The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Each week NPR now says TGIF via Twitter. Check it out. Plus, this afternoon brings a lot of live music, including the repeat performance of the MUST-HEAR world premiere of Pierre Jalbert’s Clarinet Quintet based on Allen Ginsberg’s Beat poem “Howl”; the UW-Madison Symphony Orchestra in Mahler and Schumann; and the Ancora String Quartet.

September 28, 2014
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ALERT: Just a reminder that there is a lot of live music competing for audiences this afternoon. But if you can, be sure to catch the UW-Madison Pro Arte Quartet and guest clarinetist Charles Neidich giving the FREE second world premiere performance of American composer Pierre Jalbert‘s Clarinet Quintet — which is based on Beat poet Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” — at the Chazen Museum of Art at 12:30 p.m. in Brittingham Gallery 3. The new work, which The Ear heard on Friday night, is the real thing: a winning gem of new music. Of course the short-sighted Wisconsin Public Radio is no longer broadcasting local and regional live music from the museum, so forget the radio. But you can stream the concert live from the Internet at the museum’s website www.chazen.wisc.edu

And here is a link with an overview of all the music concerts available this afternoon:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/09/25/classical-music-which-one-of-five-trains-will-you-ride-into-the-upcoming-wreck-on-this-sunday-afternoon/

SALProArteMay2010
By Jacob Stockinger

Well, here is another reason to welcome the end of the work week and the coming of the weekend.

NPR is saying TGIF.

Every Friday afternoon, the Deceptive Cadence blog folks at National Public Radio gather with the public via Twitter to check out issues and performers, performances and recordings — including the new CD “Motherland” by pianist Khatia Buniatishvili (the Sony Classical CD cover with her Frida Kahlo-like portrait is below and a sample is at the bottom in a YouTube video in which she plays an arrangement of Johann Sebastian Bach‘s “Sheep May Safely Graze“).  You should try checking it out and add your own comments and recommendations.

And that’s just what you can do using the link below:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/09/24/350888157/new-faves-recommending-classical-albums-each-week-on-twitter

Khatia Buniatishvili's Motherland cover Sony Classical

The Ear thinks you will like it for several reasons.

The discussion keeps you updated on new recordings, new performers and new music. But it also suggests older composers and repertoire to listen to, including recommended interpretations of that repertoire.

It also features some very insightful and some very funny comments from other readers and followers that you can check out.

So don’t be afraid to hop on in – or at least to add to your To Do List checking out Deceptive Cadence at NPR every Friday.


Classical music: Richard Strauss turned 150 on Wednesday. Was he or wasn’t he a Nazi at heart? Here is a Strauss quiz and excerpts from 10 works. What is your favorite Strauss moment or Strauss work?

June 14, 2014
3 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Late Romantic composer Richard Strauss turned 150 on this past Wednesday. (He is seen below in a 1914 photo from the Hutton Archives and Getty Images.)

richard strauss in 1914 Hutton Archive Getty Images

Yet Strauss remains something of an enigma.

Was he really a Nazi in his heart? Or just taken advantage of in his old age by Adolf Hitler and his henchmen?

How much do you know about Strauss?

And what pieces of his music do you like the most?

Maybe these links will help you decide.

The first is a puzzler or quiz from the Deceptive Cadence blog at NPR. The Ear found it tricky. See what you think.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/06/11/320339615/the-composer-as-sphinx-a-richard-strauss-puzzler

And here is a link to audio samples of what the BBC Music Magazine deems 10 of the best moments on Strauss’ music.

http://www.classical-music.com/article/richard-strauss-150th-birthday-playlist

But The Ear asks: Why no waltzes or excerpts from the opera “Der Rosenkavalier,” which is one of his favorites? Listen to them performed brilliantly by conductor Daniele Gatti and the Gustav Mahler youth Orchestra at the 2012 BBC Proms concert series in the YouTube video at the bottom.

What is your favorite musical moment or passage or work by Richard Strauss?

The Ear wants to hear.

 


Classical music: How should you listen? Try these four ways to get the most out of classical music. Then tell us your own.

February 8, 2014
5 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

What is the best way to listen to classical music?

How can you get the most out of what you are listening to?

listening to music

One way is not to use the music as wallpaper – as background music to brunch or some other social event or personal task.

It is also probably not a good idea to multi-task, to listen while watching TV or a DVD, or reading a book.

But even if you give the music your full attention, what is the best way to get the most of out of your listening?

The Ear suspects that a lot of people — especially performing musicians and composers — have a lot of different answers.

But one of the best is the short essay by Anastasia Tsioulcas (below), who writes for the exceptional classical music blog “Deceptive Cadence” that is featured regularly on NPR.

anastasia tsioulcas

Tsioulcas lists and elaborates on four ways to turn your listening experience into a richer and more informative as well as enjoyable experience.

Here is a link:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/01/28/267777013/4-ways-to-hear-more-in-music

Of course many of us have learned other lessons in listening over the years.

The Ear, for example, would suggest not always comparing the performance you are listening now to the first or favorite performance of the same work that you heard live or recorded long ago and grew to love. Otherwise you are more likely to overlook whatever originality the new performer you are listening to brings to the score.

For example, comparing all Chopin performances today to those by Arthur Rubinstein (below top) or Vladimir Horowitz (below second) might cause you to overlook what some of the new young Chopinists like Daniil Trifonov (below third) and Jan Lisiecki (below bottom, in a photo by Mathias Bothor for Deutsche Grammophon) bring with them, as I will explain further in another posting.

artur rubinstein in moscow 1964

Vladimir Horowitz

danill trifonov 1

Jan Lisiecki CR Mathias Bothor for Deutsche Grammophon

The same goes for orchestral, chamber music, vocal music and opera performances: Try to remain open to newness and difference.

But different kinds of music an instruments might even demand different approaches to listening, as the deaf but acclaimed and popular percussionist Evelyn Glennie explains in a widely circulated YouTube video about whole body listening at the bottom.

Do you have suggestions or tips about listening to classical music that might help others? Share them in the COMMENTS section.

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Classical music: Here is a year-end look back at the classical music performers and composers we lost in 2013, including pianist Van Cliburn and British composer John Tavener.

December 30, 2013
7 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Even as we look forward to a New Year, it is a traditional to look back at the various classical musicians -– performers and composers and even some prominent scholars or musicologists -– that we lost during 2013.

At the top of everyone’s list is probably the acclaimed but enigmatic American pianist Van Cliburn (below top) and the British composer John Tavener (below bottom, in a photo by Steve Forrest).

van cliburn old

John Tavener composing Steve Forrest Insight-Visual

The famed New York City City radio station WQXR-FM has put together a good “in memorium” slide show. Here is a link:

http://www.wqxr.org/#!/story/memoriam-classical-musicians-who-died-2013/

Something new, I think, is also an overview of classical music in 2013 that includes awards and works as well as deaths on Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_in_classical_music

APOLOGY FOR A MISTAKE: As a reader alerted me, the Polish composer Krzysztof Pedereecki is NOT DEAD but is still living and recently turned 80. I mistakenly thought he had died at 80 and I apologize for the error. I changed the headline, but I am leaving in some material because it is so good. So here are fine appreciations, with audio clips, of Penderecki (below) by NPR weekend host Arun Rath and NPRDeceptive Cadence’ blog director Tom Huizenga:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/11/23/246916733/a-sound-of-fear-forged-in-the-shadow-of-war

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/11/23/246309165/the-sound-of-struggle-tempered-with-terror-penderecki-at-80

krzysztof penderecki

Locally, of course, as well as regionally, nationally and even internationally, the most memorable death in music education was that of Marvin Rabin (below), the 97-year-old founder of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra. His memorial service was yesterday. Here is a link to my appreciation of him:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/12/08/classical-music-let-us-now-praise-marvin-rabin-who-founded-the-wisconsin-youth-symphony-orchestra-wyso-who-excelled-as-a-music-educator-and-performer-who-was-the-leonard-bernstein-of-ma/

marvin rabin BW

Are there other “departures” — or deaths or passings or losses — pick your term — you know of?

