Arts

Arts and culture

Best classical album of 2012? Maybe we can call it as early as March.

  • In case you didn't hear, it was Bach's birthday this week — and we celebrated with a whole week of Goldberg mania.
  • The North Korean National Symphony Orchestra is planning a U.S. tour this spring, starting in Atlanta. It's being organized by an outfit called the Global Resource Services, which says it's a humanitarian group that works in North Korea.

The 'Goldbergs,' Remixed

Mar 26, 2012

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A Glenn Gould 'Goldbergs' Listening Party

Mar 22, 2012

Canadian pianist Glenn Gould was only 22 years old when he released his debut recording, and that 1955 traversal of Bach's Goldberg Variations proved to be a revelation. Decades later, Gould disparaged that version — he called it full of "things that pass for expressive fervor in your average conservatory" — and he recorded it twice more, in a 1959 Salzburg concert and a contemplative 1981 studio recording.

All week, we're exploring J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations.

Pianist Lara Downes has had Bach's Goldberg Variations on her mind for quite some time. The music soothed her to sleep as a kid, it fascinated her as a young pianist and it's a subject of conversation on her new blog.

Beyond Glenn Gould: Five Great 'Goldberg Variations'

Mar 21, 2012

All week, we're exploring Bach's "Goldberg Variations."

Why I Hate The 'Goldberg Variations'

Mar 19, 2012

(Jeremy Denk joins us all week to explore the Goldberg Variations. Read his posts on Tuesday and Thursday.)

Esperanza Spalding: Jazz As 'Radio Music'

Mar 19, 2012

  • We open this week with Chapter 894 of the Death of Civilization: An actual fistfight broke out in one of the boxes during a Chicago Symphony Orchestra performance last Thursday night. According to police, a man in his thirties started punching a 67-year-old during the second movement of the Brahms Second Symphony after the two started arguing ... over seats.

Jason Vieaux's Manicure Mishap

Mar 15, 2012

We've been recounting onstage calamities this week. Below, guitarist Jason Vieaux remembers a certain misbehaving fingernail.

Joyce DiDonato's Haydn In The Dark

Mar 13, 2012

We're talking about onstage mishaps this week. Not long after breaking her leg (and singing right through it!) mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato suffered another theatrical calamity.

When you think about blockbuster best-sellers, genres like mystery, crime and romance typically come to mind. Ethical or moral fiction? Not so much. But that's how Jodi Picoult, who has 33 million copies of her books currently in circulation, describes her novels. So how did an author who writes about divisive issues get so popular?

Some people go to auto races secretly hoping to see a crash. You wouldn't go to a concert for that reason, but with live music you really never know what might happen.

  • So beautiful, I want to go to there: photos from inside a guitar, violin, cello, flute and pipe organ. They were taken for a marketing campaign for the Berlin Philharmonic's chamber ensembles, but I would prefer to live inside them.

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

An amazing new documentary film is a must-see not just for music lovers, but for anyone who needs to see the nourishing power of the arts and human connections.

Kinshasa Symphony takes us into the everyday lives of the members of a most unlikely ensemble: the Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste, located in the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a place ravaged by war, endemic poverty and corruption.

My first grown-up show: Oliver! Mom and me way up high in the upper balcony, watching all those kids down below.

One older character, Nancy, who looked a little like my mom, died in the second act — a development that I found pretty shocking — and by the time for the curtain calls, it still hadn't occurred to me yet that the actress hadn't died.

So everybody else comes out for applause, reprising the songs they'd sung earlier, which was the custom in musicals back then, including little Oliver, who sang a verse of a song that Nancy had taught him earlier.

It wasn't always easy for Polish composer Witold Lutosławski to find his musical voice.

His Symphonic Variations, which opens this third disc in a series of Lutosławski's music, was shunned by a Warsaw Conservatory professor in the late 1930s. Not understanding the young student's score, the teacher, Witold Maliszewski, said, "For me your work is ugly."

Parabéns, Heitor Villa-Lobos!

Mar 5, 2012

  • The Detroit Symphony Orchestra booked an unexpected guest artist, and his name is: Kid Rock. They're doing a benefit concert together May 12 to raise $1 million for the struggling symphony, with tickets from $100 to $1500. Says the singer: "As a musician, and of course a Detroiter, I am proud to be supporting this longstanding cultural institution.

One of the founders of the website Kickstarter, Yancey Strickler, made a startling statement recently: His company, which allows individuals and groups to post ideas for new creative projects and then solicit donations, will distribute $150 million in 2012.

The Vienna Philharmonic At Carnegie Hall

Mar 2, 2012

Lorin Maazel leads the revered orchestra in Mozart's Symphony No. 40 and his own 'Ring Without Words' — Wagner's 'Ring' whittled down to 70 singer-free minutes.

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

As opera left its toddler years behind, it grew more restrictive and extravagant at the same time. Around 1700, a new style called opera seria began to dominate. It was, as the name implies, "serious opera," and was driven by two main forces: formulaic librettos and flamboyant singers.

Maurice André, who elevated the status of the solo trumpet, has died at age 78. Celebrated for his clarion tones, especially from his piccolo trumpet, André touched off a resurgence of interest in the trumpet and music from the Baroque era.

Several years after he wrote his massive and existentially searching Second Symphony, Gustav Mahler withdrew the three separate sets of notes he had issued about it, on the grounds that the music should be able to stand on its own, its meaning instantly clear. And the poetry Mahler assigned to the chorus and vocal soloists in this sprawling work is incisive and illuminating. As Mahler wrote in his text for the concluding movement, "Sterben werd' ich, um zu leben!" (I will die, that I might live!).

  • Stephen Colbert had Plácido Domingo on as his guest last night. (Question: "What's the longest it's taken you to die on stage?" Answer: Simon Boccanegra — get poisoned in the second act, don't die until the third.) Also, they sang "La donna è mobile" together.

On this week's show, we're coming up to the Oscars, so it seemed like a great time to sit down with the delightful Bob Mondello, film critic for All Things Considered.

We talk about The Artist — which we all agree is the likely Best Picture winner on Sunday night — and how its limitations of silence and black and white operate to perhaps make it stronger. We discuss how it might look different to those who see it on home video, and it's safe to say we all think you're better off seeing it in a theater.

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

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