By Jacob Stockinger
I am no expert about the music of Felix Mendelssohn (below), but for my money I don’t think he ever wrote a better piece than the early Octet in E-Flat Major, Op. 20, for double string quartets, composed when he was just 16.
This weekend you will have a chance you should not miss. It is a MUST-HEAR concert that features the Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) – now 102 years old and still counting as the oldest surviving string quartet in the world ever – with the Hunt Quartet, which is made up of gifted graduate students from the UW School of Music.
The performance will take place on “Sunday Afternoon Life From the Chazen” this Sunday 12:30 to 2 p.m. and air live statewide on Wisconsin Public Radio. By the time you read this, it will probably be too late to reserve free tickets, and the Brittingham Gallery 3 (below) is sure to be full of loyal fans.
But just tune in the radio or stream it live on WPR (WERN 88.7 FM in the Madison area) or through www.wpr.org
The important thing is to hear the performance – and hear it live, if you can.
I have heard the Pro Arte play this Octet (at bottom in a YouTube video performed by the Borodin Quartet and the Fine Arts Quartet of the UW-Milwaukee) – which for me rivals or even surpasses Mendelssohn’s “Italian” and “Reformation” Symphonies, the Violin Concerto, the Piano Trio in D Minor and the String Quartet in A minor, and the Overture to “A Midsummer Nights’ Dream” — once with other UW faculty members and once with the acclaimed original Emerson String Quartet (below) at the Wisconsin Union Theater.
And the Pro Arte made the Mendelssohn sizzle. Both times brought a firecracker of a performance that made you bolt upright in your seat. Such energy and such lyricism, such beauty! (Also on the program is the soulfully Romanic String Quartet in C Minor, Op. 51, No.1, by Johannes Brahms, which the Pro Arte played exquisitely at their season-opening concert.)
Now, speaking of the Pro Arte, you should also know that it will give the world premiere of its fifth centennial commission, the String Quartet No. 3 (2013) by the Belgian composer Benoit Mernier. (Belgium was the home of the Pro Arte Quartet before it was exiled in World War II in June of 1940 and accepted a stint as artists-in-residence at the UW-Madison.)
That concert will be FREE at 8 p.m. — NOT 7:30 as previously stated here and in some other materials – in Mills Hall on Friday, Nov. 22.
As you no doubt already know, that Friday night is also the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy or, simply, JFK.
The Pro Arte Quartet concert is not designed or intended to be a memorial to JFK, even though one of his favorite works was the soulful Adagio for Strings by the American composer Samuel Barber (below), which ironically was given its world premiere in Rome in 1936 by the Pro Arte Quartet.
But even without the Barber work, there is much to recommend attending the concert. If you will be looking for a great place to bonded with other people in memory of a tragic event – The Ear remembers exactly where he was when he heard the news and bets that many of you do too — you can’t do better.
The concert includes guest violist Samuel Rhodes (below), now retired from the famed Juilliard String Quartet. Besides the Mernier, the program includes the String Quintet (1879) by Anton Bruckner and the String Quartet in D Major, Op. 20, No. 4 (1772), by Franz Joseph Haydn.
Preceding the concert at 6:45 p.m. in Mills Hall will be an conversation-interview with composer Benoit Mernier.
And preceding that will be a savory and companionable cocktails and dinner event held from 5 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. in the lobby of the new building of the Chazen Museum of Art. Dinner is $35 per head and reservations must be made by SUNDAY, Nov 17. For more information, visit the Pro Arte Quartet website (www.proartequartet.org) or call (608) 217-6786.
SEE YOU THERE!
AN ALERT: Word comes from early music master Trevor Stepehenson (below): “We have only eight seats remaining for the upcoming house concert with foretpiano on this coming Sunday afternoon, January 20. I’ll play and talk about: Mozart’s Fantasy in C minor, K. 475, Haydn’s Sonata in F major, Hob. XVI:23, Beethoven’s Sonata in C minor op. 13 “Pathétique,” Chopin’s Nocturne in F major op. 15 no. 1, and a couple of Schubert’s Moment Musicaux. The concert starts at 3 p.m.; the house opens at 2:40 p.m. Drinks and treats will be served. Admission is $35. Reservations are required. Please let us know if you’d like to attend. Very best wishes in the New Year! Trevor and Rose Stephenson, 5729 Forsythia Place, Madison WI 53705. Trevor Stephenson, Artistic Director of the Madison Bach Musicians. Contact www.madisonbachmusicians.org and www.trevorstephenson.com. Or call 608 238-6092.
