Portland, Oregon's literate and theatrical rock group The Decemberists have just released what some critics are calling the year's best album. Hear selections from The Crane Wife and some of the band's earlier albums in a full concert, recorded live from Washington, D.C.
Being the son of a musical legend doesn't automatically qualify Sean Lennon to be a great musician, so it's a pleasant surprise to hear his beautiful, simple melodies and evocative voice. Lennon continues to develop as a musician, releasing Friendly Fire this month.
Sean Lennon in concert on XPN Live Fridays - 10/27/2006
In the spring of 1825, Beethoven got terribly sick. Came close to dying, in fact. After his recovery, he revised a string quartet he'd been working on. He added a long, reflective middle movement — a musical "thank you" to God for his life. The Takacs Quartet plays Beethoven's "Heiliger Dankgesang" in the NPR studios.
Janine Jansen is a 28-year-old rising star of the violin. Last week, she was featured by the BBC at one of its lunchtime concerts from London's Wigmore Hall. We'll sample that concert and hear Jansen's performance of the Violin Sonata No. 2 by Edvard Grieg. Itamar Golan is at the piano.
California Guitar Trio's members are candid about the kind of music they play, which is evident from the band's name: It's an L.A.-based group of three highly skilled acoustic-guitar players. But its music isn't that simple, as it blends blues, folk, jazz, classical and surf-rock.
California Guitar Trio in concert on XPN Live Fridays - 10/20/2006
Russian pianist Konstantin Soukhovetski weighs in with an opinion on the importance of style and fashion in the classical-music world, and he plays Tchaikovsky in concert. We're at Lincoln Center in New York to hear Soukhovetski play "June: Barcarolle" from Tchaikosky's suite The Seasons.
Pianist Rafal Blechacz won the 2005 International Chopin Competition in Warsaw, so he's qualified to play Chopin. He was back in Warsaw this past summer to play the Barcarolle, Op. 60, and the Etude Op. 10, No. 8.
Singer-songwriter Jenny Lewis has a hauntingly soulful voice. Her latest CD, Rabbit Fur Coat is inspired by her lifelong love for folk, country and Southern gospel, with beautifully crafted story songs. Hear Lewis in a full concert recorded live from Washington, D.C.'s 9:30 Club.
Copenhagen is a town that loves classical music and supports it enthusiastically. While ensembles in other places have to tour constantly to make a living, the Diamond Ensemble has full support, both financially and in terms of community. They play in the Danish Royal Library now: Franz Danzi's Wind Quintet No. 2.
Gorka's music demonstrates an easy melodic sensibility: Nothing is contrived or overproduced. His work is built around little more than his unmistakable voice and the simple, clean sounds of his guitar. Gorka performs a solo set from WXPN and World Cafe Live in Philadelphia.
John Gorka in concert on XPN Live Fridays - 10/13/2006
From the final round of this year's JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Competition, runner-up Masao Tanibe performs the popular "Concierto de Aranjuez" by Joaquin Rodrigo. Falletta leads the Buffalo Philharmonic, in concert at Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo.
The music world celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Juilliard Quartet Wednesday. Host Fred Child talks with the quartet's first violinist, Joel Smirnoff. And, from a 1987 Juilliard Quartet recording, we hear Bach's Contrapuncti Nos. 2, 7 and 9 from The Art of the Fugue.
Boise, Idaho's Built to Spill has been making smart, catchy, sometimes trippy guitar rock for nearly 15 years. Hear the band recorded live in concert from Washington, D.C.'s 9:30 Club, with Camper Van Beethoven.
With 12 albums under his belt, Chris Smither qualifies as a veteran of the music industry. His elegant lyrics are arranged simply, with mostly just his own masterful finger-picking and foot-tapping to accompany him. His music qualifies as folk, but the blues influences are undeniable.
Chris Smither in concert on XPN Live Fridays - 10/06/2006