By Jacob Stockinger
Two noteworthy concerts will take place this weekend.
The recital by acclaimed German organist Felix Hell (below) and trumpeter Andrew Balio, a Wisconsin native and principal trumpet of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, will feature a century-spanning program that concludes with multiple works by Johann Sebastian Bach. The Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) is presenting The Hell/Balio Duo as part of its Overture Concert Organ (below) Series.
To see the full program and see other information, use this link:
And here is a sample video from YouTube of Felix Hell playing an organ transcription of Samuel Barber’s famous “Adagio for Strings”:
The concert career of Felix Hell (below) began at the age of nine and has included more than 700 recitals worldwide. He has received global recognition for his performances of the entire organ works of Johann Sebastian Bach in three full cycles as well as the complete organ works of Felix Mendelssohn. A frequent guest of American orchestras, Hell gave his debut performance in Boston’s famous Symphony Hall in 2004.
Wisconsin native Andrew Balio (below) was appointed as principal trumpet of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in 2001. He was previously the principal trumpet of the Israel Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta and the Orquesta Sinfonica del Estado de Mexico. His solo debut, at age fifteen, was with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, performing the Haydn trumpet concerto.
Here is a link to his official and impressive biography:
And here is a sample of Andrew Balio’s playing in a YouTube video:
Then on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. in the St. Joseph Chapel at Edgewood College, 1000 Edgewood College Drive, the Edgewood Chamber Orchestra, under Edgewood professor and conductor Blake Walter (below, in a photo by John Maniaci),
The Edgewood Chamber Orchestra will perform works include Rossini’s “Barber of Seville” Overture; Beethoven’s Symphony Number 2 in D (at bottom in a YouTube video with Christian Thielemann conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in the first movement); and Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf,” narrated by guest performer John Fields, interim Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Edgewood College.
Admission is $5; free with Edgewood College I.D.
ALERT: Phenom conductor Gustavo Dudamel (below) leads the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Stravinsky‘s “The Rite of Spring” LIVE on an NPR webcast today at 5 p.m. EDT on www.npr.org. Here he discusses the landmark work with “All Things Considered” host Robert Siegel: http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2012/09/28/161964987/gustavo-dudamel-on-the-magic-of-stravinskys-crazy-music
By Jacob Stockinger
Just a week ago, last Sunday afternoon, I heard a stunningly good concert by the Madison Symphony Orchestra.
It was the perfect season opener and featured an all-Russian program plus a tribute to two MSO figures who died recently, principal tuba player Paul Haugan (below top) and longtime conductor and music director Roland Johnson (below bottom).
I agree with just about all my critic colleagues, who wrote very positive reviews. It was an extremely impressive and satisfying concert in so many ways.
The “Adagio for Strings” by UW composer John Stevens (below) was less emotionally wrenching than Samuel Barber’s well-known work of the same name. But that only made it more suited to the occasion. It held loss in a level gaze and didn’t sentimentalize the inevitability of death and loss. Plus, the MSO strings sounded so beautiful and so precise.
Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1 “Classical” was performed with all the wit and spark that the neo-Classical pastiche requires. All sections showed the energetic snap the piece calls for.
And who wouldn’t be overwhelmed by the drama and fierce rhythms, the masterful orchestration and sonic beauty of The “Firebird” Suite, which showcased the entire orchestra, by Stravinsky (below).
But as for the finale, the Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Major, Op. 44, by Tchaikovsky – well I guess I find myself in the role of the dissenter filing a minority report.
MSO music director and conductor John DeMain (below, in a photo by James Gill), now entering his 19th season in Madison, programmed it at the suggestion of the soloist pianist Garrick Ohlsson. It proved to be a premiere performance in the almost century-long history of the MSO.
And I think for good reason.
One critic praised it as a deserving work and a wonderful piece. And it is true that the performance received an enthusiastic standing ovation.
But I think that reception was largely NOT for the music.
I think the audience’s reaction came from hearing a first-rate performance of a second-rate piece.
It is good once a while to hear this rarely performed work. But let’s not overdo it. It is true that the concerto does have some beautiful moments. But overall, it is ponderously long, especially in the first movement.
The second movement, a piano trio with less piano than cello and violin, was performed exceptionally well by principal cellist Karl Lavine (below top, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) and concertmaster Naha Greenholtz (tomorrow bottom). But it really can’t compare for me with the beauty of the Piano Trio in A minor by the same composer. And the final movement was disjointed, albeit virtuosic.
The virtuosic Ohlsson (below) played the treacherously difficult piano part with aplomb, confidence and conviction.
But too much of the concerto just sounded to The Ear like a reworking of passages from the more famous Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, which has made so many careers including those of Arthur Rubinstein, Vladimir Horowitz, Sviatoslav Richter, Van Cliburn, Emil Gilels, Lang-Lang and many others.
What drive and what lyricism that earlier concerto has. It is irresistible. It changes your world. It shakes you up. It stirs you deeply. And makes you hum or sing along.
If it is a warhorse – and it truly is – it is for a good reason. Its magic never fails. It is indisputably great. It is reliable. It never fails to deliver the goods.
It was good to hear the Second Piano Concerto by Tchaikovsky (below), but more as a curiosity than as a great listening experience. The audience would really have gone wild the First Concerto, especially the hands of such a fluent and powerful player as Ohlsson. I also bet it would have meant sellouts for all three performances at a time when symphonies can use all the attendance they can muster.
Perhaps the concert could have concluded with a Rachmaninoff or Prokofiev concerto, or even the Shostakovich Second. Or the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, which like the same composer’s great symphonies, stands up to the First Piano Concerto and surpasses the Second Piano Concerto.
So I’ll be anxious to hear what other audience members have to say about Tchaikovsky’s Second Piano Concerto? Was it a great work that you liked? Or the great performance that enthralled you?
The Ear wants to hear. You be the critic.
I also want to hear what your own favorite “warhorses” are: J.S. Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins or Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons”? Beethoven’s Fifth or Ninth symphonies, or maybe his “Emperor” piano concerto? Rachmaninoff’s Second or Third Piano Concertos or his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini? Mozart’s G minor and “Jupiter” Symphonies, or perhaps his Piano Concerto in D Minor? Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony? Grieg’s Piano Concerto or Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring”? Puccini’s opera “La Boheme”? Or maybe Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 (at bottom)?
Some very experienced or even jaded listeners will call them “warhorses” and dismiss them.
But so-called warhorses get their name precisely because they are tough and reliable, and because they work. It is laudable to program beyond them, but not to ignore or dismiss them
Warhorses are usually great music that should be performed live more often, great music that will help attract new and younger audiences who might not even know them at all because, unfortunately, “warhorses” aren’t supposed to be played – and, at the risk of seeming unsophisticated, often aren’t.
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 hosts an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT 88.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the MadisonEarly Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.
By John W. Barker
The Madison Symphony Orchestra opened its new season with a truly memorable program this past weekend.
It had been planned as a collection entirely of Russian music, but the mood and organization were complicated by two sad losses of recent months. One was the orchestra’s long-time and beloved tuba player, Paul Haugan (below top), and the other was Roland Johnson (below), the long-time builder and conductor of the MSO as well as the co-founder of the Madison Opera.
In their memory, maestro John DeMain opened the concert with a performance of the “Adagio for Strings” — not the famous one by Samuel Barber but the one by John Stevens (below) of the University of Wisconsin School of Music. It is easy to find initial parallels with Barber’s celebrated and moving, but basically rather simplistic piece. The one by Stevens is longer, more complex: it has an integrity of its own, and more extensive thematic growth. In short, a worthy tribute.
Then came the originally intended opener, the Symphony No. 1, popularly known as the “Classical Symphony,” by Prokofiev (below). This clever and totally enjoyable re-imagining of the idiom of Haydn and Mozart is justly familiar, and widely performed. Many conductors lean a little forcefully on the score, but DeMain seemed consciously to aim for greater lightness and deftness. Though the approach diminished the tensions of the second movement, it worked well otherwise.
For this concert, be it noted, DeMain once more shifted the second violin section behind the first, instead of opposing them. The decision was made partly to address some problems of co-ordination by the violins, in what is famously tricky string writing. The issue of the players hearing each other more effectively is important, though from the audience side I still think the firsts/seconds opposition works better sonically, as DeMain (below, in a photo by Jim Gill) had been proving in recent seasons.
To balance the program around the intermission more sensibly, with the Stevens piece added, what was intended to be the final work was shifted to close the first half of the program.
This was the Suite from Stravinsky‘s “Firebird” ballet. This suite exists in two forms: the popular 1919 version, and a longer one that Stravinsky (below) made in 1945. His logic was less musical than financial: he had lost out on full royalties for the 1919 suite, and so he made this “revision” to claim new contractual profits.
Aside from tinkerings with the orchestration, the main difference between the two versions is that Stravinsky added further segments from the original ballet. While this gives us more of the score, the additions are mainly of functional and movement-supporting stuff that is of limited musical interest and strains the patience. Better to have picked the concise 1919 version. Still, DeMain led a colorful and precisely disciplined reading.
The Big Event came as the program’s second half. It is to the credit of DeMain and some of his recent guest soloists that they have avoided warhorse concertos and given us bold rarities.
And it is to the credit of the guest soloist this time, Garrick Ohlsson, that a noble rarity was indeed set forth. Instead of the terribly overplayed Piano Concerto No. 1 of Tchaikovsky (below), we were given the Concerto No. 2.
This is a far more expansive, substantial and inventive work than the flashy but superficial No. 1. While composed in the usual three movements, it is full of experiments. There are two unusually big cadenzas woven into the first movement. The second adds solo violin and cello to play off the pianist — one thinks at times of the fabulous Piano Trio in A Minor by Tchaikovsky for this combination, so memorably played last June in the Bach Dancing and Dynamite concerts.
The orchestra in general has more of a “symphonic” role of its own. And, above all, the work is filled with magnificent melodies representative of the composer at his best.
This superb work is heard far too rarely in concerts and recordings. That may be because of its length, or because the pianist fears he is being upstaged by the other two soloists in the second movement.
There is, of course, demanding bravura solo work demanded of the pianist, and Ohlsson (below) brought it off with confident musicality. His collaboration with DeMain and the orchestra was music-making of the highest quality.
This is what concerts should be like at their best — really glorious.
EDITOR’S NOTE: All of the city’s critics generally agreed.
Here is a link to what critic Greg Hettmansberger had to same about the same concert for his Madison Magazine blog “Classically Speaking”:
By Jacob Stockinger
Gradually, the new concert season is getting under way. One of the biggest opening concerts comes this weekend, when the Madison Symphony Orchestra opens its new season.
Pianist Garrick Ohlsson (below) returns to Madison to solo in the rarely performed and rarely heard Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Major, Op. 44, by Tchaikovsky – who wrote three piano concertos of which only the first, the famous one in B-flat minor, achieved mass appeal. (Some of the rarely recorded Second Concerto’s gorgeous second movement is at the bottom.)
The performance of the Tchaikovsky is part of an all-Russian program that also includes Prokofiev’s “Classical” Symphony and Stravinsky’s “Firebird” Suite. The conductor is MSO’s music director John DeMain (below, in a photo by James Gill), who is starting his 19th season in Madison at the MSO.
Also featured will be the “Adagio for Strings” — NOT to be confused with Samuel Barber‘s famous work with the same title — by University of Wisconsin composer and tuba player John Stevens, who also serves as the director of the UW School of Music. The work was originally composed in 1991 for tuba and euphonium ensemble, then revised in 2009 for strings and given its premiere by the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra. The performance of this work is being dedicated to the memory of longtime retired MSO music director and conductor Roland Johnson who died in May at 91, and to the memory of Paul Haugan, the longtime principal tuba player for the MSO who died prematurely in July. See below).
Performances are in Overture Hall on Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 8 p.m.; and Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $16.50 to $78.50. For more information about tickets, call the Overture Box office at (608) 258-4141 or visit www.madisonsymphony.org
For J. Michael Allsen’s program notes for the “Russian Resounds” concerts, visit:
Still, the soloist isn’t the only intriguing part of the concert.
A lot of fine music-making rides on regular orchestra players and especially on principal players or section leaders. And this past summer, the longtime and very accomplished principal tuba player Paul Haugan (below), died at 57 this past July. Here is a link to my post last month that announced the death of the highly accomplished Madison-born Milwaukee resident:
Who will replace Haugan?
I don’t yet know. But a recent story on NPR traced the process of auditioning for a major symphony orchestra. It shows how much work and nervousness goes into the strenuous, intimidating and extremely competitive make-or-break chance for a full-time job with a symphony.
It makes for fascinating listening and might just give you a new appreciation of the regular orchestra players, who are usually overshadowed by both the conductor and the soloist.
Here is a link:
By Jacob Stockinger
Today is the 11th anniversary of 9/11 – Sept. 11, 2001.
What is the best music to pay homage to those terrible events and that awful loss of life – and yes, of such landmark buildings as the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City (below top), the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the Pennsylvania field where Flight 93 (below bottom) crashed to spare the White House or Capitol?
Since then quite a few popular songwriters and classical composers have memorialized the terrible event in music that specially refers to 9/11. Some of the works have even won prizes and already obtained a certain currency or popularity among performers. (Last season, the Madison Symphony Orchestra performed John Adams’ “On the Transmigration of Souls,” which won a Pulitzer Prize.)
Here is a list of the most famous ones, including recent and brand news works by John Adams, Steve Reich, Stephen Paulus, Joan Tower and John Corigliano among others.
You can find many of the on YouTube.
But call me old-fashioned.
I have heard some of the new music, but generally I am more moved by the familiar melodies and harmonies that resonate with other personal memories and personal moments to heighten the effect.
For me, the best 9/11 memorial music is still the “Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber (below), especially in its original string quartet version which I find more intimate and transparent, less overwhelming than the orchestral version the composer made for the conductor Arturo Toscanini.
Then I would choose the Funeral March movement from Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony. Or maybe I would choose the quiet poignancy of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Sheep May Safely Gaze” or restrained sadness the E-flat minor and B-flat minor preludes and fugues (both at bottom), from the same composer’s The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1. I like that very old music composers and music can still speak to and capture contemporary events and current sadness. That is part of what makes such composer and music great.
Mozart’s “Ave Verum Corpus” would also be a fine choice as would the slow movement of Mahler’s Symphony No. 6 and especially Brahms’ “German” Requiem and Faure’s Requiem.
What music would you choose to best memorialize 9/11?
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
It’s closing time!
At least it is for the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society and for its many fans and friends who this weekend will see the summer chamber music ensemble bring the curtain down on its 21st season.
The playful Mixology theme will take the group to the restored Stoughton Opera House (below) – where it will be taped by Wisconsin Public Television on Friday night; The Playhouse in the Overture Center on Saturday night, and the Hillside Theatre at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin compound in Spring Green on Sunday afternoon and Sunday evening. (Tonight at 7:30 p.m., the BDDS will also perform in Thresher Hall at the Green Lake Music Festival in Rip0n.)
Most appealing of all is the repertoire. The two programs offer wonderful contrasts. The “Kir Royale” program (champagne with a touch of black currant liqueur) features “noble” and “aristocratic” works: a Baroque dance suite by Couperin; a chamber version of Haydn’s Classical-era Symphony No. 85 “La Reine” (The Queen, written for Marie-Antoinette, below); and Schubert’s sublime and other-worldly Cello Quintet, perhaps the greatest single piece of chamber music ever composed.
The second program features the “Old Fashioned,” that is – composers who were thought staid or backward looking in their day but are now seen as forward-looking and original. Those works include Igor Stravsinky’s 20th-century Neo-Classical dance suite “Suite Italienne”; Francois Couperin’s “The Apotheosis of Lully” written in 1725; and the titan of Romantic traditionalism by the successor of Bach and Beethoven, Brahms (below) as expressed through his masterpiece the Piano Quintet in F minor.
Add in the guest artists, including harpsichordist Layton James (below), Minnesota Orchestra cellist Anthony Ross and New York violinist Carmit Zori, and The Ear thinks unforgettable treats are waiting.
These are all wonderful works, sure to be given energetic performances and not to be missed.
Of course the whole BDDS season, done in six program and three venues over three weeks, have been that way.
Last weekend, for example, was the nearly sold-out “Manhattan” program, which served up delicious Big Apple concoctions by Leonard Bernstein (“Symphonic Dances from West Side Story” arranged for two pianos and percussion); Ned Rorem (his Flute Trio); Samuel Barber (his gorgeous neo-Romantic Cello Sonata, below); and Astor Piazzolla (three tangos), who learned much of about jazz from his time in Manhattan clubs before returning to his native Argentina.
The superlative guest artists included two percussionists (Lawrence University’s Dane Richeson and UW-Madison’s Tony Di Sanza, both unfortunately concealed from much of the Playhouse audience by the piano lids) plus a local cellist (UW’s Parry Karp) and a guest pianist (Randall Hodgkinson from the New England Conservatory of Music) joined BDDS’s co-founders and co-directors flutist Stephanie Jutt and pianist Jeffrey Sykes. And the hilarious Mystery Guests were two comical bartenders – one for torso and head, the other for hands – who concocted an actual Manhattan (below) to loud applause and riotous laughter.
I am not alone in my praise for it. Here is a link to Greg Hettmansberger’s review of the “Manhattan” program for Madison Magazine and his blog Classical Speaking;
I suppose I should wait until after the coming weekend before speculating about the next season. But you can’t help but wonder: What will be the theme for BDDS’ 22nd season – maybe duets and quartets, maybe animals (as in Noah’s Ark and two-by-twos).
Whatever it is, you have to believe it will be yet another remarkable summer season.
For more information about this weekend, including program notes, ticket prices and reservations, and player biographies, visit:
In the meantime:
Bottoms up and cheers!
To your health, BDDS!
A Toast and a Thank You!
You make it an intoxicating summer, no matter what theme and music you choose.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Dane County Farmer’s Market has developed a national reputation as one of the biggest and oldest and finest such markets in the entire country. Over more than 25 years, it has become a focal point for the city’s and area’s community life in summer.
But you can get a lot more than food there.
Of course, you can see politicians and judges running for election and all sorts of other groups and community organizations on the Capitol Square recruiting members during the market on summer Saturday mornings.
But classical music fans have also started in recent years to bring their own “wares” to the Farmer’s Market.
Grace Episcopal Presents offered a free noontime concert last week.
Classical Revolution and New Muse (New Music Everywhere) also do events centered on the Farmer’s Market, sometimes with individual recitals or chamber concerts, sometimes even with a mass “flash mob” including a moving performance of Samuel Barber‘s “Adagio for Strings” (below).
And this summer, once again the Madison Symphony Orchestra is again presenting its FREE organ concert series in Overture Hall, in the nearby Overture Center, at 11 p.m. on the third Saturdays on June, July and August during the summer.
This summer will also feature a midweek FREE bonus concert in early August, a girls choir from Freiburg, Madison’s sister city in Germany, and a brass group.
One of the purposes, of course, is to showcase the colossal and impressive custom-built Klais concert organ (below) in Overture Hall:
Here is a schedule – so far no individual programs have been provided — for this summer’s Farmer’s Market organ concerts by the MSO. They are at 11 a.m.-noon in Overture Hall, if it is not stated otherwise:
THIS SATURDAY, JUNE 16: Mark Brampton Smith (below) is the organist at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, in Middleton.
SATURDAY, JULY 21: JARED STELLMACHER (below top) and the GARGOYLE BRASS QUINTET (below bottom). The Director of Music and Organist at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Hinsdale, Illinois, returns to Madison with a finalist group at the Chicago Brass Festival.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 18: KATHRINE HANFORD. Hear the organist and Director of Music at Central Presbyterian Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, and a faculty member at the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music in Appleton, Wisconsin.
You can also hear a FREE bonus concert by the FREIBURG CATHEDRAL GIRLS CHOIR on WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 8, AT 7:30 P.M. Madison’s sister city of Freiburg, Germany, sends its Cathedral Girls Choir to perform accompanied by the Colossal Klais Organ.
