ALERT: Today’s FREE Friday Musicale, from 12:15 to 1 p.m. at the First Unitarian Society of Madison 900 University Bay Drive, features pianist Mark Valenti. He will play “Estampes” by Claude Debussy, Sonata by Bela Bartok and “Variations Serieuses” by Felix Mendelssohn.
By Jacob Stockinger
Today, Friday, Oct. 31, 2014, is Halloween.
What is some good Halloween music?
One perennial favorite in the “Danse Macabre” by the French composer Camille Saint-Saens (below) with such masterful orchestration especially in the strings, brass and percussion parts. You can hear a popular YouTube video with over 5 million hits at the bottom.
And here a previous post from this blog with some suggestions by The Ear as well as some very good and very appropriate reader suggestions:
What do you think is a really good piece of Halloween music?
Let us know in the COMMENTS section with a link to a YouTube video, if you can include that.
The Ear wants to hear.
And The Ear wishes you a HAPPY HALLOWEEN.
By Jacob Stockinger
It will be a busy weekend at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.
Events include a FREE orchestra concert on Sunday afternoon for the Wisconsin Academy’s marking of the centennial of the extinction of the passenger pigeon.
But there is also a FREE cello recital on Saturday night and a voice faculty showcase concert on Sunday evening.
Here are details.
At 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, cello Professor Parry Karp (below left), who also plays in the Pro Arte Quartet, will play a FREE recital with his longtime pianist partner Eli Kalman (below right), who teaches at UW-Oshkosh and did his doctoral work at the UW-Madison School of Music.
The program includes the Sonata in C Minor for Piano and Violin, Op; 30, No. 2 (1802), by Ludwig van Beethoven as transcribed for cello by Parry Karp, who also transcribed all the violin sonatas by Johannes Brahms; the Sonata in E-flat Major for cello and piano (1922) by Ettore Desderi; and the Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, Op 22 (1945) by Samuel Barber.
REMEMBERING THE PASSENGER PIGEON
On Sunday, Nov. 2, at 2 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Symphony Orchestra will perform the Wisconsin premiere of “The Columbiad,” preceded by a talk by acclaimed emeritus wildlife professor Stanley Temple (below).
The concert is part of a two-day symposium on the 100th anniversary of the demise of the fabled passenger pigeon. It features a short talk by Stanley Temple, Beers-Bascom Professor Emeritus in Conservation, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Senior Fellow, Aldo Leopold Foundation.
Learn more here.
On the occasion of the 2014 centenary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon, the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters and the UW-Madison Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology invite the public to join in an exploration of the sobering story of the passenger pigeon (below is a photo of a stuffed real passenger pigeon) and what it can tell us about the ongoing extinction crisis and our relationship with other species.
Events include the Wisconsin premiere of The Columbiad, a symphony by Anthony Philip Heinrich, performed by the UW Symphony Orchestra. The Columbiad created a sensation at its premiere in Prague in 1858 and will be performed once again this fall at UW-Madison and Yale University. (You can hear the beginning of the work as performed at Yale in early October in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
Heinrich was inspired by witnessing vast flocks of passenger pigeons in 1831. Known in his day as “the log cabin composer” and “the Beethoven of America,” Anthony Philip Heinrich is the only important composer of the early 19th century to have experienced the North American frontier as he did. He saw Niagara Falls, he encountered Native Americans and slave musicians, and he witnessed the astonishing migration of giant flocks of passenger pigeons.
To learn about the national effort, please see Project Passenger Pigeon.
Here are related events and links:
A staged reading of a new play about the passenger pigeon by The Bricks Theatre
Saturday, November 1, 2014 from 7 to 9 p.m.
UW-Madison Biotechnology Auditorium, 425 Henry Mall
An afternoon documentary screening and panel discussion on the demise of the passenger pigeon
Saturday, November 1, 2014 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
UW–Madison Union South, Marquee Theater
1308 W. Dayton St.
Stanley A. Temple is the Beers-Bascom Professor Emeritus in Conservation in the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology and former Chairman of the Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development Program in the Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at UW–Madison. For 32 years he held the academic position once occupied by Aldo Leopold, and during that time he won every teaching award for which he was eligible. Temple has a PhD in ecology from Cornell University where he studied at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. (below is a photo of one mass shooting of passenger pigeons.)
At 7:30 p.m. on Sunday night, Nov. 2, in Mills Hall the UW-Madison voice faculty presents an evening of chamber music featuring the solo voice. Featuring a premiere, “White Clouds, Yellow Leaves,” written by composer and saxophone professor Les Thimmig (below).
Participants includes: Mimmi Fulmer and Elizabeth Hagedorn, sopranos; Paul Rowe, baritone; with Karen Atz, harp; Thomas Kasdorf, piano; Marc Vallon, bassoon; Parry Karp, cello; and many students and faculty from the UW-Madison School of Music.
Tickets are $10 with students getting in for FREE. Tickets will be available at the door as well as online or at the box office. Please see this link.
Here is the full program:
“Don Quichotte à Dulcinée” (1934) by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) Chanson Romanesque; Chanson épique; Chanson á boire with Paul Rowe, baritone, with Thomas Kasdorf, piano.
“La lettre” by Jules Massenet (1842-1912)
“Absence” by Georges Bizet (1838-1875)
“L’invitation au voyage” by Emmanuel Chabrier (1841-1894) with Elizabeth Hagedorn, soprano; Marc Vallon, bassoon, with Thomas Kasdorf, piano, and Karen Atz, harp.
“Barcarolle” by Charles Gounod (1818-1893) with Elizabeth Hagedorn, soprano; Paul Rowe, baritone, with Thomas Kasdorf, piano.
“Long Pond Revisited” (2002) by Lori Laitman (below, b. 1955). From poetry by C.G.R. Shepard: “I Looked for Reasons,” “The Pond Seems Smaller,” “Late in the Day,” “Days Turn,” “Long Pond Revisited” with Paul Rowe, baritone; Parry Karp, cello.
“White Clouds, Yellow Leaves” (2013) by UW-Madison composer Les Thimmig (b. 1943) fromTexts derived from 8th- and 9th-century Chinese poetry with Mimmi Fulmer: mezzo-soprano; Mi-Li Chang: flute, piccolo, alto flute; Kostas Tiliakos,: English horn; Marc Vallon: bassoon; Sean Kleve: percussion; Karen Atz, harp; Paran Amirinizari: violin; Rachel Hauser: viola; Andrew Briggs: violoncello; and Les Thimmig: conductor.
Here is a link to the full program with program notes:
Tickets are $10 for the public; students get in free.
ALERT: Tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Music Hall on Bascom Hill, is your last chance to hear the University Opera’s production of Benjamin Britten’s comic chamber opera “Albert Herring,” which is based on a short story by the 19th-century French writer Guy de Maupassant. (Below, in a photo by Michael R. Anderson, is a crucial scene.)
Tickets are available at the door. They are $22 for the public, $18 for seniors and $10 for students.
Here is a link with more information:
And here is a link to a review by John W. Barker of Isthmus. The Ear, who saw the Sunday afternoon performance instead of the opening on Friday night, agrees with Barker on the major points:
By Jacob Stockinger
Farley’s House of Pianos will host five concerts in the Salon Piano Series’ 2014-15 season, which starts this coming Sunday:
The Varshavski-Shapiro Piano Duo (below), this Sunday, November 2, at 4 p.m., in music by Schubert, Ravel, Milhaud, Saint-Saens and Poulenc.
Pianist Ilya Yakushev (below), Sunday, January 25, 2015, at 4 p.m. in music by Beethoven, Prokofiev and Schumann.
Pianist Marco Grieco (below), Friday, March 13, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. in music by Johann Sebatsian Bach-Feruccio Busoni, Beethoven, Chopin and Liszt.
Pianist Martin Kasík (below), Saturday, April 18, 2015, at 7:30 p.m. in music by Beethoven, Ravel and Prokofiev.
A spring jazz concert, still to be announced
These concerts constitute the second season of the Salon Piano Series, a 501(c)(3) non-profit founded by Tim and Renée Farley to continue the tradition of intimate salon concerts at Farley’s House of Pianos.
The setting replicates that experienced by audiences throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, and enhances collaboration between performer and audience.
The Series offers audiences the chance to hear upcoming and well-known artists whose inspiring performances are enhanced by the setting and the fine pianos. Some performances are preceded by free lectures. An artists’ reception with light food and beverages follows each concert and is included in the ticket price.
