The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Tangos will be featured in a FREE concert by the Yzafa Quintet this Monday night at 7:30 p.m. in the Unity Chapel in Spring Green.

July 25, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

This Monday night at 7:30 p.m. the Yzafa Quintet will perform a FREE concert of tangos at the Unity Chapel in Spring Green. Members of the quintet include (bottom left to right) Doug Brown, Michael O’Brien, August Jirovec, Amber Dolphin and Jamie Davis.

Quinteto Yzafa

To The Ear, it sure seems like this certainly has been the year for South American music in general and tangos in particular in the Madison area.

The Wisconsin Youth Chamber Orchestras’ Youth Orchestra (below) left yesterday for an extensive 10-day tour of Argentina, the home of the tango, which legend says was first danced in brothels.

Here is a link to background about the tour:

http://wyso.music.wisc.edu/2014-international-tour/

And here is a link to the tour blog:

http://wysotour2014.blogspot.com

WYSO Youth  Orchestra

Earlier this summer, The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society performed a dozen tangos by Astor Piazzolla and other composers with the help of Uruguayan pianist and tango master Pablo Zinger (below).

Pablo Zinger at piano

And flutist Stephanie Jutt (below), who is a co-founder and co-artistic director of BDDS, who teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and who is principal flute with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, has performed and recorded a bunch of tangos she brought back from a sabbatical year she spent in Argentina.

BDDS 2014 Jutt and Syles play Angel Lasala

Well, you really can’t blame them at all for programming tangos.

Was there ever a sexier or more sensual,  more seductive dance –- even if you don’t actually dance it?

Tango

And Madison isn’t alone in succumbing to Tango Fever.

Here is a note from our blog friend Kent Mayfield, who heads up the Rural Musicians Forum and is bringing the urban decadence of the tango out to the wholesome farm fields in south-central Wisconsin:

TANGO TAKES THE SPOTLIGHT IN SPRING GREEN CONCERT

The region’s only group specializing in traditional Argentine tango, Quinteto Yzafa, takes the spotlight in a concert in Spring Green’s Unity Chapel on Monday night, July 28, at 7:30 p.m.. The concert is part of an annual series sponsored by the Rural Musicians Forum. (You can hear a sample of a tango by the Quinteto Yzafa in a YouTube video of a performance in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at the bottom.)

The tango is a partner dance that originated in the 1890s in working class districts of Buenos Aires and along the Río de la Plata, the natural border between Uruguay and Argentina. Soon it became wildly popular around the world.

The dance derives from the Cuban and Argentine dance styles. It is said to contain elements from the African community in Buenos Aires, influenced both by ancient African rhythms and the music from Europe.

In 2009, the tango was declared part of the world’s “intangible cultural heritage” by UNESCO.

Quinteto Yzafa (pronounced “ee-SAH-fuh”) is dedicated to a fresh, dynamic approach to traditional Argentine tango music.

With backgrounds in classical music as well as jazz, bluegrass, Arabic music, Latin American folk and popular dance styles, the musicians perform tangos, waltzes and milongas from the 1910s through the present day.

Their dynamic new arrangements have the variety and intensity to entertain concert audiences, but they never lose the danceable essence of the true tango. They delight schoolchildren and serious tango dancers alike.

The ensemble’s sound features the bandoneón (below), the characteristic 71-button relative of the accordion whose distinctive timbre is essential for traditional tango music, filled out with the rich tones of a full string section (violin, cello and double bass) and piano.

Bandoneon

Bandoneon player and composer Michael O’Brien says he was inspired by the Argentinian classical composer Astor Piazzola (below bottom).

“There was something about the combination of sinuous, expressive melody interspersed with periods of brutal dissonance and percussive playing that lodged itself in my memory,” O’Brien says.

astor piazzolla

That was the beginning of a life-long interest which has led him to learn Piazzolla’s own instrument, the bandoneon, travel to Argentina to study, research and perform tango music, and even to make a career out of it. In his day job, O’Brien is a professor of ethnomusicology. O’Brien has created for the group a repertoire of little known and original tangos, waltzes and milongas as well as many tango classics.

Quinteto Yzafa has passion and zing … At times bold and brash and at other times heartbreakingly tragic, it covers every emotion in the spectrum.

The Unity Chapel (below top is the exterior, below bottom is the interior) is located at 6596 County Road T, just east of Highway 23. The chapel is a living testament to the simple and contemplative lives early settlers created for themselves in southwest Wisconsin.

There is no ticket charge but a freewill offering to support the concert series will be taken.

Unity Chapel in Spring Green exterior

Unity Chapel in Spring Green interior

For more information: www.ruralmusiciansforum.org

OR contact Kent Mayfield ruralmusiciansforum@yahoo.com.

https://www.youtube.com/watch


Classical music: A memorial for the late University of Wisconsin-Madison pianist Howard Karp is set for Sunday, Aug. 31, at 3 p.m. in Mills Hall. Here is a link to an obituary in The Wisconsin State Journal and to two other stories about Karp from Isthmus and the UW-Madison News Service.

July 21, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

The word is in: There will be NO annual Labor Day Concert by the Karp family this year.

