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Classical Californians: Valérie Sainte-Agathe

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Tim Hamlin

This week's Classical Californian is conductor Valérie Sainte-Agathe, the Artistic Director of the San Francisco Girls Chorus. She’s brought together some recordings that show her love for the great piano repertoire, as well as music from the Caribbean (she’s from Martinique originally), ensembles that harness the talents and enthusiasm of young musicians, and a surprising operatic performance from the Queen of Soul! 

For the broadcast, she chose to start with John Zorn's Columbina, (unfortunately not on YouTube) from a recording the Girls Chorus made in 2018 - this is another work from that album, called Herring Run, by Carla Kihlstedt, which was written for them.

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Carla Kihlstedt: Herring Run - San Francisco Girls Chorus

Valérie Sainte-Agathe was originally from Martinique in the French Caribbean - she next chose a piece that singer Nathalie Joachim (whose family was from Haiti) performed with the Spektral Quartet, called "Papa Loko."

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Nathalie Joachim: "Papa Loko" (with Spektral Quartet)

The next two selections reflect her love of her first instrument, the piano... First, it's Ravel's G Major Concerto, played by Martha Argerich.

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Ravel: Piano Concerto in G Major, mvt. 1 (Martha Argerich)

And another concerto that she kept returning to during the pandemic, the Rachmaninoff Third Piano Concerto, here played by Yuja Wang with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

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Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, mvt. 1 (Yuja Wang)

As another example of new music that she loves, here's a work by Sarah Kirkland Snider called "I am alone" from a collaborative recording with several other composers that they called The Blue Hour.

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Sarah Kirkland Snider: "I am alone" from The Blue Hour

Another group of young musicians that excels in performance is the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, playing Conga del Fuego by Arturo Marquez, and led by Gustavo Dudamel.

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Arturo Marquez: Conga del Fuego

Her last selection might come as a surprise to opera purists, but she says the Aretha Franklin rendition of "Nessun Dorma" is an amazing performance.

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Puccini: "Nessun Dorma" (Aretha Franklin)

And some final thoughts...

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Published on 03.13.2024