By Jacob Stockinger
There I was last Sunday afternoon, sitting in Overture Hall at the Overture Center, deeply engaged in and enjoying Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s glorious and poignant Requiem, incomplete as the original score is.
Now, I have my own personal reasons why the performance and music proved especially moving to me.
But suffice it to say that during the outstanding performance that was turned in by the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below top), the Madison Symphony Chorus (below bottom, in a photo by Greg Anderson), guest soloists including UW graduate soprano Emily Birsan and guest conductor Julian Wachner, from the famed Trinity Church on Wall Street in New York City, I kept wondering:
Why isn’t Beverly Taylor conducting this program?
You may recall that Beverly Taylor has headed the choral department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music for 19 years. Before that, she was at Harvard. Plus, she regularly tours and does guest stints.
And if you are like The Ear, Beverly Taylor (below) has probably brought you more memorable moments of great choral music than any other musician in town since Robert Fountain, especially through her almost two decades at the UW-Madison during which she has directed the main community and campus group, the UW Choral Union, as well as various other UW groups, including the Concert Choir.
She has also conducted world premieres and Midwest premieres, and she has worked with some pretty big names, singers and instrumentalists (cellist Matt Haimovitz) as well as composers such as Robert Kyr (below top) and John Harbison (below bottom).
So then I started thinking:
When have I heard Beverly Taylor conduct the Madison Symphony Orchestra -– of which she is the assistant conductor, the same kind of post that launched the meteoric career of Leonard Bernstein (below) when he was the assistant conductor to Bruno Walter at the New York Philharmonic? Assistants often get to fill in when the principal conductor is ill or out-of-town. Same thing happened to assistant conductor Seiji Ozawa when Bernstein was ill disposed.
Perhaps memory fails me, but I could not think of a single time when I heard Taylor conduct the MSO in a regular season subscription concert.
Can it be true that she is good enough to keep her post, but not good enough to perform its duties when the occasion arises. And if it is true, is it right? Would that happen to a man?
Now, it is true that Taylor’s many duties include preparing the MSO Chorus. And she performed that important duty in a fine manner for the Mozart Requiem, which was acknowledged both in critics’ reviews and in the loud applause when she came on stage to take a bow. One suspects she herself has conducted Mozart’s Requiem several times in her long career.
Not that guest conductor Julian Wachner (below top) was in any way a failure or proved unsatisfactory. He conducted just fine, even if the program was somewhat odd because it opened with a single Slavonic Dance by Antonin Dvorak, which is usually an encore instead of a curtain-raiser; and because it featured Joseph Jongen’s “Symphonie Concertante” for Organ and Orchestra with guest organist, and a real real virtuoso, Nathan Laube (below).
The Jongen is a work that wasn’t performed here at all until the Overture Center opened with its custom-built, million-dollar Klais concert organ; and now we have heard it twice in 10 years. I think I can go another 10 or 20 years without hearing this second-tier work again. It has its moments, but they are not very many and they are not very long.
Anyway, just to be sure, I checked the biographies of Julian Wacher and Beverly Taylor. I compared and decided that Taylor’s holds up just fine. See for yourself:
You will notice that Taylor, who has a good training pedigree, is not only the chorus preparer for the MSO, but also the Assistant Conductor -– the one who helps the main maestro and music director John DeMain help balance the orchestra during rehearsals and who consults with him on other occasions for other reasons.
And Beverly Taylor has certainly conducted her share of major chorus and orchestra masterworks with the UW Symphony Orchestra and the UW Chamber Orchestra: Requiems by Giuseppe Verdi and Johannes Brahms as well as Mozart; Benjamin Britten’s “War” Requiem’; Antonin Dvorak’s “Stabat Mater”; and many other works including Johann Sebastian Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” and B Minor Mass, Mozart’s great C Minor Mass, Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Missa Solemnis” (below); Felix Mendelssohn’s “Elijah,” George Frideric Handel’s “Israel in Egypt” (at bottom in a YouTube video performance by the UW Choral Union under the baton of Taylor), Franz Joseph Haydn’s “ Lord Nelson” Mass, the “Symphony of Psalms” by Igor Stravinsky and other works by Gabriel Faure, Anton Bruckner, Leonard Bernstein and Francis Poulenc.
