Arts

Arts and culture

The Bulgarian-born pianist Alexis Weissenberg, whose musical talent as a youngster probably saved his life and that of his mother, died Sunday at age 82.

  • Paypal has confirmed a story that seemed at first to be too wild to be true: They told a customer to destroy a violin after a contentious eBay transaction. The instrument's provenance was disputed (though incorrect labels aren't exactly uncommon in the violin world).

For string quartet lovers, a new release by the Takács Quartet is always reason to celebrate. In recent years, their vividly intense recordings of Schubert, Schumann and Brahms, not to mention Bartok and Beethoven, have continued to garner the huge acclaim that has become the nearly default critical response over some three decades.

David Lehman is a poet and an editor for The Best American Poetry series.

Three of my favorite poems of 2011 share a sense of mystery and the uncanny — a spooky but also exhilarating glimpse of a spiritual world beyond our own. All favor plain speech, an unadorned directness, eschewing the glamour of rhyme or traditional form.

  • How exactly does a conductor conduct? New York magazine critic Justin Davidson steps on the podium to find out after an intensive fall of coaching by Alan Gilbert and James Ross who co-lead Juilliard's conducting program. "Lifting the baton feels a little like getting ready to push off from the top of a ski slope, in that I'll move in the right direction whatever I do, and also because fear will cause disaster. Neither fact is comforting."

Maria Volonte: Tiny Desk Concert

Dec 27, 2011

As the story goes, it was early in the 20th century in Buenos Aires when my great-grandmother, a French immigrant, was at a Jewish social club's youth event. Between waltzes, a young lady approached the orchestra and asked its members to play a tango. They obliged, but at the end of the dance, the social-club authorities asked her and her dance partner to leave the premises. Born among the lower classes and filled with references to violence and sexual innuendo, the tango was the original gangsta rap — truly the forbidden dance.

The folk music of Azerbaijan pervades the very rarely heard symphonic works on this album. A winning synthesis of East and West, these pieces — mostly for piano — feature five of the country's most celebrated composers, including Farhad Badalbeyli, who's also the principal piano soloist.

This Christmas season, musicians around the country are continuing a centuries-old holiday tradition: performing George Frideric Handel's Baroque masterpiece, Messiah.

In Washington, D.C., the National Symphony Orchestra has finished its 58th annual performance of the work. This year, guest conductor Matthew Halls led the orchestra, which was accompanied by four soloists and the University of Maryland Concert Choir.

Though the performance marked Halls' debut with the NSO, he is not a newcomer to Messiah.

Tinsel Tales 2: NPR Christmas Stories

Dec 24, 2011

Christmas is a time of traditions, and over the years, NPR has created a few traditions of its own. In this hourlong special, wistfulness, joy, doubt, hope — all the emotions we feel at this time of year — are summoned up in memorable stories from the NPR broadcast archives.

NPR voices, past and present, tell stories of the season. Perhaps you remember these tales fondly. Or maybe you'll fall in love with them for the first time.


Santa Claus, Private Eye
by the Duck's Breath Mystery Theatre of San Francisco

Five Tastes Of Classical Holiday Cheer

Dec 19, 2011

He's made his list and checked it twice: Critic Alan Cheuse recommends the best books to give as gifts in 2011. This year, it's mostly fiction — books that will light up dark winter nights with warm stories, large characters and beautiful language.

As snowstorms hit the country today, All Things Considered revisits a vivid story that choreographer and dancer Bill T. Jones shared about one winter song. It originally aired Dec. 13, 2011.

Shiver-Inducing 'Winter Words'

Dec 13, 2011

Winter Words, the debut solo album by American tenor Nicholas Phan, is a total pleasure on all fronts. The nearly 33-year-old Phan's career has been heating up on the opera stage — he'll be spending much of this coming spring touring Handel's Ariodante across Europe with Joyce DiDonato, Il Complesso Barocco and conductor Alan Curtis. This program, with sensitive and lyrical accompaniment provided by Myra Huang, proves Phan to be a powerful force in recital as well.

Elliott Carter, Still Composing At 103

Dec 13, 2011

Elliott Carter turns 103 today. Amazingly, he's still composing, still doing fine. At the end of the birthday concert given in his honor last Thursday, the composer trundled up to the stage of Manhattan's 92nd Street Y to receive a resounding rendition of "Happy Birthday," which, in Carter-like fashion, devolved into clusters of wild sounds.

This story has been set to unpublished due to the NPR API updating this story earlier and now the NPR API is unavailable. If the NPR API has deleted or changed the access level of this story it will be deleted when the API becomes available. If the API has updated this story, the updated version will be made available when the NRP API becomes reachable again. There is no action required on your part. For more information contact Digital Services Client Support

High expectations lie with Iván Fischer as he prepares to step in as music director of Berlin's Konzerthaus and principal conductor of the house orchestra next season.

In a guest appearance with the Berlin Philharmonic last weekend, the Budapest native explored his passion for the Austro-Hungarian tradition, which he cited as a main incentive for taking on the former East Berlin ensemble earlier this year.

"Our native language is the music of the Hapsburg Empire," he told the local press.

The Rockford Dance Company and the Rockford Symphony Orchestra team up for their annual performances of The Nutcracker.  WNIJ’s Guy Stephens has more.

Berlin's 'C3' Brings Classical Underground

Nov 30, 2011

Berlin would seem the obvious candidate to occupy the cutting edge of developments exploring the common ground between electronica and contemporary classical music.

The city boasts a techno music culture still colored with the anarchy of the city's post-wall years; a new music scene envied for its experimentalism and generous state funding and elegant converted industrial spaces that lend themselves perfectly to everything from DJ events to sound installations.

(Talk Like An Opera Geek attempts to decode the intriguing and intimidating lexicon of the opera house.)

Francophile romantics, and fans of violin sonatas, will discover a pleasant surprise in this new album of music by Luis de Freitas Branco, a Portuguese composer, teacher, musicologist and critic.

At age sixteen, Branco studied in Lisbon with Belgian organist-composer Désiré Pâque, who introduced him to Cesar Franck's music. And it must have made a great impression on the young composer if his four-movement first violin sonata of 1907 is any indication.

Gabriel Kahane seems to enjoy blurring the lines between indie rock and indie classical. He arrived at the NPR Music offices with a string quartet and an electric guitarist in tow, and though they hadn't played together for long, you'd never know it.

December is just around the corner — a time when we look back at musical events, catalog our favorite records of the year and, inevitably, remember musicians who died.

One of 2011's biggest losses was composer Daniel Catán. Tomorrow (Friday the 25th), many PBS stations will broadcast his final opera, Il Postino, in the world premiere LA Opera production starring Placido Domingo.

Emily Dickinson is all over Tucson, Ariz. Reading, lectures, classroom lessons — it's all part of the Big Read Project, a National Endowment for the Arts project devoted to "inspiring people across the country to pick up a good book." In Tucson, people aren't just picking up Dickinson's poetry books — they're celebrating her in reading, dance and even desserts.

For this sixth volume of their complete Shostakovich symphony cycle, conductor Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra have a task and a half at hand: transforming two works – among Shostakovich's weakest conceptually and architecturally – into forceful, persuasive and galvanizing performances.

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

It's tough to untangle the sonic appeal of Follies — the landmark 1971 musical that stirs Stephen Sondheim fans to a frenzy each time it gets revived — from the show's visual splendors.

In his 2007 children's book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, author Brian Selznick tells the story of an orphan named Hugo who lives in the walls of a Paris train station and spends his time winding the clocks.

Hilary Hahn Revives The Classical Encore

Nov 14, 2011

When Grammy-winning classical violinist Hilary Hahn plays in front of an audience, you can expect classics from Beethoven and Bach, performed with a flair and energy that's uniquely her own. Now, Hillary Hahn has a new project in the works: She wants to bring back the encore.

When Is A Duet Actually A Duet?

Nov 11, 2011

Soprano Angela Gheorghiu has drafted an unlikely collaborator. For her latest album, Homage To Maria Callas: Favourite Opera Arias, the Romanian singer recorded a "duet" with Callas on the Habanera from Bizet's Carmen, using concert footage of La Divina from 1961, in a feat an EMI engineer has likened to "audio Photoshop."

Pages