ALERT: Young local pianist Garrick Olsen will play a FREE recital at the Friday Noon Musicale at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive. He will perform from 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the historic Landmark auditorium of the Meeting House that was designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. His program includes music that is both virtuosic and poetic: the Etude, Op. 10, No. 1, by Frederic Chopin; the Fantasy in C Major, Op. 17, by Robert Schumann (listen to the soulful final movement played by Claudio Arrau in the YouTube video at the bottom); and the dramatic, flashy Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6 by Franz Liszt (also at the bottom played fantastically by George Cziffra in a popular YouTube video). In the spring, on May 2, 3 and 4 — Olsen, who won the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s concerto competition two years ago with Maurice Ravel’s Concerto for the Left Hand, will perform George Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm” Variations for piano and orchestra with the MSO under John DeMain.
By Jacob Stockinger
Edgewood College will present its 86th Annual Christmas Concerts this coming weekend, at 7 p.m. on both Friday night, December 6, and Saturday night, December 7, in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive, in Madison.
Featured performers of joyous seasonal holiday music include the Guitar Ensemble, the Chamber Singers (below), the Women’s Choir, the Men’s Choir, the Concert Band and the Jazz Ensemble.
Sorry, The Ear has no details about programs.
The annual Christmas celebration is one of Edgewood College’s oldest traditions. A highlight each year is the invitation for audience members to join in singing traditional carols.
A limited number of tickets may be available at the door each night (cash or check only, please). Edgewood College strongly encourages patrons to purchase tickets online.
All proceeds for these concerts benefit Edgewood College students through the Edward Walters Music Scholarship Fund.
By Jacob Stockinger
Today is Black Friday, known for deep price cuts, huge sales and outrageous store hours that draw massive crowds — and for putting retails business in the profitable black at the end of the year.
Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday, which is supposed to encourage us to patronize local businesses.
Never mind that they are all starting to get mixed up and to become one big, long shopping frenzy.
As I do every year, I will hunt out and post on this blog the “Best of 2013” lists, which should feature lots of recordings, some great DVDs and also some noteworthy books about classical music. Here are some links to last year’s from NPR, The New York Times and The New Yorker and Gramophone magazines among others. After all, the music and the performances are just as good as it was a year ago:
But recently The New York Times chief music critic Anthony Tommasini (below) wrote about the phenomenon of these multi-CD boxed sets, containing dozens of CDs and costing hundreds of dollars (unless of course you are a reviewer) that often use original LP covers and that give you the encore output” – or “oeuvre,” if you like – of a particular performer (like pianist Arthur Rubinstein, below) or composer. But they also probably offer lots of duplicates to serious collectors who already have a substantial number of recordings.
Tommasini remarks on the seeming contradictions of these as music becomes more and more about digital downloads rather than physical Compact Discs.
He makes some intriguing points worth considering if you are hunting for a special classical music gift.
So in honor of the days-long holiday shopping frenzy that is facing us, here is a link to Tommasini’s story that covers several major pianists including Vladimir Horowitz at Carnegie Hall (below top, bowing, in a photo by Don Hunstein, and below middle in the scale model “Carnegie Hall” box container), Murray Perahia (below bottom) and Van Cliburn as well as Byron Janis, Leon Fleisher and Gary Graffman plus the composer Benjamin Britten, whose birth centennial was on Nov. 22.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE RECORDING TO RECOMMEND AS A GIFT?
The Ear wants to hear.
ALERT: Blog friend and guest blogger Mikko Utevsky writes: “There will be a fun and unusual concert tonight at 6 p.m. in the Overture Center‘s Promenade Hall. (Tickets are $10-$15.) Madison-born Nils Bultmann is a very good violist with a unique and quirky compositional style that I find immensely enjoyable to perform, and he is giving a CD pre-release performance. The program will be a viola extravaganza with several players from the UW-Madison joining him onstage, including Sally Chisholm and myself, for a series of 10 duets he composed. There will also be dance by Jin-Wen Yu. More information is below. That night is also the UW Concert Choir and Chorale concert at 8 p.m and the Bartsch sisters with the Overture Organ at 7:30 p.m., so it’s a full docket. But Nils, Sally and I would all appreciate if you can toss a mention of this in.”
By Jacob Stockinger
A while ago, The Ear put out the call for guest bloggers.
Janet Murphy responded with the following blog post about a concert that is coming this Saturday night and that will benefit the restoration of the historic grand piano at Arboretum Cohousing.
