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150 Years Of 'Taps'

May 18, 2012

This Saturday, 200 buglers will assemble at Arlington National Cemetery to begin playing "Taps," a call written 150 years ago this year.

Retired Air Force Master Sgt. Jari Villanueva, a bugle player, says he started out as a Boy Scout bugler at about age 12. He went on to study trumpet at the Peabody Conservatory before being accepted into the United States Air Force Band — where one of his duties over the next 23 years was to sound that call at Arlington National Cemetery.

Can You Beat Out The 'Rite' Rhythm?

May 17, 2012

This is a big week for classical music at the Supreme Court. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg provided Alex Ross at The New Yorker with a list of her favorite records.

One hundred years ago, a musical marvel was born. She grew up in a tiny hamlet in the North of England, but made a huge impression on the world of classical music.

"Unique" is an overused word, yet it truly fits the sound of Kathleen Ferrier's voice. If you've never heard it, prepare to be amazed — stop reading now and click on the link below.

Garth Knox was born to play the viola. As a youngster, he already had two sisters who played violin and a brother who played cello. "So for the family string quartet," Knox says, "it was very clear from the start which instrument I would play."

Music can be a beautiful conversation — rarely is that more evident than in this Tiny Desk Concert performance with the father-son duo of Pedro Soler and Gaspar Claus. Soler plays a delicate, intimate version of flamenco guitar, while his son turns the cello into an exquisitely expressive voice. Though 45 years separate them, pay attention to how they communicate. Music as a living language, and an invisible emotional exchange, is clearly apparent in these improvisational compositions.

[Roman Totenberg was a child prodigy who became a violin virtuoso, as well as a master teacher who passed along his command of craft and his love of music — and life — to thousands. He was also the man you wanted to sit next to at the table because he was so funny. Totenberg died this week at the age of 101, surrounded by loving family, friends and students. We asked his daughter, Nina Totenberg, for this remembrance. — Scott Simon]

Around The Classical Internet: May 11, 2012

May 11, 2012

News from around the world this week:

After 11 days and more than 500 submissions, we proudly unveil a winner (and several honorable mentions) in our very first classical cartoon caption contest. Congratulations to Gregory Curnow from central Massachusetts, who remembered that hippos not only excel at the violin, but also have a habit of snorting.

"I just tried to put myself in the shoes of a judge in one of those blind symphony orchestra auditions," Curnow said when asked how he came up with his winning caption. We'll send him a new NPR Music tote bag and coffee mug for his efforts.

On May 17th, the famous auction house Christie's will sell more than 150 items for pianist Van Cliburn. Now 77 years old, the Cold War-era classical music megastar and competition founder has long been a collector of fine English furniture, Russian art, silver and jewelry — and Christie's expects this New York sale to bring in more than $3 million.

My father, world-renowned virtuoso violinist and teacher Roman Totenberg, whose professional career spanned nine decades and four continents, died early Tuesday morning at the age of 101.

His death was as remarkable as his life. He made his debut as a soloist with the Warsaw Philharmonic at age 11, performed his last concert when he was in his mid-90s, and was still teaching, literally, on his deathbed. This week, as word flew around the musical world that he was in renal failure, former students flocked to his home in Newton, Mass., to see the beloved "maestro."

Van Dyke Parks On Mountain Stage

May 8, 2012

Born into a well-to-do Danish family in 1840, Christian Frederik Emil Horneman showed musical talent at an early age, then went on to study in Leipzig and later spent most of his life as a teacher. But he would also compose a limited amount of music, which one wishes had been greater in quantity judging from the fine orchestral works on this new release.

When it comes to reliable lightning rods in classical music, it's hard to top Richard Wagner. The latest controversies center on the Metropolitan Opera's current staging of the composer's gargantuan Ring cycle, the set of four epic and mythical operas first mounted at Bayreuth in 1876, and now seen live at the Met together in a series.

Although it always seems fashionable to forecast the downfall of classical music, enterprising musicians both young and not so young continue to make deeply satisfying recordings. For this visit to weekends on All Things Considered, I was delighted to uncover the little known (at least in this country) Jorge Luis Prats, a terrifically talented Cuban pianist whose once uncertain career appears to be resurging — at 55, he has signed a handsome record deal. Then there's The Knights, a young chamber orchestra with a postmodern take on Schubert.

When Edward Elgar unveiled his first symphony in 1908, it was hailed as the greatest British symphony ever written. The London papers were ecstatic.

Around The Classical Internet: May 4, 2012

May 4, 2012

  • I'm not sure how the Daily Mail arrived at the unfortunate headline "An Unlikely Fan: Why Opera's Biggest Star, Domingo Placido Is Crazy For Lady Gaga." The obvious hed goof aside, it's not like Domingo gives La Gaga effusive praise: "I think Lady Gaga has a very good voice. Absolutely. She has a wonderful voice.

Danielle De Niese In Concert

May 3, 2012

At first blush, you might not think operas and nightclubs would be a natural pairing. But an evening at New York's (Le) Poisson Rouge with Danielle de Niese — the 33-year-old star soprano who calls herself a "diva for the digital age" — proved a blend of uptown music and downtown grit could be just right.

The Lebanese classical musician and composer Marcel Khalife is often compared to Bob Dylan — not for his music, but for his politics. The Middle Eastern musical and political icon sings about freedom and nationalism.

Khalife is famous for translating poetry into music. For years, he collaborated with the nationalist Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish.

"It began when I graduated from the music conservatory in Beirut. The civil war started in Lebanon — I wanted to change the world with music," says Khalife.

There's a new superstar pianist on the horizon: Behzod Abduraimov. Haven't heard of him yet? That's not surprising — at just 21, this native of Tashkent, Uzbekistan has kept a very low profile so far. He's spent the past five years in the U.S., but not at a big-name school like the Curtis Institute (like Lang Lang or Yuja Wang, for example) or at Juilliard, where he was accepted as a student. Instead, he went to study with Stanislav Ioudenitch Park University in Salt Lake City Parkville, Missouri, where he's still enrolled.

Philip Glass, 'Icon' Of The Avant-Garde

May 1, 2012

As a general rule, if it's in The Fader, it's new. There's a good chance that you've never heard of many of the musicians who fill the magazine, which is based in New York and flaunts that city's bustling diversity and also its celebration of the cutting edge. But part of that celebration, every year, is the magazine's Icon issue, which takes a step back from the relentless forward motion to anoint an influential, already-celebrated figure.

Poetry month is almost at an end,

So here's a little challenge for you, friend.

Listen close to the music clips below,

The words will tell you what you need to know.

Match music with the image of each bard,

Good luck — you'll need it 'cause the quiz is hard.

A hint that may help you along the way,

Both words and music hail from U.S.A.

An extra point if you think you know 'em ...

Identify the name of each poem.

  • After falling off the podium last night in the middle of a performance with the Orchestre National de France, 84-year-old Kurt Masur has been hospitalized in Paris. A spokesperson for the orchestra says that he is expected to be released "very soon," adding that "he fell upside down onto his back because his left foot was too near the edge of the podium. It's not linked to health problems.

Carnegie Hall Live: Pavel Haas Quartet

Apr 27, 2012

PROGRAM

  • Tchaikovsky: String Quartet No. 1 in D Major, Op. 1
  • Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 7 in F-sharp minor, Op. 108
  • Smetana: String Quartet No. 1 in E minor, "From My Life"

If you haven't yet heard the Pavel Haas Quartet, buckle your seat belt. This smart, incisive group from Prague with an ultra-warm sound and a sure sense of rhythmic play has been collecting accolades by the fistful ever since they burst onto the international scene six years ago.

Caption This Cartoon, Win A Prize

Apr 27, 2012

Write Your Own Caption To This Cartoon

Each week, our intrepid artist, Pablo Helguera, comes up with a classical cartoon and an appropriate, if sometimes irreverent, caption.

Now it's your turn. We'd like you to compose a clever caption for this week's cartoon. The best entry will win (insert drum roll here!) a brand new NPR Music tote bag and coffee mug.

Yawen Wu

Sunday, April 29th, at the Coronado Performing Arts Center, the Rockford Symphony Youth Orchestra takes on perhaps the biggest challenge in its 47–year history.

A meditation on quietude amidst unceasing movement, a thick-walled cell of solitary contentment in the churn of daily life: That's the premise of this new video featuring the gifted pianist Michael Mizrahi.

Nashville Symphony Goes Electric, Eclectic

Apr 26, 2012

PROGRAM

  • Ives: Universe Symphony (real. Austin)
  • Riley: The Palmian Chord Ryddle
  • Grainger: The Warriors

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