Instead, on the day before Labor Day, friends, students and family members will gather to celebrate the life of professor, pianist and musical patriarch Howard Karp (below, playing with his son, fellow UW-Madison School of Music professor and Pro Arte Quartet cellist Parry Karp), who taught and performed for many decades at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, in a memorial event.

Karp family 2011 Brahms Parry and Howard Karp

The memorial is set for Sunday, August 31, at 3 p.m. in Mills Hall. Initial plans call for playing recorded live performances by Howard Karp; for selected speakers; and perhaps for some live music performances. As details develop, this blog will pass them along.

Howard Karp ca. 2000 by Katrin Talbot

On June 30, in Colorado. Howard Karp died at 84 of cardiac arrest. He was so loved and so respected that news of his death brought this blog a record number of comments and remarks (more than 70 so far), and close to a record number of “hits” or views:

Here is a link to the post, which has a lot of photos provided by the family, that broke the news:

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/classical-music-pianist-howard-karp-who-taught-at-the-university-of-wisconsin-madison-has-died-at-84/

Frances and Howard Karp June 22, 2014

Here is a link to the obituary that appeared two Sundays ago in The Wisconsin State Journal (below, Howard Karp is seen performing at a recent Labor Day Concert with his wife Frances Karp and his two of his four grandchildren, actors Isabel and Ariana Karp):

http://host.madison.com/news/local/obituaries/karp-howard/article_fbbd171c-96da-5166-93e6-66b05ca2239a.html

Howard, Frances, Isabel and Ariana Karp 2013

Two stories have also celebrated Howard Karp as the patriarch of Madison’s First Family of Music (below in a past photo by Mike DeVries of The Capital Times, are, from left, violinist-pianist and doctor son Christopher Karp, who works for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; daughter-in-law biologist and violist Katrin Talbot; Howard Karp; cellist son Parry Karp; and pianist wife Frances Karp):

Karp Family in color

One is from Isthmus by Sandy Tabachnick, who got statements from fellow pianists and teachers Christopher Taylor, Bill Lutes, Martha Fischer and Jessica Johnson:

http://www.isthmus.com/daily/article.php?article=43120

Howard Karp ca. 1955

Another memorable story about Howard Karp (below with his wife of 63 years Frances, who survives him) was filed by Susannah Brooks, who also spoke with UW-Madison School of Music head Susan Cook (below bottom), for the University of Wisconsin-Madison News Service:

howard and frances karp

Susan C. Cook UW SOM BW CR Michael Forster Rothbart

And here is a wonderful appreciation of Howard Karp and the new 6-CD set of Karp’s live recordings by UW-Madison and WYSO alumnus Kenneth Woods (below). Woods is a composer, professional cellist and now the conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, who is also an acclaimed blogger (“A View From the Podium”) and an honored recording artist whose releases include world premiere recordings of music by Hans Gal.

http://kennethwoods.net/blog1/2014/07/07/6162/

Kenneth_Woods

And, finally, here is a small excerpt from that new 6-CD set on Albany Records. It is a triumphant recording of the first movement of the epic Fantasy in C Major, Op 17, by the Romantic composer Robert Schumann, which was written to raise money for a memorial statue to Ludwig van Beethoven.

In mood and meaning, the masterpiece is a fitting tribute to Howard Karp and to the art, generosity and devotion to both beauty and love with which he lived his life. As a teacher, a friend, a family man and a performer, Howard Karp lived his long, rich life in the service of bringing and sharing whatever beauty he could to other people.

 

 

 


Classical music: Grace Presents seeks a Program Coordinator and extends the application deadline through July 31.

July 17, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

The deadline for applying to be the new Program Coordinator of Grace Presents was originally this past Tuesday, July 15. But it has now been extended through the end of the month, to July 31. For details, see below.

In a city with a lot of FREE and accessible high-quality concerts, Grace Presents nonetheless offers an outstanding series that fits right in with the church’s mission of community service.

The program was the brainchild of founder and first director Bruce Croushore, who worked long and hard to ensure its success. The Ear has heard memorable and enjoyable vocal and instrumental music, from violin sonatas and a solo piano recital to art songs and opera arias, at Grace Presents. (At bottom is a YouTube video of the “Liebeslieder Waltzes” by Johannes Brahms.)

Grace Presents sign

But now Croushore, a longtime reader and friend of this blog, has asked for help in advertising the position, and The Ear is happy to help.

Here is what Croushore, a retired businessman and consultant, writes:

“Grace Presents is a series of FREE noontime concerts that began in the spring of 2011 at Grace Episcopal Church, in downtown Madison on the Capitol Square.

“To date, three dozen diverse musical performances have been enjoyed by audiences that range in size from 30 to as many as 300. Most concerts take place at noon on Saturdays, so as to attract Dane County Farmers’ Market shoppers (below).

dane county farmers' market

Grace Presents’ mission is to open the doors of Madison’s historic landmark, Grace Church, by continuing the ancient tradition of music in the marketplace. (Below are photos of Grace’s exterior and its interior, which features beautiful furnishings and great acoustics.)

grace episcopal church ext

Grace Episcopal harpsichord

The series seeks to provide musicians and music-lovers from Dane County and beyond an outstanding acoustical performance venue that is attractive, peaceful and in the heart of Madison.