Here is some information from Janet: “I received my bachelors and masters in musicology from the University of Michigan. After toiling in the music industry for 20 years, I got a bachelors in nursing from UW, and have worked as an RN (Registered Nurse) ever since.
“Music is now my hobby. I sing in the UW Choral Union, play with an informal recorder group, and I am currently taking banjo lessons. Needless to say I am a big fan of The Well-Tempered Ear. I hope you will consider coming to the concerts. They will be great fun.”
Here is the guest post, with many of her own photos, by Janet Murphy (below):
By Janet Murphy
Arboretum Cohousing is delighted to present two benefit concerts to raise funds for the restoration of their Common House grand piano (below).
The first concert will be this Saturday, November 9, by the celebrated keyboardist and historian Trevor Stephenson of Madison. The second will be Saturday January 18 by Metropolitan Opera star and Madison resident mezzo-soprano Kitt Reuter Foss. Both concerts are at 7 p.m. and will take place at 1137 Erin St., next to St. Marys Hospital and near the UW-Madison Arboretum.
These will certainly be very nice concerts, but there are many very nice concerts in the Madison area … an embarrassment of riches, really. So, why make a point of attending these two concerts?
FIVE REASONS TO ATTEND A CONCERT AT ARBORETUM COHOUSING
1) Arboretum Cohousing (aka Arbco) is an intentional living community located in the heart of Madison’s Greenbush neighborhood. With 40 units and 85 members, it is the largest of Madison’s three cohousing communities. Living in cohousing is very special, and it’s worth a visit to see what it’s all about. If you have never been to a cohousing, this is your chance.
2) Featured at each concert will be the exceptional Mason Hamlin Model AA 1930 Grand Piano that resides at Arbco. Built during the golden age of grand pianos, this fine instrument was recently restored by one of Madison’s preeminent piano technicians, Jim Forrest (below, with owner Lucy Moore).
Steinway and Mason & Hamlin were in fierce competition in pre-depression era America to see who could build the superior piano. Many felt Mason & Hamlin won.
3) Sweets, savories and beverages will be provided by Arbco. If you have attended any of their craft fairs, blood drives, sing-a-longs, dances, you know Arbco knows how to lay out a spread and have fun in their spacious Common House. What is a Common House? Come see.
4) Trevor Stephenson, the founder and director of the Madison Bach Musicians, is so entertaining, and so broadly talented. He is bringing along his 8-foot, circa 1720-style, double manual harpsichord. Expect a journey through three centuries of keyboard music, and expect that he will make you laugh. Stephenson writes: “I’ll perform music by Bach, Couperin, Handel and Scarlatti on my double manual harpsichord. For the second half I’ll play works by Chopin, Brahms and Joplin on Arbco’s beautiful, newly restored vintage Mason Hamlin grand piano. Proceeds from the concert will raise funds for the recently completed restoration of this instrument–a Mason Hamlin Model AA from 1930.
5) Mezzo-soprano Kitt Reuter Foss is the only person from Wisconsin to ever win the Metropolitan Opera Auditions. We are lucky to have her living in Madison, but we don’t have enough opportunities to see her locally. January 18 is your chance. Like Trevor, she has a broad repertoire, and will be showing off both her classical and popular chops.
Tickets are $25 for each concert Tickets can be reserved online, in person or by mail at Arboretum Cohousing (members are below, forming a tree): www.ArboretumCohousing.org or ArbcoPiano@gmail.com, or by calling (608) 260-0284.
By Jacob Stockinger
It is only Wednesday, and already twice this week I have already spotlighted two big and important upcoming music events at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
On Friday night is the second SoundWaves lecture-concert at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery. Here is a link to that post:
Also on Friday night is the first of three performances of George Frideric Handel’s opera “Ariodante.” The performance marks the opening production of this season at the University Opera. Here is a link to that post:
But you know the semester is starting to wind towards its end when you start seeing the concerts pile up.
So consider what else in the way of smaller events is happening – what other FREE and PUBLIC concerts – at the UW-Madison during the rest of the week.
Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, UW guitarist Javier Calderon (below) will give a FREE and PUBLIC recital on the UW Faculty Concert Series.
The program includes: “Ancien Lute Dances” by Abel Carlevaro; Variations, Op. 9, by Fernando Sor; Suite for Lute No. 1 BWV 996, by Johann Sebastian Bach; ”Cafe 1930” by Astor Piazzolla; “Three pieces” by Manuel Ponce; “Aire de Bolivia’ by Gaston Caba; “Torre Bermeja,” “Pavana Capriccio” and “Sevilla” by Isaac Albeniz.
