The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The critically acclaimed vocal group Cantus sings about four kinds of love at the Stoughton Opera House this Saturday night. The Stoughton High School Concert Choir is a special guest performer.

March 30, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received word about an intriguing and appealing performance this weekend:

On this Saturday night at 7:30 p.m., Cantus (below top, in a photo by Curtis Johnson), the critically acclaimed, nine-voice men’s vocal ensemble based in the Twin Cities, will perform at the Stoughton Opera House (below middle and bottom), known for its historical restoration and its fine acoustics.

Cantus Railing Clustered

Stoughton Opera House ext

StoughtonOperaHouse,JPG

Love has been the inspiration for artistic expression since the dawn of time. It is such a complex idea that the ancient Greeks broke it down into four different kinds: romantic, familial, friendly and unconditional or spiritual love.

Weaving together repertoire and interstitial remarks, Cantus regards this unquantifiable emotion from all sides.

The program spans multiple historical eras and cultural traditions.

It features music by Francis Poulenc, Edvard Grieg, Ludwig van Beethoven and Bobby McFerrin.

Each of those works is paired with newly commissioned works exploring each of the four loves (romantic, familial, friendly and spiritual) by Pulitzer Prize-winner David Lang (below top, in a photo by Peter Serling) as well as Roger Treece (second below), Joseph Gregorio (third below) and Ysaye Barnwell (below bottom).

david lang CR peter serling

Roger Treece

Joseph Gregorio

Ysaye Barnwell

The program brims with Cantus’s trademark programming juxtaposition, including pairing the Beach Boys’ “Their Hearts were Full of Spring” with  “Wedding Qawwali” by the Grammy Award- and Academy Award-winning Indian composer A. R. Rahman (below) and Michael McGlynn’s setting of the traditional Gaelic “Ceann Dubh Dilis (Her Sweet Dark Head)” in a set about romantic love.

A. R, Rahman

While seemingly disjointed on its face, the variety of repertoire throughout blends seamlessly and highlights the universality of Love – our greatest and most fragile gift.

For more information about Cantus, including biographies, photos, videos and audio samples, visit this link:

http://www.allianceartistmanagement.com/artist.php?id=cantus&aview=dpk

Here is a YouTube video about the program, with musical samples, to be performed in Stoughton:


Classical music news: It’s all about sex and stardom for pianists as Lang Lang gets roasted by the New York Times and Lola Astanova gets the seal of approval from famed Vladimir Horowitz pupil Byron Janis.

June 3, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

Is it a mark of the times that the piano news this week seems more about sex and superstardom than about substance?

You may recall that last week on Tuesday, I posted an alert about the links at the New York City radio station WQXR so that readers could listen LIVE to the Carnegie Hall recital of Bach, Schubert and Chopin by the Chinese superstar pianist Lang Lang (below, in photo from that recital by Ian Douglas for The New York Times).

Here is a link to that post, where you can still stream that concert and listen to it for yourself:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/classical-music-alert-chinese-pianist-lang-lang-closes-out-the-carnegie-hall-season-with-a-ruminative-recital-of-bach-schubert-and-chopin-that-you-can-stream-live-tonight-tuesday-may-29-2012-at/

This time the reviewer who roasted the pianist was Vivien Schweitzer (below), though in the past I seem to recall that all of the Times’ critics have had their turn, and all pretty much agreed: Lang Lang has made some progress from being the flamboyant and flashy virtuoso to being a serious musician, but he still  has a long way to go.

Here is a link to that review that shows that Lang Lang’s tricks are getting a little stale, tiresome and dated for someone who is almost 30:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/31/arts/music/a-lang-lang-solo-recital-at-carnegie-hall.html

Speaking of making progress:

You may also recall several posts I had regarding the fashion plate and leggy pianist Lola Astanova (below top) and whether she would challenge the controversial but popular micro-skirted Yuja Wang (below bottom).

I also pointed out that a lot of the critics didn’t particularly like Astanova’s playing when she made her Carnegie Hall debut — in a program billed as a Tribute to Horowitz — at a benefit for the American Cancer Society.

But good luck recently smiled on Astanova.

No one less than the famed pianist Byron Janis (below), the virtuoso and former pupil of Vladimir Horowitz who had to curtail his career because of arthritis, recently picked Astanova as the only pianist to play at an event marking his receiving an lifetime achievement award from the Yahama Music and Wellness Institute at the Walter Reade Theater in Lincoln Center.

No word that I can find from critics yet about how well she played. But here is a story with the particulars:

http://www.nydailynews.com/gossip/gatecrasher/suite-pianist-lola-astanova-a-big-career-boost-byron-janis-article-1.1084900?localLinksEnabled=false

http://articles.nydailynews.com/2012-05-28/news/31879731_1_funeral-uncle-classical-pianist

Janis, by the way, has a new compilation (below) of his older and out-of-print Chopin recordings – shorter and less virtuosic or technically demanding works like mazurkas, waltzes and nocturnes – reissued by EMI, with a flashy red cover and sexy Jean Cocteau-like or Matisse-like swirling drawing , to celebrate the event. It is a fine compilation and one well worth having.


Classical music ALERT: Chinese pianist Lang-Lang closes out the Carnegie Hall season with a ruminative recital of Bach, Schubert and Chopin that you can stream LIVE TONIGHT (Tuesday, May 29, 2012) at 8 p.m. EDT.

May 29, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

Whatever you may think of the Chinese pianist Lang-Lang (below, in a photo y Marco Borggreve), there is no denying he is probably the most popular classical pianist in the world – and just maybe the most popular classical musician of any kind in the world.

And he may even be toning down his act, now that he is approaching 30. Imagine — Lang-Lang without Liszt!

The Chinese Liberace – nicknamed Bang Bang by some of his harsh critics because of his flamboyant showmanship and attire – is performing a LIVE performance at Carnegie Hall tonight at 8 p.m. EDT. The concert will close out the season at Carnegie Hall, and The Ear is betting it will be sold out.

The program – which starts at 8 p.m. EDT or 7 p.m. CDT — is BIG and much less flashy than what he usually performs. It features J.S. Bach’s Partita No. 1 in B-Flat Major, BWV 825; Schubert’s soulful last Sonata in B-Fat Major, D. 960; and all 12 of Chopin’s Etudes, Op. 25. The Ear suspects you can expect a lot of encores.

Here is a link to the live streaming site, which is a welcome and wonderful cooperative effort between Carnegie Hall and the famed New York City classical radio station WQXR.

If you miss it tonight live, it will also be archived and available at the same website.

http://www.wqxr.org/#!/programs/carnegie/2012/may/29/?utm_source=local&utm_media=treatment&utm_campaign=carousel&utm_content=item0

And here is a link to brief story on NPR about the concert along with a listing of the many other Carnegie Hall concerts – vocal, orchestral, piano and chamber – that you can stream. What a treasure trove now and in years to come!

http://www.npr.org/event/music/153715008/carnegie-hall-live-lang-lang-plays-bach-schubert-and-chopin

Happy Listening!


Classical music news: Chinese pianist Yundi Li leaves EMI and returns to Deutsche Grammophon as his home recording label, according to the Wall Street Journal.

May 8, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

There is good news to report on the recording front.

As of last Friday afternoon, the Hong Kong-based Chinese pianist Yundi Li (below) – at 18 the first Chinese pianist and the youngest person ever to win the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw (he did it back in 2000) – has left EMI and returned to Deutsche Grammophon.

Here is a link to a story in the Wall Street Journal:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122790914204065299.html

And here is another link to an Asian site:

http://www.asiaone.com/News/Latest%2BNews/Showbiz/Story/A1Story20120507-344346.html

This is good news because he was let go by Deutsche Grammophon when his superstar Chinese compatriot and competitor Lang Lang (below) was the big seller and demanded that Li be let go because Lang-Lang felt there just wasn’t room for two Chinese pianists at DG.

Then of course the best-selling and flamboyant Lang-Lang – nicknamed Bang Bang by some critics — sold out to Sony Classical that had gone shopping for him with a black check. He reportedly settled for a payment of $3 million – during a time when record companies were general cutting back on new releases and in-house artists.

So Li when to EMI, the British label that has had major financial problems recently.

For EMI, he changed his name simply to Yundi and recorded the complete Chopin nocturnes as the first installment of complete Chopin project that never materialized. He then recorded a live recital, with lots of Chopin and some Liszt, in Beijing; then he came up with an all-Chinese recital. All of the seemed like let-downs to The Ear.

Clearly, he seemed headed – steered, should I say — on the path to being the Lang Lang of EMI.

The charismatic and deeply musical Li deserved better than that. And now he has it.

I have yet to see an official announcement from DG or its parent company Universal, so I don’t know whether he will retain how new single name Yundi – which seems too precious and gimmicky — or return to Yundi Li, as I would like to see. (Similar to the way the punky British violinist Nigel Kennedy, below, went by the moniker Kennedy for a while and then came to his senses and returned to Nigel Kennedy.)

According to industry watchers and insiders like British journalist and critic Norman Lebrecht, for DG Li will record first popular Beethoven sonatas (the “Moonlight,” “Appassionata” and the “Pathetique”) and then Beethoven concertos for DG. 

That is a significant expansion of his repertoire and reputation, though his CD for DG of a recital in Vienna suggests those choices will be just fine. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see the results and should mark a major course change for the better in his career. I hope his programs and recordings become more exploratory.

Anyway, The Ear sends out Congratulations to Yundi Li, to Deutsche Grammophon and to all piano fans.


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