Arts and culture

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.

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

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?

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

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

Or call them the 'Incognito Goldbergs.'

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.

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?