Most Performed Composers

Here’s a list for your Friday. Like a lot of lists, it’s interesting, puzzling, objection-provoking …. So with that caveat:

A media company called Instant Encore has surveyed classical performances during the past year and calculated composers who were played most often. You can find a few details, and the list itself here.

No surprise that Beethoven and Mozart rank high. I’m a little surprised to see a composer like Bohuslav Martinu come in fairly high. He never composed a “bestseller,” though he does have a long list of pieces to his credit. Leonard Bernstein, who does not have a huge list of sonatas, symphonies, chamber works, etc., also shows up fairly high–maybe all those Broadway performances of “West Side Story”? Anyhow. I’m quibbling, so maybe the list is doing its job.

(Disclosure: We sometimes partner with Instant Encore in offering downloads to you, such as this recent recital by Susan Graham.)

The Parker Quartet's triumphant return from the north

The Parker Quartet just returned from the first leg of their tour, playing shows in Bemidji and Souix Falls. They shared some of their thoughts with us about the trip and their performances. Read the quartet’s first pre-tour entry

Karen Kim, violin

Karen KimWe have just returned home from our first MPR mini-tour (to Bemidji, MN and Sioux Falls, SD), and all in all, it was quite the experience! I have never spent much time in Northern Minnesota or the Dakotas, and I feel like my understanding of the Midwest is now more complete. I saw ice-fishers for the first time (they form mini-villages on the lakes!) and… crossed the headwaters of the Mississippi! Yes, the dream has been fulfilled.

I also had a great time performing and teaching in both cities. Our experiences in Bemidji and Sioux Falls really hit home to me the power that music has to build a community. I could tell that our concert was an event that was on the community’s radar, and it was wonderful to share the experience with everyone who attended. We also heard some really talented students play in both cities. I hope they keep classical music in their lives!

And now for the hardships of the trip, which thankfully were not numerous. In fact, the only real difficulty was the length of time spent in the car (4 1/2 hours to Bemidji, 6 1/2 hours to Sioux Falls, and 4 hours back to the Twin Cities). I learned some valuable lessons from this road trip, though. 1) You can never have too many snacks. If they’re there, you will eat them all, and you’ll still wish you had more. This first lesson is made more interesting by the discovery that, 2) during a road-trip through northern Minnesota in January, your car becomes a large, portable refrigerator. Beverages will stay cool, fruit will freeze before it can go bad…this fortuitously opens up a lot of options in the snack department. And finally, the most painful lesson. 3) Once you hit the Dakotas, if you have even the slightest urge to go to the bathroom, do so immediately at the first viable spot. Don’t think that it’s not so bad and that you can wait for the next one, because it will be far, and you may not make it…

Kee Hyun Kim, cello

Kee Hyun KimI am sitting at home right now, sheltered from the cold gloom and doom of a January afternoon in Minnesota, eating some dumplings and drinking some hot tea, and reflecting on the past couple of days. For the past hour I have been cleaning my apartment. When I went outside to take out the trash, I was wearing my sweats, a T shirt, a poofy jacket and flip flops. I was concerned that all the snow melt would refreeze, making my driveway dangerous, so I set about shoveling and clearing a path through the snow and ice. It was only about 10 minutes into it that I realized that I was still in my flip flops. Have I finally acclimated? Is this the path towards becoming a true Minnesotan? Out in the cold, shoveling snow in… flip flops?

What an interesting week it’s been! On Tuesday, we recorded the Ravel Quartet for Fred Child, on Performance Today. On Wednesday we hit the road for our first concert ever in Bemidji, MN. The quartet took two cars – Dan and Jess with their new puppy, Bodie, and Karen and I in my car. Perhaps the most difficult part of this tour was the actual driving. From the Twin cities it was a little over 4 hours to Bemidji (google maps told us 5 and a half), and from Bemidji to Sioux Falls, it was a little over 7 hours, and from Sioux Falls back to St. Paul was around 4 hours.

Don’t get me wrong – I really like to drive. Especially when I’m driving my own car. If this is the case, like it was for this trip, then packing is a lot easier too. Instead of cramming all my clothes, toiletries, suit, dress shoes, music-related stuff (music, music stand, CDs for sale etc.) and God knows what else into one small suitcase (adjusting for liquid regulations for TSA), I can just spread everything out in my car. And, especially with the flying situation the way it is these days, I am appreciating driving even more!

