By Jacob Stockinger
Tomorrow, on Sunday, May 19, the Madison Youth Choirs will celebrate their 10th anniversary with a series of three spring concerts in the Capitol Theater (below) at the Overture Center.
1 p.m.: Performers are the Choraliers (below, in a photo by Elizabeth Chen), Con Gioia, and Capriccio girlchoirs.
4:30 p.m.: Performers are the Purcell (below in a photo by Karen Holland), Britten, Holst, and Ragazzi boychoirs.
This concert features two newly commissioned works from Dan Krunnfusz, past Madison Boychoir Artistic Director, below.
7:30 p.m.: Cantilena, Cantabile, and Ragazzi (high school ensembles). Below is a photo of Ragazzi by Karen Holland:
Tickets are $10-$20 and available from the Overture Center box office (608) 258-4141, and at www.overturecenter.com, or in person.
Highlights from the program include: “When David Heard” by Thomas Weelkes; “Five Hebrew Love Songs” by Eric Whitacre (below and at bottom in a YouTube video); music by Benjamin Britten, Felix Mendelssohn, Alice Parker, George Friderich Handel, and much more.
The Madison Youth Chorus will also celebrate the first-ever recipient of our Music Educator of the Year award, given to an area music teacher who has made a significant contribution to music education.
The group will recognize Mary Schmidt (below top in a self-portrait), a music teacher at Sun Prairie High School (below bottom, in a photo by J.H. Findorff and Sons) and Sun Prairie Middle School, and will celebrate her accomplishments at our concerts.
ABOUT the Madison Youth Choirs:
In summer 2014, MYC boychoirs will travel to Scotland for their first appearance at the invitation-only Aberdeen International Youth Festival.
Recognized as an innovator in youth choral education, MYC inspires enjoyment, learning and social development through the study and performance of high-quality and diverse choral literature. The oldest youth choir organization in Wisconsin, MYC welcomes singers of all ability levels, challenging them to learn more than just notes and rhythms. Singers explore the history, context, and heart of the music, becoming “expert noticers,” using music as a lens to discover the world. MYC serves more than 500 young people, ages 7-18, in 11 single-gender choirs.
In addition to a public concert series, MYC conducts an annual spring tour of schools and retirement centers, performing for more than 7,000 students and senior citizens annually. MYC also collaborates with professional arts organizations including the Madison Symphony Orchestra, Madison Ballet, and Madison Opera, while continually supporting and recognizing the work of public schools and music educators throughout the area.
A CORRECTiON AND AN APOLOGY: In yesterday’s post about the upcoming debut concert by the Madison Choral Project, I misspelled the name of the founder, conductor and Edgewood music professor Albert Pinssonneault. I regret the error.
By Jacob Stockinger
Ukraine-born pianist and University of Wisconsin graduate student Yana Groves (below) will wrap up the current season of “Grace Presents” tomorrow, Saturday, May 18, at noon with a FREE recital of Debussy, Rachmaninov and Schubert.
The concert starts at noon and will run until about 1 p.m. in the downtown Grace Episcopal Church (below top) on the Capitol Square.
The recital of Debussy, Rachmaninoff and Schubert features wonderful music – some of The Ear’s all-time favorites – and it will provide will be a welcome respite from the crowds and hectic activity of the downtown Dane County Farmers’ Market around the Capitol Square.
The church’s interior (below) is a fine setting with resonant acoustics, to say nothing of the beautiful dark wood and stained glass windows. Some members of the audience bring along cushions to soften the hard pews.
Groves (below) recently gave an email interview to The Ear:
Would you please briefly introduce yourself to the readers with highlights of your personal life and professional life?
I was born and raised in Kharkiv, Ukraine in 1987. I came to the United States in 2007 and attended SUNY Plattsburgh, majoring in Accounting and Music. I started playing piano at the age of 7. My major teacher in Ukraine was Tatiana Glazyrina. In the United States I studied with Dr. Karen Becker (SUNY Plattsburgh), who encouraged me to pursue music as my career. I started studying with Christopher Taylor (below) last fall. I participated in and was one of the two winners of the Irving Shain Competition (woodwind-piano duo competition) in February 2013 in Madison.
What are your plans and projects currently and for the future? As a musician, what are your career plans?
I am currently working on receiving my Master’s degree and I am almost done with my first year. I just gave my solo recital and next year I am required to give my chamber recital, where I will get a chance to work with my new friends who play other instruments. I am also planning to apply for the Doctor of Musical Arts program at UW-Madison.
What would you like to say about the various works on your program at Grace Episcopal? What would you like the audience to listen for?
