The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music education: What makes for a great and productive student-teacher relationship in music? Pianists Lang Lang and Gray Graffman answer that question for NPR. Plus, the memorial service for WYSO founder Marvin Rabin is today at 3.

December 29, 2013
3 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

It seems only fitting that today is a day to talk about music education.

After all, the memorial service for Marvin Rabin (below top), the founder and longtime music director and conductor of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) will be held today at 3 p.m. in the new Atrium auditorium (below bottom, in a photo by Zane Williams) of the landmark First Unitarian Society, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, at 900 University Bay Drive, near UW Hospital and Clinics.

marvin rabin BW

FUS Atrium, Auditorium Zane Williams

Many young WYSO players will perform at the service and here is a link to a previous story with more about the memorial service, about WYSO and about Marvin Rabin.

So the question that lingers in the air is: What makes for a great teacher-student relationship between musicians?

Recently, NPR’s great lcassical music blog Deceptive Cadence got the young Chinese superstar pianist Lang Lang (below top) and his much older former teacher Gary Graffman (below bottom, in a photo by Carol Rosegg) at the Curtis institute of Music, to talk about what makes for a great teacher-student relationship.

lang lang plain

Gary Grafman BIG profile cr Carol Rosegg

The dialogue interview meanders a bit, but it quite informative and even inspirational. It is particularly interesting for two reasons.

One is that Lang Lang seems to be simmering down in his annoying flamboyance and especially in his new release of piano concertos by Sergei Prokofiev and Bela Bartok with Sir Simon Rattle conducting the Berlin Philharmonic (see the YouTube video at the bottom),  is focusing more on the music. For his part the 85-year-old Graffman, who, like Leon Fleisher, saw his big concert career undone by a major injury, is undergoing a rediscovery though the release of a box set of re-mastered recordings from decades ago.

Lang Lang Prokofiev Bartok CD cover

gary graffman box

Second, The Ear believes that Marvin Rabin had the same gift of being an inspiring teacher and seemed to share the right temperament and similar ideas with Gary Graffman.

So here is a link to the story, which I found better is listen to than to read in transcript:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/12/22/255751206/talking-great-teachers-and-students-with-two-piano-masters


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: As we head into Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber-Monday, how appealing as holiday gifts are complete CD boxed sets?

November 29, 2013
4 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is Black Friday, known for deep price cuts, huge sales and outrageous store hours that draw massive crowds — and for putting retails business in the profitable black at the end of the year.

Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday, which is supposed to encourage us to patronize local businesses.

And Monday is Cyber-Monday for on-line Internet shopping.

Never mind that they are all starting to get mixed up and to become one big, long shopping frenzy.

Black Friday Shopping

As I do every year, I will hunt out and post on this blog the “Best of 2013” lists, which should feature lots of recordings, some great DVDs and also some noteworthy books about classical music. Here are some links to last year’s from NPR, The New York Times and The New Yorker and Gramophone magazines among others. After all,  the music and the performances are just as good as it was a year ago:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/01/10/classical-music-critics-have-had-their-say-but-about-the-public-what-were-the-most-popular-if-not-the-best-classical-records-of-2012-radio-station-wqxr-knows/

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/classical-music-gramophone-magazine-announces-its-2012-awards-for-best-classical-recordings-artists-and-labels-do-you-see-evidence-of-a-brit-bias/

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2012/11/ten-notable-classical-music-recordings-of-2012.html

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/classical-music-here-is-part-4-of-the-ears-holiday-gift-giving-guides-to-classical-music-compliments-of-the-new-york-times/

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2012/12/16/classical-music-here-is-part-2-of-the-ears-holiday-gift-giving-guide-featuring-nprs-top-10-classical-recordings-of-2012/

But recently The New York Times chief music critic Anthony Tommasini (below) wrote about the phenomenon of these multi-CD boxed sets, containing dozens of CDs and costing hundreds of dollars (unless of course you are a reviewer) that often use original LP covers and that give you the encore output” – or “oeuvre,” if you like – of a particular performer (like pianist Arthur Rubinstein, below) or composer. But they also probably offer lots of duplicates to serious collectors who already have a substantial number of recordings.

tommasini-190

Tommasini remarks on the seeming contradictions of these as music becomes more and more about digital downloads rather than physical Compact Discs.

Arthur Rubinstein CD box set

He makes some intriguing points worth considering if you are hunting for a special classical music gift.

So in honor of the days-long holiday shopping frenzy that is facing us, here is a link to Tommasini’s story that covers several major pianists including Vladimir Horowitz at Carnegie Hall (below top, bowing, in a  photo by Don Hunstein, and below middle in the scale model “Carnegie Hall” box container), Murray Perahia (below bottom) and Van Cliburn as well as Byron Janis, Leon Fleisher and Gary Graffman plus the composer Benjamin Britten, whose birth centennial was on Nov. 22.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/17/arts/music/classical-music-boxed-sets-multiply.html?_r=0

Benjamin Britten Complete CD set

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE RECORDING TO RECOMMEND AS A GIFT?

The Ear wants to hear.

Vladimir Horowitz in Caregie Hall Don Hunstein,jpg

Vladimir Horowitz at Carnegie Hall CB whole box

Murray Perahia box


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