EDITOR’S NOTE: Please note that some reviews of productions last weekend are being delayed to make room for previews of the many upcoming concerts and musical events this week.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear hears:
The Pro Arte String Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) may well be prevented from taking its long-planned centennial tour to its homeland Belgium next month because of a seemingly small but very significant government regulation designed to curtail the trade in illegal ivory.
Now, who can argue with the intent to protect elephants from being poached for their ivory tusks? But clearly there are unintended consequences that make the humane regulation look absurd and silly, if not mean-spirited, in its requirements for out-of-date documentation.
Take the Pro Arte Quartet, artists-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Music since 1940. It turns out that the acclaimed string quartet may not make its long-planned centennial tour to Belgium next month -– depending on what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which, with the help of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), inspects and confiscates or destroys musical instruments it deems in possible violation of the law at U.S. customs.
As for how it applies to the Pro Arte Quartet: It seems that ivory inlay on one old instrument –- a beautiful and full voiced viola -– and the ivory used in the tips of bows for one or more of the old instruments may violate the new ban and regulation.
It that seems an exaggeration consider the following stories about the difficulties that other musicians and other countries have faced in confronting the situation:
Here is a link to an overview story on NPR:
The problem is not so much getting out of the U.S., since other countries are taking a more lenient or understanding view. The problem comes at U.S. Customs when you leave or even, and especially, return.
Here is the story about one Canadian musician is being held hostage from seeking a professional job by the ban. Be sure to view the video:
Here is the take by famed critic Norman Lebrecht on his classical music blog “Slipped Disc:
As for the Pro Arte: People are reportedly working behind the scenes to secure a solution, which ranges from getting an exemption to using either a substitute instrument or a substitute player, to cancelling the tour. Stay tuned.
But while you stay tuned you have two chances tonight to hear the Pro Arte:
Thursday night at 9 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Television’s main channel is the extremely we’ll done one-hour documentary about the Pro Arte and its Centennial celebration will air. It features great photos and historic footage, but it also features the quartet playing a studio concert of music by Darius Milhaud, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ernest Bloch, Samuel Barber (the famous “Adagio for Strings” that was originally a string quartet movement and that received its world premiere in Rome from the Pro Arte) and contemporary composer John Harbison. (Other airings are also scheduled. Here is a link:
But you can record that on a DVD or some other device. And here are other times on The Wisconsin Channel (21.2). The airdates are: April 18 at 8 p.m.; April 19 at 2 a.m.; and April 19 at 5 p.m. In addition, WPT will be offering this documentary program via web-streamibng at the same time as the broadcast, so people can see it globally. The link to the program page, on which the streaming link is also housed, is http://wptschedule.org/episodes/45015629/The-Pro-Arte-Quartet-A-Century-of-Music/
Here is the real treat: At 7:30 p.m. on this Thursday night in Mills Hall, the Pro Arte Quartet -– playing its own instruments — will perform a FREE MUST-HEAR concert of the same program that was requested by the Belgian hosts for whom they will play. Consider it a warm-up or run-through.
The program features one the Ear’s top all-time favorite string quartets: the so-called “Dissonant” Quartet, K. 465 (1785) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, which was so advanced in its harmonies that early publishers actually changed some of the opening notes that Mozart wrote to make the work conform to the practices of the day. (The opening that gives it its nickname can be heard in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
The program also includes the Quartet No. 1 (1909) by the pioneering modernist Bela Bartok (below top), and the Quartet in E Minor, Op. 44, No. 2, (1837) by the early Romantic composer Felix Mendelssohn.
In its blend of the Classical, the Romantic and the Modern repertoire, the program seems quintessentially Pro Arte. And it should be a pure joy to hear.
Members of the current Pro Arte Quartet (below in a photo by Rick Langer and with links to biographies) are:Parry Karp, cello; Suzanne Beia, second violin; Sally Chisholm, viola; and David Perry, first violin.
If didn’t already know it, here is a capsule history of the quartet:
The Pro Arte Quartet was founded in 1911-12 by students at the Brussels Conservatory. Violinist Alphonse Onnou was the leader, and the other founding members included Laurent Halleux (violin), Germain Prévost (viola), and Fernand Auguste Lemaire (cello). The quartet made its debut in Brussels in 1913 and soon became known as an exponent of modern music.
The Pro Arte played their American debut in 1926, performing at the inauguration of the Hall of Music in the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. They returned for 30 tours to the United States, as well as a tour of Canada, often under the auspices of the noted patron of chamber music, Mrs. Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge.
Their first visit to Madison was in 1938, where, two years later, the musicians were stranded by Hitler’s invasion of Belgium and the outbreak of World War II. Following their concert on campus, the University of Wisconsin chancellor offered a permanent home to the quartet.
It was the first such residency ever in a major American university, and became the model on which many other similar arrangements were developed at other institutions.
The Pro Arte became the faculty string quartet at UW-Madison in the late 1950s, an appointment that continues to the present day -– making the ensemble more than 100 years old, the oldest on-going string quartet ever in history.
By Jacob Stockinger
This is a crazy busy weekend for classical music fans in Madison.
On Friday night at 8 p.m. in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra closing out its season with pianist Stewart Goodyear playing his own Piano Concerto and Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Choral” Fantasy (plus the “Eroica” Symphony) on Friday night.
On Friday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall is also the University of Iowa Center for New Music in a FREE concert.
Also on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in Music Hall is the University Opera’s first of three performances of Hector Berlioz’ opera “Beatrice and Benedict.” It is the farewell production of director William Farlow, who is retiring this spring.
Then on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in Morphy Hall is the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music’s Perlman Piano Trio, in a FREE concert of Franz Joseph Haydn, Franz Schubert and Antonin Dvorak. At 8 p.m. in Mills Hall is the UW-Madison Concert Choir and Chamber Orchestra performing Johann Sebastian Bach’s “St. John Passion” under conductor and director Beverly Taylor.
And on Sunday at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. is the First Unitarian Society of Madison performing Gabriel Faure’s lovely and calming Requiem. Admission is FREE and open to the public. And the on Sunday evening at 7 p.m., the UW Chorale Concert, under Bruce Gladstone, will perform a FREE concert in Mills Hall.
But two concerts on Saturday by smaller local groups presenting old music and new music should also not be overlooked.
On Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. in Luther Memorial Church (below) at 1021 University Avenue, there is a FREE concert featuring new music by two local groups.
“New Music Concert and Conversation” is FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC and features new works for the percussion group Clocks in Motion (below top) and the woodwind quintet Black Marigold (below bottom) by student composers across the country. Two of the four winning composers will be in attendance to speak about their work and answer questions from the audience.
Immediately following the performance, Clocks in Motion and Black Marigold members will speak about the challenges and rewards of performing new music.
The New Music Concert is part of the 18th annual conference of the Midwest Graduate Music Consortium (MGMC), which will take place at UW-Madison on April 11 and 12. MGMC is a joint venture organized by graduate students from Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, and UW-Madison. MGMC encourages the presentation of original research and the composition of new music by graduate and advanced undergraduate students.
Details about the conference, including a full schedule and list of abstracts, can be found at the MGMC website. The conference includes papers by students from MGMC sister schools and institutions across the U.S. and Canada. Tamara Levitz, UCLA, will give a keynote lecture, “Riot at the Rite: Racial Exclusion and the Foundations of Musical Modernism.” Registration is FREE. Please send an email to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org if you plan to attend. (No registration is necessary for the New Music Concert).
The program includes:
Works for Clocks in Motion:
Kristina Warren, University of Virginia . . . Adelaide
Benjamin O’Brien, University of Florida . . . cadenceStudie
Works for Black Marigold (below):
Kenn McSperitt, University of Oklahoma . . . Eight
Matthew R. Durrant, University of Utah . . . Quintet No. 2
Then on Saturday night at 8 p.m. in the historic Gates of Heaven Synagogue (below), located at 300 East Gorham Street, in James Madison Park in downtown Madison, the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble will perform a concert of vocal and instrumental early music on period instruments.
The program includes:
1. Wilhelm Friedemann Bach – Duet No. 2 for two flutes in E-flat major, F. 55
2. Jean Baptiste Barrière – Cello Sonata No. 3, Book 2
3. Georg Philipp Telemann – Suite 1 from “Six Paris Quartets”
4. Johann Friedrich Fasch – Sonata for bassoon and continuo in C major
5. Benoit Guillement – Sonata No. 1 for two traversi
6. Johann Sebastian Bach – “Die Schätzbarkeit der weiten Erde” from cantata BWV 204 (heard at the bottom in a YouTube video featuring violinist Itzhak Perlman and soprano Kathleen Battle.)
7. Carl Friedrich Abel – Sonata a viola da gamba solo et basso, WKO 160.
8. Johann Christian Bach – Quartetto for traverso, violin, viola, and bass.
9. Joseph Bodin de Boismortier – Concerto a cing parties, from Op.37.
Tickets are available only at the door. Admission is $15, $10 for students. Feel free to bring your own chair or pillow. For more information, call (608) 238-5126 or visit www.wisconsinbaroque.org.
Members of the Wisconsin Barqoue Ensemble are: Theresa Koenig – baroque bassoon; Brett Lipshutz – traverse; Mary Perkinson – baroque violin; Consuelo Sañudo – mezzo-soprano; Monica Steger – traverse; Eric Miller – viola da gamba, baroque cello; Anton TenWolde – baroque cello; and Max Yount – harpsichord.
By Jacob Stockinger
This coming Sunday, April 13, at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. the First Unitarian Society of Madison will offer one of its All-Music Sundays.
This time, the event – open to the public and not just FUS members — features two FREE performances on the lovely and consoling Requiem by Gabriel Faure at the historic meeting-house, (below) designed like a plow tilling the soil by Frank Lloyd Wright, at 900 University Bay Drive.
To The Ear, it seems a perfect choice for the upcoming Easter season – Sunday is, after all, Palm Sunday.
To be sure, a lot of sublime choral music has been or will be performed here in a short time, including Johann Sebastian Bach’s “St. John Passion” and Mass in B Minor, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s storied Requiem and Sergei Rachmaninoff’s a cappella Vespers.
I gave a rundown in this earlier post:
But there is something special in the quietude of the Faure Requiem that seems to marry the Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions in away that also allows secularists to enter into the music.
I asked FUS music director Dan Broner (below), who programmed and will conduct the Requiem, to talk about it and he agreed to do an email Q&A:
Why did you choose to do the Requiem by Gabriel Faure?
Two years ago we did the Requiem by John Rutter. A singer at the time asked if we could do the Faure Requiem next and since I hadn’t conducted the entire work for some time, I thought it would be fun to do it again.
John Rutter (below) worked on a new edition of the Faure Requiem in the early 1980s, which inspired him to compose his own requiem. So I thought it would be fun for the Society Choir to sing it while the Rutter was still relatively fresh in their ears.
What do you think of Faure’s music in general and what do you especially like about it and what makes it appropriate for the Unitarians?
I think Faure’s music is underrated. He was comparatively prolific, having written over 100 songs, many piano solo works, and lots of wonderful chamber music. Yet he is best known for his Requiem and a few instrumental numbers (“Sicilienne,” “Pavane” and “Elegie”).
I think it may be because he didn’t write many large-scale works, and his piano solo repertoire is quite difficult technically. (Liszt pronounced it too difficult.)
Faure (below) was a terrific melodist on par with Schubert and Chopin and his life (1845-1924) spanned a period that began with the music of Chopin and Schumann and into the jazz era and the second Viennese school. An important educator, he taught many well-known composers including Maurice Ravel and Nadia Boulanger.
Faure worked for the Roman Catholic Church, and properly wrote his Requiem in Latin. But he eschewed the usual “Dies Irae” (Day of Wrath) movement with its emphasis on judgment and damnation for a gentler spirit that focused instead on eternal rest. I think this plays well with Unitarian humanist leanings.
How does it differ from other well-known Requiems?
In addition to the “Dies Irae,” Faure also doesn’t include the “Benedictus” portion of the “Sanctus.” And his “Agnus Dei” (heard at the bottom in a popular YouTube video) is in F major and is more lyrical than the typical big, minor key “Agnus Dei” movements of other Requiems.
Interesting is the similarities with the “German” Requiem by Johannes Brahms, written some 20 years earlier. Both are in seven movements and both use soprano and baritone soloists. I think it was Aaron Copland (below) who declared Faure “the Brahms of France.”
What else would you like to say or add about the work and the performances?
We will be using John Rutter’s chamber orchestration which lends itself for performing in a relatively small space: organ, harp, solo violin, divided violas and cellos, bass, two horns and timpani. The chorus will number a little over 60 singers. Soprano Heather Thorpe and baritone Bart Terrell are the soloists. And it will take place in the older Landmark Auditorium (below) because that’s where the organ is.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear’s friends at the Madison-based fun-filled and pun-filled Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society –- which The Ear named as Musician of the Year –- has announced its 23rd annual summer concert series, called “23 Skiddoo.”
The eclectic and unorthodox chamber music series, which will emphasize Latin American music, will take place this summer, from June 13 to June 29, 2014. It will be held over three weekends in three different venues and with 12 concerts offering six different programs. (Below is the official poster logo for 23 SKIDOO.)
Here is the official press release:
Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society (BDDS) presents its 23rd annual summer chamber music festival, “23 SKIDDOO,” from June 13 to June 29, 2014.
This festival features 12 concerts over three weekends, each weekend offers two different programs.
Concerts will be performed in The Playhouse at the Overture Center in Madison (below top); the renovated historic Stoughton Opera House (below middle); and the Hillside Theater at architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin compound in Spring Green (below bottom).
Combining the best local musicians and top-notch artists from around the country, a varied repertoire and delightful surprises, BDDS presents chamber music as “serious fun” infused with high energy and lots of audience appeal, and makes this art form accessible to diverse audiences.
Led by artistic directors and performers Stephanie Jutt, flute, and Jeffrey Sykes, piano, (below in a photo by C Photography) 15 guest artists will perform in the festival.
“23 Skiddoo” is early 20th century American slang that refers to leaving quickly or taking advantage of an opportunity to leave. Jutt and Sykes have taken some great colloquial expressions and found musical connections for them: sometimes obvious, sometimes oblique — but always leading to thrilling music.
Highlights for this season include Latin American music – especially from Argentina – two pianos on stage in one weekend, a Midwest premiere by Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer Aaron Jay Kernis, and a silent film score including a screening of the film, below, by and with Charlie Chaplin.
We have two spectacular programs our first week, “Getta Move On” and “Exit Strategy.”
“Exit Strategy” features music written at the end of composers’ careers. It includes Claude Debussy‘s profound Sonata for Violin, the last work he wrote; Maurice Ravel’s popular “Bolero” in its original two-piano incarnation, almost his last work; Arnold Bax’s beautiful sonata for flute and harp; and the scintillating “Paganini” Variations of Witold Lutoslawski for two pianos.
“Getta Move On” features music inspired by dance, including Sergei Rachmaninoff‘s thrilling “Symphonic Dances” for two pianos, Ravel’s nostalgic “La valse” for two pianos, and the Midwest premiere of Aaron Jay Kernis’ evocative work “The Art of the Dance” for soprano, flute, harp, viola and percussion.
Madison’s piano star Christopher Taylor (below top) will pair up with BDDS artistic director Jeffrey Sykes on the two-piano works. The programs will also showcase the talents of Canadian harp virtuoso Heidi Krutzen and Pro Musicis award winner Yura Lee (below bottom) on violin and viola.
Icelandic soprano Dìsella Làrusdóttir, hailed by Opera News as “a voice of bewitching beauty and presence,” will join in the premiere of the work by Aaron Jay Kernis (below) and other works.
Concerts will be performed at The Playhouse in the Overture Center for the Arts on Friday and Saturday, June 13 and 14, at 7:30 p.m. and Spring Green at the Hillside Theater on Sunday, June 15, at 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
The second week features “Take a Hike” and “Hasta La Vista, Baby.”
“Take a Hike” includes music inspired by the countryside, from an Amy Beach “Romance,” to Johannes Brahms’ gorgeous Clarinet Trio and Mozart’s pastoral Piano Concerto No. 23, which celebrates the Austrian countryside, to works by Argentinian composer Carlos Guastavino (below).
“Hasta La Vista, Baby” is an extravaganza of Latin American chamber music from the sultry, sensuous, heart-on-the-sleeve tangos of Astor Piazzolla (below) to the mystic profundity of Osvaldo Golijov‘s “The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind.”
We are thrilled to have clarinetist Alan Kay, principal of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, joining BDDS for the first time.
He will be joined by audience favorites Carmit Zori and Suzanne Beia, violins; David Harding, viola; and Tony Ross and Beth Rapier, cellos.
Finally, we have invited master pianist and arranger Pablo Zinger (below), one of Piazzolla’s champions who played with Piazzolla own’s quintet and is an international authority on Latin music, to give our programs authentic Latin flair. (You can hear Pablo Zinger playing with the composer in a popular YouTube video with over 1 million hits at the bottom in the beautiful bittersweet song “Adios, Nonino” that Piazzolla wrote when his father died. Zinger opens with a long and impressive solo piano riff and at about 1:48 minutes finally breaks into the heartbreaking melody.)
Concerts will be performed at the Stoughton Opera House on Friday, June 20, at 7:30 p.m.; at the The Playhouse in the Overture Center for the Arts on Saturday, June 21, at 7:30 p.m.; and in Spring Green at the Hillside Theater, on Sunday, June 22, at 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
The final week includes “Cut and Run” and “Hightail It.”
“Cut and Run” features music by composers who made well-timed exits or transitions in their lives. Bohuslav Martinu escaped Europe just before the outbreak of World War II; when he arrived in the US, he wrote his jazzy Trio for flute, cello and piano. In Russia, Dmitri Shostakovich (below) responded to the war by writing his very moving piano trio. In this work, he got himself back into the good graces of the Soviet authorities—and yet still managed to sneak into his work an ironic critique of Soviet life.
Darius Milhaud’s great work for piano four hands, “Le boeuf sur le toit,” was originally intended as the score for Charlie Chaplin’s silent movie “The Count,” a movie (below) that culminates in a hilariously well-timed exit. Our program will reunite the movie with its erstwhile score.
“Hightail It” includes music with fast codas. “Coda” is the Italian word for “tail,” and it refers to the final section of a movement or a piece. This program includes William Hirtz’s fun, over-the-top “Fantasy on the Wizard of Oz” for piano four-hands, and the jazzy, rhythmic Sonata, for violin and cello, of Maurice Ravel. The thrilling, symphonic Piano Trio in F minor of Antonín Dvořák brings the season to a close.
The San Francisco Piano Trio (below) — violinist Axel Strauss, cellist Jean-Michel Fonteneau and BDDS artistic director pianist Jeffrey Sykes — will be joined by Boston Symphony pianist Randall Hodgkinson and BDDS Artistic Director flutist Stephanie Jutt in these programs.
Concerts will be performed at The Playhouse of the Overture Center for the Arts on Friday, June 27, 7:30 p.m.; at the Stoughton Opera House on Saturday, June 28, at 7:30 p.m.; and in Spring Green at the Hillside Theater, Sunday, on June 29, at 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
FREE FAMILY CONCERT
For the fourth year, BDDS will also perform one FREE family concert, “Getta Move On Kids,” an interactive event that will be great for all ages. Together with the audience, BDDS will explore why dance-like melodies and rhythms can get people on their feet; they’ll listen to and repeat rhythms and move to the music.
This will take place at 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 14, in The Playhouse at the Overture Center. This is a performance for families with children ages 6 and up and seating will be first come first served. CUNA Mutual Group, and Overture Center generously underwrite this performance.
University of Wisconsin-Madison artist Carolyn Kallenborn (below top with a set from 2011 below bottom), who works in textiles artist, will create a stage setting for each concert in The Playhouse. All concerts at The Playhouse, the Opera House and Hillside Theater will be followed by a meet-the-artist opportunity.
The addresses of location and venues are: Stoughton Opera House, 381 East Main Street in Stoughton; the Overture Center in Madison at 201 State Street; and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin Hillside Theater on County Highway 23 in Spring Green.
Single general admission tickets are $39. Student tickets are only $5. Various ticket packages are also available starting at a series of three for $111. First-time subscriptions are 50 percent off.
For tickets and information, call (608) 255-9866 or visit: www.bachdancinganddynamite.org
Single tickets for Overture Center concerts can also be purchased at the Overture Center for the Arts box office, (608) 258-4141, or at overturecenter.com (additional fees apply). Hillside Theater tickets may be purchased from the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitors Center on County Highway C, (608) 588-7900. Tickets are available at the door at all locations.
ALERTS: University of Wisconsin-Madison piano student Hailey O’Neil, who won an Honorable Mention, will fill in for the injured winner Oxana Khramova at the Beethoven Sonata Competition winners’ FREE recital today at 3:30 p.m. in Morphy Hall. O’Neil will play the lovely “Pastoral Sonata, Op. 28, by Beethoven.
For more information, visit:
Of course the Beethoven Sonata concert unfortunately conflicts with the last performance (at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall at the Overture Center) by the Madison Symphony Orchestra and Chorus (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson) of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Requiem and Joseph Jongen’s “Symphonie Concertante” with organ soloist Nathan Laube, all under the baton of guest conductor Julian Wachner. Here is a positive review by critic John W. Barker for Isthmus:
By Jacob Stockinger
Tomorrow, Monday, April 7, opens a busy week at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.
It starts with opera and chamber music for oboe, then expands to include contemporary music by guest artists from the University of Iowa’s acclaimed Center for New Music; piano and string music” the Adagio from Joseph Haydn’s Piano Trio No. 22; Franz Schubert’s Piano Trio No. 1 in Flat Major; and Antonin Dvorak’s Piano Quintet by the UW’s Perlman Piano Trio and guest performers (all below in a photo by Katherine Esposito) ; three performances by the University Opera of Hector Berlioz’ opera “Beatrice et Benedict”; and one performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “St. John Passion”’ done by the UW Concert Choir and UW Chamber Orchestra under conductor Beverly Taylor.
For full details, go to www.musc.wisc.edu and click on Events Calendar.
Here is how the week starts out:
METROPOLITAN OPERA STAR SUSANNE MENTZER
On Monday from 1:15 to 3:15 p.m. in 1321 Humanities Building, opera star mezzo-soprano Susanne Mentzer (below) will be offering a master class to UW-Madison voice and opera students
This event is free and open to the public. Mentzer will be working one-on-one with students, performing a signature aria for the class, conducting a “Q&A session, and staying to meet and greet all attendees.
Mentzer is in Madison to perform as Mrs. Patrick DeRocher in Madison Opera‘s production of “Dead Man Walking,” conducted by Madison Symphony Orchestra and Madison Opera maestro John DeMain, April 25 and April 27 in Overture Hall. For more information, visit:
Internationally known mezzo-soprano Susanne Mentzer enjoys a significant opera, concert and recital career of over 30 years. She has appeared on four continents at nearly every great opera house and with every great orchestra. She has been a guest artist at the Metropolitan Opera (below) in leading roles since 1989.
Her extensive discography includes over 25 CDs of opera and oratorio. She has recorded two recitals she often performs in concert: “The Eternal Feminine,” a recital of music by women composers (Koch International Classics), which includes the premiere of Libby Larsen’s “Love After 1950” with her long-time pianist, Craig Rutenberg; and her personal favorite, “Wayfaring Stranger” (Erato), a collection of international folksongs arranged for voice and guitar with Grammy Award winning Sharon Isbin.
She also received a Grammy nomination for her work as Colombina in Busoni’s Arlecchino. She is on the recent releases of Jake Heggie’s “Dead Man Walking” and “Plump Jack” by Gordon Getty. Mentzer appears on DVDs of “The Tales of Hoffman” (Opéra de Paris), Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” (La Scala), and Grammy-nominated “The First Emperor” by Tan Dun (Metropolitan Opera), and Richard Strauss’ “Ariadne auf Naxos” (Metropolitan Opera).
She has appeared numerous times on PBS as part of the “Live from Lincoln Center” and “Live from the Met” programs and Live From the Met satellite cinema broadcast. Mentzer is a mentor to young singers. She recently relocated to the San Francisco area where she teaches privately after 12 years in academia as a Professor at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University and DePaul University in Chicago. She has also served as faculty at the Aspen Music Festival and School and has been a guest teacher at the San Francisco Opera Merola program, the Castleton Festival and frequently gives master classes in conjunction with her engagements.
To read more about Susanne Mentzer, go to her website, www.susannementzer.com.
OBOIST KOSTAS TILIAKOS
On Monday night, at 7:30 in Morphy Recital Hall, pianist Christopher Taylor and flutist Stephanie Jutt will accompany Kostas Tiliakos on oboe and English horn in his only solo recital on the Faculty Concert Series this year.
Admission is FREE and open to the public.
His program will consist of works by composers Minas Alexiadis, Anastassis Philippakopoulos, Theodore Antoniou, Jurgis Juozapaitis, and Thea Musgrave.
A native of Athens, Greece, Kostas Tiliakos (below in a photo by Katherine Esposito) has been principal oboist in the Greek National Opera Orchestra in Athens since 1997. Previous to that, he held the position of Solo English Horn for eight years.
An avid lover of contemporary music, Tiliakos has been a member of the Hellenic Ensemble for Contemporary Music since 1990 and has premiered and recorded works by contemporary composers, many of which he was a dedicatee.
He has also recorded solo and chamber music works on Wandelweiser (Germany), Lyra and Irida Classics (Greece) and has been broadcast on radio and television throughout Europe.
Internationally, he has appeared as soloist throughout Europe, Africa, Canada and the U.S. During his time in Greece, Kostas was a sought-after music journalist and editing consultant with Lambrakis Press SA and 4pi Special Editions, the two largest publishing organizations in Greece. Kostas studied Biology at Athens University and holds a BA in European Cultural Studies.
He received his Masters of Music from UW-Madison under Marc Fink where he was a Paul Collins Wisconsin Distinguished Fellow. His principal teachers have included Marc Fink, Claude Chieulet, Didier Pateau. He has also studied with Paul Dombrecht and Hansjörg Schellenberger.
Most recently, Kostas was selected for the position of Visiting Associate Professor of Oboe at UW-Madison. The Ear understands that he has been renewed to do the same next academic year.
By Jacob Stockinger
They made chamber music hip when it used to be square.
I’m talking about the Kronos String Quartet, which for decades has, in Bob Dylan’s famous lyrics, remained “Forever Young.”
But they aren’t young except in spirit, where it really counts.
In case you missed it, a week ago Friday was the 40th anniversary of the internationally acclaimed and ever-performing, ever-recording, ever-commissioning and ever-morphing Kronos Quartet (below).
The Kronos Quartet, which has a local Wisconsin tie through the original cellist Jean Jeanrenaud (below), who retired in 1998 from the group and its hectic touring, made history in many ways.
For one, the Kronos changed the notion and model of string quartets and chamber music in general. They were unafraid to go electric when needed. And so they expanded the audience for string quartets and chamber music to younger people.
The Kronos focused on modern and contemporary music and commissioned hundreds of new works from contemporary composers. That is a formidable legacy for the future.
The Kronos focused on crossover music and broke the mold of separate categories. (Below, they are playing outdoors in Warsaw, Poland, in 2006.)
The Kronos focused on ethnic music and Third World composers. (Below, they are playing with celebrated Chinese pipa player Wu Man, who is in the center of the photo.)
In the end, they sold millions of recordings and helped change the business model that string quartets and chamber music used to survive and prosper. (Below, they are performing on the BBC Radio in 2012.)
Some critics of the Kronos might say they didn’t change it for the better. But what the Kronos did has remained permanent and popular. It changed the scene for many quartets that came after them, including the popular Quartetto Gelato and the Turtle Island String Quartet.
So to catch up with all that the Kronos represents, here are links to some pieces from background history and backstories to concert reviews.
Here is the story that was on NPR:
Here is a fine, comprehensive profile by The New York Times:
Here is a review of the concert in Carnegie Hall that appeared in the New York Times:
Plus here is a review of the same program done earlier on the West Coast by The Los Angles Times:
The Ear likes a lot of the Kronos’ work. But curiously I prefer some of the ethnic and crossover music -– a version of rock and roll icon Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” (in a popular YouTube video at the bottom) is the famous example — better than much of the contemporary stuff.
What is your favorite Kronos Quartet album or even single performance?
And what role did the Kronos Quartet play in your own appreciation of chamber music, especially string quartets, and contemporary classical music or new music?
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
On this coming Saturday night, the acclaimed and recently formed local percussion group, Clocks In Motion, will celebrate a landmark that area fans and all classical musicians can be proud of.
Here is the press release:
“Clocks in Motion, a cutting-edge new music ensemble from Madison, Wisconsin, will present an expansive program featuring highlights from the 2013-14 concert season, as well as selections from their upcoming debut CD album, “Escape Velocity.”
“Clocks in Motion (below in performance in 2013) consists of percussionists Dave Alcorn, Sean Kleve, Michael Koszewki, James McKenzie and Joseph Murfin plus Jennifer Hedstrom, pianist and percussionist, and conductor Matthew Schlomer.
“The concert is this coming Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. at Bright Red Studios (below), located at 9 Ingersoll Street in Madison. Admission is $10 for the general public; free with a valid student ID.
“Drums of Winter” is a movement from the breathtaking multimedia composition, “Earth and the Great Weather” by John Luther Adams (below). This genre-defying piece depicts the Arctic landscapes of Northern Alaska, and Clocks in Motion will perform a shattering and powerful drum selection.
“Paul Lansky has said that the aim of his percussion quartet, “Threads,” is to “highlight the wide range of qualities that percussion instruments are capable of, from lyrical and tender to forceful and aggressive, and weave them into one continuous ‘thread.’”
“Third Construction” by John Cage (below) features a wildly diverse instrumentation. Clocks in Motion will use tin cans, maracas, claves, cowbells, Indo-Chinese rattles, quijadas, cricket callers, a conch shell, ratchets, and various drums in this singular and innovative 1941 work.
“John Jeffrey Gibbens (below) is a living composer in Madison whose marimba solo, “Travelling Music,” was only just premiered on March 13. The vast complexities of this 12-tone work result in some entertaining choreography for the performer and a rich experience for the listener.
“The new mallet quintet, “Gravity,” by Marc Mellits (below) was commissioned in part by Clocks in Motion in 2013. This piece features Mellits’ pop-minimalistic style with driving rhythms and lush harmonies. The sectional work builds in intensity, resulting in a climactic and satisfying ending.
“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.
“With a fearless and uncompromising ear to programming challenging and adventurous contemporary percussion ensemble repertoire, Clocks in Motion (below in a photo by Megan Alley) consistently performs groundbreaking concerts involving performance art, theater and computer technology.
“Featuring world premieres alongside rarely performed classic works, the ensemble strives to create a new canon of percussion repertoire.
“Clocks in Motion works passionately to educate the young audiences of the future through master classes, residencies, presentations, and school assemblies. The individual members of Clocks in Motion’s unique skill sets and specialties contain an impressive mix of musical styles including, rock, jazz, contemporary classical music, orchestral percussion, marching percussion, and world music styles. (Listen for yourself to the YouTube posting at the bottom.)
“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 ensemble in residence with the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music percussion studio.
“For more information, including boomings, recordings, videos, concert/residency schedule, and repertoire, please visit www.clocksinmotionpercussion.com.”
ALERT: Tomorrow, Thursday night at 7 p.m., University of Wisconsin-Madison tenor James Doing will present another of his FREE studio recitals. It will feature 17 of his students (below, with Doing on the back row on the far right) — but this time NOT Doing himself — in various works, performed with piano accompaniment. The composers to be heard include George Frideric Handel, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Gabriel Faure, Maurice Ravel, Henri Duparc, Leo Delibes, Manuel DeFalla, Giaocchino Rossini, Vincenzo Bellini, Giuseppe Verdi, Leonard Bernstein and William Bolcom. The Ear has found such recitals in the past extremely informative and extremely enjoyable, a model of teacher-student cooperation based on a kind of master-apprentice model. Here is my review of a previous such recital:
By Jacob Stockinger
It seems to The Ear that the Israel-Palestinian conflict has lately been on the back burner for the most part, though it is heating up again as the Palestinians threaten again to go to the United Nations for official statehood recognition .
Still, that turmoil seems pretty much buried under the turmoil in Ukraine involving Russia’s annexation of Crimea; under the three week-long story of the missing Malaysian jet on its flight to Beijing; and under the tragedy of the massive and deadly mudslide near Seattle.
Add in the civil war in Syria, the student protests in Venezuela, concerns over Iran and nuclear proliferation and some African politics, and you can quickly understand why the Israelis and the Palestinians are less visible these days.
But although their disagreement may be less visible in the headlines, the Jewish-Arab problem is still there and is still urgent in its need to be solved.
After all, President Obama just returned from a trip to the Mideast where he met with to Saudi officials. And his administration continues to look for peace even as troubles from Palestinian rocket attacks to new Israeli construction on the West Bank, still plague the peace process.
So the Israel-Palestinian peace process, and the effort to secure a two-state solution, continues — or so one can hope.
With that background, it might seem that University of Wisconsin-Madison cellist Uri Vardi, who is an Israeli by birth and training, is following the current trend towards using art –- specifically music – to promote cross-cultural understanding and ultimately peace.
If that goal seems far-fetched or distant, well you might recall that world-famous conductor Daniel Barenboim has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra that he founded with the late Palestinian literary scholar Edward Said to foster peace by bringing together Israeli and Palestinian young musicians for concerts and recordings.
And the universally acclaimed early music master Jordi Savall (below top) and his ensemble Hesperion XXI have just released to rave reviews their second CD volume of music (below bottom) that blends Arabic and European cultures.
But Uri Vardi is anything but late to the game. For almost two decades he has been promoting such international understanding and peace efforts through art for a very long time through the Fusions Continuum Project.
This Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, Vardi will play the cello and his friend and colleague Taiseer Elias will play the oud (below) -– a fretless, lute-like instrument that is the ancient ancestor of the guitar and of the entire string family including the violin, viola, cello and double bass.
They will be joined by pianist-composer Menachem Wiesenberg (below), who is seen performing one of his own compositions with our master Taseer Elias in a YouTube video at the bottom.
If you miss that performance, the concert will be repeated the next day, this Sunday, on “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen” (below), which will be broadcast LIVE statewide on Wisconsin Public Radio from 12:30 to 2 p.m., and on Sunday night at a FREE concert in Milwaukee at 7 p.m. at the Rubinstein Pavilion, 1400 North Prospect Avenue. Then the trio will embark of a tour of the U.S.
In 2008, Vardi and Elias – an acclaimed teacher and performer in Israeli — gave the world premiere in Madison in a specially composed Double Concerto for Oud and Cello by the American composer Joel Hoffman (below). It was premiered by the Madison Symphony Orchestra under conductor John DeMain, and it is the kind of cultural crossover project that has found similar success with Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project.
Here are three links to stories about Uri Vardi and the upcoming fusion concert of Arab and Israeli music:
The first is to the shorter story on the outstanding blog “Fanfare” at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music:
The second longer and more detailed story is a press release from the newsletter of the UW-Madison Department of Jewish Studies:
And the third link will give you the full program:
What do you think of a project like this?
Can it be practical in the pursuit of peace and understanding?
Or does it remain pretty much irrelevant entertainment?
Leave your opinion in the COMMENT section of this blog.
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
Bassoonist Marc Vallon and saxophonist-clarinetist Les Thimmig, who both teach and perform at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, are emerging as two of the most interesting, eclectic faculty members, who display a variety of gifts and talents, at the UW School of Music.
Vallon (below, in a photo by James Gill) not only performs bassoon music from the Baroque and Classical eras, he is also a conductor who will lead two performances later this month of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Mass in B Minor” for the Madison Bach Musicians.
Thimmig plays jazz as well as classics, and recently finished his three-concert exploration of trios by the American composer Morton Feldman.
Here are the details that were sent by Marc Vallon to The Ear:
“I thought I would let you know about my next musical adventure.
“In the 1960s, French composer and conductor Pierre Boulez (below) had a group, called Le Domaine Musical, that played contemporary music mixed with early music by Bach, Dufay and Guillaume de Machaut — unusual music for the time.
“As an homage, Les Thimmig and I are reviving the concept in a FREE concert on this coming Friday, April 4, at 6:30 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall.
The program includes Four Pieces for Clarinet and Piano, Op.5 (1920), by Alban Berg (below top); Twelve Notations (1945, in a piano version performed by Maurizio Pollini in a YouTube video at the bottom) by Pierre Boulez (born 1925); “D’un geste apprivoisé” for bassoon and tape (1997) by Jose-Luis Campana (born 1949); and ) “Sequenza VII” for oboe (1969) by Luciano Berio (below bottom, 1925-2003).
After intermission, we will perform “Kontra-punkte for 10 instruments” (1953) by Karlheinz Stockhausen (below top, 1928-2007); and the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 (dedicated in 1721) by Johann Sebastian Bach (below bottom, 1685-1750).
There will be a presentation of the pieces and an introduction to “Kontra-Punkte” by Lee Blasius (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot), who teaches music theory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.
The performers include: Mi-Li Chang, flute; Kirstin Ihde, piano; Sung Yang Sara Giusti, piano; Kai-Ju Ho, clarinet; Les Thimmig, bass clarinet; Mary Perkinson, Baroque and modern violin; Eric Miller, baroque and modern cello; Joe Greer, trombone; Jessica Jensen, trumpet; Rosalie Gilbert, harp; Ross Duncan, bassoon; Kangwon Kim and Nate Giglierano, baroque violin; Sally Chisholm, Ilana Schroeder and Erin Brooks, baroque viola; Martha Vallon, Anton ten Wolde, Baroque cello; John Chappell Stowe; harpsichord; and Marc Vallon, bassoon.
By Jacob Stockinger
The reason is simple. Ever since the historic WUT opened, that is where the really great classical music talents of the 20th century performed, especially long before there was a Madison Civic Center or an Overture Center.
Two seasons ago, the Wisconsin Union Theater closed for repairs and started holding concerts in Mills Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.
But the renovations are almost completed. For more information about the two-year renovation, visit:
So the Wisconsin Union Theater has announced a gala and celebratory 2014-2015 Concert Series in the renovated theater.
The press release reads: “The Wisconsin Union Theater is proud to announce its 2014-2015 Concert Series. Reopening for its 75th anniversary (and the Concert Series’ 95th anniversary) after a two-year renovation, the theater offers a magnificent series, which includes:
Yo-Yo Ma, cello, with pianist Kathryn Stott, piano on Saturday, October 18, 2014. (At the bottom, you can hear the duo perform the “Meditation” from the opera “Thais” by Jules Massenet in a YouTube video that has more than 1 million hits.)
Valentina Lisitsa, piano, who has been an Internet sensation and procured a contract with Decca Records from her millions of followers on YouTube, on Thursday, November 20, 2014.
Chanticleer singers on Saturday, February 21, 2015.
Takacs String Quartet on Saturday, February 28, 2015, for the Fan Taylor Memorial Concert.
“As was promised when the theater closed for renovations, past and current subscribers are given first priority to place an order for the series and request their preferred seating area. Others can subscribe later and single tickets will be available in August.
“This is just the beginning, says WUT officials. Details of the theater’s complete season will be released at a later date and will include many additional superb artists and performances.
“The season is presented by Wisconsin Union Directorate’s Performing Arts Committee.
Single ticket prices range from $25 t0 $125 for the Yo-Yo Ma concert. The others generally run from $12 to $45 or $50.
Brochures will be mailed in mid-June.
For more information visit: