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Updated: 2018-02-22T00:00:00-05:00


Reflections from the Keyboard: Debussy and the Piano

In this five-part special installment of the show Reflections from the Keyboard — listen above — host David Dubal explores the life and work of one of the timeless masters of musical Impressionism, Claude Debussy.

Through vintage recordings (even some of Debussy playing his own music), excerpts from correspondences with patrons and colleagues, comparative performances and stories from Debussy's life, this five-hour special paints a vivid portrait of the composer's exquisite music, as well as his turbulent personal life. It also illuminates the many ways in which Debussy's music both influenced and was influenced by French culture.

Reflections From the Keyboard airs Thursdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 10 pm on WQXR.

3 Minute Opera: Puccini's 'La Bohème'

Give WQXR morning host Jeff Spurgeon three minutes and he'll give you an entire opera. Listen as Spurgeon breaks down Puccini's "La bohème" in a New York minute (or three).

And hear this beloved classic during the Metropolitan Opera’s Saturday matinee broadcast beginning at 12:30 pm on Feb. 24.

Watch Classical Guitar Legend Andrés Segovia at Work

The late Spanish virtuoso Andrés Segovia was one of the most influential figures in classical guitar, introducing a number of pieces, and thanks to his warm and masterful sound, it’s not hard to listen to his music all day on his birthday. Posthumous reports of a rather abrasive personality and teaching style notwithstanding, the Spanish virtuoso took the guitar’s classical technique to the limit, introducing a number of pieces originally for lute and keyboard instruments into its repertoire. He died in 1987, but luckily we have footage of him doing what he does best — like giving a spectacular performance of Isaac Albéniz’s Asturias.

Why Does the Oboe Tune the Orchestra?
A while back we explored why the orchestra generally tunes to an A at 440 Hz, sometimes 442 Hz, and, for the conspiracy theorists among us, 432 Hz. More often than not the oboe sounds that A. But there are several competing ideas as to why that is. width="620" height="349" src="" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" id="a-5782435165414565637" class="youtube_video" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" data-original-url="">   Searching for an answer yields some frustrating results, in part because, as Delta State University Professor and author Bret Pimentel wrote on his blog, you get a lot of inconclusive information about what makes the oboe so special. This short piece from Yamaha acknowledges that some believe the oboe’s pitch is so stable that it makes all the sense in the world to tune to it. But at the same time, some authors disagree and contend that it is so unstable that other musicians need to adjust for its shortcomings. They believe the oboe is subject to changes in atmospheric conditions (like temperature or humidity), meaning that as the room gets warmer, the instrument’s pitch will get sharper. Still others argue that its penetrating tone is what makes it the perfect candidate for head tuner. But Pimentel points out several flaws in these reasons: For example, if we’re trying to look for the most stable pitch in the orchestra, why not turn to a tuned percussion instrument like the glockenspiel? And if the oboe is the tuner-in-chief because its sound is so penetrating, why not choose the trumpet or piccolo?  Tradition plays a role as well — the instrument has been a staple of the orchestra since the Baroque era, so the relative latecomers fell into line behind it. The Rockford Symphony Orchestra (Illinois) puts forth that explanation (although they also stand behind the “stable tone” theory): “The first orchestras (in the late 1600s) were mainly string instruments. A pair of oboes was sometimes used to strengthen the first and second violin parts … Other instruments drifted in and out of the orchestra … before its instrumentation became relatively standardized as we know it today. But oboes were almost always present, so they became the standard instrument for tuning.” The oboe has a kind of orchestral birthright — apparently, even when electronic tuners are involved, it’s up to the principal oboist to operate it. There’s one more observation worth pointing out, and it's a throwback to the 19th century. In 1881, Dr. W.H. Stone delivered a lecture to what is now the Royal Academy of Music in which he attempted to explain the trend of “rises in orchestra pitch.” Rather than alterations in humidity or temperature, he believed changes in an oboe’s pitch were due to a weakening embouchure. “It is a most delicate and difficult instrument,” he argued. “The lip has to be most carefully maintained, otherwise the instrument is liable to go far away from the pitch to a degree not due to the physical [atmospheric] causes I am speaking of.”  Unfortunately, there isn’t a universal orchestra rulebook that outlines exactly why the oboe gets this job, and if it is just a tradition after all, it’s a fair one. As Dr. Stone pointed out, it takes a lot of work to play the oboe in tune — and honestly, if your mouth were to become that uncomfortable after extended playing, we’d bet you’d want some leadership rights too. [...]

Pianist Seong-Jin Cho Plays Debussy, Beethoven and Chopin

For this Wednesday’s edition of Midday Masterpieces, join us in the studio as we listen to acclaimed South Korean pianist Seong-Jin Cho perform selections by Debussy, Beethoven and Chopin. The latter is a specialty for Cho; he was the winner of the XVII International Chopin Competition in 2015. The following year saw the release of his album that included his interpretations of Chopin’s Ballades and First Piano Concerto, and his first ever visit to WQXR.

WQXR morning host Jeff Spurgeon hosts the performance via Facebook Live. Join us on at 11 am (ET), and if you haven’t already, like our Facebook page so you can receive advance alerts for sessions like these.

Debussy: "Poissons d'or" from Images Book II
Chopin: Piano Sonata No. 3, fourth movement
Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 8, second movement


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Anna Netrebko and Elīna Garanča Lift You Up With a Delibes Classic

Though he wrote a number of operas and dozens of vocal works, Léo Delibes (Feb. 21, 1836–Jan. 16, 1891) is, at least today, something of a one-hit wonder. He is best known for his 1883 opera Lakmé, and even if you’ve never seen it, you’re probably familiar with the “Flower Duet” for two sopranos, which steals the show. It’s so loved, the song has become a popular concert staple — above watch Anna Netrebko and Elīna Garanča’s graceful rendition from the 2007 Baden Baden Opera Gala.

The piece has also become a staple of pop culture, due in no small part to an adaptation by a 1989 British Airways advertising campaign.

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February 20, 2018: James Cromwell and Pramilla Malick
Activists are highlighting the fracked gas plant that is at the center of the Percoco trial in hopes of ending progress on the project. We heard from Pramilla Malick, founder of Protect Orange County, and James Cromwell, actor and environmental activist, who protested outside the courthouse where the Percoco trial is being held.

February 20, 2018: Bob Bellafiore and Steve Greenberg
We broke down the latest from Albany with political strategists Bob Bellafiore of Stanhope Partners and Steve Greenberg of Greenberg Public Relations.

February 20, 2018: Mary Lynch and Melanie Trimble
The Rensselaer County Sheriff has proposed using local law enforcement to assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement in enforcing federal immigration law. Mary Lynch, Albany Law Professor, Director of the Center for Excellence in Law, and Editor of the Best Practices For Legal Education Blog; and Melanie Trimble, Capital Region Chapter Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, explained the impacts this decision will have on immigrant communities in the county.

February 20, 2018: Sen. Patrick Gallivan
Sen. Patrick Gallivan (R-Elma), chair of the Senate Committee on Crime Victims, Crime and Correction; discussed his push for additional funding in the budget to provide for more security for employees in state operated correctional facilities.

The 20 Essential Debussy Recordings
With so many interpretations of Debussy committed to recordings — including a few by the composer himself — it can be hard to find the good stuff. That’s why we did the legwork for you. Here’s our list of essential Debussy recordings. Debussy: Images, 2 Arabesques, L’isle joyeuse, Rêverie, Berceuse héroïque frameborder="0" height="380" src="" width="300"> Zoltán Kocsis (Philips 422404) Debussy’s two dance-like arabesques, composed in the 1880s when he was still in his 20s, are perhaps some of the most widely recognized and loved piano lines he ever wrote. They’re also clear signposts as to where Debussy was headed with his new brand of musical “impressionism” (which, as with the identical movement in the visual arts, was about creating suggestions of extra-musical images rather than realistically reproducing them), because the “Arabesques” of his title represented the natural curves of nature. Debussy then presented them with the beginnings of his own distinctive harmonic language, the first Arabesque’s rippling, rising and falling arpeggios cast not just in conventional western harmonic language, but also using the gently exotic pentatones of the far east. The promise of Debussy’s mature style is even more evident in the playful second, with its capricious changes of meter, texture and tessitura. Zoltan Kocsis’s playing here is perfect, too: soft, nuanced, and bringing off the music’s full range of shifting colors and light. It’s also a beautifully compiled program: he’s added the Arabesques’ clear successors, the two books of Images (1901–07), and finishes with a sting in its tail, the dark Heroic Lullaby penned at the start of World War I, into which Debussy wove the Belgian national anthem. Available at Arkivmusic. Debussy Songs, Vol. 4  width="620" height="349" src="" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" id="a-5885717960782858413" class="youtube_video" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" data-original-url=""> Lucy Crowe / Christopher Maltman / Malcolm Martineau (Hyperion 68075) British soprano Lucy Crowe’s pure, rounded, agile voice makes her an immensely popular choice for baroque and classical repertoire — as well as an inspired choice for Debussy’s songs, demonstrated by her performances on this new recording, the fourth and final volume of Hyperion’s complete Debussy song series, all of which feature sensitively accompanying from pianist Malcolm Martineau. Crowe combines sympathetic text readings with silvery vocal clarity, plus effortless technique and dynamic control; just listen to her exquisite upwards-swooping vocalise and trill at the start of the “Rondel chinois.” The program is expertly ordered, not simply because it spans the length of Debussy’s compositional career, but also because of its clever bookends. Opening the disc is his early 1881 “Tragédie,” a mostly-major-keyed song which compares the disaster that falls upon two children who fall in love and run away without their parents’ consent with April flowers that open too soon and get destroyed by the frost. Closing the disc is “Noël des enfants qui n’ont plus de maisons,” Debussy’s tense, minor-keyed 1915 depiction of the distress felt by children around Europe who had lost homes, schools and parents in the war. Crowe’s pure, crisp, innocent, chorister-like voice in these tense, rushing lines is chilling. Available at Amazon.  Violin Sonata frameborder="0" height[...]

February 19, 2018: Best of: Larry Levy
Larry Levy, Executive Dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra, shared his insights on how the DC tax overhaul will impact state legislators in their respective districts.

February 19, 2018: Best of: Empire State Plaza Microgrid Project
How will the proposed NYPA fracked gas power plant impact the environment? We broke down the numbers with Keith Schue, electrical engineer, and Jay Egg, geothermal expert and founder of Egg Geothermal.

February 19, 2018: Best of: Sen. Brian Kavanagh
New York has the third lowest gun-related death rate in the United States. A new package of legislation is looking to lower that rate even further. Sen. Brian Kavanagh (D-Manhattan) explained his legislation that aims to curb gun violence.

February 19, 2018: Best of: Sen. Cathy Young and Asm. Helene Weinstein
This year’s legislative budget hearings are the first to feature two women at the helm. Sen. Cathy Young (R-Olean), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and Asm. Helene Weinstein (D-Brooklyn), chair of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, discussed their views on the budget hearings and more.

February 16, 2018: Joseph Belluck
The State Education department has announced that they are challenging the SUNY Charter Schools Institute’s teacher certification standards. Joseph Belluck, SUNY Trustee and Chair of the Charter School Committee, weighed in.

February 16, 2018: Asm. Deborah Glick
The State Education department has announced that they are challenging the SUNY Charter Schools Institute’s teacher certification standards. We heard from Asm. Deborah Glick (D-Manhattan), chair of the Assembly Higher Education committee on the case.

February 16, 2018: Dan Clark
Did the Truth-O-Meter detect a pants-on-fire statement? We found out when Dan Clark, reporter with the Buffalo News and Politifact NY, stopped by.

February 16, 2018: Winners and Losers and Glenn Blain
Jeff Coltin, staff reporter at City and State, crowned this week’s winners and losers. Then, we broke down the news of the week that was with Glenn Blain, Capitol Reporter for the New York Daily News.

Celebrate the Lunar New Year With Wu Man on the Pipa

Happy Lunar New Year! In honor of the Chinese holiday, we’re revisiting the time that pipa player Wu Man joined us in the studio to perform her unique interpretations of traditional Chinese music. Above, she improvises a folk song commemorating the new year.

As a member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, Wu Man has brought the nearly 2,000-year-old Chinese lute into the concert hall, creating contemporary pipa repertoire in collaboration with such notable figures as Philip Glass, among others. But she has also spent a significant amount of time traveling around China documenting and transcribing traditional music. Below, listen to her perform a song that’s still very popular in her hometown, in Zhejiang Province, called “Jasmine Flower.”

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Below, Wu Man performs “Love Song,” a folk song originating in the Western part of China. “Somehow,” she says, “it reminds me of the American blues.” 


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Want to learn more about the pipa? Listen to Wu Man’s entire conversation with host Terrance McKnight, and hear her dive into the history of the instrument.

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Get to Know These 7 Traditional Chinese Instruments
What better way to commemorate the Lunar New Year than by learning about Chinese musical culture? In her 2017 series “Passage to the Middle Kingdom,” producer Noel Morris speaks with several accomplished musicians of traditional Chinese music about their instruments and their craft. Yangqin frameborder="0" height="54" scrolling="no" src="" width="100%"> This hammered dulcimer has Persian roots, but Chinese musicians expanded its range. Percussionist and NYU foreign languages professor Julie Tay speaks about the instrument — and tells the story of how she met her musical partner, Xiao Xiannian, on a subway platform. Pipa frameborder="0" height="54" scrolling="no" src="" width="100%"> Wu Man, an extraordinary pipa player and member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, takes you on a tour of this ancient lute-like instrument. Suona frameborder="0" height="54" scrolling="no" src="" width="100%"> The suona is a loud, piercing double-reeded instrument. Yazhi Guo explains the history of this instrument, which was almost lost during the rapid changes that came with the nation’s Cultural Revolution. Dizi frameborder="0" height="54" scrolling="no" src="" width="100%"> China is home to the oldest playable flutes. Jennifer Alexa Zhang, plays the dizi, a reed flute, and explains just how similar their modern descendants are. Percussion frameborder="0" height="54" scrolling="no" src="" width="100%"> Morris and Tay have a conversation about the many instruments in the traditional Chinese percussion family. Guzheng frameborder="0" height="54" scrolling="no" src="" width="100%"> The Guzheng, or Chinese zither, is nearly 2,500 years old. Because of the shifting political landscape of 20th century China, many traditions surrounding the instrument have been lost. But, as Morris notes, the instrument is having a resurgence in the United States.  Erhu frameborder="0" height="54" scrolling="no" src="" width="100%"> “I always say the erhu is a combination of a string instrument and female vocal quality,” muses University of Massachusetts electronic composition professor Jing Wang. Listen as she describes the acoustics of the instrument, its long history, and its journey from the homes of the aristocracy to the commoners in the streets. Bonus: Ensemble frameborder="0" height="54" scrolling="no" src="" width="100%[...]

