The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The chamber music group Con Vivo opens its new season this Saturday night with a program that spotlights the harp and the organ.

October 30, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

con vivo!…music with life (below) opens its 13th season of chamber music with a concert entitled “63 Strings and 2008 Pipes” on this coming Saturday night, November 1, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Avenue, across from Camp Randall.

Con Vivo core musicians

Joining con vivo! for this concert is guest musician Karen Beth Atz on harp. Atz is principal harp with the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

Karen Beth Atz with harp

The program includes the Sonata in C Minor for violin and harp by Louis Spohr (below top); the Suite from The Victorian Kitchen Garden for clarinet and harp by Paul Reade; and Ganagobie for solo harp by Bernard Andres (below bottom), featuring Atz as soloist.

Louis Spohr

Bernard Andres

The performance will also feature the outstanding church organ in the Concerto in G Minor for organ and strings, opus 4, no. 1, HMV 298, by George Frideric Handel (below). (You can hear this popular work performed by Richard Egarr and The Academy of Ancient Music in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

handel big 3

Audience members are invited to join con vivo! musicians after the concert for a free reception to discuss this chamber music literature and to hear about their Carnegie Hall debut this past December.

Con Vivo at Carnegie Hall

Tickets can be purchased at the door for $18 for adults, $15 for seniors and students.

Artistic Director Robert Taylor, in remarking about the concert said, “con vivo! is excited to have Karen Beth Atz join us for this concert. We are looking forward to presenting chamber music that includes harp, the most angelic of all instruments, and organ, the ‘King of Instruments!’ It will be a night of new works and wonderful sounds for all.”

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.

For more information visit, http://www.convivomusicwithlife.org

 

 

 

 

 


Classical music: The UW-Madison School of Music has a busy weekend, including a FREE orchestra concert for the Wisconsin Academy’s marking of the centennial of the extinction of the passenger pigeon plus a FREE cello recital and a voice faculty showcase.

October 29, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

It will be a busy weekend at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

Events include a FREE orchestra concert on Sunday afternoon for the Wisconsin Academy’s marking of the centennial of the extinction of the passenger pigeon.

But there is also a FREE cello recital on Saturday night and a voice faculty showcase concert on Sunday evening.

Here are details.

SATURDAY

At 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, cello Professor Parry Karp (below left), who also plays in the Pro Arte Quartet, will play a FREE recital with his longtime pianist partner Eli Kalman (below right), who teaches at UW-Oshkosh and did his doctoral work at the UW-Madison School of Music.

Parry Karp and Eli Kalman

The program includes the Sonata in C Minor for Piano and Violin, Op; 30, No. 2 (1802), by Ludwig van Beethoven as transcribed for cello by Parry Karp, who also transcribed all the violin sonatas by Johannes Brahms; the Sonata in E-flat Major for cello and piano (1922) by Ettore Desderi; and the Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, Op 22 (1945) by Samuel Barber.

Parry Karp and Eli Kalman 2014

REMEMBERING THE PASSENGER PIGEON

On Sunday, Nov. 2, at 2 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Symphony Orchestra will perform the Wisconsin premiere of “The Columbiad,” preceded by a talk by acclaimed emeritus wildlife professor Stanley Temple (below).

Stanley Temple

The music program is: A. P. Heinrich, “The Columbiad, or Migration of American Wild Passenger Pigeons”; the Concerto for Orchestra by Witold Lutoslawski; and the “Tragic” Overture by Johannes Brahms.

The concert is part of a two-day symposium on the 100th anniversary of the demise of the fabled passenger pigeon. It features a short talk by Stanley Temple, Beers-Bascom Professor Emeritus in Conservation, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Senior Fellow, Aldo Leopold Foundation.

Learn more here.

On the occasion of the 2014 centenary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon, the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters and the UW-Madison Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology invite the public to join in an exploration of the sobering story of the passenger pigeon (below is a photo of a stuffed real passenger pigeon) and what it can tell us about the ongoing extinction crisis and our relationship with other species.

passenger pigeon stuffed

Events include the Wisconsin premiere of The Columbiad, a symphony by Anthony Philip Heinrich, performed by the UW Symphony Orchestra. The Columbiad created a sensation at its premiere in Prague in 1858 and will be performed once again this fall at UW-Madison and Yale University. (You can hear the beginning of the work as performed at Yale in early October in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Anthony Philip Heinrich

Heinrich was inspired by witnessing vast flocks of passenger pigeons in 1831. Known in his day as “the log cabin composer” and “the Beethoven of America,” Anthony Philip Heinrich is the only important composer of the early 19th century to have experienced the North American frontier as he did. He saw Niagara Falls, he encountered Native Americans and slave musicians, and he witnessed the astonishing migration of giant flocks of passenger pigeons.

To learn about the national effort, please see Project Passenger Pigeon.

Here are related events and links:

The Savage Passengers (play)

A staged reading of a new play about the passenger pigeon by The Bricks Theatre

Saturday, November 1, 2014 from 7 to 9 p.m.

UW-Madison Biotechnology Auditorium, 425 Henry Mall

From Billions to None (Documentary)

An afternoon documentary screening and panel discussion on the demise of the passenger pigeon

Saturday, November 1, 2014 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

UW–Madison Union South, Marquee Theater

1308 W. Dayton St.

Stanley Temple: “A Bird We Have Lost and a Doubt We Have Gained” (Fellows Forum).

Stanley A. Temple is the Beers-Bascom Professor Emeritus in Conservation in the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology and former Chairman of the Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development Program in the Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at UW–Madison. For 32 years he held the academic position once occupied by Aldo Leopold, and during that time he won every teaching award for which he was eligible. Temple has a PhD in ecology from Cornell University where he studied at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. (below is a photo of one mass shooting of passenger pigeons.)

passenger pigeon slaughter

VOICE FACULTY SHOWCASE CONCERT

At 7:30 p.m. on Sunday night, Nov. 2, in Mills Hall the UW-Madison voice faculty presents an evening of chamber music featuring the solo voice. Featuring a premiere, “White Clouds, Yellow Leaves,” written by composer and saxophone professor Les Thimmig (below).

Les Thimmig color

Participants includes: Mimmi Fulmer and Elizabeth Hagedorn, sopranos; Paul Rowe, baritone; with Karen Atz, harp; Thomas Kasdorf, piano; Marc Vallon, bassoon; Parry Karp, cello; and many students and faculty from the UW-Madison School of Music.

Tickets are $10 with students getting in for FREE. Tickets will be available at the door as well as online or at the box office. Please see this link.

Here is the full program:

“Don Quichotte à Dulcinée” (1934) by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) Chanson Romanesque; Chanson épique; Chanson á boire with Paul Rowe, baritone, with Thomas Kasdorf, piano.

“La lettre” by Jules Massenet  (1842-1912)

“Absence” by Georges Bizet  (1838-1875)

“L’invitation au voyage” by Emmanuel Chabrier (1841-1894) with Elizabeth Hagedorn, soprano; Marc Vallon, bassoon, with Thomas Kasdorf, piano, and Karen Atz, harp.

“Barcarolle” by Charles Gounod  (1818-1893) with Elizabeth Hagedorn, soprano; Paul Rowe, baritone, with Thomas Kasdorf, piano.

INTERMISSION

“Long Pond Revisited” (2002) by Lori Laitman (below, b. 1955). From poetry by C.G.R. Shepard: “I Looked for Reasons,” “The Pond Seems Smaller,” “Late in the Day,” “Days Turn,” “Long Pond Revisited” with Paul Rowe, baritone; Parry Karp, cello.

lori laitman

“White Clouds, Yellow Leaves” (2013) by UW-Madison composer Les Thimmig (b. 1943) fromTexts derived from 8th- and 9th-century Chinese poetry with Mimmi Fulmer: mezzo-soprano; Mi-Li Chang: flute, piccolo, alto flute; Kostas Tiliakos,: English horn; Marc Vallon: bassoon; Sean Kleve: percussion; Karen Atz, harp; Paran Amirinizari: violin; Rachel Hauser: viola; Andrew Briggs: violoncello; and Les Thimmig: conductor.

Here is a link to the full program with program notes:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/voice-faculty-recital/

Tickets are $10 for the public; students get in free.

Ticket info here.

 

 

 

 


Classical music: Farley’s Salon Piano Series starts a new season this coming Sunday afternoon with the prize-winning Varshavski-Shapiro piano duo. Plus, tonight is your last chance to hear and see the University Opera’s production of Benjamin Britten’s “Albert Herring.”

October 28, 2014
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ALERT: Tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Music Hall on Bascom Hill, is your last chance to hear the University Opera’s production of Benjamin Britten’s comic chamber opera “Albert Herring,” which is based on a short story by the 19th-century French writer Guy de Maupassant. (Below, in a photo by Michael R. Anderson, is a crucial scene.)

Tickets are available at the door. They are $22 for the public, $18 for seniors and $10 for students.

Here is a link with more information:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/brittens-albert-herring-3/

And here is a link to a review by John W. Barker of Isthmus. The Ear, who saw the Sunday afternoon performance instead of the opening on Friday night, agrees with Barker on the major points:

http://www.isthmus.com/daily/article.php?article=43859&sid=bd26396e522b7c37c6f143f5598af822

University Opera Albert Herring Michael R. Anderson

By Jacob Stockinger

Farley’s House of Pianos will host five concerts in the Salon Piano Series’ 2014-15 season, which starts this coming Sunday:

The Varshavski-Shapiro Piano Duo (below), this Sunday, November 2, at 4 p.m., in music by Schubert, Ravel, Milhaud, Saint-Saens and Poulenc.

varshavski shapiro duet

Pianist Ilya Yakushev (below), Sunday, January 25, 2015, at 4 p.m. in music by Beethoven, Prokofiev and Schumann.

ilya yakushev 3

Pianist Marco Grieco (below), Friday, March 13, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. in music by Johann Sebatsian Bach-Feruccio Busoni, Beethoven, Chopin and Liszt.

marco grieco

Pianist Martin Kasík (below), Saturday, April 18, 2015, at 7:30 p.m. in music by Beethoven, Ravel and Prokofiev.

martin kasik

A spring jazz concert, still to be announced

These concerts constitute the second season of the Salon Piano Series, a 501(c)(3) non-profit founded by Tim and Renée Farley to continue the tradition of intimate salon concerts at Farley’s House of Pianos.

