59 episodes

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

New Classical Tracks with Julie Amacher American Public Media

    • Music
    • 4.6 • 140 Ratings

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

    Amanda Lee Falkenberg's latest album is out of this world

    Amanda Lee Falkenberg's latest album is out of this world

    Amanda Lee Falkenberg with Marin Alsop/The London Symphony Orchestra & The London Voices — The Moons Symphony (Signum)






    New Classical Tracks - Amanda Lee Falkenberg



    by




    Amanda Lee Falkenberg is an Australian-born composer and pianist who lives in Dubai. Five years ago she took a leap of faith that led to the creation of a choral symphony that merges science and art. After a random email to a NASA scientist, which opened an entire universe of possibilities, she started work on her latest album, The Moon Symphony, featuring Marin Alsop conducting the London Symphony Orchestra, and the London Voices.

    Can you talk about the article that started this project?

    “I instantly went, ‘Oh my goodness! These moons are not weird. They're absolutely wonderful and I need to change their course.’ I felt like after reading the article I just wanted to break them free and give them a voice. Knowing the power of music and being a film composer let me understand the persuasive and powerful qualities that music has more than any other art form. It can really manipulate the emotional landscape. It was so clear to me that that's what I wanted to do with these moons.”

    Why is it important for you to merge science and art?

    “I just couldn't ignore it. I felt like science was tapping me on the shoulder saying, ‘Hey, can we be part of this moon adventure with you?’ At that point, I wasn't planning on having a choir, but I thought if I did get the choir involved it would give more relevance and outreach and could really house the science better.”

    Which of these moons or movements presented the greatest challenge for you?

    “Titan. I had a field day choosing the science of that moon because of all the recent discoveries, and because of the legendary Cassini–Huygens space-research mission by NASA. One of the challenging moments was when I had been composing nonstop for seven days, and I remember just listening back to what I had come up with. I don't like it at all. I scrapped everything. I just literally deleted it.

    “The moon Miranda of Uranus was a challenge for different reasons. I felt the most emotionally affected by her meaning. I just got so involved in her world. I remember feeling like I was living in a nightmare. I just wanted to beam myself out of it because it just was so dark, scary and violent.

    “That's when I found the story of the seventh moon. I thought, ‘Oh, my goodness! This is what's missing from my symphony. The seventh story. Why don't we position Earth's moon, our moon, in this storytelling?’ It’s something to remind us that we actually do have a home in the solar system and it was the moon Miranda's story that brought me to that inspiration.”




    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.


    More on Amanda Lee Falkenberg




    The Planetary Society Amanda Lee Falkenberg









    Resources
    Amanda Lee Falkenberg with Marin Alsop/The London Symphony Orchestra & The London Voices — The Moons Symphony (Presto music)

    Amanda Lee Falkenberg with Marin Alsop/The London Symphony Orchestra & The London Voices — The Moons Symphony (Amazon)

    Amanda Lee Falkenberg (official site)

    • 34 min
    Violinist Rachel Barton Pine rereleases a celebration of Black composers

    Violinist Rachel Barton Pine rereleases a celebration of Black composers

    Rachel Barton Pine — Violin Concertos by Black Composers Through the Centuries (Cedille)






    New Classical Tracks - Rachel Barton Pine



    by




    “You could say that the album that I've just rereleased is really the album that I would have made in 1997 had I only been able to back then,” violinist Rachel Barton Pine said about releasing a pioneering recording celebrating Black composers of the 18th and 19th centuries. “I couldn't be more excited.”

    Pine is reissuing and refreshing this recording 25 years later as Violin Concertos by Black Composers Through the Centuries.

    “We've all heard of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, the wonderful Afro-French composer who was the greatest swordsman in Europe and an inspiration to Mozart,” she said. “But there is another composer from the same time, Chevalier de Meude-Monpas. There's no existing visual image of him, but all the musicologists for decades assumed that he must be of African descent because he was always called Chevalier.

    “Years later they discovered that de Meude-Monpas had actually served in a regiment of the French army that all rode black horses. He was just a random white Frenchman, but he still composed an absolutely charming violin concerto,” Pine said. “I'm glad I got to perform it and record it, but it certainly no longer belongs on my album of violin concertos by Black composers.

    “Back in ‘97, when I was looking for repertoire among the various 20th-century pieces, I encountered a single page from a Florence Price manuscript. I was told that she had written two violin concertos, but they were considered to be lost to the world forever. There was no hope. They would never be found. They would never be heard,” she said about her search for music. “A few years ago, this treasure trove of her manuscripts was discovered in an old trunk in an abandoned farmhouse. Sitting in there among all the symphonic and chamber music were indeed both of her violin concertos.”




