The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Is classical music making a comeback?

August 1, 2016

By Jacob Stockinger

Is classical music making a comeback?

The Ear asks: Did it ever go away?

Well, some signs and attendance demographics — smaller audiences with more older people and few young people — do point to problems. (Below is a photo of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and conductor John DeMain.)

John DeMain and MSO from the stage Greg Anderson

In any case, Andrew Goldstein has written a thought-provoking column for The Huffington Post.

Read it and see what you think:

Then let us know.

The Ear wants to hear.

Classical music news: Should concert halls be noisier and livelier or quieter and more attentive to attract bigger and younger audiences to classical music? The argument grows.

June 16, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

One urgent question continues to loom at the center of the classical music world: How do performers and presenters attract more audiences and young audiences to live music?

One answer is to emphasize new music.

Another and opposing answer is to emphasize tried-and-true old masterpieces.

One answer is to use more non-traditional venues such as coffee houses (below), bars, churches, open-air markets, the street, parks and workplaces — much like the local groups Classical Revolution (bel0w) and New Muse (New Music Everywhere) do.

But there are still people who are unabashed in their love of the concert hall as the appropriate place to hear classical music.

However, even those partisans can’t agree on what makes for a great concert hall experience.

Recently, one observer wrote that concert halls need to be noisier and more raucous, more filled with cheers and yells, with life and excitement – much like I have written about what I find when I go to concerts by the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (photo below):

Here is a link to the nationally distributed and controversial  story  — which drew a lot of comments – by Richard Dare on The Huffington Post:

But recently a story in the New York Times took issue with that approach and argued, though several sources, that a focused and attentive silence is the more appropriate response inside the concert hall.

The Ear tends to think that no matter what side you take, it all depends on the circumstances and the music. It is similar to how some music, say a concerto, lends itself to applause between movements – and many soloist especially would like to see more of that – while applause could ruin the mood of other works, say a Mahler symphony or a Requiem.

Which side do you take – noisier or quieter concert halls?

The Ear wants to hear.

Classical music news: Maurice Sendak loved classical music, especially Verdi and Mozart, and, yes, he was gay.

May 12, 2012
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ALERT: Just a reminder that today 2-6 p.m. is the FREE and PUBLIC “Curtain Down Party” and Open House at the Wisconsin Union Theater. Here are links to news releases and stories about the event. My own thoughts about the WUT’s history and future were in yesterday’s posting:

By Jacob Stockinger

Ever since he died this week at 83 of complications from a stroke, the famed children’s book writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak (below) has been featured in many tributes in the old and new media — and rightfully so.

I love listening to his voice, his articulate conversation and quick thinking. Just listen to the hour that Terry Gross and “Fresh Air” on NPR devoted to old interviews he did.

And The Huffington Post compiled some of Sendak’s most memorable and self-effacing quotes:

But other sources, with less of a high-profile, also discussed other aspects of Sedak and his art.

One is the famed classical music radio station WQXR in New York City, where Sendak was born and lived his whole life.

Sendak told a blogger at WQXR how much he loved classical music, especially Mozart and Verdi. He even collaborated on various musical projects including one with contemporary British composer Oliver Knussen.

Here is a link:!/blogs/wqxr-blog/2012/may/08/classical-music-fueled-maurice-sendak-muse/

And the question I kept hearing was whether Maurice Sendak was gay.

Well, it took him a long time to make a public statement, but he did it recently on The Colbert Report. Take a listen not only to Sendak’s wit and humor but also to absolute candor.

Here is a link to Be sure to listen to the blog but especially to listen to the clip from the Colbert Report at the bottom:

That kind of emotional honesty, I am convinced, was also one of the qualities that permeated Sendak’s own books and accounted for his popularity and prestige.

We adults are The Wild Things and we are sad at his passing,

Even more than children, it is adults who will miss Maurice Sendak.  He embodied the kind of cosmopolitan intelligence and tolerant creativity that we see too rarely in our increasingly anti-intellectual society.

In honor of Sendak and his musical taste, here is the finale from Verdi’s opera “Falstaff,” a character who seems as lusty for life and as larger-than-life as Sendak himself:

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