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April 2014
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Anne Akiko Meyers with Lisa Flynn


Tuesday’s Guest Host broadcast with Anne Akiko Meyers delivers all things violin—Lisa Flynn chats with this international soloist who plays on two violins by Antonio Stradivari and a Guarneri del Gesu. Through the recordings they’re sharing, it’s clear all three instruments sound magnificent. What’s more subtle is the differences between the instruments; their distinct personalities, which is what makes a conversation between Meyers and Lisa Flynn (also an active violinist) so fascinating.

Anne Akiko Meyers is Guest Host on Tuesday from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm. She is in town to perform the Chicago premiere of Mason Bates’s Violin Concerto, a work she co-commissioned with the Pittsburgh Symphony.

Meyer’s chief collaborator in the Bates Concerto has been conductor Leonard Slatkin, who conducted the work’s premiere. Slatkin and Meyers have recorded the concerto with the London Philharmonic, a release that’s due in the fall.

Hear Anne Akiko Meyers play the Mason Bates Violin Concerto with Leonard Slatkin conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra through Saturday, April 19th.

On deck at WFMT

Leonard Slatkin will step into the broadcast studio and take up the role of Guest Host (he’s actually a well-seasoned radio personality) from 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm on Tuesday, April 15, 2014.



Beethoven: Symphony No 5 in C minor, Op 67, 1st movement
Chicago Symphony Orchestra / Fritz Reiner

Duke Ellington: It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)
Duke Ellington Band

Beethoven: 2nd movement from Violin Concerto in D, Op 62
David Oistrakh, violin; French National Radio Orchestra / André Cluytens

Vivaldi: The Four Seasons, Spring
Anne Akiko Meyers, violin; English Chamber Orchestra / David Lockington

Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending
Anne Akiko Meyers, violin; Philharmonia Orchestra / Andrew Litton

Bach: Two-Violin Concerto in D minor, BWV 1043, 2nd movement
Anne Akiko Meyers, violins; English Chamber Orchestra / Steven Mercurio

Vivaldi: Three-Violin Concerto in F major, R 551
Anne Akiko Meyers, violins; English Chamber Orchestra / David Lockington

Arvo Pärt: Passacaglia
Anne Akiko Meyers, violin; English Chamber Orchestra / David Lockington

Somei Satoh: Birds in Warped Time II
Anne Akiko Meyers, violin; Li Jian, piano

Harold Arlen: Somewhere Over the Rainbow
Judy Garland


Civitas Ensemble on Live from WFMT

Civitas Ensemble

Civitas Ensemble

Monday at 8:00 pm

One of the Chicago area’s top chamber groups comes to WFMT’s performance studio for some live music and conversation with Kerry Frumkin as the Monday night series Live from WFMT returns.

Most of the players of Civitas Ensemble are members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, including assistant concertmaster Yuan-Qing Yu. On Monday, Civitas Ensemble with Winston Choi on piano, will play a turn of the century (last century) work by Walter Rabl; also a Trio by Gian Carlo Menotti, and a Piano Quartet by Gabriel Faure.

Listen to Civitas play a movement from the Mozart Clarinet Quintet in A. This performance was recorded in 2011 at Mayne Stage with Yuan-Qing Yu and Kozue Funakoshi on violin, Carol Cook on viola, Kenneth Olsen on cello, and J. Lawrie Blume on clarinet:


Bill McGlaughlin: A Walking Tour through St. Matthew Passion

Crucifixion by Salvador Dali

Exploring Music, weeknights at 7:00 pm

On Monday, April 14, Bill McGlaughlin begins a journey through a work that many have called miraculous, the St. Matthew Passion by Johann Sebastian Bach. Bill uses several different recordings to illuminate the work’s mysteries.

Listen to Bill describe the Lutheran upheaval that served as the backdrop for Bach’s life as a church musician:


Read how Felix Mendelssohn rescued the St. Matthew Passion from obscurity.

Listen to Bill McGlaughlin describe the musical halo that Bach crafts around the bass-baritone part of Jesus:


Listen to antiphonal effects Bach creates with three choirs:


Two for Tuesday: Guest Hosts Come to WFMT

Anne Akiko Meyers and Leonard Slatkin

Anne Akiko Meyers and Leonard Slatkin

It’s always special to have company, but doing it twice in one day makes it feel like a holiday. On Tuesday WFMT welcomes two distinguished American artists—coincidentally both are from southern California; both studied at Indiana; and both studied at Juilliard. Leonard Slatkin and Anne Akiko Meyers are in Chicago to perform a concerto by Chicago Symphony Orchestra composer-in-residence Mason Bates.

Clearly this is a concerto they believe in: Meyers commissioned the piece with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and played the premiere under Slatkin in 2012. Since then she’s taken it to Detroit, Richmond, Nashville, and now Chicago.

Listen to Anne Akiko Meyers as she plays radio host on Tuesday morning with Lisa Flynn. Meyers gets to play whatever CDs she likes, and talk about the music with Lisa. Meyers will be WFMT’s Guest Host from 10:00 am-12:00 pm.

On Tuesday afternoon Grammy Award-winning conductor Leonard Slatkin will take over the hosting chair, choosing CDs and discussing repertoire with Kerry Frumkin. Slatkin will serve as Guest Host from 2:00 pm-3:00 pm.

Anne Akiko Meyers was recently awarded the use of the Vieuxtemps Guarneri del Gesu violin. See the video as she describes the instrument and the Mason Bates Concerto.


From the Jerusalem Sacred Music Festival

Interfaith Liturgical concert

Interfaith Liturgical concert

Listen to Festival Highlights

Tuesday, April 15, 2014 at 10:40 pm
Sunday, April 20, 2014 at 8:40 am

Jerusalem—a city that always has been defined by two (at least) narratives: religious and political. Palestinians, Christians, and Jews, all religious to varying degrees, or not religious at all, comprise the city’s citizenry of some 800,000. While the peoples of these communities all live closely together in a geographical sense, each community lives a separate emotional life, either by choice or mandate or custom or all three.

The Citadel, Tower of David

The Citadel, Tower of David

Tibetan Ritual of the Mandala 2

Tibetan Ritual of the Mandala 2


With its Sacred Music Festival, the Jerusalem Season of Culture aims to bridge those political and cultural gaps through a shared love of music. Over the course of four days and four nights in August, musicians of every color and creed arrived in Jerusalem to share and celebrate their unique musical traditions. Candice Agree was in Jerusalem as a guest of the 2013 Festival, and shares these sights and sounds:


The next Festival will take place in Jerusalem from September 9-12, 2014.

Theo Bickel and The Passover Story

The Praying Jew, Rabbi of Vitebsk by Marc Chagall

The Praying Jew, Rabbi of Vitebsk by Marc Chagall

Monday at 1:00 pm

Theodore Bickel was being modest when he said, “Professionally, I can count three or four separate existences.” He’s played Carnegie Hall as a folk singer, he created the role of Captain von Trapp in the Broadway premiere of The Sound of Music, and has played the role of Tevye more than 2,000 times in Fiddler on the Roof. Bickel has a film career spanning 50 years. He’s also a humorist, writer, and social activist.

“All too often arrogance accompanies strength, and we must never assume that justice is on the side of the strong. The use of power must always be accompanied by moral choice.”

It has become a WFMT tradition to celebrate Passover with Theo Bickel’s telling of The Passover Story, a production with the ensemble Western Wind. The program includes Klezmer improvisations, Sephardic songs, Hebrew folk music, and classical liturgical music. Join WFMT for The Passover Story starring Theodore Bickel on Monday at 1:00 pm.


About the St. Matthew Passion


Chicago Bach Project’s St. Matthew Passion Live, Friday at 7:30 pm

The history—and the mysteries—of Johann Sebastian Bach’s St. Matthew Passion are endless. It was written in 1727. One hundred years later, it was all but forgotten.

Listen to Bill McGlaughlin on the opening of the Passion:


Listen to Bill McGlaughlin on painting the characters in the Passion:




Inspiration of St. Matthew by Caravaggio







The Revival

There was a highly cultivated woman living in Berlin by the name of Sarah Itzig Levy who had studied the harpsichord with Bach’s oldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann. Sarah was a musical activist; she sang, she collected manuscripts, she commissioned music from Wilhelm’s brother, Carl. Sarah’s sister Bella had two grandkids who were extraordinarily gifted musically: Fanny and Felix Mendelssohn.

Felix Mendelssohn was around 15 years old when his grandmother Bella gave him a manuscript of an obscure piece of music: J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. That gift lit a fire under young Mendelssohn. He was determined to launch a performance. It took the youth five years to reconstruct and write out parts in order to actually perform the music; which he did, enlisting friends, family and anybody who could play or sing—some covering multiple parts, in 1829.

First page in Mendelssohn's hand of J.S. Bach's Cantata, BWV 106; from Library of Congressw

First page in Mendelssohn’s hand of J.S. Bach’s Cantata, BWV 106; from Library of Congress

Exploring music

Bill McGlaughlin will present a week-long examination of the St. Matthew Passion in honor of Holy Week, starting on Monday at 7:00 pm.

The Performance

Chicago Bach Choir & Orchestra, with musicians from the Lyric Opera Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Grant Park Music Festival, along with Anima (Young Singers of Chicago) and soloists, perform J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion under the direction of John Nelson on Friday at 7:30 pm, live at the Harris Theater and on WFMT.

