The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Get to know The Ear. For Christmas this year, The Ear gives readers an interview with him done by critic, radio host and blogger Paul Baker.

December 24, 2014
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is Christmas Eve.

Lots of people exchange gifts today, rather than on Christmas Day.

So, does this post qualify as a Christmas gift?

I say: Why not?

But I’ll let readers decide and have the final word.

Recently, Paul Baker (below) visited The Ear and did an interview with him.

The topics ranged from personal background to taste about the music I like and dislike, and my adamant support for music education.

It may satisfy some people who want to know more about The Ear.

Paul Baker

Baker, as you may know, works in communications at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, which just marked its 50th anniversary at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Baker specializes in jazz and was a freelance reviewer for The Ear when The Ear worked as the arts editor at The Capital Times.

For years, Baker hosted “Caravan,” a show of Middle Eastern and Arabic music.

He has hosted for WORT FM 89.9 in past years.

“I have volunteered as a radio music host sporadically since undergraduate days at the University of Kentucky-Lexington,” says Baker.

Paul Baker at WSUM

Now he has a weekly show –- “Strings Only” -– that airs on Wednesdays from 1 to 2 p.m. on the UW-Madison student radio station WSUM 91.7 FM, which is quite distinguished by the awards it has won and quite varied in its offerings and scheduled programs, as you can see from the website below:

http://wsum.org

Here is a link to the 2005 background story by the UW-Madison News Service about Paul Baker:

http://www.news.wisc.edu/11801

Here is a link to Paul Baker’s music blog, which, among other things, features record reviews as well as feature stories and profiles – especially notable is the one about the prominent Madison luthier, or violin maker, Ralph Rabin (below, in a photo by Paul Baker), who also is the son of the late Marvin Rabin, the internationally famed music educator and founder-conductor of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra (WYSO):

https://onlystringswsum.wordpress.com

Ralph Rabin in shop 1 Paul Baker

Finally, here is a link to his blog and the interview with me, The Ear. It is entitled “The Well-Tempered Writer”:

https://onlystringswsum.wordpress.com/2014/11/26/the-well-tempered-writer/

Merry Christmas!!

 


Classical music: Here are the best classical recordings of 2014 from The New York Times, The New Yorker magazine and The Boston Globe as well as NPR.

December 20, 2014
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

This is the last weekend for holiday shipping before Christmas, and retailers expect today to be even bigger and busier than Black Friday.

But whether you go to a local brick-and-mortar store such as Barnes & Noble or use the Internet, there is still time to order and receive such items as gifts.

Plus, whether you are looking for a gift for someone else or for what to buy with that gift card or cash you receive, perhaps you will find the following lists convenient and helpful.

The three lists are compilations of the Best Classical Music Recordings of 2014, even if they appear a bit late. (I seem to recall that these lists appeared closer to Thanksgiving or Black Friday in past years, but I could be wrong.)

NY Times top 20 classical CDs 2013 Tony Cenicola for NYT

The first list, a long one, comes from the various critics at The New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/19/arts/music/classical-critics-pick-the-top-music-recordings-of-2014.html?_r=0

It covers solo instruments, vocal music, operas, orchestral music, chamber music – you name it.

The second list from a critic for The Boston Globe:

http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/music/2014/12/13/the-best-albums/6q7Tin4lPvj5RmqfCCSTFP/story.html

The third list comes from ace music critic and prize-winner Alex Ross (below) of The New Yorker Magazine. He names 20 different recordings along with 10 memorable live events from the concert scene in New York City.

http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/ten-notable-performances-recordings-2014

Alex Ross 2

The Ear finds it interesting how many agreements there are about certain composers, works and performers – such as the haunting, 2014 Pulitzer Prize-winning work “Become Ocean” by the contemporary American composer John Luther Adams (below top and at the bottom in a YouTube video) and the Schubert recording by British pianist Paul Lewis (below middle) in late music by Franz Schubert or Alan Gilbert conducting the New York Philharmonic in two symphonies by Danish composer Carl Nielsen.

John Luther Adams

Paul Lewis

Here is a link to a previous Top 10 Best of 2014 list from NPR (National Public Radio), complete with CD covers and sound samples, that I posted:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/12/14/classical-music-need-gift-suggestions-npr-names-its-top-10-classical-music-albums-of-2014/

Happy shopping!

And even happier listening!!

It will be interesting to see what 2015 brings.


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
Leave a Comment

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: 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. Plus, what piece best expresses today’s Winter Solstice?

December 21, 2013
1 Comment

READER SURVEY: Today is the Winter Solstice at 11:11 p.m. CST. What piece of music most expresses or embodies that welcome event when the days finally start getting longer and the nights shorter — even if the warm and sunny weather is still far in the future? Let The Ear know with a COMMENT.

winter solstice image

By Jacob Stockinger

Well, it’s getting down to the wire when it comes to holiday shopping.

As I do every year, I suggest that you give the gift of live music. There wis nothing like it — nothing even comes close.

Of course, you can also couple it to new CD recording or a DVD video with the same performer or work, or even a new book about Johann Sebastian Bach or Ludwig van Beethoven or someone else.

Bach Music in the Castle of Heaven

But the other important thing to give is yourself: Some time and some companion ship. This is especially true for children and young people who need some guidance, and for older people who may have accessibility issues and need your help if they are to get out to an event.

It isn’t hard to put together. Let the recipient’s taste in music be your guide. You can go on-line and explore the possibilities. You can go to bigger and more expensive events by the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below, which has a holiday ticket sale going on through Christmas Eve), the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Madison Opera, the Wisconsin Union Theater and the Overture Center.

John DeMain and MSO from the stage Greg Anderson

Or you could seek out free or more inexpensive events, especially chamber music but also orchestra concerts, choral concerts and opera, at the University of Wisconsin School of Music (below is the Pro Arte String Quartet, which will present the FREE world premiere of a work it commissioned from Belgian composer Benoit Mernier on March 1-2) or Edgewood College or any number of small groups.

ProArte 2010 3

Just get a holiday cards and write out a heart-felt message with the event, date and time and your offer to go with the recipient, maybe even share a meal or snack before or after the event. And if it is weeks or months out, that just gives people something to look forward to once the holidays are over.

In that same spirit, guest blogger and UW Choral Union singer Janet Murphy (below) offered this specific gift idea:

Janet Murphy

Murphy writes: Arboretum Cohousing (www.ArboretumCohousing.org) aka. Arbco, is presenting an evening with Metropolitan Opera mezzo-soprano Kitt Reuter-Foss of Madison (below) on Saturday, January 18.  Struggling to come up with a gift for the Impossible to Buy For?  Well, you could end the pain right now by buying the ITBF a ticket to see Kitt at:

www.BrownPaperTickets.com/event/468942

But why?

Here are four good reasons to give the gift of concert tickets:

You want to go to the concert, so you cleverly buy a ticket for someone else to go with you.

Tickets produce nothing to clutter our lives, take back, assemble, be redeemed, or be discarded.  No batteries required.

You support the local arts with your holiday spending.  Musicians and venues need us today so they will exist tomorrow.

You and your guest get to enjoy those warm feelings of giving and receiving twice – first in the bleak mid-winter, and then again at concert time.

kitt reuter foss copy

And here are four good reasons you might choose to give the gift of Kitt Reuter-Foss tickets:

Madison doesn’t have enough opportunities to see one of our premier talents.

November’s Arboretum Cohousing concert with keyboardist Trevor Stephenson (below) was a ridiculous amount of fun.  If you missed it, you can make up for that mistake now.

Arbco Trevor answers questions

Intimate venues mean a value-added experience: Visit with fellow concert-goers, see the performers up close and personal, hear gloriously unamplified music, and expect to be surprised (something magical always happens).

There are sweets and savories galore (below) – and you can enjoy them while you listen.

Arbco Refreshments

In addition, you will be doing a good deed. All proceeds from the concert go to restore Arco’s vintage Mason and Hamlin grand piano (below), so the gift of music will also enable Arbco to present more music in the future.

With so many performances in Madison to make your ITBF happy, what are you waiting for?  Go for it.

Mason and Hamlin harp and strings


Classical music: The music is ALWAYS more important than the performer or performance. That’s good to remember especially during holiday gift shopping.

December 24, 2011
Leave a Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

Well, here we are — down to Christmas Eve, down to the last shopping day before Christmas.

Then, of course, after the holiday and gift-giving comes the chance to redeem all those gift cards and spend all that cash.

In past weeks, I have offered a series, compiled by distinguished critics from The New York Times and The New Yorker magazine to NPR and the list of Grammy nominations , of suggested recordings from 2011 that would make fine holiday gifts for classical music lovers.

Here are links to those posts:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2011/12/02/classical-music-news-here-is-a-complete-list-of-the-classical-music-nominations-for-the-54h-annual-grammy-awards-happy-listen-and-shopping/

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2011/12/10/classical-music-shopping-continues-so-for-the-weekend-here-are-more-holiday-gift-guides-from-alex-ross-anne-midgette-npr-wfmt-and-others-for-classical-recordings-featuring-the-best-of-2011/

But I recently ran across this review by Alan Elsner of a single upcoming release. It reminded that in many cases you can and should ignore the experts, and instead simply obey your own impulses.

It is good to remember that the music is ALWAYS more important than the performer or performance.

The great pianist Artur Schnabel said something similar when he remarked that great music was frustrating to work on because it was always better than it could ever be played.

In this case, the review is talking about a new recording of French music by Saint-Saens, Franck and Ravel for Sony by violinist Joshua Bell and pianist Jeremy Denk. (Unfortunately, it won’t be released until Jan. 10, so don’t look for it in time for the holidays. That seems bad consumer timing from Sony, no? Maybe Grammy Award eligibility has something to do with that.)

There is a local tie-in, by the way. Both Bell and Denk (below, teaching a student master class in Madison) have appeared together and separately in Madison at the Wisconsin Union Theater. And the violin sonata was recently heard in a transcription for cello on “Sunday Live From the Chazen.”

But what struck me about this review was the depth of commitment the review felt toward the music – in this case, the famous Sonata for Violin and Piano by Cesar Franck (below), a certified masterpiece. And that is, I think, a very important lesson to remember.

If certain piece of music has special meaning for you, then even an old recording of it makes it a gift from the heart and to the heart, as Beethoven once described a major composition he had written. To give music you really love is to give a piece of yourself.

For me, that would be, among many others, Bach’s Partita No. 2 for keyboard, Cantata No. 147,  and the “Goldberg” Variations; Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 27; Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas Op. 109 and 110 plus his Piano Concerto No. 4 and Symphony No. 7; Schubert’s last two piano sonatas, two Piano Trios and Cello Quintet; Chopin’s Ballade in F MinorScherzo No. 3 and Sonata No. 3; and Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2, Piano Quintet in F minor and Symphony  No. 4.

I would be lying if I didn’t say I have favorite performers and performances, among them Arthur Rubinstein (below) in Chopin and Brahms.

But I would also be lying if I didn’t stay that I knew and loved the music before I knew and loved the performer, and that I have heard many performances in those works and liked them. The music elevates the musician.

In any case, I like the personal quality and commitment you find in this review. I hope you find it as appealing and convincing as I did. It brings us back to the basics of music – which is not to nit-pick over which performance is the best or is somehow definitive, though performances can indeed make a different in our appreciation, but instead to guide us to the greatness of the music.

Here is a link to the review:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-elsner/music-and-spirituality_b_1112982.html

Still, if you need more help, here is one person’s general list of the Best 100 Best Classical Works – without specific artist or performance performances, or without being confined to the past year.

http://www.digitaldreamdoor.com/pages/best-classic-wks.html

And here is a list of the all-time top classical recordings that is not limited to releases this past year:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/classicalmusic/6137471/100-Best-Classical-Recordings.html

Happy hunting.

And happy listening.


    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,204 other followers

    Blog Stats

    • 2,089,758 hits
%d bloggers like this: