Tom Huizenga

The intrepid pianist Marc-André Hamelin has a reputation for embracing the toughest, strangest music. His new recording of For Bunita Marcus by Morton Feldman is a fine example. For nearly 75 minutes the music never rises above a whisper and the damper pedal is always pressed down, allowing single notes to ring out into vast, silent spaces.

The Venezuelan government has cancelled the upcoming U.S. tour by the National Youth Orchestra of Venezuela and its star conductor Gustavo Dudamel, who is also the music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela.

El Nacional, a major Venezuelan paper, reported yesterday that the cancellation was ordered by the presidency.

Don't bother trying to pigeonhole the music of Aaron Martin and Dag Rosenqvist, who record under the name From the Mouth of the Sun. If their mission in this instrumental miniature is nothing more than beauty itself, they have succeeded on a disproportionate scale.

The music in "Light Blooms In Hollow Space" summons exactly what its title suggests. A simple, two-note piano figure ticks like a clock while wheezy organ chords slowly emerge and a sprinkle of ukuleles falls from above. The space may be hollow, but it's painted with impressionistic detail.

So what do you do if you're a recently crowned head of state and you're already facing opposition — even from within your own family? One answer is optics. Make a big, public splash; throw a lavish party with A-list musical entertainment. That's just what happened in London — 300 years ago Monday.

Most people love to sing, but in Estonia, they take their singing very seriously. At the Estonian Song Festivals, for example, over 30 thousand singers routinely show up to form one gigantic chorus. Among the Baltic country's smaller, professional vocal ensembles, the Grammy-winning Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir is considered one of the world's best. When the group releases a new album, fans of choral music listen up.

Earlier this month, the New York Philharmonic's outgoing music director Alan Gilbert said goodbye to his orchestra in a series of concerts. Today, he is saying hello to a brand new job in Hamburg, Germany.

Now here's a creative way to promote your upcoming symphony season and up your brand: Strap your conductor in a motion capture suit, switch on a dozen high-tech cameras, and get an artist to translate the data into kaleidoscopic shapes and colors.

Fame Is A Boomerang

Jun 7, 2017

As far as flashy, oversize coffee table books go, opera star Maria Callas is a fitting subject. A larger-than-life figure, she had a complicated off-stage story that played out with as much searing drama as the operas she sang. With hard work and sacrifice, Callas vaulted to the top of her art while pushing it to new levels of intensity. In her personal life, she searched for love, found it, then lost it and died young.

If the word "aura" is defined as a pervasive atmosphere, then it's a perfect title for this piece by Anna Thorvaldsdottir, who has a knack for creating vivid sonic environments.

When John Luther Adams won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 2014 for his undulating orchestral piece Become Ocean, you'd be forgiven for thinking of him as something like the Jacques Cousteau of contemporary classical music.

Although more women have been winning Pulitzer Prizes for music lately, it's still next to impossible to hear works by female composers performed by America's symphony orchestras.

This year's Pulitzer winner, Du Yun, has a lot to say about the situation.

What will Bill Murray do next?

The beloved actor's curiosity seems boundless. It should be no surprise, then, to learn that his new project finds him paired with a classical cellist.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

Du Yun, a 39-year-old composer, musician and performance artist, today won the Pulitzer Prize for music for her opera Angel's Bone. The Pulitzer jury describes the piece as a bold work "that integrates vocal and instrumental elements and a wide range of styles into a harrowing allegory for human trafficking in the modern world." Angel's Bone, which has a libretto by the versatile Royce Vavrek (Missy Mazzoli's Breaking the Waves and David T.

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It's a curious thing how ancient music can sometimes sound so contemporary. Listen to "Morgunstjarna," and it's as if three centuries' worth of music history evaporates. The anonymous song from 17th-century Iceland sports a catchy, bittersweet melody and rhythmic hook that pop outfits like Peter Bjorn and John might be happy to whistle.

The opera firmament was shaken yesterday when a New York Times article, headlined "The Diva Departs: Renée Fleming's Farewell to Opera," landed online.

Although it closed 60 years ago, Black Mountain College keeps on giving. In its heyday, the liberal arts institution near Asheville, N.C., counted many of the mid-century's great artistic thinkers, including John Cage, Willem de Kooning, Cy Twombly, Buckminster Fuller, Francine du Plessy Gray and Robert Rauschenberg, among its faculty and students.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.


The great Beethoven specialist András Schiff says, "Whatever we do on the piano is a collection of illusions." If that's true, then Volker Bertelmann, the German pianist who goes by the single name Hauschka, is a master illusionist.

Piotr Anderszewski might be one of the most revered pianists of his generation, but he's also one of the most impulsive.

In 1990, at age 21, the young Pole entered the prestigious Leeds International Piano Competition. He was nearly finished with his semi-final performance when he quit playing — just walked off the stage. He felt he wasn't good enough to continue. It was a gutsy move that actually helped launch his career.

Symphony orchestras and opera companies across the country continually ask the same question: How do we attract a younger and more diverse audience?

Saturday night, I discovered something of an answer at the Washington National Opera's east coast premiere of Champion, a four-year-old opera by jazz trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard.

In 21 seasons of attending WNO performances, I've never witnessed a more diverse crowd.

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