World Cup Fever: Um a Zero

In honor of today’s big tilt between Germany and Argentina, a video of the classic tune “Um a Zero” (“One to Nothing”) by the fascinating one-named Brazilian composer Pixinginuha, forever memorializing in music the 1919 futbol Finale between Brazil and Uruguay….and the first international title ever for the Brazilians. Check out this amazing trio led by clarinetist extrordinaire Paquito D’Rivera..

I first learned about Pixinguinha doing an NPR taping session with Yo-Yo Ma & Co around the “Obrigado Brazil” release.  (Talk about a “supergroup:”  Yo-Yo, Paquito, the Assad Brothers, bassist Nilson Matta, percussionist Cyro Battista, pianist Kathryn Stott, singer Rosa Passos….it was a pretty memorable session!).   There’s more about the pioneering Brazilian “instrumentalist, composer, orchestrator, and maestro” on the website choromusic.com, dedicated to the uniquely Brazilian style of music:

“If you have 15 volumes available to speak about all types of Brazilian music, you can be sure it won’t be enough. But if have room for only one word, then it’s not all doom and gloom; write quickly: Pixinguinha.”

 

Below is the link to the entire piece on NPR’s Morning Edition – and if you can still get your RealPlayer to work, you can hear the special version of “Um a Zero” we recorded as well, with Paquito again out front…

Yo-Yo Ma’s ‘Obrigado Brazil’

 

A Mongolian “Meditation”

Xian Angelo YuAfter the posts of about the fiery Prokofiev concerto performance from Symphony Hall, thought I’d share another side of the remarkable artistry of the young violinist Xiang “Angelo” Yu.  Last year we invited him into the Fraser Performance Studio at WGBH, where he not only shared the story of his Mongolian origins with host Cathy Fuller, he also played this breathtakingly beautiful version of the Meditation from Jules Massenet’s opera Thaïs…for solo violin alone.

Soon afterwards, Angelo was invited to be a Young Artist in Residence at Performance Today, a series that I’m proud to say continues after we launched it at NPR in the late ’90s with pianist Mia Chung, and has over the years featured such terrific ensembles and artists – all preparing live-for-radio recital programs – as guitarist Jason Vieaux, the Sejong Soloists, the Borromeo and Pacifica Quartets, pianist Jeremy Denk, and many, many more!

Storytelling: Why The School Band Matters

“In other parts of the country, people call band lovers band geeks. There’s no such thing as a band geek in New Orleans. We have band heads, where band is life, you know,” Herrero says. “It’s a way for people to express themselves in ways that they can’t in other avenues.”

Take 12 minutes to listen to this All Things Considered story about the Edna Karr High School Marching Band from New Orleans, a compelling feature that reporter Keith O’Brien put together over the course of the school year.   Outstanding use of audio, too.

Do as NPR suggests:

Editor’s Note: This is a story about a high school band. It is a story that demands to be heard, even more so than read.

At A New Orleans High School, Marching Band Is A Lifeline For Kids

But do go back and read the comments.  Like this one:

Tears seem to be a common reaction to this story. I too am a band geek and music kept me out of trouble in New Orleans. Only on NPR, on your drive home, can a story reach inside of you and lay open the feelings that compose your core; in this case, my core. Band saved my life.

 

 

 

A Milestone of the Millennium: Bach’s St. Matthew Passion

What an unexpected delight on Good Friday to see today’s excellent Deceptive Cadence blog from my old my mates at NPR devoted to a program we produced 14 years ago, as part of our ambitious Milestones of the Millennium series.

A Visitor’s Guide To Bach’s ‘St. Matthew Passion’

And I do mean ambitious: We attempted nothing less than to “create a picture in sound of the pivotal events, places, movements, artists and musical works of the past 1000 years” through what amounted to a weekly documentary folded into our ongoing five-day-a-week production of Performance Today.   Oh yeah, and also with “build outs” on this newfangled Interwebs thingy.

PT’s Milestones of the Millennium Series

But wait -there was more! We also entered into a partnership with Sony Classical to create an entire Milestones of the Millennium CD project:  “The program series will be accompanied by Sony’s release of historic recordings highlighting the development of music over the past 1000 years. Each Sony Classical compact disc will contain musical choices inspired by the series, with liner notes written by the NPR commentators.”

