Classical Music Exploration Club

You’ve heard of a book club, where people get together to discuss an assigned book that everyone in the group has read. Well, how about a music club? A music club would be a group of people who get together to listen to and discuss music. Unlike a book club, however, it wouldn’t be necessary for the participants to listen to the music prior to meeting.

I’d like to help start a Classical Music Exploration Club here in Tucson. We would need a place to meet that has decent audio equipment. We’d get together, say, once a month, and each month a member of the group would bring a favorite piece of music to share with the group. We’d all listen to the music, perhaps take some notes, and then discuss afterwards. The presenter-of-the-month would certainly have the opportunity to present information about the composer and the work both before and after the work is played.

I’m sure I’m not the only one in Tucson who is bursting at the seams with great music we’d love to share with others. Much of that music will be new and exciting for other members of the group, and that’s the idea. The pieces we’ve heard in live performance and even on the radio is but a small subset of all the great music that is out there, waiting to be heard and to be performed.

If you’d like to help me start a Classical Music Exploration Club here in Tucson (or elsewhere, for that matter), please post a comment here, or email me at doesper@icloud.com.


A little over a year ago, I created an online discussion group to showcase great classical music that is not currently available on CD. It is called Classical Music Little-Known Favorites and is on groups.io.

I realize that there probably aren’t a lot of people who are actively researching little-known works and composers, but it profoundly saddens me that after 15 months, our group only has three members, and I am the only one who has posted anything. Perhaps serious classical music enthusiasts are not familiar with groups.io, or the folks most likely to participate do not reside in the U.S., or they are not fluent in English, or…

Nothing would make me happier right now than to have at least one other person actively participating. Please join, or let others know about it.


A friend of mine recently told me (emphatically) that “Classical music is boring”. I told him that I agree that a lot of it is boring, but that there is so much that isn’t! He probably just hasn’t heard any of the “good stuff”. I grew up in the heady days for popular music in the 1960s and 1970s, and I still love a lot of rock and roll and “pop” music – especially from that era. But for me, popular music took a nosedive starting with the disco craze of the late 1970s, and since then I’ve turned increasingly towards classical music.

As much as I love rock and roll (especially The Beatles), the emotional response that that sort of music evokes in me is different than it is with classical music. When I listen to a great piece of rock music such as the medley at the end of Abbey Road, or Maybe I’m Amazed, it makes me feel happy, motivated, and alive. But only classical music can profoundly move me and bring tears to my eyes.


I’m at the age now where a lot of people I knew and admired in my youth are dying. Often, I’ll read an obituary of someone I worked with or casually knew outside of work, only to discover something fascinating about their background or an interest that we shared, and feeling sad that I never talked with them about x, y, or z.


It is so hard to get to know your neighbors these days. COVID-19 and its numerous variants, partisanship, and (for some of us) working remotely have acted to isolate us even further. Much of our interaction with other humans is of a superficial nature. This seems especially true for older adults. I now live in a large but beautiful gated community. It is obvious that a lot of thought and good planning went into designing it 20 years ago. And yet, we have a community swimming pool but alas no meeting room or common house.


Much to my delight, I now live in a neighborhood where the streets are well-maintained. Riding a bicycle is no longer a bone-jarring experience across “rubblized” pavement, as it was in Dodgeville (Wisconsin) and Alpine (Texas). Our HOA dues here are $43 per month, and much of that money goes towards resurfacing the streets every four years. As far as I’m concerned, it is money well spent. I wonder how many people living in Dodgeville or Alpine would be willing to pay a monthly fee of $43 per month (and probably less) to keep all their city streets in good condition?

Howard Goodall – Britain’s Treasured Music Communicator

Howard Goodall

Howard Goodall deserves a place within the pantheon of the world’s greatest documentary series presenters, among them Jacob Bronowski, Carl Sagan, David Attenborough, and Neil deGrasse Tyson. I first encountered Howard Goodall in 2017 when PBS Wisconsin aired his “Sgt. Pepper’s Musical Revolution” and I was wowed by his enthusiasm, knowledge of music, and presentation style. Since then, I’ve purchased several of his music documentary series (some of them are not currently available, at least not here in the U.S.), and there is no question he is not only a British treasure, but a world treasure.

If you want to obtain a deeper knowledge of the music theory behind classical and popular music, seek him out! You won’t be disappointed.


Sgt. Pepper’s Musical Revolution (2017)
DVD (includes Lennon/McCartney from Howard Goodall’s 20th Century Greats)


Howard Goodall’s The Story of Music (2013)

  1. The Popular Age
  2. The Age of Rebellion
  3. The Age of Tragedy
  4. The Age of Elegance & Sensibility
  5. The Age of Invention
  6. The Age of Discovery
    MP4 download – make your own DVD with Wondershare DVD Creator

Music Room with Howard Goodall (2010)

  1. Julian Lloyd Webber (cellist)
  2. Lang Lang (pianist)
  3. Nicola Beneditti (violinist)
  4. Alison Balsom (trumpeter)
  5. Leif Ove Andsnes (pianist)
  6. Emma Johnson (clarinetist)
  7. Natalie Clein (cellist)
  8. Evelyn Glennie (percussionist)
    Not currently available?

How Music Works (2006)

  1. Melody
  2. Rhythm
  3. Harmony
  4. Bass
    MP4 download – make your own DVD with Wondershare DVD Creator

Howard Goodall’s 20th Century Greats (2004)

  1. Lennon/McCartney
  2. Bernard Herrmann
  3. Leonard Bernstein
  4. Cole Porter
    DVD

Howard Goodall’s Great Dates (2002)

  1. 1564
  2. 1791
  3. 1874
  4. 1937
    Not currently available?

Howard Goodall’s Big Bangs (2000)

  1. The Thin Red Line: Guido of Arezzo & the Invention of Notation
  2. The Inventing of Opera
  3. Accidentals will happen: The Invention of Equal Temperament
  4. Bartolomeo Cristofori and his Amazing Loud and Soft Machine
  5. Mary and her Little Lamb: The Invention of Recorded Sound
    DVD

Howard Goodall’s Choir Works (1998)

  1. Bulgaria & Estonia
  2. Nashville
  3. South Africa
  4. Oxford
    DVD

Howard Goodall’s Organ Works (1997)

  1. Medieval Organs
  2. Baroque Organs
  3. 19th Century
  4. Contemporary
    DVD

Tucson Classical Music Performances 2023

Here’s a comprehensive list of live classical music performances in Tucson for the year 2023 where the program of composers and works has been published. I will keep this Excel document regularly updated. Please post a comment if anything should be added or changed.

I’ve included a column called “Dave’s Faves” which notes the works I am already familiar with and that I highly recommend. This is subjective, of course, but I hope this will help some of you in deciding which concerts to attend.

Happy Listening!

Tucson Classical Music Performances 2023

Click here for 2022 concerts.

Sources
Tucson Symphony Orchestra
Arizona Friends of Chamber Music
University of Arizona Fred Fox School of Music
Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra
Civic Orchestra of Tucson
Tucson Repertory Orchestra
True Concord, Voices & Orchestra
Arizona Opera

Sibelius Violin Concerto

The Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) aspired to be a virtuoso violinist, but abandoned that career because he felt that he had begun his “training for the exacting career of a virtuoso too late.” But it must have been some consolation that his violin concerto of 1904/1905—his only concerto—is one of the most inspired works of that genre in the repertoire.

There are many fine recordings of the Sibelius Violin Concerto, but one I am especially fond of is a 1951 recording with Isaac Stern and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham.

Here’s the conclusion of the work, nicely illustrating the passion and energy of this performance by Stern and Beecham’s Royal Philharmonic despite the primitive recording technology available at the time. Just goes to show that there were some remarkable recordings made more than 70 years ago!

Conclusion of the 1951 recording of Isaac Stern playing the Sibelius Violin Concerto with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Thomas Beecham, conducting

While we’re on the topic of violin concertos, here are the best I’ve heard, in chronological order of their composition. Seek them out and enjoy!

Concerto for 2 Violins in D minor, BWV 1043 – Johann Sebastian Bach (c. 1730)

Violin Concerto in D major, op. 61 – Ludwig van Beethoven (1806)

Violin Concerto in E minor, op. 64 – Felix Mendelssohn (1844)

Violin Concerto No. 8 in D major, op. 99 – Charles-Auguste de Bériot (c. 1845)

Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, op. 26 – Max Bruch (1867)

Violin Concerto in D major, op. 77 – Johannes Brahms (1878)

Violin Concerto in D major, op. 35 – Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1878)

Violin Concerto in A minor, op. 53 – Antonín Dvořák (1879)

Violin Concerto in D minor, op. 47 – Jean Sibelius (1905)

Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, op. 19 – Sergei Prokofiev (1917)

Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, op. 63 – Sergei Prokofiev (1935)

Violin Concerto, op. 14 – Samuel Barber (1939)

Violin Concerto in D minor – Aram Khachaturian (1940)

Violin Concerto in D major, op. 35 – Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1945)

Violin Concerto in C major, op. 48 – Dmitry Kabalevsky (1948)

And, outstanding violin concerto movements:

Intermezzo (Poco adagio) [2nd & final movement] from Violin Concerto, op. 33 – Carl Nielsen (1911)

Sicilienne (Andantino) [2nd movement] from Concierto de estío, for violin and orchestra – Joaquín Rodrigo (1943)

Curious as to why so many violin concertos are written in the key of D major? I was.

