The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: This Thursday morning, WORT will broadcast a live performance of Gideon Klein’s String Trio, composed in a concentration camp, by three up-and-coming musicians from the Dynamite Factory of the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society | June 14, 2017

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following note from blog fan and local live music documentarian Rich Samuels, who hosts his radio show “Anything Goes” on Thursday morning on WORTFM 88.9. It concerns an unusual performance of Holocaust music by a kind of apprenticeship program that The Ear really likes as a way for to provide continuity between different generations of musicians:

“At 7:26 a.m. on this Thursday morning, June 15, on my WORT broadcast I’ll be playing a performance of Gideon Klein‘s 1944 String Trio by violinist Misha Vayman, violist Jeremy Kienbaum and cellist Trace Johnson (below, from left, in a photo by Samantha Crownover).

“They are the three members of the “Dynamite Factory,” the three emerging musicians who have joined the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society for its 2017 season.

“I recorded this performance — thanks to co-artistic director Stephanie Jutt and executive director Samantha Crownover — last Thursday at an event at the Central Library of the Madison Public Library system.

Trace and Jeremy are Madison natives and alumni of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO); Misha comes to Madison from the Russian Republic by way of southern California.

“I think it’s a compelling performance of a remarkable piece. It was the last work Klein (below) composed before he was transported from the Theresienstadt concentration camp to Auschwitz where, in a coal mining sub-camp, he died in early 1945.”


  1. Could you fix your introduction to the article, as the work was composed in the Theresiendstadt “ghetto” and not in Auschwitz? Thanks.

    Comment by Jeanne Swack — June 14, 2017 @ 1:04 am

    • Thank you for reading and replying with your clarification and correction.
      You are right, and I apologize for the mistake, which has been corrected.

      Comment by welltemperedear — June 14, 2017 @ 7:23 am

  2. It’s nice to see a good, well-trained group play something different in the repertoire and for a blogger (actually two) to give them a boost. Well done!

    I’m also going to post a rather long entry here that gives my thoughts on most “gatekeepers” in classical music and the terrific disservice they do the public. It’s called, “How To Deal with the Hoi Polloi if You are a Classical Music “Host” on Public Radio.”

    “We all know that classical music and the masses cannot coexist, so here are some simple rules to follow if you are a public radio-classical music disc jockey:

    1) Never play music from a symphony orchestra in the United States (or heaven-forbid) South America, Asia and the like. We will not mention Africa or the Middle East either. Your go-to orchestras are: the Berlin Philharmonic, and in the unlikely event that august group does not have a recent recording of something, turn to the London Symphony Orchestra. The Vienna Philharmonic is vaguely Jewish, anything from Russia is tainted with communism, Putism, or something you might have to take powerful antibiotics to treat.

    Doing so will also allow you to speak your foreign languages hence proving you are superior to 99.9% of your listeners; and remember, if you cannot pronounce something in a foreign accent, fake it in a vaguely Inspector Closeau-like “French accent”. Don’t speak any foreign languages? No problemo. Take the Closeau approach or claim expertise in Urdu or an even more obscure language because no one will protest (at least for months). For those seeking more “flair”, subtly change your name or perhaps just use a first name, giving it a vague Spanish or Italian-sounding ending: Ernest becomes Ernesto, and instead of coming from Pittsburgh you grew up in Padua.

    Here are two caveats to the above rule about orchestras: obscure British orchestras are good and any conductor with a title (especially a British peerage or any group that has Royal in it) is safe plus all Brits who count come from a nation that kind of speaks American English–but with a hoity-toity accent– and Scandinavian orchestras hold potential because no one outside Minneapolis can pronounce their leaders or their names, or even knows or cares where they are or if they really exist.

    2) A corollary to the above is that you should never play music written by an American because classical music, as all know, is essentially a European (read German-London) art form. But Aaron Copland is fine as long as you stick to simple “apple pie” kinds of music like “Fanfare for the Common Man” (always good when a common touch is needed), or “Appalachian Spring”. Leonard Bernstein also works as long as you confine your choices to his Broadway music and especially West Side Story. Other things written by him are problematic, contain too many notes, and are too Jewish. If you do have to play music composed by an American, be sure it is played by a German or London-based orchestra which will remove much of its sting.

    If you are feeling especially racy, George Gershwin is acceptable but not Alan Hovhaness, Philip Glass, Amy Beach, William Grant Still, Lou Harrison, John Cage or other unmentionables. If pieces from these untouchables are mentioned, let alone played, never say anything about the composer and if preferable, or better yet, speak dismissively of them and have a European group perform them. To some specifics: regrettably, Alan Hovhaness and his “Magic Mountain” Symphony are popular and frequently requested by the under-class. How to deal with that? Well, play only the first movement of the symphony and never talk about him or his music even though he wrote hundreds of other pieces (most of them very good).

    Everyone knows the classics were written by Germans: Bach, Beethoven, Mozart (he spoke German), Brahms and Haydn (very boring but extremely pretentious, repetitive music so always good in a pinch). You can also endlessly repeat the “joke” of his “surprise symphony” which is required knowledge of all public radio hosts. Handel is also good and he too was a German albeit he lived abroad– it was still in highly civilized London, so no problem. Just don’t talk about him and his relations with his butler.

    3) If you cannot find a “war horse” piece from Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Haydn to play then concentrate on early music. Here and in opera music alone, Italian composers/groups are acceptable so you can indeed play Vivaldi but even more obscure composers are preferable since no one will question your judgement (or, even more importantly, your pronunciation). The general rule is: the more obscure the better when dealing with unimportant, non-Beethovians.

    4) Do not play music written by women. This is, after all, a masculine art form. So, always talk about Robert Schumann but not his more talented wife Clara. Dwell on Wolfgang but not his equally talented sister. Amy Beach is doubly forbidden: a female AND an American. Best to ignore anything she wrote; also, her name is too simple to pronounce and gives you no “foreign language points”. Likewise, ignore the questions of gays in music history even though it is highly likely that Beethoven, Handel, Bernstein (no surprise there) and many more were queers. What good does speculation do you? Far better to tell the huge “joke” involved in Haydn’s “Surprise Symphony” even if it is for the millionth time.

    5) Unfortunately, music from the movies is highly popular with audiences so you may be forced to play it. But get an approved version featuring a European performer and orchestra. Many of these pieces are also vaguely Jewish so be doubly careful. These popular music themes should always be brief and book-ended by, say, Haydn and Beethoven, to contrast their fluff with the real thing.

    6) Old Nazis are always the best as they have, in a sense, been pre-vetted: either as composers (Richard Strauss), conductors (Herbert Von Karajan), or performers (Elisabeth Schwarzkopf) . Just pronouncing the late BSO conductor’s name not only will give you goose bumps but also sets you off from the oafs in your audience. For the same reason, avoid “politics” in the only true musical form: classical music. Strangely enough, the Nazis did not play well in either Peoria or Poland.

    The Russians are particularly tricky and always seem to want to sneak seditious politics into their music so be especially careful with playing them and the likes of Shostakovich. Better to ignore them completely.

    Never, ever discuss what composers did in their real life: it can get you in trouble (and with Google, your audience can “fact check” you and lodge complaints against you for being inaccurate). So, for instance, concentrate on the music in Fidelio and not the story; or else, if really pressed, give accounts of the aristocracy and how wonderfully they treated Haydn and other court musicians and how amazed, grateful, and surprised they were by his “Surprise Symphony”. Google will support you on this!

    7) If, ye Gods, you really must play something modern (say John Cage) then tie that “music” to the people with real talent, especially Europeans like Eric Sate or even someone more respectable than the man who played piano in Parisian saloons. Call it his “most popular work” or better yet, “his most notorious”. And, of course, speak dismissively about the maverick if at all. Never say anything nice about these people or their music. Always be critical. In short, minimize the minimalists: they deserve it. And play it when no one listens to your station: like very late at night/early in the morning. It will still turn up on your playlist and demonstrate for the world that you are “into” other kinds of music, a true liberal.

    Always douche your audience with Haydn or Mozart or Beethoven after such problematic, maverick composers: this will have an antibiotic effect as will a story about Haydn’s Surprise Symphony.

    8) Remember and remind your audience often that “all good music has always been old music.”

    Comment by FFlambeau — June 14, 2017 @ 12:40 am

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