The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: This 90-year-old Belgian classical pianist learned how to play slow movements by Mozart and Beethoven by hearing Ray Charles – and shows why The Ear likes the arts reporting on PBS and NPR

January 15, 2017
5 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Yesterday, I posted a disconcerting story from the Columbia Journalism Review about how most mainstream newspapers and traditional media are cutting way back on art coverage.

After all, runs the conventional wisdom, how can the arts compete with sports, politics and crime for attracting readers?

Here is a link to that post:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2017/01/14/classical-music-newspapers-and-media-continue-to-cutback-on-arts-writers-and-arts-critics-what-is-the-effect-on-the-arts/

Well, that kind of mistaken thinking is one reason why The Ear likes to watch PBS and national Public Radio or NPR. Especially on the PBS NewsHour, you find terrific stories about and interviews with major figures in the fine arts and the performing arts.

PBS treats the arts as vital and essential, not ornamental or secondary.

A wonderful example happened this week on the segment called “Brief But Spectacular” in which people offer their thoughts about their own lives and careers.

In this case, it was Jean Stark — a 90-year-old Belgian-born woman who was an accomplished concertizing classical pianist. She performed in Carnegie Hall and Town Hall in New York City, and in halls around the world, and who talks about her life and career for PBS.

jean-stark

In the four-minute interview, she laments how classical music isn’t promoted these days and emphasizes how wonderful it was to be alive during the golden years of classical music with such great figures as composer-pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff and Sergei Prokofiev.

But, she confesses, for all her accomplishments she was unsatisfied with how she played slow movements of sonatas by Classical-era masters Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven.

stark1-320x196

Until she came to the U.S. and went with a friend to a concert by Ray Charles.

Charles, she says, taught how to play slowly.

The Ear only wishes she had been more specific about the lessons she learned. Was it phrasing? Tempo? Accents? “Rubato,” or flexible timing?

It is a great, heart-warming story and typical of the kind of human interest arts coverage that you generally do not find on other television news channels, whether traditional networks like CBS, NBC, ABC and FOX or cable TV channels such as CNN and MSNBC.

So The Ear offers it as both an enjoyable and informative arts story, and as an endorsement of the PBS NewsHour and especially reporter Jeffrey Brown, who does such a terrific job of reporting on the arts.

Here is the segment, which you can find on YouTube, along with other recordings by Stark:

An after-thought: To the best of his knowledge, The Ear thinks that the music you hear her playing is the “Aeolian Harp” Etude in A-Flat Major, Op. 25, No. 1, by Frederic Chopin and part of the suite “Pour le piano” (For the Piano) by Claude Debussy.

What do you think of arts coverage on the mainstream media and on PBS?

What do you think Jean Stark learned from Ray Charles?

If you saw this story, how did it affect you?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: Will the “death” of classical music be good for the future of classical music? Plus, today’s Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen features a fortepiano recital

June 5, 2016
3 Comments

ALERT: Trevor Stephenson, keyboardist and founder of the Madison Bach Musicians, will perform a solo recital on the fortepiano TODAY starting at 12:30 p.m. in Brittingham Gallery III of the Chazen Museum of Art at the UW-Madison.

The program includes works — sonatas and mazurkas, a fantasy and an impromptu — by Domenico Scarlatti, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Frederic Chopin, Joseph Haydn and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach.

Admission is FREE and the recital will be streamed live at the following website:

http://www.chazen.wisc.edu/about/news/press-releases/a-concert-by-trevor-stephenson-june-5

By Jacob Stockinger

This past week, two readers posted comments about the so-called Death of Classical Music.

One reader clearly lamented it and didn’t believe in it.

The other reader didn’t desire it, but seemed to accept it as a fact and remarked that the demise was classical music’s own fault due to conservative programming and other shortcomings in falling behind the times.

Along comes pianist Charlie Albright (below), a former prodigy from Seattle who was trained at the famed Juilliard School. (You can learn more about him in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

charlie albright

Albright’s point of view is that the “death” of classical music might even be beneficial to classical music in the long run – at least if you are talking the “death” of classical music such as it is right now and has been in recent times.

Charlie Albright playing piano

Albright’s essay appeared on the CNN website and makes for interesting reading and food for thought.

At least The Ear thinks so.

Read it and see what you think.

Then share your thoughts and ideas about the death of classical music and Charlie Albright’s essay with The Ear and other readers.

Here is a link:

http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/29/opinions/classical-music-dying-and-being-reborn-opinion-albright/


Classical music: Happy New Year to you from The Ear, from Beethoven and from Spain.

January 1, 2013
5 Comments

A REMINDER: The  annual “New Year’s Day Concert From Vienna” (below) with the Vienna Philharmonic under conductor Franz Welser-Most and with TV host Julie Andrews will air this morning on NPR (and Wisconsin Public Radio) at 10 a.m. this morning with the TV version airing tonight on PBS (and Wisconsin Public Television) at 7 p.m. For more information and links to a play list of Strauss family waltzes and polkas plus works by Verdi and Wagner and lots of background, visit:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2012/12/30/classical-music-lets-get-ready-for-new-years-day-from-vienna-concert-on-radio-ad-tv-what-is-the-allure-of-the-waltz-waltz-meister-andre-rieu-discusses-the-allure/

Vienna Golden Hall

By Jacob Stockinger

Today, Jan. 1, 2013, is New Year’s Day.

The past year was not an easy year in so many ways.

Especially disappointing is the increasing polarization or partisanship one sees not only in the US but also around the world. I myself fear for the rise of right-wing fanaticism (often signaled by hatred of immigrants, a callousness toward social welfare and the oppression of minorities) in Greece and elsewhere because of economic situations. Economic strife often leads to war or other forms of strife and suffering. (Below is a CNN photo of an austerity protest riot in Greece.)

riot protest in Greece 2012

One can only  hope for much better in 2013.

So that makes this “flash mob” performance of Beethoven (below) all the more appropriate and moving. It certainly was an emotional experience for and for the very old friend who sent it on to me — as well as for the more than 8 million viewers so far on YouTube.

Beethoven big

It is the perfect piece – or, to be precise, the perfect excerpt of the perfect piece – in words and music — performed in a perfect way that was commissioned by Banco Sabadell in Barcelona to mark its 130th anniversary, I believe.

It is the “Ode to Joy” and finale from Beethoven’s famous Symphony No. 9 “Choral.”

What a great gift to all of us! So  pass it on. Link to it. Forward it. Facebook or Twitter it. But see that other people you know and care about experience this flash mob video.

It gives one hope – especially at a time when Spain, like so many other countries, in undergoing the trials, tribulations and testing of austerity.

Judge for yourself – be sure to look at the facial expressions of the children and the ordinary people who just pass by and stop to take it all in. You can see that great music connects and bonds.

And let us know what you think by leaving something in the COMMENTS section.

Happy New Year to you! May Peace, Joy and Prosperity be in abundance in 2013.


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