'Performance Today' at 20: A Look Back

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For 20 years Performance Today has brought listeners to concert halls around the world to hear classical music. Vital performances in the present tense, played by the super-stars of our time and exciting young musicians just starting their careers.

Twenty years of programs, two hours a day, every day. That's a lot of notes—around 45-thousand performances, recorded in places as remote as alpine ski villages in South Korea, to the great cathedrals of music in Paris, to chamber music festivals in the hills of New Mexico, to NPR's own Studio 4-A.

Performance Today has followed the music as it evolves and adapts. It's impossible to squeeze 20 years into a two hour show. So here are some sweet memories, thrilling performances, and even a few flukes.

Academy of Ancient Music

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We'll start by recognizing The Academy of Ancient Music, a group that pioneered the "original instruments" movement, one of the most significant forces of change in classical music in the last 30 years. Christopher Hogwood leads the group in the soothing "Air " from J.S. Bach's Orchestral Suite No. 3. (The orchestra is also featured in concert in Studio 4-A in this anniversary special.)

Musicians and their Music

William Harvey

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Over 20 years, Performance Today has extended the microphone to countless musicians, asking them to talk about their craft. Here's a medley of music makers including conductors Marin Alsop and Colin Davis, fiddlers Sara Chang, Joshua Bell and William Harvey (with his heart-wrenching essay on 9/11), commentators Jan Swafford and Rob Kapilow, counter-tenor David Daniels, guitarist Jason Vieaux, pianist and pop-star Billy Joel, and the legendary Van Cliburn.

Making Music at Home

Yo-Yo Ma

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A list of all the musicians who have dropped by the Performance Today Studio over the last two decades reads like a who's who of classical music: Placido Domingo, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Ian Bostridge, Leif Ove Andsnes, Chanticleer, Yo-Yo Ma, Richard Stoltzman, James Galway, and hundreds of other big stars and little ones.

Here are a few memorable moments from Studio 4-A: Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble plays a traditional mountain tune from China. Guitarist Jason Vieaux picks out a lively Argentine folk song. The Academy of Ancient Music plays Mozart's Symphony no. 29. Banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck and double bass man Edgar Meyer try a new take on Bach's Two-Part Invention No. 6. And Joseph Shabalala and his group Ladysmith Black Mambazo sing a haunting song about the rain.

Performance Today: On the Road

On the Road

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Sometimes you just have to get out of the studio and make the music out on the road. Over 20 years, Perfomance Today has travelled everywhere from to tiny music festivals in Texas, to fancy European concert Halls. In this segment, a look back at a few memorable PT journeys. Some far away, as in Mozart's hometown of Salzburg, or Havana, Cuba, and some close to home, as in a visit to the White House, and Washington DC's Library of Congress.

Re-imagining Mozart

Fazil Say

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Over the years, Performance Today has watched musicians grow and mature— starting out as young turks then blossoming into seasoned pros. One such player actually *is* a turk—the irrepressible pianist, and Ankara native, Fazil Say. Years ago he visited the PT studio to play some of his own fascinating compositions. Recently we found him in concert in Brussels, playing a familiar piece by Mozart, then playing it over again but with a major twist.

Performance Today Foul-balls

Polly Rhythm

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In two decades-worth of daily shows, it's not surprising that a few flubs slipped by and made it to air. Here's a collection of boo-boos, bungles, faux pas and fluffs, plus a genuine laugh or two.

It's All About the Music

John Adams

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From living composers like John Adams and Pierre Boulez to the basics like Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, Performance Today has, for 20 years, tried to introduce listeners to the widest variety of Classical music and musicians. In this segment a few personal favorites from host Fred Child: Leon Fleisher plays Bach with both hands, the Los Angeles Philharmonic highlights the Spanish side of Ravel, and the Luxembourg Philharmonic makes a strong case for the pulsating rhythms that drive "The Chairman Dances" by American composer John Adams.

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