The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Today is Small Business Saturday. Here are classical music gift suggestions from the critics for The New York Times. Plus, a FREE Christmas Carol Sing is in Overture Hall tonight at 7.

November 28, 2015
5 Comments

ALERT: Want to relax after eating and shopping? Tonight at 7 p.m. in Overture Hall of the Overture Center, there is a FREE and PUBLIC one-hour Community Christmas Carol Sing, hosted by the Madison Symphony Orchestra. All ages are welcome. Accompaniment will be on the Overture Concert Organ, played by MSO Principal Organist Samuel Hutchison.

By Jacob Stockinger

Thanksgiving is done, and now we look forward to the holiday season of Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa and even winter solstice festivals.

To further and foster your shopping, today is now known as Small Business Saturday, the day following Black Friday. It is supposed to encourage consumers to shop and eat at locally owned businesses.

Unfortunately, the availability of classical music recordings has shrunk so much over the past decade, it can be hard to shop locally for classical music gifts except tickets — which make a great gift.  But you can still try. Any tips you want to leave in the COMMENT section and share with others?

And a gift guide might be appreciated or even helpful, whether you shop online or locally.

Today, The Ear offers installment Number 2 from The New York Times.

New York Times classical music gift guide 2015

Yesterday’s post featured gift ideas from the BBC Music Magazine and the Telegraph newspaper.

Here is a link to that post:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/11/27/classical-music-here-are-the-best-classical-music-cds-of-2015-according-to-the-bbc-music-magazine-and-the-telegraph-newspaper/

Today is the annual gift guide put together by the various critics for The New York Times. Prices have a wide range, and there are some inexpensive gifts. But this year there seems to be an emphasis on more expensive sets of books and recordings.

Could it possibly be that because the critics get free review copies, they feel compelled to push them or hawk them at the holiday time?

Maybe. But in the spirit of the season let’s pretend that the suggestions – many of which are very good and The Ear agrees with – are based on merit alone.

Here is a link:

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/multimedia/2015-holiday-gift-guide-musicmovies.html

All the gift guides in various areas or field are on the same website.

So first you have to scroll down to Classical Music.

Then you have to click on the name or title to get more information about the item including the price.

It seems kind of inconvenient and a little bit sleazy to The Ear, what with all that navigating.

Which web designer came up with this way? The Ear much preferred the guides of past years, where you got the full text without so much work and so much clicking. All you had to do was scroll.

Try and see what you think, whether you disagree or agree with The Ear.

Good luck.

Good shopping.

And, if you are the recipient rather than the giver, good listening and reading.

 


Classical music: Today is Thanksgiving. Famed New York City radio station WQXR offers its Top 5 musical expressions of giving thanks. Plus, Wisconsin Public Radio has lots of holiday fare to listen to.

November 26, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Today is Thanksgiving Day, 2015.

Music is such a part of Thanksgiving Day, from hymns and songs, solo music and chamber music, symphonies and oratorios.

thanksgiving dinner

Today, Wisconsin Public Radio will feature a lot of music with the theme of Thanksgiving and giving thanks.

And from 10 until noon, will also feature band, choral and instrumental music from the Honors Concerts of the Wisconsin School Music Association. That involves middle school and high schools students from around the state.

wpt state honors concert 2014

Then from noon to 3 p.m. there is a special National Public Radio (NPR) program for Thanksgiving that includes the British pianist Stephen Hough, who has performed several times in Madison at the Wisconsin Union Theater and with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, and who also held master classes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. (The NPR show features music and stories, and will also include Chris Kimball of the popular TV show and magazine America’s Test Kitchen, which he is leaving because of a contract dispute. By the way, you can stream Wisconsin Public Radio,)

But you might also be interested to stream some other music. WQXR, the famed classical music radio station in New York City, has put together the Top 5 musical expressions of giving thanks. The website has audio and visual performances of the works that you can stream.

Here is a link:

http://www.wqxr.org/#!/story/top-five-expressions-thanks-classical-music/

And if you have other ideas about music that is appropriate for Thanksgiving this year, please leave them in the COMMENT section, preferably with a YouTube link if possible.

The Ear wants to hear.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

 


Classical music: The Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble will perform a Thanksgiving concert on this coming Sunday afternoon.

November 24, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear’s friends at the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble have sent the following word:

The Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble will perform a Thanksgiving concert on this coming Sunday afternoon, Nov. 29, at 3 p.m. in Saint Andrew‘s Episcopal Church, 1833 Regent Street, on Madison’s near west side. (Below are photos of the church’s exterior and interior.)

St. Andrew's Episcopal Madison Front

St. Andrew's Church interior

Performers include Brett Lipshutz, traverse; Eric Miller, viola da gamba; Consuelo Sañudo, mezzo-soprano; Monica Steger, traverso, recorder, harpsichord; Anton TenWolde, baroque cello; and Max Yount, harpsichord.

Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble composite

Tickets at the door are $20, $10 for students.

For more information: Call (608) 238-5126; or email info@wisconsinbaroque.org; or visit www.wisconsinbaroque.org

The program features: “Ricercata X sopra il violoncello” (1687) by Giovanni Battista Degli Antonii; “Nel dolce dell’ oblio,” HWV 134, by George Fridrich Handel; Sonata 5 for traverse and basso continuo by Johann Kirnberger;  the Second Concert, from Concerts Royaux (1722) by François Couperin; Pièces de Violle, Suite 4 (1685) by Monsieur de Machy; “Mi palpita il cor,” HWV 132c, by George Friderich Handel: Suite No. 6 in E-flat Major by Georg Boehm (1661-1733): and Quartet in E Minor by Georg Philipp Telemann (heard in the YouTube video at the bottom as played on Baroque period instruments and historically informed performance practices by members of the Freiburger Barockorchester.) 

PLEASE NOTE: There will be a reception at our studio at nearby 2422 Kendall Ave, second floor, immediately following the concert.

 


Classical music: Today is Thanksgiving. What piece of classical music or composer do you most give thanks for?

November 27, 2014
10 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is Thanksgiving Day – Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014.

thanksgiving dinner

And today’s post is simple:

Just tell The Ear what piece of music or composer you most give thanks for and why.

It doesn’t have to be big (an opera, symphony or concerto) or a recognized masterwork. It could be a small work (a prelude or song) that you are perhaps learning to play or sing that you heard most recently.

The music or the composer could be very well-known or obscure.

Your choice could be old or it could be new.

But whatever your choice is, it should hold special meaning for you. The piece of music should speak to you deeply and directly and make you feel that your life is enriched by it –- at least right now, if not in the past or the future, even though such choices tend to have staying power even from childhood into old age.

If The Ear gets enough reader comments and responses, maybe even with links to a YouTube video, it might serve as a list of suggested listening for other readers.

To celebrate all your choices, and all the possibilities of the musical arts, here is the original version with orchestra and 16 singers done by the London Symphony under conductor Sir Adrian Boult, of the lovely “Serenade to Music” by the English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams.

 


Classical music: The Oakwood Chamber Players will perform “Remix! Christmas Lights Memories” twice this coming weekend at Oakwood Village West in Madison. Plus, UW-Madison voice students perform a FREE workshop of opera highlights TONIGHT at 7:30.

November 25, 2014
2 Comments

ALERT: TONIGHT at 7:30 p.m. in Old Music Hall (below) at the foot of Bascom Hill, student singers in the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music opera department, under the direction of UW-Madison professors Mimmi Fulmer and David Ronis, will perform a FREE Opera Workshop. Sorry, The Ear has no word on the specific program — and it is not on the UW-Madison School of Music website at http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/uw-opera-workshop/  But it usually features popular arias and familiar scenes from popular operas, all done with piano accompaniment. (JUST IN: The program includes excerpts from: Ludwig van Beethoven‘s “Fidelio,” Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Le nozze di Figaro” and “Cosi fan tutte”; Claudio Monteverdi’s “L’incoronazione di Poppea”;  Gioachino Rossini’s “Il barbiere di Siviglia“; Gaetano Donizetti’s “Don Pasquale”; Jules Massenet’s “Cendrillon”; Johann Strauss’ “Die Fledermaus”; Vincenzo Bellini’s “I Capuleti ed i Montecchi“; and Stephen Sondheim‘s “A Little Night Music.”)

MusicHall2

By Jacob Stockinger

The holiday season, in music as well as in shopping malls, has arrived.

Our friends at the Oakwood Chamber Players, known for the quality of its performance and its unusual repertoire, send us the following information:

The Oakwood Chamber Players (below) continues to celebrate its 30th anniversary season when the ensemble presents “Remix! Christmas Lights Memories” this coming Friday afternoon  and Sunday afternoon.

Oakwood Chamber Players 2011 photo Bill Arthur

The two concerts this coming weekend continue the group’s tradition of kicking off the holiday season over Thanksgiving weekend with Christmas-themed music. The concerts will revisit favorite holiday music from the past 30 years.

Guest musicians include Heather Thorpe, soprano, Mary Ann Harr, harp (below top), Jennifer Morgan, oboe (below bottom), and Mike Sczyzs, horn.

Mary Ann Harr

real Jennifer Morgan Oakwood USE photo

The concerts are on Friday, November 28, at 1 p.m. and Sunday, November 30, at 1:30 p.m. Both concerts will be held at the Oakwood Center for Arts and Education, 6209 Mineral Point Road, on the far west side of Madison.

Oakwood Village Auditorium and Stage

This is the second concert in their celebratory 30th anniversary season series titled “Reprise! Looking Back Over 30 Years

Upcoming concerts include:

  • Recapitulate! – January 17 and January 18
  • Replay! – March 14 and March 15
  • Reissue! – May 23 and May 24

The Oakwood Chamber Players is a group of Madison-area professional musicians who have been affiliated with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. They have rehearsed and performed at Oakwood Village for 30 years.

Tickets are available at the door. Admission is $20 for the general public, $15 for seniors and $5 for students.

Visit www.oakwoodchamberplayers.com for more information.

The Oakwood Chamber Players are a professional music ensemble proudly supported by Oakwood Lutheran Senior Ministries and the Oakwood Foundation.

 


Classical music: Today is Thanksgiving. Which composer do you most give thanks for? The Ear’s choice is Johann Sebastian Bach – which Wisconsin Public Radio will feature in a special program today from 1 to 3 p.m. Plus, WORT FM is seeking a classical radio host for Monday mornings.

November 28, 2013
7 Comments

ALERT: Do you want to be a broadcaster? WORT FM 89.9 radio host and loyal friend of this blog Rich Samuels writes: “WORT is looking for a volunteer classical music host to cover the Monday morning 5-8 a.m. shift. If any of your readers wish to share their passion for the genre with others via terrestrial radio and the Internet, they should contact WORT’s Sybil Augustine at (608) 256-2001. Some button pushing is required.” 

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is Thanksgiving in the U.S.

In past years I have asked which piece of classical music do you think is most appropriate for the day. (And the “Heiligedankgesang” or “Sacred Hymn of Thanksgiving” from the String Quartet in A Minor, Op. 132, by Ludwig van Beethoven has often and justifiably been a favorite.)

Or I have asked: Which piece of classical music do you most give thanks for.

But this past year The Ear has had a very rollercoaster ride with lots of emotional up and downs.

And in that year The Composer for All Seasons proved, as he almost always does, to be Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750, below).

Bach1

Sad or happy, quiet or agitated, extroverted or introspective – I always felt Bach has something special to offer me, something to about the situation, something to suit. His emotional range is enormous. He encompasses the universe. And Bach’s taps into the deepest emotion of joy and loss without wearing his heart of his sleeve.

For me, Johann Sebastian Bach is The Big Bang of Western classical music. In the music of Bach, you find not only the Baroque aesthetic, but also the Classical aesthetic, the Romantic aesthetic and even the Modern aesthetic.

Is there any other composer I could listen to, day in and day out, without getting bored of? I love so many of them, including Domenico Scarlatti, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms and Maurice Ravel. But I doubt any of them has the range, the wearing power and the sheer staying power of Bach.

But you can decide for yourself – and a special program on Bach, which will air from 1 to 3 this afternoon on Wisconsin Public Radio, might help you decide. Sorry, no advance word about the playlist due to pesky and frustrating FCC regulations or something that prohibit advance posting of program playlists. How anti-tech of them! And how unhelpful!

But I am anxious to hear what you think of my choice.

And I am also anxious to hear if you have a choice of your own.

There is so much Bach to choose from, I hardly know which piece of music to choose to link to.

So as I prepare to give tanks to the miracle of Johann Sebastian Bach, I think I will link to something that is well-known but nevertheless never fails to give me consolation I need it, to reach me when I need to be reached. It is Bach’s “Sheep May Safely Graze” as transcribed for solo piano by Egon Petri, and in a popular YouTube video at the bottom is played superbly by Yoel Eum Son, who performs wonderfully clear voicings, at her final recital of 2009 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.

I am that sheep who may safely graze under the watchful eye and protective care of Bach’s music.

So I say: Happy Thanksgiving to Johann Sebastian!


Classical music: The Rural Musicians Forum in Spring Green is planning two performances of a “Sing-Out Messiah,” and is recruiting singers as well as listeners. Plus, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra will give two full professional performances of “Messiah.”

November 18, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

Store windows aren’t the only sign that the holidays are fast approaching, especially with Thanksgiving falling so late this year.

Performances, partial or complete, of the Baroque masterpiece oratorio “Messiah” by George Frideric Handel (below) are another sure sign. It brings joy, as you can see and hear  in the food court flash mob video of the “Hallelujah Chorus” from YouTube at the bottom, which has over 42 MILLION hits.

handel big 2

If you want to hear a complete concert performance, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below top) and soloists, all under the baton of WCO music director and conductor Andrew Sewell (below bottom) – the WCO itself used to do annual Sing-Out Messiahs at holiday time — is offering one in Middleton on Dec. 13 and another in Stoughton, at the gloriously restored Stoughton Opera House (below), on Dec. 14.

StoughtonOperaHouse,JPG

Here are links for details:

http://wcoconcerts.org/performances/messiah/

http://wcoconcerts.org/performances/messiahinstoughton/th

WisconsinChamberOrchestrainCapitolTHeaterlobby

Andrew Sewell BW

But if you want to sing “Messiah” yourself, you might consider attending a rural one of two Sing-Out Messiahs to be given by the Rural Musicians Forum in Dodgeville on Dec. 6 and in Spring Green on Dec. 8.

In fact, you might consider becoming part of the community chorus.

Below are two posters that tell the story. You can enlarge them to zoom in on whatever information you want or need.

And here are details:

Handel’s Messiah is a world-wide event that awes singers and listeners with its thrilling emotional impact and an uplifting message.  This year the Rural Musicians Forum is sponsoring SING OUT MESSIAH – an opportunity for the community to join in singing beloved choruses of the MESSIAH with soloists, instrumentalists and a rehearsed choir.  The public concerts will be held on December 6 at the Dodgeville United Methodist Church and on December 8 at Spring Green’s St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church.

In preparation for the concerts, singers in the community are invited to join the community-based choir directed by the noted teacher and conductor Greg Dennis, to rehearse on three occasions  prior to the public events.  Rehearsals are scheduled for November 24, December 1, December 5.  There are no auditions, and the choir is open to singers in all parts and with any level of experience.  A full listing of the selections to be sung can be found on the RMF website. 

Rehearsals will be held at Christ Lutheran Church (below) in Spring Green. Singers should provide their own scores. A limited number of copies will be available for  purchase at Arcadia Books in Spring Green, and Cook’s Room in Dodgeville. All rehearsals will begin at 7 p.m.

christ Lutheran Church in Spring Green

For more information, contact Kent Mayfield, Artistic Director, ruralmusiciansforum@yahoo.com or check the RMF website www.ruralmusiciansforum.org.

You can visit the Rural Musicians Forum at: http://ruralmusiciansforum.org

Rural Messiah 2013 poster 2

Rural messiah 2013 poster 1


Classical music: New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini revisits favorite moments in music for him – and the moments by Puccini, Debussy and Brahms submitted by readers.

December 22, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

You may recall that several weeks ago, The New York Times‘ senior music critic Anthony Tommasini (below) wrote at length about some of his favorite moments in music. They are small moments from Chopin and other composers that he sometime heard as a child or young man, moments that have lasted him a lifetime. They still move him.

tommasini-190

(You might remember that the articulate and droll Tommasini also came to speak in Madison last season at the Wisconsin Union Theater and in Mills Hall –- a photo is below with Tommasini on the right, composer William Bolcom on the left and UW pianist Todd Welbourne in the middle as a moderator — as part of the Pro Arte Quartet Centennial celebration at the University of Wisconsin.)

William Bolcom, Todd Welbourne, Anthony Tommasini

You may also recall that, in addition to the story about musical moments, Tommasini, a composer and Yale-trained pianist, posted four short videos explaining how and why those favorite moments work.  

Here is the original story, which I posted on Thanksgiving Day, and also links to the four videos:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/?s=Tommasini+Favorite+moments

Then just a few days ago, Tommasini answered reader responses and wrote a follow-up story, after his first story and the first four short videos he did. He used reader responses to speak of other favorite moments and post some other clips about the pieces:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/09/arts/music/readers-great-moments-in-classical-music.html?ref=anthonytommasini

Part 5: “La Boheme” by Puccini (below);

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/17/musical-moments-part-v-la-bohme/

puccini at piano

Part 6: “Clair de Lune” by Claude Debussy (below, the slow movement from his “Suite Bergamasque”:

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/18/musical-moments-part-vi-clair-de-lune/

Claude Debussy 1

Part 7: “Intermezzzo” for solo piano in E-flat Major, Op. 117, No. 1, by Brahms:

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/19/musical-moments-part-vii-brahms/

brahms3

Are there special moments in music that resonate with you? Please leave their titles and composers in the COMMENT section here and maybe also on Tommasini’s blog posting.

Who knows? He might use your suggestions for the next installment.

video


Classical music: Today is Thanksgiving. Which composer, or piece of music, or performer, do you most give thanks for?

November 22, 2012
8 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S.

I give thanks for all kinds of music and don’t know how I would live without music. I think of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (below) and his observation in “The Twilight of the Gods”: “Life without music would be a mistake.”

But is there a special reason for or object of my gratitude?

It can and does change from year to year, from age to age, from mood to mood, and from event to event.

But at any given moment there is usually a piece of music for which I give special thanks, music that seems to embody and enhance and grace my existence. Bach and Mozart have done it. So have Chopin and Schumann. Beethoven does it, but to a lesser degree generally.

These days the composer that I, as a devoted amateur pianist, most give thanks for is Franz Schubert (1797-1828), and the pieces by Schubert I most give thanks for are two.

First comes the big last Piano Sonata in B-Flat Major, D. 960, which I can’t play, but the poignant and haunting beginning of which – to say nothing of the rest of the sonata  — is especially moving and memorable as performed by Alfred Brendel in his “Farewell Concert” for Decca recording and by Murray Perahia in a Sony Classical set of the last three piano sonatas.

Second comes the miniature “Allegretto” in C Minor, D. 915, also a very late and intimately bittersweet work, which I can play, and which I enjoy as performed by Paul Lewis (on Harmonium Mundi, below) and Maurizio Pollini (on Deutsche Grammophon).

I find Schubert’s warmth and sense of empathy so very touching. His sublime melodies, his sudden major-minor harmony shifts, his sense of accessible counterpoint, his blending of joy and tragedy -– they all are irresistible. Schubert’s music contains worlds, and reassuring worlds at a time when I need to be reassured, and at a time when I also think the world needs to be reassured.

And there is so much music to choose from: the hundreds of fabulous songs and song cycles; the late string quartets, the otherworldly String Quintet, the Octet and the “Trout” Quintet; the Sonatas, Impromptus and Moments Musicaux for solo piano.

 

In a similar way, famed New York Times senior music critic Anthony Tommasini (below) touched on this same theme in a “Musical Moments” column that he published last week and in which he talked about longtime favorite passages or moments in music by Chopin, Wagner, Puccini and Stravinsky. He even coupled his thoughts to short audio-visual clips he made especially to accompany the column.

You should read and listen to the column, plus pay attention to the more than 600 reader comments:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/18/arts/music/anthony-tommasinis-musical-moments.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

And here are links to the short videos that he did to go with his column:

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/16/musical-moments-what-moves-us/

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/19/musical-moments-part-ii-a-new-video-on-mahler/

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/20/musical-moments-part-iii-two-operas/

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/21/musical-moments-part-iv-stravinskys-symphony-of-psalms/

And just as Anthony Tommasini asked you for your favorite moments, I am also asking you to leave something in the COMMENT section with the name of the composer or piece of music for which you are most giving thanks this Thanksgiving.

Let me know what they are.

The Ear wants to hear.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!


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