February 18, 2018: Capitol Pressroom
Guests: Julie Killian, Republican candidate for 37th State Senate district seat; former Rye City councilor & former Rye Deputy Mayor Patrick Curran and Barbara DeLong, parents and members of Statewide Advocacy Network (SWAN) State Senator Brian Benjamin, D- Harlem Martin Horn, Distinguished Lecturer at CUNY’s John Jay College and Executive Director of the NYS Sentencing Commission; former Commissioner of both NYC Dept of Corrections and Dept of Probation & Donna Young, Professor of Law, Albany Law School

February 15, 2018: Judith Enck and Roger Downs
Judith Enck, former EPA regional administrator, and Roger Downs, Conservation Director at the Sierra Club’s Atlantic Chapter, broke down the impacts that the Trump administration’s decision to open offshore waters to oil and gas exploration will have on New York and the country.

February 14, 2018: Jim Heaney
We discussed the latest stories from the Investigative Post with Jim Heaney, Editor and Executive Director of Investigative Post.

February 15, 2018: bFair to Direct Care
Advocates are pushing for a higher wage to retain people as Direct Support Professionals (DSP) who take care of people living with physical and/or mental disabilities. We heard from Barbara DeLong and Patrick Curran on how their loved ones depend on the help they receive from DSPs.

February 15, 2018: Rep. John Faso
This week, President Trump unveiled his budget and infrastructure proposals. We got an update from Washington on the proposals with Rep. John Faso (R-Kinderhook).

‘Mozart in the Jungle’ Season 4: Our Character Power Rankings
Mozart in the Jungle makes its triumphant return to Amazon Studios this Valentine’s Day weekend. And frankly, I can’t wait. Sure, we could do some speculation on what’s in store for Season Four, but where’s the fun in that? And we all know those guesses are going to be wrong anyway. Which is why I’ve decided to opt for power rankings instead. Read on for a completely non-scientific, totally subjective ranking of where I think some of the main players stand heading into the new season. 1. Lizzie Mozart is a show dominated by the lives of orchestra members and administrators. However, it’s safe to say that most of us watching are neither, and so we find those outside of that world all the more relatable. Lizzie is the best example of this, and now sits atop the pre-season power rankings, having shed a boyfriend who wasn’t quite right, ditching a sartorial obsession with Czech composer Vítězslava Kaprálová, and opening up an eccentric cabaret. To be fair, the AV Club’s Esther Zuckerman is more than a bit curious about the financial viability of the cabaret project, but even if it fails there’s no reason to believe Lizzie won’t figure out her next move. Here’s to winging it. 2. Hailey New beginnings all around for oboist Hailey. She didn’t get a spot in the orchestra, but she’s been really working on her conducting. She also refused Rodrigo’s job offer for a position in the new youth orchestra. So, extra points to her for deciding to figure out her own thing, which, I hope, involves more conducting. A lot more. Although, I don’t know what sleeping with Rodrigo means. But hey, at the end of the day you gotta do you.  3. Fanny Mendelssohn Our favorite Mendelssohn is listed on the Season 4 IMDB page. She’s totally going to crush it as some kind of divine vision, à la the Mozart siblings in seasons past.  4. Dee Dee That guy in your dysfunctional family who seems too good at being in their own headspace and asking everyone to calm down? Drug-dealing percussionist Dee Dee is that guy, and thus an eternal contender for number one. Never sleep on Dee Dee. 5. Rodrigo Rodrigo (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Gloria (Bernadette Peters) share a moment in Episode 3, Season 2 of 'Mozart in the Jungle.' (Amazon Studios) Oh boy. Over the course of last season, the maestro absconded to Italy, wooed a diva, helped that diva return to glory, made that diva come for his literal neck after wooing one of his mentees in front of said diva, locked the orchestra and management in a church to facilitate negotiations, willed a youth orchestra into existence at the shock of artistic management, gave the gift of music to (real) inmates at Rikers, starred in a kitschy salsa commercial, told his mentee she did not make the New York Symphony, then slept with her. There will likely be consequences for Season Three’s adventures. But this is a TV comedy, and he’s a lead, so chances are just enough will work out in his favor. Although, I don’t know what sleeping with Hailey means. But hey, at the end of the day you gotta do you.  6. That One Flutist Who Auditioned for the Youth Orchestra She’s going to do some great things. 7. Gloria The New York Symphony president has kept it together for this long, but she’s essentially rebuilding her orchestra from the ground up, while also getting a youth organization off the grou[...]

An Analysis of the Metropolitan Opera’s New Season
The Metropolitan Opera has just announced the repertory and casting for its 2018–19 season, and there is a lot to look forward to with great enthusiasm. The company will present 29 different operas, more than in recent years, with offerings that appeal to traditionalists as well as operagoers who seek repertory that does not come around very often.  It will all conclude with three complete cycles, from March to early May 2019, of Der Ring des Niebelungen with Philippe Jordan leading a superb cast. The Robert Lepage production of the Ring may not be to everyone’s taste, but the return of Wagner’s tetralogy is still big news. Christine Goerke will play Brünnhilde, a role she has sung to great acclaim elsewhere. Other superb singers in the cycle include Michael Volle and Greer Grimsley (sharing the role of Wotan), Jamie Barton (Fricka), Eva-Maria Westbroek (Sieglinde), Stuart Skelton (Siegmund), Stefan Vinke and Andreas Schager (sharing the role of Siegfried), Karen Cargill (Erda), Sarah Connolly (Waltraute), Eric Owens (Hagen) and the excellent Tomasz Konieczny making his Met debut as Alberich. Tickets for complete cycles go on sale on Feb. 15, 2018. The Met has had rough times of late. Ticket sales have been sluggish and the company has been roiled by controversies about allegations of sexual misconduct by certain prominent figures, including James Levine, its music director emeritus. The company suffered a severe blow with the sudden death on Jan. 30 of Robert Rattray, its assistant general manager in charge of artistic affairs. He provided a great deal of stability and structure to the Met and was much loved by almost everyone he worked with. No doubt the new season is in large part a result of Rattray’s efforts and it will stand as a tribute to him. In many ways, the artistic level of the Met is quite high. The performances I have attended in the past month have been, from a musical point of view, mostly excellent, and the chorus and orchestra have been superb. I number among these Le Nozze di Figaro, Cavalleria Rusticana, Pagliacci, Il Trovatore, L’Elisir d’Amore and Parsifal. For many companies, this would represent their entire season, while at the Met it was just a month that also included Tosca, Hansel and Gretel, The Merry Widow and rehearsals for revivals of La Bohème, Madama Butterfly, Semiramide, Elektra and a new production of Così fan tutte. A few other companies, including those of Vienna, Munich and Saint Petersburg, present as much or more repertoire, yet none devote as much time to rehearsal and preparation. And it shows.  The 2018–19 season opens Sept. 24 with a new production by Darko Tresnjak of Saint-Saëns’s Samson et Dalila, starring Elīna Garanča and Roberto Alagna, conducted by Mark Elder. There will be only four new productions — fewer than in recent years — but this is not necessarily a bad thing. New productions require more rehearsal time and preparation than revivals. In a season that includes the huge undertaking that is the Ring, it is important to deploy resources intelligently. The Met commissioned a new opera, Marnie, from composer Nico Muhly and librettist Nicholas Wright. A co-production with English National Opera, it premiered in London in Nov. 2017 with mezzo Sasha Cooke in the title role. In New York, it[...]

Now We’ve Seen It All: Watch a Concerto for Ping-Pong and Orchestra

The concerto is perfect for shining a light on virtuoso pianists, cellists and clarinetists (just to name a few). But a composer could theoretically make anything the solo instrument — and that includes a game of ping-pong.

New York–based percussionist Andy Akiho’s Ricochet, commissioned in 2015 by the Beijing Music Festival and Shanghai’s Music in the Summer Air festival, is a rhythmically-anchored triple concerto for violin, percussion and ping-pong players. Violinist Elizabeth Zeltser opens the piece with a solo, and is soon joined by percussionist David Cossin, who turns the ping-pong table itself into an instrument. But it's when world-class table tennis players Ariel Hsing and Michael Landers assume their positions that you realize the game of ping-pong itself is a major component. Hsing and Landers are both accomplished athletes — they’re the youngest U.S. Women’s and Men’s table tennis champions, and Hsing competed in the 2012 London Olympics. Together, they establish that hypnotic noc-noc-noc sound that can only come from two excellent athletes, varying their rhythm and allowing the balls to interact with other surfaces and instruments on the stage.

The piece finally arrives in the United States as part of the New York Philharmonic’s Lunar New Year Concert on Feb. 20, and marks the Philharmonic solo debuts of Zeltser, Cossin and the Hsing-Landers duo.


February 14, 2018: Bruce Gyory
Bruce Gyory, adjunct professor of political science and senior strategist at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, broke down what we can learn from polls even with their volatility.

February 14, 2018: Sen. Brian Benjamin
The State Senate Democratic caucus released their criminal justice reform package on Tuesday afternoon. We discussed the legislative proposals and their intended effects with Sen. Brian Benjamin (D-Harlem).

February 14, 2018: Toxic Tour
Activists kicked off their “Toxic Tour” on Tuesday which aims to highlight the donations made to legislators from hedge funds. We heard from Charles Kahn, Community Organizer at Strong Economy for All, and Chris Tallent, National Campaign Director at MAYDAY America, on the new effort

February 14, 2018: Julie Killian
The Republicans have their nominee for April’s special election in the 37th Senate district in former Rye City Councilwoman Julie Killian. We found out where she stands on key issues and why she decided to run for the seat again.

Romantic Musical Moments From the Greene Space

Join us today for a special Valentine’s Day edition of Midday Masterpieces, featuring WQXR producer Merrin Lazyan sharing some of her favorite romantic musical moments from the Greene Space. Come along and revisit past performances by Alessio Bax and Lucille Chung, Tessa Lark, Cantus and more.

Jaap and the New York Philharmonic's New Season: Amiable and Innovative
A turning point? Jaap van Zweden’s still-to-begin tenure as New York Philharmonic music director needs one, as classical music audiences wondered what the orchestra has gotten itself into with this 57-year-old conductor whose main conducting credit in the United States is 10 years with the Dallas Symphony. Quite possibly, Tuesday evening’s 2018–19 season announcement — Zweden’s first as music director — begins the much-needed turnaround. Fears that the contemporary music presence under previous music director Alan Gilbert would disappear were allayed by new major commissions by downtown composers including Ashley Fure, David Lang and Julia Wolfe, as well as Conrad Tao and the revered Dutch minimalist Louis Andriessen.  Elsewhere, Zweden & Co. seem intent on occupying artistically rich niches: In the spirit of Carnegie Hall’s Perspectives series (in which a particular artists in multiple appearances), performances by baritone Matthias Goerne, the season’s artist-in-residence, are sprinkled throughout the year: he sings lieder, Brahms’ A German Requiem, John Adams’ The Wound Dresser and chamber music with pianist Daniil Trifonov. In the spirit of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Wolfe’s new piece Fire in my Mouth will be a multimedia presentation about the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that killed some 146 workers (Jan. 24–27, 2019). “I’m not such a fan of separating new music. Everything should be in our DNA. Everything should be included,” said Zweden during the press conference. “Why should we separate new music from a Bruckner symphony? I think they can go together really well.” Pianist Conrad Tao (Brantley Gutierrez) Sure enough, Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 on Sept. 27 and 28 will share a program with a new work by composer/pianist Tao. Whether audiences love or hate what’s in store, such concerts are bound to create the kind of discussion that will return the New York Philharmonic to the city’s intellectual life while maintaining its presence in the standard symphonic repertoire. And that’s a near-ideal nexus.  Other innovations include Nightcap concerts (curated by the likes of Andriessen, Adams, Gabriel Kahane, Matthias Pintscher and John Corigliano — all fascinating personalities); special $5 concerts for nearby service workers named Phil the Hall; afternoon chamber music concerts titled Sound ON and an upgraded selection of movies-in-concert with films such as There Will Be Blood, with its score by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood (Sept. 12–13). The cherry at the top of the sundae for this and any American orchestra these days is a recording relationship. The Decca Gold label, an imprint for the days of LP records that’s been revived in recent years by Universal Music Classics, will release a series of New York Philharmonic recordings, starting with the Beethoven Symphonies Nos. 5 and 7 on Feb. 23. A seemingly dour, forbidding presence on the podium, Zweden came off amiable and approachable in the press conference — not necessarily with the video footage of him coming out of the New York subway, but in his personal reminiscence[...]

For the Love of Lieder: Ailyn Pérez and Matthew Curran
This Valentine's Day, we asked soprano Ailyn Pérez and bass Matthew Curran about the joys and challenges of sharing their profession and their life — plus, top tips for long-lasting love. Do you have any Valentine’s Day traditions?  Ailyn: Oof! Not yet, but probably writing a love letter would be a really nice idea. Matt: Staying out of the doghouse.     Did music play a role in your love story?  Ailyn: Matt and I met at IU while studying music and vocal performance. I think it would be fair to say that we bonded over the love of German and Lieder Class. Matt: Long before our love story began, we met while in school at Indiana University. We were in a production of Cosi Fan Tutte together, she as Despina and I as Don Alfonso. But we probably got to know each other best during the summer we both attended the German for Singers program in the German School at Middlebury College. Back at Indiana, knowing that she was a generally smart and talented singer, like many at that big school, I attended her senior recital. That is when I truly saw and heard her glorious voice and natural talent and realized that she was definitely the real deal. After that, it never surprised me to hear how quickly her career was taking off. After I graduated and left IU, it wasn’t until about 15 years later that we ran into each other at P.J. Clarke’s across from the Met after she had sung a performance of Micaëla in Carmen, her debut there, and I had just sung Filippo in a concert performance of Don Carlo nearby. Conversation was nonstop and effortless as time passed unnoticed. We always say it was fate, because I was standing right by the corner of the bar where she couldn’t possibly have missed me when entering the restaurant.   What is a piece of classical music that is especially romantic to both of you, and why?  Ailyn: On a visit to Budapest, Matt and I were invited by the Director of the Orchestra to take a private tour of the Opera House before it closes for renovation. While we walked on the stage, Matt was inspired and burst into the suave and seductive first lines of Mozart’s “La ci darem la mano” from Don Giovanni ... you know! ... The duet when Don Giovanni is seducing Zerlina! Matt was irresistible and I joined to sing Zerlina! The tourists who happened to be there applauded us and we kissed! That, for me, will always be the romantic hit in my book Matt: I don’t know if this counts, but my heart lights up when I hear her sing “L’heure exquise” by Renaldo Hahn. Her “Ô bien aimée” stops time. Then, of course, there’s Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane doing “My One and Only Love.” For me, it’s the definitive recording of the song. When we were first reconnecting and on the phone a lot as she was working in Europe, I sang that song to her one evening. She liked that. And I liked that. The first of many building blocks.   What’s a hobby you enjoy together that has nothing to do with music? Ailyn: We love watching MMA fights at our local bar. Matt: Believe it or not, we love watching Mixed Martial Arts. She’s beautiful, smart, fu[...]

The Ol' Date-and-Switch: Brian Zeger and Ben Moore

This Valentine's Day we asked composer Ben Moore and pianist Brian Zeger about the joys and challenges of sharing their profession and their life — plus, top tips for long-lasting love.

Did music play a role in your love story? If so, how?

Ben: Well, it did, in fact. I had met Robert White (the wonderful Irish tenor) in the spring of 1995 at a party in Westchester. Soon after, Bobby invited me to a gathering at a friend’s apartment in New York in which he was to perform a new program of songs. Brian was invited as well, but Brian expected to meet another man that night for a blind date. When Brian entered the apartment the only person he didn’t recognize was me, and naturally assumed I was his date! We connected, and Brian realized right away that I wasn’t the right guy, but that didn’t matter. We were fascinated with each other and a few weeks later I was joining him in North Carolina where he was performing chamber music concerts. His blind date for that night never showed up!

What is a piece of classical music that is especially romantic to both of you, and why?

I would say Parsifal simply because I know the effect it has on Brian. I honestly was not that familiar with the work when we met but at a performance in Bayreuth we saw a very intense and transporting performance which we will never forget.

How do you get through long periods of separation when you’re both performing? 

We talk every day at length and luckily our separations are not terribly long.

How do you get through long periods of working closely together (if you do)? 

We almost always agree on issues involving our work and we trust each other’s instincts.

Swooning Over Chopin: Orli Shaham and David Robertson

This Valentine's Day we asked pianist Orli Shaham and conductor David Robertson about the joys and challenges of sharing their profession and their life — plus, top tips for long-lasting love.

Did music play a role in your love story? If so, how?

Orli: Of course it did, are you kidding me? The gods at what is now Opus 3 Artists and the St. Louis Symphony put us together for a concert date. We had not met each other before that time, though I'd heard of him and he'd heard of me.

So one day just over 18 years ago, we met in the green room at Powell Symphony Hall, rehearsing the Chopin E-Minor Piano Concerto before going on stage with it. We had a great time working together and we both immediately wanted to have more opportunity to do so. Little did we know how it would develop.

What is a piece of classical music that is especially romantic to both of you, and why?

The Chopin E-Minor Piano Concerto, for the reasons above. But I'm going to also include another piece, which is the recorded music we played at our wedding, the Brahms Liebeslieder Waltzes.

What's a hobby you enjoy together that has nothing to do with music?

Reading is one of our hobbies. We love to be in the same room, reading different things at the same time. Another is hiking in the great outdoors. We love to go hiking with our twins, and maybe this summer they'll be ready to go camping. 

How do you get through long periods of separation when you're both performing?

We have always found that the two-week mark is when everybody starts to lose their sanity. So we try really hard not to have too many periods past the two-week mark, and ideally not more than a few days. We plan out our schedule a year or two in advance, and we work hard to make sure that somebody is always home with the kids so that they don't have to be overnight without us. Unfortunately that means that we sometimes end up seeing less of each other. 

What is your top tip for long-lasting love?

One of our wedding vows was something along the lines of, "Promise to resolve all problems by Tuesday." The idea behind it is, if something's bothering you, well, you've got to talk about it every day. So, every day is not feasible, but we do try to talk about it by Tuesday. 

Romance at Marlboro: Jan Vogler and Mira Wang
This Valentine's Day we asked cellist Jan Vogler and violinist Mira Wang about the joys and challenges of sharing their profession and their life — plus, top tips for long-lasting love. Do you have any Valentine’s Day traditions? Jan: Trying to be together! Most of the time we are not in the same place on that day. Our best chance is if we happen to be on tour together. Mira: Not really. For concert musicians, you are often on the road during holiday times. Did music play a role in your love story? If so, how?  Jan: We met at the Marlboro music festival. Music and nature were around us 24/7, but meeting Mira surely took some attention away from the music. But I guess what I was lacking in concentration during the rehearsals I added in passion during the concerts. It was a very happy summer. What is a piece of classical music that is especially romantic to both of you, and why? Jan: La muse et le poète by Saint-Saëns. It actually reassembles some aspects of our relationship ... What’s a hobby you enjoy together that has nothing to do with music? Jan: One secret in keeping a long and harmonious relationship is to keep your own hobbies! I am an outdoor person and love biking, jogging and swimming. Mira likes food and movies. All things that can enrich everyday life. How do you get through long periods of separation when you’re both performing? Jan: That is something we both struggle with. But recently we started playing together in our show with Bill Murray and it has been a joy to be on tour together more often. Mira: Separation can be good and bad. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder" is very true. We talk all the time when we are apart. Connections come from communicating. How do you get through long periods of working closely together (if you do)? Jan: You get closer. You might hurt each other because music is your passion and pride, but you do find out more about your partner. And good results bring joy and harmony. Mira: It’s not easy. Artistic work is often very personal. If you want to stay truthful to your work, the directness of expressing your opinions in work could touch the sensitive sides of your partner. It has little to do with how much you love the person. But of course the result is amazing when you go through the struggle. What is your top tip for long-lasting love? Jan: I think there is a lot of luck involved. I am just lucky to have met Mira. It would be taking too much credit to find action behind this lucky chemistry. Mira: Stay open and be sincerely interested in what your partner is doing with their (work) lives. Have your own space and your own interests. Be a good listener. Try to avoid building that invisible wall of having artificial communication. Because when that happens you could be home together every day but feeling a thousand miles apart. [...]

