The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: John W. Barker says the world premiere of the new string quartet by Belgian composer Benoit Mernier proved a memorable, satisfying and successful way to celebrate the centennial of the University of Wisconsin’s Pro Arte Quartet, as does the rarely heard String Quintet of Anton Bruckner.

March 5, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Here is a special posting, a review written by frequent guest critic and writer for this blog, John W. Barker. Barker (below) is an emeritus professor of Medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also is a well-known classical music critic who writes for Isthmus and the American Record Guide, and who hosts an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT FM 89.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.

John-Barker

By John W. Barker

This past week witnessed the fifth in the projected six events in the centennial celebration for the Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer; event photos are by The Ear), which has served as artists-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison since 1940, when its members were stranded here by World War II and Adolf Hitler’s Nazi invasion of their homeland Belgium.  For me, it proved the most satisfying centennial event yet.

Pro Arte Quartet new 2 Rick Langer

Here full disclosure is necessary. I am a member of the committee that has been planning all of these celebrations, under the diligent leadership of Sarah Schaffer. Accordingly, the piece that follows has more of a personal reminiscence than an objective distance.

Each of the events is focused on a composer who has been commissioned to write a piece for the Pro Arte Quartet. The first four resulting works were given their premieres, under the supervision of the individual composers, during the course of the 2011-12 season. (The PAQ performances of these four works have now appeared in a 2-CD set from the Albany label.)  The fifth premiere had to be deferred from last autumn, and finally came about on Saturday night in Mills Hall.

pro arte cd commission cover

Whereas the previous four composers were all Americans, it was felt that the remaining ones should have Belgian connections, in view of the initial PAQ’s origins in that country.  After much scouting, the choice was given to Benoit Mernier (below, in a photo by Bernard Coutant), who is a member of the Royal Academy of Belgium.

benoit mernier by bernard coutant

Born in 1964, Mernier has rapidly emerged as one of the pre-eminent composers in Belgium today, perhaps the leading one.  The hallmark of his output as a composer is his range and versatility. He has composed three operas — a scene of his opera “La Dispute,” based on a play by Pierre de Marivaux, is in a YouTube video at bottom — and he says he loves writing for voices in settings of poetry.  He has also written widely for choral, chamber and orchestral media. He studied both organ and harpsichord, and is himself an accomplished performing organist, composing extensively for the instrument.

His commission, funded by both the Pro Arte Quartet and the Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation, has resulted in his String Quartet No. 3, completed last year.  He arrived in Madison early last week, flying directly from Belgium, to supervise the work’s premiere. He established an immediate and cordial rapport with his hosts here. He had warned that his command of English was poor, but he soon disproved that in quite workable facility (with occasional help from local Francophones).

Above all, he plunged into work with the PAQ with zest.  The group had been working on his score for weeks before, by contrast with some groups with which he has worked, groups still struggling to master his music.  As a result, our four players were fully in command of the quartet, so that Mernier (below) could move beyond technical drilling and concentrate on their expression of his ideas.

Benoit Mernier by Lise Mernier

I sat in on a three-hour “public” rehearsal in Mills Hall on Thursday, Feb. 27, and was fascinated to see Mernier bustle about in constant consultation with the players as he polished their mastery of the work. Lithe, energetic, spontaneous, he is a bundle of energy and insight.

In addition, he has an open, unforced, and vivacious personality that makes working with him a great delight.  In numerous social and planning contacts, he was bubbly, engaged company.  Indeed, my perception was that he conveyed to all of us not only his music but also that very outgoing personality itself

Mernier had a chance to go along with the quartet members for an “out-of-town tryout”, a so-called “pre-premiere” of his quartet as part of a full concert in Prairie du Sac last Friday evening. Then, the next evening its program was given for the official world premiere.

It was a truly rich menu, beginning with Haydn’s early Quartet, Op. 20, No. 4, a little microcosm all its own; then came the new Mernier Quartet; and, finally, Anton Bruckner’s expansive String Quintet.

So, how was the new Mernier work?  Well, it seems perhaps thorny music at first encounter, although it did receive a prolonged standing ovation (below, with members of the quartet and the composer standing second from right ).  Long gone are traditional structural forms and lush melodies.  But it is a very thoughtfully and skillfully composed piece of about 25 minutes in length.  It is cast in nine movements of varying length, interrelated in ideas and ultimately cohering into a comprehensive structure.

Benoit Mernier with Pro Arte Quartet and standing ovation

Before the concert, in a “conversation” onstage (below, which—full disclosure again — I moderated) Mernier discussed the sonic elements, the “signposts” that he used recurrently in putting together the whole piece.

Benoit Mernier at Q&A with John W. Barker

Met honestly, the score has a logic and even power to it that one might compare to Bela Bartók’s quartets — and we have all caught up with those by now, haven’t we? I had worried that the latest blizzard that day would result in an empty house.  But Mills was packed with people, and they gave an enthusiastic, and justified, standing ovation to Mernier and the PAQ players.

Pro Arte Quartet Mernier good house

For my part, I think I have found this Mernier Quartet the most musically satisfying of all the commissioned works presented so far.

The concert program, minus the Haydn, was repeated the following day at the midday presentation of “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen,” a concert open to the public and broadcast live on Wisconsin Public Radio.

But, if as an epilogue, I must point out the performance of the work by Bruckner (below) was an event in itself.  This involves one of only two substantial chamber works composed by Bruckner, better known for massive and grandly architectural symphonies for large orchestra. 

Completed in 1879, between his Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, this is an extensive (one should not say “sprawling”) work, calling for a second viola as the fifth instrument.  Composed in the same format and style as symphonic works of Bruckner (below), this score might almost be understood as the blueprint for a kind of mini-symphony by the composer.

Anton Bruckner 2

The performance by the PAQ, their first address to it, was for me another reminder of the value of experiencing in a “live performance” a work I have known only from recordings.

Pro Arte Quartet playing Bruckner

Being able to watch the players in action helps to understand the writing. I realized for the first time, for example, just how much of a prominent role is accorded to the first viola in the string texture here. And in this performance, that role was vividly fulfilled by a guest player, Samuel Rhodes (below) of the Juilliard School , who recently retired from the Juilliard String Quartet and remains one of the country’s leading violists, and a good friend of many of the PAQ players.

