By Jacob Stockinger
Pop pianist Bruce Hornsby (below) has made quite the reputation for himself over the past 25 years or so as a keyboard wizard — and singer — who explores all kinds of music, including rock and folk, with impressive improvisations and interpretations.
But imagine The Ear’s surprise when Hornsby announced that he was looking and playing and even programming classical music as well as jazz.
And on top of that, some of the classical music he is favoring comes from the Second Viennese School – the difficult 12-tone composers and atonal composers of Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern. He also plays music by Gyorgy Ligeti and Olivier Messiaen.
Clearly, Hornsby’s classical tastes run to the early modernism. One can’t be sure that kind of music will be included in the upcoming concert, but it sure sounds as if it will.
Hornsby’s concert in Madison is in Overture Hall at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 30. Tickets run $39.50 to $59.50.
Here is a link to more information about the concert and tickets, which have been on sale for about two weeks now and which can also be reserved by calling the Overture Center box office at (608) 251-4848.
Hornsby also talked to All Things Considered, on NPR or National Public Radio, about his turn toward the classics, especially in the wake of being a relatively late bloomer as a student instrumentalist. (And the classical stuff he plays is hard and very challenging both for performers and listeners.) But you can tell he has impressive technique in the YouTube video at the bottom.
You may also notice that buying a concert ticket gets you a copy of his latest 25-track, 2-CD set with The Noisemakers called “Solo Concerts,” which includes some of the classical music.
Anyway, here is a link to the NPR story about Bruce Hornsby’s Classical Moment:
By Jacob Stockinger
Local business owners Dean and Carol “Orange” Schroeder (below) have a long history of supporting local arts organizations, especially local music groups.
Now the owners of Orange Tree Imports on Monroe Street have offered The Ear something that might come in handy to thousands of people — and concert-goers — this weekend.
It is a story about what the French composer Camille Saint-Saens thought about his own Symphony No. 3 or “Organ” Symphony, that will be performed in Overture Hall this Friday night at 7:30 p.m., Saturday night at 8 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. by the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below top) under music director and conductor John DeMain (below bottom).
For more about the MSO concert — with information about the tickets, the program, artist biographies and program notes — here is a link to an earlier post this week:
It is always interesting to see what a composer thinks or says about a specific work. Creating a work of art remains something of a mystery to those of us who do not or cannot do so. (You can hear the stirring finale of the work by Saint-Saens for organ and orchestra in a popular YouTube video at the bottom.)
The Ear finds it particularly interesting in the case of Saint-Saens (below, at the piano, in a Corbis photo from around 1900). He was one of history’s greatest child prodigies (on par with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Felix Mendelssohn) and remains one of the most underrated and underperformed of all composers, along with Franz Joseph Haydn and Gabriel Faure.
Anyway, here is what Saint-Saens had to say about the “Organ” Symphony he had composed – he considered it a major labor and achievement — coupled with a fine analysis by music writer Tom Service. The story comes from a series, which you might want to explore further via a link on this one, from The Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom.
Thank you, Dean and Orange Schroeder!
And I welcome suggestions or contributions from others.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Rural Musicians Forum has announced the formation of a new choral group for two concert performances in early December.
The concerts will feature two contrasting settings of the traditional biblical text of the “Magnificat,” both by modern composers Alan Hovhaness (below top and at the bottom in a YouTube video) and Jonathan Willcocks (below bottom).
The chorus begins its rehearsal schedule on October 5. The chorus is open to regional singers without audition. There is no fee for participation in the chorus, although members will purchase some music.
The concerts are slated for December 5 in Spring Green and December 7 in Plain.
The director for the ensemble is Gregory (Greg) J. Dennis (below), whose reputation as the director of the Mount Horeb Chorale and of the Platteville Chorale is well-established. These groups have not only performed widely in Wisconsin but have traveled abroad during the past summer.
Highly regarded for his extraordinary musicianship, Mr. Dennis recently retired from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville where he conducted two mixed choirs and taught elementary and secondary general music and choral music methods courses in addition to supervising student teachers. He directed RMF’s community “Sing Out Messiah” in 2013.
Drawing upon the enthusiasm and commitment of orchestra, soloists and chorus, Dennis will open doors to the beauty of the music and the season with the sensitivity for which he is known.
In describing his hopes for the performances, RMF Artistic Director Kent Mayfield (below) says: “Our goal is to bring these works of extraordinary beauty and seasonal depth to the greater Southwestern Wisconsin community, engaging as many area singers and musicians to participate as possible. My hope is to inspire the wider community to share in a vibrant and unique musical experience.”
For less-experienced singers and performers, the chance to work in the company of trained musicians of acknowledged skill offers the opportunity for skill-building and in-depth musical appreciation.
For many, even those with extensive experience with choral and orchestral music, the works of Alan Hovhaness and Jonathan Willcocks promise to be a challenge and opportunity not often available in the area.
A regional orchestra assembled uniquely for these concerts will be named soon.
For further information on the chorus or the orchestra, contact Kent Mayfield, artistic director of the Rural Musicians Forum. You can call (414) 239-7952 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Jacob Stockinger
“Grace Presents,” which just got a new program director Andrea Mauch (below), continues to develop as one of the most innovating and welcome FREE music events in Madison.
The once-a-month series, which is sponsored by and hosted at Grace Episcopal Church (below), 116 West Washington Ave., in downtown Madison on the Capitol Square, offers classical music but also folk, bluegrass, roots and jazz. The quaint historic church has great acoustics and decorating inside.
For the opening concert the performers at the unusual percussion group “Clocks in Motion,” which grew out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, where the group is now an “affiliate ensemble in residence” for the percussion program. (You can hear them perform in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
Clocks in Motion has also just released its first recording, “Escape Velocity,” which is an impressive CD that includes a work by Madison composer John Jeffrey Gibbons (below, in a photo by Milt Leidman).
The hour-long concert on Saturday -– to run from noon to about 1 p.m. –- will feature rarely heard instruments and unusual compositions that will use contemporary music to highlight the power and diversity of percussion music.
Clocks in Motion’s fresh and innovative approach to contemporary classical performance will provide an exciting concert experience for the Madison community.
The program this Saturday includes:
The new mallet quintet, “Gravity”, by Marc Mellits, 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.
In “Music for Pieces of Wood” minimalist pioneer Steve Reich liberates the listener from the downbeat with interlocking rhythm and shifting musical gestures. Five performers using warm-toned paduk instruments become one mesmerizing voice.
“Drumming Part 1”, also by Reich, is a driving minimalist piece in which four musicians play four pairs of tuned bongos. The work was highly influenced by the rhythms found in western Africa, but Reich (below) also employs original compositional techniques, such as rhythmic phasing and pattern construction.
“Four Miniatures” is an original composition by Clocks in Motion member Dave Alcorn (below). It explores the sonic possibilities of handheld percussion. Comprised of four mini-quartets for triangles, tambourines, Uchiwa Daiko and woodblocks/reco-reco, this attractive piece proves that even the smallest instruments can make one move in their seat.
“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.
Here is more form a press release:
“Hailed as “nothing short of remarkable” by 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 consistently performs groundbreaking concerts involving performance art, theater, and computer technology.
“Featuring world premieres alongside rarely performed classic works, this ensemble strives to create a new canon of percussion repertoire.
“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.
“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 UW-Madison percussion studio.
Members of Clocks in Motion are Dave Alcorn, Jennifer Hedstrom, Sean Kleve, Michael Koszewski and James McKenzie.
By Jacob Stockinger
This coming weekend will bring the opening of the 89th season of the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below), which was founded in 1925 and how has 91 players.
By design, there will be no special guest soloist and no standard masterpiece –- say, a symphony or concerto by Haydn or Mozart, Beethoven or Brahms.
The works, chosen to highlight to Overture Concert Organ, will feature German composer Richard Strauss’ late Romantic tone poem “Thus Spake Zarathustra,” best known for its opening which served as the fanfare for Stanley Kubrick’s film “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Also featured are Swiss composer Frank Martin’s Concerto for Seven Winds, which was last performed by the MSO about 30 years ago); and French composer Camille Saint-Saens’ Symphony No. 3 “Organ.”
Wisconsin Public Radio host Anders Yocom (below) will provide a free 30-minutes prelude discussion that starts one hour before the performance.
Season tickets are still on sale with a 50 percent discount for new subscribers. And single tickets are now on sale, while rush tickets will also be available.
Tickets price run $16-$84.
Here is a link to the MSO site about the opening concert, with links to other information and ticket reservations:
You can also call the Overture Center box office at (608) 258-4141 or visit www.overturecenter.com
Here is a link to program notes by MSO trombonist J. Michael Allsen (below), who also teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater:
The performances, under the baton of longtime music director and conductor John DeMain, will take place in Overture Hall on Friday night at 7:30 p.m; Saturday night at 8 p.m.; and Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m.
The Juilliard School-trained John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad), who came to Madison from heading the Houston Grand Opera and is starting his 21st season in Madison, recently granted an interview about the opening concert to The Ear:
What makes this season and especially this first concert special to you?
This 2014-15 season is especially important because it marks the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s 10th anniversary in Overture Hall. Being able to perform in this specially designed hall has been a game changer for the Madison Symphony Orchestra.
I can never adequately thank Jerry Frautschi for his incredible gift of the Overture Center for the Arts, and his spouse, Pleasant Rowland, for her additional endowment support and the gift of the Overture Concert Organ.
I have purposefully chosen a program for our first concert, on Sept. 19, 20 and 21, that is designed to explore the sonic power, as well as the subtlety, of Overture Hall (below).
What would you like to say about the pieces on the program?
I purposefully do not have a guest artist on this first concert program because I like to focus attention on our wonderful orchestra and its principal players.
In Richard Strauss’ magnificent tone poem, Also sprach Zarathustra (used as the iconic music of Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey), special focus will go to the violin solos by our Concertmaster Naha Greenholtz (below), who never fails to move us with her gorgeous playing. (You can hear the irresistible opening fanfare by Richard Strauss at bottom in a popular YouTube video that has almost 3 million hits.)
Frank Martin’s Concerto for Seven Wind Instruments will shine a spotlight on soloists, many of whom have also taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music: Stephanie Jutt, flute; Marc Fink, oboe; Joseph Morris, clarinet; Cynthia Cameron-Fix, bassoon; Linda Kimball, horn; John Aley, trumpet; and Joyce Messer, trombone.
And last but certainly not least on the program is Camille Saint-Saëns’ magnificent Symphony No. 3, the “Organ Symphony”. Personally, I will never forget the first time we played it at Overture Center’s opening weekend, and we had to encore that incredible last movement! The Overture Concert Organ and its curator and organist, Samuel Hutchison (below, in a photo by Joe DeMaio), have earned a special place in the musical life of our community.
Have you decided on any short-term or long-term plans for your next decade in Madison with the Madison Symphony Orchestra?
Long-term, I hope to revisit the symphonies by Gustav Mahler (below) and continue to expand the overall repertoire of the orchestra and continue to present the best of our living American composers to our audiences.
Working together with the wonderful MSO staff and particularly our violinist and Education Director Michelle Kaebisch (below), I’m hoping we can grow our very unique and broad-based outreach programs to the community.
I’d also love to see us expand the Beyond the Score initiative. That January 2014 multi-media concert of Antonin Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony (below) with actors and videos, and the Symphony met with great success.
Bottom line: I always want, and can envision, the Madison Symphony Orchestra becoming an even more vital presence for ALL the citizens of Madison and the surrounding region as we contribute to our city and the arts.
What out-of-town guest stints will you do this season? Other major plans?
In October 2014, I’m opening the Long Beach (California) Symphony Orchestra season, and then conducting a concert of American composers with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra in Feb 2015. In the 2015-16 season, I’ll return to the Kennedy Center.
By Jacob Stockinger
If you judge solely by the size of an operating budget and the number of albums released in a year, Nonesuch Records surely does not rank among the industry titans like Deutsche Grammophon, Decca or Sony Classical.
But what the label does, it does exceptionally well.
Of late, I am especially taken with Nonesuch because they feature two of my favorite pianists -– Richard Goode and Jeremy Denk (below) –- and of one my all-time favorite singers, soprano Dawn Upshaw, as well as the great Kronos Quartet.
Here is a link to the label’s website with forthcoming releases and a list of recording artists:
In addition, I find the sonic engineering Nonesuch provides is also top-notch. Much as I loved the old Emerson Quartet, when it moved from DG to Sony, it received inferior sonic engineering that favored an echoing or overly resonant ambient sound. Myself, I prefer a clean and close-up microphone that lets my own living room provide the performance space acoustics.
Anyway, I was listening to National Public Radio Wednesday afternoon last week and heard this terrifically informative report on the 50th anniversary of Nonesuch, which is based in New York City and the anniversary of which is being celebrated with special concerts and special releases.
The story particularly emphasized the foresight of the label’s longtime top boss Robert Hurwitz (below, on the left next to Kronos violist Hank Dett and producer Judith Sherman, who also recorded the world premiere commission of the Pro Arte Quartet centennial at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.)
Using his own taste and instinct, Hurwitz anticipated the best-selling popularity of electronic music, Cuban music, ragtime music and many other genres. (Below in an interview he did at the Brooklyn Academy of Music that can be found on YouTube.) One person, it seems, can make a huge difference.
I do wish Hurwitz had offered a fuller explanation of why the wonderful and cheap budget recordings of Baroque music and early music that Nonesuch issued in the 1960s and 1970s -– the ones with the great art on the covers and the ones that hooked so many of us on relatively littkle-known works as well as masterpieces –- have not been remastered and reissued on CD.
But in any case, the NPR story provided a fascinating look at how a record company continued to expand and branch out – not by following listeners’ tastes and desires, but by ANTICIPATING them. It is kind of like what happened with Sony and the success of the Walkman.
Some things you just cannot judge by polls and surveys, no matter what the branding and PR experts say. They take personal vision and leadership and risk-taking. That is what the Nonesuch way.
Anyway, here is the link to the NPR story. I hope you find it compelling as The Ear did.
By Jacob Stockinger
A friend, violinist Kangwon Kim, who plays with the Madison Bach Musicians and the Madison Early Music Festival as well as for other groups and events, writes:
I am having a reunion concert with the quartet members from 13-14 years ago (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot), who made up the Galena Quartet in 2001. Its members (from the left) included violist Allyson Fleck, violinist Allison Ostrander (Jones), cellist Karl Knapp and violinist Kangwon Kim.
The FREE concert is this coming Monday night, Sept. 15, at 7:30 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall on the campus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.
The program includes string trios by Ludwig van Beethoven and Ernö von Dohnányi as well as the Piano Quartet No. 1 in G Minor, by Johannes Brahms with guest pianist SeungWha Baek (below, in a performance at Northern Illinois University). You can hear the appealing Hungarian Gypsy Rondo finale from the Brahms Piano Quartet at the bottom in a popular YouTube performance with violinist Isaac Stern, violist Jaime Laredo, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Emanuel Ax.
Everything in the program, plus background information about the quartet and the players, is on the following website.
The Galena String Quartet was formed in the Fall of 2001 as the graduate string quartet-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Besides performing as the resident quartet for the “Up Close and Musical” program through the Madison Symphony and visiting numerous elementary schools in the Madison area, the quartet performed at the Governor’s mansion, Stoughton Opera House, Fredric March Play Circle at the Memorial Union, and the Colony House in Mountain Lake, Florida. It was also a semi-finalist at the Fischoff chamber music competition.
The members are thrilled to perform this “reunion” concert after pursuing their separate musical careers during the past 10 years, and are grateful to the pianist SeungWha Baek for joining them for this concert. Below are violinist Allyson Fleck (below top) and cellist Karl Knapp (middle) and Kangwon Kim (bottom).
If you could include the announcement sometime in your blog, I would be grateful!!
By Jacob Stockinger
Here is a the press release for the University Opera’s Student Showcase that will take place this coming Sunday afternoon and will preview the talent and productions of the upcoming season:
“A concert of favorite melodies by Vincenzo Bellini, Giuseppe Verdi and others -– mostly operatic but one clearly comic -– will be presented by students from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music’s opera program.
The concert will take place this Sunday afternoon, September 14, at 3 p.m. in the First Unitarian Society of Madison’s Landmark Auditorium (below) at 900 University Bay Drive.
Directing the concert and this year’s University Opera program will be David Ronis (below, in a photo by Luke DeLalio), currently on leave from the Aaron Copland School of Music at City University of New York, and Hofstra University. He is serving as the interim successor to longtime director William Farlow, who retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison last spring. (At bottom is a YouTube video of the work that the versatile Ronis recently did at Queens College with an early music version of Luigi Rossi’s opera “Orfeo.”)
Here is a link to a press release, issued by the UW-Madison School of Music when David Ronis was chosen from a nationwide search last spring, with Ronis’ impressive background:
Here is a link to information about the upcoming season of the University Opera:
But one singer -– soprano Shannon Prickett (below top) – is an alumna returning from her current work as Resident Artist at the Minnesota Opera.
While in Madison from 2011 to 2013 and working on her Master’s of Music degree, Prickett performed lead parts in Puccini’s La Bohème, Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Luigi Cherubini’s Medea, Pietro Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz, and Verdi’s Requiem.
In the Showcase concert, she will sing arias from Verdi’s I Lombardi, Giacomo Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, and a dramatic duet from Verdi’s Aïda with new mezzo-soprano doctoral student Jessica Kasinski, below bottom. (The Ear has no word on specific works to be performed.)
Other singers will take on arias by Mozart, Donizetti, Bellini, Richard Strauss and even Flanders and Swann: That number requires good humor as well as pianistic skill from the accompanist, and will provide a treat for fans of the multi-talented and critically acclaimed Thomas Kasdorf (below), another graduate of the UW-Madison.
The concert is a benefit for the University Opera that sponsored by Opera Props, which supports the University Opera. Admission is a contribution of $25 per person, $10 for students. A reception follows.
By Jacob Stockinger
Today marks the 13th anniversary of 9/11 and the tragic events during the terrorist attacks by Al-Qaeda on the United States, in New York City on the Twin Towers; on Washington, D.C,, and the Pentagon; and on United Airlines Flight 93, which passengers made crash into a Pennsylvania field before it could destroy the U.S. Capitol or White House.
There is a lot of great classical music that one could play to commemorate the event and loss of life. There are, of course, requiems by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Joseph Haydn, Giuseppe Verdi and Gabriel Faure.
There are masses and other choral works by them and also Ludwig van Beethoven and others. And there are a lot of opera arias and choruses as well as art songs.
There are large-scale symphonic and choral work as well as more intimate chamber music and solo works, especially the solo cello suites by Johann Sebastian Bach, one of which, thanks to cellist Vedran Smailovic (below) in 1992, became am emblem of the awful and bloody siege of Sarajevo by the Serbian army. Chamber music by Franz Schubert — such as the slow movement of the Cello Quintet — would at the top of my list.
Then there is the contemporary work “In the Transmigration of Souls” by the American composer John Adams. It won the Pulitzer Prize and was written specifically, on commission from the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, to remember 9/11 and which uses actual tape recordings of the events and responses of that awful day. And another work by Steve Reich.
Myself, I tend towards the tried-and-true, the pieces of music that never fail to take me to the appropriate place in memory and sorrow.
So today, at the bottom, I offer a YouTube video of the last movement of the profoundly beautiful and moving “German” Requiem by Johannes Brahms. It is more secular than religious, and it asserts that “Blessed Are the Dead … for They Rest from Their Labors and Their Works Shall Live After Them.”
Hard to disagree, don’t you think?
So here it is.
But be sure to let us know what music you will be playing and what piece or pieces you favor to commemorate 9/11.
By Jacob Stockinger
Here is some news that comes in a press release from the Madison Symphony Orchestra about an award made in honor of John DeMain (below bottom, in a photo by Prasad), the longstanding music director and maestro of the MSO who is about to begin his 21st season on the podium:
“The first annual John DeMain Award for Outstanding Commitment to Music will be presented this Friday, Sept. 12, by the Madison Symphony Orchestra League (MSOL) in recognition of an individual or individuals for their longstanding and unwavering support of the League, the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) and music in the community.
“Shirley and Stan Inhorn (below top) are two such worthy individuals.
“Music has been a central part of every aspect of their lives – from friendships and charitable contributions to volunteering and leisure time – for more than five decades.
“Their involvement with music began young with music lessons and playing as high school and college students, and has continued throughout their lives in Madison.
“Both have been involved in the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra (WYSO), serving in many capacities through the years. They were made life trustees of WYSO in 2012. Shirley has been a member of the Madison Symphony Orchestra League and its predecessor — the Women’s Committee of the Madison Symphony Orchestra – for more than 40 years.
“Stan played in the second violin section of the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below) and subsequently joined the MSO Board. He also was one of the first men to join the MSOL.
“The Inhorns have endowed the MSO’s Principal Second Violin Chair and pledged an estate gift to the MSO’s endowment designated for the Up Close & Musical® Education Program.
“They have also been major donors to WYSO and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.
“Together and individually, they have made a lasting difference to music in our community.”
This is not the first time the Inhorns (below) have been so honored. Almost three years ago, when they were named Lifetime Trustees of the Wisconsin Symphony Youth Orchestras (WYSO), The Ear interviewed them.
Here is a link to that post:
And here is a statement that Shirley and Stanley Inhorn gave to The Ear on the occasion of receiving the inaugural John DeMain Award:
“Like many other Madisonians, we are lovers of classical music. Our volunteer efforts, therefore, have been directed to local organizations such as the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (below top), and the Pro Arte Quartet (below bottom). Our many decades of support and involvement in these groups reflect this passion.
“We were surprised and honored to learn that we had been chosen to receive this award from the Madison Symphony Orchestra League. We know that many other people also devote volunteer hours to assure that classical music remains strongly embedded in Madison’s social fabric.
“We are grateful for the abundance of high-quality musical offerings available in Madison. And we are pleased to know that our efforts have contributed to this reality.”
– Shirley and Stan Inhorn