The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music review: Con Vivo comes to life – and a higher public profile – in its all-Schubert concert.

May 23, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

Here is a special posting, a review written by frequent guest critic and writer for this blog, John W. Barker. Barker (below) is an emeritus professor of Medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also is a well-known classical music critic who writes for Isthmus and the American Record Guide. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.

 By John W. Barker

Madison’s vibrant musical life is a product of the abundance of talented musicians in the area, ready and eager to perform.

The instrumental co-operative of Con-Vivo (below) draws upon exactly such talent. Most of the players are experienced orchestral musicians — a number from the Madison Symphony Orchestra or the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra — who relish the busman’s holidays of playing chamber music.

Con-Vivo (the name is a musical term that means “with life” or “lively”) is one of Madison’s many “lesser” musical organizations that too readily slip under the radar of general public awareness. I am ashamed to say that I finally caught up with them only in the final concert of their ninth season, on Friday, at their home base, the First Congregational Church.

Their program was an irresistible one, devoted entirely to music of Franz Schubert (below) — that most warmly human and genial of composers, to my mind.

The program began with two (Nos. 3 and 6) of the half-dozen “Moments musicaux,” played with sympathetic deftness by pianist Dan Lyons (below). They are pieces that are quintessentially Schubertian in sound, in their deceptive simplicity. It is easy to associate their sound world with Schubert’s larger compositional style. No. 3 could have been a dance number in his “Rosamunde” incidental ballet music, while No. 6 could have been a sketch toward some projected German Lied, or art song. They reminded me further of Anton Bruckner‘s Latin motets, many of them little nuggets of harmonic experimentation that could be expanded into one or another of his great symphonic Adagios.

The program’s second item, Schubert’s last work, was one of the two ventures in song wherein Schubert paired a singer with a wind instrumental obbligato: this one, with clarinet, is Der Hirt auf dem Felsen (“The Shepherd on the Rock”); the other, with French horn, being Auf dem Strom (“On the Stream”).

Such combinations in early Romantic Lieder were by no means uncommon, but it is fascinating to hear Schubert, the virtual “father” of the German Lied, going beyond the standard voice with piano combination to test further possibilities. To think what Schubert, who died at the heart-breaking age of 31 might have gone on to do …

Schubert treats the pairing of voice and instrument (supported by piano, of course) as a duo, the two virtually never competing, but instead alternating in the exchanges of thematic ideas. The singer, Saira Frank (below right), is one of the UW Music School’s many splendid vocal products, heard in the full blossoming of her strong, rich soprano voice. Her conversational partner was the group’s eloquent clarinetist, Robert Taylor (below left).

The major item, however, was Schubert’s longest, largest, most expansive chamber work, his Octet for clarinet, bassoon, horn, string quartet and double bass). This six-movement work was composed four years before his death in 1828, on the prompting of a patron who apparently proposed that Schubert emulate Beethoven’s youthful Septet.

Schubert achieved this in his very own stylistic terms, in something that ranges from intimacy to near orchestral sonorities, balancing easy-going lightness with underlying seriousness. In a very real sense, Schubert beat Beethoven at his own game in this work.

First violinist Olga Pomolova (below left) led the ensemble with panache. Impossible runs imposed on her part and that of the clarinet in the final movement suffered some inevitable scrambles. But precision of playing was otherwise quite consistent, and carried by a buoyant spirit of enjoyment that the players showed in facing all their challenges. It was the kind of performance whose zest is readily passed on to the audience.

One rarely has a chance to hear this Octet in live performance, so the Con Vivo venture was a very particular treat indeed. And, in a moving statement at the beginning, violinist Kathryn Taylor announced the dedication of the concert to the memory of the recently deceased Ann Stanke (below), who had been (among so many other things, including co-founder and general director of the Madison Opera) a member of the Con Vivo’s board.

It proved a fitting tribute in superlative music to a superlative musical personality.


Posted in Classical music

Classical music news: Madison Summer Choir for campus and community to do rarely heard Saint-Saens Requiem and perform for free June 29

May 22, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

Ever since its grew out of UW School of Music budget cuts in 2009, the Madison Summer Choir (below, seen last year in performance), made up of campus and community members, is quickly becoming a tradition, one that is the summer equivalent of the UW Choral Union – and its rehearsals begin this Tuesday.

This summer, the Summer Choir will rehearse and then perform Camille Saint-Saens’ rarely heard Requiem for soloists, choir, harp, winds and strings on Wednesday, June 29, at 7:30 p.m., in Mills Hall in a program called “Remembrance of Things Past.” The Ear thinks that, for singer and audiences alike, it is a very interesting choice of repertoire by one of history’s most gifted prodigies and most underrated and underperformed composers.

Admission to the concert is FREE, so mark your calendars and datebooks.

Led by UW Music School alumnus Ben Luedcke, the Summer Choir is open to students and community members. Members of auditioned UW and auditioned Madison ensembles do NOT need to audition. Luedcke is also the director of the Choral Arts Society Chorale, the UW Men’s Choir and the music director Lake Edge United Church of Christ.

Rehearsals are twice weekly (May 23-June 28), Monday and Tuesday from 5-7 p.m. in Room 1351 Humanities.

There is NO rehearsal on Memorial Day (May 30), but there will be an extra rehearsal on Wednesday, June 1, from 5-7 p.m. in 1351.

There will also be a required rehearsal on Wednesday, June 22, in Mills Hall (below).

Membership is $35, $25 for students.

For information, contact Ben Luedcke at baluedcke@wisc.edu or visit the new website madisonsummerchoir.org for more information or to schedule an audition, and to hear audio clips. You can also call 262-424-2989.

Here is a short Q&A given to The Ear by Ben Luedcke:

What and how did the Summer Chorus start and how did you become involved as the director?

The UW School of Music, facing budget cuts, eliminated its only summer singing ensemble, so I formed this ensemble in 2009 its place to ensure this summer singing opportunity would not be missed.

What works has it performed in the past?

We have performed Haydn’s Missa Brevis St. Joannis de Deo, dubbed the “Little Organ Mass” as part of a concert entitled “It’s the Little Things That Count.”  Last summer we did Morten Lauridsen‘s Lux Aeterna as part of a program entitled “A Light-Motif: The Sun, Stars and the Eternal.”  This is our third year and we will continue the tradition of an a cappella and piano-accompanied first half followed by a larger work with orchestra for the second half.

How many members does it usually have?

We have historically been about 75 voices.

Why did you choose the Requiem by Saint-Saens (below), which is rarely performed or recorded?

Any conductor can lump a bunch of unrelated and/or overdone audience-pleasers together for a good concert.  However, an artistic director can make a great concert by carefully selecting works as part of a theme that dramatically informs the audience’s reception, and can further all artistic energy by finding rare and under-programmed gems.

What would you tell the public about the Saint-Saens Requiem?

This will be a rare night to hear an under-programmed work by a master composer, as well as witness community members and UW students, both in the choir and orchestra, coming together despite cuts to the arts to ensure that Madison’s summer singing tradition remains intact.

What other pieces are on the program for the free concert?

Look for works by Dello Joio, Eleanor Daley, Matthew Harris and UW graduate Scott Gendel.


Posted in Classical music

What is the best classical music for commencement and graduation?

May 21, 2011
1 Comment

A CORRECTION AND A REMINDER: I incorrectly listed the two concerts by the Oaskwood Chamber Players (below) for last weekend. I was wrong and apologize. They are this weekend, TONIGHT at 7:30 p.m. in the Oakwood Village West Auditorium, 6201 Mineral Point Road, on Madison’s far west side, the Oakwood Chamber Players and then on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at the UW Arboretum Visitors Center. The unusual program includes Mayer’s Bagatelles for flute, clarinet and bassoon; Poulenc’s Trio for oboe, bassoon and piano; and Juon’s Divertimento, Op. 51, for piano and wind quintet. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors; $5 for students. For more information and reservations, call http://www.oakwoodchamberplayers.com/Tickets.html

By Jacob Stockinger

Well, it’s the season.

It’s time for commencement and graduation ceremonies.

It may have already happened, or it is happening this weekend, or will happen soon.

I keep thinking about the best pieces classical music pieces to play to celebrate the event.

And even though I wish to find new ones, I keep coming up with the same old — but great — answers.

So here they are:

Elgar’s famous Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1:

And BrahmsAcademic Festival Overture:

So go ahead: Pass these along via email or texting or whatever media you have along with your best wishes and congratulations.

After all, education is a struggle these days—and promises to be more so in the future.

I just read where last year in the US student debt surpassed all credit card debt.

That isn’t right, but it is the reality.

So wish your special graduate, at no matter what level, well.

And do it with music.

And let me know if you know of other commencement music to recommend.

The Ear wants to hear.


Posted in Classical music

Classical music news: Funeral service for Madison Opera’s Ann Stanke is Tuesday, May 24, at 1 p.m.

May 20, 2011
4 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

When I received news late Thursday afternoon about the death of Madison Opera founder Ann Stanke (below) — she died Wednesday of Lou Gehrig’s Disease at 76 — I didn’t yet know funeral details.

Now I do.

A funeral service will be held at CRESS FUNERAL HOME, 3610 Speedway Road, on Tuesday, May 24, 2011, at 1 p.m. Visitation will be held on Tuesday from 11 a.m. until the time of service.

I have added them to my other post, but also want to post them separately for those who read the other post but don’t know about the service.

I expect the service will be well attended.

Ann has so many friends and admirers.

Me among them.

Rest in peace, Ann.


Posted in Classical music

Classical music Q&A: Student flutist Maggie Schenk talks about music education and performing with the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras this Sunday night

May 20, 2011
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Editor’s note: This year, I am featuring music education as a spotlighted topic. Starting Wednesday and continuing yesterday and today, student performers, concerto competition winners, answer questions about themselves and music education.

By Jacob Stockinger

On Sunday, May 22, 2011, more than 300 talented young musicians will celebrate the arrival of the new season with the Eugenie Mayer Bolz Family Spring Concerts in Mills Concert Hall (below) in the UW Humanities Building, 455 North Park Street, Madison.

At 1:30 p.m., WYSO’s string orchestra, Sinfonietta (below), will open the concert series with performances of Holst’s “St. Paul’s Suite” and Dvorak‘s “Bagatelle.” The Concert Orchestra will follow with a popular film score favorite, “Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring” and Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Procession of the Nobles.”

At 4 p.m., WYSO’s Philharmonia Orchestra (below) will showcase the talents of Concerto Competition winner Christie Cheng, who will perform the third movement — with her own cadenzas — Mozart‘s Piano Concerto No. 13 in C  Major, K. 415, accompanied by her fellow orchestra members. Philharmonia will also bring a few audience favorites to life, including Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony, and Bernstein’s Overture to “West Side Story.”

The Youth Orchestra — WYSO’s premier performing group — will take the stage following the Harp Ensemble at 7 p.m. and will also highlight the Concerto Competition winners.

Maggie Schenk, 18, will perform the first movement of Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 1; Paul Sekulski, 17, will perform the first movement of Sibelius’s Violin Concerto; and Megan Whip, 16, will play the first movement of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5. All three soloists will be accompanied by the Youth Orchestra.

The evening concert will also feature the world premiere of a special piece, “Fanfare for an Uncommon Man,” composed by UW School of Music professor John Stevens to honor WYSO’s 94-year-old founder, Marvin Rabin, who will receive the third Lifetime Achievement award from the Wisconsin School Music Foundation on Saturday night.

For a profile about Marvin Rabin, visit:

http://host.madison.com/wsj/entertainment/music/article_e7e9bb7e-0da4-55c6-9619-1e6b0e4b02e4.html

For information about WYSO, visit:

http://wyso.music.wisc.edu/

To see my interview with composer John Stevens about the Rabin piece, visit:

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2011/05/05/classical-music-q-and-a-composer-john-stevens-talks-about-his-work-fanfare-for-an-uncommon-man-to-honor-marvin-rabin-part-1-of-2/

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/classical-music-q-and-a-composer-john-stevens-talks-about-how-composers-compose-and-his-own-music-part-2-of-2/

WYSO concerts are generally about an hour to an hour and a half in length, providing a great orchestral concert opportunity for families.

Tickets are available at the door, $8 for adults and $5 for children under 18 years of age. WYSO was founded in 1966 and has served nearly 5,000 young musicians from more than 100 communities in southern Wisconsin.

These concerts are generously supported by the Eugenie Mayer Bolz Family and the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission with additional funds from the Endres Mfg. Company Foundation, the Evjue Foundation, Inc., the charitable arm of The Capital Times, and the Overture Foundation.

This project is also funded in part by additional funds from the Wisconsin Arts Board, the State of Wisconsin, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Today’s interview is with Maggie Schenk, below in a photo by Lloyd Schultz):

What is your name? How old are you and when did you start studying music?

I am Maggie Schenk, and I am 17. l started when I was seven years old.

What grade are you in now and what school do you go to?

I am a high school senior, home-schooled, and attend Madison College (MATC) part-time.

What are your favorites subjects? Do you have other areas of interest?

I have always enjoyed science, especially chemistry. Also, I’m currently in my fourth semester of Spanish study at MATC and hope to continue this in college and beyond.

Throughout most of middle school and high school, I have been involved with theater. I participated with the Young Shakespeare Players and with Quick and Dead Productions, a youth-formed and -directed company that performs Shakespeare and other classics as well as original, cast-written plays.

I also enjoy reading, yoga and biking.

What are your plans for higher education and a career?

I plan to major in flute performance in college and pursue a professional music career.

Who is your music teacher?

Mary Wilkosz for flute and Beth Wilson for piano.

