OH, THE FINALS WEEK ORGY

Among the gifts I received at Christmas was a tablet laptop, with the expectation I’d be using especially for Kindle editions – including my own ebooks.

But so far what I’ve really appreciated is its ability to stream music.

For me, that’s meant Q2’s New Sounds and Operavore from WQXR in New York and WHRB from Harvard University in Cambridge.

With solid jazz from 5 a.m. till 1 p.m. and some adventurous classical continuing till 10 p.m., plus the Metropolitan Opera on Saturday afternoons and another opera on Sunday night, my listening is mostly on the Harvard station. Admittedly, the student announcers can be unintentionally amusing in their pronunciations and amateurish touches, but I usually find that more amusing than annoying.

This spring, though, I finally got to experience an amazing tradition on the station – the finals week Orgy, when the regular programming is set aside for in-depth presentations of specific composers or performers.

This one, for example, celebrated the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth by presenting just about all of his compositions that have been recorded – some from his high school years – as well as a hefty slice of works under his baton and the aural portion of his televised Young People’s concerts, one a day – over a five-day span. There was also an insightful Florence Price orgy, and a Rossini opera every noontime in observance of the 150th anniversary of his death.

There was also a presentation of the entire discography of jazz pianist Fred Hersch, an Overshadowed round on outstanding composers or performers who are less famous than others in their family (conductor Paavo Jarvi got good play with the Cincinnati Symphony), the complete recorded works of Edvard Grieg in celebration of his 175th birthday. Quite simply, I’m looking at all of them in a much broader and appreciative light now.

It’s not all classical, either, not by a long shot. One fascinating series was titled “Why Does Everybody Hate Disco?” while another, reflecting an inclination for some truly arcane indulgences, was “Yang Haisong and the Chinese Indie Scene.” There was much, much more.

Quite simply, I’m left wondering why more radio stations don’t go in for this kind of excess more often. It’s exciting – and, yes, it can also be satiating, boring, or too much, just as I suppose a Roman orgy would be – but, my, I found myself carrying that tablet with me through my chores around the house. I anticipated what was coming up, rather than expecting more of the same as you find on most cookie-cutter programming.

So what are you listening to? And why? Any recommendations, especially when it comes to streaming? We’re all ears.

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PRELUDE & FUGUE 28/

an elephant with flowers painted around the eyes and painted toenails four zebras sipping water *   *   * luxurious green tent on safari white bone ornaments through noses armed for the hunt and cocktails already served three African bushmen in a field of wrinkled flesh eyelid (the elephant) the rain is needed, sticky or no […]

THE SILENCE IN BEETHOVEN

When it comes to the fine arts, we love our biographies of tortured genius, and Ludwig van Beethoven serves the storytellers admirably. Baptized December 17, 1770, in Bonn, his tempestuous and tragic life was one of failed love affairs, strained friendships, and especially the deafness that accompanied his greatest musical achievements. And yet many of us find him not only speaking for us but also extending inspiration in the quest for fullness and fidelity.

In part it’s a story of the way Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven reestablish the center of classical music, centering it in the German-speaking world far from its Italian roots and the Renaissance genius of Monteverdi and Palestrina.

As I discussed earlier this year, Beethoven’s popularity rests largely on works that he wrote in the second half of his life, past the age of Mozart’s death, the years that encompass what are known as his Middle (or Heroic) and Late periods. The years accompanied by deafness.

For much of my life, I’ve not been alone in finding that what most appealed to me were the works from the Middle period – the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Ninth symphonies, the violin and “Emperor” piano concertos, the Rasumovsky string quartets – stirring works raging with dramatic struggle and promised victory. With all of their emotional parallels to athletic contests, these have justifiably ensured his enduring public adoration.

More recently, though, they’ve given way in my estimation as the Late period works have risen in preference. Quite simply, these have never been considered all that accessible. Many of them defiantly turn their back on the audience in a pursuit of boldly intricate, often extended, musical puzzles that plumb the depths of human despair, loneliness, resolve, as well as lofty heights. Indeed, for years the assumption has been that these are not for public consumption but are rather reserved for private investigation among the cognoscenti, should they be so honored.

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CURTAINS

to embrace something with the wisdom of the final round people crowding the boulevard in Baltimore to watch Robert Kennedy’s funeral train pass overhead in that portrait of seven famed figures Annie, turned to stone under a blue-jay feather how that small town in snow looks more like Pennsylvania or Midwest than New England Blake, […]