    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.


    More on Rachel Barton Pine




    New Classical Tracks Violinist Rachel Barton Pine records 'headbanger' concerto





    Watch violinist Rachel Barton Pine perform a duet with her 7-year-old daughter











    Resources
    Rachel Barton Pine — Violin Concertos by Black Composers Through the Centuries (Cedille official store)

    Rachel Barton Pine (official site)

    • 26 min
    Composer Christopher Tin and Voces8 team up to remember extinct birds

    Composer Christopher Tin and Voces8 team up to remember extinct birds

    Christopher Tin/Voces 8 — The Lost Birds (Decca)






    New Classical Tracks - Christopher Tin



    by




    Composer Christopher Tin and the British vocal ensemble Voces8 were introduced to one another by their recording engineer about a decade ago. Ever since that first meeting, Tin has been looking for an opportunity to collaborate with the singers. They were finally able to come together on a project called The Lost Birds.

    “The main overture of The Lost Birds is actually a melody that I'd written years ago for a documentary about bird extinctions,” Tin said. “This subject has been on my mind for more than ten years. This one little tune that I wrote 11 years ago has stayed as something that I wanted to expand upon in a choral requiem format. I finally got the chance to do that with Voces8 during the pandemic.”

    Why is the loss of birds important to you?

    “I've been very captivated by the metaphor of the canary in the coal mine, which you may know comes from the 19th century practice where miners used to bring a canary down to the coal mines with them. If the canary died it meant there was a buildup of poisonous gases in the coal mine and the miners would be next. I thought there was no better metaphor for the impending change in the climate and what it could mean for our own civilization. I took this metaphor and I essentially made an entire choral piece out of it.

    “We talk about birds and celebrate their beauty in the first half. But over the course of the second half, the birds vanish and the texts become more suggestive of humans going extinct along with the birds. It’s a soft activist message about where these extinctions are leading us.” 

    Why did you decide to adopt a 19th-century musical vocabulary?

    “I immersed myself in the vernacular of the 19th century, both musically and poetically. The four poets that I chose to set to music are Emily Dickinson, Sara Teasdale, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Christina Rossetti. I really wanted to create a time capsule that was reflecting on where we are now.”

    What were you going for with the piece “Thus in the Winter”?

    “The way I think of writing choral parts is almost like the way that birds fly in a flock. The different voices are individual birds and they all have their own motion, but collectively they have a group motion to them. It's directional and it's made up of all these individual threads. A piece like ‘Thus in the Winter’ is a realization of that movement. It is a lot of individual lines weaving around, sometimes coming together with big cries, but often diverging and doing their own things.”




    VOCES8 & Jack Liebeck: The Lark Ascending - Ralph Vaughan Williams (arr. Paul Drayton)





    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.


    More on Christopher Tin




    New Classical Tracks Christopher Tin's 'To Shiver the Sky' encourages listeners to take flight





    Composer Christopher Tin has a funky message for APA Heritage Month









    Resources
    Christopher Tin/Voces8 — The Lost Birds (Christopher Tin official store)

    Christopher Tin/Voces8 — The Lost Birds (Center Stage store)

    Christopher Tin/Voces8 — The Lost Birds (Amazon)

    Christopher Tin (official site)

    Voces8 (official site)

    • 28 min
    Horn player Sarah Willis learns to dance with second volume of 'Mozart y Mambo'

    Horn player Sarah Willis learns to dance with second volume of 'Mozart y Mambo'

    Sarah Willis — Mozart y Mambo: Cuban Dances (Alpha) Jump to giveaway form






    New Classical Tracks - Sarah Willis



    by




    When Sarah Willis travelled to Cuba two years ago to record Vol. 1 of her three-part series Mozart y Mambo, she wanted to make music and to make a difference. Thanks to profits from that first album, members of the Havana Lyceum Orchestra now have new instruments, and you can hear the difference those instruments make on Mozart y Mambo, Vol. 2, which was recently released.

    “Mozart y Mambo has become more than just an album. It's a real project. And we're looking after younger players in Cuba and trying to help them get better instruments and play in the Havana Lyceum Orchestra. So we're doing the same with album two. It's a lot of fun, and it's lovely to see how generous people are.”

    You start off the recording of Vol. 2 with Mozart's Horn Concerto No. 2. What made you decide to begin with this specific piece?

