Music + Culture

 

Classical music has managed to take center stage at sports events in the last few weeks. Soprano Renée Fleming sang the National Anthem at the Super Bowl two weekends ago.

Monastic Life At The Top Of The Charts

Feb 11, 2014

When the sisters of Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles aren't hard at work on the monastery grounds, they're topping the charts with albums of sacred music.

In the 1950s, Philomena Lee was a naive Irish teenager who got pregnant, gave birth in a convent, and was forced by the nuns to sign away her parental rights. The 2013 film Philomena is based on what happened five decades later, when Lee went looking for her son with the help of a journalist. Directed by Stephen Frears and starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, Philomena is up for several Academy Awards, including one in an unlikely category.

Police in Milwaukee have recovered "Lipinski" – a 300-year-old Stradivarius stolen last month from a concertmaster as he was walking to his car with the rare violin.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, quoting law enforcement officials, says the instrument has been found:

Listen to Robin Rilette's Farewell Show

Feb 4, 2014

In two decades of hosting a classical music program every weekday morning, Robin Rilette took you to faraway places, introduced you to new music, and kept you company in the mornings. But Robin is now embarking on a new chapter in her life, as she leaves Northwest Public Radio for the Maine Public Broadcasting Network.

On Friday, February 7th, Robin bade her listeners a fond farewell. You can listen to the three hour show here:

A Holocaust Tale Unfolds On Two Levels

Feb 1, 2014

Composer Dmitri Shostakovich called it a perfect masterpiece without ever having seen it performed. The Passenger, an opera about the Holocaust, was written nearly half a century ago, but was only given its first full performance just three years ago.

Now it's getting its U.S. premiere at the Houston Grand Opera. The opera is based on a story by a Holocaust survivor, with music by Mieczyslaw Weinberg, a composer who lost his entire family in the Nazi death camps.

In The Puppy Bowl, Bach Goes To The Dogs

Jan 31, 2014

Not every sports fan is glued to the Super Bowl. Sunday also brings Puppy Bowl X, the 10th iteration of the immensely successful Animal Planet program featuring playful pups and a beleaguered human referee. This year's new element is a fantasy game, in which each viewer may log in to a Facebook account and pick a trio of cuddly canines destined to dominate the dog-on-dog action.

Bassist John Clayton Talks Jazz Festival

Jan 31, 2014
John Clayton

Moscow, Idaho is gearing up for the 47th Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in February. Robin Rilette sat down with Artistic Director John Clayton to find out what’s on tap for the festival this year. As usual, there’s a strong educational component to the festival, with numerous workshops and hands-on sessions with the guest artists. Clayton is particularly excited about the lineup this year which includes a number of NEA (National Endowment of the Arts) Jazz Masters.

In 2005, the film Brokeback Mountain broke ground as a major motion picture portraying a love story about two men: a pair of young cowboys, Ennis and Jack, in the 1960s.

They fall in love during a summer spent tending sheep in the isolation of a fictional mountain in Wyoming. They spend the rest of the film — and their lives — grappling with a love that they have to keep secret.

"New classical music is well and alive," Brad Wells, director of the vocal collective Roomful of Teeth, said yesterday as he accepted his Grammy for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance.

Claudio Abbado, one of the most sought-after conductors of his generation, died Monday in Bologna, Italy, at age 80. His death was announced by a spokesperson for Bologna's mayor, saying that it followed an unspecified long illness. Abbado had been diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2000; following surgery for that illness, he was transformed into a hauntingly gaunt figure.

Odd musical mergers in the Grammy Awards telecast are nothing new — remember Paul McCartney, Linkin Park and Jay-Z singing "Yesterday?" Still, when thrash metal band Metallica and classical pianist Lang Lang take the stage together Sunday night, it may seem more like a head-scratcher than a clever match.

Or will it?

She's probably not among your first, or second, or 10th, or 20th-round guesses, but the NFL just announced that American soprano Renee Fleming will sing the national anthem at Super Bowl XLVIII on Feb. 2.

Polish pianist Rafał Blechacz, who at age 20 swept all five top prizes at the 2005 International Chopin Competition in Warsaw, can now add another prestigious award to his collection. Early Wednesday, Blechacz was named the 2014 Gilmore Artist.

The Gilmore may not have quite the name recognition as the Chopin Competition, but it has a distinguished cachet of its own, plus a generous $300,000 cash award.

From The Top Auditions Due

Jan 7, 2014

Young classical musicans: send in your audition tape now! Submissions are due at the end of the month.  

Northwest Public Radio is seeking applications from young musicians across the region to be on the April 24 show, at the Rialto Theater in Tacoma, sponsored in part by Ted Brown Music and the Broadway Center For The Performing Arts.

A case stirring intense outrage in the classical music community and starting to gain steam in the mainstream press is getting more mysterious by the day.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." That could be the annual mantra for the classical music world. It has been predicted to crumble for decades, just as optimists continue to point to positive trends. This year is no different. Despite two ugly black eyes — the death of the New York City Opera and the continuing, bitter stalemate between the Minnesota Orchestra's (locked out) musicians and management — terrific music is being made by marvelous artists. Here we offer a short list of the best and worst of 2013.

Three hundred sixty-five. That's the number of days the Minnesota Orchestra will have gone without playing in its concert hall in 2013. The orchestra became the unwitting poster child for labor strife in the classical music world — and, to some extent, an emblem of the problems facing non-profit arts institutions across the country.

One of the world's oldest and most iconic piano makers, Pleyel, will close its factory doors in Paris at the end of 2013.

The French press characterized the bankruptcy as inevitable in the face of cheaper competition from China. But many disagree: They say Pleyel could have survived by adapting better to the times.

Since 1973, the four-man vocal chamber group The Hilliard Ensemble has been breathing new life into the sounds of the Renaissance. Now that they've reached their 40-year anniversary, the members have decided to call it a day. Fresh off the new album Il Cor Tristo, the Hilliards will spend 2014 celebrating their long tenure with one last world tour. Then, a year from now, it's all over.

The relationship between a teacher and a student can be transformative. It's a particularly important relationship in classical music. A teacher is part mentor, part manager — even a parental figure.

For 160 years, the pianos made by Steinway & Sons have been considered the finest in the world. So when hedge fund billionaire John Paulson recently bought the company, it struck fear in the hearts of musicians: Would the famously handcrafted pianos be changed, for the sake of efficiency? Paulson, who owns several Steinways himself, says nothing will change.

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