John Nelson, conductor
Nicholas Phan, Evangelist
Stephen Morscheck, Jesus
Lisette Oropesa, soprano
Lawrence Zazzo, countertenor
Colin Ainsworth, tenor
Matthew Brook, bass-baritone
Tobias Greenhalgh, baritone
Chicago Bach Choir & Orchestra
Donald Nally, chorus master
Anima (Young Singers of Greater Chicago)
Emily Ellsworth, director

The New York Phil’s Nielsen Redux

Carl Nielsen

Carl Nielsen

There are two more videos (below) of New York Philharmonic music director Alan Gilbert making his case for the underrepresented Dane—Nielsen goes down easy, as far as 20th century composers go; his vibrant orchestral colors, and earthy Romanticism align him with the likes of Sibelius or Rachmaninoff. In the first video, we see a quirkier, sillier side of Nielsen.

Alan Gilbert has a personal connection to Scandinavia; he has had a long association with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic (not to mention being married to a cellist from that orchestra). Gilbert says it’s understood in that part of the world that Nielsen is to be played as often as Tchaikovsky or Brahms; hence his journey with the New York Philharmonic to perform all the Nielsen Symphonies and Concertos.

On Thursday at 8:00 pm, the New York Philharmonic welcomes Nikolaj Znaider for Nielsen’s Violin Concerto. They also call principal flutist Robert Langevin to the fore for the Nielsen Flute Concerto. The program finishes with Tchaikovsky’s Little Russian Symphony.


Hess Concert: Practicing (Hopefully) What He Preaches

Evan Mitchell

Evan Mitchell

Live Recital, Wednesday at 12:15 pm

Evan Mitchell is a hard-working young pianist, currently studying with Van Cliburn Competition-winner José Feghali. Mitchell gave 50 concerts last year, he practices—a lot, and somehow finds time to write music criticism for a website called bachtrack.

As a reviewer, Mitchell assigns star ratings, up to 5 stars, and tells it like he sees it about Jaap van Zweden:

“Music Director Jaap van Zweden’s penchant for loudness—big climaxes, thick textures bursting at the seams with sinuous clarity —was brought off brilliantly in a second half, while Fauré’s Suite from Pelléas…occupied an uncomfortable middle ground.”

Mitchell headlines a Lang Lang review: “In defense of Lang Lang (sort of): Pianists and stage persona [sic].”

Mitchell has reviewed Joshua Bell, Dawn Upshaw, Andrew Litton, and so on. These reviews are interesting in that any of these artists could have a positive—or even a negative—impact on Mitchell’s piano career. Nonetheless, he gives out 5 stars sparingly.

On Wednesday, Evan Mitchell will put himself out there to be judged, bringing to bear years of practice, training, and soul-searching—not for the pianist he wants to be in his heart, but the one he is between 12:15 pm and 1:00 pm.

Evan Mitchell comes to the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts to perform Haydn, Brahms, Schoenberg, Debussy and Mendelssohn. Check back to for the podcast. Listen and post a star rating if you like.

Tuesday’s Opera Special

WFMT's Peter van de Graaff

WFMT's Peter van de Graaff

If you’re like most opera fans—you started listening to opera after World War I—you may be less familiar with the works of the Frenchman, Jules Massenet. Peter van de Graaff, one of WFMT’s biggest authorities on all things opera means to change that.

On Tuesday, in a special Fine Arts Circle membership drive broadcast, Peter sits down for a live show with Suzanne Nance to cook up a luscious feast of music by Massenet. The broadcast begins at 8:00 pm. Special thank you gifts await your call.

Here’s a little Massenet Q and A with Peter van de Graaff:

Most people don’t know the operas of Massenet. Are you a particular fan? Which works?
Massenet was, along with Bizet and Gounod, the great French opera composer of the late 19th century. I consider him one of my two or three favorite opera composers.

Did Massenet write ballet music in his operas?
The best known ballet music comes from Le Cid, but many of his operas have some ballet music, as that was a requirement for anything performed at the Opéra in Paris.

People know the meditation from Thaïs from all the arrangements. What is that piece about? Was it originally sung?
There is an off-stage chorus with it. It is an interlude meant to depict the conversion of the courtesan Thaïs to Christianity.

What sort of stories was he drawn to?
There always has to be something absolutely compelling about the women in Massenet’s operas. All of the other characters are appendages to what they go through (with the exception of the all-male opera Le jongleur de Notre Dame).

Has Massenet been widely recorded by the great singers? Favorites?
Yes—many, many great artists, primarily from the “golden age” of singing recorded Massenet arias. He went through a period of neglect between about WWI and only the last decade. He was considered old-fashioned and too “pretty”, but audiences, artists and companies are now realizing his genius and the power of his operas. Renée Fleming is the artist who, it seems to me, has the perfect Massenet voice with richness and expressivity.