Samuel Rhodes photo by Peter Schaaf (lower res.)

Also, I could observe clearly how Bruckner, in this chamber writing, treated the two violins and the two violas (below, Sally Chisholm on the left and Samuel Rhodes on the right) as distinct entities, variously using them in either interplay or opposition, while the cello receded to pizzicato rhythms, or dropped out entirely. Such are the revelations that direct personal experience of performances allow!

Sally Chisholm and Samuel Rhodes in Bruckner Quintet

In all, then, a truly wonderful event this centennial concert proved to be a truly wonderful event.  And there is still one more, with the world premiere of a Clarinet Quintet by French-Canadian composer Pierre Jalbert (below) next September, with another delightful pre-concert dinner (below) and art tour in the new wing of the Chazen Museum of Art scheduled to take place.

Pierre Jalbert

Mernier dinner at Chazen Museum

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yOKnZAnY4Jg

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Classical music: The populist group Classical Revolution Madison will perform chamber music and songs by Brahms, Shostakovich, Haydn, Schumann and Walter Piston, and then hold an open-mic classical jam session on this Thursday night at the Brocach Pub on the Capitol Square. Plus, the concert next Tuesday night by the Rhapsodie Quartet has been CANCELLED.

February 19, 2014
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ALERT: The concert of chamber music by Mozart, Verdi and Puccini  next Tuesday night, Feb. 25, by the Rhapsodie Quartet (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson) of the Madison Symphony Orchestra has been CANCELLED.

Rhapsodie Quartet MSO Greg Anderson

By Jacob Stockinger

Word reaches The Ear with an intriguing and appealing tavern concert with some outstanding music by the laudable local chapter of a national populist movement that brings classical music to non-traditional audiences in non-traditional venues such as bar, cafes and coffee houses. Many of the members and performers come from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music:

Classical Revolution Madison logo

“Classical Revolution Madison will be back with a jam-packed show of classical and contemporary favorites at Brocach Irish Pub (below) on the Capitol Square, 7 West Main Street) on Thursday, February 20th at 7 p.m. 

brocach inn

From 7-8 p.m., members of CRM (below) will present a dynamic program featuring works by Brahms, Shostakovich, Haydn, and more! (See below for more information on the pieces and performers)

Classical Revolution Madison

Then, from 8-9 p.m., we will open up the floor for anyone who wants to sight read or jam, so come with your fiddle or the sheet music of your favorite chamber work if you would like to join in on some casual music making!

We look forward to seeing you there!

Best wishes,

Zou Zou Robidoux and Emily O’Leary

Here is the program for the Brocach appearance:

Clarinet Quintet by Johannes Brahms

I. Allegro

Kai-Ju Ho, clarinet (below)

Thalia Coombs and Nathan Giglierano, violins

Mara Rogers, viola

Zou Zou Robidoux, cello

Kai-Ju Ho

String Quartet Op. 76, No. 3 by Joseph Haydn (below, and you can hear the beautiful namesake first movement played by the acclaimed Takacs Quartet, in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

II. Poco adagio; cantabile

Tony Oliva and Keisuke Yamamoto, violins

Marissa Reinholz, viola

Chris Peck, cello

Haydn

Excerpts from “Duo” by the 20th-century American composer Walter Piston (below)

Mara Rogers, viola

Tori Rogers, cello

Walter Piston

Excerpts from “Dichterliebe” (A Poet’s Loves) by Robert Schumann (below)

Tom Leighton, tenor

Emily O’Leary, piano

Schumann photo1850

String Quartet No. 3 by Dmitri Shostakovich

III. Allegro non troppo

Thalia Coombs and Teddy Wiggins, violins

Mikko Utevsky, viola (below)

Rachel Bottner, cello

MAYCO Mikko Utevsky by Steve Rankin

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Classical music: Here is update and analysis of this year’s Grammy Award winners in classical music. Plus, the Madison Symphony Chorus under conductor Beverly Taylor will sample American choral traditions this Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Overture Center.

February 1, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear’s friends at the Madison Symphony Orchestra have sent in the following announcement:

“Can you name all the different distinctly American choral traditions?

“Director Beverly Taylor (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) and the Madison Symphony Chorus will answer that question this Sunday afternoon, Feb. 2, at 2 p.m., when they’ll appear in “Apple Pie America: A Slice of Choral Americana” in Promenade Hall at the Overture Center for the Arts. (Taylor is also the head of the choral department at the university of Wisconsin-Madison, where she directs the UW Choral Union and UW Concert Choir, and is the assistant conductor of the Madison Symphony Orchestra. And sorry, I have so specific titles of works on the program but I have been told that the concert is closing in on being sold-out, with only a few tickets remaining.)

Beverly Taylor Katrin Talbot

The concert will start with classical music selections from Charles Pachelbel, Lukas Foss, Randall Thompson and others, while the second half will be dedicated to folk songs, hymns, and spirituals.

Many of the works will be accompanied by Madison Symphony Orchestra principal pianist Daniel Lyons (below).

Dan Lyons

Tickets are $15, and are available at http://madisonsymphony.org/Americana or at the Overture Center Box Office at (608) 258-4141 or 201 State Street.

Formed in 1927, the Madison Symphony Chorus (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson) gave its first public performance in 1928 and has performed regularly with the Madison Symphony Orchestra ever since.

It was featured at the popular Madison Symphony Christmas concerts in December, and it will be joined by four soloists for the MSO’s performance of Mozart’s Requiem on April 4, 5 and 6.

MSO Chorus CR Greg Anderson

The Chorus is comprised of more than 125 volunteer musicians from all walks of life who enjoy combining their artistic talent, and new members are always welcome. Visit http://madisonsymphony.org/chorus for more information.

CATCHING UP WITH THE GRAMMY WINNERS

Last Sunday was the Grammy Awards.

Here is a complete list of the nominees and the winners. It makes for a good listening list or buying list.

WINNER

Sibelius: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 4

Osmo Vänskä, conductor (Minnesota Orchestra)
Label: BIS Records

Atterberg: Orchestral Works Vol. 1

Neeme Järvi, conductor (Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra)
Label: Chandos

Lutosławski: Symphony No. 1

Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor (Los Angeles Philharmonic)
Track from: Lutosławski: The Symphonies
Label: Sony Classical

Schumann: Symphony No. 2; Overtures Manfred & Genoveva

Claudio Abbado, conductor (Orchestra Mozart)

Stravinsky: Le Sacre Du Printemps

Simon Rattle, conductor (Berliner Philharmoniker)
Label: EMI Classics

74. BEST OPERA RECORDING

 WINNER  Adès: The Tempest
 Thomas Adès, conductor; Simon Keenlyside, Isabel Leonard, Audrey Luna & Alan Oke; Jay David Saks, producer (The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; The Metropolitan Opera Chorus)
Label: Deutsche Grammophon

Britten: The Rape Of Lucretia

 Oliver Knussen, conductor; Ian Bostridge, Peter Coleman-Wright, Susan Gritton & Angelika Kirchschlager; John Fraser, producer (Aldeburgh Festival Ensemble)
Label: Virgin Classics

Kleiberg: David & Bathsheba

Tõnu Kaljuste, conductor; Anna Einarsson & Johannes Weisser; Morten Lindberg, producer (Trondheim Symphony Orchestra; Trondheim Symphony Orchestra Vocal Ensemble)
Label: 2L (Lindberg Lyd)

Vinci: Artaserse

Diego Fasolis, conductor; Valer Barna-Sabadus, Daniel Behle, Max Emanuel Cencic, Franco Fagioli & Philippe Jaroussky; Ulrich Ruscher, producer (Concerto Köln; Coro Della Radiotelevisione Svizzera, Lugano)
Label: Virgin Classics

Wagner: Der Ring Des Nibelungen

Christian Thielemann, conductor; Katarina Dalayman, Albert Dohmen, Stephen Gould, Eric Halfvarson & Linda Watson; Othmar Eichinger, producer (Orchester Der Wiener Staatsoper; Chor Der Wiener Staatsoper)
Label: Deutsche Grammophon

75. BEST CHORAL PERFORMANCE

 WINNER Pärt: Adam’s Lament
Tõnu Kaljuste, conductor (Tui Hirv & Rainer Vilu; Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir; Sinfonietta Riga & Tallinn Chamber Orchestra; Latvian Radio Choir & Vox Clamantis)
Label: ECM New Series

Berlioz: Grande Messe Des Morts

Colin Davis, conductor (Barry Banks; London Symphony Orchestra; London Philharmonic Choir & London Symphony Chorus)
Label: LSO Live

Palestrina: Volume 3

Harry Christophers, conductor (The Sixteen)
Label: Coro

Parry: Works For Chorus & Orchestra

Neeme Järvi, conductor; Adrian Partington, chorus master (Amanda Roocroft; BBC National Orchestra Of Wales; BBC National Chorus Of Wales)
Label: Chandos

Whitbourn: Annelies

James Jordan, conductor (Arianna Zukerman; The Lincoln Trio; Westminster Williamson Voices)
Label: Naxos
76: BEST CHMABER MUSIC/SMALL ENSEMBLE PERFORMANCE

 WINNER  Roomful Of Teeth

Brad Wells & Roomful Of Teeth
Label: New Amsterdam Records

Beethoven: Violin Sonatas

Leonidas Kavakos & Enrico Pace
Label: Decca

Cage: The 10,000 Things

Vicki Ray, William Winant, Aron Kallay & Tom Peters
Label: MicroFest Records

Duo Hélène Grimaud & Sol Gabetta

Labe;: Deutsche Grammophon

Times Go By Turns

New York Polyphony
Label: BIS Records

77. BEST CLASSICAL INSTRUMENTAL SOLO

 WINNER  Corigliano: Conjurer – Concerto For Percussionist & String Orchestra
Evelyn Glennie; David Alan Miller, conductor (Albany Symphony)
Track from: Corigliano: Conjurer; Vocalise
Label: Naxos

Bartók, Eötvös & Ligeti

Patricia Kopatchinskaja; Peter Eötvös, conductor (Ensemble Modern & Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra)
Label: Naïve

The Edge Of Light

Gloria Cheng (Calder Quartet)
Label: Harmonia Mundi

Lindberg: Piano Concerto No. 2

Yefim Bronfman; Alan Gilbert, conductor (New York Philharmonic)
Track from: Magnus Lindberg
Label: Dacapo Records

Salonen: Violin Concerto; Nyx

Leila Josefowicz; Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor (Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra)
Label: Deutsche Grammophon

Schubert: Piano Sonatas D. 845 & D. 960

Maria João Pires
Label: Deutsche Grammophon

78. BEST CLASSICAL VOCAL SOLO

 WINNER Winter Morning Walks
 Dawn Upshaw (Maria Schneider; Jay Anderson, Frank Kimbrough & Scott Robinson; Australian Chamber Orchestra & St. Paul Chamber Orchestra)
Label: ArtistShare
winter morning walks

Drama Queens

 Joyce DiDonato (Alan Curtis; Il Complesso Barocco)
Label: Virgin Classics

Mission

 Cecilia Bartoli (Diego Fasolis; Philippe Jaroussky; I Barocchisti)
Label: Decca

Schubert: Winterreise

Christoph Prégardien (Michael Gees)
Label: Challenge

Wagner

Jonas Kaufmann (Donald Runnicles; Markus Brück; Chor Der Deutschen Oper Berlin; Orchester Der Deutschen Oper Berlin)
Label: Decca

79. BEST CLASSICAL COMPENDIUM

 WINNER Hindemith: Violinkonzert; Symphonic Metamorphosis; Konzertmusik
 Christoph Eschenbach, conductor
Label: Ondine

Holmboe: Concertos

Dima Slobodeniouk, conductor; Preben Iwan, producer
Label: Dacapo Records

Tabakova: String Paths

 Maxim Rysanov; Manfred Eicher, producer
Label: ECM New Series

80. BEST CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL COMPOSITION

 WINNER Schneider, Maria: Winter Morning Walks
Maria Schneider, composer (Dawn Upshaw, Jay Anderson, Frank Kimbrough, Scott Robinson & Australian Chamber Orchestra)
Track from: Winter Morning Walks
Label: ArtistShare

Lindberg, Magnus: Piano Concerto No. 2

Magnus Lindberg, composer (Yefim Bronfman, Alan Gilbert & New York Philharmonic)
Track from: Magnus Lindberg
Label: Dacapo Records

Pärt, Arvo: Adam’s Lament

Arvo Pärt, composer (Tõnu Kaljuste, Latvian Radio Choir, Vox Clamantis & Sinfonietta Riga)
Track from: Arvo Pärt: Adam’s Lament
Label: ECM New Series

Salonen, Esa-Pekka: Violin Concerto

Esa-Pekka Salonen, composer (Leila Josefowicz, Esa-Pekka Salonen & Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra)
Track from: Out Of Nowhere
Label: Deutsche Grammophon

Shaw, Caroline: Partita For 8 Voices

Caroline Shaw, composer (Brad Wells & Roomful Of Teeth)
Track from: Roomful Of Teeth
Label: New Amsterdam Records
And here is an excellent analysis of the classical Grammy winners that appeared on NPR’s “Deceptive Cadence” blog and the rise of new music — including work by the relatively unknown Minnesota composer Maria Schneider (below, in a photo by Michael Buckner for Getty Images), whose “Winter Morning Walks,” using the poems of Ted Kooser and the voice of soprano Dawn Upshaw, capture three Grammy Awards. You can hear a sample of the moving songs and accessible songs by the three cancer survivors in a YouTUbe video at the bottom:

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Classical music: The Minnesota Orchestra will play again – at last — because the long lockout is over. Is this good news in general for classical music? New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini sees optimism amid crises as a lesson of the past year.

January 17, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

By now you have probably heard the good news:

The lockout of the Minnesota Orchestra (below, playing with its Grammy-nominated conductor Osmo Vanska who has resigned) is over. It was ended by an agreement, long sought after and long disputed, between the musicians and the administration.

Minnesota Orchestra with Osmo Vanska

Here are several stories about the ending of the unfortunate situation that even led the superb  and acclaimed conductor Osmo Vanska to resign. (You can hear Osmo Vanska’s farewell speech in a YouTube video at the bottom,  in which he plays with the musicians an performs the “Valse Triste” or Sad Waltz of his fellow Finn Jean Sibelius as a final encore. The sadness of him, the musicians, the audience and the music is palpable.)

The first is a fine summary story from NPR’s outstanding blog “Deceptive Cadence”:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/01/15/262717374/strike-up-the-band-minnesota-orchestra-lockout-ends

And here is a reaction story from NPR about what’s next that “All Things Considered“:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/01/15/262788971/the-minnesota-orchestras-labor-dispute-is-over-whats-next

Here is a story from The New York Times about the same situation followed by another summary:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/15/us/minnesota-orchestra-contract-ends-long-lockout.html?_r=0

http://www.redwoodtimes.com/nationandworldnews/ci_24917631/how-minnesota-became-scene-classical-music-showdown

Of course, the Minnesota Orchestra is just one of several American orchestras that faced serious financial crises. You may recall that last year saw problems for other orchestras, and the New York City Opera (below, with its final production, the world premiere of “Anna Nicole”) even went bankrupt.

anna nicole opera

Yet one longtime and perceptive observer of the classical scene – New York Times senior critic Anthony Tommasini – see good news amid the rules and dire predictions.

Here is a column he wrote recently about “The Lessons of 2013” for classical music. In his column he doesn’t downplay the many difficulties, which mostly concern finances and smaller, aging audiences. But he does suggest that if you take a longer view, the future of classical music doesn’t look quite so bleak or dismal.

Read it and see what you think and whether you agree. Then tell The Ear by sending in your remarks in the COMMENT section of this blog:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/09/arts/music/lessons-in-a-year-of-crises.html?_r=0

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Classical music: During flu season, should concert halls pass out surgery masks?

January 16, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

It is happening more and more frequently these days, it seems to The Ear.

You see them offered as a helpful courtesy in hospitals and clinics, in the offices of doctors and dentists.

I am talking about those disposable surgical masks that hook around the ears and cover the nose and mouth, and are intended to help cut down on the risks of spreading contagious and infectious diseases.

disposable surgical masks

This time of the year, they are especially meant to reduce illnesses like the flu, which is now starting to spike around the U.S., according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that was broadcast on Fox News.

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/01/11/flu-season-worsens-as-illness-spreads-to-at-least-35-states-cdc-says/

So as the weekend approaches and the 2013-2014 concert season picks up again after the holidays and the usual winter intermission, The Ear find himself asking: Should those masks be offered at concerts – perhaps even for a small fee if they are expensive? After all, some venues already offer free cough drops.

woman with surgical mask

You can could use the mask protect yourself if you are well, or else to protect others if you are sick. Big audiences, after all, can be like one big hospital ward or Petri dish. And as one bog suggested, they might even have a logo printed on them as a promotion or marketing tool if you use them away form the concert hall.

And the audiences for classical music are generally older — which also means they have weaker immune systems and generally a greater susceptibility to serious effects of the flu and other illnesses. Next time you are in one in January and February, just listen for the hacking and sneezing and blowing of noses. Those can be more than annoyances.

Audience attentive

Offering masks would be good for public health, and it might also help reduce the annoyance of coughing, a topic I posted about yesterday in the following link:

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/classical-music-how-do-the-flu-and-classical-music-mix-what-can-be-done-now-that-the-flu-season-is-peaking-here-and-in-the-concert-hall-how-should-musicians-and-presenters-deal-with-a-sick-and-coug/

You see those masks used everywhere in Asian culture. But our own culture seems to see them as ugly and stigmatizing rather than as a sign of respect for other people’s health and a contribution to protecting the general public’s health. (Also look at the YouTube video at the bottom about wearing surgical masks in Japan.)

surgical masks

It turns out that The Ear is not the only one with this on his mind.

The incredible British pianist Stephen Hough – who has performed several times in Madison — also posted something recently on his blog for the Telegraph newspaper about using surgical masks – perhaps to protect his own health as he tours around the world playing recitals, concertos and chamber music.

Here is a link to his thoughtful essay. Be sure to read the readers’ comments and reactions.

And be sure to leave your own reactions to the idea in the COMMENT section of this blog.

