Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Happy New Year from Your Friends at 90.9!

Happy New Year from Clef Notes and 90.9 WGUC, Cincinnati’s Classical Public Radio! If you’re looking for great music to accompany your New Year’s Day morning, join us from 11am until 1pm for the annual New Year’s Day from Vienna.

As we close up 2015 and enter the new year, we need your help. First, what were some of your favorite posts/topics discussed on Clef Notes in 2015? Second, are there any specific topics you would like to learn more about in 2016?

Thanks for your input and have a wonderful holiday!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Merry Christmas from 90.9 WGUC!

Needing some great music to accompany your holiday activities? Tune into 90.9 WGUC for excellent classical Christmas programming. You can also join us for several specials on the following days:

Monday, December 21, 7:00 PM
St. Olaf Christmas Festival: A service in song and word that has become one of the nation’s most cherished holiday celebrations. The festival includes hymns, carols, choral works, and orchestral selections celebrating the Nativity and featuring more than 500 student musicians who are members of five choirs and the St. Olaf Orchestra.

Tuesday, December 22, 6:00 PM
In Italia: A Renaissance Christmas from Venice, Naples, Milan, and Beyond: In the sixteenth-century, the splendor of the Renaissance blossomed across Italy as a new Holy Roman Empire stretched its wings from the Urals to the Atlantic. This special holiday edition of Harmonia brings listeners wonderful sixteenth-century Christmas music from the Venetian world of Giovanni Bassano and Gioseffo Zarlino, moving westward to the Milan of Franchinus Gaffurius, and southerly to the Naples of Diego Ortiz.

Wednesday, December 23, 7:00 PM
VAE Candlelit Christmas: Step inside from the bitterly cold Cincinnati winter to be enveloped in song and the warm glow of candlelight. VAE is proud to welcome Anton Armstrong of the world-famous St. Olaf Choir as guest conductor for a program featuring newly invigorated Christmas classics and stunning renditions of familiar favorites.

Thursday, December 24, 10:00 AM
A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols: A live service of spoken-word and music (choral and organ) broadcast from the chapel of King's College in Cambridge, England. The 30-voice King's College Choir performs the legendary Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols service of Biblical readings and music. Hosted by Michael Barone.

Thursday, December 24, 6:00 PM
A Chanticleer Christmas: A one-hour program of holiday favorites, new and old, presented live in concert by the superb 12-man ensemble known as "an orchestra of voices." Hosted by Brian Newhouse.

Friday, December 25, 6:00 PM
A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols: ENCORE

90.9’s Christmas programming is also available on our website or with the free mobile app for those tuning in from out of town or if you’re traveling during the holidays!

From all of your friends at 90.9 WGUC, have a very merry Christmas! 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Happy Birthday Beethoven!

Happy Birthday, Beethoven! In honor of this legendary composer’s special day, I thought it would be fun to gather a list of some of my favorite Beethoven works. This was more difficult than I anticipated, however, because really all of his works are great! Therefore, I limited myself to ten favorites. What would you add to the list?

Symphony No. 3 “Eroica”

Symphony No. 6 “Pastoral”

Symphony No. 7

Symphony No. 9 “Choral”

Piano Concerto No. 5 “Emperor”

Leonore Overture No. 3

Piano Sonata #8 "Pathetique"

Piano Sonata #17 "The Tempest"

Violin Concerto

Choral Fantasy

Check back later this week for some more Beethoven fun! 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Rachmaninoff's Etudes-Tableaux

Though not considered an innovative composer, Sergei Rachmaninoff had a knack for keeping the traditional in music fresh. His music combines Western influences with those of his native Russia. Though he made his primary living as a pianist, his compositional output is outstanding, ranging from works for piano, orchestra, and voice!

It is understandable why Rachmaninoff favored the piano in many of his compositions. He did not enjoy writing in a complex way, excluding other musicians. Rather, he made it a goal to explore the piano’s full capacity. One example is his Etudes-Tableaux, Op. 33 and 39 that he likely performed as showpieces. The first set of etudes (Op. 33) was completed in 1911 and the second (Op. 39) in 1917. Sadly, neither set was published during his lifetime. Listen below and note how they display the composer’s passion for the piano and its potential:

What is your favorite of Rachmaninoff’s piano works?

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Stars on the Stage: Sergei Rachmaninoff

Over the last several weeks we have looked at several composers who were also virtuosos of their time. Do you have a favorite who perhaps wasn’t mentioned? This week, let’s wrap things up by looking at the talented pianist and composer, Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873–1943).

Courtesy of
During his time, Rachmaninoff was known as a precise pianist whose interpretations of many of the great virtuosic pieces of the nineteenth century were superb. He found it difficult to simultaneously put his full self into both composing and performing, so often he would focus on one thing at a time. Below you can listen to Rachmaninoff perform one of his own works, Elegie Op. 3, No. 1. What a treat to be able to hear a piano roll of a true master!

Rachmaninoff began his studies with piano under his mother’s tutelage. He later went on to attend the St. Petersburg Conservatory where he remained until his parents separated, causing his grades to suffer. At that point, he moved to the Moscow Conservatory where he lived and studied with Nikolay Zverev. He met Tchaikovsky during this time, who would have a great influence on the young musician.

Join me next time as we learn more about Rachmaninoff as a composer! 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Clara Schumann Rediscovered

Clara Schumann was a piano virtuoso of her time, performing publicly beginning at age nine. Today, we also know Clara by her lovely compositions which, unfortunately, were forgotten following her death and not re-discovered until the twentieth century.

Nineteenth-century Germany was not exactly supportive of its women composers and Clara once wrote in her diary ‘I once thought that I possessed creative talent, but I have given up this idea; a woman must not desire to compose—not one has been able to do it, and why should I expect to?’

That being said, Clara did write quite a few reputable works that she likely performed during her career. Today, let’s look at her Piano Concerto in a minor, Op. 7—a work composed when she was just 13 and premiered at age 16 at the Leipzig Gewandhaus under the direction of Felix Mendelssohn. Robert Schumann, who was studying with Clara’s father at the time, helped the young girl with some of her orchestrations for this lyrical piece. You can listen below:

Can you believe this is the work of a child? 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Stars on the Stage: Clara Wieck Schumann

Clara Wieck Schumann (1819–1896) was the daughter of Friedrich Wieck who may have been instrumental in his daughter’s success, encouraging her as a virtuosic pianist from an early age. Her first public performance was at the age of nine and she was recognized as a leading pianist in Europe by the age of twenty. Unlike many performers at the time, Clara focused more on being true to the composer’s work rather than simply giving a showy performance. Touring throughout Europe as a child prodigy, Clara had many admirers including Goethe, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Paganini, and her future husband, Robert Schumann. 

Courtesy of

Robert Schumann met Clara when he began taking piano lessons from her father. Early on, she was actually the better known of the two! They were eventually married despite objections from Clara’s father. Amazingly, the talented Clara was able to continue to perform and compose while managing her eight children. After Robert passed away, she quit composing and focused on teaching and performing, promoting her late husband’s work.

Next time we’ll look at one of Clara’s own compositions that she likely performed publicly