Classical Music | Nashville Public Radio

Classical Music

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Former Tennessee Tech professor Wonkak Kim is back in Middle Tennessee for a visit, so of course we made sure to have him swing through our studios for a performance. Kim, a clarinetist, brought with him the Parker String Quartet. The ensemble is currently on tour and is serving a residency at Harvard.

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Mozart wrote his opera, The Marriage of Figaro, in the late 18th century, long before reality television. However, a new production featuring Blair School of Music students highlights the similarities between the over-the-top antics and scheming of the classical-era plot and modern-day shows like Big Brother and The Bachelor. Ahead of their very contemporary production, singers from the Vanderbilt Opera Theater came to sing highlights from the show.

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Baritone Jeffrey Williams is a cheerful, friendly guy, but he loves singing roles that explore the darker side of life. The Austin Peay State University professor obtained a Center for Excellence grant for composer Leanna Kirchoff to write a mono-opera based on Guy de Maupassant's "Diary of a Madman," which premiered on a Halloween night recital of spooky and creepy classical music at Austin Peay. Williams is joined by Ben Harris on piano and Kevin Jablonsk playing double-bass, with the composer on hand to tell us about her approach to the piece.

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500 years ago today, Martin Luther posted 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg Church in Germany, airing his grievances against the Roman Catholic Church and sparking the Protestant Reformation.

Changes within the church also brought changes in religious music-making, and with Luther came the rise of the chorale. These Protestant hymns showcased some of the biggest departures from music in the Catholic church: a focus on congregational singing, texts in German rather than Latin and melodies often borrowed from secular songs. 

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In their individual careers, husband and wife Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn have each used the banjo to both explore the bluegrass tradition and build bridges between a variety of other genres. They come from different schools of banjo technique (she's a clawhammer player, he plays three-finger style) and she's a skilled singer. Since the birth of their son, they've been performing as a duet, blending their approaches to craft a new take on a classic American sound. At the same time, Fleck has written two banjo concertos — the first composed in partnership with the Nashville Symphony — and is working on a third. 

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It's officially the spookiest time of year: the cobwebs are hung and the candy is ready... now for the music. Nashville has no shortage of Halloween-themed performances leading up to All Hallows' Eve, and classical music fans can celebrate in macabre style with a ballet about a suspected murderess, a chamber opera from the perspective of a madman, a live organ performance underscoring the creepiest silent film of all time and more. Just try not to get too scared:  

Lizzie Borden with The Raven at Nashville Ballet

Nashville Public Radio

On September 9, Nashville Public Radio's Studio C buzzed all day with live performances from Midstate chamber musicians. The performers ranged from a high school phenomenon to seasoned professionals; their repertoire covered the gamut from Renaissance dance tunes to 19th century classics, even a galloping improvisation for Chinese and Western instruments.

If you didn't have a chance to listen to our broadcast of the first ever 91Classical Radio Fest (or if you'd like to hear it again) here's another opportunity to enjoy the performances that were featured that day. 

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Clarinetist Seunghee Lee is currently preparing for her Carnegie Hall debut and short performance tour of Italy, but Murfreesboro audiences get to enjoy her first. Lee is in town to visit and play with her former classmate and fellow clarinetist Todd Waldecker, who teaches at Middle Tennessee State University. The pair were joined in Studio C by another MTSU faculty member, pianist Eunbyol Ko.

Nina Cardona / Nashville Public Radio

Technically, John Johns is retired. He doesn't teach at Blair School of Music anymore. However, to hear him tell it Johns is playing the guitar more than ever. Now that his time is his own, he's spending it on fine tuning the small details of long-favorite pieces, some of which he shared during this performance.

photo courtesy of Tracy Silverman

Take one part violin (no, make that electric violin) concerto, one part narrative story about the life cycle of an insect, combine liberally with film projections ... that’s essentially the recipe for "Love Song to the Sun." The collaboration between Nashville violinist and composer Tracy Silverman and video artist Todd Winkler will have its regional premiere Thursday, Oct. 5 at OZ Arts Nashville, performed by Silverman with the Vanderbilt University Orchestra.

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