High concept as hell, balanced by decidedly modest sales in the marketplace.  Doubt anyone has the entire collection, but I was surprised to see that after being out of print for quite some time, Sony has now made a few of the titles available as MP3 downloads on Amazon and other sites.  And you do see the odd CD copy for sale here and there.

But, bacj-s-bach-the-brook-and-the-wellspring-national-public-radio-milestones-of-the-millennium-0.jpgk to Bach:  Of the entire two years’ worth of productions, this program on Bach’s St. Matthew Passion was one of the very best, hosted by NPR’s Lynn Neary and produced by Jeffrey Freymann-Weyr.  It’s a “guided tour” through Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, with commentary from such luminaries as noated Bach scholars Christoph Wolff and MIchael Marissen, tenor Ian Bostridge, conductors Joshua Rifkin,Ton Koopman, and Kenneth Slowik, as well as soprano Ann Monoyios.  Take a listen here.

Incidentally, Bach was the subject of the very first MIlestones of Millennium program, which aired January 1, 1999.  It was called  Johann Sebastian Bach: The Brook and the Wellspring, featuring a commentary by the Boston Conservatory’s Jan Swafford“Using the metaphor suggested by the composer’s name (“Bach” is German for “brook”), Swafford explains how Bach emerged from a family of musicians to become perhaps the greatest master and innovator of all time.”

The Brook and the Wellspring

Prize-Winning Storytelling…in 25 Seconds

In and among the usual suspects to land Peabody Awards today (including AMC for Breaking Bad, NPR for The Race Card Project, FRONTLINE for the excellent NFL concussion expose “League of Denial,” and a host of other terrific PBS productions) was the first YouTube video ever to win. In the words of the judges:

“Short, simple and spot-on in its critique of rape culture, the ingenious PSA by two University of Oregon students takes just 25 seconds to make its point that real men treat women with respect.”

Amen.  Congrats to students Samantha Stendal and Aaron Blanton for such a succinct and brilliant little production.   The complete of Peabody winners for 2013 can be found here.

The Great War Project

Look no further than yesterday’s speech by Obama for proof of the long-lasting global impact of “The War to End All Wars,” which started 100 years ago.  Enough that some former colleagues from NPR have launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund terrific, important, and ambitious concept for a radio series.    And it needs your help to become reality:

Beginning in June 2014, we will tell the stories of The Great War through radio documentaries and in shorter radio pieces, all of which will air on public radio stations nationwide and will be available in podcasts.

Our goal is not to tell the definitive history of the war and all its battles. Instead, we will present many important and interesting stories from the war: those of soldiers and civilians, the military technology, the tactics, the poetry, the politics, the societal consequences.

We will present the vast tapestry of World War One and thereby help all of us understand what happened during that time and how that now-forgotten war helped create – for better or worse – the world we live in today.

Check out the video below, and consider making a donation todaythe sand is literally running out of the hourglass.

 

C.P.E. Bach III: A Double Concerto at the Crossroads….

There are all kinds of terms to describe the period of history in between the Baroque era of Bach, Vivaldi, and Handel, and the dawning of the so-called “Classical Era” personified by Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven.   “Rococo,”  “Style Galant,”  or to get really German-geeky about it, Emfindsamer Stil:

A musical aesthetic associated with north Germany during the middle of the 18th century, and embodied in what was called the ‘Empfindsamer Stil’. Its aims were to achieve an intimate, sensitive and subjective expression; gentle tears of melancholy were one of its most desired responses.

The above is taken from a surprisingly entertaining site I discovered called Musical Inclinations –  “an online resource examining the differences between the pre-classical and classical style.”

Or you could just listen to this wonderful example of a C.P.E. Bach concerto that sits at this crossroads of history: A Double Concerto for the new-fangled fortepiano, and the old-fangled harpsichord.   And, as it turns out, the very last of the 50-odd concertos he composed between 1733 and 1788.  And, as pianist Danny Driver mused in the NPR story the other day, “It’s literally, from the very first movement, one bar piano, one bar harpsichord, a little bit of orchestra, then something else. The exchange of ideas is so quick….it’s not postmodern, but it almost feels postmodern in the sense that there’s this sort of collation of different ideas and different feelings all sort of rolled into one. I think it’s of today as it was of its time.”