The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Request Line is Open! Here is beautiful love music by Schumann and Schubert for my Valentine. What music would you dedicate to your Someone Special for Valentine’s Day?

February 14, 2013
13 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is Valentine’s Day.

Music and love are inextricably linked for me. In fact, I am quite sure that much of the very best music in all genres is some kind of love song – expressing love of another person, an idea, a landscape or a flower, an art object, an idea or even a God.

Cupid

For me, nothing expresses love and deep feelings as much as music. Nothing even comes close, not painting or drawing or sculpture, not the best prose or even the best poetry, which also move me, but just not as much or as deeply.

So today I offer two pieces for my Valentine.

Heart

The first is by Robert Schumann (1810-1856), the slow third movement from his Piano Quartet in E-flat. It is a piece that we both discovered and first heard together, decades ago at the Wisconsin Union Theater in Madison, Wisconsin, when the great American pianist Emanuel Ax (below) and the Cleveland String Quartet performed it.

Emanuel Ax

Was there ever a composer who captured romantic love and longing better than Robert Schumann? Some come close –- J.S. Bach in many different works, among which I single out the slow movement of the F minor violin sonata; Mozart’s “Forgiveness Quartet” in “The Marriage of Figaro”; Beethoven in many movements of his piano and string sonatas, string quartets, symphonies and concertos; Wagner in the “Love Death” from the opera ‘Tristan and Isolde”; Puccini in the first act of “La Boheme”; Chopin in certain works like the Ballade No. 4 and the Largo from the Sonata No. 3; Brahms in his F minor Piano Sonata, his “German” Requiem, his songs and some of his late piano pieces; Debussy in his “Clair de lune,” the slow movement to his String Quartet and some of his piano preludes; Prokofiev in his ballet score to “Romeo and Juliet.” And there many more.

But no one composed as much love music as movingly and in as many different forms as Robert Schumann, who spent his whole adult life affirming his love for his long sought after and finally obtained beloved virtuoso pianist wife Clara Wieck Schumann. (Both are seen below in a photo.)

Schumann_Robert_and_Wieck_Clara

So here is the music. See what you think:

The other piece is the song-like last movement of Franz Schubert’s penultimate Piano Sonata in A Major, D. 959. Like Schumann, Schubert (1797-1828) returned again and again to love, especially in his art songs, his chamber music and his piano music. Empathy and compassion, humanity and love, are what make me  turn more to Schubert (below) than to Beethoven these days.

Schubert etching

And once again, this is a work I first heard sitting next to my Valentine, when the young Christoph Eschenbach (below in a more recent photo) performed it many years ago at the Wisconsin Union Theater, before he turned to conducting. It was one of those times your hand instinctively reaches for the other person’s hand and you are joined in love and beauty.

Christophe Eschenbach

Much like love itself, the end of the songful music often seems like it could and will stop, only to go on triumphantly and movingly.

See if you feel the same way about the music in this performance by Alfred Brendel, not Christophe Eschenbach:

I also identify other works with my Valentine, especially Bach, Brahms and Faure. But these two are among the essentials.

Thank you, Valentine, for loving me; for bringing me a better life and making me a better person. I have always loved you, I still love you and I will always love you.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Now, readers, it is your turn: THE REQUEST LINE IS OPEN!

What piece of music best expresses Valentine Day for you and for your Valentine?

Which piece would you dedicate to your Valentine? If this blog were yours, what music would you post for your Valentine?

Let us know in the COMMENT section with a link to a YouTube video performance, if possible.

And Happy Valentine’s to you all.

I hope you are all as lucky in love as I have been.


Classical music: You can celebrate romantic love AND support the arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison by attending the University Club special Valentine’s Day dinner and concert with the Pro Arte String Quartet.

February 7, 2013
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ALERT: There are two events to note: This Friday, the weekly FREE Noon Musicale — from 12:15 to 1 p.m. — at the First Unitarian Society of Madison. 900 University Bay Drive, will feature Trevor Stephenson and the early music, period-instrument ensemble Madison Bach Musicians (below) in baroque trio sonatas by J.S. Bach, Biber, Vivaldi and Scarlatti. The same group will also perform the same program on this weekend’s edition of “Sunday Live From the Chazen” on Sunday that will air live statewide from 12:30 to 2 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Radio (WERN 88.7 FM in the Madison area). 

Kangwon KIm with Madison Bach Musicians

By Jacob Stockinger

Looking for something special or even unusual – and therefore memorable — to do to celebrate Valentine Day, a week from today?

Eating and music go right along with love.

Cupid

So you might consider the Valentine Day dinner at the University Club at 803 State Street near Bascom Hill and the Mosse Humanities Building on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. (Below top is an exterior shot in winter,; below bottom is an interior photo.)

university club uw in winter

university_club_interior07_5499

The outreach event (tickets are NOT tax-deductible) is open to the public and starts with cocktails and conversation at 5:30 p.m. Then it moves on to a three-course dinner at 6:30 p.m. and concludes with concert performance by the UW’s famed Pro Arte String Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) at 7:30 p.m.

The quartet’s program has not been announced yet but may likely include some excerpts from Mozart (the String Quartet in G Major, K. 387),  Mendelssohn (from the two movements of his unfinished Op. 80 late quartet)  and the new quartet-variations “anther time” (2012) by Joel Hoffman, whose works they will also be performing in full and for FREE on next Saturday night, Feb. 16, at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall. In fact, the Hoffman quartet will also receive its world premiere that night.  (At bottom is a YouTube video of the Pro Arte Quartet playing a very beautiful prelude by Ernest Bloch during the quartet’s centennial last season.)

Pro Arte Quartet new 2 Rick Langer

Reservations are $40 per person. They can be made by calling (608) 22-5023 or by emailing uclub@uclib.wisc.edu

For a complete menu — which includes berries, beef tenderloin, striped bass and of course chocolate — and more details, visit: http://www.uclub.wisc.edu

The event is sponsored by the UW-Madison Arts Outreach, located in the UW Arts Institute, and works with the UW School of Music to share the expertise of its three resident arts ensembles – the Pro Arte Sting Quartet, the Wingra Woodwind Quintet and the Wisconsin Brass Quintet – with young musicians and community audiences around the state.


Classical music: Robert Schumann is the best composer to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Can you name another?

February 14, 2012
6 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is Valentine’s Day, when we celebrate romantic love. Maybe you can even send this special posting as an email to your Valentine.

In any case, if you are looking for pieces of classical music to play or listen to that are appropriate to celebrate Valentine’s Day, you have a lot of choices.

The Ear can think of specific pieces by Bach, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Brahms, Verdi, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Dvorak, Faure and Poulenc, to name just a few of my favorites.

Many of them composed “romances” or pieces that could easily pass as a romance, some embodying requited love and some embodying unrequited love.

But I still think that the one composer who should be most identified with Valentine’s Day is Robert Schumann (1810-1856 and below in a photo from around 1850).

His deep and endless longing for Clara Wieck (with him, below), the young concert pianist who eventually became his wife — and after his death his champion — against the vociferous objections of her father, is palpable so much of his music in just about every form or genre including solo piano music, songs, chamber music and symphonic works.

In fact, I think one can argue that Schumann’s uncanny ability to capture love and passion in memorable and great sound makes him THE central Romantic composer of them all. Love and longing infuse his works.

I offer the following favorite Schumann moments as evidence, examples or case studies:

First, the slow movement from Schumann’s Piano Quartet:

Now, the second movement from his piano suite “Kreisleriana”:

Then there is the second of his Three Romances, the one in F-sharp major, for solo piano:

And from the song cycle “A Woman’s Life and Loves,” “Du, Ring an Meinem Finger” (You, Ring on My Finger):

And from the song cycle “Dichterliebe” (A Poet’s Loves), “Ich grolle nicht” (I won’t complain):

And then there is the magnificently poetic Piano Concerto, which is filled throughout its three movements with great moments of longing.

Here is a short but touching and memorable story about the role that the Schumann Piano Concerto played in two college students’ romance, courtship and love life:

http://www.npr.org/2012/01/31/146151332/winter-songs-young-love-in-ithaca-with-schumanns-help

And here is the opening of the first movement of that same Piano Concerto, dedicated to my own Valentine: I love you. Always have and always will.


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