and still not finding what you want. On the other hand, iTunes has a pretty good catalog of classical recordings, and some of them even download with digital (pdf) track listings and program notes. To the credit of iTunes, their classical offerings have grown markedly in the three or four years I have been buying from them. In order to purchase from iTunes, you will have to download and install on your computer the iTunes software. This will enable you to shop at the iTunes store online, make your purchases and then download the music to your hard drive. I find iTunes to be a quite good interface, a sort of computer jukebox, great if you want to listen to the music while sitting at your computer. The iTunes interface also enables you to download music from your computer onto your iPod or other MP3 listening device and will even locate and play most of the other music on your computer, including music purchased from iTunes’ competitors.

Once you have acquired music from iTunes, there are many options. You can listen while you work at other computer projects, while you shop for more music, or you can play a handcrafted playlist as music for a party. There are many, many options for taking your music with you wherever you go. No more cassette tapes or boxes of compact discs, though if you choose you can make a CD copy of the music which will play on a standard player or in your car. But mostly you will love the portability of an iPod, especially if you spend a lot of time in the car or, as in my case, you are an avid runner or walker.

iTunes’ pricing is changing as you read this. For a long time there was pretty much a flat rate of 99 cents per track, or “song” as each unit is known. Longer classical tracks generally can’t be bought separately. They have to be purchased with the album, traditionally priced at $9.99. As I say, there is more competition these days and this has forced iTunes to reduce prices here and there. But still, as a general rule, “songs” will cost between 89 and 99 cents and albums will be anywhere from $7-$10.

Contrast this with eMusic, where you sign on for monthly subscriptions. These range from 30 tracks for $10, 50 tracks for $15, to 75 for $20. Classical music shoppers can find some real bargains here since a 15-20 minute movement of a symphony counts as one track. The downside is buying short works, such as Debussy Preludes, which range in length from 2 to 5 minutes. By the time you download an entire album, you will have used up over 20 of your tracks. I guess that’s still better than paying $9.99 for the album at iTunes, but it leaves you painfully short on further eMusic downloads for the month.

eMusic has a download manager, but it is not nearly as smooth an operator as iTunes. In fact, it offers to open your newly purchased eMusic tracks in iTunes, but beware the web which this creates, for it just may bog everything down hopelessly. Similarly, eMusic’s online interface is on the clunky side, though with patience you can usually find what you are looking for, assuming it is offered by eMusic. eMusic calls itself the alternative to iTunes and, frankly, I would be lost without the both of them. Don’t expect to find Deutsche Gramophone recordings or Sony on eMusic. But you will find most of the Bis catalog and a wealth of Chandos recordings. If you are looking for independents, eMusic is your place. As an added enticement, you can sign up for a free trial of eMusic which allows you one week to look it over and download 25 tracks for free. Just remember to cancel your trial subscription at the end of the week or your credit card will be billed for a month’s membership.

There are many other online sellers of downloadable music. You can shop at Walmart, where tracks generally sell for 89 cents, or you can do your browsing and downloading directly from Chandos and some of the other European labels by sending your computer to Many more online shops will try and many will fail, but for the most part once you become comfortable with the concept that this is how we will buy our music in the 21st Century, you will find the shopping experience quite enjoyable. There’s no traffic of the automotive kind, though you should give yourself the advantage of a reliable computer and a fast internet connection in order to avoid online congestion.

That’s it! Don’t fret. If your fingers still stumble when they encounter a computer keyboard, or you think a mouse is a four-legged rodent (well, they are!), employ a computer-wise friend to help you negotiate this brave new world. Otherwise, it will only leave you frustrated in the dust of this ever moving technology.

James Baker

Monday, February 16, 2009


TPR's John Clare attended some of Friday's TMEA convention in San Antonio. Here is a podcast with a luthier from Minnesota he spoke with at her booth.

We'll have more with Steinway, the Dallas Symphony, and legendary pianist/composer David Benoit!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Close to perfect

One thing we Classical Music lovers often want and can't have is the original artist performing their music. I mean we have Elvis singing is own tunes, but we can't hear Mozart playing his pianos sonatas.

Claude Debussy was a good pianist and near the end of his life he sat down and played his first book of preludes on a Welte Mignon reproducing piano and I have featured those recordings on the Piano before. The playing is a little uneven and we don't know if the composer brushed up his technique before sitting down to work. Enter Marcelle Meyer. She was the virtuosa with a fabulous and honest technique that became the "house" pianist for Les Six in Paris. She wanted to play Debussy's music and being the conscientious musician she was, she visited the composer and went over his music with him so she could do the music and Debussy justice.

On the Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 you can hear Marcelle Meyer's recordings of Claude Debussy's First Book of Preludes on KPAC and KTXI.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Maestro Interview: Christian Knapp

Texas Public Radio will speak with all the candidates for the San Antonio Symphony Music Director Search and have them on Classical Spotlight. You'll get a chance to learn more about the maestros - don't forget to attend the symphony and fill out the questionaire as well!

