The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Guest pianist Leon Fleisher and the Pro Arte Quartet will give a FREE performance of the Piano Quintet by Brahms at noon on Oct. 6.

September 7, 2016
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

You heard it here first.

Here is a date to save  and then spread the word:

The Ear hears that famed pianist and teacher Leon Fleisher (below top in a photo by Chris Hartlove) will perform a FREE concert with the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Pro Arte Quartet (below bottom in a photo by Rick Langer) at noon on Thursday, Oct. 6, in Mills Hall.

Intl_Piano_LF1120.pdf

Pro Arte Quartet new 2 Rick Langer

The program features a dramatic and lyrical masterpiece, the Piano Quintet in F Minor by Johannes Brahms. (You can hear Leon Fleisher perform the third movement, the lively Scherzo with a lovely Trio, of the Brahms Piano Quintet with the Emerson String Quartet in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

More details are forthcoming.

The Ear has been told that Fleisher, 88 and retired from the Peabody Institute of Music at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and the Pro Arte are doing this as a gesture of thanks to all supporters of the quartet, which several years ago celebrated its centennial and is the longest-lived string quartet in history.

Fleisher was an acclaimed and prize-winning pianist whose career was thwarted by focal dystonia in his right hand, which made him play and perform only with his left hand.

For a decade now, he has recovered and been performing with two hands and often with his pianist wife. They performed several seasons ago at the Wisconsin Union Theater.

The Pro Arte Quartet holds a special place in his affection.

About a decade ago, Fleisher performed the same Brahms work with the Pro Arte. Fleisher’s main teacher, the legendary Artur Schnabel, performed and recorded works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Robert Schumann, Antonin Dvorak and others with the Pro Arte Quartet back in the 1930s.


Classical music: Why Schubert? Ask pianist-singer Bill Lutes and go to the UW-Madison’s third annual Schubertiade this Saturday night at 8 p.m.

January 27, 2016
5 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

The third time is the charm.

By then you know a tradition has been born.

For the third year in a row, the University of Wisconsin-Madison is holding a Schubertiade at the end of January, near the birthday of Austrian composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828, below). Can there be a better way to kick off the second semester of concerts and music-making?

Franz Schubert writing

The event, which was founded by and now is organized by and performed by the wife-and-husband team of UW-Madison collaborative piano professor Martha Fischer and piano teacher and former music director for Wisconsin Public Radio Bill Lutes, takes place this Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall.

Admission is $15 for adults, free for students of all ages. A post-concert reception is included.

martha fischer and bill lutes

ALSO, BE ADVISED THAT THERE IS A UW HOCKEY GAME THAT NIGHT, SO FINDNG PARKING WILL BE MORE CHALLENGING THAN USUAL. ALLOW FOR EXTRA TIME TO GET TO THE CONCERT. THE HALL WILL OPEN AT 7:30 P.M., IF YOU WANT TO COME EARLY AND GET TO YOUR FAVORITE SEATS.

What is it about Schubert that makes him special to the many performers and listeners who will take part?

One answer can be found in a press release from the UW-Madison:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/2015/12/17/third-schubertiade/

More can be found in a story written by Sandy Tabachnick for Isthmus:

http://isthmus.com/music/third-annual-schubertiade-franz-schubert/

But Bill Lutes also agreed to talk about Schubert (below) and the Schubertiade in an email Q&A with The Ear:

Franz Schubert big

This is the third consecutive year of the UW-Madison Schubertiades that you have presented in honor of his birthday on Jan. 31, this year being the 219th. What is it about Schubert that draws audiences and performers to his music?

Probably the most obvious thing we love about Schubert is the endless stream of glorious, memorable melody – melodies that we can only call “Schubertian.” Who can forget a tune like “The Trout” or “Ave Maria” or the famous “Serenade”? These are part of our cultural DNA.

Then there is Schubert’s rich harmonic vocabulary, and his expansiveness and generosity of form. Although he fashioned innumerable miniatures of exquisite perfection – short songs and piano pieces – he also wrote some of the biggest works of the time, including some of the songs we are performing.

They are big in every way, the “heavenly length” that Robert Schumann wrote about and loved, the sense of adventure and the unexpected and the sheer spaciousness of his musical paragraphs — and the long passages of rhythmic obsession that seem to anticipate today’s Minimalist composers.

Above all, his music is unique in the ways it explores the most joyful and the most tragic aspects of our experience, often interwoven, and ambiguously overlapping.

Those of us who are attracted to Schubert feel that he is our friend, our consoler, our guru and our guide to something that shines beyond the travails of our earthly life. He left us such a rich and varied body of music. The amount he composed in his 31 years is absolutely incredible. But also the level of inspiration is so high throughout so much of it.

Schubert etching

Your program has a lot of variety. Is there some overarching “theme” that ties the program together?

This year, the pieces we are doing are all inspired by Schubert’s exploration of the sounds and imagery of nature. We’re calling it Schubertian “Naturescapes: Water, Winds and Woodlands.” Schubert came along at a time when the Romantic poets, painters and musicians began to think of nature in a new way.

Like Frank Lloyd Wright, Schubert and his poets spelled Nature with a capital N. The poetry he set to music often evokes the grandeur and sublimity of Nature, and the ways that we humans experience transcendence by observing mountains, forests, lakes and seas, and rushing winds or gentle breezes. All of the lieder that we have selected for this program reflect this almost religious attitude toward Nature (depicted below in the painting “Summer,” with a couple embracing amorously under a tree, by the Romantic German artist Casper David Friedrich.)

Caspar David Friedrich Summer and love couple BIG

What are some of the challenges that Schubert’s music poses to pianists in particular?

Schubert’s piano style is unique, and calls for an ability to sing on the instrument, and to play with an array of orchestral colors.

Playing his songs of course means that you understand something about what it takes to sing them, and you have to completely get into the poetry and the ideas being explored.

He was a very social and sociable composer, and so a lot of playing Schubert involves playing nicely with others. That includes of course playing duets by two pianists at one keyboard.

Schubert was probably the greatest composer for this medium and wrote some of this greatest works for piano duet.

The two pianists must play the same instrument, and sound as one. It is harder than you might think! The issue of playing in such close proximity to your partner invites a level of physical intimacy that can be quite pleasant or quite awkward, depending on the music in question.

The great pianist Artur Schnabel (below) spoke of “music that is better than it can be played.” He included most of Schubert in this category.

Artur Schnabel BIG

The idea for the Schubertiades originated in Schubert’s lifetime — social gatherings devoted to hearing Schubert’s music, but also to having a good time with friends. How do modern performers recreate this informal atmosphere?

Part of it is the variety of the music, and the large number of performers who will be joining us, most of whom will be seated around the piano on stage during the concert (below top). We will also have seating on stage for audience members who want to have a bit of the intimate feeling of those first legendary Schubertiades (below bottom) held in salons in Vienna.

Schubertiade 2014 stage in MIlls Hall

Schubertiade in color by Julius Schmid

We aim for an atmosphere of spontaneity and informality, as we have in the past two Schubertiades. We are thrilled this year that our concert is underwritten by a generous donor, Ann Boyer, whose gift has allowed us to include opera singer Jamie-Rose Guarrine (below, in a photo by Peter Konerko) as our featured guest artist and alumna.

We both worked a lot with Jamie-Rose when she was a student here and she’s a wonderful singer who will be travelling to us from New England where she is a new voice faculty member at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

And of course we are delighted to be making music with so many of our UW-Madison School of Music faculty, other alumni and friends.

Jamie-Rose Guarrine Peter Konerko

Anything else you want to add?

We will be performing all the songs in their original German. However, you’ll find full German texts and translations at the door. We encourage people to come early and read the poetry before the concert begins. It’s a nice way to familiarize yourself with the gist of the poems without having to be glued to your program while the songs are being sung.

Here is the impressive and appealing complete list of works and performers:

Schubertian Naturescapes – Water, Winds and Woodlands

Jamie-Rose Guarrine (JRG), Mimmi Fulmer (MF), Sara Guttenberg (SG), Marie McManama (MM), Daniel O’Dea (DO), David Ronis (DR), Paul Rowe (PF), Benjamin Schultz, (BS), singers

Soh-hyun Park Altino (SP), violin

Sally Chisholm (SC), viola

Parry Karp (PK), cello

Ben Ferris, (BF), double bass

Daniel Grabois (DG), horn

Wesley Warnhoff (WW), clarinet

Bill Lutes (BL) and Martha Fischer (MF), piano

Program

Wanderers Nachtlied (II), D. 768   Wayfarer’s Night Song (MF, BL) Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Der Fluss D. 693   The River   (JRG, BL) Friedrich von Schlegel

Widerspruch, D. 865, Contrariness (DO, DR, BS, PR, MF) Johann Gabriel Seidl

Auf dem Wasser zu Singen, D. 774, To Be Sung on the Water (SG, MF) Friedrich Leopold, Graf zu Stolberg-Stolberg

