Six gift ideas for the classical music lover on your list

Dec 12, 2017

'Tis the season for holiday cheer and gift-giving! Do you have someone on your list who loves classical music, and you're unsure of where to start? Fret not. We have some ideas.

1) A high-quality radio (or upgraded speakers)

This one seems obvious coming from someone who works at a radio station, but it's a fact – the sound quality on a good radio beats that crummy clock radio you've had since you were 8. And if the music lover on your list is more digitally-inclined, there are lots of reasonably-priced speakers that pair with smartphones or with stereo systems. The Wirecutter has excellent reviews (at various pricepoints) of bluetooth speakers (large ones and portable ones) and bookshelf speakers, as well as tabletop radios.

2) A multi-room solution for a single-room audio setup

When I moved from a tiny studio apartment into a 1-bedroom, I was so excited to have a separate kitchen and living room – but I was not so excited about it being more difficult to listen to records while cooking, as I did not want to run speaker wire from the turntable/cd/receiver setup in the living room into the kitchen. After hours of research, I settled on this solution: a second set of speakers in the kitchen, hooked up to a wireless transmitter that would communicate with the receiver in the living room, allowing me to listen to CDs, records, or radio while slicing and dicing. (Since I'd inherited a couch for free from the previous tenant, I figured I could splurge on this instead... but this would be a great gift, if $100 is in your range.)

3) Concert tickets

I am a firm believer in the idea that experiences make better gifts than things (#millennial, I know), and while listening to a symphony at home is fine, experiencing it live is so much better. If you've never felt the floors of Symphony Hall vibrate under your toes during a concert, you are not getting the full experience.

If your music-lover lives in the Boston area, our list of WCRB In Concert partners is a fantastic place to start looking for concert tickets. Here are a few specific recommendations from around the WCRB office:

"Pindrop Sessions 4: Marimba Cabaret," January 7 - The next in our partnership with Aeronaut Brewing Company in Somerville will feature percussion duo Marimba Cabaret. These nights are casual, intimate, and a whole lot of fun (and, yes - there's beer). 

"Leipzig Week in Boston," Feb. 8-10 - When the BSO formally launches its partnership with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, they'll do it by with three gobsmackingly awesome pianists - Thomas Adès, Kirill Gerstein, and Jean-Yves Thibaudet - all playing Bach together.

Flanders Recorder Quartet, Feb. 23 - Boston Early Music Festival brings this astonishingly virtuosic group to Boston in its farewell tour, with Renaissance music from England, Flanders, and Italy. The recorder is so much more than that plastic tube you learned to play in elementary school.

A Thousand Mountains, a Million Streams, April 21 - Boston Modern Orchestra Project plays the world premiere of a piece by composer Lei Liang in a program inspired by musical voices from China.

4) Music lessons

Music lessons at a local music school could spark something in a music lover of all ages. If your music lover is in Boston, here are a few options:

Community Music Center of Boston
New School of Music
Page Music Lessons

5) Books about music

Support a local independent bookstore if you can! This is a brief list of books recommended by folks on our staff:

Schubert's Winter Journey by Ian Bostridge - beautiful, meditative, and highly personal context for Schubert's emotionally powerful Winterreise, written by one of the world's great interpreters of the composer's music

The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross - a history of the 20th Century through music, by the classical music critic of The New Yorker

Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks - a look at the weird and wonderful ways that human brains respond to and interact with music, written with charm and wit by one of the great neuroscience writers of our time

The Chronicle of Classical Music by Alan Kendall - an easy-to-read, all-encompassing guide to the history of classical music. Great for someone getting into classical music, but also good for more seasoned fans

Beethoven's Skull: Dark, Strange, and Fascinating Tales from the World of Classical Music and Beyond by Tim Rayborn - spooky tales from the classical music world, many of which are featured here

Absolutely on Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa by Haruki Murakami - a rare opportunity to glimpse into one of the great musical minds of the 20th century, from a bestselling author whose novels often feature classical music as a theme

Lives of the Musicians: Good Times, Bad Times (and What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull (good for kids in grades 4-8) - for the kid who loves trivia, facts and stories about the personal lives of the great composers

6) A donation to a music-related organization

This may seem like a cop-out, but in my family, it's tradition: we don't give gifts, we make donations in honor of each other. Here is a very small list of the thousands of organizations doing great work in music access and education:

El Sistema USA
Community Music Center of Boston
Music for Food
Revolution of Hope
Save the Music
Musicians Without Borders
Your local youth or community orchestra, if they accept donations
Your local classical music public radio station (sorry, had to include this one)

Have other ideas? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter. Happy holidays!