The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Pop pianist Bruce Hornsby takes a surprising turn to classical music. He performs in Madison on Oct. 30.

September 19, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Pop pianist Bruce Hornsby (below) has made quite the reputation for himself over the past 25 years or so as a keyboard wizard — and singer — who explores all kinds of music, including rock and folk, with impressive improvisations and interpretations.

bruce hornsby with piano

But imagine The Ear’s surprise when Hornsby announced that he was looking and playing and even programming classical music as well as jazz.

And on top of that, some of the classical music he is favoring comes from the Second Viennese School – the difficult 12-tone and atonal composers such as Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern. He also plays music by Gyorgy Ligeti and Olivier Messiaen.

Clearly, Hornsby’s classical tastes runs to early modernism. One can’t be sure that kind of music will be included in the upcoming concert, but it sure sounds as if it will.

Hornsby’s concert in Madison is in Overture Hall at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 30. Tickets run $39.50 to $59.50.

Here is a link to more information about the concert and tickets, which have been on sale for about two weeks now and which can also be reserved by calling the Overture Center box office at (608) 251-4848.

http://www.overturecenter.org/events/bruce-hornsby

Hornsby also talked to All Things Considered, on NPR or National Public Radio, about his turn toward the classics, especially in the wake of being a relatively late bloomer as a student instrumentalist. (And the classical stuff he plays is hard and very challenging both for performers and listeners.) But you can tell he has impressive technique in the YouTube video at the bottom.

You may also notice that buying a concert ticket gets you a copy of his latest 25-track, 2-CD set with The Noisemakers called “Solo Concerts,” which includes some of the classical music.

Anyway, here is a link to the NPR story about Bruce Hornsby’s Classical Moment:

http://www.npr.org/2014/08/23/341957012/bruce-hornsbys-modern-classical-moment?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=music

 

 


Classical music: The well-named Nonesuch Records turns 50 –– and keeps being a pioneer in music from budget baroque, electronic music and contemporary classical music to folk, ragtime, rock and world music.

September 14, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

If you judge solely by the size of an operating budget and the number of albums released in a year, Nonesuch Records surely does not rank among the industry titans like Deutsche Grammophon, Decca or Sony Classical.

But what the label does, it does exceptionally well.

Of late, I am especially taken with Nonesuch because they feature two of my favorite pianists -– Richard Goode and Jeremy Denk (below) –- and of one my all-time favorite singers, soprano Dawn Upshaw, as well as the great Kronos Quartet.

Jeremy Denk, 2013 MacArthur Fellow

Here is a link to the label’s website with forthcoming releases and a list of recording artists:

http://www.nonesuch.com

In addition, I find the sonic engineering Nonesuch provides is also top-notch. Much as I loved the old Emerson Quartet, when it moved from DG to Sony, it received inferior sonic engineering that favored an echoing or overly resonant ambient sound. Myself, I prefer a clean and close-up microphone that lets my own living room provide the performance space acoustics.

Anyway, I was listening to National Public Radio Wednesday afternoon last week and heard this terrifically informative report on the 50th anniversary of Nonesuch, which is based in New York City and the anniversary of which is being celebrated with special concerts and special releases.

The story particularly emphasized the foresight of the label’s longtime top boss Robert Hurwitz (below, on the left next to Kronos violist Hank Dett and producer Judith Sherman, who also recorded the world premiere commission of the Pro Arte Quartet centennial at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.)

Using his own taste and instinct, Hurwitz anticipated the best-selling popularity of electronic music, Cuban music, ragtime music and many other genres. (Below in an interview he did at the Brooklyn Academy of Music that can be found on YouTube.) One person, it seems, can make a huge difference.

211033-D162

I do wish Hurwitz had offered a fuller explanation of why the wonderful and cheap budget recordings of Baroque music and early music that Nonesuch issued in the 1960s and 1970s -– the ones with the great art on the covers and the ones that hooked so many of us on relatively littkle-known works as well as masterpieces –- have not been remastered and reissued on CD.

Old Nonesuch cover

But in any case, the NPR story provided a fascinating look at how a record company continued to expand and branch out – not by following listeners’ tastes and desires, but by ANTICIPATING them. It is kind of like what happened with Sony and the success of the Walkman.

Some things you just cannot judge by polls and surveys, no matter what the branding and PR experts say. They take personal vision and leadership and risk-taking. That is what the Nonesuch way.

