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Five New Classical Videos You Need To See To Believe

Teen cellists Jeremy Tai and Minku Lee playing at Chihuly Garden and Glass.
Courtesy of From the Top
Teen cellists Jeremy Tai and Minku Lee playing at Chihuly Garden and Glass.

Call this an early autumn harvest: In the midst of the usual September deluge of new albums, we've been watching notable — sometimes terrific, sometimes not so terrific — videos that have come over the digital transom in recent weeks.

Our first pick was filmed as promotion for organist Cameron Carpenter's new album, a project we liked a lot and offered as a First Listen. Yet somehow we totally missed this promo video, which was released several months ago. There's a lot going on here, and it would be highly unfair of me to spoil it for you. But the still shot of Carpenter shirtlessly, menacingly staring down the camera should give you some idea of what follows.

Meanwhile, an 11-year-old busker named Dylan Hamme has been doing brisk business right around the corner from our New York office by trying to emulate his violin idol, Joshua Bell. He's been effective enough to land a spot on the Today show with Kathie Lee Gifford, Hoda Kotb and a "surprise" guest. Unintentional hilarity — and infuriation — ensues. (KLG and Hoda make kind of awful remarks about classical music, and nobody told Hamme to act shocked when Bell shows up for a bit of a duet, in which they instantaneously and telepathically sort out who will play Violin I and who will play Violin II.)

Hamme isn't the only fiddler who's gotten screen time this week. A lot of people have been charmed by a video of a Wisconsin-based violinist named Eleanor Bartsch playing Bach for a pair of elephants who seem to be moving their trunks and heads in time to the music. However, some knowledgeable viewers are saying that this isn't a sign of enjoyment at all, but instead, sadly, it's simply an exhibition of stereotypic behavior by two caged and very bored animals.

Speaking of things being not quite what they seem, our colleague Brian Wise at WQXR points out that the new film If I Stay, based on a very popular YA novel by Gayle Forman, features a bit of CGI magic. The main character, Mia (played by Chloë Grace Moretz), is a young cellist with dreams of getting into Juilliard. But rather than have Moretz (who tried to learn the cello in seven months before filming) look inept with the instrument, the director ultimately used some digital fusing to match the actress' head with an actual cellist's body. Judge the results for yourself. (At least the versimilitude won't distract audiences from the storyline.)

And this last one is a very beautiful video featuring a quartet of cellos, all teenage musicians who have appeared on the NPR-distributed program From The Top. They're at Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle playing an arrangement one of them made of "The Path of the Wind" theme from the classic Hayao Miyazaki film Spirited Away.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Anastasia Tsioulcas is a reporter on NPR's Arts desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards and the myriad accusations of sexual misconduct against singer R. Kelly.