EDITOR’S NOTE: Please note that some reviews of productions last weekend are being delayed to make room for previews of the many upcoming concerts and musical events this week.
By Jacob Stockinger
The prize-winning and critically acclaimed young Israeli pianist Inon Barnatan will make his Madison debut this Friday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall for the Wisconsin Union Theater, which has been closed for two seasons while being renovated.
Barnatan’s MUST-HEAR program is ambitious and appealing; Franz Schubert’ late Sonata in G Major, the one that the young critic Robert Schumann praised so effusively; Samuel Barber’s Piano Sonata, which was premiered by Vladimir Horowitz; the “Prelude, Chorale and Fugue” by the late French Romantic composer Cesar Franck that was a favorite of Arthur Rubinstein; and Maurice Ravel’s dazzling “La Valse” for solo piano.
Tickets are $25 for the general public; $10 for University of Wisconsin-Madison students. For more information about Inon Barnatan and his recital, including reviews, program notes, audio clips and ticket information, visit:
You might recall that Inon Barnatan won raves this past winter for his last-minute appearance with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra under Edo de Waart when he stepped in to substitute for an ailing Radu Lupu and played the titanic Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor by Johannes Brahms.
In 2009, he won a prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant, and he has been recognized by the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation.
The Ear has been listening to his recordings: from violin works (the last Sonata by Ludwig van Beethoven and a Fantasy by Schubert) and his impressive readings of the famous last three sonatas and final impromptus and sonatas by Schubert to his performances of “Darkness Visible” by the contemporary British composer Thomas Ades. They all demonstrate his virtuoso technique but also his abundant musicality, subtle interpretations and full tone. Most impressive is his ability to play softly and lyrically. It leaves no doubt: Inon Barnatan is a major poet of the piano.
Clearly, Inon Baranatan is someone to watch, as his career continues to be extremely promising. You can listen to his interview for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in a YouTube video at the bottom. And here is a link to his own website:
And here is the email Q&A that Inon Barnatan did for The Ear:
You were just named the first-ever Artist in Association at the New York Philharmonic for the 2014-15 season. What plans do you have for that position? How could it affect your career?
What is so special for me about this position with the New York Philharmonic is that it is stretched over several seasons, so I will be performing with the orchestra both in New York and on the road for three consecutive seasons — which enables me to build a real relationship with this great orchestra as well as the audience. It removes a little of the pressure of the debut– since I know I will be coming back the following season and the one after that.
Of course there is pressure to live up to the expectations and the faith that the orchestra and Alan Gilbert (both below) have shown in me, but it feels wonderful to know that the organization is behind me from the get-go. This appointment has only recently been announced but has already had significant effect on my career. New York is the center of so many things and when the New York Philharmonic does something, people take notice! I really couldn’t be more thrilled with it.
How would you describe your approach to playing and interpreting music? Are there other musicians, and especially pianists, either historical or current, whom you admire and why?
I feel that we classical performers are like actors — we have a text that we try to internalize and bring to life, but ultimately it is not ourself that is being presented, but the character, or, in our case, the music, that is being communicated. A great actor like Meryl Streep becomes whichever role she is playing, embodying it in such a way that she herself disappears and becomes the role.
That is what I think my job as a performer is. I don’t want an audience to listen to me playing a piece — I would love for them to feel like the piece is being created at that very moment, the same way I would want to believe an actor IS the person that they are playing, not merely reading the text convincingly.
There are great performers, as well as actors, that are compelling not because they disappear in a role, but because of the very force of their personality. There are phenomenal actors and musicians that don’t change much with different roles or pieces, but bring their particular magnetism and virtuosity to every role.
When the performer is great both types can be very compelling, but I tend to gravitate towards the former. (Below is Inon Barnatan performing at Carnegie Hall in a photo by The New York Times.)
Your terrific and critically acclaimed new recording for the Avie label is an all-Schubert recital. But here you will perform a different big work, the G Major Sonata. What do you want to say about that particular work and its place in Schubert’s overall body of works? Why does Schubert hold particular appeal for you, and will you do more recording of his works, perhaps even a Schubert cycle?
Thank you! Back in 2004 I participated in a Schubert workshop with the great Leon Fleisher (below) at Carnegie Hall, and in some ways that was the start of my love affair with Schubert. I was familiar with his pieces, of course, but delving into the late sonatas as we did, I became intoxicated with the beauty and depth of the music.
The music of Schubert (below), and especially the music he wrote later in his short life, became a staple of my repertoire. I even curated a project of solo, chamber and vocal music from the miraculous last year — and both the Schubert CDs I’ve recorded so far feature pieces from that year.
That said, the G Major sonata, even though it was not written in the last year but a couple of years before, stands proudly amongst the greatest. It is one of his most lyrical and poetic pieces. It is not played nearly as often as the last three, and I am excited at the prospect of some audience members discovering it for the first time.
As for a possible Schubert cycle, it has been a dream of mine for a long while — perhaps I will keep playing his works one by one until I discover that I have recorded the whole cycle!
What would you like the public to know about your Madison program, which includes Franck, Barber (below) and Ravel?
This is a very special program to me. The pieces are magical: They manage to be at once very emotional and very intellectual, without compromising one for the other. The pieces all have a sense of nostalgia about them, in different ways.
The composers of the pieces in the first half take Baroque and Classical forms, such as fugues, chorales, sonatas, etc. and imbue them with their own innovation and emotion. The second half has more of a sense of fantasy, a sense of light that by the end of the recital turns to dark. I guess the second half goes from the sublime to the grotesque.
How do you think classical music can reach new and young audiences? And what advice would you give to aspiring young musicians and especially pianists?
