Classical Music News

This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.

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When George Li, the 23-year-old American pianist, revealed his Tiny Desk setlist, one thought came to mind: How will these powerhouse showstoppers sound on an upright piano? The music he intended to play, by Franz Liszt and Vladimir Horowitz, was designed for a real, 7-foot concert grand piano – the kind they used to call "a symphony orchestra in a box."

Renée Fleming is becoming America's go-to singer. The celebrated soprano, who has performed at a broad range of high-profile events off the opera stage, is scheduled to sing at Senator John McCain's memorial service this Saturday at Washington's National Cathedral.

Fleming is slated to sing the Irish standard "Danny Boy" — at McCain's request — alongside tributes to the late Senator by Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, and a homily by Bay Area Catholic leader Father Edward A. Reese.

A few weeks before the 2016 presidential election, composer Gabriel Kahane decided he needed to take a journey. On Nov. 9, 2016, the day after the votes were counted, Kahane boarded an Amtrak train in Penn Station in New York City. He left his smartphone behind. He unplugged from the Internet. And he spent the next two weeks riding across the country, talking to people.

Jamie Bernstein can't call her childhood a typical one. On any given weekend, she might find Lauren Bacall, Isaac Stern, Richard Avedon, Mike Nichols, Stephen Sondheim, Lillian Hellman or Sidney Lumet hanging out at her house. Jamie's father was Leonard Bernstein.

There has never been an American dynamo remotely like Leonard Bernstein. The composer, conductor, pianist, creator of musicals, educator, political maven and raconteur seemed to spin on his axis faster than any normal human being.

Updated Nov. 1 at 9:31 a.m. ET

Yo-Yo Ma opened his recent Tiny Desk concert with the gently rolling "Prelude" from J. S. Bach's Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 1. It's music Ma has lived with nearly all of his life.

"Believe it or not, this was the very first piece of music I started on the cello when I was four years old," he told the crowd, tightly squeezed between the office furniture on NPR's fourth floor.

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, considered one of the world's top orchestras, has fired its conductor, Daniele Gatti, after two women publicly accused him of sexual misconduct. A statement published Thursday on the orchestra's website notes that it has "terminated the cooperation with chief conductor Daniele Gatti with immediate effect."

In June, NPR reported the Philadelphia Orchestra's admission that it had not programmed a single piece of music composed by a woman for its upcoming 2018-19 season. Jeremy Rothman, the orchestra's vice president of artistic planning, said at the time the omission was "obviously a blind spot and an oversight."

Until last Thursday, violinist William Preucil was one of Cleveland's most lauded and visible music stars. For more than two decades, he has served as concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra, one of the top orchestras in the U.S., while teaching at the prestigious Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM) conservatory, where he was a nationally known instructor. Prior to joining the Ohio symphony, Preucil was the first violinist in the Cleveland Quartet, which won a Grammy during his tenure.

On Friday, the Cleveland Orchestra suspended one of its star performers, violinist and concertmaster William Preucil, over allegations of sexual misconduct published Thursday by the Washington Post.

It's as if the pianos were haunted. Somewhere about midway through this Tiny Desk, as Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds performed on his electronic keyboard, two upright pianos were playing lilting melodies behind him, absent any performer at the keys. And yet these "ghosts," along with Ólafur's band of strings and percussion, put together some of the most beautiful music I've heard at the Tiny Desk, made all the more mysterious through its presentation.

Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds was in a hotel lobby somewhere in Asia when he first saw a modern version of a player piano. This particular one was tapping out The Beatles' "Yesterday."

Composer and conductor Oliver Knussen, one of Britain's most influential contemporary classical figures, died Sunday, July 8, at the age of 66. His passing was announced by his publisher, Faber Music, but no cause of death was given.

Boston Symphony Orchestra principal flutist Elizabeth Rowe has filed a lawsuit against the orchestra, claiming that she is making substantially less each year than her closest peer — a man.

Max Richter's music seems ready-made for movies – and that's not in any way a put down. The music is powerful on its own, but certain pieces take on new depth when paired with well-designed visuals.

Here is a music video in which the things you don't see or hear are almost as important as the things you do.

The sun's season became official this past weekend — so what do you want to hear? Rooftop bops? Windows-down coasters? Sweated-through squall?

Back at the beginning of time, the human voice was the very first instrument. Probably close in second place were folks banging on stuff – in other words, percussionists. The quartet of gentlemen who form the Chicago-based Third Coast Percussion takes primordial pounding into a completely distinctive new league. To be sure, in this Tiny Desk performance, they'll play their sophisticated, modern marimbas and vibraphones, but be on the lookout for the subtleties of tuned cowbells and 3/4" galvanized steel pipes, like those found at the local hardware store.

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