Winter Morning Walks and a new Beethoven
We'll break all the rules later Wednesday morning in the classical music for NEPR's "Building Support" campaign. Right in the middle of a dayful of classical hits, showpieces and chestnuts will be music with all the qualities that should make it forbidden fruit: contemporary, vocal, sometimes slightly dissonant, and not even 100% classical (whatever that is anymore). But rather than pat ourselves on the back for bravery, let's instead credit you, the listener, with the open ears and hungry soul that will easily and eagerly take in one of this year's most magical releases: Soprano Dawn Upshaw, partnering with the Australian Chamber Orchestra and a trio of outstanding jazz musicians (John Anderson, bass, Frank Kimbrough, piano, and Scott Robinson, clarinets) for composer Maria Schneider's song cycle "Winter Morning Walks."
By now, we know Dawn Upshaw to be one of our most appealing and versatile classical performers, a soprano who sounds perfectly natural whether singing a Mozart aria, Schubert Song, Vernon Duke ballad or a challenging new classical work. Unless you're a regular "Jazz à la Mode" listener, you might not know the name or the music of Maria Schneider, an immensely talented and accomplished jazz composer and bandleader, the heir to such late great jazz composers as Gil Evans and Bob Brookmeyer. Well, you've got a treat in store today and for the rest of the week, as we play, three at a time, the new song cycle based on poems by Ted Kooser. Lyrical, flowing, intimately expressive, with all the elements of words, music, voice and instruments in a seamless blend, this is music to fall in love with the first time — then immediately want to hear again. Do check it out, starting at a little past 11:30 on Wednesday morning.
Then stay tuned Wednesday afternoon for a performance that brings new perspective to an old favorite. I've written earlier how Beethoven's Violin Concerto, with its steady tempos and lofty tone, is a tabula rasa for the widest variety of interpretations. One of the freshest I've heard in some time has just come out from a young violinist I had not previously heard of, Patricia Kopatchinskaya, along with the Belgian conductor best-known in early music circles, Philippe Herreweghe, and the Orchestre des Champs-Élysées. Ostensibly emerging from the "original instrument" or "historically informed" camp, this new Beethoven Concerto manages the tricky balance of interpretive freedom with classic restraint in a way that all performances should, but hardly any actually do. Be tuned in just after 2:15 on Wednesday afternoon, and see if you don't find yourself absorbed the way you would be by a great storyteller spinning a fabulous yarn. And don't miss the crazy first movement cadenza!