The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini revisits favorite moments in music for him – and the moments by Puccini, Debussy and Brahms submitted by readers.

December 22, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

You may recall that several weeks ago, The New York Times‘ senior music critic Anthony Tommasini (below) wrote at length about some of his favorite moments in music. They are small moments from Chopin and other composers that he sometime heard as a child or young man, moments that have lasted him a lifetime. They still move him.

tommasini-190

(You might remember that the articulate and droll Tommasini also came to speak in Madison last season at the Wisconsin Union Theater and in Mills Hall –- a photo is below with Tommasini on the right, composer William Bolcom on the left and UW pianist Todd Welbourne in the middle as a moderator — as part of the Pro Arte Quartet Centennial celebration at the University of Wisconsin.)

William Bolcom, Todd Welbourne, Anthony Tommasini

You may also recall that, in addition to the story about musical moments, Tommasini, a composer and Yale-trained pianist, posted four short videos explaining how and why those favorite moments work.  

Here is the original story, which I posted on Thanksgiving Day, and also links to the four videos:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/?s=Tommasini+Favorite+moments

Then just a few days ago, Tommasini answered reader responses and wrote a follow-up story, after his first story and the first four short videos he did. He used reader responses to speak of other favorite moments and post some other clips about the pieces:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/09/arts/music/readers-great-moments-in-classical-music.html?ref=anthonytommasini

Part 5: “La Boheme” by Puccini (below);

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/17/musical-moments-part-v-la-bohme/

puccini at piano

Part 6: “Clair de Lune” by Claude Debussy (below, the slow movement from his “Suite Bergamasque”:

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/18/musical-moments-part-vi-clair-de-lune/

Claude Debussy 1

Part 7: “Intermezzzo” for solo piano in E-flat Major, Op. 117, No. 1, by Brahms:

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/19/musical-moments-part-vii-brahms/

brahms3

Are there special moments in music that resonate with you? Please leave their titles and composers in the COMMENT section here and maybe also on Tommasini’s blog posting.

Who knows? He might use your suggestions for the next installment.

video


Classical music: Today is Thanksgiving. Which composer, or piece of music, or performer, do you most give thanks for?

November 22, 2012
8 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S.

I give thanks for all kinds of music and don’t know how I would live without music. I think of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (below) and his observation in “The Twilight of the Gods”: “Life without music would be a mistake.”

But is there a special reason for or object of my gratitude?

It can and does change from year to year, from age to age, from mood to mood, and from event to event.

But at any given moment there is usually a piece of music for which I give special thanks, music that seems to embody and enhance and grace my existence. Bach and Mozart have done it. So have Chopin and Schumann. Beethoven does it, but to a lesser degree generally.

These days the composer that I, as a devoted amateur pianist, most give thanks for is Franz Schubert (1797-1828), and the pieces by Schubert I most give thanks for are two.

First comes the big last Piano Sonata in B-Flat Major, D. 960, which I can’t play, but the poignant and haunting beginning of which – to say nothing of the rest of the sonata  — is especially moving and memorable as performed by Alfred Brendel in his “Farewell Concert” for Decca recording and by Murray Perahia in a Sony Classical set of the last three piano sonatas.

Second comes the miniature “Allegretto” in C Minor, D. 915, also a very late and intimately bittersweet work, which I can play, and which I enjoy as performed by Paul Lewis (on Harmonium Mundi, below) and Maurizio Pollini (on Deutsche Grammophon).

I find Schubert’s warmth and sense of empathy so very touching. His sublime melodies, his sudden major-minor harmony shifts, his sense of accessible counterpoint, his blending of joy and tragedy -– they all are irresistible. Schubert’s music contains worlds, and reassuring worlds at a time when I need to be reassured, and at a time when I also think the world needs to be reassured.

And there is so much music to choose from: the hundreds of fabulous songs and song cycles; the late string quartets, the otherworldly String Quintet, the Octet and the “Trout” Quintet; the Sonatas, Impromptus and Moments Musicaux for solo piano.

 

In a similar way, famed New York Times senior music critic Anthony Tommasini (below) touched on this same theme in a “Musical Moments” column that he published last week and in which he talked about longtime favorite passages or moments in music by Chopin, Wagner, Puccini and Stravinsky. He even coupled his thoughts to short audio-visual clips he made especially to accompany the column.

You should read and listen to the column, plus pay attention to the more than 600 reader comments:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/18/arts/music/anthony-tommasinis-musical-moments.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

And here are links to the short videos that he did to go with his column:

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/16/musical-moments-what-moves-us/

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/19/musical-moments-part-ii-a-new-video-on-mahler/

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/20/musical-moments-part-iii-two-operas/

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/21/musical-moments-part-iv-stravinskys-symphony-of-psalms/

And just as Anthony Tommasini asked you for your favorite moments, I am also asking you to leave something in the COMMENT section with the name of the composer or piece of music for which you are most giving thanks this Thanksgiving.

Let me know what they are.

The Ear wants to hear.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!


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