Music + Culture

 

As JFK Died In Dallas, Music Was Born In Boston

Nov 26, 2013

Fifty years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, it's still shocking to hear Boston Symphony Orchestra Music Director Erich Leinsdorf announce the horrific news to a stunned audience.

There's a beguiling photo of Krzysztof Penderecki, who turns 80 today, inside the brochure of this week's Warsaw music festival that bears his name. It shows the lauded Polish composer standing in his immense garden, surrounded by a labyrinth of trees and shrubbery trimmed to symmetrical perfection.

The Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki turned 80 on Saturday. You may think you've never heard Penderecki's music, but I'm guessing you have — because I'm guessing you've seen The Shining.

I'm a bit of a cynic when it comes to composer anniversaries but this year, marking 100 years since the birth of Benjamin Britten, has been absolutely fascinating for me. I am now living proof that such centenaries can indeed change the way we look at a composer and provide us with opportunities to explore their breadth and depth. In Britten I have found a new hero, a musically surprising and multi-dimensional citizen of the world.

Composer Benjamin Britten was born 100 years ago today, and the occasion is being marked by performances of his music around the world, from Carnegie Hall in New York to Memorial Hall in Tokyo.

Britten was a central figure of 20th-century classical music: He was a conductor, pianist and festival producer, as well as a composer. His best-known works include the opera Billy Budd, his War Requiem and The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra.

British composer Benjamin Britten was born 100 years ago this Friday, Nov. 22. Before you ask "Benja-who?" consider this: Did you see Wes Anderson's film Moonrise Kingdom last summer, or Pedro Almodovar's Talk to Her back a decade or so ago? (Well, maybe you have to be an art-house denizen for those.

In the classical music world right now, many eyes are focused on Jeremy Denk.

Whitman College

Eric Idle is best known for Monty Python’s Flying Circus. But he has also done a vast array of movies and TV shows, and has written songs, books, and a hit Broadway Musical. Since the 1990s the British comic has lived in Los Angeles. Idle talked to Thom Kokenge about his never-ending stream of ideas, what makes a great comedian and his involvement in the scientific community. 

As heard on Weekend Edition:

Extended Interview:

Eric Idle's commencement address and song in video

Port Angeles Symphony

Nov 8, 2013
Sandi Billings / Northwest Public Radio

Last weekend I was in Port Angeles with my colleague, Sandi Billings, to host the Port Angeles Symphony's November 2nd concert.   Music Director and Conductor Adam Stern and I joined forces for the pre-concert chat.  Adam spontaneously said, "Let's wing it!" before going on stage and so we fielded questions  covering a wide range of topics including the Brahms Symphony No. 3  and how I put together my morning classical music program.

Dreams do come true!

Nov 7, 2013
Sandi Billings / Northwest Public Radio

  The community of Bellingham, WA is abuzz with excitement about the Whatcom Symphony Orchestra's new  Music Director and Conductor, Yaniv Attar.  Sunday, November 3, Attar led the WSO  in the music of Mendelssohn, Schumann and Brahms.  Internationally renowned violinist, Gil Shaham, joined the WSO in a performance of Johannes Brahms' Violin Concerto in D.  Proving that dreams do come true read Attar's story about the inspiration he's found in the life and work of Gil Shaham.

An old video is suddenly making the internet rounds, because living vicariously through a performance nightmare is an ever-popular sport, I guess. (And we've collected plenty ourselves.)

Journey to the Awards

Oct 24, 2013
John Behringer / APA

Tune in for Journey to the Awards, a series that documents the finals of the yearlong competition, the 2013 ProLiance Energy Classical Fellowship Awards of the American Pianists Association. Monday through Thursday evenings, October 28th through the 31st, you’ll hear performances and behind-the-scenes interviews with the five finalists vying for the $100,000 prize, one of the most lucrative awards available to an American pianist.

Two hundred years ago today, in a small northern Italian village, a couple named Verdi — tavern owners by trade — welcomed the birth of a baby boy who would later change the face of opera forever. And, whether we recognize it or not, on the bicentennial of his birth, Giuseppe Verdi is still vital.

Most opera singers work their way to the big league by singing bit parts in regional opera houses. Not soprano Angela Meade. She landed on top instantly with her professional debut in the lead soprano role of Giuseppe Verdi's Ernani at New York's Metropolitan Opera in 2008.

It was a dream come true. The star soprano took ill and the understudy, Meade, was suddenly shoved into the spotlight. The press said she sang "like an old pro from start to finish."

Close your eyes, and you may think that this is 1913. In the past few days, the classical music community has been set aflame by recent comments from three prominent male conductors who are — steel yourself — actually saying that women are not capable of standing on the podium.

It's that time of year again when freshly steamed curtains are rising on opera stages across the country, introducing another new season of performances. And this time, one composer will be popping up more than usual — Giuseppe Verdi.

Two hundred years ago this week, Giuseppe Verdi was born in an Italian town midway between Bologna and Milan. On the occasion of his bicentennial, All Things Considered wanted to know what makes the great opera composer so enduring — why his work is still so frequently discussed and performed these two centuries later. The answer, says conductor and arranger John Mauceri, is that Verdi had a knack for making thorny topics accessible.

One summer night in 1969, Kimo Williams went to a rock concert in Hawaii, which led to one of the two most important decisions of his life.

"I started out on guitar. I wanted to be Jimi Hendrix," Williams says.

This past week may have been a rough one for the classical world, but there is something to look forward to.

This coming week, we celebrate the 200th birthday of Giuseppe Verdi, composer of the best opera of all time. (That's right, Wagner fans. Start writing those letters.)

The latest chapter in the saga of the Minnesota Orchestra closed at a perilous point Tuesday morning, with its widely beloved conductor, Osmo Vänskä, announcing his resignation.

This morning the New York City Opera announced that it was declaring bankruptcy and ceasing operations. Dubbed "The People's Opera" by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia when it was founded 70 years ago, the company was meant as an alternative to the richer Metropolitan Opera. It's the place where exciting young singers like Beverly Sills and Placido Domingo made their New York debuts and where innovative productions of new operas premiered.

Rain Rannu / Flickr

With another Halloween approaching, horror, thriller, and supernatural films
come to the fore.  Many of these pictures feature original music by composers
who have the gift for pushing our buttons and sending our pulses racing.

Bernard Herrmann, a frequent collaborator with director Alfred Hitchcock,
helped make history with his searing, astringent score for Psycho (1960).
Violins have never quite seemed the same.  Nor has taking a shower.

Jenni Chaffin

We've launched our Tumblr page! It will feature the amazing scenery of the Northwest but we need your help. If you are an accidental, amateur or professional photographer send us your work. We will promote it on our Tumblr and Facebook sites.

We are currently featuring amateur photographer Jenni Chaffin. Check out her baby owl picture. Now we need your photos!

James Levine Makes A Grand Return

Sep 25, 2013
Subfader / Wikimedia Commons

After missing two seasons from the Metropolitan Opera, Music Director James Levine makes a triumphant return.

Levine has a 40 year history at the Met, but multiple health problems led him to take leave two years ago. Though there was much speculation as to whether Levine would return to the stage. He did so Tuesday night using a podium designed specially for him.

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