The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: It’s Mother’s Day. What piece of music would you perform or play for your Mom today? I choose a Chopin waltz for mine. | May 12, 2013

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is Mother’s Day in the U.S.

So it is a fitting time to consider what music you would make and what music you would play to give your Mom as a gift.

It comes to mind because a couple of months ago, The Ear lost his Mom (below). She was 91, and had, as a red-headed and ever-resourceful War Bride for World War II, lived a long, good and quietly adventurous life with much spirit, good humor and boundless energy, despite various setbacks.

Gladys Stockinger

She also set me on the path to classical music – to making it and appreciating it – even though she herself was not especially musical except to sing hymns in church and  ballades, show tunes and ditties in piano bars.

Way back when, my sister said she wanted to go take piano lessons and I asked if I could too. Mom said yes. My sister stopped; I kept going.

piano keys

With a few intervals, some big and some small. those lessons that started at age 8 continued with right up until the present and will do so well into the future.

When I would visit Mom in her  later years, we would go to a club house near the retirement community where she lived in Phoenix and I would play some of her favorite pieces. It was always a treat for her. She would just relax and lean back and smile in enjoyment. The pleasure she had given me was returned, and for her, everything had gone round and come home.

Chopin (below) was always her favorite. Probably because he was also mine.


So when I wanted to attend the legendary all-Chopin recital in Carnegie Hall by Arthur Rubinstein (below top) in 1961, she got the tickets –- which ended up being ON-STAGE tickets so I could see The Master play Chopin from maybe 20 feet away. (Below bottom is the view of Carnegie Hall FROM the main stage after its great renovation.)

Arthur Rubinstein


Anyway, I miss Mom, more than I let on. But I keep her and my memories of her in my heart –- and I often think of her when I am at the keyboard, especially whenever I am playing Chopin. Which is often, sometimes daily.

I know she had a favorite Chopin piece. Probably because it was a favorite of mine, and I could play it for her pretty well. And without fail, she was proud and pleased.

That’s how Moms are.

And so in memory of all the pleasure she gave me through music, and all the caring she lavished on me in so many ways, I am posting a performance that set the standard for both me and her.

It is one of the greatest pieces by a great composer and played by a great pianist and great musician.

Here in a YouTube video is Chopin’s soulful Waltz in C-sharp Minor, Op. 64, No. 2, played by Arthur Rubinstein, first in an older recording and then in one, with music to follow, that is closer to the version we heard together.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

I loved you then. I love you still. I will always love you and never forget you.



  1. Jake-

    What a lovely homage to Mom. Thanks.

    Of course, I sought out Waltz in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 64. No.2.

    All that led me to the Chopin Project where I can search the oeuvre by genre, key, and year of composition. How cool is that?

    All the best to you and to that special person in your household.

    – and thanks too for the blog,


    Comment by Judd Roth — May 26, 2013 @ 6:59 pm

  2. Thanks for sharing Jake. I also took Piano lessons with my sister, she stopped and kept going, her loss. Very sorry to hear of your Mother’s passing.

    Comment by Paul M. Tropp — May 12, 2013 @ 8:41 pm

  3. Jake, That was beautiful. My Mom is 95 and still on her own, bless her. Because of our Scandinavian heritage, our favorite is Grieg’s Nocturne. She heard me practice it at home, and now I play it for her once in a while. A big moment for me was to hear it played on a concert in 2011 at Grieg’s home in Norway.

    Comment by LC — May 12, 2013 @ 1:55 pm

    • Hi Linda,
      What a great Mom and memory.
      The Grieg Nocturne is a lovely piece.
      Twice I have heard Stephen Hough, the outstanding British pianist, use it as as an encore after performances in Madison.
      And it was effective. Both times the audience was deeply moved, hushed and spellbound.
      So it is indeed a great choice to celebrate Mother’s Day.
      Thank you for reading and replying.

      Comment by welltemperedear — May 13, 2013 @ 10:11 am

  4. Jacob,

    My mother was a saint, just like yours. She bought me my first trombone when I was about 16 and despite working like a dog all her life, often attended my recitals in undergrad & music school. I frequently visit her grave & say a loving prayer for her. She set the moral bar in my life & I will always be grateful for her serious parenting & loving kindness, something woefully lacking in many of today’s parents. Thanks for all you do to keep us up on Dane county’s many musical treasures. Happy Mother’s Day.

    Comment by Larry Retzack — May 12, 2013 @ 1:38 pm

  5. Thanks, Jake. I listened to the waltz and thought of Gladys, and of course my own doting musical mom sitting in another retirement village community hall while her son repaid his piano lessons at the keyboard of a crappy spinet that sounded just fine to her. You’re still being a good son.

    Comment by Ron McCrea — May 12, 2013 @ 11:40 am

  6. Very sweet blog, Jake. Thanks for sharing your love for your mom. Bruce

    Comment by Bruce Croushore — May 12, 2013 @ 11:03 am

  7. Dear Ear — Musical mothers! Mine died eight years ago, a few days after Mother’s Day. She was a pianist, playing the B’s on her Yamaha Grand in Florida just a few days before she died. She, too, loved Chopin and I remember growing up hearing The Revolutionary (étude) over and over as she practiced. So, now, Chopin, too, is one of my favorites. Our mothers are always with us.

    Comment by Ronnie Hess — May 12, 2013 @ 9:15 am

    • Hi Ronnie,
      Yes, they are always with us — almost as much as Chopin!
      Your Mom must have had pretty good chops to play the “Revolutionary” Etude.
      How great for her and for you.
      Thank you for reading and replying so personally.

      Comment by welltemperedear — May 13, 2013 @ 10:13 am

  8. Very personal, very touching, very well done. Thank you for sharing so important a message, and condolences on losing your mom. Now I know where your big heart comes from.

    Comment by Michael Muckian — May 12, 2013 @ 7:58 am

  9. I’m sorry to hear of the loss of your mother. This was a very touching installment.

    Comment by Larry Wells — May 12, 2013 @ 7:54 am

    • Hi Larry,
      Thank you.
      Hearing form you is always welcome and especially when the posting is so personal.
      See you soon for some Bach and Schubert and Chopin.

      Comment by welltemperedear — May 13, 2013 @ 10:15 am

  10. Mr. Stockinger…I just wanted to tell you that I truly do appreciate the heart and soul that you put into these emails. I so appreciate all of the effort you go to to share the many musical opportunities in Madison. I am new to your newsletters, and I am thoroughly enjoying them. Thank you so much.

    Comment by Joyce — May 12, 2013 @ 7:05 am

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