Classical

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.

The first opera hit the stage over 400 years ago. More recently, the art form has been adapted to modern media: In the 1920s and '30s, operas were written to be performed on the radio, and in 1951, NBC commissioned Gian Carlo Menotti to compose Amahl And The Night Visitors for television.

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.

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.

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.

There is metal between those strings. In a video for "Limonium," Brooklyn-based composer Kelly Moran interrupts the stretched piano wire with corkscrews, forking the paths of sound.

T Charles Erickson© / T Charles Erickson Photography

On our way home from Boston Sunday we listened to American Routes on New England Public Radio. Host Nick Spitzer asked Blues musician Jimmy Duck Holmes why so many of his songs were along the lines of "the devil must have been in you to make you leave me." Holmes said that despite such lyrics no one is really led astray by diabolic forces; they were following their own desires.

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