Tom Huizenga

Tom Huizenga is a music producer, reporter and blogger for NPR Music. He hosts NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence.

A regular contributor of stories about classical music on NPR's news programs, Huizenga regularly introduces intriguing new classical CDs to listeners on the weekend version of All Things Considered. He contributes to NPR Music's “Song of the Day.”

During his time at NPR, Huizenga spent seven years as a producer, writer and editor for NPR's Peabody Award-winning daily classical music magazine Performance Today, and for the programs SymphonyCast and World of Opera. He produced the live broadcast of Gershwin's Porgy & Bess from Washington National Opera at the Kennedy Center, concerts from NPR's Studio 4A and performances on the road at Summerfest La Jolla, the Gilmore International Keyboard Festival and New York's Le Poisson Rouge.

Huizenga's radio career began at the University of Michigan, where he graduated in 1986. During his four year tenure, he regularly hosted several radio programs (opera, jazz, free-form, experimental radio) at Ann Arbor's WCBN. As a student in the Enthnomusicology department, Huizenga studied and performed traditional court music from Indonesia. He also studied English Literature and voice, while writing for the university's newspaper.

After college 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, with his wife Valeska Hilbig, a public affairs director at the Smithsonian. In his spare time he writes about music for the Washington Post, overloads on concerts and movies and swings a tennis racket wildly on many local courts.

It's a brave new musical world. Between downloads, iPods, music sharing websites and the good old CD, we have more easy access to the songs and symphonies we love than ever before.

Robert Frost's famous poem "The Road Not Taken" begins with the line: "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood." Frost's traveler must choose between them. But slide that metaphor over to the world of classical music and you will discover hundreds of paths to explore.

From mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli's ambitious revival of the early Baroque composer Agostino Stefani (and yes, she's got another outrageous album cover) to three very different roles for the violin, here's a clutch of classical albums I returned to again and again this year for sheer delight and aural inspiration. Bartoli lavishes extravagant attention on the music of a fascinating but forgotten link in the history of opera.

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.

Although it always seems fashionable to forecast the downfall of classical music, enterprising musicians both young and not so young continue to make deeply satisfying recordings. For this visit to weekends on All Things Considered, I was delighted to uncover the little known (at least in this country) Jorge Luis Prats, a terrifically talented Cuban pianist whose once uncertain career appears to be resurging — at 55, he has signed a handsome record deal. Then there's The Knights, a young chamber orchestra with a postmodern take on Schubert.

What's the saying — the more things change, the more they stay the same? It seems that's how it goes in the ways we make music. MIT futurologist Tod Machover rethinks traditional instruments, coming up with new things like the hyperpiano; Pianist Michael Chertock gives it a go in an explosive excerpt below.

With all the chatter about the death of the compact disc, anxiety in the recording industry and the domination of downloads, the flood of CDs overflowing my mailbox never seems to recede. Need a new Bruckner 4th, an Adès anthology or piano music by Pärt? How about Azerbaijani concertos, Schubert sonatas or a new Midsummer Night's Dream?

Opera fanatics often trot out the tired old complaint about how "they don't make 'em like they used to" while pining for the great singers of the past. But as an unabashed opera nerd, I can tell you that the sound of the "golden age" is alive in the voice of tenor Joseph Calleja. He's a young singer with an old-school sensibility, and he's just released his third album for Decca Records.

The news may bring us stories of bankrupt symphony orchestras, floundering opera companies and shuttered record stores, but musicians keep making excellent recordings, often releasing them on small labels. That's the thread running through the broad range of classical albums that NPR Music's Tom Huizenga spins for Weekend All Things Considered host Guy Raz. The independent, Paris-based Zig Zag Territories label has released a sparkling new recording of Poulenc's Concerto for Two Pianos with the innovative original instruments band Anima Eterna.

One hundred years ago, in a country town on Italy's Lake Lugano, Gian Carlo Menotti was born. It didn't take long before little Gian Carlo took pen to music paper. By the time he entered the Milan Conservatory at age 13, he'd already composed two operas.