Fischerweise D. 881, Fisherman’s Ditty, (BS, MF) Franz Xaver von Schlechta

Die Forelle, D. 550, The Trout (MM, BL) Christian Friedrich Schubart

Piano Quintet in A major “Trout,” D. 667 (SP, SC, PK, BF, MF) Movement IV: Theme and Variations (heard in a YouTube video at the bottom)

Suleika I, D. 720 (JRG, BL); Suleika II, D. 717 (JRG,MF) Marianne von Willemer, rev. Goethe

Auf dem Strom, D. 943, On the River (DO, DG, MF) Ludwig Rellstab

INTERMISSION

Frühlingsglaube, D. 686, Faith in Spring (DR, BL) Ludwig Uhland

Im Walde “Waldesnacht,” D. 707, In the Forest “Forest Night” (PR, BL) Friedrich Schlegel

Dass sie hier gewesen, D. 775, That She has Been Here (MF, BL) Friedrich Rückert

Allegro in a minor ”Lebensstürme,” D. 947, Life’s Storms (MF, BL)

Der 23 Psalm, D. 706, (MM, SG, MF, MF, BL) The Bible, trans. Moses Mendelssohn

Der Hirt auf dem Felsen D. 965, The Shepherd on the Rock (JRG, WW, MF) Wilhelm Müller/Karl August Varnhagen von Ense

An die Musik, D. 547 To Music. Franz von Schober. Everyone is invited to sing along. You can find the words in your texts and translations.

 


Classical music: Master pianist and teacher Frank Glazer dies just shy of 100. He performed several times in Madison at Farley’s House of Pianos.

January 17, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Sad news comes to The Ear via his good friends Renee and Tim Farley, who own and operate Farley’s House of Pianos, on Madison’s far west side.

It concerns the death this past week of the Wisconsin-born and Maine-based American concert pianist and piano teacher Frank Glazer (below), who taught as an artist-in-residence for decades at Bates College. He continued performing in public right up until the end.

frank glazer 2

You may recall that the Farley store not only sells pianos but also features a distinguished piano recital series, which has featured Glazer.

Here are links to three stories and reviews that appeared on this blog about the legendary Frank Glazer playing in Madison:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/08/06/classical-music-critic-john-w-barker-tells-his-sideswiped-tale-of-two-concerts-as-he-reviews-the-isthmus-vocal-ensemble-and-pianist-frank-glazer/

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/classical-music-pianist-frank-glazer-98-will-perform-haydn-beethoven-liszt-and-barber-when-he-returns-to-farleys-house-of-pianos-this-sunday-afternoon/

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/classical-music-at-96-pianist-frank-glazer-returns-to-farley’s-this-friday-night-to-perform-an-impressive-program-of-bach-mozart-beethoven-chopin-and-liszt/

Frank Glazer

The new season of piano recital at Farley’s — the Salon Piano Series — kicks off next weekend at 4 p.m. on Sunday afternoon with Russian pianist Ilya Yakushev (below), who is also in town to solo in two piano concertos – in D Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach and in G Minor by Felix Mendelssohn – with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra next Friday night at 8.

ilya yakushev 3

For more information about Yakushev’s recital of music by Ludwig van Beethoven, Robert Schumann and Sergei Prokofiev at Farley’s, visit:

http://salonpianoseries.org/concerts.html

But more about that recital that in another posting.

Here is what the Farleys (below is Tim Farley in his store’s workshop) write about a loss:

Villa Louis Tim Farley working on piano action 4

“We have sad news to report to you.  Pianist Frank Glazer died on Tuesday, Jan. 13, after a brief illness.

“He was scheduled to play at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Feb. 19, 2015 for his 100th birthday.

“He also had concerts planned around this time in Maine, Boston, Paynesville, Winston-Salem and one in Janesville that was co-sponsored by Farley’s House of Pianos.

“Frank told Tim that he understood that there were other pianists playing concerts at around age 100 but none of them played the difficult literature – like Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Sonata and “Diabelli” Variations — that he played. (See the impressive list of a recent concert tour below.)

2012-2013 Season

A retrospective of piano repertoire in eight concerts performed by Frank Glazer during the course of his 32 years as Artist-in-Residence at Bates College (1980 – 2012).

Friday, September 14, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.