The setting replicates that experienced by audiences throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, and enhances collaboration between performer and audience.

The Series offers audiences the chance to hear upcoming and well-known artists whose inspiring performances are enhanced by the setting and the fine pianos. Some performances are preceded by free lectures. An artists’ reception with light food and beverages follows each concert and is included in the ticket price.

VARSHAVSKI AND SHAPIRO

Here is more about the opening concert:

The program features: “Variations on a French Song”, D. 624, one piano-four hands, by Franz Schubert; “La Valse” for one piano-four hands by Maurice Ravel; the exciting and lyrical Brazil-inspired “Scaramouche” suite by Darius Milhaud (heard at the bottom played by piano superstars Martha Argerich and Evgeny Kissin in a YouTube video); “Variation on a Theme by Beethoven” for two pianos by Camille Saint-Saens; and the Sonata for Two Pianos by Francis Poulenc.

Ukrainian Stanislava Varshavski and Russian Diana Shapiro’s partnership began in 1998, while the two were students at the Jerusalem Rubin Academy in Israel. One year later, they won first prize at the International Piano Duo Competition in Bialystok, Poland.

Stanislava Varshavski-Diana Shapiro

Since then, the ensemble has participated in international festivals and performed solo recitals in at least eight different countries, and has appeared with a number of well-known orchestras, such as the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, and the New World Symphony Orchestra of Miami.

In 2005, they placed first in the prestigious Murray Dranoff International Two Piano Competition. Varshavski and Shapiro both hold doctorates in Musical Arts from University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, where they studied under Martha Fischer. The duo appeared together at Farley’s in 2012 when they premiered the Villa Louis Steinway Centennial grand (below) that was rebuilt in the Farley workshop. Learn more about the Varshavski-Shapiro Piano Duo at www.piano-4-hands.com.

Farley 1877 piano

SALON PIANO SERIES

Visit http://salonpianoseries.org/concerts.html for complete concert programs, and artist information. Tickets are $35 for each concert and can be purchased online at www.brownpapertickets.com

Tickets are also available at Farley’s House of Pianos and Orange Tree Imports.

Farley’s House of Pianos is located at 6522 Seybold Road on Madison’s far west side near the Beltline and West Towne. Plenty of free parking is available at Farley’s House of Pianos, and it is easy to reach by bicycle or Madison Metro.

 

 


Classical music: American composer Stephen Paulus dies at 65. The Festival Choir of Madison performed many world premieres by him and will perform the All-Night Vigil by Tchaikovsky this coming Saturday night.

October 27, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Last week brought sad news.

The prolific American composer Stephen Paulus, who lived and worked in St. Paul, Minnesota, died last week at 65. He died of complications from a stroke he suffered last year, according to his son.

Stephen Paulus 1

Paulus was probably best known to Madison-area residents for the many works and several compositions that the Festival Choir of Madison commissioned and performed.

And talk about timing.

The Festival Choir of Madison (below) will open its new season by performing the All-Night Vigil of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky –- NOT the more famous work with the same name by Sergei Rachmaninoff –- on this coming Saturday night, November 1, at 7:30 p.m. at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Day Drive, on Madison’s near west side.

Festival Choir of Madison 2013

One wonders if the group will dedicate the performance to the memory of Paulus, whose music proved both modern and accessible, and often seemed Midwestern in that Aaron Copland kind of way.

Written nearly 35 years before the more famous Vespers by Sergei Rachmaninoff, the All-Night Vigil by Tchaikovsky (below) was written in an attempt to ensure that church music in Russia retained a uniquely Russian flavor. (You can hear a sample of the Tchaikovsky work in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

young tchaikovsky

The work, containing settings from three “overnight” canonical hours (Vespers, Matins and First Hour), is a beautiful representation of the Russian liturgical repertoire.

A pre-concert lecture begins at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets are $15 for the general public; $12 for seniors; and $9 for students.

Here is a link with information and reservations:

http://festivalchoirmadison.org/Season1415/tickets.htm

And here is more about Stephen Paulus (below), whom The Ear interviewed many years ago when he was working for The Capital Times. He was the model of a cordial and gracious artist who cared deeply about the public’s ability to appreciate his work.

Stephen Paulus 2

Here is an obituary that appeared in The New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/22/arts/music/stephen-paulus-classical-composer-rich-in-lyricism-dies-at-65.html?_r=0

And here is a story that appeared on Minneapolis Public Radio, which, like Wisconsin Public Radio, emphasizes classical music when many affiliates of NPR (National Public Radio) are increasingly turning to talk radio.

http://www.mprnews.org/story/2014/10/20/stephen-paulus-a-musical-life

 

 


Classical music: You Must Hear This -– the Romance for Viola and Orchestra by Max Bruch.

October 26, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

I saw and heard Madison-born and Madison-raised violist Vicki Powell (below) last Wednesday night. That was when the alumna of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO), the UW-Madison School of Music, the Juilliard School and the Curtis Institute  who now plays with the New York Philharmonic and other prestigious groups and who has participated in the Marlboro and Aspen festivals, returned from New York City to solo with the Middleton Community Orchestra.

