59 episodes

Host Julie Amacher provides an in-depth exploration of a new classical music release each week.

New Classical Tracks with Julie Amacher MPR

    • Music

Host Julie Amacher provides an in-depth exploration of a new classical music release each week.

    Clarinetist Anthony McGill and pianist Gloria Chien are 'Here With You'

    Clarinetist Anthony McGill and pianist Gloria Chien are 'Here With You'

    Anthony McGill and Gloria Chien — Here With You (Cedille)






    New Classical Tracks - Anthony McGill and Gloria Chien



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    “It’s not just the two of us as musicians together or as musical partners, but Here With You also means that performers are with the audience,” said clarinetist Anthony McGill about his first album as a duo with pianist Gloria Chien. “We're with the listener. We're also with the composer. It’s about us all here with each other, together.”

    Fifteen years ago, the duo made a special connection over the music of Johannes Brahms at the Music@Menlo festival. Chien was a participant and McGill, principal clarinetist of the New York Philharmonic and artistic director of the Music Advancement Program for young students at the Juilliard School, was her coach.

    How did the two of you bond over the music of Brahms?

    McGill: “It goes back to our original meeting with Brahms. Pianists and clarinetists throughout history have loved these particular works because these two sonatas by Brahms are some of the greatest chamber pieces ever written.”

    Chien: “We talked about doing this album for a long time, and with these pieces. The Brahms and Weber grew with us. We had the space and time to really spend with this music. The Brahms has a timeless quality that almost suspends time.”

    What in Brahms’ music do you feel can provide hope for the future?

    McGill: “There's something about the way he puts together the narrative in music. The way the harmonies roll by in the storyline that he weaves in his pieces enables you to reflect. In Brahms’ music you hear all of these waves of emotion and expression.

    “In the end of the first movement of the second sonata, there's a part where the tension is building. It is then released into this gloriously beautiful soft tranquil section where the harmonies show us the joy and sweetness of life. They are revealed right after the most intense moment of pain and passion.”

    How does Jessie Montgomery's composition fit into the concept of the album?

    McGill: “We knew that this work, Peace, needed to be on the album to make a stamp. The stamp is a very large mark of where we are in the world. ‘Who are we with? How do we feel?’ It helps to bring people into where we are.”

    Chien: “What we all learned we are missing the most is that craving for connection. Here With You, is really a tribute to this time.”

    To hear the rest of my conversation, click on the extended interview above, or download the extended podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.




    Watch now





    Resources
    Anthony McGill and Gloria Chien — Here With You (Cedille Store)

    Anthony McGill and Gloria Chien — Here With You (Amazon)

    Anthony McGill (official site)

    Gloria Chien (official site)

    • 31 min
    Pianist Víkingur Ólafsson wants to change how we think about Mozart

    Pianist Víkingur Ólafsson wants to change how we think about Mozart

    Víkingur Ólafsson — Mozart and Contemporaries (DG)






    New Classical Tracks - Víkingur Ólafsson



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    “I think the good thing about Iceland is that you have a certain sense of freedom and you have to find your own path,” said pianist Víkingur Ólafsson about how he experienced growing up in Iceland in the 1990s. “My mother was a piano teacher and a very good one. But she never pushed me. She would rather have me go out and play football with my friends and be a normal kid.”

    That sense of freedom has extended into his live performances and his recordings. This past summer, Ólafsson made his long-awaited debut at the BBC Proms, where he offered a preview of his new release, Mozart and Contemporaries.

    Why are you trying to change people's perceptions of Mozart?

    “I think we all come to Mozart with a certain amount of baggage. For instance, if you're a piano student and play the easy pieces of Mozart when you're 7 or 8, then your teachers are sort of indoctrinating the myth of Mozart upon you. They're telling you about his unparalleled genius and scaring you with the idea of him. I went to see the Magic Flute when I was 7. It was the first opera I had ever saw and I remember just being pale afterwards thinking, ‘Oh my God, he must have written this when he was 7. What have I done with my life?’

    “The whole album is an exploration of not Mozart-the-Wunderkind, but rather the mature Mozart. I believe that is the Mozart that we know today and what we think of when we think of him.”

    To hear the rest of my conversation, click on the extended interview above, or download the extended podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.


    Watch now





    Resources
    Víkingur Ólafsson — Mozart and Contemporaries (Center Stage Store)

    Víkingur Ólafsson — Mozart and Contemporaries (Amazon)

    Víkingur Ólafsson (official site)


    More on Víkingur Ólafsson




    Víkingur Ólafsson wants to change your mind about Mozart

    • 25 min
    Most coveted releases of 2021

    Most coveted releases of 2021

    On New Classical Tracks, we love sharing with you the most exciting new recordings every year. And, when you enter our weekly CD giveaways, you show us how excited you are about these recordings, too. Find out which albums made the list of 10 most coveted new releases of 2020.

    • 31 min
    Lute and Viola Da Gamba Duo Ronn McFarlane and Carolyn Surrick Celebrate the Holidays

    Lute and Viola Da Gamba Duo Ronn McFarlane and Carolyn Surrick Celebrate the Holidays

    Ronn McFarlane and Carolyn Surrick, with Jackie Moran — A Star in the East (Flower Pot Productions) Jump to giveaway form






    New Classical Tracks - Ronn McFarlane and Carolyn Surrick



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    Last year around this time, Ronn McFarlane and Carolyn Surrick, who are usually quite busy with their early music ensembles, had the time and space to finally make music together. That special musical connection has just produced their second recording, A Star in the East. It features more original music, and a fresh look at some familiar Christmas melodies.

    How do we hear Christmas throughout the album?

    Carolyn: “I don't think Christmas will ever be the same after 2020. We're transforming the music the way our lives and Christmas have been transformed. One beautiful way this CD and music came together was in the ‘Carol of the Bells.’ Ron did a beautiful arrangement, which gets overlaid with ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.’

    “You also have the  ‘L’Homme Arme,’ which is a piece of music that most people have no idea what it is. It's part of our musical history because it was an incredibly popular tune in the 16th and late 15th-century.

    “‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ is definitely not a gamba and lute piece. I'm sure that this piece has never been recorded with gamba and lute before. We were in the process of looking at pieces that we love that have something meaningful to say.”

    Can you tell me about ‘What Wondrous Love Is This/ Walking In The Air’?

    Ronn: “I brought ‘Walking In The Air’ to one of our rehearsals. It's something that I had loved for a long time because it was from the animated Christmas movie The Snowman. The idea of putting it together along with ‘What Wondrous Love Is This’ and creating a sort of bridge between the two was completely Carolyn's inspiration.”

    Can you talk about the title track that you wrote for Carolyn?

    Ronn: “I actually wrote it before we recorded our first album, Fermi's Paradox. I felt so happy and excited to play with Carolyn. I wanted to create some music specifically for us and also write for viola da gamba in a way that exploited what it can do.”

    Carolyn: “I can tell you exactly what it was like the first time we played it. ‘Oh, this is so beautiful!’”

    To hear the rest of my conversation, click on the extended interview above, or download the extended podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.


    Watch now





    Resources
    Ronn McFarlane and Carolyn Surrick, with Jackie Moran — A Star in the East (Amazon)

    Ronn McFarlane (official site)

    Carolyn Surrick (official site)

    • 31 min
    The Knights celebrate the holiday season with a Christmas album

    The Knights celebrate the holiday season with a Christmas album

    The Knights — Before Christmas (Bright Shiny Things) 






    New Classical Tracks - The Knights



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    “This album took as much time as building the perfect dessert or pastry over the course of years,” said Eric Jacobsen, conductor of the Knights. “Yet at the same time, it's meant to make people happy and be that taste you love so much.”

    Over the past 20 years, Jacobsen has created a sense of trust with the orchestral collective he co-founded, allowing different members to take the lead on special projects.  Their latest recording, Before Christmas, is a perfect example and perfect pastry. It’s the brainchild of Christina Courtin. She’s a violinist with the Knights, as well as a singer, songwriter, producer and engineer.

    Christina, why was this project important to you?

    Christina: “I've always been really interested in holiday records. I love Christmas records. I love listening to that music. When Eric approached me about doing it, I was really excited, but also a little nervous. It’s like your best friend giving you the keys to the Porsche.”

    Who is the biggest surprise guest on this album?

    Christina: “Anthony Roth Costanzo, because I personally don't have a relationship with him. I was unsure if he was going to work with me. We recorded him singing first, which was kind of unusual. Usually, the band will record first and then the soloist gets to overdub on top of that.”

    Eric: “There was a freedom in his singing because he got to record it with his own pianist. The orchestra then had to listen many times to get his inflections and be an organ, breathe and a string section at the same time. That was really fun.”

    Can you talk about the inspiration behind the piece “The Kazoo”?

    Christina: “I'm a big fan of Wu Man. For me; there's a lot of humor in music. I thought of this and started laughing. I thought it was so funny. I was really surprised when she said yes. I wasn't sure she was going to agree to it. I'm really happy, and I have a strong feeling about it. I really wanted to do it.”

    Can you talk about your arrangement of “Little Drummer Boy” for folk group I'm With Her?

    Christina: It was challenging because there was one member of that band, who will remain nameless, who was dead set on not singing ‘a-rum-pum-pum-pum.’ She was OK with the song, but she just was opposed to that part of it. So there's no a-rum-pum-pums in this version of “Little Drummer Boy.”

    To hear the rest of my conversation, click on the extended interview above, or download the extended podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.



    Resources
    The Knights — Before Christmas (Bright Shiny Things Store)

    The Knights — Before Christmas (Amazon)

    The Knights (official site)

    Christina Courtin (official site)

    Eric Jacobsen (official site)

    • 40 min
    Pianist Emanuel Ax makes music with lifelong friend Yo-Yo Ma

    Pianist Emanuel Ax makes music with lifelong friend Yo-Yo Ma

    Emanuel Ax & Yo-Yo Ma  — Hope Amid Tears: Beethoven’s Cello Sonatas (Sony) 






    New Classical Tracks - Emanuel Ax



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    “Yo-Yo and I, back in the fall, we're able to do some concerts on the back of a truck. We did 20-minute concerts in various places in parking lots for nurses, teachers and UPS delivery people,“ said pianist Emanuel Ax about performing during the pandemic. “I hope that brought them a little pleasure.

    “I've also been practicing a lot, mainly because I wouldn't know what to do with myself if I didn't practice. I have no life. That's what I do. The one silver lining for me was that I didn't have to get nervous every three days before a concert because I tend to get nervous. That was kind of a relief.”

    Now, Ax and his longtime collaborator and friend Yo-Yo Ma have released their re-recording of Beethoven’s cello concertos.

    Tell us about your new recording, Hope Amid Tears, with Ma.

    “Yo-Yo Ma and I have done this going on 50 years. It's a very long time. It's one of the privileges of my life to have been doing this with Ma. I would be a very different person, musician and probably a much lesser one in both cases without that friendship.”

    Can you tell us about the first recording of Beethoven's cello sonatas you made together?

    “The first recording of those we did came out in 1981, 40 years ago.  Now, 40 years later, we thought we don't have that much time to waste. We better do them now before we get sick.”

    Why was it important to do them again?

    “I'm hoping that we changed a lot of little things. I think ultimately they add up to a big change.”

    To hear the rest of my conversation, click on the extended interview above, or download the extended podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

    Resources
    Emanuel Ax & Yo-Yo Ma  — Hope Amid Tears: Beethoven’s Cello Sonatas (Amazon)

    Emanuel Ax (official site)

    Yo-Yo Ma (official site)

    • 35 min

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