By Jacob Stockinger
A conservative musician who admired and valued the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart above that of Ludwig van Beethoven and his own contemporaries, Frederic Chopin (1810-1849) is one of the most popular and most played of all Romantic composers.
He remains a perennial favorite of audiences, students and concert artists. Witness the recent sold-out concerts featuring Chopin’s music by Trevor Stephenson at his home and by Adam Neiman at Farley’s House of Pianos. An amazingly high percentage of Chopin’s works remains in the active repertoire.
His was no belated posthumous fame, either. Chopin, the famous Polish pianist-composer who was exiled in Paris, was well-known and widely respected in his own lifetime by the public and by other famous composers and pianists such as Franz Liszt and Robert Schumann.
Yet despite many drawings and paintings of Chopin – often at odds in their depictions — until recently only one known photograph of Chopin existed: The familiar one taken by Louis-Auguste Bisson in Paris towards the end of Chopin’s life, just months before he died of tuberculosis at age 39 in 1849.
Now a second photograph — or daguerreotype, to be exact — has been discovered. It probably dates from 1847 or so.
Here is the new photographic portrait of Chopin:
Want to know some background?
Here is the story from Poland via The Washington Post and the Associated Press:
Here are the two known photographs side by side for comparison:
And here is a terrific blog analysis of the two photographs that also discusses his late music and what the photographs tell us about Chopin:
The Ear wonders how long it will be before we start seeing the new photograph of Chopin on CD jackets and liner notes.
By Jacob Stockinger
This coming Tuesday, Nov. 29, is Giving Tuesday.
But this year Giving Tuesday seems more important than ever.
It’s no secret that the conservative political forces now in ascendancy do not favor government subsidies of the arts. And one has no idea about what the taste in the arts is for the incoming administration.
Plus, economic competition among proliferating music groups has only tightened the screws even further on many organizations.
Of course, lots of music organizations – small, medium and big – need your help.
The Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Madison Opera, the Wisconsin Union Theater and increasingly the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music all seek out and solicit donations with more and more frequency.
And it is no secret that The Ear especially favors supporting music education organizations for young people such as the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (below, at the group’s 50th anniversary concert last winter). They not only train future musicians but also build future audiences for classical music.
But in whatever direction your philanthropy and generosity extend, here is some relevant news.
It is a story from The New York Times about how symphony orchestras are now less like businesses and more like charities.
Symphony orchestras aren’t alone, so the account seems especially timely with Giving Tuesday looming.
Here is a link:
If you have some thoughts, please leave them in the COMMENT section.
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear loves all the talk about female equality happening at the Democratic National Convention this week.
It seems only fitting, after all, given that Hillary Rodham Clinton last night became the first female presidential nominee of a major political party in the U.S.
Now, you might think that culture and especially the arts lead the way in such progressive matters.
And sometimes they do.
But not always.
In a story in the newspaper The Daily Mail, published in the United Kingdom, Scottish star violinist Nicola Benedetti (below) says that female classical musicians are still coerced to “sex it up” to have major careers. (Y0u can hear another interview with her in the YouTube video at the bottom. She seems both charming and candid.)
Hmmm. Sounds almost like an appropriate story at a time when conservative political genius and news director Roger Ailes was forced to leave his Fox News job because of multiple allegations of sexual harassment.
Benedetti cites her own career as an example, and also the case of singer Charlotte Church (below), who had to wear sexy lingerie in a crossover video.
It sure sounds like sexism is alive and well in the world of classical music.
Here is a link to a story with Benedetti’s charges.
Read it and see what you think:
Then tell the rest of us what your opinion is.
And if you know of other examples.
Let us know what you think.
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
Today is the first day when you can vote early via absentee ballot for the presidential primary election in Wisconsin on Tuesday, April 5, when you can also vote to fill a seat on the state Supreme Court.
And tomorrow, Tuesday, brings more presidential primaries for both Republicans and Democrats in the Western states of Arizona and Utah. Plus, there will also be Democratic caucuses in Idaho.
So the following political piece — a pseudo-news report — seems timely and appropriate, especially given the drive by establishment Republicans to rally and choose the ultra-conservative U.S. Senator Ted Cruz from Texas (below) as a way to stop New York City businessman Donald Trump.
Sure, it’s a satire.
But it is a very well done satire — about something that was indeed banned in the Renaissance and Baroque eras by the Roman Catholic Church.
But like so much satire, it is fun that also cuts close to the bone and contains more than a grain of truth about Cruz and about his many “first day on the job” promises if he gets elected president.
Cruz, the son of an evangelical minister, is such a devout and intolerant Christian fundamentalist, it is almost as if he is waging his own jihad, much like the Islamic terrorist state ISIS, on any culture he considers unChristian and heretical to his personal faith and what he considers to be the inerrant and literal truth of the Bible.
Hmm. Does that qualify him as an extremist or radical?
To The Ear, what is really and truly scary is Cruz — not the music.
And it is hard to say who is more threatening as a potential president: Donald Trump or Ted Cruz?
Well, make up your own mind, fellow music-lovers.
