The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: What classical music do you find necessary and why? | August 19, 2017

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has heard many themes for concerts and festivals.

But he really, really likes the title of this year’s Token Creek Chamber Music Festival (below, inside the refurbished barn that serves as a concert hall).

It runs from Aug. 26 through Sept. 3.

Here is a link to complete details about the performers, the three programs and the five concerts that focus especially on the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and Franz Schubert, Maurice Ravel and Robert Schumann:

The theme or concept is NECESSARY MUSIC.

Of course, as the festival press release says, the Token Creek organizers recognize that the whole idea is subjective, so they refuse to be prescriptive:

“In what way, and for whom is a certain kind of music necessary?

“Certainly the presenters of a chamber music festival would be presumptuous to offer a program as a sort of prescription for listeners. And at Token Creek we won’t.

“So often the music we need arrives by chance, and we did not even know we needed it until it appears. And other times we know exactly what we are missing. And so we offer this year’s programs of pieces that feed the soul.”

The Ear likes that concept.

And he thinks it applies to all of us.

So today he wants to know: What music is NECESSARY FOR YOU and WHAT MAKES IT NECESSARY

Of course, the idea of necessary music changes over time and in different circumstances.

Do you need relief from the anxiety of political news?

Are you celebrating a happy event?

Are you recovering from some kind of personal sadness or misfortune?

But right now, what piece or pieces of music – or even what composer – do you find necessary and why?

In the COMMENT section, please tell us what it is and what makes it necessary?

And please include a link to a YouTube video performance, if possible.

The Ear wants to hear.


  1. My nomination for the greatest symphony ever written: Jean Sibelius, Symphony #5. Best performance is a relatively old one (by Leonard Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic).

    Why? It seems to me so lush in sound, so lovingly beautiful, so evocative of nature and birds and forests, and the ending is triumphant.

    Bernstein takes it at a relatively slow pace but he wrings all the beauty out of it, and the VP is masterful.

    Comment by FFlambeau — August 19, 2017 @ 2:19 am

  2. Necessary music:

    1) Bach: One of the two greats.
    2) Mozart: One of the two greats.
    3) Sibelius (his 5th symphony is the best ever written including the 5th by that other guy)
    4) Astor Piazzolla; huge talent, melodic; modern; crossover music


    1) Beethoven (a bit too percussive for my tastes; better writing for small groups);
    2) Haydn (horrid; repetitive; boring);

    Underplayed and very worthwhile:

    1) Luigi Boccherini (an Italian dating from the days of Haydn but much more versatile and interesting than Haydn);
    2) Alan Hovhaness (he wrote much more than just “Mysterious Mountain”; very good chamber music: see Shanghai Quartet for their recordings;
    3) Lou Harrison;
    4) Amy Beach;
    5) Claude Debussy; his piano music is masterful, a real challenger to Chopin;
    6) Maurice Ravel
    7) Camille Saint-Saëns
    8) Philip Glass;
    9) Ludovico Einaudi
    10) Vivaldi (there is much more to him than the overplayed but delight 4 Seasons);
    11) Arvo Pärt;
    12) Rachmaninoff (more than just a writer for the piano; he was once dismissed as too sentimental)
    13) Morten Lauridsen

    Comment by FFlambeau — August 19, 2017 @ 2:08 am

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