Do you care to leave an appreciation or comment?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: Here are some more lists of the Best of 2013 Classical Recordings. They include NPR, Alex Ross and The New Yorker magazine, the San Jose Mercury News and the Star-Ledger of New Jersey.

December 23, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

Just like the list of the past year’s best classical recordings (below) from The New York Times, which I posted yesterday and which has a link below, other media outlets are checking in with their lists.

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/classical-music-the-top-classical-recordings-of-2013-are-finally-named-by-the-critics-for-the-new-york-times-does-the-list-come-too-late-to-serve-as-a-holiday-gift-giving-guide/

NY Times top 20 classical CDs 2013 Tony Cenicola for NYT

Here is the list, posted three days ago, of notable local concerts plus great recordings by the acclaimed critic Alex Ross  (below) of The New Yorker magazine:

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2013/12/notable-classical-performances-and-recordings-of-2013.html

AlexRoss1

And once again, The Ear has to ask: Why so late? There isn’t much time let to go shopping in local traditional brick-and-mortar stores or even on-line in time for Christmas.

Could it be that the late Thanksgiving threw everyone off?

Are maybe such lists just receiving a lower priority than they used to?

Were reviewers more interested in other things, like the expensive box sets that companies are pushing and they got review copies of?

Or have staff cuts at various newspapers added to the work load and made it more difficult to cover live events and also get out this seasonal features?

The Ear wonders and is waiting to hear some answers from others in the media or from his readers.

In the meantime, here are even some other lists and suggestions from various less well-known sources.

Use them for holiday gifts guide, for others or – at this point in time – for yourself if you receive some gift cards to, say, Barnes and Noble or Amazon.com or Archivmusic.com

Here is one from NPR’’s superb blog “Deceptive Cadence” that lists NPR’s Top Ten classical choices (below) for 2013:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/bestmusic2013/2013/12/13/249751178/npr-classicals-10-favorite-albums-of-2013

NPR 10 best classical cds of 2013

Here is one from the San Jose Mercury-News:

http://www.mercurynews.com/music/ci_24759155/best-2013-classical-hilary-hahns-27-pieces-top

Hilary Hahn Encores CD cover

And here is one from the Star-Ledger in New Jersey.

http://www.nj.com/entertainment/music/index.ssf/2013/12/best_of_2013_classical_music_recordings_and_performances.html

You will notice some crossovers and agreements with NPR. The San Jose Mercury News and The New York Times. That bodes well, it seems to me, and makes the choosing that much easier.

jeremy denk bach golbergs cd

But, as I have said often before, add immensely to the holiday gift by including some tickets to live local concerts – don’t forget that the Madison Symphony Orchestra is offering cut-rate tickets for the rest of the season through midnight of Christmas Eve — and the promise of your companionship and help or assistance.

For more information local concerts, here is a link:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/12/21/classical-music-this-holiday-season-why-not-give-the-gift-of-live-music-plus-your-time-and-companionship-here-are-some-suggestions-from-the-ear-and-from-guest-blogger-janet-murphy/

Music, like other forms of art, is a pleasure to be shared and is social in its origins.

Audience attentive


Classical music: NPR gives us a FREE Christmas gift of vocal music from the acclaimed early music Stile Antico. Plus, the Madison Symphony Orchestra is offering its cut-rate tickets gift special through Christmas Eve, Dec. 24

December 15, 2013
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ALERT: The Madison Symphony Orchestra is again running hits holiday special. That includes an all-Beethoven concert and an inside look at Antonin Dvorak‘s “New World” Symphony as well as the Mozart Requiem and a concert highlighting the George Gershwin legacy. Tickets to all MSO upcoming subscription concerts are just $20 or $45. You’ll get A, B and B/C section seats (valued at up to $82.50 each) for just $45. And C and D section seats (valued at up to $43.50 each) are just $20. For more information visit:

http://www.madisonsymphony.org/sale

SONY DSC

By Jacob Stockinger

I have nothing big, important or particularly useful for you to read today.

