Monday, August 11, 2008

The ASO on GPB, August 14 & 17 - Season Finale

Eastern European roots nourish the final concert of the Atlanta Symphony's 2007-2008 season, recorded in June. Music director Robert Spano conducts.

Clarinetist Todd Palmer plays five different-sized instruments as soloist in The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind. Argentinian-born composer and ASO favorite Osvaldo Golijov draws on Jewish High Holiday liturgy as well as the dancing and keening sides of East European klezmer music in this soulful showcase for clarinet. "Isaac the Blind" is another name for kabbalist rabbi Isaac Luria (1534-1572).

And the season concludes with a thrilling performance of Igor Stravinsky's ballet The Firebird, based on Russian folklore about a magical, flame-colored bird. This is the piece that catapulted young Stravinsky to fame: his first collaboration with ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev, it paved the way for Petrushka and The Rite of Spring. The ASO plays the entire ballet in its full original orchestration - three harps, the works!

Please join host Sarah Zaslaw for the last of this season's 24 episodes of The ASO on GPB, Thursday, August 14 at 8 p.m. and Sunday the 17th at 10 p.m. on GPB radio stations and Please send any comments or questions to Thanks for listening!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The ASO on GPB, August 7 & 10

A Persian-accented world premiere. In June, pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra gave the first performances of the Piano Concerto by Behzad Ranjbaran. In this sweeping, grand new work, Ranjbaran was inspired partly by the ancient springtime festivities of Persepolis and the sound of massed Persian alpine horns.

Ranjbaran was born in Iran in 1955, entered the Tehran Conservatory at age 9, and came to the States to study at Indiana University and the Juilliard School of Music. He now is on the faculty at Juilliard. He has written music for violinist Joshua Bell and soprano Renee Fleming to perform, and now for Jean-Yves Thibaudet as well. This piece was commissioned by the ASO, at Thibaudet's request.

The concert opens with Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 - with ASO principal players Cecylia Arzewski, Christina Smith, Elizabeth Koch and Tom Hooten as soloists on the violin, flute, oboe and trumpet - and ends with Rachmaninoff's Third Symphony, making three for three Rachmaninoff symphonies this season.

Host Sarah Zaslaw speaks with music director Robert Spano about updating orchestral dress codes and the accuracy of his entry in Wikipedia (and about music too). Spano himself interviews composer Behzad Ranjbaran and pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet about the Piano Concerto they've collectively just brought into the world - like a new baby.

Tune in Thursday, August 7 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, August 10 at 10 p.m. over most of these GPB stations and

(Next week: The season finale! Todd Palmer plays five clarinets, albeit not at once, as soloist in the soulful, klezmer-inflected Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind by Osvaldo Golijov, and Roberto Spano and the ASO close out the season with the complete Firebird ballet music by Igor Stravinsky.)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The ASO on GPB, July 31 & August 2

Brush up your Shakespeare on GPB! This week's light-hearted program mixes and matches scenes from Shakespeare's plays with orchestral music and songs inspired by the Bard.

You'll hear not only Atlanta Symphony Orchestra with guest conductor Nicholas McGegan, but also four actors from Georgia Shakespeare (Chris Kayser, Megan McFarland, Chris Ensweiler and Melinda Helfrich) and three singers (Ann-Carolyn Bird, Stacey Rishoi and Andrew Garland) in this multi-arts event recorded Memorial Day weekend in Atlanta.

The scenes come from Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing, Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew and A Midsummer Night's Dream.

The music is by Berlioz, Gounod, Prokofiev, Sibelius, Mendelssohn (including the famous Wedding March) and Cole Porter (songs from Kiss Me Kate, a musical about a troupe performing The Taming of the Shrew).

Host Sarah Zaslaw speaks with high-spirited, well-educated, English-born-and-bred, San Francisco-based conductor Nicholas McGegan about Shakespeare, music and more.

Tune in Thursday, July 31 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, August 2 at 10 p.m. for The ASO on GPB over most GPB radio stations and

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The ASO on GPB, July 24 & 27

For three years as a "conducting fellow" with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Laura Jackson pored over music, peppered senior conductors with questions, led educational concerts, and attended every subscription concert dressed in concert black, in case she should need to step in for the scheduled conductor. In 2007 she struck out to conduct around the country and seek an orchestra of her own.

On The ASO on GPB, Laura Jackson comes back to her friends in the Atlanta Symphony for a concert recorded in May. She talks about the music and her career, and she conducts attractive symphonies by Prokofiev (No. 1) and Dvorak (No. 6).

And host Sarah Zaslaw chats with associate concertmaster William Pu. He grew up in China during the Cultural Revolution. When the Shanghai Conservatory reopened after years of forced closure, some 10,000 aspiring musicians auditioned. William Pu, a preteen who had only been playing a few years, was one of the eight violinists selected that year. William talks with us about his background, his violin, the earthquake, and Buddhism.

We'll conclude with the ASO's new CD of La Bohรจme, recorded in concert last September with Robert Spano conducting an energetic young cast and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. (The same lineup repeats Puccini's beloved opera this Saturday at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Alpharetta.)

The ASO on GPB airs Thursday, July 24 at 8 p.m., repeating Sunday, July 27 at 10 p.m. over GPB radio stations and

Note: Owing to technical difficulties beyond our control, Thursday's broadcast of The ASO on GPB has been preempted. Please listen Sunday night instead.  Thanks, and apologies for the last-minute change.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The ASO on GPB, July 10 & 13

Dozens of extra brass players join the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus for this sonically spectacular concert. ASO principal guest conductor Donald Runnicles leads the massed musicians in a program pairing the Sinfonietta by Janacek - a celebration of life - with Berlioz's Requiem, which sets to music the Catholic mass for the dead.

Bookending Leos Janacek's Sinfonietta is a patriotic fanfare he wrote for an athletic event, a Czech gymnastics festival, in 1926. The piece calls for 14 trumpets, for starters. In Atlanta's Symphony Hall, the brass stood on the choral risers, highly visible and highly audible. (At right: ASO principal trumpet Tom Hooten.)

This concert was recorded in early May. For the second half, the venerable ASO Chorus takes to the risers for the Requiem by Hector Berlioz. This Atlanta performance served as a warm-up for a transatlantic trip two weeks later, in which the ASO Chorus and Donald Runnicles repeated the piece in Berlin, with the storied Berlin Philharmonic. The tenor soloist in the celestial "Sanctus" section, in Atlanta and Berlin, was Joseph Kaiser (right). And let's credit the director of the ASO Chorus too, though he wasn't on stage: Norman Mackenzie.

Also on this broadcast, Donald Runnicles chats about tonight's music and about his two new posts in Europe as of 2009, as conductor of both the BBC Scottish Symphony and the German Opera Berlin.

Join host Sarah Zaslaw for The ASO on GPB, Thursday, July 10 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, July 13 at 10 p.m. on most GPB radio stations and

(Next week: Donald Runnicles again leads the Atlanta Symphony in a pair of third symphonies: Henryk Gorecki's "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs" and Brahms' Symphony No. 3.)

Monday, June 30, 2008

The ASO on GPB, July 3 & 6

Conducting the Atlanta Symphony on GPB this week is Hans Graf, music director of the Houston Symphony. He leads the ASO in
  • Tchaikovsky's little-known piece The Voyevoda, about a jealous husband and a bullet gone astray;
  • Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 2, with Argentina's award-winning Ingrid Fliter as soloist (she was recipient of the prestigious Gilmore Artist Award in 2006); and
  • Rachmaninoff's Second Symphony, in all its hour-long glory.

Hans Graf previously led orchestras in Austria, France, Canada and - oh yeah, there was also that year with the Iraqi National Orchestra. He talks with host Sarah Zaslaw about Baghdad in the 70s, and about the flood that devastated the Houston Symphony's underground quarters mere weeks before he started work in Texas.

This is the 18th of 24 concerts from the Atlanta Symphony's 2007-2008 season, all recorded at Symphony Hall in the Woodruff Arts Center. Join Sarah Zaslaw for The ASO on GPB Thursday nights at 8:00, repeating Sunday nights at 10:00 over most GPB radio stations and over

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

June 26 & 29, 2008

Robert Spano led this program in Atlanta before hitting the road with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus to repeat it in New York's Carnegie Hall.

GPB's broadcast starts in the cold forests of Scandinavia. Tapiola is Jean Sibelius's picture of the home of the god of the forests, according to Finnish mythology. (The god is Tapio. His dwelling place is Tapiola. It's pronounced TAH-pyoh-lah, as Robert Spano demonstrates to host Sarah Zaslaw. Spano's mother is Finnish, so though he doesn't speak the language he knows more about it than the average conductor on the street.)

The ASO Chorus then comes on stage for The Here and Now - composer Christopher Theofanidis's settings of verses by the 13th century mystic poet Jallaladin Rumi. The ASO premiered The Here and Now, which Robert Spano had commissioned, in Atlanta in 2005 and recorded it for an acclaimed Telarc CD. (To see Spano and Theofanidis talk about the project then, click on the link partway down this page.) In 2008 they revived it for this late-March concert and its early-April New York premiere.

The English translations in The Here and Now are by former UGA professor Coleman Barks. Theofanidis picks such verses of Rumi's as
  • "Take an axe to the prison wall. Escape. Walk out like someone suddenly born into color. Do it now," and
  • "World power means nothing. Only the unsayable, jeweled inner life matters," and
  • "The way you make love is the way God will be with you," and
  • "God picks up the reed-flute world and blows. Each note is a need coming through one of us, a passion, a longing pain. Let your note be clear. Don't try to end it. Be your note. Let everyone climb on their roofs and sing their notes! Sing loud!"
Last but not least: Maurice Ravel's ballet music for Daphnis and Chloe - based on the ancient Greek love story about a goatherd and a shepherdess. This concert features the entire work, not just the popular suite. Listen for a major flute solo, featuring ASO principal flutist Christina Smith; general rejoicing (with wordless chorus) when our pastoral duo, Daphnis and Chloe, finally get it together; and some of the world's all-time most luscious orchestration.

The ASO on GPB airs on GPB radio stations and at Join Sarah Zaslaw this Thursday, June 26 at 8 p.m. and again Sunday, June 29 at 10 p.m.

Monday, June 16, 2008

June 19 & 22, 2008

In certain circles, debate rages over just what Dmitri Shostakovich meant with the end of his Fifth Symphony, which he wrote under the repressive Stalinist regime. Is the blazing, pounding finale supposed to sound triumphantly celebratory? Or does it represent the police bludgeoning the Soviet people into submission? For option A, play it fast and bright. For option B, play it slow and heavy. On an Atlanta Symphony Orchestra concert from March, guest conductor Hugh Wolff goes with option B.

Contrasting with that intense (and intensely scrutinized) piece, the first half of the program offers the lively School for Scandal Overture by Samuel Barber and the gorgeous, rhapsodic Piano Concerto Robert Schumann wrote for his wife, Clara, to premiere. As soloist we'll hear Nicholas Angelich ("AHN-ge-litch"). He has been called one of classical music's future superstars.

Conductor Hugh Wolff (right) recently returned to the U.S., together with his wife and three teenaged sons, after several years based in Europe. As a teenager himself, Wolff was a pianist and composer. He took up conducting as an undergraduate at Harvard. This fall he becomes director of orchestras at the New England Conservatory. Throughout the program Wolff talks with host Sarah Zaslaw about music and life. (He compares the sarcastic, coded second movement of the Shostakovich symphony to Tom and Jerry cartoons, in that you're not always sure if it's funny or brutal.)

