The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music education: TONIGHT brings two FREE sendoff concerts by the local youth musicians -– the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras and the Madison Youth Choirs -– before they head off on international tours to Argentina and Scotland.

July 22, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

This is a reminder.

This is A Tale of Two Tours.

Like the tours, both of which will run exactly from July 24 through August 3, the two local groups will also offer competing sendoff concerts at exactly the same time — tonight, Tuesday, July 22, at 7 p.m.

But it is best not to dwell on the conflict or competition.

Instead, The Ear prefers to see it as a reminder that Madison, Wisconsin, is a great place to be not only for culture in general and for classical music, but for classical music education, which has been shown again and again by researchers to reap lifelong benefits in terms of development and maturity.

It involves two FREE sendoff concerts by two important groups of young musicians in Madison.

One is by the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras’ Youth Choir, under conductor UW-Madison professor James Smith, which will perform tonight at 7 p.m. at Olbrich Botanical Gardens on Madison’s East side. The program, a preview of the concert fare to be performd in Argentina, features music by Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Peter Tchaikovsky and Alberto Ginastera.

Here is a link to a previous blog posting about the WYSO concert:

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/classical-music-education-a-wisconsin-youth-symphony-orchestra-will-embark-on-an-international-tour-to-argentina-that-runs-july-24-to-aug-3-wyso-says-bon-voyage-with-a-free-send-o/

WYSO Youth  Orchestra

The other concert is the Madison Boychoir (below, in a photo by Jon Harlow), which will perform tonight at 7 p.m. in the Covenant Presbyterian Church, 326 South Segoe Road, on Madison’s near west side.

And here is a statement from Nicole Sparacino, the director of development for the Madison Youth Choirs:

“By a strange coincidence, the MYC send off concert is the same night as WYSO’s send off concert, and the dates of both tours are exactly the same, July 24-August 3!

“It’s pretty neat to think that, combined, over 100 of Madison’s finest young musicians will be sharing their talents on two very different parts of the world’s stage at the same time.

“Over the course of the tour, 71 MYC boys ages 9-18 will sing in medieval cathedrals, perform a joint concert with the National Youth Choir of Scotland, and have the chance to meet hundreds of other young artists from across the world. Our boys will even get the chance to test their foreign language skills, as they will have the honor of singing the national anthems of all participating countries during the festival’s Opening Ceremony. (You can see a promotional video for the Scotland tour at the bottom in a YouTube video.)

“We’re so excited for the boys to have this outstanding opportunity.

“Tonight, over 70 boys ages 9-18 from Madison Youth Choirs (MYC) will share an exciting free concert with the community before taking off to perform at the Aberdeen International Youth Festival in Scotland.

“As the only boychoir from the United States invited to perform at the festival, MYC’s lads (below, in a photo by Jon Harlow) will pay homage to the rich musical traditions of their homeland, from folk songs to cowboy melodies.

Madison Youth Choirs Scotland Tour CR Jon Harlow

“It will perform classic boychoir repertoire in three different languages. Concert selections will include the Shaker tune “Simple Gifts,” the powerful “Anthem” from the musical Chess, “Laudamus Te” by Antonio Vivaldi and the Shakespeare and “Macbeth”-inspired “Sound and Fury.”’

The latter is a world premiere work by composer Scott Gendel (below), who is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

Scott Gendel color headshot

For further information: visit www.madisonyouthchoirs.org or call (608) 238-7464.

 


Classical music: A memorial for the late University of Wisconsin-Madison pianist Howard Karp is set for Sunday, Aug. 31, at 3 p.m. in Mills Hall. Here is a link to an obituary in The Wisconsin State Journal and to two other stories about Karp from Isthmus and the UW-Madison News Service.

July 21, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

The word is in: There will be NO annual Labor Day Concert by the Karp family this year.

Instead, on the day before Labor Day, friends, students and family members will gather to celebrate the life of professor, pianist and musical patriarch Howard Karp (below, playing with his son, fellow UW-Madison School of Music professor and Pro Arte Quartet cellist Parry Karp), who taught and performed for many decades at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, in a memorial event.

Karp family 2011 Brahms Parry and Howard Karp

The memorial is set for Sunday, August 31, at 3 p.m. in Mills Hall. Initial plans call for playing recorded live performances by Howard Karp; for selected speakers; and perhaps for some live music performances. As details develop, this blog will pass them along.

