The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: What composers and what pieces give you shelter and sanctuary during troubled times? | October 1, 2017

By Jacob Stockinger

A week ago, The Ear went to the inspired all-Mozart program given by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Pro Arte Quartet with guest cellist Jean-Michel Fonteneau (below center) and guest clarinetist Alicia Lee (below right), who was making her debut as a new UW faculty member.

He expected a fine performance and he was not disappointed. Indeed, he shares the same very positive reactions that critic John W. Barker expressed in his review for this blog. Here is a link to that review:

But something else happened too.

The sublime music of Mozart (below) – especially the Larghetto slow second movement of the late Clarinet Quintet, K. 581, but also the other movements and the String Quartet in G Major, K. 387 -– took The Ear into another world, into a parenthesis in time.

(You can hear a live performance in Japan by Yo-Yo Ma and others in the Larghetto movement, plus the rest of the Clarinet Quintet, in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

For a brief time – perhaps a total of about 80 or 90 minutes – The Ear was totally transported. He temporarily blocked out the political strife in Washington, D.C. and the Trump White House; the government turmoil here in Madison and around the world; and  the terrible, deadly natural disasters of floods, hurricanes and wildfires in the U.S. and elsewhere around the globe.

He just let the transcendent music and the performances wash over him, refreshing him with their beauty before he reemerged onto the street and into the painful reality of current events after the concert ended.

So The Ear offers a deeply felt thank you to the performers for planning and playing such a timely and therapeutic program. He needed that more than he knew. And he hopes more such concerts are in store. The times demand such balm, not as escapism but as a reminder of great good things that endure.

So here is The Ear’s question: What other composers and what other pieces or works do you find offer the same kind of sanctuary or shelter?

Leave a COMMENT with a link to a performance on YouTube if possible.


  1. Thank you for the phrase “parenthesis in time,” both apt and eloquent. Today, the 40th anniversary of the newspaper strike, with all its strife, I’ve listened to Faure’s “Cantique de Jean Racine.”


    Comment by Ron McCrea — October 1, 2017 @ 4:00 pm

  2. I’d say Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, first movement, exudes tranquility; and Vivaldi’s works have positive energy. Also, the Chopin Nocturnes, especially the Garrick Ohlsson recording,and the last movement of Aaron Copland’s Piano Sonata are quite soothing to me.


    Comment by Sandy Tabachnick — October 1, 2017 @ 12:42 pm

  3. Just a few small examples:
    1) The Dvorak Romance for Violin and Orchestra. Op.11.
    2) The slow movement of the Mozart Violin/Viola Duet K.424.
    3) Almost anything by Josquin. The motet Benedicta es and the Deploration de Johannes Ockeghem are tops.
    4) The first movement of Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto.
    5) Movement 1 of the 4th Ballet Suite by Shostakovich.
    6) Monteverdi’s 4th Book of Madrigals.
    And many more.
    Thanks for pulling me away from things through a dive into the recording collection!


    Comment by Steve Kurr — October 1, 2017 @ 8:42 am

  4. 1) Bach, just about anything.
    2) Alan Hovhaness; his works put you into a different, more spiritual world;
    3) Jean Sibelius, especially his 5th and 7th symphonies, and also that beautiful clarinet introduction to his first symphony;
    4) Mozart, just about anything but his piano, horn and clarinet works are sublime;
    5) Claude Debussy. His big works (La Mer) are as fantastic as his piano pieces, which I now like better than those of Chopin.
    6) Handel’s keyboard works (for harpsichord) with Scott Ross playing. Superb.


    Comment by fflambeau — October 1, 2017 @ 1:29 am

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