Tom Huizenga

Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPR Music. He contributes a wide range of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and is the classical music reviewer for All Things Considered. He appears regularly on NPR Music podcasts and founded NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence in 2010.

Joining NPR in 1999, Huizenga produced, wrote and edited NPR's Peabody Award-winning daily classical music show Performance Today and the programs SymphonyCast and World of Opera.

He's produced live radio broadcasts from the Kennedy Center and other venues, including New York's (Le) Poisson Rouge, where he created NPR's first classical music webcast featuring the Emerson String Quartet.

As a video producer, Huizenga has created some of NPR Music's noteworthy music documentaries in New York. He brought mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato to the historic Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, placed tenor Lawrence Brownlee and pianist Jason Moran inside an active crypt at a historic church in Harlem, and invited composer Philip Glass to a Chinatown loft to discuss music with Devonté Hynes (aka Blood Orange).

He has also written and produced radio specials, such as A Choral Christmas With Stile Antico, broadcast on stations around the country.

Prior to NPR, Huizenga served as music director for NPR member station KRWG, in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and taught in the journalism department at New Mexico State University.

Born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Huizenga's radio career began at the University of Michigan, where he produced and hosted a broad range of radio programs at Ann Arbor's WCBN-FM. He holds a B.A. from the University of Michigan in English literature and ethnomusicology.

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.

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is back. Orchestra officials and musicians held a joint news conference Monday, on stage at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, to announce the ratification of a one-year contract that effectively ends a 16-week showdown between the two groups.

"I'm thrilled that an agreement has been reached," BSO music director Marin Alsop said in a statement announcing the new contract, "and that we will have our musicians back on stage to open our 104th season beginning on Friday night."

With a season-opening concert slated for Saturday, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra musicians and its management are still locking horns over details of a new contract agreement. A bargaining session ended Monday night with no resolution, only a set of last minute proposals from management which players will vote on Tuesday night.

It's not every day someone walks into our NPR Music offices and unpacks an instrument made in 1680. And yet Kian Soltani, the 27-year-old cellist who plays with the authority and poetry of someone twice his age, isn't exactly fazed by his rare Giovanni Grancino cello, which produces large, luminous tones. (He also plays a Stradivarius.)

And if you think the notion of a cello recital isn't exactly sexy or thrilling, just take a look at Soltani; he radiates joy and ingenuity as he performs three pieces that offer virtuosity, sweet lyricism and fire.

Updated on Jun. 17 at 11:41 a.m.

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) musicians, carrying signs reading "Fair Play for World Class Musicians," have begun picketing in front of their artistic home, Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, as the orchestra's management has locked out its players.

In the opening scene of Pavarotti, the new documentary by director Ron Howard, the popular tenor travels deep into the Amazon jungle in search of an old opera house where the great Enrico Caruso may have once sung.

The building is shuttered, but because he's Luciano Pavarotti the door is unlocked for him to belt out a few honeyed notes from the stage. His fabulous voice soars into the vast emptiness of the auditorium.

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When the intrepid string quartet known as Brooklyn Rider first visited the Tiny Desk nine years ago, no one knew what the musicians might play. They're as likely to trot out an Asian folk tune as they are a string quartet by Beethoven, or one of their own compositions.

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If just one thing can be confirmed from these compelling Tiny Desk performances by the Calidore String Quartet, it should be that the centuries-old formula – two violins, a viola and a cello – is still very much alive and evolving. Indeed, an impromptu show of hands in the audience before the concert began revealed that almost everyone had seen a string quartet perform live.

How do you play an instrument you never physically touch? Watch Carolina Eyck. She's the first to bring a theremin to the Tiny Desk. The early electronic instrument with the slithery sound was invented almost 100 years ago by Leon Theremin, a Soviet scientist with a penchant for espionage. It looks like a simple black metal box with a couple of protruding antennae, but to play the theremin like Eyck does, with her lyrical phrasing and precisely "fingered" articulation, takes a special kind of virtuosity.

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.


Sometimes it takes an outsider to point out what's great about a culture. That's exactly what Czech composer Antonin Dvorak was when he came to the U.S. at the end of the 19th century, an immigrant thrown into a new world and new sounds.

Anthony Roth Costanzo is a feisty performer who knows a thing or two about busting down barriers in classical music. After all, opera singers don't normally belt out arias behind office desks, and they don't insist on lugging harpsichords with them. They also don't routinely sing in Bronx middle school classrooms and get students talking about emotions. But Costanzo is fearless. (And after seeing this amazing Tiny Desk performance, watch him melt the hearts of distracted sixth-graders.)

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."

Why did Laurence Olivier return so often to Shakespeare's Othello? Why did Ansel Adams keep photographing the Grand Canyon? Obsessed or awestruck, artists revisit great inspirations because they believe there is yet another story to tell – about life, about themselves.

Fifty years ago, a group of six guys walked on a London stage to perform for the first time as The King's Singers. They were choral scholars and graduates from King's College, part of England's venerable Cambridge University.

Whenever a symphony orchestra or opera house loses its financial footing, a chorus of classical music "coroners" quickly steps up to pronounce the imminent demise of an entire genre. The pianist and scholar Charles Rosen put it best when he said, "The death of classical music is perhaps its oldest continuing tradition."

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.

Editor's note on April 2, 2018: You may have figured this out already — this story was an April Fools' joke. It's not real. We hope you enjoyed it.

"Not all pianists are created in equal temperament," Robin Olson told a small but enthusiastic audience behind NPR Music's storied Tiny Desk. The pianist, hailed as an "avant-garde gewandhaus" by Berlin's Staubzeitung, is as celebrated for his cryptic maxims as he is for his inscrutable music.

By her own admission, composer Florence Price had two strikes against her.

In these days of wireless earbuds, streams and podcasts, the notion of people gathering to hear a lone classical singer (with a pianist) perform densely structured art songs in a foreign tongue seems almost laughably quaint.

When we invited Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov to play a Tiny Desk concert, we rolled out the big guns. In place of the trusty upright, we wedged a 7-foot grand piano behind Bob Boilen's desk in preparation for the artist who The Times of London called "without question the most astounding pianist of our age."

Updated, Jan. 11, 4:00 p.m. ET: This article was updated to include new allegations of sexual assault made against Dutoit.

Classical music has never lived in a bubble. For centuries, it's always found common ground with folk music.

Enter, the Danish String Quartet.

Like a good mixtape from a friend, performances by David Greilsammer tend to range widely in repertoire and surprise with cunning juxtapositions. On a recent album for example, the Israeli pianist alternated sonatas by avant-garde pioneer John Cage and baroque master Domenico Scarlatti.

Pianist Glenn Gould rocketed to fame in 1955 with his startling and original take on Bach's Goldberg Variations. Gould's fans were treated to a remake of Goldbergs in 1982, when he released a slower-paced rendition just before his untimely death. But it's that first, rapid fire 1955 recording that continues to captivate audiences.

The intrepid pianist Marc-André Hamelin has a reputation for embracing the toughest, strangest music. His new recording of For Bunita Marcus by Morton Feldman is a fine example. For nearly 75 minutes the music never rises above a whisper and the damper pedal is always pressed down, allowing single notes to ring out into vast, silent spaces.

Earlier this month, the New York Philharmonic's outgoing music director Alan Gilbert said goodbye to his orchestra in a series of concerts. Today, he is saying hello to a brand new job in Hamburg, Germany.

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