The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical Music: Here is Part 4 of The Ear’s holiday gift-giving guide to classical music, compliments of The New York Times and local concert presenters.

December 19, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

It’s the season for holiday gift-giving, and it is coming to an end soon.

As loyal readers know, I still favor combining recordings and books or DVDs with tickets to live local performances – which are abundant in the Madison area. And as a reader suggested recently, you can also add a donation in the recipient’s name.

Just use the Google search engine to get to the home websites for the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below), the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Madison Opera, the University of Wisconsin School of Music, the Oakwood Chamber Players, Sound Ensemble Wisconsin, the Festival Choir, the Wisconsin Chamber Choir, and so many others, including the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO). Many groups also offer their own recordings as well as tickets. (Plus, there is a gift sale of $20 and $45 tickets for upcoming concerts during the rest\ of this season going on through Dec. 24 at the Madison Symphony Orchestra.)

mso from above

That said, though, there are a lot of good recommendations for classical music gifts to be found. You’ll even notice some duplications on various lists, as one should expect. They include the Met’s new and controversial production of the “Ring” cycle by Richard Wagner; more early Baroque music and songs by Agostino Stefani recently discovered and performed by star mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli (at bottom); and pianist Andras Schiff’s sparkling second recording of J.S Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, both Books 1 and 2, for ECM.

I have already listed three parts or installments.

Here are links to Part 1 and 2, derived from the Grammy nominations for 2013:


Here is a link to Part 3, taken from the NPR blog “Deceptive Cadence” and its list of the Top 10 Classical Albums of 2012:

jeremy denk ligeti-beethoven CD

Because multiple writers and reviewers contributed – including Anthony Tommasini, Vivien Schweitzer, Corinna de Fonseca-Wollheim and Zachary Woolfe – contributed to the story, you gets multiple points of view and different kinds of taste.

Multiple genres, both CDs and DVDs, are offered (below, in a photo by Tony Cenicola for The New York TImes). Books are mentioned, though curiously NOT the much discussed book “Reinventing Bach” about J.S. Bach and why he remains popular even as technology changes and transcriptions abound.

Bets of 2012 NY Times Tony Cenicola

There seems to be an emphasis on history, on box sets and on more expensive books and DVDs – not a bad thing, given how easily we tend open our wallets and rack up the credit cards at holiday time.

All in all, you can get some terrific gift ideas:

Take a look:


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