Tom Huizenga

It's tough to concentrate on the rigors of Beethoven with jackhammers pounding in your ears. So when they started demolishing the building next to Jonathan Biss, he moved his piano out of his apartment into a separate studio, away from the commotion. "I would get up in the morning, the piano wasn't there, and I had to leave my apartment to go practice and I've decided that's a much more productive way of working," he says. Biss needs a good working environment for his massive project.

Jeremy Denk has his own personal "piano boot camp." Actually, it's his cramped Manhattan apartment. Beside his beloved books, a trusty coffee pot and a laptop, there's not much to do except practice. Which Denk does, hours and hours a day on a Steinway wedged into his living room. On a good day, he brews pot of coffee number one at about 11, then plays for about five hours. Perhaps a run to the gym, then pot number two is brewed at about 6, followed by more playing — until the neighbors complain.

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

My two-week stay in Europe ended earlier this week with a stroke of luck: My German father-in-law gave me his beautiful old violin, the one he's played since he was 11. But getting it back safely to the U.S. was more of a problem than I imagined.

If you said the Canadian Brass represented the "gold standard" among brass quintets, you'd be right on the mark. Aside from performing on 24K gold-plated instruments, the group, led by its avuncular tuba master (and sole original member) Chuck Daellenbach, essentially put the idea of the brass quintet on the map.

One hundred years ago, a musical marvel was born. She grew up in a tiny hamlet in the North of England, but made a huge impression on the world of classical music.

"Unique" is an overused word, yet it truly fits the sound of Kathleen Ferrier's voice. If you've never heard it, prepare to be amazed — stop reading now and click on the link below.

After 11 days and more than 500 submissions, we proudly unveil a winner (and several honorable mentions) in our very first classical cartoon caption contest. Congratulations to Gregory Curnow from central Massachusetts, who remembered that hippos not only excel at the violin, but also have a habit of snorting.

"I just tried to put myself in the shoes of a judge in one of those blind symphony orchestra auditions," Curnow said when asked how he came up with his winning caption. We'll send him a new NPR Music tote bag and coffee mug for his efforts.

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.

New York-based composer and Peabody Institute faculty member Kevin Puts has won the Pulitizer Prize for music with Silent Night, his first opera. The work received its world premiere in November in at Minnesota Opera in St. Paul.

Pulitzer officials described Silent Night as "a stirring opera that recounts the true story of a spontaneous cease-fire among Scottish, French and Germans during World War I, displaying versatility of style and cutting straight to the heart."

(All this week, we're featuring concerts from the ongoing Savannah Music Festival. Hear yesterday's concert.)

Pages