The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical Music: Here is Part 3 of The Ear’s holiday gift-giving guide, featuring NPR’s “Top 10 Classical Albums of 2012.” Plus, how will you celebrate Beethoven’s birthday today? | December 16, 2012

ALERT: Be sure to listen to some Beethoven (below) today. Because Dec. 16 is Ludwig van‘s   242nd birthday  (born Dec. 16, 1770 in Bonn – died March 26, 1827 in Vienna).  

Beethoven big

By Jacob Stockinger

As in past years, and two weekends ago, The Ear will again be offering some holiday gift-giving ideas for classical music fans.

Of course, every year I recommend package gifts – gifts that combine a recording or video with a book or, best of all, a ticket to a live concert.

Two weekends ago, I offered the Classical Nominations for the 2013 Grammys. Here are links to the two postings:


One of my most trusted sources for sound judgment, when it comes to outstanding classical music, is NPR’s outstanding blog “Deceptive Cadence” and its exceptionally well-informed writers Tom Huizenga (below) and Anastasia Tsioulcas.


That blog publishes its list of the best classical recording halfway through the year, and then again an expanded version at year’s end. As usual, it provides a fine of established artists and well-known artists; vocalists and instrumentalists; established repertoire and contemporary music; big labels and small labels; large groups, small ensembles and individual performers..

Below is a link to the NPR list for this past year. Be sure to read comments and other suggestion for Best of 2012 by  readers and followers of the NPR blog.

You will notice that the pianist Jeremy Denk made the NPR  post for his Nonesuch debut recording (below) of some fiendishly difficult etudes by Gyorgy Ligeti combined with Beethoven’s epic last piano sonata, Op. 111 in C Minor.

Denk will perform in Madison on April 22 at 8 p.m. in Mills Halls, at the University of Wisconsin School of Music while the historic Wisconsin Union Theater is closed for renovations. A ticket to that concert, which is tentatively scheduled to have program of half-Brahms and half-Liszt, would be a welcome gift.

jeremy denk ligeti-beethoven CD

But you can find other connections — cellist Alisa Weilerstein (below) has performed several times in Madison — to make with local live concerts by orchestras, chamber music ensembles, soloists and opera companies.


Here is NPR’s “Top 10 Classical Albums of 2012,” which comes complete with CD covers and audio samples:

Have fun figuring out ways to bring about synergy and make your classical music gift even more rewarding and expansive!

In the COMMENTS part, tell me what you think of NPR’s suggestions.

And leave your own gift-giving suggestions!

The Ear wants to hear.


  1. One more suggestion: Our family makes some “in honor of” donations as gifts, and I will be making a donation to a Madison performing arts group in honor of my grandchildren, who are studying piano and classical guitar.


    Comment by Susan Fiore — December 16, 2012 @ 8:56 am

    • Hi Susan,
      I couldn’t agree more with you.
      Any group is a good and fitting choice, depending on your taste and p[reference.
      But I have already written about what a great buy (and gift) a donation to WYSO
      (Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras) is
      as a way to build both musicians and audiences.
      Thank you for reading and replying with such a great gift suggestion.
      How about combining both a ticket to a lve performance with a donation made in the recipients honor so they can hear where the gift is going to?
      Happy holidays.


      Comment by welltemperedear — December 16, 2012 @ 9:29 am

      • Yes! I will do that, thanks.


        Comment by Susan Fiore — December 16, 2012 @ 3:01 pm

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