In Sunday’s (4/26) Plain Dealer (Cleveland), Donald Rosenberg writes, “As a kid in Columbus, Mark Pennell was smitten with radio, classical music and jazz. He remembers crying when he first heard ‘The Nutcracker’ and ‘The Pines of Rome.’ And he dreamed of combining his loves one day. Pennell doesn’t play an instrument or read a note of music, but he has parlayed his affection for the classics into an on-air career brightened by idiosyncratic observation. As host of the morning and midday classical programs on WKSU FM/89.7, Pennell finds fascinating—and often irreverent—ways to draw listeners into the pieces he’s about to play. In the sonorous voice Pennell himself doesn’t find particularly pleasant, he revels in the fact that Dvorak was obsessed with trains and pigeons. He wonders how Brahms, a famous agnostic, could write a sacred work as sublime as the ‘German Requiem.’ … Though he relishes breaking rules, Pennell worries a bit about being too ‘tabloidish’ while bringing elevated artists down to earth. ‘WKSU wants serious listeners to give us a chance,’ he says. ‘We don’t want them to look at us as Classical Lite.’ ”

Posted April 28, 2009