A Minute with Miles

How did the piano get its name? Why can’t you “reach” a crescendo? Who invented opera—and why—and how do you pronounce “Handel”? These and countless other classical music questions are answered on South Carolina Public Radio’s A Minute with Miles. Hosted by longtime NPR commentator Miles Hoffman, the segments inform and entertain as they provide illuminating 60-second flights through the world of classical music.

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A Minute with Miles
SC Public Radio/Mary Noble Ours

I hope you’ll join me today in celebrating the birthday of Felix Mendelssohn. Mendelssohn was born in Hamburg on February 3, 1809. By the time he was fourteen he had composed four operas, twelve sparkling string symphonies, and various other pieces, and by the time he was seventeen he had composed masterpieces of chamber music and orchestral music that will be played for as long as music is played anywhere. 


A Minute with Miles
SC Public Radio/Mary Noble Ours

I’m always fascinated by the stories of musicians who were famous and terribly important in their own time but whose reputations at some point dip or dim or even disappear—sometimes for no obvious reason.  Today is the birthday of the Charles Martin Loeffler. Are you familiar with his music? He was born on January 30, 1861, and he had a distinguished career as both a violinist and composer. 


A Minute with Miles
SC Public Radio/Mary Noble Ours

Today is January 27, and it’s Mozart’s birthday. I know I don’t have to tell you how wonderful Mozart’s music is to listen to… but if you’re not a musician yourself you may find it interesting to know that Mozart’s music is also wonderful to play. And it’s not that it’s easy—in fact it’s usually pretty hard, and sometimes very hard. 


Bruch's Birthday

Jan 6, 2017
A Minute with Miles
SC Public Radio/Mary Noble Ours

Some great composers have been pioneers and musical radicals, and some have been fundamentally conservative. Max Bruch was a conservative to his bones, and it served him well. He established his musical principles early and stuck to them his whole life, regardless of whatever fads, fashions, or new developments were swirling around him.


Brahms Premiere

Dec 30, 2016
A Minute with Miles
SC Public Radio/Mary Noble Ours

Johannes Brahms had worked on and off for fifteen years to complete his first symphony, but the second took him only four months. He wrote it in a small village by a beautiful lake, and he was apparently inspired by the setting.


A Minute with Miles
SC Public Radio/Mary Noble Ours

Percussion players can vary the sounds of their instruments by using different kinds of drumsticks, or drumsticks with different kinds of heads. Timpani players, for example, use  sticks that range from very soft to very hard.


A Minute with Miles
SC Public Radio/Mary Noble Ours

Today is the birthday of the composer Paul Hindemith, who was born near Frankfurt, Germany, in 1895. Hindemith originally trained as a violinist and violist, and as a young man he enjoyed a very successful performing career. But it was as a composer that he achieved lasting fame, eventually writing hundreds of pieces, from operas to string quartets to songs to sonatas for every conceivable instrument.


Staccato

Mar 31, 2016
A Minute with Miles
SC Public Radio/Mary Noble Ours

Staccato is the Italian word for “separated,” or “detached.” Staccato notes are notes that are not sustained for their full rhythmic value: they come to a short stop, which separates them from notes that follow. They also usually have a clean, sharply articulated start. The opposite of staccato is legato, which means “connected.”

Lincoln's Birthday

Feb 12, 2016
A Minute with Miles
SC Public Radio/Mary Noble Ours

Today is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, and I wonder if you knew that our sixteenth president was a great music lover. Not only that, he was an opera lover. On his way to Washington for his first inauguration, Lincoln stopped in New York City and attended a performance of Verdi’s  A Masked Ball – which is a little spooky, since that opera features the assassination of a political figure – and for the festivities at his second inaugural, he ordered a performance of Friedrich von Flotow’s opera Martha.

Poulenc's Birthday

Jan 7, 2016
A Minute with Miles
SC Public Radio/Mary Noble Ours

Francis Poulenc didn’t have to depend on composition for his living—he was the heir to the fortune of the Rhône-Poulenc pharmaceutical company—but he nonetheless turned out an enormous body of work in virtually all musical forms, from song to ballet to chamber music to opera.


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