The Story Behind Bach's Unknown Aria

A printed copy of the lost score, the first vocal work by Bach to surface in 70 years.

For the first time in a generation, a new piece of music by Johann Sebastian Bach has been discovered. The young composer wrote the aria in 1713 while working in Germany. NPR has a portion of the forgotten aria — and its amazing story.

A discovery in Germany has astonished music scholars. On two nearly forgotten pages of a pile of birthday notes given to an 18th century duke, a young Johann Sebastian Bach wrote an aria in his own hand. Until now, nobody knew that this existed. 

Stephen Hough Plays Brahms First Piano Concerto Pt. 2


British pianist Stephen Hough  plays an extended excerpt from the first movement of Brahms' First Piano Concerto with the Budapest Festival Orchestra and Ivan Fischer.

A Board Game Designed For Classical Music Buffs

by  Kyle VanHemert

The board game was developed as a graduate project by Caleb Heisey, a graphic design student at the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. It’s essentially a Trivial Pursuit-style affair. Players answer classical music trivia questions to proceed around an orchestra pit-shaped game board. But there are a few unique touches.

There’s the "audition," a rapid-fire lightning around, which the designer says is based on the real-life experience of moving up "chairs" in an orchestra. And then there are the dice, which are based on musical time signatures and beats per minute instead of the typical dots. Heisey’s not kidding when he says the game’s intended for those with "a firm understanding of basic music theory."

... Heisey says he enlisted the help of some experts to make sure all the details were just right. "I have been in constant contact with a violin maker as well as a Japanese woodworker living in Philadelphia about [the game’s] materials," he explains. He borrowed from the visual language of pianos and violins throughout for a unified feel. 


Stephen Hough Plays Brahms First Piano Concerto Pt. 1

British pianist Stephen Hough  plays an extended excerpt from the first movement of Brahms' First Piano Concerto with the Budapest Festival Orchestra and Ivan Fischer.

Classical Music and The Movies

J.S. Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor"

Walk into a dark Victorian (or Transylvanian) mansion and this is what you'll hear. It was prominently featured during the opening credits of Rouben Mamoulian's 1931 film adaption of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. That's probably why this piece of organ music has become associated with everything eerie. Also heard in The Black Cat and Tales from the Crypt for obvious creepy reasons; parodied in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, and outside the horror genre in Sunset Boulevard.

Finally, a Computer that Writes Contemporary Music Without Human Help


The BBC ran a story about a computer at the University of Malaga in Spain, dubbed “Iamus” after a mythical Greek prophet who could translate birdsong, that’s capable of composing contemporary classical music without human aid (“contemporary” meaning you probably won’t walk away humming a melody unless you’re an aficionado of 20th century classical music).

...  Aesthetics aside, Iamus isn’t the 21st century’s answer to Mozart, though that’s the sort of eye-catching headline this technology gives rise to. It’s rather a 21st century flag waver for something known as “melomics music technology” (melomics is a portmanteau of  ”melody” and “genomics”). Genomics is the discipline of sequencing, assembling and analyzing all of an organism’s genetic material — its genome. Melomics, then, is an algorithm that fiddles with genome-like data structures to produce plausible music compositions.

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The Perfect Classical Music App

Esa-Pekka Salonen’s The Orchestra puts the Philharmonia on your iPad—in very clever ways. 


A funny thing happened the last time I was taking in a performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (just a few minutes ago). Right smack in the middle of the blaring finale, the conductor reminded me that the composer’s contemporaries “accused him of being drunk when he wrote these pieces.”

The baton-swinger, Esa-Pekka Salonen, didn’t have to stop the Philharmonia to tell me this, because the performance I was watching wasn’t live, but playing on an iPad. Nor did the sound of his voice obscure the main aural attraction, since his words were running as a subtitle track sandwiched in between four different simultaneous views of the world-class ensemble and a “curated score” of Beethoven’s famous work, its notes running across my screen in real time.

Welcome to The Orchestra—a flat-out astounding new app produced by Touch Press, the Philharmonia Orchestra and its principal conductor Salonen. At $13.99, it’s not only one of the best albums—you know, a longish compilation of music—you could purchase for someone; it’s an app that could easily change how you consume classical music outside of the concert hall. Or how we introduce new listeners to symphonic works in the first place.

...  Aside from a chuckle over imagining Beethoven pounding back lager after lager and coming up with something as well-constructed as his Symphony No. 5—“which might actually be the case,” Salonen allows—the value of the little history lesson was its reminder that orchestra music has been, and can continue to be, an audience-shocker.

... The Philharmonia’s success here wasn’t guaranteed merely by its being the first orchestra to upload some videos to a tablet’s app store. Rather, their opening gambit was deeply thought through by people who understand both Mahler and the iPad.