By Jacob Stockinger
Are artist concert fees — like those charged by tenor Placido Domingo (below top), soprano Rene Fleming (below middle) and violinist Itzhak Perlman (below bottom) — too high these days and too unaffordable for most American concert-goers?
What would Janet say?
Maybe that refrain could become the economic equivalent of What Would Jesus Say?
I am speaking of Janet Yellin (below), the chairwoman of the Federal Reserve who last week made headlines when she spoke out publicly against the widening wealth gap as being contrary to America’s historic democratic ideals.
But let’s localize the issue.
The Ear didn’t go, but here is a rave review from the student newspaper The Badger Herald, which agrees with the word-of-mouth reviews I have heard:
And for those who couldn’t or wouldn’t buy tickets, the Wisconsin Union Theater even webcast the concert live and for free.
Still, with seats that sold for well over $100, The Ear got to wondering: Are really high artist fees morally right or wrong?
We all hear about the widening wealth gap, and especially about the astronomical pay given to CEOs versus their workers as compared to the same ratio several decades ago.
Well, what about well-know and in-demand concert artists?
If The Ear heard correctly, Yo-Yo Ma’s fee for that one-night performance was either $90,000 or $95,000 -– or about $42,500 or $45,000 an hour.
Can Yo-Yo Ma demand and get that extravagant fee in the so-called “free market” society with its corporate welfare and tax loopholes for the wealthy? Of course, he can — and he does. That is why he sold out the Wisconsin Union Theater.
But should he?
It makes one wonder.
Is Yo-Yo Ma really that much better as a cellist and musician -– and not just as a celebrity — than many other cellists, including MacArthur “genius grant” winner Alisa Weilerstein, Alban Gerhardt, Jean-Guihen Queyras, Steven Isserlis, Carter Brey, Joshua Roman and others? (You can hear Yo-Yo Ma’s YouTube video — with over 11 million hits — at the bottom and decide if it is that much better than other cellists play it.)
Now I don’t mean to pick just on Yo-Yo Ma. I have gone to a half-dozen of his other performances here and I have met him and talked with him. He is without doubt a great musician, a fine human being and an exemplary humanist.
The problem that I am talking about transcends any single performer and applies to the whole profession.
Maybe at least part of the problem of attracting young audiences to classical music concerts can be placed right in the laps of the performing artists themselves.
When The Ear was young, he got to hear all sorts of great musical artists—including Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Rubinstein (below), Vladimir Horowitz, Van Cliburn, Itzhak Perlman, Rudolf Serkin, Isaac Stern, Emanuel Ax and others for quite affordable prices. Not that those artists didn’t live well -– but I doubt that they were paid the equivalent of $45,000 an hour.
Maybe it is time for economic populism in the performing arts.
Fees like that exclude a lot of families from participating. Some fans might find it better and cheaper to hear a CD or download than go to a live concert.
Too many performing artists – opera stars immediately to mind as a class — seem to have taken the same path toward justifying greed as movie stars, sports figures, rock stars and CEO’s who make out like bandits.
In short, can it be that classical musicians are helping to kill off classical music?
Smaller theaters like the Wisconsin Union Theater and even the Overture Center simply cannot book such well-known artists without charging a ridiculous amount of money for a seat – and at a time when many people of all ages just can’t afford it. It just adds to the Wealth Gap and the One Percent problem.
SO THE EAR WOULD LIKE TO ASK CONCERT ARTISTS: PLEASE ADJUST YOUR CONCERT FEES TO HELP SUSTAIN THE FUTURE OF YOUR ART.
Well, these are just some brain droppings.
The Ear wonders what you think of stratospheric artist fees?
Do they contribute to the wealth gap?
Do they hurt to popularity of the art form, especially younger generations?
Are they contributing to the decline of culturally literacy?
In short, are such high artist fees morally right or wrong?
And if wrong, what can we arts consumer do about it? Boycott certain artists until they become more reasonable in their fees?
Ask artist and management agencies to adjust the fees to make them more affordable?
Go to alternative concerts that are perfectly acceptable without start power and cost less or, like those at the University of Wisconsin School of Music, free?
Tell us what you think in a COMMENT.
The Ear wants to hear.
ALERT: Today at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall is the final performance of this season’s second concert by the Madison Symphony Orchestra under the baton of John DeMain. Pianist Olga Kern (below) is the soloist in Sergei Rachmaninoff‘s Piano Concerto No. 1 in F-sharp minor. Other music includes the Suite from the ballet “Swan Lake” by Peter Tchaikovsky and the Symphony No. 6 by Dmitri Shostakovich. For information about tickets, the artists and the program, visit:
Here are reviews of Friday night’s opening night performance:
By John W. Barker of Isthmus:
By Jess Courtier for The Capital Times:
And by Greg Hettmansberger, who writes the Classically Speaking blog for Madison Magazine:
By Jacob Stockinger
The much admired but elusive, eccentric and enigmatic Russian pianist Grigory Sokolov (below) has signed up with Deutsche Grammophon and will release a live recital –- he refuses to make studio recordings – in January.
For the news plus an interesting interview and profile of Sokolov, here is a link to a story in the British magazine Gramophone. It includes some of his quirks such as not playing pianos older than five years and his specific repertoire favorites:
Italian conductor Daniele Gatti is named the new maestro of the famed Dutch Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. He starts in 2016 and sounds like he might be quite a bit of a contrast to past Concertgebouw conductors such as Bernard Haitink. Here is a story:
The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra continues its lockout over labor disputes, thereby postponing or canceling the opening of the new season. But last weekend ASO music director Robert Spano conducted the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in the German Requiem of Johannes Brahms.
Here is a link to a story on NPR (National Public Radio) to yet another turmoil in the world of American symphony orchestras:
ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Musicale, to be held from 12:15 to 1 p.m. at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, will feature “Triple Play” — trumpeter David Miller, cellist Amy Harr and pianist Jane Peckham in music of Eric Ewazon, William Schmidt, and Johannes Brahms. The concert is in the historic Landmark Auditorium.
By Jacob Stockinger
The early music and period instrument group Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble will perform a concert of vocal and instrumental chamber music of largely the 16th and 17th centuries.
PLEASE NOTE: The concert will be performed at 3 p.m. on this Sunday, October 19, at Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church — That is a change of venue from the usual Gates of Heaven Synagogue in James Madison Park. The church is located at 1833 Regent Street, on Madison’s near west side across from Randall Elementary School.
Performers are UW-Madison professor soprano Mimmi Fulmer; mezzo-soprano Consuelo Sañudo; recorder and dulcian players Theresa Koenig; traverse, recorder and harpsichord player Monica Steger; viola da gamba and cornetto players Eric Miller; baroque cello player Anton TenWolde; and organist and harpsichord player Max Yount.
Works by Scarani, Heinrich Schuetz, d’India, J.S. Bach, Bertoli, and Simpson will be featured.
Tickets at the door only: $20 for the general public, $10 for students.
Here is the complete program: Prelude for Solo Viola da gamba by Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe (ca. 1640–1700); “Ancor che col partire” from “French Motets, Madrigals and Songs” by Giovanniu Bassano (ca. 1561-1617) viola da gamba solo; “Music for Two Voices” (1615) by Sigusmondo d’India (ca. 1582-1629); Sonata for Dulcian and Basso continuo by Giovanni Antonio Bertoli (1598-1645); Sonata XII for Traverse and basso continuo by Johan Helmich Roman (1694-1758); INTERMISSION; Sonata decima quarta a tre, duoi canti e basso by Giuseppe Scarani (1628–1641); Two Divisions for the Practice of Learners by Christopher Simpson (1606–1669); “Komm, du süsse Todesstunde” (Come, Sweet Hour of Death, the tenor aria from which can be heard at bottom in a YouTube video), from Cantata 161 by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750); “Tugend ist der beste Freund,” SWV 442, by Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672).
By Jacob Stockinger
Not only does the Russian pianist Olga Kern (below, in a photo by Chris Lee) play Russian music superbly, she speaks about it just as well, even eloquently and poetically.
Witness her remarks below, which serve as an introduction to Kern, who will return to Madison to solo this weekend with the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below) under longtime music director and conductor John DeMain.
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 cost $16-$84 with student rush tickets available. Call the Overture Center box office at (608) 258-4141.
Here is link to the MSO’s webpage about the concert, which includes biographical information, program notes and some audiovisual clips.
And here is a link to the always comprehensive and informative but accessible program notes by MSO trombonist and UW-Whitewater professor Michael Allsen (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot).
