By Jacob Stockinger
Marvin Rabin (below, seen at an award banquet in 2011) was always surprising people, even his biggest fans like me, with his boundless energy and persistence, his attentiveness and keen intelligence — all combined with his deep compassion and unending kindness and good humor.
Even when he was well into his 90s, and when his eyesight and hearing were failing and his walking was unstable, there would be Marvin Rabin, arriving at a concert just when you least expected to see him and you would have completely understood his absence.
He would usually take a seat up close to the stage, often helped by friends like Margaret Andreason or family, especially his violin-maker son Ralph Rabin.
But no longer.
Marvin Rabin died Thursday at the age of 97.
Marvin’s life was devoted to music, and especially to the young students who make it.
And how he knew those orchestral scores, so many of which he had conducted himself during his days of leading youth orchestras in Louisville, Kentucky; Boston, Massachusetts; and Madison. Wisconsin. Decades after he had performed a work, he would talk about it in details as if it were a fresh and new experience. His memory and knowledge were nothing short of phenomenal.
But it was in Madison that so much of his earlier career (recapitulated in a video seen below) came to full fruition. It was Marvin Rabin who in 1966 founded the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra while he was a professor the University of Wisconsin-Extension. Over the years, more than 5,000 students from more than 100 communities in southcentral Wisconsin benefitted from WYSO – which is to say Marvin Rabin.
Here is a link to the WYSO website with lots of information:
For more background about Marvin Rabin, here is a link to a terrific story done 2011 for The Wisconsin State Journal by Gayle Worland in the same year that Marvin won only the third Lifetime Achievement award given by the statewide Wisconsin School Music Association.
Until near the end Marvin kept travelling around the country to see friends and former students, and to consult about music education.
Marvin Rabin was the Leonard Bernstein of Madison. He had a regional, national and international reputation. He played at The White House. And he made understanding music and making music seem like completely natural and totally necessary, even inevitable, acts. He was a coach, an arts coach, whose enthusiasm moved people to achieve more than they ever thought they could.
Increasingly, research studies have demonstrated the lifelong benefits of studying instruments and making music as a young person, no matter what career you later take up. (Below are young violinists performing at his award ceremony.)
Marvin was way ahead of the curve of the score. Long ago, he knew firsthand the successes that learning to make music prepared you for with its discipline, its teamwork and cooperation, and its lifelong appreciation for the hard work of making beauty.
Little wonder, then, that when Marvin received his award, friends, colleagues and former students came from around the country to honor him. The event (below) was sold-out and crowded with grateful admirers.
The world of the performing arts, and especially the world of local music making, seems a smaller and less joyful place today without its ever-upbeat cheerleader, Marvin Rabin.
But his was a long life that was well lived, both for himself and for countless others. It’s just that we need more Marvin Rabins – today more than ever, given the shrinking budgets for arts education and the anti-intellectual attack from the right wing on serious cultural values.
Please: If you have a message about Marvin Rabin for his family and friends, his colleagues and students, leave it in the COMMENT section.
If you have a story to tell or a recollection to share, also please leave it in the COMMENT section.
I have yet to see a full obituary and plans for a memorial service. But when I do, I will post them and share them with you.
And here is a YouTube video of WYSO playing the special piece that University of Wisconsin tuba professor and composer John Stevens, composed to honor Marvin Rabin when he received his award and conducted by the composer.
It is called, fittingly, “Fanfare for an Uncommon Man.”
Marvin’s own voice may have been silenced, but his larger voice — the one he carried about most and cultured in so many young people — continues on and will always be heard .
NEWS ALERT: Marvin Rabin (below, at an award dinner in 2011), the man who founded and directed the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra back in the 1960s, after a similar history in Louisville and Boston, died at 97 (NOT 95, as I erroneously first stated) on Thursday night. He was a giant in the field of music education, and had a national and international reputation. Look for a longer blog posting tomorrow, on Sunday. He was an amazingly talented, devoted and humane person who affected tens of thousands of lives for the better.
By Jacob Stockinger
Was that refreshing or what?
Maybe it even shows that there is more of an NPR audience for classical music than for some of the hip-hop and Latin stuff they cover to attract younger audiences. One can always hope.
Twenty-six years old and already a superstar, piano phenom Yuja Wang proved playful and articulate as she promoted her new recording (below) for Deutsche Grammophon. It features Sergei Rachmaninoff’s famous Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor and Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, both with the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela under its superstar former conductor Gustavo Dudamel, who now is the music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. (The Madame Butterfly eye lashes on the CD’s cover are a bit much, no? It’s guilding the lotus, The Ear would say. Wang is attractive and sexy enough just as she is.)
Yuja Wang and Gustavo Dudamel make a great team, as you can hear in the excerpts in the YouTube video at the bottom. And watch how, since she is wearing s strapless dress, you can see how her shoulder and chest muscles get that big sound from a small woman.)
Relaxed and freewheeling, Wang herself proved a great improviser in an interview with NPR’s “Morning Edition” co-host Steve Inskeep as she deconstructed and eve performed parts of the “Rach 3” (below, in the NPR studio in a photo by Diane DeBelius).
Wang also emphasized the improvisational qualities of the music and compared Rachmaninoff (below top), one favorite of Vladimir Horowitz (below middle), to the blind jazz giant Art Tatum (below bottom), another favorite of Horowitz. I myself think it is very controlled improvisation, much like the music of Frederic Chopin.
You may recall that the work in question is the titanic, knuckle-busting and wrist-taxing Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor that ruined pianist David Helfgott’s sanity or at least triggered his nervous breakdown in the 1996 Australian film “Shine.”
Be sure to listen to Wang’s expressive voice and to read the Readers’ Comments. There are quite a few – and just about all positive.
Many of them see Yuja Wang as a new Vladimir Horowitz — an obvious comparison reinforced by both the way she plays and the repertoire she plays. (Why not see her as the new Martha Argerich — whom Horowitz himself said had learned much from him.)
But the readers also clearly encourage NRP to do more stories along these lines.
And guess what?
There was no talk about her attractive looks and the sexy micro-skirts and black gown with heels and thigh-slits (below) that have sparked such controversy when she played in them at the Hollywood Bowl and Carnegie Hall, respectively.
By Jacob Stockinger
Here’s comes another weekend, and you know what that means at this time of the year.
Last week, on Black Friday, the classical music critics for The New York Times offered their gift suggestions for this holiday season.
They added a nice twist.
Instead of keeping up with brand new recordings, the critics went to “the vault” and focused on the things historical – recordings and videos.
Some newer things did sneak in – like John Eliot Gardiner’s new book about Johann Sebastian Bach (below) called “Music in the Castle of Heaven” — it would go well with a set of the cantatas recorded by Gardiner — which also received a separate rave review from Times critic and editor James Oestreich:
Anthony Tommasini chose lots of opera – especially Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner at the Metropolitan Opera as well as Richard Tucker — was covered, but so was a lot of other music, including the complete music by Benjamin Britten (below), whose birthday centennial was Nov. 22.
Leonard Bernstein (below), as musician and educator, was also well represented.
And to be fair, the prices of the suggested gifts ranged from under $20 to several hundred dollars of massive boxed sets.
Here is a link to the story
Happy hunting and happy listening.
And rest assured: I will be posting more gift guides as they appear.
But don’t forget to leave your own gift suggestions in the COMMENTS section of this blog.
The Ear wants to hear.
ALERT: Young local pianist Garrick Olsen will play a FREE recital at the Friday Noon Musicale at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive. He will perform from 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the historic Landmark auditorium of the Meeting House that was designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. His program includes music that is both virtuosic and poetic: the Etude, Op. 10, No. 1, by Frederic Chopin; the Fantasy in C Major, Op. 17, by Robert Schumann (listen to the soulful final movement played by Claudio Arrau in the YouTube video at the bottom); and the dramatic, flashy Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6 by Franz Liszt (also at the bottom played fantastically by George Cziffra in a popular YouTube video). In the spring, on May 2, 3 and 4 — Olsen, who won the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s concerto competition two years ago with Maurice Ravel’s Concerto for the Left Hand, will perform George Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm” Variations for piano and orchestra with the MSO under John DeMain.
By Jacob Stockinger
Edgewood College will present its 86th Annual Christmas Concerts this coming weekend, at 7 p.m. on both Friday night, December 6, and Saturday night, December 7, in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive, in Madison.
Featured performers of joyous seasonal holiday music include the Guitar Ensemble, the Chamber Singers (below), the Women’s Choir, the Men’s Choir, the Concert Band and the Jazz Ensemble.
Sorry, The Ear has no details about programs.
The annual Christmas celebration is one of Edgewood College’s oldest traditions. A highlight each year is the invitation for audience members to join in singing traditional carols.
A limited number of tickets may be available at the door each night (cash or check only, please). Edgewood College strongly encourages patrons to purchase tickets online.
All proceeds for these concerts benefit Edgewood College students through the Edward Walters Music Scholarship Fund.
By Jacob Stockinger
As it does every holiday season, the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson) has placed a lot of gifts under its Christmas tree — its musical offerings, so to speak, borrowing from the works of Johann Sebastian Bach. Some will be expected old favorites, some will will be welcome surprises — and they will all get unwrapped this weekend.
National vocalists and Madison community chorus members – as well as the audience – will all get a chance to shine when Conductor John DeMain (below, in his Santa hat in a photo by Bob Rashid) and the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) kick off the holiday season with the much-loved tradition of the Madison Symphony Christmas concerts this weekend.
The concerts are in Overture Hall on Friday, Dec. 6, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 7, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 8, at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall.
Student rush tickets can be purchased in person on the day of the concerts at the Overture Box Office at 201 State Street. Full-time students must show a valid student ID and can receive up to two $12 or $15 tickets. More information is at: www.madisonsymphony.org/studentrush On advance ticket purchases, students can receive 20% savings on seats in select areas of the hall.
Seniors age 62 and up receive 20% savings on advance and day-of-concert ticket purchases in select areas of the hall.
Discounted seats are subject to availability, and discounts may not be combined.
But like any good feast, lighter fare will as be served – from holiday favorites to rocking Gospel selections – topped off with the audience adding its voice to carols at the end. Concert highlights include:
Soloists Melody Moore (soprano. below top) and Nathan Stark (bass, below bottom in a photo by Paul Sirouchman), who are accomplished national operatic singers, and principal cellist Karl Lavine. Moore recently sang the role of Tosca in the Madison Opera production of the same name.
Madison Symphony Chorus (below in a photo by Greg Anderson), directed by Beverly Taylor, with its 125 members, who come from all walks of life to combine their artistic talent;
Madison Youth Choirs (below), directed by Michael Ross, which combines young voices for a memorable experience;
Mt. Zion Gospel Choir (below), directed by Leotha Stanley, which uses jazz, blues and gospel harmonies to “raise the roof” in creating captivating music;
And as a finale, audience members will join in the singing of carols.
The Madison Symphony Orchestra is marking its 88th concert season in 2013-2014 by celebrating John DeMain’s 20th anniversary as music director. The Symphony engages audiences of all ages and backgrounds in live classical music through a full season of concerts with established and emerging soloists of international renown, an organ series that includes free concerts, and widely respected education and community engagement programs.
In addition, Club 201 has a reservation deadline of tomorrow, Wednesday, Dec. 4, for the Christmas concert on Friday night. Club 201 is a premier cultural outing for young professionals in Madison and is meant to meet people with similar interests in a friendly and fun environment. Our next event is on Friday, Dec. 6 and the evening starts with a concert that has become a yearly Madison tradition, “A Madison Symphony Christmas” at 7:30pm in Overture Hall. This is followed by a post-concert party at Fresco with Triple MMM radio’s Jonathan Suttin, members of the orchestra, hors d’oeuvres, desserts and holiday drink specials. Only $30 covers the concert and party and the deadline for reservations is Wednesday, Dec. 4. Tickets can be purchased atwww.madisonsymphony.org/201tickets or by calling (608) 258-4141.
For more information, visit: www.madisonsymphony.org. You can also listen to Maestro John DeMain discuss the concert in an interview, at the bottom posted in a YouTube video, that he did for the local TV station and NBC affiliate, WMTV Channel 15
Major funding for this holiday concert is provided by American Printing Company, Nedrebo’s Formalwear, John W. Thompson and Jane A. Bartell, BMO Private Bank, Hooper Foundation/General Heating & Air Conditioning in celebration of Hooper Corporation’s 100th Anniversary, Maurice and Arlene Reese, and an Anonymous Friend with additional funds from Colony Brands, Inc., Hans and Mary Lang Sollinger, and the Wisconsin Arts Board.
ALERT: On this Tuesday, December 3, at 8:30 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall, the UW-Madison Early Music Ensemble, under the direction of performer sand Telemann scholar Professor Jeanne Swack (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot), will be present a FREE concert of 18th-century chamber music, including works by Benedetto Marcello, Georg Philipp Telemann, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Johann Joachim Quantz, and Scherer. Here is a link to the UW School of of Music events calendar. Click on the concert listing and read the fascinating and informative notes about the program.
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 hosts 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.
By John W. Barker
Despite the distractions of the Thanksgiving weekend, and tricky weather, the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble drew a quite respectable audience of about 60 to its latest concert at the Gates of Heaven historic synagogue in James Madison Park on Saturday night.
That venue may seem austere but the acoustics are splendid, and the scale of its hall matches the spacial qualities of a Baroque salon where cultivated friends would gather to make music together. That is true “chamber” music. (Judge for yourself by listening to the group performing a work by C.P.E. Bach at the Gates of Heaven in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
And that is exactly the spirit that the WBE seeks to recreate, with a pool of excellent specialist performers. Cellist Anton TenWolde (below) has worked to emphasize collegiality, describing his group as a “collective,” with himself as a traffic cop rather than as dictator. For each program, performers propose pieces that they would like to explore, and the menu is worked out by agreement.
The team this time consisted of six instrumentalists and one singer, all of them established WBE veterans. A recurrent Hispanic element was contributed by mezzo-soprano Consuelo Sañudo, who sang three endearing solo numbers of the 17th century, partly from Spain, but one, a Christmas piece, from Mexico.
French music was a strong component, with Brett Lipshutz tossing off with flair a sonata for traverso flute by Louis-Antoine Dornel. Also on traverso, Monica Steger joined him for a trio sonata by Jacques-Martin Hotteterre. And gamba player Eric Miller bravely brought to vigorous life a really high-power set of pieces by Antoine Forqueray.
But there was a strong German component as well. Harpsichordist Max Yount played a multi-fugal keyboard Capriccio by Georg Böhm–the only solo piece (that is, without any bass players) in the program. More-or-less German composers were represented in performances by Theresa Koenig. First, in the best-known of the sonatas for recorder and basso continuo (in A minor) by George Frideric Handel (below top), and then, in a switch of instruments, a probing sonata by Georg Philipp Telemann (below bottom) for bassoon and continuo.
Such versatility was by no means unique in this program. The amazingly accomplished Steger not only appeared on recorder or traverso but also in the harpsichord continuo role in the two sonatas played by Koenig. In other rotations, gambist Miller and cellist TenWolde took turns as the string player in the ever-present continuo functions.
It has become needless to say that these performers are all skilled musicians. We are also used to the warm collegiality they display, in sharing music with each other, and with the audience. The program formats, the performing location, have become comfortably familiar to those who are the group’s loyal followers.
But it is ever so easy to take all that for granted. What needs to be pointed out is the durability of the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble. Building on some earlier groupings and activities, it was founded by TenWolde in 1990, and has been performing ever since. That is to say, it will soon be celebrating its 25th anniversary!
In many ways, the full blossoming of early music activities burst forth with the creation of the annual Madison Early Music Festival in 2000. But for a decade before that, the WBE was busily preparing the ground, and has continued to add depth and nuance to that part of our musical scene
Such an achievement deserves not only acclaim, but also audience support. The group has become legally incorporated and will seek tax-exempt status. That status that will become official on January 1, 2014, a year before the WBE marks its 25th anniversary. So it is most definitely here to stay, as an important factor in Madison’s musical life.
By Jacob Stockinger
Our friends in the Rural Musicians Forum (below is a press release with a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired logo) write to say:
Around the world and across the country, the performance of the oratorio “Messiah” by George Friderich Handel (below) at Christmas time is a tradition almost as deeply entrenched as decorating trees and hanging stockings.
This year, for the first time in this area, the Rural Musicians Forum is hosting a “Sing-Out Messiah” with two community “sing-along” performances of “Messiah.”
One will be in Dodgeville on this coming Friday, December 6, at 7 p.m. at the United Methodist Church; the other will be in Spring Green on Sunday, December 8, at 3 p.m.) at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church.
“Sing-along” concerts have been a popular tradition throughout the United States, Europe and Asia since the mid-20th Century.
Many people have grown up hearing “Messiah” in their homes, churches and communities, and whether they’re accomplished musicians or just shower singers, many love to reconnect to those memories by singing the piece with others.
In a “Sing-along Messiah,” trained and accomplished singers perform side by side with friends and neighbors who could be singing — or even hearing — “Messiah”: for the first time. Families, church groups and even adherents to different religious traditions all take part. (For proof, see the very popular YouTube video with note than 42 million hits at the bottom of a flash mob performance of “The Hallelujah Chorus.)
The audience serves as the unrehearsed chorus, supported by a more carefully prepared core group. Instrumentalists and soloists are of professional quality.
