© 2023 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Remembering classical music commentator Miles Hoffman who died at 71

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Longtime NPR listeners will remember Miles Hoffman. He was a music commentator on this network for decades and had an infectious love of classical music.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Hoffman died earlier this month and is remembered here for taking the starch out of the seemingly stiff world of classical music.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

MILES HOFFMAN: People think classical music is supposed to be taken terribly, terribly seriously. But, in fact, there's been quite a lot of funny classical music over the years. There's a famous piece by Mozart called "A Musical Joke," where he's making fun of French horn players who are, let's say, not the absolute tops.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE ENGLISH CONCERT AND ANDREW MANZE PERFORMANCE OF "EIN MUSIKALISCHER SPASS (A MUSICAL JOKE), K. 522: II. MENUETTO"

MARTÍNEZ: Hoffman's commentaries combine an encyclopedic knowledge of classical music with a warm sense of humor. Here he is with MORNING EDITION's Renee Montagne, talking about famous bad fathers in opera.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

HOFFMAN: And some of them are actually really bad, downright evil.

(SOUNDBITE OF OPERA, "DAS RHEINGOLD")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing in German).

HOFFMAN: "My curse you cannot escape." That's Alberich cursing the ring from Wagner's "Das Rheingold." Now, he's not the only bad father in the Ring Cycle, Renee. There's also Wotan, who's the king of the gods. And he has affairs with both a mortal woman and an immortal woman. And he's the father of all the Valkyries. So he was the father of Brunnhilde, Gerhilde, Ortlinde, Waltraute, Schwertleite, Helmwige, Siegrune, Grimgerde and Rossweisse.

RENEE MONTAGNE: Lot of...

HOFFMAN: Would you like to repeat those names?

(LAUGHTER)

INSKEEP: Hoffman was a graduate of Yale University and the Juilliard School who had a prolific musical career as a violist. He played with the National Symphony Orchestra and founded the American Chamber Players.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTÍNEZ: Miles Hoffman was also an author and a teacher. He wrote several books on classical music that not only suggested what to listen to but how to listen and how to discover the joy he found in a lifetime of music.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

HOFFMAN: One of the things that I think is worth pointing out, Renee, is that Beethoven was a man who suffered physically throughout his life, not just from the deafness. And yet he never stopped working. That's the real triumph of Beethoven, that the courage to overcome all of these difficulties and then to create these immortal works that will live for as long as their civilization.

(SOUNDBITE OF LINDSAY STRING QUARTET PERFORMANCE OF "STRING QUARTET NO. 13 IN B-FLAT MAJOR, OP. 130: VII. ALTERNATIVE FINALE")

INSKEEP: Miles Hoffman was 71 when he died of leukemia.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.