Facing Bach's St. Matthew Passion, I often feel a combination of anticipation and dread. It's a great work, profound in its humanity and spirituality, with sublimely beautiful music. But it's a long haul, and if it's not a good performance, well, I'm stuck. And it can be not-good in various ways: either too solemnly pious or too much an exercise in musical style rather than emotional drama. A new DVD recorded in 2010 at Berlin's great concert hall, the Philharmonie, would be of major interest under any circumstances.
Originally published on Mon October 1, 2012 2:10 pm
To honor Philip Glass' 75th birthday this year, we here at NPR Music commissioned Glass to create a short work that would be great fun for amateur and professional singers alike. A big part of what we do is to try to make all kinds of music engaging and accessible — and wouldn't it be great to invite anyone who wanted to come and sing in a world premiere by one of the most celebrated composers of our time?
Originally published on Wed October 17, 2012 10:07 am
The career of Brazilian singer and songwriter Tim Maia was defined by two periods of exile that contribute to a story so crazy that nearly overwhelms his notable career. Round-faced and diminutive (a press release says he was five feet, seven inches tall, "6' with the Afro"), Maia released his first album in 1971. It was a huge hit. He died in 1998 at the age of 55, but Maia would have been 70 on Sept. 28. On Oct. 2, Luaka Bop will release Nobody Can Live Forever: The Existential Soul of Tim Maia.
Originally published on Wed October 17, 2012 10:08 am
NPR Music will hit the road later this month and head north to Newport, R.I., where we'll live broadcast and webcast two weekends of concerts from the Newport Folk and Newport Jazz festivals. Our folk coverage begins with a live webcast of Wilco on Friday night, Jul. 27.
Since 1954, the Newport Jazz Festival has brought live music to seaside New England. This year, you can see it even if you can't be there: NPR Music returns to the Newport Jazz Festival for a live video webcast and recording on August 4-5, 2012.
It's possible to place countless movies and TV shows within a very specific time frame based on whether they feature certain songs: Baja Men's "Who Let the Dogs Out," Smash Mouth's "All Star" and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros' "Home" all provide a form of pop-cultural carbon dating, as well as signifiers of a tone that's both specific and universal.
Jazz bassist and bandleader Linda Oh says her new album, Initial Here, is an exploration of her heritage. She was born in Malaysia to Chinese parents, but as a toddler, she moved with her family to Australia.
Oh started taking piano lessons there when she was 4. Music was just a hobby back then, but once her uncle strapped a bass guitar around her neck, that's when she fell in love.
Oh cut her teeth playing bass in both jazz and rock bands all over her hometown of Perth in Western Australia.
Old Crow Medicine Show didn't count on the runaway success of its 2004 song "Wagon Wheel." In fact, say members Ketch Secor and Critter Fuqua, the Nashville band was just trying to finish a job Bob Dylan had started.
Avi Avital is one of the world's leading classical mandolinists, gracing concert halls from Tel Aviv to Munich to New York. But the young Israeli says he discovered the mandolin only by coincidence.
"When I was a kid, I had a neighbor who played the mandolin — the neighbor from upstairs," Avital tells NPR's Guy Raz. "It was one of those buildings where all the doors are open and all the neighbors are friends and more close than relatives. It was like one big family.