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Joyce DiDonato is one of the most acclaimed opera singers of her generation; this year, she won the Grammy for Best Classical Vocal Solo. Her latest album, In War and Peace: Harmony Through Music, is a collection of baroque arias from the 17th and 18th centuries divided into two sections — one addressing war, the other, peace.

The Italian pianist and composer Ludovico Einaudi brought in a full band for a stunning live performance. He has a giant global following — and for good reason, as demonstrated by this rendition of his piece "Petricor."

SET LIST

  • "Petricor"

Photo: Larry Hirshowitz/KCRW. Watch Ludovico Einaudi's full Morning Becomes Eclectic set at KCRW.com.

Jazz great Wynton Marsalis, a virtuoso trumpet player and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, has written — wait for it — a violin concerto.

As the daughter of the late virtuoso violinist Roman Totenberg, I was intrigued and wanted to know more. So I spent an hour with Marsalis — and the violinist he wrote his concerto with and for. (More on that later.)

Christopher Rouse's Symphony No. 3, which appears on his latest album, contains many levels of meaning. It's an homage to the Russian composer Sergey Prokofiev, whose Second Symphony serves as a structural model for the piece. It's an encoded musical portrait of Rouse's wife. And it's an engaging piece of music even for a listener who possesses none of this background knowledge.

American composer Julia Wolfe has won one of the biggest windfalls in the arts world. She is one of this year's MacArthur Fellows, recipients of the so-called "genius grants" given to a wide range of talented figures from the arts, humanities, sciences and social services. The 2016 class of fellows was announced early Thursday morning.

When you think of an orchestra, you're probably picturing refined woodwinds, brass, and strings. But one ensemble I recently met is made up mostly of kids who play instruments made out of literal trash. This is the Recycled Orchestra from Cateura, Paraguay, and their group is the subject of a new documentary film.

Alastair Willis
alastairwillis.com

Join UIS Ethnomusicology Professor Yona Stamatis Wednesdays, 8-10 PM streaming here and broadcast on  NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS to listen to the Illinois Symphony Orchestra under Maestro Alastair Willis recorded live in concert last season. 

Derek Gripper was a musician with a problem. He'd been playing classical music since he was 6 years old — violin, then piano and finally guitar. He was poised for an international career as a classical guitarist. But he remembers going to the homeland of one of his favorite composers, Johann Sebastian Bach.

"It felt kind of strange," he says. "It felt strange to be in Germany playing Bach to them."

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.


As a 16-year-old, Pretty Yende was sitting with her parents in their rural South African home watching TV when a British Airways ad came on. As the sweet music swelled and voices intertwined, Yende was mesmerized. The only problem: She had no idea what to call the beautiful music she'd just heard.

Live at the Suggs: Sandeep Das

Oct 10, 2014
Sandeep Das playing tabla
Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

A tabla virtuoso is in Springfield. Sandeep Das has worked with greats like Yo-Yo Ma and Ravi Shankar. He will play with the Illinois Symphony Orchestra, headed by Alastair Willis, on Saturday (CLICK HERE for more info.)

In this interview, UIS ethnomusicology professor Yona Stamatis speaks with Maestro Willis about the concert, called 'Beethoven Meets the Silk Road': 

At 8 years old, I scrawled my first and last Symphonies — nos. 1, 2, and 3 — on ruled notebook paper. They were short duets for clarinet and trumpet for myself and my brother to play. Why did I call them symphonies? I can't remember, but I suspect that it was a desire to tie these efforts — and me, by extension — to a grand and venerable tradition.

There are a lot of operas that end with heroines on their deathbeds, singing one glorious aria before they die. That's what happens at the end of Anna Nicole, the controversial new work that New York City Opera is presenting at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in September. But the company's artistic director and general manager, George Steel, says it could also be City Opera's last gasp.

Soundscapes In C, In Winter And In Alaska

Sep 17, 2013
Nicolas Kendall
Randy Eccles / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Violinist Nicolas Kendall, of the East Coast Chamber Orchestra (ECCO) and Time for Three, peforms at the WUIS Suggs Performance Studio previewing his guest role with the Illinois Symphony Orchestra.

Rhett Barnwell
Randy Eccles / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Harpist Rhett Barnwell joined Karl Scroggin to discuss music therapy and the Chiara Center's harp retreat weekend.

Prairieland Voices
Randy Eccles / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Marion van der Loo directs this preview performance before their holiday performance this weekend.

Jason Vieaux & Lidia Kaminska
Randy Eccles / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

A live performance by Jason Vieaux & Lidia Kaminska on Classics with Karl Scroggin from November 11, 2010.

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