This Week in Classical Music with Randy Kinkel 07/06/18

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Kanye West + Beethoven = Yeethoven

104-year-old pianist drops new album


It’s “This Week in Classical Music”; an update on what’s happening in the classical music world; I’m Randy Kinkel.

The conversation around rapper Kanye West lately tends to focus on politics, stunts, and his sometimes controversial statements.

Some of the albums West produces—feature string arrangements and vocals by the Yale-trained composer and pop artist Stephen “Johan ” Feigenbaum.

Since 2016, Feigenbaum and the conductor Yuga Cohler have periodically presented performances they call “Yeethoven,” including two in Los Angeles and one at New York City’s Lincoln Center. Using a group of classical musicians, they trace the similarities between the works of a 21st-century rapper/producer (Kanye West) and a 18th- to 19th-century composer (Beethoven).

“We wanted to figure out why it was that the two of us, and a lot of our friends in classical music, were so enamored with Kanye’s music,” Feigenbaum said.   In a Yeethoven set recently at the Aspen Ideas Festival they did five songs from  the Kanye album Yeezus—Some of the tracks were mashed up with Beethoven compositions. Within classical, we’re obsessed with what’s interesting and challenging, which is why a lot of people are into Kanye.” Feigenbaum said”

Feigenbaum:  We’re just trying to make a point: He’s an example of someone who does a lot of the things Beethoven did. “We do “duh duh duh dunnn” [from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5] and the audience erupts. That’s awesome!


Colette Maze has played the piano for over a century. In a recent BBC interview  she shares her love of the instrument and some of her secrets to growing old.

She says it’s important to stay loose and keep moving—and playing the piano is kind of a form of gymnastics.

Maze was born June 16, 1914 in Paris, Her favorite composer is Claude Debussy, who she lived near as a toddler. HE died when she was 4. She played piano from the age of 5. And at 15, she entered music school, where she studied with Alfred Cortot and Nadia Boulanger.

She became a piano teacher, a profession she practiced all her life. she still plays the piano, to maintain her memory she says.

At 103, she released her fourth album dedicated to Claude Debussy on the centenary of his death, including Debussy and also Federico MompouAstor Piazzolla and Alberto Ginastera.

“To me, Debussy is nature, and love of nature—those delicate feelings.” Her CD is called 104 years of piano. You can see the video of her on the BBC News youtube channel: