Ted Weiner

Leonard Bernstein & The Meaning of Music/Life

“What does music mean?”

That was the premise of the very first Leonard Bernstein “Young People’s Concert” televised live on CBS-TV, January 18th, 1958 – exactly one week after my second birthday.

For all I know, my parents sat with all five of us little kids in front of the TV that night. Both my parents were fans of classical music and always encouraged arts appreciation.

In all, Leonard Bernstein, arguably the greatest American music man…conductor-composer-teacher-pianist, hosted a total of 53 Young People’s Concerts on live TV between 1958 and 1972, first from Carnegie Hall and later (from 1962 on), from the Philharmonic Hall in the glistening new Lincoln Center. These performances inspired generations of music lovers and musicians the world over, and continue to do so now that the entire series is available on DVD.

So…what does music mean? Well, as the Maestro would say, music can mean different things to different people. Music can make one feel uplifted and inspired or even sad and melancholy. Different people can feel different emotions from the same piece of music. And just because someone may feel differently about a piece of music than you do, that does not make what the other person is feeling wrong. The power of music is subjective and every individual listener is entitled to his or her own perspective about the music.

As we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Leonard Bernstein, it is difficult to underestimate the impact that Bernstein had in the world of music in his 50-year career. Whether he was composing concert music, chamber music, ballet, opera, or Broadway musicals; conducting the New York Philharmonic or the Vienna Philharmonic or other orchestras around the world; or teaching and lecturing, Leonard Bernstein’s over-sized personality and passion for people and music is an example that comes along only once in anybody’s lifetime. And as great as his talent was, it was able to shine bright despite the challenges of his own common human frailties and insecurities. He smoked one hundred cigarettes a day and drank his first scotch of the day during breakfast, whether that be in the morning or afternoon. He was a terribly flawed human being who also happened to be a musical and intellectual genius beloved by millions around the world. But, it was about eight years before he died that Bernstein lamented to his assistant one lonely night, “People love me for what I do, not for what I am.” Perhaps the Maestro was asking himself, “What does life mean?”



This month WDAV has been putting the spotlight on some of the musical Legends of the past and present.

There were many great talents of the 20th century who laid the solid groundwork for the current generation of composers, musicians and conductors.

Every day this month we’ve been sharing classic recordings from the likes of violinist Jascha Heifetz, who parlayed a Hollywood-saavy marketing presence to help expand the popularity of classical music in the mid-20th century; pianist Artur Rubinstein, regarded as the greatest Chopin interpreter of the 20th century and whose 80-year high-profile career is unparalleled in music history; composer-conductor-pianist Leonard Bernstein, who deftly melded his encyclopedic knowledge of music with his outgoing personality to become classical music’s highest profile ambassador on TV from the 1950’s through the 1970’s; and international piano hero Van Cliburn, who single-handedly supplied a warm comforter at the height of the Cold War when he triumphed at the first Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow in 1958.

These figures and many others inspired generations of young musicians who have grown to become today’s living legends, such as violinists Itzhak Perlman and Anne-Sophie Mutter, pianists Daniel Barenboim, Mitsuko Uchida and Andre Watts.

Hear these and many more legendary artists’ recordings in special spotlights every day until Thanksgiving on your Classical Companion 89.9 WDAV and WDAV.org.

The Cypress String Quartet’s Commitment

Commitment is important if any kind of relationship is to have lasting value. When a group of people band together and commit themselves to a common goal the results can be simply remarkable. We see this in music quite often, whether it is within an orchestra or a chamber ensemble.

The successful string quartet, for example, consists of four musicians who have formed an alliance in order to achieve a common goal that all four individuals have realized make up the center of their collective being. Yes, it is a very emotional commitment, indeed. For it is the emotional commitment to excellence that results in such ensembles as San Francisco’s Cypress String Quartet. For the past twenty years violinists Cecily Ward and Tom Stone, violist Ethan Filner and cellist Jennifer Kloetzel have set new standards for community outreach with their neighborhood concerts as well as the commissioning of new works from leading contemporary composers in their numerous “Call and Response” projects. And with a repertoire of 18th and 19th century music from composers such as Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms and Dvorak to 20th and 21st century composers as Schulhoff, Griffes, Lees, Higdon, Puts and others, the Cypress String Quartet has built a reputation on both sides of the Atlantic as one of this generation’s finest American ensembles.

But, the time has now come for the individual members of the CSQ to finally pursue personal paths that has brought them to the necessary but difficult decision to disband at the end of June 2016.

