ALERT: This just in: This afternoon’s performance at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall of the Madison Symphony Orchestra‘s Christmas concert, with guest soloist and local groups under the baton of John DeMain (below, in a photo by Bob Rashid) is virtually SOLD OUT. But you can call the Overture Center Box Office (608-258-4141) to determine any availability.
By Jacob Stockinger
Sure, you look at the entirety of classical music history and you can name your favorite composers and favorite works: Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and Ninth Symphony, right?
But there are surprises awaiting you, if you restrict the choices to the past century.
Looking over the past 100 years — starting Jan, 1, 1914 — who would have guessed, for example, that: Music for 18 Musicians (at bottom, in a complete performance in a YouTube video by the acclaimed and Grammy Award-winning new music group eighth blackbird) by contemporary minimalist composer Steve Reich (below, in a photo by Wonge Bergmann) would pull out ahead of George Gershwin, Dmitri Shostakovich, Bela Bartok, Charles Ives, Alban Berg and all others in last year’s Q2 Music poll?
Anyway, the terrific classical music blog “Deceptive Cadence” recently posted a story about the Q2 Music poll.
It included an entry form that will allow readers to pick up to FIVE works and composers as they participate in this year’s poll that dates back to Jan. 1, 1915.
Voting closes on Dec. 20, 2014.
Then, starting on Saturday, Dec. 27, as a way to close out the old year and ring in the new, a marathon countdown will begin and all the works will be played in reverse order of the survey results.
No word if it will be webcast, but The Ear suspects you can easily tune into Q2 Music by going to the website for WQXR.
Here is a link to the NPR story by Anastasia Tsioulcas and to the poll entry form.
And here is a link to WQXR where you can find a way to listen (at the top of the page), to sign up for the Q2 Music Newsletter and also see the results of the Q2 polls for 2011, 2012 and 2013 as well as the upcoming 2014. It makes for some interesting reading and listening.
And here is a link to a Dec. 2 concert, now archived at NPR, in which some of the best new recordings and music from 2014 was performed:
As for the Q2 Music poll, The Ear hopes someone chooses – make that that many people choose – the gorgeous Violin Concerto by the American composer Samuel Barber, who was less hot and controversial but much more gifted as a composer.
But whatever happens, have fun choosing and voting.
Don’t forget to use the COMMENTS section to tell The Ear and his readers what works you entered.
And don’t forget to fill in your date book for some happy listening to new music.
By Jacob Stockinger
Today is Nov. 22, 2014.
The Ear remembers the deep sadness and immense sense of frustration that surrounded the assassination. American politics has never seemed the same since his death.
He also remembers hearing broadcasts of the Requiem by Gabriel Faure and the “German” Requiem by Johannes Brahms – both fitting choices to honor the dead president.
But since then, The Ear has learned that JFK -– whose own family was well acquainted with tragedy and loss — especially liked the saddest of all music, the “Adagio for Strings” by American composer Samuel Barber. Barber (below) had arranged it from the slow movement of his String Quartet No. 1 in B Minor to a String Orchestra at the request of the world-famous conductor Arturo Toscanini.
By the way, in the original string quartet form, the work was given its world premiere by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Pro Arte Quartet in Rome in 1936. And the original quartet form seems somehow less lush and self-indulgent, more restrained and dignified or even complex, while the string orchestra version seems more overpowering and Romantic.
Compare the two versions for yourself by listening to both of them on YouTube.
And here is the more familiar version for string orchestra in a version that has more than 3 million hits:
Which one do you like best and why?
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
It will be a busy weekend at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.
Events include a FREE orchestra concert on Sunday afternoon for the Wisconsin Academy’s marking of the centennial of the extinction of the passenger pigeon.
But there is also a FREE cello recital on Saturday night and a voice faculty showcase concert on Sunday evening.
Here are details.
At 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, cello Professor Parry Karp (below left), who also plays in the Pro Arte Quartet, will play a FREE recital with his longtime pianist partner Eli Kalman (below right), who teaches at UW-Oshkosh and did his doctoral work at the UW-Madison School of Music.
The program includes the Sonata in C Minor for Piano and Violin, Op; 30, No. 2 (1802), by Ludwig van Beethoven as transcribed for cello by Parry Karp, who also transcribed all the violin sonatas by Johannes Brahms; the Sonata in E-flat Major for cello and piano (1922) by Ettore Desderi; and the Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, Op 22 (1945) by Samuel Barber.
REMEMBERING THE PASSENGER PIGEON
On Sunday, Nov. 2, at 2 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Symphony Orchestra will perform the Wisconsin premiere of “The Columbiad,” preceded by a talk by acclaimed emeritus wildlife professor Stanley Temple (below).
The concert is part of a two-day symposium on the 100th anniversary of the demise of the fabled passenger pigeon. It features a short talk by Stanley Temple, Beers-Bascom Professor Emeritus in Conservation, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Senior Fellow, Aldo Leopold Foundation.
Learn more here.
On the occasion of the 2014 centenary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon, the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters and the UW-Madison Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology invite the public to join in an exploration of the sobering story of the passenger pigeon (below is a photo of a stuffed real passenger pigeon) and what it can tell us about the ongoing extinction crisis and our relationship with other species.
Events include the Wisconsin premiere of The Columbiad, a symphony by Anthony Philip Heinrich, performed by the UW Symphony Orchestra. The Columbiad created a sensation at its premiere in Prague in 1858 and will be performed once again this fall at UW-Madison and Yale University. (You can hear the beginning of the work as performed at Yale in early October in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
Heinrich was inspired by witnessing vast flocks of passenger pigeons in 1831. Known in his day as “the log cabin composer” and “the Beethoven of America,” Anthony Philip Heinrich is the only important composer of the early 19th century to have experienced the North American frontier as he did. He saw Niagara Falls, he encountered Native Americans and slave musicians, and he witnessed the astonishing migration of giant flocks of passenger pigeons.
To learn about the national effort, please see Project Passenger Pigeon.
Here are related events and links:
A staged reading of a new play about the passenger pigeon by The Bricks Theatre
Saturday, November 1, 2014 from 7 to 9 p.m.
UW-Madison Biotechnology Auditorium, 425 Henry Mall
An afternoon documentary screening and panel discussion on the demise of the passenger pigeon
Saturday, November 1, 2014 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
UW–Madison Union South, Marquee Theater
1308 W. Dayton St.
Stanley A. Temple is the Beers-Bascom Professor Emeritus in Conservation in the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology and former Chairman of the Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development Program in the Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at UW–Madison. For 32 years he held the academic position once occupied by Aldo Leopold, and during that time he won every teaching award for which he was eligible. Temple has a PhD in ecology from Cornell University where he studied at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. (below is a photo of one mass shooting of passenger pigeons.)
At 7:30 p.m. on Sunday night, Nov. 2, in Mills Hall the UW-Madison voice faculty presents an evening of chamber music featuring the solo voice. Featuring a premiere, “White Clouds, Yellow Leaves,” written by composer and saxophone professor Les Thimmig (below).
Participants includes: Mimmi Fulmer and Elizabeth Hagedorn, sopranos; Paul Rowe, baritone; with Karen Atz, harp; Thomas Kasdorf, piano; Marc Vallon, bassoon; Parry Karp, cello; and many students and faculty from the UW-Madison School of Music.
Tickets are $10 with students getting in for FREE. Tickets will be available at the door as well as online or at the box office. Please see this link.
Here is the full program:
“Don Quichotte à Dulcinée” (1934) by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) Chanson Romanesque; Chanson épique; Chanson á boire with Paul Rowe, baritone, with Thomas Kasdorf, piano.
“La lettre” by Jules Massenet (1842-1912)
“Absence” by Georges Bizet (1838-1875)
“L’invitation au voyage” by Emmanuel Chabrier (1841-1894) with Elizabeth Hagedorn, soprano; Marc Vallon, bassoon, with Thomas Kasdorf, piano, and Karen Atz, harp.
“Barcarolle” by Charles Gounod (1818-1893) with Elizabeth Hagedorn, soprano; Paul Rowe, baritone, with Thomas Kasdorf, piano.
“Long Pond Revisited” (2002) by Lori Laitman (below, b. 1955). From poetry by C.G.R. Shepard: “I Looked for Reasons,” “The Pond Seems Smaller,” “Late in the Day,” “Days Turn,” “Long Pond Revisited” with Paul Rowe, baritone; Parry Karp, cello.
“White Clouds, Yellow Leaves” (2013) by UW-Madison composer Les Thimmig (b. 1943) fromTexts derived from 8th- and 9th-century Chinese poetry with Mimmi Fulmer: mezzo-soprano; Mi-Li Chang: flute, piccolo, alto flute; Kostas Tiliakos,: English horn; Marc Vallon: bassoon; Sean Kleve: percussion; Karen Atz, harp; Paran Amirinizari: violin; Rachel Hauser: viola; Andrew Briggs: violoncello; and Les Thimmig: conductor.
Here is a link to the full program with program notes:
Tickets are $10 for the public; students get in free.
ALERT: The FREE Friday Noon Musicales (below) in the Landmark Auditorium of the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, resume again this Friday, Oct. 3, at 12:15 to 1 p.m. This week’s featured group is the Arbor Ensemble with flutist Berlinda Lopez, violinist Marie Pauls and pianist Stacy Fehr-Regehr in the music of Jacques Ibert, Cesar Cui, Bohuslav Martinu, Astor Piazzolla and Josef Suk.
By Jacob Stockinger
Imagine my unexpected joy at hearing the new Clarinet Quintet by American composer Pierre Jalbert (below), who was inspired by Beat poet Allen Ginsberg’s famous “Howl,” last Friday night at the Wisconsin Union Theater.
The reason for my happiness is because I heard music that was so compelling and so moving that it made me want to listen to it again and again.
I know, I know.
A lot of proponents of new music say you have to listen to any new and unheard piece several times before you can pass judgment.
I don’t buy it.
True, as loyal readers know, I am generally not a fan of new music. I find too much of it unenjoyable and forgettable. It just doesn’t speak to me, for whatever reason. I like tunes and melody and harmonic mood as well as rhythmic pulse. New music too often seems detached from the emotional life of the listeners– or at least this listener.
I prefer music that speaks so deeply and movingly to me on the first hearing that I welcome any chance to hear it more often as another chance to experience beauty — not to fulfill some intellectual obligation or duty to the composer or the art form.
When I first heard Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto, for example, I knew within one minute that I just had to hear it again and would hear it again many times. It never fails to disappoint. And so it is with any masterwork, from early music, through Baroque and Romantic music, to modern and contemporary music.
Anyway, the “Howl” Clarinet Quintet by Pierre Jalbert was performed last Friday night by the Pro Arte Quartet (below top, in a photo by Rick Langer), artists-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. The guest clarinetist was Charles Niedich (below bottom) from New York City, who has a major international reputation from working with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and other well-known ensembles.
The performance came at the newly remodeled Wisconsin Union Theater, which the old Pro Arte Quartet helped to inaugurate when the theater opened 75 years ago in 1939. The theater was not sold-out Friday night, but there was a good and enthusiastic audience that rewarded the Jalbert with a prolonged standing ovation (below). So I know that I was not alone in my positive and approving reaction.
Here is a link with more background:
The program started off with the rarely heard and pretty tame String Quartet No. 2 by Juan Crisostomo Arriaga, a Spanish composer known as “the Spanish Mozart” who died at 20. The program’s fitting finale was the sublime Clarinet Quintet by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
In between the Arriaga and the Mozart came the Jalbert Clarinet Quintet, which was the final of six commissions done to mark the Pro Arte’s centennial. (The Pro Arte Quartet, originally from Belgium, is now the oldest continuously performing string quartet in the world.)
Other elements added to the effectiveness. For one, the Pro Arte Quartet was in top form. Each voice was distinct and yet the overall blend was smooth, resonant and perfect in pitch. And their playing was enhanced by the terrific acoustics of the remodeled Shannon Hall at the Wisconsin Union Theater and the new on-stage shell (below, in the background).
But it was really the music itself that swept The Ear away.
It started right away, with the pulsing and almost hypnotic rhythms of the opening measures.
The two outer fast movements proved infectious and involving. But I particularly loved the way the middle movement developed.
I heard various audience members talk about how the work reminded them of Samuel Barber, of Philip Glass, of John Adams, of Steve Reich. And yet it didn’t seem to imitate any of them. It possessed a pure, strong voice of its own that used the idea of “Howl” without becoming a didactic piece of program music.
It isn’t often you get to hear a new work that holds the promise of becoming a staple in the repertoire. But that is exactly how it felt as I listened to the Jalbert quintet. Others I spoke to agreed.
Of the six centennial commissions that the Pro Arte has premiered over the past three years, this one seems the best one to end on because it seems the most likely one to succeed in coming years.
