Arts

Arts and culture

PROGRAM

  • SHOSTAKOVICH Anti-Formalist Rayok
  • SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 11 in G Minor, Op. 103, "The Year 1905"
  • Encore: LIADOV Baba Yaga

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

Although a few radical composers had no use for opera in the mid-20th century (like Pierre Boulez, who infamously advocated blowing up the world's opera houses), the art form in Europe brushed itself off and began to thrive again after World War II.

Pity the poor percussionist in Mozart's day. He didn't have much to do in the orchestra, save for the occasional punctuating roll of the kettledrum (usually supporting a burst of brass) or the rare ping of a triangle.

Joshua Bell, the violin prodigy who grew into what some call a classical-music rock star, has taken the helm of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. Bell is the orchestra's first music director since Sir Neville Marriner, who created the group.

On his first tour with the group as both music director and conductor, Bell plays the violin while conducting the orchestra simultaneously, gesturing with his bow. And he leads from the concert master's chair, rather than the podium, which seems unusual to some audiences.

Eulogy For A Record Store

Apr 23, 2012

How do you measure the value of an experience — one that promises the thrill of new discoveries; the chance to experience, at least vicariously, foreign cultures, new ideas, unexpected emotions — and, at least for a moment, escape? What's that worth?

Probably more than words can express — whatever experience those questions might conjure for you. For me, they're prompted by the loss of an experience — of going to a record store.

Melody Records, on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, D.C., closed on March 9,2012, after 35 years in business.

It's time to say goodbye: After more than 40 years, the members of Tokyo String Quartet have decided they will disband at the end of the 2012-13 season.

  • Twenty-one American performing artists, including composer/singer/choreographer/force of nature Meredith Monk and clarinetist/composer Don Byron, have been named as part of the first class of

This week, music is bringing Americans and Russians together in a way that policy discussions never can. And don't call that a cliche in front of the music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

If U.S. relations with Russia have hit a sticky patch over Syria and other issues lately, that didn't stop the Chicago Symphony from thrilling a Russian audience this past Wednesday night, just as it did on its last visit — to the then-Soviet Union in 1990.

Together, violinist Joshua Bell and pianist Jeremy Denk make for one of the most dynamic duos in the classical music world. The two have been recording and performing together in the classical repertoire for almost a decade, and have become equally at home thumbing through the pages of the Great American Songbook.

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Louis And Lump: Tiny Tots Saved At Sea

Apr 19, 2012

I'm sorry. Just as you've breathed a sigh of relief that it's finally over ... here comes another Titanic story! But this is irresistible for several reasons. Partly because, with 100 years of separation from the tragedy, certain elements of this story today just seem charming.

(Classical Detours meanders through stylistic byways, exploring new recordings from the fringes of classical music.)

New York-based composer and Peabody Institute faculty member Kevin Puts has won the Pulitizer Prize for music with Silent Night, his first opera. The work received its world premiere in November in at Minnesota Opera in St. Paul.

Pulitzer officials described Silent Night as "a stirring opera that recounts the true story of a spontaneous cease-fire among Scottish, French and Germans during World War I, displaying versatility of style and cutting straight to the heart."

Why Tax Day Is Even Worse For Musicians

Apr 17, 2012

Tomorrow is the income tax filing deadline in the U.S., and jazz musicians in particular know it. The overwhelming majority of jazz musicians are freelance performers (and often freelance teachers, composers and other music-related service providers). But the informal aesthetics of the jazz world often extend to its business practices as well, with its handshake deals and cash payments. That makes it quite difficult to keep track of income and expenses when it comes time to report to the Internal Revenue Service.

So What's The Best Musical Instrument?

Apr 17, 2012

The new issue of The Economist's bimonthly (and rather self-besottedly titled) magazine Intelligent Life carries an essay by chief Times of London music critic Richard Morrison. He's asking a big and probably unanswerable question: Of all the musical instruments that have ever been invented, which is the best?

Today in "They Pay Us To Do This": a performance by South Africa's Soweto Gospel Choir, which managed to tie the all-time record for most musicians squashed behind Bob Boilen's desk for a single performance in the NPR Music offices.

Amnon Weinstein first encountered a violin from the Holocaust 50 years ago. He was a young violin maker in Israel, and a customer brought him an old instrument in terrible condition and wanted it restored.

The customer had played on the violin on the way to the gas chamber, but he survived because the Germans needed him for their death camp orchestra. He hadn't played on it since.

"So I opened the violin, and there inside there [were] ashes," Weinstein says.

  • Remember the video we had last month of the incredibly inspiring orchestra in Kinshasa? 60 Minutes also got hep to them and went to the Democratic Republic of Congo to do a report.

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Northern Illinois University's Jazz Ensemble invited two percussionists to perform with them at Thursday's Spring Concert.  The headliner is Victor Lewis, an internationally renowned recording artist.  He'll share the stage with Robert Chappell, NIU Presidential Teaching Professor, who's retiring after 30 years with the music department.  Ensemble director Ron Carter sat down with WNIJ's Dan Klefstad to talk about this evening of music.

 

“This American Life” creator and host Ira Glass pulls back the curtain on his popular public radio show this Saturday at the Arcada Theater in St. Charles. 

  • New York's Metropolitan Opera is gearing up to launch Wagner's complete Ring cycle, but just how "revolutionary" is the $16 million, 45-ton production? New York Times' Anthony Tommasini talks with Met GM Peter Gelb about the embattled Robert Le Page production, a conversation Parterre Box views as "damage control" on Gelb's part.

Numbers — they always look so solid, so reassuring, so — dare I say — hopeful? Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Education issued a new report titled Arts Education In Public Elementary and Secondary Schools, 1999-2000 and 2009-10.

Beethoven's String Quartet Of Transcendence

In the spring of 1825, when Beethoven was 54, he became terribly sick. He was in bed for a month and he wrote to his doctor, "I am not feeling well ... I am in great pain." The doctor put Beethoven on a strict regimen, warning, "No wine, no coffee, no spices of any kind." The doctor also advised Beethoven to get away from the city to where he could find fresh air and "natural milk."

Even in this age of marathon multitaskers, British violinist Daniel Hope stands out.

Except for two years of piano studies in New York City in the late 1940s, Venezuelan Evencio Castellanos was a homegrown musician. And based on this sampling of his symphonic output, he'd seem to be his country's leading twentieth century composer. Having the melodic flow of Heitor Villa-lobos, and the rhythmic urgency of Alberto Ginastera (two fellow South Americans), these brilliantly scored works are impressive.

(All this week, we're featuring concerts from the ongoing Savannah Music Festival.)

The Takács Quartet traveled to the Savannah Music Festival to play Bela Bartók's knotty, challenging String Quartet No. 4. But how did they warm up the crowd? With a slice of insistent, lyrical Schubert.

Everyone knows Beethoven wrote nine symphonies, right? Or did he? Undiscovered manuscripts keep popping up all the time. Uncovering a lost 10th symphony by Beethoven would surely give the classical music world something to shout about.

It could happen — at least it could according to our colleagues over at Weekend Edition Sunday. Reporter Naomi Lewin carefully unfolds the mysterious saga of a new Beethoven discovery, as a part of our April 1 news coverage.

  • On Fresh Air this week, Michael Tilson Thomas talked about his famous grandparents, Boris and Bessie Thomashefsky, the king and queen of Yiddish theater in New York. (And did you know Tilson Thomas' zayde is name checked in Mel Brooks' The Producers?

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