The Free Farmers Market Concerts are generously sponsored by Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation. Additional support for all Overture Concert Organ performances is provided by the Diane Endres Ballweg Fund.
By Jacob Stockinger
In past years, I have posted works of classical music that pay tribute to veterans, their families and those whose suffering we recall and remember on Memorial Day. (Below is a photo of Arlington National Cemetery.)
Here is a link to the Memorial Day posting for 2011:
Here are links to two Memorial Day postings for 2010:
In addition, the National Memorial Day Concert – with hosts Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise — that was broadcast LIVE last night (Sunday) from the west lawn of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wisconsin Public Television will get an encore presentation tonight at 10:30 p.m. The National Symphony Orchestra will take part. It performs Samuel Barber‘s “Adagio for Strings,” among other works.
Here are links to information about that TV broadcast:
But this year I happened upon something else: An extraordinary history on NPR of the moving, emotionally intense bugle call TAPS that will be played many times in many places today.
It is both a personal story of a longtime military bugler for Arlington National Cemetery and a history of a piece of music that spans 150 years, and wears and conflicts going back to the Civil War and more recently the assassination of JFK.
Here is a link to the story:
But I am also not ignoring classical music. If I recall correctly, Leonard Bernstein once commented on how Beethoven used various bugle calls in his Symphony No. 3, the famed “Eroica” that also has a movement that is a “Funeral March for a Hero.” (Part of the technical explanation, I seem to recall, is that the symphony is written in the key of E-flat, which is often the key for brass and especially horns and trumpets.)
But I am still interested in what piece of classical music you would choose to listen to on Memorial Day as a tribute to veterans. Leave a comment and let us know.
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 hosts an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT 88.9 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
Once again, the Middleton Community Orchestra (below, in a photo by William Ballhorn)) has reminded me of what genuine musical riches are to be found in the less-publicized areas of our cultural life.
Last Wednesday night at the Middleton Performing Arts Center, the MCO delivered the third of its four concerts this season. It was a short but intense program of three 20th-century works.
The first item was Aaron Copland‘s “Railroad Ballad for Orchestra” on the traditional song “John Henry,” about the railroading hero. This served as a lively, even noisy opener, but one rather too simplistic in its textures to foretell what lay ahead.
Featured as soloist was Jordan Allen (below), an example of the kind of talent that can so readily be harvested from hereabouts. Wisconsin-born Allen, already a veteran of the Eastman School of Music, is currently a fellowship graduate student at the UW School of Music Boyishly young and charming, he has the makings of a fine artist. He is already skilled as a chamber musician, but he gives the impression of still working his way into solo concertizing.
Playing from the score, he appeared to be still working to master Bloch’s solo demands. He produced a genuinely warm and winning tone, note-perfect, but nevertheless not fulfilling Bloch’s vision of the Biblical Solomon as a powerful king and a pillar of wisdom.
The orchestra worked intensely at Bloch’s dense tapestry of colors, conveying it with conviction, though conductor Steve Kurr could not quite bring its swirling climaxes to fullest realization.
The third work in the intermission-less concert was the 1919 Suite from Stravinsky’s great ballet, L’oiseau de feu or “The Firebird.” Conductor and orchestra clearly had put a lot of devoted work into preparing the performance.
Kurr (below) made no attempt at a flamboyant “interpretation,” but he guided the players with care and clarity through the intricate patterns of instrumental color that the score contains. Particularly impressive was the work of the splendid team of woodwind players with which the MCO is blessed. The sum total was a performance of satisfying vivacity and strength.
Kurr and his MCO players are a brave bunch, working near-miracles in their very restricted rehearsal time. The Madison area can be proud to have them among its musical resources.
Delighting in facing challenges, they have posed a real set of them for their final concert of this season, to be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 30: Suppe’s “Jolly Robbers” Overture; Samuel Barber‘s First Essay for Orchestra; Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A Major, K. 488, with soloist Thomas Kasdorf; and the Brahms Fourth Symphony. I, for one, am really looking forward to it.
Here is a link to the Middleton Community Orchestra’s website for more information about how to join it plus background stories, reviews and photos::