(See a larger version here)
This week we talk with Christian Knapp. John Clare asked about the program, music and the setting of the Majestic.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Stump the chump!

(With apologies to Click and Clack AND Mr. Tomassini!)
Anthony Tommasini, the chief classical music critic of The New York Times, is answering questions from readers Feb. 9-13, 2009. Questions may be e-mailed to To move directly to the most recent answer, click here.
Read about it here, and other Times staff members have answered questions in this series, their responses are available on the Talk to the Newsroom page.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Here's to the winners

The winners of the Grammy Awards were announced last night and here are the Classical winners!
Kurt Weill: Rise And Fall Of The City Of Mahagonny - James Conlon, conductor; Anthony Dean Griffey, Patti LuPone & Audra McDonald; Fred Vogler, producer (Donnie Ray Albert, John Easterlin, Steven Humes, Mel Ulrich & Robert Wörle; Los Angeles Opera Chorus; Los Angeles Opera Orchestra) [EuroArts]

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 4 - Bernard Haitink, conductor (Chicago Symphony Orchestra) [CSO Resound]

Kurt Weill: Rise And Fall Of The City Of Mahagonny - James Conlon, conductor; Anthony Dean Griffey, Patti LuPone & Audra McDonald; Fred Vogler, producer (Donnie Ray Albert, John Easterlin, Steven Humes, Mel Ulrich & Robert Wörle; Los Angeles Opera Orchestra; Los Angeles Opera Chorus) [EuroArts]

Stravinsky: Symphony Of Psalms - Sir Simon Rattle, conductor; Simon Halsey, chorus master (Berliner Philharmoniker; Rundfunkchor Berlin) Track from: Stravinsky: Symphonies [EMI Classics]

Winner of the BEST INSTRUMENTAL SOLOIST(s) PERFORMANCE (WITH ORCHESTRA) is: Schoenberg/Sibelius: Violin Concertos - Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor; Hilary Hahn (Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra) [Deutsche Grammophon]

Piano Music Of Salonen, Stucky, & Lutoslawski - Gloria Cheng, pianist [Telarc]

Elliott Carter: String Quartets Nos. 1 & 5 - Pacifica Quartet [Naxos]

Spotless Rose: Hymns To The Virgin Mary - Charles Bruffy, conductor; Phoenix Chorale [Chandos]

John Corigliano: Mr. Tambourine Man: Seven Poems of Bob Dylan - Hila Plitmann, soprano (JoAnn Falletta; Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra) [Naxos]
John Corigliano: Mr. Tambourine Man: Seven Poems Of Bob Dylan - (JoAnn Falletta, conductor) [Naxos]

Simple Gifts - The King's Singers [Signum Records]

Traditions And Transformations: Sounds Of Silk Road Chicago - David Frost, Tom Lazarus & Christopher Willis, engineers (Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Alan Gilbert, Silk Road Ensemble, Wu Man, Yo-Yo Ma & Chicago Symphony Orchestra) [CSO Resound]

David Frost
Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique (Gustavo Dudamel & Los Angeles Philharmonic)
Right Through The Bone — Julius Röntgen Chamber Music (ARC Ensemble)
Schubert: Sonata In D Maj.; Liszt: Don Juan Fantasy (Min Kwon)
Traditions And Transformations: Sounds Of Silk Road Chicago (Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Alan Gilbert, Yo-Yo Ma, Silk Road Ensemble, Wu Man & Chicago Symphony Orchestra)

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Piano on the Scepter'd Isle

There are plenty of British pianists we know about from their recordings, but what about British composers that wrote for the piano? There are many, until computer software programs like Sibelius and others came about - pretty much all composers spent time at the keyboard trying out harmonies and improvising their way from one musical fragment to the next. Besides
the biggest market for music was the piano, and who would want to pass up all those sales!

From musicians that emigrated to London to home grown talent, there is lots of British music for the piano, from real eccentrics like Cyril Scott to Elgar, Arnold Bax and Benjamin Britten.

On the Piano this Sunday afternoon a quick listen to some well known composers and their little known music for the piano. This Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC and KTXI.

host Randy Anderson

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Grammy Awards: Hilary Hahn

Violinist Hilary Hahn is nominated for two Grammy Awards this Sunday, Best Classical Album and Best Instrumental Soloist with Orchestra for her Schoenberg and Sibelius Concerto disc with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra on Deutsche Grammaphon.
TPR's John Clare spoke to Hahn about the nomination and awards.
Listen to their conversation here.

Hahn also has a YouTube Channel, and just posted this video with Arnold Schoenberg's grandson Randy.

Hahn is about to premiere the Violin Concerto by Jennifer Higdon and will record it with Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, and will embark on a recital tour with music by Ysaye and Ives. Learn more on her website, HilaryHahn dot com. Seen right a few years ago in Las Vegas, Hahn and Clare.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Maestro Interview: Gregory Vadja

Texas Public Radio will speak with all the candidates for the San Antonio Symphony Music Director Search and have them on Classical Spotlight. You'll get a chance to learn more about the maestros - don't forget to attend the symphony and fill out the questionaire as well!