  1. Handel, Chaconne in G major

Mozart, Adagio in B minor, K. 540

Beethoven, Sonata in C minor, Op. 13

Debussy, Suite Bergamasque

Chopin Polonaise-Fantaisie, Op. 61

Chopin, Ballade in G minor, Op. 23

Encore: Chopin, Mazurka, Op. 17, No. 4

Friday, October 12, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.

  1. Schoenberg, Six Short Pieces, Op. 19

Schubert, Sonata in A Major, D. 959

Brahms, Fantaisies, Op. 116

Chopin, Berceuse, Op. 57

Chopin, Impromptu in G-Flat major, Op. 51

Chopin, Fantasy in F minor, Op. 49

Encore: Chopin, Nocturne, Op. 27 No. 2

Friday, November 9, 2012 at 7:30 PM

III.      Bach, Toccata in D major, BWV 912

Mozart, Rondo in A minor, K. 511

Beethoven, Sonata in C minor, Op. 111

Ravel, Valses nobles et sentimentales

Chopin, Nocturne in B major, Op. 9 No. 3

Chopin, Etude in A-flat major, Op. 10, No. 10

Chopin, Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise brillante in E major, Op. 22

Encore: Ravel, Pavane

Sunday, December 2, 2012 at 3 p.m.

  1. Franck, Prélude, Chorale and Fugue

Weber, Sonata in A-flat major, Op. 39

Gershwin, Preludes for piano

Barber, Excursions for the piano

Copland, Piano Variations (1930)

Brahms, Variations on a Theme by Paganini, Op. 35, Book II

Encore: Weber Rondo brillant (La Gaitié), Op. 62

Sunday, January 13, 2012 at 3:00 PM

  1. Mendelssohn, Songs Without Words:

Book V, Op. 62, No. 1

Book VI, Op. 67, No. 2

Mendelssohn, Rondo capriccioso, Op. 14

Schumann, Sonata in G minor, Op. 22

Liszt, Consolation No. III in D-flat major

Liszt, Concert Etude in D-flat major

Chopin, Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op. 58

Encore: Mendelssohn, Song Without Words: “Spring Song”

Sunday, February 10, 2013 at 3 p.m.

  1. Berg Sonata, Op. 1

Beethoven, Eroica Variations, Op. 35

Brahms, Andante & Variations, Op. 18 (String Sextet)

Brahms, Scherzo in E-flat minor, Op. 4

Liszt, Sonetto 104 del Petrarca

Liszt, Franziscus-Legende No. 1 (St. Francis Preaching to the Birds)

Verdi-Liszt, Rigoletto: Paraphrase

Encore: Schubert-Liszt, Soirées de Vienne, No. 6

Friday, March 8, 2013 at 7:30 p.m.

VII.     Haydn, Variations in F minor, Hob. XVII:6  (Sonata – Un Piccolo Divertimento)

Schubert, Sonata in B-flat major, D. 960

Brahms, Three Intermezzi, Op. 117

Schumann, Fantasy in C major, Op. 17

Encore: Schumann “Träumerei”

Friday, April 5, 2013 at 7:30 p.m.

VIII.   Beethoven, 33 Variations on a Waltz by Anton Diabelli, Op. 120

Beethoven, Hammerklavier Sonata, Op. 106

Frank Glazer at the piano

“Tim called Frank late one evening and asked if he had called too late. Frank told Tim that he was usually up every night until midnight playing the piano.

“Tim asked him how much playing he did every day.  He said that he usually played six hours, but on the days he went to his yoga class, he only played four hours.  He said this was how he was able to keep a concert schedule like the 2012-2013 season, which featured big and technically difficult works.

Frank Glazer at piano

“Frank was so enthused about preparing the concerts for his 100th birthday that he already projecting what he might play for his 101st birthday!

“We feel so fortunate to have been able to get to know this remarkable person and to hear him play.

“There will be a memorial gathering announced at a later date.

“Best regards,

“Renee and Tim Farley”

Editor’s Note: Below is a YouTube video of Glazer playing the “Trois Gymnopedies” of the eccentric French composer Erik Satie. They possess the right contemplative and slightly sorrowful mood for memorial thoughts about  the end of a great life and great career. And if you click on Show More on the YouTube site, you can read the impressive biography of Glazer, who was born in Wisconsin and who studied with Artur Schnabel and Arnold Schoenberg in Berlin, Germany.

 


Classical music: Listen to wrong notes played by great pianists.

October 12, 2014
4 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Yesterday, The Ear offered a blog post about stage fright and performance anxiety.

stage fright

It was written by someone who knows: Concert pianist and polymath Renaissance Man Stephen Hough (below), who is also a writer, painter, composer, photographer, culture critic and more.

Hough_Stephen_color16

But even the greatest musicians can -– and do — mess up.

So today is a follow-up.

Here is a link to a YouTube video with some pretty messed up notes and whole passages by some of history’s greatest pianists, virtuosos and technical wizards.

They include Sviatoslav Richter, Vladimir Horowitz (below) and Artur Schnabel – along with the actual scores to show you what is being muffed.

Vladimir Horowitz

There was no recording technology back then, but it makes one wonder what Frederic Chopin or Franz Liszt might have sounded like off the page when they played. Or even such famed keyboard virtuosos as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven.

After all, in the same video the great Arthur Rubinstein (below) even explains how he faked an entire difficult Chopin etude and dumped a whole batch of deliberately played wrong notes into it during a public concert — and still won rave reviews from the critics!

artur rubinstein in moscow 1964

It also puts a frame around the picture, and suggests that maybe we should simply worry more about the music and less about the notes. Performers just have to learn to accept failure! Perfection is beyond any of us.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy it.

If you know of other examples, or have personal experiences to share, let us know.

The Ear wants to hear.

 


Classical music review: Let us now praise amateur music-makers. Here are 9 reasons to like the Middleton Community Orchestra.

June 4, 2012
29 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Last Wednesday night, I attended the season-closing spring concert by the Middleton Community Orchestra (below, in a photo by William Ballhorn) for the first time. I had intended to go other times to hear the new group, but could not attend for various reasons.

But Isthmus critic John W. Barker (below) went in my place and sent in very positive reviews that convinced me I was missing something important. Here are links to his reviews for this blog:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2011/12/23/classical-music-review-uw-trained-singer-emily-birsan-returns-homer-to-be-the-special-gift-package-in-the-holiday-concert-by-the-middleton-community-orchestra/

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2012/03/05/classical-music-review-the-middleton-community-orchestra-again-shows-itself-to-be-a-valuable-but-under-appreciated-resource-in-an-area-rich-with-great-music-making/

And here is a link to his latest review of last week’s spring concert for Isthmus:

http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=36894

I want to take a simpler approach.

I simply want to give you the 9 reasons I listed at home for why I so liked the concert by the MCO last Wednesday night, and why I intend to go again – and urge you to do the same.

1. I liked restoring the social aspect of an arts event. Too often we treat art as some kind of ascetic monastic order that is meant for only the most expert members, both performers and audiences.

The question that looms cover classic music today is: Why don’t more audiences, especially younger audiences, come to classical music concerts? Maybe it is as simple as they don’t feel especially welcome or needed. Maybe they feel pretty much incidental to the event – which in many cases they are.

But that wasn’t the case at this event, which included an informal, post-concert cookies and punch reception where you meet and chat with all the performers as well as other audience members.

2. I liked the contagious energy and committed enthusiasm of the playing. Were there weak parts and wrong notes? You bet. But the music was ambitious and many instruments are hard to play. Yet music is so much more than the right notes and the perfect phrase. How refreshing it was to hear ordinary folks like myself — community members such as students, teachers, doctors, lawyers, business people, salespersons and other professionals – throw their heart and their art into such beautiful works.

And the audience cheered them on. “Amateur” comes from the Latin word for “love” – and these people clearly loved what they were doing – and that made me, and others, love it too. It was an ideal example of what Leonard Bernstein used to call “the joy of music.”

3. I liked that there was no intermission. The concert started, proceeded and ended all in a single arc that lasted about 90 minutes. One could stay focused and not break the spell, so to speak. It is a model some of the professional ensembles might try to emulate. The concert started at 7:30 and I was home before 9:30 – even after eating my share of cookies.

4. I liked the young audience. Sure, there was a lot of older people. Sure, many of the numerous young people (below) – and I include everyone from maybe 5 to 35 – were family members and friends. But professional groups also have family and friends. The handsome and customer-friendly Middleton Performing Arts Center, attached to Middleton High School, was between one-half and two-thirds full. That’s a good crowd for a mid-week, non-professional and low-profile concert.

I loved thinking about how the young people were taking in a sublime Mozart Piano Concerto No. 23 (I think I saw more than a few young piano students); the exciting and rollicking “Jolly Robbers” Overture by Franz von Suppe; and the terse Symphony No. 4 by Brahms. Good exposure and early exposure are both key to classical music’s future.

5. I like the cheap admission. A general admission, festival seating ticket cost $10. Students got in free. That makes it accessible and affordable. And if you should be a little disappointed in some way, well you can always say you got more than you paid for. But I really don’t think anyone went away disappointed. Nor did they go away resentful or impoverished – especially at a time when tickets to professional events can run $50 or $100 a person. Moreover, you feel like an investor in the community. And that is a good feeling.

6. I liked the repertoire. Sure, new music matters. But so does old music, especially great old music. In general, new music makes incredible technical demands on the players and listening demands on the audience. These musicians knew their limitations and took them into account, though they also stretched themselves.

Nonetheless, we heard at least two certified masterworks by Mozart and Brahms – ones you don’t hear LIVE all that often. I hope they stick with the formula of a curtain-raising overture, a concerto with a soloist and a symphony. It works well. And it makes me look forward to hearing more symphonies and concertos by Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert and on and on, from the Baroque period through the Classical era, on into the Romantics and up into the early moderns.

7. I liked the feeling of ordinariness. There was something fun about walking into the Middleton Performing Arts Center (below) and looking behind you through the parking lot to see a baseball field being watered. That night, classical music felt so normal, so integrated into everyday life.

8. I like giving local people a chance to hear local talent. You don’t have to speak a foreign language fluently for people to be envy your ability. And you don’t have to be a professional musician for people to admire your ability to make music  — to know it from the inside and communicate its beauty to others — and not just to listen to professionals or recordings. The “community” part of the group’s name is as important as the “orchestra” part.

Take just one example: Young Thomas Kasdorf (below top and bottom), who was Middleton-born and Middleton-bred and then educated at the UW School of Music, turned in a singing and snappy interpretation of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488. It proved a beautifully subtle, even chamber-like, reading. I think I will remember his performance as much as will I remember those by seasoned professionals performing Mozart – whose transparent music is so difficult to play, whom the great pianist Artur Schnabel once said was “too easy for prodigies and too hard for professionals” or something to that effect.

9. I liked seeing so close up how music in made. It’s vicarious experience for me who is, like many others, a frustrated musician. You listen with your eyes. Here you could see the conductor and soloist communicating. You could see the various sections responding to the conductor. Just get there early and sit as close as you like.

During the program – not before – the very able conductor Steve Kurr (below) spoke to the audience and introduced the ambitious Brahms Symphony No. 4. It was the composer’s last and one of my all-time favorites. And Kurr’s short but enlightening and accessible remarks helped you to see, hear and understand this glorious work.

I suppose I could go on, but that’s enough.

Take my word for it. The Middleton Community Orchestra is a great new community resource, one well worth supporting with your money and your attendance. Go hear it. Go have fun.

Here is a link to its website where news of next season’s programs should be posted soon:

http://www.middletoncommunityorchestra.org/


Classical music news: BBC Music Magazine names the Top 50 greatest classical music recordings ever made. How many have you heard? Or do you own?

January 8, 2012
7 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

What are the 50 greatest – I assume that is not the same as the most important — classical recordings ever made?

And how many of them have you heard?

Or do you own?

That list has been compiled by the BBC Music Magazine (below) for its January 2012 issue.

Here is a link to the names and titles, given in descending order a la David Letterman and various other countdowns:

http://wpr.org/music/BBC-Music-Top-50-1201.htm

A lot of the choices make great sense.

For example, the first complete recording of Wagner’s titanic “Ring” cycle by George Solti is a drama behind the drama. 

Who could argue, for example, with Pablo Casals’ pioneering recording of Bach’s six solo suites for cello (below)? After all, it was Casals who discovered them and then restored them to the repertoire as music when many people thought of them as mere exercises.

 

And who could argue with including Artur Schnabel’s first-ever cycle of the complete 32 piano sonatas by Beethoven (below) — though what about his championing the neglected piano sonatas of Schubert?

But why is there nothing by pianist Artur Rubinstein (below), who was quite the pioneering pianist when it came to recording complete Chopin works and other composers from early in the 20th century though the 1970s? Do they really think Claudio Arrau’s version of Chopin’s Nocturnes is greater than Rubinstein’s? Could it had ego do with a European label versus an American label? Are the BBC critics subject to geographical, national or cultural bias?

Anyway, you can make your own judgments.

What recordings of the BBC Top 50 do you most agree with?

And what recordings do you think belonged on the list but were overlooked or left off it?

The Ear wants to hear.


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