That being said, driving to all these places – all around Minnesota and the eastern part of South Dakota – in the middle of the winter is not something to be taken lightly! Weather was pretty bad – visibility was extremely poor for nearly half the trip. As a result, I am sure we missed a lot of the beauty of the landscape – as well as all the Paul Bunyan statues that I kept reading about. But oh well. It could have been worse. A LOT worse. It was just such a shame to be driving at barely 60 miles an hour when the speed limit was 75!

One of the most interesting things that I saw from the car on the road up to Bemidji was the ice houses on the lakes. Being the "land of 10,000 lakes," and, obviously, being extremely cold, I expected to see some ice fishing. What I didn’t expect to see was what seemed to be whole fishing communities out on the lake! Instead of people swaddled up in 20 layers, fishing with a stick and with a metal bucket next to them, which was the image I had in my mind’s eye, I saw what I first took to be many colorful port-a-pottys out on the frozen water – which turned out to be these ‘shacks’ where people build over and around the hole in the ice that they are fishing out of. Supposedly these ‘shacks’ can be quite elaborate – MTV Cribs, Minnesota ice shack episode anyone?

What was really fascinating about all this was that not only were there these ice shacks, but there seemed to be even roads, and on one lake, I saw what looked like a small river flowing in a crack about 5 feet across!

I am sure the whole experience is very safe, and that residents go out on the frozen ice all the time. Actually, thinking back on it now, I remember seeing these colorful "igloos" on Lake Calhoun last year. It’s funny, tho – when we were driving from Bemiji to Sioux Falls, we stopped in Itasca State Park, which is the headwaters of the Mississipppi (something else I learned on this trip – I thought the Mississippi flowed out of the St. Lawrence River, or from somewhere in Canada, at least!). Someone said it was good luck to walk across the frozen Mississippi together, so the quartet made it its mission to do so – however, when I told my girlfriend, for whom this is her first Minnesota winter (or first time in the Midwest period!), she seemed extremely alarmed. Especially when I took a picture of a hole in the lake and sent it to her :)

Anyways, let’s see. In my opinion, the concerts themselves went very well. They were very well attended (full house, with an overflow!!), and after both concerts, we got standing ovations. It is a known fact that it is much easier to hold and maintain an audience’s interest, when the artists talk about the music beforehand. This breaks down the invisible barrier between the audience and performer, and creates a more intimate (and comfortable) environment for the listener. In this regard, we were very fortunate to have Steve Staruch, an announcer for MPR, touring with us! Steve, with his stories and personal anecdotes, and with his easygoing familiarity, set the tone for the evening (or afternoon, in Sioux Falls), warming up the crowd and preparing them to greet us and the music. Karen deconstructed the Stravinsky 3 Pieces, as well as the Concertino, for the audience, making it more accessible, and at the end of the concert, Steve mediated a question and answer session between us and the audience. A bit time consuming, but a great recipe for a successful evening of chamber music that is both informative, enlightening, and enjoyable!

To be honest, it being winter and all, I did not really get to see much of the towns. It was my first time in that part of Minnesota, and certainly my first time in the state of South Dakota! It would have been great to walk (or at least drive) around and take some pictures, buy some souvenirs, and get a feel of the local culture, but because it was so nasty outside, that opportunity never really presented itself. However, the taste of ‘local culture’ I was able to get was through talking to the residents of these two cities.

In Bemidji, I had the opportunity to coach a talented young cellist on the Saint Saens cello concerto. He was a junior in high school, and studying with Peter Howard, former principal cellist of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. He was extremely receptive to what I had to say, quick to adjust, and such a nice guy – none of the better-than-you attitude you get with a lot of high school students! Some of the audience members I talked to were such characters as well! I will not soon forget the man who approached me, talking about traveling, asking if I liked touring, etc. – then he said something like "I used to travel around the world myself, when I was around your age. Of course, my band was a lot bigger than yours… the U.S. Navy." Or the high school music teacher who was so enamored by our performance, especially by our Haydn, that she implored us to release some performances of our Haydn on Youtube, because "we are so isolated up here!" Or finally, the man who stated that Bemidji was one of the world’s "best-kept secrets" – not only had we come to play here, but next week the Ahn Trio was coming, and a few months after that, Midori.

Sioux Falls was a slightly different experience. First of all, the weather was worse once we got there, so sightseeing was really out of the question. The masterclass we were to conduct was open to the public – this was by far the largest audience we’d had to come see us teach… ever! It was also unnerving because right before the class, I had become re-aquainted with an old friend of mine from high school! She had just finished graduate studies at Rice University, and gotten a job as associate principal viola of Sioux Fall Symphony this past September. This entailed her to teach at Augustana College as well – and here she was, after almost 6 years, listening to us teach a masterclass in front of a crowd of eager listeners! The man seated in front of me was filming the entire thing too on his camcorder – his family is going to have a recording of me dancing around stage instructing the students to play with no vibrato for eternity. Scary thought.

Funny story about the power of MPR’s promoting skills. Immediately upon the completion of the class at Augustana, Kristi Booth, the regional director for MPR stood up, announcing the concert at 2pm and expressing her hopes to see everybody there. My friend leaned in to me and said "that’s funny that she seems worried that people won’t know about the concert. You guys have been on the radio, and they’e been announcing your concert, since, like, November."

Thinking back on it now, I don’t know quite what i was expecting at these two places – I had resolved to be an informed tourist (googling these cities before we left), to keep an open mind, and most importantly, to be adaptable. Fortunately, I am happy to say that reality exceeded my expectations. First of all, the crowds were among the most diverse that I had ever seen in attendance at a chamber music concert. Not only were there the usual silver hairs in attendance, but I saw many high school and college age students, and especially in Sioux Falls, many young children, probably no older than middle school age. I certainly did not expect the level of reverence and concert etiquette that was on display! Not once, in any of the places, was there a cell phone ring, or even a watch alarm. No one clapped between movements. And despite the weather, not once was I ever distracted by hacking, whooping coughs, loud throat-clearing, or even the subtle-yet-not-so-subtle unwrapping of a cough drop. Audience members of Bemidji and Sioux Falls, give yourselves a round of applause, or at least a pat on the back, for being among one of my top 10 greatest audiences. We couldn’t have done it without you.

Finally, my closing thoughts. At the beginning of this blog post, I touched briefly on the subject of acclimating; on becoming a real "Minnesotan." (or, to be more inclusive, a real "greater rural Mid-west area" resident). Driving for hours through the states of Minnesota, and North and South Dakota, I was surprised to to find myself feeling a real sense of belonging. How could you not feel at home when everybody around you is so friendly, so accepting, and so generous of their time and compliments?

The quartet moved to the Twin cities in the Fall of 2008. For me, this was after living in Boston for almost 10 years. Because of our intensive touring, and my puffed up sense of East Coast elitism, I didn’t really get the sense that this was really "home" yet, even as recently as this past September. However, by traveling to these more out of the way communities, and sharing out gift of music with a reciprocating audience; this was the final step that made me feel most welcome, and a sign that I was an integral part of the community here.

A special thank you to Kristi Booth, regional manager for MPR, for all her hard work, and to Steve Staruch. This would not have been possible without you guys. And of course, to Minnesota Public Radio – please continue to support MPR! – one of the best classical stations in the United States, in my humble opinion.

Jessica Bodner, viola

Jessica BodnerWe just returned to St. Paul from our concerts in Bemidji and Sioux Falls.  The trip was a blast!  It was great to get to know Steve Staruch a little, as well as Kristi Booth, one of the main organizers for these concerts.  Working with them on this trip just strengthened the fact that MPR is a fantastic organization full of really special people.

As I think back on this trip, I don’t quite remember things in a linear way, so I’m going to list the things that made impressions on me.

My first meal in Bemidji was at Hardees.  I was pressed for time, I was hoping there was going to be a cute street full of interesting restaurants, but the closest thing I could find was Hardees.  I am a vegetarian, so I had to be creative in ordering – I ordered the ¼ lb. burger topped with Portobello mushrooms and cheese€¦.hold the ¼ lb. burger, please.  The cashier took $1.50 off, which I thought was very nice!