Anyway, here is the link to the NPR story. I hope you find it compelling as The Ear did.

http://www.npr.org/2014/09/10/347155810/nonesuch-at-50-a-record-label-without-borders

 

 


Classical music: The Galena String Quartet reunites for a FREE chamber music concert of Beethoven, Brahms and Dohnanyi this coming Monday night on the UW-Madison campus.

September 13, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

A friend, violinist Kangwon Kim, who plays with the Madison Bach Musicians and the Madison Early Music Festival as well as for other groups and events, writes:

“Dear Jake,

I am having a reunion concert with the quartet members from 13-14 years ago (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot), who made up the Galena Quartet in 2001. Its members (from the left) included violist Allyson Fleck, violinist Allison Ostrander (Jones), cellist Karl Knapp and violinist Kangwon Kim.

Galena Quartet 2001 CR Katrin Talbot

The FREE concert is this coming Monday night, Sept. 15, at 7:30 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall on the campus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

The program includes string trios by Ludwig van Beethoven and Ernö von Dohnányi as well as the Piano Quartet No. 1 in G Minor, by Johannes Brahms with guest pianist SeungWha Baek (below, in a performance at Northern Illinois University). You can hear the appealing Hungarian Gypsy Rondo finale from the Brahms Piano Quartet at the bottom in a popular YouTube performance with violinist Isaac Stern, violist Jaime Laredo, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Emanuel Ax.


SeungWha Beck at NIU

Everything in the program, plus background information about the quartet and the players, is on the following website.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music | Galena Quartet Alumni Reunion Concert

The Galena String Quartet was formed in the Fall of 2001 as the graduate string quartet-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Besides performing as the resident quartet for the “Up Close and Musical” program through the Madison Symphony and visiting numerous elementary schools in the Madison area, the quartet performed at the Governor’s mansion, Stoughton Opera House, Fredric March Play Circle at the Memorial Union, and the Colony House in Mountain Lake, Florida. It was also a semi-finalist at the Fischoff chamber music competition.

The members are thrilled to perform this “reunion” concert after pursuing their separate musical careers during the past 10 years, and are grateful to the pianist SeungWha Baek for joining them for this concert. Below are violinist Allyson Fleck (below top) and cellist Karl Knapp (middle) and Kangwon Kim (bottom).

Allyson Fleck

karl knapp

Kangwon Kim

If you could include the announcement sometime in your blog, I would be grateful!!

 

 

 

 


Classical music: The Opera Student Showcase concert this Sunday afternoon will introduce David Ronis as the new director of University Opera and spotlight University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate soprano Shannon Prickett.

September 12, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Here is a the press release for the University Opera’s Student Showcase that will take place this coming Sunday afternoon and will preview the talent and productions of the upcoming season:

“A concert of favorite melodies by Vincenzo Bellini, Giuseppe Verdi and others -– mostly operatic but one clearly comic -– will be presented by students from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music’s opera program.

The concert will take place this Sunday afternoon, September 14, at 3 p.m. in the First Unitarian Society of Madison’s Landmark Auditorium (below) at 900 University Bay Drive.

FUS1jake

Directing the concert and this year’s University Opera program will be David Ronis (below, in a photo by Luke DeLalio), currently on leave from the Aaron Copland School of Music at City University of New York, and Hofstra University. He is serving as the interim successor to longtime director William Farlow, who retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison last spring. (At bottom is a YouTube video of the work that the versatile Ronis recently did at Queens College with an early music version of Luigi Rossi’s opera “Orfeo.”)

Here is a link to a press release, issued by the UW-Madison School of Music when David Ronis was chosen from a nationwide search last spring, with Ronis’ impressive background:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/2014/07/11/school-of-music-announces-david-ronis-as-visiting-director-of-opera/

David Ronis color CR  Luke DeLalio

Most of the singers will appear in this year’s productions of Benjamin Britten’s Albert Herring this fall and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Magic Flute in the spring.

Here is a link to information about the upcoming season of the University Opera:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/opera/

But one singer -– soprano Shannon Prickett (below top) – is an alumna returning from her current work as Resident Artist at the Minnesota Opera.

While in Madison from 2011 to 2013 and working on her Master’s of Music degree, Prickett performed lead parts in Puccini’s La Bohème, Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Luigi Cherubini’s Medea, Pietro Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz, and Verdi’s Requiem.

