The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Here are 10 tips from NPR on how to improve your practicing.

September 7, 2013
4 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear is willing to bet that 90 percent of having successful and satisfying music lessons boils down to knowing how to practice.

practice room and piano

That takes a long time and a lot of experience. And you know how hard it is when so many actual lessons turn into guided practice sessions, no matter whether it is a question of the voice, the piano, strings like the violin an cello,  brass and woodwinds,

violin practice

But NPR’s outstanding classical music blog “Deceptive Cadence” recently offered 10 tips, culled from various sources, for improving how you practice. I find them useful and suspect so will you.

Here is a link:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/09/03/216906386/10-easy-ways-to-optimize-your-music-practice

Use the COMMENT space on this blog to let all of us know how these practice tips work for you and if you have any special tips for practicing of your own.

cello practice

Thank you, NPR. And you can also find some useful practice videos for various instrument at YouTube (at bottom).

So spread the word and share these tips by passing them along to others with this blog post.

Now, let’s all go make music!


Classical music: Iraq war veteran and writer Brian Castner will see “The Long Walk,” his memoir of his own experience with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), turned into an opera that will premiere in 2014 in New York City.

August 5, 2013
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

After a decade or more of Americans fighting wars, it seems almost inevitable.

Lots of people have talked about PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

But not too many people have sung about it.

That could change soon.

Iraq war veteran and writer Brian Castner (below) will soon see his memoir “The Long Walk,” about his experience in dealing with war and PTSD, turned into an opera that is scheduled to receive its world premiere in 2014 at the American Lyric Theater in New York City which has commissioned the work.

Brian Castner

The Long Walk book cover

The composer is Jeremy Howard Beck and the librettist is Stephanie Fleischmann. They are pictured in the photo below with Brian Castner in the center.

The Long Walk USE big L-R. librettist Stephanie Fleischmann, writer Brian Castner, librettist Jeremy Howard Beck for American Lyric Theater

Recently NPR’s terrific classical music blog “Deceptive Cadence” featured a piece on the collaboration and subject matter. It included an overview with interviews and background plus an audio snippet that is also worth listening to

Here is a link:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/07/20/203681940/a-veterans-true-story-leaps-from-page-to-stage

And here is a link to another story about the project on Opera Pulse, an online website specializing in opera;

http://www.operapulse.com/opera-news/2013/02/12/american-lyric-theater-commissions-the-long-walk/

The Ear likes the idea. It is certainly is a different and more contemporary take on war and armed conflict than the romanticized and melodramatic versions one often finds in grand opera or even a lot of classic literature.

It seems more realistic and more in keeping with the current way that veterans wage armed conflict and then return home to a different, more personal and more difficult war.

The Long Walk poster by American Lyric Theater

We’ll have to see how good it is. (See the YouTube video at the bottom for the creators discussing the new opera.)

But if it holds up as a work of musical and theatrical art, it sure would seem a natural choice for Madison – perhaps the Madison Opera, which next season will stage Jake Heggie’s “Dead Man Walking” or at least the University Opera at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which can afford to be more experimental and controversial.

What do you think of the idea or inspiration?

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.


Classical music: The Mostly Mozart Festival opens Wednesday night in New York City’s Lincoln Center with great music by Beethoven and Mozart and with changes that add new energy and vitality. But will PBS refuse to broadcast it?

July 30, 2013
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

I guess this summer The Ear will be hearing and especially SEEING a lot less Mozart.

Along with less Beethoven.

Here’s the reason: As far as I can tell, this summer PBS will NOT broadcast the opening of the popular annual summer Mostly Mozart Festival from Lincoln Center in New York City.

It is especially unfortunate to The Ear because this year’s opening night program on this Wednesday, tomorrow, features two of his favorite Beethoven works and a favorite pianist: the Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58, with French pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (below top, in a photo by Paul Mitchell); and the Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92, with the festival orchestra under its music director since 2002 Louis Langree (below bottom).

That same night, Bavouzet — an up-and-coming artist hghly acclaimed for his recordings of Franz Josef Haydn, Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel –will perform Book 2 of Debussy‘s Preludes in the Kaplan Penthouse. (You can hear Bavouzet, who records on the Chandos Records, perform Debussy’s “Reflections in Water” in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet / Chandos Records

Louis Langree Mostly Mozart OrchestraNYT Hiroyuki Ito

In addition, mezzo-soprano Alice Coote (below) will sing two arias by Mozart: :”Ch’io me scorda di te” and “Parto, parto ma ben mia” from the opera “La Clemenza di Tito.”

Alice Coote

Perhaps I am wrong about not being broadcast. I hope so, because it seems exactly the kind of high quality, non-commercial event that public broadcasting was originally started for. In addition, the openings that used to be broadcast on PBS’ “Live From Lincoln Center” were always enjoyable, an artistic tie that bound many of us together for a couple of hours.

pbs logo in black

I mean, I have had my fill of PBS emphasizing Britty comedies and crime drama — I like them, but there is a limit — and I want to know more about the cultural scene in America that major commercial and network broadcasters usually ignore.

Here are links to the Mostly Mozart festival’s main website where you can find listings of artists, events and programs:

http://www.mostlymozart.org

http://aboutlincolncenter.org/programs/program-mostly-mozart

http://aboutlincolncenter.org/events-and-tickets

Maybe you can at least listen to it as it is streamed via the Internet. I look more into it and let you know.

But perhaps the real stars of this year’s festival are the changes that have been made to add energy and revitalize the festival that once seemed dangerously on the decline.

That is exactly the story that New York Times senior music critic Anthony Tommasini (below) wrote about in “Mostly Mozart, Mostly Improved” that appeared on Sunday.

tommasini-190

The changes include using smaller spaces, including new music, staging an opera, starting a new series and changing the old formula of composers to be performed.

Here is a link to Tommasini’s story:

http://nyti.ms/15lg95u

Should PBS broadcast the opening concert – and maybe more – of the Mostly Mozart Festival?

What lessons should local classical music presenters draw from the Mostly Mozart Festival and how it has been restructured and revamped?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: What does it feel like to hold, play and hear Mozart’s own violin and viola? America just had its first chance ever to find out. Here’s a report.

June 22, 2013
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

If you want some idea of what a prodigious talent the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791, below) was, you might recall not only his enormous amount of music in 35 years with such a high percentage of masterpieces, or his astonishing virtuosity as a keyboard player (he composed all and premiered most of his 27 piano concertos).

You might also recall that he was an outstanding violinist — his oppressively ambitious father Leopold said that his son could have become the best violinist in Europe with some more effort and work – and also a violist who loved to pay the viola in the same string quartet where fellow composer Franz Joseph Haydn played the violin.

mozart big

Anyway, for more than 200 years Mozart’s instruments have been stored in a museum in Mozart’s hometown of Salzburg, Austria.

But the instruments were recently brought to the United State for the first time in history and appeared at the Boston Early Music Festival. (That is also where the University of Wisconsin-Madison duo Ensemble SDG, featuring keyboard John Chappell Stowe and baroque violinist Edith Hines, performed an all-Heinrich Bieber concert.)

Hearing about the unusual security measures taken for the trip to guarantee their security – including separate airplane flights — is fascinating.

But most fascinating of all is a first-person account of what it feels like to hold and play and listen Mozart’s own string instruments, which generally featured mellowness rather than brilliance.

You can hear about it all on NPR’s great classical music blog “Deceptive Cadence” and through writer Anastasias Tsioulcas’ experience with Mozart’s own string instruments. (Below is a photo by Kathy Wittman of Amandine Beyer holding the violin backstage in Boston during the festival.)

amandine_beyer_violin

Here is a link. Do yourself a favor listen to it — don’t just read the transcript. I hope that you enjoy it and that it enhance even further (deeper?) your opinion of Wolfie:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/06/14/190975113/playing-mozart-on-mozarts-violin

And here is a link to a live performance on Mozart’s own:

http://www.npr.org/event/music/191709140/mozarts-violin-comes-to-boston-live-in-concert

Of course, possessing a fine instrument doesn’t guarantee being a great composer. But Mozart could play his own works, including the Violin Concerto No. 3, which you can hear below with Hilary Hahn in a YouTube video that has had more than a million hits:


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

    Join 1,195 other followers

    Blog Stats

    • 2,057,136 hits
%d bloggers like this: