6 Things To Get This Christmas For the Classical Music Lover In Your Life

It is that time of year in Canada when the snowflakes stream down from the skies to adorn our natural heritage, and the miracles of the festive season abound in the hearts and minds of all...


You may be asking, amidst the flurry and frostbitten-ness of it (not to mention a pandemic), what would make fantastic gifts for the classical music lover in your family.


Well, today’s blog seeks to provide some answers to that very question! So here goes.


*click on each subtitle for a direct link to the item listed.



1. The Berlin Philharmonic - Digital Concert Hall


This was referenced in my most recent blog (click here). However this set up is so outstanding that it warrants a further mention.


Our family subscribes to this feed and I can personally vouch for the fact that this is nothing short of a stellar set up.


Not only do you have access to all of the 2020/2021 concerts in the Berlin Philharmonic season (over 40 concerts), but a year-long membership gives you access to dozens of great concerts recorded from years past, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at the workings of the greatest of international orchestras. This technological set up brings one of the world’s greatest arts institutions to the www.


A year membership costs about €130, roughly $200 Canadian, but the artistic stimulation and general nourishment is priceless.



2. Harold C. Schonberg: The Great Pianists


I taught Piano Literature at the Glenn Gould School for several years and this was one of the required books which I insisted upon the students reading. Written by a former music critic for the New York Times, this book is a wonderfully researched and scripted account that looks into the lives and careers of some of the greatest keyboard players, from Bach, to Liszt, to Horowitz. It is an absolute must read for any dedicated young pianist.



3. David Dubal: Reflections from the Keyboard


David Dubal is the Keyboard Literature teacher at Julliard. He has written many books on the great pianists, and this one in particular is an absolute treasure trove of interviews with many of the great pianists of the last 70 years. Covering topics such as practice techniques, stage fright, and memorable concerts, this is one of the most inspiring books that a young student can read to catch a glimpse inside the minds of the world's leading concert pianists!



4. Alan Walker: The Liszt Collection (Volume I, Volume II, Volume III)


I have a doctorate degree in Piano Performance, and as such, for my comprehensive exams, I had to literally suffer through endless New Grove Dictionary of Music articles, and various scholarly articles written in haughty academic dribble. This Trilogy of books however most definitely does not belong to this aforementioned.


In fact, it is probably the most engaging and informative reads into the life of one of the towering figures of piano I have come across. It is also an incredible vantage point into the goings-on of the general Romantic Era artists. Brilliantly written and researched, Dr. Walker (who is worshipped by the American Liszt Society) combines impeccable scholarship with engaging literary craftsmanship to keep the reader completely spellbound from beginning to end.


Note: within the last year, Dr. Walker has also published a bio-epic on Chopin (click here). It has received rave reviews.



5. G. Henle Verlag (Urtext) Music Collection


In a day and age when IMSLP can present free scores - provided that the copyright is honored - students can download pretty much any score written from the great masters for free. The problem however is that often these scores have legibility issues, or don’t print well. They are also often annotated in traditions which are either out of date, out of vogue, or come from amateur musicians who are not versed enough in approach to fingerings and stylistic suggestions, etc.


With the pandemic, many arts organizations have taken a real hit and music publishers are no different. In an attempt to reach out to the populace, editions such as G. Henle Verlag (the definitive Urtext) and others are offering wonderful package deals.

Therefore, if you are looking to build an inspiring music library for the aspiring music student, then look no further than the Henle catalog. Especially for Germanic composers, the Henle editions are the most reliable and authoritative.



6. ToneBase


This is an interesting online reach out where a good number of A-list touring concert artists have been contracted to give small lectures/demonstrations on certain pieces of the standard repertoire.


While not a formal in-depth lesson, there are little niblets of musical detail and practice techniques which the serious student may find informative. By no means a substitute for an actual immersive, detailed, one-on-one lesson, ToneBase nevertheless is an interesting video compilation of many concepts noted in the aforementioned Reflections from the Keyboard.



So…there you have it! Merry Christmas, and may the blessings of the season rain down upon you all.


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