Do you have a favorite composer and favorite pieces to listen to or to play?

No, but recently I’ve been listening a lot to the  violin and cello sonatas by Brahms (below).

Why is playing music important to you and what does playing music teach you?

Music is both an escape from everyday life and a medium through which I can more deeply understand life.

What different kinds of music do you listen to and like?

Right now I listen mostly to classical music.

Was there an Aha! Moment or turning point – perhaps a certain performer or piece — when you knew you wanted to be very serious about pursuing classical music?

WYSO actually motivated me to start playing music. I went to a WYSO concert when I was very young (maybe 6) and remember feeling very inspired and thinking, “Someday I’m going to play in that orchestra.”

With WYSO’s help, I had the opportunity to attend Interlochen Arts Camp (below) for two summers, and here I had a six-week long “aha” moment. Playing with such talented and motivated peers challenged me to improve my own playing, and especially to reexamine why I play music. Because the level of playing was so high, we were able to transcend the notes and physical difficulties of playing and actually communicate meaning, emotion through the music.

This changed my perception of why I wanted to play music professionally: not because it was an “extra-curricular activity” I happened to enjoy, but because it is an incredible means of emotional communication, transformative for both the musicians and, most importantly, the audience.

What advice would you give others, students and adults, about studying music?

Play because you love the music. Don’t get caught up in petty things like playing “better” than the person next to you or winning a competition. Instead, look at the competitive side of the music world simply as incentive to better your musicianship in order to more meaningfully connect with your audience.

How important do you think music education is in relation to other areas of education?

Extremely. As far as “practical” uses, I think studying music helps to order the rest of your academic life and improve time management.

But more importantly, it is a wonderful outlet for emotional, artistic, spiritual development. This is something not always so readily available in some other areas of academic life, but in my opinion is just as essential (if not more) to education as is memorizing facts and formulas.

What does getting the chance to perform a concerto with and orchestra mean to you and why?

Having the opportunity to perform this concerto with this orchestra is very important and exciting for me.

The piece is a staple of the flute repertoire, something I will probably play for the rest of my life. I feel lucky to be able to collaborate with an orchestra now; this experience will give me confidence for any future performances of this piece I play.

WYSO has been a huge part of my musical education (this is my eighth year and I’ve played in each of the three full orchestras throughout the years).

This will be my last WYSO concert of my last WYSO season, in my last year of high school, so for me it is really a culmination of all of my musical studies to this point, in regard to both my own work and to the incredible amount of support I’ve received from my parents, family, friends, teachers, and, of course, WYSO!


Posted in Classical music

Classical music news: Madison Opera founder Ann Stanke is dead at 76

May 19, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

Ann Stanke (below), one of the titans of classical music and the arts in Madison, has died at 76.

A funeral service will be held at CRESS FUNERAL HOME, 3610 Speedway Road, on Tuesday, May 24, 2011, at 1 p.m. Visitation will be held on Tuesday from 11 a.m. until the time of service.

Below is the news release from the Madison Opera. In coming days, I will write my own appreciation of this remarkable woman who not only led the Madison Opera but also played the piano and viola with the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Madison Symphony Chorus. In the mean time, here are links to fine appreciations by Doug Moe of the Wisconsin State Journal:

http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/article_2cac5142-8266-11e0-887d-001cc4c03286.html

http://host.madison.com/news/local/doug_moe/article_fbec7ba0-73ff-11e0-87fb-001cc4c03286.html

Madison, Wis. – Ann Stanke, the general director of Madison Opera from 1984 to 2005, has passed away at the age of 76. She was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in July 2009.

Stanke has been associated with Madison Opera throughout its 50 year history. A graduate of Madison West High School and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she was listed as “prompter and accompanist” in the Madison Civic Opera program for “La Boheme” in 1963, the company’s first fully staged production.  Stanke continued as a coach and accompanist even after she assumed the position of general director in 1984, following two decades of dedication to the company.

Under Stanke’s tenure, Madison Opera’s reputation as a dynamic regional company flourished. As general director, she was known for her ability to blend the company’s visiting artists with regional talent as well as her passion for using the art form as a means of community building. Among the many projects that will shape Stanke’s legacy are the world premiere of Daron Aric Hagen’s “Shining Brow” in 1993, the founding of Opera in the Park in 2002, and the Mid-West premiere of Jake Heggie’s “The End of the Affair” in 2005. Her final season with Madison Opera in 2004-2005 was also the company’s first in the Overture Center for the Arts.

Marc A. Scorca, the president of OPERA America, released this tribute upon learning of Stanke’s passing: “Ann Stanke made a lasting contribution to the opera world from a small company in Madison, Wisconsin, that grew beyond even her wildest dreams.  In
the early 1990s, when many of the country’s largest opera companies were commissioning new works, Ann led Madison Opera dynamically into the premiere of “Shining Brown” by Daron Hagen and Paul Muldoon.  The entire project was a model of artistic integrity and community engagement – and quickly became a reference point for the entire field.  Ann left Madison Opera after boldly
ushering in a new era at the Overture Center for the Arts, where it has reached new heights of achievement as an important American opera company.”

Stanke was elected to the OPERA America Board of Directors in 1993, and was honored by the organization in 1995 for her contributions to the field. Other honors include the Madison Community Foundation Leadership Award in 1994, the Downtown Rotary Club’s Senior Service Award in 2000, and Madison Magazine’s Editor’s Choice Award in 2005. In April, OPERA America informed Stanke that she will be recognized with a plaque in the National Opera Center, scheduled to open in 2012 in New York City.


Posted in Classical music

Classical music Q&A: Student pianist Christie Cheng talks about music education and performing a Mozart concerto with the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras this Sunday afternoon

May 19, 2011
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Editor’s note: This year, I am featuring music education as a spotlighted topic. Starting yesterday and continuing today and tomorrow, student performers, concerto competition winners, answer questions about themselves and music education.

By Jacob Stockinger

On Sunday, May 22, 2011, more than 300 talented young musicians will celebrate the arrival of the new season with the Eugenie Mayer Bolz Family Spring Concerts in Mills Concert Hall (below) in the UW Humanities Building, 455 North Park Street, Madison.

At 1:30 p.m., WYSO’s string orchestra, Sinfonietta (below), will open the concert series with performances of Holst’s “St. Paul’s Suite” and Dvorak‘s “Bagatelle.” The Concert Orchestra will follow with a popular film score favorite, “Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring” and Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Procession of the Nobles.”

At 4 p.m., WYSO’s Philharmonia Orchestra (below) will showcase the talents of Concerto Competition winner Christie Cheng, who will perform the third movement — with her own cadenzas — of Mozart‘s Piano Concerto No. 13 in C Major, K. 415, accompanied by her fellow orchestra members. Philharmonia will also bring a few audience favorites to life, including Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony, and Bernstein’s Overture to “West Side Story.”

The Youth Orchestra — WYSO’s premier performing group — will take the stage following the Harp Ensemble at 7 p.m. and will also highlight the Concerto Competition winners.

Maggie Schenk, 18, will perform the first movement from Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 1Paul Sekulski, 17, will perform the first movement of Sibelius’s Violin Concerto; and Megan Whip, 16, will play the first movement of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5. All three soloists will be accompanied by the Youth Orchestra.

The evening concert will also feature the world premiere of a special piece, “Fanfare for an Uncommon Man,” composed by UW School of Music professor John Stevens to honor WYSO’s 94-year-old founder, Marvin Rabin, who will receive the third Lifetime Achievement award from the Wisconsin School Music Foundation on Saturday night.

For a profile about Marvin Rabin (below), visit:

http://host.madison.com/wsj/entertainment/music/article_e7e9bb7e-0da4-55c6-9619-1e6b0e4b02e4.html

For information about WYSO, visit:

http://wyso.music.wisc.edu/

To see my interview with composer John Stevens (below) about the Rabin piece, visit:

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2011/05/05/classical-music-q-and-a-composer-john-stevens-talks-about-his-work-fanfare-for-an-uncommon-man-to-honor-marvin-rabin-part-1-of-2/

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/classical-music-q-and-a-composer-john-stevens-talks-about-how-composers-compose-and-his-own-music-part-2-of-2/

WYSO concerts are generally about an hour to an hour and a half in length, providing a great orchestral concert opportunity for families.

Tickets are available at the door, $8 for adults and $5 for children under 18 years of age. WYSO was founded in 1966 and has served nearly 5,000 young musicians from more than 100 communities in southern Wisconsin.

These concerts are generously supported by the Eugenie Mayer Bolz Family and the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission with additional funds from the Endres Mfg. Company Foundation, the Evjue Foundation, Inc., the charitable arm of The Capital Times, and the Overture Foundation.

This project is also funded in part by additional funds from the Wisconsin Arts Board, the State of Wisconsin, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Today’s interview is with Christie Cheng (below, in a photo by Lloyd Schultz):

What is your name? How old are you and when did you start studying music?

I am Christie Cheng and I am 16 years old. I started playing piano when I was about 6 years old.

What grade are you in now and what school do you go to?

I am a sophomore at Middleton High School.

What are your favorites subjects?

I pretty much like all my classes, I play tennis and like to sing and dance. I’m in the drama club and am also student council sophomore class president.

What are your plans for higher education and a career?

I want to go to medical school after college, but we’ll see how it goes.

Who is your music teacher?

My piano teacher is Irmgard Bittar. My cello teacher is Janet Grieve.

Do you have a favorite composer and favorite pieces to listen to or to play?

I quite like Chopin (below) and Mozart, but I’m not really picky when it comes to what I play.

Why is playing music important to you and what does playing music teach you?

Music has taught me patience and persistence. I now understand that if I want to achieve something, I need to be willing to put a lot of time and effort in as well as never give up.

What different kinds of music do you listen to and like?

I like various kinds of music. I’ll pretty much listen to anything on the radio. I also really like a cappella singing, my friends and I have an a cappella group and we arrange songs just for fun.

Was there an Aha! Moment or turning point – perhaps a certain performer or piece — when you knew you wanted to be very serious about pursuing classical music?

Well, I don’t really know. I guess my aha moment was when I realized that I could potentially go very far with music at my first piano competition when I was 12.

What advice would you give others, students and adults, about studying music?

I would tell other people that to play music well isn’t just to prefect all the technique. Music needs to be felt and when people let it flow, then they really are creating art.

It’s important to remember, for those who have just begun, that learning music isn’t to please someone else, but to serve as an outlet for emotion. (When I was about six I thought I was practicing to make my parents happy, years later I figured out that my music is really for myself and I can share it with others.)

How important do you think music education is in relation to other areas of education?

Music education is so important in schools because it serves as a way for students to express themselves. People don’t have to be good at playing an instrument; they can sing, compose, conduct, or just enjoy music. There are so many different types of music that each person will most likely be able to find one style that suits them.


Posted in Classical music

Classical music Q&A: Student violinist Paul Sekulski talks about music education and performing the Sibelius concerto with the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras this Sunday night

May 18, 2011
3 Comments

Editor’s note: This year, I am featuring music education as a spotlighted topic. For the next three days, student performers, concerto competition winners, will answer questions about themselves and music education.

By Jacob Stockinger

On Sunday, May 22, 2011, more than 300 talented young musicians will celebrate the arrival of the new season with the Eugenie Mayer Bolz Family Spring Concerts in Mills Concert Hall (below) in the UW Humanities Building, 455 North Park Street, Madison.

At 1:30 p.m., WYSO’s string orchestra, Sinfonietta (below), will open the concert series with performances of Holst’s “St. Paul’s Suite” and Dvorak‘s “Bagatelle.” The Concert Orchestra will follow with a popular film score favorite, “Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring” and Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Procession of the Nobles.”

At 4 p.m., WYSO’s Philharmonia Orchestra (below) will showcase the talents of Concerto Competition winner pianist Christie Cheng, who will perform the third movement — with her own cadezas —  of Mozart‘s Piano Concerto No. 13 in C Major, K. 415, accompanied by her fellow orchestra members. Philharmonia will also bring a few audience favorites to life, including Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony, and Bernstein’s Overture to “West Side Story.”

The Youth Orchestra — WYSO’s premier performing group — will take the stage following the Harp Ensemble at 7 p.m. and will also highlight the Concerto Competition winners.

Maggie Schenk, 18, will perform Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 1; Paul Sekulski, 17, will perform the third movement from Jean Sibelius‘ Violin Concerto (bottom); and Megan Whip, 16, will play Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5. All three soloists will be accompanied by the Youth Orchestra.

The evening concert will also feature the world premiere of a special piece, “Fanfare for an Uncommon Man,” composed by UW School of Music professor John Stevens to honor WYSO’s 94-year-old founder, Marvin Rabin, who will receive the third Lifetime Achievement award from the Wisconsin School Music Foundation on Saturday night.

For a profile about Marvin Rabin (below), visit:

 http://host.madison.com/wsj/entertainment/music/article_e7e9bb7e-0da4-55c6-9619-1e6b0e4b02e4.html

For information about WYSO, visit:

http://wyso.music.wisc.edu/

To see my interview with composer John Stevens (bel0w) about the Rabin piece, visit:

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2011/05/05/classical-music-q-and-a-composer-john-stevens-talks-about-his-work-fanfare-for-an-uncommon-man-to-honor-marvin-rabin-part-1-of-2/

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/classical-music-q-and-a-composer-john-stevens-talks-about-how-composers-compose-and-his-own-music-part-2-of-2/

WYSO concerts are generally about an hour to an hour and a half in length, providing a great orchestral concert opportunity for families.

Tickets are available at the door, $8 for adults and $5 for children under 18 years of age. WYSO was founded in 1966 and has served nearly 5,000 young musicians from more than 100 communities in southern Wisconsin.  

These concerts are generously supported by the Eugenie Mayer Bolz Family and the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission with additional funds from the Endres Mfg. Company Foundation, the Evjue Foundation, Inc., the charitable arm of The Capital Times, and the Overture Foundation.

This project is also funded in part by additional funds from the Wisconsin Arts Board, the State of Wisconsin, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Today’s interview is with Paul Sekulski (below, in a photo by Lloyd Schultz):

What is your name? How old are you and when did you start studying music?

My name is Paul Sekulski, I am 17 and I started studying violin when I was 4 years old.

What grade are you in now and what school do you go to?

I am a junior at West High School in Madison.

What are your favorites subjects? Do you have other areas of interest?

My favorite subjects are music, physics and computer science. My other areas of interest are chess and playing guitar, and I play in a string quartet (the Brioso String Quartet).

What are your plans for higher education and a career?

I plan to go to go to college, and I’d like to study music, physics and computer science.

Who is your music teacher?

My current violin teacher is Eugene Purdue (for the last 3 years), and before that I studied with Diana Popowycz.

Do you have a favorite composer and favorite pieces to listen to or to play?

My favorite composers are Prokofiev (below), Sibelius and Tchaikovsky.

Why is playing music important to you and what does playing music teach you?

Playing music is important to me because it is really fun to play violin.  I also like to play with other people, like the string quartet and the WYSO orchestra.

What different kinds of music do you listen to and like?

I listen to and I like classical music and other kinds like rock and jazz.

Was there an Aha! Moment or turning point – perhaps a certain performer or piece — when you knew you wanted to be very serious about pursuing classical music?

I knew I wanted to be serious when I was able to start playing actual violin concertos.

What advice would you give others, students and adults, about studying music?

My advice is to practice.

How important do you think music education is in relation to other areas of education?

I think musical education is very important, especially at young ages. It helps children develop to view the world in a different way.

Performing the violin concerto by Sibelius (below) with an orchestra is a wonderful opportunity because it is emotionally powerful and it is fun to play.  I am really excited to be playing it.


Posted in Classical music

Classical music Q&A: Why do an all-Schubert concert? Director Robert Taylor talks about Con Vivo’s concert this Friday night

May 17, 2011
3 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

This Friday ay 7:30 p.m., at First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Ave. across from Camp Randall, the Madison-based chamber music group Con Vivo (“With Life,” below) will perform “Eight is Enough,”  a program devoted exclusively to the music by Franz Schubert (1797-1828).

Tickets can be purchased in advance at Orange Tree Imports (1111 Monroe St.) or at the door for $12 for adults and $10 for seniors and students.  The concert will be followed by a reception where audience members and performers can meet and discuss the performance.

Parking is available at the University of Wisconsin Foundation, 1848 University Ave., and in the UW Engineering Lot #17.

The concert will feature three pieces by Schubert that capture the essence of his musical genius.

The program begins with three movements from his “Moments Musicaux” for solo piano.

The concert continues with a beautiful song which Schubert composed for soprano, clarinet and piano entitled “Der Hurt auf dem Felsen” (The Sheppard on the Rock).  This song is based on two different poems written by two different poets. Schubert masterfully combines them into a story of a sheppardess longing for the return of her beloved suitor.  One can hear melodies echo off of the Austrian Alps as the story is told by the soprano and clarinet in an antiphonal style.

To round out the evening Con Vivo! will perform Schubert’s Octet for stings and winds. This large work is one of the pillars of the chamber music repertoire. Melodies abound throughout with musical ideas that make it clear that this is a composer who places the song and its beauty above all else.

Now in its ninth season, con vivo! is a professional chamber music ensemble comprised of Madison area musicians  assembled from the ranks of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, and various other performing groups familiar to Madison audiences.

This concert is supported by the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission with additional funds from the Overture Foundation.

Con Vivo’s artistic director Robert Taylor recently gave The Well-Tempered Ear an interview about the  program of Schubert (below).

 

Why did you choose to do an all-Schubert concert?

Schubert is one of my favorites. His capacity for the musical line and melody are just a constant source of musical enjoyment for me. His Lieder are just one example of his genius. The way that he was able to exemplify the text with the music to tell a story is composition at the highest level.

How do you place the music of Schubert compared to other composers, especially his idol Beethoven, and to the history of music?

I think he is the equal of many great composers of the Romantic era. He established the art song as a compositional form that was taken up later by Schumann, Brahms, Liszt and Hugo Wolf. This is no small accomplishment especially considering his tragically short life and death at 31. (His death mask is below.)

From a compositional point of view, his exploration of new harmonies can be found in his late piano sonatas like the D. 840 and D. 845 works. So where Beethoven can appeal to the intellectual part of us, Schubert appeals to our heart. In that context they complement each other.

Does Schubert’s music have something special to say to us during these times or today?

I think his empathy for the human condition through his writing is timeless. What may be thought of as just overly Romantic musings of that era have stood the test of time since his death. If one ventures beyond the “Unfinished” Symphony into his oeuvre, one can discover a genius with a unique voice.

Can you comment on the various pieces in the program and why you chose them or what the audience should know about them?

We are performing three movements from the “Moments musicaux.” These pieces are just as complex as piano pieces that Beethoven wrote at the same time, but are in Schubert’s own personal music style. In addition, we are performing “Der Hirt auf dem Felsen” (The Shepherd on the Rock) on this concert. This song is a personal favorite of mine because of Schubert’s inclusion of the clarinet as a vocal partner with the singer. Schubert is very similar to Mozart in that he can say a great deal with just a handful of notes!

Finally we end with the Octet for strings and winds (manuscript is below), which has elements of his “Great” C Major Symphony and speaks to us just as poignantly today in it’s beauty as it did when it was first composed.

How has Con Vivo done this financially and attendance-wise this past season? Has changing from Thursdays to Fridays helped? Other details?

If you look back over our past nine seasons, one would see that we have strived to find that magic combination that will bring more audience members in the door. We seek out repertoire that is played infrequently in the Madison area. We commissioned a piece from Madison composer David Drexler entitled “Batipalo” as our way of adding to the chamber music landscape.

Along with this, we perform the standard repertoire in what I hope is an enjoyable and relaxed atmosphere for everyone. One of the great achievements of our group was our most recent concert in early March this year.  We performed Stravinsky’s “The Soldier’s Tale” in concert version with actors from American Players Theatre and we were joined by Maestro John DeMain of the Madison Symphony Orchestra. This brought us our largest audience to date. The outpouring of support from the area both financially and from volunteers was just tremendous.

It is my hope that we can maintain the enthusiasm that was generated by this concert with increased audience sizes for future events.

Do you know what Con Vivo’s next season will be yet?

As hard as it may be to believe, we will be in our 10th season next year! We are in the planning stages right now for performance material. Composers likes Zemlinsky, Brahms, Prokofiev and Mozart will be on the docket. We may even throw in more Schubert.

Is there anything else you would like to say or add?

The musical talent in Madison is just tremendous and we are very fortunate to have some of these very talented people in our ensemble. We are a part of this community and enjoy bringing our art to our friends and neighbors in the Madison area.


Posted in Classical music

What classical music was played at the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton? And what are the 300 most popular classical music works in UK?

May 16, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

It seems like longer, but it was only a little over two weeks ago that Prince William married his live-in girlfriend Kate Middleton, and the world media went wild.

People here got up at 3 in the morning to watch it live on TV. And it was played as a non-stop loop throughout the day.

Now, where is are the beloved and much praised couple?

Oh well. It just goes to show how easy it is to capture and then lose the attention of the world’s media.

Follow-through is decidedly not their strong point.

Anyway, here are some stories about the music (no surprise, much of it British) that was played – and was not played – at the royal ceremonies.

Hope you enjoy:

ITEM: What music was played at THE wedding? You know, the one between Prince William and Kate Middleton. Maybe British composers like Edward Elgar (below top) and William Walton (below middle)? Some other standards? How about some new music and unknown composers like Hubert Parry (below bottom)?

Take a look and tell me what you think and what you would have chosen for the occasion:

http://www.officialroyalwedding2011.org/blog/2011/April/28/Music-for-the-Wedding-Service

ITEM: Famous New Yorker critic Alex Ross (below) had his own solution for a fanfare for the Royal Wedding. Take a listen:

http://www.therestisnoise.com/2011/04/fanfare-for-the-royal-wedding-world-premiere.html

ITEM: What are the 300 most popular works of classical music in the United Kingdom? What is No. 1? Take a look – and don’t be surprised if four out of the Top 10 go to British composers Ralph Vaughan Williams and Edward Elgar. Would Americans feel the same way about Aaron Copland and Samuel Barber? Makes you wonder.

I’ll give you a hint in the form of a photo (below):

http://halloffame2011.classicfm.co.uk/

ITEM: Speaking of Brits, a long forgotten early piano work, never before performed work by Ralph Vaughan Williams (below) will be recorded and released later this year:

http://www.gramophone.co.uk/classical-music-news/forgotten-vaughan-williams-work-to-be-recorded

Can you ever get too much Vaughan Williams?


Posted in Classical music
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