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Fanfare: Our Guide to Classical Music (and more) this week

Violinist Yvonne Lam, whose new album, 'Watch Over Us,' features works for solo violin with electronics by Nathalie Joachim, Missy Mazzoli and others.
Stephanie Bassos
Violinist Yvonne Lam, whose new album, 'Watch Over Us,' features works for solo violin with electronics by Nathalie Joachim, Missy Mazzoli and others.

As summer winds down, the fall season is almost upon us. So while our classical organizations and ensembles are gearing up to bring you great music, they won’t be playing much this week. In the meantime, we’re recommending a free performance that could expand your definition of classical music. I’ve also been listening to some great new recordings that could tide you over until the concert season starts back up in earnest. Be sure to subscribe to Fanfare, and please let us know what you think!

Spotlight: Naturalist’s Trance — Tuesday, FDR Park

This will be a fully improvised performance with two percussionists and three saxophonists, and could easily be part of Moment’s Notice, but there are plenty of reasons why it’s here instead. Improvisation, or perhaps spontaneous composition, has always been a part of classical music, its role only really narrowing through the late 18th through the early 20th century. Since then, though, performers of early music and especially today’s composers and performers have been bringing it back, not least those who also perform jazz. You may be familiar with percussionist Shakoor Hakeem, who led a performance in our studio back in February. He will lead a quintet in a “live sound painting” of the sunset over FDR Park from the boathouse dock. Take in the performance from a blanket or even a boat, and allow the sounds to merge with the slow changing of the light.

Aug. 29 at 7 p.m., FDR Park, 1500 Pattison Ave, free; more information.

Album rec: Yvonne Lam, Watch Over Us (Blue Griffin)

This actually could prepare you for a live performance later this month — check back next week to read about Opera Philadelphia’s 10 Days in a Madhouse. Part of its intrigue is the opera’s use of electronics, which are also the main support to violinist Yvonne Lam’s playing on what might wind up as my favorite classical record of this year. Lam takes the listener on a tour of her experience performing with tape, through six pieces by six living women. Among them are the title track, a work by composer and flutist Nathalie Joachim from when she and Lam were in the Chicago new-music ensemble Eighth Blackbird; a new arrangement of a piece by the Philly area’s own Missy Mazzoli; and a sonic adventure of an album closer in Kate Moore’s Synaesthesia Suite.

Album rec: Sphinx Virtuosi — Songs for Our Times (Deutsche Grammophon)

I won’t leave you without a recording that sounds immediately like classical music (and we’ve got plenty of that for you every day on WRTI). The Sphinx Virtuosi have been around for quite a while, and the Sphinx Organization for even longer, as a Detroit-based organization aiming to help classical ensembles in America better reflect the diversity of its people. This is nonetheless the ensemble’s first studio album (following a live album in 2011), and it features excellent performances and a repertoire that has something for everyone. There are world premiere recordings of music by Valerie Coleman and Jessie Montgomery, as well as an orchestration of a string quartet movement by Florence Price and a movement from Beethoven’s ninth violin sonata under its original name, “Bridgetower,” for the Black violinist and composer with whom Beethoven premiered the work.

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John T.K. Scherch (JohnTK@wrti.org) shares the morning’s musical and other offerings weekdays on WRTI 90.1. Previously, he was the first new host on WBJC in Baltimore in nearly 20 years, hosting the evening, Sunday afternoon, and request programs, and he is also an alumnus of U92, the college radio station of West Virginia University and a consecutive national Station of the Year winner.