Tom Huizenga

New York's Metropolitan Opera, armed with technology, today's top singers and a captive, home-bound audience is, in spite of them, struggling to make opera relevant. The company's new streaming series, Met Stars Live in Concert, while a valiant endeavor, can't seem to shake off opera's fusty, aristocratic trappings.

One of America's most beloved and resourceful pianists has died. Leon Fleisher was 92 years old. He died of cancer in Baltimore Sunday morning, according to his son, Julian.

The pianist's roller coaster career began with fame, moved to despair and ended in fulfillment.

On Nov. 20, 1934, a brand new symphony brought a Carnegie Hall audience to its feet. The concert featured the Philadelphia Orchestra, led by its star conductor Leopold Stokowski. The music was the Negro Folk Symphony, by the 35-year-old African American composer William Dawson.

When the story of George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police began making news last week, Anthony McGill felt something roiling up inside him.

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It's the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

Our Daily Breather is a series where we ask writers and artists to recommend one thing that's helping them get through the days of isolation during the coronavirus pandemic. NPR Music's Tom Huizenga recently spoke with Pulitzer-winning composer Steve Reich, who has been keeping busy with the solitary act of writing a new piece from his winter getaway in Los Angeles.

Who: Steve Reich
Where: Los Angeles, Calif.
Recommendation: Keep on working

In these days of uncertainty, music can provide a safe haven, an escape, or even a boost of energy. I've found all of that and more in a new recording of the music of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, the second oldest of Johann Sebastian's musical sons, and a composer who continually fascinates me.

Violinists have special relationships with their instruments, almost like marriages. And so it was that when the Grammy-winning fiddler Augustin Hadelich came to play his Tiny Desk concert, he brought with him the equivalent of a new significant other.

The harpsichord is a beautiful but notoriously fussy instrument. After we wheeled one behind Bob Boilen's desk, it took the bulk of an hour to get the tuning just perfect for the very first Tiny Desk harpsichord recital. Given that our guest was Mahan Esfahani, the instrument's most ardent advocate, we were willing to wait.

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It's the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

Some people respond to suffering by turning it into art. That's true even with the harrowing experience of a pandemic.

In the early 1400s, an Englishman named John Cooke composed Stella celi, a hymn to the Virgin Mary referencing the Black Plague which, according to some sources, wiped out half of Europe. Its text speaks of the "ulcers of a terrible death" but also the assurance that "the star of heaven ... has rooted out the plague."

Krzysztof Penderecki, one of the world's leading composers, died Sunday at the age of 86. The Polish Ministry of Affairs announced his passing in a tweet. No cause of death was given.

The Polish-born composer established himself while still in his 20s with jarring atonal works such as Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima, and came to be widely admired by music fans and musicians far outside traditional classical music circles.

When Víkingur Ólafsson was about 5 years old, he already knew what he wanted to be. "It sounds crazy, but I always saw myself as a concert pianist," he says. "Even if I wasn't a good pianist."

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Twenty seconds of hand washing. 60 to 90 percent alcohol. Five to 12 (14? 21?) days of incubation until the dry cough comes.

Morning Edition's series One-Hit Wonders / Second-Best Songs focuses on musicians or bands whose careers are defined by a single monster hit, and explains why their catalogs have much more to offer.

In this edition, NPR's classical producer Tom Huizenga makes the case for the charming, danceable St. Paul's Suite by Gustav Holst, who's best known for his symphonic juggernaut called The Planets.

The last time pianist Kirill Gerstein was at NPR we gave him a full-size, grand piano to play in a big recording studio. But for this Tiny Desk performance, we scaled him down to our trusty upright. "What will you ask me to play the next time," he quipped, "a toy piano?"

Plácido Domingo, who began singing at London's Royal Opera House in 1971, will not be performing with the company in scheduled performances this summer, according to a statement provided to NPR Friday morning.

"The Royal Opera House and Maestro ‪Plácido Domingo have mutually decided that he will withdraw from the Royal Opera House's upcoming performances of Don Carlo in July 2020," it reads in part.

Sometimes old recipes, newly tweaked, can yield astonishing results. Consider the concerto: It might be a 400-year-old formula, calling for a soloist to perform with — and often battle against — an orchestra. But occasionally, a brand new concerto arrives that offers old-fashioned thrills.

Peter Serkin, a pianist who navigated a distinctive course through classical music with thoughtful interpretations of both standard repertoire and bracing new compositions, died Saturday morning at his home in Red Hook, N.Y. at age 72.

The cause of death, announced by his family, was pancreatic cancer.

Serkin came from a prestigious family of musicians. His father, the celebrated pianist Rudolf Serkin, and his maternal grandfather, the violinist and conductor Adolf Busch, embodied old-world traditions — to reverential acclaim.

We've been starting this new year off with genres of music you might not listen to, or that you say you're not a fan of — so far, we've covered jazz, country and deep house.

Half way through this performance of Max Richter's achingly beautiful On The Nature Of Daylight, I looked around our NPR Music office and saw trembling chins and tearful eyes. Rarely have I seen so many Tiny Desk audience members moved in this way. There's something about Max Richter's music that triggers deep emotions.

Harriet Tubman may be the best-known conductor of the Underground Railroad, but a new album highlights another key figure: William Still, who helped nearly 800 enslaved African Americans escape to freedom in the years before the Civil War.

When opera star Joyce DiDonato told us she wanted to sing centuries-old Italian love songs at the Tiny Desk we weren't surprised. But when she said she was bringing a jazz band to back her up, we did a double take. But that's Joyce, always taking risks. After all, the last time we filmed the down-to-earth diva, she insisted on singing an opera aria at the Stonewall Inn, the iconic gay tavern in Greenwich Village.

After the ferociously talented harpist Bridget Kibbey unpacked her 47-stringed instrument at our NPR Music offices, she proceeded to crush the stereotype of the genteel harp, plucked by angels. She proved that the instrument can be as tempestuous as a tango, as complex as a Bach fugue and sing as serenely as a church choir.

Kibbey is crazy for the harp. She first heard one at a country church amid the Northwest Ohio cornfields where she grew up. Now she's the go-to harpist for contemporary composers, some of whom who are writing pieces especially for her.

Adrianne Lenker is the guitarist and singer for the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based rock band Big Thief. Cecilia Bartoli is the Italian opera singer who thrives on neglected repertoire from the 18th century. The two women might seem like strange bedfellows, but they come together in our series titled "highly specific superlatives," a kind of drilling down to some of the finest and most precise moments in the arts in 2019.

Traditions worth saving still need need practitioners and advocates who are willing to propel them forward. Classical music boasts a long, rich history — about 1000 years — of transformation, adaptation, tumult and triumph. From radical, boundary-bashing composers to brave and bold interpreters, the music has remained vibrantly alive even as prognosticators routinely forecast its demise.

Cecilia Bartoli isn't your average opera star. She doesn't sing many of the popular 19th century operas. Instead, she prefers to explore the dusty, little-known corners of the 18th century.

Bartoli's new album is devoted to music written for a single artist of the Baroque era named Farinelli. He was the most acclaimed opera singer of the mid-1700s, the rock star of his day, singing some of the most virtuosic music ever written for the human voice.

When Russian-born pianist Igor Levit dropped in to play Beethoven at the Tiny Desk, he admitted he was – even after four cups of coffee – "still in my time zone change." A little jet-lagged, he had flown in from Berlin the night before and hopped an early train from New York to Washington, D.C.

In a career – and personal life – loaded with enough drama to fuel an opera, Kanye West is finally presenting one. Or at least that's what he tweeted Sunday, announcing a performance of Nebuchadnezzar, "A Kanye West Opera" at the Hollywood Bowl on Nov. 24.

Caroline Shaw sings her own song, "And So," with the Attacca Quartet.

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