That’s the million-dollar question. I think there are many things we need to do. It starts with education — putting an instrument in a child’s hand teaches them a lot about communications, listening and a huge variety of other important skills. It also encourages future curiosity about music and culture.
We also need to be more inclusive in some ways, make the concert experience something that would appeal to a young person as well as an older one. Nowadays, when there are so many ways to consume culture without leaving your home, the concert experience needs to have an energy and excitement to it that is unique to the live experience.
A great museum knows that in order to attract a variety of ages and stay relevant, they need to have not only great art, but great curating.
The Museum of Modern Art in New York, for example, is always teeming with people of all ages, newcomers, repeat visitors, young and old, experts and lay people. They have a collection of some of the great, established artists as well as new exciting art and they are always providing new and interesting ways to look at things. People who go there expect to be challenged as well as be entertained. You may come to see Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” (below) but it’s the new or unexpected stuff around it that keeps you coming back. It’s that combination of edge and quality that makes it cool.
We can learn a lot from that. As performers we need to strive for the highest possible quality of performance, and at the same time try to present it in a context that is interesting, and sometimes challenging or unexpected.
By Jacob Stockinger
With limited space — after all there are only so many days in the week and the local classical music scene keeps getting more and more crowded — sometimes The Ear has to combine performers and events. And that is the case today.
Several smaller concerts, some featuring performers with a loyal local following and all being offering for FREE, will take place this week and weekend.
DUO-PIANISTS VARSHAVSKI AND SHAPIRO
On Thursday night at 7 p.m. in the Oakwood Village West Center for Arts and Education, 6205 Mineral Point Road on Madison’s far west side near West Towne, duo-pianists Stanislava Varshavski and Diana Shapiro (below) will perform.
The program includes the “Allegro Brilliante” by Felix Mendelssohn; the “Lebenssturme” (Life Storm) by Franz Schubert; and “Petrushka” by Igor Stravinsky as arranged by Varshavi and Shapiro. (At the bottom you can hear a YouTube video in which the two women perform a beautiful Barcarolle from a suite by Sergei Rachmaninoff.)
For more information about the duo-pianists and samples of their music, visit:
THE KAT TRIO
On this Friday at 7:30 p.m., the Kat Trio -– short for the Ekaterinberg Trio that uses the violin, clarinet and piano — will perform a FREE concert at First United Methodist Church, 203 Wisconsin Avenue in Madison.
The original violin, clarinet and piano ensemble (below) from Ekaterinburg, Russia, was formed in May of 1998 in Ekaterinburg by three friends: Victoria Gorbich (violin), Vladislav Gorbich (clarinet) and Vasil Galiulin (piano). They had just graduated from the Ural State Music Conservatory.
Today’s “The Kat Trio” (below) -– which is well-known to Madison audiences -– is made up of Victoria, Vladislav and pianist Justin Snyder (below standing). Victoria and Vlad are doctoral graduates of Arizona State University. Justin is a graduate of University of Michigan and recently finished studying in London at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
According to publicity materials, Kat Trio concerts showcase unique Russian arrangements and transpositions of timeless melodies and feature classical works, well-known inspirational songs, and even American pop standards, including Scott Joplin’s rags.
This week’s program includes: a trio by Aram Khachaturian, plus works by Vladimir Vavilov, Johannes Brahms, Robert Schumann, Peter Tchaikovsky, Louis Moreau Gottschalk; Amy Beach; Samuel Barber; Michael Joncas; Joseph Lamb; Jerry Bock; and Peter Schickele (aka PDQ Bach).
The concert begins at 7:30 p.m., but the three performers will do an audience Q&A prior to their performance, so you might arrive early.
The concert is FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. A free will offering will be taken.
This week will also see two performances by the Madison-based woodwind quintet Black Marigold (below).
Black Marigold will perform on this Friday, March 14, at the First Unitarian Society of Madison’s FREE Noon Musicale from 12:15 to 1 p.m. They will perform in the Landmark Auditorium of the historic building that was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Then on Sunday, Black Marigold will perform on “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen.” The FREE concert will be held from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in Brittingham Gallery 3 of the Chazen Museum of Art on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. The concert will also be broadcast live by Wisconsin Public Radio (WERN 88.7 FM in the Madison area).
The program for both concerts includes: the Quintet, Op. 88, No. 2, by Anton Reicha; Six Bagatelles by Gyorgy Ligeti; “The Rite of Spring” by Igor Stravinsky, and arranged by Jonathan Russell; and “Vignettes Balletiques” by Brian DuFord.
For more information about Black Marigold, visit or write to:
By Jacob Stockinger
This weekend will find us not only in the fading grip of the Polar Vortex but also in the full force of The Piano Vortex.
Here is an overview, with a complete schedule and list of names and repertoire, from Fanfare, the terrific new music blog at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music written and compiled by concert and publicity manager Kathy Esposito:
“Piano Extravaganza! will feature well-known pianists as well as rising stars”
“Hear the UW’s best collegiate pianists, faculty and high school talents at an all-day festival this Saturday at UW-Madison. Masterclasses, workshops and performances hosted by UW-Madison faculty and students. This year’s Piano Extravaganza will feature piano works influenced by jazz and blues.”
Here is the schedule of events, all of which are FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC:
FRIDAY, FEB. 28
8 p.m. in Mills Concert Hall: A FREE recital by Christopher Taylor, Faculty Concert Series. Here is what Taylor said about his program to the UW’s Fanfare blog about his program of the Sonata No. 6, Op. 82 (1939) by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) and the Symphony No. 3 in E-Flat Major (“Eroica”), Op. 55, by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), as transcribed by Franz Liszt (1811-1886).
Taylor writes: “I find altogether exhilarating the opportunity to re-experience works that inspired me even before taking my first piano lesson.
“Although, needless to say, a pianist cannot hope to duplicate the precise effect of Beethoven’s orchestrations, the attempt to simulate a few of them gives rise to endlessly fascinating pianistic possibilities.
“Virtually every technical resource of fingering, voicing, articulation, and pedaling (even the middle pedal, a device that Liszt himself lacked till late in his career) proves useful in these mighty transcriptions.
“While tonight’s version of the Eroica can obviously never displace the original form, I do hope that the pairing of a single musician with one versatile instrument can produce a fresh view of this immortal work, whose turbulent historical genesis and juxtaposition of heroism, tragedy, and redemption complement the Prokofiev so aptly.”
And here is a profile of Christopher Taylor that local critic Greg Hettmansberger wrote for Madison Magazine:
And here is a link to the complete Fanfare blog entry:
And here is a previous post with some background:
AND BECAUSE THE EAR FEELS THAT STUDENT MUSICIANS DESERVE TO GET AT LEAST AS MUCH MEDIA COVERAGE AND PUBLIC ATTENTION AS STUDENT ATHLETES, I HAVE INCLUDED A LENGTHY AND MUCH LONGER THAN USUAL LIST OF THE PIANO CONTESTANTS, REPERTOIRE, PARTICIPANTS AND JUDGES.
PIANO EXTRAVAGANZA! of Concerts, a Masterclass, a Young Pianists Competition (For High School Students) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music on Friday, February 28—Saturday, March 1, 2014. (1st Prize: $1,500; 2nd Prize: $1,000; 3rd Prize: $500)
SATURDAY, MARCH 1
8:30-11 a.m.: Piano Extravaganza Competition
11 a.m.-noon: Professor Johannes Wallmann, Jazz Improvisation Workshop
1:30-3:30 p.m. Masterclass and Q&A with UW-Faculty
3:45-6:30 p.m.: Jazz and Blues in Classical Music Extravaganza (Performed by UW-Madison Piano Majors)
ALL EVENTS ON SATURDAY TAKE PLACE IN MORPHY RECITAL HALL (below) ARE FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
SATURDAY, MARCH 1, 2014
8:30-11 a.m.: Piano Extravaganza Competition
FINALISTS WERE SELECTED FROM PRELIMINARY RECORDING ROUND.
8:30 a.m.: Anthony Cardella (17, from Porterfield, WI): Sonata Op. 2, No. 3, I. Allegro con brio –by Ludwig van Beethoven; Toccata, Op. 11, by Sergei Prokofiev
9:15 a.m.: Vivian Wilhelms (15, from Waunakee, WI); French Suite No. 6, BWV 817- Johann Sebastian Bach; Sonatine, I. Modéré – Maurice Ravel
9:30 a.m.: Michelle Xie (16, from Verona, WI): Sarcasm, Op. 17, No. 1 Tempestoso – Sergei Prokofiev; Sonata Op. 31, No. 1, I. Allegro – Ludwig van Beethoven
9:45 a.m.: Garrick Olson (17, from Madison, WI): Fantasy in C Major, II. Mäßig. Durchaus energisch – Robert Schumann; Etude No. 6, Omaggio a Domenico Scarlatti – Marc-Andre Hamelin
10 a.m.: Theodore Liu (15, from Waunakee, WI): Sonata in D Major, Op. 10, No. 3, I. Presto- Ludwig van Beethoven; Nocturne in D-flat Major, Op. 27, No. 2- Frederic Chopin
10:15 a.m. Quentin Nennig (15, from Sherwood, WI): Waldesrauschen”- Franz Liszt; Concerto in E-flat Major, KV 449 – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
10:30 a.m. Kaitlin Lalmond (17, from Germantown, WI): Prelude and Fugue in C-sharp Major, BWV 848 – Johann Sebastian Bach; Sonata in E-flat Major, Op. 7, I. Allegro molto e con brio – Ludwig van Beethoven
11 a.m.-Noon: Jazz Improvisation Workshop with Professor Johannes Wallmann (below): “Milestones,” John Lewis (1920-2001) of The Modern Jazz Quartet; “Night and Day,” Cole Porter (1891-1964); “Sonnymoon For Two,” Sonny Rollins (b. 1930). All selections performed by Johannes Wallmann (below) and local guest artist Dave Stoler
Noon-1:30 p.m.: Lunch
1:30-3:30 p.m.: Masterclass and Q&A with UW-Faculty
3:45-6:30 p.m.: Jazz and Blues in Classical Music Extravaganza, Performed by UW-Madison Piano Majors
Opening Remarks by Susan C. Cook, Professor of Musicology and Director of the School of Music
“Alla Turca Jazz,” (1993) Fazil Say, Jason Kutz (b. 1970)
“Nightmare Fantasy,” (1979) William Albright, Oxana Khramova (1944-1998)
“Prelude No. 1,” (1926) George Gershwin, Yana Groves (1898-1937)
From “Preludes, Book 2” (1912-1913) Claude Debussy, “General Lavine Eccentric” (1862-1918); Emili Earhart
“Fantasy on Bill Evans’ “Turn Out the Stars,” Jonathan Thornton (b. 1985), Jonathan Thornton
“Lonely House” from Street Scene (1947) Kurt Weill (1900-1950), Thomas Leighton, Tenor, & Emily O’Leary
Impromptu, Op. 66, No. 2 (2004) Nikolai Kapustin (b. 1937) ; Haley O’Neal
“The Serpent’s Kiss” (Rag Fantasy) (1969), William Bolcom, Sara Giusti (b. 1938)
Sonata for One Piano, Four Hands (1919), Francis Poulenc (1899-1963), Prelude Rustique
Ian Tomaz and Jason Kutz
“Milonga del Angel” (1965), Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992), Cody Goetz
From Gershwin Songbook (1932) George Gershwin (189801937): “My One and Only,” “Fascinatin’ Rhythm” and “I Got Rhythm,” Dino Mulic
“Etudes on Gershwin Songs,” (1973) Earl Wild (1915-2010), “Embraceable You,” Yusuke Komura
Excursions,” Op. 20, No. 1 (1942), Samuel Barber, Andrew Mlynczak (1910-1981)
“Carnaval Noir,” (1997) Derek Bermel, Ying Wang (b. 1967)
“Bamboula,” (1844-45) Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Duangkamon Wattanasak (1829-1869)
“A Little Jazz Exercise,” (1970) Oscar Peterson (1925-2007), Evan Engelstad
“Jazz Waltz” from Suite Impressions (1996) by Judith Lang Zaimont, Shengyin Chen (b. 1945)
“Magnetic Rag” (1914) Scott Joplin, Zach Campbell
“Deuces Wild” (1944) and “The Duke and the Count” (1944), Mary Lou Williams (1910-1981), Henry Misa
“Dreadful Memories” (1978), “Down by the Riverside” (1979) Frederic Rzewski (b. 1938) Sungho Yang
From Preludes, Book 1 (1909-1910) Claude Debussy (1862-1918) “Minstrels,” Jace Rockman
Sonata No. 2 in G Major for Violin and Piano (1927), II. Blues, Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) Elspeth Stalter-Clouse, violin, and Tiffany Yeh
From “Carnival Music” (1976), George Rochberg (1918-2005), Emily O’Leary
Three Preludes (2000), Shuai Zhang (b. 1979), I. Rubato: appassionato abandano, II. mesto misterioso, III. estemporale impetuoso, Zijin Yao
MEET THE UW-MADISON KEYBOARD FACULTY
Martha Fischer (below) is Professor of Piano and heads the Collaborative Piano Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. American Record Guide recently wrote: “…she is a marvelous pianist, profound interpreter, and expert collaborator.” She has recorded extensively and will soon release the complete works for two pianists at one keyboard by Robert Schumann with her frequent duet partner and husband, Bill Lutes. The Washington Post described their performance of Schubert’s F minor Fantasie as “bursting with heartfelt intensity.” A singer as well as pianist, Fischer is an expert on the works of Gilbert and Sullivan and has also presented unique recitals of art song in which she accompanies herself. A dedicated teacher, she has participated in international festivals, symposia, and competitions.
Jessica Johnson (below left, with UW percussionist Anthony Di Sanza) serves as Professor of Piano and Director of Graduate Studies in Piano Pedagogy at UW-Madison, where she was the 2006 recipient of the prestigious Emil Steiger Distinguished Teaching Award. She frequently commissions and programs contemporary solo and chamber works, regularly performing with Sole Nero, duo for piano and percussion. Johnson has been featured in workshops and recitals throughout North America, Europe and China. A two-time winner of AMT’s Article of the Year Award, Johnson has articles published in American Music Teacher, Piano Journal of EPTA, Klavier Companion and Piano Pedagogy Forum. Passionate about community engagement and arts outreach, she serves as Director of Piano Pioneers, a program that brings high quality piano instruction to low-income community members and high-risk youth in Wisconsin.
John Chappell Stowe (below) is Professor of Organ and Harpsichord at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. He graduated from Southern Methodist University and Eastman School of Music, studying organ with Robert Anderson and Russell Saunders. Stowe holds the Doctor of Musical Arts degree and Performer’s Certificate from the Eastman School and was the first-place winner in 1978 of the National Open Organ Playing Competition of the American Guild of Organists. In his appearances throughout the United States as a solo organist, Stowe’s recital repertoire includes a wide variety of literature extending from 1550 to the present day. His programming reflects both strong commitment to contemporary music and dedication to great repertoire of past generations.
Christopher Taylor (below) has performed extensively around the world, having appeared in recent years not only throughout the U.S. but in Russia, China, Korea, the Balkans, and elsewhere. Critics hail him as “frighteningly talented” (The New York Times) and “a great pianist” (The Los Angeles Times), and nu-merous awards have confirmed his high standing in the musical world (a Van Cliburn Competition Bronze Medal, an Avery Fisher Career Grant, an American Pianists’ Association Fellowship). Apart from concertizing, he has taught at UW-Madison since 2000 and pursues a wide variety of additional interests — most recently using his mathematical and computer skills in the design and construction of a new double-manual keyboard instrument.
Johannes Wallmann (below) joined UW Madison as Director of Jazz Studies in 2012. He previously taught at California State University East Bay, New York University, and at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. As a pianist, composer, and bandleader, Wallmann has released four critically acclaimed CDs, The Johannes Wallmann Quartet (1997), Alphabeticity (2003), Minor Prophets (2007), and The Coasts (2012). Over twelve years in New York City and five years in the San Francisco Bay Area, Wall Coasts (2012). Over 12 years in New York City and five years in the San Francisco Bay Area, Wallmann also established himself as a prolific sideman in styles as diverse as mainstream jazz and electric fusion, American spirituals, Cantonese pop music, and 20th century classical music. He has toured throughout North America and in Europe and Asia.
Todd Welbourne (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) is a pianist and chamber musician with appearances in this country as well as in Europe and South America. He has performed and given presentations on new music at national conferences of the Society of Electro/Acoustic Music (1995, 1997, 2009), the International Society for Electronic Arts, (1993, 1997, 2010), College Music Society (2001, 2003, 2006), and Music Teachers National Convention (1999, 2004) and has lectured and performed at new music festivals around the country. Welbourne uses the Yamaha Disklavier in his teaching providing students with the latest in teaching techniques and he has been an innovator in the area of interactive music performance systems using the Yamaha Disklavier and Max/MSP. He currently serves as Director of Graduate Studies at the School of Music.
GUEST ARTIST AND ALUMNUS
Madison native Dave Stoler (below) is one of the busier professional musicians in the Midwest, and was named 2009 Isthmus Jazz Personality of the Year. His current projects include the Tony Castaneda Latin Jazz Sextet and his own group, which has performed at Smalls Jazz Club in New York City. His CD “Urban Legends” features drummer Billy Hart, bassist Ron McClure and tenor saxophonists Rich Perry and Rick Margitza. He received a Master of Music degree from the University of Miami-Coral Gables in Jazz Performance, and a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Composition from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was a semi-finalist in the Thelonious Monk Piano Competition and the American Jazz Piano Competition, and a finalist in the Jacksonville Jazz Piano Competition.
Sponsors of The Piano Extravaganza are The Evjue Foundation, the charitable arm of The Capital Times, and UW-Madison Chancellor Emeritus Irving Shain.
READER SURVEY: Today is Valentine’s Day. What is the best piece of romantic music you know of to listen to or to send to someone to celebrate this day? You can even leave a link to a YouTube video and a dedication in the COMMENT section. Here is a link to Limelight Magazine’s Top 10 Sexiest Moments in Classical Music:
By Jacob Stockinger
Little things can add up to a big difference.
Take the annual concert given by the winners (below) of this year’s concerto competition at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.
Here are links to background of the event and the performers in the preview story that was posted on this blog and and a link to the performers’ biographies that appeared on “Fanfare,” the outstanding bog of the UW School of Music:
Someone at the SOM (as the School of Music is referred to by insiders) rightly decided that the event deserved a higher public profile. (Except where noted, performance photos are by The Ear.)
So they made a few adjustments.
They booked Mills Hall for a Saturday night – last Saturday night, in fact — the best night of the week for entertainment events.
Then they rechristened the event the Symphonic Showcase, since the UW Symphony Orchestra (below with graduate student and assistant conductor Kyle Knox) is the common denominator and accompanies all the concerto winners and also premieres the winning piece by a student composer. The Ear likes that emphasis on collective or collaborative music-making.
They started the concert early, at 7 p.m.
That was because they also added a small and informal dessert reception from 9 to 11 p.m. — with all the proceeds of a $10 ticket going to a student scholarship fund — at the nearby Tripp Commons in the UW Memorial Union.
And what were the results?
Nothing short of a spectacular success.
Mills Hall was packed just about full (see the photo below by Michael R. Anderson).
And the big, enthusiastic audience greeted each performer with cheers and a standing ovation. And they deserved that. All of the winners played well and all chose great works to perform.
Here a rundown by contestant.
If you weren’t there -– well, you probably should regret it, You missed out on a lot of fun and a lot of beautiful music-making by a very impressive group of talented students. Maybe some state legislators were in the audience and will stop clowning around trying to micro-manage and ruin the UW while they say they’re really trying to fix it.
The evening started out with an orchestral showpiece, a kind of Romantic tone poem-concerto grosso that highlighted each section. That might be expected since the “Russian Easter” Overture came from Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, a master orchestrator who taught Igor Stravinsky the craft of scoring music.
Graduate student Kyle Knox (below) conducted and did a fine job of bouncing the music around to various sections and keeping a clear line.
Violinist Madlen Breckbill (below) confidently commanded the stage with an appropriately lyrical and heart-breaking reading of the first movement of Samuel Barber’s masterful Violin Concerto. It was a thoroughly convincing rebuff to those people and critics who say you need to hear a new piece of music several times to know it is great. This kind of greatness you get from the first notes.
Saxophonist Erika Anderson (below left) played and projected with absorbing conviction the new “Poema” (2014) by student composer 24-year-old Russian-born composer Daria Tennikova (below right), who writes in an impressively accessible yet thoroughly modern idiom.
Clarinetist Kai-Ju Ho (below top) brought both lyricism and swing to Aaron Copland’s underperformed Clarinet Concerto, pleasing conductor James Smith (below bottom right), himself a very accomplished clarinetist who performed the same concerto five times under the composer.
SeungWha Baek (below top, playing; below bottom by Michael R. Anderson) brought out the sizzle and virtuosity in the dazzling first movement of Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3, with its ingenious Hanon-like five-finger exercise motif – except that this is no work for beginners, as you can see and hear at the bottom in a YouTube video with pianist Martha Argerich and conductor Andre Previn.
Flutist Mi-Li Chang brought beautiful tone and playfulness, even Gallic charm, to the Concerto for Flute by Jacques Ibert.
And pianist Sung-Ho Yang brought the show to a close with a surprising subtle reading of Franz Liszt’s flashy and bombastic Piano Concerto No 1. The whole work is like one long cadenza – not one of the Ear’s favorites — so it was refreshing to hear Yang emphasize the quiet passages and subtlety, all the while bringing out the dialoguing back and forth between the piano and the orchestra.
And after the music, we went to a quiet but friendly reception that featured coffee and tea as well as chocolate cake and pumpkin bars (below), set out much like a Wayne Thiebaud painting. It was a chance to meet the musicians and thank them for a splendid evening.
Bravo to all.
The Ear is betting and hoping that next year will find the new format repeated.
Tinkering with failure is one thing.
But why tinker with success?
By Jacob Stockinger
For years, the University of Wisconsin School of Music has held a student concerto competition. The winners then get to perform a movement (or, in some cases opera arias ) from a large concerto or a complete short concerto with the UW Symphony Orchestra (below, in a photo by John W. Barker), which in recent years also premieres a new composition by a student composer.
This year, however, the UW School of Music is heightening the public profile of the FREE concerto concert and turning it into an important event.
It has scheduled the performance on a Saturday night instead of a weekday night. And it has added a paid post-concert reception, with hors-d’oeuvres and a cash bar, to be held at Tripp Commons in the UW-Madison Memorial Union from 9 to 11 p.m. All proceeds will fund student scholarships. Tickets are $10 and can be bought here. http://www.arts.wisc.edu/
In short, the annual concerto competition winners recital, has been renamed the “Symphony Showcase.”
Says Susan C. Cook (below, in photo by Michael Foster), the new director of the UW School of Music: “The artistry and hard work of our students is something we wanted to celebrate — not only as a School of Music but with our enthusiastic concert-goers as well.”
The concert will take place at an early start this coming Saturday night, Feb. 8, at 7 p.m. – NOT 7:30 or 8 p.m. – in Mills Hall. Admission is FREE.
This year’s concert has a very appealing and diverse program, and will feature five instrumental soloists (below, in a photo by Michael R. Anderson).
Pianist Sung Ho Yang (above middle), who studies with Christopher Taylor, will perform in its entirety Franz Liszt’s exciting and virtuosic Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-Flat Major. (You can hear Lang-Lang perform its on the last night of the BBC Proms Concerts in 2011 in a popular YouTube video at the bottom.)
Flutist Mi-li Chang (above far left), who studied with Stephanie Jutt, will perform the first and second movement of Jacques Ibert’s playful Flute Concerto.
Clarinetist Kai-Ju Ho (above far right), who studies with Linda Bartley, will perform in its entirety Aaron Copland’s Clarinet Concerto, composed for jazz clarinetist Benny Goodman.
Violinist Madlen Breckbill (above second from left), who studied with David Perry (first violinist of the UW’s Pro Arte Quartet) will perform the first movement of Samuel Barber’s neo-Romantic Violin Concerto.
A sixth winner, composition undergraduate Daria Tennikova (below top, inn a photo by Kathy Esposito), who studies with Stephen Dembski and Laura Schwendinger, was added to the program in late December. Tennikova’s original work, “Poema” for Saxophone and Orchestra, will be performed by soloist Erika Anderson (below bottom).
All pieces will be accompanied by the UW Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra will perform under the direction of conductors James Smith (below top) and graduate assistant Kyle Knox (below bottom). The orchestra will also play Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Russian Easter” Overture.
You can read more (including biographies of each performer and the pieces they will perform) on the UW School of Music’s outstanding new blog Fanfare!
By Jacob Stockinger
Last Sunday afternoon, as the winter sun was getting low in the sky and the thermometer was dropping even lower, we gathered to say good-bye to Marvin Rabin (below).
Rabin, you may recall, died Dec. 5 at the age of 97. He was a pioneer in music education and in addition to achievements around the U.S. — especially Kentucky, Boston and Illinois — and around the globe, in 1966 Rabin came to Madison to found and direct the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra, which still exists and is bigger and better than ever.
Here is a link to the WYSO website with more information:
The crowd, which came from both coasts and around the U.S., was at capacity, a full house on the floor and in the balcony (below) of the sleek and contemporary Atrium auditorium at the First Unitarian Society of Madison. Apparently, even more people wanted to attend the memorial but couldn’t find seats or parking.
The Ear thinks it was exactly the kind of memorial that Marvin would have liked.
I say that for several reasons.
All the speakers — from the masterful host Dick Wolf (below top), who worked besides Marvin for decades at the University of Wisconsin-Extension, and radio host son David Rubin (below bottom) to friends, admirers and former students and members of the general public — kept their remarks short, dry-eyed and to the point.
The impromptu speakers (below) also kept the mood just right: not too serious or reverent, but leavened with wit and stories that didn’t drag on forever. In short, the mood of the memorial modeled itself on the manner of Marvin himself, at least as far as I and many others knew him.
His son-in-law Frank Widman read two poems by Rainer Maria Rilke that touched on music, especially “To Music” with its fitting line: “You speech, where speeches end … Music. Space that has outgrown us, heart-space.”
But most of all, I think that Marvin — who embodied The Wisconsin Idea of reaching everyone in the state and elsewhere — would have enjoyed all the music that was played by current WYSO students as well as former WYSO students who are now professional educators and musicians themselves. (Forgive me, but they are too many to name individually.)
Under the baton of WYSO’s music director James Smith, who directs the conducting program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, the WYSO Chamber Orchestra turned in a moving and emotionally restrained performance of Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.”
It was an appropriate choice not only for its universally appreciated sorrowful content (“the world’s saddist music”), but also because it has deep Madison ties: the world-famous work was given its world premiere in 1936 in Rome by the Pro Arte String Quartet, which has been in residence at the UW-Madison since 1940. That is what the famous conductor Arturo Toscanini heard and then asked the composer to add some string basses and orchestrate it.
A WYSO Alumni Quartet (below, with the cellist hidden by the violist), made up of students from 1972, played the exquisite slow movement from the final string quartet, No. 16 in F Major, Op. 135, by Ludwig van Beethoven. (You can hear it played by the Artemis Quartet in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
It proved the perfect work for the occasion because it is a work where Beethoven moves from the futuristic Romanticism and Modernism of the late quartets and returns to more formal structure of a Classical aesthetic that Beethoven worked with in his early Op. 18 quartets. Such an embracing of diverse styles was typical of Marvin no less than of Ludwig.
