Our classical music hosts serve as your tastemakers on the air, but what they’re listening to in their free time can give an even clearer vision of the people behind the voices.
So to give you a window into the personal libraries of our classical hosts, CapRadio is curating a monthly playlist featuring pieces our hosts have had in heavy rotation in their homes, cars and headphones.
With heart-wrenching cello music from Jennifer Reason, Beethoven deep cuts from Victor Forman and some patriotic selections from Kevin Doherty, here’s what our hosts have been listening to this month, from their ears to yours.
We’ll be adding to this playlist each month so you can keep CapRadio’s classical hosts’ favorites playing even once they’ve signed off for the day.
Here are our July picks:
Beethoven was as rock ‘n’ roll as was possible in his day. Bold and assertive music like Beethoven’s was unusual for the time, as music evolved from the classical era of formal structure into romanticism of impassioned emotion and expression of inner life. Here are some of my favorite deeper cuts from Beethoven’s repertoire.
“Symphony No.9 in D minor - ‘Choral’: 2. Molto vivace” — Performed by Gewandhausorchester Leipzig & Riccardo Chailly
The final "Ode to Joy" movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony gets all the press, but the second movement, “scherzo,” creates the same exhilaration as today's rock ‘n’ roll.
“Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-Sharp Minor No. 2 ‘Moonlight’: III. Presto agitato” — Performed by Jeno Jando
As the "Ode to Joy" of his Ninth gets all the press, so does the first movement of Beethoven's Piano Sonata #14, the "Moonlight." But the final movement, like the scherzo of the Ninth Symphony, is full of aggression and impassioned urgency.
“Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 9 in A - ‘Kruetzer’: 1. Adagio sostenuto - Presto” — Performed by Itzhak Perlman & Vladimir Ashkenazy
And the opening Presto (following a slow adagio intro; wait 'til about 2:20) in the first movement of Beethoven's "Kreutzer Sonata" is music of such agitation that Leo Tolstoy made it the centerpiece of his short story, "The Kreutzer Sonata," in which passions of jealousy are inflamed to an eventual devastating end. And in the film "Immortal Beloved," using a description of the Sonata taken directly from the Tolstoy story, the music becomes the centerpiece of that movie.
In the spirit of the upcoming holiday, I have chosen a couple of American composers — one contemporary and one from the 19th century. I also couldn’t resist picking a track from the soundtrack to the recent Ron Howard-directed documentary about one of the most famous opera singers to ever live.
“Rap Knock” — Jennifer Higdon
Jennifer Higdon is one of the most sought-after composers in the world today. Higdon’s specialty is making something that might not sound conventionally beautiful actually sound beautiful. I’ve chosen the uptempo and entertaining fourth movement “Rap Knock” from her recent Harp Concerto for your listening pleasure (you’ll immediately hear how it got its name). The entire 20-minute concerto is well worth a listen. It’s the world premiere recording featuring harpist Yolanda Kondonassis of the recent album “American Rapture.”
“Ballade in D-Flat Major” — Amy Beach
Amy Beach was a powerhouse of the late 19th century. A member of the Boston Six, Beach was one of the most performed composers of her generation. She was also the first woman to have a symphony performed by a major American orchestra. Beach was a prolific composer and much of her output was written for the piano. Her Ballade in D-Flat Major is reminiscent of European Romantic contemporaries like Brahms and Rachmaninoff. The piece starts in a sort of wistful nostalgia and eventually builds into an emotional tour de force. Pianist Anna Shelest performs from her new album “Donna Voce” (The Woman’s Voice).
“Nessun Dorma” — Luciano Pavarotti
The great operatic tenor Luciano Pavarotti was no stranger to the limelight. His name garnered universal recognition as a member of the uber-popular Three Tenors and the headliner for a series of benefit concerts called Pavarotti and Friends. These things along with his enormous successes on the operatic stage no doubt made him perfect fodder for a recently released documentary directed by Ron Howard. The very first track off the motion picture soundtrack is a work that Pavarotti brought to the masses and more or less became synonymous with his voice: Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma” from the opera “Turandot.”
If you’re searching for a theme in songs I’ve picked this month, perhaps it’s something along the lines of “Jen Loves Cello Music and Here Is Some That Makes Her Cry,” or maybe “Heart-wrenching Cello Pieces from Jen.” Sometimes it’s good to take an intellectual step back and just follow your heart to the things it finds most beautiful. These are almost more “songs” than pieces, and I hope you find yourself playing them on repeat the way I do.
“Garden Scene” — Erich Korngold
From “Much Ado About Nothing,” this is a breathtaking music. My beautiful little sister, seven years the younger, chose to hire a piano trio (thatagirl) for her wedding and walked down the aisle to this piece. It’s her five-year anniversary as we speak, so this piece is in honor of her and my wonderful brother-in-law. May their lives be forever full of joy and beauty.
“For the Love of a Princess” — James Horner
It happens often enough in live performance, but it’s rare for me to find myself moved to the point of tearing up when just sitting and listening to a piece of music at home. This is one of those occasions. Of course, “Braveheart” is an epic enough story, as is the score that accompanies it, but there’s something about this version by 2Cellos that absolutely takes my breath away. Perhaps it’s how plaintive and almost guttural the cello playing is, how you can hear the breaths of the musicians in this particular recording — something so wordlessly human, so full of longing, like it’s calling forth from somewhere too deep to be adequately expressed in the spoken languages we’ve constructed for ourselves. If you can, just sit and close your eyes, and let this one sweep you away.
“Kol Nidrei” — Max Bruch
This piece is moving not just because of the haunting and beautiful ancient melodies it contains, but also because of the reminder it serves of the prejudice and brutal horrors we are capable of toward our fellow mankind. Max Bruch was a German Protestant who fell in love with two Hebrew melodies: the Aramaic chant Kol Nidre, traditional to the Jewish celebration of Yom Kippur, and ‘O weep for those who wept on Babel's stream' from Byron’s Hebrew Melodies. He incorporated both into this heartfelt and powerful piece of music, which Nazi Germany took as a sign that he was a secret Jew. As a result, his music was banned from Germany (which impacted his notoriety profoundly), and he lost students to the terrors of Auschwitz. I’m preparing to perform it with a cellist shortly, and every time we rehearse, it seems each aching note cries out for us all to never allow such atrocities again.
Listen to the playlist here: