All posts by Elena See

Cows and 'Jingle Bells'

Farmer Derek Klingenberg (YouTube)

Is there anything that screams “It’s Christmas!” more than a bunch of cows getting giddy over popcorn and “Jingle Bells”? No. The answer is no. And is it just me or do they seem to be bobbing along in time to the song?? Can it be? It’s a Christmas miracle! (Or maybe just shaky camera work.)

And just who is this Farmer Derek? Clearly a guy who likes his job, likes music, and gets a big kick out of sharing the spirit of the season with cows — and with us. He’s on Facebook, if you want to read more or watch more of his videos.

In-flight entertainment: cello and beatbox

A cello gets its own seat aboard a flight. (Flickr / modenadude)

According to a report from Classic FM, a cellist and an air steward on a flight to Denver teamed up to treat the other passengers to an improvised cello/beatbox duet of the Bourrée from Bach’s Cello Suite No. 3.

The flight attendant, known only as Maximilian, can be seen crouching in front of cellist Francisco Vila on the Southwest Airlines flight in the video taken earlier this month, as the pair put an inventive spin on a Bach cello piece:

Meryl Streep to play not one but two opera singers

Actress Meryl Streep (Brigitte Lacombe)

Yesterday, we speculated on which actors might play composers in an imagined series of biographical films. Today, we’ve learned actress Meryl Streep has been cast (in real life) to play two different opera singers in two different films.

Streep is to star in a biopic of the famously awful opera singer Florence Foster Jenkins for director Stephen Frears, reports Variety.

The three-time Oscar-winning actor will take the role of Jenkins, an heiress who used her wealth to embark on a singing career that took her to concert halls across the U.S. in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s despite her complete inability to hold a note or stay in time. Hugh Grant is in line to play the soprano’s partner and manager, St Clair Bayfield, with the film titled simply Florence.

And, as reported this past summer, Meryl Streep is to star in an HBO film as legendary opera singer Maria Callas, the U.S. network has confirmed.

Based on the Tony-winning 1995 play by Terrence McNally, Master Class shows Callas in later life, teaching students at New York’s Juilliard school.

Kobe Bryant is big on Beethoven

L.A. Lakers star Kobe Bryant, seen here in a game against the Atlanta Hawks (photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Basketball star Kobe Bryant has revealed his line of new shoes for Nike. They’re called “Kobe 9 Elite Low ‘Beethoven'”. Nike says the inspiration for the shoes apparently came from the composer’s Symphony No. 9 in particular.

Bryant himself has tweeted about his fondness for Beethoven’s music, particularly his Moonlight Sonata:

On a related note, Bryant has evidently appeared in a TV commercial for Lenovo, in which he plays Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, but as of this morning, the video has been removed from YouTube.

This commercial, made for shoe seller Foot Locker, features Bryant appearing to build a piano:

Oh … the ‘Kobe 9 Elite Low “Beethoven” shoes are due to be available in the U.S. starting Saturday, Aug. 16, with an estimated price tag of $200.

Showering with Beethoven, Headstands with Stravinsky

A new book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work — by Mason Currey, describes the habits of highly creative people.

Stuck on a big project? Need some creative inspiration? Take Beethoven’s advice:

Beethoven would stand at the washstand and pace back and forth and then go back to the washstand and put water on himself. It was an essential part of the creative buildup, but it also made him hated as a tenant and neighbor because he was splashing water everywhere.

More artists and creative individuals profiled at the Fast Company website.

An annotated guide to building a classical library for $100

100 dollar bill

So you like classical music. So you listen to Classical MPR and, generally, enjoy the music you hear. So you have a favorite instrument – maybe even a favorite piece of music, the one that always makes you crank the volume on your radio or computer or iPod or etc. way, way up.

This is all well and good. And this is why we have radio: to learn about and experience new kinds of music. But have you ever wanted to create your own classical music library – and you just don’t know how? It can be daunting – all those recordings, all those musicians…not to mention all those composers. Where in the world do you start?

Enter a recent article in Forbes – “How to Build a Top Quality Classical Music Library for $100.” The authors picked through piles of CDs, records and .mp3s and came up with their top choices – recordings meant to introduce the classical newbie to the world of classical music while at the same time delighting classical music aficionados. A challenge, to be sure.

Here’s their list “in order of suggested listening.” (Take a look at the full article on Forbes if you want the reasons why the authors chose these recordings. Agree? Disagree? What would YOUR list include?

  1. Rachmaninoff – Piano Concerto No. 3 with pianist Martha Argerich and the RSO Berlin/Riccardo Chailly; Tchaikovsky – Piano Concerto No. 1 with Argerich and the Bavarian RSO/Kirill Kondrashin
  2. Bach – Concertos Italiens with pianist Alexandre Tharaud
  3. Schubert/Hummel – Piano Quintets with the Wanderer Trio, violist Christophe Gaugé and Stéphane Logerot (bass)
  4. Mozart – Symphonies 28, 33, 35, “Eine kleine Nachtmusik” with the Cleveland Orchestra and conductor George Szell
  5. Vivaldi – The French Connection with La Serenissima and conductor Adrian Chandler – by the way, Julie Amacher featured this recording on New Classical Tracks back in 2009. You can listen to the feature here.
  6. Dvorak – Cello Concerto and Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme with cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and the Berlin Philharmonic/Herbert von Karajan
  7. Haydn – Symphonies 82, 88, 95 with the Heidelberg SO and conductor Thomas Fey
  8. Bach – Sonata & Partita No. 1 for solo violin; Stravinsky’s Duo Concertante and Suite Italienne with violinist Leonidas Kavakos and pianist Péter Nagy
  9. Richard Strauss – Four Last Songs, Orchestral Songs with soprano Jessye Norman, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and conductor Kurt Masur
  10. Beethoven – Symphonies 4 and 5 with the Minnesota Orchestra (!) and conductor Osmo Vänskä

I have to admit, I’m surprised by a couple of these choices. Besides that – where in the world are the woodwinds? The brass instruments? Personally, I think if you’re going to create your very own classical music library, you ought to have a few more instruments represented. So, my additions would be:

  1. Mozart – Concertos for Clarinet, Flute, and Flute and Harp with clarinetist Sabine Meyer, flutist Emmanuel Pahud, harpist Marie-Pierre Langlamet, the Berlin Philharmonic and Claudio Abbado (Mozart Flute Concerto from ArkivMusic)
  2. Richard Strauss – The Concertos with horn soloist Barry Tuckwell and various other soloists, including clarinetist Dmitri Ashkenazy, with the Berlin Radio SO and conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy (Strauss: The Concertos from ArkivMusic)

And then, just because I happen to love these recordings:

  1. Brahms – Complete Symphonies with the Seattle Symphony and Gerard Schwarz ( Brahms: The Complete Symphonies from Amazon)
  2. Various – The French Album with pianist Stephen Hough (The French Album from ArkivMusic)
  3. Eric Whitacre – Cloudburst with Polyphony and conductor Stephen Layton (Cloudburst from ArkivMusic)

New Classical Tracks: Modern Mandolin Quartet – Americana Bonus Content

Modern Mandolin Quartet - Americana

Not all of the content from an episode of New Classical Tracks makes the audio cut. Here is further information and interviews relating to the new disc, Americana by the Modern Mandolin Quartet.

The Modern Mandolin Quartet welcomes this holiday season the same way they’ve welcomed almost every holiday season since they first started playing together in 1985 — with a special arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite that they’ll include on some of their upcoming concerts. Here’s what two of the group’s founding members, Paul Binkley and Dana Rath, have to say about this music (which was arranged for them by a former member of the MMQ — Mike Marshall):

New Classical Tracks: Chilly Gonzales – Solo Piano II Bonus Content

Chilly Gonzales - Solo Piano II

Not all of the content from an episode of New Classical Tracks makes the audio cut. Here is further information and interviews relating to the new disc, Solo Piano II by Chilly Gonzales.

Musician Chilly Gonzales, a performer who often appears on stage in a bathrobe and slippers, has taken it upon himself to, as he says, “rehabilitate the white keys.” The white keys, he says, get a bad rap. “They mostly sound like fairy tales when you play them,” Gonzales remarks. “A lot of the very saccharine music you’ll hear in film scores these days… It kind of comes from tinkling away on the white keys.”

In his quest to rehabilitate those white piano keys, Gonzales shifts the range of the piano to something unexpected in a piece titled, appropriately enough, White Keys. Suddenly, according to Gonzales, you’re hearing “very, very low, dark stuff that you could never really imagine would sound like a white key piece.”

And he wants to help the listener appreciate what he’s done. So, he created one of his Piano Visions — a video on his website — so anyone can see just exactly how he’s using the white keys. Take a look:

WHITE KEYS from SOLO PIANO II from Chilly Gonzales on Vimeo.

New Classical Tracks – American Flute Quintets Bonus Content

Carol Wincenc - American Flute Quintets (Bridge 9373)

Not all of the content from an episode of New Classical Tracks makes the audio cut. Here is further information and interviews relating to the new disc, American Flute Quintets by Carol Wincenc

Flutist Carol Wincenc has been teaching for more than 40 years and she says she has a lot of fun doing it. She also has a lot of fun exploring different ways of teaching her students about flute technique. And she says you can learn a lot about flute technique simply by learning more about… the violin:

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Below, watch Wincenc literally waltz her point across to one of her students during a recent masterclass:

Flutist Carol Wincenc was great friends with a true legend in the flute world: Jean-Pierre Rampal. She had just begun working with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra when she met Rampal for the first time — an experience she says she will never forget.

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Below, the great Jean-Pierre Rampal, in concert with the great… Miss Piggy:

New Classical Tracks – 1612 Italian Vespers Bonus Content

Not all of the content from an episode of New Classical Tracks makes the audio cut. Here is further information and interviews relating to the new disc, 1612 Italian Vespers.

For their latest recording, 1612 Italian Vespers, the ensemble I Fagiolini (‘Little Beans’) worked with their music director Robert Hollingworth and music historian Hugh Keyte to reconstruct Giovanni Gabrieli’s Magnificat. It’s a unique, mysterious piece of music — a piece of music that totally stretches the expected and accepted musical boundaries established in the 16th century — and Hollingworth talks about the beginning of the reconstruction here:

Making an audio recording outside of a traditional recording studio can be a challenging experience. You can’t control the twittering of birds, the sound of cars zipping by, and, in the case of Robert Hollingworth and I Fagiolini, the police sirens. Over three days in January, the group gathered at St. John’s Church, Upper Norwood, in London to record 1612 Italian Vespers and Hollingworth says those police sirens were out in full force.

Part 1:

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Part 2:

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