After never having seen an icehouse for fishing on the lake, I saw more than I can count.

We went to the headwaters of the Mississippi River – it’s located about 40 minutes from Bemidji in Itasca State Park.  I found it to be magical, especially with it being winter in a sparkling sort of way.  It was so peaceful and seemed to be so well protected.  It felt like an honor to be there.

It was awesome that the concerts were sold out!! It’s so great to go out on stage when there’s a full house.  There was an excitement in the air that I think we were feeding off of and also giving back – it was a great exchange.

I loved meeting the students in both cities, at the master classes and after the concerts.  They were so down to earth, sincere, and just seemed like they were there for such good reasons.  The students we worked with were so receptive and musical, so it was exciting to share our thoughts with them.  Some of the college students that came to the concert in Bemidji were great to talk with because they were telling us what it’s like to live in Bemidji and then asking what our lifestyles are like, it was like a great cultural exchange.

It is amazing how little there is off of I-29 S from Fargo to Sioux Falls.  It didn’t help that there was intense fog and freezing rain the whole time, but it is really something to witness.

When we were doing a TV news interview, the person doing the interview thought our warm-up (us not playing together at all!) was what we wanted on the news! I hope she heard the difference when we actually started playing a piece together.

Bodie (Dan’s and my four and a half month old Vizsla puppy) was mostly terrific.  He’s absolutely great in the car, which was helpful to find out, but we also found out that small hotel rooms effect dogs just like they do people – he got a little antsy in the hotel rooms sometimes.  He did force us to get out and find some interesting parks, though.

Looking forward to Duluth! 

Daniel Chong, violin

Daniel Chong

I was thinking today about what to write as a follow-up to our trip, and to be honest I had some trouble figuring out what to say.  When we hit the road I often feel like I enter a time warp.  A lot of things go out the window: the date, day of the week, time (I never know what time zone we’re in), and more often than not even where I am.  The only things you really need to keep in mind when you’re on tour are the dress rehearsals, concerts, and where you’re sleeping.  Sometimes, there are other additions to this list such as if we have to give a master class somewhere or if Jessica wants to discover all of Paris by foot in one afternoon (if there ever is a walking marathon I would have her sport a uniform that had a picture of my face looking like Rocky’s after his bout with that Russian dude with her infamous quote, "just a few steps more" to serve as pure intimidation to the other competitive strollers).  But really, besides this I usually worry about things like where to eat (which always takes the number one spot), how to properly manhandle the given hotel shower until I believe again that H really does mean hot and C really does mean cold, and deciding whether or not I can get away with wearing this shirt once more.  And you want to know what the crazy thing is?  It’s that this lack of daily rhythm actually becomes a rhythm.  And do you want to know what’s even crazier?!?  Is that nine times out of ten, when we finally get back home from a tour I feel more at a loss of what to do with myself because all of sudden being home has become a big interruption to the rhythm of the road.

So what I’m trying to say here is that it takes some time for me to properly encapsulate each trip we have.  I can tell you floating thoughts in my head like I’ve never seen Winter more beautiful than on our drive to Bemidji; it made me realize that the concept of black and white in photography and art are not mimics of color but are as vivid and real as any shot of Spring.  I can tell you that there are extremely talented youngins all over our country such as Sadie Hamrin who Karen and I had the privilege to work with.  And, I can tell you that walking over the headwaters of the Mississippi River in the dead of a Minnesota winter at Itasca State Park is one of the most thrilling things I’ve ever done.  But, the idea behind this blog is to communicate to you all the experiences I had on this trip through my very own eyes and that’s exactly what’s difficult.  It needs to sink in for a while.  It needs to sink and sink until that day comes where I’m sitting around with friends or family having a drink and somebody says something that triggers something in the pathways of my brain which leads me to say a word or two about that one time my quartet took a trip to Bemidji, Minnesota and Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  Because when that moment comes it’ll be straight, honest, and completely absorbed.  Words trip me up sometimes.  Maybe that’s why music is for me.

