On Wednesday night, Letterman will host his last episode of "The Late Show," after an impressive and often bonkers 33 years in late night television. From NBC to CBS, the show hosted thousands of musical acts, and every so often a classical performer, from Joshua Bell and Itzhak Perlman to Luciano Pavarotti and Yo-Yo Ma.
With that in mind, here are five standout classical music moments. Please share your own favorites (and links) in the comments below.
One of Letterman's first big musical guests after taking over the "Late Show" in 1993 was Luciano Pavarotti, who sang Leoncavallo's "La Mattinata."
Yo-Yo Ma played a wild and wooly version of Bach's Cello Suite No. 3 in 1994. It was followed by the First Prelude from Gershwin's Three Preludes for Cello and Piano. At the end of the performance, Letterman introduces himself and Ma remarks, "it's a cello," to which the host agrees.
In 2012, Anne-Sophie Mutter and André Previn appeared on the show, complete with an unwieldy CD box set that Letterman gleefully mocks, comparing it to a hamster cage. Like Ma, Mutter and Previn turn to Gershwin for the occasion, performing "It Ain't Necessarily So." The acoustic doesn't do her any favors here, but it's fun to see her interact with her longtime collaborator (and ex-husband) in this standard.
In 2011, the trumpet player Allison Balsom made her American television debut on Letterman. She played the difficult piccolo trumpet in a transcription of Marcello's Oboe Concerto in C Minor (third movement). Joining her are musicians from the Orchestra of St. Luke's.
The Metropolitan Opera appeared on Letterman on the eve of the company's 2007 season opener. Peter Mattei, Diana Damrau, Juan Diego Florez and Samuel Ramey, as well as the chorus sang the Act I finale from Bartlett Sher's production of The Barber of Seville, which was set to premiere later that week. “You’re not going to see these folk at half time at the Meadowlands,” Letterman said.
Bonus: In 2004, 53 members of the New York Philharmonic appeared on the roof of the Ed Sullivan Theater. Lorin Maazel conducted Mozart's Overture to The Marriage of Figaro.