    “Recording that [concerto] in Havana with the Havana Lyceum Orchestra and seeing them dance this Mozart, because they literally dance when they play. I thought it could start the album really well, because we've we've called it Mozart Y Mambo: Cuban Dances in a reference to the Horn Concerto that's on the album. But I thought Mozart No. 2 was the most danceable of them all. Also, it's in the key of E-flat. And E-flat is a bit of a happier key for me than the first Concerto in D, and D is a little ‘fumbly’ on the horn, so we put that in a bit later.”

    Concerto No. 1 also appears on this recording. It’s a piece that requires a lot of slow practice with the metronome. Can you talk about why that is so critical to this work?

    “When you're playing in E-flat, you use a lot of your first and second fingers. Now, when you're playing in D, you use your second and third finger. Everyone listening to this, try wiggling your third finger. And now the ring finger. It's slower, isn't it? [It’s the same for us when] we are trying to play, like in the first movement of the First Concerto on a natural horn. For all of us, modern-day horn players, Mozart Concerto No. 1 means a lot of third finger work. And I had to really [practice]; it's like training my fingers for the ‘Horn Olympics.’”

    The music of Mozart frames Vol. 2, and nestled in the middle is a landmark original work. The original idea was to create the first Cuban Horn Concerto, but it really turned out to be more of a suite of dances. Talk a little bit about this suite and how it's also created this wonderful map of Cuba's musical heritage. 

    “It's all very well mixing Mozart and mambo together and doing this fusion that we love so much. But I really wanted to do something for future generations of horn players, and I also wanted to find out more about Cuban music. So each of these six dances [are] completely different, and I'm so happy that I have these six young composers. I mean, for me, it's a little bit like … a young version of the Buena Vista Social Club.

    “I still didn't feel like I was qualified to do these dances justice because I've heard Cuban music. It's really easy and loose and you just [have to] feel it in your body. And I was going, pa pa pa pa pa pa pa.  And I called on one of the composers to help me. He was in Germany at the time, Richard Egues, and he was like, ‘Yeah, you play really good horn, but that's not Cuban! What are you doing? Sing it to me.’ So, we sang it and it got a bit better. And [then] he said, ‘I'm sorry, “chica,” you're going to have to dance it.’

    So he got me up out of my chair and we literally danced all these different dances, and I spent two or three months really learning these dances.”

    The recording sessions for this release took place in a church, and one of those late-night sessions produced a piece that's kind of a surprise ending to this recording. Can you talk about that?

    “When I was creating this with the a

    • 33 min
    Pianist Víkingur Ólafsson reflects on his contemporary inspirations

    Pianist Víkingur Ólafsson reflects on his contemporary inspirations

    Víkingur Ólafsson — From Afar (DG)






    New Classical Tracks - Víkingur Ólafsson



    by




    “I'm not shy when meeting people. I have met many fantastic people in my life. But meeting György Kurtág felt different to me. I had this feeling of awe,” Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson said.

    He was starstruck last year when out of the blue, he was invited to Budapest to meet the 96-year-old Hungarian composer. Their 10-minute meeting turned into several hours of musical discovery. After, Ólafsson decided to send Kurtág a letter in the form of an album. That musical letter is his latest double album, From Afar.

    “When I got home from that life-changing experience, I did two things,” he said. “I silenced the notifications on my phone because I wanted to feel the kind of freedom of timelessness that is Kurtág. And the second thing was to start work on this album because I realized I wanted to send a letter in the form of an album.

    “All the musical ideas and eight pieces by Kurtág are spread throughout the album. I juxtaposed them with music that I thought connected very strongly to his esthetic,” he said. “But also include music that was from my own musical past. I was done recording the album on the grand piano on day two or three, and then I started to record it again on the upright piano, which was inspired by my quartet. Kurtág loves the upright piano.

    “I couldn't really choose between my two children, the grand piano recording or the upright piano recording for the whole album,” Ólafsson said explaining the mix of pianos. “I decided you should never choose between your children. I decided to release both versions simultaneously, which I think has never been done before.”

    Can you talk about performing on both pianos?

    “There's this one little piece, Sleepily, by Kurtág, which is an absolutely amazing piece of music. In that piece, he conveys the idea of going from consciousness to falling asleep. He has tone clusters and these incredibly soft glissandos that are supposed to be like a musical yawn.

    “For the grand piano, I would actually prefer Brahms. His Intermezzo, Op. 116, No. 4 is the crown jewel of Brahms' late works, in my opinion. There are many jewels there, but that is my queen. That's my favorite. I love the overtones, the richness of the bass and the bigger vibrations from the Steinway.”