Facts vs. feelings

I was giving a pre-concert talk a few months back at the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and explaining in great detail a 12-tone piece – it’s form, the background of the composer’s approach and how the piece fits into an historical context, etc, etc.

One of the regular concert-goers walked up after the talk and said it was so interesting and illuminating, but in the end he just didn’t like how the music made him feel.

Anne Midgette in the Washington Post writes about this phenomenon: “You have two extremes in classical music: on the one hand, the elaborate program note filled with facts and information about the piece, and on the other hand the blunted reaction of the listener after the fact: ‘it sounds pretty.’ ”

How do you judge music? Is it the facts and figures that help the music come alive or do you prefer to simply let your ears determine if you like a piece or not? Or is it a combination of the two?

You Could Be a Winner (Dept. of String Quartets)

Do you play in a high school or college string quartet? Would you like to win a trip to Saint Paul and take a master class from the Parker Quartet (currently wowing MPR audiences in live concerts all over our region)?

Performance Today is hosting a competition for young string quartets, and would love to hear from you–all the details are here.

(While you’re surfing, and speaking of Performance Today … check out their Facebook page.)

James Galway Can't Play the Flute

Well, not with two broken arms, he can’t.

Apparently Sir James took a nasty fall around the start of the New Year, shattering the elbow on one arm and breaking his wrist on the other. Ouch.

While he’s cancelled all his February performances, he hopes to be back in the game by March, according to a statement on his website.

When he gets to Michigan in early March to play with the Detroit Symphony, I’m sure he and conductor Leonard Slatkin will compare notes about unexpected medical leaves.

Happy Birthday Mozart

Mozart was born 254 years ago today (1/27/1756) and of all the great Mozart stories out there, this is one of my favorites:

Mozart was in his mid 20s, and up to his arms in work when his (often pushy) father, Leopold, made a request. He asked Mozart to write a symphony for some festive occasion in the house of the “Mayor” of Salzburg – Siegmund Haffner.

The story goes that Mozart composed the work at top speed (remember, he was swamped!) – so fast, in fact, that he finished it, sent it off to Dad, and then promptly forgot all about it. And then, when the manuscript eventually was returned, he was stunned at how good the work was. Today we know it as Mozart’s SYMPHONY #35, the Haffner Symphony. Just another day at work for the musical genius.

So what’s YOUR favorite Mozart story?

Minnesota Opera Gets it Right

Anne Midgette, classical critic of The Washington Post, highlights Minnesota Opera as a success story. She gives credit to “staying true to artistic soul” in the recession, and she calls Minnesota Opera unique in its investment in new opera. You can listen to Anne’s comments here.

And to whet your appetite for this week’s MN Opera opening of Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux, check out the great Slovak soprano as Queen Elisabeth going to pieces in the final scene of the opera. Out of jealousy, she’s ordered the execution of the (much-younger) man she loves, and “wigs out” — literally! — in a tidal wave of remorse and resignation to her age and her fate. Watch through the 4-minute mark! Then continue to the end to relish the transformation on the face of the new heir-apparent, James of Scotland:

Emerson String Quartet in Winona

The Emerson String Quartet performs in Winona tomorrow night under the auspices of the Minnesota Beethoven Festival.

The four of them have played together for more than 30 years now. What’s the secret to their longevity?

Cellist David Finckel says that their friendship is solid, but what drives them is the work itself: “There is so much to do, just to play everything we are committed to, and to do it at the level that people have come to expect of us.”

Read more about what Mr. Finckel has to say about the Emersons, the state of string quartets generally, and his (lack of) work-life balance in this two-part interview by Madison, WI-based critic and blogger Jacob Stockinger.

The Parker Quartet heads north

MPR’s Artist in Residence The Parker Quartet begins the first leg of their Minnesota tour tonight in Bemidji. The group shared their thoughts on the impending trip.

Daniel Chong, violin

Daniel Chong

A few months ago we had one of our first meetings with the folks at MPR. The objective of the meeting, as I would assume is the goal of most meetings, was to discuss, plan, and prepare for the events included in our residency. The Troubadour Concerts is a huge component to our residency so naturally, it was one of the first topics to come up. The list of venues and their respective locations were announced, "Bemidji, MN. Sioux Falls, SD. Duluth, MN, and Decorah, IA."

Being originally from California and having spent over a decade on the east coast before coming to St. Paul, my knowledge of the Midwest geography is, well, lame. I had felt like I had at least heard of Sioux Falls and Duluth, but Decorah and especially Bemidji bewildered me. But, since it was our first meeting with a fine, fine organization such as MPR I wanted to be sure to exude optimism and conviction. So I geared up and declared with enthusiasm, “Bemidji sounds like a wonderful place and it would be great to have a concert there!”

Then someone around the conference table (which always seems either very long or very wide and often both simultaneously) said, “Bemidji is five hours north of here, the concert would be in the middle of January, and Bemidji is pronounced buh-mi-jee not buh-mee-jee.” It was at this moment that I realized a few things: that A) Bemidji was a very different place from Fiji B) if this city is five hours north of here that means there are colder places in this country and C) January is going to stink.

Nevertheless, here we are in the new year of 2010 and our first concert, in buh-Mi-jee (you know you would’ve said BuhMeeJee too) is upon us. Even though January is a hard month I do look forward to visiting this area of Minnesota. I am sure there are reasons why people would dare to inhabit in such lands so I think I’ll make it a goal to ask those that I meet how they enjoy their part of the country.

I find that one of the great things about being a musician is that after a concert I find it easy to have a conversation with an audience member. More so then if I had to meet them without having had the music beforehand. I think it somehow has to do with music being a universal language in which all of us can relate to, and for some reason can wield the power to bring out the sense of commonality between humans which perhaps is the best ice breaker I know of.

Karen Kim, violin

Karen Kim

First of all, let me say how excited I am to be embarking upon this residency with MPR/Performance Today. I feel like our quartet is being welcomed into a community of incredibly sincere and creative people, and we have already learned so much from the work we have done thus far at the radio station. This Thursday marks the first concert of four that we will be performing throughout the Midwest for MPR, and what better way to kick things off than to head into northern Minnesota! I fear this experience is going to expose me to a completely new side of winter. We will be playing in Bemidji, the first city on the Mississippi River. Legend has it that one who steps across the Mississippi River at its source will live a long and prosperous life. I wonder it this will apply to the life of the Parker Quartet if we all step across simultaneously… I think it’s worth a shot.

Jessica Bodner, viola

After months of planning, we’re finally embarking on the first two of our four Troubadour Concerts! Jessica BodnerWe’ve lived in MN for about a year and a half, but the only place I’ve visited besides the Twin Cities is St. Cloud (to play a concert), so I’m so excited to explore more of MN and surrounding areas. Our first stop will be Bemidji, which I understand is "the first city on the Mississippi" because it is located on the northernmost lake that feeds into the Mississippi. Being from Houston, and having spent a lot of my youth in Louisiana, I’ve spent some time at the southernmost part of the Mississippi, so it’s kind of amazing to imagine the distance. Besides playing a concert in Bemidji, we’ll also be doing a community master class with the Bemidji Symphony Orchestra. I’m really looking forward to that because it will be great to get a feel for how people in Bemidji approach and look at music. Working with musicians around the world can be eye-opening not only because of differences we can find, but also because of how unifying it can be to be able to communicate through music.

After Bemidji, we’re driving to Sioux Falls, SD. This will be my first time in SD!! I understand that Sioux Falls is the largest city in SD, and if it weren’t winter (with everything most likely covered in snow), I would want to visit the corn maze that’s right outside of the city! It’s actually a maze that you can work through made of corn, and from above, it’s beautiful – there’s a butterfly shape in the center of the maze! We’ll be working with South Dakota Youth Symphony the morning of the concert. Sometimes it can be difficult to give a class the same day as a concert, but how many times are we going to have the chance to work with the youth symphony members of South Dakota? We’re so excited to meet these students, it’s something we definitely could not pass up!

This will also mark the first road trip with Bodie, Dan and my new Vizsla puppy. Since we already travel a lot, and will have to leave him with our dear friends on a rotating basis, we figured that we could take him this time since it’s a road trip (and not an airplane trip). He’s an extremely well behaved puppy, but we’ve never been with him in the car for more than an hour, and we’ve never left him in a hotel room. We’re in pet friendly hotels, and he’s great in his crate, so I don’t foresee any problems, but I have a feeling that we have an adventure on our hands!

