Travel with Classical 90.5 to Italy!


Italy owns an astonishing thirty percent of the world’s cultural heritage, according to UNESCO. Fine arts, architecture and design are maybe the best known treasures, but music, food and wine have also left a great legacy.

Join Classical 90.5 host, Daniel Gilliam, on a twelve-day art, food and classical music lover’s journey to “Bella Italia.” Celebrate the lives of Verdi, Rossini, Toscanini, Puccini and Stradivarius, walk in the footsteps of great Italian masters by visiting the very places they loved, lived and worked. We’ll also enjoy in-depth, private tours highlighting the origins of painting and sculpture in central Italy. Along the way, you’ll be introduced to the culinary arts and visit the producers of fine wines, delicious olive oils and mouth-watering cheeses. This exclusive Louisville Public Media journey will also include an entertaining cooking class, outings to colorful country markets, private concerts, a backstage tour of the Bologna opera house, the towering hill towns of central Italy and fine multi-course bistro dining. Celebrate some of the best music, food and drink with Louisville Public Media! Space is limited to 28 lucky LPM guests.

Overnight flight to Italy –
3 Nights Parma/ Bologna (Italy’s premier food producing region)
2 Nights Villa in Fiesole (in the hills above Florence)
3 Nights Kingdom of the Castello di Modanella, Tuscany
2 Nights Eternal Rome, Province of Lazio

Make your reservation and learn more here!

Remembering “Culture Vulture” Jim Wilhelm

Jim Wilhelm

Jim Wilhelm passed away on Jan. 18, 2015. He ran a grassroots arts awareness organization called Louisville Culture Vulture, and was a friend and guest of Smillie’s Picks with the late Thomson Smillie on Classical 90.5. The following remembrance was written by his friend Martina Nichols

Jim Wilhelm, a Canton Ohio native was a Oklahoma University graduate. There he was invited to teach after obtaining his Master’s degree in music. He loved teaching but left to become a part of the New York City Opera company–where he played principal roles in many major productions that included some of the biggest names in Opera–including Beverly Sills, Joan Sutherland and more. From there he opted for the financial security of the corporate world developing skills in market research in New York and ultimately working in Louisville at Brown Williamson and Horizon Research International. Professionally, he made bold career changes from academe to performing arts to corporate research; but performing arts–particularly opera–remained his major passion and lifelong crusade. Throughout his adult life, he playing pied piper, leading the novice and seasoned to frequent theaters more often. He also mentored and championed a diverse range of young artists to take their place on the professional stage.

After retirement from market research, he started “the Louisville Culture Vultures”. What began as a small, eclectic group enjoying performances in Louisville but as far away as Chicago or Sante Fe, expanded to include an electronic newsletter informing the entire community of Louisville expansive cultural offerings. He had embarked upon this enterprise full steam when he met Thomson Smillie and his wife Marylyn Meredith, who not only joined his ever-growing merry band of ‘culture vultures’, but the ongoing debate : How do we open the theater doors to a broader, more diverse audience. In Smillie, Jim found another kindred spirit believing making the arts more accessible to everyone would enrich the individual and make the world a better place.

Though heart-breaking to all who knew them, the loss of these two men, exactly a year apart to the day, has galvanized what Marilyn has called the “motley crew” known as Louisville Culture Vultures. For now, they are planning a celebration of his life to occur in a few week. But they will also work together to ensure Jim’s brainchild and legacy go forward. Those interested in what will happen next should consult the ‘vulture’ website or its Facebook page.

Editor’s note: Below is an excerpt from “Smillie’s Picks,” Thomson Smillie’s arts segment that aired on Classical 90.5, featuring Jim Wilhelm and Smillie discussing the Met HD broadcasts as “the people’s opera.”

Featured Album & Giveaway: Rachel Barton Pine’s Mozart

rachel barton pine

For her latest album, Rachel Barton Pine worked with legendary conductor Sir Neville Marriner (a “hero” to her) and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields recording all of Mozart’s violin concertos and the Sinfonia Concertante, K. 364. While putting together this double-disc set of concertos was a huge undertaking, even more surprising is that Ms. Barton Pine gave a concert of all five concertos in 2011, just three weeks after giving birth to her first child! We’re featuring her album all week and giving you a chance to win a copy!

Featured Album: Elīna Garanča’s Meditation


Latvian singer Elīna Garanča‘s new album Meditation explores music that is transcendent and, that she says can offer “…fulfillment, comfort and salvation.” Read Alan Brandt’s thoughts on our Featured Album this week and tune in to hear selections.

Review: Louisville Orchestra’s Ravel and Shostakovich, and Mozart with Chu-Fang Huang


All good art has a superficial layer that is adequate for enjoyment. What appears beneath the surface, however, is detail, revelation and honesty. The Louisville Orchestra’s first concert in 2015, conducted by Music Director Emeritus Jorge Mester, featured Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 18 and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 6 — each capable of revealing a hidden truth.

Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite was originally written as a set of piano pieces for two children: Mimi and Jean Godebski. That the music was written for children (and their small hands) belies the inventiveness and genius of this work, especially in its most performed version for orchestra. Anything Ravel touches with his orchestration turns to gold: Mussorgky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, Debussy’s Sarabande and Danse, his own Tombeau de Couperin and this suite.

To only listen to this as music about fairy tales is missing the point that Ravel’s score is perfect. It is delicate and balanced, and the orchestra obliged the composer’s vision with a colorful and nuanced performance. Maestro Mester provided minimal coaxing, instead letting the orchestra be an ensemble. Of note was principal clarinetist Andrea Levine’s tender and velvety solo in the fourth movement. And nitpicking, a few exposed violin passages, both in Ravel and Shostakovich, lacked cohesion and focus.

Ms. Huang’s debut in Louisville also means her debut with this Mozart Piano Concerto No. 18, but the newness of the work to her was mostly unnoticeable. Overall it was a safe and comfortable performance, but dismissing Mozart’s eighteenth concerto as enjoyable, like Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite, misses the point. Its depth lies in the details beneath the surface.

In the first and last movements we saw Ms. Huang the consummate technician, showing brilliant skill and elegance with her craft. But dazzling as it was, the middle movement showed us her artistry and depth. Mozart was an opera composer and his dramatic tendencies are often found in his concertos. The orchestra’s introduction sets up the piano’s “aria” and Ms. Huang gave her Steinway the most cantabile treatment.

After intermission, Jorge Mester and the Louisville Orchestra concluded with the dark and perplexing Symphony No. 6 by Dmitri Shostakovich — one that Leonard Bernstein called “a body without a head.” Formally, yes, there isn’t an allegro (fast) first movement. But it also may mean that the first movement (the torso in this metaphor) is all heart. For an unbroken twenty minutes, Shostakovich is brutally honest. Yes, this is a sorrowful time and, yes, there is little hope. the orchestra stayed attentive and energized through this desolation, giving us a clear picture of Shostakovich’s psyche. The closing movements (loud and fast) were ferocious, but in light of this context — beneath the surface — they are less about hope or triumph, and more about irony.

The Louisville Orchestra’s first concert in 2015 featured Music Director Emeritus Jorge Mester with pianist Chu-Fang Huang, making her Louisville debut. The second performance is Friday, January 16th at 8pm in Whitney Hall. Classical 90.5’s Alan Brandt will be joined by Jorge Mester for the pre-concert talk starting at 7pm.