VARSHAVSKI AND SHAPIRO
Here is more about the opening concert:
The program features: “Variations on a French Song”, D. 624, one piano-four hands, by Franz Schubert; “La Valse” for one piano-four hands by Maurice Ravel; the exciting and lyrical Brazil-inspired “Scaramouche” suite by Darius Milhaud (heard at the bottom played by piano superstars Martha Argerich and Evgeny Kissin in a YouTube video); “Variation on a Theme by Beethoven” for two pianos by Camille Saint-Saens; and the Sonata for Two Pianos by Francis Poulenc.
Ukrainian Stanislava Varshavski and Russian Diana Shapiro’s partnership began in 1998, while the two were students at the Jerusalem Rubin Academy in Israel. One year later, they won first prize at the International Piano Duo Competition in Bialystok, Poland.
Since then, the ensemble has participated in international festivals and performed solo recitals in at least eight different countries, and has appeared with a number of well-known orchestras, such as the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, and the New World Symphony Orchestra of Miami.
In 2005, they placed first in the prestigious Murray Dranoff International Two Piano Competition. Varshavski and Shapiro both hold doctorates in Musical Arts from University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, where they studied under Martha Fischer. The duo appeared together at Farley’s in 2012 when they premiered the Villa Louis Steinway Centennial grand (below) that was rebuilt in the Farley workshop. Learn more about the Varshavski-Shapiro Piano Duo at www.piano-4-hands.com.
SALON PIANO SERIES
Tickets are also available at Farley’s House of Pianos and Orange Tree Imports.
Farley’s House of Pianos is located at 6522 Seybold Road on Madison’s far west side near the Beltline and West Towne. Plenty of free parking is available at Farley’s House of Pianos, and it is easy to reach by bicycle or Madison Metro.
By Jacob Stockinger
Here is a special posting, a review written by frequent guest critic and writer for this blog, John W. Barker. Barker (below) is an emeritus professor of Medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also is a well-known classical music critic who writes for Isthmus and the American Record Guide, and who for 20 years hosted an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT FM 89.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.
By John W. Barker
The Middleton Community Orchestra (below) opened its fifth season on last Wednesday evening with a mix of novelties and old favorites.
The orchestra’s new concertmaster, Valerie Clare Sanders, a senior at the UW-Madison School of Music who also plays with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, also made her debut with the MCO.
The starter was the ever-popular, ever-rousing Overture to the opera “William Tell” by Rossini. The playing seemed a little less fully digested, but the piece still came off with spirit.
The unfamiliar elements were two display pieces for the young but highly gifted, Madison-born violist, Vicki Powell (below). She offered a superbly warm, rich, clearly projected tone, presented in a thoroughly professional manner— reminding us, too, how underappreciated the viola is as a solo instrument.
Her first selection was a Fantasia on themes of Mozart, by Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837), a protégé of Mozart and rival to Beethoven. Originally a solo piano piece of 1833, if I am not mistaken, it was arranged for solo viola and chamber orchestra by the French musician Fernand Oubradous. It proved to be charming music, beautifully played.
The second piece was a Romance, Op. 85, of 1911, for viola and orchestra. Composed in lush late-Romantic style, it could have been a movement of a concerto, and was a handsome dialogue between soloist and orchestra, realized with particularly gorgeous tone by Powell. She is a musician to watch for.
The grand finale was the Symphony No. 8 in G major by Antonin Dvorak.
Here I must ask the reader’s patience if I indulge in a strong personal memory about this work — and a very pertinent one.
When I was a graduate student in the late 1950s at Rutgers University, in New Brunswick N.J., I attended a concert by the New Brunswick Community Philharmonic (if I remember its name correctly). It consisted of semi-professionals and amateurs of the area, under the baton of the local high-school bandmaster, one Max Pecker. This has proven to be one of the most memorable concerts of my musical lifetime, and I still recall the program vividly.
Franz Schubert’s bouncy Overture to his opera “Alfonso und Estrella” immediately revealed that this orchestra was a pretty scrappy affair in terms of discipline. BUT: the players were having so much fun in their work that it was impossible not to share their enthusiasm.
The second work was the Piano Concerto No. 2 of Camille Saint-Saëns, featuring a local keyboard whiz just back from the Paris Conservatory. For him the orchestra had made its most careful preparation, and their playing came off as quite credible.
But the final work was this very same G major Symphony by Dvorak (below). Now, the orchestra’s concertmaster was also the local newspaper’s music critic (!), and in her review of the concert she revealed the profundity of her knowledge by observing that, though this symphony was not as well-known as Dvorak’s Symphony No 9 “The New World,” it was, she insisted, “not without moments of interest” (! again). (You can hear the entrancing and beautiful symphony in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
The important thing was that, even though the work was rough going for this ensemble, the sheer joy of the players was simply contagious. The most honest kind of musical pleasure filled the hall. As I said, this is a concert I have never forgotten, always remembered affectionately.
I had that concert very much in mind in listening to the MCO performance.
Oh yes, there were some passing fluffs here and there. But this was an orchestra that could play with discipline and coherent unity of purpose, far beyond the New Brunswickers’ capacities. The parallel was, however, that the players seemed clearly to have caught the enthusiasm for the score conveyed to them by conductor Steve Kurr (below).
Better than most performances I have heard, Kurr projected an intensity and even dramatic emphases that the orchestra took up and gave back to him gloriously.
One member told me afterwards: “We enjoyed playing it.” And I found myself at times transported with delight at how this magnificent score once again came alive for me, thanks to music-making that was more than just a matter of artistic efficiency.
My point is not just a matter of nostalgia revived. It is a reminder that one does not have to have a performance by one of the super-polished orchestras of our Big Cities, or of the international world, in order to have a memorable listening experience.
A deeply committed orchestra under inspired and inspiring leadership can offer as satisfying a musical experience as can be found anywhere.
Madison audiences should therefore listen up and pay attention to Middleton’s really splendid community orchestra, taking advantage of its offerings to discover the genuine rewards.
By Jacob Stockinger
Are artist concert fees — like those charged by tenor Placido Domingo (below top), soprano Rene Fleming (below middle) and violinist Itzhak Perlman (below bottom) — too high these days and too unaffordable for most American concert-goers?
What would Janet say?
Maybe that refrain could become the economic equivalent of What Would Jesus Say?
I am speaking of Janet Yellin (below), the chairwoman of the Federal Reserve who last week made headlines when she spoke out publicly against the widening wealth gap as being contrary to America’s historic democratic ideals.
But let’s localize the issue.
The Ear didn’t go, but here is a rave review from the student newspaper The Badger Herald, which agrees with the word-of-mouth reviews I have heard:
And for those who couldn’t or wouldn’t buy tickets, the Wisconsin Union Theater even webcast the concert live and for free.
Still, with seats that sold for well over $100, The Ear got to wondering: Are really high artist fees morally right or wrong?
We all hear about the widening wealth gap, and especially about the astronomical pay given to CEOs versus their workers as compared to the same ratio several decades ago.
Well, what about well-known and in-demand concert artists?
If The Ear heard correctly, Yo-Yo Ma’s fee for that one-night performance was either $90,000 or $95,000 -– or about $42,500 or $45,000 an hour.
Can Yo-Yo Ma demand and get that extravagant fee in the so-called “free market” society with its corporate welfare and tax loopholes for the wealthy? Of course, he can — and he does. That is why he sold out the Wisconsin Union Theater.
But should he?
It makes one wonder.
Is Yo-Yo Ma really that much better as a cellist and musician -– and not just as a celebrity — than many other cellists, including MacArthur “genius grant” winner Alisa Weilerstein, Alban Gerhardt, Jean-Guihen Queyras, Steven Isserlis, Carter Brey, Joshua Roman and others? (You can hear Yo-Yo Ma’s interpretation of a movement from a solo cello suite by Johann Sebastian Bach in a YouTube video — with over 11 million hits — at the bottom and decide if it is that much better than other cellists play it.)
Now I don’t mean to pick just on Yo-Yo Ma. I have gone to a half-dozen of his other performances here and I have met him and talked with him. He is without doubt a great musician, a fine human being and an exemplary humanitarian.
The problem that I am talking about transcends any single performer and applies to the whole profession.
Maybe at least part of the problem of attracting young audiences to classical music concerts can be placed right in the laps of the performing artists themselves.
When The Ear was young, he got to hear all sorts of great musical artists—including Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Rubinstein (below), Vladimir Horowitz, Van Cliburn, Itzhak Perlman, Rudolf Serkin, Isaac Stern, Emanuel Ax and others for quite affordable prices. Not that those artists didn’t live well -– but I doubt that they were paid the equivalent of $45,000 an hour.
Maybe it is time for economic populism in the performing arts.
Fees like that exclude a lot of families from participating. Some fans might find it better and cheaper to hear a CD or download than go to a live concert.
Too many performing artists – opera stars come immediately to mind as a class — seem to have taken the same path toward justifying greed as movie stars, sports figures, rock stars and CEO’s who make out like bandits.
In short, can it be that classical musicians are helping to kill off classical music?
Smaller theaters like the Wisconsin Union Theater and even the Overture Center simply cannot book such well-known artists without charging a ridiculous amount of money for a seat – and at a time when many people of all ages just can’t afford it. It just adds to the Wealth Gap and the One Percent problem.
SO THE EAR WOULD LIKE TO ASK CONCERT ARTISTS: PLEASE ADJUST YOUR CONCERT FEES TO HELP SUSTAIN THE FUTURE OF YOUR ART.
Well, these are just some brain droppings.
The Ear wonders what you think of stratospheric artist fees?
Do they contribute to the wealth gap?
Do they hurt the popularity of the art form, especially younger generations?
Are they contributing to the decline of cultural literacy?
In short, are such high artist fees morally right or wrong?
And if wrong, what can we arts consumers do about it? Boycott certain artists until they become more reasonable in their fees?
Ask artist and management agencies to adjust the fees to make them more affordable?
Go to alternative concerts that are perfectly acceptable without star power and cost less or, like those at the University of Wisconsin School of Music, free?
Tell us what you think in a COMMENT.
The Ear wants to hear.
ALERT: Today at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall is the final performance of this season’s second concert by the Madison Symphony Orchestra under the baton of John DeMain. Pianist Olga Kern (below) is the soloist in Sergei Rachmaninoff‘s Piano Concerto No. 1 in F-sharp minor. Other music includes the Suite from the ballet “Swan Lake” by Peter Tchaikovsky and the Symphony No. 6 by Dmitri Shostakovich. For information about tickets, the artists and the program, visit:
Here are reviews of Friday night’s opening night performance:
By John W. Barker of Isthmus:
By Jess Courtier for The Capital Times:
And by Greg Hettmansberger, who writes the Classically Speaking blog for Madison Magazine:
By Jacob Stockinger
The much admired but elusive, eccentric and enigmatic Russian pianist Grigory Sokolov (below) has signed up with Deutsche Grammophon and will release a live recital –- he refuses to make studio recordings – in January.
For the news plus an interesting interview and profile of Sokolov, here is a link to a story in the British magazine Gramophone. It includes some of his quirks such as not playing pianos older than five years and his specific repertoire favorites:
Italian conductor Daniele Gatti is named the new maestro of the famed Dutch Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. He starts in 2016 and sounds like he might be quite a bit of a contrast to past Concertgebouw conductors such as Bernard Haitink. Here is a story:
The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra continues its lockout over labor disputes, thereby postponing or canceling the opening of the new season. But last weekend ASO music director Robert Spano conducted the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in the German Requiem of Johannes Brahms.
Here is a link to a story on NPR (National Public Radio) to yet another turmoil in the world of American symphony orchestras:
ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Musicale, to be held from 12:15 to 1 p.m. at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, will feature “Triple Play” — trumpeter David Miller, cellist Amy Harr and pianist Jane Peckham in music of Eric Ewazon, William Schmidt, and Johannes Brahms. The concert is in the historic Landmark Auditorium.
By Jacob Stockinger
The early music and period instrument group Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble will perform a concert of vocal and instrumental chamber music of largely the 16th and 17th centuries.
PLEASE NOTE: The concert will be performed at 3 p.m. on this Sunday, October 19, at Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church — That is a change of venue from the usual Gates of Heaven Synagogue in James Madison Park. The church is located at 1833 Regent Street, on Madison’s near west side across from Randall Elementary School.
Performers are UW-Madison professor soprano Mimmi Fulmer; mezzo-soprano Consuelo Sañudo; recorder and dulcian players Theresa Koenig; traverse, recorder and harpsichord player Monica Steger; viola da gamba and cornetto players Eric Miller; baroque cello player Anton TenWolde; and organist and harpsichord player Max Yount.
Works by Scarani, Heinrich Schuetz, d’India, J.S. Bach, Bertoli, and Simpson will be featured.