Grace Presents also offers free concerts of exceptional quality by local performers representing a wide variety of musical styles including classical, jazz, world and folk. (Below, Madison Symphony Orchestra violinist Laura Burns and pianist Jess Salek perform the complete violin sonatas by Johannes Brahms at Grace Presents.”)

Laura Burns Jess Salek Brahms Grace Epis

Grace Presents attempts to attract and enrich a broad audience, including downtown neighborhood residents, secondary school and university students, farmers’ market shoppers, local business people, state workers, local visitors, tourists, and people who are homeless.

Grace Church’s close proximity to Overture Center, Monona Terrace and downtown shops, restaurants, museums and offices encourages attendees to walk, ride bikes or to use public transportation, and reduces the carbon footprint of an excellent cultural event.

MBM Grace stained glass window

Grace Presents seeks a Program Coordinator whose duties include:

1. Engaging musicians to perform 8-12 concerts throughout the calendar year. This includes scheduling dates that work for the musicians, Grace Church and the community at large. Dates should be far enough in advance to allow for promotion of each concert. At times, program content may be specific to a given audience (i.e., children or shelter meal participants).

2. Preparing and disseminating publicity through various media, including online and print listings, social media and similar promotional opportunities.

3. Arranging payment for musicians, including completing paperwork and coordinating checks with the church’s Finance Administrator.

4. Preparing and arranging the printing of programs, posters and flyers for the concerts.

5. Acting as a liaison between performers and the venue of Grace Church.

6. Attending the concerts to assist with day-of logistics and taking care of musicians’ needs, except in special circumstances.

7. Attending periodic meetings of Grace Presents’ Task Force.

8. Completing and submitting grant applications with the assistance of task force members.

QUALIFICATIONS: This is an excellent opportunity for someone interested in gaining experience in concert promotion and arts administration. That includes students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Edgewood College.

Strong organizational and communication skills, as well as a working knowledge of social media, are necessary.

Familiarity with the Madison music scene, both commercial and educational, is a plus.

COMPENSATION: T
he program coordinator receives a quarterly honorarium of $500, paid in advance.

APPLICATION DEADLINE: Apply by email with a resume attached by not later than July 31, 2014.

Although the Grace Presents’ concert series is booked through December 2014, the task force intends to fill the position in the near future so that the current program director will be able to train a successor over the summer.

CONTACT: 
Write to Bruce Croushore at croushoreb@gmail.com


Classic music: Today is World Cup Sunday. As Argentina and Germany battle to win the soccer championship, here is another installment of the music by the great Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos.

July 13, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

As loyal blog readers already know, The Ear has been using the FIFA World Cup (below) competition in soccer — or football, as the rest of the globe knows the sport – as a fine occasion to explore and to hear the music of Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos.

World Cup 2014 playing

After all, the World Cup has taken place since June 12 in some dozen stadiums (below) throughout Brazil. And today’s championship match between Argentina and Germany will take place in Rio de Janiero.

World Cup 2014 stadiums

And after hearing the music of Villa-Lobos performed by the Cello Choir at the National Summer Cello Institute (below) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, The Ear is more convinced than ever that this great but neglected 20th-century composer deserves a wider hearing and more live performances.

Cello Choir 2014 Bachianas Brasileiras No. 1

Villa-Lobos (below) attempted an ambitious and ingenious task: To reconcile and incorporate the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and concert hall music in general with the folk songs and folk dances of his native Brazil. Before Astor Piazzolla and his “new tangos,” there was Villa-Lobos and his Bachianas Brasileiras and Choros.

Villa-Lobos BW

Here are links to the previous installments:

This is the link to the Cello Choir concert of the annual National Summer Cello Institute that is held each summer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and that inspired my Villa-Lobos video postings from YouTube.

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/06/19/classical-music-the-ear-takes-the-cello-cure-at-the-university-of-wisconsin-madison-and-now-cant-wait-for-another-treatment-next-summer/

And here are the links to the first two installments that feature the Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 and No 1, which both deserve repeated hearings:

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/06/20/classical-music-the-fifa-world-cup-of-soccer-is-a-perfect-time-to-become-acquainted-with-the-astonishing-music-of-brazilian-composer-heitor-villa-lobos/

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/06/28/classical-music-the-united-states-advances-in-the-world-cup-of-soccer-and-the-ear-advances-to-another-great-moment-in-music-by-brazilian-composer-heitor-villa-lobos/

And here is the third installment that featured Brazilian pianist Nelson Freire performing the chorale prelude-type opening of the Bachianas Brasilerias No. 3 for solo piano:

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/07/05/classical-music-more-world-cup-soccer-means-more-music-by-brazilian-composer-heitor-villa-lobos-here-is-installment-no-3/

Villa-Lobos was championed by none other than the great pianist Arthur Rubinstein, who performed his suite “Prole do bebe”:

And his well-known piece “The Little Train From the Caipira,” from “Bachianas Brasileiras” No. 2, which Walt Disney was attracted to for possible use in a second “Fantasia” film and which imitates the sounds of a rural choo-choo, as played by a youth orchestra in Great Britain:

Now here is a link to Installment No. 4: A beautiful movement from one of his 17 string quartets — this one is No. 5 and is available on YouTube. It once again shows the lyrical songfulness and folk music vigor of Villa-Lobos. It is even more beautiful than the perfect soccer kick or dribble, pass or goal, and it is more long-lasting:

 


Classical music: Attention, adult music students and late-bloomers! Music-making by early starters amazes us, but music-making by late starters should startle us even more. Here is why from an NPR story about a writer who himself plays cello in an orchestra.

July 12, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Last night, I heard a fine concert of works by Felix Mendelssohn and Franz Joseph Haydn performed by the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO). The youth group was founded and is still directed and conducted by the young violist and conductor Mikko Utevsky, who is a scholarship student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

Mikko (below) is very accomplished and clearly started viola lessons when he was very young, as I suspect most of the outstanding orchestra musicians and the exceptional piano soloist Thomas Kasdorf did. By the time he was a student at Madison East High School, Mikko had founded MAYCO. He had also spent many years in the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras.

Mikko Utevsky with baton

He is articulate and impressive, to be sure.

Truth be told, I am always impressed by the achievements of young musicians, whether they are pre-school or elementary school students in Suzuki classes or in piano recitals, or middle school and high school students.

wyso violas

But what about adult students?

The Ear knows many newly retired people who say they want to take music lessons but are reluctant and think it is simply too late to start and have any success.

Now, I will admit that feel lucky that I play the piano, which I think is easier to pick up again later in life, largely because the notes are there right under your fingers and you don’t need a great ear.

But other instruments — strings, winds and brass — can also be learned or resumed late in life.

As a way of encouraging such people, I offer this story from NPR. It is an interview with Ari L. Goldman (below top and in a YouTube video at the bottom), a journalism professor at Columbia University in New York City, about his  new book, a first-person account of resuming cello studies and participating in “The Late Starters Orchestra” (below bottom), which is  an orchestra made up of fellow late-starters, of older people and adult students.

ari l. goldman

Late Starters Orchestra cover

Enjoy –- and start practicing if that is what you really want to do — because it is possible.

Here is a link to the NPR story and interview:

http://www.npr.org/2014/06/22/324480108/almost-intermediate-adults-learn-lessons-in-late-starters-orchestra

 


Classical music Q&A: The Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra performs tonight even as founder and conductor Mikko Utevsky forges ties to several other local groups to ensure MAYCO’s future after he departs.

July 11, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear doesn’t normally run two posts on the same event in the same week or close to each other.

But it is a slow week in summer.

More to the point, I got a very intriguing response to my Q&A request from Mikko Utevsky, the founder and conductor of the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra.

You may recall the MAYCO performs tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the new Atrium auditorium of the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive.

The program includes the “Reformation” Symphony by Felix Mendelssohn; the Piano Concerto No. 11 in D Major by Franz Joseph Haydn; and the world premiere of UW-Madison graduate and local composer Olivia Zeuske’s “Experiment No. 1.”

Admission is $7 with donations asked from students.

For more information, here is a link to the other previous post:

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/07/09/classical-music-the-madison-area-chamber-music-orchestra-mayco-performs-music-of-haydn-and-mendelssohn-plus-a-world-premiere-of-a-work-by-olivia-zeuske-this-friday-night-at-the-first-unitarian-soci/

But in his answers, Utevsky revealed some things that The Ear didn’t know, including the many links he is forging with other local music organizations so that MAYCO can continue when he has graduated and moved on.

Talk about being forward-thinking!

Here is the Q&A from violist-conductor Mikko Utevsky (below) about the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra, which he founded when he was still a student at Madison East High School, before he started attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

MAYCO Mikko Utevsky by Steve Rankin

Can you briefly introduce yourself and the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO), including its history and makeup?

I am a violist and conductor studying at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. I founded MAYCO while a student at Madison East High School to provide a free summer opportunity for high school and college students to explore the chamber orchestra repertoire.

Members range in age from 13 to 30, and the specific composition of the ensemble varies from concert to concert based on the demands of the repertoire and individual students’ schedules. We focus on music of the Classical period, chamber works of the 20th century, and new music. We present a premiere each season.

Mikko Utevsky conducts MAYCO Steve Rankin

What are MAYCO’s plans for the near future and further out, including partnerships with other music organizations and concerts, recordings and the like?

MAYCO is in a transitional period right now as we pursue institutional stability. For four years, it has existed more or less as a personal project of mine. But I believe strongly in its value as an educational opportunity, and I want to ensure its continued viability in the future, even after I finish my degree and leave for graduate school.

Luckily for us, Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) feels the same way. We have entered into a partnership starting this season to make MAYCO available as an official extension of WYSO, allowing us to preserve the institution that we have cultivated for Madison’s music community into the indefinite future.

We are also looking at relationships with programs for younger players (Music Makers and Music Con Brio). We try to introduce them to the world of orchestral playing and give them a taste of what they can accomplish as young musicians here or elsewhere.

We are very fortunate to have the support also of conductor Andrew Sewell and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below), the city’s professional chamber orchestra that is helping its younger counterpart.

As far as program offerings go, the season of two concerts seems to be working for us very well, although a third would not be out of the question. I am particularly excited for a program in the works for next summer about which I can’t say much yet (but when I can, you’ll hear it here first!).

We have been granted a degree of flexibility by the receipt of the UW Arts Enterprise Association’s 2014 New Arts Venture Challenge Grant this spring to support our programming, which will allow us to perform a wider range of music, including more 20th-century works that must be rented.

Our relationship with WYSO is now such that we can receive tax-deductible donations, so if you want to support our work, visit the Support Us page on our website to make a contribution:

http://www.madisonareayouthchamberorchestra.org

WCO lobby

What can you tell us about the program for tonight, Friday, July 11? Does it have a theme or something to tie it together?

This week’s program is somewhat eclectic. The title, “Triumph and Delight,” is a bit nonspecific. Triumph refers to the “Reformation” Symphony by Mendelssohn, which ends with a victorious affirmation of faith and strength, and Delight to the Piano Concerto by Haydn, which is a nimble, playful and joyfully fun piece of music. (You can hear how Mendelssohn uses the Lutheran hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” in the symphony’s finale at the bottom in a YouTube video.)

MAYCO playing

What should listeners know about Olivia Zeuske and her “Experiment No. 1,” of which you will be giving the world premiere?


Olivia (below) is a gifted composer whose work caught my ear some time ago because of its characteristic, piquant sonorities and subtle rhythmic complexities. Her “Experiment No. 1″ is a three-movement composition lasting about 20 minutes. This work was begun about a year and a half ago, and will represent her first large-ensemble composition. I am very excited to be presenting its premiere, having watched it take shape over many months.

olivia zeuske 2014

How did you decide to choose Thomas Kasdorf (below) as a piano soloist and the Piano Concerto in D Major by Franz Joseph Haydn?

Thomas was an easy decision. I have heard him on countless recitals and in studios across campus, and most recently worked with him as a vocal coach and accompanist. He is a consummate musician — a sensitive accompanist and assertive soloist in one, with beautiful lyricism and technique to burn (with no need to prove it).

As a collaborative player, he is one of the few who will tackle a segment of the major repertoire renowned for the difficulty of its piano parts; pieces like Sergei Rachmaninov’s Cello Sonata demand a technique like his, and he plays them brilliantly.

The Haydn was Thomas’ choice as much as mine. I originally asked him to play something by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with an eye towards the operatic lines in many of those concertos, but we couldn’t pick one! There are 27, after all, and all of them are wonderful.

I mentioned the Haydn offhandedly, having heard Emmanuel Ax’s recording recently, and he told me it was a favorite of his. I had already decided to do some Haydn this season, whether a concerto or one of the symphonies, which I love so dearly, so it seemed a natural choice. The piece is delightful — playful, with a touch of the deliberately unrefined “country” sound one often finds in Haydn’s music and a lovely, singing slow movement in between.

thomas kasdorf 2:jpg

The “Reformation” Symphony by Felix Mendelssohn is pretty well-known. But is there something special you would like the public to know about it or about your approach to it?

Mendelssohn’s own relationship with the symphony was somewhat complicated — I actually have a rather substantial historical note on it that will be made available on the orchestra’s website, though not in the printed program.

Mendelssohn (below) poured a lot of energy into it, holding high hopes for a performance at the grand tricentennial celebrations in Berlin of the Augsburg Confession (an important early Lutheran document). But it was not finished in time, and was not well-received when he sought other performances in the years following.

He eventually cooled to the piece, but kept the score around, perhaps moved by a lingering attachment to a work that, later in life, he described as deeply flawed. In any case, it was discovered after his death, and received its second performance and first publication about 20 years later.

In it, Mendelssohn tackles the programmatic ideas of A.B. Marx while also attempting to compose his own 20-year-old’s response to Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony on a historical subject.

It’s a tall order, and one can understand why he felt it fell short (as anything aspiring to three massive demands must inevitably), but the piece is tremendously successful on its own.

The first movement is Beethovenian in scope and power, the scherzo delightful, the slow movement a tragic “Song Without Words,” and the Finale is a pillar of victory and might (again imagined on a Beethovenian level — think of the relationship between the outer movements of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and their journey from tragedy to triumph). I think it holds up well against any of his other popular works, and can be a tremendously powerful piece.

mendelssohn_300

What else would you like to say or add?

Of course, there is another concert this summer – “Summer Magic,” featuring Spring Green soprano Caitlin Ruby Miller — below — who is a 2014 Metropolitan Opera National Council Audition finalist. She will sing one of my favorite pieces, Samuel Barber’s nostalgic deeply moving “Knoxville: Summer of 1915″ on texts by James Agee.

That concert will also include the Overture to “The Magic Flute” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the Ninth Symphony of Dmitri Shostakovich, and will take place in UW-Madison Music Hall, at the foot of Bascom Hill, on Friday, August 22, at 7:30 p.m.

caitlin ruby miller

 

 


Classical music: Vocal music, piano music and violin music of Norway – especially by Edvard Grieg — and other Scandinavian music will be explored and performed for FREE at Taliesin in Spring Green on Monday, July 14.

July 10, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear’s loyal friend and good source Kent Mayfield, who brings classical music to rural areas of southwest and south-central Wisconsin, writes:

“Music for a Summer Evening” — the annual series of concerts sponsored by the Rural Musicians Forum — moves to the Hillside Theater (below) at architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s historic Taliesin compound on this coming Monday, July 14.

