The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: What five minutes of music would you choose to make someone fall in love with classical music?

September 9, 2018

By Jacob Stockinger

What five minutes of music would you choose to recommend to make someone else fall in love with classical music?

That is the question that, this week, The New York Times put to a distinguished selection of critics, performers and composers.

But The Ear finds that a lot of the choices seem very odd.

It seems that a lot of the responders stretched to name something unusual or out-of-the-way. So on the list you will find John Cage and Lou Harrison and Olivier Messiaen and Steve Reich (twice) and Anna Clyne (below top) and Unsuk Chin (below bottom).

Beethoven makes the list and so do Ravel and Berlioz and Stravinsky and Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss.

But you won’t find Bach (below) or Vivaldi or Handel or Mozart or Schubert or Chopin or Schumann or Brahms or Tchaikovsky or Dvorak or Rachmaninoff.


Very curious.

It almost seems like a very self-conscious spurning of The Greats, of “The Canon,” that got so many listeners started on classical music and hooked for life.

But maybe not.

Decide for yourself. Here is a link to the long story, engaging to read, that is complete with generous sound clips of the music named:

But here is what The Ear wants to know:

What do you think about the selections named in the Times’ story?

What was the piece of music that first made you fall in love with classical music?

And, if your choice would now be different for someone else, what piece would YOU recommend to make a friend or someone else fall in love with classical music?

Please leave your opinion and choice in the COMMENT section with a link to a YouTube video performance, if possible.

The Ear wants to hear.

Classical music: Let us now praise — and program — Lou Harrison, the prophetic American composer who pioneered both personal and professional diversity in music

May 20, 2017

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has heard the name of Lou Harrison.

But he doesn’t recall ever actually hearing any music by Lou Harrison (below).

Maybe that will change, now that the centennial of Harrison’s birth is being marked.

Perhaps the UW-Madison or a smaller local group will do something, since neither the Madison Symphony Orchestra nor the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra has programmed anything by Harrison in their next seasons.

The Ear certainly hopes to hear some of Harrison’s intriguing and prophetic music, which seems to be a harbinger of contemporary globalism and world music, performed live. Harrison’s work seems to presage Yo-Yo Ma‘s crossover and cross-cultural Silk Road Ensemble, but was way ahead of its time and without the commercial success.

In any case, it seems very few composers pioneered and championed both personal and professional diversity through Asian sounds and an openly gay identity. Completely genuine, Harrison seemed creative and imaginative in just about everything he touched and did.

If you, like The Ear, know little about the maverick Lou Harrison, an excellent background piece, recently done by Tom Huizinga of National Public Radio (NPR), is a fine introduction.

Here is a link to the story:

Harrison composed a lot of music, including concertos for piano and violin, that shows Asian influences and combines them with traditional Western classical music. Below is a YouTube recording of his Double Concerto for Violin and Cello with Javanese Gamelan from 1981-82.

Have you heard or performed Harrison’s music?

What do you think of it?

Would you like to hear it programmed for live performance more often?

Leave your opinion in the COMMENT section.

The Ear wants to hear.

Classical music: It will be a busy weekend for vocal music at Edgewood College, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and elsewhere.

November 15, 2012
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ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, held at the First Unitarian Society Meeting House, 900 University Bay Drive, from 12:15 to 1 p.m., will feature bassoonist Theresa Koenig and pianist Kirsten Ihde in music of Saint-Saens, Gallon, Koechlin and Piazzolla.

By Jacob Stockinger

Although Edgewood College (below) is often overlooked and stands in the shadows of the much larger University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, to say nothing of various large professional music organizations, it continues to have a vital and top quality music program that offers many public performances. This weekend will see two of them.

But the UW Madison School of Music is hosting a lot of events too, and an independent early music ensemble, Eliza’s Toyes, will also perform.

Here is a low-down:


Percussionist Todd Hammes (below) will perform “Sculptured Percussion,” a faculty recital, at 2:30 p.m. in The Stream, 1000 Edgewood College Drive.

Admission is $7 for the general public; free with Edgewood College I.D.

Hammes’ performance will include elements of sculpture, acting, poetry, and music, with instruments arranged in the manner of a sculpture exhibit. The performer and the audience will move within spaces in The Stream, Edgewood College’s new visual and theater arts center.

All of the works being performed were derived from, or influenced by, poetry. There are several settings of traditional Japanese Haiku, an American poem about creativity by Dan Seen, and a lament by Michael Hester entitled “The Day is Done.”

Hammes will also present John Cage’s “Child of Tree,” a work for plant materials, as well as two pieces that were written for his newly constructed “tube-o-phone,” a just-tempered instrument invented by Lou Harrison (below).


At 2:30 p.m. Edgewood College will present its FREE Fall Choral Concert in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive.

Three Edgewood College Choral Ensembles will join together: the Women’s Chorus, under the direction of Kathleen Otterson (below), and the Men’s Chorus and Campus-Community Choir, both under the direction of Albert Pinsonneault.

Both events are presented as part of the Year of the Arts at Edgewood College, a celebration of music, theatre and art for 2012-2013. Supporters of our Year of the Arts programming include the Kohler Foundation, BMO Harris Bank, the Madison Arts Commission, with additional funds from the Wisconsin Arts Board, DANE Arts with additional funds from the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation, Native Capital Investment, and the Ahrens-Washburn Community Fellows Program. 

About Edgewood College: Located in Madison, Wisconsin, Edgewood College is a liberal arts Catholic college in the Dominican tradition, with 2,500 undergraduate and graduate students. It offers more than 40 academic and professional programs, including master’s degrees in business, education, nursing, and other fields, and a doctoral degree in educational leadership. For more information about Edgewood College, please visit, or call Ed Taylor in Marketing & Communications at 608-663-2333.


At 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Concert Choir under conductor Beverly Taylor will give a FREE concert featuring the WORLD PREMIERE of the setting of the old Mexican song “Llorona” (the first setting from “Songs My Parents Taught Me”) by UW professor and composer Laura Schwendinger (below). At bottom is a solo vocal version on YouTube with over 2 million hits.

Although several variations exist, the story is that of a beautiful woman who, in a state of great grief, drowns her children and herself after the man she loves leaves her. Challenged at the gates of heaven about the whereabouts of her children, she is not permitted to enter the afterlife until she has found them. Maria is forced to wander the Earth for all eternity, searching in vain for her children, her constant weeping giving her the name La Llorona, or “the weeping women.” Written expressly for UW conductor Beverly Taylor and her ensemble, “Llorona” is a ghostly and poignant setting of the old Mexican song.


At 8 p.m. in Mils Hall, the UW Chorale will perform a FREE vocal concert under conductor Bruce Gladstone (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot). Sorry, no word of the program.

At 8 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall., the Wingra Woodwind Quintet (below) will perform a FREE concert on the Faculty Concert Series.

The program features traditional favorites of the repertoire including Ibert’s “3 Short Pieces,” Reicha’s Quintet in C, Op. 91, No. 1 and Carl Nielsen’s Quintet, Op. 43. They will be joined by guests Danielle Breisach, flute, Kostas Tiliakos, oboe, Laura McGlaughlin, clarinet, Sergio Acosta, bassoon, and Sarah Gillespie horn in the “Divertissement,” Op. 36, by Emil Bernard.


The Madison-based early music group Eliza’s Toyes (below) has another free performance this Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. in Luther Memorial Church, 1021 University Avenue. The program is the group’s early German Baroque program “The Three Sch’s: Music by Schütz, Schein, and Scheidt.”

Here is a link to an earlier story on this blog with more details about the program and the performers:

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