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Classical Californians: Billy Childs

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Raj Naik

Our Classical Californian this week is LA-based jazz pianist and composer Billy Childs, who just won a Grammy for his recording The Winds of Change. He cites several jazz keyboard players as influences, including Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea, but there are a couple of unexpected ones as well. There's the prog-rock keyboard player Keith Emerson, whose solos in the band Emerson, Lake & Palmer made him want to play the piano... and also the orchestral style of Paul Hindemith, in his symphonic work Mathis der Maler. We'll also hear a piece that he wrote for the Lyris Quartet, inspired by a classic chamber work by Janáček.

He begins in the world of jazz, with an excerpt that shows Herbie Hancock as a composer, soloist, as well as arranger, in his "I Have a Dream." Click to listen to his introduction!

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Herbie Hancock: I Have a Dream

Then, to the prog-rock innovator, Keith Emerson, who Billy Childs says is often underrated. He chose the middle movement, a solo piano section from The Three Fates called "Lachesis".

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Keith Emerson: The Three Fates - ii. Lachesis (1:52-4:31)

He was similarly drawn to the orchestration of Paul Hindemith, the first time he heard the symphonic work Mathis der Maler. Here's the movement called "The Temptation of St. Anthony."

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Paul Hindemith: Mathis der Maler - The Temptation of St. Anthony

Billy Childs ends with one of his own classical works, a string quartet he wrote for the Lyris Quartet, to comment on Leoš Janáček's String Quartet No. 2, "Intimate Letters." His is called "Unrequited".

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Billy Childs: String Quartet No. 3, "Unrequited"

Published on 02.07.2024