The pieces are all very different. Debussy’s “Estampes” are great examples of Impressionism, where the listeners can hear different color changes and images. Rachmaninov’s Prelude is a very beautiful and relaxing piece that has a beautiful singing melody and orchestral writing.
The A minor sonata (D. 845) by Schubert (below) consists of very diverse movements. The first one has a beautiful main melody that develops throughout the whole movement. The second movement takes the form of Theme and Variations, where Schubert (below) masterfully shows how to transfer a simple theme into completely different characters, while using the same thematic material. The third movement is a Scherzo and Trio and it is very playful in its nature. The last movement is in a form of rondo that drives the listener to the end of this piece with much intensity and determination.
Despite the fact that I have certain characters in mind when I play this sonata, I believe that listeners should find the characters that they would like to imagine when they listen to this piece.
What do you think would draw more young people into making and listening to classical music, especially live concerts?
I think that certain educational aspect is necessary in order to young people to understand the value of classical concerts. I believe that lecture recitals are very efficient because the performer explains what he or she does, and once the audience gets familiar with it they appreciate it more.
What advice do you have for young pianists?
Young pianists should practice not only developing their technical abilities, but also the musical characteristics such experimenting with different characters and colors, listening to their own playing during practicing. Playing the piano well requires hard work, but it becomes very interesting if the pianist embodies his or her practicing with meaning. (below is a photo of Yana Groves practicing.)
What else would you like to say or add?
I am very excited about this concert and I am looking forward to sharing with the audience the repertoire that I have learned during my first year at the UW-Madison.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Madison Choral Project (below) – a new vocal group on the Isthmus -– will give its inaugural concert this Saturday night, May 18, at 7 p.m. in the Luther Memorial Church, 1021 University Avenue, in Madison.
The debut concert, entitled “Celestial Spring,” will celebrate the season- with sets on the return of color, nature and love. For details about specific works and composers, see below.
Tickets are free. Those who are able are encouraged to leave a suggested donation of $15 each.
For more information including how to audition for the vocal group, contact The Madison Choral Project, 901 High Street, Madison, Wisconsin, 53715 or visit www.themcp.org, Albert Pinssonneault, the founder and director of the choir, who teaches choral conducting at Edgewood College in Madison, recently gave an email Q&A to The Ear:
Can you briefly describe how and why the Madison Choral Project came about?
Many pieces came together to make the Madison Choral Project happen, like spokes on a wheel.
First were the incredible voices in Madison, interested in ensemble singing.
Additionally, there was the huge support for choral music in town, dating from the era of Robert Fountain (below, in 1979) at the UW-Madison to today with many extremely fine choruses and UW ensembles performing.
I had a passion to bring together a core of the finest singers for a single “project,” and with a lot of help I was able to raise and secure funding, find venues, audition singers, and a new entity was born: The Madison Choral Project.
Why is another choral group needed or wanted in Madison? Briefly, how do you expect it to be different from other local groups?
The Madison Choral Project is unique in Madison, in that it is a fully professional chamber choir of 16 voices. We hope to offer a highly refined and expressive chamber choral sound, singing both new unique repertoire, and treasured favorites.
As this very talented group comes together to present one project at a time, we feel we can tailor our concerts to the needs and tastes of our musical community. We are so excited to contribute our small part to the outstanding musical landscape of Dane County.
Can you briefly introduce us to your career in choral singing and directing, to your professional and personal commitment to it?
I’ve always loved making music with others, and I love people, and I love text, and expression. I grew up in Minnesota and wanted to move away to a conservatory for college, yet some inexplicable gut feeling drew me to attend St. Olaf College (in Northfield, Minnesota), where I found a choral music experience that was the nexus of all the things I loved.
In the years following St. Olaf I lived in St. Paul and completed a Master’s degree in choral conducting at the University of Minnesota, where under the excellent tutelage of Kathy Saltzman Romey I had the opportunity to work closely with the German conductor Helmuth Rilling (below top) and the American vocal conductor Dale Warland (below bottom).
Applying broadly to doctoral programs, I was extremely fortunate to receive a kind offer from the College Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati, where I was able to work with several wonderful professional conductors, including Earl Rivers, Richard Westenburg, Richard Sparks and Donald Nally. I completed my doctorate in choral conducting and music theory from CCM in 2009, and got a dream job: Full-time employment at a wonderful liberal arts college in Madison — Edgewood College (below, he is conducting the Chamber Singers at Edgewood College).
Can you comment on the upcoming premiere program and specific works on it?
The idea behind “A Celestial Spring” came not only from the title work by F. Melius Christiansen (below), but also from the season of spring and its promise of rebirth and newness, fitting for the inaugural concert of a new ensemble.
Our first set of German Romantic composers seeks to capture the comforting return of lush green in nature, echoed in wondrous rich harmonies.
The very first work, “Abendlied” (Evening Song) by Joseph Rheinberger (below bottom) invites the audience to “Bide with us,” an entreaty both to for the duration of the concert and for our life as a new ensemble.
The second set, “The Celestial Season,” focuses on the season of spring itself, beginning with rays of sunshine (“I Am the Great Sun” by Jussi Chydenius) and ending in sunset (“The Sun Has Gone Down” by Leland Sateren). In between are two movements of F. Melius Christiansen’s “Celestial Spring” (at bottom in a YouTube video), a work composed completely without text. Christiansen (below) sought to capture the sounds of the season with an orchestra of voices, and later gave the finished score to his colleague Oscar Overby to “fill in” with text.
The third set of music, “The Call of Summer,” explores transitions into a wondrous hereafter, in settings by the great English composers Charles Hubert Parry (below top) and Ralph Vaughan Williams (below bottom). This set addresses the end of spring, and alludes as well to the idea of death as a gateway into an everlasting summer.
Our fourth set traces the evolution of romantic love through texts depicting five tableau scenes. In “O Mistress Mine” by Matthew Harris (below top), the protagonist is struck with attraction from a distance. “The Devon Maid” by Dominick Argento (below bottom) represents first contact and flirtation, in this case by an aggressive suitor. “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day” by Nils Lindberg represents the honeymoon of intense passion, while “It Was a Lover and His Lass” (Parry) recounts many merry days of coupled frolicking. “Rest” (Vaughan Williams) is a tender goodbye, to that loved one now deceased.
Is there more you would like to add or say?
Thank you so much, Jake, for the opportunity to share our efforts on The Well-Tempered Ear!
ALERT: The FREE Friday Noon Musicale, from 12:15 to 1 p.m. this Friday at the historic Frank Lloyd Wright First Unitarian Society Meeting House, 900 University Bay Drive, will feature soprano Rachel Eve Holmes (below top) and pianist Thomas Kasdorf (below bottom) performing songs and arias by Verdi, Copland, Mozart, Puccini and others.
By Jacob Stockinger
Back from its Carnegie Hall debut last winter, Con Vivo or “music with life” will conclude its 11th season of chamber music with a concert entitled “Homecoming” this Friday, May 17, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Ave., across from Camp Randall.
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.
Members of Con Vivo (below in a photo by Katrin Talbot) include organist Donald DeBruin; pianist Dan Lyons; violinists Olga Pomolova and Kathryn Taylor; violist Janse Vincent; cellist Maggie Darby Townsend; and clarinetist Robert Taylor.
Tickets can be purchased at the door for $18 for adults and $15 for seniors and students.
The performance will feature chamber music by Mozart, Corelli, Bach, Tchaikovsky and Gliere.
The magnificent organ will be featured with none other than Johann Sebastian Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in b minor, BWV 544.
The famous “Kegelstatt” Trio by Mozart (at bottom in a YouTube video), and works for strings by two Russian composers, Tchaikovsky, and Gliere will also be performed.
As part of their student outreach, Con Vivo has invited some outstanding musicians from Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) to join them in performing Corelli’s Concerto Grosso No. 3 in C Minor.
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 (below, photo courtesy of Con Vivo) this past December.
Here is a link to the blog post The Ear did about that appearance:
About this Friday night’s concert, the ensemble’s Artistic Director Robert Taylor, said: “This concert promises to be enjoyable in many ways. We share a responsibility to tomorrow’s musicians to expose them to great chamber music both as performers and listeners. To that end we are excited to have four members of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra join us for this concert.
“We continue the tradition of bringing to our audience works that are familiar and some that are new. So come welcome us back from our Carnegie Hall debut!”
REMINDER: Tomorrow, Wednesday, May 15, is the deadline for signing up to take part in the inaugural Make Music Madison festival that will take place outdoors and citywide on the summer solstice, Friday, June 21. The Ear loves the idea and hopes classical musicians will be well represented in the offering of FREE concerts. Here is a link to the festival’s home webpage where you can sign up and also find out what other groups and individuals are participating. Plans call for four open-mike acoustic pianos, probably located at fire stations around town, to be part of the event; but signing up for them is not required: http://www.makemusicmadison.org
By Jacob Stockinger
One of the annual rites of spring in the Madison area is to be amazed once again at how well elementary, middle and high school students can play great music.
That talent will go on display this Saturday and Sunday afternoon when the various orchestras and ensembles of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) will perform concerts to help raise money for the large non-profit educational program. (Below, WYSO director Bridget Fraser introduces last year’s concerts.)
The two-day event includes the final concert by conductor Tom Buchhauser (pronounced Buckhauser) who is retiring after working for 30 seasons with WYSO.
Here is the schedule:
All concerts are held on the UW-Madison campus in Mills Concert Hall of the Mosse Humanities Building, 455 North Park Street, in Madison.
Concerts generally last about 1-1/2 hours. Dress is casual and informal. Children are welcome. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for young people 18 and under, and are available at the door 45 minutes prior to each concert.
Call the WYSO office at (608) 263-3320 for up-to-date concert and ticket information. Or check out this website:
For general information about WYSO, including its impressive record of community service since its founding in 1965 by educating over 5,000 young people from more than 100 communities in southcentral Wisconsin, visit: http://wyso.music.wisc.edu/about/
On Saturday, May 18 at 1:30 p.m., WYSO will introduce the first joint concert to feature the Percussion Ensemble, Brass Choirs and Harp Ensemble (below top, middle and bottom, respectively). The varying styles of the groups will provide a diverse selection of repertoire, from Wagner’s “Siegfried’s Funeral March” to “Sunlight” by jazz fusion artist Pat Metheny.
At 4 p.m., WYSO’s string orchestra, Sinfonietta (below top), will perform pieces including Richard Meyer’s “Carpe Diem,” and Paul Creston’s “Five Little Dances.” The Concert Orchestra (below bottom, in a photo by Krystal Stankowski)) will follow with selections from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, and several contemporary selections.
On Sunday, May 19 at 1:30 p.m., WYSO’s Youth Orchestra (below) — which toured and performed in Prague, Budapest and Vienna last summer — will shine the spotlight on four talented Concerto Competition winners, who will perform as soloists with their orchestra. Their pieces include Ravel’s Tzigane, Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Haydn’s Oboe Concerto in C Major, and Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major.
At 4 p.m., WYSO expects a sold-out house as it welcome hundreds of alumni, music teachers and community members as to celebrate the memorable career of conductor Tom Buchhauser, who will lead the Philharmonia Orchestra (below) for the last time.
The concert will feature audience favorites including Verdi’s Nabucco Overture, and Sibelius’s “Finlandia.” Concerto Competition winner Audrianna Wu will also perform the first movement of Saint-Saëns’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in F Major.
A public reception to honor Tom Buchhauser — who is conducting “Greensleeves” in a YouTube video at the bottom – will follow the concert.
These concerts are generously supported by Goldstein and Associates, a private wealth advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc., the Eugenie Mayer Bolz Family, and Dane Arts with additional funds from the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation. This project is also supported in part by additional funds from the Wisconsin Arts Board, the State of Wisconsin, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Tom Buchhauser (below, in a photo by Jon Harlow) recently granted an email Q&A to The Ear:
Can you briefly introduce yourself and summarize your career?
I guess my career started out by accident when I entered high school. I went to Lane Tech (a school of 5,000 boys) in Chicago with the idea of becoming a math teacher. They had a great math department. I majored in music so I could take four years of math but not have to take the shop classes. (I had been taking piano lessons since age five from a neighborhood lady.
I did go to the Chicago Musical College in 7th and 8th grade for piano and theory.) This is when Carl Blum (father of Rich Blum, former violist of the UW Pro Arte Quartet and Madison Symphony Orchestra) started me on cello. By my junior year I had changed my mind about the math teacher and wanted to pursue music.
(Thirty years after Carl Blum started me on cello, his grandson George was in the Memorial High School Orchestra and playing the Beethoven violin concerto on our concerto concert.) The Blum’s were good friends of the Crietz’s as Lowell’s father was orchestra at Austin High School in Chicago. Lowell had joined the Pro Arte Quartet in 1955. During Christmas break of my senior year, Carl arranged for me to audition for Lowell at his parents home just a few mile from where I lived. Lowell accepted me and even got me an out-of-state scholarship to the UW-Madison. I entered the School of Music in 1957 (the same year that Rich Blum joined the Pro Arte).
In the spring semester of 1962, Art Becknell went full-time to the UW and recommended that I take over the orchestra/string classes at Wisconsin High School, even though I was still finishing my student teaching. I got my student teaching credit and $50 a month. (I took five years on my BM because of a double major -– Music Education and Music Theory & History.) I stayed at Wisconsin High in 1962-63 while going on for my Masters. From 1963 to 1966 I taught at Madison Central and in 1966 I went to the new Memorial High School (below). And I stayed there until I retired in 1999.
Why are you retiring? Where will you live and what will you do after retiring?
I am retiring because I think 51 years of teaching and conducting is enough. While I still look forward to going to WYSO every Saturday, I think it is time to have a new and younger person. I also wanted to be able to give WYSO a full year’s notice so they could find the right person take over. (Editor’s note: Buchhauser will be succeeded next year by Michelle Kaebisch (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) of the Madison Symphony Orchestra.)
I will remain in Madison as this has been my home for 57 years and it is such a wonderful place to live. All my friends are here and there is so much to do and hear musically. I have no special plans in mind, but I’m sure I will keep busy. I will continue to be on the MSO Education committee and sing with and be librarian for the church choir. Hopefully I can spend even more time in the garden.
What was the best part of working so many years with WYSO?
Of course the best thing about being with WYSO all these years has been the kids. They have been so dedicated to developing their skills, accepting the challenging music and bringing that music to life. Being part of a team of such wonderful conductors and educators, including Jim Smith, Mark Leiser, Christine Eckel (and Lygia Topolovic before Christine), for so many years has been incredible.
We all agree that WYSO is all about the kids, and that the focus is on music education. We are very supportive of each other and are great personal friends.
WYSO had a huge impact on the growth of the Memorial High School orchestra program. When Memorial opened there were three string students in the high school. When I retired there were 155 strings students in three orchestras. Hundreds of Memorial music students were in WYSO and brought back to the high school orchestra the advanced skills and musicality they received from being part of WYSO. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to be a part of WYSO, which has contributed to my career. (Below is a photo by Jon Harlow of Tom Buchhauser conducting.)
Can you tell us the programs you will conduct for the Spring Concerts and what would you like audiences to pay special attention to?
The spring concert will be: Verdi’s Overture to “Nabucco,” Strauss/Davis’ “Allerseelen,” the first movement of Saint-Saens’ Piano Concerto No. 5, Sibelius’ “Finlandia” and Dmitri Shostakovich’s First Ballet Suite.
Our piano soloist is Audrianna Wu (below, in a photo by Lloyd Schultz) a 7th-grader at Jefferson Middle School. She is FANTASTIC!!!
Have you picked up any secrets or tips about educating young people, musically or otherwise, that you would like to pass on?
I think the most important thing for being a teacher is that you have a passion for your subject and that you love the kids. In music you are generally teaching different age groups at different stages of musical ability and you have to adjust your expectations and vocabulary from class to class.
The first 10 years at Memorial, I taught 4th grade through 12th sometimes going from a Beethoven Symphony at the high school to “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” in the 4th grade in 20 minutes. You have to understand that to a 4th-grader playing “Twinkle, Twinkle” is like a high-schooler playing a Beethoven symphony.
I have always had respect for my students and that respect was given back. I laughed at them, they laughed at me and we all laughed together. Music is very demanding, but you can still have fun while working hard. I never had challenges for seating but rather emphasized that we were there to make music not occupy a chair.
The only challenge was between the student and what the composer put on the page. When we needed to go to two orchestras there was a freshman and a grade 10-11-12 orchestra and then three orchestras, freshman, sophomore and 11-12.
What do you think is the way to get classical music to appeal to more young people today?
I never found it hard to get the kids to like classical music. They love playing a concerto grosso by Vivaldi or Corelli in the middle school years. If you give them good music to play and you are excited about it, they will get excited about it also.
I think the hardest job of a conductor is choosing music that will advance the students’ technical skills, enhance their musicality, and will be music that they will like and also that an audience will enjoy hearing in a concert.
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 88.9 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
Founder and music director Codrut Birsan has been moving on steadily with his Chicago-based Candid Concert Opera project. I was lucky to catch his latest presentation at the Edgerton Performing Arts Center (below top is the exterior, below bottom is the interior and concert hall) on this past Saturday evening, May 11. (At bottom is a YouTube video of Birsan speaking with excerpts from a production of “Die Fledermaus.”)
Edgerton is blessed to have so fine a performance venue as that incorporated into its high school. The house is ample, the acoustics excellent, the sightlines uniformly open, and the seating comfortable. Its annual seasons are full of fine visiting ensembles, and it is to the particular credit of Edgerton’s stellar benefactor, William Wartmann (below), that an effort is made to attract operatic offerings. For those, Madisonians can find it worthwhile to make the trip down to this quiet and welcoming little city.
The CCO production this time was a version of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” sung in the original German, with English surtitles projected. One of the defining patterns of evolution that Birsan has made is gradually to develop a mini-orchestral accompaniment for his presentations. This time, he had the largest showing yet: 13 players, made up of four winds (one each of flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon), eight strings, and piano.
This group, conducted by Birsan (below), made a credible Mozartean sound, even when shorn of brass and timpani.
Such restrictions meant some sacrifices, such as the symbolic three chords of Freemasonry. Indeed, much of Mozart’s Masonic imagery was bypassed for a simplified story of the main characters. In the inevitable cutting, we lost the Three Boys, and the two Armed Men, along with a few musical numbers.
The spoken dialogue was gone also, with a narrator (Tom Kastle, below on the far right) filling in the context for the numbers. With all that, we were still left with a big bundle of Mozart’s wonderful music. And, marshaling his solo singers, Birsan was able to deliver some of the important choral work. Indeed, his clever trimming and adjusting resulted in a very enjoyable show.
As usual, he could draw upon a lot of young vocal talent from the Chicago area. Their names will be unfamiliar, but–who knows–some of them might develop into famous singers.
The men were a mixed group. Their standout was Dan Richardson (below top), who has a very appealing baritone voice, and who displayed real acting talent as the comic birdman Papageno. Tenor Javier Bernard has a pleasant voice, but needed a bit more strength and projection as Prince Tamino. Bass Neil Edwards had the vocal dignity of Sarastro, but lacked full power in the crucial lower notes of his solos. With a limited tenor voice but a lively acting flair, Eric Mason (below bottom) was delightful as the wicked slave Monostatos.
More uniform were the women. Soprano Amanda Compton (below) was pert and winning as the birdgirl Papagena. Remarkable strength, ensemble, and stage presence were displayed by the Three Ladies (Leila Bowie, Marci Wagnon Jackson, and Robin Bradley).
As the Queen of the Night, soprano Amanda Kingston (below) had ringing tone and strong personality. Her command of the fearsome high-range pyrotechnics was somewhat challenged in her first big aria, but was much more secure in the second.
The star of the show in general, however, was Chelsea Morris (below) as Pamina: her firm, truly beautiful voice, with absolute technical confidence, offered consistently lovely singing.
The staging (below) was, even more than usual, minimal, with the sequence of numbers indeed like a standup concert progression. Still, some interaction of the singers, lots of body language, and some simple movements, all sustained the sense of theater.
Birsan’s CCO deserves support and delivers satisfaction in bringing opera in direct ways to wider audiences. Next season it will offer Rossini’s “La Cenerentola” and Mozart’s “Così fan tutte.” Watch for them, wherever they turn up.
By Jacob Stockinger
Today is Mother’s Day in the U.S.
So it is a fitting time to consider what music you would make and what music you would play to give your Mom as a gift.
It comes to mind because a couple of months ago, The Ear lost his Mom (below). She was 91, and had, as a red-headed and ever-resourceful War Bride for World War II, lived a long, good and quietly adventurous life with much spirit, good humor and boundless energy, despite various setbacks.
She also set me on the path to classical music – to making it and appreciating it – even though she herself was not especially musical except to sing hymns in church and ballades, show tunes and ditties in piano bars.
Way back when, my sister said she wanted to go take piano lessons and I asked if I could too. Mom said yes. My sister stopped; I kept going.
With a few intervals, some big and some small. those lessons that started at age 8 continued with right up until the present and will do so well into the future.
When I would visit Mom in her later years, we would go to a club house near the retirement community where she lived in Phoenix and I would play some of her favorite pieces. It was always a treat for her. She would just relax and lean back and smile in enjoyment. The pleasure she had given me was returned, and for her, everything had gone round and come home.
Chopin (below) was always her favorite. Probably because he was also mine.
So when I wanted to attend the legendary all-Chopin recital in Carnegie Hall by Arthur Rubinstein (below top) in 1961, she got the tickets –- which ended up being ON-STAGE tickets so I could see The Master play Chopin from maybe 20 feet away. (Below bottom is the view of Carnegie Hall FROM the main stage after its great renovation.)
Anyway, I miss Mom, more than I let on. But I keep her and my memories of her in my heart –- and I often think of her when I am at the keyboard, especially whenever I am playing Chopin. Which is often, sometimes daily.
I know she had a favorite Chopin piece. Probably because it was a favorite of mine, and I could play it for her pretty well. And without fail, she was proud and pleased.
That’s how Moms are.
And so in memory of all the pleasure she gave me through music, and all the caring she lavished on me in so many ways, I am posting a performance that set the standard for both me and her.
It is one of the greatest pieces by a great composer and played by a great pianist and great musician.
Here in a YouTube video is Chopin’s soulful Waltz in C-sharp Minor, Op. 64, No. 2, played by Arthur Rubinstein, first in an older recording and then in one, with music to follow, that is closer to the version we heard together.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.
I loved you then. I love you still. I will always love you and never forget you.
ALERT: This afternoon (Saturday, May 10), members of the Chamber Music Program (below) of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) will perform two FREE and PUBLIC concerts at 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. in Morphy Hall in the UW-Madison Humanities Building. Sorry, no word about programs and pieces.
By Jacob Stockinger
Next Friday, May 17, at 6 p.m. in Promenade Hall at the Overture Center, the Multi-Channel (Surround) Electronic Music of Karlheinz Stockhausen (below) will be performed by the Madison percussionist Nathaniel Bartlett.
Tickets are $16, $9 for students and seniors. Call the Overture Box Office at (608) 258-4141 or visit http://overturecenter.com/production/nathaniel-bartlett
Nathaniel Bartlett – who studied and worked with Stockhausen — and the Sound-Space Audio Lab will present a performance featuring the multi-channel (surround) electronic compositions GESANG DER JÜNGLINGE (Song of the Youths, 1955-1956) and KONTAKTE (1958-1960) by Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007).
This concert will also include a performance of “Autumn Island” (1986) for solo marimba, by Roger Reynolds (b. 1934), performed by Nathaniel Bartlett.
For more on Nathaniel Bartlett: www.nathanielbartlett.com
For more on Roger Reynolds: www.rogerreynolds.com
For more on Karlheinz Stockhausen: www.stockhausen.org
In advance of the event, Nathaniel Bartlett (below) agreed to an email Q&A with The Ear:
Can you briefly introduce yourself and your career?
I perform, compose, improvise, engineer, and record music with a special focus on the nuances and inner details of sound and its expression in a physically immersive listening space. My main creative avenue is my music for marimba plus three-dimensional, high-definition, computer-generated sound. I have recorded four albums (all on multi-channel, high-resolution media), and will be releasing my fifth album at my May 17 event.
I was born, in 1978, and raised in Madison, Wisconsin. In addition to studying privately with marimbist Leigh Howard Stevens, I studied at the Eastman School of Music (Rochester, New York), the Royal Academy of Music (London). I hold a doctoral degree in music composition from the University of WisconsinMadison School of Music. I currently live with my wife Lisa in Madison, where I m a postdoctoral associate at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.
For more information, I invite you to visit my website: www.nathanielbartlett.com
What is the appeal of percussion in general and especially the marimba (below) for you?
The appeal of percussion is its huge palate of sounds, which importantly include all varieties of non-pitched sounds.
The appeal of the marimba specifically for me is harder to capture in a few words. One aspect to the marimba is its immediately impressive sonic beauty, especially when played in a nicely reverberant acoustic space.
A five-octave marimba (starting at a cello’s lowest note), like the one I use in performance, has a sonic scope and depth which allows the performer/composer to create extremely visceral, earthy and elemental sonic expressions that give the instrument the power to produce profound musical statements.
What is the appeal of new music and electronic music for you, and why should audiences pay attention too it?
This question is also a difficult one to tackle succinctly, but here are some brief thoughts. New (and recent) music is the cornerstone of a healthy musical culture, and the concert music (or art music, or whatever term one uses) culture in the US right now is profoundly sick.
The organizations in our culture that seem to think so highly of themselves — orchestras, NPR “classical” stations — are essentially zombies. They are dead bodies that only appear alive to a casual observer because they are still staggering around.
The appeal of electronic musical resources is actually similar to the appeal of percussion. Through the use of electronics, I have access to a huge sonic palate, not only in terms of timbres, but whole sonic concepts, for example, the complex kinetic spatialization of sound, and the exact repetition of a musical fragment via live recording and playback.
Tell us what you think of and would like audiences to know about Karl Stockhausen and his importance and beauty as a composer?
In short, Stockhausen (below) was a composer (1928-2007) who produced a large body of work that included pioneering endeavors with: electronically produced/manipulated sound, sound spatialization, musical structure, concert presentation, and more. He had a great deal of influence on many other composers, and part of understanding the music of today is understanding its lineage.
Is there anything special audiences should listen for in your upcoming program of specific works by Stockhausen?
Talking about specific musical characteristics with only the text I am writing here might be a little too abstract. I will, however, talk briefly about the works at the concert before they are projected.
What I can say here is that I will encourage listeners to meditate on how old this music is (1955-1960) and what that means from both artistic and technological perspectives.
For listeners new to this music, I think my only advice would be to listen to the sounds Stockhausen (below, with pre-digital electronic equipment) created for his works, as opposed to thinking about what sounds or parameters he is not using.
This is not metric, tonal music. Listening to this kind of music through a “Mozart framework” would be like attending a Shakespeare play and remarking that it did not make sense because there was no tennis being played.
Is there more you would like to say or add?
Yes! Thank you very much for asking about the upcoming performance, I really appreciate it, and it has been my pleasure to answer your questions!
ALERT: A friend writes: The composer and organist Carson Cooman (below) will perform a FREE recital tonight, Friday, May 10, at 7:30 p.m. in St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 1833 Regent Street. I thought you might want to give readers a heads up about this. It the last concert of the church’s yearly concert series. This recital is notable for a couple of reasons. Carson is one of today’s leading composers — at the age of 31 he has been amazingly prolific and the music is of a wide range and high quality. He has had 17 CDs recorded of his music – he is also highly regarded as an organ recitalist with over 130 works by 100 composers written for him. And the recital has a few baroque composers, but is mostly of contemporary works especially suited for St. Andrew’s beautiful Taylor and Boody tracker organ. I have attached the concert’s program and notes. Here is a picture of the organ and a link to its specs: http://www.taylorandboody.com/opus_pages/opus_33/simpleviewer/organ_photo_gallery.html
Here is a link to Cooman’s website. http://www.carsoncooman.com/
By Jacob Stockinger
It’s late if you are still searching for a Mother’s Day gift. But here is something to consider.
At first it may seem odd to schedule a concert on Mother’s Day. But then I think of the role that music played with the lives of me and my Mom, and it doesn’t seem to far out.
So The Ear got word from Trevor Stephenson, who is hosting one of his delightful and relaxed house concerts (below) on Mother’s Day, this coming Sunday.
This Sunday afternoon, May 12, at 3 p.m. — on Mother’s Day — he will play a house concert of piano music by Frederic Chopin (selected Mazurkas and Nocturnes) and Claude Debussy (“Children’s Corner Suite” – how fitting for Moms), with some cameo appearances by Antonin Dvorak (“Humoresque,” at bottom) and Edvard Grieg (“Cow-keepers Song”).
The featured instrument will his beloved and historic Victorian English Upright piano “Fred” (below).
There will be tasty treats and refreshment as well. The hospitality is tops, take it from me, and music explanations by Trevor Stephenson are both entertaining and enlightening.
The address is 5729 Forsythia Place on Madison’s far west side. Admission is $35. Only about 40 people can be accommodated, so reservations are required. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or (608) 238-6092.
Also, coming up on Sunday, June 30, is a house concert featuring the wonderful late piano music of Brahms “Six Piano Pieces,” Op. 118 (complete), which is one of The Ear’s all-time favorite sets of piano pieces). It also includes Claude Debussy’s visionary Violin Sonata from 1917 –- and one of The Ear’s all-time favorite pieces of chamber music. Guest violinist will be Brandi Berry from Chicago — playing on gut strings, as it was done in 1917!
By Jacob Stockinger
The Madison Summer Choir (below) — which is directed by the same talented and busy Ben Luedcke who was featured in the post about the UW Men’s Choir yesterday — begins rehearsing on Monday, May 20, and singers who are not affiliated by audition with another community choir are invited to audition for the Madison Summer Choir on next Thursday, May 16, a week from today in the evening.
For more details, visit madisonsummerchoir.org.
The Madison Summer Choir is an approximately 80-voice, auditioned choir performing a cappella, piano-accompanied and choral-orchestral works. When the UW-Madison School of Music eliminated UW Summer Choir from its budget in 2008, Ben Luedcke (below) picked up the baton to ensure this student and community singing opportunity and tradition was not lost. Madison musician and UW-Madison graduate Luedcke also directs the Lake Edge United Church of Christ in Madison, The Crossing and the Choral Arts Society Chorale as well as the Madison Summer Choir.
It are now supported by singers, the larger Madison community, and UW-Madison School of Music. Membership is $50 for community members, $35 for students. This is its fifth year.
Auditions and choir membership are open to students and community members (see How to Join). It rehearses Mondays and Tuesdays, 5:15-7:15 pm, May 20 (Wednesday 29 instead of Memorial Day) through the end of June in the UW Humanities Building (choir room, No. 1351).
The program will take place on Saturday, June 29, at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall. Tickets to the concert are $8 for the public, $5 for students. The program includes music by Johannes Brahms, Thomas Tallis, Virgil Thomson, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Charles Gounod‘s “Solemn Mass for St. Cecilia.”