The half-hour pre-concert talk will be given by the accomplished violist Marika Fischer Hoyt (below). She plays with the MSO, the Madison Bach Musicians and the Ancora String Quartet and who also serves as a weekend host for Wisconsin Public Radio. The FREE talk starts in Overture Hall one hour before the start of the concert.
NOTE: In addition, the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Club 201 will host a special concert and after-party for Madison’s young professionals on Friday, Oct. 17. Fun, friendship, networking and tastings are included. The post-concert party, located in nearby Promenade Lounge within Overture Center, will include hors d’oeuvres and desserts, and offer drink specials. All Club 201 guests will have the exclusive chance to mingle with Madison Symphony Orchestra musicians and fellow music lovers. The $35 ticket will include a discounted concert ticket (usually $63-$84), seating near other young professionals during the performance, and access to the post-concert party with food. Purchase tickets by this WEDNESDAY, OCT. 15, by calling (608) 257-3734 or at www.madisonsymphony.org/club201
Here is the email interview that Olga Kern, who won the first Rachmaninoff International Piano Competition when she was just 17, graciously granted to The Ear:
How do you compare the Piano Concerto No. 1 by Sergei Rachmaninoff – which you played to win the Van Cliburn gold medal — to its more popular counterparts such as the Concertos Nos. 2 and 3 and the “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini,” which you also perform? What do you like about the work and what should listeners pay attention to?
The first concerto is Rachmaninoff’s Opus 1 piece. He re-edited it later in life, and in this composition you can hear the fresh approach immediately from the beginning of the first movement. And what an incredibly beautiful second movement it has. He gives the piano an opportunity to start the main melody, which sounds almost like an improvisation in a way.
It’s so unique, and at the same time you can hear Rachmaninoff’s special style as a composer in every note and bar. It’s his first composition and it gives incredible platform and base to his other orchestral works, especially to his piano concerti.
This concerto is similar in structure to his third concerto. It has also a long piano cadenza in the first movement, which is the dramatic point of the whole composition. Also, as in the third concerto, the finale of the last movement is challenging for both the pianist and the orchestra. (You can hear Olga Kern perform Rachmaninoff’s fiendishly difficult Piano Concerto No. 3 in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
This is why, I think, this concerto is not performed very often — because it’s not easy. But it’s really a great pleasure and excitement to perform this concerto. It’s such a wonderful jewel of Rachmaninoff’s music!
You have performed in Madison several times, both solo recitals and concertos. Do you have anything to say about Madison audiences or the Madison Symphony Orchestra?
I love Madison — the city, the people, the concert hall, the audience, the orchestra and of course the Maestro, John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad). He is fantastic. I can’t wait to work with him again. It’s always great! I have wonderful friends here and I always come back to this great place with pleasure!
I like to work with the Madison Symphony Orchestra — they are so sensitive and responsive, and I always have a great and fun time at the rehearsals with them. In the end, at the concert time, the performances come off so beautifully that it is a joy and a great celebration of music!
The Rachmaninoff piano concerto is part of an all-Russian program that also features music by Tchaikovsky (below top) and Shostakovich (below bottom). Are there certain qualities that you identify with Russian music and that explain the music’s appeal to the public?
Russian music is full of feeling and is very powerful emotionally. Russian people, even if they are happy, are always sad inside. And this explains why Russian music is so complicated with feelings -– it is in its nature — always a fight between sadness and happiness, between darkness and light, between good and bad. You feel it — whether you listen to it or you perform it.
All the composers who will be performed in this concert had very difficult, complicated lives. They went through so much, but at the same time they wanted to be happy. They were romantics in their souls, fighters in their hearts.
They wanted to make the world beautiful, no matter what, with their heavenly amazing music! This is why it’s always so exciting and so touching to listen and to perform their incredible works and compositions!
Since winning the gold medal at the Van Cliburn International Competition in 2001, you have been very busy. What are your current recording projects and touring plans?
Yes, I am very busy, and of course very happy about it. I definitely have lots of exciting plans for the near future, but — if you don’t mind — I will keep it as a secret to keep many wonderful surprises soon for my wonderful fans and friends!
Please follow me on my website, www.olgakern.com, my official Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/olgakern?fref=ts, Twitter: @kernolga1, and Instagram @kernolga. I will be posting all my exciting news and projects and share it with all of you there!
Is there more you would like to say or add?
I am looking forward very much to coming back to beautiful autumn season in Madison. It’s my favorite season there. Nature is gorgeous and, as always for me, very inspiring!
