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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Enjoy contemporary music for solo guitar from Argentina with Victor Villadangos, who was born in Buenos Aires.  

Classical guitarist David Russell on stage at Teatro Principal in Mao, Menorca
Courtsey of the artist / Facebook

The Romeros, the "Royal Family of the Guitar," have collectively and individually recorded much of the Spanish guitar literature, but they have also delved into related music as well.  They recorded an overture to a zarzuela, La Revoltosa (The Mischievous One) from 1897 by Ruperto Chapi.

KPBS

Mandolin player, singer, songwriter Chris Thile is best-known as a founding member of the progressive acoustic trio Nickel Creek and for the quintet, Punch Brothers, where he gets to amply demonstrate his dazzling virtuosity.

A sailor pays his respects to a fallen service member buried at the Brookwood American Cemetery and Memorial in Brookwood, England.
Navy Visual News Service / Flickr Creative Commons

As we head into the fun and (hopefully) sun of the Memorial Day weekend, it's also good to pause and reflect on the paradoxical nature of the holiday, as was pointed out to me in this NPR article, Classical Music Memorials, by Richard Knisely.  

Pablo Villegas
Courtesy of the artist

Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story from 1957 is one of the most enduring musicals with its updating of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet set in New York and the wonderful music that showed Bernstein at his most inspired.  

Those tunes have, not surprisingly, been arranged many times in many different settings.  On the next Fretworks, Spanish guitarist Pablo Villegas will play a medley from West Side Story from his CD "Americano" to begin the hour on this Memorial Day weekend.

Wikipedia, public domain

English composer Gustav Holst wrote his St. Paul's Suite in 1912 for the student string orchestra of the St. Paul's School for Girls in London.  With its notable use of English folk songs in the finale of this four-movement piece, throwing in Greensleeeves for good measure,  it remains one of the composer's most popular works.  

Wikipedia Commons

Contemporary Cuban composer, conductor and guitarist Leo Brouwer is one of the eminent writers for music of the classical guitar and his works are performed by guitarists world-wide. 

Undated photo of Carnegie Hall
Gmaemejota / Wikimedia Commons

"How do you get to Carnegie Hall?  Practice!"  I don't know if any other concert hall has its own joke, known around the world by aspiring musicians, but Carnegie Hall has long been one of the most prestigious venues in the world.  The joke supposedly originated when a pedestrian on 57th Street passed Jascha Heifetz and asked the now famous question, with its snappy response.  

The Los Angeles Guitar Quartet is one of the premier guitar ensembles, and they'll play music of Georges Bizet from the 1875 opera Carmen in the Carmen Suite, from their 2001 Telarc CD "LAGQ Latin."  

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