Ola Gjeilo: Piano Improv

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Contemporary Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo is making waves in the classical music world, especially in the realm of choral music. His music is featured on the newest recording by the renowned Phoenix Chorale with conductor Charles Bruffy. And you can hear samples from that recording and learn more about Gjeilo on the latest edition of Julie Amacher’s New Classical Tracks.

But there’s more to meets the eye when it comes to Ola Gjeilo. He has been playing the piano since he was 4 or 5 and as a pianist, he says, “improvisation is where my heart is.” You can hear some of his piano improvisations on his first recording, Stone Rose. And if you like what you hear, keep an eye open for his second album of piano music — a recording simply titled Piano Improvisations and a recording that expresses his passion for the art form that is improvisation. That new release will be available in June.

On the Air This Week

Highlights from May 29 to June 5

Tuesday, 7 pm: Carnegie Hall Live: Lang Lang, piano

Wednesday, noon: Music with Minnesotans: Tax specialist William Roos

Thursday, 3 pm hour: Regional Spotlight: Artaria String Quartet

Friday, 8 pm: Minnesota Orchestra: Appalachian Spring and Carmina Burana

Sunday, 6 am: Pipedreams: Historic Chicago

Sunday, noon: From the Top

Sunday, 1 pm: SymphonyCast: The Los Angeles Philharmonic, led by Charles Dutoit

Monday, 8 pm: Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra: Music of C. P. E. Bach, Zimmerman, and Robert Schumann

Kander & Ebb & Pierce

The songwriting team of Kander & Ebb wrote the musicals Cabaret and Chicago.

Their final collaboration, The Scottsboro Boys, premiered at the Guthrie in Minneapolis in 2010. Fred Ebb died four years before, so John Kander finished the words himself.

Now John Kander has a new musical partner, 51 years younger his junior.

His name is Greg Pierce. He’s 34 years old, and has good show-biz connections: his uncle is David Hyde-Pierce, who played Niles Crane on the TV show Frasier, and also acted at the Guthrie for a few years. A nice profile of Greg Pierce in today’s New York Times.

Meanwhile, you can listen to David Hyde-Pierce on MPR News recalling his days at the Guthrie on MPR News. And from the Tony Awards ceremony, here’s a song from The Scottsboro Boys after its transfer from the Guthrie to Broadway:

Kahane & Son

While Jeffrey Kahane plays a Mozart Piano Concerto with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra in our live broadcast this Saturday, his son Gabriel will be busy as well.

Gabriel’s new musical February House is onstage at the Public Theater in New York. The musical is inspired by a group of artists who shared a house in Brooklyn in the 1940s, among them, W. H. Auden, Benjamin Britten, and Gypsy Rose Lee (!).

Big article with video in NYTimes yesterday; video clip too…

The Well-Tempered Google Synthesizer

Google is helping the world to celebrate what would have been Robert Moog’s 78th birthday with a mini-moog, (er, mini-goog) synthesizer.

While we’re still getting used to it, we want to get your creative juices flowing, and have you share a composition or two with us!

How to do it:

Google has its own instructions, but here’s the short version:

  • You can click the keys, or use your keyboard (your home row is a good place to start).
  • If you’re familiar with waveforms, attack/decay/sustain, etc., you should check out this explainer PDF from moogmusic for what the particular knobs/switches do what. Otherwise, just mess around and have fun.
  • When you’re ready to record, you can do up to 4 tracks. Record each track by clicking on the VU meter — it’ll light up a little bit, then hitting the Record button. Then click the next VU meter to do the 2nd track… and the 3rd and 4th.
  • You can go back and re-record a track by clicking on the meter again. When you’re all done, click the chain link icon and drop it in the comments.

Happy Birthday, Jean Francaix

Jean Francaix

Jean Françaix was born 100 years ago on May 23, 1912.

A twentieth-century French composer who preferred 18th century structure to 20th century avant-garde, Françaix was a neo-classicist. Many of his compositions use forms common to Mozart and Haydn’s time.

His Concertino for Piano and Orchestra, written in 1932, launched Françaix’ lengthy and prolific compositional career.

Françaix was also a gifted concert pianist, and eventually performed duets alongside his daughter Claude.

He also appeared as accompanist for many fine 20th century soloists, most notably cellist Maurice Gendron. Here is a gem of the two performing together:

Additionally, Françaix orchestrated works by Chabrier, Chopin, Mozart, Poulenc and Schubert, as well as his own compositions.

Significant works include the aforementioned Concertino for Piano and Orchestra, the Flower Clock for Oboe and Orchestra and his Quintette for Flue, Violin, Viola, Cello and Harp.

Michala Petri: Recorder and Choir

Michala Petri

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Since the very beginning, Classical MPR has championed choral music through our regional broadcasts. Now, you can listen to choral music all day and all night long with our new online choral stream!

Danish recorder player Michala Petri’s newest recording is titled English Recorder Concertos — but it’s not out of the question for her NEXT recording to be featured in our choral stream. Take a listen below…and make sure to visit the New Classical Tracks page with Julie Amacher to hear selections from Petri’s newest release.