Live broadcasts from the WFMT studios with some of today’s best artists.
Our live afternoon series of “impromptu” music and conversation features some of today’s most sought-after musicians from around the world. Previous guests on Impromptu have included cellist Yo-Yo Ma, mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, and author Salman Rushdie. Other guests have included Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, tenor Joseph Calleja, violinist Joshua Bell, and the vocal ensemble Chanticleer. Broadcast live from the Levin Performance Studio at WFMT, the program also features local performers who are vital to Chicago’s vibrant musical culture.
Eden-Stell Guitar Duo
The Eden Stell Guitar Duo is known for its chameleon-like ability to communicate in a multitude of styles. In this Impromptu from 2017, collaborators Mark Eden and Christopher Stell confirmed their reputation as one of the world’s leading guitar ensembles.
Catalyst Quartet, a Sphinx ensemble
In September 2013, the Catalyst Quartet, a Sphinx ensemble, performed live on Impromptu. The group played a piece by ensemble member, violinist Jessie Mongomery. In April 2021, she was appointed Mead composer-in-residence of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
The Cavatina Duo brings together Spanish flutist Eugenia Moliner and Bosnian guitarist Denis Azabagic. In this 2019 Impromptu, you’ll hear the “style, sympathy, and technical aplomb” that captivated Fanfare Magazine as well as fans around the globe.
WFMT presented the Solera Quartet on Impromptu in May 2019. These rising stars have been acclaimed by critics as “top-notch, intense, stylish, and with an abundance of flare and talent” and “one of the foremost young string quartets.”
Since its formation in 1997, the Grammy-nominated Imani Winds has established itself as one of America’s premier wind quintets. When Kerry Frumkin welcomed the group in 2013, they played works by ensemble member Valerie Coleman, as well as Igor Stravinsky, and Manuel de Falla.
California Guitar Trio
Paul Richards, Bert Lams, and Hideyo Moriya have been known collectively as the California Guitar Trio since 1991. The three friends and collaborators performed on Impromptu in 2019.
Mūza Rubackytė, piano
Mūza Rubackytė began her stunning career when she made her debut at the age of 7. Kerry Frumkin has long been a champion of this great Lithuanian pianist, and you can hear why in this 2011 Impromptu broadcast.
Michael Barenboim + The West-Eastern Divan Ensemble
Since 1999, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra has brought together Arab and Israeli musicians as a means to defy fierce political divides in the Middle East and globally. Concertmaster Michael Barenboim leads the newly-formed West-Eastern Divan Ensemble, and on February 20, 2020 that fantastic group of chamber players performed the Mendelssohn Octet, live on Impromptu.
Enjoy an encore performance by the award-winning Aizuri Quartet, whose debut album Blueprinting was nominated for a 2019 Grammy Award. This Impromptu was originally heard on WFMT on January 17, 2020.
Pablo Villegas, guitar
The soul of the Spanish guitar runs in the blood of Pablo Sáinz Villegas. This charismatic, intimate performance took place in WFMT’s Levin Studio in 2016. For his latest album, this exceptional artist has chosen ten Spanish works that are especially close to his heart. Released in 2020, Soul of Spanish Guitar is his debut solo album on Sony Classical.
Pianist Victor Santiago Asuncion, violinist Giora Schmidt, and cellist Leonardo Altino
In 2018, the engaging Filipino-American pianist Victor Santiago Asuncion returned to WFMT’s Levin Studio. For this Impromptu performance, he brought some wonderfully talented friends, violinist Giora Schmidt and cellist Leonardo Altino.
Anthony McGill & Friends
Back in 2004, clarinetist Anthony McGill and some very virtuosic friends dropped into WFMT’s Levin Studio to play Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet.
Fretwork Viol Consort
Viol consort, Fretwork, plays music of an instrument whose invention came out of the Jewish Diaspora’s exile from Spain in 1492. George Preston presented the esteemed ensemble on Impromptu in 2010.
Marc-André Hamelin, piano
It’s always such a pleasure to welcome pianist Marc André Hamelin to WFMT and to hear that brilliant musical mind at work. This Impromptu Encore was first broadcast in May 2016.
Cellist Mikhail Veselov, pianist Eri Nakamura, and violinist Anna Williams are the members of the Neave Trio. These musicians strive to engage, exchange, and connect “every time we play, and in everything we do.” And they say, “We just happen to use music to do this.”
The men of Cantus made their Impromptu debut in 2014 with selections from their recent recording, A Harvest Home. They performed original arrangements of favorite hymns, American folk tunes, and some new compositions as well.
KAIA String Quartet & Fareed Haque, guitar
The members of the KAIA String Quartet devote their artistry to promoting the rich and colorful music of Latin America. In 2018 they joined forces with guitar virtuoso Fareed Haque to perform pieces by Latin American masters.
Miriam Fried, violin & Musicians from Ravinia’s Steans Institute
Violinist Miriam Fried leads Ravinia’s summer conservatory, the Steans Music Institute. In this Impromptu from 2012, she collaborates with a group of very talented young musicians.
Celebrating Piazzolla’s Centennial with Marta Aznavoorian, piano & Philippe Quint, violin
Pianist Marta Aznavoorian has performed on WFMT many, many times, with a great variety of colleagues. In 2016, Marta and violinist Philippe Quint stopped by to celebrate the birth anniversary of Ástor Piazzolla, The Argentine composer and bandoneon player was born on March 11, 1921.
tenThing [Encore Broadcast]
In 2017, the ten women of tenThing, the lively brass ensemble led by Norwegian trumpet virtuoso Tine Thing Helseth, spent an afternoon at WFMT. During a lay-over between concerts in California and Virginia, the group performed on Impromptu, then sampled deep-dish pizza before returning to the airport.