Gigi Yellen

Classical Music Host

Seattle has been Gigi Yellen’s home since 1986. Grateful for the Pacific Northwest’s natural beauty, she appreciates the contrast between this climate and that of her native Houston, Texas! At Wellesley College, she acquired a good ear for iambic pentameter (thanks to an emphasis on jazz rhythms by her freshman English teacher, America’s future poet laureate, Robert Pinsky) and a passion for music history. As a graduate student in Spanish at Rice University, her work at campus station KTRU led her to become the first female announcer on Houston’s classical music station, then known as KLEF.

Gigi has interviewed, hosted, and written about classical music for radio stations from coast to coast. In Washington DC, she produced arts features for NPR. In Seattle, she hosted evenings on KING FM. Gigi’s music-related writing appears in print and online, most recently for ParentMap. She is a lifelong learner of ancient texts, a long-distance grandma, the spouse of a UW professor, and the mother of two faraway sons who consider Seattle home.  She credits her music literacy to a great public elementary school music program.

Ways to Connect

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Abraham Lincoln's words. Aaron Copland's Music. James Earl Jones's speaking voice. Seattle Symphony.

Northwest Public Radio will air Copland's "Lincoln Portrait" just before the start of All Things Considered and election day coverage today at 3:45 pm. 

This piece will inspire and bring reflection as the nation chooses its next president. Join us for Jones's reading of  "of the people, by the people, for the people..." well-known words startlingly fresh and relevant, no matter how many times you have heard the piece, or this recording of it, or the Gettysburg Address.

Paula Gray / Tumblr

A $10,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts will support the commission of a new symphonic poem in homage to Mount Rainier and its melting glaciers. The composer: Daniel Ott, a native son of Puyallup, is now based at New York’s Juilliard School and Fordham University.

The work for chorus and orchestra premieres May 17, 2017, in the Tacoma Symphony’s “Mountain and Sea” concert. The grant is part of the NEA’s “Imagine Your Parks,” a celebration of the centennial of the National Parks Service and the 50th anniversary of the NEA.

http://www.bachstadt-koethen.de/kunst-und-kultur/historisches-museum-und-bachgedenkstaette/die-fuersten-und-herzoege-von-anhalt-koethen/leopold-von-anhalt-koethen.html

Through much of history, composers depended on patrons for financial support or incentive to write the music we enjoy today. Browse through the slideshow above to see some of the best-known patrons - and remember that today, YOU are the most important patron of the arts, when you support Northwest Public Radio.

For Women's History Month 2016, Northwest Public Radio celebrated with a three hour special devoted to women in classical music history hosted by your weekday afternoon host, Gigi Yellen.

In case you missed it or you'd like to listen again, here it is.

HOUR 1

HOUR 2

HOUR 3

NWPR’s “Celebrate Women in Classical Music” PLAYLIST

HOUR 1
13:01
May Aufderheide - Dusty Rag                     
Virginia Eskin, piano
Northeastern 9003

Wikimedia Commons

How do you celebrate Women’s History Month in classical music, when the genre's history names few women composers? At NWPR over the past year, one answer has been: find what music you can, and play it. Inspired by Women’s History Month 2015, we took on a challenge to program at least one piece by a woman composer each day.  Yes, it’s a token, but this month, we trade in those tokens for a reward.

Seattle Symphony

Congratulations, Seattle Symphony! Another Grammy! The 2016 Grammy award for best classical instrumental solo went to violinist Augustin Hadelich, for Dutilleux: Violin Concerto, L’Arbre Des Songes, with the Seattle Symphony conducted by Ludovic Morlot, a release on the orchestra's own label.

Seattle Symphony earned its first Grammy last year -- Best Contemporary Classical Composition -- for its recording of John Luther Adams's Become Ocean, a work SSO commissioned.

Wikimedia Commons

Music history refreshes itself every time you enjoy a favorite piece, or discover a new one, here on Northwest Public Radio.  Sometimes there's an especially noteworthy day in music history, like February 2.  

This was the day of the premieres of Haydn's Symphony No. 102, in 1795; of Rossini's Semiramide, in 1823; of Dvorak's Symphony No. 8 in 1890. Plus, amazingly enough, February 2 is the birthday of two of the greatest violinists of the 20th Century: Jascha Heifetz (1901, Vilnius) and Fritz Kreisler (1875, Vienna).

Gigi Yellen / NWPR

The original Hanukkah lights were wicks floating in oil. So the holiday’s ancient legend gives the wintertime cook an excuse to fry potatoes and just about anything else that cooks in oil. People insist on eating these things before you can get them onto a serving platter, so, word to the wise: if you’re expecting to get out of the kitchen, make latkes before your gathering, freeze them on a cookie tray, and pop them into a warm oven or onto a warming tray.

Sebástian Freire from Rio de Janeiro, Brasil

OK, it’s not a prescription. It is cold-weather comfort: help warm your insides or the person you care about feel better and it goes well with a generous helping of classical music. 

My definition of “chopped”: Fits comfortably into your mouth as part of the mix on your spoon. No too big-hot chunks, please! This is all about, you know, comfort.

Feast of Music / Flickr

Mexican conductor Alondra de la Parra is known for her energetic, animated conducting. Take a look at the her joyous body language in this rehearsal video:

Digging into information for the tidbits you hear next to the classical music on NWPR, we run across some interesting phenomena. Like the use of a composer’s name as an adjective. What makes a piece Brahmsian? Or Beethovenian? Writers about music often take this shortcut to describe a sound. Steve Reeder discovered that the French are fond of the word “Ravelian.” And Mahlerian, but we have that one too.