In fact, you can hear Beverly Taylor in action TONIGHT at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, when she conducts the UW Concert Choir and the UW Chamber Orchestra in Johann Sebastian Bach’s “St. John Passion” (tickets are $15 for adults, $8 for seniors and students); and again on Saturday night, April 26, at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, when she will conduct the UW Choral Union in the large-scale a cappella “Vespers” by Sergei Rachmaninoff (below) for one performance only. Admission for the “Vespers” is $10 for the public, free for seniors and students.
So I am again left with the question: Why didn’t Beverly Taylor get to fill in on the podium for MSO conductor John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad), who is also the artistic director of the Madison Opera and who was off in Virginia guest conducting Georges Bizet’s opera “Carmen.” It sure seemed like her kind of program.
I want to give the MSO the benefit of the doubt and not jump to the conclusion that Taylor didn’t get the podium to herself because of sexism, especially since the MSO has booked guest women conductors, including the Finnish firecracker Anu Tali (below top), and hired a woman concertmaster, Naha Greenholtz (below bottom), whom it has often highlighted as a soloist.
But then I also remembered that the MSO used Taylor’s colleague at the University of Wisconsin School of Music, instrumental conductor James Smith, for this year’s “Final Forte” Bolz Young Artist Competition concert and broadcast on Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television.
And I also read a New York Times story about how even the great and high-profile Metropolitan Opera has had only three -– yes, count them, three -– women conductors (below top is Anne Manson leading the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra) in its entire history, even during the time when women conductors like Marin Alsop (below middle) and JoAnn Falletta (below bottom) are much in the news. Here is a link to that story:
So what about our own hometown woman conductor? Maybe it really is a question of sexism, perhaps the unconscious or subconscious kind, or the kind that is camouflaged under other concerns like incompetence and low public appeal. Or maybe it is just a question of the orchestra’s history, habit and tradition in action. Or perhaps it is something as simple and innocent as a schedule conflict or an overbooked schedule. But it looks suspiciously like the old vicious circle: She is inexperienced, so we can’t give her the experience.
I raise the question more than I claim to I have the answer. But I also want to know if I am alone in my curiosity and concern.
I want to hear what other readers and musicians in the area and elsewhere have to say, even though they may be reluctant to speak up using their real names to question or criticize such a major player as the Madison Symphony Orchestra.
But Beverly Taylor (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) is a major player in Madison too. And she deserves a chance to move from behind-the-scenes and once in a while have her talents place in the public spotlight for the same organization that she has served so well for so long.
Who knows, she might even have saved the MSO some money in booking fees and her local fans might even have helped filled some of the empty seats I saw last Sunday afternoon.
So The Ear says: Come on, MSO, give Beverly Taylor the chance she has earned to stand alone and conduct by herself after almost 20 years of being a team player. Please shine the spotlight on her when the chance next presents itself.
What do readers and audience members think?
Don’t be shy.
The Ear wants to hear.
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
The Madison Symphony Orchestra (below) has just announced its next season for 2014-15.
It strikes The Ear as both deeply interesting and tightly cohesive, a good blend of sure-fire hits and unknown or rarely heard repertoire. It also features some fine local talent and some unusual repertoire, though, unlike the past several seasons, no new or contemporary music is included. After all, this is a business with seats to fill, not some theoretical exercise in programming.
“You can’t have everything, especially when you are playing only eight concerts,” lamented MSO maestro John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad) when he discussed the new season with me.
But, DeMain added, the MSO is exploring doing another Chicago Symphony Orchestra “Beyond the Score” format concert — like this season’s presentation of Antonin Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony, which sold out — probably in January and probably with more than one performance, if they can find a sponsor to front the $50,000 cost. Then he will decide on what work out of more than 20 possibilities would be right.
Concerts take place in Overture Hall in the Overture Center on Friday nights at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday nights at 8 p.m.; and Sunday afternoons at 2:30 p.m.
The deadline for subscriptions renewals and keeping your current seat is May 8.
Here is the official press release that unveils the new season. The Ear also talked at length one-on-one with MSO music director and conductor John DeMain. Since the announcement is long enough for one post, DeMain’s insightful comments will appear a bit later in another post.
MADISON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA ANNOUNCES 2014-15 SEASON
Maestro John DeMain and the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) will deliver a diverse and exciting season of composers and guest artists for 2014-2015.
