Top 10: Our classical hosts pick their musical favorites
What do your favorite classical hosts love to listen to? You might be surprised.
Here are their top 10 playlists so you can learn about what they love to listen to and why.
Click below to jump to your favorite host (listed in alphabetical order):
Julie Amacher - Michael Barone - John Birge - Andrea Blain - Scott Blankenship - Melissa Dundis - Jeff Esworthy - Ward Jacobson - Garrett McQueen - Brian Newhouse - Melissa Ousley - Elena See - Steve Seel - Steve Staruch - Lynne Warfel
Program director, Classical MPR; host/producer of New Classical Tracks; host of SymphonyCast
Usual shift: various times
The music that resonates with me the most is that which creates an atmosphere. I usually want to put on a recording that will just fill the room and wash over me at the end of the day. It could be a Beethoven symphony, bluegrass, folk, Celtic or eclectic instrumental music. I grew up on progressive rock, especially bands that included lush orchestral elements and grand piano. Now I gravitate toward music that blends genres, as you'll see by my list of favorite albums. Here are some recordings I would highly recommend:
1. The Choral Scholars of University College Dublin; Desmond Earley, conductor Invisible Stars (Signum Classics)
2. Daniel Hope Spheres
3. Dobrinka Tabakova String Paths (ECM)
4. Danish String Quartet Last Leaf (ECM)
5. Chris Norman with Camerata Bariloche Highlands
6. Ludwig van Beethoven Minnesota Orchestra: The Symphonies
7. Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile Goat Rodeo Session
8. Supertramp Crime of the Century (and Even in the Quietest Moments)
9. Joni Mitchell Blue
10. Ludovico Einaudi I Giorni
Host/producer of Pipedreams; host of annual broadcast of A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols
Usual shift: Various times nationally, and 6-8 a.m. central Sundays, Classical MPR
I am a mostly classical omnivore, although my current work makes me appear to be a "pipe organ geek." I've been a fan of Bonnie Raitt, pianists Bill Evans and Art Tatum, Frank Zappa and (of course, isn't everyone?) the Beatles. Back in the day, when I was host for "The Morning Program" on Mondays, you might have heard Anglican Chant, Laurie Anderson and a "Little Orley" story from Uncle Lumpy. During my 25 years as MPR music director (1968-1993), you might have heard a Renaissance mass by Ockeghem, Gesang der Jünglinge by Stockhausen, the Busoni Piano Concerto, one or another of the more than 200 Bach Cantatas, and an entire symphony by Mahler or Bruckner (or Nielsen, or Arnold Bax, or Malcolm Arnold, or …). There's a lot out there about which to be curious, and enthusiastic.
1. J.S. Bach "The Art of Fugue" of "Well-tempered Clavier" (both books) with a side of the Shostakovich Preludes and Fugues (Opus 87) for contrast
2. J.S. Bach Cantatas (106, 140)
3. Ferruccio Busoni Piano Concerto (heard both Marc Andre Hamelin and John Ogdon play it live!)
4. Charles-Valentin Alkan 12 Etudes in all the minor keys, Opus 39 (included here is a symphony for solo piano, also a concerto for solo piano!)
5. Ludwig van Beethoven String Quartets (16) and Piano Sonatas (32) all of them!
6. Francis Poulenc Gloria & Organ Concerto
7. Igor Stravinsky Symphony of Psalms
8. Sergei Prokofiev Alexander Nevsky Cantata
9. Pyotr Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6 (Pathetique)
10. Joseph Jongen Symphonie Concertante for Organ and Orchestra (Virgil Fox recording)
10. Olivier Messiaen Turangalila Symphony (with Quartet for the End of Time as a chaser)
Bonus: The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book
Host/producer; host of Composers Datebook
Usual shift: Various times nationally, and 6-10 a.m. central Monday-Friday, Classical MPR
Duke Ellington said it best: "There are simply two kinds of music, good music and the other kind." My favorite is the good kind(s). Choosing only 10 is a fool's errand, but I'll play the fool and mention these 10, out of a zillion that I couldn't live without. (Heck, Beethoven alone gives you way too many to choose from.) So, here goes, in absolutely no order of preference.