By Jacob Stockinger
Yesterday, The Ear offered a blog post about stage fright and performance anxiety.
But even the greatest musicians can -– and do — mess up.
So today is a follow-up.
Here is a link to a YouTube video with some pretty messed up notes and whole passages by some of history’s greatest pianists, virtuosos and technical wizards.
There was no recording technology back then, but it makes one wonder what Frederic Chopin or Franz Liszt might have sounded like off the page when they played. Or even such famed keyboard virtuosos as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven.
After all, in the same video the great Arthur Rubinstein (below) even explains how he faked an entire difficult Chopin etude and dumped a whole batch of deliberately played wrong notes into it during a public concert — and still won rave reviews from the critics!
It also puts a frame around the picture, and suggests that maybe we should simply worry more about the music and less about the notes. Performers just have to learn to accept failure! Perfection is beyond any of us.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy it.
If you know of other examples, or have personal experiences to share, let us know.
The Ear wants to hear.
“Live from the MET in HD” kicks off today at 11:55 a.m. with soprano Anna Netrebko in a critically acclaimed production of Giuseppe Verdi‘s opera “Macbeth,” based on the famous tragedy by William Shakespeare. The show is at Point Cinemas on the city’s far west side and Eastgate Cinemas on the city’s far east side. Here is a link to more information:
ALSO: Just a reminder that the spotlight concert of the University of Wisconsin-Madison brass festival is TONIGHT AT 8 P.M. IN MILLS HALL. Admission is $25 for the public, but all students get in for FREE. Here is a link to details about this concert and the whole festival, which winds up Monday.
By Jacob Stockinger
Do you suffer from stage fright -– better known as performance anxiety?
The Ear sure does.
But the British pianist Stephen Hough (below) is a breathtaking virtuoso who at least seems never to suffer from stage fright or performance anxiety –- at least not judging by the performances of recitals and concertos that I have heard him give in Madison at the Wisconsin Union Theater, the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, where he offered master classes.
But what about the rest of us?
It is surprising how many professional musicians, as well as amateur musicians, suffer from performance anxiety and state fright. The same goes for actors and public speakers of all kinds.
But Hough, who writes a wonderful blog that is both very readable and very informative for The Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom, recently dealt with the topic in a way that The Ear really admired and found helpful.
Maybe you will feel the same way.
Here is a link:
Do you suffer form stage fright and performance anxiety?
What have you found helpful to overcome it?
ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Musicale at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, will run 12:15 to 1 p.m. and feature classical guitarist Steve Waugh (below) playing music of Johann Sebastian Bach, Jorma Kaukonen, Francisco Tarrega, Rodgers and Hart, and more. This concert is in the Landmark Auditorium.
By Jacob Stockinger
Albert Pinsonneault (below), who founded and directs the Madison Choral Project, writes:
I am so proud to share with you some amazing news:
The Madison Choral Project is the newest official 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit in the state of Wisconsin!
We couldn’t have done it without you! All future donations to us are tax-exempt — as are past donations, retroactive to August of 2013.
Help us celebrate!
We are hosting our second annual Gala Event and Fundraiser on Sunday, November 2, from 2 to 5 p.m. at Hotel RED on the corner of Monroe and Regent streets near the UW-Madison Badger’s Camp Randall Stadium.
There will be live music from MCP musicians from 3 to 4 p.m.; a silent auction with many unique items from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.; light appetizers served and a cash bar; and many amazing people to meet!
If you have an item that you would like to donate to our silent auction, contact us by replying to this message!
With all our thanks,
The Madison Choral Project
THE NEW SEASON
And here is the coming three-concert season of the MCP:
The Madison Choral Project (MCP) has announced its third season, which features internationally renowned choral conductor Dale Warland (below), and notable local artists Martha Fischer, Bruce Bengtson, Noah Ovshinsky and the Madison Youth Choirs.
CONCERT 1: “O Day Full of Grace,” MCP’s second annual holiday concert, opens the season on Saturday, December 20, at 7:30 p.m. in the First Congregational Church of Christ in Madison, 1609 University Ave. It will feature an evening of traditional holiday music, secular music, narrated texts and audience singing all surrounding the theme of a transformative time, place or experience.
MCP is again partnering with Noah Ovshinsky (below), Assistant News Editor at Wisconsin Public Radio, who will narrate readings interposed amongst the musical selections.
