Category Archives: Awards & Accomplishments

BAFTA honors go to ‘Penny Dreadful’ and ‘Sherlock’


The 2015 British Academy Awards were bestowed by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) on Sunday night. The BAFTA awards are a celebration of film and television on the scale of our own Academy Awards; many believe they have an even more acute eye (and ear) for quality.

Of the many honors bestowed came three for Showtime’s Penny Dreadful in Production Design, Makeup and Hair Design, and a Best Original Music award for Abel Korzeniowski. I spoke with Korzeniowski last year about the incredible richness and experimentation of his classically-inspired score for the show’s first season. The BAFTA honor is a well-earned reward and comes just in time for the show’s second season premiere this Sunday on Showtime, which the network will be offering for free.

In addition to Penny Dreadful, fan favorite Sherlock (above) took home awards for Sound and Editing. I spoke with the composers David Arnold and Michael Price of Sherlock last year and learned how vital their work is to the show’s success. While the award may not be a win for the composers personally, it’s a great success regardless that reflects the creativity and hard work put in by the show’s entire creative team.

Four Young Minnesota musicians to perform at Carnegie Hall

Carnegie Hall has announced the roster for the 2015 National Youth Orchestra of the United States (NYO-USA). The orchestra, led by celebrated conductor Charles Dutoit, will perform nine concerts in the United States and China from July 10-26. The concert program includes a premiere from Chinese composer Tan Dun, as well as Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 (“Emperor”) and Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique.

114 outstanding young musicians (aged 16-19) were chosen for the ensemble. They come from 37 different states, and four of them are from Minnesota:

    • Sarrah Bushara, oboe (Eden Prairie)
    • Brandon Duffy, violin (Lino Lakes)
    • Arjun Ganguly, viola (St. Cloud)
    • Emma Richman, violin (Minneapolis)

In addition, three of these four have been participants in Minnesota Varsity. Richman was in the 2013 Showcase Round as a member of Luna String Quartet. Ganguly was a soloist in the 2014 Featured Round. Bushara was a soloist in the 2014 Showcase Round, and this year, she is in the Featured Round (Showcase Round has yet to be decided) as a member of Trio Tesoro. Here is a performance of the trio from last year, performing Khachaturian’s Trio for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano in G Minor

Notable classical Grammy wins

Grammy Award
Grammy Award (photo by Jacob Bronstein, Creative Commons)

The 57th annual Grammy Awards ceremony took place tonight, and a number of this year’s classical winners are familiar to Classical MPR listeners. We’ve provided this list of the award winners in the classical-music categories, along with links to features we’ve done about some of these winners.

Adams, John Luther: Become Ocean
John Luther Adams, composer (Ludovic Morlot & Seattle Symphony)
Label: Cantaloupe Music
Listen to Fred Child’s interview with John Luther Adams from Performance Today.

The Sacred Spirit Of Russia
Craig Hella Johnson, conductor (Conspirare)
Label: Harmonia Mundi

Watch and listen to Tesfa Wondemagegnehu’s Composer Conversation with Craig Hella Johnson:

In 27 Pieces – The Hilary Hahn Encores
Hilary Hahn & Cory Smythe
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Revisit the New Classical Tracks episode about Hahn’s album.

Jason Vieaux
Label: Azica Records
Listen to the New Classical Tracks episode about Vieaux’s album.

The Book Thief
John Williams, composer (John Williams)
Track from: The Book Thief Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Label: Sony Classical, Fox Music; Publisher: Fox Film Music Corp.
Listen to Lynne Warfel’s Flicks in Five episode on the music of The Book Thief.

Vaughan Williams: Dona Nobis Pacem; Symphony No. 4; The Lark Ascending
Michael Bishop, engineer; Michael Bishop, mastering engineer (Robert Spano, Norman Mackenzie, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra & Chorus)
Label: ASO Media

Judith Sherman

  • Beethoven: Cello & Piano Complete (Fischer Duo)
  • Brahms By Heart (Chiara String Quartet)
  • Composing America (Lark Quartet)
  • Divergence (Plattform K + K Vienna)
  • The Good Song (Thomas Meglioranza)
  • Mozart & Brahms: Clarinet Quintets (Anthony McGill & Pacifica Quartet)
  • Snapshot (American Brass Quintet)
  • Two X Four (Jaime Laredo, Jennifer Koh, Vinay Parameswaran & Curtis 20/21 Ensemble)
  • Wagner Without Words (Llyr Williams)

Adams, John: City Noir
David Robertson, conductor (St. Louis Symphony)
Label: Nonesuch

Charpentier: La Descente D’Orphée Aux Enfers
Paul O’Dette & Stephen Stubbs, conductors; Aaron Sheehan; Renate Wolter-Seevers, producer (Boston Early Music Festival Chamber Ensemble; Boston Early Music Festival Vocal Ensemble)
Label: CPO

Douce France
Anne Sofie Von Otter; Bengt Forsberg, accompanist (Carl Bagge, Margareta Bengston, Mats Bergström, Per Ekdahl, Bengan Janson, Olle Linder & Antoine Tamestit)
Label: Naïve

Partch: Plectra & Percussion Dances
Partch; John Schneider, producer
Label: Bridge Records, Inc.

Daft Punk
Ben Bram, Mitch Grassi, Scott Hoying, Avi Kaplan, Kirstin Maldonado & Kevin Olusola, arrangers (Pentatonix)
Track from: PTX, Vol. 2
Label: RCA Records
Brian Newhouse and Tesfa Wondemagegnehu talk about their first encounters with Pentatonix, and share a studio video of “Run to You.”

The late Stephen Paulus was featured in the “in memoriam” montage, as well.

New York Polyphony's 'Sing Thee Nowell' nominated for Grammy Award

New York Polyphony performing in Minneapolis in December 2011 (MPR photo/Tom Campbell)

New York Polyphony have announced that their album, Sing Thee Nowell, has been nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Chamber Music/ Small Ensemble Performance category. It’s the second Grammy nomination for the ensemble, who last received the honor for their 2013 album, Times Go By Turns.

Back in December 2011, New York Polyphony made their Twin Cities debut with a concert in Minneapolis. Perhaps it’s fitting NYP earned a Grammy nomination for a Christmas album; the group first came together because of Christmas music and its first album was a collection of Yuletide songs. Here’s an excerpt of what I wrote about the group in 2011, after interviewing one of the ensemble’s founding members, Geoff Williams:

… it was, after all, Christmas music that launched the ensemble. The four men had first met while singing in church choirs in Manhattan. “We knew immediately how much we enjoyed singing together and we talked over beers every now and again how we should try to form something, but nothing really came of it,” Williams recalls.

That changed in 2006, when Malcolm Bruno, a producer friend of Williams, asked Williams if he might be able to put together an ensemble for a Christmas program. Williams and his friends recorded some tracks for Bruno and quicklv realized their sound merited further exploration. Those original tracks became the critically acclaimed album, I Sing the Birth, released on Avie Records. “We had a record deal and an album before we’d actually sung for anyone live,” Williams says.

Sing Thee Nowell includes arrangements by longtime NYP collaborator Andrew Smith and was recently featured in Classical MPR Assistant Music Director Jennifer Allen’s holiday-album roundup.

New York Polyphony shared this video on the making of Sing Thee Nowell:

A violinist and her dog

Violinist Ida Kavafian has been raising Viszlas (Hungarian hunting dogs) for years. She’s a regular at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show every February at Madison Square Garden. This year one of her beloved pooches won “Best of Opposite Sex” (which goes to the best female if a male wins best of breed, as happened this year).

Her dog is officially named Brittania N Bayviews Ida One (although…I’m sure they have a cute nickname for her!). Here’s a picture from yesterday at Madison Square Garden, with Ida Kavafian holding the ribbon.

Ida Kavafian and her prize-winning dog


(And btw, Ida’s husband is Steven Tenenbom, violist in the Orion String Quartet. He’s as much into the family dogs as Ida…)

Martina Arroyo receives Kennedy Center Honors, December 29 on CBS

Martina Arroyo’s soprano was among the great opera voices of the 20th century. Her three-decade career, stretching from the 1960s to the 1990s, most notably included many years as a favorite at the Metropolitan Opera, excelling in classic roles such as Donna Anna and Aida.

Adding to the importance of Arroyo’s achievement is the fact that she was one of the first African-American artists to perform at the level of an international opera star. (“No, honey, I’m the other one,” she once told a Met doorman who mistook her for Leontyne Price.)

Arroyo has now been recognized among the recipients of 2013 Kennedy Center Honors, putting her in the strange but welcome company of Billy Joel, Shirley MacLaine, Herbie Hancock, and Carlos Santana. The ceremony honoring this year’s recipients took place on December 8; it will be broadcast December 29 on CBS at 8:00 p.m. CST.

Below, watch a 2010 interview with Arroyo in which she discusses her career — starting with her parents’ initial suspicion of opera as an art form. “When I told them that I wanted to sing in the opera,” Arroyo remembers, “my father thought it was something like being a can-can girl.”

