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).
By Jacob Stockinger
Today is a day to catch up of some classical music news.
So here is a story about the two new winners of the Gilmore Competition for young pianists, which takes place every two years. (Every four years, an older Gilmore Artist is named and given a $300,000 prize. That will take place again in 2014.)
Each Gilmore Young Artist receives a $15,000 stipend to further their musical career and educational development, as well as $10,000 to commission a new piano composition for which the artist will have exclusive performance rights for one year. The award is strictly monetary and advisory, and does not involve managerial assistance from the Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival.
This year’s winners, nominated by professional musicians, are Andrew Hsu, (below top, in a photo by Pete Checchi), who is a 19-year-old graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia at in a YouTube video at the bottom performing American composer Charles Tomlinson Griffes‘ “Roman Sketches.”; and Llewellyn Sanchez-Werner, who is a 16-year-old student currently attending the Juilliard School in New York City and who plays the fourth movement, a fugue, from Samuel Barber’s piano sonata in a YouTube video at the bottom.
The Gilmore Young Artist awards are important to me on several counts.
The Ear also likes the competition because it is conducted in such an unusual manner.
Professional judges follow and track various nominees, and then decide. Candidates are unaware they are under consideration. There in NO face-to-face competition, as usually happens with the prestigious Arthur Rubinstein, Chopin, Van Cliburn and Tchaikovsky international competitions among many others.
A third reason is that I think the track record of the Gilmore is good and the names have remained solid in the music world. Perhaps the best example is the Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, but also Jonathan Biss and Yuja Wang. Anyone care to argue with those results?
Anyway, here are links to several stories about the Gilmore Foundation and the Gilmore Young Artist competition (age 22 and under), which is held every two years, and the two new recipients of the prize, which was established in Kalamazoo, Michigan, by the late philanthropist Irving S. Gilmore.
Here is a link to the Gilmore Foundation home website:
And here are links to the specific competition for young pianists:
By Jacob Stockinger
Here is a special posting, a review written by frequent guest critic and writer for this blog, John W. Barker. Barker (below) is an emeritus professor of Medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also is a well-known classical music critic who writes for Isthmus and the American Record Guide, and who hosts an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT 88.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.
By John W. Barker
A funny thing happened on my way to a concert commitment—a funny and increasingly all-too-familiar thing.
I agreed to do this review of the concert by the Isthmus Vocal Ensemble (below top) last Sunday. (It had to be Sunday afternoon, because another cultural commitment prevented me from attending the first performance of their program on Friday.) But then I discovered that Farley’s House of Pianos was presenting a recital by the seemingly immortal Frank Glazer(below bottom), that same afternoon.
That opened the wound I carry from having had to miss his last appearance in Madison two years ago—again, for the same reason of schedule conflict! That’s Madison’s musical life for you, over and over again, now even in the summer.
Fortunately, however, this situation was less the usual head-on collision in schedule and more of a side-swipe. The choral concert was at 3 p.m., the piano recital at 4:30 p.m. That fact made it almost possible to be at two places at once, thank goodness.
Attending each concert has had personal reasons for me. In the case of the Isthmus Vocal Ensemble, the issue was my recognition of guilt.
The group’s director, Scott MacPherson (below) — a credit to UW School of Music background — founded the organization in 2002, drawing together some 35 passionate devotees of choral singing for the sole purpose of presenting a concert in Madison each summer.
That allowed MacPherson to maintain an important tie to this city, while holding professional positions elsewhere, and it gave wonderful performing experience to singers here devoted to him.
It also created an annual audience in Madison that allowed the group to move from one performance to two of each year’s program.
And yet–here comes the guilt–through all these seasons, for whatever reasons (excusable or otherwise), I have failed to attend any one of the IVE’s concerts. Clearly it has been a loss on my part, one to be made up.
Both performances this years were in ample church venues: the Friday night one in Luther Memorial Church, the one on Sunday afternoon, which I attended, at Covenant Presbyterian.
The first half of the program offered what might be called a “classical” sequence. The opener was a three-section setting for eight voices of Psalm 150, in French, by Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621), who compose and published polyphonic settings of all the Psalms.
MacPherson deliberately positioned the singers in the usual SATB (soprano-alto-tenor-bass) spread, rather than dividing them into two distinct choirs, to stress eight-voice integration over the antiphonal effects Sweelinck used so flexibly. But for the next two units the singers shifted about in fact into separate choirs. And the resulting antiphonal effects were simply glorious.
The motet “Ich lasse dich nicht” is a beloved and much-recorded work long attributed to Johann Christoph Bach (1642-1703), a relative of Johann Sebastian Bach. The latter is known to have used the piece in his Leipzig repertoire, and scholars now are inclined to award its composition to J.S. himself. (Personally, I am still inclined to the older attribution.)
Among its fascinations are the juxtaposition of a chorale sung by one section against the contrapuntal workings of the rest of the choir. Hearing that wonderful effect after the Sweelinck work gave a clear contrast in the seductive elegance of the Calvinist Psalm idiom as against the four-square assertiveness of the German Lutheran chorale style.
The latter style was given a new twist in a rarely heard work for double choir by Brahms (below), the “Fest und Gedenksprüche,” composed in thanks for an honor accorded him by his natal city of Hamburg. Brahms was not only a professional choir director, but a pioneering booster and editor of early Baroque choral music, whose style he could assimilate and recast in his own distinctive way in these settings of three Scriptural texts.
The first half of the program ended–after another shift in the singers’ positions–with an arrangement for 16 voices made by one Clytus Gottwald of a single one (“Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen”) from the ”Rückert-Lieder” for solo voice and orchestra by Gustav Mahler (below). The texture for, in effect, four four-part choirs, resulted in a density of sound that virtually obliterated the all-important text, producing a purely choral sound that completely left behind anything of Mahler’s intentions or musical character. This should have been called a “motet after Mahler” rather than identifed as somehow still his music.
The concert’s second part shifted to music of our times. One does not even require the fact that 2013 marks the centennial of Benjamin Britten’s birth to justify presenting any of his important choral contributions. This one, his “Hymn to Saint Peter,” sets a combination of English and Latin Scriptural texts celebrating Peter as the “rock” on which the Church was founded–an echo of the claims of the Roman Church that might not have been expected someone grounded in Anglican Church background.
The Anglican tradition (also involving organ accompaniment of the choir) was even more directly evoked by “The Canticle of Brother Sun,” a text attributed to St. Francis of Assisi and colorfully set by British composer Grayston Ives.
By way of intermezzo, the organist Kathrine Handford (below top) played a lively Dance-Rondo for her instrument. Then came a composition of a UW-trained Wisconsin composer, Linda Kachelmeier (below bottom), in which words of the Good Friday responsory “O vos omnes” and of the “Stabat Mater” Sequence were glommed together in a great choral blur, to some extent surmounted by the lovely voiced mezzo-soprano Sarah Leuwerke in the piece’s solo part.
The official finale was a setting by Haitian-American composer Sydney Guillaume (below) of a text about competing drummers. Nominally in French, this text really serves onomatopoeic purposes in suggesting the exuberant rhythms of Caribbean dance. As an encore, the choir sang a nostalgia-drenched arrangement of “Shenandoah.”
As may be concluded, not all of the program choices were ones I would have made. But I am grateful to MacPherson for allowing me the chance to hear them. Even more, I am delighted to express admiration for his extraordinary group. For this pair of concerts, he doubled its normal number to 70, in view of the demands of the selections. (I could spot a number of familiar Madison musicians among his “ringers.”)
Whether he will continue this practice remains to be seen. But it is clear that he has a core group that is totally dedicated to working with him. Each year they spend a busy week of rehearsals leading to the concerts. From him they have learned remarkable discipline and flexibility in ensemble singing and in stylistic range. Perhaps above all, they just love working with him, and their joy in performance is quite evident.
In addition, I must express admiration for Scott MacPherson himself (below, conducting a rehearsal). Now based at Kent State University in Ohio, he has achieved a national reputation in choral music–as a conductor of great skill, a choir-builder of magnetism, and an enterprising explorer of choral literature old and new. An all-Wisconsin product, he was in his UW-Madison days an assistant and colleague to the revered Robert Fountain. I can imagine the time when Scott MacPherson’s reputation will at least equal that of Fountain, if not eclipse it.
Now, as the final applause for the Isthmus Vocal Ensemble swelled at 4:35 p.m., I dashed to my car and was able to arrive at Farley’s House of Pianos, having missed Haydn’s Sonata in E Minor and the bare beginning of Beethoven’s rarely heard “Phantasie,” Op. 77. That was followed by one of Beethoven’s “late” Piano Sonatas, No. 31 in E major, Op. 109. Both of these works display Beethoven’s constant straining of the forms and mentalities he inherited from his predecessors.
The second half brought a series of shifts. Samuel Barber’s four “Excursions” display a clever ability to inhabit convincingly the differing styles of jazz, blues, cowboy song, and ragtime. Then came the glittering world of Franz Liszt (below): his free-ranging “Petrarch Sonnet No. 104,” followed by the nature-picture of St. Francis preaching to the birds (“Franziscus Legende” No. 1). [St. Francis thus, coincidentally, linked the two concerts!]
And a final Lisztian showpiece, his “Paraphrase” on the quartet from Verdi’s opera “Rigoletto.”
After that, still more contrasts, in one of Liszt’s adaptations of dances by Schubert, No. 6 of the former’s “Soirées de Vienna” sets, as an encore.
Now, to the pianist. Frank Glazer (below) really one the most remarkable American musicians. Again, he is a Wisconsin native. Born in 1915, he is accordingly now 98. He has developed a sideline in writing and lecturing. He is still artist-in-residence at Bates College in Maine. And he is still actively performing!
I began collecting his early LP recordings in my student days, so for me he is a living legend. His tastes in repertoire have always been voracious, and they still are. He has been a continuing player in chamber-music groups, while his repertoire of solo piano music is astounding in its range. A list, circulated at this latest appearance, of a series of eight performances this past season at Bates demonstrates that range vividly. And it ends with a concert this past April in which he played, back-to-back, Beethoven’s cosmic “Diabelli” Variations and the herculean “Hammerklavier” Sonata–a feat comparable to doing two Mahler Symphonies on the same program (something, in fact, that Simon Rattle tried in his rambunctious earlier years).
Glazer’s attributes his resilience to exercise and mental self-discipline, but also to an early study of anatomy, so as to understand how to play with the least strain on his hands. I was able to watch his hands, if from a distance, and I think I could observe something of his very straight and level hand positions, which nevertheless allowed his fingers to range securely from the dazzling runs of Liszt to the power of Beethoven.
With the aid of a page-turner, Glazer played from printed music rather than from memory, but one could hardly fault him for that. Yes, here and there, a very tiny suggestion of a faltered note, but the technique was confident, and the stylistic sense always on point in whatever he played.
If you heard Glazer (below) blindfolded, you would take him for a player of maturity and insight. Up close, his complexion gives clues to his age, but, seen from a distance, his appearance and movements make him look hardly a day over fifty-five.
Frank Glazer is, in sum, a phenomenon. The ability of Tim and Renee Foley to fit him into their lineup of star performers for their incomparable recital events is a remarkable testimony to their reputation. And the splendid 1885 Steinway, so lovingly restored by the Foley technicians, and played by Glazer, was certainly no small draw to him, I would guess.
In all, it proved a memorable experience, allowing us to ponder over which is more remarkable — Glazer’s artistry or his longevity.
By Jacob Stockinger
A while ago, around American Independence Day on the Fourth of July, NPR’s outstanding classical music blog “Deceptive Cadence” asked if The Great American Symphony – like The Great American Novel – already exists, or has yet to be written.
It also asked both readers and professional performers to name some of the greatest American music, symphonies or other genres, that deserve a wider hearing and more performances.
The posting got well-deserved responses from readers and professional musicians. And the answers are still pouring in.
Here is what The Ear wants to know: Why don’t we hear more about these candidates for The Great American Symphony? In fact, we don’t we get to hear them in performance.
Is it because they are inferior? Or overlooked?
Or is classical music subject to a bias that favors Europe over American, the Old World over the New World?
We hear Samuel Barber’s Violin concerto often enough. So, why not his symphonies? (You can hear part of Barber’s Symphony No. 1, performed by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and conductor Leonard Slatkin in YouTube video at the bottom.) And the same applies to many other composers.
Here is a link to my original post, with stories featuring links to NPR blogger Tom Huizenga and to “All Things Considered” host Robert Siegel’s interview with American conductor JoAnn Falletta (below) about this:
Here are some other important links to follow-up, with audio samples, to other candidates for The Great American Symphony. Be sure to read the enlightening reader COMMENTS in all of them:
Here is one that includes offerings by that American-born and American-trained champion of American music conductor Marin Alsop (below):
And the masterful cultural historian Joseph Horowitz (below), who spoke so engagingly in Madison two seasons ago during the centennial of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Pro Arte Quartet offered these thoughts:
And here are three of the more recent ones:
Do you have candidates for The Great American Symphony that the others haven’t mentioned? What is it?
And is classical music in the U.S. the victim of a Euro-centric bias?
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
This Sunday afternoon, Farley’s House of Pianos will play host to a phenomenon.
That phenomenon is a critically acclaimed concert pianist who goes by the name of Frank Glazer.
Glazer is 98 and, after spending almost 60 years as a professional performer, he is still touring and still performing ambitiously big, even exhausting, programs. (Glazer discusses his past in YouTube video at the bottom.)
Consider the works Glazer will play in Madison this Sunday at 4:30 p.m. at Farley’s, located at 6522 Seybold Road, on the city’s far west side near West Towne, where he will no doubt perform on one of Farley’s wonderfully restored and historic Steinway concert grands (below).
The first half features two well-matched and complementary works: the dramatic Sonata in E Minor by Franz Josef Haydn coupled with the songful late Sonata in E Major, Op. 109, that uses both theme-and-variations and a fugue, by Ludwig van Beethoven plus Beethoven’s rarely heard Fantasy in G Major, Op. 77. There it is, the counterpoint teacher Haydn and his more famous student Beethoven.
Then come the “Excursions” of the American composer Samuel Barber (below top) and two pieces (the beautiful “Petrarch Sonnet No. 104” and the “St. Francis Legend No. 1” by Franz Liszt (below middle), including Liszt’s concert paraphrase on Verdi’s opera “Rigoletto” that The Ear is guessing is programmed to pay tribute to the bicentennial this October of the birth of Verdi (below bottom).
Furthermore, by all accounts listening to Glazer does not require the listener to make but small allowances for his age.
True, Arthur Rubinstein concertized until 92 or 93, when he was almost completely blind. And Mieczyslaw Horszowski (below), the teacher at the Curtis Institute of Music of Murray Perahia and many other notable pianists, performed on his 99th birthday. (He died in 1993, just a month shy of his 101st birthday and gave his last piano lesson a week before his death.)
But they are all rare exceptions. For the most part it seems that by the 80s, performing careers have generally pretty much ended.
Good genes no doubt play a role in Glazer’s late life success. And so does exercise. Glazer (below) reportedly does yoga and practices the piano for several hours every day and usually stays active until 11 p.m. or so.
At 65, at a time when most professional people think of retiring, Glazer agreed to start his career as a mentor for piano students at Bates College in Maine, where he still lives.
If you Google “Frank Glazer” you will find a lot of things to read, almost all of them written with a sense of wonder and admiration or such a first-rate, devoted and long-lived professional musician.
On Sunday, there will be a pre-concert lecture at 4 p.m. by Tim Farley and a reception afterwards.
Tickets are $25, $30 at the door, and can be bought in advance or reserved at Farley’s and Orange Tree Imports on Monroe Street. For more information, call (608) 271-2626.
Here is a link to information at Farley’s website:
And here are links to two good background stories, including one I did when he played in Madison in 2011, that has an interview with Glazer.
A REMINDER: The 14th Madison Early Music Festival, with the theme “Renaissance Germany,” opens tonight with a performance by the Renaissance band Piffaro (below) at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall. It will be preceded at 6:30 p.m. by a FREE lecture by frequent guest blog contributor John W. Barker on “The Germanies of 1616 and How They Got to Be That Way” in Room L-160 of the Elvehjem Building of the nearby Chazen Museum of Art. For more information, visit: http://continuingstudies.wisc.edu/lsa/memf/index.html
By Jacob Stockinger
Back when The Ear was an undergraduate, he had a philosophy professor who claimed in an aesthetics course that no one in the class that was full of ambitious artists and especially would-be writers should worry about writing The Great American Novel.
It had already been written.
Still, overall, I think the decades have proven him right – which is why Gatsby has been made into several movie versions, including an older one with the actor Robert Redford and a recent one by director Baz Luhrman, and John Harbison’s full-length opera (below, with Dawn Upshaw as Daisy and Jerry Hadley as Jay Gatsby). And maybe a TV drama based on the novel is yet to come.
But even though that quite of question somehow seems impertinent or irrelevant, it can lead to some memorable discussions and exposure to new music.
So last week, when everyone was looking up American music to play on Independence Day or the fourth of July, the question of The Great American Symphony arose.