“D major is well-suited to violin music because of the structure of the instrument, which is tuned G D A E. The open strings resonate sympathetically with the D string, producing a sound that is especially brilliant. This is also the case with all other orchestral strings.” – Wikipedia entry for D major

Tucson Classical Music Performances 2022

Here’s a comprehensive list of live classical music performances in Tucson for the year 2022 where the program of composers and works has been published. I will keep this Excel document regularly updated. Please post a comment if anything should be added or changed.

I’ve included a column called “Dave’s Faves” which notes the works I am already familiar with and that I highly recommend. This is subjective, of course, but I hope this will help some of you in deciding which concerts to attend.

Happy Listening!

Tucson Classical Music Performances 2022

Click here for 2023 concerts.

Sources
Tucson Symphony Orchestra
Arizona Friends of Chamber Music
University of Arizona Fred Fox School of Music
Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra
Civic Orchestra of Tucson
Tucson Repertory Orchestra
True Concord, Voices & Orchestra
Arizona Opera

Korngold & The Prince and the Pauper

Robert J. Mauch and Errol Flynn in The Prince and the Pauper, 1937

Sometimes you hear a piece of film music that is so good that it makes you want to see the film. That is certainly what brought me to the 1937 film adaptation of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper. Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957) wrote the film score for The Prince and the Pauper. Here is the Main Title:

André Previn and the London Symphony Orchestra (Deutsche Grammophon 289 471 347-2)

Korngold reused this theme in his wonderful Violin Concerto of 1945:

André Previn and the London Symphony Orchestra; Gil Shaham, violin
(Deutsche Grammophon 439 886-2)

Erich Wolfgang Korngold was a Viennese compositional wunderkind whose father was the overbearing Julius Leopold Korngold (1860-1945), chief music critic for the Neue Freie Presse and the most influential music critic in all of Vienna during Erich’s formative years. (Another Leopold was also an overbearing father to another extraordinarily talented child prodigy whose middle name was Wolfgang.) Undoubtedly molded by his father’s extreme distaste for atonal modernism, young Erich developed a style that was tonal and melodic. However, the classical music world was “evolving” away from tonality and Romanticism, and as often happens with composers who write new music using an old idiom, they are largely ignored or, worse yet, forgotten. Fortunately, Erich Wolfgang Korngold was discovered by Hollywood where his tonal music was appreciated, and he went on to write scores for sixteen Hollywood films to great acclaim. He also wrote a great deal of classical music not associated with films that has been neglected for decades and only recently is receiving a fresh hearing and long-overdue appreciation.

The Prince and the Pauper, starring Billy & Bobby Mauch, Errol Flynn, Claude Rains, Phyllis Barry, and many other notable actors, is a delightful movie suitable for the entire family. Highly recommended!

Classics by Request

One of the joys of my life right now is tuning in to “Classics by Request” on Wisconsin Public Radio each Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. This program has been on the air at WPR since 1980, and Ruthanne Bessman has been superbly hosting the program since 1999. When Ruthanne is away, Anders Yocom fills in and he is outstanding as well.

What makes this program work is that it occurs at a convenient time for most people, is a live call-in request program, offers a web form for your request with an area for a short narrative that can be read on air, and allows you to use the web form or call in at any time in advance of the program. And, importantly, the host reads your first name and city immediately before and after each request is played.

During a lifetime of listening to classical music, I’m bursting at the seams with great music I’d like to share with others, so I’m a regular contributor to “Classics by Request” and identified on air as “David in Dodgeville”.

We should never take for granted our classical music stations. During my years in central Iowa 1970-2005, WOI-FM 90.1 in Ames was one of the best classical stations in the country. I will never forget Doug Brown, Jake Graves, Mike Gowdy, Karen Bryan, Curt Snook, Hollis Monroe, and Rachel Jeffries, and the profoundly positive effect they had on my life and my love of classical music. I fondly remember the live request program on WOI-FM where they devoted an entire evening each week (7-11 p.m.) to classical music requests and played entire works and not just excerpts. Tragically, the WOI-FM I knew and loved is no more. It was absorbed a few years ago into Iowa Public Radio and the special magic is gone. A few listeners have tried to pick up the pieces and recreate some of the magic of the original WOI-FM on KHOI-FM Community Radio 89.1.

In my opinion, every metropolitan area and geographic region should have a radio station that primarily plays classical music and has at least one “local” on-air classical music host. (Depending on a national feed for all of your music depersonalizes the experience for me and many other listeners.) Each of these stations should have a “Classics by Request” program.

To be most effective and enjoyable, a “Classics by Request” program should have the following features:

  • Air at one or more convenient times for most people (Saturday or Sunday mid-morning to early afternoon, or Monday-Thursday evenings)
  • Be long enough so that an entire work can be played in addition to movements or sections of a work
  • Web request form that includes a section for notes about the work being requested (WPR has a great example of this)
  • Offer both phone-in and web-form options during a live call-in program, and at any time before the program
  • Play any particular work no more often than once per month
  • Identify the requester on air before and after the work is played, by first name and city, unless the requester wishes to remain anonymous; in cities with a lot of requesters, the requester could be identified using their first name and the first letter of their last name (e.g., David O.), or even a “handle”
  • Include relevant and accurate information about the work and composer that the requester provides, on-air
  • The requester should know when their requested work will be played (date and program)

As I prepare to move to Tucson, Arizona to be closer to family and an active classical music scene with volunteer music education and symphony support opportunities, I am disappointed to see that Arizona Public Media Classical 90.5 FM does not appear to have a call-in request program. Hopefully, I can successfully encourage them to add such a program. If not, I’d be interested in working with others to create a listener-supported classical music station in Tucson that frequently features requests, including recordings provided by listeners. I’d also like to host an on-air program each week, and I have a large classical music library to draw upon for that program.


Here is a list of U.S. classical stations that have request programs.

WFMT • Chicago, IL
Saturdays 8-9 a.m.

Interlochen Public Radio • Interlochen, MI
Saturdays 9 a.m. – noon

Illinois Public Media
Saturdays 9-11 a.m.

Wisconsin Public Radio
Saturdays 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. (noon during Metropolitan Opera season)
Plays shorter works or portions of longer works
Host: Ruthanne Bessman (sometimes Anders Yocom)

WFYI, HD2 • Indianapolis, IN
Sundays 6-7 p.m.

KHOI • Ames, IA
Mondays 8-10 a.m.
Rebroadcast Sundays 6-8 a.m.
“Paul is the one Morning Masterpieces host who will take music requests during live shows. He likes to play music by living composers, obscure works of classical music, and works that push the boundaries of ‘classical music’.”

WRTI • Philadelphia, PA
Wednesdays 12-3 p.m.

Radio Kansas • Hutchinson, KS
Fridays 9 a.m. – noon

Nebraska Public Media
Fridays 1-4 p.m.

KVNO • Omaha, NE
Fridays 2-4 p.m.

Minnesota Public Radio
Fridays 3-7 p.m.

WWNO • New Orleans, LA
Weekdays 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

WSMC • Collegedale, TN
Southern Adventist University
Weekdays 12-1 p.m.

KUSC • Los Angeles, CA
Weekdays 3-5 p.m.

KFMA • Austin, TX
Weekdays 6-7 p.m.

WCPE • Wake Forest, NC
Fridays 9-10 p.m.
Saturdays 6 p.m. – midnight

WNED Classical • Buffalo, NY
Weekdays 7:30 a.m. – one “Off to School” request
Weekdays 5 p.m. – one “Oasis of Sanity” request

Iowa Public Radio
“On the last Friday of the month IPR Classical plays requests”
1-5 p.m.

KDFC • San Francisco, CA
“Due to the volume of requests, unfortunately, we won’t be able to let you know when your request will be played.”

Brahms – Symphony No. 3

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

If I had to choose a single favorite composer, it would have to be Johannes Brahms. Among his many works, he wrote four symphonies, and every one of them is an absolute treasure. The only other composer that wrote at least four symphonies that shares that distinction, in my opinion, is Robert Schumann. Every one of Robert Schumann’s four symphonies is also a treasure. If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to listen carefully to all eight of these symphonies. Robert Schumann’s profound musical influence on Brahms is frequently evident.

