ALERT: The Youth Orchestra, under the baton of University of Wisconsin-Madison conductor James Smith (below) and belonging to the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO), is into Day 9 of its 10-day tour to Argentina. Here is a link to the live real-time blog about the tour:
By Jacob Stockinger
There are a lot of talented women pianists playing out there right now.
Names that get mentioned frequently are usually the younger ones, the sexier and more glamorous and, therefore, more salable ones.
The glamorous, gifted and Grammy-nominated Yuja Wang –- she of the micro-skirts and stiletto heels and fabulously fast fingers — is right at the top of the heap.
But then there is Van Cliburn Competition laureate Joyce Yang (below), Khatia Buniatishvili and Lola Astanova, all of whom draw headlines and turn in memorable performances. And there are many others I am sure I am leaving out.
But today The Ear wants to sing the praises of a mature woman and a seasoned musician who deserves far more public attention than she gets.
Why? Because she is simply one of the best pianists around.
I am talking about the Englishwoman Imogen Cooper (below).
Cooper, who turns 65 on August 28, has been on the concert scene a long time. I first got to know her through her superb 3-volume set of late Schubert (sonatas and impromptus) on the Avie label. I have also heard a live recital of Ludwig Van Beethoven (Sonata Op. 101), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Sonata in A Minor) and Maurice Ravel (“Miroirs” or Mirrors) and she did on the Wigmore Hall Live series, and it is nothing short of miraculous.
I have not heard her critically acclaimed art sing or lieder recitals with Wolfgang Holzmair or her recordings of Mozart piano concertos. But I hope to do so soon. And I would like to hear her in music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Domenico Scarlatti, Franz Joseph Haydn and Frederic Chopin.
But recently she also made her debut on Chandos records with a solo recital I have listened to over and over again, always with great pleasure and, since I am an avid amateur pianist, great envy. The Ear would sure like to hear her perform live in Madison.
I would say that The New York Times critic senior Anthony Tommasini got right to the heart of Cooper’s magisterial playing when, in his review of a live performance, he emphasized “virtuosity without dazzle” and talked about how her sensitive performances of Franz Joseph Haydn, Robert Schumann, Franz Schubert and Thomas Ades were more thoughtfully impressive than performances of more overtly flashy and superficially difficult works by, say, Franz Liszt.
Here is a link to Tommasini’s review:
The new CD, which has terrific sonic engineering, includes the seven “Fantasy Pieces” and the “Kreisleriana” of Robert Schumann as well as the too rarely heard piano version of the Theme and Variations from the String Sextet No. 1 by Johannes Brahms. (You can hear a mesmerizing live performance of the Brahms work at Hamline University in Minneapolis in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
Cooper studied at the Paris Conservatory and then with Alfred Brendel, with whom she partnered on a recording of Mozart dual concertos, and the depth of her preparation shows.
Cooper possesses beautiful tone, brilliant technique and a keen musical mind that creates beautifully songful phrases and, at the same time, makes penetrating sense of the music.
I have tried to find out what her next release will be –- and when it will appear –- but to no avail. (Below, in a photo by Jennifer Taylor of The New York Times, Cooper is seen playing her recital at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall in New York City.)
Here is a link to her website:
It is a great website to visit.
It has a lot of video and audio samples of Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Janacek and Chopin. It has a lot of photos, although curiously none at the piano. It has lots of interviews and reviews. It includes her favorite historic recordings by other pianists and musicians. It has a biography and a list of appearances.
Read it and you will be impressed.
How does a talent like Cooper’s fly under the radar and remain relatively unknown? That is one of the mysteries of marketing. But clearly youth sells in Youth Culture.
That said, you should listen to this debut album and follow her career.
Are there any other Imogen Cooper fans out there?
What recordings of hers do you prefer?
The Ear want to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
As I said yesterday, The Ear is finally getting a chance to catch up on some old business, now that live concerts have quieted down a bit for a while.