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/culture/stephenhough/100072340/never-mind-the-burka-we-should-all-be-wearing-masks/

Hough_Stephen_color16

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Classical music: Here is a year-end look back at the classical music performers and composers we lost in 2013, including pianist Van Cliburn and British composer John Tavener.

December 30, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

Even as we look forward to a New Year, it is a traditional to look back at the various classical musicians -– performers and composers and even some prominent scholars or musicologists -– that we lost during 2013.

At the top of everyone’s list is probably the acclaimed but enigmatic American pianist Van Cliburn (below top) and the British composer John Tavener (below bottom, in a photo by Steve Forrest).

van cliburn old

John Tavener composing Steve Forrest Insight-Visual

The famed New York City City radio station WQXR-FM has put together a good “in memorium” slide show. Here is a link:

http://www.wqxr.org/#!/story/memoriam-classical-musicians-who-died-2013/

Something new, I think, is also an overview of classical music in 2013 that includes awards and works as well as deaths on Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_in_classical_music

APOLOGY FOR A MISTAKE: As a reader alerted me, the Polish composer Krzysztof Pedereecki is NOT DEAD but is still living and recently turned 80. I mistakenly thought he had died at 80 and I apologize for the error. I changed the headline, but I am leaving in some material because it is so good. So here are fine appreciations, with audio clips, of Penderecki (below) by NPR weekend host Arun Rath and NPRDeceptive Cadence’ blog director Tom Huizenga:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/11/23/246916733/a-sound-of-fear-forged-in-the-shadow-of-war

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/11/23/246309165/the-sound-of-struggle-tempered-with-terror-penderecki-at-80

krzysztof penderecki

Locally, of course, as well as regionally, nationally and even internationally, the most memorable death in music education was that of Marvin Rabin (below), the 97-year-old founder of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra. His memorial service was yesterday. Here is a link to my appreciation of him:

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/12/08/classical-music-let-us-now-praise-marvin-rabin-who-founded-the-wisconsin-youth-symphony-orchestra-wyso-who-excelled-as-a-music-educator-and-performer-who-was-the-leonard-bernstein-of-ma/

marvin rabin BW

Are there other “departures” — or deaths or passings or losses — pick your term — you know of?

Do you care to leave an appreciation or comment?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: Here are the new 56th annual Grammy Award nominees for Classical Music as a guide for holiday gifts.

December 14, 2013
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

As I usually offer readers for the holiday season, here is the list of the 56th annual Grammy nominations for classical music. It can serve as a good guide for giving holiday gifts, and readers have said they like it and find it both interesting and useful.

grammy award BIG

Don’t forget: The list of categories has been pared back from what it used to be – a sign of the transcendence of other forms of music.

After all, these are industry awards.

Some of the latest trends seem to continue to hold up. The nominations reflect several things: a fostering of lesser known groups and labels; more new and contemporary music; a couple of superstars thrown in.

I am somewhat surprised that certain recording are not in the running, especially pianist Jeremy Denk’s CD and DVD set of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Goldberg” Variations and violinist Hilary Hahn’s CD of the 27 encores she herself commissioned and performed.

jeremy denk bach golbergs cd

Hilary Hahn Encores CD cover

Well, we all have our own preferences. And maybe they were released too late. O r maybe they are too mainstream, whatever that means these days.

So what does the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences think of this year’s classical crop?

The Ear’s sentimental favorite is “Winter Morning Walks” (below) since all of the main parties involved — American poet Ted Kooser, American soprano Dawn Upshaw and American composer Maria Schneider – are cancer survivors, and their album speaks quietly but eloquently of their ordeals. They do what too much music doesn’t do any longer in an irony-drenched, postmodern age: Speak directly to the heart. “Winter Morning Walks” is Franz Schubert’s “Winterreise” updated for our time. (You can hear samples in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

winter morning walks

Here is a link to the general Grammy Awards home page.

They make it hard to find, despite the gimmicky hype of a countdown clock, but the Grammy Awards will be given out live on Sunday, January 26,2014, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and broadcast on CBS starting at 7 p.m. CST.

http://www.grammy.com

And here is a list to the complete list of classical nominees in all categories:

http://www.grammy.com/nominees

71. BEST ENGINEERED ALBUM, CLASSICAL

Hymn To The Virgin, Morten Lindberg, engineer (Tone Bianca Sparre Dahl & Schola Cantorum) Label: 2L (Lindberg Lyd)

La Voie Triomphale, Morten Lindberg, engineer (Ole Kristian Ruud & Staff Band Of The Norwegian Armed Forces) Label: 2L (Lindberg Lyd)

Roomful Of Teeth, Mark Donahue & Jesse Lewis, engineers (Brad Wells & Roomful Of Teeth) Label: New Amsterdam Records

Vinci: Artaserse, Hans-Martin Renz, Wolfgang Rixius & Ulrich Ruscher, engineers (Diego Fasolis, Philippe Jaroussky, Max Emanuel Cencic, Daniel Behle, Franco Fagioli, Valer Barna-Sabadus, Yuriy Mynenko & Concerto Köln) Label: Virgin Classics

Winter Morning Walks, David Frost, Brian Losch & Tim Martyn, engineers; Tim Martyn, mastering engineer (Dawn Upshaw, Maria Schneider, Australian Chamber Orchestra & St. Paul Chamber Orchestra) Label: ArtistShare

72. PRODUCER OF THE YEAR, CLASSICAL

Manfred Eicher • Beethoven: Diabelli-Variationen (András Schiff) • Canto Oscuro (Anna Gourari) • Pärt: Adam’s Lament (Tõnu Kaljuste, Latvian Radio Choir, Vox Clamantis, Sinfonietta Riga, Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir & Tallinn Chamber Orchestra) • Tabakova: String Paths (Maxim Rysanov)