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Symphony No. 1 in B♭ Major (1841)
Symphony No. 2 in C Major (1846)
Symphony No. 3 in E♭ Major (1850)
Symphony No. 4 in D minor (1841; 1851)

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Symphony No. 1 in C minor (1855-1876)
Symphony No. 2 in D Major (1877)
Symphony No. 3 in F Major (1883)
Symphony No. 4 in E minor (1884)

One of the joys of collecting classical CDs for many years is going back to some of the older recordings in the music library and falling in love with them all over again. This week, it was a 1983 Deutsche Grammophon disc (410 083-2) of Leonard Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic performing the Brahms Third Symphony, and the Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn. The premiere of the Brahms Symphony No. 3 was 100 years earlier by this same orchestra, on 2 December 1883. The conductor was Hans Richter.

The Brahms Third Symphony is a masterful work by a mature and confident composer, full of interesting musical ideas and—if you listen carefully—some adventuresome idiosyncrasies.

In the first bars of the first movement, the symphony’s noble main theme is introduced, profound and inspired.

Brahms – Symphony No. 3: I. Allegro con brio (beginning)

Ambivalence resolves to tenderness at the conclusion of the second movement.

Brahms – Symphony No. 3: II. Andante (ending)

This excerpt from the third movement shows how Brahms moves gracefully from one musical idea to the next, propelling us forward to unexpected places and always holding our interest. It has been suggested that the rhythmic dissonance of the “bouncy” passages was inspired by Brahms’ fondness for Romani (gypsy) music.

Brahms – Symphony No. 3: III. Poco Allegretto (excerpt)

At the end of the symphony we return to the theme introduced at its beginning, now gloriously transformed, and surely transformative for the listener.

Brahms – Symphony No. 3: IV. Allegro (ending)

This fine CD by Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic concludes with the Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn, written ten years earlier, in 1873. Notably, this work also received its premiere by the Vienna Philharmonic, on 2 November 1873, conducted by Johannes Brahms himself.

Unknown to Brahms (or anyone at the time), the “Chorale St. Antoni” theme upon which this work was based was probably not written by Joseph Haydn. Its origins remain a mystery.

The “Chorale St. Antoni” theme is followed by eight variations, and then a finale. The sixth variation is my favorite:

Brahms – Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn, op. 56a, Variation VI: Vivace

Classical Music Little-Known Favorites

I’ve been seriously listening to classical music—both through live performance and recordings—for nearly 50 years, and am always surprised to find that I still discover or am introduced to works that are new to me and extraordinarily moving. “How can I have gone so many years without discovering this?” I often ask myself when I hear such a piece. Often, these “new” works are by well-known composers, but sometimes they are by composers I have never heard of. And, of course, some of them are new works by living composers.

For example, in 2017, I created a continuously-updated blog entry for “Symphonies by Women” because I was embarrassed to admit I couldn’t name a single one off the top of my head. Well, as you can see there are hundreds, and some of the few I have had the privilege to hear are really good.

There is an enormous amount of unknown music out there, and if only 1% of this unknown music is first-rate, then there must be hundreds of composers and thousands of works that deserve more attention. In France, Thanh-Tâm Le, who has recently helped me so much with this list of symphonies by women, has compiled a larger list of almost 18,000 symphonies by both men and women, and that is only symphonies!

Do you have some favorite classical works (both new and old) that you only know through a live performance or a non-commercial recording? Do you have some favorite works on vinyl or CD that are not currently available on CD? I know I do.

I’ve created a discussion group on groups.io called Classical Music Little-Known Favorites where I hope you and others will post audio files, YouTube videos, etc., of little-known works that you are enamored of. My hope for this group is that music lovers all around the world will join and present new and neglected works for us to enjoy and champion. Please join and spread the word!

Classical Music Link List – Arizona, New Mexico, West Texas

Here is a list of all things classical-music-related in Arizona, New Mexico, and West Texas. If you have additional links to add or see an existing link that needs to be changed or removed, please post a comment!

The two abiding interests in my life have been astronomy and classical music. I guess you could call me a professional listener, although I do have a pretty decent tenor voice and would love to sing in a secular mixed choir again. I have aspirations of hosting my own classical music program at a public radio station, or at least providing recordings and commentary. I served several years on the board of the Ames International Orchestra Festival Association (AIOFA), including two terms as board president. It was a great experience bringing fine orchestras from all over the world to C.Y. Stephens Auditorium in Ames, Iowa and hosting them during their stay. I love symphony orchestras (chamber music, too!), and would be very happy to serve in a similar capacity during my active retirement years. Or volunteering at a university music department that has a symphony orchestra. While living in Ames, I had the opportunity to attend many wonderful faculty and student recitals.

I have family in West Texas, so am looking to relocate to be closer to them. Would love to connect with the classical music scene somewhere in this tri-state area, so if you know of any good volunteer opportunities, please let me know!