Arts

Arts and culture

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

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.

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