On the 100th anniversary of the composer's birth, Morning Edition music commentator Miles Hoffman makes a case for Menotti as one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century.

It wasn't summer yet, but it sure felt like it. Earlier this month, here in Washington, D.C., the temperatures were scorching, nearly breaking the 102-degree record set in 1874 when Ulysses S. Grant was president. Summer officially arrives here tomorrow — at 1:16 p.m. EDT to be exact.

In our relentless quest to tabulate, rank and arrange everything in tidy little lists, we compulsive staffers at NPR Music have devised both a multi-genre collection of our favorite 25 records of the year (so far) and a giant ballot where you can cast votes for your own.

Charlie Siem is, literally, the very model of a modern major violin star. At just 25, he's already appeared on the world's great concert stages, as well as the pages of Italian Men's Vogue magazine. He's also the 2011 spokesman for Dunhill, the men's fashion house. For his Tiny Desk Concert appearance, you could say Siem dressed "casual, but with an understated elegance," right down to his left-hand pinky, with its pink-painted fingernail.

Igor Stravinsky was all of 28 years old in 1910 when he landed his first big hit, the ballet score to The Firebird, composed for the Ballets Russes, the influential dance company based in Paris.

The story of the new film Downtown Express, which had its Manhattan premiere last night, is easily summarized: Sasha, a young Russian violinist, comes to New York with his culturally disoriented cellist father and a quirky violinist cousin.

Today marks the birth date of Hungarian-born conductor and pianist George Szell. It's not a round-numbered anniversary (the 114th), but there is a birthday present of sorts — a brand new biography. Michael Charry's George Szell: A life of Music was published by University of Illinois Press last week.

In his day, Austrian-born Robert Fuchs was known more as a distinguished pedagogue than as a composer. He counted Gustav Mahler, Jean Sibelius, Franz Schmidt, Max Steiner and Erich Wolfgang Korngold among his students.

Around The Classical Internet: June 3, 2011

Jun 3, 2011
  • Metropolitan Opera chief Peter Gelb on Anna Netrebko and Joseph Calleja pulling out of the summer tour to Japan: "Anything can happen in the volcanic world of opera, and with this tour it seems that our volcano has momentarily erupted."

Poor James Levine. One minute he's praised, the next he's condemned. Last night many PBS stations aired the documentary James Levine: America's Maestro. That's got to feel good. So too would the publication last month of the coffee table book James Levine: 40 Years at the Metropolitan Opera, not to mention the lavish new 21-DVD and 32-CD boxed sets of his Met years.

Christopher Shih, a 38-year-old gastroenterologist from Ellicott City, Md. says the only time he finds to practice the piano is at night, after he puts the kids to bed. But all that late-night practicing has paid off. Shih has won the sixth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs.

Where Jazz Meets Classical, In A 'Caribbean Rhapsody'

May 26, 2011

Any new recording from the spectacular saxophonist James Carter is pretty much guaranteed to produce fireworks. But his new album, Caribbean Rhapsody, is his grandest work yet: It's a collaboration with the Puerto Rican classical composer Roberto Sierra. About 10 years ago, Sierra started writing Carter a concerto for saxophones and orchestra; more recently, he's topped it off with the title track, a piece for saxophones, jazz violin and string quartet.

All last week on this blog we asked the question: How do we best hook kids up with classical music? We asked you, along with a few prominent musicians, and we got a broad variety of responses — from "give the kid a trumpet," to "let them watch Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts."

Dire predictions about classical music keep coming, and yet so do excellent recordings from all corners of the classical realm — a fact happily reflected in an eclectic mix of sounds that NPR Music's Tom Huizenga spins for Weekend All Things Considered host Guy Raz. Judd Greenstein's music cheerfully percolates with well-blended flavors from many genres. He's among the so-called indie classical composers who also heads up his own ensemble and record label.

There's that age-old question: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? The answer — at least for the upcoming Spring for Music festival — lies in creative programming for symphony orchestra.

(Classical Detours meanders through stylistic byways, exploring new recordings from the fringes of classical music.)

Nobody wields a pipa like Wu Man, the reigning virtuoso on the ancient four-stringed instrument.