Tom Huizenga

Hungarian conductor Iván Fischer has strong opinions about his homeland, from its music to its politics.

Opera singer Lawrence Brownlee is known for portraying kings and princes. But lately he's been thinking about real people: Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Freddie Gray, to name a few.

Nicholas McCarthy was born without his right hand. Pursuing the piano would not exactly appear to be the most intuitive career choice. And yet that is exactly what the 26-year-old British pianist has done. His debut album, Solo, will be released next week.

McCarthy's "Aha!" piano moment came relatively late, at age 14, after he heard a friend play Beethoven's "Waldstein" Sonata. In a flash, he saw his future. He was determined to become a concert pianist.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released, but you can hear a track below via YouTube.

It was the day before Thanksgiving in 1902 when the Philadelphia Orchestra made its debut at Carnegie Hall. Music by Tchaikovsky was on the program and on the podium was Fritz Scheel, the first leader of an orchestra founded just two years before.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released, but you can hear an excerpt below via YouTube.

The title of Daniel Wohl's "Source" is something of a play on words. The actual sources of his captivating array of sounds are not completely clear. But it doesn't really matter. Just let the meticulously crafted, slightly surreal music from the Paris-born, Los Angeles-based composer soak in.

Although 2015 produced arguably fewer big headlines in classical music than its predecessors, there were still surprising stories.

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