IN: News & Features

Is Classical Music Radio A Dying Technology?


WGBH’s spokesman, John Voci may be unintentionally right according to a BMInt commenter. The future for classical music broadcasting may be on the internet rather than from 100,000 watt radio towers, which, because of their cost of operation, require lowest common denominator programming. Richard Buell, a former Boston Globe critic, has a comprehensive website on streaming classical music here. His comment, which follows, is part of a lively discussion at the end of an earlier article .

Have you ever wondered what can classical music radio be like far, far away from dear provincial little Boston? If you’ll give me your attention …

Across the Channel from France Musique — which Joel Cohen rightly praises — you hear such offerings as BBC Radio 3’s CD Review, whose regular Building a Library feature amounts to a vivid critical discography in sound. Whose recording, say, of Schumann’s Kerner Lieder is THE one to have? One Saturday morning a few months back that wonderful writer Hilary Finch (of Gramophone and the Times) was on hand (and for an hour!) to go through the whole lot of available recordings.

There is nothing remotely like this on U.S. radio stations, and to the best of my knowledge there never has been. I’m streaming the latest program as I write, and at the top of the screen I see: This week it’s David Nice and Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. Stop press — Kitaenko has been caught out using a corrupt Soviet text!

My point is that WGBH, WCRB, and the rest are all wedded to a dying technology — blub blub down they go — and that we shouldn’t be sad about this. Thanks to audio streaming, we’re no longer reduced to having to be grateful for small favors.

VERY small favors if you ask me. Don’t get me going on the “presentation” by local “personalities” — the quotation marks are essential — who can’t hear themselves, are often unprepared, and have an infuriating way of getting in the way of the music. I make exceptions for Cathy Fuller and Doug Briscoe. (Whatever happened to him?) As to the rest, the dunking stool would be too good for them.

When the old WGBH was busy documenting Boston’s busy concert life — the very events you read about in the Boston Musical Intelligencer — they had me on their side, faults and all. Ditto for the live BSO broadcasts on WCRB, which I gather have been taking place over their corporate dead body but so what. WHRB is a story in itself and quite apart from the WGBH/WCRB market forces kerfuffle. For this, endless praise is due David Elliott, their resident eminence grise, but for whom I wouldn’t always be coming across something I haven’t heard before, or don’t know as well as I should, and otherwise filling up gaps in my education. The station is — can I say this? — fun. And that’s about it.

At the Old South meeting it was pointed out — from the floor I think — that it’s only a matter of time before — patience everyone — the future arrives and streaming at last becomes a portable thing. [editor’s note: the future is already here for those with cellular broadband]

As to what’s out there right now — see, and,

As the Globe and BMint have observed, Collage New Music’s concert last Monday was no end enlivening, especially the Steven Mackey. Now why couldn’t we be hearing THAT on the radio? After all, this is not Podunk. Or is it?

[ Editor’s note: for the tech-averse or those who wish to listen without their computers on, these sites for reviews of table-top internet radio receivers(which require home network access either by WiFi or Ethernet) should be of interest:,]


38 Comments [leave a civil comment (others will be removed) and please disclose relevant affiliations]

  1. Hey Richard Buell-

    How are you? I still follow you, by RSS.

    I was involved in the blogosphere stuff on WQXR. A guy came on to Doc Searle’s blog and was a bit snippy about the mess we were fighting out over the future of WQXR and what listeners wanted. He was holding up WGBH’s Classical 99.5 as a shining example. So, I got pissed and did some digging.

    First, the only places that the irritated listeners to WGBH had to vent their spleens were at and some forums; nothing remotely connected to WBGH or WCRB. At least we battled it out right on the WQXR web site in comment pages.

    The next thing I discovered, and this is worse, fully seven of the ten hosts I found on the weekly schedule for Classical 99.5, or whatever it is called, were from Classical 24. And it is not acknowledged on the stations web site as it is on so many web sites.

    The city is Boston, a world class cultural mecca, and the listeners are being fed a pabulum described by one noted Classical music critic as “musical wallpaper”, designed not to intrude. One Classical 24 host came after me at the Doc Searle blog to say that it is not music from a hard drive. But, I checked Classical 24’s web site to see who as on, and it was not the person listed by WCRB for that shift.