Tickets at the door only: $20 for the general public, $10 for students.
Here is the complete program: Prelude for Solo Viola da gamba by Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe (ca. 1640–1700); “Ancor che col partire” from “French Motets, Madrigals and Songs” by Giovanniu Bassano (ca. 1561-1617) viola da gamba solo; “Music for Two Voices” (1615) by Sigusmondo d’India (ca. 1582-1629); Sonata for Dulcian and Basso continuo by Giovanni Antonio Bertoli (1598-1645); Sonata XII for Traverse and basso continuo by Johan Helmich Roman (1694-1758); INTERMISSION; Sonata decima quarta a tre, duoi canti e basso by Giuseppe Scarani (1628–1641); Two Divisions for the Practice of Learners by Christopher Simpson (1606–1669); “Komm, du süsse Todesstunde” (Come, Sweet Hour of Death, the tenor aria from which can be heard at bottom in a YouTube video), from Cantata 161 by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750); “Tugend ist der beste Freund,” SWV 442, by Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672).
By Jacob Stockinger
Not only does the Russian pianist Olga Kern (below, in a photo by Chris Lee) play Russian music superbly, she speaks about it just as well, even eloquently and poetically.
Witness her remarks below, which serve as an introduction to Kern, who will return to Madison to solo this weekend with the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below) under longtime music director and conductor John DeMain.
Performances are in Overture Hall on Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets cost $16-$84 with student rush tickets available. Call the Overture Center box office at (608) 258-4141.
Here is link to the MSO’s webpage about the concert, which includes biographical information, program notes and some audiovisual clips.
And here is a link to the always comprehensive and informative but accessible program notes by MSO trombonist and UW-Whitewater professor Michael Allsen (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot).
The half-hour pre-concert talk will be given by the accomplished violist Marika Fischer Hoyt (below). She plays with the MSO, the Madison Bach Musicians and the Ancora String Quartet and who also serves as a weekend host for Wisconsin Public Radio. The FREE talk starts in Overture Hall one hour before the start of the concert.
NOTE: In addition, the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Club 201 will host a special concert and after-party for Madison’s young professionals on Friday, Oct. 17. Fun, friendship, networking and tastings are included. The post-concert party, located in nearby Promenade Lounge within Overture Center, will include hors d’oeuvres and desserts, and offer drink specials. All Club 201 guests will have the exclusive chance to mingle with Madison Symphony Orchestra musicians and fellow music lovers. The $35 ticket will include a discounted concert ticket (usually $63-$84), seating near other young professionals during the performance, and access to the post-concert party with food. Purchase tickets by this WEDNESDAY, OCT. 15, by calling (608) 257-3734 or at www.madisonsymphony.org/club201
Here is the email interview that Olga Kern, who won the first Rachmaninoff International Piano Competition when she was just 17, graciously granted to The Ear:
How do you compare the Piano Concerto No. 1 by Sergei Rachmaninoff – which you played to win the Van Cliburn gold medal — to its more popular counterparts such as the Concertos Nos. 2 and 3 and the “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini,” which you also perform? What do you like about the work and what should listeners pay attention to?
The first concerto is Rachmaninoff’s Opus 1 piece. He re-edited it later in life, and in this composition you can hear the fresh approach immediately from the beginning of the first movement. And what an incredibly beautiful second movement it has. He gives the piano an opportunity to start the main melody, which sounds almost like an improvisation in a way.
It’s so unique, and at the same time you can hear Rachmaninoff’s special style as a composer in every note and bar. It’s his first composition and it gives incredible platform and base to his other orchestral works, especially to his piano concerti.
This concerto is similar in structure to his third concerto. It has also a long piano cadenza in the first movement, which is the dramatic point of the whole composition. Also, as in the third concerto, the finale of the last movement is challenging for both the pianist and the orchestra. (You can hear Olga Kern perform Rachmaninoff’s fiendishly difficult Piano Concerto No. 3 in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
This is why, I think, this concerto is not performed very often — because it’s not easy. But it’s really a great pleasure and excitement to perform this concerto. It’s such a wonderful jewel of Rachmaninoff’s music!
You have performed in Madison several times, both solo recitals and concertos. Do you have anything to say about Madison audiences or the Madison Symphony Orchestra?