There is no admission charge for the concert. However, a free-will offering assists in underwriting the concert series.

taliesin_hillside2

The concert will feature “Songs of Norway,” an evening with the works of Norwegian composers, who capture the musical landscape of Norway in a haunting, tender way.

Pianist Michael Keller (below) joins University of Wisconsin-Madison soprano Mimmi Fulmer and University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point violinist Steven Bjella in this notable chamber music concert.

Michael Keller

Fulmer will open the concert with a piece that she remembers her grandmother, a Finnish immigrant, singing to her.

“I’m sure she sang several pieces,” she says, “but one song that remains a vivid memory is “Tuoll’ on mun kultani.” I sing it without accompaniment, just the way I remember her singing it, and it casts a spell every time. I feel as if I am channeling her voice and her experience of coming through Ellis Island, missing her home country, and connecting to Finland by singing the song.”

Fulmer (below) will also sing a winsome array of pieces by prominent composers of Norway.

mimmi fulmer headshot (2)

For his part, Madison pianist Michael Keller will focus on the works of Edvard Grieg (below). Grieg is best known for his Piano Concerto in A minor and Peer Gynt (which includes “Morning Mood,” “Anitra’s Dance” and “In the Hall of the Mountain King”). His solo piano works include his “Lyric Pieces” as well as longer, less folk music-inspired pieces like the Ballade.

The Ear likes the program a lot and finds it very appealing and welcome, despite the day being Bastille Day, which should celebrate France, the French and the French Revolution. The lovely and accessible music of Edvard Grieg is simply too often overlooked and underplayed, even on the radio.

Adds Mayfield: “It was said that Grieg painted the people, the scenery, and the moods of Norway in music. His use and development of Norwegian folk music in his own compositions put the music of Norway in the international spectrum, as well as helping develop a national identity. In many ways, Edvard Grieg is to Norway what George Washington is to America and William Shakespeare to England: his country’s most celebrated human icon.”

edvard grieg

“To close the program, Keller will be joined by violinist Steven Bjella (below) with the Sonata No. 2 in G major Op. 13 for violin and piano, which allows Grieg’s unique and colorful character to shine through with great power and elegance.” (You can listen to the haunting violin sonata played by violinist Vadim Repin and pianist Nikolai Lugansky in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

steven bjella norway

In all, the concert promises to be a moving tribute to Edvard Grieg and his fellow Scandinavian composers in the unique architectural space at Taliesin’s Hillside Theater. The theater is located at 6604 State Highway 23, in Spring Green near the Wisconsin River. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. Seating is limited.

For more information, visit www.ruralmusiciansforum.org OR contact Kent Mayfield, artistic director, at ruralmusiciansforum@yahoo.com.


Classical music: The Madison Area Youth Chamber Music Orchestra (MAYCO) performs music of Haydn and Mendelssohn plus a world premiere of a work by Madison composer Olivia Zeuske this Friday night at the First Unitarian Society.

July 9, 2014
5 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Few young musicians, or older ones for that matter, lead a busier schedule than the young University of Wisconsin-Madison violist and conductor Mikko Rankin Utevsky (below).

Mikko Utevsky with baton

Recently returned from a stay in Europe, Utevsky will show his latest ambitious achievement in a program this Friday night.

That is when the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO, seen below in a performance last year in Mills Hall at the UW-Madison), which was founded by Utevsky while he was still a student at Madison East High School, opens its fourth season on Friday night at 7:30 p.m.

MAYCO orchestra close up

The concert will take place in the crisply designed Atrium auditorium of the First Unitarian Society of Madison (below, in a photo by Zane Williams), 900 University Bay Drive, on Madison near west side. Tickets are $7, with donations requested from students.

FUS Atrium, Auditorium Zane Williams

The gifted pianist Thomas Kasdorf (below), a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, where he studied with Christopher Taylor and where he will return as a graduate student this fall, joins the orchestra for the Piano Concerto No. 11 in D Major by Franz Joseph Haydn. (You can hear the legendary Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter play the concerto in a YouTube video at the bottom)

Thomas Kasdorf

You may recall that this spring Kasdorf answered a Q&A for this blog when he performed the Piano Concerto in A Minor by Edvard Grieg with the Middleton Community Orchestra.

Here is a link to Kasdorf’s interview:

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/06/02/classical-music-qa-native-son-pianist-thomas-kasdorf-talks-about-playing-solo-recitals-chamber-music-and-the-grieg-piano-concerto-with-the-middleton-community-orchestra-which-also-closes-out-i/

And here is a link to The Ear’s positive review of his performance of the Grieg concerto (below):

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/06/07/classical-music-maybe-its-back-to-the-future-the-classical-music-scene-needs-more-groups-to-act-like-the-middleton-community-orchestra-and-break-down-barriers-between-performers-and-listene/

MCO june 2014 Thomas Kasdorf plays Grieg

Also on the program are the “Reformation” Symphony by Felix Mendelssohn and the world premiere of the chamber symphony “Experiment No. 1″ by Olivia Zeuske (below). Zeuske just graduated from the UW-Madison with a double major in English and music composition, which she studied with professor and composer Steven Dembski.

olivia zeuske 2014

MAYCO’S NEXT CONCERT

MAYCO’s next concert this summer will be at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, August 22, 2014. Called “Summer Magic,” it features soprano Caitlin Ruby Miller. The program includes the Overture to “The Magic Flute” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; “Knoxville: Summer of 1915” by Samuel Barber: and the Symphony No. 9 in E-flat Major, Op. 70, by Dmitri Shostakovich. The concert will be held in UW Music Hall, 925 Bascom Mall, at the base of Bascom Hill.

For more information about MAYCO, including background, concerts, programs, photos and how to support and join MAYCO, visit:

http://madisonareayouthchamberorchestra.org/


Classical music: The weeklong Madison Early Music Festival gets more national attention as it marks 15 years. The festival kicks off on Saturday and focuses on Italian early music and art from 1300 to 1600. Part 1 of 2.

July 7, 2014
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Can it really be 15 years already?

The Madison Early Music Festival began as a dream and an experiment. But it has endured, survived and prospered. This summer it marks its 15th anniversary with a focus on Italian music from 1300 to 1600. The theme is called “Italia Mia.”

memf banner 2014

This year’s installment starts on this coming Saturday, July 12, and runs through the following Saturday, July 19. It features many of the traditional things such as workshops, lectures and public concerts. But it also features new out-of-town groups and only the second annual Handel Aria Competition, which has been enhanced.

Venues are perhaps the biggest challenge this year, given the upgrading of Mills Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

Here is a link to the festival’s home website for information about tickets, events, programs and performers:

http://continuingstudies.wisc.edu/conferences/madison-early-music-festival/index.html?source=madisonearlymusic.org

To get things straight, and to provide both some history and a larger context, The Ear asked baritone Paul Rowe and his soprano wife Cheryl Bensman Rowe -– who are the co-artistic directors of the Madison Early Music Festival -– to do an email Q&A for this blog.

They graciously agreed, and the results will be posted in two parts, today and tomorrow.

Handel arias Paul and Cheryl Rowe

How successful is this year’s festival compared to others in terms of enrollment, budgets, guest performers, ticket sales, media interest, etc.? This is the 15th anniversary of MEMF. After 15 years, is MEMF clearly established now nationally or even internationally?

Cheryl: We have been getting more attention in the national press, and we continue to feature ensembles and artists from Europe and Canada. This year the Toronto Consort — seen below and heard at the bottom in a YouTube video of Italian music and art from the period that MEMF will cover — will open the festival with their program “The Da Vinci Codex,” which features Italian Music from the musical world of Leonardo Da Vinci.

Toronto Consort

Leonardo da Vinci

In May, the blog Deceptive Cadence from NPR Classical mentioned MEMF 2014 as a “Can’t Miss Classical Music Festivals” in the Midwest region.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/05/01/307968750/10-cant-miss-classical-music-festivals.

MEMF was again the only Wisconsin music festival listed on May 14, 2014 in the The New York Times story “Birds Aren’t The Only Music Amid Nature.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/18/arts/music/birds-arent-the-only-music-amid-nature.html

Besides the attention in the press, we are well-known in early music circles. Our performers and faculty are also hired by many well-established festivals, including the Berkeley Early Music Festival, Boston Early Music Festival (below), Amherst Early Music Festival, Oberlin Baroque Performance Institute and others.

Boston Early Music Festival boston early music festival overview hall

What is new and what is the same in terms of format, students, faculty members and guest performers?

Paul: This year we are adding two new intensive workshops that will run concurrently with MEMF. One is focused on wind instruments that will form a loud band and be led by Robert Wiemken (below top) of Pifarro.

There are eight people in the loud band intensive class who play sackbut, shawm, dulcien and other instruments (below bottom). The other is a Baroque opera workshop that will be led by Drew Minter, Christa Patton and me.

Bob Wiemken

MEMF 14 2013 Piffaro instruments

We will use music from the operas “Orfeo” and “The Coronation of Poppea” by Claudio Monteverdi (below) as source material to explore Baroque gesture and dance as well as ornamentation and stylistic singing. We have 15 singers who will be taking this workshop. The two intensive classes will present an informal performance on Saturday afternoon, July 19, at 2 p.m.

monteverdi

Why was the topic of the Italian music 1300-1600 chosen for the early music festival? What composers and works will be highlighted?

Paul: We wanted to have a broader historical focus this year in order to include very early instruments and music as well as the larger format pieces that are a feature of the later Renaissance and early Baroque.

The most famous composer of this period is Claudio Monteverdi, but there are many others. Italy was really the hub of poetry and music for all of Western culture during the time period we are considering. The poetry of Petrarch (below) will provide the focus for the All-Festival Concert this year. This is the era of Boccaccio and Dante as well as Petrarch.

francesco petrarca or petrarch

Tomorrow: What makes early music in Italy different?  What will the All-Festival Concert next Saturday night be like? What is new about the second annual Handel Aria Competition and the new FREE noontime lectures?

 

 


Classical music: Van Cliburn biopic is in the works with young star Ansel Elgort to play the late, great American pianist. Plus, Madison maestro John DeMain remembers opera maestro Julius Rudel.

July 6, 2014
3 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear sees that something for both the ears and the eyes is coming down the pike.

Hollywood sources have confirmed that a biographical film –- yes, a biopic -– about the American pianist Van Cliburn (below) , who died last year at 78 of bone cancer, is in the works.

Cliburn's hands

That is as it should be, despite what some classical musicians see as shortcomings in Cliburn’s artistry.

Here is a post The Ear did before about the opinions that members of the public and musicians have concerning Cliburn:

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/classical-music-how-good-was-pianist-van-cliburn/

van cliburn ill

Cliburn was the first classical artist to make a million-selling record -– he played the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23 – on the RCA label (below and at the bottom). It was the same work with which, at age 23, he unexpectedly won the First International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1958.

His victory during the height of The Cold War was an event that led to a ticker-tape parade down Broadway in New York City (bel0w) and a meteoric career, then to premature burn-out and an early retirement from the concert stage. (You can see an archival historic footage at the bottom in a YouTube video. Complete performances by Van Cliburn of the same concerto are also on YouTube.)

Van Cliburn ticker tape parade in 1958

And, if The Ear recalls correctly, Van Cliburn became a phenom or superstar who sold out houses, and was the first classical artist to get paid a fee of $10,000 for a one-night performance.

Cliburn Tchaikovsky LP

Not many classical musicians have the stuff to become the subject of a biopic.

Some composers, especially Ludwig van Beethoven and Frederic Chopin, have lent themselves to such a treatment, several times in the latter case. (We will overlook the case of the mentally ill performer David Helfgott in “Shine,” which seemed more a pathology than a biography.)

But The Ear can’t think of another individual performer, although he remembers more general subjects like “The Competition.”

The young actor Ansel Elgort (below), who The Ear thinks resembles the young Cliburn (who resembles fellow Texan Lyle Lovett), has been cast in the leading role, which focuses on Cliburn’s early years and his victory in Moscow. Apparently, Elgort himself also plays the piano quite well -– but my guess is that he does not play well enough to play it the way that the Juilliard School-trained Cliburn did.

But Elgort’s star is on the ascent, given his performance in the much praised and popular current release (“The Fault In Our Stars,” about two teenagers with cancer who fall in love.

Ansel Elgort

Anyway here are some links to stories about Van Cliburn, Ansel Elgort and the forthcoming movie:

To CBS News:

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/ansel-elgort-to-star-in-van-cliburn-biopic/

To the Dallas Morning News, in Cliburn’s hometown:

http://www.dallasnews.com/news/local-news/20140623-ansel-elgort-tapped-to-play-van-cliburn-in-movie.ece

To TIME magazine with a good video accompanying it:

http://time.com/2917530/ansel-elgort-van-cliburn/

To another video with good comparison photos of Cliburn and Elgort:

http://www.hitfix.com/news/ansel-elgort-playing-van-cliburn-in-new-biopic

To Norman Lebrecht’s tweet-like comment on his popular blog Slipped Disc:

http://slippedisc.com/2014/06/ansel-is-picked-to-play-van-cliburn-in-biopic/

What other classical music performers would you like to see treated on a biopic?

I nominate the great Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter, a closeted gay man who led a dramatic life including encounters and confrontations with Soviet leaders and his American tour plus his eccentric late-life habits that included touring around Europe in a van playing in schools and old churches and using out-of-tune pianos. And perhaps also the legendary operatic  soprano Maria Callas, who was known for being tempestuous and temperamental as well as supremely gifted in both singing and acting. (There was a Broadway play about her, “Master Class” by Terrence McNally, the same writer who did the “Dead Man Walking,” the opera by Jake Heggie.)

richterwithcross1

Medea Maria Callas

Your nominations?

The Ear wants to hear.

JOHN DeMAIN ON JULIUS RUDEL

And speaking of celebrities, John DeMain (below, in photo by Prasad), the music director and conductor of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the artistic director of the Madison Opera, sent in his remembrance of the late, great opera conductor Julius Rudel, who led the now-defunct City Opera of New York and who died a week ago at 93:

John DeMain full face by Prasad

Here is a link to the Rudel posting:

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/06/29/classical-music-conductor-julius-rudel-longtime-director-of-the-defunct-new-york-city-opera-has-died-at-93/

And here is John DeMain’s remembrance:

“It was my great honor to be chosen for the Julius Rudel Award at the New York City Opera in 1971. The purpose of the stipend was to allow an American conductor to work closely with Maestro Rudel to learn how to become an artistic director of an opera company.

Rudel (below) was far and away the best conductor in the house. His performances were vital, theatrical, and intensely musically expressive. His “Marriage of Figaro” was an unforgettable experience for me. I prepared the auditions of singers for the company, and got to sit in on the casting conversations, and learned the criterion for casting a singer in an opera.

Julius Rudel at home in 2010 NY Times

Rudel was extremely demanding musically, and, of course, expanded the repertoire of the company in all directions. He had great flair for American opera and musical theater.

The bottom line for me, however, was he delivered totally engrossing performances night after night. He also was a mentor to me, and provided counsel and advice as new career opportunities presented themselves to me.

I consider Julius Rudel’s time at the City Opera as the “golden age” of that company. It was during that time that Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras, Norman Treigle, Beverly Sills, and many other greats were singing on that stage.

I’m grateful to have had him in my life.

Julius Rudel middle age conducting NPR

 


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