Sure, we may hear repeat performances of the String Quartets by John Harbison, Walter Mays and Benoît Mernier; of the Piano Quintets by William Bolcom and Paul Schoenfield. They are all recognized composers of quality.
But my money is on the work by Pierre Jalbert, which was by turns pensive and joyous, outraged and lamenting, much like the original poem “Howl.” The tone of both matched, and the clarinet, with its klezmer-like qualities, proved the perfect narrative voice imparted by Beat writer Allen Ginsberg (below).
It is a memorable night when you get to hear a masterwork in the making. All that work of chamber music needs now is history and many more repeat performances. I expect it will get those.
And to top it off, Pierre Jalbert (below right) -– who hails from Vermont and teaches at Rice University in Houston, Texas — was a very nice artist who was extremely amiable at the pre-concert dinner at the Chazen Museum of Art as well as insightfully candid during the pre-concert Q&A (below) that was so expertly hosted by Wisconsin Public Radio host Norman Gilliland (center) and also included clarinetist Charles Neidich.
Anyway, the “Howl” Clarinet Quintet by Pierre Jalbert will be recorded by the same players for Albany Records, under the supervision of the Grammy Award-winning producer Judith Sherman, and then released with the String Quartet No. 3 by Belgian composer Benoît Mernier.
I will be first in line to get it and set my CD player on repeat.
If you heard it, what do you think of the Clarinet Quintet by Pierre Jalbert, who offers his thoughts about composing in a YouTube video at the bottom?
Do you think it will become a staple of the repertoire?
The Ear wants to hear.
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.
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.)
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).
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here is a link to MAYCO’s website and to a previous story and review from earlier this summer:
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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)
Here is a link to Kasdorf’s interview:
And here is a link to The Ear’s positive review of his performance of the Grieg concerto (below):
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.
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:
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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).
The final performance of the tour on Tuesday, May 27, will take place at the Catholic University of Louvain-la-Neuve (below).
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.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Please note that some reviews of productions last weekend are being delayed to make room for previews of the many upcoming concerts and musical events this week.
By Jacob Stockinger
The prize-winning and critically acclaimed young Israeli pianist Inon Barnatan will make his Madison debut this Friday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall for the Wisconsin Union Theater, which has been closed for two seasons while being renovated.
Barnatan’s MUST-HEAR program is ambitious and appealing; Franz Schubert’ late Sonata in G Major, the one that the young critic Robert Schumann praised so effusively; Samuel Barber’s Piano Sonata, which was premiered by Vladimir Horowitz; the “Prelude, Chorale and Fugue” by the late French Romantic composer Cesar Franck that was a favorite of Arthur Rubinstein; and Maurice Ravel’s dazzling “La Valse” for solo piano.
Tickets are $25 for the general public; $10 for University of Wisconsin-Madison students. For more information about Inon Barnatan and his recital, including reviews, program notes, audio clips and ticket information, visit:
You might recall that Inon Barnatan won raves this past winter for his last-minute appearance with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra under Edo de Waart when he stepped in to substitute for an ailing Radu Lupu and played the titanic Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor by Johannes Brahms.
In 2009, he won a prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant, and he has been recognized by the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation.
The Ear has been listening to his recordings: from violin works (the last Sonata by Ludwig van Beethoven and a Fantasy by Schubert) and his impressive readings of the famous last three sonatas and final impromptus and sonatas by Schubert to his performances of “Darkness Visible” by the contemporary British composer Thomas Ades. They all demonstrate his virtuoso technique but also his abundant musicality, subtle interpretations and full tone. Most impressive is his ability to play softly and lyrically. It leaves no doubt: Inon Barnatan is a major poet of the piano.
Clearly, Inon Baranatan is someone to watch, as his career continues to be extremely promising. You can listen to his interview for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in a YouTube video at the bottom. And here is a link to his own website:
And here is the email Q&A that Inon Barnatan did for The Ear:
You were just named the first-ever Artist in Association at the New York Philharmonic for the 2014-15 season. What plans do you have for that position? How could it affect your career?
What is so special for me about this position with the New York Philharmonic is that it is stretched over several seasons, so I will be performing with the orchestra both in New York and on the road for three consecutive seasons — which enables me to build a real relationship with this great orchestra as well as the audience. It removes a little of the pressure of the debut– since I know I will be coming back the following season and the one after that.