Here is the satire from submediant.com. It’s a good read with lots of details, specific composers and food for thought.
And here is a YouTube lesson in music theory that offers an explanation with examples of the Satanic tritone:
By Jacob Stockinger
Tomorrow night — from 7 to 9 p.m. CDT on CNBC — there will be another presidential debate.
The Ear has watched three presidential debates so far — two Republican and one Democratic.
But he still has no idea of where the various candidates on both sides stand when it comes to government support of the arts –- including music — and the humanities.
Please tell us, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, what you think?
And you too, Donald Trump and Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina and Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum and Chris Christie and Jeb Bush and Rand Paul and John Kasich and ….
Do you want to defund PBS?
Or defund NPR?
Or will you support these important and historic cultural commitments? Why or why not?
Why or why not?
Some funny reasoning is going on here. Some of the candidates want to eliminate all subsidies to the arts, which are a form of economic development after all – at a time when a lot of conservatives don’t mind funding big rich corporations in the same name of economic development.
The arts create a lot of jobs and spark a lot of spending and stimulus. Or don’t the culture-challenged charlatans realize that?
Stop and think a minute about the local situation. The Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Madison Opera, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Wisconsin Union Theater, the Overture Center (below), public schools, the University of Wisconsin and its School of Music — all rely in part on public funding. They employ a lot of people and generate a lot of value.
Don’t these issues deserve a public airing? Doesn’t the arts consuming public have a right to know where the various candidates stand on these issues? Shouldn’t voters know what they might be getting in those areas?
As The Ear understand its, one flank of the attack has to do with the so called left-leaning liberal or progressive bias and politics of PBS and NPR.
Plus, there is the view that the art that public taxpayer money is helping to create doesn’t defend the so-called family values that the most radically conservative Republicans and Christian fundamentalists and Evangelicals want defended.
The other flank of the attack has to do with the stance that government should be smaller and that therefore should be funding less in general.
Makes you wonder just how the radical “freedom coalition” and Tea Party people in South Carolina, Texas and California feel about having a smaller government when it comes to providing aid for victims of torrential floods and devastating wildfires. And how is that kind of help for those in need different from funding education or health care?
Anyway, wouldn’t it be appropriate for some of the panelists to question the candidates on the issues pertaining to the arts and humanities?
The Ear is reminded of Sir Winston Churchill’s comment during World War II. Some members of the British Parliament asked him if funding for the arts shouldn’t be cut and used instead to fight Hitler and the Nazis. He said no and added, “Then what would we be fighting for?”
Tell the Ear what you think. Leave a COMMENT.
Maybe, just maybe, someone else will read it and pass it along and we will finally get a substantive discussion from the candidates about where they stand on arts and humanities funding by the federal government.
By Jacob Stockinger
If you attended the recent concert by the winners of the UW-Madison School of Music Concerto Competition, you heard something extraordinary besides terrific music by Johann Strauss, Francois Borne, Ernest Chausson, Charles Gounod, Sergei Rachmaninoff and UW-Madison graduate student in composition Adam Betz from the four soloists, two conductors and the UW Symphony Orchestra.
At the beginning of the concert Susan Cook (below), who is a respected musicologist and the relatively new director of the School of Music, stood before the large house and defended music education and music performance as part of the Wisconsin Idea.
That long-celebrated idea that was formulated in the Progressive Era – that the publicly funded university exists to serve all the citizens of the state –- is under attack from anti-intellectual, budget-cutting Republicans who are being led by presidential wannabe Gov. Scott Walker.
Clearly, Walker and the conservative Republicans are once again picking on public workers — this time university professors — as overpaid and underworked scapegoats.
In addition, they are insisting that the university has to do more to foster economic development with the implication that the arts and humanities are not doing their fair share compared to the sciences, the professions and engineering. Why not turn the UW-Madison into a trade school or vocational school?
So they seem determined to dismantle the great University of Wisconsin or reduce it to a second-rate institution. And they are annoyed and disapproving that UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank is playing politics right back at them by marshalling alumni and faculty, staff and students, to fight back against the record $300 million budget cut.
Anyway, Susan Cook (below) eloquently defended music education and music performance. She pointed out the diversity of the students in the School of Music. She pointed out the national distinctions that the school and its faculty have earned. And she pointed out how many of the school’s teachers and performers tour the state, and even the country and world, to share their art and knowledge. Surely all of that fulfills the ideals of the Wisconsin Idea.
In addition, the growing body of research studies show that music education plays a vital role in all education and in successful careers in other fields. But one doubts whether the Republicans will consider that as central to economic development -– even though businesses lament the lack of a prepared workforce.
Cook got loud and sustained applause for her remarks.
She deserved it.
Cook stood up and, as the Quakers say, spoke truth to power.
So The Ear sends a big shout-out to Susan Cook and hopes that all music fans will second her views and protest and resist what the governor and state legislature want to do to gut the UW-Madison.
Brava, Susan Cook!
The Ear says leave a Comment and show both the politicians and the School of Music that you stand with Cook and want to preserve the quality of the UW-Madison, in the arts and humanities as well as in the sciences and technology, to be maintained.