    Interestingly, on some Boston web sites, Classical 24 was called “a Minnesota syndicate”. Like it was the mob or something.

    The reason I saw this post of yours is that I set an alert for WCRB.

    I hope all is well with you, you provide a valuable service.

    Comment by Richard Mitnick — February 16, 2010 at 4:00 pm

  2. Richard originally posted these remarks as a comment to Lee Eiseman’s article on his presentation to the WGBH board of directors (here: I made a comment on them there, and will not repeat it verbatim here (although I was extremely eloquent); bottom line is that these wonderful stations that Richard and many of the rest of us listen to on the Internet are all broadcast stations in their home markets, and what exists for Internet only, at this point, isn’t worth anybody’s attention. We need to keep standard broadcast radio available and tolerable to the educated public for a good deal longer.

    Comment by Vance R. Koven — February 16, 2010 at 8:02 pm

  3. Yet more about radio — Robin Holloway deplores what the Met broadcasts have become:


    Comment by Richard Buell — February 16, 2010 at 8:39 pm

  4. No, it hadn’t escaped my notice that France Musique, BR-Klassik, ORF, and the rest are all of them — gosh! — broadcasters.

    Here’s where I’m coming from. What Internet streaming does is allow me to hear how really well public broadcasting is done over there. By the looks of it market forces hardly seem to count at all. Another thing — national pride, together with a blatantly un-American regard for the life of the mind play a part in keeping it all going as well. I think of the “Hands off Auntie” campaigns that always spring up whenever the BBC comes under fire.

    The reason all that excellence has come to pass — and has survived — has nothing intrinsically to do with transmitters all over the place and darling old Grundig radios with wires coming out the back.

    As I see it, the real story is that somebody decided that the best was worth aiming for, and that a means should be nurtured for sharing this with anybody who could possibly benefit from it. We’re talking values here, not technology.

    Even if all the vexations here with transmitters and funding and so on were to vanish overnight, it’s hard to imagine that any substantive improvement would occur. To begin with, there’s no tradition here to build on. There aren’t any standards to speak of. Or visible skills either. Can it be that Americans — literally — just don’t know any better? How would we? You have to ask?

    With Internet streaming I can take my business elsewhere. That’s the gist of it.

    Before I forget, some suggested reading: James Ledbetter’s “Made Possible By: The Death of Public Broadcasting in the United States” (Verso Books, 1999) “What a story!” said Molly Ivins, “A thorough and alarming book.”

    Comment by Richard Buell — February 17, 2010 at 12:01 am

  5. As a continuation of our current topic, “Is America a Civilization? You’d never know by listening to WETA or WCRB,” here is the program grid for today on France Musique. Those who are curious can easily capture the stream on the internet.

    par Franck Médioni

    Attaché de production : Jean-René Bonnissent et réalisation : Gérard Brodin
    Contes du jour et de la nuit
    par Véronique Sauger

    Une petite fille trop sage

    Avec la participation du Fonds d’Action Sacem

    Attachée de production : Annick Haumier et réalisation : Bruno Riou-Maillard
    France Musique la nuit, avec France Vivace

    par François Hudry

    01:05 : Programme musical

    Par Benjamin Hertz

    Vertigo piano Brésil

    01:05 : | Ponteios n°30, 49 et 50

    Mozart Camargo Guarnieri
    Ponteios n°30, 49 et 50
    Wilhem Latchoumia, Piano
    réf : RCA 88697 373402

    01:11 : | Symphonie n°4 ” Brasilia ”

    Mozart Camargo Guarnieri
    Symphonie n°4 ” Brasilia ”
    Orchestre symphonique de São Paulo
    John Neschling, direction
    réf : BIS-CD 1290

    01:29 : | Bachianas brasileiras

    Heitor Villa-Lobos
    Bachianas brasileiras
    The Modern Jazz Quartet
    réf : WARNER JAZZ 9548-34533 2

    01:34 : | Children’s corner

    Claude Debussy
    Children’s corner
    Nelson Freire, Piano
    réf : DECCA 478 1111

    01:49 : | Sonate pour piano n°26 en mi bémol Majeur ” Les Adieux ”

    Ludwig van Beethoven
    Sonate pour piano n°26 en mi bémol Majeur ” Les Adieux ”
    Guiomar Novaes, Piano
    réf : VANGUARD 08 9155 71