Beginning with a September program that focuses on the highly-talented musicians in the orchestra, DeMain will lead the audience through an exhilarating variety of themes and cultures throughout the season. Russia, Scandinavia, and Golden-Age Hollywood are just a few of the sound worlds the MSO will explore, while monumental works central to the orchestra, such as Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, will anchor the year.
A world-class roster of guest artists has been invited to Madison for the season’s performances, including violinist Sarah Chang, pianist Olga Kern, violinist Daniel Hope, pianist Ingrid Fliter and University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music pianist Christopher Taylor.
SEPTEMBER 19, 20 and 21, 2014
“Orchestral Splendor,” John DeMain, Conductor
RICHARD STRAUSS, “Also sprach Zarathustra”
FRANK MARTIN, Concerto for Seven Winds
CAMILLE SAINT-SAËNS, Symphony No. 3 (“Organ” Symphony)
German composer Richard Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra was once among his least performed works, but it is now firmly established as standard orchestral repertoire. The trumpet theme and thunderous timpani entrance (heard in Stanley Kubrick’s epic film “2001: A Space Odyssey”) are unmistakable.
Swiss composer Frank Martin’s Concerto for Seven Winds was written in 1949. It features seven solo instruments, exploring differences in sonority and expression. The virtuosic and conversational writing in these piece results in a playful, sportive character.
French composer Camille Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3, known also as the “Organ” Symphony, draws on elements of both the conventional symphony and the tone poem. Formally unusual in its own time, yet popular from its conception, the work features virtuosic piano and organ passages and a masterful display of the vast colors possible in the symphony orchestra.
OCTOBER 17, 18 and 19, 2014
“The Russian Spirit” with John DeMain, conductor, and Olga Kern (below), piano
PETER ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY, Suite from “Swan Lake”
SERGEI RACHMANINOFF, Concerto No. 1 for Piano
DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH, Symphony No. 6
The Suite from “Swan Lake” tells the magical tale of a young prince enchanted by a swan maiden under the moonlight. Peter Tchaikovsky’s charming work utilizes haunting melodies, captivating waltzes, Russian and Hungarian folk themes, and a Spanish dance.
Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 1 for Piano displays a youthful freshness and an assertive, extroverted personality. Indeed, the composer began this work when he was 17! For audience members who delight in keyboard fireworks, this piece will thrill.
Symphony No. 6 by Dmitri Shostakovich, written as war clouds were gathering in Russia, was quite a contrast to Symphony No. 5. Lopsided movement lengths, a lack of obvious theme, and characters of anxiety and desolation reflect the intriguing political situation of the time, as well as Shostakovich’s own remarkably wide emotional compass.
NOVEMBER 7, 8 and 9, 2014
“Scandinavian Wonders” with John DeMain, conductor, and Sarah Chang (below), violin
EDVARD GRIEG, Lyric Suite
JEAN SIBELIUS, Concerto for Violin
CARL NIELSEN, Symphony No. 4 (“The Inextinguishable”)
Over the course of his long career, Edvard Grieg composed 66 Lyric pieces for piano, strongly rooted in the songs, dances, mythology, and spirit of Norway. He selected four of these fragrant and diverse miniatures for an orchestral suite, premiered in 1906.
“…For…10 years it was my dearest wish to become a great virtuoso.” wrote Finnish composer Jean Sibelius in his diary. Unfortunately the composer never reached great proficiency on the instrument, and his Concerto for Violin, awash in Nordic textures, expresses a melancholic farewell to that childhood dream.
As a philosophical guideline to his often raging Symphony No. 4, Danish composer Carl Nielsen said, “Music is life, and, like life, inextinguishable”. Four interlinked movements of frequently agitated energy lead to a climax of ultimate triumph and grand 19th century symphonic tradition.
DECEMBER 5, 6 and 7, 2014
A Madison Symphony Christmas
With John DeMain, conductor; Alyson Cambridge (below), soprano; Harold Meers, tenor; the Madison Symphony Chorus, Beverly Taylor, director; the Madison Youth Choirs, Michael Ross, artistic director; and the Mt. Zion Gospel Choir, Leotha Stanley, director.