David Frost • Andres: Home Stretch (Timo Andres, Andrew Cyr & Metropolis Ensemble) • Angel Heart, A Music Storybook (Matt Haimovitz & Uccello) • Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 2 (Jonathan Biss) • Ben-Haim: Chamber Works (ARC Ensemble) • Celebrating The American Spirit (Judith Clurman & Essential Voices USA) • Elgar: Enigma Variations; Vaughan Williams: The Wasps; Greensleeves (Michael Stern & Kansas City Symphony) • Guilty Pleasures (Renée Fleming, Sebastian Lang-Lessing & Philharmonia Orchestra) • Verdi: Otello (Riccardo Muti, Aleksandrs Antonenko, Krassimira Stoyanova, Carlo Guelfi, Chicago Symphony Chorus & Chicago Symphony Orchestra) • Winter Morning Walks (Dawn Upshaw, Maria Schneider, Australian Chamber Orchestra & St. Paul Chamber Orchestra)

Marina A. Ledin, Victor Ledin • Bizet: Symphony In C; Jeux D’Enfants; Variations Chromatiques (Martin West & San Francisco Ballet Orchestra) • Traveling Sonata – European Music For Flute & Guitar (Viviana Guzmán & Jérémy Jouve) • Voyages (Conrad Tao) • Zia (Del Sol String Quartet)

James Mallinson • Berlioz: Grande Messe Des Morts (Colin Davis, London Symphony Chorus, London Philharmonic Choir & London Symphony Orchestra) • Bloch: Symphony In C-Sharp Minor & Poems Of The Sea (Dalia Atlas & London Symphony Orchestra) • Fauré: Requiem; Bach: Partita, Chorales & Ciaccona (Nigel Short, Tenebrae & London Symphony Orchestra Chamber Ensemble) • Nielsen: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3 (Colin Davis & London Symphony Orchestra) • Wagner: Das Rheingold (Valery Gergiev, René Pape, Stephan Rügamer, Nikolai Putilin & Mariinsky Orchestra) • Wagner: Die Walküre (Valery Gergiev, Anja Kampe, Jonas Kaufmann, René Pape, Nina Stemme & Mariinsky Orchestra) • Weber: Der Freischütz (Colin Davis, Christine Brewer, Sally Matthews, Simon O’Neill, London Symphony Chorus & London Symphony Orchestra)

Jay David Saks (below) • Adams: Nixon In China (John Adams, Russell Braun, Ginger Costa-Jackson, James Maddalena, Janis Kelly, Richard Paul Fink, Robert Brubaker, Kathleen Kim, The Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orchestra) • Adès: The Tempest (Thomas Adès, Audrey Luna, Isabel Leonard, Alan Oke, Simon Keenlyside, Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orchestra) • The Enchanted Island (William Christie, Joyce DiDonato, David Daniels, Danielle De Niese, Luca Pisaroni, Lisette Oropesa, Plácido Domingo, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra & Chorus) • Handel: Rodelinda (Harry Bicket, Renée Fleming, Andreas Scholl, Joseph Kaiser, Stephanie Blythe, Iestyn Davies, Shenyang & The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra) • Live At Carnegie Hall (James Levine, Evgeny Kissin & The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra) • Verdi: Rigoletto (Michele Mariotti, Željko Lu_i_, Diana Damrau, Piotr Beczala, Oksana Volkova, Štefan Kocán, The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra & Chorus)

Jay David Saks

73. BEST ORCHESTRAL PERFORMANCE

Atterberg: Orchestral Works Vol. 1, Neeme Järvi, conductor (Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra) Label: Chandos

Lutosławski: Symphony No. 1, Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor (Los Angeles Philharmonic), Track from: Lutoslawski: The Symphonies, Label: Sony Classical

Schumann: Symphony No. 2; Overtures Manfred & Genoveva, Claudio Abbado, conductor (Orchestra Mozart), Label: Deutsche Grammophon

Sibelius: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 4, Osmo Vänskä, conductor (Minnesota Orchestra) Label: BIS Records

Stravinsky: Le Sacre Du Printemps, Simon Rattle, conductor (Berliner Philharmoniker) Label: EMI Classics

simon rattle stravinsky rite

74. BEST OPERA RECORDING

Adès: The Tempest, Thomas Adès, conductor; Simon Keenlyside, Isabel Leonard, Audrey Luna & Alan Oke; Luisa Bricetti & Victoria Warivonchick, producers (The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; The Metropolitan Opera Chorus) Label: Deutsche Grammophon

Britten: The Rape Of Lucretia, Oliver Knussen, conductor; Ian Bostridge, Peter Coleman-Wright, Susan Gritton & Angelika Kirchschlager; John Fraser, producer (Aldeburgh Festival Ensemble) Label: Virgin Classics

Kleiberg: David & Bathsheba, Tõnu Kaljuste, conductor; Anna Einarsson & Johannes Weisser; Morten Lindberg, producer (Trondheim Symphony Orchestra; Trondheim Symphony Orchestra Vocal Ensemble) Label: 2L (Lindberg Lyd)

Vinci: Artaserse, Diego Fasolis, conductor; Valer Barna-Sabadus, Daniel Behle, Max Emanuel Cencic, Franco Fagioli & Philippe Jaroussky; Ulrich Ruscher, producer (Concerto Köln; Coro Della Radiotelevisione Svizzera, Lugano) Label: Virgin Classics

Wagner: Der Ring Des Nibelungen, Christian Thielemann, conductor (below); Katarina Dalayman, Albert Dohmen, Stephen Gould, Eric Halfvarson & Linda Watson; Othmar Eichinger, producer (Orchester Der Wiener Staatsoper; Chor Der Wiener Staatsoper) Label: Deutsche Grammophon

Christian Thielemann Wagner Ring CD

75. BEST CHORAL PERFORMANCE

Berlioz: Grande Messe Des Morts, Colin Davis, conductor (Barry Banks; London Symphony Orchestra; London Philharmonic Choir & London Symphony Chorus) Label: LSO Live

Palestrina: Volume 3, Harry Christophers, conductor (The Sixteen) Label: Coro

Parry: Works For Chorus & Orchestra, Neeme Järvi, conductor; Adrian Partington, chorus master (Amanda Roocroft; BBC National Orchestra Of Wales; BBC National Chorus Of Wales) Label: Chandos

Pärt (below): Adam’s Lament, Tõnu Kaljuste, conductor (Tui Hirv & Rainer Vilu; Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir; Sinfonietta Riga & Tallinn Chamber Orchestra; Latvian Radio Choir & Vox Clamantis) Label: ECM New Series

Whitbourn: Annelies, James Jordan, conductor (Ariana Zukerman; The Lincoln Trio; Westminster Williamson Voices) Label: Naxos

Composer Arvo Pärt

76. BEST CHAMBER MUSIC/SMALL ENSEMBLE PERFORMANCE

Beethoven: Violin Sonatas, Leonidas Kavakos & Enrico Pace Label: Decca

Cage: The 10,000 Things, Vicki Ray, William Winant, Aron Kallay & Tom Peters, Label: MicroFest Records

Duo, Hélène Grimaud & Sol Gabetta, Label: Deutsche Grammophon

Roomful Of Teeth, Brad Wells & Roomful Of Teeth, Label: New Amsterdam Records

Times Go By Turns, New York Polyphony, Label: BIS Records

leonidas kavakos beethoven sonatas

77. BEST CLASSICAL INSTRUMENTAL SOLO

Bartók, Eötvös & Ligeti, Patricia Kopatchinskaja; Peter Eötvös, conductor (Ensemble Modern & Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra) Label: Naïve

Corigliano: Conjurer – Concerto For Percussionist & String Orchestra, Evelyn Glennie; David Alan Miller, conductor (Albany Symphony) Track from: Corigliano: Conjurer; Vocalise Label: Naxos

The Edge Of Light, Gloria Cheng (Calder Quartet) Label: Harmonia Mundi

Lindberg: Piano Concerto No. 2, Yefim Bronfman (below, in a photo by Dario Acosta); Alan Gilbert, conductor (New York Philharmonic) Track from: Magnus Lindberg, Label: Dacapo Records

Salonen: Violin Concerto; Nyx, Leila Josefowicz; Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor (Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra) Label: Deutsche Grammophon

Schubert: Piano Sonatas D. 845 & D. 960, Maria João Pires Label: Deutsche Grammophon

Yefim Bronfman by Dario Acosta

78. BEST CLASSICAL VOCAL SOLO

Drama Queens, Joyce DiDonato (Alan Curtis; Il Complesso Barocco) Label: Virgin Classics

Mission, Cecilia Bartoli (Diego Fasolis; Philippe Jaroussky; I Barocchisti) Label: Decca

Schubert: Winterreise, Christoph Prégardien (Michael Gees), Label: Challenge

Wagner, Jonas Kaufmann (Donald Runnicles; Markus Brück; Chor Der Deutschen Oper Berlin; Orchester Der Deutschen Oper Berlin) Label: Decca

Winter Morning Walks, Dawn Upshaw (Maria Schneider; Jay Anderson, Frank Kimbrough & Scott Robinson; Australian Chamber Orchestra & St. Paul Chamber Orchestra) Label: ArtistShare

Kaufmann Wagner CD

79. BEST CLASSICAL COMPENDIUM

Hindemith: Violinkonzert; Symphonic Metamorphosis; Konzertmusik, Christoph Eschenbach, conductor Label: Ondine

Holmboe: Concertos, Dima Slobodeniouk, conductor; Preben Iwan, producer Label: Dacapo Records

Tabakova: String Paths, Maxim Rysanov; Manfred Eicher, producer Label: ECM New Series

80. BEST CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL COMPOSITION

Lindberg, Magnus: Piano Concerto No. 2, Magnus Lindberg, composer, (Yefim Bronfman, Alan Gilbert & New York Philharmonic) Track from: Magnus Lindberg Label: Dacapo Records

Pärt, Arvo: Adam’s Lament, Arvo Pärt, composer (Tõnu Kaljuste, Latvian Radio Choir, Vox Clamantis & Sinfonietta Riga) Track from: Arvo Pärt: Adam’s Lament Label: ECM New Series

Salonen, Esa-Pekka: Violin Concerto, Esa-Pekka Salonen, composer and conductor, below (Leila Josefowicz, Esa-Pekka Salonen & Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra) Track from: Out Of Nowhere Label: Deutsche Grammophon

Schneider, Maria: Winter Morning Walks, Maria Schneider, composer (Dawn Upshaw, Jay Anderson, Frank Kimbrough, Scott Robinson & Australian Chamber Orchestra) Track from: Winter Morning Walks Label: ArtistShare

Shaw, Caroline: Partita For 8 Voices, Caroline Shaw, composer (Brad Wells & Roomful Of Teeth) Track from: Roomful Of Teeth Label: New Amsterdam Records

Esa Pekka Salonen


Classical music: Hallelujah! Two performances of a “Sing-along ‘Messiah’ are slated next Friday night in Dodgeville and next Sunday afternoon in Spring Green.

December 1, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

Our friends in the Rural Musicians Forum (below is a press release with a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired logo) write to say:

Rural Messiah 2013 poster 2

Around the world and across the country, the performance of the oratorio “Messiah” by George Friderich Handel (below) at Christmas time is a tradition almost as deeply entrenched as decorating trees and hanging stockings.

This year, for the first time in this area, the Rural Musicians Forum is hosting a “Sing-Out Messiah” with two community “sing-along” performances of “Messiah.”

One will be in Dodgeville on this coming Friday, December 6, at 7 p.m. at the United Methodist Church; the other will be in Spring Green on Sunday, December 8,  at 3 p.m.) at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church. 

handel big 3

“Sing-along” concerts have been a popular tradition throughout the United States, Europe and Asia since the mid-20th Century.

Many people have grown up hearing “Messiah” in their homes, churches and communities, and whether they’re accomplished musicians or just shower singers, many love to reconnect to those memories by singing the piece with others.

In a “Sing-along Messiah,” trained and accomplished singers perform side by side with friends and neighbors who could be singing — or even hearing — “Messiah”: for the first time. Families, church groups and even adherents to different religious traditions all take part. (For proof, see the very popular YouTube video with note than 42 million hits at the bottom of a flash mob performance of “The Hallelujah Chorus.)

The audience serves as the unrehearsed chorus, supported by a more carefully prepared core group. Instrumentalists and soloists are of professional quality. 

In Dodgeville and Spring Green, performers will include a chorus drawn from the community, the Pecatonica String Quartet (below), and five soloists, led by Greg Dennis, longtime director of the Mt. Horeb Chorale and UW-Platteville choral department.