    Can you talk about the pieces you and your wife, Halla, are featured on?

    “One is J.S Bach’s Trio Sonata No. 1 that's already been released as a single. It's just an amazing piece of music that Kurtág recently dedicated his transcription of it to me. It's one of my favorite arrangements. I'm beyond grateful for that dedication.”

    What are some of the personal secrets that are hidden within this recording? 

    “This recording has my first attempt at arranging or transcribing something that's not for solo piano. It's ‘Ave Maria.’ It's one of my favorite songs. It was dedicated to my now wife, but then girlfriend back in 2007 when she was only 20 and I was 23.”


    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.


    More on Víkingur Ólafsson




    New Classical Tracks Pianist Víkingur Ólafsson wants to change how we think about Mozart





    Conversation between the keys: Vikingur Olafsson meets Debussy and Rameau









    Resources
    Víkingur Ólafsson — From Afar (DG store)

    Víkingur Ólafsson — From Afar (Amazon store)

    Víkingur Ólafsson (official site)

    • 33 min
    Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason expresses his artistic freedom

    Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason expresses his artistic freedom

    Sheku Kanneh-Mason — Song (Decca)






    New Classical Tracks - The Knights



    by






    “Song really speaks to the vocal quality I find in all the pieces of music that I selected for my instrument,” cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason said about expressing his artistic freedom on his latest solo recording, Song. ”The cello has such a wonderful ability to sing in all of these different styles and combinations of instruments in arranging while improvising. The cool singing quality of the cello is something I enjoy exploring. I enjoyed making this album and it is very personal for me.”

    Can you talk about the opening arrangement on the album?

    “There’s something very direct about these folk melodies. I made this arrangement just for solo cello with no harmony because I wanted to just appreciate the bare bones of the melody. I just wanted to play like that.

    “There's so much music on this recording, which uses the cello in different ways. I wanted to start with something very pure and the sound of a solo cello line. The voice of the cello develops throughout the disc and ends with a piece of pizzicato solo cello.”

    What was the title of the work you arranged for your grandmother?

    “The title is Myfanwy and I love the expressiveness of the falling intervals.”

    Are you playing this trio all by yourself?

    “Yes. I recorded three voices of just me. It's actually harder than I thought it would be to play with myself. Normally when I'm playing with other people, I'm in the room and I can physically feel what they are doing. But when it's coming through a headphone you're playing in a slightly different experience. It was a cool way to do it.”

    Can you talk about the Bach work arranged for four cellos? 

    “On that one, I was less lonely. I convinced four friends to play with me. I had my current teacher, one of my previous teachers and a couple of friends who have mentored me to join me on the album.”

    Can you talk about the world premiere of Edmund Finnis’ Five Preludes?

    “I love the first prelude. There's a conversational and intimate feeling about it. The music speaks to me. I feel that I'm able to speak with it because it's music that doesn't shout out to grab your attention. Rather, it draws you into this intimate conversation. This intimacy is something that I enjoy exploring and performing.”




    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.


    More on Sheku Kanneh-Mason




    New Classical Tracks 20-year-old cello phenom Sheku Kanneh-Mason releases second solo album





    For classical stars Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason, representation matters









    Resources
    Sheku Kanneh-Mason — Song (Decca store)

    Sheku Kanneh-Mason — Song (Amazon store)

    Sheku Kanneh-Mason (official site)

    • 26 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
140 Ratings

140 Ratings

Awayagain2 ,

Music & Musicians

Juli Amacher is a great interview, with warmth and musical knowledge. I love that she brings out the musician’s experience as well as talking about the music. And she covers a wide range of music.

ramonar4 ,

Amen to the Youth!

Wonderfully woven as a tapestry of beautiful music and the youthful skills of their musical souls, into a gorgeous vision! Wow!!! ❤️

m-tanner ,

Perfectly Woven Music and Storytelling

this podcast is unbelievably good. the way she weaves the music through the interview is perfect. and her selection of artists is stunning, they’re always so moving and talented.

Top Podcasts In Music

The Joe Budden Network
The Black Effect and iHeartPodcasts
Barstool Sports
All The Things Productions
Math Hoffa
Andrew Hickey

You Might Also Like

American Public Media
Joshua Weilerstein
American Public Media
WNYC Studios and The New Yorker
Metropolitan Opera Guild
Science Friday and WNYC Studios

More by MPR

Minnesota Public Radio
American Public Media
Minnesota Public Radio
Minnesota Public Radio
Minnesota Public Radio
Minnesota Public Radio