Tom Huizenga

Christine Goerke is focused on endurance. The dramatic soprano is tackling one of the most challenging roles in opera: singing Brünnhilde, the Valkyrie maiden warrior, in Richard Wagner's epic, Der Ring des Nibelungen, at New York's Metropolitan Opera. Otherwise known as the Ring cycle, the 16-hour saga spans four operas and tells the story of gods, monsters, humans and an insatiable urge to own an all-powerful golden ring.

Fans of Hector Berlioz — and record companies, it appears — need no excuse to celebrate the music of the pioneering French composer and quick-witted music critic. The sesquicentennial of Berlioz's death falls on March 8, and to mark the occasion, Warner Classics has released a 27-CD box containing, purportedly, every forward-thinking note the composer ever wrote.

The beloved American baritone Sanford Sylvan died Tuesday at his home in Manhattan. Lenore Sylvan, the singer's mother, along with his sister Gwen Sylvan and brother Seth Sylvan confirmed the death to NPR Thursday morning. Marc Mandel, a close family friend and director of program publications at the Boston Symphony Orchestra, said that the death was "entirely sudden" and that it was "deemed to be of natural causes." Sylvan was 65.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify and Apple Music playlists at the bottom of the page.

In 1933, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra gave the world premiere of Symphony No. 1 by a then little-known composer named Florence Price. The performance marked the first time a major orchestra played music by an African-American woman.

Price's First Symphony, along with her Fourth, has just been released on an album featuring the Fort Smith Symphony, conducted by John Jeter.

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.

Narrowing a list to just 10 is always a painful game. This year, amid a multitude of albums, I found favorite musicians (Víkingur Ólafsson), newcomers (the young Aizuri Quartet) and familiar players in compelling collaborations (Brooklyn Rider and Magos Herrera), all offering fascinating performances of music from the baroque to the freshly minted.

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.

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The irony couldn't have been more vivid when Maria Callas sang the words "The dead don't rise again from the grave," from Verdi's opera Macbeth, on stage Friday night at the Moss Arts Center in Blacksburg, Va.

Until recently, most classical music videos have been humdrum affairs. Musicians, in concert attire, earnestly produce their notes with eyes closed and heads tilted in a beatific expression, somewhere between a migraine and an attempt to channel Bach from the heavens.

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