1. Ludwig van Beethoven Symphony No. 3
2. J.S. Bach Violin Concertos (played by David Oistrakh, of course)
3. Gustav Mahler Symphony No. 7 (conducted by Georg Solti, of course)
4. Alec Wilder Octets
5. Stephen Sondheim "I'm Still Here" (sung by Elaine Stritch}
6. Count Basie/Sweets Edison "Louisiana"
7. Ella Fitzgerald "Embraceable You"
8. Miles Davis "Blue in Green"
9. Ludwig van Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4
10. Nat King Cole "Stardust"
National host/producer of "Music Through the Night"
Usual shift: midnight-6 a.m. central
It's hard to pin down my favorite type of music, but I guess in general I'm often drawn to works that are rooted in some element of folk or traditional music. I like works with a strong melodic impulse and feeling of bringing you to a specific place or moment in time.
1. Gerald Finzi A Severn Rhapsody
2. Bedrich Smetana Ma Vlast
3. Traditional Welsh "Suo Gan"
4. Hamilton Harty From the Irish Symphony In the Antrim Hills
5. Claudio Monteverdi Pur ti Miro from The Coronation of Poppea - Joshua Bell, violin
6. Traditional Norwegian "Behold the Beautiful Light of the Sun"
7. J.S. Bach Violin Sonata No. 2: Allegro - Chris Thiele, mandolin
8. Rachel Portman The Cider House Rules
9. Traditional Danish Minuet No. 6
10. William Bolcom Graceful Ghost Rag
National host; co-host/producer of Trilloquy
Usual shift: 7 p.m.-midnight central
Music is either good or it isn't. I like to stay open to all genres, as long as it's good. Obviously, the setting dictates what genre is appropriate, but whatever it is, it's always good. This list is what I'm listening to now, although some of these are also on my top 10 of all time list.
1. Steely Dan Aja
2. Enrique Granados Danzas Españolas
3. Jean Sibelius Symphony No. 5
4. Anna Thorvaldsdottir Metacosmos
5. Caroline Shaw Partita
6. Khurangbin Con Todo el Mundo
7. Erik Koskinen Live at the RealPhonic Radio Hour 2011-2015
8. Future Islands Singles
9. Dobrinka Tabakova Cello Concerto
10. Tom Waits Bone Machine
Usual shift: 6-10 a.m. central Fridays and Saturdays; various other times
I love 19th-century Spanish guitar music. Spain's culture has a very open and sensual dialogue. I hear a lot of romantic conversations between two lovers happening in that style of music.
1. Francisco Tarrega Capricho Arabe
2. Isaac Albeniz Alhambra
3. John Cage In a Landscape (guitar version)
4. Judd Greenstein Clearing Dawn and Dance
5. Antonin Dvořáak String Quartet No. 9
6. Philip Glass Mad Rush
7. Claude Debussy Images
8. Heitor Villa-Lobos Prelude No. 1
9. Igor Stravinsky Octet in E-flat
10. J.S. Bach Cello Suite No. 1
Usual shift: 6-10 a.m. central
When it comes to classical music, I'm definitely a Classical period fan. Mozart and Haydn are my all-time favorite composers, but my tastes are fairly wide ranging. Here's a list of the top 10 pieces I would recommend.
1. W.A. Mozart any of the Piano Concertos (No. 17 is, I think, my favorite).
2. Ralph Vaughan Williams The Lark Ascending
3. Ludwig van Beethoven Symphony No. 6
4. Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov Scheherazade
5. Antonin Dvorak Symphony No. 9 (From the New World)
6. Steve Reich Music for 18 Musicians
7. Philip Glass Music in 12 Parts
8. Ram Narayan Raga Shankara
9. Z.M. Dagar Raga Yaman
10. Traditional American music anything by fiddler Bruce Molsky
National host, on-call
There are so many types of music that I adore it really depends on the mood I'm in on a given day. Do I want happy, sad, nostalgia, inspiration? It's a big list. But since I'm a longtime choral singer, I'll have to side with choral music as my ultimate go-to. Here's my list of 10 works in no specific order.
1. Ralph Vaughan Williams Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis
2. Camille Saint-Saëns Symphony No. 3 (the final movement especially!)
3. Charles Villiers Stanford Beati quorum via Cambridge Singers ("Faire Is the Heaven," "Music of the English Church," the entire recording need that one for whatever island I'm stranded on)
4. G.F. Handel Messiah
5. Ludwig van Beethoven Symphony No. 7
6. Anatol Liadov Polonaise, Op. 55
7. Johannes Brahms Intermezzo No. 2, Op. 118
8. Glenn Gould playing Bach
9. Gabriel Faure Requiem
10. W.A. Mozart Symphony No. 41
National host/producer of Music Through the Night; creator of Trilloquy
Usual shift: midnight-6 a.m. central
Fitting into a mold has always been a challenge for me, because many of the spaces I occupy both in and outside of classical music weren't formed with me or my experiences in mind. Listening to music that speaks directly to me has centered me throughout my life and career, and these 10 pieces of music that exist both in and outside of classical music have played a big role in my finding peace, pride and purpose.
1. Nina Simone "Mississippi Goddam"
2. Duke Ellington Black, Brown and Beige Suite
3. Frank Ocean "Solo Reprise"
4. William Grant Still Symphony No. 1 (Afro-American)
5. The Fugees "Killin' Me Softly"
6. Beyoncé/Jay-Z "Summer"
7. Valerie Coleman Portraits of Josephine
8. Nas "Life's a Bitch"
9. The Gap Band "Outstanding"
10. Beyoncé "Before I Let Go"
Managing director, classical, Minnesota Public Radio/American Public Media
My favorite type of music (shock!) is classical. I love it for what it contains and what it does: sometimes the very simplest of all music, other times unendingly complex, it lands in my brain, heart, and soul in a way that few other things certainly no other kind of music do.
1. Ralph Vaughan Williams The Lark Ascending
2. Sergei Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2
3. Morton Lauridsen O Magnum Mysterium
4. Stephen Paulus Pilgrim's Hymn
5. J.S. Bach Double Violin Concerto
6. Franz Schubert Piano Trio No. 1
7. Gustav Mahler Symphony No. 10
8. Kevin Siegfried "Lay Me Low" (from Shaker Songs)
9. Maurice Ravel Piano Concerto in G
10. Robert Schumann Frauenliebe und Leben
National host; host of Minnesota Orchestra live broadcasts
Usual shift: 10 a.m.-noon central Sunday; 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday; 8 p.m. central Friday (Classical MPR)
If I had to choose a favorite composer, it would be Bach. I can listen to his music any day of the week, at any time of day. Why? I would say it's a physical reaction one that draws out emotions of joy, sorrow, serenity and hope. In fact, many times his music cues me into a feeling I didn't even realize was there.
1. Bach Goldberg Variations; Glenn Gould, second time around.
2. Brahms Violin Concerto and both Piano Concertos (I know this is cheating to pick so many, but I can't help it!)
3. Ralph Vaughan Williams Symphony No. 5
4. Ludwig van Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 30
5. Joni Mitchell "A Case of You"
6. Franz Schubert Impromptu No. 3 in G-Flat Major
7. Dmitri Shostakovich Leningrad Symphony, 1st movement
8. Richard Strauss Der Rosenkavalier
9. William Walton music from Henry V
10. Stevie Wonder "It Ain't No Use"
Assistant program director/national host and producer
Usual shift: 2-6 p.m. central Thursday and Friday; various other times
To be honest, I don't have a favorite type or genre of music; I find that different pieces and different styles work for me at different times. It all depends on what is happening in my life at any given moment. I will say, though, that I do have go-to pieces … and that's what this list is about! These are the 10 pieces of music I can listen to anytime, anywhere, and the 10 of pieces of music that instantly make me a little happier, a little less anxious, and a little more aware of the beauty and energy of the world around me.
