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Your 2 Symphony Introduction to Franz Schubert

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Classical Music In the Morning

The Reformed Trombonist continues with his classical music suggestions. From the comments on yesterday’s classical music selection:

The period between 1750 (about the time of Bach’ death) and roughly 1800 is called Western music’s “Classical” era (roughly 1750 – 1810). Typically, people refer to “Classical” music when they’re talking about symphonic music, string quartets, oratorios, operas, etc. — but a more precise definition would be, simply, Western music, which has undergone many style changes over the years. Most of the music performed by modern symphony orchestras could best be categorized as Romantic music(ca. 1810-1860), late Romantic music (ca. 1860-1910), and some 20th century so-called “modern” music (much of which sounds very dated now).

Anyhow, in Franz Josef Haydn’s day, there was no gulf between popular music and “serious” music. Haydn was considered a great composer by the great composers, and he was also considered like a rock star to concert audiences. He spent most of his career living in provincial Hungary as a servant of Prince Esterhazy, where he enjoyed a comfortable, cosseted life writing music for the Prince’s court. But he had published some of his music and it became very popular throughout Europe. Later in life he moved to London and became rich and celebrated.

Haydn might be the last symphonic composer to be celebrated by the masses. At the very least, popular and serious tastes began to part ways.

Now, IMO, there are basically two types of “great composers.” Some composers are great because they are transitional figures, breaking new ground in compositional technique and aesthetic. Beethoven is considered such a composer, as is Wagner, Stravinsky, and Monteverdi. Early Beethoven sounds Classical, like Mozart and Haydn, whereas later Beethoven has numerous Romantic traits.

Other composers are considered great, though, not because they broke new ground, but because they obtained complete mastery over the style they inherited — so much so that they epitomized the style. Johann Sebastian Bach is such a figure — if you studied Bach thoroughly and yet never even encountered the music of other Baroque composers, you would still understand Baroque music quite well. Josquin Des Prez is considered such a figure regarding Medieval music, and Haydn is similarly situated as a standard-bearer for the Classical era.

(Why not Mozart? A good argument might be made. I tend to go with Haydn because he had a much longer career and was probably more influential at least for the first generation or two after Mozart’s death. Of course, on the flip side, Haydn is not really known as an opera composer.)

Interestingly, I met at least one prominent music historian who believed that Franz Schubert was closer to the Classical style than the Romantic. He felt Haydn had passed the baton not to Beethoven but to Schubert. I can see his point — to me, there’s nothing particularly Romantic about Schubert’s music, neither in its formal traits nor in its temperament. However, most historians consider Schubert a Romantic composer.

So, if you’re particularly fond of Haydn and you feel like exploring the next generation that followed him, you might consider listening to Schubert. The Eighth Symphony (the “Unfinished”) is his most famous symphony, but his Symphony No. 9 (the Great C Major) is a monument to the Classical form.

….

> The period between 1750 (about the time of Bach’ death) and roughly 1800 is called Western music’s “Classical” era (roughly 1750 – 1810).

I not-quite-repeated myself. Seriously, I think 1810 is the better year for the end of the Classical era. But this isn’t an exact science.

Want to see something featured and then added to the collection? Tweet your selections to @DaveSwindle or email DaveSwindlePJM <@> Gmail.Com. Here are the previous recordings included so far in this new feature:

Bach

Mozart

Handel

Beethoven

Richard Strauss

Hector Berlioz

Vivaldi

Haydn

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Achieved is the Glorious Work

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Classical Music In the Morning

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Want to see something featured and then added to the collection? Tweet your selections to @DaveSwindle or email DaveSwindlePJM <@> Gmail.Com. Here are the previous recordings included so far in this new feature:

Bach

Bach Harpsichord Concertos BWV 1052,1053,1044, Richard Egarr

Glenn Gould’s Version of Bach: Goldberg Variations

Flute Concertos

Yo Yo Ma Performs Bach’s Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello

Collecting Bach Recordings By Instrument: Violin

The Best Bach Violin Concerto Online?

