The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Rediscovering the music of composer Florence Price is a great way to start the celebration of Black History Month

February 3, 2019

IF YOU LIKE A CERTAIN BLOG POST, PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD. FORWARD A LINK TO IT OR, SHARE or TAG IT (not just “Like” it) ON FACEBOOK. Performers can use the extra exposure to draw potential audience members to an event.

By Jacob Stockinger

February is Black History Month.

There are a lot of African-American performers and composers to emphasize during the month. Check out this exhaustive listing – conveniently organized into categories such as composers, conductors and pianists — in Wikipedia:

But this year one of the best ways to mark the event is to rediscover the composer Florence Price (below, in photos from the University of Arkansas Libraries).

Much of her work was until recently hidden in 30 boxes in her abandoned and dilapidated summer home located 70 miles south of Chicago.

A good introduction to Price (1887-1953) – who was famous in her day and was the first African-American woman composer to be performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra — can be found in the Deceptive Cadence blog of National Public Radio (NPR).

Here is a link to an excerpt from a new Albany recording of her two violin concertos:

And if you want to hear more of what her music sounds like check out the YouTube video at the bottom that has excerpts from the new Naxos recording, in the American Classics line, with her Symphonies Nos. 1 and 4.

You can also find quite a bit more of Price’s music, including a piano concerto, a piano sonata and orchestral suites, on YouTube.

Classical music: It’s Valentine’s Day 2018. Let us now praise musical couples and say what music we would play to celebrate romantic love

February 14, 2018

ALERT: If you are a fan of new music, you might not want to miss a FREE concert this Thursday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall by the UW-Madison Contemporary Chamber Ensemble.

The program of “Ideas and Landscapes,” assembled and directed by UW’s award-winning composer Laura Schwendinger, includes works by UW students and alumni as well as a world premiere of a work for solo oboe by Schwendinger herself.

For more details about the composers, the performers and the complete program, go to:

By Jacob Stockinger

It is Valentine’s Day 2018, and music plays a big role in celebrating the holiday — as the portrait of Cupid (below) expresses.

This week, musician and teacher Miles Hoffman was featured by National Public Radio (NPR) on the program “Morning Edition” with a most appropriate story about famous musical couples who were also linked romantically.

The Ear was particularly pleased that a same-sex couple  – British composer Benjamin Britten (below left) and British tenor Peter Pears (below right) — was recognized during this time when the homophobic administration of President Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence keeps attacking the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people under the guise of protecting and promoting religious tolerance. The leaders use the concept of religious freedom as camouflage for bigotry, zealotry and prejudice. 

But more conventional and traditional couples were also recognized, and deservedly so.

Here is a link to the story that also contains some wonderful musical samples:

And here is what The Ear wants to know:

First: Can you think of other musical couples – especially local ones — to single out for recognition on Valentine’s Day? The Karp family as well as pianists-singers Bill Lutes and Martha Fischer plus singers Cheryl Bensman Rowe and Paul Rowe, conductor Kyle Knox and Madison Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Naha Greenholtz, and violinist Soh-Hyun Park Altino and cellist Leonardo Altino all come immediately to mind. But surely there are others The Ear has overlooked.

Second: What piece of classical music would you listen to or play in order to express love for your Valentine?

Leave the names and information, with a YouTube link if possible, in the COMMENT section.

Happy Valentine’s Day!!

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Classical music: A FREE concert of Latin American piano music is on tap in Verona on Saturday night and a concert last week in Door County recreated the piano music that classic writer and popular novelist Jane Austen and her characters played.

February 24, 2012
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ALERT:  This Saturday at 8 p.m. in the Rhapsody Arts Center in Verona, at 1031 North Edge Trail, there is a FREE concert of solo piano and four-hand piano works by Latin American composers Ginastera, Leon, Piazzolla and Soler along with Bach. A free reception will follow the concert. Performers are members of Music Teachers National Association Collegiate Chapter at UW – Madison.

By Jacob Stockinger

Few novelists have proven as durable or popular as the great British writer Jane Austen (below), famous for her novels “Pride and Prejudice,” “Emma,” Sense and Sensibility” and “Persuasion.”

All those titles have stayed in print since they were first published. All have also been made into popular and prize-winning TV series and movies, several times in most cases.

So people who know those works by either reading or viewing also know that music plays a big role in Austen’s work. Indeed, women of the class she writes about were expected to be proficient on the piano and to play music, especially dance tunes, of the day.

One of the best scenes for me is in “Pride and Prejudice” when the father, Mr. Bennet, says to a less proficient Bennet sister (Mary, perhaps) after her after-dinner performance full of wrong notes something to the effect “You have entertained us quite enough. It is time to give someone else a chance.”

Talk about a classy, witty and understated put-down!

Anyway, if you want some history about Austen’s literary work and her world and the role that music played in them, here is a background story:

And more to the point, here is a link to a story in the Wisconsin Gazette by a fine Madison arts writer, Mike Muckian, about a concert that was sponsored this month by the Peninsula Music Festival in Door County. The concert recreated a typical evening’s fare of Jane Austen’s piano music:

Sounds like it was an entertaining evening, no?

And it is curious how obscure some, or even most of the names sound today – like Charles Dibdin. (Austen’s own score of his “Soldier’s Adieu” is below.)

That says something about how musical taste changes through the years – and about how so-called first-tier and second-tier composers are different with history’s hindsight. (Below is a version of a period tune in duet form from “Emma” played on modern pianos.)

Maybe a similar concert can be recreated again here in Madison. What do you think or say?

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