By Jacob Stockinger
Baseball season is done.
Football season is almost over.
Basketball season is here.
It is also a good story about good luck to run today, on Friday the 13th, a date that is traditionally synonymous with bad luck.
The story concerns J’Nai Bridges (below) who started out wanting to be a professional basketball player.
That dream fell apart dramatically and suddenly — though she doesn’t reveal if it was an injury or some other cause.
But then good luck unexpectedly stepped in.
During her senior year in high school, she signed up for choir as an elective and her teacher immediately recognized her gift.
She started late, but she had the right attitude to stay open to new discoveries and new possibilities.
And now she has gone on to a career in opera and is a rising star singing major roles in major opera houses around the world.
The Ear thinks that Bridges’ words reflect wisdom that others should share in.
For one, her moving story also highlights the importance of a liberal arts education, where you can try out many different subjects you have no idea about and see what you like and how you do. That gives students a chance to explore their untapped interests and potential.
It also runs contrary to some of the current politicians who want to reform secondary and higher education into a kind of trade school or vocational training ground for work and careers.
It also is a fine summary of the role that music plays both for the performer and for the audience.
Here is a link to the moving and informative story:
ALERT: The Ear’s friend Rich Samuels of WORT 89.9 FM writes: At 7:21 a.m. today, Thursday, Sept. 3, I’ll be broadcasting the Willy Street Chamber Players’ performance of the Beethoven String Quartet No. 11 in F Minor. It was recorded live on July 11 at Madison’s Immanuel Lutheran Church. Featured are Eleanor Bartsch and Paran Amirinazari (violins), Micah Behr (viola) and Mark Bridges (cello).
By Jacob Stockinger
This past Monday, superstar violinist Itzhak Perlman (below, in a photo by Lisa Marie Mazzucco) turned 70.
Perlman, who possesses a sharp sense of humor, likes to call himself a fiddler.
But he is so much more.
Perlman – who once made the cover of Time magazine and who used to fly in his private jet — has played a lot in Madison since the beginning of his concert career, at the Wisconsin Union Theater, the Madison Civic Center and the Overture Center.
The Ear thinks that his most memorable appearance in Madison was before his stratospheric concert fees made him either unaffordable or affordable only to the very well-heeled.
That was way back when WUT director Ralph Sandler booked the young Perlman to perform the complete solo violin sonatas and partitas by Johann Sebastian Bach. Perlman performed them over two back-to-back nights at the Wisconsin Union Theater.
The event proved to be one of the highlights of all the music that The Ear has ever heard in Madison. It was pretty incredible, watching Perlman sit there by himself on stage as he poured forth these fabulous works.
The Ear likes Perlman’s playing a lot, especially from the early days when he won his share of Grammy Awards.
A great example are his recordings of the sonatas for violin and piano by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart that he did with Daniel Barenboim and the sonatas for violin and piano by Ludwig van Beethoven and Johannes Brahms that he did with Vladimir Ashkenazy. His recordings of the Beethoven and Brahms concertos with conductor Carlo Maria Giulini are also outstanding classics.
But to be honest, the later Perlman often disappointed me.
The Ear heard one performance in Madison where Perlman seemed bored by the music, as if he were phoning it in or going through the motions without much emotional engagement. (Below is Perlman in the 1960s.)
Then there was the time when he relied too much on his post-intermission shtick of pretending to choose and call out impromptu virtuosic encore-like pieces for the second half of his program while he also related to the audience the baseball scores from the World Series with his beloved home town team, the New York Yankees.
Then there was the time when many people went to hear him play the deeply emotional theme from “Schindler’s List” by John Willliams as an encore. He didn’t. (Listen to the YouTube video of it, with over 6 million hits, at the bottom.)
Nonetheless, Perlman remains a charismatic major talent who sure knows how to fill seats and please high-end audiences.
By some accounts, Perlman’s playing has declined in recent years. The Ear wonders if post-polio syndrome has anything to do with it, but can’t recall reading anything about that.
But whatever you think of his own playing, Perlman continues to devote himself to teaching young students with the program established by him and his wife Toby (below left) and to conduct as well as to perform solo recitals and concertos.
This past week NPR or National Public Radio featured a look back at the many facets of Perlman’s long career. It included some great photos as well as some terrific audio samples.
Here is a link:
What do you think of Itzhak Perlman and the various phases of his career?
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
And the two teams — the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals — that are vying for the world championship trophy (below) both come from cultured cities that boast world-class orchestras: The Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
I am not really a fan of any baseball team — or of team sports in general — but I do think baseball appeals to a lot of musicians. I know from personal experience that the superstar violinist Itzhak Perlman (below) is a big fan who once announced the updated scores of a world series games with the New York Yankees between pieces and from the stage of the old Madison Civic Center.
I wonder what the appeal of baseball to musicians is.
Maybe it has to do with the rhythm of the game.
For the member of a symphony orchestra or chamber music ensemble, maybe it is the team aspect.
For individuals, maybe what matters is the same kind of hand-eye coordination on which so much music-making on instruments depends – as does pocket pool, archery and target shooting, all of which I also like.
In fact, avid pianist that I am, I love watching baseball pitchers – like the great retired New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera (below) — but only at home on TV where I can see the pitches relatively close up and also check how the speed is measured and the contortions that batters have to go through to hit the ball.
Throw the ball. Catch the ball. Hit the ball.
Easy game, right?
Anyway here, at the bottom, is the World Series Symphony Smack Down is a link to a story — with some surprises — on The New York Times music blog and to the video (which has overtones of the gang warfare in Leonard Bernstein‘s “West Side Story”) on YouTube.
Listen and tell me in the comments section why your think so many classical musicians like baseball?
And which city has the better symphony as well as baseball team? In other words, no matter who wins the series, I want to know who you think wins the Symphony Smack Down
The Ear wants to hear.