The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: JFK was assassinated 51 years ago today. He loved Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.” In his memory, here it is – in two forms.

November 22, 2014
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is Nov. 22, 2014.

President John Fitzgerald Kennedy (below) was killed in Dallas, Texas, 51 years ago to the day.

jfk

The Ear remembers the deep sadness and immense sense of frustration that surrounded the assassination. American politics has never seemed the same since his death.

He also remembers hearing broadcasts of the Requiem by Gabriel Faure and the “German” Requiem by Johannes Brahms – both fitting choices to honor the dead president.

But since then, The Ear has learned that JFK -– whose own family was well acquainted with tragedy and loss — especially liked the saddest of all music, the “Adagio for Strings” by American composer Samuel Barber. Barber (below) had arranged it from the slow movement of his String Quartet No. 1 in B Minor to a String Orchestra at the request of the world-famous conductor Arturo Toscanini.

barber 1

By the way, in the original string quartet form, the work was given its world premiere by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Pro Arte Quartet in Rome in 1936. And the original quartet form seems somehow less lush and self-indulgent, more restrained and dignified or even complex, while the string orchestra version seems more overpowering and Romantic.

Compare the two versions for yourself by listening to both of them on YouTube.

Here is the original string quartet version done by the Cypress String Quartet in a live radio performance for WGBH in Boston, which was JFK’s hometown:

And here is the more familiar version for string orchestra in a version that has more than 3 million hits:

Which one do you like best and why?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: NPR’s “Deceptive Cadence” blog about The Great American Symphony generates a lot of responses from readers and musicians. They say there are many candidates. But how many have you know of, or have actually heard? Why don’t we hear more American classical music performed? Is the “industry” too Euro-centric?

August 3, 2013
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

A while ago, around American Independence Day on the Fourth of July, NPR’s outstanding classical music blog “Deceptive Cadence” asked if The Great American Symphony – like The Great American Novel – already exists, or has yet to be written.

It also asked both readers and professional performers to name some of the greatest American music, symphonies or other genres, that deserve a wider hearing and more performances.

npr

The posting got well-deserved responses from readers and professional musicians. And the answers are still pouring in.

Here is what The Ear wants to know: Why don’t we hear more about these candidates for The Great American Symphony? In fact, we don’t we get to hear them in performance.

Is it because they are inferior? Or overlooked?

Or is classical music subject to a bias that favors Europe over American, the Old World over the New World?

We hear Samuel Barber’s Violin concerto often enough. So, why not his symphonies? (You can hear part of Barber’s Symphony No. 1, performed by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and conductor Leonard Slatkin in YouTube video at the bottom.)  And the same applies to many other composers.

Here is a link to my original post, with stories featuring links to NPR blogger Tom Huizenga and to “All Things Considered” host Robert Siegel’s interview with American conductor JoAnn Falletta (below) about this:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/classical-music-does-the-great-american-symphony-exist-or-even-its-equivalent-in-a-different-form-or-genre-american-conductor-joann-falletta-takes-up-the-challenging-question-on-n/

conducting_joann_falletta

Here are some other important links to follow-up, with audio samples, to other candidates for The Great American Symphony. Be sure to read the enlightening reader COMMENTS in all of them:

Here is one that includes offerings by that American-born and American-trained champion of American music conductor Marin Alsop (below):

Marin Alsop

And the masterful cultural historian Joseph Horowitz  (below), who spoke so engagingly in Madison two seasons ago during the centennial of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Pro Arte Quartet offered these thoughts:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/07/11/201231850/tracing-the-spirit-of-the-early-american-symphony

joseph horowitz

And here are three of the more recent ones:

Here is one that features the opinions of Robert Spano (below), the conductor of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the music director of the Aspen Music Festival:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/07/26/205806474/americas-unsung-symphonies

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/07/22/204586780/3-NEW-AMERICAN-SYMPHONIC-ALBUMS

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/07/29/206704925/using-an-american-medium-to-tell-distinctly-american-stories

unsung

Do you have candidates for The Great American Symphony that the others haven’t mentioned? What is it?

And is classical music in the U.S. the victim of a Euro-centric bias?

The Ear wants to hear.


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

    Join 1,190 other followers

    Blog Stats

    • 2,045,003 hits
%d bloggers like this: