The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: What is your favorite Sousa march for the Fourth of July? What other classical music celebrates the holiday?

July 4, 2017
3 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is the Fourth of July, Independence Day, when we mark the day and the Declaration of Independence when the U.S officially separated from Great Britain to become not a colony but its own country.

Over the past decade The Ear has chosen music from many American composers to mark the event – music by Edward MacDowell, Charles Ives, William Grant Still, George Gershwin, Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, William Schuman, Joan Tower, John Adams and so many others.

And of course also featured around the nation will be the “1812 Overture” by Peter Tchaikovsky.

You will probably hear a lot of that music today on Wisconsin Public Radio and other stations, including WFMT in Chicago and WQXR in New York City.

Here is a link to nine suggestions with audiovisual performances:

http://www.classical-music.com/article/nine-best-works-independence-day

But The Ear got to thinking.

It is certainly a major achievement when a composer’s name becomes synonymous with a genre of music. Like Strauss waltzes. Bach cantatas and Bach fugues. Chopin mazurkas and Chopin polonaises.

The Ear thinks that John Philip Sousa is to marches what Johann Strauss is to waltzes. Others have done them, but none as well.

So on Independence Day, he asks: Which of Sousa’s many marches is your favorite to mark the occasion?

The “Stars and Stripes Forever” — no officially our national march — seems the most appropriate one, judging by titles. “The Washington Post” March is not far behind.

But lately The Ear has taken to “The Liberty Bell” March.

Here it is a YouTube video with the same Marine Band that Sousa, The March King, once led and composed for:

And if you want music fireworks in the concert hall to match the real thing, you can’t beat the bravura pyrotechnical display concocted and executed by pianist Vladimir Horowitz, a Russian who became an American citizen and contributed mightily to the war effort during World War II.

Horowitz wowed the crowds – including fellow virtuoso pianists – with his transcription of “The Stars and Stripes Forever” in which it sounds like three or four hands are playing. Judge for yourself. Here it is:

Of course, you can also leave the names of other American composers and works to celebrate the Fourth. Just leave a word and a link in the COMMENT section.

The Ear wants to hear!


Classical music: Which great maestro would you be? Take the WFMT quiz and see

June 6, 2016
7 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

The Chicago classical music radio station WFMT has come up with a novel idea.

That is the radio station by the way, that brings us “Exploring Music with Bill McGlaughlin,” which airs every weekday night 8-9 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Radio. The insightful McGlaughlin himself is a former conductor, and The Ear suspects he had something to do with the quiz.

WFMT is the same radio station with The Beethoven Satellite Network that brings us host Peter Van De Graaff who chooses and comments on classical music overnight. A performing baritone singer who has sung George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah” with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra several times, the discerning Van De Graaff might also have had something to do with figuring out different and distinctive conducting styles.

Anyway, the WFMT staff devised a quiz and put it on the radio station’s official blog.

You answer questions and then you see which great symphony orchestra conductor you would mostly likely be.

Among the names mentioned are Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Leonard Bernstein (whom The Ear was pegged as!) and the three below (from left): Marin Alsop, Pierre Boulez and Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who heads the Philadelphia Orchestra and last week was named the new music director of the Metropolitan Opera.

WFMT conductor quiz

Here is a link to the quiz and to the comments that its results have inspired:

http://blogs.wfmt.com/offmic/2016/04/22/quiz-which-great-conductor-are-you/

Take the quiz and let The Ear and other readers know the results and what you thought of the quiz.

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: The 57th annual Grammy Award nominations are out — and they provide a useful guide to holiday gift-giving.

December 9, 2014
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

This year, the holiday gift-giving season went into high gear on Thanksgiving Day, not just Black Friday. That was followed by Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday and on and on.

Doesn’t such commercialism of the holidays just make you want to break into “Joy to the World” or the “Hallelujah” Chorus?

Traditionally, The Ear has offered many lists and compilations for suggested classical recordings for the holidays — Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, whatever.

Over this past weekend, the nominations for the 57th annual Grammy Awards were announced.

grammy award BIG

Of course, this event – no matter how hyped and prestigious for helping music  — is an industry honoring and promoting itself. So of course classical music is way down on the list, far behind more money-making and better selling genres.

But over the years The Ear has found that the nominees are actually more useful than the much shorter list of winners, which doesn’t come out anyway until well after the holidays.

So here is a link to the complete list of Grammy nominations. Just go the website, and scroll down to Category 72 though Category 81.

http://www.grammy.com/nominees

Sure, the Big Labels and Gray Ladies – such as Deutsche Grammophon and EMI – are represented.

And so are some pretty big New Names, including the astonishingly gifted prize-winning young pianist Daniil Trifonov (below), who, The Ear thinks, show get a Grammy for his Carnegie Hall recital. (Just listen to the YouTube video, taken from that live recital, at the bottom. It features a difficult Chopin prelude and notice the virtuosic ferocity combined with lyricism, the voicing, and the flexibility of tempo or rubato.)

danill trifonov

But once again The Ear notices how many recordings are being done by labels that have been established by the performing groups themselves or by smaller labels. Decentralization continues. So does the rediscovery of Baroque opera and early music as well as new music.

In addition, there continues to be an emphasis, established in recent years, on newer music and lesser known composers. So specialization also continues.

Notice too that veteran independent record producer Judith Sherman (below, holding the Grammy she won in 2012) is once again up for Producer of The Year – she has won it several times already.

Judith Sherman Grammy 2012

Sherman is the same person who recorded the impressive first double CD of four centennial commissions for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Pro Arte Quartet. That release included string quartets by John Harbison and Walter Mays as well as Piano Quintets by Paul Schoenfield and William Bolcom.

pro arte cd commission cover

This spring Judith Sherman is coming back to the UW-Madison School to record the last two commissions: the terrific Clarinet Quintet based on Allen Ginsberg’s Beat poem “Howl’ by American composer Pierre Jalbert (below top) and for the String Quartet No. 3 by Belgian composer Benoît Mernier (below bottom, in a photo by Lise Mernier).

Pierre Jalbert

Benoit Mernier by Lise Mernier

More such suggestions for classical music gifts are to come.

Usually critics from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal weigh in, as does Alex Ross of The New Yorker magazine and the Deceptive Cadence blog for NPR (National Public Radio), and The Ear will include those.

And often The Ear throws in his own idea for gifts, which often involves linking a local live concert with a CD or a book and a CD. Stay tuned.

In addition, other website devoted to classical music – say the BBC and radio stations WQXR in New York City and WMFT in Chicago –- often featured a Best of the Year compilation.

And here is a link to more about the Grammys, including background

http://www.grammy.com

The Grammys will be awarded on Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015 and broadcast on CBS-TV from 8 to 11 p.m. LIVE from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.


Classical music: The University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music will open its new season Saturday night with a FREE recital of Latin American and German music by flutist Stephanie Jutt.

September 5, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear likes that a new season at the University of Wisconsin School of Music will officially open in an intimate rather than grand manner with a chamber music concert.

At 8 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall on this Saturday, Sept. 6, flutist Stephanie Jutt (below) will perform Latin American music plus a classic masterpiece sonata by Johannes Brahms. The concert is FREE and OPEN to the public.

Stephanie Jutt CR Dick Ainsworth

Jutt, who is a longtime professor the UW-Madison School of Music, is also the principal flute of the Madison Symphony Orchestra as well as a co-founder and co-artistic director of the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, which performs each summer in June. She also performs in the Wingra Woodwind Quintet (below, in a  photo by Michael Anderson) at the UW-Madison.

Wingra Woodwind Quintet 2013 Michael Anderson

On this program, Jutt and Venezuelan pianist Elena Abend will offer audiences a look at some of the beautiful and spicy music written by Latin American composers, including Argentinean composers Carlos Guastavino (below top), Astor Piazzolla (below middle) and Angel Lasala (below bottom).

Carlos Guastavino

astor piazzolla

Angel Lasala

Jutt recently traveled to Argentina to research this repertoire, and will be recording it with Elena Abend later this year in New York City.

Born in Caracas, Venezuela, pianist Elena Abend (below) has performed with all the major orchestras of her country. Receiving her Bachelor and Master degrees from the Juilliard School, she has performed at venues such as the Purcell Room in London’s Royal Festival Hall, Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center, Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, Academy of Music with the Philadelphia Orchestra, as well as the Wigmore Hall in London, Toulouse Conservatoire, Theatre Luxembourg, the Corcoran Gallery in Washington D.C., Chicago Cultural Center and the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee.

More performances include Ravinia and Marlboro Music Festivals, live broadcasts on Philadelphia’s WFLN, The Dame Myra Hess Concert Series on Chicago’s WFMT and Wisconsin Public Radio at the Chazen Museum of Art in Madison.  She has recorded for the Avie label and numerous recording and editing projects for Hal Leonard’s G. Schirmer Instrumental Library and Schirmer Performance Editions.

Elena Abend currently serves on the Piano and Chamber Music Faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Elena Abend UW--M

Program:

Milonga en Re  (at bottom in a YouTube video)   Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992)

Tanguano                                     Astor Piazzolla 
(1912-1992)

Introduccion y Allegro             Carlos Guastavino 
(1912-2000)

With ELENA ABEND, PIANO

Sonata in E-flat Major, Op. 120          Johannes Brahms
 (1833-1897) as arranged for flute by Stephanie Jutt

With UW Piano Professor CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR (below)

ChristopherTaylorNoCredit

INTERMISSION

Poema del Pastor Coya                   Angel Lasala (1914-2000)

Con la Chola y el Changuito    Carlos Guastavino
 (1912-2000)

Fuga e Misterio                             Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992)

 


Classical music Q&A: Creator and host Anders Yocom talks about Wisconsin Public Radio’s “The Sunday Brunch,” which will mark its one-year anniversary this coming Sunday morning from 10 a.m. to noon.

August 15, 2013
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

For the most part, the classical music you hear on Wisconsin Public Radio is demarcated by a time of day and the particular host or programmer. Only occasionally does a unifying theme emerge -– say, American composers and American classical music on the Fourth of July or Thanksgiving; or holiday music on Christmas.

However, one major exception is the weekly program called “The Sunday Brunch,” which airs every Sunday from 10 a.m. to noon. (Then the program segues into New Releases with the same host.)

brunch

“The Sunday Brunch” is the brain-child of Anders Yocom, who hosts it and adds his congenial commentaries. The amiable and resonant-voiced Yocom is familiar to Madison audiences in many ways. He is the welcoming voice at concerts by the Madison Symphony Orchestra in Overture Hall and he has served as the narrator in various pieces by local musical groups. (Below is Yocom narrating works by Bela Bartok at a concert by the Sound Ensemble Wisconsin — SEW — at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.)

SEW Anders Yocum as Bartok

This Sunday’s broadcast will mark and celebrate the one-year anniversary of “The Sunday Brunch.” The play list will feature 17 selections of music in all kinds of musical genres, from a cappella singing to symphonies and concertos to guitar etudes.

The well-known composers on the play list include Cesar Franck, Alexander Borodin, Franz Liszt, Arcangelo Corelli, Antonin Dvorak, Philip Glass, Richard Wagner, Antonio Vivaldi, Franz Schubert, Gabriel Faure, Richard Rodgers and of course Johann Sebastian Bach, for whom Yocom has a special affinity. The less well-known composers to be included are Antonio Salieri, Benjamin Godard, Alessandro Marcello, Etienne-Nicholas Mehul, Giaches de Wert and Giulio Rigondi.

Anders Yocom (below, in a photo by Jim Gill) recently answered an email Q&A for The Ear:

anders yocom studio  head shot cr Jim Gill

How and when did you come up with the idea for “The Sunday Brunch,” and when did show first air?

I have been thinking about it for years, inspired by two classical radio hosts I like to listen to. I heard Carl Grapentine (below) every day on WFMT when I lived in Chicago, and more recently Emma Ayres (at bottom, in a YouTube video busking with her violin for flood relief) on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Classical in Australia on my Internet radio.

Carl Grapentine WFMT

Both people host weekday morning drive programs with short pieces interspersed with information about the day and stories about music. I marvel at the music selection. Each piece they choose, one after another, seems to perfectly fit the moment. I wanted to follow their lead. I proposed “The Sunday Brunchfour years ago and it began one year ago.

Is your show part of a larger strategy by Wisconsin Public Radio for attracting new listeners? What are the future plans for the show?

WPR is always looking for new programming ideas and ways to attract new listeners, not just over the air, but via the growing digital technologies as well.

I was hosting music on WPR last summer, and when Mike Arnold (below), WPR’s Associate Director, heard my proposal for “The Sunday Brunch,” he gave it an immediate green light.

Mike Arnold Wisconsin Public Radio

Next month, Peter Bryant (below), a veteran public broadcaster and music lover, will come from Kentucky to WPR as the Program Director of the News and Classical service. I look forward to his encouragement and guidance to make “The Sunday Brunch as good as it can be.

peter bryant

What are your goals for the show? And what has been the public or listener response so far?

What weekly time feels warmer or more enjoyable than Sunday morning? I think of families and friends at leisure, possibly before or after church; maybe enjoying their own Sunday breakfasts or brunches; or sipping their favorite hot beverages while reading their favorite publications.

My goal is to enhance whatever pleasant and relaxing Sunday environment they may have created for themselves. All of the response I have received so far has been very positive. And over the last year, we are seeing increased audiences on Sunday mornings.

People eating Brunch

How do you choose the music that is suitable for The Sunday Brunch? Do you look to celebrate certain special holidays like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day?

I like to play music that somehow addresses what listeners might be thinking about on given days such as holidays. I also call attention to music anniversaries.

In general, I select short pieces and excerpts from longer works, with varied instrumentation from solo to chamber to symphony, including choral and vocal, representing the music periods from Baroque to contemporary. Also, the fun and joy of an occasional movie or Broadway show tune.

The Sunday Brunch specializes in joyful or “feel good” music. I hasten to add that not all music meets these criteria, and much of the music I don’t play should be heard on radio. And it is played at other times every day on WPR.

You often use sections – single movements of a larger work. What do you say to critics of that practice?

So far, we have received not one complaint about the practice of playing single movements. And I agree that complete performances of symphonies, concertos and other works are often required for a satisfying listening experience.

I respect adherence to the artistic intent of composers. However, the composers of most of the works I play never envisioned electronically reproduced performances heard in kitchens, bedrooms, cars or any of the places where mobile devices can go.

At concerts, audiences focus on the music. For radio listeners, the music is there to accompany something else listeners are attending to. I wish we could ask Mozart what he thinks about one of his rondos playing through speakers in my kitchen, followed immediately by a Philip Glass waltz.

anders yocom studio wider cr Jim Gill

What else would you like to say or add about “The Sunday Brunch” or about Wisconsin Public Radio in general?

I am a music lover and listen to music nearly every waking hour. I am also a veteran radio listener and broadcaster. I look for ways to please people who like to have music in their environments, wherever they may be. “The Sunday Brunch is a unique approach, and I hope listeners like it as much as I like presenting it. I am grateful to WPR for supporting me in this effort.

https://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=145473145510630


Classical music: This week is Schubert Week with FREE concerts by Madison violinist Kangwon Kim plus Bill McGlaughlin’s “Exploring Music” show every evening this week on Wisconsin Public Radio.

May 7, 2013
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

If you love the music of Franz Schubert  – and who doesn’t? – this promises to be a memorable week for you.

When it comes to Schubert (below) these days I find him more to my taste even than his mentor, Beethoven. Others can decide who was greater or more influential. What I do know is that I find Schubert somehow more human, more empathetic, more compassionate than Beethoven.

What an incredible composer Schubert (1797-1829) was – having done so much writing, and so much great compositing, before he died at 31 – almost five years younger than Mozart.

Franz Schubert big

So why is the week Schubert Week?

For one, Bill McGlaughlin (below) is spending all this week exploring the music of Schubert. His program “Exploring Music” airs at 8-9 p.m. (NOT 7-8 p.m., as it used to)  every weekday night on Wisconsin Public Radio (88.7 FM in the Madison area)

According to the playlist I saw, McGlaughlin, himself a composer and former conductor who is a Great Explainer of classical music, will look at many different kinds of masterpieces: symphonies, chamber music, songs and solo piano works.

Here is a general link to his show form WFMT in Chicago:

http://www.wfmt.com/main.taf?p=31,2

Here is a link to his listings of his show:

http://exploringmusic.wfmt.com/listen-to-the-show/116/schubertiade-part-ii

Bill McGlaughlin at  microphone

Add to that a concert with TWO FREE performances that includes three beautiful but under-performed chamber music works by Schubert: the D major sonata and the great C major “Fantasy” for violin and piano (in a YouTube video at the bottom) as well as String Trio in Bb major.

The performers are Madison violinist Kangwon Lee Kim (below left) who will be joined by pianist Li-Shan Hung (below right), violist Matthew Michelic and cellist Mark Bridges.

EPSON MFP image

Here are the details:

The first performance is this Saturday, May 11, at 3 p.m. in the Grand Hall (below) of the Capital Lakes Retirement Community, 333 West Main Street, in downtown Madison, off the Capitol Square.

Capitol Lakes Hall

Then the program is repeated on Sunday, May 12 at 12:30 p.m. in Brittingham Gallery No. 3 of the Chazen Museum at 800 University Avenue on the UW-Madison campus. The concert is the season finale of the program “Sunday Afternoon Live from Chazen.” It is FREE concert and will be broadcast LIVE by Wisconsin Public Radio from 12:30 to 2 p.m.

SAL3


Classical Music Alert: The University of Wisconsin’s Pro Arte Quartet plays music by John Harbison and Cesar Franck LIVE tonight, Monday, April 30, from 8 to 10 p.m. at radio station WFMT in Chicago. Here is a link to stream it live.

April 30, 2012
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

If you have been following this blog, you know that this past season has been the historic and landmark centennial celebration of the University of Wisconsin’s Pro Arte String Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer).

In four centers over the season, the quartet gave the world premieres of four commissions: two string quartets by Walter Mays and John Harbison; and two piano quintets by Paul Schoenfield and William Bolcom.

If you missed the last concert a week ago last Saturday (at bottom) or want to hear it again, you can stream the live concert that the Pro Arte Quartet will perform tonight Monday night, April 30, from 8 to 10 p.m. in the studios of Chicago’s famed classical music radio station WFMT.

The program features the Pro Arte Quartet’s third performance of the String Quartet No. 5, written in 10 short movements, by John Harbison (below). The String Quartet in D Major by the Belgian composer Cesar Franck will also be on the program. The quartet by Haydn, which was such a great counterpart to the Harbison will NOT be performed because of time constraints.

The Pro Arte Quartet, by the way, will also perform John Harbison’s String Quartet No. 5 this summer at the acclaimed Aspen Festival.

Here is a link — click on the LISTEN LIVE button — to use so you can hear the live Monday night concert by the Pro Arte Quartet as well as much other terrific programming on WFMT, the home of Bill McGlaughlin’s “Exploring Music” that airs weekday nights at 7 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Radio. (McGlaughlin was the guest lecturer for the concert that featured Paul Schoenfield’s Piano Quintet No. 2 last November.)

http://www.wfmt.com/main.taf?p=4,5,28


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