Tom Huizenga

Tom Huizenga is a music producer, reporter and blogger for NPR Music.

He is a regular contributor of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and co-hosts NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence.

Joining NPR in 1999, Huizenga spent seven years as a producer, writer and editor for NPR's Peabody Award-winning daily classical music show Performance Today and for programs SymphonyCast and World of Opera.

He's produced live concerts, including a radio broadcast of Gershwin's Porgy & Bess from Washington National Opera at the Kennedy Center and NPR's first classical music webcast from the Manhattan club (Le) Poisson Rouge, featuring the acclaimed Emerson String Quartet. He's also asked musicians to play in unlikely venues, such as cellist Alisa Weilerstein playing Bach at the Baltimore Aquarium. He's written and produced radio specials, like A Choral Christmas With Stile Antico, broadcast on stations around the country.

Huizenga's radio career began at the University of Michigan, where he hosted opera, jazz, free-form, and experimental radio programs at Ann Arbor's WCBN. As a student in the Ethnomusicology department, Huizenga studied and performed traditional court music from Indonesia. He also studied English Literature and voice, while writing for the university's newspaper.

Huizenga took his love of music and broadcasting to New Mexico, where he served as music director for NPR member station KRWG, in Las Cruces, and taught radio production at New Mexico State University.

Huizenga lives in Takoma Park, Md. and in his spare time writes about music for the Washington Post and overloads on concerts and movies.

If Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach wrote a dull piece of music, I've not yet heard it. And even if there is a workaday piece or two lurking within his 300 keyboard sonatas, you certainly won't find it on this new album by British pianist Danny Driver, who deftly uncovers the surprising restlessness of the music.

These days it's not unusual to find classical musicians performing in unlikely venues — pubs, clubs and out-of-the-way places. But long before this trend took hold there was Matt Haimovitz. Ten years ago, the intrepid cellist lugged his instrument across the country, bringing music by J.S. Bach to barrooms, coffeehouses and even Manhattan's famous punk club CBGB.

There comes a time in the life of most string quartets when, for better or worse, Beethoven must be confronted. For the acclaimed Belcea Quartet (named after its first violinist Corina Belcea), that time is now. The London-based group, founded at the Royal College of Music in 1994, is thoroughly steeped in Beethoven's 16 string quartets — pieces written throughout the early, middle and late stages of his career in an epic sweep of compositional mastery and imagination.

Few classical musicians these days are serious improvisers — aside from organists and early-music practitioners. But pianist Gabriela Montero is absolutely fearless when it comes to creating a new piece, right out of the air, right on the spot. At her concerts she takes requests from audience members. They can suggest a song for her to improvise on, or simply a topic of interest.

When catastrophe strikes, when lives and livelihoods are lost, we hold tight to family, friends and our deepest beliefs for consolation. We also sometimes turn to music. With its inexpressible power, music can help channel memories, soothe the loss and salve the pain. And it can uplift, reminding us of our resiliency.

Call it what you want — superstorm, Frankenstorm, post-tropical cyclone — Mother Nature dished out something freakishly fearsome with Hurricane Sandy. It claimed more than 100 lives throughout the Northeast and the Caribbean, while causing what will surely be billions of dollars of damage in the form of washed-out businesses and flood-ravaged homes. It's a history-making hurricane that, alas, will not be soon forgotten.

Perhaps no other composer's music has been dressed up (and down) in a wider variety of outfits than Johann Sebastian Bach's.

As the presidential campaign heads into the homestretch, with binders, bayonets and a profusion of political ads, perhaps it's time to step back from the election hubbub.

Twenty-five years ago today, Houston Grand Opera mounted the world premiere of Nixon in China, the first opera by a young composer named John Adams. Two days later, The New York Times described it as a "coy and insubstantial work" and "hardly a strong candidate for the standard repertory."

There's something about Johann Sebastian Bach's music that nourishes musicians. Pianist Andras Schiff and cellist Yo-Yo Ma have said that they play Bach almost every day — like having breakfast, it seems essential for them.

After 17 years molding the Los Angeles Philharmonic into one of the smartest and most adventurous U.S. orchestras, music director Esa-Pekka Salonen called it quits in 2009. Among his reasons for leaving the ensemble was to devote more time to composing.

Polish pianist Rafał Blechacz was just 20 years old when he swept all five top prizes at the 2005 Chopin Competition in Warsaw. His domination was so thorough the judges declined to award a runner-up.

Cecilia Bartoli has a passion for musical archaeology: "I am the Indiana Jones of classical," she says jokingly to All Things Considered host Robert Siegel.

Bartoli rummages through music history to uncover forgotten opera composers deserving of her detailed and dramatic performances. Her new album, Mission, introduces her most recent "find," the late-17th-century Italian Agostino Steffani.

Twenty years have passed since Polish composer Henryk Górecki became one of the most talked about figures in classical music. In 1992, his painfully beautiful Third Symphony, the "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs," shot up the charts and was played on the radio everywhere. A recording conducted by David Zinman and featuring soprano Dawn Upshaw sold more than a million copies — huge for a classical album.

Other than bluegrass virtuosos like Ricky Skaggs, players of the mandolin don't often get taken very seriously. But a young Israeli musician named Avi Avital is trying to change that. He's not a bluegrass star; instead, his mandolin sings with the sounds of Johann Sebastian Bach, Ernest Bloch and contemporary composers like Avner Dorman.

With just a month to go before opening its 68th season, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has gone silent. A bitter labor dispute between the ASO musicians and orchestra management has resulted in a lockout — meaning the players have literally been prevented from entering the Woodruff Arts Center and stripped of their salaries and health benefits.

In the western suburbs of Paris 150 years ago today, a boy was born to an unassuming couple, proprietors of a china shop who had no great taste for music. But that little boy felt otherwise, and grew up to write music of bold color, timbre and harmonic daring.

Claude Debussy ignored the old rules about how to write music and in the process created a brave new world of sonic possibilities.

Last week we asked you to do some musical soul-searching — and boy, did we get responses. In the first day, 250 people commented on the blog post "You Are What You Hear: What Your Favorite Music Says About You." Several thousand more comments have since rolled in via social media.

Poor Jules Massenet. How could the most successful French opera composer of his generation fall so far out of fashion? Perhaps the new 23-CD box set of Massenet's music, marking the 100th anniversary of his death (yesterday), holds some clues.

One of the toughest tricks for a singer to pull off is putting a fresh face on each composer in a program. All too often, the Handel starts sounding like the Mozart, which in turn takes on too much of the Verdi and it all becomes indistinguishable.

Some people are intimidated by the vastness of classical music. And while the prospect of more than 1,000 years of hits to consider may be daunting, just think instead of how many musical journeys of discovery can be made.

Canadian rower Michael Braithwaite is pumped and probably a little nervous. It's the day before the double sculls (two person team) competition at the London Olympics and the British Columbia native is hoping his strong arms and shoulders will bring him gold.

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