The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: This Saturday night chamber music fans in Madison will have to choose between two great string quartets and two outstanding programs. | September 10, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

Here we go again!

Madison is barely into its new concert season, and already concert-goers are presented with a Catch-22 — or is it a Hobson’s Choice?

If you are a chamber music fan, you will surely be pleased this weekend. You have the opportunity to hear two excellent string quartets in terrific programs.

(And that doesn’t include the opening concerts of the 28th season of the Oakwood Chamber Players, which are on Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Oakwood Village West and on Sunday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. at the UW Arboretum’s Visitors Center. I will have more to post about the  Oakwood Chamber Players on Wednesday.)

But the problem is that, unfortunately, you can’t hear both string quartets perform on Saturday night in their preferred venues.

The Pro Arte String Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) will perform an intriguing and beautiful program of late Haydn (Op. 103), early Schubert (D. 353) and late Dvorak (Op. 106) at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall as part of the UW Faculty Concert Series.

The Pro Arte, which celebrated its centennial last season, has been in residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison since its was stranded by World War II in 1940.

For more information, visit: www.proartequartet.org

Also on Saturday night, at 7:30 p.m., the Ancora String Quartet, will perform a unusually eclectic and lovely program of Beethoven (Op. 18, No. 5), Mendelssohn (the premiere of four of the recently rediscovered 12 Fugues in a new revised edition) and Schumann (Op. 41, No. 1). The Anchor will play in the Landmark Auditorium of the First Unitarian Society, 900 University Bay Drive. The Ancora (below, in a photo by John Devereux) is artists-in-residence at the FUS.

The Ancora Quartet will also be making a guest appearance on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Midday” from noon to 1 p.m. onthis  Friday, Sept. 14, with host Norman Gilliland. The players will speak about the new edition of the Mendelssohn fugues, and play selections from the recital program.

For more, visit www.ancoraquartet.com

Here are some more details: The Pro Arte concert is FREE. The Ancora concert costs $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and students, and $6 for children under 12, and features a champagne reception at the end.

So why do two such fine chamber music groups have to go head-to-head and force fans to choose?

Well, according to what The Ear hears, it has to do with scheduling. That means dates ar dictated by both the availability of the halls or venues and especially by dates that don’t preclude members from fulfilling other obligations to earn a livelihood, such as playing in the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra among other duties.

All that is, of course, understandable.

Still, it is too bad that such a mutually exclusive choice has to be made in a relatively small city filled with musical riches.

But The Ear thinks that there is one possible, if not ideal, solution:

Go the Ancora on Saturday night, then catch the Pro Arte in Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen Museum” on Sunday afternoon – either live in the limited-seating gallery at the museum, below, or via live broadcast on WPR (88.7 FM, WERN,  in the Madison area) – from 12:30 to 2 p.m. (Visit www.wpr.org for details about reservations and seating,)

But really, can’t music groups of all kinds think more about listeners and do more to avoid such conflicts and competition in the future?

What do you think? Leave an opinion in the COMMENT section and maybe it will help eliminate such conflicts in the future.

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5 Comments »

  1. If both concerts must be on the same date because of scheduling issues, how about one concert being in the afternoon and the other being in the evening? Then we could attend both.

    Comment by Elizabeth Conklin — September 11, 2012 @ 4:37 pm

  2. The consortium is an intriguing idea. Sometimes we just have an embarrassment of riches for a city of our size and conflicts are unavoidable, but to minimize those would be great, especially for programs that are one night only.

    Comment by Steve Rankin — September 10, 2012 @ 8:56 pm

  3. I find the consortium idea intriguing. Of course, there’s a long, and ever-increasing, list of performing organizations to be included, and some ‘train wrecks’ would still be unavoidable. But maybe solutions such as Jake’s could be thought out in advance and presented to the public.

    Comment by Marika Fischer Hoyt — September 10, 2012 @ 12:24 pm

  4. One way to avoid conflicts is to create some kind of consortium before concert dates are set, as we did with the Summer Music Consortium. This group was founded by the Madison Early Music Festival, Bach Dynamite and Dancing Society, Madison Savoyards, Isthmus Vocal Ensemble, Token Creek, and The First Unitarian Summer Chamber Music Series (which no longer exists.)

    Comment by Cheryl Bensman Rowe — September 10, 2012 @ 9:43 am

    • Hi Cheryl,
      Thanks for reading and replying.
      That is a great thing to bring up as a model or example. Wonderful idea!
      I do think the various groups do talk to each other, but the coordination and cooperation among them are not as formal or strict as in the summer.
      But then again, there is much more potential — and more harsh reaIities — for conflicts and competition during the regular concert season.
      Still, more communication and cooperation could only help.
      So here’s a cheer to creating a fall-winter-srping consortium that cuts out or minimizes “train wrecks” that only hurt both performers and audiences.
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — September 10, 2012 @ 12:14 pm


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