As part of the final farewell season the CSQ concentrated on one particular portion of their emotional and artistic center…that being the sixteen Beethoven String Quartets. They performed the complete cycle in an historic series of European concerts last Fall. They also wrapped up their complete Beethoven recordings with the just released set of the six Op. 18 Early Quartets on the Avie label. And as of this writing (early May 2016) the CSQ is giving a big “Thank You” to their host city of San Francisco by presenting a two week series of free neighborhood concerts throughout the City presenting all sixteen of Beethoven’s string quartets. From St. Anthony’s Dining Room for a lunchtime group of citizens in need…to the City Hall Rotunda…to a city library…to the site of the old Sutra Bath ruins…to Mission Dolores Park near where the city of San Francisco was founded, and many other venues encompassing the many districts of the City. This is truly yet another historic accomplishment by the Cypress String Quartet.

Here is the May 4th report on the CSQ’s Facebook page regarding their opening performance held at the St. Anthony’s Dining Room:

“Our kickoff event for Beethoven In The City was a success today! Yay! The patrons (most of whom were eating their lunch) stayed after to talk with us, and we heard stories from many people about their experience while listening. The most poignant tale came from a patron who was sitting next to a man who began to cry as he listened. He said to his neighbor, ‘This just makes me cry. I’m homeless; most of us are in here. We don’t contribute to society. We don’t deserve this music….’To which the neighbor told him, ‘Of course you do. It’s called mercy and grace…enjoy it.'”

They may be disbanding, but the memory of the CSQ’s commitment to community and artistic excellence will live on in the memories of those who attended their live performances and listen to their masterful recordings. WDAV will certainly keep the CSQ’s mission alive with airings of their recordings for many years to come.

If you plan on being in San Francisco between now and May 19th do try to catch at least one of their free Beethoven concerts.

Purchase the new CSQ Beethoven album

feature photo by Basil Childers

Must-Have New Release: BEETHOVEN. Period.

There are things we enjoy all our lives yet usually take for granted. Things like fresh air, clean water. And there’s something else we may take for granted: Music. While it might not jeopardize our physical health right away if it disappeared, it certainly would affect us emotionally.

Music stirs the emotions greatly and actually can affect the overall state of our health. That is one reason why a new album of Beethoven’s complete music for cello and piano has certainly stirred my emotional juices and added to the overall quality of my days.

BEETHOVEN PeriodI admit that for awhile until recently I had not been paying much attention to Beethoven’s cello sonatas and sets of variations. Granted, I am never unaware of the presence of the recordings of these works we have in the WDAV library. But, recently I feel cellist Matt Haimovitz and pianist Christopher O’Riley (host of public radio’s “From the Top” show), who have been touring the country performing Beethoven’s five cello sonatas and the three sets of variations, have taken these masterpieces to a whole new level.

The title of this new double CD set is, BEETHOVEN. Period. Just Beethoven. No elevated pyrotechnics for show-off’s sake. Read between the lines of the album’s title and you will find Matt Haimovitz with his beloved Venetian 1710 Goffriller cello outfitted with ox-gut strings and an early 19th-century rosewood tailpiece, and an equally precious bow from the same period. Christopher O’Riley plays an original 1823 Broadwood fortepiano. These are the types of instruments thoroughly familiar to Beethoven and his musician friends. Whatever inner processes Matt and Chris have developed, they have channeled themselves back to Beethoven and his time to give us a seemingly true sense of the performance sound Beethoven must have heard. Yes, the first two sonatas and the variations sets Beethoven wrote before he went deaf, so I certainly do imagine old Ludwig van hearing these truly authentic performances by Matt and Chris.

The Beethoven Sonatas hold an exalted place in the cello repertoire alongside Bach’s Solo Cello Suites, and these two powerful musicians remind us that we must not take these works for granted. And these remarkable performances will strengthen your overall sense of being. After all, it’s BEETHOVEN. Period.

Hear recent WDAV Performance/Chats by Matt Haimowitz and Christopher O’Riley:

Gift Ideas for Music Lovers

Over the past several months I have noted on these very pages some recently released albums that I feel you may very well enjoy adding to your personal collection, items worthy enough to have handy anytime to pop into your home or car players, or even to download into your smart devices. And as 2014 draws to a close, there are two more items that I can’t wait to recommend as gifts to yourself or to a friend or loved one.