When Javier Calderon played his solo recital debut at Carnegie Hall, The New York Times called him “…a virtuoso with poetic sensibility.” Since then many composers, including the eminent American Alan Hovhaness and Lawrence Weiner, have been writing and dedicating guitar concertos and solo pieces to Calderon.
At age 17 Javier Calderon thrilled the audience of his native city of La Paz, Bolivia the evening he played with the Bolivian National Symphony Orchestra. Then he was invited to the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont.
Soon after, the legendary Andres Segovia awarded the young guitarist a scholarship to study under his tutelage in Spain. Calderon, who is also an accomplished cellist, studied interpretation with Janos Starker. Javier Calderon now tours extensively in the United States, Europe, South America and the Far East.
He appears regularly as concert soloist with orchestras including the St. Louis and Atlanta symphonies and the Minnesota Orchestra and in solo recitals throughout the world. Javier Calderon has performed chamber music concerts with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and has been featured at numerous international music festivals.
Professor Calderon (below) founded and heads the UW-Madison guitar program.
TROMBONE AND PIANO
On Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. in Mills hall, UW-Madison trombonist Mark Hetzler (below top, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) and UW pianist Martha Fischer (below bottom) will present a special program – FREE and open to the PUBLIC — on the Faculty Concert Series.
It is called “Meditations and Visions: The Music of Anthony Plog and Anthony Barfield” and consists of two modern works that feature lyricism and technical virtuosity in a rich romantic language.
On Sunday at 1:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, UW saxophonist Les Thimmig will perform the second of three installments presenting the late-period Trios of American composer Morton Feldman. It is FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.
Also performing will be Jennifer Hedstrom, keyboards; and Sean Kleve, percussion. This performance will present Feldman’s “Crippled Symmetry” (1983). The next concert in the series is February 2, 2014.
On Sunday at 8 p.m. in Morphy Hall, duo-cellists German Marcano (a UW-Madison alumnus, below top) and Pablo Mahave-Veglia (below bottom), will present a FREE and PUBLIC program on the Guest Artist Series.
The program includes “Tonadas,” by Diaz and Galindez, arranged by German Marcano; Suite in C Major, BWV 1009 by Johann Sebastian Bach; “Sonsoneo” by Alvarez; ”Cello Tango” by Federico Ruiz; and Sonata for Two Cellos by Jose Maria Castro.
Marcano and Mahave-Veglia will also be giving a FREE and PUBLIC master class on Monday October 28 at 12:15 p.m. in Mills Hall.
On Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, UW cellist Parry Karp (below), who heads the chamber music program at the UW-Madison School of Music and who performs with the Pro Arte Quartet, will be featured in a FREE program of piano trios.
Karp will perform violinist Suzanne Beia and pianist Thomas Kasdorf, who is also a UW alumnus.
The program includes: the Piano Trio in G Major, Op. 1 No. 2, by Ludwig van Beethoven; the Piano Trio in G Minor, Op. 26, by Antonin Dvorak; and the Piano Trio in D Minor, Op. 32, by Anton Arensky. (Its gorgeously lyrical and Romantic slow movement — an elegy — is below in a YouTube video.)
By Jacob Stockinger
First, some reminders and alerts.
The final performance of the second concert of the season by the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below) is today at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall.
The program, conducted by longtime MSO music director John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad) features Benjamin Britten’s Variations and Fugue on a Theme on Purcell (also used for the popular ‘The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra); Claude Debussy’s “La mer” (The Sea); and Johannes Brahms’ Piano Concerto No.2 with guest artist Philippe Bianconi.
Here is a link to a Q&A I posted earlier this week with pianist Philippe Bianconi (below) about the Brahms concerto. It also contains other information and useful links about the entire program, including program notes and ticket prices:
So far, the concert has received critical acclaim – and there is still time to catch it this afternoon.
Here is a link to a review by John W. Barker (below) in Isthmus:
And here is a link the review by Greg Hettmansberger (below) for Madison Magazine’s blog “Classically Speaking”:
UW CLARINET RECITAL
Also, tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW-Madison Guest Artist series will present clarinetist Michael Norsworthy (below), who will perform a FREE concert of modern and contemporary works.
The program includes “Pastoral” by Elliot Carter; Three American Pieces by Lukas Foss; nebraska impromptu by Marti Epstein; ”SchiZm,” by Derek Bermel; “Black Anemones” by Joseph Schwantner; and Souvenirs, by Robert Beaser.
Michael Norsworthy, professor of clarinet at the Boston Conservatory, is one of the most celebrated champions of the modern repertoire. To date, he has given over 125 world premieres with leading contemporary music groups, including Klangforum Wien, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Manhattan Sinfonietta, Fromm Players at Harvard, Boston Musica Viva, Callithumpian Consort in Boston, Ensemble 21 in New York and the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble. His current discography numbers over 15 releases and can be found on the Albany, Mode, Gasparo, Canteloupe, BMOP/sound, ECM, Nonesuch, Cirrus Music and Cauchemar labels.
YOUTUBE AND PIANIST VALENTINA LISITSA
Finally, speaking of pianists, as I did above, this past week, The New York Times featured a comprehensive story about the pianist Valentina Lisitsa (below), who has performed in Madison at least three times – twice in solo recitals at Farley’s House of Pianos and once at the Wisconsin Union Theater as the accompanist for violin virtuoso Hilary Hahn.
What makes the story so fascinating is how Lisitsa used the popular website YouTube to launch her career the way that pop stars, not classical stars, so often do. From her success on YouTube she even got a contract with a major record company, Decca Records.
Usually, YouTube features videos of performing artists who have already established their careers. But this time, it worked vice-versa. (At the bottom is a YouTube video of Valentina Lisitsa playing a live performance in Seoul , Korea, of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s popular Prelude in G Minor. It has more than 3.5 million hits!)
The story is a terrific testament to the power of new media in the performing arts.
Here is a link:
By Jacob Stockinger
So much of playing the piano – or any instrument or indeed any performing art -– boils down to practicing. Specifically, that means how to practice correctly, how to practice productively.
Recently, I blogged about a wonderfully useful story that appeared on NPR’s terrific classical music blog “Deceptive Cadence” about 10 tips for successful practicing. (It also some interesting reader suggestions and tips that you should read.)
Here is a link to that posting:
From a slightly different perspective, British pianist Stephen Hough (below) more recently blogged about how professional concerts pianists practice. He included some great tips from his own teachers.
Now, Hough is not only a concert pianist but also an exceptional one. In addition, he is an excellent teacher, as I witnessed firsthand several years ago when he gave a master class at the University of Wisconsin School of Music. (At the bottom is a YouTube video of a master class Hough gave on Liszt at the Peabody Conservatory of Music.)
And not for nothing was he the first instrumentalist to receive a MacArthur “genius award.” This multi-talented man – who is openly gay and who converted to Roman Catholicism at 19 — composes music, created a special app for Franz Liszt‘s Sonata in B Minor and writes extremely insightful and intelligent blogs for the Daily Telegraph newspaper and website in the United Kingdom on many different subjects. And he still finds time to be a globe-trotting, award-winning, much-in-demand concert pianist with dozens of recordings to his credit.
So here is a recent entry that of Hough’s talking about the DO’s and DON’Ts of how professional concert pianists – with limited time for practicing – go about the tricky but absolutely vital business of practicing.
It is an article that Hough wrote for the November/December issue of International Piano magazine. And it adds to the many other blog posts he has done about learning how to play the piano. (You can use a search engine o his site to check out other ones.)
The Ear hopes you find it as helpful and engaging as he did:
Here is a link:
Do you have any practicing suggestions?
The Ear want to hear.
ALERT and REMINDER: Ilona Kombrink (below), UW Emeritus Professor of Voice, passed away on Friday, August 9, 2013 in Stoughton, Wisconsin, at the age of 80. A Memorial Concert and celebration of Ilona’s life will be held on this Sunday, October 20, 2013 at 3 p.m. in the Grand Hall at Capitol Lakes Retirement Community, 333 West Main Street, Madison. The public is invited with no formal reservations necessary.
A member of the University of Wisconsin-Madison voice faculty from 1967-2003, “Ms. K” counted among her students hundreds of singers and teachers working all over the world today. She performed frequently in her own recitals and collaborated often with many of her UW faculty colleagues on and off-campus. She was beloved in the wider Madison community for her uncompromising vocal artistry, and was featured in appearances with Madison Opera, Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Capitol City Band, and others.
Among the performers will be former students: Kathleen Otterson (Edgewood College), Margaret (Peggy) Walters, and Daniel Johnson-Wilmot (Viterbo University); UW colleagues: Professor Howard Karp (piano) and Professor Parry Karp (‘cello); Professor Karlos Moser (opera); and Professor Tyrone Greive (violin). Participating pianists include Michael Keller, Bruce Bengtson, Michael Ross, Janet Smith, and Melinda Moser. UW Professor Mimmi Fulmer, former student Marcia Roberts McCoy, and Professor James Latimer will offer remembrances. A reception will follow in the Capitol Lakes Encore Room.
By Jacob Stockinger
French pianist Philippe Bianconi (below), a favorite of Madison audiences, returns this weekend for three performances, with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, of the towering Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 82, by Johannes Brahms.
The program also includes Claude Debussy’s famous tone poem “La Mer” and Benjamin Britten’s “Variation and Fugue on a Theme of Henry Purcell,” which the composer also used in the popular “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra” (that will be performed at the MSO’s fall school concerts) and which will mark the centennial of the composer’s birth.
Tickets are $13.50-$82.50. For more information, visit: http://www.madisonsymphony.org/bianconi
For program notes by J, Michael Allsen, who plays trombone in the orchestra, visit:
For more about Philippe Bianconi, who was born in Nice in 1960 and is the new director of the famed American Conservatory in France, visit: http://www.philippebianconi.com
To The Ear, Bianconi – who won a silver medal in the Seventh Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 1985 – is a rare find: an outstanding virtuoso pianist who is also a poetic and complete musician in almost any repertoire, not just French music. I find his Rachmaninoff Rhapsody as convincing as his Debussy Preludes.
Bianconi (below) recently agreed to an email interview:
How do you rate the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 among the other standard or popular concertos in the repertoire and in your own preferences?
I am not so sure that the Brahms Second Piano Concerto belongs to the most standard repertoire or to the most popular concertos, but it is certainly considered one of the great masterpieces of the kind.
In my own preferences, it stays at the very top. As a matter of fact, if I were pressed to choose one piano concerto for a desert island, my choice would be Brahms second. (Of course, I’d be devastated to leave behind a number of other great concertos!)
What makes it do great or special for you? What role has it played in your career? Do you play a lot of other Brahms and what do you like about Brahms?
There are many reasons that make it so special in my own pantheon, but the main one will seem a little odd: to me this concerto is not really a concerto – it is really a symphony with principal piano.
It has four movements, like a symphony, and everything about it — the structure, the texture, the way the piano is integrated into the orchestral fabric i– s very symphonic. And that is what I love about it: I have the feeling I’m playing in a Brahms symphony !
I don’t think it has played a particular role in my career, but every time I had the opportunity to play this piece was a great moment of happiness.
The sheer beauty of this music is simply overwhelming. And I don’t know many concertos that have such a great range of moods and emotions.
There is such grandeur and majesty in the first movement, it’s like climbing a mountain in the Alps, and when you get to the top, you discover a panorama of breathtaking beauty. Then there is the dark and violent passion burning in the second movement.
Then comes the sublime slow movement with the unforgettable solo of the cello that brings tears to my eyes every time. And finally, the lightness, the grace, the spirit of the last movement, in great contrast with the other movements, in the pure tradition of Haydn, even with the gypsy touch of the second theme.
This concerto is like a fabulous journey.
I have played a lot of other music by Brahms (below), including most of the chamber music with piano, and among the music for solo piano, I have a deep love for his late cycles. To me, Brahms is a true romantic at heart. He explores such a variety of feelings: passion, lyricism, dreamy intimacy, stormy conflicts, and it is all molded in classical form, and that is what gives his music such emotional power.
I know that one very well-known pianist said he had to perform it more than 200 times live before recording it. What makes the Brahms Second so challenging? Technical difficulties? Interpretive difficulties? What would you like the audience to listen for in your performance?
This concerto is very challenging for many reasons.
It is very long, between 45 and 50 minutes depending on the tempi chosen. It requires great strength, especially in the first two movements. Of course you must find a natural and relaxed strength in order to maintain a large, singing tone all the time. If you force or bang, the sound becomes ugly and it’s just unbearable.
The technical difficulties are numerous: the horrendous chords and jumps, the runs in double notes. There are also very “un-pianistic” things too. Because the piano is really part of the orchestra, and conceived in orchestral terms, in “coloristic” terms, and in relationship with the other instruments, certain things are technically very strange and awkward. Alfred Brendel (below) used to talk about the “pianistic perversions” of Brahms’ Second Concerto.