Mozart

“The Best of Mozart” 2 hour selection

Handel

“Water Music”

Beethoven

The Extraordinary BBC Version of Beethoven’s ‘Sinfonia Eroica’

Richard Strauss

‘A Virtuosic Tour De Force, Difficult Even For the Very Greatest Orchestras…’: ‘A Hero’s Life’

Hector Berlioz

Symphonie fantastique

Vivaldi

Which Recording of Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ do you Like the Most?

Haydn

Where To Begin To Appreciate Haydn? Symphony No 94 G major

Wake Up With Haydn’s Missa Sancti Nicolai San Nicola

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Wake Up With Haydn’s Missa Sancti Nicolai San Nicola

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Classical Music In the Morning

Commenting on yesterday’s request for favorite Haydn compositions:

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Want to see something featured and then added to the collection? Tweet your selections to @DaveSwindle or email DaveSwindlePJM <@> Gmail.Com. Here are the previous recordings included so far in this new feature:

Bach

Bach Harpsichord Concertos BWV 1052,1053,1044, Richard Egarr

Glenn Gould’s Version of Bach: Goldberg Variations

Flute Concertos

Yo Yo Ma Performs Bach’s Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello

Collecting Bach Recordings By Instrument: Violin

The Best Bach Violin Concerto Online?

Mozart

“The Best of Mozart” 2 hour selection

Handel

“Water Music”

Beethoven

The Extraordinary BBC Version of Beethoven’s ‘Sinfonia Eroica’

Richard Strauss

‘A Virtuosic Tour De Force, Difficult Even For the Very Greatest Orchestras…’: ‘A Hero’s Life’

Hector Berlioz

Symphonie fantastique

Vivaldi

Which Recording of Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ do you Like the Most?

Haydn

Where To Begin To Appreciate Haydn? Symphony No 94 G major

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Where To Begin To Appreciate Haydn?

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Classical Music In the Morning

Want to see something featured and then added to the collection? Tweet your selections to @DaveSwindle or email DaveSwindlePJM <@> Gmail.Com. Here are the previous recordings included so far in this new feature:

Bach

Bach Harpsichord Concertos BWV 1052,1053,1044, Richard Egarr

Glenn Gould’s Version of Bach: Goldberg Variations

Flute Concertos

Yo Yo Ma Performs Bach’s Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello

Collecting Bach Recordings By Instrument: Violin

The Best Bach Violin Concerto Online?

Mozart

“The Best of Mozart” 2 hour selection

Handel

“Water Music”

Beethoven

The Extraordinary BBC Version of Beethoven’s ‘Sinfonia Eroica’

Richard Strauss

‘A Virtuosic Tour De Force, Difficult Even For the Very Greatest Orchestras…’: ‘A Hero’s Life’

Hector Berlioz

Symphonie fantastique

Vivaldi

Which Recording of Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ do you Like the Most?

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The Best Bach Violin Concerto Online?

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Classical Music In the Morning

Another great suggestion from Don Sucher this morning:

Bach’s violin concertos can be pure magic. Equally thoughtful and passionate. A model of man’s ability to meld the spirit of the individual with the cooperation of the group. (If only our politics could be carried out as imaginatively and as well!)

There are many wonderful examples available on LP and CD. On web-available video none IMO is better than this – Trevor Pinnock conducting The English Concert with Simon Standage and Elizabeth Wilcock on the violins. So, so sweet! Truly food for the soul.

