Arts

Arts and culture

Alan Gilbert, music director of the New York Philharmonic, isn't scared of new music — and he doesn't think audiences should be, either.

"Frankly, the reason I do new music is I like a lot of it," Gilbert says.

Arvo Pärt's devout, contemplative, seemingly timeless music speaks to modern listeners as almost no other composer's does. It has the purity and gravity of monastic chant, the clarity of minimalism and a profound spirituality. These qualities have helped it find a broad audience outside the confines of classical music.

Star mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato gave the 2014 commencement address at Juilliard Friday — and it's a memorable one, both for her words and by DiDonato's own example as someone whose own career began under low heat.

Outside the concert hall at Occidental College, in Los Angeles' Eagle Rock neighborhood, children are invited to test out the instruments the Santa Cecilia Orchestra will play later. Alexa Media Rodriguez, 8, says she and her family have never before been to an orchestra concert. She heard about the orchestra when some of the musicians visited her school.

"I brought my dad, my stepmom," she says, "my sister, my brother and my sister's cousin ..."

That's the thing about this orchestra, says conductor Sonia Marie De Leon De Vega: The children are bringing the parents.

Mark Stewart On Q2 Music's 'Spaces'

May 27, 2014

In his own words, Mark Stewart makes a living playing a little bit of popular music, quite a bit of semi-popular music and an enormous amount of unpopular music — the last being all the music you probably haven't heard.

Composer and singer-songwriter Gabriel Kahane says that the inspiration for his new album, The Ambassador, is 10 buildings in Los Angeles — appropriate, given what a gifted musical architect he is.

Today at the Cannes Film Festival, attendees marked the 50th anniversary of the spaghetti western at a special screening of A Fistful of Dollars, the Sergio Leone classic that kick-started the genre. Leone's vision of the American West remains singular — and it's impossible to imagine without the iconic music of Ennio Morricone.

Growing up as a violinist, Felix Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto ranked among my top 10 Holy Grail pieces. As I got older, I moved on to his Octet and Piano Trio in D minor, which became two of my favorite chamber works. There's almost nothing comparable to playing Mendelssohn's Octet with seven great string players. It's absolutely thrilling, energetic, virtuosic, youthful, fun and challenging. And to think that Mendelssohn wrote it when he was just 16.

The Bee Gees did it. So do Smokey Robinson, Prince and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. They all sing in the high register usually associated with female singers.

Long before summer blockbuster films dazzled us with CGI-enhanced superheroes and villains, audiences got their dose of spectacle at the local opera house, where lavishly costumed singers have walked through monumental sets for centuries.

The Stradivarius violin gets its name from master craftsman Antonio Stradivari. When he died in 1737, his secrets died with him: No one has ever been able to duplicate the sound of the violins or violas he made.

His instruments have taken on a mythical quality. Today they fetch millions of dollars at auctions; Sotheby's will soon auction off a viola that it expects to sell for $45 million.

In 1986, four women gathered in a casual setting to sing through a bit of medieval chant. Little did they know they were launching Anonymous 4, an a cappella ensemble that has spanned nearly 30 years, 20 albums, countless concerts and more than a millenium of music.

Today the group announced that the 2015-16 season will be its last together. But this isn't the first time Anonymous 4 has thought about calling it quits. The group bid a similar farewell in 2004.

Conjuring An Opera With Ten Fingers

May 9, 2014

It's always been a treat to sit down with pianist Louis Lortie. In part because of his sound at the piano — the brightness, purity and clarity of his playing. But all the better to have a conversation with him, too. He is a sober, serious thinker, with an incisive point of view on every piece of music he chooses.

It's not easy being a mom, but it's even tougher for mothers in opera. So often they're completely absent while fathers have leading roles in shows like Rigoletto, La traviata, The Flying Dutchman. When depicted at all, operatic moms are usually under supreme stress. They can be murderous, manipulative or simply mad. Only rarely are they the loving moms who brought us into the world. Here your job is to identify the operas and their mothers. Score high and brag to your own sweet (or stressed) mom. Score low and go to your room without supper.

Twenty-nine gentle measures by Felix Mendelssohn are creating quite a stir — after being lost for more than a century.

The 2014 Analog A go-go festival , hosted by Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, celebrates the people who still prefer to listen to  the long playing 33 and 1/3 vinyl record. This year's performers include Bob Mould,

formerly of Husker Du, and the "chamber folk" band, Mutual Benefit.

The festival begins June 13th. Tickets are on sale now.

When NPR Music and WQXR present the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and May Festival Chorus' performance of R. Nathaniel Dett's The Ordering of Moses at Carnegie Hall Friday, there will be one significant difference from its first airing: it should be free of interruptions.

Crimson Tide, The Lion King, Inception, Gladiator — that's just a handful of the many movies that feature award-winning scores by Hans Zimmer. Lately, Zimmer has lent his ear to soundtracks written by a new generation of aspiring film composers.

In much of the country it still feels like summer is a long way off, but it's not too early to plan on hitting the road and hearing great music. From bucolic college campuses in New England to musical rafting trips down the Colorado, these are 10 of the most intriguing classical festivals. And below them is a listing, by region, of many of the best fests. Been to one we missed? Pass along your own advice in the comments section or via Facebook or Twitter.

The great outdoors is a perennial theme in classical music, usually expressed through bucolic or picturesque works. But the Seattle Symphony knew that to appear on Spring for Music — an annual festival of adventurous programming by North American orchestras — it required a more unusual, daring take on this theme.

Coming Soon To Colorado: Wolfgang And Weed

Apr 30, 2014

Colorado Symphony patrons — if they aren't already — are about to have the option of being Rocky Mountain high.

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Apr 29, 2014

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Born in Kiev a little more than 40 years ago, Valentina Lisitsa came to America in the early '90s to work as a concert pianist.

Vijay Iyer On Q2 Music's 'Spaces'

Apr 24, 2014

Pianist, composer, improviser and 2013 MacArthur Fellow Vijay Iyer has built a career of making musical connections. Increasingly recognized as one of the most inventive musicians working today, he received an interdisciplinary Ph.D.

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