John DeMain and the Madison Symphony don their Santa hats for this signature Christmas celebration. This concert is filled with traditions, from caroling in the lobby with the Madison Symphony Chorus to vocal performances by hundreds of members of Madison’s musical community. Christmas classics are interwoven with enchanting new holiday music. The culminating sing-along is Madison’s unofficial start of the holiday season!
FEBRUARY 13, 14 and 15, 2015
“Fliter Plays Chopin” with John DeMain, conductor, and Ingrid Fliter (below), piano
BENJAMIN BRITTEN, Variations on a Theme by Frank Bridge
FREDERIC CHOPIN, Concerto No. 2 for Piano
ROBERT SCHUMANN, Symphony No. 4
Frank Bridge, one of Benjamin Britten’s earliest composition teachers, was certainly responsible for the surpassing clarity, individuality, and discipline in Britten’s most cherished works. Britten’s “Variations” on Bridge’s theme range from passionate to playful, capturing the heartfelt musical admiration of a pupil for his teacher.
From the moment he arrived in Paris at age 21, Frederic Chopin drew the admiration of both the public and esteemed critics, alike. Concerto No. 2 was in fact his first concerto, displaying the composer’s prolific improvisatory and imaginative style.
In composing Symphony No. 4, Robert Schumann departed significantly from the standard Classical form he previously employed, connecting all four movements with recurring musical ideas–a novel proposition at the time.
MARCH 6, 7 and 8, 2015
“Composers in Exile: Creating the Hollywood Sound” with John DeMain, conductor, and Daniel Hope (below), violin
FRANZ WAXMAN, Sinfonietta for Strings and Timpani Ride of the Cossacks from “Taras Bulba”
MIKLÓS RÓZSA, Theme, Variations and Finale; Parade of the Charioteers from “Ben Hur”; Love Theme from “Ben Hur”; Love Theme from “Spellbound”
ERICH KORNGOLD, Concerto for Violin and the Suite from “Captain Blood”
This unique concert features the works of great classical composers before they fled Nazi persecution and also showcases their later brilliant contributions to Hollywood film scores.
Franz Waxman (below) is responsible for a long list of memorable Hollywood scores, including “The Bride of Frankenstein,” “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and “Rebecca.” His Sinfonietta, written for only strings and timpani, is comprised of three wildly different movements. Waxman also composed the soundtrack for the 1962 epic, “Taras Bulba.” “Ride of the Cossacks” is the exhilarating theme to which Taras and his army gallop to Dubno.
According to Miklos Rózsa (below), his “Theme” was conceived in the manner of a Hungarian folk song, then treated in variations of contrasting feeling, and summarized in a wild and swift finale. The 1934 work earned him his first international success. By the late 1940’s Rózsa was an Oscar-winning, film score composer, and joined the staff of Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer. His thrilling score for the 1959 film “Ben Hur” is one of his lasting achievements, earning him his third and final Oscar.
The Concerto for Violin, written by Erich Wolfgang Korngold (bel0w top) in 1945, perfectly blends the two musical lives of the composer, unapologetic in both its rigorous craftsmanship and its Hollywood charm. “Captain Blood” was a milestone for Korngold, as it was his first fully symphonic movie score. Produced in only three weeks, the music evidences his most professional and imaginative effort.
APRIL 10, 11 and 12, 2015
“Piano Genius” with John DeMain, conductor, and Christopher Taylor (below), piano
JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH, Concerto No. 4 for Clavier
FRANZ LISZT, Concerto No. 1 for Piano
ANTON BRUCKNER, Symphony No. 7
Concerto No. 4 by Johann Sebastian Bach is part of a set of six concertos, dated to 1738. The piece was originally written for harpsichord and is ripe with movement and ornamentation. Bach’s concertos laid a crucial formal and harmonic groundwork for centuries of composition to follow.
Franz Liszt’s Concerto No. 1 for Piano is more than a century-long leap forward in time. Liszt’s Romantic genius is unabashedly on display, with thick orchestration, cadenzas that range from delicate to thundering, and lush harmonies.
Anton Bruckner was a country man, transplanted into bustling cosmopolitan Vienna, and he and his music were unlikely successes with audiences and critics. His music was said to “compel the element of the divine into our human world”.
MAY 8, 9 and 10, 2015
“Ode to Joy” with John DeMain, conductor; concertmaster Naha Greenholtz (below top), violin; Melody Moore, soprano; Gwendolyn Brown, contralto; Eric Barry, tenor; Morris Robinson (below bottom), bass; and the Madison Symphony Chorus, Beverly Taylor, director.
LEONARD BERNSTEIN, “Serenade” (after Plato’s “Symposium”)
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN, Symphony No. 9 (“Choral”)
Leonard Bernstein’s “Serenade” for violin and orchestra, resulted from a rereading of Plato’s charming dialogue, “The Symposium.” The music dances through a series of inter-related “speakers” at a banquet (Phaedrus, Aristophanes, Erixymachus, Agathon, and Socrates), praising love.
Ludwig van Beethoven’s last and monumental Symphony No. 9 stands apart from his other symphonies by virtue of its humanistic message, enormous scale and organic unity of design. The mammoth fourth movement, operating like a symphony in miniature, is like nothing else in symphonic music. Four soloists, full chorus, the entire orchestra, and the famous “Ode to Joy” theme will conclude the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s season. (You can hear a populist flash mob version of the “Ode to Joy” at the bottom in a popular YouTube video that had almost 4-1/2 million hits.)
Single tickets for individual concerts have increased slightly and are $16 to $84 each, and go on sale Aug. 16. They are available at www.madisonsymphony.org/singletickets and through the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street or call the Box Office at (608) 258-4141.
New subscribers can receive savings up to 50%. For more information and to subscribe, visit www.madisonsymphony.org/newsub or call (608) 257-3734.
Groups of 15 or more can save 25% by calling the MSO office at (608) 257-3734. For more information visit, www.madisonsymphony.org/groups
Discounted seats are subject to availability, and discounts may not be combined.
You can also check out the official MSO website announcement of the new season by visiting:
The Madison Symphony Orchestra engages audiences of all ages and backgrounds in live classical music through a full season of concerts with established and emerging soloists of international renown, an organ series that includes free concerts, and widely respected education and community engagement programs. Find more information at www.madisonsymphony.org.
By Jacob Stockinger
Beethoven (below) would have approved.
And no doubt he would have been very, very happy.
And sure enough, all around the world, in many different cultures, Beethoven’s Ninth has found a place as an emblem of those aspirations. During the Pinochet Years, it was sung by Chilean women outside the walls of prisons where political activists were being tortured — the men could hear them and took heart from their singing,
Of course Hitler also appropriated the Ninth too. But then Leonard Bernstein used it to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of East Germany. And protesting Chinese students (below) in the Tiananmen Square uprising where they rebelled to strains of the Ninth coming out of loudspeakers.
The Ear wonders if it was played anywhere in the Mideast or Northern Africa during the Arab Spring?
I particularly like the way the Japanese sing it out loud en masse – in German no less — as a rite of ushering in the coming New Year. (Below is a photo of 10,000 Japanese singing the “Ode to Joy” as a huge stadium choir that spent months studying and rehearsing the music and the German language.)
As a ritual, it is kind of like dancing waltzes in Vienna or watching the ball drop in Times Square in New York City, only a lot more soulful, beautiful and personal in the public’s involvement and its own cultural meaning. (You can hear for yourself the Japanese stadium concert of singing “Ode to Joy” finale of the last movement in a YouTube video at the bottom. It has had about 1.5 million hits and is pretty impressive and moving to experience even in a audio-video recording.)
Here is the story that I first heard about the movie documenting Beethoven’s Ninth — “Following the Ninth: In the Footsteps of Beethoven’s Final Symphony” — around the world on NPR. It moved The Ear and I hope it moves you. I also hope someone out there knows if or when it is scheduled to play in Madison and will let the rest of us know the dates.
The film also redeems all the baloney we hear about classical music being outdated and old-fashioned and elitist and so on ad nauseam. Other music would be damn lucky to get even close to this kind of universality, significance and appreciation.
By Jacob Stockinger
Marvin Rabin (below, seen at an award banquet in 2011) was always surprising people, even his biggest fans like me, with his boundless energy and persistence, his attentiveness and keen intelligence — all combined with his deep compassion and unending kindness and good humor.
Even when he was well into his 90s, and when his eyesight and hearing were failing and his walking was unstable, there would be Marvin Rabin, arriving at a concert just when you least expected to see him and you would have completely understood his absence.
He would usually take a seat up close to the stage, often helped by friends like Margaret Andreason or family, especially his violin-maker son Ralph Rabin.
But no longer.
Marvin Rabin died Thursday at the age of 97.
Marvin’s life was devoted to music, and especially to the young students who make it.
And how he knew those orchestral scores, so many of which he had conducted himself during his days of leading youth orchestras in Lexington, Kentucky; Boston, Massachusetts; and Madison, Wisconsin. Decades after he had performed a work, he would talk about it in details as if it were a fresh and new experience. His memory and knowledge were nothing short of phenomenal.
But it was in Madison that so much of his earlier career (recapitulated in a video seen below) came to full fruition. It was Marvin Rabin who in 1966 founded the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra while he was a professor the University of Wisconsin-Extension. Over the years, more than 5,000 students from more than 100 communities in southcentral Wisconsin benefitted from WYSO – which is to say Marvin Rabin.
Here is a link to the WYSO website with lots of information:
For more background about Marvin Rabin, here is a link to a terrific story done 2011 for The Wisconsin State Journal by Gayle Worland in the same year that Marvin won only the third Lifetime Achievement award given by the statewide Wisconsin School Music Association.
Until near the end Marvin kept travelling around the country to see friends and former students, and to consult about music education.
Marvin Rabin was the Leonard Bernstein of Madison. He had a regional, national and international reputation. He played at The White House. And he made understanding music and making music seem like completely natural and totally necessary, even inevitable, acts. He was a coach, an arts coach, whose enthusiasm moved people to achieve more than they ever thought they could.
Increasingly, research studies have demonstrated the lifelong benefits of studying instruments and making music as a young person, no matter what career you later take up. (Below are young violinists performing at his award ceremony.)
Marvin was way ahead of the curve of the score. Long ago, he knew firsthand the successes that learning to make music prepared you for with its discipline, its teamwork and cooperation, and its lifelong appreciation for the hard work of making beauty.
Little wonder, then, that when Marvin received his award, friends, colleagues and former students came from around the country to honor him. The event (below) was sold-out and crowded with grateful admirers.
The world of the performing arts, and especially the world of local music making, seems a smaller and less joyful place today without its ever-upbeat cheerleader, Marvin Rabin.
But his was a long life that was well lived, both for himself and for countless others. It’s just that we need more Marvin Rabins – today more than ever, given the shrinking budgets for arts education and the anti-intellectual attack from the right wing on serious cultural values.
Please: If you have a message about Marvin Rabin for his family and friends, his colleagues and students, leave it in the COMMENT section.
If you have a story to tell or a recollection to share, also please leave it in the COMMENT section.
I have yet to see a full obituary and plans for a memorial service. But when I do, I will post them and share them with you.
And here is a YouTube video of WYSO playing the special piece that University of Wisconsin tuba professor and composer John Stevens, composed to honor Marvin Rabin when he received his award and conducted by the composer.
It is called, fittingly, “Fanfare for an Uncommon Man.”
Marvin’s own voice may have been silenced, but his larger voice — the one he carried about most and cultured in so many young people — continues on and will always be heard .
By Jacob Stockinger
Here’s comes another weekend, and you know what that means at this time of the year.
Last week, on Black Friday, the classical music critics for The New York Times offered their gift suggestions for this holiday season.
They added a nice twist.
Instead of keeping up with brand new recordings, the critics went to “the vault” and focused on the things historical – recordings and videos.
Some newer things did sneak in – like John Eliot Gardiner’s new book about Johann Sebastian Bach (below) called “Music in the Castle of Heaven” — it would go well with a set of the cantatas recorded by Gardiner — which also received a separate rave review from Times critic and editor James Oestreich:
Anthony Tommasini chose lots of opera – especially Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner at the Metropolitan Opera as well as Richard Tucker — was covered, but so was a lot of other music, including the complete music by Benjamin Britten (below), whose birthday centennial was Nov. 22.
Leonard Bernstein (below), as musician and educator, was also well represented.
And to be fair, the prices of the suggested gifts ranged from under $20 to several hundred dollars of massive boxed sets.
Here is a link to the story
Happy hunting and happy listening.
And rest assured: I will be posting more gift guides as they appear.
But don’t forget to leave your own gift suggestions in the COMMENTS section of this blog.
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Madison-based Cecilia Singers will begin its 2013-2014 season with three performances of a special concert marking the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK. “Remembering John Fitzgerald Kennedy (below): A Choral Tribute” can be heard on this Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Here is a schedule: Performances are on Friday, Nov. 22, at 7:30 p.m., at St. James Catholic Church (1204 St. James Court.); on Saturday, Nov. 23, at 7:30 p.m. at Luther Memorial Church (below is its interior, 1021 University Ave.); and at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 24, at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church in Monona.
Tickets can be purchased in advance at the Willy St. Co-op (east and west), Orange Tree Imports, and The Pink Poodle for $12 general admission, or $10 for seniors; or at the door for $15 and $12, respectively.
The program includes: “French Choruses” from “The Lark” by Leonard Bernstein; Four Motets by Aaron Copland; “To Be Sung On The Water” by; Samuel Barber; “New England Frostbite” by Robert Kreutz (below top, 1923-1997); “Ave Maria” by Edwin Fissinger (1920-1990); “Songs of Hope and Deliverance” by Robert Kreutz (1923-1997); “Improperium” by Robert Kreutz, who began composing this piece the night JFK was assassinated as a very personal response to the tragedy; “In Paradisium: by Edwin Fissinger (heard at bottom in a YouTube video).
Group founder and director Joseph Testa, who used to direct choral music at Edgewood College until 2008, says he conceived the program as a way to recognize and celebrate a man of great intelligence and charm coupled with a deep appreciation for the arts and the role they play in a free society.
To underscore the theme, an all-American a cappella program of music by composers of JFK’s generation was chosen, Testa says.
Testa adds: “Some of the works simply represent the creative endeavors of composers active during President Kennedy’s lifetime; other were selected because they seemed to hold a poignant connection to JFK: for example, a Latin-texted work with a clear nod to his Catholicism, or a work utilizing a text of his favorite poet, or in one case a collection of works that speak to the struggles of Communism in Eastern Europe during the 1980’s — something very real and of great concern at the time of his own presidency.
“President Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy brought a sophisticated awareness of the arts to our national attention, hosting poets, musicians, artists, composers and Nobel Prize winners for State Events at the White House, thereby elevating the image of artist and intellectual in American life. This aspect of his presidency is certainly one for all Americans in the arts to celebrate as we pause on this 50th anniversary.
“At the same time, we also celebrate the composers whose works are being performed, thereby again honoring the life of JFK and the legacy he envisioned for an America as a country rich in culture for having embraced the arts.”
About the Cecilia Singers (below, in rehearsal, in a photo by Joseph Testa): Joseph Testa founded Cecilia Singers in 2009 as a professional choir based on a four-prong mission: advance the choral art form, advance choral artistry, be an educational entity for the choral arts through lecture and performance, and to create employment opportunities for gifted and talented singers.
The personnel and size of the ensemble vary based on the needs of the given repertoire. Singers completing a successful audition are offered a contract for a specific set of concerts and the requisite rehearsals. Each singer receives the music several weeks prior to the first rehearsal and is expected to come to that rehearsal with all the music learned. This format allows the rehearsal time to be truncated to just three weeks prior to a performance, at which point a series of extended rehearsals are held in close succession to work on ensemble.
By Jacob Stockinger
Just a reminder that there will be two FREE concerts on Monday night that might interest you.
The first is by the wind quintet Black Marigold (below). It will perform in the auditorium at Oakwood Village West, 6201 Mineral Point Road, on Madison’s far west side, on Monday night at 7 p.m.
The program includes: Overture to “Candide” by Leonard Bernstein, transcribed by Don Stewart; “Five Frogs” by Jenni Brandon; “The Rite of Spring” (its centennial is this year) by Igor Stravinsky, as arranged by Jonathan Russell; and “Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin, arranged by Ernst-Thilo Kalke.
For more information, visit: www.blackmarigold.com
Then at 7:30 in Morphy Recital Hall on the UW-Madison campus, Duo ARTIA duo-pianists Jeri-Mae Astolfi and Holly Roadfeldt, who have been on a fall concert tour of Minnesota and Wisconsin, will perform a FREE recital.
The program includes some modern and mostly contemporary music including works by Bela Bartok, Witold Lutoslawski, James Wilding, Yehuda Yannay, James Leatherbarrow, Robert Patterson, Ed Martin, Kirk O’Riordan and UW-Madison composer Joseph Koyykar (below).