Want to see something featured and then added to the collection? Tweet your selections to @DaveSwindle or email DaveSwindlePJM <@> Gmail.Com. Here are the previous recordings included so far in this new feature:

Bach

Bach Harpsichord Concertos BWV 1052,1053,1044, Richard Egarr

Glenn Gould’s Version of Bach: Goldberg Variations

Flute Concertos

Yo Yo Ma Performs Bach’s Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello

Collecting Bach Recordings By Instrument: Violin

Mozart

“The Best of Mozart” 2 hour selection

Handel

“Water Music”

Beethoven

The Extraordinary BBC Version of Beethoven’s ‘Sinfonia Eroica’

Richard Strauss

‘A Virtuosic Tour De Force, Difficult Even For the Very Greatest Orchestras…’: ‘A Hero’s Life’

Hector Berlioz

Symphonie fantastique

Vivaldi

Which Recording of Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ do you Like the Most?

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Collecting Bach Recordings By Instrument: Violin

Friday, November 21st, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Classical Music In the Morning

Want to see something featured and then added to the collection? Tweet your selections to @DaveSwindle or email DaveSwindlePJM <@> Gmail.Com. Here are the previous recordings included so far in this new feature:

Bach

Bach Harpsichord Concertos BWV 1052,1053,1044, Richard Egarr

Glenn Gould’s Version of Bach: Goldberg Variations

Flute Concertos

Yo Yo Ma Performs Bach’s Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello

Mozart

“The Best of Mozart” 2 hour selection

Handel

“Water Music”

Beethoven

The Extraordinary BBC Version of Beethoven’s ‘Sinfonia Eroica’

Richard Strauss

‘A Virtuosic Tour De Force, Difficult Even For the Very Greatest Orchestras…’: ‘A Hero’s Life’

Hector Berlioz

Symphonie fantastique

Vivaldi

Which Recording of Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ do you Like the Most?

***** image illustration via shutterstock / 

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Yo Yo Ma Performs Bach’s Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello

Thursday, November 20th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Classical Music In the Morning

Want to see something featured and then added to the collection? Tweet your selections to @DaveSwindle or email DaveSwindlePJM <@> Gmail.Com. Here are the previous recordings included so far in this new feature:

Bach

Bach Harpsichord Concertos BWV 1052,1053,1044, Richard Egarr

Glenn Gould’s Version of Bach: Goldberg Variations

Flute Concertos

Mozart

“The Best of Mozart” 2 hour selection

Handel

“Water Music”

Beethoven

The Extraordinary BBC Version of Beethoven’s ‘Sinfonia Eroica’

Richard Strauss

‘A Virtuosic Tour De Force, Difficult Even For the Very Greatest Orchestras…’: ‘A Hero’s Life’

Hector Berlioz

Symphonie fantastique

Vivaldi

Which Recording of Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ do you Like the Most?

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image illustration via shutterstock /  

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Which Recording of Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ do you Like the Most?

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Classical Music In the Morning

From the comments of “What Are Your Favorite Classical Music Tracks Online?“:

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Which Online Classical Music Tracks Are Best to Start The Day?

Monday, November 17th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Classical Music In the Morning

From the comments on the debut of this feature from Wednesday, asking “What Are Your Favorite Classical Music Tracks Online?

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Want to see something featured and then added to the collection? Tweet your selections to @DaveSwindle or email DaveSwindlePJM <@> Gmail.Com. Here are the previous recordings included so far in this new feature:

Bach

Bach Harpsichord Concertos BWV 1052,1053,1044, Richard Egarr

András Schiff playing Bach’s French Suites, French Overture, and Italian Concerto on piano

Glenn Gould’s Version of Bach: Goldberg Variations

Mozart

“The Best of Mozart” 2 hour selection

Handel

“Water Music”

Beethoven

The Extraordinary BBC Version of Beethoven’s ‘Sinfonia Eroica’

Richard Strauss

‘A Virtuosic Tour De Force, Difficult Even For the Very Greatest Orchestras…’: ‘A Hero’s Life’

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‘A Virtuosic Tour De Force, Difficult Even For the Very Greatest Orchestras…’

Sunday, November 16th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Classical Music In the Morning

From the comments on the debut of this feature from Wednesday, asking “What Are Your Favorite Classical Music Tracks Online?

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Want to see something featured and then added to the collection? Tweet your selections to @DaveSwindle or email DaveSwindlePJM <@> Gmail.Com. Here are the previous recordings included so far in this new feature:

Bach

Bach Harpsichord Concertos BWV 1052,1053,1044, Richard Egarr

András Schiff playing Bach’s French Suites, French Overture, and Italian Concerto on piano

Glenn Gould’s Version of Bach: Goldberg Variations

Mozart

“The Best of Mozart” 2 hour selection

Handel

“Water Music”

Beethoven

The Extraordinary BBC Version of Beethoven’s ‘Sinfonia Eroica’

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The Extraordinary BBC Version of Beethoven’s ‘Sinfonia Eroica’

Saturday, November 15th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Classical Music In the Morning

Another great online find from Don Sucher who emailed:

David,  I know you’ll be getting to Beethoven eventually.

Wanted to make sure you knew about this: the BBC production of “Eroica.” It is a film that contains the entire symphony in a truly extraordinary performance conducted by John Eliot Gardner, but it is much more than that. It tells the story of the significance of this earth moving piece of music. I expect you (and PJL’s readers) will find it mesmerizing. I still do and I have seen it about a half dozen times.

Kind of amazing that the entire BBC film is available on line! :)

Want to see something featured? Tweet your selections to @DaveSwindle or email DaveSwindlePJM <@> Gmail.Com And here are the previous recordings included so far:

Bach

Bach Harpsichord Concertos BWV 1052,1053,1044, Richard Egarr

András Schiff playing Bach’s French Suites, French Overture, and Italian Concerto on piano

Glenn Gould’s Version of Bach: Goldberg Variations

Mozart

“The Best of Mozart” 2 hour selection

Handel

“Water Music”

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Glenn Gould’s Version of Bach: Goldberg Variations

Friday, November 14th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Classical Music In the Morning

In response to yesterday’s query for favorite Bach tracks, Don Sucher emails:

This one for sure! :)

Bach

Bach Harpsichord Concertos BWV 1052,1053,1044, Richard Egarr

András Schiff playing Bach’s French Suites, French Overture, and Italian Concerto on piano

Mozart

“The Best of Mozart” 2 hour selection

Handel

“Water Music”

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What Are You Favorite Bach Recordings?

Thursday, November 13th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Classical Music In the Morning

Want to see something featured? Tweet your selections to @DaveSwindle. And here are the previous recordings included so far:

Bach

Bach Harpsichord Concertos BWV 1052,1053,1044, Richard Egarr

Mozart

“The Best of Mozart” 2 hour selection

Handel

“Water Music”

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What Are Your Favorite Classical Music Tracks Online?

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Classical Music In the Morning

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Star Spangled Banner Fantasy

Friday, July 4th, 2014 - by Charlie Martin

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5 Controversial Questions To Inspire Spirited Debates About Music

Saturday, May 17th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, crossposted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. Also check out the previous week’s writing prompts: 5 Geek Questions To Provoke Debates About the Future of Sci-Fi and Fantasy.

1. How Did Your Music Tastes Change As You Grew Older?

2. What Are the Most Overrated Beatles Songs?

3. Which Classical Music Recordings Do You Listen to The Most?

4. What Is the Most Under-appreciated Beatles Song?

5. Who Are the Most Disturbing Figures in Music History?

What pop culture questions do you want to debate and discuss? Please leave your suggestions for upcoming pop culture debates also in the comments or submit via email.

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Which Classical Music Recordings Do You Listen to The Most?

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

 shutterstock_106733855

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, crossposted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. Also check out Monday’s question “How Did Your Music Tastes Change As You Grew Older?,” yesterday’s provocation  ”What Are the Most Overrated Beatles Songs?,” and last week’s writing prompts: 5 Geek Questions To Provoke Debates About the Future of Sci-Fi and Fantasy.

David P. Goldman: Why Does Classical Music Make You Smarter?

What pop culture questions do you want to debate and discuss? Leave your suggestions for upcoming Pop Culture debates also.

Roger Kimball: Not Only My Favorite Interpreter of Bach, But Also My Favorite Pianist

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image via shutterstock /  Artem Furman

Updated May 16, 2014: A thoughtful response from Don Sucher who previously had some great things to say about pop music here:

One of the wonders of classical music is how far beyond the written score it can move while still staying entirely true to it.  This is so, not just in the many “styles” of interpreting that score — things that commonly change with time, culture and place — but even in the performances of individual interpreters as they go through life’s experiences.

Probably nowhere can such a change be heard as clearly as when listening to Glenn Gould’s recordings of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Indeed it was his 1955 recording of this then still fairly obscure set of variations that first brought Gould to the world’s attention. And it was with this same series of related pieces, done in a style that at times appears to be a complete repudiation of those early, famed, recordings, that Gould ended his recording career in 1981.

Sony’s remastered 3 CD release of both sets in 2002 (A State of Wonder: The Complete Goldberg Variations 1955 & 1981) gives a listener the opportunity to hear this musical change and growth for themselves, and to hear how youthful vigour can lead to one ‘take’ on the music while years of thoughtful meditation — the living of life — can eventually lead to quite another.

In Gould’s case, at least for this listener, the question “which interpretation is better?” can lead to a different answer from one day to the next. But so engrossing is this music in both performances, that simply asking the question (and using that as an excuse for one more careful listening to each!) is reward enough for asking it even if no definitive answer is found.

Large symphonic pieces, too, are open to such changes of interpretation.

This listener has spent endless hours over the better part of his lifetime trying to make the same judgment regarding just two of the many, many available recordings of Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony, the Eroica. And as was the case with the Gould Bach recordings these two favorites are early and later recordings by a single great artist — the Austrian conductor Karl Böhm.

His now hard to find 1962 recording of the Eroica — probably my favorite of all time — with the Berlin Philharmonic, is measured but exuberant. To call it “youthful” would be an exaggeration. (Böhm was 68 years old when it was recorded!), but vigorous it certainly is. Yet when one compares that performance with the more commonly available one he recorded with the Vienna Philharmonic just 10 years later (available on Deutsche Grammophon) it is a revelation. Here vigour, while by no means absent, is modified and restrained by a sense of thoughtfulness and deliberation.  -Changes not uncommon in an artist as he or she ages and grows.

I suppose that to the uninitiated the thought of listening to, much less owning, several recorded versions of any one particular piece of classical music may sound odd. But few would feel the same way about someone having numerous portraits of a single person they love, realizing that each can, and often does, reveal a unique aspect of that loved one’s character – aspects possible hidden in the rest.

Such is the power of love. And such, too, is the power of great art.

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‘To This Day Most ‘Pop’ Music Strikes Me as Very Teenagy.’

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, crossposted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. Also check out last week’s writing prompts: 5 Geek Questions To Provoke Debates About the Future of Sci-Fi and Fantasy.

A  response to Monday’s PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates! question: How Did Your Music Tastes Change As You Grew Older?

David,

A fascinating subject.

I do not think my personal journey is likely typical, but perhaps worth sharing none the less.

During the 1960s I was a working musician – one who entered the music scene a little ahead of the crowd (see http://www.60sgaragebands.com/abstracts.html) and saw some small success But for me by the early 1970s that was largely over.

In part my loss of interest in much that is called “pop” came from overexposure and, I suppose, disappointed hopes.

I’d done some interesting work, even post Abstracts, including writing and recording for motion pictures. But even at the time, entering my twenties, so much pop music seemed shallow. In its stead I focused on two things:  A return to my early love of classical music, particularly the symphonies of Beethoven and the keyboard works of Bach — these to satisfy the mind — and a turning towards roots music, be it in the form of Delta blues or the more modern Chicago variety — these to satisfy the spirit.

To this day most “pop” music strikes me as very teenagy. So much so that I have trouble understanding how any adult can find it of interest.

Of late I have again started to listen to music once classified as “pop,” but it is from the days when such music was aimed, not a teenagers, but at adults. Music of the Gershwins, for instance, and that of Cole Porter.

And this is, I think, the difference. Today everything in the “arts” seems to be aimed at children.

Broadway is largely re-dos of Disney animated films and rehashing the lives and music of teen musicians.

Once serious orchestras are doing film scores accompanying projected pop film images. -Something that was once seen merely an adjunct. (Think Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops).

Art museums, too, it seems, have lost their focus on anything that might appear serious or worse, “classical,” preferring to focus on such things as automobile design and fashion.

Yes, my tastes have changed.  I long ago decided to allow myself to “grow up.”

Don Sucher,
Peterborough, NH

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Not Only My Favorite Interpreter of Bach, But Also My Favorite Pianist

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014 - by Roger Kimball

Glenn Gould used to be my favorite interpreter of Bach. Since Simone Dinnerstein’s recordings of Bach began appearing, beginning with her Goldberg Variations in 2007, Gould has assumed the somewhat less exalted status as “one of my favorite interpreters” of Bach. My absolute favorite these past 6 or 7 years is Dinnerstein. Indeed, she is not only my favorite interpreter of Bach, she is my favorite pianist, period (if one can still enjoy that now-freighted locution.)

Membership, as the AMEX people keep telling you,  has its privileges. Last night, at a semi-secure undisclosed location, members of the Friends of The New Criterion, were thrilled to have Ms. Dinnerstein perform Schumann’s haunting “Kinderszenen,” the 13 “Scenes of Childhood” that Schumann wrote in 1838, followed by Bach’s “Inventions,” the 15 short pieces Bach wrote to introduce his children and students to the mysteries of counterpoint. (Ms. Dinnerstein has just released a CD of Bach’s Inventions and Sinfonias for Sony, and she often performs one or more of the Kinderszenen.) It was a magical evening, reminiscent of the evening some of us spent at Bill Buckley’s New York apartment in 2007 where Ms. Dinnerstein performed all 32 of the Goldberg Variations for a rapt audience.

I have written about Simone Dinnerstein in the space before (here, for example, and here). Last night’s performance prompts me to repeat what I wrote in 2008 after hearing her perform at Lincoln Center:

Perhaps the most ravishing musical experience of my life was listening to Simone Dinnerstein play Bach’s Goldberg Variations’s at the home of a friend in Manhattan last autumn. In the weeks before the performance, I had listened several times to a CD of Dinnerstein’s remarkable 2007 interpretation of the work, but hearing her en famille, as it were, in the intimate setting of a living room with a dozen friends dramatically heightened the experience.

But it was the performance as well as the setting that made the evening so special. Hitherto my gold standard for renditions of this majestic piece of music was Glenn Gould’s 1955 recording. (Gould made a second recording shortly before his death, age fifty, in the early 1980s.) I especially admired the astringent clarity and architecture of Gould’s playing. Gould burrowed deep into the structure of Bach’s music, revealing its bones and sinews. His astonishing technical command allowed him to exhibit latent conversations within the music, rhythmic and emotional exfoliations that elaborated themselves with pristine lucidity, like crystals forming and dissolving in an ice-cold, light-inflected mountain stream.

Dinnerstein’s Bach is a warmer, but no less lucid creature. Like Gould, Dinnerstein commands a breathtaking technical mastery. And like him, she has made the music her own. She does not simply play the Goldbergs. She inhabits them, moving through its 30 variations like the rising sun through the rooms of a palace. Each chamber is suddenly illuminated and its distinctive character gradually revealed as the light lingers in loving dialogue with the soul’s furniture. And just as each day’s light has its own discoveries and omissions, so it was with Dinnerstein’s performances of the Goldbergs. Anyone who had heard the CD of her performing the work would have instantly recognized her stamp on the performance that evening. But what was remarkable was how distinctive each rendition was: like a familiar landscape seen at noon and then again an hour before dusk.

Dinnerstein is a master of rubato–listen, for example, to the way she coaxes Variation 4 to unfold itself before us–but also she handles the presto passages with breathtaking aplomb: her joyful unpacking of Variation 14 is a case in point. Dinnerstein’s Bach is perhaps less cerebral than Gould’s, but no less intelligent. There is an amplitude to her convocations that Gould’s austerity wouldn’t countenance.

But I revisit Dinnerstein’s Goldbergs merely as a prelude to mentioning her performance yesterday at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center in New York. Her late-morning concert, part of the Center’s Great Performers series, included two preludes and fugues (numbers 9 in E-major and 3 in C-sharp-major) from book II of the Well-tempered Clavier, Beethoven’s Sonata 13 in E-flat major, and Eine Kleine Mitternachtmusik, a curious, amusing and bemusing work by the contemporary American composer George Crumb. As an encore, Dinnerstein played the lovely A-major intermezzo from Brahms’s opus 118 suite of piano pieces.

It was a memorable occasion. Dinnerstein’s signature combination of technical command and patient lusciousness informed every moment. Her playing is less idiosyncratic than Gould’s, but no less distinctive. Her taste – witness the Crumb – ranges widely, yet there is a clarifying purity to her playing that inoculates it against mannerism. Her personality touches and enlivens all she plays, but one always feels that the focus is on the music, not the music maker. This is true artistry, a sort of musical midwifery in which the point is not the performer but the thing performed. I hope you’ll have an opportunity to hear her (her concert schedule is posted here). You’ll certainly be hearing a lot more about her.

And so you, if you pay any attention at all to classical music, have.  Dinnerstein’s Goldbergs catapulted her to classical musical stardom, and her several subsequent CDs — I recommend in particular “Bach: A Strange Beauty” — have consolidated that impressive debut.

*****

Cross-posted from Roger’s Rules

image via bach-cantatas.com

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Why Does Classical Music Make You Smarter?

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013 - by David P. Goldman


Thirty-six million Chinese kids now study classical piano, not counting string and woodwind players. Chinese parents pay for music lessons not because they expect their offspring to earn a living at the keyboard, but because they believe it will make them smarter at their studies. Are they right? And if so, why?

The intertwined histories of music and mathematics offer a clue. The same faculty of the mind we evoke playfully in music, we put to work analytically in higher mathematics. By higher mathematics, I mean calculus and beyond. Only a tenth of American high school students study calculus, and a considerably smaller fraction really learn the subject. There is quite a difference between learning the rules of Euclidean geometry and the solution of algebraic equations: the notion that the terms of a convergent infinite series sum up to a finite number requires a different kind of thinking than elementary mathematics. The same kind of thinking applies to playing classical music. Don’t look for a mathematical formula to make sense of music: what higher mathematics and classical music have in common is not an algorithm, but a similar demand on the mind. Don’t expect the brain scientists to show just how the neurons flicker any time soon. The best music evokes paradoxes still at the frontiers of mathematics.

In an essay for First Things titled “The Divine Music of Mathematics,” just released from behind the pay wall, I show that the first intimation of higher-order numbers in mathematics in Western thought comes from St. Augustine’s 5th-century treatise on music. Our ability to perceive complex and altered rhythms in poetry and music, the Church father argued, requires “numbers of the intellect” which stand above the ordinary numbers of perception. A red thread connects Augustine’s concept with the discovery of irrational numbers in the 15th century and the invention of calculus in the 17th century. The common thread is the mind’s engagement with the paradox of the infinite. The mathematical issues raised by Augustine and debated through the Renaissance and the 17th-century scientific revolution remain unsolved in some key respects.

