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
    • 4.6 • 118 Ratings

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

    Surrick and McFarlane make music together for the first time

    Surrick and McFarlane make music together for the first time

    Jazz guitarist and composer Pat Metheny learned guitar the informal way, by ear, but he worked with classically trained musicians on his new album, 'Road to the Sun.'

    • 37 min
    Voces8 takes an introspective look at music

    Voces8 takes an introspective look at music

    Jazz guitarist and composer Pat Metheny learned guitar the informal way, by ear, but he worked with classically trained musicians on his new album, 'Road to the Sun.'

    • 36 min
    Pat Metheny enters the world of classical guitar

    Pat Metheny enters the world of classical guitar

    Jazz guitarist and composer Pat Metheny learned guitar the informal way, by ear, but he worked with classically trained musicians on his new album, 'Road to the Sun.'

    • 48 min
    The Verona Quartet turns folk traditions into music

    The Verona Quartet turns folk traditions into music

    The Verona Quartet — Diffusion (Azica)

    “I found a special bond. I felt as though I was meant to be the voice that glued everybody together, highly influential, but behind the scenes. I loved that. I even wrote my college entrance essay about wanting to play in a string quartet. Of course, at the time, I had no idea what that really meant,” said violist Abigail Rojansky of the Verona Quartet. That college entrance essay was for Oberlin College, where the Verona Quartet is now serving as quartet-in-residence. 

    According to Rojansky, music is just one avenue for telling a meaningful story. Its name, the Verona Quartet, pays tribute to Shakespeare, another great storyteller. She is joined by cellist Jonathan Dormand to talk about the stories that make up their debut recording, Diffusion.

    Why is exploring folk traditions on this album important to you?

    Jonathan: “It’s the end and the beginning of a period of time where you have national identities in a style of playing. 

    “It's all about how you take from one culture, explore it and made it your own. That is what we've tried to do. We looked back to fantastic music and learned from its traditions. But, how do we make it our own and do we try to put our own stamp on it?”

    Why is Maurice Ravel's String Quartet considered a masterpiece?

    Abigail: “The piece is masterfully written, but in terms of form, its breaking with tradition while building upon history. He greatly respected and heard the Debussy quartet. Debussy only wrote one String Quartet, which Ravel loved, but he thought that there were aspects of it that could have been improved.

    “Ravel’s String Quartet was also met with criticism, especially the last movement which people thought didn't have enough of a melody. It was too fast and in an uncomfortable rhythm. Now we look at it and say, ‘Oh, my goodness, this last movement is so spectacular.’“

    Can you talk about how Karol Szymanowski creates his unique voice in his String Quartet No. 2?

    Jonathan: “It has this hyper-romanticism about it. I just don't know another composer that writes incredibly lyrical, but at the same time offers delicious harmonies. He has his own unique take on everything. I'm quite obsessed with his piece.

    “The second movement also blasts us out of our seats. I'm not going to lie. I was listening and went, ‘Whoa!’ You can hear the power and the forcefulness in the music.”

    How does Leos Janacek’s passion for unrequited love come through in his String Quartet No. 2?

    Abigail: “One energized idea will break and suddenly he'll say something completely different with an entirely different emotional character, subject, or mode of expression. He does that in this quartet and that's part of what makes it so incredibly dramatic. Suddenly, it goes black and then there's something completely different. Nobody else could write like that before him.”


    Watch now





    Resources
    The Verona Quartet — Diffusion (Amazon)

    The Verona Quartet (official site)

    • 30 min
    Pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason explores American music

    Pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason explores American music

    Isata Kanneh-Mason — Summertime (Decca)

    Isata Kanneh-Mason is the oldest of seven incredibly talented musical siblings. They’ve all studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London and Kanneh-Mason received an Elton John Scholarship.

    “I've never really been to a pop concert and to be on stage in that setting is so different from what I'm used to. It really brought me into a different world,” said Kanneh-Mason when she not only met Elton John, she got to perform with him.

    While she enjoys pop music, her comfort zone is in the world of classical music. She recently released her second solo piano recording exploring American music , Summertime.

    How does your album illustrate the diversity of American music in the 20th century?

    “I went from Samuel Barber to Amy Beach, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor to George Gershwin and wanted to represent as many corners as I possibly could. To be American is like being British in the sense that it's not a race. It's loads of different races that have culturally been living together. Either they've moved there, or they've grown up there. There is diversity within the title of being American. That's what I wanted to show on the album.”


    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
    Isata Kanneh-Mason — Summertime (House of Music)

    Isata Kanneh-Mason — Summertime (Amazon)

    Isata Kanneh-Mason (official site)

    • 17 min
    Conductor JoAnn Falletta embraces the seasons

    Conductor JoAnn Falletta embraces the seasons

    JoAnn Falletta & the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra — The Four Seasons / The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires (Beau Fleuve)

    When the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra took the stage for their season opening concert last September, there was no audience in the hall due to the pandemic. Their loyal fans were watching the concert online. 

    Conductor JoAnn Falletta had to switch gears quickly.

    “Initially, we had a very big concert, and we pull out all the stops when we give our opening,” she said. “But, of course, that was not possible. We decided that the most thrilling thing we could do for our audience was to feature Nikki Chooi, our new concertmaster, performing The Four Seasons.”

    That performance is featured on their latest recording, The Four Seasons / The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires.

    Why was it important to include The Four Seasons? 

    “It had to do with Chooi's performance of it, which was thrilling. He puts his own 21st-century voice into it. He was reveling, seeing a sense of humor and loving the music. But, he was not burdened by past performances. He was playing from his heart.

    “This piece was written almost 300 years ago, and it is still relevant. The coming alive in the spring, the voices of the birds, the summer thunderstorms and the drinking wine is affirming to us about how we understand Antonio Vivaldi. We felt that we had a connection with that music, because it gave us a feeling that life would go on. We can get through this.”

    What made guest violinist Tessa Lark a good fit for Astor Piazzolla’s The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires?

    “It’s about the composer’s background. Piazzolla’s family were immigrants who moved to Argentina from Italy. He also grew up in Harlem during the jazz era. He studied with Alberto Ginastera and went to Paris to study with Nadia Boulanger. Piazzolla is a complex prism of music, and Lark is the same.

    “She not only plays classical, but she also plays bluegrass and jazz. Her loose and comfortable approach to playing Piazzolla made it really swing.

    “The composer said the tango is a sad feeling disguised as a dance. He knew it was the music of immigrants and poor people who knew they would never go home again. But in the tango, they found their soul. They found a way of understanding themselves. Piazzolla knew the sad core of the tango, and Lark was able to bring that to life.”

    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
    JoAnn Falletta & the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra — The Four Seasons / The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires (BPO Store)

    JoAnn Falletta (official site)

    • 24 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
118 Ratings

118 Ratings

Packgoat ,

Sarah Willis

Sarah Willis, the Dolly Parton of the horn world: incredible musician, generous social conscience, and so fun! Perfect to play Sarah on Dolly’s birthday! Thanks always for your enlightening interviews.

puppyday ,

Wonderful, wonderful content

Thoroughly enjoying the varied content in this podcast. Interesting stories, new forms of music. It provides such a human connection to the composers and musicians.

KIM031455 ,

The best!

This podcast offers a beautiful view into the minds of classical musicians and composers and offers a great escape from the every day! The editing is a fantastic blend of the interview and the recording being discussed. Many other music podcasts go too far one way or the other, but I love the balance between the music and the conversation. Definitely give it a listen!

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