The Well-Tempered Ear

Late January has good classical music shows on PBS; they start Wednesday night

January 19, 2010
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

Get your DVD and TiVO machines warmed up.

Late January will feature some terrific classical music programs on the Public Broadcasting System and Wisconsin Public  Television (WHA-TV in the Madison area).

Some of the times seem odd to me. For example, superstar and heart-throb violinist Joshua Bell regularly sells out concerts — including his last appearances in Madison at the Wisconsin Union Theater and the Madison Symphony Orchestra in Overture Hall —  and played last fall at the White House. Yet he gets slotted for 3:30 on a Saturday afternoon. One would have thought prime time a more appropriate choice for wide viewership, especially since this was the season opener for “Live From Lincoln Center.” What gives? one wants to ask the Programming Decider at WPT.

But better mistimed than never timed, I suppose.

Anyway, here, via a press release from WPT,  is a wrap-up:

*Wednesday, Jan. 20, at 10:30 p.m.: “From the Top at Carnegie Hall” — Young performers (below in a 3 2008 photo by Stefan Cohen of WGBH in Boston) from all across the country are showcased, beginning with 11-year-old cellist Lev Mamuya from Newton, Mass. One of the youngest performers to appear on the television show, Lev is also a proud member of Red Sox Nation and can’t get enough of his favorite candy, Skittles.

Viewers then meet 18-year-old Eliodoro Vallecillo from Santa Cruz, California, who, with the support of his family and his devoted music teacher, overcame great odds to become a rising young French horn player. Eliodoro performs the third movement, Allegro, from Mozart’s Concerto No. 3 in E-Flat, K. 447.

The Chicagoland-area Ridere String Quartet, composed of 18-year-olds Samantha Bennett, Ryan Meehan, Emma Steele and Mindy Park, finds that they not only play well together, but have a wonderful time doing so. They named their group “Ridere,” the Italian word for laughter. The young women and round out the episode with a lively performance of Piazzolla’s “Tango for Four.”

Saturday, Jan. 23. 3:30-5 p.m.: Live From Lincoln Center “Joshua Bell (below, in a photo by Richard Termine) at the Penthouse — With Friends”

Celebrated violinist and “Live From Lincoln Center” favorite Joshua Bell and some musical friends, including Kristen Chenoweth, Nathan Gunn, Frankie Moreno and Marvin Hamlisch, perform in the intimate Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse.

Here’a link to a story:,0,2511597.story

Wednesday, Jan 27, 9 p.m.: Great Performances at the Met “The Audition”

Directed by award-winning filmmaker Susan Froemke, “The Audition” looks at the intense pressures young opera singers (below in a photo by Ken Howard of The Met) face as they struggle to succeed in one of the most difficult professions in the performing arts. UW mezzo-soprano Julia Faulkner appears in the film.

The feature-length documentary takes viewers behind the scenes at the Metropolitan Opera’s National Council Auditions, where each year thousands of hopefuls compete for a cash prize, the chance to sing on the Met stage and the opportunity to launch a major operatic career.

The film covers the dramatic week leading up to the finals of the 2007 auditions, focusing on three tenor contestants: Michael Fabiano, a fiery 22-year-old grappling with his inner demons; Alek Shrader, a 25-year-old who attempts to sing nine high Cs in the fiendishly difficult aria that made Pavarotti a star; and Ryan Smith, who at age 30 and with little formal training, is pursuing his dream of an operatic career.

“The Audition” is both a suspenseful competition narrative and a revealing backstage look at what it takes to make it as an opera singer.

Watch and tell us what you think of the content of the various programs and whether local and national public television should do more classical music concerts, shows and specials?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

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