Vicki Powell at MCO

It was a wonderful and thoroughly enjoyable performance as well as very affordable event, as you can read in the review by John W. Barker that was posted yesterday.

Here is a link:

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/10/25/classical-music-the-middleton-community-orchestra-opens-its-season-with-polished-viola-playing-from-vicki-powell-and-infectious-enthusiasm-from-the-entire-orchestra-in-a-dvorak-symphony/

After the concert done in the terrific 90-minute, no intermission format that I think attracts many people, there was a meet-and-greet, with cookies and punch, where the public and the musicians could mingle – and did.

MCO June 2014 reception

That’s when I went up to the lovely, gifted and poised Vicki Powell and remarked on how beautiful her playing had been with the MCO under conductor Steve Kurr (below top). I was quite taken with her reading of the rarely heard Fantasy on Themes by Mozart for Viola and Orchestra by Johann Nepomuk Hummel (below bottom).

Hummel remains a much underappeciated composer who was invited by none other than Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart himself to live in his house and take free lessons.

Vicki Powell and Steve Kurr MCO finale

Hummelcolor

But what really swept me away was the Romance for Viola and Orchestra by the 19th-century Romantic German composer Max Bruch (below).

max bruch

I have heard Max Bruch’s popular violin concertos – especially No. 1  in G minor — and his Kol Nidre for cello and piano as well as his Scottish Fantasy for violin and orchestra.

But this work was completely new and unknown to me, but captivated me from the first notes. No 10 listenings or more needed to like and appreciate this work!

“I am amazed it hasn’t yet been used for a movie soundtrack,” I said to Powell.

“Really?” she said. “So am I.”

That is how beautiful and tuneful, how accessible and emotional, it is.

And maybe you will be surprised too.

So here is a YouTube video of the work performed by violist Miles Hoffman, who also comments frequently on classical music for NPR (National Public Radio). It lasts about 9-1/2 minutes and is pure loveliness.

Miles Hoffman NPR

And maybe it has indeed been used in the movies.

If so and you know, please let us know.

And let us know what you think of the piece, which The Ear thinks deserves to be programmed much more often, even though the viola is not often featured as a solo instrument with orchestra. (All the more reason to admire the Middleton Community Orchestra and its mission.)

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: The Middleton Community Orchestra opens its season with polished viola playing from Vicki Powell and infectious enthusiasm from the entire orchestra in a Dvorak symphony.

October 25, 2014
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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, and who for 20 years hosted an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT FM 89.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.

John Barker

By John W. Barker

The Middleton Community Orchestra (below) opened its fifth season on last Wednesday evening with a mix of novelties and old favorites.

Middleton Community Orchestra press photo1

The orchestra’s new concertmaster, Valerie Clare Sanders, a senior at the UW-Madison School of Music  who also plays with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, also made her debut with the MCO.

Valerie Clare Sanders MCO 2014

The starter was the ever-popular, ever-rousing Overture to the opera “William Tell” by Rossini. The playing seemed a little less fully digested, but the piece still came off with spirit.

The unfamiliar elements were two display pieces for the young but highly gifted, Madison-born violist, Vicki Powell (below). She offered a superbly warm, rich, clearly projected tone, presented in a thoroughly professional manner— reminding us, too, how underappreciated the viola is as a solo instrument.

Vicki Powell at MCO

Her first selection was a Fantasia on themes of Mozart, by Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837), a protégé of Mozart and rival to Beethoven. Originally a solo piano piece of 1833, if I am not mistaken, it was arranged for solo viola and chamber orchestra by the French musician Fernand Oubradous. It proved to be charming music, beautifully played.

The second piece was a Romance, Op. 85, of 1911, for viola and orchestra. Composed in lush late-Romantic style, it could have been a movement of a concerto, and was a handsome dialogue between soloist and orchestra, realized with particularly gorgeous tone by Powell. She is a musician to watch for.

Vicki Powell and Steve Kurr MCO finale

The grand finale was the Symphony No. 8 in G major by Antonin Dvorak.

Here I must ask the reader’s patience if I indulge in a strong personal memory about this work — and a very pertinent one.

When I was a graduate student in the late 1950s at Rutgers University, in New Brunswick N.J., I attended a concert by the New Brunswick Community Philharmonic (if I remember its name correctly). It consisted of semi-professionals and amateurs of the area, under the baton of the local high-school bandmaster, one Max Pecker. This has proven to be one of the most memorable concerts of my musical lifetime, and I still recall the program vividly.

Franz Schubert’s bouncy Overture to his opera “Alfonso und Estrella” immediately revealed that this orchestra was a pretty scrappy affair in terms of discipline. BUT: the players were having so much fun in their work that it was impossible not to share their enthusiasm.

The second work was the Piano Concerto No. 2 of Camille Saint-Saëns, featuring a local keyboard whiz just back from the Paris Conservatory. For him the orchestra had made its most careful preparation, and their playing came off as quite credible.

But the final work was this very same G major Symphony by Dvorak (below). Now, the orchestra’s concertmaster was also the local newspaper’s music critic (!), and in her review of the concert she revealed the profundity of her knowledge by observing that, though this symphony was not as well-known as Dvorak’s Symphony No 9 “The New World,” it was, she insisted, “not without moments of interest” (! again). (You can hear the entrancing and beautiful symphony in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

dvorak

The important thing was that, even though the work was rough going for this ensemble, the sheer joy of the players was simply contagious. The most honest kind of musical pleasure filled the hall. As I said, this is a concert I have never forgotten, always remembered affectionately.

