Tom Huizenga

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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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