1. Johannes Brahms Symphony No. 4
2. Ralph Vaughan Williams The Lark Ascending (I'm partial to the recording with violinist Julia Fischer)
3. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Clarinet Concerto (I'm partial to clarinetist Martin Frost or Sabine Meyer)
4. Kansas "Carry On, My Wayward Son"
5. Mark O'Connor "Appalachia Waltz" or "Butterfly's Day Out"
6. James Horner Field of Dreams soundtrack
7. Claude Debussy Violin Sonata
8. Sergei Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 (Leif Ove Andsnes!)
9. Alison Krauss/Union Station "Paper Airplane"
10. Ludovico Einaudi I Giorni (with Daniel Hope)
Host of Extra Eclectic
Usual shift: 7 p.m.-midnight central Monday and Wednesday
My tastes, listening habits and musical interests are all over the board, as a guy who grew up listening to both classical and rock, and came to love everything from jazz to avant garde music as an adult. I guess you could say my classical aesthetic tends toward pretty somber and often elegiac sounds the Gustav Mahler, Dobrinka Tabakova and Arvo Pärt works are prototypical of the stuff I gravitate toward. I have been, however, a huge fan of Steve Reich for decades, which is the definition of propulsive, sonic euphoria to my ears. And finally, the Brian Eno and Laurie Anderson selections represent my lifelong love for genre-expanding, experimental rock. I've included my favorite recordings, too, except in the case of the rock records, which are self-explanatory.
1. Steve Reich Eight Lines (Bang on a Can)
2. Arvo Pärt Berlin Mass (Tonu Kaljuste, Estonian Philharmonic and Chamber Choir)
3. Brian Eno Ambient 1, Music for Airports
4. Gustav Mahler Adagietto from Symphony No. 5 (Leonard Bernstein and New York Philharmonic)
5. Dobrinka Tabakova Concerto for Cello and Strings (Kristina Blaumane with the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Maxim Rysanov)
6. Caleb Burhans A Moment for Jason Molina (Simon Jermyn)
7. Ludwig van Beethoven String Quartet No. 15., III. Heiliger Dankgesang (A Far Cry Orchestra)
8. Maurice Ravel "La Vallee des Cloches" from Miroirs (Abby Simon)
9. Laurie Anderson "Blue Lagoon," from Mister Heartbreak
10. John Luther Adams The Wind in High Places (JACK Quartet)
Usual shift: 3-7 p.m. central Monday-Friday (Classical MPR)
The colors, and the shapes; the dance quality, and the "theater" of much 18th-century music is most appealing to me. Nothing is more satisfying than when an ensemble gets into a dance groove and stays there for an entire work. My list includes the top 10 of the Baroque and Classical periods and a few surprises, too.
1. G.F. Handel Water Music
2. Georg Philipp Telemann Water Music
3. J.S. Bach Brandenburg Concertos
4. Franz Joseph Haydn Symphony No. 50
5. J.S. Bach Mass in B-minor
6. W.A. Mozart Les Petites Riens
7. J.S. Bach Orchestral Suites 1-4
8. Franz Joseph Haydn Creation
9. Jean-Baptiste Lully Suite from The Bourgeois Gentleman
10. J.S. Bach Toccata and Fugue in D-minor
National host and producer; host of Saturday Cinema
Usual shift: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. central Tuesday-Friday and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday
Fave music? Can't pin it down classical, classic rock, jazz, classic jazz vocalists, and, of course, movie music and musical theater. I listen to it all not just one thing.
1. Mahler Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection) (love the old Leonard Bernstein/New York Philharmonic recording with Jennie Tourel and company)
2. Brahms any of the four symphonies with Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic
3. Stan Kenton "Malaguena" as a piece, and West Side Story as an album
4. Francis Albert Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim (the whole album, especially "Someone to Light Up My Life" and "Song of the Sabia")
5. Ella and Basie! (Quincy Jones arrangements; her "Honeysuckle Rose" modulations are awesome)
6. The Beatles George Harrison's "Something" from Abbey Road
7. Eva Cassidy "Over the Rainbow" from Songbird
8. "And He Was Beautiful"/"Cavatina," from The Deerhunter with Cleo Laine and guitarist John Williams
9. Judy Garland "Over the Rainbow," from Judy at Carnegie Hall
10. Anything that Stephen Sondheim, Michael Giacchino, Elmer Bernstein, Henry Mancini and John Williams ever wrote.