I had that concert very much in mind in listening to the MCO performance.

Oh yes, there were some passing fluffs here and there. But this was an orchestra that could play with discipline and coherent unity of purpose, far beyond the New Brunswickers’ capacities. The parallel was, however, that the players seemed clearly to have caught the enthusiasm for the score conveyed to them by conductor Steve Kurr (below).

Steve Kurr and MCO 2014

Better than most performances I have heard, Kurr projected an intensity and even dramatic emphases that the orchestra took up and gave back to him gloriously.

One member told me afterwards: “We enjoyed playing it.” And I found myself at times transported with delight at how this magnificent score once again came alive for me, thanks to music-making that was more than just a matter of artistic efficiency.

My point is not just a matter of nostalgia revived. It is a reminder that one does not have to have a performance by one of the super-polished orchestras of our Big Cities, or of the international world, in order to have a memorable listening experience.

A deeply committed orchestra under inspired and inspiring leadership can offer as satisfying a musical experience as can be found anywhere.

Madison audiences should therefore listen up and pay attention to Middleton’s really splendid community orchestra, taking advantage of its offerings to discover the genuine rewards.

 

 

 

 

 


Classical music: Are super-high concert fees morally right or wrong? Do they contribute to the wealth gap and lack of young audiences? What can music consumers do?

October 24, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Are artist concert fees — like those charged by tenor Placido Domingo (below top), soprano Rene Fleming (below middle) and violinist Itzhak Perlman (below bottom) —  too high these days and too unaffordable for most American concert-goers?

FRENI

reneefleming

Itzhak Perlman close

What would Janet say?

Maybe that refrain could become the economic equivalent of What Would Jesus Say?

I am speaking of Janet Yellin (below), the chairwoman of the Federal Reserve who last week made headlines when she spoke out publicly against the widening wealth gap as being contrary to America’s historic democratic ideals.

Key Speakers At Seminars At The IMF & World Bank Annual Meetings

But let’s localize the issue.

By all accounts superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma, along with pianist Kathryn Stott, turned in a terrific performance — his seventh — at the Wisconsin Union Theater last Saturday night.

The Ear didn’t go, but here is a rave review from the student newspaper The Badger Herald, which agrees with the word-of-mouth reviews I have heard:

http://badgerherald.com/artsetc/2014/10/20/yo-yo-ma-and-kathryn-scott-transcend-classical-music-norms-at-shannon-hall/#.VEfBQYeENUQ

yo-yo ma and kathryn stott

And for those who couldn’t or wouldn’t buy tickets, the Wisconsin Union Theater even webcast the concert live and for free.

Still, with seats that sold for well over $100, The Ear got to wondering: Are really high artist fees morally right or wrong?

We all hear about the widening wealth gap, and especially about the astronomical pay given to CEOs versus their workers as compared to the same ratio several decades ago.

Well, what about well-known and in-demand concert artists?

If The Ear heard correctly, Yo-Yo Ma’s fee for that one-night performance was either $90,000 or $95,000 -– or about $42,500 or $45,000 an hour.

Can Yo-Yo Ma demand and get that extravagant fee in the so-called “free market” society with its corporate welfare and tax loopholes for the wealthy? Of course, he can — and he does. That is why he sold out the Wisconsin Union Theater.

But should he?

It makes one wonder.

Is Yo-Yo Ma really that much better as a cellist and musician -– and not just as a celebrity — than many other cellists, including MacArthur “genius grant” winner Alisa Weilerstein, Alban Gerhardt, Jean-Guihen Queyras, Steven Isserlis, Carter Brey, Joshua Roman and others? (You can hear Yo-Yo Ma’s interpretation of a movement from a solo cello suite by Johann Sebastian Bach in a  YouTube video — with over 11 million hits — at the bottom and decide if it is that much better than other cellists play it.)

Now I don’t mean to pick just on Yo-Yo Ma. I have gone to a half-dozen of his other performances here and I have met him and talked with him. He is without doubt a great musician, a fine human being and an exemplary humanitarian.

The problem that I am talking about transcends any single performer and applies to the whole profession.

Maybe at least part of the problem of attracting young audiences to classical music concerts can be placed right in the laps of the performing artists themselves.

When The Ear was young, he got to hear all sorts of great musical artists—including Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Rubinstein (below), Vladimir Horowitz, Van Cliburn, Itzhak Perlman, Rudolf Serkin, Isaac Stern, Emanuel Ax and others for quite affordable prices. Not that those artists didn’t live well -– but I doubt that they were paid the equivalent of $45,000 an hour.

artur rubinstein in moscow 1964

Maybe it is time for economic populism in the performing arts.

Fees like that exclude a lot of families from participating. Some fans might find it better and cheaper to hear a CD or download than go to a live concert.

Too many performing artists – opera stars come immediately to mind as a class — seem to have taken the same path toward justifying greed as movie stars, sports figures, rock stars and CEO’s who make out like bandits.

In short, can it be that classical musicians are helping to kill off classical music?

Smaller theaters like the Wisconsin Union Theater and even the Overture Center simply cannot book such well-known artists without charging a ridiculous amount of money for a seat – and at a time when many people of all ages just can’t afford it. It just adds to the Wealth Gap and the One Percent problem.

SO THE EAR WOULD LIKE TO ASK CONCERT ARTISTS: PLEASE ADJUST YOUR CONCERT FEES TO HELP SUSTAIN THE FUTURE OF YOUR ART.

Well, these are just some brain droppings.

The Ear wonders what you think of stratospheric artist fees?

Do they contribute to the wealth gap?

Do they hurt the popularity of the art form, especially younger generations?

Are they contributing to the decline of cultural literacy?

In short, are such high artist fees morally right or wrong?

And if wrong, what can we arts consumers do about it? Boycott certain artists until they become more reasonable in their fees?

Ask artist and management agencies to adjust the fees to make them more affordable?

Go to alternative concerts that are perfectly acceptable without star power and cost less or, like those at the University of Wisconsin School of Music, free?

Tell us what you think in a COMMENT.

The Ear wants to hear.

 


Classical music: Two percussion concerts — by Clocks in Motion and Madison native Nathaniel Bartlett — take place on Sunday afternoon. This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale features vocal music by many composers.

October 23, 2014
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ALERT: This Friday’s FREE Noon Musicale, from 12:15 to 1 p.m. at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features Rachel Eve Holmes (below), soprano; Christopher Apfelbach, baritone and Michael Keller, piano, in the music of Carlisle Floyd, Reynaldo Hahn, Amy Beach, Richard Strauss, Benjamin Britten, Gabriel Faure, Paul Bowles and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Rachel Eve Holmes big

By Jacob Stockinger

As I wrote and posted on Monday and Tuesday, Friday night is a major “train wreck” of competing concerts.

But Sunday is busy also and brings potential conflicts, particularly for percussion fans, though there is time to get from one concert to the other.

CLOCKS IN MOTION

On Sunday at NOON — NOT 1 p.m. as previously stated — in Mills Hall on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, the percussion group Clocks in Motion (below), will give a FREE concert. The program features world premieres as well as music by Frank Zappa, Edgard Varèse and John Cage. (Free parking is available on Sundays in nearby Grainger Hall in the basement of the UW-Madison Business School.)

Clocks collage 2014

Here is a press release from the group, which includes Dave Alcorn, Jennifer Hedstrom, Sean Kleve, Michael Koszewski and James McKenzie:

“Contemporary chamber ensemble Clocks in Motion blends the classical concert hall with the rock n’ roll venue in a bold performance on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 26, at 1 p.m. in Mills Hall.

The program will pair one of the first pieces written for percussion ensemble with music by iconoclast Frank Zappa.

Zappa listed Edgard Varèse’s groundbreaking work, Ionisation, as one of his fundamental inspirations in becoming a composer.

Clocks will juxtapose this influential piece with Zappa’s Black Page, a drum solo that was later expanded to a full-band tune.  Black Page’s uniquely virtuosic sound blends rock, contemporary, and experimental avant-garde music.

Guitarist Anthony Lanman joins the program as a guest performer on the world premiere of his 8-string electric guitar concerto, Automaton.

A lush quartet for mallet percussion, piano, and cello by Joseph Diedrich will also receive its world premiere.

Rounding out the program is John Cage’s Second Construction, a grooving classic in the percussion literature.

Here are more specifics about the program:

Ionisation: Although it is only 5 minutes long, Edgard Varèse’s seminal percussion piece laid the groundwork for 90-plus years of composition for the genre (and beyond, as displayed by Frank Zappa). Varèse (below) explores the coloristic possibilities of percussion with unique instruments including drums, woodblocks, sirens, cymbals, chimes, maracas, slapsticks, and more.

edgard varese

Black Page: Originally constructed as a drum solo in a style unique to Frank Zappa (below), Black Page is known for its impressive rhythmic complexity and polyrhythms. This meticulous, thrilling piece is in two parts: No. 1, a full-ensemble percussion unison featuring a “statistical density”; and No. 2, the “Easy Teenage New York Version,” which grooves through the same material with a full band.

Frank Zappa

Automaton: Says Anthony Lanman (below): “When Clocks in Motion asked me to write a piece for them, immediately their name set off a series of images in my head. I saw a lonely watchmaker — an unappreciated genius — who had a vision in his mind of a great automaton. I saw him slaving away in his workshop, creating the massive creature, and then, finally, releasing it (with the best of intentions) upon the world. Unfortunately, the automaton didn’t function as planned…

“This all broke down into a concerto for electric guitar and percussion, and was organized into three movements: I. Watchmaker’s Daydream – II. Workshop/Steam – III. …In Motion.”

anthony lanman headshot 1

Saturation: Writes Joseph Diedrich: Composed in 2013, Saturation combines the distinct timbral subtleties of mallet percussion, strings, and piano. Using UW-Madison composer Stephen Dembski’s constellation protocol, the piece embarks on an evolutionary journey, culminating in the discovery of tonality. Starting with distant, sparse reverberations, Saturation quickly becomes a wild musical adventure.

Joseph Diedrich

Second Construction: The 1940 work by John Cage (below) is scored for four players, and features piano prepared with cardboard, screws, and a metal cylinder carefully placed inside the instrument. The instrumentation is fascinating — water gong, temple bowls, almglocken, maracas and tam-tam are heard.

John Cage and cat

New music, new instruments and new sounds define Clocks in Motion’s fresh and innovative approach to contemporary classical performance. Hailed as “nothing short of remarkable” (ClevelandClassical.com), Clocks in Motion is a group that performs new music, builds its own instruments and breaks down the boundaries of the traditional concert program. Clocks in Motion consistently performs groundbreaking concerts involving performance art, theater, and computer technology.

Featuring world premieres alongside rarely performed classic works, this ensemble strives to create a new canon of percussion repertoire. You can hear how they make music on found objects in a YouTube video at the bottom.

Clocks in Motion works passionately to educate young audiences through master classes, residencies, presentations and school assemblies.

The ensemble’s unique skill sets and specialties contain an impressive mix of rock, jazz, contemporary classical, orchestral, marching and world styles.

Clocks in Motion has served as resident performers and educators at the Interlochen Arts Academy, Casper College, the University of Michigan, Baldwin-Wallace University, VIBES Fine and Performing Arts, Traverse City West High School, Traverse City East Middle School, Rhapsody Arts Center, and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Formed in 2011, Clocks in Motion began as an extension of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Graduate Percussion Group, and now serves as the affiliate ensemble of the UW-Madison percussion studio.

NATHANIEL BARTLETT

At 6:30 p.m. in Promenade Hall of Overture Hall, the Madison-born percussionist and marimba-player Nathaniel Bartlett (below), who uses complex computer technology in his music, will perform an unusual concert.

Nathaniel Bartlett 2

Tickets are $16.

Here is a link to the full description of the artist and the concert:

http://www.overturecenter.org/events/nathaniel-bartlett

 

 

 

 

 


Classical music: The Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble offers early music rarities with verve and polish. Plus, TONIGHT at 7:30 p.m. native daughter violist Vicki Powell solos with the Middleton Community Orchestra

October 22, 2014
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ALERT: A reminder that Madison-born Vicki Powell, who trained at the UW-Madison School of Music, the Curtis Institute and the Juilliard School and who plays with the New York Philharmonic and other major groups, will perform two solos  TONIGHT at 7:30 p.m. at the season-opening concert by the largely amateur but very good Middleton Community Orchestra, under conductor Steve Kurr.

The place is the Middleton Performing Arts Center that is attached to Middleton High School, 2100 Bristol Street, not far off of University Avenue.

On the programs is the Overture to “William Tell” by Rossini, the Fantasy for Viola and Orchestra by Johann Nepomuk Hummel, the  Romance for Viola and Orchestra by Max Bruch and the Symphony No. 8 by Antonin Dvorak. Tickets are $10; all students get in for FREE. A meet-and-greet reception for the players and audience members follows the concert.

Here is a link to the Q&A with violist Vicki Powell that The Ear posted last week:

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/10/17/classical-music-vicki-powell-talks-about-why-she-took-to-the-viola-rather-than-the-violin-she-returns-to-madison-to-solo-next-wednesday-night-with-the-middleton-community-orchestra/

Vicki Powell, Viola

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, and who for 20 years hosted an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT FM 89.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.

John-Barker

By John W. Barker

The Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble (below top) launched its new season in Madison last Sunday afternoon, not at its usual venue (Gates of Heaven Synagogue), but at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (below bottom).

Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble composite

St. Andrew's Episcopal Madison Front

The different location contributed to an enlargement of instrumental colors this time. Max Yount not only worked the harpsichord, but made good use of the church’s handsome Baroque organ in the numerous continuo functions.

In addition, Eric Miller (below) extended from his viola da gamba to show his new talents on the cornetto, while Theresa Koenig moved gracefully between dulcian (early bassoon) and recorders, and Monica Steger alternated on flute and recorder.

Eric Miller viol

The frequent vocal collaborators, UW-Madison soprano Mimmi Fulmer (below top, seen at the Hillside Theater at Frank Lloyd Wright’s compound Taliesin in Spring Green) and mezzo-soprano Consuelo Sañudo were on hand, and patriarch Anton TenWolde (below bottom) on cello completed the group of seven performers.

Mimmi Fulmer at Taliesin 2014

anton tenwolde

Two of the nine composers represented — the German Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) and the Swede Johan Helmich Roman (1694-1758) — stood apart as almost chronological afterthoughts, though Roman’s sonata for flute and continuo was given a predictably rousing rendition by Steger.

Otherwise, the focus was on music of the 17th century, especially its very early epoch. Miller gave us gamba renditions of Giovanni Bassano’s variations on a popular madrigal by Cipriano de Rore (1515-1565), two training pieces by Christopher Simpson (1602-1669), and an unaccompanied solo by the enigmatic Sainte-Colombe (1640-1700). (An entrancing sample of solo viol music by Sainte-Colombe is in a popular YouTube video at the bottom.)

Koenig presented a sonata for dulcian and continuo by Giovanni Antonio Bertoli (1598-1645), then joining Steger on recorders for a duo sonata by Giuseppe Scarani of the mid-17th century.

On the vocal side, the two singers joined in an impressive cycle of eight Italian duets, with continuo, by Sigismondo d’India (1582-1629). In these, D’India, an epigone of Claudio Monteverdi (below), contrived writing of individual elaborateness for each singer while also ingeniously integrating their parts.

Monteverdi 2

Vocal music returned at the end, too, when Sañudo, joined by all the players, sang the opening aria of Bach’s Cantata 161, and then the two singers and almost all the players came together for an early carryover by Heinrich Schütz (below, 1585-1672) from his Italian training, a moralizing madrigal in German for two voices, two melody instruments, and continuo, which made a richly satisfying conclusion to the program. It was in these two last vocal works, too, that Miller forsook his gamba and took up his cornet.

Heinrich Schutz

What can we say? After some 17 years, the WBE is still going strong, offering us annual presentations of mostly rare Baroque chamber works, in elegant performances in intimate venues. They are the trailblazers in Madison’s early music scene, and they remain a vital component of that scene.

 

 


Classical music: Friday night is another big Train Wreck that offers lots of great classical music choices: the Westminster Abbey Choir of London, the UW-Madison Pro Arte String Quartet and Edgewood College’s Fall Choir Concert as well as the opening night of University Opera’s production of “Albert Herring.”

October 21, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

This Friday night is, as The Wise Critic likes to call them, another big “Train Wreck.”

That is because there are so many fine but conflicting concerts to choose from.

Yesterday, The Ear posted an interview with David Ronis, who talked about his own background and about the University Opera’s production of Benjamin Britten’s comic opera “Albert Herring.” It opens Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in Music Hall with repeat performances at 3 p.m. on Sunday and 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday night.

Here is a link:

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/10/20/classical-music-qa-meet-opera-director-david-ronis-who-makes-his-local-debut-in-the-university-operas-production-of-benjamin-brittens-albert-herring-this-frid/

But that opera opening night is just the beginning.

Here are three other events that merit your attention and consideration:

The WESTMINSTER ABBEY CHOIR

On Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in Overture Hall of the Overture Center, The Westminster Abbey Choir of London, England opens the 10th anniversary season of the Overture Concert Organ (below), custom built by Klais of Bonn, Germany.

Overture Concert Organ overview

From the Madison Symphony Orchestra: “For nearly 1,000 years, inspiring choral music has filled the vast cathedral of London’s Westminster Abbey, the site of every British coronation since 1066. (At the bottom in a popular YouTube video, you can hear the choir singing British composer John Rutter’s “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” at the 60th wedding anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.)

“Now, this renowned 40-voice choir (below) comes to Madison to sing with the Overture Concert Organ in a program of music from the 11th century to the Renaissance and 20th century, featuring the works of Orlando Gibbons, George Frideric Handel, Sir Hubert Parry and William Walton.

“Praised by the Sydney Morning Herald as “…One of the great choral powerhouses of our time,” The Choir of Westminster Abbey has performed for numerous notable events including, Evening Prayer in the presence of Pope Benedict XVI in 2010 and the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011, which was seen by a worldwide television audience of over two billion people. In June 2012, the Choir made a historic visit to Rome, when it sang, at the Pope’s invitation, alongside the Sistine Chapel Choir.

Westminster Abbey 3

“When not touring the world with destinations such as Sydney, Hong Kong, Washington, D.C., and Moscow, The Choir of Westminster Abbey works on a celebrated series of recordings for Hyperion. Their critically acclaimed recording Mary and Elizabeth at Westminster Abbey received the Gramophone Critics’ Choice Award and has been hailed as “a showcase for English choral singing at its most charismatic.”

Westminster Abbey in abbey 2

General admission for the concert is $20 and tickets can be purchased at www.madisonsymphony.org/westminster, the Overture Center Box Office or (608) 258-4141. Student rush tickets are $10 on the day of show with a valid student ID (see www.madisonsymphony.org/studentrush).

This concert is sponsored by Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation, W. Jerome Frautschi Foundation, and Alfred P. and Ann M. Moore.

To see the Overture Concert Organ series of concerts for 2014-15 or to subscribe at a 25 percent savings, visit:

www.madisonsymphony.org/organseason14-15 or call (608) 257-3734.

Westminster Abbey in abbey CR Bill Prentice

PRO ARTE QUARTET

On Friday night at 7:30 p.m.in Mills Hall, the Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer), which has been artists-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music since 1941, will perform a FREE concert.

The program is: String Quartet in D Major, Op. 71 No. 2 (1793) by Franz Joseph Haydn; String Quartet No. 4 (1936) by Alexander Zemlinsky (1936); and the popular String Quartet in F Major, Op. 96 “American” (1893) by Antonin Dvorak.

Pro Arte Quartet new 2 Rick Langer

EDGEWOOD COLLEGE

On Friday night at 7 p.m., Edgewood College will present its Fall Choral Concert in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive. Admission is FREE.

The Edgewood Chamber Singers, under the direction of Albert Pinsonneault (below top), will be joined by the Women’s Choir, under the direction of Kathleen Otterson (below bottom) and the Men’s Choir, under the direction of Sergei Pavlov.

There is no admission charge.

Sorry, The Ear has received no word about specific works on the program.

Albert Pinsonneault 2

Kathleen Otterson 2


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