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Pianist Van Cliburn, Dead at 78

Thursday, February 28th, 2013 - by Charlie Martin

Picked this up from the Washington Post:

Cliburn was born Harvey Lavan Cliburn Jr. on July 12, 1934, in Shreveport, La., the son of oilman Harvey Cliburn Sr. and Rildia Bee O’Bryan Cliburn. At age 3, he began studying piano with his mother, herself an accomplished pianist who had studied with a pupil of the great 19th century Hungarian pianist Franz Liszt.

The family moved back to Kilgore within a few years of his birth.

Cliburn won his first Texas competition when he was 12, and two years later he played in Carnegie Hall as the winner of the National Music Festival Award.

My family had a music store when I was growing up, and Van Cliburn was generally considered a demigod at least by every piano teacher in the Southwest — the Texas boy who had beaten the Soviets at their own game, winning the First International Tchaikovsky Competition so decisively the Russians couldn’t deny it. I met him once when I was about 10, and vaguely recall that he seemed awfully young — he would have been about 36 — and that he seemed to have big hands.

He died of bone cancer in Fort Worth, where he made his home.

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Quote of the Day: Somtow Sucharitkul

Monday, February 11th, 2013 - by Charlie Martin

I want to believe that when i perform any piece of music, it is as if it is being heard for the first time. As if it was actually being composed as it is being played. This is because I am not really a conductor, I am a composer.

Yes, this is also Somtow Sucharitkul the science fiction writer.

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A Christmas Eve Musical Gift of Love

Monday, December 24th, 2012 - by Myra Adams
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On Christmas Eve, gather up your loved ones and to listen to Amy Grant sing Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song).

This is my favorite modern Christmas song and one I cannot listen to without tearing up.

The song takes you inside the mind and heart of the person who would become the world’s most revered Jewish teenage mother as she is about to give birth, in the most difficult of circumstances, to a baby she was chosen to bear — the One who will impact the world like no other.

Merry Christmas to all and especially those who truly love this mother and Baby.

 

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Jesus Is The Reason For The Season But He Influences Us Daily

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012 - by Myra Adams
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With over 40 million views, this video captures the essence of the article you are about to read.

A funny thing happened “on the way” as I was contemplating writing this piece. While listening to a Christian radio station the announcer said, “Jesus is the reason for the season.”

At that moment this very familiar phrase hit me like a thunderbolt. For not only is “Jesus the reason for the season,” but Jesus is the reason our world, nation, history, culture and society are the way they are.

So regardless of whether you believe in Jesus, practice another faith, or are devoid of faith, Jesus has impacted you by virtue of the fact that you are alive.

For no person has affected mankind – past, present and future –more than this Jewish teacher who lived over 2000 years ago, whose birth we will celebrate with great fanfare.

Although Jesus’ life, death and resurrection were the impetus behind His followers’ establishing Christianity, the world’s largest religion itself is only the starting point for the influence Jesus spawned in countless non-religious venues as people over the centuries were moved and motivated by Him to express themselves in a multitude of ways that we continue to see played out everyday across the planet.

With so many examples of Jesus Christ’s effect on mankind it is impossible to even mention them all in this short piece — the purpose of which is to not only enhance your celebration of “the reason for the season” but to also increase your awareness of just how much Jesus impacts the world around you every day of the year.

If after reading this piece you are moved to delve deeper into this topic, I recommend a book published in 1994 that has since become a “modern classic,” What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?, co-authored by the late Dr. D. James Kennedy and the still very much alive Jerry Newcombe.

This book had a profound influence on me as it oriented my thinking about Jesus in ways that I had never contemplated.

So here in alphabetical order is only a short, incomplete list of the most obvious “non-religious” aspects of how Jesus Christ has impacted the world.

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