Following open-mic reflections and memories of Rabin by perhaps a half-dozen people the WYSO String Quartet played the poignant “Intermezzo Sinfonico,” arranged for string quartet, from Pietro Mascagni’s opera “Cavalleria Rusticana.”
And the final touch was a slow but elegant reading, in Hebrew, of the Kaddish, the Jewish mourner’s prayer for the dead.
And then the relatively brief memorial was over, with some refreshments and small talk, exactly the kind of elbow-to-elbow socializing, where old friends reconnect, that Marvin excelled at and relished.
Even if you didn’t know Marvin Rabin in life, you grew to know him through the memorial.
What emerged was a man who was as devoted to life-long learning as he was to life-long teaching. And the judgment was unanimous: Marvin Rabin was a man who lived his life fully out of his love of music and his love of other people.
Rabin came across in remembrance exactly as he did in life: A zesty, energetic and witty man who was immensely smart and sensitive but who wore his gifts lightly and who was also anxious, even impatient, to share them with others.
And we can still learn from Marvin Rabin. His accumulated wealth came from giving himself away. And we – all of us — are the rich beneficiaries of his personal and professional generosity.
Is there any thing more to add besides: The world needs more Marvin Rabins – the more, the better; and the sooner, the better.
By Jacob Stockinger
In case you hadn’t already heard, the memorial service for Marvin Rabin (below) – the founder and longtime music director and conductor of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras – is set for this coming Sunday at 3 p.m. in the historic landmark First Unitarian Society that was designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
WYSO will be well represented at Rabin’s memorial service. There will be a WYSO String Orchestra performing Samuel Barber’s moving “Adagio for Strings” as well as a WYSO Chamber Ensemble and a WYSO Alumni Chamber Ensemble.
Here is the official death notice:
MADISON – Music educator, Marvin Rabin, age 97, died at University of Wisconsin Hospitals on Dec. 5, 2013.
A celebration of Marvin’s life is planned for 3 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013, at the UNITARIAN MEETING HOUSE’S new ATRIUM auditorium (below, in a photo by Zane Williams), 900 University Bay Drive, Madison.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to: Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras, UW Humanities Building, Room 1625, 455 N. Park St., Madison, WI 53706; Wisconsin Foundation for School Music, Wisconsin Center for Music Education, 1005 Quinn Drive, Waunakee, WI 53597; and Madison Music Makers, 705 Edgewood Ave, Madison, WI 53711
You can read more about Marvin Rabin and his many achievements at:
You can donate to and learn more about WYSO by going here:
And here is an appreciation that The Ear did and many readers seemed to like and commented positively on:
At bottom is a YouTube video done as a tribute to Marvin Rabin when he won the third Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wisconsin School Music Association. It is well worth listening to, especially in these times when the arts seems to get shortchanged in favor of STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math:
By Jacob Stockinger
It was a momentous event in so many ways for the country. And like many of you, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news flash of his shocking death.
One of JFK’s legacy, one deeply encouraged and acted on by his First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, was to revitalize the American art scene and enhance it with involvement and help from the government.
That so now irks the conservative philistines who want to zero out the budgets for NPR, PBS, the NEA and the NEH, who want an ignorant citizenry that will buy into their distorted lies and mean-spirited stupidities.
But how fitting for the New Frontier was that quiet cultural revolution promoted by JFK during his short tenure in The White House.
Artists responded enthusiastically to JFK and his death. How I recall the music that was put together quickly and performed on the then relatively new medium of television. I think the requiems by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Giuseppe Verdi were performed and broadcast, as was Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” – a favorite of JFK and a work that was given its world premiere by the UW-Madison’s Pro Arte String Quartet in 1936. Gustav Mahler‘s Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection” and Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 “Eroica” were also performed.
I remember the specific works that for me struck the right chords, so to speak, about the murderous death of the President.
One was the Requiem by Gabriel Faure (below). The whole work is so beautiful and gentle, peaceful and calm – and how we all needed beauty and gentleness, peace and calm, that awful weekend — and it was completely unknown to me.
I liked all the movements. “In Paradiso” was one. But I also liked the “Pie Jesu” and the “Libera me.” But what stuck me most and keeps resonating is the “Sanctus.” Here it is in a YouTube video, and be sure to read the comments from other listeners:
The other work I remember from those events is the “German” Requiem by Johannes Brahms (below). I had known it before. But this was when it took on real meaning.
I remember hearing and loving the movement “How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place.” But the part that really got me choked up was not that one or the Funeral March or even the fabulous “Here on Earth We Have No Abiding City,” with its fabulous fugue “Death, Where Is Thy Sting; Grave, Where Is Thy Victory?.”
It was the final movement, “Blessed Are The Dead for Their Works Live on After Them.” I loved the secular, but respectful and even loving quality of the text and of course the music. That allowed it to appeal to the entire nation and to all people everywhere around the world, regardless of their faith or beliefs.
It seemed so fitting and so true, then; and it still does now.
Here it is:
What works of classical music come to mind for you when you think of that awful day in Dallas and terrible weekend in Washington, D.C., 50 years ago?
The Ear wants to hear.
ALERTS: French pianist Philippe Bianconi (below in a photo by Bernard Martinez), who is in town this weekend to play three performances of the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Madison Symphony Orchestra under the baton of John DeMain, will be the guest on Norman Gilliland’s “The Midday” program on THURSDAY from noon to 1 p.m on Wisconsin Public Radio WERN 88.7 FM in the Madison area. And on Friday from 12:15 to 1 p.m., guitarist Steven Waugh plays Johann Sebastian Bach, John Dowland, Isaac Albeniz, Charlie Parker, Errol Garner and more for the First Unitarian Society’s weekly FREE FRIDAY Noon Musicale at 900 University Bay Drive.