Then of course, the interpretative challenge is great too, and also because of the integration of the piano in the orchestra. You cannot think as a “soloist” when you play it. From beginning to end, you must have in mind the structure of the whole piece and the full orchestral texture, even in the solo passages. As a matter of fact, the collaboration with the conductor is absolutely crucial in this piece.
You have become a favorite pianist of Madison audiences and the Madison Symphony Orchestra and conductor John DeMain? How do you feel about the city and its audiences as well as about the orchestra?
I am so happy to come back to Madison. It’s a beautiful, lively city, and I love coming here. And I love the audience too. They are always so warm and enthusiastic.
I have played a number of times with the Madison Symphony and John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad), and every time has been a great musical and human experience. I feel a little bit like I’m coming back home to my family.
As I said, when you play Brahms Second, collaborating with the conductor is very important, so you can imagine how I look forward to performing it with John DeMain. I know it’s going to be one of the best experiences of my life with this piece.
What are your current projects and plans for concert performances, recordings, etc.?
In the next few months, I have some recitals planned in Europe, and in February I will be back in the States for a series of concerts with the Buffalo Philharmonic and Joann Falletta, playing Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in Buffalo and then on tour in Florida. Then I will be playing the Grieg Concerto in Santa Rosa, California, with the Santa Rosa Symphony and Bruno Ferrandis. It will be a great month of February for me.!
Last week, I recorded my first Chopin CD, which should be released in 2014. It’s with the same label (La Dolce Volta) I recorded the complete Debussy preludes (below, in a YouTube video) last year. It’s a new and energetic label and I’m really happy to work with them.
REMINDER: Do you suffer from stage fright or at least get nervous before a performance? Meet Noa Kageyama (below), a performance psychologist who teaches at the Juilliard School of Music. He will be in Madison at the University of Wisconsin on this Wednesday and Thursday to give free public talks and workshops. Here is his schedule and an illuminating Q&A with him by Kathy Esposito on the UW School of Music’s new blog “Fanfare”:
By Jacob Stockinger
This Friday evening at 8 p.m. in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below) will open its new season with the piano soloist Bryan Wallick making his local debut.
The program includes “Young Apollo” by Benjamin Britten, to celebrate the centennial of the birth of the most famous 20th-century English composer (below).
Single tickets are $15 to $67, and season subscriptions are still available.
For more information, visit: http://wcoconcerts.org/performances/masterworks/68/event-info/
Pianist Bryan Wallick – who is known for his synesthesia – recent gave an email interview to the Ear in which he discussed his special gift of synesthesia as well as his career and the music of Saint-Saens:
Can you briefly introduce yourself?
I grew up in Hamilton, Ohio, a small town outside of Cincinnati. I began playing at the age of 4 and got quite serious about playing when I was about 13. I changed teachers to a couple of professors and duo-pianists at the University of Cincinnati (Eugene and Elizabeth Pridonoff, below) and they prepared me to go to The Juilliard School when I finished high school. The biggest competition I won was the Vladimir Horowitz International Piano Competition in Kiev, Ukraine.
I understand you have synesthesia, or the mixing or blending of the senses. Can you tell us specifically what that means for you and your playing, and for the listener?
In my experience, I see a color with each different notes (12 different notes and 12 different colors). For example, E is green, C is white, G is red, etc.
It’s a peripheral experience in my mind’s eye as I play, and it probably helps a little with memory retention as I have some another association (color) with the notes.
It doesn’t really have any impact on the audience, except in the case where I was given a grant by the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts in Arizona to create a program that displayed some pictures depicting an approximate version of what I see in my mind when I play.
What do think about the role of Camille Saint-Saens (below) in music history? Is he too overlooked, neglected or underestimated? What do you think about the Piano Concerto No. 5 (performed by pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet and the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam in a popular YouTube video at the bottom) and how it compares to his other piano concertos as well as those of the standard repertoire?
Saint-Saens’ role in music history is enigmatic. He was recognized as a genius prodigy from a very early age like Mozart and Mendelssohn, and he was also a virtuoso pianist who supposedly had fantastic fingers (which features prominently in most his piano works).
He lived a long life and his career and reputation changed perception a few times. Early in his 30s he was criticized for championing the then “new” music of Liszt and Berlioz, but toward the end of his life in the early 20th century, he was fighting against the music of Debussy and most of the trends that took hold in modern music.
He knew his own music could lean toward the “sentimental” side, and even the famous “Carnival of the Animals” was only published after his death as he knew this kind of music could hurt his reputation in more “serious” circles.
I love his music, even the sentimental pieces, and this particular piano concerto has the best of Saint-Saens musical elements contained within it. The “Egyptian” element is felt mostly in the second movement where he uses oriental scales and some unusual harmonies to depict his “Egyptian” characteristics. It’s a very exciting and virtuosic work.
What do you know of Madison and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and its music director/conductor Andrew Sewell (below). Will this be your Madison or Wisconsin?
I met Andrew in Oregon a few years ago when we were both performing out there. We got on really well, and I was lucky enough for him to engage me to come and open this season with the orchestra. This will be my first time to play in Madison.
Was there an Aha! Moment — a work or composer, a performance or performer– that made you want to be a professional concert pianist?
Perhaps, when I was about 12, I played in a master class of the teachers who then soon after I began to study with. The way they were able to bring music to life in a completely new and exciting way inspired me to want to practice and be able to create music and beauty the way they could.
What advice do you have for young music students, especially pianists?
I would say that one should not go into music unless that is really all they could see themselves doing one day. It is a very difficult career, with lots of bumps and bruises to the ego, but once the hard work is accomplished and one can turn a phrase 15 different ways, its such a joy to create, experiment, and play this instrument.
Many students miss the fun and joy of performing as they are so worried about playing “correctly” and I also had to deal with this in my own way. But the more I take chances with ideas and with sound, the more fun and inspiring the music becomes.
Is there anything else you would like to add or say?
I can’t wait to perform in Madison next week!
REMINDER: The UW Chamber Orchestra (below) performs a FREE concert tomorrow, on Tuesday night, Oct. 1, at 7:30 p.m in Mills Hall. The program, under conductor James Smith, features Robert Schumann’s “Overture, Scherzo and Finale,” Franz Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 88 and Richard Wagner‘s “Siegfried Idyll.”
By Jacob Stockinger
But one of the most enjoyable events is also one of the most low-profile.
I am speaking about the weekly Friday Noon Musicales (below) that take place in the Landmark Auditorium of the First Unitarian Society’s historic Meeting House, near University Hospital, at 900 University Bay Drive off, just University Avenue on the city’s near west side.
It is not surprising that the Friday Musicales exist because the Unitarians in Madison — which has the highest concentration of Unitarians in the U.S. — always place a major emphasis on music, as did its famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. (An excerpt from an All-Mozart Sunday is in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
You can bring lunch, drink coffee or tea, or, as I do, eat before and take along a small dessert.
But so often the midday music concert is itself the dessert, the real treat. Imagine the fun of hearing live music for a daytime break. It is like a parenthesis, a time-out or an oasis in the day. Often I have walked into the concert with less enthusiasm and energy than I left with. The music recharges me and provides a spark to get through the rest of the day.
The setting and presentation are informal. But I have found the audiences very appreciative and generally quiet and well-behaved, though sometimes the knitters and readers, especially if they are in the front rows, strike me as rude and disrespectful to the performers.
I have heard singers and solo pianists, string trios and string quartets, all kinds of soloists and ensembles and music.
The Musicale series starts again this week, this Friday Oct. 4. So The Ear asked the First Unitarian Society’s music director Dan Broner to provide some background.
The many-talented Broner (below) not only plans the concerts and performers, he also plays the pianist himself as an accompanist in many of the concerts.
Here is Dan Broner’s email Q&A with The Ear:
How long have the Free Friday Noon musicales been held? Are they expensive to put on and how are they funded?
They have been held since 1987. They are an outreach program to the community and funded by the First Unitarian Society’s operating budget. The costs are that portion of my salary for administering and performing in the series, plus piano tuning and minimal utility expenses.
The musicians donate their services, and the 45-minute concerts (they run 12:15 to 1 p.m.) are free and open to the public.
How successful have they been? What is the typical attendance and how it is trended in recent years? Do certain kinds of concerts (instrument, voice, program, performer) attract a bigger or smaller audience?
The Musicales attract listeners of all ages, but are particularly attractive to seniors, and workers who can attend during their lunch break.
They regularly attract between 50 and 75, numbers, which have been consistent for the past 11 years of my tenure.
Attendance would most likely be higher if it we had more parking. But we share the lot with the Meeting House Nursery School, which limits availability.
Generally instrumental performances attract a larger audience, and more well-known artists will generate a larger crowd as well.
What do you hear from the public as a reaction to the concerts?
Almost every week I will receive favorable comments from attendees who enjoy the Musicales. Some have stated that they are their favorite musical events.
The Musicales are scheduled between October and May and many folks have said that they are eager for the season to begin.
How do you line up artists and programs? Do they come to you or you come to them?
Many artists contact me. They are attracted by the historic Frank Lloyd Wright landmark venue (below): the architecture, acoustics and the fully restored 1889 Steinway Model A grand piano.
Often they are students and teachers from the University of Wisconsin School of Music and other area universities who would like a trial run of recitals they are preparing.
Every summer I send out an email to every artist who has performed in the series and many elect to perform again.
Are there special programs you would like to point out for the current season?
There are many intriguing musicales this season, but a few do stand out for me personally. I’m eager to hear the young Madison pianist Garrick Olsen (below top), who is playing on Dec. 6. I always enjoy hearing the fine violinist, Kangwon Kim (below middle), and I look forward to collaborating with her on the Johannes Brahms’ Sonata in G for Violin and PIano on Friday, Jan. 10.
The fine Chicago area virtuoso pianist Mark Valenti will be performing at the Musicales for the first time on Jan. 31. Madison native pianist Kathy Ananda-Owens, from the St. Olaf College music faculty, plays on Feb. 7 and the Black Marigold Woodwind Quintet (below bottom), which is always fun, performs on March 14.
Is there anything else you would like or add or say?
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this unique series. We welcome new listeners and musicians interested in performing.
Please join us for the first Musicale on this Friday, October 4, at 12:15 p.m. Violist Shannon Farley (below), with guitarist Christopher Allen and pianist Greg Punswick, will be performing music of J.S. Bach, Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann and Cesar Franck.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Pro Arte String Quartet (below in a photo by Rick Langer) – which became the world’s first artists-in-residence in the world when they agreed to stay at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1940 — kicks off its new season with two FREE concerts this week and much more this fall.
The Pro Arte – which celebrated its historically unprecedented centennial two seasons ago — will perform Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Prussia” String Quartet in D Major, K 575, Darius Milhaud’s Quartet No. 7 and the rarely heard Quartet in A Minor by the Viennese violinist and composer Fritz Kreisler who is best known for his miniature works, transcriptions and pastiches.
Then at 7:30 p.m. on next Thursday, Oct. 3 in Mills Hall, the Pro Arte will perform a FREE and MUST-HEAR concert in Mills Hall. It will perform the same Mozart and Kreisler quartets as above, but the Milhaud will be replaced by the String Quartet No. 1, Op. 51, No. 1, by Johannes Brahms.
Also, stay tuned for word about an airing date for the program that the Pro Arte is recording this coming Monday night for Wisconsin Public Television.
The by-invitation-only TV concert has a program that features a prelude by Ernest Bloch (at bottom in a YouTube video) and the famous “Adagio for Strings” quartet movement – later transcribed for string orchestra at the request of famed conductor Arturo Toscanini (below top) – by Samuel Barber (below bottom).
Many people forget that the Pro Arte Quartet gave the world premiere of the famous “Adagio for Strings” — the slow movement of Barber’s String Quartet in B Minor, Op. 11 — in Rome in 1936.
Also watch for news this fall of an Albany Records CD release — with a local release party — of the four commissions (two string quartets and two piano quintets)– that the Pro Arte Quartet commissioned for its centennial two seasons ago. The CD was engineered by the multiple Grammy Award-winner Judith Sherman (below).
The two string quartets were composed from Walter Mays (below top) and John Harbison (below bottom), who is also the co-director of the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival.
The two piano quintets were composed by Paul Schoenfield (below top) and William Bolcom (below middle) and featured the celebrated UW-Madison pianist Christopher Taylor (below bottom).
Then at its FREE concert in Mills Hall at 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 22, 2013, the Pro Arte will give the world premiere of its fifth centennial commission: a String Quartet by the contemporary Belgian composer Benoit Mernier (below). The Pro Arte originally started, you may recall, at the conservatory in Brussels.
And finally, next May, the Pro Arte Quartet travels to Europe – to its home city of Brussels, Belgium, as well as London and maybe Paris – to perform works from its centennial commissions.
And there is still more to come, including a book about the Pro Arte Quartet by the retired UW-Madison historian turned music critic and guest writer for Isthmus and for this blog John W. Barker (below).