Minnesota Orchestra, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra scoop Grammy nominations

Sibelius 1 and 4 Minnesota Orchestra.jpg

The Recording Academy has bestowed upon the Minnesota Orchestra an honor made poignant by music director Osmo Vänskä’s recent resignation: a Grammy nomination, in the category of Best Orchestral Performance, for the orchestra’s recording of Sibelius’s first and fourth symphonies for the BIS label. Under Vänskä, the Minnesota Orchestra were regarded as arguably the world’s premier interpreters of the Finnish composer’s work; this is the most recent of multiple Grammy nominations Vänskä and the orchestra received, including a previous nomination for their recording of Sibelius’s second and fifth symphonies.

Additionally, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s recording of Winter Morning Walks with Dawn Upshaw was nominated in the Best Classical Vocal Solo category. Winter Morning Walks composer Maria Schneider also received a nomination in the Best Contemporary Classical Composition category. The SPCO previously won a Grammy for its 1980 recording of Copland’s Appalachian Spring with conductor Dennis Russell Davies.

Among the other recipients of 2014 Grammy nominations were the New York Polyphony, whose Times Go By Turns is a contender in the Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance category. That recording was featured on Classical MPR’s New Classical Tracks in September. Also featured in our New Classical Tracks series was composer Dobrina Tabakova, whose String Paths is nominated for Best Classical Compendium.

The 56th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony will be held on January 26 at L.A.’s Staples Center.

British Composer Awards controversy: Does classical music need a female-only prize?

Marin Alsop.jpg

Marin Alsop. Photo by Grant Leighton.

The winners of the 2013 British Composer Awards have been announced: 14 talented composers. To be precise, that’s 14 talented male composers.

To blogger Jessica Duchen, this suggests a question that’s so urgent she puts it in all-caps (referring to the number of categories, 13, rather than the actual number of winners): “HOW IS IT POSSIBLE IN 2013 THAT 13 MEN GET PRIZES AND THERE IS NOT ONE WOMAN IN THE LINE-UP?”

It’s no secret that achieving diversity — of all types — among participants and audiences has been as much a challenge for classical music as for any art form. Progress is being made, even at the highest levels: this year, American conductor Marin Alsop became the first woman ever to lead the BBC band at the Last Night of the Proms. As the British Composer Awards (and caveman comments like those by Vasily “a cute girl on a podium means that musicians think about other things” Petrenko) evince, however, we’re still a long way from equity.

Duchen offers a suggestion: “It is time for an all-women prize for classical music. Women are achieving great things in this field — but they are not being adequately recognised for it. This time we need more than a list. We need action and we need it now.”

What do you think? In the quest for gender parity at parchment and podium, would prizes specifically for women musicians and composers help?

Reawakening the Sacred: A Jeremy Denk Book Review

Jeremy Denk, the compelling and persuasive artist, American concert pianist, avid chamber musician, exploratory in his choice of repertoire has now moved from the ivory keyboard of his Steinway to his dimly lit laptop to become a writer for none other than the New York Times’ book reviews.


Last Thursday (April 12th, 2012), Denk was published in the New York Times Book Review, an honor not stopping at simple publication. His review boasts the largest thumbnail picture on the page — the featured article!

The book: The Great Animal Orchestra written by Bernie Krause, a self-proclaimed child prodigy, folk musician, author and soundscape recordist in a newly coined term called biophony.

Krause’s book comes years after his short stint with folk ensemble The Weavers, some exploration into electronic music, creating the synthesizer group Beaver & Krause (which you can hear with bands such as The Monkeys, The Byrds, The Doors and Stevie Wonder) and then years spent in the Muir Woods recording the sounds of nature.

Muir woods.jpg

As Denk puts it, the book “resembles a howl more than an argument” as Krause exposes our abandonment and exile of the world’s sound. Krause uses scientific data, his own observation, and some hearsay in order to criticize our entire human culture as wall-building and ignorant of the beautiful array of sound in nature that is as much creative as it is practical.

This prominent review is no doubt a great honor for Jeremy Denk. But isn’t this a story Westerners have been hearing about for quite some time — disillusionment and numbness to our world. As we continue down the overstated economic downturn, as education continues to be left to simmer on the back-burner, as our political system becomes unconscionably polarized (and no less corrupt), and as our religious and spiritual selves become bankrupt we are left with no choice but to turn toward nature, to seek refuge for some morsel of the sacred.

It is not as though our experience with nature is in anyway unique, quite the opposite. Rather, it seems a bit uncanny because of its nostalgia and necessity, a sort of overcompensation.

I can remember that during college the only refuge I had from the abundance of assigned papers, endless nights cut by the wedge of a coffee-induced stare, countless performances and the occasional breakdown was the soundscape piece by Steve Reich called “Music for 18 Musicians.” This hour-long, harmonically swirling pulse would drive me into a trance. Often I would find myself with arms wide, leaning back, head held erect as I mentally wandered the mountain ranges of Montana (the place where I spent my summers), forgetting that I was sitting in a crowded computer lab lit by florescent bulbs.

Whether your experience with societal life is a positive or negative one, Jeremy Denk’s review sheds light on the offerings of Bernie Krause’s book The Great Animal Orchestra, a reawakening to the harmony and melody of nature.

After you peruse the review and maybe even the book, take time to notice the sounds of the world and think of your own refuge…

On a side note (and shamelessly promoting the Twin Cities music scene)… Jeremy Denk will be playing two separate concert series here in Saint Paul this weekend. The first, a series featuring works by Charles Ives, Mauricio Kagel and György Ligeti is showing from April 19-21. The second, featuring works by Edward Elgar, Hugo Wolf, Sergei Prokofiev, Johannes Brahms and Antonín Dvořák showing from April 20-22. Get your tickets at the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s website.

Minnesota Varsity Student Wins Miss Brainerd Lakes

Rebecca Yeh.jpg

This past June, Rebecca Yeh was crowned Miss Brainerd Lakes as a part of the Miss Minnesota Education Foundation, the official preliminary to the Miss America Pageant.

You might remember Rebecca for her stunning performance of the Adagio from J.S. Bach’s Violin Sonata No. 1 as a Featured Round performer for Minnesota Varsity this past spring. A wonderful musical talent, Rebecca left this past weekend for her freshman year at Ohio Northern University as a pharmacy major.

Before she left, I had a chance to talk with Rebecca about the competition, her plans, and her music.

Classical MPR: Have you done any pageant competitions before?

Rebecca Yeh: The Miss Brainerd Lakes pageant was the first pageant I competed in. I attended the pageant in 2010 and thought that I would have a great shot at it this year. Coming from a musical background and with my accomplishments as a violinist, I felt that I would have a lot to offer to the title of Miss Brainerd Lakes.

The Miss Brainerd Lakes Pageant is a part of the Miss America Organization that requires a talent and a personal platform, which really gives more depth to the program aside from being judged like a typical “beauty pageant”.

MPR: What repertoire did you play in the competition?

RY. For my talent performance, I played Vieuxtemp’s Souvenir D’Amerique Yankee Doodle Variations. The piece starts out with a very serious, almost uninviting opening, which eventually sneaks into the theme of Yankee Doodle. The reaction from the audience is always enjoyable, as they are surprised recognize the tune.

MPR: What will you be doing as Miss Brainerd Lakes for the coming year?

RY. So far, I have been able to travel to other local pageants as visiting royalty. I have also been part of parades in the Brainerd Lakes Area, as well as community events throughout the summer. In addition, I have had the opportunity to speak at service organizations such as the local rotaries.

At the local level of pageant competition, the main goal is to promote my platform, and prepare for the Miss Minnesota Pageant next June. During my breaks at home, I will have the opportunity to visit my community and participate in as many events as possible. My platform is named, “A Voice for Autism”, inspired by my 20-yr-old brother, Philip, who has pervasive developmental disorder under the spectrum of autism. Being crowned June 25th, I am in the process of developing my platform so that I am able to make real, tangible changes, not only in my brother’s life, but in the lives of other people with autism. My hopes are that I can integrate my music with my experience with autism, to create programs and bring awareness to autism spectrum disorders. I have had the opportunity to visit summer programs for autistic students and perform familiar pieces for them, while telling them about myself and taking questions. It has been amazing to see the effects even the simplest music can have on the relaxation and calmness of some students. I am hoping that by the time Miss MN comes around, I will have had opportunities to reach out and use the honor of being Miss Brainerd Lakes to help these people.

MPR: How did it feel to win?

RY: Winning the pageant was such an honor. I had put a lot of work into my preparation for that day. What many people don’t realize is that the pageant itself is a small peek at the journey of growth each of the contestant’s experiences. The interview portion of the pageant occurs off-stage, before the night of the pageant. Through months of mock interviewing and staying aware of my current events, I began to develop and communicate my viewpoints in society, culture and politics. In addition, the judging of the pageant looks at all areas of the contestant: physical fitness, public speaking, academics, and talent. Winning all categories of competition (swimsuit, evening gown, talent, and interview), I was honored and elated that my preparation had been well worth it.