Classical Music

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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.

Thepismire / Flickr

It’s that time again – the Northwest spotlights chamber music with summer festivals throughout the region, and provides the perfect scenery for classical music performances.

The Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival brings together another international cast of performers for this summer. 30 events across the valley include intimate winery performances, specially commissioned works and outreach concerts for teens and children. June 2 – 25

Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival

Chamber music festivals fill the northwest throughout the year – intimate performances in cozy venues creating a unique connection between the few musicians on stage and the audience. The 2015 summer season saw unforgettable performances across the northwest– and you don’t have to wait until summer  for even more. That's because January brings ensembles of all shapes, sizes and instrumentations to some big Northwest festivals.


September marks the beginning of the 2015/2016 Symphony season for many ensembles in the Northwest – mark your calendar for these concerts:

September 15: Explore guitar music from Baroque-era Spain and Mexico with The Early Music Guild of Seattle. The first concert of their season features the Tembembe Ensemble Continuo and a celebration of Mexico’s independence. 7:15 PM, Town Hall Seattle.

Concierto, WDAV Classical Public Radio

Frank Dominguez has been part of classical music on public radio for more than 20 years – experience he mixes with his Hispanic heritage to produce and host Concierto, the nation's first bilingual classical show which you now hear Sunday afternoons from 2 to 4 on your NPR and Classical Music Service.

Every week, Concierto takes a look at the deep roots Hispanic culture has in the classical genre and includes a roster of composers and musicians from all over the world.

The denouement of a 35-year drama takes place Thursday at the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan. And I trust that my father, virtuoso violinist Roman Totenberg, who died three years ago, will be watching from somewhere.

For decades he played his beloved Stradivarius violin all over the world. And then one day, he turned around and it was gone. Stolen.

While he was greeting well-wishers after a concert, it was snatched from his office at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Mass.


A classically trained Shakespearean actor and the BBC’s former Hollywood correspondent,  Edmund Stone is host of one a new program on the NPR and Classical music service. The Score is a weekly celebration of music in film.  

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.

Pietro Antonio Lorenzoni / Mozart Museum

You read about music for mom earlier this year - now it's time to celebrate dad in the classical music world. Throughout music history, famous fathers have come in all forms - composers, conductors, musicians and, of course, superfans. This Father's Day, Northwest Public Radio celebrates with a look at all varieties of fathers.

Children’s Corner, Claude Debussy

Wikimedia Commons

Every day is a day to be thankful for the moms of the world, but the second Sunday of every May is set aside as a nice reminder to show that appreciation and gratitude.

This year, celebrate Mother's Day with the Classical Music world. Antonín Dvořák, Johannes Brahms and Richard Wagner all felt the need to share their inspiration through music and Northwest Public Radio is sharing that music with you.

Gypsy Songs: “Songs My Mother Taught Me”, Antonín Dvořák

Songs my mother taught me,

Andrew Jacobs

  The Rimsky-Korsakoffee House in Portland, OR recently became the topic of conversation here at Northwest Public Radio. It seemed only natural to send word to my Portland-residing father, who decided to head over to the musically themed café that evening, buy himself some dessert and check things out.

He and I bonded over a love of Scheherazade when I was very young - one of those unconditional, slightly irrational feelings of love that has lasted a couple decades and is safe to assume will never go away.  

Mobeen Ansari /

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 /

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.

  Susan Pickett’s Marion and Emilie Frances Bauer: From the Wild West to American Musical Modernism delivers exactly what the title suggests: adventures of two women in an exciting era of classical music. It follows them from their beginnings in Walla Walla, through European adventures, lives as musicians, critics, composers - and, for Marion – a career as a music teacher in New York City.

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.


The obvious real-life romance in the classical world is Robert Schumann and Clara Wieck, so for a change of pace I will talk about Harriet Smithson and Hector Berlioz.

Harriet was an Anglo-Irish actress. In one performance of Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet in 1827​, in which Harriet played the leading ladies, Berlioz happened to be in attendance. He immediately fell in love with the beautiful and talented actress. 

Jeremy Kramer / Cincinnati Magazine

For more than 20 years, Sunday Baroque has explored the worlds of Vivaldi, Handel, Bach, and more. You can hear it on NWPR Sundays (of course) from 10 a.m to noon. It started at a station in Fairfield, Connecticut, grew to be carried nationwide, and in 2005 it went independent - parting ways with NPR to distribute and produce the show on its own.

The version of Swan Lake most often performed today premiered at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, 120 years ago this month. The ballet had been staged before, but it wasn't a hit until choreographers Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov revised it.

Peter Schickele /

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.

If you're a parent, the sound of a small child sawing away at the strains of the "Twinkle Variations" may be all too familiar.

It's Song One, of Book One, of the Suzuki method, a musical pedagogy developed by Shin'ichi Suzuki in the 1960s.

But lately there has been discord among music educators, a feud over methods and credentials and accusations of fraud.

A Bit Of The Best Saxophone You'll Ever Hear

Nov 6, 2014
The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

Thursday marks the 200th birthday of Adolphe Sax, inventor of the saxophone. And yes, that's his real name. A bit about him and his instrument, from NPR:

As a young man, Sax worked for his father, also an instrument maker. The younger Sax made improvements to the bass clarinet and invented a family of instruments called saxhorns before creating his eponymous "phone" in the early 1840s.

Are You A Saxpert? Find Out Here

Nov 6, 2014
Lexington Herald-Leader / Getty Images

It's the 200th birthday of the saxophone's inventor, Adolphe Sax - really, that was his name. To celebrate, NPR invites you to try and identify some great sax solos. How well do you know your saxophone?

Find out with this interactive audio quiz.

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.