I love Madison — the city, the people, the concert hall, the audience, the orchestra and of course the Maestro, John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad). He is fantastic. I can’t wait to work with him again. It’s always great! I have wonderful friends here and I always come back to this great place with pleasure!
I like to work with the Madison Symphony Orchestra — they are so sensitive and responsive, and I always have a great and fun time at the rehearsals with them. In the end, at the concert time, the performances come off so beautifully that it is a joy and a great celebration of music!
The Rachmaninoff piano concerto is part of an all-Russian program that also features music by Tchaikovsky (below top) and Shostakovich (below bottom). Are there certain qualities that you identify with Russian music and that explain the music’s appeal to the public?
Russian music is full of feeling and is very powerful emotionally. Russian people, even if they are happy, are always sad inside. And this explains why Russian music is so complicated with feelings -– it is in its nature — always a fight between sadness and happiness, between darkness and light, between good and bad. You feel it — whether you listen to it or you perform it.
All the composers who will be performed in this concert had very difficult, complicated lives. They went through so much, but at the same time they wanted to be happy. They were romantics in their souls, fighters in their hearts.
They wanted to make the world beautiful, no matter what, with their heavenly amazing music! This is why it’s always so exciting and so touching to listen and to perform their incredible works and compositions!
Since winning the gold medal at the Van Cliburn International Competition in 2001, you have been very busy. What are your current recording projects and touring plans?
Yes, I am very busy, and of course very happy about it. I definitely have lots of exciting plans for the near future, but — if you don’t mind — I will keep it as a secret to keep many wonderful surprises soon for my wonderful fans and friends!
Please follow me on my website, www.olgakern.com, my official Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/olgakern?fref=ts, Twitter: @kernolga1, and Instagram @kernolga. I will be posting all my exciting news and projects and share it with all of you there!
Is there more you would like to say or add?
I am looking forward very much to coming back to beautiful autumn season in Madison. It’s my favorite season there. Nature is gorgeous and, as always for me, very inspiring!
By Jacob Stockinger
Yesterday, The Ear offered a blog post about stage fright and performance anxiety.
But even the greatest musicians can -– and do — mess up.
So today is a follow-up.
Here is a link to a YouTube video with some pretty messed up notes and whole passages by some of history’s greatest pianists, virtuosos and technical wizards.
There was no recording technology back then, but it makes one wonder what Frederic Chopin or Franz Liszt might have sounded like off the page when they played. Or even such famed keyboard virtuosos as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven.
After all, in the same video the great Arthur Rubinstein (below) even explains how he faked an entire difficult Chopin etude and dumped a whole batch of deliberately played wrong notes into it during a public concert — and still won rave reviews from the critics!
It also puts a frame around the picture, and suggests that maybe we should simply worry more about the music and less about the notes. Performers just have to learn to accept failure! Perfection is beyond any of us.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy it.
If you know of other examples, or have personal experiences to share, let us know.
The Ear wants to hear.
“Live from the MET in HD” kicks off today at 11:55 a.m. with soprano Anna Netrebko in a critically acclaimed production of Giuseppe Verdi‘s opera “Macbeth,” based on the famous tragedy by William Shakespeare. The show is at Point Cinemas on the city’s far west side and Eastgate Cinemas on the city’s far east side. Here is a link to more information:
ALSO: Just a reminder that the spotlight concert of the University of Wisconsin-Madison brass festival is TONIGHT AT 8 P.M. IN MILLS HALL. Admission is $25 for the public, but all students get in for FREE. Here is a link to details about this concert and the whole festival, which winds up Monday.
By Jacob Stockinger
Do you suffer from stage fright -– better known as performance anxiety?
The Ear sure does.
But the British pianist Stephen Hough (below) is a breathtaking virtuoso who at least seems never to suffer from stage fright or performance anxiety –- at least not judging by the performances of recitals and concertos that I have heard him give in Madison at the Wisconsin Union Theater, the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, where he offered master classes.
But what about the rest of us?
It is surprising how many professional musicians, as well as amateur musicians, suffer from performance anxiety and state fright. The same goes for actors and public speakers of all kinds.
But Hough, who writes a wonderful blog that is both very readable and very informative for The Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom, recently dealt with the topic in a way that The Ear really admired and found helpful.
Maybe you will feel the same way.
Here is a link:
Do you suffer form stage fright and performance anxiety?
What have you found helpful to overcome it?