The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: YOU MUST HEAR THIS: “Madrigal” for cello and piano by Enrique Granados

August 27, 2018

By Jacob Stockinger

One of the great losses to classical music was the premature death of the Spanish composer Enrique Granados (1867-1916, below).

Chances are that if you know the work of this composer, who died in the sinking of the Sussex during World War I, it is probably through his beautiful and lyrical  piano works such as “Goyescas” and Spanish Dances,”  many of which are frequently heard through transcriptions, especially for guitar.

But his great gift for lyricism found many outlets that remain unknown, including chamber music.

Here is one you should hear: the Madrigal for Cello and Piano (1915).

It was recently played on Wisconsin Public Radio and it reminds The Ear of the “Elegy” by Gabriel Faure.

Listen to it yourself in the YouTube video at the bottom and then leave word what you think of this work and of Granados in general.

Also let us know if there are other works of Granados that you recommend listening to, with a YouTube link if possible.

And if you like it, why not forward a link to a friend or share it on Facebook?

Classical music: Sunday is packed at the UW-Madison with lots of vocal music, wind music and contemporary chamber music.

April 20, 2013
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

The frenetic pace of offering concerts before the spring semester is over in three weeks continues this weekend at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

Earlier this week, on Friday, I posted about the Perlman Piano Trio concert that takes place today at 3:30 p.m. in Morphy Hall; and the recital by the three winners of the 28th annual Beethoven Sonata Competition, which takes places on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. in Morphy Hall.

Here are some other appealing events that I just couldn’t fit into the regular postings this past week.

On this Sunday, April 21, at 1 p.m. in Music Hall at the foot of Bascom Hill is the FREE Paul Collins Fellowship Recital. It features guest artists and professional singers soprano Emily Birsan (below top), mezzo-soprano Jamie Van Eyck (below bottom), bass-baritone John Arnold and pianist Kirstin Ihde.

Emily Birsan less tarty 2 NoCredit

Jamie Van Eyck

The program will include Ravel’s “’Don Quichotte à Dulcinée”; two Spanish songs from Enrique Granados‘ “Tonadillas”; ‘Songs of Travel‘ by Ralph Vaughan Williams, including “Youth and Love,” “Whither Must I Wander?” and “Bright is the Ring of Words”; Three Russian Songs by Sergei Rachmaninoff (“Midsummer Nights,” “How Fair This Spot” and “Spring Waters”).

Also included are the following opera arias: “Madamina …” and “La ci darem la mano” from Mozart’s “Don Giovanni”; “Non so piu” from Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro”; “Soave sia il vento” from Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte”; “Ah! forse lui. .. Sempre libera” from Verdi’s “La Traviata”; “Sein wir wieder gut” from Richard Strauss’ “Ariadne auf Naxos”; “Belle Nuit” from Offenbach’s “Tales of Hoffman” and Richard Rodgers’ “People Will Say We’re in Love” from “Oklahoma.”

Here, from the UW School of Music, is a Note about Collins Fellowships: “The Collins fellowships have been established through the generosity of Paul J. Collins (below) in honor of his mother, Adele Stoppenbach Collins, a 1929 School of Music graduate. Student are nominated by faculty members. The fellowships are awarded to outstanding graduate performance majors and are determined by a committee of performance faculty.

“Collins Awards guarantee two years of support at the masters level and three years at the doctoral level, contingent upon full-time study and satisfactory progress in the degree program. These awards are sufficient to provide the financial support needed for a single international student to obtain a visa.”

Paul J. Collins

On Sunday, April 21, at 2 p.m. in Mills Hall is a FREE concert by the UW Wind Ensemble (below) under conductors Scott Teeple, Alex Gonzales and Scott Pierson.

The program will include “Cheers!” by Jack Stamp; “Hemispheres” by Joseph Turrin”; “Duels and Dances” by James Stephenson with UW oboist Marc Fink; and “Symphonic Metamorphosis” by Paul Hindemith, arr. Wilson.

UW Wind Ensemble performance

On Sunday, April 21, 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall in a FREE concert by the Contemporary Chamber Ensemble (below)  its director, UW composer Laura Schwendinger.

Contemporary Chamber Ensemble

The program includes “Pas de Quatre” by Eleanor Corey; “The Violinist in My Life” by UW composer Laura Schwendinger (below and at bottom in a YouTube video about a light installation that she did in New york City with her artist sister); a flute quartet by Peter Bacchus; Anton Webern’s Six Bagatelles; and “Sereneta d’ Estate” by George Rochberg.


Classical music: Spanish pianist Daniel del Pino returns this Friday night to Farley’s to play music by Granados, De Falla, Albeniz, Mompou and Liszt.

January 23, 2013

By Jacob Stockinger

Farley’s House of Pianos will welcome back internationally recognized Spanish pianist Daniel del Pino on this Friday night, January 25, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. for a salon concert of mostly Spanish music, followed by a reception for the artist.

Born in Lebanon of Spanish parents, del Pino draws influences from his piano studies in Spain, as well as the United States where he earned a Master’s degree in piano performance from Yale.  He has also spent time teaching piano in Austria, Jordan, Palestine and Spain.

An accomplished soloist, he has performed with orchestras around the world, including the Bucharest Philharmonic and at festivals such as Chamber Music International in Dallas.

A recipient of multiple awards in national and international  piano competitions, del Pino has performed in some of the finest concert halls in the world, including Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Daniel del Pino

Dance is a common theme throughout del Pino’s upcoming performance, which features pieces such as the “Spanish Dances” by Enrique Granados (below top) and the “Ritual Fire Dance” by Manuel de Falla (below bottom).

Enrique Granados

manuel de falla

The program also features works by several other Spanish composers, including Isaac Albéniz (below top, in 1901) and Federico Mompou (below bottom).

Isaac Albéniz 1901

federico mompou color

To close the concert, del Pino will perform Franz Liszt’s dramatic and virtuosic “Totentanz,” or Dance of the Dead. (You can see and hear him in a similar Liszt work in a YouTube video from 2011 at the bottom.)

To see the complete program, visit Events at

Tickets are $30 in advance or $35 the day of the concert. A reception will follow the concert. Tickets can be purchased at Farley’s House of Pianos and Orange Tree Imports on Monroe Street, or by calling 271-2626 to reserve tickets by credit or debit card. 

Farley’s House of Pianos is located at 6522 Seybold Road on Madison’s west side near the Beltline and West Towne.  Plenty of free parking is available at Farley’s House of Pianos, and it is easy to reach by bicycle or Madison Metro

Other upcoming concerts at Farley’s include:

Solo pianist Martin Kasik  in works by Claude Debussy, Franz Liszt and Modeste Mussorgsky; March 23 at 7:30 p.m.

University of Wisconsin-Madison and Pro Arte String Quartet cellist Parry Karp and UW-Oshkosh pianist Eli Kalman in a complete cycle of Beethoven’s cello works: April 19at 7:30 p.m. and April 21 at 4:30 p.m.

Classical music: Does becoming a parent change how you hear and make music? The Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes think so.

August 28, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

Does having a child change how you hear and make music?

Acclaimed Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes (below), known for the directness of his interpretations as well as his virtuosity, thinks so.

See if you agree by listening to reading an interview with him about his fatherhood and by listening to him play a Spanish Dance by Enrique Granados and other works including three Chopin waltzes. It has some GREAT close-ups of his playing and the keyboard, by the way.

Here is a link:

What do you think?

The Ear wants to hear.

Classical music: What makes the classical guitar and classical guitar music so appealing and so popular?

March 15, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

Last weekend’s concert by the Madison Symphony Orchestra left me somewhat perplexed or puzzled.

The program was all over the map, though you might say that the underlying theme was deliverance from Wisconsin winter – or what should have been a cold Wisconsin winter but was actually a spring-like break in the typical winter weather.

The guest conductor was Carl St. Clair (below), who was filling again in for John DeMain.

DeMain is finishing up his very successful stint, which ends March 17, conducting “Showboat” at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Here is a link to a review of that production by The New York Times’ senior critic Anthony Tommasini, who will be giving free public lectures in Madison next week as part of the UW’s Pro Arte Quartet Centennial.):

Despite his podium acrobatics and choreography, St. Clair did a fine job in creating a big, beautiful sound and clearly met with enthusiastic, foot-stomping approval from the orchestra players.

The program featured two works with a Spanish flavor, presumably something to take us into sunshine and warmth during March: Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Capriccio Espagnol” and Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Concierto Andaluz” with the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet (below) as soloists.

The big piece on the program was Brahms’ Third Symphony is a curious and difficult, if generally understated work, that, written in a major key with some memorable moments, exudes a certain sense of freedom and joy.

By and large, I agree with the other critics. So below I provide links to their reviews.

But I did find my own reactions left me curious.

I wonder why, for example, they started off with the BIG piece, the  symphony by Brahms? One presumes it is because the symphony has a quiet ending and because that way they could devote the second half to the splashier Spanish works?

You might think of it as a bullfight. Except instead of awarding the bullfighter one or two years, the audience awarded St. Clair and the MSO two loud and long standing ovations.

But not for the Brahms.

It was for the flashy work by Rimsky-Korsakov (below), which, though short on substance, is a terrific illustration of the composer’s mastery of orchestration and ability to show off all the section of the orchestra to maximum effect.

The “Capriccio Espanol” is one of those pieces that, for me, is much more satisfying live than recorded. It is better when you can actually see the music-making taking place rather than just hear it. The popular and also Spanish-like popular “Bolero” by Ravel is another such piece.

The symphony by Brahms  (below) was done well, but I thought needed a little more sweep and tension. It needed less rubato, less freedom and fussing. It needed to move more and be more straightforward.

The secret to most Brahms, I think, is to allow the music to have sentiment without sentimentality. This performance came close, but it needed still more impersonality and distance, more attention to structure than content. It needed to be left alone and speak for itself, to let the composer and the score do the heavy-lifting.

But the really interesting work, at least psychologically, was the concerto by Rodrigo, which is hardly a major work or masterpiece.

The last time it was performed here, by the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra two years ago, it also received an enthusiastic standing ovation.

And what for? I found myself asking myself.

The music itself is pleasant enough but slight stuff, even second-tier in the large picture. It is mostly scales and arpeggios running up and down the keyboard accompanied by some lovely melodies and rhythms.

True, it felt a like cheating when the guitarists amplified their sound through electronic microphones and loudspeakers. I mean, whatever did they do with guitar concertos by Vivaldi and Boccherini before electric amplification?

As for the music, nobody is ever going to accuse Joaquin Rodrigo (below) of being a major 20th century composer, though two of his works — this Concierto Andaluz and the Concierto de Aranjuez (at bottom), which jazz trumpeter Miles Davis made famous – are extremely  popular. But even such Spanish composers as Manuel De Falla, Issac Albeniz, Enrique Granados and Frederico Mompou all rank higher in professional esteem, one suspects, than Rodrigo.

And there’s the rub.

What is it that makes the classical guitar (below), and the music written, for it so popular?

Well, after thinking about that for a week, I think there may a big lesson there for modern musicians and for critics as well as programmers.

That is: The classical guitar and its repertoire are popular and loved by audiences because they are conservative; because they are accessible and go down easy; because they rely on melody and contagious dance-like rhythms; because soothing harmonies have just the right spike of spice to them.

It is not by chance that Schoenberg and Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovich, did NOT composer music for the classical guitar, at least not to my knowledge.

Now, I do not say this condescendingly.

I myself am a tunes guy. I love melody, which is one reason why I prefer Schubert to Beethoven; Mozart to Haydn, Chopin and Schumann to Liszt; Brahms and Dvorak to Mahler and Bruckner.

But I think what audiences were expressing by their ovation after the Rodrigo was a way to announce that they like music that makes the feel better, music that is easier to live with – as well as the effortless virtuosity of the players of that music.

At a time when so many people lead anxious lives, who wants to deepen the anxiety with art?

Am I arguing for music as therapy? I hope not.

But clearly the public looks for relief from the outside world – despite what so many of the apologists for aggressive or assaultive contemporary music want to say or believe or impose on people.

Profundity has its place; so does enjoyment and pleasure.

In the concert hall, the people vote with their feet and hands.

And this time once again they voted for melody and harmony, for pleasantness and comfort, and – yes – for beauty. That may sound old-fashioned, but there it is: Art serves as consolation and inspiration.

Not such bad goals, really, when you think about it. Especially when they are attained.

Anyway, here are the other reviews of the MSO concert.

Here is the review by John W. Barker for Isthmus:

Here is Lindsay Christians’ review for the Wisconsin State Journal and 77 Square:

Here is Greg Hettmansberger’s review for Madison Magazine and the blog “Classically Speaking”:

Here is Bill Wineke’s review of Channel 3000:

But we are all critics.

What did you think of the MSO program and conductor Carl St. Clair?

Why do you think the classical guitar and classical guitar music are so popular?

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