Howard Karp ca. 2000 by Katrin Talbot

On June 30, in Colorado. Howard Karp died at 84 of cardiac arrest. He was so loved and so respected that news of his death brought this blog a record number of comments and remarks (more than 70 so far), and close to a record number of “hits” or views:

Here is a link to the post, which has a lot of photos provided by the family, that broke the news:

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/classical-music-pianist-howard-karp-who-taught-at-the-university-of-wisconsin-madison-has-died-at-84/

Frances and Howard Karp June 22, 2014

Here is a link to the obituary that appeared two Sundays ago in The Wisconsin State Journal (below, Howard Karp is seen performing at a recent Labor Day Concert with his wife Frances Karp and his two of his four grandchildren, actors Isabel and Ariana Karp):

http://host.madison.com/news/local/obituaries/karp-howard/article_fbbd171c-96da-5166-93e6-66b05ca2239a.html

Howard, Frances, Isabel and Ariana Karp 2013

Two stories have also celebrated Howard Karp as the patriarch of Madison’s First Family of Music (below in a past photo by Mike DeVries of The Capital Times, are, from left, violinist-pianist and doctor son Christopher Karp, who works for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; daughter-in-law biologist and violist Katrin Talbot; Howard Karp; cellist son Parry Karp; and pianist wife Frances Karp):

Karp Family in color

One is from Isthmus by Sandy Tabachnick, who got statements from fellow pianists and teachers Christopher Taylor, Bill Lutes, Martha Fischer and Jessica Johnson:

http://www.isthmus.com/daily/article.php?article=43120

Howard Karp ca. 1955

Another memorable story about Howard Karp (below with his wife of 63 years Frances, who survives him) was filed by Susannah Brooks, who also spoke with UW-Madison School of Music head Susan Cook (below bottom), for the University of Wisconsin-Madison News Service:

howard and frances karp

Susan C. Cook UW SOM BW CR Michael Forster Rothbart

And here is a wonderful appreciation of Howard Karp and the new 6-CD set of Karp’s live recordings by UW-Madison and WYSO alumnus Kenneth Woods (below). Woods is a composer, professional cellist and now the conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, who is also an acclaimed blogger (“A View From the Podium”) and an honored recording artist whose releases include world premiere recordings of music by Hans Gal.

http://kennethwoods.net/blog1/2014/07/07/6162/

Kenneth_Woods

And, finally, here is a small excerpt from that new 6-CD set on Albany Records. It is a triumphant recording of the first movement of the epic Fantasy in C Major, Op 17, by the Romantic composer Robert Schumann, which was written to raise money for a memorial statue to Ludwig van Beethoven.

In mood and meaning, the masterpiece is a fitting tribute to Howard Karp and to the art, generosity and devotion to both beauty and love with which he lived his life. As a teacher, a friend, a family man and a performer, Howard Karp lived his long, rich life in the service of bringing and sharing whatever beauty he could to other people.

 

 

 


Classical music: Twenty years ago, The Three Tenors created “popera” and changed the history of opera singing. Did it help or hurt opera? And who was the greatest tenor of the three? Plus, Madison Opera’s FREE Opera in the Park is Saturday night.

July 20, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

This past Wednesday marked the 20th anniversary of The Three Tenors phenomenon -– a blockbuster “crossover” concert (below) that was held outdoors on July 16, 1994 in Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles to mark the FIFA World Cup final.

three tenors 1994 dodgers stadium

The concert, which featured a mix of light, popular and serious music, took something of a drubbing from the serious classical music critics.

But it didn’t matter.

The public loved it –- and then some.

And the public kept on loving it and still does. Which is while you still see it on TV and hear it on radio, even two decades later, and why it has spawned so many imitators.

The event turned opera singing into a rock concert-like stadium event for the masses and the popular media, and brought to singing a huge global audience. Talk about genius in marketing and branding!

The event no doubt also helped pave the way for such mass outdoor concerts as the Madison Opera’s 13th annual FREE “Opera in the Park” (below),” with this year John DeMain conducting soloists plus members of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Madison Opera Chorus. It will take place this coming Saturday night, July 26, at 8 p.m. in Garner Park on Madison’s far west side.

Here is a link to the upcoming Madison Opera event, which previews the coming season and which usually attracts more than 10,000 listeners each summer. You can find information about directions, seating, artists and repertoire:

http://madisonopera.org/performances-2013-2014/park/

Opera in the Park

The 1994 event also dramatically changed the careers of the original Three Tenors -– Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras.

It brought all of them – and also conductor Zubin Mehta – unbelievable amounts of money for a one-night stint. And that, in turn, translated into astronomical fees for future individual tours by each of them.

You can relive the 1994 event through a sound sample in the story as well as through a YouTube video, which has almost 3 million hits, at the bottom of The Ear’s favorite aria, by Giacomo Puccini, from the event. It is in a terrifically comprehensive story, filled with lots of facts big and small, that Anastasia Tsioulcas researched and wrote for the outstanding “Deceptive Cadence” blog on NPR or National Public Radio.

Here is a link:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/07/16/330751895/how-the-three-tenors-sang-the-hits-and-changed-the-game

What do you think of The Three Tenors and its impact on the classical music scene and the opera scene? On the culture in general?

Did it help or hurt the cause of great singing and staging serious opera?

And who do you think was the greatest tenor of the three?

The Ear wants to hear.

 


Classical music: Famed child prodigy conductor Lorin Maazel has died at age 84. To the end, he was surrounded by controversy and contradiction.

July 19, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Last Sunday. as you may have already heard, the distinguished conductor Lorin Maazel (below, in a photo by AFP-Getty Images) died at his summer festival grounds and home in Virginia from complications of pneumonia. He was 84. Many expected him to live much longer — since conducting is such aerobic exercise, since extreme longevity ran in his family, since  conductors are a very long-lived group as a rule. 

lorin maazel AFP Getty Images

Here is a specially posted tribute video, with Maazel conducting music by Gustav Mahler — the famed Adagietto from the Symphony No. 5:

I read a lot about outstanding and searing performances by Maazel, who had a truly international career, but never heard any first-hand.

I also read a lot about his mechanical and uninspired approach to conducting, despite his mastery of “stick technique” with the baton. I never heard that in person either.

When I did hear him, usually conducting the New York Philharmonic on the PBS program “Live From Lincoln Center” or the Vienna Philharmonic  “New Year’s Day in Vienna,” he seemed perfectly competent and acceptable, if never outstandingly original or impressive or inspired. (You can hear him conduct in Seoul, Korea, the dramatic and moving “Egmont” Overture by Ludwig van Beethoven in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Born in France, Maazel as a major talent who started as a violin prodigy and then went on to conducting major orchestras before he reached the age of 10. Later, he also turned to opera, including appearances at the Metropolitan Opera. And he often talked about how lucky he had been to have parents who did not exploit his talent during childhood. And he was full of forward-looking plans to the end.

Maazel’s death was all over the media -– including media that don’t normally care to give much coverage to the arts, especially to the current arts and to living artists. Perhaps the fact that he made history by taking the New York Philharmonic to Pyongyang, North Korea, where he also performed our national anthem “The Star-Spangled Banner” to applause, had something to do with it.

Nonetheless, here are some stories to help you catch up:

Here is a story, with sound clips and a fine appreciation, from the classical music blog “Deceptive Cadence” on NPR:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/07/13/331148634/conductor-lorin-maazel-who-brought-america-to-the-podium-dies

Here is an exhaustive and comprehensive obituary from The New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/14/arts/music/lorin-maazel-brilliant-intense-and-enigmatic-conductor-dies-at-84.html?_r=0

Here is a story from the Wall Street Journal:

http://online.wsj.com/articles/conductor-lorin-maazel-dies-at-84-1405273033

Here is a fine memorial from The Washington Post critic Anne Midgette:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/style/wp/2014/07/13/lorin-maazel-1930-2014/

Here is a fine summing up by The New Yorker magazine of the contradictions and controversies that surrounded Maazel’s conducting. I love the headline – “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” which is a timely reminder of the balance needed between intellectualism and emotional directness, the latter of which is, for The Ear, the heart of making music:

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2014/07/lorin-maazel-the-man-who-knew-too-much.html

Did you hear Lorin Maazel?

Do you have a favorite memorable performance or recording by him?

A least favorite one?

What do YOU think of Lorin Maazel?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music education: One of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras will embark on an international tour to Argentina that runs July 24 to Aug. 3. So WYSO says “Bon Voyage” with a FREE send-off preview concert on this coming Tuesday night, July 22, at 7 p.m. in Olbrich Gardens.

July 18, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger 

The young musicians of Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) and its premier performing ensemble, the Youth Orchestra, are preparing for a fantastic opportunity this month when they will tour to Argentina.

WYSO Youth  Orchestra

Youth Orchestra members will have a chance to visit the three cities of Buenos Aires, Rosario and Mar del Plata. While in these cities they will visit some of the most beautiful places in South America and perform in world class venues.

The tour will be led by WYSO Music Director James Smith (below). He has served as conductor of the Youth Orchestra for 29 years and also serves as the Director of Orchestras for the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, where WYSO is housed.

Smith_Jim_conduct07_3130

The 67 WYSO musicians who will participate in the tour range in age from 14 t0 18 years old and hail from 19 different communities across southern Wisconsin. (You can hear a great sample of the Youth Orchestra under James Smith in the “Carmen” Suite by Georges Bizet in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

The tour will run from July 24 to August 3. It will include performances at Facultad de Derecho, the famed Teatro Colon (below) in Buenos Aires, Escuela 23 Distrito Escolar, La Usina de Musica, and Teatro el Circulo.

Teatro Colon interior

Repertoire for the tour will include the Overture to “Candide” by Leonard Bernstein, “Billy the Kid” Suite by Aaron Copland;  Liturgical Scenes by Dwane S. Milburn, the Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 36, by Peter Tchaikovsky; and “Malambo” from “Estancia” Suite, Op. 8a by Argentinean composer Alberto Ginastera (below).

Alberto Ginastera with cat

The Youth Orchestra will be posting a live blog before and during their trip to keep friends, family, and supporters of WYSO up to date with how the tour is going.

The writers will mainly be students, but a handful of chaperones will also be offering their perspectives.

You can visit the blog, and bookmark it, at http://wysotour2014.blogspot.com.

FREE PREVIEW CONCERT ON TUESDAY

Prior to departing on their international tour, the Youth Orchestra members will give a bon voyage send-off concert at Olbrich Botanical Gardens this coming Tuesday night, July 22, at 7 p.m. The concert is FREE and outdoors (weather permitting; otherwise it will be held indoors), and is open to the public, with a $1 suggested admission donation to support the gardens.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Olbrichsummermusic

The Ear thinks it would be great if local media – especially television – paid as much attention and gave as much coverage (even an audiovisual sample or clip with a voiceover) to these distinguished cultural ambassadors and exceptional products of music and arts education as they do to, say, student athletes.

Since 1966, WYSO has been providing excellence in musical opportunities for more than 5,000 young people in southern Wisconsin.

WYSO includes three full orchestras and a string orchestra, a chamber music program, a harp program, a percussion ensemble, and a brass choir program. The orchestras rehearse on Saturday mornings during the academic year, perform three to four public concerts per season, and tour regionally, nationally and internationally.

For more information, contact WYSO, Room 1625, Mosse Humanities Building, 455 North Park Street, Madison, WI 53706. You can also call (608) 263-3320 or visit www.wyso.music.wisc.edu

 


Classical music: Grace Presents seeks a Program Coordinator and extends the application deadline through July 31.

July 17, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

The deadline for applying to be the new Program Coordinator of Grace Presents was originally this past Tuesday, July 15. But it has now been extended through the end of the month, to July 31. For details, see below.

In a city with a lot of FREE and accessible high-quality concerts, Grace Presents nonetheless offers an outstanding series that fits right in with the church’s mission of community service.

The program was the brainchild of founder and first director Bruce Croushore, who worked long and hard to ensure its success. The Ear has heard memorable and enjoyable vocal and instrumental music, from violin sonatas and a solo piano recital to art songs and opera arias, at Grace Presents. (At bottom is a YouTube video of the “Liebeslieder Waltzes” by Johannes Brahms.)

Grace Presents sign

But now Croushore, a longtime reader and friend of this blog, has asked for help in advertising the position, and The Ear is happy to help.

Here is what Croushore, a retired businessman and consultant, writes:

“Grace Presents is a series of FREE noontime concerts that began in the spring of 2011 at Grace Episcopal Church, in downtown Madison on the Capitol Square.

“To date, three dozen diverse musical performances have been enjoyed by audiences that range in size from 30 to as many as 300. Most concerts take place at noon on Saturdays, so as to attract Dane County Farmers’ Market shoppers (below).

dane county farmers' market

Grace Presents’ mission is to open the doors of Madison’s historic landmark, Grace Church, by continuing the ancient tradition of music in the marketplace. (Below are photos of Grace’s exterior and its interior, which features beautiful furnishings and great acoustics.)

grace episcopal church ext

Grace Episcopal harpsichord

The series seeks to provide musicians and music-lovers from Dane County and beyond an outstanding acoustical performance venue that is attractive, peaceful and in the heart of Madison.

Grace Presents also offers free concerts of exceptional quality by local performers representing a wide variety of musical styles including classical, jazz, world and folk. (Below, Madison Symphony Orchestra violinist Laura Burns and pianist Jess Salek perform the complete violin sonatas by Johannes Brahms at Grace Presents.”)

Laura Burns Jess Salek Brahms Grace Epis

Grace Presents attempts to attract and enrich a broad audience, including downtown neighborhood residents, secondary school and university students, farmers’ market shoppers, local business people, state workers, local visitors, tourists, and people who are homeless.

Grace Church’s close proximity to Overture Center, Monona Terrace and downtown shops, restaurants, museums and offices encourages attendees to walk, ride bikes or to use public transportation, and reduces the carbon footprint of an excellent cultural event.

MBM Grace stained glass window

Grace Presents seeks a Program Coordinator whose duties include:

1. Engaging musicians to perform 8-12 concerts throughout the calendar year. This includes scheduling dates that work for the musicians, Grace Church and the community at large. Dates should be far enough in advance to allow for promotion of each concert. At times, program content may be specific to a given audience (i.e., children or shelter meal participants).

2. Preparing and disseminating publicity through various media, including online and print listings, social media and similar promotional opportunities.

3. Arranging payment for musicians, including completing paperwork and coordinating checks with the church’s Finance Administrator.

4. Preparing and arranging the printing of programs, posters and flyers for the concerts.

5. Acting as a liaison between performers and the venue of Grace Church.

6. Attending the concerts to assist with day-of logistics and taking care of musicians’ needs, except in special circumstances.

7. Attending periodic meetings of Grace Presents’ Task Force.

8. Completing and submitting grant applications with the assistance of task force members.

QUALIFICATIONS: This is an excellent opportunity for someone interested in gaining experience in concert promotion and arts administration. That includes students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Edgewood College.

Strong organizational and communication skills, as well as a working knowledge of social media, are necessary.

Familiarity with the Madison music scene, both commercial and educational, is a plus.

COMPENSATION: T
he program coordinator receives a quarterly honorarium of $500, paid in advance.

APPLICATION DEADLINE: Apply by email with a resume attached by not later than July 31, 2014.

Although the Grace Presents’ concert series is booked through December 2014, the task force intends to fill the position in the near future so that the current program director will be able to train a successor over the summer.

CONTACT: 
Write to Bruce Croushore at croushoreb@gmail.com


Classical music: This Saturday morning is the second of this summer’s three FREE Dane County Farmers’ Market organ concerts at 11 a.m. in Overture Hall by the Madison Symphony Orchestra. It marks the Madison debut of guest organist Ahreum Han. Plus, tonight at 7 p.m. violinist and concertmaster Suzanne Beia solos in classical repertoire in the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra’s FREE Concert on the Square.

July 16, 2014
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ALERT:  Here is a reminder that tonight, Wednesday, July 16, at  7 p.m., the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra under conductor Andrew Sewell will perform the most classical Concert on the Square of this summer season. For the program “A Little Night Music,” the guest soloist will be WCO Concertmaster violinist Suzanne Beia (below), an accomplished and always busy musician who also plays in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Pro Arte Quartet.

The concert is on the King Street corner of the Capitol Square, and blankets may be placed on the lawn at 3 p.m.. It is road construction season, so remember to allow plenty of time for travel. It will be cooler than normal too, so bring something warm as to wear as the sun sets.

Click here for Suzanne Beia’s biography:

http://wcoconcerts.org/about-wco/musicians/suzanne-beia-concertmaster/

The program includes: The first movement from “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; the first movement from the Violin Concerto in E Minor by Felix Mendelssohn; the first movement from the Symphony No. 6 “Pastorale” by Ludwig van Beethoven; and the third movement from the Symphony No. 6 “Pathetique” by Peter Tchaikovsky.

suzanne beia

By Jacob Stockinger

This won’t take long.

The Ear just wants to remind you about a FREE 45-minute organ concert by prize-winning Korean-American organist Ahreum Han (below), a graduate of the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, that will take place this Saturday, July 19, at 11 a.m. in Overture Hall at Overture Center for the Arts.

Ahreum Han

Here is the press release:

“Step into the cool expanse of Overture Hall on Saturday, July 19, during the Dane County Farmers’ Market (below top) on the Capitol Square to enjoy the gift of beautiful music with the Madison Symphony Orchestra‘s Overture Concert Organ (below bottom) that was custom-built by Klais Organ Works in Bonn, Germany.

dane county farmers' market

“Bring your family and friends for a relaxing 45-minute concert. No tickets or reservations are needed and all ages are welcome!”

Overture Concert Organ overview

Here is more information and a detailed program from the MSO website:

THE PROGRAM

Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880), transcribed by Ahreum Han, “Overture to Orphée aux enfers” (Orpheus in the Underworld); Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), Sinfonia from Cantata 29; Johannes Matthias Michel (b.1962), Three Jazz Preludes, I. Swing Five (Erhalt uns, Herr); II. Bossa Nova (Wunderbarer König); III. Afro-Cuban (In dir ist Freude); Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) “My Heart at Thy Sweet Voice” from “Samson and Delilah”; Louis Vierne (1870-1937), Naïdes from Fantasy Pieces, Op. 55, No. 4, and the Finale from his Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 59.

The program and artist subject to change.

For a full and very impressive biography of Han, who now lives and works in Davenport, Iowa, here is a link to the MSO website:

http://www.madisonsymphony.org/farmershan

And here is a YouTube video of Ahreum Han performing another work, the opening of Organ Symphony No. 3 by Louis Vierne, at the Curtis Institute of Music:


Classical music: The Madison Early Music Festival turns 15 with a perfect opening concert by the Toronto Consort that explored the Italian Renaissance and the musical legacy of Leonardo da Vinci.

July 15, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Madison Early Music Festival started as an idea.

So, what better way to mark its 15th anniversary than by exploring perhaps history’s greatest Man of Ideas -– Leonardo da Vinci?

Leonardo da Vinci

And that is exactly what happened during the opening concert last Saturday  night by MEMF, which this year is exploring Italian music from 1300 to 1600.

memf banner 2014

The festival — complete with workshops, lectures and concerts -– is held each summer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

It started as a way to help fill the summertime void of classical music. But now summer is its own season when it comes to classical music in Madison, and much of that success is due to MEMF’s success.

Co-founders and co-artistic directors UW-Madison baritone Paul Rowe and his soprano wife Cheryl Bensman Rowe (below) had every reason to be proud and moved -– and they were, visibly and audibly.

Paul Rowe, Cheryl Bensman Rowe MEMF 2014

This summer, because Mills Hall is under construction, MEMF has had to turn to other venues, chiefly the nearby Luther Memorial Church at 1021 University Avenue and Music Hall on Bascom Hill.

The opening concert “The Da Vinci Codex” was held at Luther Memorial, and the church seemed close to full, meaning almost 400 listeners attended. This alternative venue actually seemed an improvement in that it offered a warm and acoustically superior environment with sets and a building that complemented the religious beliefs and art of that era’s music and culture.

MEMF 2014 Luther Memorial

MEMF 2014 Luther Memorial audience

The program was set up by a fine and well-attended lecture and slide show given by UW-Madison art professor Gail Geiger (below). She examined the heretofore underestimated role of music in Leonardo’s life and career as a painter, drawing master, poet, engineer, inventor and all-round genius.

MEMF 2014 Gail Geiger

MEMF Gail Geiger slide show Leonardo

What the audience then heard was a two-hour concert in which no false note was sounded, no false step was taken.

The performer was the Toronto Consort, making its Madison debut. It proved an outstanding and thoroughly professional group of eight persons (below) who are multi-talented in their ability to sing, to play instruments and to recite narration dramatically, expressively and convincingly. They were not afraid to entertain and as well as to inform. (You can hear a sample of similar music performed by the Toronto Consort in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Toronto Consort MEMF 2014

The Ear was especially impressed by the tightness of the scissors-and-paste presentation and the uncanny way the Toronto Consort spoke to and engaged with the audience, who laughed and applauded thunderously.

MEMF 2014 Luther Memorial audience Toronto Consort

The program’s effectiveness came from the terrifically seamless and smooth narrative thread, the story that centered on the life and works of Leonardo da Vinci. It was unifying and used primary sources (Leonardo’s notebooks and letters) and secondary sources like the proto-art historian Giorgio Vasari’s “Lives” and other historians or critics. (Below is David Fallis, the artistic director, tenor and narrator.)

MEMF 2014 Luther Memorial Toronto Consort David Fallis, artistic director, tenor, narrator

The performers moved easily from historical accounts of Leonardo in Florence, Milan and France to contextual music that illustrated Leonardo –- the ultimate Renaissance Man — from birth to death. And it proved thoroughly enjoyable and often deeply moving. You did not have to be a fan of early music to be taken in by the contagious melodies and harmonies, the catchy inflections and rhythms, the facts of an amazing life and career.

Just watching these complete professionals perform took us into their world because they are full-body performers who used hands, feet and facial expressions to convey the emotional meaning of the music and get the audience to connect with the music and with them. It felt like Renaissance jazz, so free and yet also so disciplined and practiced was the performance. It is what The Ear likes to call “the well-rehearsed surprise” and is a hallmark of all great performances that are virtuosic and make what is hard seem easy or effortless. (Below is Katherine Hall, viola da gamba player and soprano, singing.)

MEMF 2014 Toronto Consort Katherine Hill soprano and viola da gamba

There is much more left of the 15th Madison Early Music Festival to hear, including “Songs of Love” by the instrumentalists and vocal ensemble Ex Umbris in Music Hall tonight at 7:30 p.m. tonight; plus other concerts including the second annual Handel Aria Competition in Music Hall on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. (NOT 7 p.m., as the MEMF home website mistakenly said at first, and the always impressive All-Festival Concert, which focuses this year on the Trionfi of the poet Petrarch, on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. in Luther Memorial Church. FREE pre-concert lectures by experts in art, music and history take place at 6:30 p.m.

Here is a link to a schedule and descriptions of events, with times, places and participants:

http://continuingstudies.wisc.edu/conferences/madison-early-music-festival/index.html?source=madisonearlymusic.org

Unlike many of Leonardo’s ideas, which were adventurous and even prophetic if uncompleted, MEMF has moved from idea to reality.

The Ear has no doubt, and every hope, that it is here to stay, and that it will continue to evolve and grow.


Classical music: This year’s second annual Handel Aria Competition is Thursday night at 7:30 p.m in Music Hall with anpre-concert lecture at 6:30 p.m. in Room 2650 at the nearby Mosse Humanitites Building — and is almost guaranteed to be a sellout.

July 14, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

This week, in conjunction with the 15th annual Madison Early Music Festival that is running from Saturday, July 12, to Saturday, July 19, the second annual Handel Aria Competition will take place this Thursday, July 17, at 7:30 p.m. in Music Hall, 925 Bascom Mall, at the foot of Bascom Hill on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A free pre-concert lecture will be given at 6:30 p.m. in Room 2650 of the nearby UW-Madison Mosse Humanities Building by John W. Barker, who writes music criticism for Isthmus and for this blog and who is a big and longtime Handel enthusiast.

MusicHall2

NOTE: The Handel Smack-Down will NOT take place in Mills Hall, as it did last summer, because Mills Hall at the UW-Madison School of Music, is closed while it undergoes an upgrading of its electrical system.

The Handel Aria Competition was established in 2013 to encourage emerging singers to explore the repertoire of Handel. Founders Dean and Orange Schroeder (below bottom), who own Orange Tree Imports on Monroe Street, are  enthusiasts of the vocal repertoire of George Frideric Handel (below top) and are lifelong supporters of the arts.

Here is a link to the Q&A Dean Schroeder gave The Ear last summer:

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/classical-music-qa-organizer-dean-schroeder-talks-about-the-inaugural-handel-aria-competition-at-this-years-madison-early-music-festival-on-monday-night-july-8/

Handel etching

Carol %22Orange%22 and Dean Schroeder

An ongoing partnership with the Madison Early Music Festival has helped to continue the program, which is not actually part of MEMF.

This year over 60 singers applied. Seven were selected as finalists who were then invited to compete for scholarship awards to be used toward their professional development as young artists. That number, by the way, is fewer than last year, which should make the concert more manageable and enjoyable for both the public and the performers.

Handel arias Winnie Nieh

Handel arias all applaud

The live competition of the final round is what is being held Thursday.

The finalists for the 2014 Handel Aria Competition are: Nan Li, Sarah Brailey, Daniel Moody, Chelsea Morris, Michael Roemer, Yukie Sato, and Daniel Shirley. (At bottom is a YouTube video of Elisa Sutherland, who won last year’s competition. You can also hear other competitors on YouTube.)

Full biographies are available on the Handel Aria Competition website. Here is a link:

www.handelariacompetition.com.

This year’s competition is “new and improved,” it seems. Last year, just a solo harpsichord – finely played by two early music keyboard players – accompanied the singers. This time, they will be accompanied by a consort that includes a harpsichord, two violins, a viol and a viola da gamba.

Judges include faculty members and performers from the Madison Early Music Festival: Kristina Boerger, Drew Minter, Ian Pritchard, and Nell Snaidas. (Below are last year’s judges taking notes.)

Handel judges MEMF 14

Tickets are $10 and are available in advance through Brown Paper Tickets and are online at www.handelariacompetition.com.

You can also phone 1-800-838-3006.

On the day of the show, tickets go on sale in person at Music Hall at 6 p.m. – CASH ONLY — with doors to the theater opening at 7 p.m.

Please note: As the event is in Music Hall this year due to renovations taking place in Mills Hall, seating is limited to 375 audience members. Last year nearly 500 people attended the concert. Advance purchase is highly recommended.

For complete information, including performer biographies and qualifications of the judges, visit www.handelariacompetition.com

 


Classic music: Today is World Cup Sunday. As Argentina and Germany battle to win the soccer championship, here is another installment of the music by the great Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos.

July 13, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

As loyal blog readers already know, The Ear has been using the FIFA World Cup (below) competition in soccer — or football, as the rest of the globe knows the sport – as a fine occasion to explore and to hear the music of Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos.

World Cup 2014 playing

After all, the World Cup has taken place since June 12 in some dozen stadiums (below) throughout Brazil. And today’s championship match between Argentina and Germany will take place in Rio de Janiero.

World Cup 2014 stadiums

And after hearing the music of Villa-Lobos performed by the Cello Choir at the National Summer Cello Institute (below) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, The Ear is more convinced than ever that this great but neglected 20th-century composer deserves a wider hearing and more live performances.

Cello Choir 2014 Bachianas Brasileiras No. 1

Villa-Lobos (below) attempted an ambitious and ingenious task: To reconcile and incorporate the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and concert hall music in general with the folk songs and folk dances of his native Brazil. Before Astor Piazzolla and his “new tangos,” there was Villa-Lobos and his Bachianas Brasileiras and Choros.

Villa-Lobos BW

Here are links to the previous installments:

This is the link to the Cello Choir concert of the annual National Summer Cello Institute that is held each summer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and that inspired my Villa-Lobos video postings from YouTube.

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/06/19/classical-music-the-ear-takes-the-cello-cure-at-the-university-of-wisconsin-madison-and-now-cant-wait-for-another-treatment-next-summer/

And here are the links to the first two installments that feature the Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 and No 1, which both deserve repeated hearings:

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/06/20/classical-music-the-fifa-world-cup-of-soccer-is-a-perfect-time-to-become-acquainted-with-the-astonishing-music-of-brazilian-composer-heitor-villa-lobos/

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/06/28/classical-music-the-united-states-advances-in-the-world-cup-of-soccer-and-the-ear-advances-to-another-great-moment-in-music-by-brazilian-composer-heitor-villa-lobos/

And here is the third installment that featured Brazilian pianist Nelson Freire performing the chorale prelude-type opening of the Bachianas Brasilerias No. 3 for solo piano:

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/07/05/classical-music-more-world-cup-soccer-means-more-music-by-brazilian-composer-heitor-villa-lobos-here-is-installment-no-3/

Villa-Lobos was championed by none other than the great pianist Arthur Rubinstein, who performed his suite “Prole do bebe”:

And his well-known piece “The Little Train From the Caipira,” from “Bachianas Brasileiras” No. 2, which Walt Disney was attracted to for possible use in a second “Fantasia” film and which imitates the sounds of a rural choo-choo, as played by a youth orchestra in Great Britain:

Now here is a link to Installment No. 4: A beautiful movement from one of his 17 string quartets — this one is No. 5 and is available on YouTube. It once again shows the lyrical songfulness and folk music vigor of Villa-Lobos. It is even more beautiful than the perfect soccer kick or dribble, pass or goal, and it is more long-lasting:

 


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