Looking forward to reporting more about the concerts, people we meet, driving in the winter, and Bodie….

Kee Kim, cello

Hello, my name is Kee Kim, and I am the cellist of the Parker Quartet.

Kee Hyun KimThis week will mark the first concert that we will be doing for Minnesota Public Radio, as part of their Troubadour series. As I am writing this post, I am listening to MPR, where we are on the radio! First was Steve Staruch, announcing our residency for the listeners out there, and then came Allison Young, giving away free tickets to the 3rd caller, and then finally, we came on again, giving a performance of one of Haydn’s quartets. I think this recording came from a live concert in Jordan Hall that we gave in 2007, our last year in school.

It is weird to hear us on the radio! To think that our music; well not OUR music, but music that we have spent so much time internalizing, learning, and performing for small, select audiences at chamber music venues, is now available for the ‘masses’ – the thought is rather tremendous, yet humbling at the same time. Further, I am not listening to MPR from the radio; instead I am listening through my iTunes – which means that anyone with a computer and internet connection anywhere in the world can be listening to what I am listening to right now! Crazy.

Case in point – after our first Performance Today broadcast a few weeks ago, I got several posts on my facebook profile page, from friends all over the United States, congratulating me, and us, on our performance. You cannot ever underestimate the power of public radio. A couple of days ago, I was attending a concert by the Takacs Quartet, at the Ordway Center for the Arts. I was deeply engrossed in my program book before the start of the concert, when a friend sitting in front and to the left of me tapped me on my knee and whispered “the two ladies behind me are talking about you guys.” And sure enough, when I focused my ear to the conversation next to me, they were indeed talking about the “wonderful Parker quartet” who they had just “heard on the radio,” performing a “beautiful Beethoven quartet.” It was a slightly embarassing, yet thrilling feeling, to hear that not only are people listening, but they like what they hear! Thank goodness it is public radio, and not public TV, or else there could be many unforeseen uncomfortable moments..!

As you can surmise, we are already very deeply involved in this residency with MPR. The recordings for PT started back in November of last year, and only now are being aired. There are 4 broadcasts, which means 4 recording sessions – the last one, featuring Ravel’s quartet, will be recorded in a few days.

Allison Young just gave away a pair of tickets to a Steve from Sioux Falls – again, what an interesting feeling, to have tickets be raffled off for your concert! See you soon, Steve from Sioux Falls…

Aside from all the time spent in the recording studio (the Maud Moon Weyerhaeuser, say that ten times fast), like I mentioned above, in a couple of days we will venture out into the frozen landscape of rural Minnesota, for our first public concert as part of the residency.

First stop is in Bemidji – if you are not a Minnesota native, like me, it is a town that is about 5 and half hours from St Paul, right by Chippewa National Forest (just Google it!). To be perfectly honest, I do not know what to expect. Everybody who I’ve told that we were going to Bemidji has been like “ooh, better bring your snow shoes” or “ooh, you’re going into the boonies,” or something to that extent. If it is that cold and rural, who in their right minds would want to venture out of their homes in the frozen landscape of January to watch a chamber music concert? When I expressed this to someone, they gave me a different perspective – maybe it’s so cold and rural that when we go there, it will be THE cultural event of the area… Perhaps. Let’s just hope that the hall is heated..

More on Bemidji when we get back…

Classical on the Small Screen

A couple PBS specials of note, tonight and tomorrow.

Tonight on Great Performances: “The Audition,” a documentary about the finalists in the Metropolitan Opera’s young artists competition. Here’s a trailer:

By the way, the next wave of young talent in the Metropolitan Opera auditions will be in St. Paul on February 6 for this year’s regional contest. Winners here go on to the semifinals at the Met in NYC.

Tomorrow night, it’s Live from Lincoln Center with Josh Bell & Friends, incl Jane Monheit, Marvin Hamlisch, Nathan Gunn, Regina Spektor, Chris Botti, and Sting. It’s a live concert based on his new album, based on his house concerts: