The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music education: The Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO) excels in its inspiring performances of Mozart, Barber and Shostakovich –- and gives us hope at a time when we really need it.

August 25, 2014
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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 many 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.

John Barker

By John W. Barker

Hope for humanity is not always easy to conjure up these days. But last Friday night at Music Hall, on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, brought me a genuine dollop of it, thanks to the concert by the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO, below. Performance photos are by The Ear.)

MAYCO Aug. 2014 1

That came, in fact, despite the frustration of an infuriating schedule conflict with the debut performance by the new early music chamber choir Summer Voices the same evening. Even in summer, we have these train wrecks now — and always on weekends! Have we reached the point of such musical riches here that no one person can really catch all the worthy musical events any more?

MAYCO was founded in 2010 by Mikko Utevsky (below) as a “summer training orchestra” for local high school and college students — and, at the same time, as a kind of training program for himself in conducting (while just moving from high school to college himself).

Mikko Utevsky with baton

What he has accomplished over four seasons is little short of a miracle. Here are young musicians, looking like confident kids, but playing with adult skill and intensity. And Utevsky’s enterprise has prompted him to take on challenging examples of orchestral literature, with convincing success.

The program this time was a very engaging one.

It began with the beloved Overture to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute, itself a musical miracle, and wrought by a precocious young musician at the end of his scant 36 years. It took a few measures for security to settle in, but the performance was spirited, well-gauged and thoroughly satisfying.

For this concert, the student orchestra had a vocal soloist. She was soprano Caitlin Ruby Miller (below left), herself a recent product of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music voice program, and currently studies with former UW-Madison professor soprano Julia Faulkner, who now teaches in the Ryan Center program at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Miller and Utevsky discovered a shared love for Samuel Barber’s solo cantata, Knoxville: Summer of 1915 and arranged to have her perform it.

MAYCO 2014 Caitlin Ruby Miller and Mikko Uevsky

A gem of period nostalgia and childhood memories, contained in a text by James Agee, this work is one of the masterpieces of American vocal writing.

It proved ideal for Miller, whose full, ripe, beautiful soprano voice has been trained in careful diction, allowing her to escape a lot of the word-swallowing that afflicts the soprano range. The full text was printed in the program, but it was almost unnecessary, thanks to the very clear projection of the words by Miller (below). She was supported, in a slightly reduced chamber version of the orchestral score, with a very sensitive accompaniment, marked by truly beautiful woodwind playing.

MAYCO Aug. 2014 Caitlin Ruby Miller singing

As a treat, Miller sang an encore, the beguiling song “Early in the Morning of a Lovely Summer Day” by the 90-year-old contemporary American composer Ned Rorem (below, in a photo by Christian Steiner) in an orchestrated version — made by Utevsky himself. (You can hear the original version for voice and piano with mezzo-soprano Susan Graham in a YouTube video at the bottom. Talk about diction!)

Ned Rorem CR christian steiner

After the intermission came perhaps the most demanding test for the orchestra players: the Symphony No. 9 in E-flat Major by Dmitri Shostakovich (below). Composed in the aftermath of World War II, this is a piece of whimsy and of defiance to Soviet expectations — it brought the composer a raft of trouble and danger.

dmitri shostakovich

But its relatively brief five movements add up to a gem of Shostakovichian satire and sarcasm. It is full of theatrical suggestions, and its texture is as much that of chamber music as orchestral writing, with intimate interaction of sections and soloists.

The MAYCO players brought it off with real flair, under Utevsky’s amazingly expert direction. (And, by the way, he is a splendid writer as well, as his notes for the program booklet demonstrated.)

MAYCO Sug. 2014 violins

MAYCO Aug. 2014 cellos

MAYCO Aug. 2014 Shostakovich 9

Considering the fact that there could only be four or five rehearsals for each concert, it is astounding what this group of 42 gifted youngsters (only 19 of them string players) could bring off in the way of effective orchestral ensemble—even allowing for some rare blips and less than ultimate string polish.

MAYCO Aug. 2014 audience applauds

That our area alone could produce such talent is what has stirred my hope for humanity. Assuming, of course, that our country, in its currently muddled cultural condition, can find for these youngsters, as they mature, the jobs in which to make the careers they so richly deserve.

 

 

 

 


Classical music: A new early music vocal group — “Voces aestatis” (Summer Voices) — makes its debut this Friday night with early music by Byrd, Palestrina, Lasso and others. Also, the Madison Area Youth Orchestra (MAYCO) performs Barber, Shostakovich and Mozart on Friday night. Plus, the Wisconsin State Music Honors air on Wisconsin Public Television on Thursday night at 7.

August 20, 2014
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ALERT: If you want to hear some wonderful young musicians performing, be sure to tune into the Wisconsin State Music Honors concert, which spotlights young musicians in middle and high school.  The orchestral and vocal performances took place in Overture Hall at the Overture Center for the Arts and will air on Wisconsin Public Television (WPT) this Thursday night, Aug. 21, at 7 p.m.

The Ear promises you: Tune in and listen and you will be impressed. And kudos to WPT for giving student artists the kind of public recognition that is usually lavished on student athletes.

Here is a link to the schedule blurb:

http://wptschedule.org/episodes/44717914/2013-State-Honors-Concerts/

wpt state honors concert 2014

By Jacob Stockinger

The Latin name means “Summer Voices.”

That’s not surprising. The leader of the new early music vocal group “Voces aestatis” (below top) is Ben Luedcke, the church music director who for years has also led the Madison Summer Choir (below bottom), which usually performs later repertoire.

Voces aestratis 1

Summer Choir 2011 orchestraI

Here is an official announcement:

“VOCES AESTATIS” TO GIVE DEBUT CONCERT IN MADISON

Voces Aestatis (pronounced VOH-ches eh-STAH-tees) is a new early music choral ensemble, and Madison’s only professional choir specializing in 16th-century repertoire.

This ensemble features 12 voices, striving for a clarity of tone and pure blending, with expressive singing in an intimate setting.

Director Ben Luedcke (below) has selected several well-known Renaissance favorites for the debut concert, as well as a few surprises.

Ben Luedcke conducts voces aestratis

The first half features sacred pieces exploring Christ’s birth, death and legacy. It features works by William Byrd, Michael Praetorius, Tomas Luis de Victoria, Giovanni da Palestrina, Orlando di Lasso (below), Antonio Lotti, Johannes Ockeghem, Thomas Tallis, Orlando Gibbons, and Heinrich Schütz.

The second half of the concert focuses primarily on the pinnacle genre of secular Renaissance repertoire — Italian and English Madrigals. It features works by Carlo Gesualdo, Claudio Monteverdi, Thomas Weelkes, Michael Cavendish and John Wilbye.

Orlando di Lasso

The one-time-only performance is this Friday night, August 22, at 7:30 p.m. in St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (below), 1833 Regent Street, on Madison’s near west side near Randall Elementary School.

General admission tickets are $10, and are available at the door.

St. Andrew's Episcopal Madison Front

MAYCO PERFORMS LAST CONCERT THIS SUMMER

“Train wrecks,” as The Wise Critic calls them when he refers to excellent but conflicting events, are happening more and more frequently in classical music around Madison.

Even the summer doesn’t take us away from them.

Take, for one example, the conflict between the closing concert of the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival at 4 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, Aug. 31, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music memorial for longtime pianist Howard Karp, which is slated for the same approximate time, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., with a reception following.

Another such “train wreck” is this Friday night.

In addition to the vocal concert previewed above, the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO, below) will perform its second and last concert of this summer.

MAYCO playing

The concert is under the baton of MAYCO’s founder and UW-Madison student violist Mikko Rankin Utevsky (below top), and will take place at 7:30 p.m. in Music Hall (below bottom), on the UW-Madison campus at the foot of Bascom Hill.

Admission is $7; by donation for students.

new Mikko Utevsky baton profile USE

MusicHall2

The program includes: Overture to “The Magic Flute” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; “Knoxville, Summer 1915” (at bottom in a YouTube video with the ravishing voice and clear diction of Dawn Upshaw) by Samuel Barber with text by James Agee, and featuring soprano soloist Caitlin Ruby Miller; and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9 in E Minor.

caitlin ruby miller

Here is a link to MAYCO’s website and to a previous story and review from earlier this summer:

http://www.madisonareayouthchamberorchestra.org

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/07/28/classical-music-the-ear-does-some-more-catching-up-this-time-he-takes-in-the-madison-area-youth-chamber-orchestra-mayco-plus-here-is-more-news-from-day-4-of-wysos-tour-in-argentina/

 

 

 


Classical music Q&A: The Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra performs tonight even as founder and conductor Mikko Utevsky forges ties to several other local groups to ensure MAYCO’s future after he departs.

July 11, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear doesn’t normally run two posts on the same event in the same week or close to each other.

But it is a slow week in summer.

More to the point, I got a very intriguing response to my Q&A request from Mikko Utevsky, the founder and conductor of the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra.

You may recall the MAYCO performs tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the new Atrium auditorium of the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive.

The program includes the “Reformation” Symphony by Felix Mendelssohn; the Piano Concerto No. 11 in D Major by Franz Joseph Haydn; and the world premiere of UW-Madison graduate and local composer Olivia Zeuske’s “Experiment No. 1.”

Admission is $7 with donations asked from students.

For more information, here is a link to the other previous post:

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/07/09/classical-music-the-madison-area-chamber-music-orchestra-mayco-performs-music-of-haydn-and-mendelssohn-plus-a-world-premiere-of-a-work-by-olivia-zeuske-this-friday-night-at-the-first-unitarian-soci/

But in his answers, Utevsky revealed some things that The Ear didn’t know, including the many links he is forging with other local music organizations so that MAYCO can continue when he has graduated and moved on.

Talk about being forward-thinking!

Here is the Q&A from violist-conductor Mikko Utevsky (below) about the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra, which he founded when he was still a student at Madison East High School, before he started attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

MAYCO Mikko Utevsky by Steve Rankin

Can you briefly introduce yourself and the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO), including its history and makeup?

I am a violist and conductor studying at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. I founded MAYCO while a student at Madison East High School to provide a free summer opportunity for high school and college students to explore the chamber orchestra repertoire.

Members range in age from 13 to 30, and the specific composition of the ensemble varies from concert to concert based on the demands of the repertoire and individual students’ schedules. We focus on music of the Classical period, chamber works of the 20th century, and new music. We present a premiere each season.

Mikko Utevsky conducts MAYCO Steve Rankin

What are MAYCO’s plans for the near future and further out, including partnerships with other music organizations and concerts, recordings and the like?

MAYCO is in a transitional period right now as we pursue institutional stability. For four years, it has existed more or less as a personal project of mine. But I believe strongly in its value as an educational opportunity, and I want to ensure its continued viability in the future, even after I finish my degree and leave for graduate school.

Luckily for us, Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) feels the same way. We have entered into a partnership starting this season to make MAYCO available as an official extension of WYSO, allowing us to preserve the institution that we have cultivated for Madison’s music community into the indefinite future.

We are also looking at relationships with programs for younger players (Music Makers and Music Con Brio). We try to introduce them to the world of orchestral playing and give them a taste of what they can accomplish as young musicians here or elsewhere.

We are very fortunate to have the support also of conductor Andrew Sewell and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below), the city’s professional chamber orchestra that is helping its younger counterpart.

As far as program offerings go, the season of two concerts seems to be working for us very well, although a third would not be out of the question. I am particularly excited for a program in the works for next summer about which I can’t say much yet (but when I can, you’ll hear it here first!).

We have been granted a degree of flexibility by the receipt of the UW Arts Enterprise Association’s 2014 New Arts Venture Challenge Grant this spring to support our programming, which will allow us to perform a wider range of music, including more 20th-century works that must be rented.

Our relationship with WYSO is now such that we can receive tax-deductible donations, so if you want to support our work, visit the Support Us page on our website to make a contribution:

http://www.madisonareayouthchamberorchestra.org

WCO lobby

What can you tell us about the program for tonight, Friday, July 11? Does it have a theme or something to tie it together?

This week’s program is somewhat eclectic. The title, “Triumph and Delight,” is a bit nonspecific. Triumph refers to the “Reformation” Symphony by Mendelssohn, which ends with a victorious affirmation of faith and strength, and Delight to the Piano Concerto by Haydn, which is a nimble, playful and joyfully fun piece of music. (You can hear how Mendelssohn uses the Lutheran hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” in the symphony’s finale at the bottom in a YouTube video.)

MAYCO playing

What should listeners know about Olivia Zeuske and her “Experiment No. 1,” of which you will be giving the world premiere?


Olivia (below) is a gifted composer whose work caught my ear some time ago because of its characteristic, piquant sonorities and subtle rhythmic complexities. Her “Experiment No. 1″ is a three-movement composition lasting about 20 minutes. This work was begun about a year and a half ago, and will represent her first large-ensemble composition. I am very excited to be presenting its premiere, having watched it take shape over many months.

olivia zeuske 2014

How did you decide to choose Thomas Kasdorf (below) as a piano soloist and the Piano Concerto in D Major by Franz Joseph Haydn?

Thomas was an easy decision. I have heard him on countless recitals and in studios across campus, and most recently worked with him as a vocal coach and accompanist. He is a consummate musician — a sensitive accompanist and assertive soloist in one, with beautiful lyricism and technique to burn (with no need to prove it).

As a collaborative player, he is one of the few who will tackle a segment of the major repertoire renowned for the difficulty of its piano parts; pieces like Sergei Rachmaninov’s Cello Sonata demand a technique like his, and he plays them brilliantly.

The Haydn was Thomas’ choice as much as mine. I originally asked him to play something by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with an eye towards the operatic lines in many of those concertos, but we couldn’t pick one! There are 27, after all, and all of them are wonderful.

I mentioned the Haydn offhandedly, having heard Emmanuel Ax’s recording recently, and he told me it was a favorite of his. I had already decided to do some Haydn this season, whether a concerto or one of the symphonies, which I love so dearly, so it seemed a natural choice. The piece is delightful — playful, with a touch of the deliberately unrefined “country” sound one often finds in Haydn’s music and a lovely, singing slow movement in between.

thomas kasdorf 2:jpg

The “Reformation” Symphony by Felix Mendelssohn is pretty well-known. But is there something special you would like the public to know about it or about your approach to it?

Mendelssohn’s own relationship with the symphony was somewhat complicated — I actually have a rather substantial historical note on it that will be made available on the orchestra’s website, though not in the printed program.

Mendelssohn (below) poured a lot of energy into it, holding high hopes for a performance at the grand tricentennial celebrations in Berlin of the Augsburg Confession (an important early Lutheran document). But it was not finished in time, and was not well-received when he sought other performances in the years following.

He eventually cooled to the piece, but kept the score around, perhaps moved by a lingering attachment to a work that, later in life, he described as deeply flawed. In any case, it was discovered after his death, and received its second performance and first publication about 20 years later.

In it, Mendelssohn tackles the programmatic ideas of A.B. Marx while also attempting to compose his own 20-year-old’s response to Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony on a historical subject.

It’s a tall order, and one can understand why he felt it fell short (as anything aspiring to three massive demands must inevitably), but the piece is tremendously successful on its own.

The first movement is Beethovenian in scope and power, the scherzo delightful, the slow movement a tragic “Song Without Words,” and the Finale is a pillar of victory and might (again imagined on a Beethovenian level — think of the relationship between the outer movements of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and their journey from tragedy to triumph). I think it holds up well against any of his other popular works, and can be a tremendously powerful piece.

mendelssohn_300

What else would you like to say or add?

Of course, there is another concert this summer – “Summer Magic,” featuring Spring Green soprano Caitlin Ruby Miller — below — who is a 2014 Metropolitan Opera National Council Audition finalist. She will sing one of my favorite pieces, Samuel Barber’s nostalgic deeply moving “Knoxville: Summer of 1915″ on texts by James Agee.

That concert will also include the Overture to “The Magic Flute” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the Ninth Symphony of Dmitri Shostakovich, and will take place in UW-Madison Music Hall, at the foot of Bascom Hill, on Friday, August 22, at 7:30 p.m.

caitlin ruby miller

 

 


Classical music: The Madison Area Youth Chamber Music Orchestra (MAYCO) performs music of Haydn and Mendelssohn plus a world premiere of a work by Madison composer Olivia Zeuske this Friday night at the First Unitarian Society.

July 9, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Few young musicians, or older ones for that matter, lead a busier schedule than the young University of Wisconsin-Madison violist and conductor Mikko Rankin Utevsky (below).

Mikko Utevsky with baton

Recently returned from a stay in Europe, Utevsky will show his latest ambitious achievement in a program this Friday night.

That is when the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO, seen below in a performance last year in Mills Hall at the UW-Madison), which was founded by Utevsky while he was still a student at Madison East High School, opens its fourth season on Friday night at 7:30 p.m.

MAYCO orchestra close up

The concert will take place in the crisply designed Atrium auditorium of the First Unitarian Society of Madison (below, in a photo by Zane Williams), 900 University Bay Drive, on Madison near west side. Tickets are $7, with donations requested from students.

FUS Atrium, Auditorium Zane Williams

The gifted pianist Thomas Kasdorf (below), a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, where he studied with Christopher Taylor and where he will return as a graduate student this fall, joins the orchestra for the Piano Concerto No. 11 in D Major by Franz Joseph Haydn. (You can hear the legendary Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter play the concerto in a YouTube video at the bottom)

Thomas Kasdorf

You may recall that this spring Kasdorf answered a Q&A for this blog when he performed the Piano Concerto in A Minor by Edvard Grieg with the Middleton Community Orchestra.

Here is a link to Kasdorf’s interview:

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/06/02/classical-music-qa-native-son-pianist-thomas-kasdorf-talks-about-playing-solo-recitals-chamber-music-and-the-grieg-piano-concerto-with-the-middleton-community-orchestra-which-also-closes-out-i/

And here is a link to The Ear’s positive review of his performance of the Grieg concerto (below):

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/06/07/classical-music-maybe-its-back-to-the-future-the-classical-music-scene-needs-more-groups-to-act-like-the-middleton-community-orchestra-and-break-down-barriers-between-performers-and-listene/

MCO june 2014 Thomas Kasdorf plays Grieg

Also on the program are the “Reformation” Symphony by Felix Mendelssohn and the world premiere of the chamber symphony “Experiment No. 1″ by Olivia Zeuske (below). Zeuske just graduated from the UW-Madison with a double major in English and music composition, which she studied with professor and composer Steven Dembski.

olivia zeuske 2014

MAYCO’S NEXT CONCERT

MAYCO’s next concert this summer will be at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, August 22, 2014. Called “Summer Magic,” it features soprano Caitlin Ruby Miller. The program includes the Overture to “The Magic Flute” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; “Knoxville: Summer of 1915” by Samuel Barber: and the Symphony No. 9 in E-flat Major, Op. 70, by Dmitri Shostakovich. The concert will be held in UW Music Hall, 925 Bascom Mall, at the base of Bascom Hill.

For more information about MAYCO, including background, concerts, programs, photos and how to support and join MAYCO, visit:

http://madisonareayouthchamberorchestra.org/


Classical music: It’s final and official — the University of Wisconsin Pro Arte Quartet will tour to Belgium this week.

May 19, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Madison, Wis. -– After much worrying, nail-biting and hectic phone calls, the final and official word is in: The Pro Arte Quartet tour to Belgium is on!

And not a minute too soon, since the tour concerts start at the end of this week and the musicians leave for Belgium on Tuesday.

Here is an update from Sarah Schaffer (below), who manages the Pro Arte String Quartet for the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music:

Sarah Schaffer mug

The University of Wisconsin Pro Arte Quartet will be returning to its roots this week with a concert tour of Belgium, where the group was first formed in 1912. Current musicians in the Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) include violinist David Perry, violinist Suzanne Beia, violist Sally Chisholm and cellist Parry Karp. (The current Pro Arte Quartet can be heard at the bottom in a YouTube video playing the Prelude for String Quartet by Ernest Bloch at one of its centennial concerts.)

Pro Arte Quartet new 2 Rick Langer

The trip is occurring thanks largely to efforts by Wisconsin’s Democratic U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin who helped the UW-Madison ensemble-in-residence overcome government restrictions that prohibit traveling across international borders with anything containing elephant ivory and other endangered flora and fauna.

The Brussels concert series — the capstone of the Pro Arte’s centennial year as the world’s oldest continuously performing string quartet — returns the ensemble to its roots for the first time since World War II.

The concert series highlight will be the European premiere of the quartet’s latest commission, the String Quartet No. 3 by contemporary Belgian composer Benoît Mernier (below, in a photo by Lise Mernier). The composition had its world premiere March 1, at Mills Concert Hall in the George Mosse Humanities Building on the UW-Madison campus.

Benoit Mernier by Lise Mernier

The Quatuor Pro Arte of Brussels, first formed in 1911-1912, was performing at the Wisconsin Union Theater on the UW campus on May 10, 1940, when Belgium was overrun and occupied by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi forces, turning three of its original four musicians into war orphans. By October of that year, the group had officially become the UW Pro Arte Quartet, making it the first artist ensemble-in-residence at any university in the world.

The current tour to Belgium, which occurs May 20-28, almost didn’t happen thanks to renewed efforts by the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service’s International Affairs division, which since February has been actively enforcing a 1976 law prohibiting the importation of any items or materials containing elephant ivory, tortoise-shell, Brazilian rosewood and other materials.

Three of Pro Arte’s four musicians have ivory on the tips of their bows. The fourth, Sally Chisholm, has an antique viola heavily inlaid with either ivory or bone on the face of the instrument.

ivory on 2 bows

Chisholm’s viola was manufactured in Cremona, Italy, in 1680. It is her primary instrument and has a unique voice that has become central to the Pro Arte’s sound. “Violas have not been standardized, and to find a replacement instrument for the trip would have been difficult and have changed the sound of the entire group,” said Chisholm (below).

Sally Chisholm

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service does issue permits enabling musicians with instruments containing prohibited products to travel with them, but it was unlikely that the permits would have been issued in time for the Pro Arte’s May 20 departure.

The UW-Madison Chancellor’s office worked with U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (below), who helped facilitate more rapid processing of the permits, which arrived just prior to the ensemble’s departure.

Tammy Baldwin official portrait

The trip to Belgium will feature a variety of concerts in Brussels and elsewhere.

The Pro Arte will kick off the week-long tour on Thursday, May 22, with a performance in Studio 1 of the Flagey Building (below top with its handsome concert hall studio at below bottom), home to Belgium’s broadcast industry.

Flagey Building Brussels

Flagey building concert hall, studio

The program includes compositions by the “Dissonant” Quartet in C Major, K. 465, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (below top), the Quartet in D Major by Belgian composer César Franck (below bottom), “The Wind in the Willows” by American composer Randall Thompson and the “Elegy” for solo viola by Russian composer Igor Stravinsky, who wrote it for a member of the Pro Arte Quartet. Studio 1 has historic significance for the Pro Arte. An earlier iteration of the quartet recorded a complete cycle of the 16 Quartets by Ludwig van Beethoven there in 1938.

Mozart old 1782

Cesar Franck photo

On Friday, May 23, the Pro Arte will perform in the Arthur de Greef Auditorium of the Royal Library of Belgium (below top) in Brussels with a program featuring works by String Quartet No. 1 by Bela Bartok (below middle) and Quartet in D Major, Op. 20, No, 4 by Franz Joseph Haydn (below bottom).

Royal Library of Belgium

bartok

Haydn

On Saturday, May 24, the Pro Arte travels to Dolhain Limburg, birthplace of the quartet’s founding violinist Alphonse Onnou for a reception, dinner and performance at Kursaal Dolhain. The evening program will include previously listed compositions by Mozart, Franck and Haydn plus “Waltz from Five Novelettes” by Alexander Glazunov (below).

glazunov

The Mernier European premiere at the Royal Brussels Conservatory (its exterior is below top, the grand concert hall is below bottom) follows on Monday, May 26.

Royal Conservatory Brussels exterior

Royal Conservatory Grand Hall Brussells

The program features the Adagio and Fugue, K. 546, by Mozart, the work by Randall Thompson (below top) and the slow movement or “Adagio for Strings” (premiered in Rome in 1938 by the Pro Arte) from the  String Quartet No. 1, Op. 11, by American composer Samuel Barber (below bottom).

Randall Thompson

barber 1

The final performance of the tour on Tuesday, May 27, will take place at the Catholic University of Louvain-la-Neuve (below).

Catholic University of Lovain

In addition to the Mernier work, the performance will include works by Mozart and Barber. In addition, the audience will view a 1975 documentary film about the Pro Arte by Pierre Bartholomée that includes interviews with composers Darius Milhaud, Igor Stravinsky and others. Denise Bauer (below), the U.S. Ambassador to Belgium will be present.

Denise Bauer

 

 

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Classical music Q&A: Israeli pianist Inon Barnatan compares great music-making to great acting, and the concert hall to an exciting museum. He makes his MUST-HEAR Madison debut on this Friday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall in a solo recital program of works by Schubert, Barber, Franck and Ravel.

April 17, 2014
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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.

Inon Barnatan

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:

http://www.uniontheater.wisc.edu/Season13-14/Inon-Barnatan.html

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:

www.inonbarnatan.com

And here is the email Q&A that Inon Barnatan did for The Ear:

Inon Barnatan face

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.

New York Philharmonic Alan Gilbert

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.)

Inon Barnatan playing at Carnegie Hall NY 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.

Leon Fleisher

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!

Franz Schubert writing

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.

Samuel Barber

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.

VanGogh-starry_night_edit

 

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Classical music: In the next few days, three groups with a big and loyal local following will perform duo-piano music, woodwind music and clarinet trios.

March 12, 2014
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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:

http://www.piano-4-hands.com

Stanislava Varshavski-Diana Shapiro

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.

original Kat Trio

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.

The Ekaterinburg Trio’s website, www.thekattrio.net, features a Music page where fans can hear music files from all 10 CDs. The Video link also features dozens of Kat Trio videos on YouTube.

kat trio with justin

BLACK MARIGOLD

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:

https://www.facebook.com/BlackMarigold

blackmarigoldwinds@gmail.com

Black Marigold

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Classical Music Education: A Piano Vortex will descend this Friday and Saturday on the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music — all FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. On Friday night, classical virtuoso Christopher Taylor will perform a FREE recital of Prokofiev and Liszt-Beethoven; on Saturday morning jazz master Johannes Wallmann will hold a workshop. Plus the UW’s inaugural high school piano competition will take place Friday and Saturday in Morphy Recital Hall with the public invited to preliminary rounds and a final concert. Plus, UW-Madison music students will play blues and jazz-inspired classical music.

February 26, 2014
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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.

Steinway Grand Piano

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:

http://www.madisonmagazine.com/Madison-Magazine/February-2014/A-Q-A-with-Pianist-Christopher-Taylor/

Christopher Taylor at Miller Theater in NYC CR Richard Termine of the NYT

And here is a link to the complete Fanfare blog entry:

http://uwmadisonschoolofmusic.wordpress.com/2014/02/24/brailey-wbq-tour-pianofest/

And here is a previous post with some background:

http://uwmadisonschoolofmusic.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/high-school-piano-competition/

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

Morphy Hall 2

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

8:45 a.m.: Ethan Nethery (17, from Hartland, WI); “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder and “How Little We Know” by Phillip Springer

9 a.m.: Olivia Montgomery (18, from Fitchburg, WI): Prelude No. 1 Allegro ben ritmato e deciso George Gershwin; Sonata in C minor, Op. 10, No. 1, I. Allegro molto e con brio –Ludwig van Beethoven

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

johannes wallmann playing

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

INTERMISSION

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

piano keys

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.

Martha Fischer color Katrin Talbot

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.

sole nero Jessica Johnson piano and Anthony Di Sanza percussion

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.

BATC2 John Chappelle Stowe and Edith Hines

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.

ChristopherTaylorNoCredit

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.

johannes wallmann mug

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.

Todd Welbourne by Katrin Talbot

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. 

Dave Stoler

Sponsors of The Piano Extravaganza are The Evjue Foundation, the charitable arm of The Capital Times, and UW-Madison Chancellor Emeritus Irving Shain.

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Classical music: Today is Valentine’s Day. What piece of music best celebrates love? Here are Limelight Magazine’s Top 10 Sexiest Moments in Classical Music. Leave some music and words for your Valentine right here. Plus, the University of Wisconsin School of Music has successfully reinvented the annual Concerto Competition Winners’ concert -– to loud approval and multiple standing ovations from a packed house.

February 14, 2014
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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:

http://www.limelightmagazine.com.au/Article/371934,the-10-sexiest-moments-in-classical-music.aspx

Cupid

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:

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/classical-music-education-the-university-of-wisconsin-school-of-music-ramps-up-its-annual-student-concerto-competition-concert-this-saturday-night-with-a-gala-reception/

http://uwmadisonschoolofmusic.wordpress.com/2014/01/07/symphony-showcase2013-14/

UW concerto winners 2014 Michael R. Anderson

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.

Kyle Knox and UW Symphony Orchestra

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).

uw concerto winner 2014 big audience 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.

Kyle Knox 2

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.

Madlen Breckbill

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.

Erika Anderson and Daria Tennikova

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.

Kai-Ju Ho

James Smith and UW Symphony Orchestra with clarinet soloist Kai-Ju Ho

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.

SeungWha Baek playing

UW concerto winners SeungWha Baek Michael R. Anderson 2014

Flutist Mi-Li Chang brought beautiful tone and playfulness, even Gallic charm, to the Concerto for Flute by Jacques Ibert.

Mi-Li Chang

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.

Sung-Yo Yang playing

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.

Chocolate cake al a Wayne Thiebaud

Pumpkin bars a la Wayne Thiebaud

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?

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Classical music education: The University of Wisconsin School of Music ramps up its annual student concerto competition concert this Saturday night with a gala reception.

February 4, 2014
2 Comments

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.

UW Symphony Orchestra 2013 CR John W. Barker

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.”

Susan C. Cook UW SOM BW CR Michael Forster Rothbart

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).

UW concerto winners 2014 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.)

Seungwha Baek (above, second from right), who studies with Martha Fischer, will perform the first movement of Sergei Prokofiev’s dazzling Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major.

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).

Daria Tennikova CR Kathy Espoito

 Erika Anderson

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.

Smith_Jim_conduct07_3130

Kyle Knox 2

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!

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