    02:04 : | Ballade en sol mineur, op.16 n°1

    Moritz Moszkowski
    Ballade en sol mineur, op.16 n°1
    Tasmin Little, Violon
    Orchestre symphonique de la BBC écossaise
    Martyn Brabbins, direction
    réf : HYPERION CDA67389

    02:16 : | Première des 3 Ecossaises, op.72 n°3

    Frédéric Chopin
    Première des 3 Ecossaises, op.72 n°3
    Nelson Freire, Piano
    réf : APEX 2564 61261-2

    02:17 : | The Lark Ascending

    Ralph Vaughan-Williams
    The Lark Ascending
    Tasmin Little, Violon
    Orchestre symphonique de la BBC
    Andrew Davis, direction
    réf : WARNER 2564 61730-2

    02:31 : | Papillons, op.2

    Robert Schumann
    Papillons, op.2
    Nelson Freire, Piano
    réf : DECCA 473 902-2

    02:44 : | Trois Nocturnes, op.9

    Frédéric Chopin
    Trois Nocturnes, op.9
    Guiomar Novaes, Piano
    réf : VOXBOX CDX3 3501

    03:00 : | Chôros n°1 pour guitare

    Heitor Villa-Lobos
    Chôros n°1 pour guitare
    Carlos Oramas, Guitare
    réf : ASV CD DCA 1150

    03:05 : | Concerto pour guitare et orchestre

    Heitor Villa-Lobos
    Concerto pour guitare et orchestre
    Julian Bream, Guitare
    Orchestre Symphonique de Londres
    André Prévin, direction
    réf : RCA 09026 61604 2

    03:23 : | A Pròle do bébé

    Heitor Villa-Lobos
    A Pròle do bébé
    Wilhem Latchoumia, Piano
    réf : RCA 88697 373402

    03:39 : | Clair de lune, extrait de la Suite bergamasque

    Claude Debussy
    Clair de lune, extrait de la Suite bergamasque
    Nelson Freire, Piano
    réf : DECCA 478 1111

    03:44 : | Le Vent dans la plaine, 3e des Préludes du Livre I

    Claude Debussy
    Le Vent dans la plaine, 3e des Préludes du Livre I
    Nelson Freire, Piano
    réf : DECCA 478 1111
    Programme musical
    Par Olivier Le Borgne

    L’Art de Sir Thomas Beecham (2)
    Musique matin (1ère partie)
    par Judith Chaine et Stéphane Grant , et Stéphane Grant

    Attachés de production : Laura Jachymiak, Rodolphe Bruneau-Boulmier et réalisation : Antoine Courtin Attachée de production : Emmanuelle Lacaze et réalisation : Georges Kiosseff

    07:50 : L’invité de Dominique Boutel

    07:55 : Le jeu de France Musique
    Musique matin (2ème partie)
    par Judith Chaine et Stéphane Grant , et Stéphane Grant

    Attachés de production : Laura Jachymiak, Rodolphe Bruneau-Boulmier et réalisation : Antoine Courtin Attachée de production : Emmanuelle Lacaze et réalisation : Georges Kiosseff

    08:50 : Le mot musical du jour par Pierre Charvet
    + PIC AM
    Le matin des musiciens
    par Philippe Cassard

    Chopin : Polonaise-Fantaisie op 61

    Attachée de production : Véronique Kerdilès et réalisation : Marie Grout
    Concert du matin

    par Gaëlle Le Gallic

    10:30 : Concert Génération Jeunes Interprètes

    par Gaëlle Le Gallic

    Concert donné le 27 janvier 2010, Studio Sacha Guitry de la Maison de Radio France à Paris

    Joseph Canteloube
    Extraits des : Chant d’Auvergne pour flûte et harpe
    (Transcription Fabrice Pierre)
    Julie Moulin
    Agnès Clément

    Jacques Ibert
    Entracte pour flûte et harpe
    Julie Moulin
    Agnès Clément

    Camille Saint-Saëns
    Fantaisie en la Majeur op 124 pour flûte et harpe
    Julie Moulin
    Agnès Clément

    Francis Poulenc
    Sonate pour flûte et harpe
    Julie Moulin
    Suzanna Bartal