By Jacob Stockinger
Three years ago, University of Wisconsin-Madison tenor James Doing (below) launched an ambitious and much appreciated project that helps to acquaint classical music fans – especially fans of singing – with some basic and well-known repertoire and basic vocal techniques. The format is much like a master class to acquaint the general public with the music from the inside and to help non-musicians understand the process of learning how to sing.
The second installment of the series of four recitals will be this Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall. Admission is FREE and open to the public.
Here is how Doing recently explained the special concert to Kathy Esposito for “Fanfare,” the terrific new blog at the University of Wisconsin School of Music.
It is the kind of reinventing of the classical music recital that The Ear thinks should be done more often to attract new audiences, younger audiences and non-specialty audiences. I was there and it was terrific. It was especially moving to see teacher and students sing together as partners, which is in fact what they: master and apprentice. It is the oldest educational method in the world — and it still works.
Here is a letter that Doing has sent out via email to his many friends and fans and to The Ear:
“Three years ago I presented a “Teaching Favorites for the Voice Studio” recital complete with program notes about vocal technique, diction and so on, and it was well received. (A YouTube video with a lovely sampling from that first concert, of James Doing singing Reynaldo Hahn’s song, is at the bottom.)
Jacob Stockinger had some nice things to say in his blog The Well-Tempered Ear: http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2010/02/16/classical-music-review-uw-tenor-james-doing-successfully-reinvents-the-art-song-recital/
The songs I sang on that recital are posted on my YouTube Channel, which has a link at the bottom.
On this Saturday night, Oct. 19, at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, my students and I are going to be singing another “Teaching Favorites for the Voice Studio.” The pianist will be UW professor Martha Fischer (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot).
Admission is FREE. And I would love to have many singers and teachers from the community come and share the evening with me and my students.
I’ll be performing 18 songs and five of my female voice students will assist by singing eight selections. (The students are: CatieLeigh Laszewski, Jenny Marsland, Olivia Pogodzinski, Melanie Traeger and Sheila Wilhelmi.)
The generous and varied program of English, Italian, German and French art songs and opera arias includes:
“Strike the Viol” by Henry Purcell (1659?-1695) from “Come, ye Sons of Art”; “Se Florinda è fedele” by Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725) from “La donna ancora è fedele”; “Total eclipse” by George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) from “Samson” and “V’adoro pupille” from “Giulio Cesare”, with CatieLeigh Laszewski, soprano; “Sebben, crudele” by Antonio Caldara (1670?-1736) from “La costanza in amor vince l’inganno”; “Và godendo” by George Frideric Handel (below) from “Serse” (Xerxes) with Melanie Traeger, soprano; “An die Musik” by Franz Schubert (1797-1828); “Das Veilchen” (The Violet) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791); “Du bist wie eine Blume” (You Are Like a Flower) by Robert Schumann (1810-1856); “Sonntag” (Sunday) by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897); “Auch kleine Dinge” (And Small Things) by Hugo Wolf (1860-1903); “Ständchen” (Serenade) with Olivia Pogodzinski, soprano, by Richard Strauss (1864-1949).
And that is just before intermission. Then comes the second half.
The second half features: “Plaisir d’amour” by Johann-Paul Martini (1741-1816); “Lydia” by Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924); “Claire de lune” and “L’heure exquise” by Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947); “Si mes vers avaient des ailes” (If mY Word Had Wings) and “Les Papillons” by Ernest Chausson (1855-1899); and “Apparition” with Olivia Pogodzinski, soprano, by Claude Debussy (1862-1918); from “Le Nozze di Figaro” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), “Giùnse alfin il momento . . . Deh vieni, non tardar” with CatieLeigh Laszewski, soprano, and “Voi, che sapete” with Sheila Wilhelmi, mezzo-soprano; “Go, lovely rose” by Roger Quilter (1877-1953); “The Green Dog” with Jenny Marsland, soprano, by Herbert Kingsley (1858-1937 … I think!); “Love’s Philosophy” with Olivia Pogodzinski, soprano, by Roger Quilter; “At St. Patrick’s Purgatory” from “Hermit Songs” by Samuel Barber (below, 1910-1981); and “When I have sung my songs” by Ernest Charles (1895-1984).
Historical notes are being provided by Chelsie Propst (below), a fine young soprano who completed her Masters of Music in voice with Paul Rowe and is now a PhD candidate in Musicology. I add some Performance Notes/Suggestions and Diction pointers.
For this concert of 26 songs we will provide the full notes on about 10 songs and I will provide my own translations and International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) transcriptions for all of them (except the final set of English songs).
This concert is the second in a series of four with number three taking place April 3, 2014 in Mills Hall and number four taking place during the 2014-15 school year.
The goal or plan at this point is to eventually complete a book tentatively entitled 100 Teaching Favorites for the Voice Studio. The book will begin with some chapters on vocal pedagogy, diction, ornamentation, and other issues followed by the 100 songs. Each song will have historical background written by Ms. Propst, followed by performance and diction pointers, translations and IPA.
Would you be so kind as to spread the word and announce this concert at your choir rehearsal?
Thank you so much. If you are able to attend please come and say hello after the performance.
Feel free to forward this e-mail to anyone you like:)
All the best,
Jim Doing, Tenor, Professor of Voice, University of Wisconsin School of Music, NATS National Voice Science Advisory Committee
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).