If you want that, go back to yesterday’s post with all the nominations for the 56th Grammy Awards in the Classical Music categories.

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/12/14/classical-music-here-are-the-new-56th-annual-grammy-award-nominees-for-classical-music-as-a-guide-for-holiday-gifts/

Instead of suggesting gifts you can give, here is one you gift get to receive: NPR’s wonderful blog Deceptive Cadence, has posted a FREE one-hour concert by the acclaimed and best-selling early music group Stile Antico (below, in a photo by Marco Borggreve), which sings beautiful music a cappella – that is, without accompaniment.

And the fine acoustics of St. Paul’s Church, located in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Mass., where the concert was recorded live, only enhance the sound.

stile antico cr marco borggreve

It is quite lovely, even breath-taking and haunting, as it offers some unusual repertoire by William Byrd, Thomas Tallis, John Sheppard and Tomas Luis de Victoria for the holiday season. So stream it and listen to it — don’t just read the transcript — if you can.

Here is a link:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2012/12/03/166416569/a-choral-christmas-with-stile-antico

Enjoy!


Classical music: What makes for a really great holiday classical album? NPR asks a Grammy-winning expert. What do you think?

December 13, 2013
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

From now to the holidays, we are sure to hear a lot about specific individual recordings that merit your attention as holiday  gifts – from single CDs and DVDs to box sets with dozens of recordings, many of which have been featured here in the past couple of weeks.

But what goes into making a really great and really memorable holiday album?

holidayalbums

Of course, such things are easy to dismiss if you are a really serious “music lover.” But you know what? Many a lesser selling work has been financed by the profits from holiday recordings – and we are not just talking about “Messiah.”

Anyway, what makes for a get holiday album? That is the question that NPR’s terrific classical music blog, “Deceptive Cadence,” put to an expert from the industry who has won dozens of Grammy awards (below).

Now, one smart mouth reader said that all holiday albums boil down to Muzak or elevator music – “not just a melody but a management tool,” as the old motto put it.

I am not so sure, especially given the popularity of holiday-themed concerts. And if you think about it, holiday music is just another form of occasional music — like the wonderful “Pomp and Circumstance” marches by Sir Edward Elgar or the”Royal Water Music” and “Royal Fireworks Music” as well as “Messiah” by George Frideric Handel or “Gloria” by Antonio Vivaldi or all the cantatas and passions by Johann Sebastian Bach.

grammy award BIG

But here is a link to the story:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/11/27/247348768/confronting-the-ghosts-of-classical-christmas-albums-past

What do you look for in a memorable holiday album?

Music that is new to you?

Interpretations that seem fresh?

A consistency of theme?

Do you have a favorite holiday album, and what is it?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: NPR weighs in with its recommendations for box sets of classical CDs for holiday gift-giving.

December 12, 2013
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

This holiday season seems like it is shaping up as a time to consider bigger and more expensive gifts such as complete box sets of recordings of certain performers, composers and institutions.

Could it be because their volume makes them less downloadable? Or does their appeal have to do with the novelty of having the complete collection of something — you know, the desire for total possession of beauty as well as convenience?

True, the box sets, which often run into dozens of CDs, have their own scale of economy that brings the per disc price down to as low as $5 or less.

But more importantly, the sets also feature reissues of historical recordings by major artists that have not generally been available singly — or at all! You can hear the complete Van Cliburn; the legendary pianist Vladimir Horowitz playing live at Carnegie Hall between 1943 and 1973 in recently discovered recordings (a sneak peek sampler is in a YouTube video at the bottom)  the world’s great singers doing Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner at the Metropolitan Opera; conductor Fritz Reiner with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; conductor Carlo Maria Giulini and several orchestras; and former superstar pianists Gary Graffman and Leon Fleisher whose early careers later got sidetracked by injuries.

