John Rittmeyer

Classical Afternoon Host

John Rittmeyer grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, but didn’t discover how much classical music meant to him until moving to Columbus to attend OSU. It began by listening to WOSU-FM while studying at home. As an English major, classical music provided a great background while reading literature, but after awhile the music became as interesting as what he was reading. Thus began a serious avocation, with a growing collection of classical music and reference books, that eventually led to a job in Public Radio to share his love of music with other people.

He’s been doing this now for 22 years at WOSU as a classical music host. John is Classical 101′s afternoon host. He also is the host of Symphony @ 7, weeknights at 7 p.m. and Fretworks, a show dedicated to the classical guitar, which can be heard Saturdays at 7 p.m.

Little-known facts about John: A seed for the future classical music lover may have been planted in the fifth grade in Cleveland by a public-school bus trip to Severence Hall to hear the Cleveland Orchestra in a matinee concert for young people. But the seed didn’t begin to sprout until John saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show and later saw them perform at Cleveland Stadium in 1966.

He started to play the guitar, and an interest in being involved with music began. However, it would take some years longer to fully blossom into a love of Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart and the music tradition they represented.

Ways to Connect

Cincinnati World Piano Competition Facebook page

The Cincinnati World Piano Competition is closing its doors after 60 years. It was recently announced that they were unable to raise the $300,000 needed to keep it going.

Founded in 1956 by Gloria G. Ackerman, the annual event became the longest-running piano competition in the country and an important opportunity to further the development of outstanding young pianists.

Moritz Nähr / Wikimedia Commons

Symphony No. 3 by Gustav Mahler is one of the longest symphonies in the standard repertoire. There may be a few longer ones out there, but this "hymn to life, love and nature" is special. It's a musical journey that can last up to one hour and 45 minutes uninterrupted, but it is a trek well worth taking — especially if you enjoy big, late-Romantic orchestral music.

Sim Canetty-Clarke / ravishankaroperaproject.org

Last September, I wrote about the opera by Indian musician Ravi Shankar that was left unfinished when he died at the age of 92 in 2012 and about its recent completion. Sukanya premieres in England in a series of performances beginning tonight and leading up to a London performance at the Southbank Centre on May 19.

Carnegie Hall Archives / Wikimedia Commons

This Sunday is the birthday of the most popular of all Russian composers, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (May 7, 1840). And on today's date in 1891, he made his Carnegie Hall debut during his only visit to America, appearing at the grand opening of what would become one of the most famous concert halls in the world.

I'm not sure how much he had to practice to get there (to paraphrase the old joke), since he was already one of the world's most famous composers when he was invited to participate in this event.

Paul Sherwood / Wikimedia Commons

Here's a doozy: Bill Murray is going classical.

The actor and comedian who never ceases to surprise has, according to the New York Times, teamed up with cellist  Jan Vogler, who has performed as a guest artist with the New York Philharmonic, and a group of chamber musicians for a projected album and touring show. Murray will sing Gershwin and Bernstein and recite Mark Twain, Walt Whitman and Ernest Hemingway.

Allan Warren / Wikimedia Commons

April 22 is Earth Day and a time when I'm more inclined to reflect on how interconnected the natural world and all life really is. I'm not referring necessarily to the economic or political world. Sometimes it seems hopelessly divided as 7 billion people try to figure out how to live together on this planet with its ever-shrinking natural resources.

In the world of nature, however, there are no such boundaries and divisions. It's one vast system, and we are all a part of it. Earth Day reminds me of that.

Poets, writers, artists and musicians have always been inspired by the natural world. In classical music, you can go from Vivaldi's The Four Seasons and Johann Strauss' The Beautiful Blue Danube to An Alpine Symphony by Richard Strauss or Mysterious Mountain by Alan Hovhaness and many, many, more works.

Wikimedia Commons

Sergei Prokofiev, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Paul Hindemith: two Russians and a German, one a repatriated son of Mother Russia and two permanent exiles from their homelands. These three important 20th century composers journeyed far from their countries and also lived for a time in the United States.

This weekend, the Columbus Symphony presents a program featuring music by these well-traveled composers.

David Debalko / kenshowatanabe.com

Classical music has a new rising star. According to a story published Tuesday in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the young assistant conductor of The Philadelphia Orchestra stepped in to lead a concert at the last moment for an ailing Yannick Nezet-Seguin, and it was a great success.

Cincinnati Ballet YouTube

If someone tries to tell you that going to the symphony to hear orchestral music is for "old dinosaurs," show them this video of a T-rex conducting. That should change their tune.

Graeme Richardson / Ice Music

Some of the "coolest" music being made this time of year is heard at a mountaintop ice igloo concert hall in Lulea, Sweden, presented by the ICEstrument Orchestra.  

The instruments are made of ice, and the music is played at subfreezing temperatures so the instruments don't melt. This is apparently not much of a problem at this northern latitude.

carnegiehall.org

German bass Kurt Moll has died at the age of 78.

It was Moll's voice that most entranced me when, many years ago, I bought my first opera recording, Mozart's The Magic Flute. The sound of his deep and resonant voice as the fatherly and wise Sarastro impressed me so much. It made me realize that it isn't all about just the tenor and the soprano.

color photo of Olivia de Havilland as Maid Marian and Errol Flynn as Robin Hood in The Adventures of Robin Hood
Warner Bros. Pictures / Wikimedia Commons

The first Academy Awards given for music in films, a practice that began in 1934, named only the head of the music department of the studio instead of the individual composer.

Max Steiner (see the first in this pair of blog posts), who wrote the music for King Kong (1933), was the head of the music department for RKO Pictures when his score for the 1935 film The Informer won that year, so technically he may have been the first composer to be named for the awards.

black-and-white photo of Fay Wray as Ann Darrow in 1933 King Kong film
Radio Pictures / Flickr

With the Academy Awards coming up this Sunday, I got to thinking about music in movies. This first of two blog posts offers a few personal—and maybe quirky—reflections on music from the early days of sound movies and a few old classic films that made innovative use of sound, especially symphonic music from three very talented composers.

Johann Sebastian Bach
Portrait by Elias Gottlob Haussmann / Wikimedia Commons

If Ludwig van Beethoven's longing for love was not completely fulfilled in his life, except through the great music he left us, there were other composers who were perhaps a bit luckier in love during their lifetimes.

Wikimedia Commons

Ah, "the sad heart of love." As we approach this year's St. Valentine's Day, I've been wondering, how much great music is inspired by love? Of course, music can be inspired by many things, but love is certainly one of the most interesting and humanly engaging musical themes.

This photo is lended as courtesy of Andy Earl of Mercury Classics

Just as he was about to begin an international tour, Milos Karadaglic, a major star of the classical guitar world, has been forced to cancel and stop giving public performances, at least temporarily.  He is suffering from a physical condition of his hand that interferes with performing, and his doctors urged him to take a lengthy break from playing.

Wikipedia

Will surprises never cease?  Recently singer-songwriter Bob Dylan received the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature.  Now composer Philip Glass won the 2016 Tribune Literary Award in Chicago.  

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Members of the Cleveland Orchestra lent their prestige and skill to inspire the home-team crowd by performing the National Anthem at the opening of game 7 of the World Series this week--but the Indians still lost.

Wikipedia

Is that a wandering spirit we hear in the second movement of Beethoven's Piano Trio in D, "The Ghost"?  Is it the ghost of Hamlet's father "doomed for a certain term to walk the night," or can it be the three witches  that incite ungodly ambition in Shakespeare's Macbeth with the logic of "Foul is fair, and fair is foul"?

Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra under the direction of Theodore Kuchar perform Take Me Out To The Ballgame
Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra / YouTube

When it was announced the Cleveland Indians made it to the World Series, there was an enthusiastic response of symphonic proportions.  The Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra, led by Theodore Kuchar, gave a musical expression to where everyone wants to be next Tuesday when the series begins--out at "the old ball game."

A Tuscan vineyard at sunset.
Pixabay

It's been reported again, this time by CBS News.  We already knew classical music was good for humans and animals and can soothe the savage beast, but Mozart's music can encourage the noble grape.  I had heard Mozart was supposed to make your kids smarter, but apparently his music can help grapes reach their full potential too.

Neville Marriner conducts the the Academy of St Martin in the Fields chamber orchestra.
Academy of St Martin in the Fields

Neville Marriner has died at the age of 92.  He was one of the most widely-known conductors in the world, due in good part to his founding and leading the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, one of the most successful and most recorded of all chamber orchestras--perhaps the most successful.

Wikipedia

For me, there is always something slightly mournful about the first real hints of Autumn here in Central Ohio, usually felt near the end of September.  No surprise there about the timing, but still, the change in the air is finally noticeable this season, with the grey skies and the wind making the rain feel colder than the still mild temperatures would indicate.  The kind of music I feel like listening to often changes, too.

ravishankaroperaproject.org

An opera begun by Indian musician and composer Ravi Shankar, and left unfinished at the time of his passing in 2012, has been completed by his collaborator, conductor David Murphy with musical help from Shankar's daughter Anoushka.  

She is a virtuoso sitar player of classical Indian music just as her father was.  The recent press launch states that the opera Sukanya will premier in England next May.  

Facebook photo- Cats on Synthesizers in Space

Do you need to calm your kitty?  Don't fret.  Next month, Universal Music, a major label for classical music, is releasing Music for Cats, by David Teie.  No, not music inspired by cats, (like Andrew Lloyd-Webber's musical, Cats) or even about cats,  (like Rossini's Cat Duet) but this is music intended to be listened to by cats...  Although I understand some humans may like it too.  I'm sure people will pounce on this opportunity to provide soothing sounds to relax a wound-up feline friend.

Wikipedia

The most-loved of all guitar concertos has at its heart, music of great beauty and haunting emotions; sadness, regret and resignation are at the core of the second movement of the Concierto de Aranjuez of Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo.  Surrounded by two shorter, happier, lighter and lively movements, the emotional impact of the Adagio is all the greater in this magnificent work for guitar and orchestra from 1939.

Wikipedia

Friday evening, the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio will begin with an opening ceremony that will undoubtedly be colorful and dazzling with dancing and wonderful music.  There's sure to be choro, samba, bossa nova, and other popular music forms, but I hope there is also a nod to classical music with something by Heitor Villa-Lobos, the best-known Brazilian composer to blend classical and native Brazilian themes, as in his Bachianas brasileiras

Imagine violin students being able to go into a musical instrument museum and pick up and play a fine Amati, Guarneri del Gesu, or a Stradivarius--just to try it out to get the feel of it, or to see which one they like best?

Wikipedia

On today's date in 1938, the ballet Nobilissima Visione was premiered in London by the Ballet de Monte Carlo.  German composer Paul Hindemith had visited the church of Santa Croce in Florence a couple of years earlier and was deeply impressed by the frescoes of Giotto depicting the life of St. Francis of Assisi.  After meeting the choreographer Leonide Massine, Hindemith suggested they collaborate on a ballet inspired by St. Francis.

amazon.com, album cover

This 4th of July holiday weekend brings us the Modern Mandolin Quartet and the Texas Guitar Quartet with four times the fun of a solo mandolin or guitar.  Aaron Copland's Hoe-Down from the ballet Rodeo is given a rousing performance suitable for a barbeque by the Modern Mandolin Quartet and the Texas Guitar Quartet plays their arrangement of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 with appropriate swagger, on the next Fretworks.

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