Pecatonica String Quartet

Soloists for “Sing Out Messiah” include sopranos Madeline Ehlinger (Spring Green) and Leslie Damaso (Mineral Point), alto Janna Johnson (Arena), bass Carl Leaf (Spring Green) and Matt Roble (Dodgeville/Wisconsin Dells).  Retired UW-Stevens Point piano professor, Michael Keller will accompany.

In the audience will be more than a hundred singers waiting for their turns to sing, and listeners who have the opportunity to sit among the singers. 

In announcing “Sing Out Messiah,” RMF’s Artistic Director Kent Mayfield (below) said, “I love Messiah, and there is something about a full-house doing it that is remarkable.  The joy of singing with a mass of people transcends any kind of choral or vocal ability.  It gives the piece an energy you wouldn’t experience otherwise.  Everyone is welcome to join the singing and everyone is welcome to the performance. As an audience member, no one is required to sing but everyone is certainly invited to sing!”

Kent Mayfield  Rural Musicians Forum

The selections to be sung are listed on the RMF website: www.ruralmusiciansforum.org

Scores for “Messiah” are available at Arcadia Books in Spring Green and from online vendors.  A limited number of copies will be available at each of the performances on a first-come/first-serve basis.

Tickets are $10 (children under 12 are admitted free) for “Sing Out Messiah” and are available now at the Cook’s Room in Dodgeville, Arcadia Books in Spring Green and online at www.ruralmusiciansforum.org. Tickets will be available at the door in advance of each performance.

Rural messiah 2013 poster 1


Classical music: The centennial of British composer Benjamin Britten was Friday. Here are three fine appreciations of him and his music. Plus, you can watch the State High School Honors Concerts today and Monday on Wisconsin Public Television.

November 24, 2013
2 Comments

ALERT: Wisconsin‘s finest young musicians (below) unite for one of the most rewarding musical experiences of their lives. Wisconsin School Music Association’s (WSMA) High School State Honors Concerts were recorded Oct. 24, 2013 at Madison’s Overture Center. The show is part of the Young Performers Initiative to celebrate Wisconsin’s young performers and those who inspire them. The hour-long special airs this afternoon at 5 p.m. and Monday night at 8 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Television’s main channel and also on alternative The Wisconsin Channel. For more information about other air times and channels, here is a link: http://wptschedule.org/episodes/44717914/2013-State-Honors-Concerts/

wpt state honors 2013

By Jacob Stockinger

No one could blame you if you missed the centennial of British composer Benjamin Britten (below).

After all, the Britten celebration was largely overshadowed by the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, which also fell on this past Friday, Nov. 22.

But Benjamin Britten was a great composer, for more reason than many of us realize.

Benjamin Britten

Here are three essays – two from NPR and one from The New York Times – that I found particularly helpful and insightful, especially the detailed explanations by Baltimore Symphony Orchesrra conductor Marin Alsop (below) explanation to Scott Simon of Britten’s “War Requiem” (see the YouTube video at the bottom) and her three points about what makes Britten so important and unique. (Be sure to listen to the longer program rather than read the short text):

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/11/23/246386046/consumed-by-violence-with-hope-for-peace-britten-s-war-requiem

Marin Alsop big

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/11/14/245211949/act-like-you-know-benjamin-britten

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/22/arts/music/the-village-that-benjamin-britten-never-left.html?_r=0

Do you have a favorite piece by Benjamin Britten?

What is it and why is it a favorite?

The Ear wants to hear.

 


Classical music: What music does the assassination of JFK bring to mind for you today on the 50th anniversary of his death?

November 22, 2013
7 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (below), or JFK, in Dallas, Texas.

WH/HO Portrait

It was a momentous event in so many ways for the country. And like many of you, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news flash of his shocking death.

One of JFK’s legacy, one deeply encouraged and acted on by his First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, was to revitalize the American art scene and enhance it with involvement and help from the government.

That so now irks the conservative philistines who want to zero out the budgets for NPR, PBS, the NEA and the NEH, who want an ignorant citizenry that will buy into their distorted lies and mean-spirited stupidities.

But how fitting for the New Frontier was that quiet cultural revolution promoted by JFK during his short tenure in The White House.

Artists responded enthusiastically to JFK and his death. How I recall the music that was put together quickly and performed on the then relatively new medium of television. I think the requiems by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Giuseppe Verdi were performed and broadcast, as was Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” – a favorite of JFK and a work that was given its world premiere by the UW-Madison’s Pro Arte String Quartet in 1936. Gustav Mahler‘s Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection” and Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 “Eroica” were also performed.

Here is a link to a great story on NPR about what music was played in JFK’s hometown of Boston by the Boston Symphony Orchestra under conductor Erich Leinsdorf:

http://www.npr.org/2013/11/21/246328972/moved-by-kennedys-death-the-boston-symphony-played-on

I remember the specific works that for me struck the right chords, so to speak, about the murderous death of the President.

One was the Requiem by Gabriel Faure (below). The whole work is so beautiful and gentle, peaceful and calm – and how we all needed beauty and gentleness, peace and calm, that awful weekend — and it was completely unknown to me.

faure-1

I liked all the movements. “In Paradiso” was one. But I also liked the “Pie Jesu” and the “Libera me.” But what stuck me most and keeps resonating is the “Sanctus.” Here it is in a YouTube video, and be sure to read the comments from other listeners:

The other work I remember from those events is the “German” Requiem by Johannes Brahms (below). I had known it before. But this was when it took on real meaning.

Johannes_Brahms

I remember hearing and loving the movement “How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place.” But the part that really got me choked up was not that one or the Funeral March or even the fabulous “Here on Earth We Have No Abiding City,” with its fabulous fugue “Death, Where Is Thy Sting; Grave, Where Is Thy Victory?.”

It was the final movement, “Blessed Are The Dead for Their Works Live on After Them.” I loved the secular, but respectful and even loving quality of the text and of course the music. That allowed it to appeal to the entire nation and to all people everywhere around the world, regardless of their faith or beliefs.

It seemed so fitting and so true, then; and it still does now.

Here it is:

What works of classical music come to mind for you when you think of that awful day in Dallas and terrible weekend in Washington, D.C., 50 years ago?

The Ear wants to hear.

 


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