Of course there is pressure to live up to the expectations and the faith that the orchestra and Alan Gilbert (both below) have shown in me, but it feels wonderful to know that the organization is behind me from the get-go. This appointment has only recently been announced but has already had significant effect on my career. New York is the center of so many things and when the New York Philharmonic does something, people take notice! I really couldn’t be more thrilled with it.
How would you describe your approach to playing and interpreting music? Are there other musicians, and especially pianists, either historical or current, whom you admire and why?
I feel that we classical performers are like actors — we have a text that we try to internalize and bring to life, but ultimately it is not ourself that is being presented, but the character, or, in our case, the music, that is being communicated. A great actor like Meryl Streep becomes whichever role she is playing, embodying it in such a way that she herself disappears and becomes the role.
That is what I think my job as a performer is. I don’t want an audience to listen to me playing a piece — I would love for them to feel like the piece is being created at that very moment, the same way I would want to believe an actor IS the person that they are playing, not merely reading the text convincingly.
There are great performers, as well as actors, that are compelling not because they disappear in a role, but because of the very force of their personality. There are phenomenal actors and musicians that don’t change much with different roles or pieces, but bring their particular magnetism and virtuosity to every role.
When the performer is great both types can be very compelling, but I tend to gravitate towards the former. (Below is Inon Barnatan performing at Carnegie Hall in a photo by The New York Times.)
Your terrific and critically acclaimed new recording for the Avie label is an all-Schubert recital. But here you will perform a different big work, the G Major Sonata. What do you want to say about that particular work and its place in Schubert’s overall body of works? Why does Schubert hold particular appeal for you, and will you do more recording of his works, perhaps even a Schubert cycle?
Thank you! Back in 2004 I participated in a Schubert workshop with the great Leon Fleisher (below) at Carnegie Hall, and in some ways that was the start of my love affair with Schubert. I was familiar with his pieces, of course, but delving into the late sonatas as we did, I became intoxicated with the beauty and depth of the music.
The music of Schubert (below), and especially the music he wrote later in his short life, became a staple of my repertoire. I even curated a project of solo, chamber and vocal music from the miraculous last year — and both the Schubert CDs I’ve recorded so far feature pieces from that year.
That said, the G Major sonata, even though it was not written in the last year but a couple of years before, stands proudly amongst the greatest. It is one of his most lyrical and poetic pieces. It is not played nearly as often as the last three, and I am excited at the prospect of some audience members discovering it for the first time.
As for a possible Schubert cycle, it has been a dream of mine for a long while — perhaps I will keep playing his works one by one until I discover that I have recorded the whole cycle!
What would you like the public to know about your Madison program, which includes Franck, Barber (below) and Ravel?
This is a very special program to me. The pieces are magical: They manage to be at once very emotional and very intellectual, without compromising one for the other. The pieces all have a sense of nostalgia about them, in different ways.
The composers of the pieces in the first half take Baroque and Classical forms, such as fugues, chorales, sonatas, etc. and imbue them with their own innovation and emotion. The second half has more of a sense of fantasy, a sense of light that by the end of the recital turns to dark. I guess the second half goes from the sublime to the grotesque.
How do you think classical music can reach new and young audiences? And what advice would you give to aspiring young musicians and especially pianists?
That’s the million-dollar question. I think there are many things we need to do. It starts with education — putting an instrument in a child’s hand teaches them a lot about communications, listening and a huge variety of other important skills. It also encourages future curiosity about music and culture.
We also need to be more inclusive in some ways, make the concert experience something that would appeal to a young person as well as an older one. Nowadays, when there are so many ways to consume culture without leaving your home, the concert experience needs to have an energy and excitement to it that is unique to the live experience.
A great museum knows that in order to attract a variety of ages and stay relevant, they need to have not only great art, but great curating.
The Museum of Modern Art in New York, for example, is always teeming with people of all ages, newcomers, repeat visitors, young and old, experts and lay people. They have a collection of some of the great, established artists as well as new exciting art and they are always providing new and interesting ways to look at things. People who go there expect to be challenged as well as be entertained. You may come to see Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” (below) but it’s the new or unexpected stuff around it that keeps you coming back. It’s that combination of edge and quality that makes it cool.
We can learn a lot from that. As performers we need to strive for the highest possible quality of performance, and at the same time try to present it in a context that is interesting, and sometimes challenging or unexpected.