By Jacob Stockinger
He may not yet be a household name like Arthur Rubinstein, Vladimir Horowitz or Van Cliburn, but pianist Yefim Bronfman (below) — a prolific recitalist, concerto soloist and chamber music partner — commands great respect from critics and his fellow musicians.
And with good reason.
“Fima,” as he known to friends and even his loyal followers, possesses a technique that other pianists envy plus a total commands of style, ranging from early period works through Romanticism and Modernism to new music.
He also is renowned for his stamina and power, but, at the same time, for subtle playing without banging. Combining power and poetry seems to be his signature.
Here is a link to his website with his full biography — he emigrated to Israel from his native Tashkent — and critical reviews plus a discography, sound samples and other information:
People in the Madison area can hear Yefim Bronfman’s talents for themselves this weekend. That is when he joins the Madison Symphony Orchestra under its longtime music director and conductor John DeMain in a MUST-HEAR all-Beethoven program.
Bronfman will play the Piano Concerto No. 2 in B Flat Major, Op. 19, AND the famous Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73, also known as “The Emperor.” Also on the program are the Symphony No. 1 in C Major, and “The Creatures of Prometheus” Overture that Beethoven incorporated into his epic Symphony No. 3 “Eroica.”
Performances are in Overture Hall on Friday at 7:30 p.m; Saturday at 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets are $16.50-$82.50. Call the Overture Center box office at (608) 258-4141.
For more information, including audio samples of the various pieces and of playing by Bronfman, visit:
For program notes by MSO trombonist and UW-Whitewater professor J. Michael Allman, visit:
Yefim Bronfman recently agreed to an email Q&A with The Ear:
You are known for your stamina and power, as your cycle of the complete sonatas and concertos by Sergei Prokofiev and this Madison Symphony Orchestra concert with two Beethoven concertos prove. Are there special tricks or secrets you have to cultivate that kind of “marathon” playing and also avoid injury? Or is it just a natural gift?
It certainly helps to be in good physical shape, but recitals require the same kind of stamina and no one really questions that. Playing two concertos is actually less effort than playing a full solo recital.
What are your current plans and future projects, both for live concerts and recordings, especially of works by living composers?
I just played a lot of new music in a chamber program with members of the New York Philharmonic, including the world premiere of a solo piano piece written for me by Marc Neikrug and a trio commissioned by Carnegie Hall several years ago by Marc-Andre Dalbavie. In Asia, on tour with the New York Philharmonic, we performed the Piano Concerto No. 2 by Magnus Lindberg (below, in a photo by Saara Vuorkjoki), which is a co-commission with the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam and Gothenburg Symphony of Sweden. (Editor’s note: Bronfman’s recording of it was nominated for a Grammy Award.)
I’m always on the lookout for talented composers. My natural curiosity makes me wonder about the language of composers of today who often give me ideas that contribute to playing the music of composers who are no longer alive.
You frequently perform Beethoven concertos and have made outstanding recordings of them with David Zinman and the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra on the Arte Nova budget label. What would you like to say to the general public about Beethoven (below), about his Piano Concertos No. 2 and No. 5, the “Emperor”?
These two pieces belong to very different worlds. The first one belongs to the Mozartean period of Beethoven, very classical in structure and texture. But a lot happened between concertos No. 2 and No. 5.
They come from a composer with a great deal of desire to experiment, so those two concertos are like works of two different composers. Yet we never stop to wonder at the genius of someone able to do that. (At bottom is a YouTube video in which Yefim Bronfman, as Artist-in-Residence at the New York Philharmonic, and conductor Alan Gilbert discuss the complete cycle of Beethoven’s piano concertos they performed together.)
I first heard you here years ago at the Wisconsin Union Theater in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1. Do you have any special memories of or thoughts about Madison?
Madison and this particular theater have some wonderful memories from my youth because I played here some of the earliest concerts of my career. Playing Beethoven 1 with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra in Madison could have been one of the first Beethoven 1’s I ever performed.
What advice would you give today to young pianists and young musicians in general about pursuing a career in music? And how can classical music reach more young people and new audiences?
Arts and culture in general enrich our lives, and we have to give that understanding to the young generation. Without it our lives diminish greatly, and we have to learn to cherish what past artists have left to us.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear’s friends at the Madison Symphony Orchestra have sent in the following announcement:
“Can you name all the different distinctly American choral traditions?
