The Well-Tempered Ear

The New York Times names the top 25 classical recordings of 2020 and includes sample tracks

December 27, 2020
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By Jacob Stockinger

What did the holidays bring you?

Did Hanukkah, Christmas or Kwanzaa bring you a gift card?

A subscription to a streaming service?

Maybe some cash?

Or maybe you just want to hear some new music or new musicians or new interpretations of old classics?

Every year, the music critics of The New York Times list their top 25 recordings of the past year. Plus at the end of the story, the newspaper offers a sample track from each recording to give you even more guidance.

This year is no exception (below).

In fact, the listing might be even more welcome this year, given the  coronavirus pandemic with the lack of live concerts and the isolation and self-quarantine that have ensued.

The Ear hasn’t heard all of the picks or even the majority of them. But the ones he has heard are indeed outstanding. (In the YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear a sample of the outstanding Rameau-Debussy recital by the acclaimed Icelandic pianist Vikingur Olafssen, who scored major successes with recent albums of Philip Glass and Johann Sebastian Bach.)

Here is a link: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/17/arts/music/best-classical-music.html

Of course not all critics agree.

The Ear has already listed the nominations for the Grammy Awards (a link is below), and more critics’ picks will be featured in coming days.

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2020/11/28/for-holiday-shopping-and-gift-giving-here-are-the-classical-music-nominations-for-the-63rd-grammy-awards-in-2021/

You should also notice that a recording of Ethel Smyth’s “The Prison” — featuring soprano Sarah Brailey (below), a graduate student at the UW-Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music and a co-founder of Just Bach — is on the Times’ list as well as on the list of Grammy nominations.

What new recordings – or even old recordings — would you recommend?

The Ear wants to hear.

 


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Classical music: The Mostly Mozart Festival opens Wednesday night in New York City’s Lincoln Center with great music by Beethoven and Mozart and with changes that add new energy and vitality. But will PBS refuse to broadcast it?

July 30, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

I guess this summer The Ear will be hearing and especially SEEING a lot less Mozart.

Along with less Beethoven.

Here’s the reason: As far as I can tell, this summer PBS will NOT broadcast the opening of the popular annual summer Mostly Mozart Festival from Lincoln Center in New York City.

It is especially unfortunate to The Ear because this year’s opening night program on this Wednesday, tomorrow, features two of his favorite Beethoven works and a favorite pianist: the Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58, with French pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (below top, in a photo by Paul Mitchell); and the Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92, with the festival orchestra under its music director since 2002 Louis Langree (below bottom).

That same night, Bavouzet — an up-and-coming artist hghly acclaimed for his recordings of Franz Josef Haydn, Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel –will perform Book 2 of Debussy‘s Preludes in the Kaplan Penthouse. (You can hear Bavouzet, who records on the Chandos Records, perform Debussy’s “Reflections in Water” in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet / Chandos Records

Louis Langree Mostly Mozart OrchestraNYT Hiroyuki Ito

In addition, mezzo-soprano Alice Coote (below) will sing two arias by Mozart: :”Ch’io me scorda di te” and “Parto, parto ma ben mia” from the opera “La Clemenza di Tito.”

Alice Coote

Perhaps I am wrong about not being broadcast. I hope so, because it seems exactly the kind of high quality, non-commercial event that public broadcasting was originally started for. In addition, the openings that used to be broadcast on PBS’ “Live From Lincoln Center” were always enjoyable, an artistic tie that bound many of us together for a couple of hours.

pbs logo in black

I mean, I have had my fill of PBS emphasizing Britty comedies and crime drama — I like them, but there is a limit — and I want to know more about the cultural scene in America that major commercial and network broadcasters usually ignore.

Here are links to the Mostly Mozart festival’s main website where you can find listings of artists, events and programs:

http://www.mostlymozart.org

http://aboutlincolncenter.org/programs/program-mostly-mozart

http://aboutlincolncenter.org/events-and-tickets

Maybe you can at least listen to it as it is streamed via the Internet. I look more into it and let you know.

But perhaps the real stars of this year’s festival are the changes that have been made to add energy and revitalize the festival that once seemed dangerously on the decline.

That is exactly the story that New York Times senior music critic Anthony Tommasini (below) wrote about in “Mostly Mozart, Mostly Improved” that appeared on Sunday.

tommasini-190

The changes include using smaller spaces, including new music, staging an opera, starting a new series and changing the old formula of composers to be performed.

Here is a link to Tommasini’s story:

http://nyti.ms/15lg95u

Should PBS broadcast the opening concert – and maybe more – of the Mostly Mozart Festival?

What lessons should local classical music presenters draw from the Mostly Mozart Festival and how it has been restructured and revamped?

The Ear wants to hear.


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