In the Showcase concert, she will sing arias from Verdi’s I Lombardi, Giacomo Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, and a dramatic duet from Verdi’s Aïda with new mezzo-soprano doctoral student Jessica Kasinski, below bottom. (The Ear has no word on specific works to be performed.)

Shannon Prickett head shot

Jessica Kasinski

Other singers will take on arias by Mozart, Donizetti, Bellini, Richard Strauss and even Flanders and Swann: That number requires good humor as well as pianistic skill from the accompanist, and will provide a treat for fans of the multi-talented and critically acclaimed Thomas Kasdorf (below), another graduate of the UW-Madison.

Thomas Kasdorf

The concert is a benefit for the University Opera that sponsored by Opera Props, which supports the University Opera. Admission is a contribution of $25 per person, $10 for students. A reception follows.


Classical music: The Oakwood Chamber Players opens its 30th anniversary season with “Rework!” — featuring music by Johannes Brahms and Ferdinand Ries -– on this coming Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

September 8, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Oakwood Chamber Players (below) marks the start of its 30th anniversary season with two late Romantic compositions — often described as “autumnal” in mood — by Johannes Brahms.

Oakwood Chamber Players 2012 2

The composer came out of retirement on hearing inspiring playing by a clarinetist. Brahms then (below) wrote two sonatas – Op. 120, Nos. 1 and 2 — and, after initially envisioning clarinet, added the option of viola to match the rich timbre he had conceived for the piece.

brahms3

COMPARE AND CONTRAST

The Oakwood Chamber Players will present the first Sonata in F Minor with viola and piano, and the second Sonata in E-Flat Major with clarinet and piano (at bottom in a YouTube video). This provides a delightful and insightful contrast of two solo instruments showcasing compelling melodies and stirring conclusions.

Clarinetist Nancy Mackenzie (below top) and violist Christopher Dozoryst (below middle) will collaborate with pianist Vincent Fuh (below bottom) on these two works.

Nancy Mackenzie clarinet

Chris Dozoryst

Vincent Fuh big

AN UNKOWN WORK BY AN UNKNOWN COMPOSER

The program will also include a sunny contrasting early Romantic-style quartet for flute, violin, viola and cello by Ferdinand Ries (below), who was a protégé and publisher of Ludwig van Beethoven.

Ferdinand Ries

The concerts are on Saturday night, September 13, at 7 p.m. and on Sunday afternoon, September 14, at 1:30 p.m. Both concerts will be held in the auditorium at the Oakwood Center for Arts and Education, 6209 Mineral Point Road, on Madison’s far west side.

NOTE: The Oakwood Chamber Players  (below) will NO LONGER longer perform at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum Visitor Center because of prohibitive cost, as was explained in a previous post (a link is below) about the chamber music ensemble that is known for both its quality of playing and its creative, unusual programming. Its members perform in many other local groups including the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/classical-music-the-oakwood-chamber-players-announces-its-30th-anniversary-season-and-gives-up-performing-at-the-uw-madison-arboretum/

Oakwood Chamber Players 2012 1

Next weekend’s program is the first concert in their celebratory 30th anniversary season series titled “Reprise! Looking Back Over 30 Years.

30years-logo

Upcoming concerts include:

  • Remix! Christmas Lights Memories – November 28 and November 30
  • Recapitulate! – January 17 and January 18
  • Replay! – March 14 and March 15
  • Reissue! – May 23 and May 24

The Oakwood Chamber Players is a group of Madison-area professional musicians who have rehearsed and performed at Oakwood Village for 30 years.

Tickets are available at the door: $20 general admission, $15 seniors and $5 students. For more information, visit www.oakwoodchamberplayers.com

The Oakwood Chamber Players are a professional music ensemble proudly supported by Oakwood Lutheran Senior Ministries and the Oakwood Foundation.


Classical music: Japanese writer Haruki Murakami and composer Franz Liszt work well together. Both are haunting creators. Here is a chance to hear how as you read.

September 7, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

As longtime readers of this blog know, The Ear is a loyal fan of the Japanese writer and novelist Haruki Murakami (below).

haruki murakami

I have had a longstanding bet with friends that the prolific Murakami will win the Nobel Prize “this” year. But so far, a decade or more later, I am still waiting — as, I suspect, he is since he has won other major prizes.

So The Ear says: Let’s get on it, members of the Nobel Prize committee in Oslo. What are you waiting for?

Longtime fans also know that I am NOT a big fan of Franz Liszt (below). He wrote some great music that I like a lot. But he also wrote a lot of second-rate music that I don’t like a lot. What is good, I find, is very good; and the rest too often strikes me as melodramatic pieces full of self-exhibitionistic pyrotechnical keyboard tricks and gimmicks.

Liszt photo portrait by Pierre Petit 1870

But recently the contemporary Japanese novelist got me to appreciate one piece by the 19th-century Romantic Hungarian composer and piano virtuoso.

The work is called “Le mal du pays,” or, roughly translated, “Homesickness,” and comes from the first of three books, and the first year of three, of Liszt’s generally subdued “Years of Pilgrimage: Book I — Switzerland.”

Not surprisingly it is featured, referred to and analyzed repeatedly in Murakami’s new novel the “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (below, published by Knopf), in which the meanings of home and belonging are explored in many different ways. The piano music is a kind of thematic summary of the plot, the setting and the characters.

Murakami Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki book cover

The Liszt work, which runs about six or so minutes, is a curious piece, less showy than many and full of the kind of strangeness, disjointedness and mysteriousness that Murakami treasures and so effectively conveys in his writings.

The piano piece perfectly matches the novel, its plot and characters and tones, in the music’s eerie chromaticism, in its insistent repetition, in its austerity and lack of sensuality, even in its identification with what is empty or missing and its plain old weirdness.

The haunting music embodies the book and may have been inspired it in part. Not for nothing is Murakami known as The Japanese Kafka, and the Liszt music is worthy of that equivalency.

The two works of art deserve each other, as I am increasingly finding out, and work well together.

I am now about fourth-fifths of the way through the novel, which has been No. 1 on The New York Times bestseller list for hardback fiction for several weeks. It certainly has me enchanted and under its spell.

Murakami often refers to Western culture, classical and pop, and especially to classical music and jazz. (He once ran a jazz bar in Tokyo.)

In other works such as “Kafka on the Shore,” Murakami even seems something of a connoisseur of Western classical music who has compared works and various recordings of them, by Franz Schubert, Johann Sebastian Bach and others. In fact, Murakami himself could be said to have spent his own years of pilgrimage journeying through Western culture as well as fiction writing.

This time Murakami, who has excellent taste and deep knowledge or familiarity, favors a performance by the late Russian pianist Lazar Berman (below).

File written by Adobe Photoshop? 4.0

Other fans of both Murakami and Liszt have set up a website where you can listen to a YouTube recording of Berman’s playing ‘Le mal du pays.” (You can also find quite a few other recordings of it, including one by Alfred Brendel (below), on YouTube, which is also featured in a secondary role in Murakami’s new novel.)

Brendel playing BIG

And I have also found a Hyperion recording by British pianist and MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant-winner Stephen Hough that I like a lot:

Hough_Stephen_color16

Here is a link to the Lazar Berman version, a second one that was set up by a Murakami fan:

Have fun listening and happy reading.

And please let us know what you think of the Liszt piece, Murakami’s newest novel and your favorite Murakami novel.

The Ear wants to hear.

 


Classical music: The University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music will open its new season Saturday night with a FREE recital of Latin American and German music by flutist Stephanie Jutt.

September 5, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear likes that a new season at the University of Wisconsin School of Music will officially open in an intimate rather than grand manner with a chamber music concert.

At 8 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall on this Saturday, Sept. 6, flutist Stephanie Jutt (below) will perform Latin American music plus a classic masterpiece sonata by Johannes Brahms. The concert is FREE and OPEN to the public.

Stephanie Jutt CR Dick Ainsworth

Jutt, who is a longtime professor the UW-Madison School of Music, is also the principal flute of the Madison Symphony Orchestra as well as a co-founder and co-artistic director of the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, which performs each summer in June. She also performs in the Wingra Woodwind Quintet (below, in a  photo by Michael Anderson) at the UW-Madison.

Wingra Woodwind Quintet 2013 Michael Anderson

On this program, Jutt and Venezuelan pianist Elena Abend will offer audiences a look at some of the beautiful and spicy music written by Latin American composers, including Argentinean composers Carlos Guastavino (below top), Astor Piazzolla (below middle) and Angel Lasala (below bottom).

Carlos Guastavino

astor piazzolla

Angel Lasala

Jutt recently traveled to Argentina to research this repertoire, and will be recording it with Elena Abend later this year in New York City.

Born in Caracas, Venezuela, pianist Elena Abend (below) has performed with all the major orchestras of her country. Receiving her Bachelor and Master degrees from the Juilliard School, she has performed at venues such as the Purcell Room in London’s Royal Festival Hall, Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center, Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, Academy of Music with the Philadelphia Orchestra, as well as the Wigmore Hall in London, Toulouse Conservatoire, Theatre Luxembourg, the Corcoran Gallery in Washington D.C., Chicago Cultural Center and the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee.

More performances include Ravinia and Marlboro Music Festivals, live broadcasts on Philadelphia’s WFLN, The Dame Myra Hess Concert Series on Chicago’s WFMT and Wisconsin Public Radio at the Chazen Museum of Art in Madison.  She has recorded for the Avie label and numerous recording and editing projects for Hal Leonard’s G. Schirmer Instrumental Library and Schirmer Performance Editions.

Elena Abend currently serves on the Piano and Chamber Music Faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Elena Abend UW--M

Program:

Milonga en Re  (at bottom in a YouTube video)   Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992)

Tanguano                                     Astor Piazzolla 
(1912-1992)

Introduccion y Allegro             Carlos Guastavino 
(1912-2000)

With ELENA ABEND, PIANO

Sonata in E-flat Major, Op. 120          Johannes Brahms
 (1833-1897) as arranged for flute by Stephanie Jutt

With UW Piano Professor CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR (below)

ChristopherTaylorNoCredit

INTERMISSION

Poema del Pastor Coya                   Angel Lasala (1914-2000)

Con la Chola y el Changuito    Carlos Guastavino
 (1912-2000)

Fuga e Misterio                             Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992)

 


Classical music education: The Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) is expanding its chamber music program to non-WYSO string and wind players. The program also seeks non-WYSO pianists.

September 4, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Here is the news I have heard from cellist Karl Lavine, who heads the expanding chamber music program (below) for the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras. It is good news for many reasons, but especially to pianists who often remain stuck as soloists and never experience the joy of collaborative work in chamber music. (Below is a piano quartet from a WYSO chamber music concert last spring in Morphy Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.)

WYSO DSC_8972

Karl Lavine (below top) is as congenial and cooperative as he is accomplished, and that is saying something. He is the principal cellist with both the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, and he also plays in the MSO’s Rhapsodie String Quartet (below bottom).

Karl Lavine, principal cello of WCO

Rhapsodie Quartet MSO Greg Anderson

Writes Karl:

“We are interested in having pianists for the WYSO Chamber Music Program. We have not had any formal auditions to date as most of the pianists have previously come from WYSO or they have been students of Karen Boe (below), who is the WYSO Chamber Music Program piano ensemble coach.

Karen Boe

“We also have only had two or three pianists — all advanced musicians capable of learning and performing chamber works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven or Johannes Brahms  — per semester working with our groups. (At bottom is a YouTube video of violinist Kyung-Wha Chung playing one of The Ear’s favorite chamber works, the piano part of which he wishes he himself could play with a violinist: Mozart’s dramatic and tuneful Violin Sonata No. 21 in E minor, K. 304.)

“The history so far has been one that involved our more advanced players, mostly string players, with these pianists. However, we have had wind players join us as well. Doing both their main instrument and the piano can stretch them pretty thin.

WYSO DSC_8944

“We have not opened collaboration with pianists up to our younger string and wind players primarily because the level of technique and experience necessary make it very difficult to assign repertoire.

“I am not opposed to considering younger WYSO instrumentalists to collaborate with pianists, but it creates a whole new set of parameters for coaching and rehearsing.

“Frankly, it is tough enough to get the more experienced pianists up to speed on the standard chamber repertoire — even though they might be very accomplished as soloists — given we only have 10 coaching sessions per semester. Many of the pianists that have participated in the program have never worked in this type of collaboration before.

“We are open to the idea of having an audition of prospective pianists. In addition, a letter of reference from their private teachers would be required. We would also limit applicants to pianists who have advanced to the Wisconsin School Music Association State Level with the “A” list repertoire, or participated in Wisconsin Music Teachers Association or Federation competition in piano.

Farley's House of PIanos MMM 20141

Here is another tidbit for the blog: We are opening up participation in the WYSO Chamber Program to string and wind players who are NOT a part of WYSO. We have a separate brochure/application for these folks. This is a pilot project this year and we will see what our numbers turn out to be.

So, It would be most helpful if you could write about WYSO’s Chamber Music Program offering openings for those instrumentalists who are not current members, orchestral musicians (string and wind Players) AND pianists:

“1. Membership is open to those between the ages of 10 and 18 and currently in Middle School or High School.

“2. For pianists, a letter from your current private teacher recommending you for the program.

“3. A WYSO Chamber Music Program Brochure can be obtained from the WYSO office. You can find information about the coaching sessions and performance possibilities offered as well as expectations.

“4. For more information, contact the WSYO office: (608) 263-3320, OR send an email to wyso@wyso.music.wisc.edu   OR by contacting Program Director, Karl Lavine at (608) 239-4131; email is karllavine@gmail.com

The WYSO Chamber Music Program offers 10 coaching sessions a semester and public recitals in December and May.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Classical music: We said goodbye to the late University of Wisconsin-Madison pianist Howard Karp by speaking love to loss. Here in photos is how it went.

September 2, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

On Sunday afternoon we gathered to say goodbye to the late University of Wisconsin-Madison pianist Howard Karp, who died suddenly in June of cardiac arrest at 84 while he was on summer vacation in Colorado.

I don’t think you can have a better send-off.

The day started out sunny and then looked like it would cloud over.

But the sunlight stayed.

Howard Karp (below, in a 2000 photo by Katrin Talbot) would have liked that. There never seemed anything morose about Howard, even when he played music that was introspective and melancholic. And he was such a natural: The piano just seemed to grow out of his long arms and fingers.

Howard Karp ca. 2000 by Katrin Talbot

Sure, like all people he had his share of sorrows and worries. But on his own scale, the joys always outweighed the sorrows.

I found myself thinking of Howard and recalling philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s dictum that “Without music, life would be a mistake.” And I found myself adding: “Without Howard Karp, music in Madison might not have been a mistake, but it certainly would have been severely diminished.”

But I do not want to use this post for me to talk about Howard Karp and what a wonderful man and musician, family member and teacher, he was.

His own family and friends did that so well — and so eloquently — that all I can do today is to use photos and quick descriptions to tell you what you missed if you weren’t there.

The welcome speaker and comforting guide through the celebration was Bill Lutes (below), a longtime friend and former student of Howard Karp. Bill did an outstanding and dry-eyed job of speaking love to loss, as did the entire family.

Karp Memorial Bill Lutes

The event opened with Howard Karp playing the opening movement of the heroic, life-affirming “Hammerklavier” Sonata by Ludwig van Beethoven, from a newly released 6-CD recording on Albany Records of Howard’s concert recordings.

That was repeated through the event with music of Robert Schumann, Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Frédéric Chopin. And it was moving to hear the audience of maybe a two-thirds house in Mills Hall applaud loudly, as if Howard were playing right there, on stage and in person in front of us.

One of the most moving moments came when Howard’s wife, Frances Karp – whose diminutive and even fragile look hides a tremendous strength of character and forceful pianism — was joined by cellist son Parry Karp, violist daughter-in-law Katrin Talbot and guest violinist Leanne League, who plays with the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, in the slow movement from the Piano Quartet in E-flat major, Op. 47, by Robert Schumann. A photo is below.

It is a heart-wrenching piece by the composer who, more than any other, captures love and longing in sound, as you can hear from the opening cello melody in a YouTube video of the Beaux Arts Trio at the bottom.

Karp Memorial Schumann PIano Quartet

Granddaughters Isabel Karp (below left) and Natasha Karp (below right), both accomplished actresses, then read passages from William Shakespeare, beautifully appropriate lines from the tragedy “King Lear,” from the Sonnets, from the romance “The Tempest,” from the comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Karp Memorial Isabel, Natasha smiling better

More recorded Schumann followed, the first movement of the fabulous Fantasy in C Major.

Then came words of friendship and admiration from the renowned keyboard artist Malcolm Bilson (below), who taught with Howard at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. Now a semi-retired professor at Cornell University, Bilson also played a superbly rendered version of his own reconstruction of the first movement of the Sonata in F-sharp minor by Franz Schubert. (Bilson didn’t announce his reconstruction because, as he later told The Ear, “It bothers and distracts audiences. They keep listening for where Schubert ends and Bilson begins.”)

Karp Memorial Malcolm Bilson plays Schubert

Fellow Chicagoan and piano student-turned-businessman, Ira Goodkin (below) spoke impressively and engagingly about the lasting effect of having Howard Karp as a lifelong friend and as a personal and professional role model.

Karp Memorial Ira Goodkin

Then came more recordings: impressive duo-piano performances by Frances and Howard Karp of music by Igor Stravinsky and Sergei Rachmaninoff.

During the Rachmaninoff “Barcarolle,” from his Suite No. 1 for Two Pianos, there was also an extended slide show that featured photos of Howard at various stages of his life, from infancy and childhood (below) through marriage and maturity, many images with his wife, children and grandchildren.

Karp Memorial slideshow Young Howard

Granddaughter and actress Ariana Karp (below) appeared via video from London and also read Shakespeare and offered moving personal recollections of “grand-père.”

Karp memorial Ariana

Sons Christopher Karp on piano and Parry Karp on cello (below) teamed up to play Max Bruch’s “Kol Nidre,” in a moving and brotherly demonstration of the family music-making that marked the Karps’ family life, and brought beauty to the rest of us, making us all feel like extended family.

Karp Memorial Christopher and Parry

Then came a miraculously humorous and moving eulogy for Howard by cellist son Parry (below), who offered a stirring summing up of his dad’s gifts as a pianist and chamber music partner, as a husband and father, as a baseball fan and an avid amateur expert on trees and plants.

Karp Memorial Parry Karp speaks

After Parry remark’s about the richness of his father’s life and career, I found myself recalling a saying by the great composer-pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff: “Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music.” Still, I think Howard Karp came closer to that impossible goal than anyone I know.

Then, with a stirring performance by Howard Karp of the ferocious and relentless finale from Chopin’s Sonata in B minor, it was over — and we moved outdoors to a packed reception in the courtyard of the UW-Madison’s George Mosse Humanities Building.

Karp Memorial Reception

The food was ideal and the audience was in the mood to greet each other and reminisce with the kind of good-natured enthusiasm that would have pleased Howard Karp because it made all of us feel like we belonged to one immense family that will long miss a central and irreplaceable figure.


Classical music: Today is Labor Day — a great time to remember all the anonymous people behind the scenes who make concerts happen and who bring us the beauty and music we love.

September 1, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Today is Labor Day, Sept. 1, 2014.

To The Ear, the holiday seems a great occasion and a very appropriate time to remember all the people behind the scenes — and behind the performers — who make music happen.

That is especially true because the regular concert season is about to start, and once again these unseen people will help bring us beauty. And beauty doesn’t just happen. It takes hard work.

We usually don’t know or recognize their names, even when those names are given to us in  program credits.

So let us today praise the technicians and the stagehands (below) , the office staffers and the business managers, the publicity people and the development experts, the government and private sponsors and donors, and even the box office ticket-sellers and the ushers who all support the musicians and the music we so love.

Stagehands in MIlls

I am thinking of some people with whom I could not write this blog or ever attend a lot of concerts. There are many, many more than the ones I will name. But high on my list are: Katherine Esposito (below top), who is the concert manager for the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music; Teri Venker (below middle), who is the marketing director of the Madison Symphony Orchestra; and Sue Ellen Maguire (below bottom), who is the marketing director of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.

Katherine Esposito

Teri Venker

Sue Ellen Maguire

I recently came across something I wrote and posted about this before, about 2-1/2 years ago. The occasion was NOT Labor Day, but a spring memorial service for Ann Miller Chastain (below), who headed marketing for the Madison Symphony Orchestra before she died of breast cancer. She specialized in developing a loyal student audience, and she worked hard but charmingly for her success.

Ann Miller Chastain smiling Facebook 2

But I think what I said then about Ann Miller also reflects on a lot of other people.

After all, it takes a lot more than the performers, the musicians — who, to be sure, are also hard-working — to put on concerts. And that is a wise lesson to remember today, on the day that traditionally serves as the dividing line between the summer season and the start of the regular concert season in the fall.

So here is a link:

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/classical-music-news-let-us-now-praise-all-the-invisible-people-behind-the-scenes-who-make-concerts-and-culture-possible/

Happy Labor Day to all those who labor to bring us the great classical music and the beauty we love!

 

 

 

 

 

 


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