NPR boxed CD sets

Here is what the critics for The New York Times recommended a few weeks back:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/11/29/classical-music-as-we-head-into-black-friday-small-business-saturday-and-cyber-monday-how-appealing-as-holiday-gifts-are-complete-cd-boxed-sets/

And here is what “Deceptive Cadence,” the terrific classical blog on NPR, recommends in the way of boxed sets.

In addition, NPR also provides audio samples from many of the sets to whet your appetite and help you decide, so if you can listen to it – don’t just read it.

They also provide links to other stories and blog postings that NPR has done about the major artists.

Here is a link to the story by Tom Huizenga and Anastasia Tsioulcas:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/12/04/248792687/a-bumper-crop-of-classical-boxed-sets

It seems to me, comparing the two stories, that both The New York Times and NPR agree on a lot of the boxed sets – a good sign, don’t you think?

Do any of you have personal experiences and opinions about the various boxed sets? Let us know in the COMMENTS section.

Happy shopping.

Happy giving.

Happy receiving.


Classical music: How do concert pianists practice? Stephen Hough offers tips.

October 19, 2013
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

So much of playing the piano – or any instrument or indeed any performing art -– boils down to practicing. Specifically, that means how to practice correctly, how to practice productively.

practice room and piano

Recently, I blogged about a wonderfully useful story that appeared on NPR’s terrific classical music blogDeceptive Cadence” about 10 tips for successful practicing. (It also some  interesting reader suggestions and tips that you should read.)

Here is a link to that posting:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/classical-music-here-are-10-tips-from-npr-on-how-to-improve-your-practicing/

cello practice

From a slightly different perspective, British pianist Stephen Hough (below) more recently blogged about how professional concerts pianists practice. He included some great tips from his own teachers.

Hough_Stephen_color16

Now, Hough is not only a concert pianist but also an exceptional one. In addition, he is an excellent teacher, as I witnessed firsthand several years ago when he gave a master class at the University of Wisconsin School of Music. (At the bottom is a YouTube video of a master class Hough gave on Liszt at the Peabody Conservatory of Music.)

And not for nothing was he the first instrumentalist to receive a MacArthur “genius award.” This multi-talented man – who is openly gay and who converted to Roman Catholicism at 19 — composes music, created a special app for Franz Liszt‘s Sonata in B Minor and writes extremely insightful and intelligent blogs for the Daily Telegraph newspaper and website in the United Kingdom on many different subjects. And he still finds time to be a globe-trotting, award-winning, much-in-demand concert pianist with dozens of recordings to his credit.

hough

So here is a recent entry that of Hough’s talking about the DO’s and DON’Ts of how professional concert pianists – with limited time for practicing – go about the tricky but absolutely vital business of practicing.

It is an article that Hough wrote for the November/December issue of International Piano magazine. And it adds to the many other blog posts he has done about learning how to play the piano. (You can use a search engine o his site to check out other ones.)

The Ear hopes you find it as helpful and engaging as he did:

Here is a link:

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/culture/stephenhough/100070997/the-practice-of-practising/

Do you have any practicing suggestions?

The Ear want to hear.


Classical music: Here are 10 tips from NPR on how to improve your practicing.

September 7, 2013
4 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear is willing to bet that 90 percent of having successful and satisfying music lessons boils down to knowing how to practice.

practice room and piano

That takes a long time and a lot of experience. And you know how hard it is when so many actual lessons turn into guided practice sessions, no matter whether it is a question of the voice, the piano, strings like the violin an cello,  brass and woodwinds,

violin practice

But NPR’s outstanding classical music blog “Deceptive Cadence” recently offered 10 tips, culled from various sources, for improving how you practice. I find them useful and suspect so will you.

Here is a link:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/09/03/216906386/10-easy-ways-to-optimize-your-music-practice

Use the COMMENT space on this blog to let all of us know how these practice tips work for you and if you have any special tips for practicing of your own.

cello practice

Thank you, NPR. And you can also find some useful practice videos for various instrument at YouTube (at bottom).

So spread the word and share these tips by passing them along to others with this blog post.

Now, let’s all go make music!


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