The Well-Tempered Ear

Welcome to the Well-Tempered Ear | August 20, 2009

This is Jacob Stockinger.JAKE_1

Hello, and welcome to The Well-Tempered Ear, a new blog about classical music in the Madison area.

Several months ago, Ralph Russo, the cultural arts director at the Wisconsin Union Theater, approached me with the idea of starting the blog.

“It will be your blog but we’ll host it and other individuals and organizations can bookmark it or link to it,” Russo said, adding that he does not expect me to do public relations for him, even though, as I have often said before in print, I consider the Wisconsin Union Theater (which will celebrate the 90th anniversary of its Concert Series this season) the Carnegie Hall of Madison. It may not be the most glamorous or newest or biggest concert hall, but it is where the great ones perform, and it has a matchless record for presenting classical music.

Black and white interior from balcony

The idea, Russo added, is simply to heighten the public’s awareness of
classical music around town by calling on my experience as an arts reporter, writer, critic and editor with almost 30 years of working at The Capital Times and writing a weekly column in the now-defunct Rhythm section that appeared in both The Capital Times and the Wisconsin State Journal.

The hope, according to Russo, is that more public awareness of the  local classical music scene will translate into more public interest, and perhaps generate more ticket sales not only for the Wisconsin Union Theater but also for many of the other classical music presenters in the city and area. After all, given their modest size, Madison and Dane County (with a total population of around 550,00) are exceedingly rich in classical music, both quantity-wise and quality-wise.

Such a generous and cooperative outlook is a very smart strategy, I think, if competition and a bad economy are not to be the undoing of many local performers and presenters.

So just what will “The Well-Tempered Ear” be? (By the way, in case you didn’t already know it, the blog is named after the so-called “Old Testament” of classical music, Johann Sebastian Bach’s “The Well-Tempered Clavier,” his revolutionary two books of 48 preludes and fugues for the keyboard in all major and minor keys. And also FYI: Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas are referred to as “The New Testament.”)

Since The Ear, as I call it for short, is not a full-time job or even a part-time job, the blog will be selective rather than comprehensive. But I will try to touch on all kinds of concerts and organizations, big and small, well known and relatively obscure. I hope to provide something for everyone, but not everything for anyone.

Specifically, I hope to incorporate many different approaches and offer you some surprises, most of them pleasant.

I want to highlight art news in a competitive way. Money and politics play just as big a role in the arts as in other areas of public life, especially during these tough economic times.

I want to touch on social and artistic trends, and see how they apply locally.

I want to provoke controversy, reader responses and community participation.

I will review local concerts and give readers a chance to do the same.

I will review and recommend noteworthy new recordings and books about music.

I will critique local media coverage of the arts in newspapers and on radio and television.

I will offer some previews of concerts, most likely through interviews and question-and-answer profiles of performers or the other people involved in the complex collaborations that make up the performing arts.

I will offer what the late comedian George Carlin called “mind droppings,” just random thoughts about classical music as they come to me and might spark your agreement or disagreement.

And I hope to offer some helpful advice about which concerts to attend at a time and in a town where so many good choices can often leave listeners feeling left out or confused.

Sometime the postings will be short–just a couple of sentences – and sometimes they will be longer. Some may even be posted in installments.

I don’t know for sure how often I will add a posting, though right now my intent is to post several times a week, including a weekend guide on Wednesday — in time for audiences to make up their minds about where
to go and what to hear the following weekend.

It’s all pretty much experimental at this stage, a work-in-progress. But my hope is that you will find The Well-Tempered Ear both enjoyable and useful–perhaps even handy enough to make you add it as a “Favorite” on your PC or a “Bookmark” on your Mac.

Right now it feels good for me to be back.

I hope you feel the same way. But whether you do or you don’t, leave a comment and let me know what you think and what you want to read about.

You can even leave a story tip for me to pursue.

In the meantime, good listening to all.

Posted in Classical music


  1. (apropos of thwarted subscription attempt above)

    Greetings Jake–

    I know–I have subscribed for some time. But recently your blog has mysteriously stopped coming to my email–so I want to get connected up again.


    David J. Susan, Madison

    Comment by David J. Susan — May 27, 2014 @ 4:51 pm

    • Hi David,
      Thank you so much for subscribing.
      You know, I do not know why this happens, but I have heard from some others that it does.
      It may be need rebooting, like when you shut off the computer and restart it and the problem goes away.
      So — I suggest you unsubscribe and the resubscribe and see if that helps you.
      It has helped others.
      Please do let me know.
      Are there any other responses from readers who have experienced the same problem?

      Comment by welltemperedear — May 27, 2014 @ 5:20 pm

  2. You might be interested in an upcoming Madison music event:

    Ring Tones!

    Madison Area Concert Handbells will present three Spring concerts of show stopping handbell favorites: Sunday, April 21 at 2:00PM at the 7th Day Adventist Church, 26625 Crestview Dr, Richland Center, Friday May 10 at 7:30PM at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church, 5700 Pheasant Hill Road, Madison and Saturday May 11 at 7:30PM at Asbury United Methodist Church, 6101 University Ave, Madison.

    The program will feature the some of the great masterwork compositions from all genres of the handbell repertoire. The first half of the program will open with Handel’s bright and festive Music from the Royal Fireworks and go on to feature some of the most beautiful orchestral melodies of Elgar, Holst and Grieg arranged for handbells and concludes with a Malcolm Wilson arrangement featuring the Great Highland Bagpipes.

    The second half opens with Michael Helman’s spectacular showpiece Prelude and Passacaglia, an original handbell composition in the Baroque style, and will go on to feature popular selections from the stage and big screen, famous traditional compositions from Europe, the Caribbean, and South America, and conclude with the grandiose and majestic Finlandia by Sibelius.

    Comment by Catherine — March 26, 2013 @ 3:11 pm

  3. Jacob, as a former Madisonian and a cellist, I’m reaching out to ask your help for another cellist, Michael Samis, who has discovered a “forgotten” cello concerto by Reinecke. I can’t leave a URL, but if you google “Reinecke cello concerto,” you see a title called “a forgotten cello concerto by Michael Samis” The very little I heard was amazing–and Samis needs to raise $8,500 in 32 days. Please help!

    Comment by Marc Newhouse — February 20, 2013 @ 10:23 am

  4. […] be informed about its origins and share that as I champion his work in my own early blog posts.  In his very first blog post I learned that the blog is named after the so-called “Old Testament” of classical music, […]

    Pingback by Music in Madison | My Sharing Place — October 10, 2012 @ 11:22 pm

  5. Excellent site, keep up the good work

    Comment by Bill Bartmann — September 4, 2009 @ 12:49 am

  6. Bravo!

    Comment by Jennifer — August 26, 2009 @ 3:51 pm

  7. You said you’d like to do it, and by Johann you’ve done it. I look forward to plenty of interesting commentary, spirited but respectful bickering, informed postings, ignorant blather, etc. etc.
    Go for it, Jake.

    Comment by Marius — August 24, 2009 @ 7:28 pm

  8. I look forward to reading more!

    Comment by well tempered reader — August 21, 2009 @ 7:15 pm

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