What's New: Classical Banjo

Jul 18, 2017

Grammy award winning "Banjo soloist" Bela Fleck
Credit belafleck.com

The banjo was originally made by Africans in America, adapted from instruments of similar design in Africa. It is often associated with country, folk, Irish traditional and bluegrass music. But did you know the five-string banjo was been used in classical music - since before the turn of the 20th century? We’ll hear from some talented banjo players, including Bela Fleck, and John Bullard on today’s What’s New.

We'll feature music by Harry Reser, Max Butting, Beethoven, Marcello, and Bela Fleck.

Fleck made his "classical connection" back in 2001 with Perpetual Motion, his critically acclaimed, two-time Grammy winning recording with John Williams, Joshua Bell, Chris Thile, Edgar Meyer, and others. Then in 2003, Fleck and Meyer debuted a double concerto for the Nashville Symphony which featured banjo and bass. These friends collaborated again with the Nashville Symphony in 2006 on The Melody of  Rhythm, a triple concerto for banjo, bass, and tabla, this time with tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain. This then turned to Béla’s first "stand-alone" banjo concerto, The Impostor - commissioned by the National Symphony and premiered in 2011. It was followed by the companion documentary, How to Write a Banjo Concerto.

What’s New is a production of WBAA, a listener supported broadcast service of Purdue University.