CONCERT 2: The stunning and sublime Requiem by French composer Gabriel Faure (below top) will headline the choir’s second concert, which will also feature the striking “Te Deum” of contemporary Scottish composer James MacMillan (below bottom) on Saturday, February 28, at 7:30 p.m. at the First Congregational Church. (You can hear the opening of James Macmillan’s “Te Deum” in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
MCP is partnering with organist Bruce Bengtson, Director of Music at Luther Memorial Church in Madison, on both the Faure and MacMillan.
February is also the culmination of a period of educational exchange between MCP and the Madison Youth Choirs, and this concert will include a performance by the Ragazzi (below, in a photo by Dan Sinclair) and Cantabile ensembles of the Madison Youth Choirs, both alone and in a combined work with the MCP singers.
CONCERT 3: The season will close on Friday, May 29, at 7:30 p.m. at the First Congregational Church of Christ under the direction of renowned guest conductor Dale Warland, and collaborating pianist Martha Fischer (below left, with her husband pianist Bill Lutes), Professor of Piano and head of the graduate collaborative piano program at the University of Wisconsin.
This concert marks Warland’s first return to conduct in Madison in 20 years.
Dale Warland is considered one of the most influential American choral musicians of all time, and is one of only two choral conductors to be inducted into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame.
He founded the pioneering choral ensemble, the Dale Warland Singers, in 1972. The group was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance in 2003, and their 29 commercial CDs remain standard issue for choral conductors and educators around the country.
Tickets for the 2014-2015 season are available online at www.themcp.org, and at the door before each concert. Discounted student tickets are available with a valid student ID.
By Jacob Stockinger
Our good friend and fine musician Trevor Stephenson, the ever-busy founder and director of the Madison Bach Musicians, which twice performed cantatas and concertos this past weekend, writes:
“The acoustics are simply amazing and the ambiance is, well, take a look at these photos that Kent Sweitzer took there Tuesday morning.
“The concert is TONIGHT, THURSDAY EVENING, OCT. 9, AT 7 P.M.
“Sauk City is only 20 minutes from Madison’s west side—closer than American Players Theatre in Spring Green.
Here are directions: “To get to Park Hall at 307 Polk Street: Just take Highway 12 west to Sauk City; cross the Wisconsin River; then turn right on John Adams Street, go two blocks and turn left on Polk Street, and you’re there. There is plenty of parking!
“All tickets are $25. You can purchase them in advance from MBM ticket outlets or at the door.”
Adds The Ear: At bottom is a YouTube video of the legendary baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and pianist Murray Perahia performing “Gute Nacht” (Good Night), the opening song of the “Winterreise” cycle that in the first two lines announces the whole cycle’s motif: “A stranger I arrive, and a stranger I depart.”
No wonder the cycle was a favorite of the absurdist Irish playwright and writer Samuel Beckett.
ALERT: If you have a chance before attending a concert at the Overture Center, be sure to check out the impressive show of black-and-white landscape photos by Paul Vanderbilt (below), the former curator of photography at the Wisconsin Historical Society. It is a stunning exhibit that features single shots and also couplings with poetic commentaries by Vanderbilt.
The images are on show in the James Watrous Gallery of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, on the top floor of the Overture Center. The show runs through Sunday, Nov. 2. A FREE panel discussion will be held on Saturday, Oct. 18, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. in the auditorium at the State Historical Society, 816 State Street (NOT the museum on the Capitol Square).
Here is a link to more information and other related events:
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear is all excited.
One of the major players on the Madison music scene will open its new season this coming Friday night.
The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, under the baton of its longtime music director and conductor, Andrew Sewell, will perform a concert of music by Henri Vieuxtemps, Camille Saint-Saens, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Benjamin Britten and Franz Joseph Haydn. It takes place at 8 p.m. in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center.
The new WCO season is heavy with three fine pianists (Shai Wosner, Ilya Yakushev and Bryan Wallick) -– which The Ear likes since he is himself an avid amateur pianist -– but the opening concert is special and an exception.
The guest soloist is Chicago violinist Rachel Barton Pine (below), who received a rave review when she performed the famous Violin Concerto by Johannes Brahms with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Symphony Orchestra last season for the Wisconsin Union Theater.
Here is a link to that review by John W. Barker:
Here is a link to a preview interview that The Ear did with Rachel Barton Pine:
Rachel Barton Pine will perform the Violin Concerto No. 5 in A minor by the 19th-century Belgian composer Henri Vieuxtemps (below top) and also the showpiece “Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso” by French composer Camille Saint-Saens (below bottom, at the piano circa 1900 in a Corbis photo). You can hear the flashy Saint-Saens piece at the bottom performed by Itzhak Perlman in a popular YouTube video.
Then she will be joined by the young Juilliard School-trained violist Mathew Lipman in a performance of the early and rarely heard Concerto for Violin and Viola by the 20th-century British composer Benjamin Britten (below bottom).
Bookending the program are Mozart’s Overture to “The Marriage of Figaro” and Haydn’s late Symphony No. 96 in D Major, “The Miracle” -– so-called because a chandelier fell during the premiere performance in London but didn’t injure anyone in the audience.
The program is typical for Andrew Sewell (below), an avowed Francophile who likes to combine well-known works with rarely heard works. And it should be even more memorable because the Classical-era style of Mozart and Haydn plays to Sewell’s strong suit.
Tickets are $15 to $75. Call the overture box office at (608) 258-4141.
For more information, including audio-video clips and artist biographies, for this opening concert, visit:
For more information about the entire WCO Masterworks winter season, including an all-Beethoven concert, visit:
By Jacob Stockinger
Here is a special posting, a review written by frequent guest critic and writer for this blog, John W. Barker. Barker (below) is an emeritus professor of Medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also is a well-known classical music critic who writes for Isthmus and the American Record Guide, and who for 20 years hosted an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT FM 89.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.
By John W. Barker
Trevor Stevenson’s Madison Bach Musicians (below) returned to their core commitment in their first concert of the new season – their 11th — devoted entirely to Johann Sebastian Bach, and focused on his sacred cantatas.
There were two of the cantatas, written for solo voices without choir. The accompanying ensemble consisted of a quartet of string players, with harpsichord, reproducing the scale of performance that Bach himself would have used.
By far the best-known of Bach’s solo cantatas is No. 82, “Ich habe genug” (“I Am Content,” the title aria of which can be heard sung by the great German baritone Dietrich Fischer Dieskau at the bottom in a YouTube video). In the cantata the believer confronts death with the comfort of faith. Though the composer adapted it for female voice, this work was written for baritone, and is most frequently performed and recorded that way. In two of the three arias, an obbligato oboe is added for creating a kind of duet.
Baritone Joshua Copeland (below top) offered strong and nicely shaped singing, with a fine German diction. The oboe playing by Baroque oboe expert Luke Conklin (below bottom) was beautifully eloquent.
The other cantata, No. 58, “Ach Gott, manches Herzeleid” (O God, What Heartache) is a duet cantata, but with a novel (if typically Bachian) spin: in two framing arias, the baritone sings reflected texts, while the soprano intones the melody of Lutheran chorales. The central aria, however, is hers alone, and Chelsea Morris (below) — a now-beloved Madison familiar — revealed her expressive artistry with stronger, more ringing power than we have yet heard from her.
Flanking the two cantatas were examples of Bach’s concerto writing.
To begin, only the first movement was played of the Harpsichord Concerto in D minor (BWV 1052), with Stevenson himself as the soloist, though his work was richly integrated with the string playing.
At the end came the now-standard reconstruction of Bach’s lost Concerto for Violin and Oboe, based on its survival as a Two-Harpsichord Concerto (BWV 1060). For this, most of the players (joined by a supplemental violinist) chose to play standing up. Without slighting the always vivacious playing of violinist Kangwon Kim (below), it must be admitted that the show was stolen by the beautifully colored and nuanced playing of oboist Conklin. The performance was truly stunning, bringing the audience to its feet in appropriate excitement. It proved a truly wonderful example of MBM presentation at its best!
The Saturday night performance was given in the recently rebuilt sanctuary of Christ Presbyterian Church, a new and acoustically stimulating venue for Stephenson to explore.
As always, Stephenson (below) himself prefaced the concert with his own lecture, delivered with his usual charm and humor, and this time not only discussing the music on the program, but giving in 40 minutes a virtual course in Baroque music-making.
Coming next is their fourth annual Christmas Concert, which always features unusual Renaissance and Baroque fare for the holiday season. It takes place on Saturday, December 13, with a 7:15 p.m. lecture and an 8 p.m. concert at the First Congregational United Church of Christ at 1609 University Avenue — something not to be missed.
For more information, go to: http://madisonbachmusicians.org