Charity and Generosity

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When we give freely of ourselves without asking for anything in return, we become generous. Generosity, no matter how small it may be, is our focus during this weekend's episode of All Ears. We hear music from composers who were gracious with their time and efforts, as well as how the vibe of generosity floats around this great city.


We wondered who in the music world was generous, and we found that many composers were "closet" philanthropists. Brahms gave money to students; Franz Liszt gave to charities.

We begin the show was Margaret Leng Tan's version of John Cage's Suite for Toy Piano. This whimsical piece was composed in five short, numbered movements, with limited number of tones. It's a piece that gives happiness as it brings to life childhood sounds.  

Also on the program is the Joachim Quartet playing Joseph Joachim's kind and openhanded Quartet in C Minor in C minor. We make a connection to generosity with the piece that directly follows the quartet, entitled Exhortation. Bass-baritone Paul Robeson sings with Lawrence Brown at the piano. It's a composition by Will Marion Cook, who happened to be a student of Joachim. 

A DC native, Cook went to Oberlin to study violin and subsequently traveled to Europe in the late 19th century to learn from Joachim. He was a young African American man who wanted to be a concert violinist, but had trouble here at home making a name for himself. Joachim was generous and charitable in giving Will Marion Cook lessons and his time.

We also hear Steve Reich's City Life, a rich piece composed of many sonic elements from the urban environs.  It's a breathtaking way to give back to a place that's fostered your livelihood.

What pieces or composers do you think of when it comes to generosity?




John Cage: Suite for Toy Piano (1948)

Margaret Leng Tan, toy pianos



David Lang: Child: Sweet Air

Sentieri Selvaggi

Cantaloupe Records


Johannes Brahms: Clarinet Trio in A minor, Op. 114

Michael Collins, clarinet

Steven Isserlis, cello

Stephen Hough, piano



Salwa Katreeb: Al Ataa (Giving)

May Nasr, voice, guitar

Private Recording


Gavin Bryars: Glorious Hill

Hilliard Ensemble



Franz Liszt: Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen

Vladimir Horowitz, piano



Will Marion Cook: Exhortation

Paul Robeson, bass-baritone

Lawrence Brown, piano



Joseph Joachim: Quartet in C Minor

Joachim Quartet



Mary Ellen Childs: After Dust


Cantaloupe Records


Steve Reich: City Life

Steve Reich Ensemble

Bradley Lubman, conductor



Isaac Albeniz: Suite Espanola: No. 5, Asturias (leyenda)

John Williams, guitar