Classical | Texas Public Radio


Texas Public Radio Classical Music blog and other stories.

Ari Magg

In the arts, an age is usually known by a great artist—Rembrandt, for example. Sometimes there are artists used as bookends to mark an age. In classical music, the English have Henry Purcell, and in the 1950s, Benjamin Britten was hailed as the greatest English composer since Purcell. That’s quite a compliment, encompassing three centuries.

Stephanie Key on Wyoming mountaintop.
Bill Anderson

San Antonio musician Stephanie Key says she considers herself lucky after recovering from COVID-19. Now, she has a plan to help others fight back.

Updated Wednesday at 10:29 a.m.

Cellist Lynn Harrell, one of the finest and most prominent American classical musicians of his generation, has died. He was 76 years old.

His death was initially announced by his wife, violinist Helen Nightengale, on social media. She did not disclose the cause of his death. In a statement provided Wednesday by Columbia Artists, the company that managed Harrell, Nightengale said that the cellist's death was unexpected.

"You can't really have a concert if you can't have an audience," David Roode muses.

His career as a concert trombonist in Cincinnati went abruptly on hold when stay-at-home orders took effect in March.

"I had months of gigs that were just canceled."

Roode and his wife, a concert pianist, have done some recording while on lockdown in Cincinnati. And they've tapped into savings they typically rely on during the slower summer months.

In this time of social distancing, hunkering down and chatting remotely, we might learn some new things about each other. For example, you might know Marin Alsop as the longtime music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, one of the leading figures in classical music around the world and a frequent guest on Weekend Edition. But you might not know that back in the 1980s, she also led a swing band.

Courtesy photo

Since mid-March, the clubs and performance halls have been silent, and musicians are adjusting to life at home.

© Marco Borggreve

Anton Diabelli may not have been a very prolific composer, but as a music publisher by trade, he turned out to be a savvy businessman. In 1819, he wrote a short 32-bar waltz and invited composers far and wide to write variations on his little melody. Fifty-one responded, and Diabelli eventually published two anthologies of variations under the title Vaterländischer Künstlerverein (“Patriotic Association of Artists”).

Some people respond to suffering by turning it into art. That's true even with the harrowing experience of a pandemic.

In the early 1400s, an Englishman named John Cooke composed Stella celi, a hymn to the Virgin Mary referencing the Black Plague which, according to some sources, wiped out half of Europe. Its text speaks of the "ulcers of a terrible death" but also the assurance that "the star of heaven ... has rooted out the plague."

Classical music opinionator Fran Hoepfner (@franhoepfner) joins Here & Now‘s Robin Young to discuss the music that lifts her spirits during the coronavirus crisis: Mikhail Glinka’s “Overture” in D Major, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Russian Easter Festival” and Igor Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite.”

This article was originally published on

Our Daily Breather is a series where we ask writers and artists to recommend one thing that's helping them get through the days of isolation during the coronavirus pandemic.

Who: Nicholas Cords of Brooklyn Rider

Where: Boston, Mass.

Recommendation: Beethoven's String Quartet in A minor, Opus 132