Teddy Abrams: Tiny Desk Concert Hear a young conductor, composer and pianist riff on Beethoven and play his own jazz-inspired compositions.

Tiny Desk

Teddy Abrams

If we're relying on the younger generation to help boost interest in classical music, look no further than Teddy Abrams. The 28-year-old pianist, clarinetist, conductor and composer has just begun his second season as music director of the Louisville Orchestra and he's brimming with ideas on what to do with Bach, Beethoven and music made today.

For his first week on the job in Louisville, Abrams played jazz piano in the streets and took his orchestra players into nightclubs and African-American churches. PBS made a web series on his first season. Earlier this year, he put two first symphonies on the same program — Brahms' First and a debut symphony by Sebastian Chang, a composer still in his 20s — just to gauge audience reaction. Abrams filled the hall by giving out free tickets to first-time symphonygoers. He was happy to hear that many of them liked the new piece best, saying they appreciated hearing the composer introduce it onstage.

Abrams doesn't treat composers like museum exhibits to be handled with white gloves. For this Tiny Desk performance, Adams decided to begin the opening movement of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 30 with a short improvisation, noting that the great composer was known for riffing at the piano for hours on end.

The set opens and closes with tunes by Abrams himself. The first, "Big Band," swirls with jazz history. Hints of Thelonious Monk fly by, along with tips of the hat to the stride style from the early 20th century. Abrams ends with a bluesy number, "The Long Goodbye," describing it as a slow ballad halfway between "My Funny Valentine" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." How fascinating it will be to watch him as he continues to delight and challenge audiences.

Set List

  • Abrams: "Big Band"
  • Abrams: Improvisation/Beethoven: Sonata No. 30 in E, Op. 109, I. Vivace, ma non troppo
  • Abrams: "The Long Goodbye"

Credits

Producers: Tom Huizenga, Morgan Walker; Audio Engineer: Suraya Mohamed; Videographers: Morgan Walker, Julia Reihs; Production Assistant: Kate Drozynski; Photo by Jun Tsuboike/NPR

For more Tiny Desk Concerts, subscribe to our podcast.

[+] read more[-] less

More From Tiny Desk

Charly Bliss plays a Tiny Desk Concert (Bob Boilen/NPR). Bob Boilen/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Bob Boilen/NPR

Charly Bliss

The vibrancy of the band can feel childlike and candy-coated. But the group's songs are more about the pain of entering adulthood and leaving some of that sweetness behind.

Sharon Van Etten performs during a Tiny Desk concert, on Sept. 23, 2019. (Mhari Shaw/NPR) Mhari Shaw/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Mhari Shaw/NPR

Sharon Van Etten

Nearly a decade after her first appearance at the Tiny Desk, Sharon Van Etten returns with a full band and a bigger, bolder sound.

Molly Sarlé plays a Tiny Desk Concert. Shuran Huang/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Shuran Huang/NPR

Molly Sarlé

After performing at the Tiny Desk as one third of the group Mountain Man, Molly Sarlé returns for a soul-stirring solo performance.

The Jonas Brothers play a Tiny Desk Concert on August 15, 2019 (Claire Harbage/NPR). Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Jonas Brothers

The brothers and their backing band gave a playful performance of three tracks from their latest album, Happiness Begins.

Josh Ritter (center) performs with Amanda Shires and Jason Isbell at a Tiny Desk Concert on Aug. 27, 2019. (Emily Bogle/NPR) Emily Bogle/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Emily Bogle/NPR

Josh Ritter With Amanda Shires And Jason Isbell

In his second visit to the Tiny Desk, Josh Ritter had America on his mind. "We all have to fight against this notion that we're not all human beings."

Ari Lennox plays a Tiny Desk Concert (Ben de la Cruz/NPR). Ben de la Cruz/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Ben de la Cruz/NPR

Ari Lennox

The R&B singer performed songs from her debut full-length, Shea Butter Baby.

Rosanne Cash plays a Tiny Desk Concert (Amr Alfiky/NPR). Amr Alfiky/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Amr Alfiky/NPR

Rosanne Cash

Roseanne Cash has been making great records for forty years, but she's never played or written better music than she's doing right now.

Y La Bamba plays a Tiny Desk Concert (Shuran Huang/NPR). Shuran Huang/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Shuran Huang/NPR

Y La Bamba

Y La Bamba returns for its second Tiny Desk performance with a revised musical vision.

Nilüfer Yanya plays a Tiny Desk Concert (Shuran Huang/NPR). Shuran Huang/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Shuran Huang/NPR

Nilüfer Yanya

There's a hush to the music of Nilüfer Yanya that made the Tiny Desk the perfect stage for her sound.

Rhiannon Giddens plays a Tiny Desk Concert on July 17, 2019 (Claire Harbage/NPR). Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Rhiannon Giddens

Giddens shares songs from her latest album, There is No Other, in an emotional and transfixing performance at the Tiny Desk.

Back To Top