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Stefan Jackiw, Nicholas Phan & Conrad Tao

WQXR Presents “20 For 20”: Artists To Watch for the Upcoming Year

Classical music, as an art form, is far from dead. Here are 20 notable musicians and ensembles proving it.

Our inaugural program, which we dubbed “19 for 19,” launched with a spectacular sold-out event at The Greene Space that was broadcast live on WQXR-FM and streamed worldwide, featuring five members of the program — Anne Akiko Meyers, Jess Gillam, Inon Barnatan, Wei Luo, and The Knights. In December 2019 the program concluded with a weeklong celebration on WQXR-FM, with a dedicated 60-minute broadcast every night, only breaking format in the middle of the week to go live to Carnegie Hall — for a broadcast featuring “19 for 19” member Sheku Kanneh-Mason.

Today, we are proud to introduce you to our “20 for 20.” From Afghanistan to Iceland, via South Korea, Bulgaria, and our very own New York City, these are 20 singers, instrumentalists, ensembles, and conductors who are redefining what classical music can be, and doing so in diverse and thrilling ways. It goes without saying that our Artists to Watch program does not seek to be a definitive list of who’s hot in the classical world in any given calendar year. With all the talent that’s out there, how could we? But it is about embarking on a musical adventure with these 20 sensationally gifted artists as we take our next trip around the sun and saying: WQXR is a place to come and play, both literally and metaphorically. We can’t wait to see — and hear — what our “20 for 20” get up to this year, and we’re looking forward to sharing it, every step of the way, with you.

Nicholas Phan

Tenor Nick Phan started the 2010s hot by co-founding the Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago, followed by an NPR “favorite artists” designation in 2011.

Since then, he’s produced not one but two Grammy-nominated albums: Gods and Monsters, an extravaganza of Romantic song, and an unforgettable reading of Stravinsky’s Pulcinella; as well as a quartet of other critically critically-acclaimed albums plus world premiere recordings of song cycles by Evan Chambers and Elliott Carter.

Phan enters the 2020s on a similarly high note, with an upcoming season in which he premieres a Gabriel Kahane song cycle in San Francisco and releases a new solo album featuring the music of Lili and Nadia Boulanger, including the former’s rarely-performed 1914 song cycle Clairières dans le ciel.

Conrad Tao

Pianist and composer Conrad Tao is a fixture of New York City’s musical life, but as he advances in his career it becomes increasingly obvious that he cannot be bound to any one place. For him, 2020 is a year of debuts and fresh projects, including his first engagement at Walt Disney Hall for a program of Copland and Frederic Rzewski. And then there’s Everything Must Go, his short, gossamer work that, in addition to making for a great introduction to Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony, heads across the Atlantic for its European premiere as Tao sets up shop with the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra. And his More Forever, a collaboration co-created with choreographer Caleb Teicher & Company, is performed in Boston, then heads to the west coast this winter.

Stefan Jackiw

Stefan Jackiw and his Ruggeri violin are set to climb to new musical heights, partnering with a number of other artists in the process. He plays Ives Sonatas with Jeremy Denk at Duke Performances in January, and keeps that Ivesian spirit alive with a release of those works later in the year on Nonesuch. Jackiw then joins Mahan Esfahani (a WQXR ‘19 for 19’ artist) on his quest to keep the harpsichord hot, performing works that take advantage of the keyboard instrument and violin. Jackiw’s major debuts this season include Konzerthausorchester Berlin, where he’ll be joined by conductor Juraj Valčuha for Korngold’s Violin Concerto.

Check out all of the artists on WQXR’s “20 for 20.”