A Decent Proposal: Julia Bullock and Christian Reif
This Valentine's Day we asked soprano Julia Bullock and conductor Christian Reif about the joys and challenges of sharing their profession and their life — plus, top tips for long-lasting love. Do you have any Valentine’s Day traditions? Julia: No, because we often aren’t together on Valentines. Essentially anytime that we have together is rare and sacred, and we don’t take that time for granted.  Did music play a role in your love story? If so, how? Music played a central role in how we first met. Christian saw me give a recital, and immediately started hounding me until I went on a date. I kid, I kid ... We ran into each other at three different concerts, three nights in a row, before we agreed to go out for a coffee (neither of us was looking to date at that time). Because I had forgotten about a rehearsal for a concert at Carnegie Hall, I had to cancel. But to make it up to him, I offered a comp ticket. “It’ll be Broadway show tunes. Would you enjoy that?” “Oh, I love Broadway!” After the concert we went out dancing for two hours — arm in arm, cheek to cheek.     We talk about music every day, listen to recordings and attend concerts. We love to see each other perform and rehearse, and share our observations without hesitation, including the things that could be improved. We are each other’s trusted and critical eye. There’s a respect between us that established its roots while seeing and hearing each other make music, and it continues to deepen and develop. Music is an integral part of our lives individually, so it’s gratifying to have that translated into our dynamics as a couple.  What is a piece of classical music that is especially romantic to both of you, and why? The Adagietto of Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 is a piece to which many people respond instinctually.  Mahler wrote it as a love tribute to his wife Alma—it is one of the most clear musical representations of intimacy and tenderness. The moment those first chords are played, I want to lay in the arms and stare into the eyes of my beautiful partner. (And we did just that on the Tanglewood lawn two summers ago.)  For non-classical, we sing “A Bushel and a Peck” to each other on a regular basis. The second verse tickles us: “I love you, a bushel and peck, though you make my heart a wreck, and you make my life a mess, yes, a mess of happiness!”  What’s a hobby you enjoy together that has nothing to do with music? We try to find the best chocolate shop in any city we visit, we enjoy eating out together, watching movies or shows, going to museums, and walking any and everywhere ...  We haven’t made a public announcement yet, but here goes: while we were in San Francisco together for three months (I was making my debut at the San Francisco Opera, and Christian is working the resident conductor the San Francisco Symphony), Christian waited until our first full day off together, woke me up and said, “Shall we go to our favorite sushi spot? And maybe to the Klimt & [...]

Tacos Are Love: Amanda Majeski and Sam Handley

This Valentine's Day we asked soprano Amanda Majeski and bass-baritone Sam Handley about the joys and challenges of sharing their profession and their life — plus, top tips for long-lasting love.

Do you have any Valentine’s Day traditions?

Amanda: Yes, every year we go to Taco Bell. If neither of us is scheduled to sing, we pair it with a nice bottle of wine. After lots of fine dining during our first year together, we were at a loss for where to go on Valentine’s. We made a joke about Taco Bell, and the more we thought about it, the more perfect it sounded. It’s become one of our most romantic traditions, and we’ve been going every year, on Valentine’s, for the past eight years.

Did music play a role in your love story? If so, how?  

Of course! We met while we were both young artists at the Ryan Opera Center at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

What is a piece of classical music that is especially romantic to both of you, and why?  

Wagner’s Meistersinger. We both sang in the McVicar production at Lyric Opera of Chicago that ran just before our wedding. Coincidentally, we will also be performing in a new production of the piece in Beijing at the National Center for the Performing Arts, just after our fifth wedding anniversary.

What’s a hobby you enjoy together that has nothing to do with music?

Trying new foods in the many places to which we travel.

How do you get through long periods of separation when you’re both performing?  

Video chatting, texting, and making sure to prioritize a visit when we can, even if not particularly convenient.

How do you get through long periods of working closely together (if you do)?  

Sadly we don’t do this enough, but when we do, we remember how special it is to have the opportunity, and treasure each other through the process.

What is your top tip for long-lasting love?  

Always thinking from the other’s perspective, and responding with empathy and compassion. Acknowledging that it’s neither easier to be the one on the road nor the one at home, and sharing every challenge and every victory hand in hand.

A Powerful Elixir: Roberto Alagna and Aleksandra Kurzak
This Valentine's Day we asked tenor Roberto Alagna and soprano Aleksandra Kurzak about the joys and challenges of sharing their profession and their life — plus, top tips for long-lasting love. Did music play a role in your love story? If so, how? Roberto: Definitively! Our love story is literally born in a musical love potion: Donizetti's one! We met and fell in love during a run of performances of L'Elisir d'Amore in London in November 2012 and since then this music is very dear to our heart. Aleksandra: It's a kind of poetic coincidence but we noticed that each remarkable stages of our life as a couple is connected to this music. We met while performing as Adina and Nemorino. I was also performing in L'Elisir d'Amore in Barcelona when I learned that I was pregnant and that we would have a baby. It's also between two performances of L'Elisir d'Amore in Paris that we made a return trip to Warsaw to get married and tie the knot for life! Roberto: This beautiful music is our symbol of love. And of course, music in general is for us a day-to-day breeding ground for our relationship. Both for Aleksandra and myself, music is a family story. Our parents, uncles, brothers, everyone in our families are singing or playing music. And naturally, we couldn't imagine our lives or love without music.  Roberto Alagna and Aleksandra Kurzak (Stella Orion) What is a piece of classical music that is especially romantic to both of you, and why? Roberto: I love particularly the love duet from Les Troyens by Berlioz, "Nuit d'ivresse et d'extase infinie." But I know that Aleksandra is not keen on it! For me this piece is very nicely built — it's a tender and emotional climax in this beautiful opera, a perfect model of musical romanticism by Berlioz. A genius composer in my eyes. Aleksandra: For me one of the most romantic and beautiful love duets is the duet of Cio-Cio-San and Pinkerton in Puccini's Madama Butterfly. Since I was a child, I've been fascinated by this opera. This heartbreaking story makes a great impression on me. I love it. Roberto: I agree, it's a great romantic and thrilling duet, gradually rising in intensity. But you know, it's really difficult to give you one single example. There are so many other romantic pieces we love, both of us ... The proof is that we are soon recording a CD together, entirely dedicated to the most beautiful love duets. We cannot disclose the composer for the moment, but we look forward to sharing it with you. It's a surprise, and believe me, it will be awesome!  What's a hobby you enjoy together that has nothing to do with music? Aleksandra: You mean, aside from the wonderful and absorbing hobby of being parents of a 4-year old child full of energy? I would say ... maybe cooking! I love it and Roberto does as well. He is able to be very creative and to imagine recipes that are delicious and ... unexpected! Sometimes with almost nothing. Roberto: Aleksandra is very talented[...]

A Cinderella Story: Daniela Mack and Alek Shrader
This Valentine's Day we asked mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack and tenor Alek Shrader about the joys and challenges of sharing their profession and their life — plus, top tips for long-lasting love. Did music play a role in your love story? Daniela: Our story doesn't exist without music. We met the summer of 2007 at Merola in San Francisco. I was Cenerentola (Cinderella) and he was Don Ramiro (Prince Charming) in Rossini's La Cenerentola. There were many moments of lingering embraces and excuses to make conversation during rehearsals. Our director insisted he created the chemistry between us, and our conductor still affectionately calls himself our "fairy godfather," but I'm pretty sure the chemistry was there regardless. After being counseled to avoid relationships with other musicians, and certainly other singers, plus the stigma of the summer "showmance," we remained smitten yet merely colleagues all through the final performance. Then, immediately after (and I do literally mean immediately — in the parking lot outside the theater), he asked me "to go steady." What’s a hobby you enjoy together that has nothing to do with music? We have little time for hobbies, but when our daughter gets older we hope to discover some. For now, we binge watch if we can and take advantage of the occasional date night. We both read (mostly bedtime stories lately). Coffee is a thing we get very excited about. When we’re on the road and something exciting is coming through town, we try to plan ahead for it (the last spur of the moment outing was a Ray Lamontagne concert, and next month will be Comic-Con while we’re both working in Seattle). How do you get through long periods of separation when you’re both performing? Whenever possible, we try to avoid being apart for very long. At the beginning of our careers, we spent several months apart with nothing but Skype and texts to connect us across several time zones. Alek was in Munich and I was in San Francisco, and we talked for a few minutes maybe twice a day. This was before we had iPhones and wifi became available everywhere! It’s impossible to share the details of your day with someone with so little time, and very difficult to feel really involved in the other’s daily routine. Now that we have a small daughter, we try to alternate who works as much as we can so that we keep our family unit together. We make our home together wherever we are! How do you get through long periods of working closely together (if you do)? We actually love to work together! Since we share a lot of the same repertoire, we are able to work on many of the same productions, which is incredibly lucky! We have very deliberately never thought of ourselves as a “package deal”, but since we do work well together, companies have felt comfortable accommodating that. It always helps to have that extra common ground and shared experience at the end of the day, and it’s a wonderf[...]

Valentines Every Day: Patricia Racette and Beth Clayton

This Valentine's Day we asked soprano Patricia Racette and mezzo-soprano Beth Clayton about the joys and challenges of sharing their profession and their life — plus, top tips for long-lasting love.

Do you have any Valentine’s Day traditions? 

Patricia: Prepare to be either 'awed' or 'gagged' — so many days of the year are Valentine's Day for us. Most of our almost 21 years together have been spent apart on V-Day, so we have opted out of any expectations for the actual day. 

Did music play a role in your love story? If so, how? 

The short and long answer would be YES! We got together in Santa Fe while both singing in La Traviata. So, yes, that was a full-on musical situation that actually changed the outcome of that opera, since Violetta ended up: a) alive and b) going home with Flora! 

What is a piece of classical music that is especially romantic to both of you, and why? 

See above answer. Additionally, Beth would say that one of the times that I have been most romantic is compiling a playlist of various versions of Elgar's Enigma Variations, No. 10. She LOVES that piece. 

What’s a hobby you enjoy together that has nothing to do with music? 

Being in our kitchen together ... experimenting with new recipes, forging new versions of cocktails, and then curling up for some TV down time! 

How do you get through long periods of separation when you’re both performing? 

Bless the channels of technology that have allowed us to Skype/Viber/Whatsapp/WHATEVER connect at the weirdest time zone splits ever! A nine-hour difference was the hardest but doable — one person starting the day and one person taking a hot bath 4,000 miles away!

How do you get through long periods of working closely together (if you do)? 

Since our careers have never been based on working together on stage, if you will, it was never a really big deal. As a couple, we are MOST happy when we can be in proximity and support each other with whatever one or the other is most engaged in. We have always called it "wifing" with the utmost respect to what the privilege of using that word even means — as in, whoever is on the “hottest” seat ideally gets some extra help and support in the daily grind!

What is your top tip for long-lasting love? 

Communicating no matter what your mood may be and being grateful that we both LOVE a good laugh and a sense of humor at pretty much EVERY juncture.   

Merry at the Met: Stephen Costello and Yoon Kwon Costello
This Valentine's Day we asked tenor Stephen Costello and violinist Yoon Kwon Costello about the joys and challenges of sharing their profession and their life — plus, top tips for long-lasting love. Do you have any Valentine’s Day traditions? Stephen: We don’t have any traditions. Actually this will be our first Valentine’s together. We have a wonderful dinner arranged at Joël Robuchon in NYC. I am flying home for the occasion. Take any chance I can get to spend with my love. She is a real foodie so I enjoy letting her pick the restaurant. Always a great choice. Did music play a role in your love story? If so, how? Yes music did play a big role. My wife and I met at the Metropolitan Opera. She is a violinist and one of the most beautiful women I have ever met. I would love coming to the edge of the stage and see if she was playing. What is a piece of classical music that is especially romantic to both of you, and why? Well, for me it would be The Merry Widow. That was the first time Yoon and I got to spend time together as friends and really get to know each other. Who knew three years later we would end up married. It was the greatest decision I have ever made. Every day is a new adventure. What’s a hobby you enjoy together that has nothing to do with music? Hobby? I am not sure it is a hobby, but right now it is decorating our new apartment. We just moved and have been spending a lot of time shopping and picking out furnishings for our new space. Also we enjoy just hanging at home together with our pets Pebbles and Chloe and watching a This Is Us marathon. We both feel when I am home it is important to spend a lot of time together and in our apartment. This way we can reconnect before having to head out on the road again. How do you get through long periods of separation when you’re both performing? It is hard. Being away from each other is the worst. Especially when we have a big time difference. We try to make use of Skype and FaceTime by keeping it on as much as possible. Makes you feel like the other is in the room. Also try to arrange the schedule in advance so that if I can’t be home for a few weeks, Yoon can fly to me. We really don’t like going any more than a month without seeing each other. Especially trying to have a baby. How do you get through long periods of working closely together (if you do)? We don’t work that closely together, but the work we do is so intense and exhausting that we try to keep each comfortable. Especially when it is crazy busy. What I mean is we will ask the other person if they need help, or maybe just give each other a little space. The important part is knowing no matter what we are right there if one of us may need something. I wish there was a project we could do together. I am sure we will find something soon enough. What is your top tip for long-lasting love? Lasting love? M[...]

From One to Another: Thea Musgrave and Peter Mark

This Valentine's Day we asked conductor Peter Mark and composer Thea Musgrave about the joys and challenges of sharing their profession and their life — plus, top tips for long-lasting love.

Did music play a role in your love story? If so, how?

Peter: Music is what brought us together, and gave us a role in each other’s musical lives which continues to expand our own perspectives in new directions. Now almost 50 years later, it continues to sustain, solidify, nourish and refresh our relationship

What is a piece of classical music that is especially romantic to both of you, and why?

Thea’s From One To Another (for viola and electronic tape) was among the first pieces she wrote for me. It enabled us to get to know and live with each other in a profound, intimate and unique way — and was followed by her Viola Concerto, her radio opera The Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge and some of her major operas (A Christmas CarolHarriet, the Woman Called Moses, and Simon Bolivar), which went from commission to stage performance at Virginia Opera.

How do you get through long periods of working closely together (if you do)?

By focusing on own responsibilities, and respecting each other’s boundaries professionally. And then carrying the communication to a more intimate level privately.

What is your top tip for long-lasting love?

Choose the right partner for you, and remember why you chose them when things get rough!

Hot Dogs by Candlelight: Gregg Kallor and Dasha Koltunyuk
This Valentine's Day we asked composer Gregg Kallor and pianist Dasha Koltunyuk about the joys and challenges of sharing their profession and their life — plus, top tips for long-lasting love. Do you have any Valentine’s Day traditions? Gregg: None that are for public consumption. Last year on Valentine’s Day, I (Gregg) was composing a piece for string orchestra that I wrote for Dasha. The deadline was looming and I was cramming, so Dasha and I had a Valentine’s Day dinner of hot dogs by candlelight. We’re sort of keen on making that our V-Day tradition (minus the cramming). Part of what we love about that is the sheer ordinariness of hot dogs, and the incredible joy of eating them with someone you love. Every day is Valentine's Day for us. We do chocolate and champagne and flowers as often as possible — because why wouldn’t you?! — and we love holding hands. Dasha’s hand crept into mine on our first date, and it’s been there ever since. Did music play a role in your love story? If so, how? Gregg: Music, quite literally, brought us together! We sat next to each other at a concert. I was so taken with the way Dasha watched and listened to the performance with every fiber of her being. We chatted after the concert, and there were sparks immediately—it was as though I heard a bell ringing deep in my soul. What is a piece of classical music that is especially romantic to both of you, and why? Dasha: The opening movement of Gregg’s piano suite, A Single Noon. Before we lived together, I listened to Gregg’s recording of it between visits, and before going to sleep each night. I surprised him by playing it as an encore at a performance I gave a few months after we met. I’ve never been so nervous to play a piece! Gregg: I had no idea she was planning to do that! She played it so beautifully—that was one of the most special nights of my life. For me, it’s the waltz from Tchaikovsky's opera, Eugene Onegin. Dasha wakes up to it every morning. It's such a gently energizing start to the day (which made me rethink the ear-shattering air-raid siren alarm clock I've been using). It's romantic for me because of the association with watching her sweet face emerge from the cocoon of blankets. With a smile. Always with a smile. What’s a hobby you enjoy together that has nothing to do with music? Gregg: Eating. We're very, very good at it. Dasha has an uncanny ability to find the most interesting/weird/tasty food anywhere we go. I always have order envy, but we’ve got kind of a perpetual shared-plate thing happening. For us, so much of the pleasure of eating is sharing it with someone who savors it. Same with listening to/performing music, watching plays and movies, traveling, sniffing flowers (when Dasha inhales the aroma of a super fragrant flower, the look on her [...]

A Dynamic Piano Duo: Alessio Bax and Lucille Chung

This Valentine's Day we asked pianists Alessio Bax and Lucille Chung about the joys and challenges of sharing their profession and their life — plus, top tips for long-lasting love.

Do you have any Valentine’s Day traditions?

Alessio: Simple and traditional: a nice dinner, nice wines and flowers.

Did music play a role in your love story? If so, how?

Yes, absolutely. We met because of music, at the Hamamatsu International Piano Competition in Japan, and we played constantly for each other. Lucille played the Liszt Sonata for me, and I played Granados' "El Amor y la Muerte" from Goyescas, but I promised I didn't have any agenda, at least not consciously. I think we fell in love with each other's playing!  

What is a piece of classical music that is especially romantic to both of you, and why?

See above. Also, later we made Rachmaninoff's Vocalise "our" song!  

What’s a hobby you enjoy together that has nothing to do with music?

Eating, traveling (although usually related to music), cooking, playing with our daughter Mila (although, I guess you can't call that a hobby!). 

How do you get through long periods of separation when you’re both performing?

That's the toughest part, but I think that knowing what we go through each time we are performing, our hopes, fears, wishes, anxieties, really help us feel connected at all times. And pretty constant texting .... 

How do you get through long periods of working closely together (if you do)?

That's just a perk, almost like holiday time!  

What is your top tip for long-lasting love?

Respect, patience, empathy.

Chambers of the Heart: Amy Schroeder and Felix Umansky
This Valentine's Day we asked violinist Amy Schroeder and cellist Felix Umansky about the joys and challenges of sharing their profession and their life — plus, top tips for long-lasting love. Do you have any Valentine’s Day traditions? Being in separate string quartets it is rare for us to be in the same place on Valentine's Day! However, every year, be it in person or on FaceTime, we enjoy a toast with single malt scotch (a drink we bonded over) while recalling the story of how back in 2012 we each expressed our displeasure with Valentine's Day and said we would hang out on the 14th together as friends ... but then we ended up starting to date on the 11th (our now "date-iversary," as we call it) and Valentine's Day ended up being romantic despite all of our best efforts to make it platonic. Did music play a role in your love story? If so, how?  We originally met because our quartets were asked to play the Mendelssohn Octet together at a summer festival back in 2011. It was a funny "battle of the bands" themed concert where our quartets each played a separate quartet before the Octet. We became fast friends through many nerd-out sessions listening to our favorite string quartets late into the evenings (with scotch, of course). We never thought of ourselves as being in competition with one another, even when we were sharing a room as separate competitors in the Banff International String Quartet Competition. What is a piece of classical music that is especially romantic to both of you, and why? One of the first pieces of music we listened to together when we were still just platonic friends was the Guarneri Quartet's recording of Beethoven's "Cavatina" from his Opus 130 String Quartet. We both sat in absolute silence throughout the entire movement, only to turn to each other at the end (still in silence) and see that each of us had tears streaming down our faces. It’s a unique feeling to be around someone who feels as you do in this way, in that neither of us felt the least bit uncomfortable letting the other see us at our most vulnerable. What’s a hobby you enjoy together that has nothing to do with music? We have recently gotten super into Scuba diving! We got our licenses in Bali for our anniversary last year, and have since gone diving again several times and are planning a diving trip in Malaysia for our next anniversary in September. We find the ocean to be an extremely inspiring world and we always leave our dives feeling rejuvenated and excited to learn more about the plants and animals that we came in contact with, as well as ones we hope to see in the future. How do you get through long periods of separation when you’re both performing? We have basically been in a long distance relationship since the time we first [...]

A Cheeky Love Duet: Lucas Meachem and Irina Meachem
This Valentine's Day we asked baritone Lucas Meachem and pianist Irina Meachem about the joys and challenges of sharing their profession and their life — plus, top tips for long-lasting love. Did music play a role in your love story? If so, how? Lucas: Music is how we met! Irina was playing rehearsals at Mill City Summer Opera and I was singing the Barber in The Barber of Seville. I showed up a week late to rehearsals and she immediately caught my eye at the piano. I needed a quick excuse to talk to her so I did what any opera singer would do: I started showing her my fishing pictures on my phone! She was nice but naturally was very focused on her work. In that rehearsal, she nailed this really hard passage and I gave her a round of applause — but she STILL wasn’t into me. Not until I began to sing did she start to notice me back. Fast forward one year. I needed a coach in Los Angeles for my performance at the Hollywood Bowl and she was working there at the same time. We sang through the Pagliacci duet between Silvio and Nedda and she sang out all of Nedda’s part in her “voce di coach-e.” We came to the end of the duet where Nedda sings, “Si, baciami” and I went over to Irina at the bench and did exactly that. [Author’s note, in case your Italian needs some brushing up: that means he kissed her!] What is a piece of classical music that is especially romantic to both of you, and why? When we perform recitals together, “Stille Tränen” by Schumann is a stand-out for us emotionally. The augmented chords and the slowly moving harmonies are very heartfelt and effective for us. We both get a very personal and romantic reaction when performing it. What’s a hobby you enjoy together that has nothing to do with music? When we travel, we love being “those” tourists who visit all the cheesy places like the London Eye and Hop-On-Hop-Off buses. We love being physically active and we’ll throw down a mean tennis match against each other. Our rescue dog Teemo is a big part of our lives, too. How do you get through long periods of separation when you’re both performing? The thing is, we’re barely apart. Irina and I are lucky enough to have two music professions that go hand in hand with each other. This year we only spent a handful of days apart and we like to keep it that way. We make a lot of music together, especially when we’re preparing a recital or I’m learning a new role. She also plays for all of my voice lessons and coachings. It’s fulfilling for both of us. How do you get through long periods of working closely together (if you do)? This is a really good question because working with your spouse isn’t always as perfect as it seems. You have your husband hat and your si[...]