Beethoven: The Middle String Quartets – Cypress String Quartet

Cypress String Quartet BeethovenEarlier I had extolled high praise for San Francisco’s enormously gifted Cypress String Quartet and their Schubert Quintet with cellist Gary Hoffman, a recording receiving international praise, as do all of the CSQ’s albums. But now, hot on the heels of the Schubert, comes the CSQ’s next installment of their masterful Beethoven cycle. With their Late Quartets set already a favorite of Beethoven aficionados, the CSQ has tackled the equally challenging Middle Quartets with extra aplomb, making for another three-CD set, Beethoven: The Middle String Quartets, that critics universally declare as some of the best performances currently available. And who am I to disagree? If you love Beethoven then you will simply flip over these performances.

Christmas in New York – Renée Fleming

Many famous opera singers have recorded Christmas albums over the years, from Leontyne Price to Luciano Pavarotti to Thomas Hampson to Kathleen Battle and many others. Wildly popular soprano Renée Fleming explains that she had never done a Christmas album before because she felt that Leontyne Price’s landmark 1961 album set such a high standard that she could not possibly meet.

Fleming Christmas in New YorkHowever, since Renée has long proven herself quite adept in varying styles of singing, she realized that with the help of expert musicians and producers, she could create a truly intimate jazz-flavored Christmas album of popular Christmastime songs. The new album is called, Christmas in New York and has already shot to the top of the charts with the help of her musical cohorts Wynton Marsalis, Gregory Porter, Kelli O’Hara, Brad Mehldau, and other popular jazz artists of today. And although the album is presented in a jazz setting, WDAV’s classical music listeners who truly appreciate great singing and phrasing surely will appreciate this album for its masterful artistry.

As for the current Christmas holiday season, you are afforded many great ideas for Christmas Music shopping simply by listening to WDAV. But, for an immediate and concise listing of high quality albums for the holidays simply go to WDAV’s online store partner, ArkivMusic.com for all your Christmas music shopping needs.


Ted WeinerTed Weiner is a WDAV veteran. This San Francisco Bay Area native has been on the WDAV airwaves since November 1986 when he arrived in Charlotte from New York City and began working as a weekend and all-round fill-in announcer. He became Music Director in 1991 and has been maintaining the WDAV recording library and choosing much of the music we hear ever since. Night owls and early birds can hear Ted Weiner on WDAV from midnight until 5 each morning on WDAV’s Early Shift on 89.9fm or online.

Must-Have New Release: Lara St. John’s Schubert

I am sure at some point or another you have mumbled in frustration to yourself the old adage, “If you want something done right, do it yourself!” In recent years, a number of classical musicians and orchestras have turned their mumbling frustrations into bold actions of independence by eschewing the traditional corporate world of recording contracts and founding their own private indie labels. In the United States alone, such major orchestras as the Chicago, Boston, Seattle, and San Francisco Symphonies have created their own house labels to record albums and digital downloads featuring their own artistic choices and calendar schedules. The same can be said for such solo artists as violinist Gil Shaham and his Canary Classics label, cellist Matt Haimovitz and his Oxingale label, as well as violinist Lara St. John and her Ancalagon label, named for her ubiquitous pet iguana, who in turn was named for the Middle-Earth Black dragon from J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasy novels.

Lara St John SchubertLara St. John. The tall, beautiful, enormously talented violinist with the lovable eccentric personality seems to have more fun with music than musicians are normally allowed to have! I believe that is because she not only promotes herself, but also takes great pride in using her resources to promote fellow artists through her label. Among other projects, to date she has produced two albums for The Knights, a New York City-based chamber orchestra, as well as a pair of delightfully off-beat cross-over albums with the ensemble Polkastra.

Lara’s latest project involved traveling to Berlin in April of 2013 to record an album of Schubert works in arrangements to spotlight Berlin Philharmonic principals, harpist Marie-Pierre Langlamet and cellist Ludwig Quandt, as well as Berlin Opera soprano Anna Prohaska. With Ms. Langlamet in the lead, all four of these brilliant musicians make Schubert shine bright in selections including three lieder from the cycle, “Songs of the Harper,” as well as the famous song, “Gretchen am Spinnrade” (Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel) arranged for soprano and harp; the Sonatina in D, Op. 137, arranged for violin and harp; three of the Op. 90 Impromptus, arranged for solo harp; the popular “Arpeggione” Sonata, arranged for cello and harp; and last but certainly not least (as all these performances are equal in stature to my ears) is the compact Piano Trio in Bb, commonly known as “Sonatansatz” (Sonata movement), arranged for violin, cello and harp. I mention each and every selection on this Schubert album because, after repeated listenings, I have found each and every selection and performance to contain intricate detailing of not only Schubert’s personality, but the musicians also successfully imbed their own unique voices to naturally meld themselves into Schubert’s world. The smile on my face broadens with each listening until it hurts and I must stop the music in order to recover my senses! Yes, I may be exaggerating a bit. But, these consummate artists do not. They are spot on in doing right by Schubert. And Lara St. John and Company have certainly done it right!

Not only do I recommend this album, but I would say that you would also have a delightful journey in collecting all of Lara St. John’s albums.

Must-Have New Release: Night Stories – Nocturnes, Jenny Lin

When I was a child, my mother read to me sweet bedtime stories, and I did the same when my two daughters were little. But, as a parent I had something my mother did not, and that was a portable CD player in my children’s rooms so I could play them nighttime classical music to help ease them to sleep.

Night Stories by Jenny LinOver the years there have been many musical albums designed to bring both children and adults peaceful sounds into the evening hours. I remember turning the lights down so that the moonlight would shine through the window, with music playing to enhance the beauty of the moonlight. Pianist Jenny Lin’s new album of nighttime piano music is entitled, “Night Stories – Nocturnes,” and proves to be the perfect gentle evening companion for both the young and not so young.

Jenny Lin is an outstanding artist comfortable with many genres, most notably from the Romantic, Impressionism and mid 20th century Modernism, all represented here. Beginning with Claude Debussy’s iconic “Clair de Lune,” the tone is immediately set for a splendid hour of musical nocturnal delights from the likes of Schumann, Glazunov, Tchaikovsky, Faure, Chopin, Grieg, Turina, Griffes, Paderewski, Glinka and Liszt. Many of the selections may not seem familiar, but their gentle beauty will definitely warm your senses and inspire your imagination as you spend the evening gently easing away the tensions of the day gone by. Whether or not the music elicits memories of childhood storytelling, this program is a perfect coda to a peaceful evening spent with Jenny Lin’s Night Stories.


Ted WeinerTed Weiner is a WDAV veteran. This San Francisco Bay Area native became WDAV’s Music Director in 1991 and has been maintaining the WDAV recording library and choosing much of the music we hear ever since. Night owls and early birds can hear Ted Weiner on WDAV from midnight until 5 each morning on WDAV’s Early Shift on 89.9fm or online.

New Release: Schubert – String Quintet

There are times, sadly, that the depth of genius is not recognized until long after the person containing such genius has passed from the Earth. One of the most blatant examples of such myopia in the classical music world was the neglect of Franz Schubert, not only during his lifetime but also for decades after his death. Today, in extreme hindsight, it seems unfathomable that early 19th century musicians, publishers and, therefore, the public were simply oblivious to the scope of Schubert’s talent. Maybe all he needed was a better marketing plan!

Schubert String QuintetWell, these days there are plenty of musicians and classical music lovers who realize the scope of Schubert’s genius and his music seems now to market itself. But, Schubert still needs talented musicians to bring his music to life. It is our good fortune that the Avie label of London has chosen in recent years to be the distributor of the recordings of one of the most brilliant ensembles in America, the Cypress String Quartet, formed in San Francisco in 1996.

The CSQ’s latest recording is of the final chamber work by Schubert, one of his most recognizable masterpieces, the String Quintet, scored for two violins, viola and two cellos. The CSQ is comprised of American musicians trained on both sides of the Atlantic: violinists Cecily Ward and Tom Stone, violist Ethan Filner and cellist Jennifer Kloetzel. But, what about the additional cellist needed for the Quintet? No less a guest artist to this Schubert soirée is Gary Hoffman, one of the world’s leading cellists. With the usual precision and sensitivity of the CSQ combined with the additional mastery of Mr. Hoffman, this latest recording of the Schubert Quintet surely ranks with one of the best of the modern interpretations currently available on record.

Whether listening in the car, in your den or maybe even while taking a soothing therapeutic bath, the Schubert Quintet with the Cypress String Quartet and cellist Gary Hoffman reminds us again why Schubert is truly one of the great musical geniuses of all-time. I am sure this recording will transport you to a place of peace amidst the din of an insane world!

Ted Weiner is a WDAV veteran. This San Francisco Bay Area native has been on the WDAV airwaves since November 1986 when he arrived in Charlotte from New York City and began working as a weekend and all-round fill-in announcer. He became Music Director in 1991 and has been maintaining the WDAV recording library and choosing much of the music we hear ever since. Night owls and early birds can hear Ted Weiner on WDAV from midnight until 5 each morning on WDAV’s Early Shift on 89.9fm or online.