    Gabriel Fauré
    La châtelaine en sa tour pour harpe seule
    Agnès Clément
    Le partage de midi
    par Olivier Nahum

    avec : Philippe Lellouche, comédien

    Attachée de production : Martine Mony et réalisation : Fabien Fleurat
    Grands compositeurs
    par Marc Dumont

    Corelli, l’archange du violon

    ” Folies musicales ”

    Arcangelo Corelli :
    – XIIè sonate en ré mineur op 5 ” Follia ” (1700)
    Jordi Savall, viole de gambe soprano – Bruno Cocset, basse de violon – Michael Behringer, clavecin, en 1998 – Alia Vox AV 9805
    Antonio Vivaldi :
    – Concerto pour deux violons en ré mineur
    Giuliano Carmignola et Viktoria Mullova, violon – Orchestre Baroque de Venise – Andrea Marcon, en 2007 – Archiv
    Carlo Farina :
    – Capriccio stravagante (1627)
    Fabio Biondi, violon – Europa Galante, en 1997 – Opus 111
    Marco Uccelini :
    – Sinfonie “La suavissima” e “La gran battaglia” (1669)
    Fabio Biondi, violon – Europa Galante, en 1997 – Opus 111
    Arcangelo Corelli :
    – Sonata da chiesa en la mineur op 3 n°12 (1689)
    – Sonata da camera en si mineur op 4 n°12 (1694)
    London Baroque, en 1990 – Harmonia Mundi
    Serge Rachmaninov :
    – Variations sur un thème de Corelli
    Hélène Grimaud, piano, en 2001 – Erato
    Arcangelo Corelli :
    – XIIè sonate en ré mineur op 5 ” Follia ” (1700)
    Manfredo Kraemer, violon – Balazs Mate, violoncelle – Xavier Diaz-Latorre, guitare – Carlos Garcia-Bernalt, clavecin, en 2005 – Alia Vox AV 9844

    Attachée de production : Emmanuelle Lacaze et réalisation : Georges Kiosseff
    Grandes figures
    par Nicolas Southon

    “Evgeny Kissin”

    Réalisation : Géraldine Prutner
    Jingle concert après midi
    Concert de l’après-midi

    par Alain Pâris

    16:00 : Concert

    par Alain Pâris

    Concert donné le 15 juillet 2006 en l’Abbatiale de Noirlac
    Festival de Noirlac

    Gustav Mahler
    Clytus Gottwald
    Drei Chorlieder
    Die zwei blauen Augen
    Scheiden und meiden
    Ich bin der Welt Abhanden gekommen
    Choeur de Chambre Accentus
    Gustav Mahler
    Direction : Laurence Equilbey

    Johann Sebastian Bach
    Peter Cornelius
    Drei Psalmlieder
    An Babels wasserfluessen
    Choeur de Chambre Accentus
    Johann Sebastian Bach
    Direction : Laurence Equilbey

    Franz Schubert
    Drei Chorgesänge
    Nacht und Träume
    Der Wegweiser
    Choeur de Chambre Accentus
    Direction : Laurence Equilbey

    Samuel Barber
    Agnus Dei
    Choeur de Chambre Accentus
    Direction : Laurence Equilbey

    Alexandre Scriabine
    Preuve par la neige
    La Lune parait
    Si j’étais lune
    Choeur de Chambre Accentus
    Direction : Laurence Equilbey

    Sergueï Prokofiev
    Alexandre Nevski op 78 : Le champ des morts
    Choeur de Chambre Accentus
    Direction : Laurence Equilbey

    Richard Wagner
    Im Treibhaus
    Choeur de Chambre Accentus
    Direction : Laurence Equilbey

    Maurice Ravel
    Gérard Pesson
    Ronsard à son âme
    Choeur de Chambre Accentus
    Maurice Ravel
    Direction : Laurence Equilbey

    Maurice Ravel
    Gérard Pesson
    La Flûte enchantée
    Choeur de Chambre Accentus
    Maurice Ravel
    Direction : Laurence Equilbey

    Maurice Ravel
    Gérard Pesson
    L’Indifférent (Shéhérazade)
    Choeur de Chambre Accentus
    Maurice Ravel
    Direction : Laurence Equilbey

    Maurice Ravel
    Thierry Machuel
    Ma mère l’Oye : Le Jardin féerique
    Choeur de Chambre Accentus
    Maurice Ravel
    Direction : Laurence Equilbey