Please tune in 8 p.m. Thursday and 10 p.m. Sunday for The ASO on GPB over most GPB Radio stations and

Monday, June 9, 2008

June 12 & 15, 2008

Peter Tchaikovsky grapples with fate and sexuality in his Fourth Symphony. Atlanta Symphony principal cellist Christopher Rex tames the fearsome solo part of Samuel Barber's Cello Concerto. And music director Robert Spano unwraps a world premiere, Q & A (Pregunta y Respuesta) by multifaceted Venezuelan musician Gonzalo Grau. That's all on this week's broadcast of an Atlanta Symphony Orchestra concert recorded in March. Host Sarah Zaslaw speaks with Robert Spano and Christopher Rex. Listen to The ASO on GPB, Thursday night at 8:00, repeating Sunday night at 10:00, over Georgia Public Broadcasting's radio stations and online at

Note: In addition to leading the Atlanta Symphony's cello section, Christopher Rex directs two chamber music festivals that bring nationally prominent soloists and ensembles to our area. Just this weekend the 2008 Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival is wrapping up, on the Atlantic barrier island just south of the Georgia-Florida border, while the Madison Chamber Music Festival is just getting going with a similarly star-studded lineup in Madison, Georgia.
Christopher Rex paints, too, and he gets full credit for "Niccolo Crabanini," the violin-wielding crustacean on the Amelia Island festival's page.

Monday, June 2, 2008

June 5 & 8, 2008

Cecylia Arzewski has been concertmaster of the Atlanta Symphony for the last 18 years of her 38-year orchestral career. And now she's ready for the next chapter. Before retiring from the orchestra this summer, Cecylia Arzewski makes her farewell solo appearance with the ASO, performing a piece she hasn't played in public since age 14: the Violin Concerto by Aram Khatchaturian.

Bracketing that Soviet concerto are two colorful Russian showpieces. The Russian Easter Overture by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov evokes the two strands of celebration - the devout religious proceedings and the pagan merry-making - that he sensed in Easter morning festivities.

And Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition portrays artworks by his friend Victor Hartmann, from an exhibit mounted after Hartmann's death at age 39. Mussorgsky's original piano pieces depict children at play, a lumbering ox, dancing chicks, a troubadour, French market women, Baba Yaga's hut, Polish Jews and a proposed Great Gate of Kiev. Maurice Ravel arranged this popular orchestral version.

Roberto Minczuk conducts this concert recorded in March at Atlanta's Symphony Hall. Host Sarah Zaslaw speaks with both him and soloist Cecylia Arzewski. Please join us, Thursday, June 2 at 8 p.m. and Sunday June 5 at 10 p.m. over GPB Radio and

(Next week: Robert Spano conducts the world premiere of Q & A by Venezuela's Gonzalo Grau; ASO principal cellist Christopher Rex gives the first Atlanta performance of Samuel Barber's nearly impossible Cello Concerto; and Tchaikovsky grapples with his sexuality and fate in his Fourth Symphony.)

Monday, May 26, 2008

The ASO on GPB, May 29 & June 1

Guest conductor and composer Oliver Knussen leads the Atlanta Symphony in two colorful pieces for children. First up is Ravel's Mother Goose ballet. Then comes the main work, Knussen's own opera Where the Wild Things Are, based on Maurice Sendak's award-winning 1963 book. Soprano Barbara Hannigan stars as the mischievous boy Max; Lucy Shelton is the mother who sends him to bed wthout his supper; and the men of Hudson Shad play the parts of the monstery Wild Things whom Max tames.

In our backstage interview, Knussen talks about how he and Sendak expanded the story into a 40-minute opera, and what language the Wild Things are muttering in (hint: they represent Sendak's relatives), and how the great orchestrators of the turn of the last century inspired his music.

To round out the broadcast, we'll sample the ASO's latest commercial release, A German Requiem by Johannes Brahms, with soprano Twyla Robinson and tenor Mariusz Kwiecin as soloists and music director Robert Spano conducting the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. It was recorded last fall, the same weekend as the concert performance heard previously on GPB, and it's just out from Telarc.

(Next week on GPB, June 5 and 8, Roberto Minczuk returns to lead the ASO in Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition and Cecylia Arzewski performs Khatchaturian's Violin Concerto in her final solo appearance as concertmaster of the Atlanta Symphony.)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The ASO on GPB, May 22 & 25

"Fallen heroes" is the theme of the February concert we air Memorial Day weekend. Atlanta Symphony music director Robert Spano conducts three American works and a Beethoven symphony, and both he and John Adams speak to us about the music.

John Corigliano's bittersweet Elegy starts the concert. Corigliano originally wrote this for trio, to accompany a love scene in an off-Broadway play between the 40-year-old Helen of Troy (past her ship-launching days) and a man half her age. Corigliano later expanded it for orchestra.

Commissioned half a year after the 9/11 attacks, On the Transmigration of Souls is John Adams' tribute to the survivors. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra is joined by the ASO Chorus and by a tape of voices intoning phrases from missing posters, profiles of the deceased, and names of those lost. John Adams wrote the piece to be a "memory space," hushed and respectful, giving you the sense of the presence of thousands - the same feeling one gets on entering a grand cathedral, he hopes. (Watch John Adams' hour-long video interview with Terrance McKnight, former host of The ASO on GPB, about this piece, his violin concerto and other topics.)

You might have heard the next piece in the soundtrack of Platoon or The Elephant Man: the Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber. Among its other distinctions, Barber's Adagio was named "saddest piece of classical music ever" in a 2004 poll of British radio listeners.

Beethoven's Third Symphony, "Eroica," connects to the "fallen heroes" theme on several levels. Its slow movement is an epic funeral march. But the whole piece also concerns a a hero who had fallen or been diminished in the composer's eyes. Beethoven had planned to dedicate the piece to Napoleon of France - until Napoleon went and proclaimed himself emperor. Then, the story goes, Beethoven tore up the title page in an anti-autocratic huff. The more generic subtitle he gave it instead is "Sinfonia Eroica," or Heroic Symphony.

The ASO is on GPB and this Thursday, May 22 at 8 p.m., repeating Sunday, May 25 at 10 p.m.

(Next week: Oliver Knussen conducts his children's opera Where the Wild Things Are and Ravel's Mother Goose.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The ASO on GPB, May 15 & 18

It's a program of flops: three Russian pieces that bombed at their premieres but have since recovered. On this week's radio broadcast of the ASO on GPB, from a concert recorded in February, powerhouse pianist Yefim Bronfman joins music director Robert Spano and the Atlanta Symphony to play Sergei Prokofiev's fiendishly difficult Second Piano Concerto. The orchestra also plays Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet (with its contrasting themes for the clashing clans, the somber friar, and the emotional lovers) and Rachmaninoff's First Symphony (which almost ended his career).

What first strikes you when you meet Yefim Bronfman might be his hands. You picture a pianist as having long, slender, elegant fingers. Bronfman's are stocky and thick. They look as if they might stumble over each other at the keyboard. And yet, they're as nimble as any fingers on the concert circuit.

Though he doesn't discernibly hit wrong notes, Bronfman admits Prokofiev's second concerto is tricky. He says he can control up to ten elements at once but this piece has twenty. Just keep practicing, he says, and then rely on luck.

In our interview he also talks about the lively cultural scene and the fantastic fruit in Tashkent, in Soviet Central Asia (Uzbekistan), where he was born.

The ASO is on GPB Thursday at 8 p.m., repeating Sunday night at 10.

The ASO on GPB, May 8 & 11

On this week's GPB broadcast, frequent guest Roberto Abbado conducts the Atlanta Symphony. Soprano Heidi Grant Murphy soloes in both Samuel Barber's nostalgic Knoxville: Summer of 1915 and Mahler's heaven-bound Symphony No. 4. And pianist John O'Conor steps in on short notice to perform Mozart's fifteenth piano concerto. As Roberto Abbado tells us, themes of childhood and innocence and heaven run through the program.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

May 1 & 4, 2008

On this week's broadcast, principal guest conductor Donald Runnicles leads the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in music of Adams, Ravel and Berlioz.

John Adams' father did not know composer Charles Ives. However, Adams says they would have gotten along if they had met, being rural New Englanders of similar generation and disposition. My Father Knew Charles Ives is a sort of musical autobiography, with snippets of Adams' musical memories (clarinet lessons, summer marching bands, dance bands heard across the lake) and places (Concord, New Hampshire, and not only the lake but the mountains).

Adam Golka was 20 at the time of this concert. His parents left Poland in the 1980s. Adam is Texan born and bred. At age 16 he won a major Chinese piano competition. Though both his hands are in excellent order, he let the right hand take the night off as he played Ravel's Concerto for Piano Left Hand.

There's nothing else quite like the Symphonie Fantastique by Hector Berlioz. Maybe that's because it was fueled by opium. At least, the story it tells is about an opium trip that goes from infatuated bucolic love to nightmarish funeral, all with unbelievably original, colorful, rich music. Berlioz wrote his masterpiece in 1830, and it still (ahem) rocks. Runnicles and the ASO give it their all.

This concert took place in January 2008 before enthusiastic audiences in Atlanta's Symphony Hall. GPB's production airs Thursday, May 1 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, May 4 at 10 p.m. with host Sarah Zaslaw.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

April 24 & 27, 2008

Teenagers mob the stage of Symphony Hall! This week the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra makes way for the ensemble under its wing, the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra.

We hear selections from the ASYO's November 2007 and March 2008 concerts, including Barber's Adagio for Strings and Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain. They also give the world premiere performance of Towers of Light by Robert Wendel, which describes in music the memorial columns of light that shine each September 11 at the World Trade Center site in New York.

Conductor Jere Flint's day job is as a cellist in the parent ASO. During the broadcast, he tells us that ages 13 to 18 are accepted into the youth orchestra. From some 400 young musicians who try out each year, only 120 make the cut. All have to reaudition each year. They rehearse four hours each Saturday, working all together, getting section-by-section coaching from members of the Atlanta Symphony and sharing lunch.

The Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra was featured on a recent edition of public radio show From the Top with Christopher O'Riley (heard Sundays at 1:00 on GPB). Its next concert is May 11, 2008 in Symphony Hall at the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta, but you can hear them on GPB stations and April 24 at 8 p.m., repeating April 27 at 10 p.m.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

April 17 & 20, 2008

Roberto Minczuk started out as a French horn prodigy. (Now there's a phrase you don't hear much: French horn prodigy.)

He has since become a conductor with a successful career both internationally and in his native Brazil.

In 2007–2008 Minczuk ("Min-chook") led the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra not once but twice, in November and March. This week GPB presents the November concert.
  • Wagner was inspired by medieval tales of religiously inspired derring do when he wrote his opera about the "pure fool" who retrieve the Holy Grail from an evil magician. We hear the Prelude to Act I of Parsifal.
  • Ligeti survived Nazi persecution and Communist restrictions in Hungary, then created his own modern sound. You might've heard some of his music in 2001: A Space Odyssey. We hear Lontano ("remote"), used in The Shining.
  • Rachmaninoff 's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini features with Croatian-born, Austrian-trained pianist Dejan Lazic (left) as soloist.
  • Highlights from Prokofiev's ballet Romeo and Juliet conclude the concert.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

April 10 & 13, 2008

This week on GPB Radio, meet conductor Kwame Ryan. He was born while his Trinidadian parents were visiting Toronto. They moved to Africa when he was an infant and eventually fled Idi Amin's Uganda. Kwame grew up back in Trinidad. He knew from age 6 that he wanted to be a conductor, however, and since Trinidad didn't offer enough opportunities, he left at 14 for boarding school in England.

Now Kwame Ryan has built a conducting career in Europe - he's in his first season leading orchestra in Bordeaux, France - and he's starting to guest conduct in America too. In November he led the Atlanta Symphony for the first time, and that's the concert we hear.

As Ryan explains, Robert Schumann was recovering from a mental breakdown when he wrote his Symphony No. 2, and the piece itself reflects struggle back to health and hope. That's the first half of the program.

In the second half, violinist Leila Josefowicz joins the Atlanta Symphony for Beethoven's Violin Concerto. Josefowicz is a gutsy player, and a down-to-earth person. She explains what makes the piece so challenging, why she wrote timpani accents into her new cadenzas, and how thrilled her son was to learn that Mozartwas a potty-mouth.

Join Sarah Zaslaw for The ASO on GPB, Thursday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 10 p.m.

April 3 & 6, 2008

In week 5 of our 24-week Atlanta Symphony broadcast series, ASO principal guest conductor Donald Runnicles talks about being the podium's most notorious southpaw. He also reveals his pet peeve - background music in elevators and at the mall. Donald Runnicles' star, which was already plenty high, continues to rise with appointments to soon head both the BBC Scottish Symphony and the German Opera Berlin.

Taiwanese-American violinist Cho-Liang Lin says it's especially important that a soloist and an orchestra have the same style in mind when they're playing Mozart. And then he and the Atlanta Symphony set out to do just that.

Join us to hear Runnicles, Lin and the ASO in Mozart's Third Violin Concerto. Also on the program, Beethoven's Fourth Symphony. And the concert concludes with Donald Runnicles conducting music by Richard Strauss: Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks. The piece depicts the satirical misdeeds (and eventual hanging!) of irreverent folk hero Till Eulenspiegel. There's an old German saying, "One sees one’s own faults as little as an owl recognizes his ugliness by looking into a mirror." Till's last name, "Eulenspiegel," means "Owl-Mirror."

The ASO is on GPB Thursday at 8, repeating Sunday night at 10. Sarah Zaslaw hosts.

March 27 & 30, 2008

This week on GPB, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus perform A German Requiem by Johannes Brahms, with music director Robert Spano conducting.

The traditional Requiem is part of the old Catholic liturgy. But Johannes Brahms ditched both the old texts and the old language in his German Requiem. He picked out new excerpts from Hebrew and Lutheran scripture to set, deliberately keeping the focus on the comforting and the universal (he said he could've just as well titled his work "A Human Requiem").  Instead of Latin he used the vernacular, German.

This concert from last November features the Grammy-winning team of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and conductor Robert Spano, plus soprano Twyla Robinson and baritone Mariusz Kwiecien. (They all recorded Brahms' requiem for disc that weekend as well, forthcoming on Telarc.) We'll meet the two soloists before they perform.

The program opens with two shorter works that Robert Spano felt fit an evening honoring the dead: Mozart's Masonic Funeral Music and Jennifer Higdon's "river sings song to trees," the calmer middle section of CityScape, her piece about Atlanta.

Please join us, Thursday, March 27 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, March 30 at 10 p.m. on GPB.

March 20 & 23, 2008

Thursday, March 20 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, March 23 at 10 p.m. on GPB, please join us for an Atlanta Symphony concert recorded in late October 2007.

Music director Robert Spano conducts a program that weaves together themes of France and dance and jazz. Spano also chats with us about the art of picking music for the orchestra (the important part is choosing what to whittle away - just like Michelangelo, he says) and the thrilling risk of making an in-concert recording of La Boheme for CD release.

We also meet ASO prinicpal harpist Elisabeth Remy Johnson, who explains what everyone wants to know about harps, and solos in music of Debussy. (More on her below.)

Here's what's on the program:
  • A Frenchman in New York beats Gershwin to the punch when it comes to injecting classical music with jazz. We hear The Creation of the World, by Darius Milhaud.
  • The harp's not just for angels. Debussy gives it both Sacred AND Profane Dances to play.
  • Ravel looks back to the nineteenth century with two waltzy works, La Valse and Noble and Sentimental Waltzes.
  • And to close the ASO's month-long French festival, the fruits of Gershwin's 1928 trip to Europe: An American in Paris, complete with the homesick blues in the middle.
The broadcast concludes with rhythmic selections from the Atlanta Symphony's new CD The Garden of Cosmic Speculation - music by Michael Gandolfi, in a world premiere recording - and Jean-Michel Damase's Sicilienne Variee, from Elisabeth Remy Johnson's CD Whirlwind.

By the way, Elisabeth Remy Johnson's harp activities extend well beyond Symphony Hall. She has also been making a mark in the community as co-founder and artistic director of the Urban Youth Harp Ensemble (, which serves harp students from the Atlanta public school system. That work has won her Atlanta's Channel 11 Community Service Award and the TBS Pathfinder's Award. She explains what inspired her to launch the group:

After I moved to Atlanta to be the principal harpist with the ASO, I went to a national harp convention and saw a performance given by the Richmond Public School Harp Ensemble, and thought it would be great if we started something similar in Atlanta. Another really strong motivating factor was acknowledging the fact that I kind of "fell across" the harp. My mom just happened to take me to a harp concert when I was 6, and it was literally a life-changing experience. I wanted students to have access to harps and to instruction, so they could have the exposure to the instrument that might be life-changing for them, too. . . . One of our first students kept with his harp studies throughout high school, and was offered a full scholarship to the University of Michigan to continue his harp studies! Through music, the students can develop skills and achievements throughout high school that will open the door to many post-secondary experiences.

March 13 & 16, 2008

The French festival continues this week on GPB's Atlanta Symphony broadcasts, with a concert recorded in October 2007 at the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta.

The orchestra performs a symphony Haydn wrote for Paris (No. 83, "The Hen), Chausson's Poem for violin and orchestra, Saint-Saens' Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, and Saint-Saens' "Organ" Symphony. Pinchas Zukerman guest conducts, and the soloist is his former student - 30-year-old German violinist Viviane Hagner.

We'll also hear an excerpt from the eerie story by Ivan Turgenyev, "The Song of Triumphant Love," that inspired Chausson's musical poem. We'll meet ASO principal keyboard player Peter Marshall, who gets to pull out all the stops in the "Organ" Symphony. And we'll hear how Saint-Saens' great finale tune sounds as it shows up in the 1995 farmyard flick Babe - as the song "If I had words" - with a beat, and sung by mice.

(Note: Those crazy mice didn't get there first. For even more of a trip, check out the 1977 version of "If I had words" with British one-hit wonders Scott Fitzgerald and Yvonne Keeley. And, oh yeah, the song was also covered by Hawaiian singer Keali'i Reichel.)

The ASO is on GPB Thursday at 8 p.m. with a rebroadcast Sunday night at 10. Join us!

March 6 & 9, 2008

Hear ye, hear ye! GPB launches its fourth season of Atlanta Symphony broadcasts, now produced and hosted by Sarah Zaslaw. (GPB's former Atlanta Symphony host, Terrance McKnight, is now ensconced as evening music host at WNYC New York.)

Join us for the first of 24 weekly concerts this Thursday evening at 8 (ET). Conductor Robert Spano, pianist Garrick Ohlsson and the Atlanta Symphony perform music by Cesar Franck (The Accursed Huntsman), Frederic Chopin (Second Piano Concerto) and Hector Berlioz (from Romeo and Juliet).

Garrick Ohlsson talks about Chopin's lovability, and I'll also speak with ASO president Allison Vulgamore about what goes into planning a concert season of the Atlanta Symphony.

Please tune in Thursday at 8 (with a rebroadcast Sunday night at 10) over GPB Radio or via

Friday, March 28, 2008

Test blog

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