And it was discussed on NPR’s “Deceptive Cadence” blog by Tom Huizenga and also on “All Things Considered” by veteran host, the cultured, cultivated and witty Robert Siegel (below top) and American conductor JoAnn Falletta (below bottom), in a photo by Cheryl Gorski), who now leads three different orchestras as music director. (The three are the Buffalo Philharmonic, the Virginia Symphony Orchestra and the Ulster Orchestra in Northern Ireland.) Falletta comes up with some interesting choices of American composers and works — some you have heard of and some you haven’t. (At bottom is a YouTube video of the beautiful slow movement from Samuel Barber’s Symphony No. 1, which I had never heard either live or in a recorded performance.)
It would be interesting to hear what some other American-born and American-trained maestros and champions of old and new American music – from Leonard Bernstein and Alan Gilbert of the New York Philharmonic to Marin Alsop of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Michael Tilson Thomas (below) of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra said or have to say when they took on the same question.
Anyway, here are links to the NPR discussions. I recommend listening to the program and not just reading the transcript.
What do you think?
Do you have an orchestral work to nominate as The Great American Symphony or its equivalent?
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
Today, Monday, May 27, is Memorial Day – or Decoration Day, as it used to be known when solders’ graves were marked with more flowers and flags, and fewer words and less rhetoric.
Music is such a profound part of our memories, of how we celebrate events and people.
So once again, The Ear asks: For you, what classical music best celebrates Memorial Day?
Here are links to some past years of my suggestions and suggestions – including music by J.S. Bach, Franz Josef Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert and Samuel Barber and so many others — from readers, found in the COMMENTS section:
And last year I linked to a great story about Taps that was done on NPR:
Here is another link to another NPR story that features a moving aria of elegiac music by Henry Purcell:
And here is yet another NPR story that features some wonderful links to appropriate music – including Benjamin Britten’s “War Requiem” and John Adams’ “The Wound Dresser,” based on the poetry of Walt Whitman (below), who was a hospital nurse during the American Civil War.
It also mentions and uses an audio clip of one of my favorites, “Le Tombeau de Couperin” by Maurice Ravel (below), which dedicates each movement to a different friend who had been killed in World War I, even while the music remains quietly wistful of earlier times and does not wear its heart if its sleeve.
I also find Ravel’s “Pavane pour une princesse defunte” (at bottom, played in a live concert recording so reservedly and so movingly by the great Sviatoslav Richter, despite the audience’s coughing) in a YouTube video) a poignant, bittersweet and very moving expression of sadness and nostalgia, especially in the original solo piano version which seems more intimate and introspective in its aloneness, rather than orchestral version:
So once again I ask: For you personally, what music best embodies and expresses Memorial Day?
Leave those suggestions and links in the COMMENTS section.
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
Two noteworthy concerts will take place this weekend.
The recital by acclaimed German organist Felix Hell (below) and trumpeter Andrew Balio, a Wisconsin native and principal trumpet of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, will feature a century-spanning program that concludes with multiple works by Johann Sebastian Bach. The Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) is presenting The Hell/Balio Duo as part of its Overture Concert Organ (below) Series.
To see the full program and see other information, use this link:
And here is a sample video from YouTube of Felix Hell playing an organ transcription of Samuel Barber’s famous “Adagio for Strings”:
The concert career of Felix Hell (below) began at the age of nine and has included more than 700 recitals worldwide. He has received global recognition for his performances of the entire organ works of Johann Sebastian Bach in three full cycles as well as the complete organ works of Felix Mendelssohn. A frequent guest of American orchestras, Hell gave his debut performance in Boston’s famous Symphony Hall in 2004.
Wisconsin native Andrew Balio (below) was appointed as principal trumpet of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in 2001. He was previously the principal trumpet of the Israel Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta and the Orquesta Sinfonica del Estado de Mexico. His solo debut, at age fifteen, was with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, performing the Haydn trumpet concerto.
Here is a link to his official and impressive biography:
And here is a sample of Andrew Balio’s playing in a YouTube video:
Then on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. in the St. Joseph Chapel at Edgewood College, 1000 Edgewood College Drive, the Edgewood Chamber Orchestra, under Edgewood professor and conductor Blake Walter (below, in a photo by John Maniaci),
The Edgewood Chamber Orchestra will perform works include Rossini’s “Barber of Seville” Overture; Beethoven’s Symphony Number 2 in D (at bottom in a YouTube video with Christian Thielemann conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in the first movement); and Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf,” narrated by guest performer John Fields, interim Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Edgewood College.
Admission is $5; free with Edgewood College I.D.