    Réalisation : Philippe Petit
    Histoire de…
    par Anne-Charlotte Rémond

    Histoire de… la musique de ballet

    Masque en Angleterre, symphonie de danse en France (8)

    Attachée de production : Emmanuelle Lacaze et réalisation : Pierre-André Fautrier
    Le magazine
    par Lionel Esparza

    avec : – Jean-François LAPOINTE, baryton québécois

    Attachée de production : Nelly Portal et réalisation : Catherine Prin le Gall
    Open jazz
    par Alex Dutilh

    Yvan Robilliard

    Attachée de production : Emmanuelle Lacaze et réalisation : Georges Kiosseff
    Le concert du soir

    par Françoise Degeorges

    20:00 : Concert

    par Françoise Degeorges

    Le Printemps du Baroque et Ensembles vocaux

    en direct de l’Auditorium du Louvre à Paris

    Etienne Moulinié
    Le Cantique de Moïse
    Les Pages et les Chantres du Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles
    Direction : Olivier Schneebeli

    Etienne Moulinié
    Les Litanies à la Vierge
    Les Pages et les Chantres du Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles
    Direction : Olivier Schneebeli
    Couleurs du monde
    par Françoise Degeorges

    Concert enregistré au Théâtre de la Ville le 06/02 : Sur la route de Gengis Kahn (Mongolie)

    Attachée de production : Soizic Noël et réalisation : Charles Le Gargasson

    Comment by Joel Cohen — February 17, 2010 at 4:47 am

  6. I am not sure if I agree with Richard Buell.

    Unquestionably the streaming is a wonderful thing but we have no bandwidth for 20Bit streaming. We have no people who understand not just a need for “some kind of streaming” but the streaming at higher bit-resolution and higher sampling rate. No one pushes the higher bit streaming, Mr. Voci does not need for his accountants crack the numbers. And it looks no other voices at CRB, even their accountants are ignorant. Who would punish for better quality streaming? The professionals who facilitate audio for classical performers are mostly morons – you what evidence of it – go it any CD store and see thousands of titles vandalized by barbarian recoding and mastering techniques.

    Anyhow, there is in my few a bigger fish to fry, the fish that Mr. Buell omitted in your observation. A digital streaming even is by nature is not “precious” event. It might be easily recorded, posed or replayed. It does not have the fundamental value of “live” event. The magnificence of live event is that it happens and it gone – it has that fragility of action that makes it is so vital and important. It is like if you play live in concert vs. you take a zillion cuts in studio. In my view digital streaming does remove that edge of “simultaneous” between listening and performing events. I do not know how you guys but to me, this simultaneous is very important….

    I would not even mention that a digital streaming gives to the industry people opportunity to edit streaming content and this is truly horrible thing. When FM broadcasts live then it is delayed non-analog signal of course but still no one reads the feed and no one makes corrections. If everyone knows that the broadcasts will be digitally streamed then I am absolutely convinced that the industry people with their “best intentions” will be tempted to edit the content and THAT I recognize as an absolutely terminal thing and the game is over. So, in my view the Classical Music FM Live Radio is not only just another media outlets but it is an ASSURANCE that no audio or music industry fool would violate the LIVE AND NATURAL UNFOLDING OF MUSICAL EVENTS. That web streamings might not enforce this “do not touch” discipline, unfortunately…..

    Comment by Romy The Cat — February 17, 2010 at 8:15 am

  7. Oh I dunno. There’s no shortage of people, places, and things in this world that can come between the listener and the elusive, highly coveted, once-only Ur-musical experience — these range all the way from gangster capitalists and their crass soul-destroying corporate decisions, down to the Friday afternoon BSO ladies with their candy wrappers and whining hearing aids.

    For the late Hans Keller recording itself was suspect, as it made possible — he claimed — the infinite postponement of real attention.

    Real attention? Sir Adrian Boult once said that he himself couldn’t maintain a maximum level of alertness and sensitivity for much longer than 45 minutes. As an operagoer, therefore, he would only take Wagner piecemeal, one act at a time.

    It’s all so complicated and unfair!

    Ahem. If Joel Cohen MUST keep sending us the complete daily schedules for France Musique I might just let loose some day with those for BR-Klassik, RAI, or RTHK in Hong Kong. For a start.

    Can this be denied?

    Gorblimey it’s all

    Comment by Richard Buell — February 17, 2010 at 5:25 pm

  8. Please ignore the “Gorblimey” passage in the above message.

    Comment by Richard Buell — February 17, 2010 at 5:28 pm

  9. And ignore the “Can this be denied?” I wasn’t paying attention.

    Comment by Richard Buell — February 17, 2010 at 5:30 pm

  10. It can’t be denied, Richard. By all means let’s have some other radio schedules posted for inspection/comparison. I don’t think that most of us in Boston, chained to our hertzian habits, even realize what retards the local stations are. Sorry, wasn’t supposed to use that R word.

    Comment by Joel Cohen — February 18, 2010 at 12:56 pm

  11. It wasn’t brought up during the January meeting, but one element being left out when comparing listening to music on the radio vs. computers or other similar devices is the matter of SOUND. When I tune to allclassical995 (and I live north of Boston so it comes in extremely well) through my music room stereo system, I have a very visceral experience of the music…as the advertisements used to say: “bringing the musicians into my living room”. The tiny, tinny speaker with computers or earphones don’t come close.

    Comment by Laurence Glavin — February 20, 2010 at 2:36 pm

  12. My experience in Boston is that the sound quality of streaming WCRB with a good computer sound card and speakers far surpasses that of WCRB FM.

    There’s no reason to endure tinny speakers anywhere.

    Comment by Lee Eiseman — February 21, 2010 at 1:27 am

  13. Sound quality need not be an issue here.

    Just follow these easy steps!

    First, ascertain that your computer has an adequate sound card — for a detailed explanation of which see

    Next you plunk down a ridiculously small sum — for me it was $39.99 plus tax — for, say, this compact little package ( designed by the late Henry Kloss (

    Then connect. Remember to place the subwoofer (the big piece) on or near the floor. It can make all the difference.

    If you’re stuck with a grotty sound card and/or the kind of speakers that come with SOME computers of course you’re in trouble — it can be like trying to listen to something through several layers of cardboard and tinfoil. I can feel LG’s pain.

    But this need not be.

    When Internet streaming is at its music-enhancing best, often it’s coming from Thank you, German taxpayers!

    Comment by Richard Buell — February 21, 2010 at 2:19 am

  14. Let me fix the 2 broken links above.

    These should be: and

    Comment by Richard Buell — February 21, 2010 at 2:42 am

  15. Another solution for improved sound:

    1. Run a cable from the headphone output of your computer to the auxilliary input (or tape input) jacks of the amplifier that runs your “big” stereo system.

    2. Tune, via your web browser, to an internet station on computer.

    3. Turn on amplifier, to “aux” or “tape”

    4. Listen to music through your main speakers. The music will probably sound less good than a CD, but at least as good as your F.M. signal.

    Comment by Joel Cohen — February 21, 2010 at 11:22 am

  16. “January 12, 1946

    This is my first opportunity to speak of the festival of Faure’s music with which the Department of Music of Harvard University honored the hundredth anniversary of his birth, and of the various pleasures which the occasion gave me. Not just the pleasure of hearing two beautiful and moving works — the Requiem, which I had known, and the opera ‘Penelope,’ which was a new experience — beautifully performed by members of the Boston Symphony, the Harvard Glee Club, the Radcliffe Choral Society, and soloists under the direction of Nadia Boulanger. But also certain pleasures from the entire occasion — the way the music for all five concerts was selected; the way it was performed; and the way it was listened to. Not since London many years before had I experienced so agreeable an atmosphere at concerts — an atmosphere of quiet and interest created by people, young and old, who seemed to be present for no other reason than their desire to hear the music, and who were completely unself-conscious about it; as against the atmosphere of New York concerts, particularly the New Friends of Music concerts and the Budapest Quartet concerts at the Y.M.H.A., which is heavy and noisy with the ostentatiousness and restlessness of people who are there because it is the musical place to be and to say one has been.

    ” … The chamber music was exquisitely performed by Melville Smith and Beveridge Webster, pianists,
    Ruth Posselt, violinist, and members of the Boston Symphony — Gaston Elcus and Norbert Lauga, violins, Jean Lefranc, viola, and Alfred Zighera, cello — who formed a quartet of perfectly matched players that astounded and delighted me with the refinement and beauty of sound and execution. It may be that the group would play with exactly the same sound and style in a Beethoven quartet, where I would find they were incongruous, but in Faure it was exactly right.”

    — from B.H. Haggin, “Music in the Nation” (New York: William Sloane Associates, Inc., 1949)

    It’s probably safe to say that the infant WGBH-FM — had it gone on the air half a dozen years sooner than it actually did — would have been there.

    Comment by Richard Buell — February 23, 2010 at 4:39 pm

  17. That’s an incredibly evocative review, Richard.

    Comment by Joel Cohen — February 23, 2010 at 10:52 pm

  18. I’m sorry to see no mention of WHRB’s classial programming:
    1PM to 10PM weekdays, Saturday 1PM Met Opera with a follow-up
    retrospective of singing and singers with the most intelligent
    and well-informed commentator in Boston; Sunday, 1PM until
    an OPERA record program begins in the evening. ( I upper-case
    “opera” to emphasize that this is the ONLY program dedicated
    to opera in our area.)

    The WHRB signal is good inside 128, sometimes chancy outside —
    in my home and in my car, far better than WCRB. The programming
    is far more adventurous than any other station, now or for 50-odd
    years past in Boston. Before you despair, give WHRB 95.3 MHz
    a try.

    a listen.

    Comment by Martin Cohn — February 25, 2010 at 9:10 pm

  19. We’ve tried to interest WHRB’s eminence grise, David Elliot in an interview and article, but he has so far demurred.

    Comment by Lee Eiseman — February 25, 2010 at 11:04 pm

  20. It should be noted that mornings on WCRB, early morning host Laura Carlo promises that Cathy Fuller will coming on at 9 am with “music that is perfect for the workplace” (or words to that effect, lest I do not have her exact words). Since one should not be distracted while working at one’s paid job, I presume this is WCRB-ese for “wallpaper for the ears” (or to be more sophisticated about it, “aural wallpaper”). Ms. Carlo says it all…

    Comment by Ruth — March 2, 2010 at 5:27 pm

  21. A thought for today. Let’s all pay much closer attention to the words we use.

    Specifically, when and where was it foreordained that the constituency for classical music broadcasting must be a “market”?

    Think about it. This is the language that THEY use, and whenever we resort to it what it really means is that we’ve been suckered into thinking — and embracing — THEIR thoughts.

    Is everything on this earth for sale?

    Comment by Richard Buell — March 4, 2010 at 12:52 pm

  22. If you want to hear a rant about word usage then here’s my complaint. WGBH is being less than forthcoming about my inquiries on their finances. Here’s the obfuscatory response of PR Person, Lucy Sholley, to my question about whether WGBH used its $15 million line of credit to buy WCRB for $14 million:

    “The liquidity needs of the business fluctuate on a daily basis and our CFO and Treasury department use a combination of various instruments, including the LOC, to meet the cash needs of the business. In the case of the acquisition they have determined the right balance between use of internal capital and the LOC and make changes on a daily basis to ensure the right balance and the cash needs of the business are adequately met.”

    Comment by Lee Eiseman — March 4, 2010 at 1:09 pm


    The day Ron Della Chiesa finally went too far.

    Comment by Richard Buell — March 4, 2010 at 1:25 pm

  24. “The habit of excessive indulgence in music, for those who are neither performers themselves nor musically gifted enough to take it in a purely intellectual way, has probably a relaxing effect on the character. One becomes filled with emotions which habitually pass without prompting to any deed, and so the inertly sentimental condition is kept up. The remedy would be, never to suffer one’s self to have an emotion at a concert, without expressing it afterwards in some active way. Let the expression be the least thing in the world — speaking genially to one’s aunt, or giving up one’s seat in a horsecar, if nothing more heroic offers — but let it not fail to take place.”

    — “Habit,” in William James, “The Pronciples of Psychology” (1890).

    Comment by Richard Buell — March 5, 2010 at 2:43 am

  25. “Principles” that should be. Sorry!

