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
    • 4.5 • 2 Ratings

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

    Conductor John Jeter continues to celebrate the works of Florence Price

    Conductor John Jeter continues to celebrate the works of Florence Price

    John Jeter and the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra — Price: Symphony No. 3, The Mississippi River & Ethiopia's Shadow in America (Naxos)






    New Classical Tracks - John Jeter



    by




    John Jeter spends most of his time as music director and conductor of Arkansas’s Fort Smith Symphony.  He’s a big believer in promoting the culture of his state, even if it means going to Europe. For the second recording in his series celebrating the music of Florence Price, Jeter travelled to Vienna to work with the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra on his new recording, Price: Symphony No. 3, The Mississippi River & Ethiopia's Shadow in America.  

    How did you start this series devoted to the music of Florence Price?

    “We have an archive with many of Price’s manuscripts at the University of Arkansas, which is one hour north from where I live. When I was able to go up there and see all this music, that was just sitting, I thought it would make a fantastic project.”




    Courtesy of artist

    John Jeter





    What's most intriguing about her work?

    “There's a lot of blues harmonies. There are some great, almost revival-like-meeting moments in the 'Juba' movement of Symphony No. 3.”

    Can you talk about Mississippi River and what it means?

    “This is Smetana, as Muldowney, on steroids. This might be her most expansive orchestral work. It has a film music, cinema graphic connotation to it, which is interesting because Price played piano and organ for silent films.

    “It's filled with various spirituals. You go through Native American landscape and New Orleans. You can hear some Steamboat Willie and there's a cowboy hangout you pass by. Of course, there has to be rapids on a river.

    “At the end, the river literally empties out into the gulf and it flows very softly to the expanse of the ocean. It's great and I'm so glad she did it this way. Just a sustained chord and a little bit of a harp at the end.”

    Can you explain what Ethiopia's Shadow in America means?

    “For whatever reason, that name [Ethiopia] became synonymous with thinking about Africa at that time. The idea of slaves coming to America is a weighty and terrible experience. The work attempts to try to understand that. It might look towards some sort of religious or spiritual guidance.”


    Watch now



    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
    John Jeter and the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra — Price: Symphony No. 3, The Mississippi River & Ethiopia's Shadow in America (Amazon)

    John Jeter and the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra — Price: Symphony No. 3, The Mississippi River & Ethiopia's Shadow in America (Naxos Direct Store)

    John Jeter (official site)

    • 23 min
    Musical siblings Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason debut their first duo album

    Musical siblings Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason debut their first duo album

    Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason — MUSE (Decca)






    New Classical Tracks - Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason



    by




    British pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason and her younger brother, Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, have very different personalities. Perhaps, that is why they get along so well. They both have flourishing solo careers and have performed together for years, carefully developing an incredible sense of timing and trust essential for any musical duo. Their first album as a duo, Muse, features two cello sonatas, one by Samuel Barber and the other by Sergei Rachmaninoff.

    “We’ve always wanted to record together,” said Isata about working with her brother. “We’ve recorded pieces that we really love, especially the Rachmaninoff, which is a piece we’ve known since we were very small. It’s really exciting to have this album and we spent a lot of time exploring and enjoying the pieces together.”

    How did you discover Barber’s Cello Sonata?

    Sheku: “It's not well known at all and we discovered it recently. It was my teacher who introduced us to the piece. We both listened to it, loved it and were struck by how immediate it grips you.”

    Is there a section in this sonata that you each love to play?

    Isata: “There’s many movements in both of the sonatas. I particularly enjoy playing the second movement of the Rachmaninoff and in that movement, the second subject theme. I think it is really beautiful. I just love all the textures in that movement between the instruments.”

    Sheku: “It's music that works so well as a whole. They're all part of an overall shape.”

    Isata: “Yes, one section wouldn’t be as good because of the section before.”

    What is it about Rachmaninoff's Cello Sonata that makes it one of your favorite pieces?

    Sheku: “It's incredibly beautiful and poetic music. It’s a wonderful piece of chamber music in the way the instruments and voices interact. It's just amazingly well crafted. It’s one of the most enjoyable pieces to perform and listen to. It's filled with some incredibly great melodies. I know that it gives the cello a chance to really sing.”

    Can you point out your favorite melody?

    Sheku: “My favorite? I would say one of my favorite melodies is the second subject of the first movement. It’s played first by the piano and then the cello. It's wonderful. Rachmaninoff's use of falling close intervals, rising large intervals and the painfulness of falling semitones is really powerful. Then you have these hopeful rising intervals later on in the phrase. It’s such a wonderful relief. I think that's one of the most beautiful melodies and phrases.”


    Watch now



    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
    Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason — MUSE (Amazon)

    Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason — MUSE (Decca Store)

    Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason — MUSE (House of Music Store)

    The Kanneh-Mason (official site)

    Isata Kanneh-Mason (official site)

    Sheku Kanneh-Mason (official site)

    • 23 min
    Violinist Daniel Hope embarks on his most creative project to date

    Violinist Daniel Hope embarks on his most creative project to date

    Daniel Hope — Hope (DG)






    New Classical Tracks - Daniel Hope



    by




    “Music doesn't let me go. I always knew that it was the focus of my life, but it became a lifeline,” violinist Daniel Hope said about the pandemic. “It became a lifeline to the outside world. It was the luxury of time and connections to so many musicians that were willing to experiment and improvise that helped me find hope.”

    That resulted in his most creative project to date, his new recording with the Zurich Chamber Orchestra, Hope.

    “I've been music director of the Zurich Chamber Orchestra since 2016,” he said. “I've known them since I was a little boy. I heard them when I was 3, and it was the first orchestra that I experienced a violin concerto and symphony. An explosive and emotional orchestral sound came from the ensemble. I never dreamed that 40-odd-years later, I would be the music director, and we've grown enormously together since.”

    How did the idea for this album emerge?

    “Throughout the lockdown, we started an online series concerts, Hope at Home. Our message was to rediscover hope through music. The connection between these ideas of positive feelings, energy and music was so strong that we decided to make an album which tries to tap into them. I did feel there was a tremendous connection to the people, and that meant a lot to me during the lockdown. That's really how this album came together.”

    Why did you focus on songs and the human voice on this new recording?

    “It was very hard for musicians not to be able to perform and travel during the pandemic. But for vocalists, in particular, the idea of singing was banned, more or less. You were just not allowed to sing. The images of people singing from their balconies and connecting via Zoom was so powerful and moving. I thought, let's put the idea of the human voice at the center of this album.” 

    Can you talk about the evolution of the opening work by Argentine composer Ariel Ramirez?

    “I heard this piece as a child. I became obsessed with this gorgeous recording of it by Jose Carreras. I said to myself one day I want to play this on the violin. I actually wanted to sing it, but I realized my voice wasn't good enough to do that. I thought, why not create a version with violin? I had this idea for decades.”


    Watch now



    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
    Daniel Hope — Hope (Amazon)

    Daniel Hope — Hope (DG Store)

    Daniel Hope (official site)

    • 36 min
    Pianist Seong-Jin Cho revisits Frédéric Chopin

    Pianist Seong-Jin Cho revisits Frédéric Chopin

    Seong-Jin Cho — Chopin Piano Concerto No. 2 • Scherzi (DG)






    New Classical Tracks - Seong-Jin Cho



    by




    Pianist Seong-Jin Cho became the first South Korean to win First Prize at the Warsaw International Chopin Competition in 2015. Following that award, he immediately recorded Chopin’s First Piano Concerto and the four Ballades with Gianandrea Noseda and the London Symphony Orchestra. Playing with the same orchestra and conductor, Cho has released his new album, Chopin Piano Concerto No. 2 • Scherzi.

    Why have you returned to the music of Frédéric Chopin? 

    “I didn’t record Chopin’s music intentionally for five years, because I didn't want to be labeled as a Chopin specialist. I wanted to explore different composers.”

    How has your relationship with Chopin changed over the past six years? 

    “It has been the same. I admire and respect his music, because he was very brave to convey so many of his emotions with his audiences. My style of play has changed in the past six years, but my connection with Chopin has not.”

    What new discoveries did you make about his Second Piano Concerto?

    “He wrote this piece when he was 20, and at the time he was falling in love. He almost dedicated this piece to her. That it’s so romantic, delicate and dramatic. I always try to take an innocent approach rather than a romantic one.”

    In the first movement, your left hand emphasizes the shifting harmonies and your right hand has the melodic line. How challenging is it to make sure that the right hand doesn't take over? 

    “There's a saying about Chopin's music that we made when we played his music: ‘The left hand should be like a like a tree, and the right has to be the leaves.’ Chopin's music, in general, is also very polyphonic. Not only is the right-hand melody important, but the left-hand melodic line or the inner voice is, as well.”

    What is it about these pieces that allows you to feature all four Scherzi on a single program?

    “They feel comfortable all in one place. They're musically connected, yet they're all different, but at the same time they're all similar. The fourth Scherzo is my favorite and the hardest. It is joyful, and the middle section is nostalgic.”