By Jacob Stockinger
The contest, which many years ago started out for soloists, is open to soloists, duos, trios, quartets and quintets.
The deadline for entering is Jan. 25, 2013. Judging from live performances is on March 24. The winners’ concert and live broadcast on WPR’s “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen” is April 7, 2013. (Below is the 2013 poster for the competition.)
Here is a link to the 2012 winners pictured below:
Here is a link to general information:
Here is a link with rules and other information for this year’s competition:
And here is a link to an application you can download:
The winners’ concert this year will be broadcast from the “Sunday Afternoon Live at the Chazen” series (below, at the Chazen Museum of Art) rather than at the Wisconsin Union Theater, which is undergoing major renovation.
Some wonderful musicians get known through this competition and get heard far and wide. I know because I have heard them more than once. One noteworthy performer I particularly remember is Minnesota-raised violist Daniel Kim (below), who was a winner in 2011, while he was studying with Professor Sally Chisholm at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (where she is also the violist of the Pro Arte String Quartet) and while he was playing with the Madison Symphony Orchestra; and who is now studying at Juilliard with Samuel Rhodes, the retiring violist of the famed Juilliard String Quartet.
Another winner who went on to a large carer in music is tenor and composer Steven Ebel, who was a winner in 2001. Here he is during a recital and interview on WPR’s “The Midday” show:
And finally, here are some very young audience members and listeners with their reactions to the Neale-Silva Young Artists Competition’s winners recital in 2010:
REMINDER: Saturday night at 8 p.m. — NOT Friday night as first and mistakenly stated here — in Morphy Recital Hall, UW clarinetist Linda Bartley (below) will perform a FREE concert with Jeannie Yu, piano; and Sally Chisholm, viola. The program includes “Sonata in D” by Nino Rota; “Liquid Ebony” by Dana Wilson; “Cantilene” by Louis Cahuzac and “Scarlattiana” for Clarinet, Viola and Piano by Walter Mays. Also, at 8 p.m. tonight, Friday night, in Mills Hall, the Wisconsin Brass Quintet marks 40 years with a FREE concert. For details, see Thursday’s post.
Rhodes teaches viola, and heads the viola department, at the Juilliard School of Music, where he also has played in the award-winning Juilliard String Quartet since 1969. The influential and critically acclaimed quartet was founded in 1946. (Rhodes in on the far right.)
Rhodes has often been a guest artist with the University of Wisconsin’s Pro Arte String Quartet. Last year (below, Rhodes sitting second from right), during the celebration of the Pro Arte’s centennial, Rhodes sat in to play one of those sublime but underplayed Mozart String Quintets with two violas.
Members of the Pro Arte have always told The Ear not only how much they admired Rhodes’ playing but also how they found him a congenial colleague to work with. And so it seemed form the beautiful results one heard when they played together.
Rhodes will be replace in the quartet by British player Roger Tapping (below, in a photo by Susan Wilson), the current violist of the acclaimed Takacs String Quartet.
By Jacob Stockinger
But next week in Madison, you can attend all of them or any of them FOR FREE at the Wisconsin Union Theater and the UW School of Music.
That is because the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Pro Arte String Quartet will be holding the third of its four week-long series of events in its centennial season. (The quartet, below in a photo by Rick Langer, consists of violinists David Perry and Suzanne Beia (second from left), violist Sally Chisholm and cellist Parry Karp.)
This Sunday at 10 a.m., the Pro Arte Quartet will appear on WISC-TV‘s weekly public affairs show “For the Rec0rd.” (Turn to Channel 3 and Cable Channel 603 for hi-def to view the local CBS affiliate.) They will perform live and do an interview with program host Neil Heinen.
Below are details of each event for the following week. But first, let’s recall some background:
The UW-Madison Pro Arte Quartet (below, in 1940) is celebrating its centennial. The quartet has been artists-in-residence at the UW since 1940, when they were exiled by World War II from their home in Belgium while on tour in the US. That pioneering academic affiliation subsequently became the business model for most other string quartets around the world and is still in use today.
The Pro Arte Quartet is the first string quartet EVER in history to reach 100 and has commissioned two new string quartets and two new piano quintets to premiere this season to mark its centennial. Each of the four concerts this season also has featured or will feature a free series of lectures of critics and composers.
In keeping with The Wisconsin Idea – which is also marking its centennial this year and which states that the university should serve the taxpayers who support it — ALL EVENTS ARE FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.
Here is a Pro Arte Quartet round-up so you can plan ahead and fill in your datebook:
On Wednesday, March 21, 3:30-5 p.m. in Room 1351 of the Mosse Humanities Building, 455 N. Park St., American composer WILLIAM BOLCOM (below) will discuss his recent music in a public composition master class as part of the Pro Arte Quartet’s Centennial. ADMISSION IS FREE.
For background on the Pulitzer Prize- and Grammy winning-composer Wiliam Bolcom, who has also received the National Medal of the Arts, visit:
On Thursday, March 22, 9 a.m. to noon in Mills Hall, Mosse Humanities Building, 455 N. Park St., there is an OPEN REHEARSAL by the Pro Arte Quartet and UW PIANIST CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR (below) of the world premiere of the third commissioned work (Piano Quintet No. 2 by William Bolcom) for the quartet’s centennial concert on Saturday night, March 24, at 8 p.m. in the Wisconsin Union Theater. FREE ADMISSION.
On Friday, March 23, 4-5:30 p.m. in the UW School of Music Colloquium in Room 2650 in the Mosse Humanities Building, 455 N. Park St., there will be a public lecture-discussion by The New York Times senior music critic ANTONY TOMMASINI (below) on “Academic Writing and Music Criticism: Where Research and Journalism Intersect.” FREE and NO TICKETS.
On Saturday, March 24, 3-5 p.m. in the Wisconsin Union Theater is a lecture by New York Times senior music critic ANTHNY TOMMASINI on “Concert Music Today: A State of the Union Address,” followed by a question-and-answer session. FREE and NO TICKETS.
(Pre-concert cocktails and dinner with both composer William Bolcom and critic Anthony Tommasini will be in Tripp Commons at the Memorial Union. They are optional ($35) by calling (608) 265-ARTS or going to uniontheater.wisc.edu)
Here is a link to an interview Lindsay Christians of The Capital Times and 77 Square did with Tommasini this past week:
On Saturday, March 24, at 8 p.m. in the Wisconsin Union Theater is the third of the four concerts with WORLD PREMIERES of commissioned works: The Pro Arte Quartet and UW pianist Christopher Taylor will perform Anton Webern’s “Langsamer Satz” (Slow Movement, composed in 1905 and premiered in 1962); Darius Milhaud’s String Quartet No. 7, Op. 87 (composed in 1925, dedicated to and premiered by the Pro Arte Quartet back then plus Milhaud was William Bolcom’s teacher); Mozart’s aublime String Quintet in G Minor, K. 516 (1781), with Juilliard teacher and Juilliard String Quartet guest violist SAMUEL RHODES (below); and the world premiere of William Bolcom’s Piano Quintet No. 2 (2011). FREE and NO TICKETS.
(Pre-concert events, with introductions to composer William Bolcom and New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini and with questions from the audience, will be held from 7-7:30 p.m. in the Wisconsin Union Theater. There will also be a free post-concert celebratory dessert reception at the Memorial Union’s Main Lounge immediately following the concert.) BOTH ARE FREE with NO TICKETS.
Here is the detailed UW news release for the Saturday concert and other events:
On Sunday, March 25, from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in Brittingham Gallery III of the Chazen Museum of Art, 800 University Ave., “SUNDAY LIVE FROM THE CHAZEN” (below) will feature part of the Pro Arte Quartet’s Saturday night concert, including the second performance of William Bolcom’s Piano Quintet No. 2” with UW pianist Christopher Taylor and the Mozart String Quintet in G Minor with Samuel Rhodes. The event will be broadcast live over Wisconsin Public Radio (WERN 88.7 FM). Call 263-2246. Free.
For more information, visit Pro Arte web sites:
By Jacob Stockinger
Well, you won’t find a lot to linger over in this year’s classical music Grammys. After all, the “Academy,” as they call the Industry’s Enforcer, chopped the categories from 109 to 78 for the 54th annual competition. (Classical Music wasn’t the only category to lose a lot; so did quite a few ethnic music categories including Latin Jazz and Hawaiian Music.)
So the really big names in classical music are missing in this year’s bunch of classical Grammys – no Beethoven or Bach, no Mahler or Mozart, although superstar maestro Gustavo Dudamel (below) did win one with an outstanding performance of the Brahms Fourth Symphony in digital download-only release.
NOTE: Today’s “LA Live in HD” broadcast at 4 p.m. at the Eastgate and Point cinemas features Dudamel conducting a performance from Caracas, Venezuela of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 “Symphony of a Thousand.”)
But you will find more contemporary composers than in past years. In fact, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and the Florentine Opera Chorus took home two Grammys for their live performance of Robert Aldridge’s opera “Elmer Gantry,” based on the novel by Sinclair Lewis.
Nor will you find a lot of big name prestige labels, which have been largely replaced by smaller labels with more niche-like focuses.
But you will nonetheless find some great performances and some great music, including arias sung by the great American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato.
You will also find something of great local interest: Record producer Judith Sherman received her third Grammy, the second in a row and the third of seven nominations. And if you look at her long and impressive list of releases, she certainly seems worthy of winning.
Sherman’s Grammy is good news for Madison and for the University of Wisconsin’s Pro Arte String Quartet, which performs a FREE concert at 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 24, in the Wisconsin Union Theater. That’s because the Pro Arte has hired Sherman (below, in Mills Hall setting up microphones with the Pro Arte Quartet and pianist Brian Hsu for the December sessions to record composer Paul Schoenfield‘s Three Rhapsodies for String Quartet) to produce the 2-CD set of the world premiere commissions by Walter Mays, Paul Schoenfield, William Bolcom and John Harbison that the Pro Arte is performing during its centennial season.
That could mean that Sherman (seen below backstage at Mills Hall closely following and taking notes on the Schoenfield score during mike checks), who is a freelance producer working for Albany Records, might well end up next year appealing to the Grammy trends toward rewarding smaller labels and new music. And that, in turn, means that the Pro Arte Quartet’s 2-CD set might get nominated for a Grammy. Now, that would be grand and well deserved for the grueling 11 – and 12-hour recording sessions that she and the musicians turned in here over two days.
By the way, the program for the FREE March 24 concert by the Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) at the Wisconsin Union Theater, by the way, include the world premiere of William Bolcom’s Piano Quintet No. 2 with UW pianist Christopher Taylor; Anton Webern’s “Langsamer Satz”; Darius Milhaud’s String Quartet No. 7, which was written for and premiered by the Pro Arte (below, today) in 1925.
Also on the program is Mozart’s great and sublimely beautiful String Quintet in G minor (at bottom), K. 516, with guest violist Samuel Rhodes (below, in a photo by Peter Shaarf) of the Juilliard String Quartet.
You would pay a lot of money to hear those same performers in that same program in, say, New York City’s Carnegie Hall. But here in Madison it is FREE and easy to get to. So plan to attend that concert and take along family and friends. And spread the word.
For more information visit www.proartequartet.org
Anyway, here is the classical music list for the 54th annual Grammys:
Want to see who the accomplished and worthwhile “losers” were? Here is a link to all the nominees:
And here is a link to the blog post I did around the holidays with all the nominees and the music they performed (plus all the recordings the Producer nominees, including Sherman, worked on):
Here are links to some other analyses and documentaries:
mozart string quintet g minor