    Comment by Richard Buell — March 5, 2010 at 2:46 am

  26. Despite the inference which Ruth draws from Laura Carlo’s description of the programming to follow — a plausible inference to be sure — I think it is more reasonable to judge Cathy Fuller’s programming by what she actually programs. Ruth may disagree with me, and I have never spent a morning and early afternoon glued to the radio. But I do listen in from time to time, and “aural wallpaper ” is not the description that comes to mind.

    Perhaps Laura’s words are just intended to be an effective way of inducing the “drive time” audience to tune in at work.

    Comment by Joe Whipple — March 5, 2010 at 4:21 pm

  27. What We’re Missing in U.S. Public Radio, continued:

    Note absence of wallpaper.

    Comment by Richard Buell — March 7, 2010 at 3:40 am

  28. I fear I inadvertently cast aspersions on Kathy Fuller’s program. My comment was meant to reflect what seems the new WGBH/WCRB’s shift to the generally shallow programming model WCRB has been known for, rather than a shift to the more substantive WGBH model. Mercifully, Ms. Fuller’s programming and commentary remain the same as before–but almost all else is gone, the exception being Brian McCreath’s generally excellent early Saturday and Sunday morning programs and his “Bach Hour.” My comment was directed purely to Ms. Carlo’s (and by extension, her management’s?) apparent belief that music that serves well as a background is what is to be valued in WCRB’s programming.

    Comment by Ruth — March 12, 2010 at 8:06 am


    Does this work?

    Comment by Richard Buell — March 13, 2010 at 4:21 pm

  30. Good, it does.

    What a jolt it was to learn that this wonderful singer, Ute Gfrerer, lives in Greater Boston and has even performed in Nahant. I first came across her in a broadcast of Weill/Brecht’s “The “Seven Deadly Sins” from BR-Klassik in Munich. Via the Internet of course. It turns out that she’s a first-class Mozart singer too. The c.v. is full of suprises — go Google it. Has anyone out there ever heard her?

    Comment by Richard Buell — March 13, 2010 at 4:41 pm

  31. I know her well and have heard her at the St. B. and HMA. For the latter (with Jason McStoots and Bill Merrill) she did her own mix (with dialogue interspersed) from Rossini’s “Sins of Old Age.”
    For the St. B. she did her own arrangement of Kurt Weill Broadway tunes.

    Super fetching in every way.

    Comment by Lee Eiseman — March 13, 2010 at 4:46 pm

  32. Given the tone and content of so many of the Comments since February 16th, it strikes me that perhaps another and different headline might be in order, for example: “So U.S. Classical Music Radio is Dying — Should We Care?”

    The technology reference is/was somewhat confusing. Drop it, I say, since the REAL issue is thumpingly non-technical: the headlong descent of what’s remaining into a morass of idiocy, commercialism, and crap.

    What about “So U.S. Classical Music Radio is Dying — Should We Care? Etcetera …”

    Or just “Etcetera”? Or something like “Quodlibet”?

    Why these latter two? Because the longer this thread goes on, you notice, the more miscellaneous, allusive, and non-linear its contents become. It’s like some biological process.

    Stephan Genz. Does that name mean anything to anybody? Later …

    Comment by Richard Buell — March 15, 2010 at 1:34 am

  33. From the clippings file:

    Comment by Richard Buell — March 16, 2010 at 12:59 am

  34. The aforesaid STEPHAN GENZ

    Impressions, anyone?

    Comment by Richard Buell — March 16, 2010 at 2:40 am

  35. And yet more ….

    Comment by Richard Buell — March 16, 2010 at 2:47 am

  36. Has anyone been listening to Stephan Genz?

    Comment by Richard Buell — March 23, 2010 at 2:14 am

  37. See “etcetera” column elsewhere on this site.

    Comment by Richard Buell — March 23, 2010 at 2:19 am

  38. the merger of wcrb and wgbh et al has resulted in many of the hosts selecting music which
    is obscure, uninteresting and in many cases, cacophonous. What was so bad about the pre-
    merger wcrb?. my car radio was pre-set to wcrb;I eagerly awaited the next selection, which
    invariably was familiar, and pleasing to the ear. I guess I am just too unsophisticated to appreciate
    Cathy Fuller ruminating about composers who not many people have heard of, and perhaps like
    me are turned off, and switch to another station, or more likely, throw in a cd. hopefully, you
    will see the error of your ways and return to the old tried and true.

    Comment by robert wilkins — May 17, 2010 at 8:19 am

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