The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: What music is good to listen to every day for a year? And why? Clemency Burton-Hill discusses her book “Year of Wonder” on PBS’ “Newshour”

March 23, 2019
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By Jacob Stockinger

What different pieces of classical music would be good to listen to every day of the year?

And what should you know about it?

Those are the simple but ambitious questions that the British writer Clemency Burton-Hill — who now works for the famed classical radio station WQXR in New York City — tackles in her book “Year of Wonder: Classical Music to Enjoy Day by Day” (below).

You can get a sample by going to the book section of Amazon.com and looking inside the book. Just click on the Introduction for an overview and then click on some specifics dates to see how it works.

But recently Burton-Hill (below) also appeared on “The NewsHour” on PBS to talk about the book, where she explained her purpose and method, especially her intent to help expand the audience for classical music.

Her remarks impressed The Ear who has ordered a copy of her book and hopes to learn from it and maybe even pass along some lessons from it.

All the genres, all the great composers (dead and living) and most of the great works are covered, as are many other neglected composers and unknown works. So the book can be considered a terrific resource for music education for both beginners and those who are experienced.

Her commentaries are also a model of brevity and engaging interest.

All in all, “Year of Wonder” seems a supremely practical, unpretentious and informative guide to daily listening, especially given how many of these works – often they are shorter sections of larger works — can be found for free on YouTube. (In fact, a playlist of music featured in the book is available on YouTube. Go to YouTube and type in “Year of Wonder Playlist” into the search engine, then look to the upper right for a list. A sample is at the bottom. Or use this direct link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wNTNEZYoHg&list=PLKPwLlyrD2y-1x-uKmUBzSOiAh83GhU7A

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Here is a link to the television interview:

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/embracing-classical-music-and-its-potential-for-sonic-salvation

The Ear hopes you find the interview both informative and useful.

Happy listening!


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Classical music: PBS report shows that some important American symphony orchestras are in rough shape – which should make us grateful for the long success of the Madison Symphony Orchestra on the weekend of its season-closing concert. Plus, check out additions and changes to the performances on Sunday and Monday by Classical Revolution Madison.

April 6, 2013
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ALERT: There have been additions and corrections to the programs by Classical Revolution Madison (below at the Fair Trade Coffee House in a photo by Tori Rogers) on Sunday and Monday. Here is a link to the revised blog post: https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/04/04/classical-music-classical-revolution-announces-three-local-performances-for-april-starting-this-coming-sunday-and-monday/

Classical Revolution Madison at Fair Trade Coffeehouse CR Tori Rogers

By Jacob Stockinger

As you may recall, this is the weekend when the Madison Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of music director John DeMain closes the current season with three performances.

The unusual and very intriguing program features the Madison Symphony Orchestra Chorus (bottom top) and the MSO concertmaster violinist Naha Greenholtz (below bottom) in a program of Handel, Rachmaninoff, Mendelssohn and Vaughan Williams.

Here is a link to the post that will refresh your mind:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/04/02/classical-music-after-spring-break-the-music-seasons-endgame-starts-with-the-season-finale-of-the-madison-symphony-orchestra-which-is-featuring-an-odd-but-appealing-program-plus-short-con/

Naha Greenholtz [playing

And here is a link to the MSO’s website about the concert:

We should realize how lucky we are in Madison not only to have the quality of the MSO under John DeMain (below in a photo by Greg Anderson), but also to be spared – at least so far – some of the major money problems and internal disputes that have plagued other American orchestras, many of them bigger and more established.

John DeMain full face by Prasad

A recent story about the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, and its celebrated music director Michael Tilson Thomas (below), and its labor problems – including a bitter strike that led to the cancellation of a major East Coast tour including a concert in Carnegie Hall – was done on PBS’ “Newshour.”

Michael Tilson Thomas

It is worth a look and listen. Here is a link:

http://video.pbs.org/video/2360804783

By mid-week the strike by the SFSO (below, celebrating its recent centennial) had been solved. But the questions about musicians wages versus administrative wages and about shrinking audiences continue to be pertinent to symphony orchestras in the US.

san francisco symphony turns 100


Classical music: Van Cliburn Competition winners remember the award’s namesake after his death last week at 78; plus, here are some more obituaries and features about the “Leonard Bernstein of the Piano” and also his gay life. Also, the Lawrence (University) Chamber Players perform on “Sunday Live From the Chazen.”

March 9, 2013
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ALERT: On Wisconsin Public Radio‘s “Sunday Afternoon Live from the Chazen,” which airs live statewide tomorrow, on Sunday, March 10, from 12:30 to 2 p.m., the Lawrence Chamber Players (below) from the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music in Appleton, Wisconsin, will perform. The faculty string ensemble will consist of violins, viola, cello, bass, piano and classical guitar.  The Lawrence Chamber Players will perform music by Miroslav Tadic and Astor Piazzolla as well as the famed Brahms Piano Quintet.

Lawence Chamber Players

By Jacob Stockinger

Last week, in a popular posting, The Ear offered obituaries for the American superstar classical pianist Van Cliburn, who died of bone cancer at 78.

Here is a link to that initial post:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/classical-music-pianist-van-cliburn-an-icon-of-american-classical-music-died-today-at-78/

Since then many more obituaries, features and analyses have appeared.

One of the best comes, not unexpectedly, from “Deceptive Cadence,” the terrific classical music blog on National Public Radio.

NPR asked pianists who have won the gold medal at the Van Cliburn International Competition -– where several months ago Cliburn (below, performing in 1993) made his last public appearance — to remember the namesake, who emerges once again as a modest, gracious and warm personality as well as world-class pianist.

rememberingcliburn

The medalists such as Olga Kern (below top), Jon Nakamatsu (below middle), Andre–Michel Schub and Joyce Yang (below bottom) have their own big names and reputations now, and they mention specific performances and specific piano pieces, some of the memories and accounts are quite moving and emotionally stirring.

Olga Kern

Jon Nakamatsu

Joyce Yang

The blog posting also feature some of Cliburn’s best recordings as well as one of the medalists’ own playing:

See for yourself and maybe leave a memory of your own here or on the NPR blog or, thanks to copying and pasting on both:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/03/01/173241759/thank-you-for-that-gift-memories-of-van-cliburn-from-medalists

And here are more obituaries and commentaries:

From the blog “Music Beat” at The Voice of America:

http://blogs.voanews.com/music/2013/03/01/remembering-van-cliburn/

From the Dallas-Morning news with information about where to send memorial gifts and donations:

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/dallasmorningnews/obituary.aspx?n=van-cliburn&pid=163401322&fhid=6322#fbLoggedOut

From the New York Times, that places Cliburn within his outstanding generation of American contemporaries, sort of the Leonard Bernstein of the Piano in terms of changing the debate from Europe and Russia to America:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/28/arts/music/van-cliburn-pianist-dies-at-78.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

For a view from abroad, here is the obit from The Guardian in Great Britain:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2013/mar/03/van-cliburn

van cliburn old

An analysis about how Cliburn’s live-in friend was treated and how the issue of Cliburn’s being gay and the subject of a palimony suit was ignored or finessed:

http://www.kennethinthe212.com/2013/02/nyt-obit-notes-pianist-van-cliburns.html

How the LGTB magazine The Advocate treated The Gay Van Cliburn:

http://www.advocate.com/society/obituaries/2013/02/28/watch-remembering-gay-pianist-van-cliburn

How the LGBT Washington Blade reported on the gay side of Van Cliburn:

https://www.washingtonblade.com/2013/03/07/classical-closet/?utm_source=https://www.washingtonblade.com/2013/03/07/classical-closet/&utm_medium=Website&utm_campaign=RelatedLinksInside

There are many more. Just go to Google and plus in Van Cliburn obituaries or “Van Cliburn and homosexuality.”

And here is a wonderful video and audio remembrance put together by PBS’ The Newshour and arts reporter Jeffrey Brown:


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