    Watch now





    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
    Seong-Jin Cho — Chopin Piano Concerto No. 2 • Scherzi (Amazon)

    Seong-Jin Cho — Chopin Piano Concerto No. 2 • Scherzi (DG Store)

    Seong-Jin Cho (official site)

    • 16 min
    Pianist Jeremy Denk revisits his favorite childhood composer, Mozart

    Pianist Jeremy Denk revisits his favorite childhood composer, Mozart

    Jeremy Denk & the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra — Mozart Piano Concertos (Nonesuch)

    Pianist Jeremy Denk has finally had the space and time to finish his forthcoming memoir Every Good Boy Does Fine, which will resonate with you if you took piano lessons as a kid. It releases this February, and its timing coincides beautifully with his new album featuring the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Mozart Piano Concertos.

    How has Mozart shaped you?

    “Actually, both the first and the last chapters of my book are about Mozart. The first chapter is about me listening to the piece Sinfonia Concerto. When I was 12, that piece rocked my world. At the end of the book, I'm recovering from personal loss and burnout. I'm also about to record an album of Mozart concertos with the SPCO.”

    Can you talk about Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25 and how it is different from his other piano concertos?

    “It’s a piece that starts very clearly with a blaze of light that’s in a major key. You don't think it's going to be this sunny, grand, triumphant piece, but within 20 seconds it switches to a tragic opera of utter uncertainty in the terrifying key of C minor. All through the first tutti-section and orchestral passage you feel the music keeps switching at unpredictable intervals between these two perspectives.”

    What do you look forward to when you're playing this concerto?

    “My favorite moment is in the last movement. In the middle, you have this love sextet between the piano and the woodwinds. We work really hard on that section between the orchestra and the winds. They become opera characters in their own right.

    “It is an innocent song at first, but it takes on this intensity, while it loops where you never would expect. It then takes on an unbelievable tragic tone that turns back into light, while it expands in an ecstatic way. It all dissolves back to the theme. That transition is one of the greatest passages of all time.”

    Why do you think the Piano Concerto in D Minor is more popular?

    “The first and last movements are the most vivid and shockingly iconic music that Mozart ever wrote. It's the most romantic work that Mozart composed. It’s not in the classical style, but you hear the romantic era waiting to explode out.

    “The most striking passages in this piece come in the beginning of the last scene where the piano plays the theme and the orchestra starts up after. Usually in Mozart concertos they just repeat the theme that the piano played. But in this case, the orchestra begins to develop and alter the material in a way that is unrecognizable.

    “It becomes possessed by the spirit of modulation and the idea leaps all over the orchestra. That passage has an incredible quality to it.”


    Watch Now



    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
    Jeremy Denk & the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra — Mozart Piano Concertos (Amazon)

    Jeremy Denk & the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra — Mozart Piano Concertos (Nonesuch Store)

    Jeremy Denk (official site)

    St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (official site)

    • 21 min
    ARC Ensemble honors composer Dmitri Klebanov

    ARC Ensemble honors composer Dmitri Klebanov

    ARC Ensemble – Chamber Works by Dmitri Klebanov (Chandos)

    “It is very interesting that every composer tells a different story of overcoming difficulties,” said Simon Wynberg, who is the artistic director for the Arc Ensemble. “It’s about planting a flag in the ground and producing marvelous work. It's a really exciting kind of project.”

    Chamber works by Dmitri Klebanov is the fifth recording from the group's Music and Exile series, and it features the Jewish Ukrainian composer Dimitri Klebanov

    How did the Yuri Klebanov contribute to this album full of his father’s music?

    “He had amazing insights into his father's life. He had anecdotes and letters and notes between Shostakovich his father from when he was a boy. There were all sorts of things that he could tell me about the repertoire and about Dimitri Klebanov’s life. We corresponded for years.

    “It was a real shock when he suddenly passed. I know he was really looking forward to the release of the CD because it was the first time in 30 years that a commercial release of his father’s music had happened.

    “The album tracks his progress and compositional style. It starts with his fourth quartet, which was completed after the war, and it includes his piano trio and fifth quartet. The later work is more advanced harmonically than the pervious two works.”


    Watch now





    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
    ARC Ensemble – Chamber Works by Dmitri Klebanov (Amazon)

    ARC Ensemble – Chamber Works by Dmitri Klebanov (Royal Conservatory Music Store)

    ARC Ensemble (official site)

    • 19 min

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5
2 Ratings

2 Ratings

Top Podcasts In Music

You Might Also Like

More by MPR