In Dodgeville and Spring Green, performers will include a chorus drawn from the community, the Pecatonica String Quartet (below), and five soloists, led by Greg Dennis, longtime director of the Mt. Horeb Chorale and UW-Platteville choral department.
Soloists for “Sing Out Messiah” include sopranos Madeline Ehlinger (Spring Green) and Leslie Damaso (Mineral Point), alto Janna Johnson (Arena), bass Carl Leaf (Spring Green) and Matt Roble (Dodgeville/Wisconsin Dells). Retired UW-Stevens Point piano professor, Michael Keller will accompany.
In the audience will be more than a hundred singers waiting for their turns to sing, and listeners who have the opportunity to sit among the singers.
In announcing “Sing Out Messiah,” RMF’s Artistic Director Kent Mayfield (below) said, “I love Messiah, and there is something about a full-house doing it that is remarkable. The joy of singing with a mass of people transcends any kind of choral or vocal ability. It gives the piece an energy you wouldn’t experience otherwise. Everyone is welcome to join the singing and everyone is welcome to the performance. As an audience member, no one is required to sing but everyone is certainly invited to sing!”
The selections to be sung are listed on the RMF website: www.ruralmusiciansforum.org
Scores for “Messiah” are available at Arcadia Books in Spring Green and from online vendors. A limited number of copies will be available at each of the performances on a first-come/first-serve basis.
Tickets are $10 (children under 12 are admitted free) for “Sing Out Messiah” and are available now at the Cook’s Room in Dodgeville, Arcadia Books in Spring Green and online at www.ruralmusiciansforum.org. Tickets will be available at the door in advance of each performance.
By Jacob Stockinger
And on many minds will be one question: How should I dress?
It seems a small worry, but in a larger sense it is an important and interesting question.
What do we mean by casual?
No ties certainly, but what about sports jackets and sweaters?
Are blue jeans OK?
And if the presenters of musical events accept very casual dress, what will performers think?
And will there be an increase in audience attendance? Will more young people or unusual audiences attend concerts? (That is something that seems possible, judging from the larger and enthusiastic crowds, below, of families and young people in jeans, shorts and T-shorts that I see at concerts given by the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras.)
The terrific British pianist Stephen Hough (below), who has performed in Madison at the Wisconsin Union Theater and the Overture Center with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, recently blogged about this very question.
Hough makes some very good points, both for and against a casual approach to attending a concert.
It is well worth reading. And be sure to check out the many reader comments.
Here is a link:
What do you think?
Should people be allowed or even encouraged to come in casual dress, including blue jeans?
Does more formal dress show respect?
Will audiences become bigger and more diverse without any kind of dress code?
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
Today is Black Friday, known for deep price cuts, huge sales and outrageous store hours that draw massive crowds — and for putting retails business in the profitable black at the end of the year.
Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday, which is supposed to encourage us to patronize local businesses.
Never mind that they are all starting to get mixed up and to become one big, long shopping frenzy.
As I do every year, I will hunt out and post on this blog the “Best of 2013” lists, which should feature lots of recordings, some great DVDs and also some noteworthy books about classical music. Here are some links to last year’s from NPR, The New York Times and The New Yorker and Gramophone magazines among others. After all, the music and the performances are just as good as it was a year ago:
But recently The New York Times chief music critic Anthony Tommasini (below) wrote about the phenomenon of these multi-CD boxed sets, containing dozens of CDs and costing hundreds of dollars (unless of course you are a reviewer) that often use original LP covers and that give you the encore output” – or “oeuvre,” if you like – of a particular performer (like pianist Arthur Rubinstein, below) or composer. But they also probably offer lots of duplicates to serious collectors who already have a substantial number of recordings.
Tommasini remarks on the seeming contradictions of these as music becomes more and more about digital downloads rather than physical Compact Discs.
He makes some intriguing points worth considering if you are hunting for a special classical music gift.
So in honor of the days-long holiday shopping frenzy that is facing us, here is a link to Tommasini’s story that covers several major pianists including Vladimir Horowitz at Carnegie Hall (below top, bowing, in a photo by Don Hunstein, and below middle in the scale model “Carnegie Hall” box container), Murray Perahia (below bottom) and Van Cliburn as well as Byron Janis, Leon Fleisher and Gary Graffman plus the composer Benjamin Britten, whose birth centennial was on Nov. 22.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE RECORDING TO RECOMMEND AS A GIFT?
The Ear wants to hear.