Arts

Arts and culture

Over nearly four decades and 40 documentaries, 82-year-old director Frederick Wiseman has taken reluctant ownership of terms like "direct cinema," "cinema verite" and "fly on the wall" — each suggesting a transparent sort of artistry, in which real life unfolds before the camera with minimal guidance from the man behind it.

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

One of the most influential and widely hailed figures in the modern early music movement, conductor, harpsichordist and organist Gustav Leonhardt, has died at 83. Just a month ago, after a concert at Paris' Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, Leonhardt abruptly announced that he had just given his last public performance. According to Dutch press reports, he died yesterday in Amsterdam, though the cause of death was not released.

Are you an extremely talented orchestral player? Looking for something to do summer after next? Are you a teenager? If the answer to all three is yes, here's a chance to meet other kids who love Bach and Brahms as much as you do and to learn from some of America's finest musicians. Many of your expenses will be paid, you'll have the honor of being associated with one of the world's foremost presenters, and — oh yeah, one last thing — you'll get to tour the world with Valery Gergiev.

  • As of Monday, New York City Opera had locked out orchestra and chorus members though the company's first production of the 2011-12 season, a weeklong run of La Traviata at the Brooklyn Academy of Music scheduled to begin Feb. 12. Risa Heller, a spokeswoman for the opera, says City Opera is taking things 'one day at a time.' But with a first performance scheduled for Feb. 12 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, time is running out.

Vijay Iyer Trio: Live In Concert

Jan 13, 2012

Pianist and composer Vijay Iyer leads a trio that traffics in grooves, crackling and heavy. He has a distinctive way of exploiting dissonance and rhythmic space at the piano; he's joined by a deeply resonant, gut-punching bassist (Stephan Crump) and a drummer with an advanced understanding of time (Marcus Gilmore). The results are beats that feel borrowed from a future age; alternately, they're new lenses on jazz's big-picture history.

Gil Shaham: A Violinist's Day At The Museum

Jan 13, 2012

As Gil Shaham wandered through the back offices of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., he said he felt "like Ben Stiller in Night at the Museum." For this impromptu Bach mini-recital, the violin superstar momentarily became part of the art, bathed in the modish lighting and projections of a multimedia installation during the performance.

Before I touched down in Germany for another Christmas and New Year's with my wife's family, I had never heard of Bernard Victor Christoph Carl von Bülow.

There was nothing ordinary about Czech composer Leos Janáček. He set one opera in a barnyard and another on the moon. He fell for a married woman more than 30 years his junior, proceeding to write more than 700 love letters. And in his mid-60s, he churned out piece after amazing piece in one of classical music's most impressive late surges.

The Bulgarian-born pianist Alexis Weissenberg, whose musical talent as a youngster probably saved his life and that of his mother, died Sunday at age 82.

  • Paypal has confirmed a story that seemed at first to be too wild to be true: They told a customer to destroy a violin after a contentious eBay transaction. The instrument's provenance was disputed (though incorrect labels aren't exactly uncommon in the violin world).

For string quartet lovers, a new release by the Takács Quartet is always reason to celebrate. In recent years, their vividly intense recordings of Schubert, Schumann and Brahms, not to mention Bartok and Beethoven, have continued to garner the huge acclaim that has become the nearly default critical response over some three decades.

David Lehman is a poet and an editor for The Best American Poetry series.

Three of my favorite poems of 2011 share a sense of mystery and the uncanny — a spooky but also exhilarating glimpse of a spiritual world beyond our own. All favor plain speech, an unadorned directness, eschewing the glamour of rhyme or traditional form.

  • How exactly does a conductor conduct? New York magazine critic Justin Davidson steps on the podium to find out after an intensive fall of coaching by Alan Gilbert and James Ross who co-lead Juilliard's conducting program. "Lifting the baton feels a little like getting ready to push off from the top of a ski slope, in that I'll move in the right direction whatever I do, and also because fear will cause disaster. Neither fact is comforting."

Maria Volonte: Tiny Desk Concert

Dec 27, 2011

As the story goes, it was early in the 20th century in Buenos Aires when my great-grandmother, a French immigrant, was at a Jewish social club's youth event. Between waltzes, a young lady approached the orchestra and asked its members to play a tango. They obliged, but at the end of the dance, the social-club authorities asked her and her dance partner to leave the premises. Born among the lower classes and filled with references to violence and sexual innuendo, the tango was the original gangsta rap — truly the forbidden dance.

The folk music of Azerbaijan pervades the very rarely heard symphonic works on this album. A winning synthesis of East and West, these pieces — mostly for piano — feature five of the country's most celebrated composers, including Farhad Badalbeyli, who's also the principal piano soloist.

This Christmas season, musicians around the country are continuing a centuries-old holiday tradition: performing George Frideric Handel's Baroque masterpiece, Messiah.

In Washington, D.C., the National Symphony Orchestra has finished its 58th annual performance of the work. This year, guest conductor Matthew Halls led the orchestra, which was accompanied by four soloists and the University of Maryland Concert Choir.

Though the performance marked Halls' debut with the NSO, he is not a newcomer to Messiah.

Tinsel Tales 2: NPR Christmas Stories

Dec 24, 2011

Christmas is a time of traditions, and over the years, NPR has created a few traditions of its own. In this hourlong special, wistfulness, joy, doubt, hope — all the emotions we feel at this time of year — are summoned up in memorable stories from the NPR broadcast archives.

NPR voices, past and present, tell stories of the season. Perhaps you remember these tales fondly. Or maybe you'll fall in love with them for the first time.


Santa Claus, Private Eye
by the Duck's Breath Mystery Theatre of San Francisco

Five Tastes Of Classical Holiday Cheer

Dec 19, 2011

He's made his list and checked it twice: Critic Alan Cheuse recommends the best books to give as gifts in 2011. This year, it's mostly fiction — books that will light up dark winter nights with warm stories, large characters and beautiful language.

Choreographer Bill T. Jones at an appearance earlier this year.
Frederick M.

Shiver-Inducing 'Winter Words'

Dec 13, 2011

Winter Words, the debut solo album by American tenor Nicholas Phan, is a total pleasure on all fronts. The nearly 33-year-old Phan's career has been heating up on the opera stage — he'll be spending much of this coming spring touring Handel's Ariodante across Europe with Joyce DiDonato, Il Complesso Barocco and conductor Alan Curtis. This program, with sensitive and lyrical accompaniment provided by Myra Huang, proves Phan to be a powerful force in recital as well.

Elliott Carter, Still Composing At 103

Dec 13, 2011

Elliott Carter turns 103 today. Amazingly, he's still composing, still doing fine. At the end of the birthday concert given in his honor last Thursday, the composer trundled up to the stage of Manhattan's 92nd Street Y to receive a resounding rendition of "Happy Birthday," which, in Carter-like fashion, devolved into clusters of wild sounds.

The silly season of endless lists is upon us. You might notice that here at Deceptive Cadence, we don't even try to enumerate which albums were "best" — we use the word "favorite" quite intentionally, as you'll see from the pan-genre list painstakingly compiled with our NPR Music colleagues.

High expectations lie with Iván Fischer as he prepares to step in as music director of Berlin's Konzerthaus and principal conductor of the house orchestra next season.

In a guest appearance with the Berlin Philharmonic last weekend, the Budapest native explored his passion for the Austro-Hungarian tradition, which he cited as a main incentive for taking on the former East Berlin ensemble earlier this year.

"Our native language is the music of the Hapsburg Empire," he told the local press.

The Rockford Dance Company and the Rockford Symphony Orchestra team up for their annual performances of The Nutcracker.  WNIJ’s Guy Stephens has more.

Berlin's 'C3' Brings Classical Underground

Nov 30, 2011

Berlin would seem the obvious candidate to occupy the cutting edge of developments exploring the common ground between electronica and contemporary classical music.

The city boasts a techno music culture still colored with the anarchy of the city's post-wall years; a new music scene envied for its experimentalism and generous state funding and elegant converted industrial spaces that lend themselves perfectly to everything from DJ events to sound installations.

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

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