“Director Beverly Taylor (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) and the Madison Symphony Chorus will answer that question this Sunday afternoon, Feb. 2, at 2 p.m., when they’ll appear in “Apple Pie America: A Slice of Choral Americana” in Promenade Hall at the Overture Center for the Arts. (Taylor is also the head of the choral department at the university of Wisconsin-Madison, where she directs the UW Choral Union and UW Concert Choir, and is the assistant conductor of the Madison Symphony Orchestra. And sorry, I have so specific titles of works on the program but I have been told that the concert is closing in on being sold-out, with only a few tickets remaining.)
Many of the works will be accompanied by Madison Symphony Orchestra principal pianist Daniel Lyons (below).
Tickets are $15, and are available at http://madisonsymphony.org/Americana or at the Overture Center Box Office at (608) 258-4141 or 201 State Street.
Formed in 1927, the Madison Symphony Chorus (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson) gave its first public performance in 1928 and has performed regularly with the Madison Symphony Orchestra ever since.
It was featured at the popular Madison Symphony Christmas concerts in December, and it will be joined by four soloists for the MSO’s performance of Mozart’s Requiem on April 4, 5 and 6.
The Chorus is comprised of more than 125 volunteer musicians from all walks of life who enjoy combining their artistic talent, and new members are always welcome. Visit http://madisonsymphony.org/chorus for more information.
CATCHING UP WITH THE GRAMMY WINNERS
Last Sunday was the Grammy Awards.
Here is a complete list of the nominees and the winners. It makes for a good listening list or buying list.
WINNER Roomful Of Teeth
78. BEST CLASSICAL VOCAL SOLO
80. BEST CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL COMPOSITION
By Jacob Stockinger
On Sunday, we saw the “New World” Symphony in a new light.
I think I can speak for both seasoned concertgoers and novices.
And what I say is no overstatement in describing the triumphant Sunday afternoon multi-media performance of the popular work by Antonin Dvorak (below).
It was turned in by the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below top, with the Jumbotron screen behind it) under the baton of its longtime music director and conductor John DeMain (below bottom, in a photo by Prasad), along with guests actors and the inaugural use of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s almost decade-old “Beyond the Score” format.
In a one-time only performance, the house in the Overture Hall of the Overture Center was sold-out, something that has happened in recent years only with the Christmas concerts. And it was an enthusiastic audience that offered two long standing ovations: the first, after the 60-minute background presentation; and the second, after the post-intermission 40-minute complete performance, which was an exemplary reading that was convincingly dramatic in the fast movements and movingly lyrical in the songful slow movement.
The Ear listened not only to what the actors and players said and did, but also to what other audience members had to say. And the judgment seemed unanimously positive.
Everyone agreed that the multi-media part of the program was very well constructed and very well presented. It was remarkably tight. There were no awkward silences or lapses or pauses. This was not like when the A-V Club used to come to your middle school science or history class and you stared at your shoes while they figured out how to make the technology work.
Instead this was a thoroughly professional presentation that proceeded smoothly from start to finish. It was well researched and well written. It incorporated historical still photos and historical film footage. It used primary sources such as the music’s score and Dvorak’s own letters; and it used secondary sources such as newspaper stories and the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha” and its influence on the impressionable and culturally curious Dvorak and his interest in American Indian music and Negro spirituals.
The orchestral excerpts that underlined the points were precisely played, and such starting-and-stopping is not an easy thing to do unless you are well rehearsed.
The Ear does have one minor concern with this Musicology for the Masses: The “Beyond the Score” format tends to turn all music into program music. Still, there is no questioning that it enhances one’s appreciation of a masterpiece by putting a frame around the painting, by providing a historical context. A specialist could probably pick out small flaws or gaps, but lengthy scholarship was not the point.
All in all, this new format seems exactly what a lot of American symphony orchestras need right now, especially at a time when so many of them are financially troubled and have to figure out a way to attract new and younger audiences.
And this presentation-performance combination sure did that. Remarkably few audience members left at intermission and it was inspiring to see so many, right up to the balcony, filled. Except for an all-Gershwin concert two seasons ago, it has been a few years since such a packed house showed up for a non-holiday MSO concert.
So, who gets credit and whom do we thank? The list is long and, happily, no one got into the kind of postured declaiming that can make it feel false, too staged and overly dramatic. Distraction was kept to a quiet minimum, the characters sitting on stools on the prone of the stage. Theatricality was minimal.
Wisconsin Public Radio host Anders Yocom (below, in a photo by Jim Gill) delivered the goods as a resonant and articulate but calmly expressive narrator.
American Players Theater actor David Daniel (below) did an outstanding job of playing the composer without overdoing the Czech accent and using only a bit of a costume suit.
Another APT actor, James Ridge (below), played Dvorak’s son who also commented on his father’s American adventures, but never overshadowed him.
And local mezzo-soprano Jacqueline Colbert (below), who graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and who directs the Mt. Zion Gospel Choir, sang Negro spirituals beautifully in a way that proved less showy and concert hall-like than you often hear today. She sang in a subdued, simple and traditional manner that seemed more authentic, more true to the music’s roots.
Even conductor John DeMain got into the act playing the German conductor Anton Seidl, who headed the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and in 1893 conducted the world premiere of the symphony in New York City, with a German accent.
But perhaps the person we have to thank the most is the one whose checkbook made it possible: the Anonymous Donor, who suggested trying the format and who underwrote it financially.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable and thoroughly enlightening event. The Ear hopes it will get perhaps a second performance from the MSO (below in a photo by Greg Anderson) next season if the audience interest warrants it, and that it might even be incorporated into the regular subscription season. (The MSO, by the way, is using an email link to an on-line survey to sample the opinion of those who attended the concert, something i do not trembler them doing before.)
So the question now becomes: What symphony do you want to see done next in the new format?
In an interview I posted last week, John DeMain told The Ear that 22 symphonies have been performed this way in Chicago since the “Beyond the Score” format started in 2005. (At bottom is a YouTube video in which no less a musician than composer-conductor Pierre Boulez introduces, explains and defends the format. And you can find many other videos of Beyond the Score performance on YouTube.)
So I vote for Beethoven’s Third and Ninth Symphonies and the “Emperor” Piano Concerto; Tchaikovsky’s Fourth and Sixth “Pathetique” symphonies; Shostakovich’s Fifth; Brahms’ First and Fourth; Mozart’s “Jupiter”; and Schubert’s “Unfinished” and Ninth or “The Great.”
Which symphony would you like to hear in the Beyond the Score format?
Tell The Ear.
Tell the MSO.
In the meantime, you can read what some other critics said about the performance:
Here is a link to a review by John W. Barker (bel0w) for Isthmus:
And here is a link to the review by Greg Hettmansberger (bel0w) for his blog “Classically Speaking” blog for Madison Magazine:
A REMINDER: The 14th Madison Early Music Festival, with the theme “Renaissance Germany,” opens tonight with a performance by the Renaissance band Piffaro (below) at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall. It will be preceded at 6:30 p.m. by a FREE lecture by frequent guest blog contributor John W. Barker on “The Germanies of 1616 and How They Got to Be That Way” in Room L-160 of the Elvehjem Building of the nearby Chazen Museum of Art. For more information, visit: http://continuingstudies.wisc.edu/lsa/memf/index.html
By Jacob Stockinger
Back when The Ear was an undergraduate, he had a philosophy professor who claimed in an aesthetics course that no one in the class that was full of ambitious artists and especially would-be writers should worry about writing The Great American Novel.
It had already been written.
Still, overall, I think the decades have proven him right – which is why Gatsby has been made into several movie versions, including an older one with the actor Robert Redford and a recent one by director Baz Luhrman, and John Harbison’s full-length opera (below, with Dawn Upshaw as Daisy and Jerry Hadley as Jay Gatsby). And maybe a TV drama based on the novel is yet to come.
But even though that quite of question somehow seems impertinent or irrelevant, it can lead to some memorable discussions and exposure to new music.
So last week, when everyone was looking up American music to play on Independence Day or the fourth of July, the question of The Great American Symphony arose.
And it was discussed on NPR’s “Deceptive Cadence” blog by Tom Huizenga and also on “All Things Considered” by veteran host, the cultured, cultivated and witty Robert Siegel (below top) and American conductor JoAnn Falletta (below bottom), in a photo by Cheryl Gorski), who now leads three different orchestras as music director. (The three are the Buffalo Philharmonic, the Virginia Symphony Orchestra and the Ulster Orchestra in Northern Ireland.) Falletta comes up with some interesting choices of American composers and works — some you have heard of and some you haven’t. (At bottom is a YouTube video of the beautiful slow movement from Samuel Barber’s Symphony No. 1, which I had never heard either live or in a recorded performance.)
It would be interesting to hear what some other American-born and American-trained maestros and champions of old and new American music – from Leonard Bernstein and Alan Gilbert of the New York Philharmonic to Marin Alsop of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Michael Tilson Thomas (below) of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra said or have to say when they took on the same question.
Anyway, here are links to the NPR discussions. I recommend listening to the program and not just reading the transcript.
What do you think?
Do you have an orchestral work to nominate as The Great American Symphony or its equivalent?
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
Not being a close follower of choral music, I do not know a lot of choruses or choirs around the nation or world by name.
And like most Madisonians, I know the name of the Festival Choir, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Choral Union, the Wisconsin Chamber Choir, the Madison Symphony Orchestra Chorus and the Madison Opera Chorus, among other local groups.
But the nationally known choir that I remember mostly fondly is the same one I heard decades ago with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under conductor Leonard Bernstein and with pianist Rudolf Serkin in Beethoven’s famous Symphony No. 9 “Choral” and his “Choral Fantasy,” which is a preliminary sketch-like work for the Ninth Symphony with a piano part thrown in.
The name of that first-rate choir is The Westminster Choir (below).
And it is REALLY good, as I was reminded again recently when I listened to their CD of holiday music.
No surprise, I suppose. After all, it is composed of specialists: of student from Westminster choir College in Princeton, New Jersey. Every summer it is in residence at the internationally renowned Spoleto Festival in South Carolina.
Its 40 members form the core of the 175-voice Westminster Symphonic Chorus that still performs regularly with the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra and other major European orchestras.
In any case, sponsored by the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Westminster Choir is coming to town and will perform this Saturday night in Overture Hall at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $19.50. For tickets, call the Overture Center box office at (608) 258-4141. For more information about the performers and a complete program, visit www.madisonsymphony.org/westminster.
The concert’s generous program includes vocal music from the 15th through the 21st centuries, including works by J.S. Bach, Debussy, Gustav Holst, Benjamin Britten and Morten Lauridsen among others, and will also feature several works for solo organ, some quite virtuosic, played on the impressive custom-built Klais concert organ (below) in Overture Hall.
Decide for yourself. Here is a sample, the most visited one on YouTube, with such lovely quality singing, of the Westminster Choir:
REMINDER: On Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall, bass trombonist Gerry Pagano (below) will give a FREE recital on the Guest Artist Series at the University of Wisconsin School of Music. Joining Pagano will be pianist SeungWha Baek, trombone professor Mark Hetzler and trumpet professor John Aley. The program will feature “Duo for Bass Trombone and Piano” by Jeffrey Miller; “Sonata Rhapsody ‘the Arch’” by James M. Stephenson; “Pastorale for trumpet, bass trombone and piano” by Eric Ewazen, featuring John Aley on trumpet; “Three Preludes for Piano” by Dmitri Shostakovich, featuring Mark Hetlzer on trombone; and works by Vivaldi and J.. Bach.
By Jacob Stockinger
Happy Silver Anniversary!
Pianist Jeffrey Siegel (below) — who for decades has done more than his fair share of building audiences for classical music — will be performing and discussing compositions by J.S. Bach tomorrow night, on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall as part of his 25th annual Keyboard Conversations® series in Madison.
The program is all J.S. Bach (below) and includes the Chorale Prelude “Rejoice, Beloved Christians,” BWV 734; Toccata in D Major, BWV 912; Prelude in B-flat Major, Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1, BWV 866; Prelude in B-flat Minor, Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1, BWV 867; and Italian Concerto, BWV 971, as well as the Bach-Busoni Chaconne from Violin Partita No. 2, BWV 1004.
The program is followed by a Q & A session.
It could be a good chance to ask about the new book “Reinventing Bach” by Paul Elie, which talks about the music of Bach and how it successfully get transplanted to new technology. The Ear posted about it this past weekend. Here is a link:
Tickets are $32 for the general public, and $28 for Union Members, UW Faculty and Staff, and non-UW Students. This is a family savings event with up to two youth tickets (age 6-18) at only $14 with the purchase of an accompanying adult ticket. Age is verified at the door.
University of Wisconsin-Madison students get in for FREE.
For information and tickets, call the Box Office at 608-265-ARTS (2787), fax your order at 608-265-5084, buy online here, or purchase in person at the Campus Arts Ticketing box office in Vilas Hall, 821 University Ave.
Jeffrey Siegel has performed with the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Cleveland Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra and Chicago Symphony Orchestra, as well as with numerous symphonies and orchestras abroad.
Siegel will play an evening of Bach, providing commentary on the music’s history, its form and structure. The Los Angeles Times has said that Siegel has “An unusual gift for commentary as well as extraordinary pianism [which] bring Siegel’s audience wholly into the musical experience.”
Keyboard Conversations is designed for novices and experts alike, combining a masterful performance with illuminating commentary. Here is an example of one of the Keyboard Conversations about one of the world’s most popular and well-known piano pieces,”Fur Elise” by Beethoven:
By Jacob Stockinger
Offhand, I can’t think of many Turkish pianists who have stood out in their interpretations of Western classical music.
But the young keyboard wizard Fazil Say (below), 42, is one of the exceptions.
Maybe the only one.
Say, who is also a composer and who plays and performs jazz, has the impressive technique — the chops if you will — plus the interpretive ability and artistic affinity to leave you deeply impressed with his reading of, say, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Ravel among others.
Just look at all the 5-star User Ratings his CDs get on Amazon.com:
Here is a link to his official fan website:
But now it looks as if Say, who admits to being secular and to supporting a secular government in his native Turkey, will have to take up a home in exile (probably in Japan, he says) because he has been charged with the equivalent of heresy or blasphemy by Turkey’s government and threatened with arrest, trial and prison. (Below is the famed Blue Mosque in Turkey.)
Specifically, he is accuse of, and investigated for, insulting Islam, and other religions, because he Tweeted that he is an atheist. He was indicted and a trial is set for Oct. 18.
It all sounds very similar to what happened to the Nobel Prize-winning Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk (below) who was charging with libeling or insulting the Turkish government because he referred to the Armenian genocide by Turkey in 1915 — which Turkey officially denies ever took place, despite the testimony and evidence provided by many experts and historians.
After worldwide protest, Turkey dropped those charges,
Maybe the same outcome could happen for Fazil Say (below and at bottom, playing ironically Mozart’s “Turkish” Rondo).
Here are links to stories and other blogs about Say’s unfortunate predicament:
No matter what the right-wing here says about the need for more state-sponsored religion, now you can see why the Founders wisely wanted in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to establish a wall of separation between church and state. In their own lifetimes, they had seen what the mix of religion and government or politics did in Europe and elsewhere.
So: Looks like it’s time to speak up for free speech, artistic freedom and freedom of religious in Turkey.
What do you say about Say and his plight?
Leave a note of protest and support in the COMMENTS section. Maybe it will persuade Turkish authorities to relent – although I wouldn’t count on it.
Shame on Turkey!
Shame on Islam, Christianity, Judaism and all other forms of religious intolerance and oppression!
Shame on religious zealots of all kinds in all places and at all times!
By Jacob Stockinger
Child prodigies intrigue, astound and fascinate us, even as they sometimes intimidate us or confuse us.
We wonder what the art world would be without them. And we wonder how they will mature and what they will become.
Most historians seem to agree that the three biggest prodigies in classical music were Mozart, Mendelssohn and Saint-Saens. Beethoven was no prodigy, but his drunken father abused him physically while trying to make him another Mozart who earned big money and fame as a wunderkind.
To be sure, there are some child prodigies who went on to accomplish major and important things. But The Ear bets there were many, many others who didn’t pan out and who were ruined by the adult or parental desire to have talented and gifted children.
Recently, a work by a young – very young – composer got performed by the New York Philharmonic. His name is Milo Poniewozik, a 10-year-old who is a fifth-grader, and his work was performed as part of the orchestra’s Very Young Composers program.
Here is a story with a link to the performance and a story about it:
Be sure to check out the many comments from readers and listeners.
Is this just an exploitative gimmick to attract young people to classical music by educational outreach programs? (Some local groups, including the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras, have also performed works by young members and young composers.)
What do you think of the phenomenon of such a young composer?
Is he a flash in the pan?
Or is he the real deal, a promising and talented composer?
Is such public exposure helpful or harmful to the young boy?
The Ears wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
Just because we are in the intermission between the end of the spring concert season and the beginning of the summer concert season doesn’t mean there isn’t some very good live classical music to be found.
The Wisconsin Chamber Choir (below) will present a concert entitled “Bernstein and Friends” featuring Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms,” on Sunday, June 3, at 3 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, 203 Wisconsin Avenue, in downtown Madison.
Also on the program is the world premiere of “The God of Glory” by Virginia composer Judith Shatin, along with works by composers whom Bernstein championed as a conductor, including music of Copland, Beethoven, Schumann and Ives.
Tickets are available in advance for $14 through Brown Paper Tickets or via www.wisconsinchamberchoir.org or at the door for $16. Student tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the door. Tickets also available at Orange Tree Imports and both Willy Street coop locations.
Founded in 1999, the Madison-based Wisconsin Chamber Choir has established a reputation for excellence in the performance of Bach oratorios, a cappella masterworks from various centuries, and world-premieres. Dr. Robert Gehrenbeck (below) is the Wisconsin Chamber Choir’s Artistic Director.
For more information, visit: http://www.wisconsinchamberchoir.org/
Leonard Bernstein (below) composed “Chichester Psalms” in 1965 while on sabbatical from his conducting post with the New York Philharmonic. Working on commission from Chichester Cathedral in England, Bernstein used the original Hebrew texts of six different psalms, and the resulting music has a distinctly popular flair that recalls the style of “West Side Story.”
The WCC’s performance will feature boy soprano Nathaniel Johnson, harpist Karen Atz, organist Theodore Reinke and percussionist Tobie Wilkinson.
Other Bernstein works on the program include selections from the musical theatre work “Mass” and a rarely heard early work, “Hashkiveinu,” a setting of a prayer from the Jewish Sabbath evening service.
In the spirit of Bernstein’s own advocacy on behalf of younger composers, the WCC is proud to present the world premiere of “The God of Glory” by Judith Shatin, who teaches composition at the University of Virginia and Director of the Virginia Center for Computer Music. Having made her own translation of Psalm 29, Shatin explains that her music “was inspired by the strength of the poetry, and seeks to sonically amplify its images.”
Rounding out the program are works by composers closely associated with Bernstein’s career. His lifelong friend Aaron Copland (below) is represented by selections from Copland’s “Old American Songs” in choral arrangements both old and new. Romantic choral works by Beethoven and Schumann pay tribute to Bernstein’s passionate interpretations of these composers’ music.
Finally, a group of light-hearted early works by Charles Ives highlights Bernstein’s affinity for one of America’s most original composers.
By Jacob Stockinger
We are all disappointed when we buy a ticket to hear a well-known musician perform a great piece of music, only to find out that the artist is “indisposed” and has cancelled.
In some cases, of course, it can be downright ludicrous.
For example, whenever pianist Martha Argerich (below) – who was notorious for cancelling concerts – used to release a schedule of her upcoming concerts for the next seasons, some waggish critics would joke about her releasing her list of upcoming cancellations for the next season.
Sometimes it is something as simple as a scheduling conflict. That is how the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra gave us the local debut of the terrific young Israeli-American pianist Shai Wosner (below) last spring when Anne Marie McDermott had to cancel. (She will perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto in C Minor with the WCO next March.)
But most often, I suspect it is genuine. Still, there is an upside when a performer becomes ill or sick or otherwise indisposed.
It often marks the beginning of another stellar career and gives a break to a promising artist who needs a break to advance their career or have a major debut. Just ask conductors Leonard Bernstein, Michael Tilson Thomas and Fabio Luisi; pianists Lang-Lang, Yuja Wang, Jonathan Boss and Jeremy Denk; and superstar singer Renee Fleming among many others who got their big break through someone else’s illness.
In fact, you have to wonder if sometimes the famous artist who cancelled wasn’t really sick at all but instead cancelled deliberately to give a younger talented colleague they admired a break in such a competitive profession. Why not? I say. Whatever works.
For example, that’s how soprano Renee Fleming (below) got to make her Metropolitan Opera debut a year earlier than scheduled, much like Leonard Bernstein with the New York Philharmonic. And there are many such stories and examples. Just look up musicians’ biographies in Wikipedia and check out their early careers.
Here is a link to a fine in-depth story, which also talks about repertoire complications and how the right substitutes are found, in the Wall Street Journal about that phenomenon:
Have you ever heard a great musician by chance and because he or she was a substitute for the scheduled “indisposed”performer who had to cancel?
Who was it and what did you think?
The Ear wants to hear.