Here is an overdue review.
MADISON AREA YOUTH CHAMBER ORCHESTRA (MAYCO) EXCELS IN OLD MUSIC AND NEW MUSIC
On Friday, July 11, the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO) performed “Triumph and Delight,” the first of its two concerts this summer. This one was at the handsome new Atrium auditorium, with its bright acoustics, of the First Unitarian Society of Madison 900 University Bay Drive.
Founder and conductor Mikko Utevsky (below), who is currently a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, led the group through an intriguing program that include the Piano Concerto No. 11 in D Major, by Franz Joseph Haydn; the “Reformation” Symphony by Felix Mendelssohn; and the world premiere of a “Experiment No. 1” by his fellow student, composer Olivia Zeuske.
The soloist in the Haydn Piano Concerto was UW-Madison graduate Thomas Kasdorf (below). The Ear recently heard him in the Romantic and evergreen Piano Concerto In A Minor by Edvard Grieg, played with the Middleton Community Orchestra. And the performance was impressive, so expectations were high.
And those expectations were both met and surpassed in the Haydn.
This was not, thank goodness, period Haydn. From what The Ear heard, Kasdorf made no attempt to scale back his part and treat the piano like some Classical-era fortepiano. Instead this was robust and rich Haydn, an interpretation that made Papa Haydn sound more alive than dead. The humor and tunefulness plus the effective, if sparing, use of dissonance, all came through convincingly and in a contemporary way.
Add in the orchestra’s careful attention to part-playing and to dialogue with the piano, and you had a performance that The Ear loved.
The work by Olivia Zeuske (below) proved highly atmospheric –- not exactly 12-tone or atonal, but not exactly not, either. For the most part, The Ear found it appealing, engaging and attractive.
But for The Ear, who admits to being a “tunes” guy, it could have used some kind of melody or motif that was recognizable and repeated. In addition the piece could use more distinctiveness among the three sections, so the structure guides your listening.
True, the very end did seem to build to some kind of climax, and you knew something was about to happen. But a lot of the rest of the piece seemed to have a tad too much lateral drift. A good statement or speech is not made by a series of “um”’s and “you know”’s and similar filler. And it takes more than sound to make music.
Still, The Ear thinks that she has a future and looks forward to hearing more from Olivia Zeuske.
The famous and familiar “Reformation” Symphony by Felix Mendelssohn was not weak except by comparison to the other performances. Some of it seemed a bit muddled, and The Ear wondered if it couldn’t have used more rehearsal time, which more likely went to working with the soloist and the world premiere. Still, the music carries itself in a great way.
Plus, it was set off and spotlighted by a stroke of genius and inspiration in programming. Utevsky opened the entire program with the chorale prelude-type arrangement by Johann Sebastian Bach for orchestra of the hymn by Martin Luther “Ein Feste Burg” (A Mighty Fortress is Our God”). (At bottom, you can hear an arrangement by Leopold Stokowski that sounds a bit Wagnerian and even “Parsifal”-like at the end because of the horns.)
That is the same Lutheran hymn that Mendelssohn, a Jew who converted to Christianity but was nonetheless banned from being performed under the Nazis and Adolf Hitler, used in the finale to his irresistible symphony.
Kudos, then, to this fine group of young up-and-coming musicians, who were warmly applauded by a good size audience of more than friends and family members.
It makes one look forward to MAYCO’s next concert at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 22. That’s when soprano Caitlin Ruby Miller (below) will join then in Samuel Barber’s “Knoxville, Summer 1915” with words by James Agee and music by Samuel Barber; the Symphony No. 9 in E-Flat Major, Op. 90, by Dmitri Shostakovich; and the Overture to “The Magic Flute” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
The advertised venue is Music Hall, though the Atrium auditorium and other venues are still being considered, so stay tuned. Tickets are an affordable $7 with students being asked to donate what they can.
The Ear says: Don’t miss it.
Here is the daily alert for the tour though Aug. 3 by Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) in Argentina. Here is a link to the latest news from Day 3: www.wysotour2014.blogspot.com
By Jacob Stockinger
As I said yesterday, The Ear is finally getting a chance to catch up on some old business, now that live concerts have quieted down a bit for a while.
I have another short review for today.
THE EAR HEARS A GREAT GRIEG SAMPLER AT TALIESIN
Earlier this month, The Ear found himself wondering: Why don’t we hear more music by Edvard Grieg?
Makes sense. One big and difficult ego attracted to another big and difficult ego. One would-be artistic titan wanting to cloak himself in the mantle of another.
But nevertheless on July 14 -– forget Bastille Day — the Hillside Theater (below) at Wright’s Taliesin compound in Spring Green saw an evening sampler of the 19th-century Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, and some other Scandinavian composers, performed, thanks to the Rural Musicians Forum and its director Kent Mayfield.
Called “Songs of Norway,” the program featured the kind of variety that The Ear would like to see in more concert programming: a dozen or so songs; 10 solo piano pieces from the “Lyric Pieces”; and the Sonata No. 2 in G Major, Op. 13, for violin and piano.
I found the music somewhat uneven, but never bad. And all the performances, turned in by three outstanding musicians (below), proved quite satisfying.
University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music soprano Mimmi Fulmer (below) showed fine control and tone while singing songs both a cappella and with the piano. Moreover, her Norwegian diction and pronunciation were quite good, or so I was told by a native Norwegian speaker.
Pianist Michael Keller, a retired professor from UW-Stevens Point, performed admirably both as soloist and accompanist or collaborator. He excelled at conveying the quickly changing moods of miniature Lyric Pieces, of which he played 10 contrasting ones.
And violinist Stephen Bjella, an artist-in-residence at the UW-Stevens Point, played the more ambitious violin sonata with conviction and aplomb.
Now truth be told, Edvard Grieg’s music is no match for the achievement of Bach. Or Beethoven. Or Mozart. Or Haydn, Or Schubert. Or Schumann. Or Brahms. Or Mahler. And so on and so on. But The Ear thinks of Grieg as The Dvorak of the North. I think Claude Debussy once said his works were bonbons filled with snow.
That doesn’t mean his music is without value. His “salon”-like music certainly is enjoyable and worth hearing more often. Major artists like pianists Arthur Rubinstein, Emil Gilels and Stephen Hough play his Lyric Pieces and included several in their active repertoire. I think the violinist Jascha Heifetz also liked his three violin sonatas. And his songs are too rarely heard, perhaps because of the difficulty of singing Norwegian instead of German and French, Italian and English. Plus, the Emerson Quartet won a Grammy with his one string quartet.
So this was a thoroughly enjoyable concert that reminded The Ear that the music of Grieg deserves to be heard more often in live performance than it currently is. Just listen to the lovely Nocturne, played by a contestant in the Grieg Piano Competition, in a YouTube video at the bottom.
Thanks go to Kent Williams (below top), to the Rural Musicians Forum –- which he directs and which is presenting a FREE tango quintet this Monday night at 7:30 p.m. in the Unity Chapel in Spring Green –- to Taliesin and especially to the three performers as well as to the full house (below bottom) that makes such a proposal all the more feasible and appealing.
Hear more music by Edvard Grieg?
As the late Eileen Stritch would sing: “I’ll Drink to That.”
Better break out the ice water.
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.
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:
And here is a link to the tour blog:
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).
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.
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?
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.
“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.
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.
For more information: www.ruralmusiciansforum.org
OR contact Kent Mayfield email@example.com.
By Jacob Stockinger
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.
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.
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:
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):
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):
One is from Isthmus by Sandy Tabachnick, who got statements from fellow pianists and teachers Christopher Taylor, Bill Lutes, Martha Fischer and Jessica Johnson:
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:
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.
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.
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.)
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).
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 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.”)
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
“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.)
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.