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The film also redeems all the baloney we hear about classical music being outdated and old-fashioned and elitist and so on ad nauseam.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).
NEWS FLASH: The concert and all attendant events by the UW-Madison‘s Pro Arte Quartet, centered around the world premiere of Belgian composer Benoit Mernier’s String Quartet No. 3, scheduled for Friday, Nov. 22, 2013, has been CANCELLED. Plans are to reschedule the concert and events for the weekend of March 1 and 2, 2014. I will pass along more news as I get it.
By Jacob Stockinger
Last year was a very good year for the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (below). Fundraising met or exceeded goals, enrollment of student musicians from around southcentral Wisconsin was up. Michelle Kaebisch, the Madison Symphony Orchestra‘s educational and outreach coordinator who is also a violinist, was named to succeed retiring longtime conductor Thomas Buchhauser. And public performances drew large, enthusiastic crowds as well as great playing from the students. (Full disclosure: The Ear sits on WYSO’s board of directors as of this past summer.)
This year also has all the makings of a banner year for WYSO. Enrollment – by audition — is up. WYSO just landed a $200,000 gift to set up an endowment fund (from the Theodore W. Batterman Family Foundation in memory of former WYSO member Eric D. Batterman) for its percussion program. The chamber music program has expanded. Fundraising is going well. And a tour to South American is scheduled for the spring, including a concert at the famed Teatro Colon (a photo of its plush interior is below) in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
All that gives one reason to celebrate – which is exactly what you can do this Saturday and Sunday when WYSO groups perform for the public. And they can really play, as you can hear at the bottom in the YouTube video of WYSO student performing the difficult Finale to Dmitri Shostakovich’s epic Fifth Symphony.
Here is a summary, thanks to a WYSO detailed press release:
“WYSO will present its first concert series of the year, the Evelyn Steenbock Fall Concerts, on Saturday, November 16, and Sunday, November 17.
“More than 350 young musicians will display their talents to the community during the three concerts, which are dedicated to local music teachers.
“The Evelyn Steenbock Fall Concerts will be held in Mills Concert Hall in the UW Humanities Building, 455 N. Park Street, Madison.
“WYSO concerts generally run about an hour and a half in length, providing a great orchestral concert opportunity for families.
“Tickets are available at the door, $10 for adults and $5 for youth 18 and under.
“WYSO’s string orchestra, Sinfonietta, will kick off the concert series at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday with “Wood Splitter Fanfare” by Balmages; “America, the Beautiful” by Ward/Wagner; “Lincoln at Gettysburg” by Dabczynski; “Ashokan Farewell” by Ungar/Custer; “Labyrinth” by Zuehlsdorff; “Many Miles Away Across the Sea” by Day; and “Kentucky 1800” by Grundman/Longfield. (Below is a photo by Jon Harlow of the Sinfonietta’s violin section.)
At 4 p.m. on Saturday, the popular Percussion Ensemble will perform “Sleepless” by Dan Moore and “Prelude to Paradise” by Jacob Remington under the direction of Vicki Jenks, in her 32nd season at WYSO.
The Philharmonia Orchestra (below is its brass section) will then entertain the audience with “Rákóczi March” from “La damnation de Faust” by Hector Berlioz: the Largo from “Xerxes” by George Frideric Handel; “The Montagues and Capulets” from “Romeo and Juliet” by Sergei Prokofiev, and selected movements from Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5.
At 1 p.m. on Sunday, the Harp Ensemble will perform Felix Mendelssohn’s “Spinning Song,” “Nocturne” and “On Wings of Song.”
The Youth Orchestra will close out the concert series with Aaron Copland‘s “Billy the Kid” Suite and Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8 in G major, Op. 88.
For more information, visit WYSO’s newly redesigned website: http://wyso.music.wisc.edu
The fall Steenbock concerts are is supported by Dane Arts with additional funds from the Evjue Foundation, Inc., charitable arm of the The Capital Times. This project is also supported by the Alliant Energy Foundation and by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.
By Jacob Stockinger
Lenny was the Real Deal.
Such talent and genius!
What energy and enthusiasm!
What a talker and bon vivant!
What a conductor and composer, pianist and educator! Just listen to Bernstein at the bottom conduct his own exuberant and lyrical music — the Overture to “Candide” — in a YouTube video that has over 1 million hits.
But who would have guessed at some of his personal demons and deep insecurities, or his awareness of his own faults and shortcomings?
Now you can find out through a newly published collection of his letters.
They reveal the private side of Leonard Bernstein The Man and not just The Maestro.
Here is a story from NPR that includes excerpts and background and contexts, interpretations and assessments, by Bernstein’s daughter Jamie.
I found it fascinating reading and listening, and expect you will too.
By Jacob Stockinger
And the two teams — the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals — that are vying for the world championship trophy (below) both come from cultured cities that boast world-class orchestras: The Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
I am not really a fan of any baseball team — or of team sports in general — but I do think baseball appeals to a lot of musicians. I know from personal experience that the superstar violinist Itzhak Perlman (below) is a big fan who once announced the updated scores of a world series games with the New York Yankees between pieces and from the stage of the old Madison Civic Center.
I wonder what the appeal of baseball to musicians is.
Maybe it has to do with the rhythm of the game.
For the member of a symphony orchestra or chamber music ensemble, maybe it is the team aspect.
For individuals, maybe what matters is the same kind of hand-eye coordination on which so much music-making on instruments depends – as does pocket pool, archery and target shooting, all of which I also like.
In fact, avid pianist that I am, I love watching baseball pitchers – like the great retired New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera (below) – but only at home on TV where I can see the pitches relatively close up and also check how the speed is measured and the contortions that batters have to go through to hit the ball.
Throw the ball. Catch the ball. Hit the ball.
Easy game, right?
Anyway here, at the bottom, is the World Series Symphony Smack Down is a link to a story — with some surprises — on The New York Times music blog and to the video (which has overtones of the gang warfare in Leonard Bernstein‘s “West Side Story”) on YouTube.
Listen and tell me in the comments section why your think so many classical musicians like baseball?
And which city has the better symphony as well as baseball team? In other words, no matter who wins the series, I want to know who you think wins the Symphony Smack Down
The Ear wants to hear.
TWO ALERTS: On this Thursday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. in the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, UW-Madison dramatic soprano Elizabeth Hagedorn (below) — filling in for soprano Julia Faulkner, who is on a leave-of-absence this academic year — will make her local debut. The FREE concert features her singing Gustav Mahler‘s moving “Rueckert Songs” with UW pianist Martha Fischer. It is part of the Wisconsin Science Festival that combines science lectures and live classical music in the SoundWaves program that is organized and directed by UW horn professor Daniel Grabois. For more information, visit the outstanding “Fanfare” blog at the UW School of Music: Here is a link:
And here are links to more stories about Elizabeth Hagedorn:
ALSO: Blog friend and radio host Rich Samuels (below) writes: “On this Thursday morning, Sept. 26, beginning at 7:08 a.m. on my weekly show “Anything Goes” that is broadcast from 5-8 a.m. on WORT 89.9 FM. I’ll be airing an interview I recently recorded with the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s music director John DeMain (the MSO’s 2013-2914 concert season begins, of course, on this Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoon.
“Maestro DeMain talks about his transition from the Houston Grand Opera to the Madison Symphony Orchestra and about the artistic state of the orchestra as he begins his 20th season on the podium.
“Music for the segment will include selections from DeMain’s 1996 Grammy award-winning recording the Houston Grand Opera made when its production of George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” was playing Broadway.
“Half the segment deals with the upcoming season and some of the younger soloists who will be heard between now and next May. We’ll hear performances by Norwegian trumpeter Tine Thing Helseth, violinist Augustin Hadelich, soprano Emily Birsan and the young Madison pianist Garrick Olsen (not to be confused with pianist Garrick Ohlsson).”
By Jacob Stockinger
This is the week of orchestral season debuts. Yesterday, The Ear spotlighted the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s concerts this weekend.
But at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall on this Sunday evening — on what The Ear calls “Symphony Sunday” with performances by the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the UW Symphony Orchestra and the Edgewood College Chamber Orchestra – the University of Wisconsin-Madison Symphony Orchestra will perform a FREE concert under its longtime director James Smith, who also directs the UW Chamber Orchestra and is the music director of University Opera.
Smith recently granted The Ear an email Q&A about the concert:
You programmed “The Rite of Spring” by Igor Stravinsky (below) because this is the centennial year of its world premiere. How important is that work in the symphonic repertoire and to music history in general?
It is often cited as a landmark work in all respects. Several faculty members mentioned that we ought to perform it so that the students can appreciate its impact. At the time, 1913, the harmonies, the savage rhythms and the choreography were all quite jolting to the Paris audiences.
Right from the start, the bassoon explores a new range for the instrument as it sets the stage for the pagan ritual ahead.
How challenging technically is the “Rite of Spring” in general to perform but especially for UW undergraduate students? What makes it such a difficult work?
It is difficult on all levels: rhythmic, technical and tessitura (the comfort range of notes for a specific kind of voice or instrument).. We have performed works by Bohuslav Martinu, Alban Berg, Anton Webern and Gustav Mahler who also posed special difficulties. The students are working very hard outside of the rehearsals so that we can all experience this exciting work. (Below is a photo of the UW Symphony Orchestra performing with the UW Choral Union plus a link to a video by Kathy Esposito, concert manager and public relations director at the UW School of Music, of the UW Symphony Orchestra and conductor James Smith rehearsing “The Rite of Spring” that Esposito posted on Facebook.)
Why did you choose the “Egmont” Overture by Ludwig van Beethoven to go with this program? Are there special thematic or pedagogical reasons?
Simple answer: It is a great way to start a program, and an opportunity for my graduate assistant to be introduced to the audience. His name is Kyle Knox (below). He is also an accomplished clarinetist who is the assistant principal clarinetist of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.
The Third Symphony is not one of the most famous or popular symphonies by Jean Sibelius (below). Why did you choose to program it and what should audience members listen for or pay attention to?
Good question. After the rather romantic and somewhat conventional First and Second Symphonies, the Third Symphony loses much of the bombast and announces a more austere and restless path. As my teacher one commented, Sibelius became more and more “north” in style and mood: austere and quixotic. (The first movement can be heard in a YouTube video at the bottom as performed by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic.)
By Jacob Stockinger
Word has come of three very appealing FREE and PUBLIC performances by a notable local chamber music group. Here is the press release:
“Black Marigold (below) welcomes the dog days of August with a free concert series of chamber works hot enough to fry an egg on the stage. (You can hear Black Marigold in a lively performance of the “William Tell” Overture by Rossini in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
“Join the members of this local woodwind quintet as they perform arrangements some of their favorite orchestral works, including a 100th anniversary celebration of the notorious premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” Any riotous reactions to this challenging quintet adaptation will hopefully come in the form of applause.
“All performances are FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.
“Members of Black Marigold are: Elizabeth Marshall, flute; Laura Medisky, oboe; Bethany Schultz, clarinet; Kia Karlen, horn; and Cynthia Cameron Fix, bassoon.
For more information about the group, here is a link to a website and also the group’s email address:
Here is the line-up of upcoming appearances with programs and links to details:
Saturday, August 17, 7 p.m. , Capitol Lakes Retirement Community, Grand Hall (below), 333 W Main St., Madison, Wisconsin
Program: Overture to “Candide” – by Leonard Bernstein, trans. Don Stewart; “Le Tombeau de Couperin” – by Maurice Ravel, arr. Mason Jones; “The Rite of Spring” – by Igor Stravinsky, arr. Jonathan Russell; “Rhapsody in Blue” – by George Gershwin, arr. Ernst-Thilo Kalke
Orton Park Festival, Main Stage (below top), Sunday, August 25, noon, Orton Park, 1200 Spaight St., Madison, Wisconsin, with a special guest, the local well known recording engineer, amateur musician and all-round enthusiastic and amiable good sport Buzz Kemper (below bottom) as narrator.
The Orton Park program inc;ludes: Overture to “Candide” – by Leonard Bernstein, trans. Don Stewart; “Peter and the Wolf” – by Sergei Prokofiev, arr. Earl C. North; “The Rite of Spring” – by Igor Stravinsky, arr. Jonathan Russell; “Rhapsody in Blue” – by George Gershwin, arr. Ernst-Thilo Kalke