(See a larger version here)
This week we talk with Gregory Vajda. John Clare asked about the program, music and performing a brand new work.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

First Listen: Hélène Grimaud

Today, February 3, pianist Hélène Grimaud joins the ranks of Bruce Springsteen, M. Ward and Animal Collective when NPR Music launches an Exclusive First Listen of her debut Bach album. NPR Music will offer an on-demand stream of the entire album as well as Grimaud's performance of Bach's Prelude in E major, BWV 878 as a free download until the disc is officially released on February 10. The stream and song download are both available at NPR Music. Though NPR Music has offered Exclusive First Listen pages for a variety of high-profile pop, rock and alternative artists, Grimaud's 'Bach' is the first classical album to be featured in this way.
In Hélène Grimaud's first recording of Bach's music, listeners will find repertoire and interpretation choices that reflect not simply Bach's notes, but his very perspective on the musical form. As has come to be expected of this strikingly individualistic artist, the disc is both provoking and profound. 'Bach' includes Bach's Concerto for Piano no. 1 in D minor performed with Die Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, a work originally intended for violin, but transcribed by Bach himself for organ and then later in the form we find here. Thus the album features Bach transcribed by Liszt, Bach transcribed by Busoni, Bach transcribed by Rachmaninov, and Bach transcribed by Bach. Each transcription is juxtaposed with a prelude and fugue in the same tonality from The Well-Tempered Clavier - in E major, A minor, and C minor - highlighting the modern composers' musical and historical perspectives while simultaneously underlining the source material.
Grimaud will tour Houston, TX; New York City, NY; La Jolla, CA; and Chicago, IL in late February and March in support of the album. Performance dates and times can be found on her website.
Hélène Grimaud was born in Aix-en Provence in the south of France in 1969. She studied with Jacqueline Courtin at the conservatory there, and subsequently in Marseille with Pierre Barbizet. At the age of 13, she was accepted by the Paris Conservatory where she won the first prize in piano in 1985. That July, immediately after graduating, Grimaud recorded Rachmaninov’s Sonata no. 2 and the complete Etudes-Tableaux op. 33 (Grand Prix du disque, 1986). She studied additionally with Gyorgy Sandor and Leon Fleisher. The year 1987 marked a turning point in her career, with appearances at MIDEM in Cannes and at the piano festival La Roque d’Anthéron, her first recital in Tokyo and Daniel Barenboim’s invitation to perform with the Orchestre de Paris. Grimaud has since performed with many of the world’s major orchestras and renowned conductors. She records exclusively for Deutsche Grammophon.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Remembering Lukas Foss

Lukas Foss, a prolific and versatile composer who was also a respected pianist and conductor, died at his home in Manhattan yesterday. He was 86. His wife, Cornelia, announced his death.
Mr. Foss was born Lukas Fuchs in Berlin, the son of a lawyer and a painter. The date was probably Aug. 15, 1922, although in 1997, when he was honored with several concerts of his music on his 75th birthday, he said that he was not entirely sure when he was born.
When the Nazis came to power, in 1933, the family fled to Paris, where Mr. Foss enrolled at the Conservatoire and studied piano with Lazare Lévy, flute with Louis Moyse, composition with Noël Gallon and orchestration with Felix Wolfes.
After his arrival in the United States, in 1937, he continued his studies at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. The pianist Isabelle Vengerova, the conductor Fritz Reiner and the composers Rosario Scalero and Randall Thompson were his principal teachers. After his graduation in 1940, he pursued further studies in conducting with Serge Koussevitzky at Tanglewood and in composition with Paul Hindemith at Yale. He became an American citizen in 1942.
There's a complete obituary here at the NY Times.
Listen for his Renaissance Concerto from 1990 this afternoon on KPAC and KTXI.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Joshua Bell Reception

Thanks for everyone who attended the post concert reception at Bohanan's Prime Steaks & Seafood (courtyard seen left from the reception above), especially Antonio Strad Violins, the San Antonio Symphony and the Russell Hill Rogers Fund for the Arts.

Enjoy some photos of the evening:
Joshua enters and is greeted by TPR members and fans!
Remember that one spot in the Ysaye? That was awesome! Joshua Bell with Dr. Ted Kniker
David Mollenauer and Joshua Bell catching up.
Joshua with friends of the Russell Hill Fund for the Arts.
Cheers with fans!
Folks enjoying drinks and desserts.
Music Director Randy Anderson and Jan.
Bass player Yuan Xiong Lu and resident conductor Ken David Masur.
Joshua and announcer John Clare.
Do you have some post-concert photos or thoughts about the concert? Share them with us in the comments.

Our thanks to Joe Murgo for taking such great photos!