Wikimedia Commons

  Music for Memorial Day serves two very different purposes: 1. honoring the nation’s fallen soldiers, and 2. acknowledging the holiday’s popular expression as the official start of summer. Below, you’ll see we’ve gathered a few suggestions for each of these.

“Decoration Day” was the original name of this last Monday in May, designated as the time for decorating the grave sites of American military who had made the ultimate sacrifice.

Mobeen Ansari / http://www.npr.org/

Imagine your life if attending a concert were against the law. Now imagine trying to bring the music back to life, in a country where the skills to play it have been almost lost. A new documentary takes you to Pakistan, where it's more than just an imaginary scenario.

Peter Serling / http://www.npr.org/

Northwest Public Radio's classical music programming staff has lately been making sure to include women composers on our playlists. Here's one you might not have heard of -- but now you will. Julia Wolfe has received the Pulitzer Prize for her oratorio about coal miners and their families.

Ramsey Fendall / Risk Love LLC

When actor-director Ethan Hawke (star of Boyhood) found himself seated next to a classical pianist named Seymour Bernstein at a dinner party, stage fright was what they found they had in common. Bernstein had handled his decades ago, by walking away from the glitter and fame of a concert career in favor of a teaching career and a solitary life. Hawke, in his directorial debut, profiles his new friend in a labor of love, the tender documentary film Seymour: An Introduction.

One of our favorite NPR shows plus Beethoven's famous little piano piece adds up to a must-listen moment!

From Fresh Air with Terry Gross (weekdays at 2 on our News Service; Sundays at 5 on our Classical Music Service): the show's music critic delights in a 1932 performance of Fur Elise, revived by a company called Pristine Audio.

NPR / npr.org

The host of your Sunday noontime show "From the Top," pianist Christopher O'Riley, and cellist Matt Haimovitz visit the cozy NPR home of Tiny Desk Concerts. Tucked into a casual office corner, backed by shelves of books and trinkets, reading the music off their tablets, they offer up some Beethoven and Philip Glass and Leo

Tiny Desk Concerts / NPR

We know you love guitar music. From Classical Guitar Alive (Sunday mornings at 9), to Inland Folk (Saturdays, 11am-2pm), to the guitar solos and concertos our classical music hosts bring you throughout the days and evenings, Northwest Public Radio listeners warm to this ageless, genre-spanning instrument.

The Power Of Storytelling

Feb 27, 2015
Mark Mullaney.

What stories do you tell? What stories could you be telling? On the occasion of National Public Radio's 45th birthday--celebrated this week--let's honor the power of storytelling. What stories could you tell about how music has affected your life?

P.A.D Studio/Courtesy of the artist

"Are you hearing me?" A conductor in China asks that question, and it will echo back across the ocean in 5 years of concerts. 40 new compositions. High profile performers. Yes, including that globe-spanning cello virtuoso Yo-Yo Ma, but not just.

Wikimedia Commons / http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clara_Schumann

A little girl’s crush: you could say it all started like that, when she was a brilliant 9-year-old concert pianist, and he was her music-educator father’s brilliant 18 year old protégé. But little girls grow up. Right after her sixteenth birthday, he writes in his diary: “Clara’s eyes and her love…the first kiss…” and she writes in a letter to him: “When you gave me that first kiss, I thought I would faint; everything went blank and I could barely hold the lamp that was lighting your way out.”

CSUF Photos / Flickr

Peter Schickele / http://www.schickele.com/index.htm

What’s your favorite P.D.Q. Bach bit? How about two sports announcers doing a play-by-play “broadcast” of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony? Or the “Fanfare for the Common Cold?” How about wondering what kind of person can create such comedy mayhem, and then turn around and compose a sublime string quartet?

Molina Visuals

She’s played in person at the Orcas Island and Seattle Chamber Music Society festivals, but it’s the audiences beyond the concert hall who put violinist Anne Akiko

The Sound of Hanukkah

Dec 15, 2014
Gigi Yellen

Christmas carols, they’re not. But for Hanukkah, the music and storytelling on the NWPR special programs for that holiday have become public radio traditions, even as concert music for Hanukkah remains, in a way, a chestnut still on the tree.

Firmly fixed on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev (so its Gregorian calendar dates vary) Hanukkah shares the season of joy with classical-music-rich Christmas, but its traditional music remains closer to folk than to classical. Why?

Jeff Goldberg / Esto

Share a good laugh when you read this New York Times review of a cheeky little piece of musical-insider comedy, “The Classical Style,” that played last week at Carnegie Hall. In heaven, Beethoven grumbles, Haydn complains, Mozart rages about the movie Amadeus and demands a cut of the box office. And, of course, Dominant is always followed around by Tonic, a joke for the music theorists in the audience.

Leon Neal / AFP/Getty Images

"Classics only become classics after a length of time. ... That's the beauty of it. And when people are listening to Michael Bruce's version in, say, a hundred years time, I wonder what they will think of that."

What’s the right music for a Shakespeare play? Depends on what century you’re in. In the 400 years since the plays were new, generations of composers have set their musical styles onto Shakespeare’s scripts.

Molly Sheridan/Courtesy of the artist

Where the Pacific NW, environmental stewardship and classical music meet: the new release from Seattle Symphony. "Become Ocean" by John Luther Adams was awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Music. Seattle Symphony commissioned & premiered it. Adams is based in Alaska. In addition to his prolific composing career, he's active in environmental work.

Here's what he told NPR's Tom Huizinga about "Become Ocean":

A 44-year-old man known as a phenomenal pianist played a disappointing concert that would be his last public performance at the keyboard. Ludwig van Beethoven’s hearing loss had finally overtaken his celebrated concert career, but even before then, his mind was hardly at ease.

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