The Well-Tempered Ear

Real-time online playlists return to Wisconsin Public Radio

May 10, 2023
5 Comments

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By Jacob Stockinger

Good news!

Really good news!

Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) has finally returned to posting real-time playlists on both its online website and its mobile app.

Now you can see and identify what has been played and what is being played (below, displayed in yellow) — AS it is being played as well as after it has been played.

 

The only recent exception was Saturday when there was nothing posted until later in the day when all-day programming was listed at the same time. No reason has been given for the suspension or tardiness.

The playlists are especially good given the many unknown composers and compositions that are increasingly being aired.

The Ear also finds the playlists helpful to see what is playing and who is performing — along with the record label and catalogue number when you click “More” — when he hears part of a piece and is interested but didn’t hear the introductory information or can’t complete listening to it.

Please leave kudos and congratulate WPR for serving its listeners and supporters.

Try it and see.

Will you find the online real-time playlists helpful and use them?

The Ear wants to hear.


ALL Bach Around the Clock 2023 concerts are now online. Here are the links and some stats

April 4, 2023
1 Comment

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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following news from Bach Around the Clock 2023 (BATC). Please note that there is no time limit or expiration date on viewing and listening to the online postings (see the example video of a string quartet arrangement from “The Art of Fugue” at the bottom):

BATC 2023 Festival video recordings are now available at BachClock.com and on YouTube

BATC 2023 recordings have been organized into playlists: Guest Artist Lawrence Quinnett; String SoloistsKeyboard soloistsEnsembles and StudiosFestival FinaleVirtual Performances

Recordings for Just Bach’s Concert and Bach on Marimba lecture/performance are also available.

Thank you to BATC 2023 performers! True to our mission, Bach Around The Clock welcomed the participation of over 115 performers (below in St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church), including amateurs and professionals of all ages and experience levels, sharing their love of Bach’s music with the community.

85 musicians performed at St. Andrew’s on Saturday, March 11.
30 musicians submitted recordings from their homes and studios.
28 hours of Bach Around The Clock performances are available.

Thank you to our audience members (below in Grace Episcopal Church)! In-person and online — BATC 2023 performances have been enjoyed by record-setting numbers of Bach enthusiasts.

Thank you to our BATC Donors, acknowledged here. With the generous support of over 40 BATC fans and business sponsors, we achieved our fundraising goal of covering all 2023 festival expenses! New contributions will help us with planning for the future of Bach Around The Clock.

New contributions will help us with planning for the future of Bach Around The Clock.

You can donate here: https://bachclock.com/donate


Wisconsin Public Radio needs timely online playlists and other fixes

March 15, 2023
18 Comments

PLEASE HELP THE EAR. IF YOU LIKE A CERTAIN BLOG POST, SPREAD THE WORD. FORWARD A LINK TO IT OR, SHARE IT or TAG IT (not just “Like” it) ON FACEBOOK. Performers can use the extra exposure to draw potential audience members to an event. And you might even attract new readers and subscribers to the blog.

By Jacob Stockinger

March 8 was International Women’s Day.

To its credit, Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) celebrated the event all-day long by airing music composed and performed by women. 

The Ear heard some very memorable and noteworthy pieces that were new to him.

But when he went to the WPR website and looked for online listings to find out specifics about the composers, the pieces, the performers and the record labels, he found — nothing.

Today is March 15.

And one week later The Ear still finds nothing — no playlist for the March 8 broadcasts.

In fact, there are no online listings going back more than a month — to February 5.

You will find just a longstanding apology with a promise to fix it and some boilerplate warning about federal regulations that really have nothing to do with such a prolonged delay.

Take a look for yourself: https://www.wpr.org/classical-music-lists

That is disappointing and frustrating. Some might even say unacceptable.

The digital technology fixes that have been promised and, one assumes, already paid for can’t be THAT difficult to implement. WPR used to post the playlist information as soon as the piece started airing. (And, curiously, the non-WPR overnight service still offers that.)

Why not again? Technological updates are supposed to make things work better, not worse.

Fixing the playlist is especially important right now because WPR and its outstanding hosts have taken on the admirable mission of exploring music of women composers and performers; of composers and performers of color; and of neglected composers and works.

But without a playlist to consult, that mission remains unfinished. How else is the unfamiliar supposed to become more familiar?

That is not the only troubling thing at WPR.

The station did a superb job during the pandemic with home broadcasting.

But ever since then, there seems to be more dead air, miscues, interruptions and repeated programs than ever before. 

Yet you also hear many more promotions and pleas for public financial support in between quarterly membership drives than ever before.

WPR would be wise to attract and serve its supporters and listeners by focusing on completing the fixes, whether it requires hardware, software or staff training.

And correcting the disservice of not posting daily playlists online seems an excellent place to start. After all, The Ear was told that the problem of incompatible software “would be rectified soon.”

That was over a year ago.

And if it can’t be corrected?

Hope they kept the receipt.

Do you miss WPR’s daily online playlists?

Have you noticed other problems at WPR?

What about WPR would you like to praise? To criticize?

The Ear wants to hear.


Here’s how to donate a piano in the US

March 13, 2023
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By Jacob Stockinger

Maybe the kids have left home.

Maybe you are downsizing.

Maybe you have just stopped playing it.

Maybe you want to help out a school, a music student organization or a retirement center.

If you have an old piano you are looking to get rid of, you might find the following story helpful.

It comes from Hello Music Theory, a free website, and it offers helpful tips on donating old pianos, including tax deductions from the IRS.

https://hellomusictheory.com/learn/where-and-how-to-donate-piano/

Are you looking to donate a piano?

Why?

Have you already donated a piano?

What did you think of the experience?

Do you have tips or advice to share with others?

Are you looking to receive a donated piano?

Why, in what condition and what use will you put it to?

You could leave more information in the comment section.

Do have any tips or questions about donating pianos?

The Ear wants to hear.


Here are the nominees, winners and trends of the 2023 classical music Grammys

February 10, 2023
1 Comment

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By Jacob Stockinger

Chances are good you have already heard about Beyoncé and Lizzo, about Bonnie Raitt and Harry Styles, and how they won their Grammy awards last Sunday night.

But it is not by chance that you have to scroll way, way, way down the list of Grammy nominees and winners to find the ones for classical music. (It comes a third from the end, just before the list of short-form and long-form videos.)

No doubt it is in part a question of respect. Classical is not even listed with other “Musical Genres” on the Grammys’ home website while you will find: Pop; Rock; R&B; Country; Rap; Latin; Global; Gospel and Contemporary Christian; New Age; Jazz; and Alternative.

It seems like the most important thing to say about classical music is that pop star Beyoncé (below above) surpassed the record for individual Grammys previously held for decades by the late Hungarian-born conductor Sir George Solti (below bottom). He had won 31, she has won 32. But it seems like an unfair comparison since The Ear suspects many more categories are open to Beyoncé and her pop music than were open to Solti and classical music.

But even more than respect, it is a question of popularity and money.

We mustn’t forget that the Grammys are above all an industry event designed to reward those who make the commercial recording industry flourish.

Still, there are trends to take note of.

You’ll notice that quite a few of the nominees and winners have performed had their music performed in Madison. They include composers Caroline Shaw and Kevin Puts; the Imani Winds and Valerie Coleman; the Attacca Quartet; singer Will Liverman; Third Coast Percussion; Hilary Hahn; and producer Judith Sherman (below, in 2016)), who has overseen recent recordings by the UW-Madison’s Pro Arte Quartet and won many such Grammys.

Also, just as in Madison this has also been a big year for performers and composers of color — Black, Indigenous, Latin and Asian — as well as women composers and performers. Florence Price, Valerie Coleman and Jessie Montgomery (below and in the YouTube video at the end of her composition “Strum”), who is now composer-in-residence at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and was just named Composer of the Year by Musical America; and Valerie Coleman.

Local presenters and performers can be proud of reflecting the same priorities. They include: the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music; the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO); the Madison Symphony Orchestra; the Madison Opera; the Wisconsin Union Theater; the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra; the Willy Street Chamber Players; the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society; Edgewood College; and Wisconsin Public Radio and WORT-FM among others.

See for yourself which ones you caught and which ones you missed.

Here is a list of the classical music winners of the 65th annual Grammy awards. It is provided by the insightful Australian arts and culture journal Limelight Magazine:

The 2023 Grammy Awards: Classical winners announced

And here is the complete list of the Grammy nominees along with the winners, so you can compare them all, find out details and  judge for yourself. The Ear thinks many of the nominees are often just as worthwhile to check out and listen to as the winners:

https://www.grammy.com/awards/65th-annual-grammy-awards-2022

What do you think of the Grammy nominees and winners?

The Ear wants to hear.


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Is a lot of ‘woke’ music inferior to the music it replaces?

January 21, 2023
12 Comments

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By Jacob Stockinger

Is a widespread attempt to explore historically ignored music and overlooked, marginalized composers interfering with the public hearing greater, more important and more beautiful music?

It is a problematic but timely question or issue, especially during an era of political correctness and in our current culture wars.

To be sure, you can hear some memorable music that has unjustifiably been excluded from the so-called canon. The discovery of Florence Price (below) is a prime example. The same can be said for Clara Schumann.

It does seem that a lot of the newly rediscovered pieces and composers — Black, Hispanic, Indigenous, Asian, women, LGBT — deserve an initial hearing, if only out of curiosity and to correct the historical record.

But after being heard for the first time, many of them seem second- or third-rate. They deserve to be shelved for another few decades in favor of restoring greater music and greater composers to the active performing repertory. 

To The Ear, for example, the symphonies by Michael Haydn always sound inferior to those of his famous older brother Joseph. And it doesn’t matter what critics and audiences of the day said, history its often — if not always — the better judge. The symphonies and violin concertos of the impressive and influential Joseph de Boulogne (Chevalier de Saint-Georges, below) are simply not as artistically interesting or engaging as those by his contemporary Mozart.

Anyway, whatever you think, The Ear came across an essay on the internet by George Leef that was published in The National Review — the iconic conservative political magazine founded by William Buckley. It contains background about current nationwide programming guidelines and organizations that you might not know. 

It is an interesting point of view. It often goes over the top and  clearly overstates the case against “woke” repertory by accusing those who support it of being “enemies of classical music” rather than sincere and well-intentioned progressive advocates of artistic justice.

But it deserves a serious reading and a serious answer to the provocative question of balancing the great and the less great. Here is a link:

https://na01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nationalreview.com%2Fcorner%2Fthe-enemies-of-classical-music-open-a-new-front%2F&data=05%7C01%7C%7Cdc78db9851e24c937f3208dafa28c130%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C638097350187750246%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C3000%7C%7C%7C&sdata=SmHoEA2rkQ53xI6RZvi8o65zJ99IcjYFqXrbJq3DV18%3D&reserved=0

Read it for yourself and make up your own mind.

Then please tell The Ear and other readers what you think in the Comment section.

The Ear wants to hear.


One piano lesson made all the difference

January 15, 2023
1 Comment

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By Jacob Stockinger

Not long ago, NPR and Wisconsin Public Radio featured a moving story from the website “Hidden Brain” and its series of profile called “My Unsung Hero.”

It told the simple story of a single piano lesson — and how just one short sentence at this piano lesson proved both ordinary and momentous – and made all the difference, changing the course of a young boy’s life.

The Ear found it inspiring. And it provoked some of his own memories of important music lessons and music teachers as well as other subjects and other influential teachers in school.

He hopes you will also like it and share it, perhaps with a friend who had a similar experience or with a special teacher who influenced you and made an important difference in your life.

Here is a link:

https://www.npr.org/2022/12/05/1140759435/a-few-words-of-encouragement-from-his-music-teacher-changed-karl-goldsteins-life

Did you ever have a similar experience with a music teacher and music lesson?

Or find an “unsung hero” in music or another field of education who made a big difference? 

Please tell us about it.

The Ear wants to hear.


Gramophone Magazine names the Best Classical Recordings of 2022 by each month

January 9, 2023
1 Comment

PLEASE HELP THE EAR. IF YOU LIKE A CERTAIN BLOG POST, SPREAD THE WORD. FORWARD A LINK TO IT OR, SHARE IT or TAG IT (not just “Like” it) ON FACEBOOK. Performers can use the extra exposure to draw potential audience members to an event. And you might even attract new readers and subscribers to the blog.

By Jacob Stockinger

Maybe you have a holiday gift card to use.

Or maybe you have some leisure time to explore new recordings for your pleasure.

You’re in luck.

Various media have recently named the Best Classical Recordings of 2022. Whether you stream them or use compact discs or listen to vinyl, over the next week or two The Ear will feature some of them.

One of the most prestigious and well respected lists is provided by the British publication and website, Gramophone Magazine (below).

The link below is just to the December 2022 choices. But in it you can find links by the month to other outstanding selections.

Like many other links now, you can also find links to complete reviews of individual albums, and can even listen to excerpts from the named performances.

Also like many international lists, this one often reflects a not-so-subtle bias — usual towards the artists in the home nation where the organization is based. So look for a lot of British performers and composers.

https://na01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.gramophone.co.uk%2Ffeatures%2Farticle%2Feditor-s-choice-december-2022-the-best-new-classical-recordings&data=05%7C01%7C%7C9d54288e7aa14aee84e008dad6cf495a%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C638058483012574509%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C3000%7C%7C%7C&sdata=jQjPYfVgug0bP8RNt8LCpJaWifR5remsfdwHP8zwAW8%3D&reserved=0

Still, you can find many outstanding choices to spend those gift cards on. Or just to explore for pleasure whenever you have the time and desire.

Here is one example.

When he first heard it, The Ear was fascinated by Paul Wee’s outstanding and astounding performance of the virtuosic solo piano transcription by the 19th-century French composer Charles-Valentin Alkan of Mozart’s famously sublime and dramatic Piano Concerto No. 22 in D minor, K. 466 (below in a photo of the album cover and in a YouTube video).

Very handy if you don’t have access to an orchestra! Plus you hear the composition in a new and insightful way — as often happens with transcriptions.

What do you think?

Do you have a favorite new recording from 2022?

The Ear wants to hear.


Here are classical musicians who died in 2022

December 31, 2022
6 Comments

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By Jacob Stockinger

2022 saw the death of many classical musicians.

A few of the most prominent names have been featured in other year-end lists.

But as far The Ear can tell, the most comprehensive and most international list has been posted on website of The Violin Channel, which is located in New York City.

Kudos to The Violin Channel! The list is terrifically researched, organized and executed. If you want to know more and read a fuller obituary, just click on the name in red and a link will take you to it. Here it is:

https://na01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Ftheviolinchannel.com%2Fin-memoriam-remembering-the-remarkable-musicians-we-lost-in-2022%2F&data=05%7C01%7C%7C84e7cdcc27d3458e94f808dae4f027bf%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C638074017362646897%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C3000%7C%7C%7C&sdata=4oWM3jzNFYCimU5i6%2FTW3b8MSSebSXZNEsGWPihl5Uc%3D&reserved=0

Do you know of other names — including local names — that should be included?

Leave them in the comment section.

The Ear wants to hear.

And here is a YouTube video performance of the Pie Jesu movement from the Requiem by Gabriel Faure: 


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