By Jacob Stockinger
This is a reminder.
This is A Tale of Two Tours.
Like the tours, both of which will run exactly from July 24 through August 3, the two local groups will also offer competing sendoff concerts at exactly the same time — tonight, Tuesday, July 22, at 7 p.m.
But it is best not to dwell on the conflict or competition.
Instead, The Ear prefers to see it as a reminder that Madison, Wisconsin, is a great place to be not only for culture in general and for classical music, but for classical music education, which has been shown again and again by researchers to reap lifelong benefits in terms of development and maturity.
It involves two FREE sendoff concerts by two important groups of young musicians in Madison.
One is by the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras’ Youth Choir, under conductor UW-Madison professor James Smith, which will perform tonight at 7 p.m. at Olbrich Botanical Gardens on Madison’s East side. The program, a preview of the concert fare to be performd in Argentina, features music by Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Peter Tchaikovsky and Alberto Ginastera.
Here is a link to a previous blog posting about the WYSO concert:
The other concert is the Madison Boychoir (below, in a photo by Jon Harlow), which will perform tonight at 7 p.m. in the Covenant Presbyterian Church, 326 South Segoe Road, on Madison’s near west side.
And here is a statement from Nicole Sparacino, the director of development for the Madison Youth Choirs:
“By a strange coincidence, the MYC send off concert is the same night as WYSO’s send off concert, and the dates of both tours are exactly the same, July 24-August 3!
“It’s pretty neat to think that, combined, over 100 of Madison’s finest young musicians will be sharing their talents on two very different parts of the world’s stage at the same time.
“Over the course of the tour, 71 MYC boys ages 9-18 will sing in medieval cathedrals, perform a joint concert with the National Youth Choir of Scotland, and have the chance to meet hundreds of other young artists from across the world. Our boys will even get the chance to test their foreign language skills, as they will have the honor of singing the national anthems of all participating countries during the festival’s Opening Ceremony. (You can see a promotional video for the Scotland tour at the bottom in a YouTube video.)
“We’re so excited for the boys to have this outstanding opportunity.
“Tonight, over 70 boys ages 9-18 from Madison Youth Choirs (MYC) will share an exciting free concert with the community before taking off to perform at the Aberdeen International Youth Festival in Scotland.
“As the only boychoir from the United States invited to perform at the festival, MYC’s lads (below, in a photo by Jon Harlow) will pay homage to the rich musical traditions of their homeland, from folk songs to cowboy melodies.
“It will perform classic boychoir repertoire in three different languages. Concert selections will include the Shaker tune “Simple Gifts,” the powerful “Anthem” from the musical Chess, “Laudamus Te” by Antonio Vivaldi and the Shakespeare and “Macbeth”-inspired “Sound and Fury.”’
The latter is a world premiere work by composer Scott Gendel (below), who is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.
For further information: visit www.madisonyouthchoirs.org or call (608) 238-7464.
By Jacob Stockinger
The young musicians of Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) and its premier performing ensemble, the Youth Orchestra, are preparing for a fantastic opportunity this month when they will tour to Argentina.
Youth Orchestra members will have a chance to visit the three cities of Buenos Aires, Rosario and Mar del Plata. While in these cities they will visit some of the most beautiful places in South America and perform in world class venues.
The tour will be led by WYSO Music Director James Smith (below). He has served as conductor of the Youth Orchestra for 29 years and also serves as the Director of Orchestras for the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, where WYSO is housed.
The 67 WYSO musicians who will participate in the tour range in age from 14 t0 18 years old and hail from 19 different communities across southern Wisconsin. (You can hear a great sample of the Youth Orchestra under James Smith in the “Carmen” Suite by Georges Bizet in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
The tour will run from July 24 to August 3. It will include performances at Facultad de Derecho, the famed Teatro Colon (below) in Buenos Aires, Escuela 23 Distrito Escolar, La Usina de Musica, and Teatro el Circulo.
Repertoire for the tour will include the Overture to “Candide” by Leonard Bernstein, “Billy the Kid” Suite by Aaron Copland; Liturgical Scenes by Dwane S. Milburn, the Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 36, by Peter Tchaikovsky; and “Malambo” from “Estancia” Suite, Op. 8a by Argentinean composer Alberto Ginastera (below).
The Youth Orchestra will be posting a live blog before and during their trip to keep friends, family, and supporters of WYSO up to date with how the tour is going.
The writers will mainly be students, but a handful of chaperones will also be offering their perspectives.
You can visit the blog, and bookmark it, at http://wysotour2014.blogspot.com.
FREE PREVIEW CONCERT ON TUESDAY
Prior to departing on their international tour, the Youth Orchestra members will give a bon voyage send-off concert at Olbrich Botanical Gardens this coming Tuesday night, July 22, at 7 p.m. The concert is FREE and outdoors (weather permitting; otherwise it will be held indoors), and is open to the public, with a $1 suggested admission donation to support the gardens.
The Ear thinks it would be great if local media – especially television – paid as much attention and gave as much coverage (even an audiovisual sample or clip with a voiceover) to these distinguished cultural ambassadors and exceptional products of music and arts education as they do to, say, student athletes.
Since 1966, WYSO has been providing excellence in musical opportunities for more than 5,000 young people in southern Wisconsin.
WYSO includes three full orchestras and a string orchestra, a chamber music program, a harp program, a percussion ensemble, and a brass choir program. The orchestras rehearse on Saturday mornings during the academic year, perform three to four public concerts per season, and tour regionally, nationally and internationally.
ALERT: Here is a reminder that tonight, Wednesday, July 16, at 7 p.m., the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra under conductor Andrew Sewell will perform the most classical Concert on the Square of this summer season. For the program “A Little Night Music,” the guest soloist will be WCO Concertmaster violinist Suzanne Beia (below), an accomplished and always busy musician who also plays in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Pro Arte Quartet.
The concert is on the King Street corner of the Capitol Square, and blankets may be placed on the lawn at 3 p.m.. It is road construction season, so remember to allow plenty of time for travel. It will be cooler than normal too, so bring something warm as to wear as the sun sets.
Click here for Suzanne Beia’s biography:
The program includes: The first movement from “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; the first movement from the Violin Concerto in E Minor by Felix Mendelssohn; the first movement from the Symphony No. 6 “Pastorale” by Ludwig van Beethoven; and the third movement from the Symphony No. 6 “Pathetique” by Peter Tchaikovsky.
By Jacob Stockinger
This won’t take long.
The Ear just wants to remind you about a FREE 45-minute organ concert by prize-winning Korean-American organist Ahreum Han (below), a graduate of the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, that will take place this Saturday, July 19, at 11 a.m. in Overture Hall at Overture Center for the Arts.
Here is the press release:
“Step into the cool expanse of Overture Hall on Saturday, July 19, during the Dane County Farmers’ Market (below top) on the Capitol Square to enjoy the gift of beautiful music with the Madison Symphony Orchestra‘s Overture Concert Organ (below bottom) that was custom-built by Klais Organ Works in Bonn, Germany.
“Bring your family and friends for a relaxing 45-minute concert. No tickets or reservations are needed and all ages are welcome!”
Here is more information and a detailed program from the MSO website:
Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880), transcribed by Ahreum Han, “Overture to Orphée aux enfers” (Orpheus in the Underworld); Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), Sinfonia from Cantata 29; Johannes Matthias Michel (b.1962), Three Jazz Preludes, I. Swing Five (Erhalt uns, Herr); II. Bossa Nova (Wunderbarer König); III. Afro-Cuban (In dir ist Freude); Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) “My Heart at Thy Sweet Voice” from “Samson and Delilah”; Louis Vierne (1870-1937), Naïdes from Fantasy Pieces, Op. 55, No. 4, and the Finale from his Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 59.
The program and artist subject to change.
For a full and very impressive biography of Han, who now lives and works in Davenport, Iowa, here is a link to the MSO website:
By Jacob Stockinger
The Madison Early Music Festival started as an idea.
So, what better way to mark its 15th anniversary than by exploring perhaps history’s greatest Man of Ideas -– Leonardo da Vinci?
And that is exactly what happened during the opening concert last Saturday night by MEMF, which this year is exploring Italian music from 1300 to 1600.
The festival — complete with workshops, lectures and concerts -– is held each summer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.
It started as a way to help fill the summertime void of classical music. But now summer is its own season when it comes to classical music in Madison, and much of that success is due to MEMF’s success.
Co-founders and co-artistic directors UW-Madison baritone Paul Rowe and his soprano wife Cheryl Bensman Rowe (below) had every reason to be proud and moved -– and they were, visibly and audibly.
This summer, because Mills Hall is under construction, MEMF has had to turn to other venues, chiefly the nearby Luther Memorial Church at 1021 University Avenue and Music Hall on Bascom Hill.
The opening concert “The Da Vinci Codex” was held at Luther Memorial, and the church seemed close to full, meaning almost 400 listeners attended. This alternative venue actually seemed an improvement in that it offered a warm and acoustically superior environment with sets and a building that complemented the religious beliefs and art of that era’s music and culture.
The program was set up by a fine and well-attended lecture and slide show given by UW-Madison art professor Gail Geiger (below). She examined the heretofore underestimated role of music in Leonardo’s life and career as a painter, drawing master, poet, engineer, inventor and all-round genius.
What the audience then heard was a two-hour concert in which no false note was sounded, no false step was taken.
The performer was the Toronto Consort, making its Madison debut. It proved an outstanding and thoroughly professional group of eight persons (below) who are multi-talented in their ability to sing, to play instruments and to recite narration dramatically, expressively and convincingly. They were not afraid to entertain and as well as to inform. (You can hear a sample of similar music performed by the Toronto Consort in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
The Ear was especially impressed by the tightness of the scissors-and-paste presentation and the uncanny way the Toronto Consort spoke to and engaged with the audience, who laughed and applauded thunderously.
The program’s effectiveness came from the terrifically seamless and smooth narrative thread, the story that centered on the life and works of Leonardo da Vinci. It was unifying and used primary sources (Leonardo’s notebooks and letters) and secondary sources like the proto-art historian Giorgio Vasari’s “Lives” and other historians or critics. (Below is David Fallis, the artistic director, tenor and narrator.)
The performers moved easily from historical accounts of Leonardo in Florence, Milan and France to contextual music that illustrated Leonardo –- the ultimate Renaissance Man — from birth to death. And it proved thoroughly enjoyable and often deeply moving. You did not have to be a fan of early music to be taken in by the contagious melodies and harmonies, the catchy inflections and rhythms, the facts of an amazing life and career.
Just watching these complete professionals perform took us into their world because they are full-body performers who used hands, feet and facial expressions to convey the emotional meaning of the music and get the audience to connect with the music and with them. It felt like Renaissance jazz, so free and yet also so disciplined and practiced was the performance. It is what The Ear likes to call “the well-rehearsed surprise” and is a hallmark of all great performances that are virtuosic and make what is hard seem easy or effortless. (Below is Katherine Hall, viola da gamba player and soprano, singing.)
There is much more left of the 15th Madison Early Music Festival to hear, including “Songs of Love” by the instrumentalists and vocal ensemble Ex Umbris in Music Hall tonight at 7:30 p.m. tonight; plus other concerts including the second annual Handel Aria Competition in Music Hall on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. (NOT 7 p.m., as the MEMF home website mistakenly said at first, and the always impressive All-Festival Concert, which focuses this year on the Trionfi of the poet Petrarch, on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. in Luther Memorial Church. FREE pre-concert lectures by experts in art, music and history take place at 6:30 p.m.
Here is a link to a schedule and descriptions of events, with times, places and participants:
Unlike many of Leonardo’s ideas, which were adventurous and even prophetic if uncompleted, MEMF has moved from idea to reality.
The Ear has no doubt, and every hope, that it is here to stay, and that it will continue to evolve and grow.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear sees that something for both the ears and the eyes is coming down the pike.
That is as it should be, despite what some classical musicians see as shortcomings in Cliburn’s artistry.
Here is a post The Ear did before about the opinions that members of the public and musicians have concerning Cliburn:
Cliburn was the first classical artist to make a million-selling record -– he played the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23 — on the RCA label (below and at the bottom). It was the same work with which, at age 23, he unexpectedly won the First International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1958.
His victory during the height of The Cold War was an event that led to a ticker-tape parade down Broadway in New York City (bel0w) and a meteoric career, then to premature burn-out and an early retirement from the concert stage. (You can see an archival historic footage at the bottom in a YouTube video. Complete performances by Van Cliburn of the same concerto are also on YouTube.)
And, if The Ear recalls correctly, Van Cliburn became a phenom or superstar who sold out houses, and was the first classical artist to get paid a fee of $10,000 for a one-night performance.
Not many classical musicians have the stuff to become the subject of a biopic.
Some composers, especially Ludwig van Beethoven and Frederic Chopin, have lent themselves to such a treatment, several times in the latter case. (We will overlook the case of the mentally ill performer David Helfgott in “Shine,” which seemed more a pathology than a biography.)
But The Ear can’t think of another individual performer, although he remembers more general subjects like “The Competition.”
The young actor Ansel Elgort (below), who The Ear thinks resembles the young Cliburn (who resembles fellow Texan Lyle Lovett), has been cast in the leading role, which focuses on Cliburn’s early years and his victory in Moscow. Apparently, Elgort himself also plays the piano quite well -– but my guess is that he does not play well enough to play it the way that the Juilliard School-trained Cliburn did.
But Elgort’s star is on the ascent, given his performance in the much praised and popular current release (“The Fault In Our Stars,” about two teenagers with cancer who fall in love.
Anyway here are some links to stories about Van Cliburn, Ansel Elgort and the forthcoming movie:
To CBS News:
To the Dallas Morning News, in Cliburn’s hometown:
To TIME magazine with a good video accompanying it:
To another video with good comparison photos of Cliburn and Elgort:
To Norman Lebrecht’s tweet-like comment on his popular blog Slipped Disc:
What other classical music performers would you like to see treated on a biopic?
I nominate the great Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter, a closeted gay man who led a dramatic life including encounters and confrontations with Soviet leaders and his American tour plus his eccentric late-life habits that included touring around Europe in a van playing in schools and old churches and using out-of-tune pianos. And perhaps also the legendary operatic soprano Maria Callas, who was known for being tempestuous and temperamental as well as supremely gifted in both singing and acting. (There was a Broadway play about her, “Master Class” by Terrence McNally, the same writer who did the “Dead Man Walking,” the opera by Jake Heggie.)
The Ear wants to hear.
JOHN DeMAIN ON JULIUS RUDEL
And speaking of celebrities, John DeMain (below, in photo by Prasad), the music director and conductor of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the artistic director of the Madison Opera, sent in his remembrance of the late, great opera conductor Julius Rudel, who led the now-defunct City Opera of New York and who died a week ago at 93:
Here is a link to the Rudel posting:
And here is John DeMain’s remembrance:
“It was my great honor to be chosen for the Julius Rudel Award at the New York City Opera in 1971. The purpose of the stipend was to allow an American conductor to work closely with Maestro Rudel to learn how to become an artistic director of an opera company.
Rudel (below) was far and away the best conductor in the house. His performances were vital, theatrical, and intensely musically expressive. His “Marriage of Figaro” was an unforgettable experience for me. I prepared the auditions of singers for the company, and got to sit in on the casting conversations, and learned the criterion for casting a singer in an opera.
Rudel was extremely demanding musically, and, of course, expanded the repertoire of the company in all directions. He had great flair for American opera and musical theater.
The bottom line for me, however, was he delivered totally engrossing performances night after night. He also was a mentor to me, and provided counsel and advice as new career opportunities presented themselves to me.
I consider Julius Rudel’s time at the City Opera as the “golden age” of that company. It was during that time that Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras, Norman Treigle, Beverly Sills, and many other greats were singing on that stage.
I’m grateful to have had him in my life.
By Jacob Stockinger
I have seen him live in concert and in person only once.
But over decades I have seen him many times in The New York Times and especially on PBS, particularly on “Live from Lincoln Center” and, if I recall correctly, “American Masters.”
I have heard him in regular subscription concerts and also, I think, in Mainly Mozart concerts. I think I have even heard him solo at least once or twice, maybe more.
And chances are, so have you.
The Ear is not surprised that the retirement of Glenn Dicterow this past weekend made the media in a major way.
He is a smart, talented, humorous, good-natured and articulate man and musician who has a lot to say about music and about working with some celebrated figures, including conductors Leonard Bernstein (below), Zubin Mehta, Kurt Masur, Lorin Maazel and Alan Gilbert.
The stories about Dicterow also give us a renewed and expanded appreciation of the role of a concertmaster, and how a concertmaster can affect an entire orchestra and how the orchestra sounds and how its members get along with each other and with the maestro.
Dicterow played his swan-song concert this past weekend.
Here are backstories and a review of his final “New York Phil” concert:
Here is the story that appeared on the outstanding “Deceptive Cadence” blog on NPR:
And here is a similar story, with lots of facts, including his incredible salary, from The New York Times:
Here is the story that ran in the Wall Street Journal:
Here is a review of his last concert with the New York Philharmonic performing the Triple Concerto by Ludwig van Beethoven with New York Philharmonic principal cello Carter Brey and guest pianist-in-residence Yefim Bronfman, who played two Beethoven piano concertos (Nos. 2 and 5, the “Emperor”) this past season with the Madison Symphony Orchestra under John DeMain.
Finally, and in case you thought ensemble players were necessarily less virtuosic than soloists, here is a YouTube video of Glenn Dicterow playing the fiendishly difficult “Carmen” Fantasy by composer Franz Waxman (below), who is better known for the Hollywood movie scores he wrote after he fled Nazi Germany. Dicterow plays it with the New York Philharmonic conducted by Zubin Mehta. (You can also see him perform other works and talk about his role as concertmaster on YouTube.)
Sounds like Glenn Dicterow will be a fantastic teacher at the same school in Los Angeles, California where the legendary violin virtuoso Jascha Heifetz taught for so many years:
By Jacob Stockinger
The next game for the U.S. is against Belgium on Tuesday.
Loyal fans of The Ear may recall that a week or so ago he decided the global soccer event being held in Brazil was a good opportunity to explore the music of Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos (below), whose music is beautiful and much too under-programmed and under-played here and elsewhere.
Here is a link to the original post that also featured the gorgeous Cantilena movement for soprano from the Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 that has been recorded by folk singer Joan Baez as well as opera divas Kiri Te Kanawa, Barbara Hendricks, Victoria de los Angeles and Kathleen Battle.
Here is another great moment in Villa-Lobos that I heard at the Cello Choir concert by the National Summer Cello Institute that was held this month at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.
This moment comes from the Bachianas Brasileiras No. 1 in a YouTube video below. It is the third movement, the finale, that happens in fugal form and again shows how Heitor Villa-Lobos tried to adapt the compositional techniques of Johann Sebastian Bach to the folk music and native dance rhythms of Brazil. That was an ambitious project, to be sure, and one in which The Ear thinks the composer was surprisingly successful.
Enjoy as you prepare to root for Team U.S.A.
ALERT: Just a reminder that the Madison Summer Choir (below) will present the “Song of Destiny” by Johannes Brahms and the “Te Deum” by Georges Bizet with orchestra this Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Ave. The concert is entitled “Philosophically Speaking,” also features pieces exploring human reality, existence, and reason. The first half includes works by Orlando Gibbons, Stephen Chatman, Cecil Effinger and Daniel Mulholland. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for students. Here is a link with information about the concert and about how to join the choir:
By Jacob Stockinger
Tonight at 7 p.m. brings the opening of what has been billed in the past as “The Biggest Picnic of Summer”: The 31st annual FREE Concerts on the Square (below) by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra under the baton of WCO music director and conductor Andrew Sewell. Each of the six concerts draws upwards of 10,000 people.
(NOTE: The weather reports call for possible storms tonight. To find out about possible cancellation of the concert, final word will be posted every Wednesday afternoon by 3 p.m. on www.wcoconcerts.org.)
Over the next six consecutive Wednesday nights (Thursdays are the rain date), all kinds of music -– from classical to rock, pop and blues -– will be featured on the King Street corner of the Capitol Square in downtown Madison.
Of special note is the appearance tonight by Madison pianist Isabella Wu (bel0w), who won the annual young artist concerto competition this year. She will perform the first movement of the Piano Concerto No. 1 in F-sharp minor by the Romantic 20th-century Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninov.
Also on the “Midsommer Stars” program are: the “Swedish Festival Music” by Swedish composer August Soderman (1832-1876); Swedish Dance Nos. 1-7 by Max Bruch; the “Cossack Scherzo” from the Symph0ny No. 2 by Mily Balakirev; the Festival Overture on the American National Air by British composer Percy C. Buck (1871-1947); and “Midsommervaka” by Swedish Hugo Alfven (1872-1960).
Here is a link to an overview of this summer’s six Concerts on the Square.
Here is a link to rules and guidelines that are useful for attending the concerts:
And here is a link to vendor menus if you don’t bring your own food for dinner:
Pianist Isabella Wu recently agreed to doing an email Q&A about her performance tonight:
Can you briefly introduce yourself to readers.
I am Isabella Wu, age 15 and a freshman at Madison Memorial High. I began piano lessons at the age of 5. In third grade, I became interested in picking up a second instrument, the violin (below, Wu is seen soloing with WYSO’s Philharmonia Orchestra) and have been in the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (below) for six years. (I will be on WYSO’s tour to Argentina in late July).
My other pursuits in music have been numerous. I am an avid singer, and recently finished a semester coaching choir at my middle school. Most recently, my interests have extended to playing percussion and composing.
Music has been the most essential part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I would consider it my first language and my first world. Where I would be without music or art, for that matter, would be most certainly a cataclysmic shift; hence, I expect to be in the music world in the future. Where, I don’t know. I have an interest in the back-stage business area of the artistic world, and being an impresario is a possibility.
Why did you choose the rarely played Piano Concerto No. 1 by Sergei Rachmaninov to study, play and perform?
When I heard the Rachmaninov 1, the work touched me as something soulful and heart-wrenching, yet fleeting at times, and touched with a bit of bravura. The soaring theme following the opening passage became an immediate favorite with my daily spontaneous outbursts of singing.
But the cadenza of the first movement is where I felt the heart of the first movement could be found. Around that time, I was deciding between this Rachmaninov 1, and his famous second concerto. I was a bit puzzled when I found I was reluctant to play the second, as I had always longed to play it. (The second concerto is much-loved and very popular).
Something didn’t quite seem so right. Months after I had chosen the first, I was still pondering why. I think I knew the Second Concerto by Rachmaninov (below) was too ingrained in the public’s mind, too well-known by onlookers and by me to search for my own voice. If I had chosen the second, I would have felt overwhelmed by the high stature placed on it, and been (as I already was) too influenced by the numerous recordings to call it my own.
But the first concerto — that was something different. The sparse recordings I found were none alike, and it was not well-known, but equally special. The concerto is not so spectacular at first glance, but has the capability of bringing tears to the most reticent of audience members.
What do you most like about the concerto and what would you like the public to know about it?
Rachmaninov wrote this concerto, his Op. 1, at the age of 19, when he was still a student at the Moscow Conservatory. As was the custom for novitiates of the Conservatory, Rachmaninov based his work on that of another composer — in this case, the Piano Concerto in A Minor by Edvard Grieg (below).
“Based” is an understatement — Rachmaninov literally wrote his music into Grieg’s concerto, copying it form for form. If you compare the two concertos, you will see that they are very much alike in structure.
Rachmaninov entered his concerto into the conservatory competition, and took first place. However, years later, after Rachmaniov had sought asylum in the United States, and even after he had edited his second and third concertos, Rachmaninov went back to redraft the first.
As the concerto was already published, there was not much structural change he could make to the piece. Instead, he filled in the lines, developing a much more mature work, and completely re-writing the cadenza.
Yet the public did not receive his work well, and Rachmaninov is said to have stated: “I have rewritten my First Concerto; it is really good now. All the youthful freshness is there, and yet it plays itself so much more easily. And nobody pays any attention. When I tell them in America that I will play the First Concerto, they do not protest, but I can see by their faces that they would prefer the Second or Third.”
Once when Rachmaninov was asked what inspired his music, he replied, “Love. Love -– this is a never fading source of inspiration. It inspires like nothing else. To love means to combine happiness and force of the mind. It becomes a stimulus for the flourishing of intellectual energy, and as such -– for creativity.”
One can only wonder what he meant. At the time of 19, he had already experienced a great number of tragedies, including the deaths of two of his sisters. He had also fallen in love with a neighbor, Verochka Skalon, but was forbidden to write letters to her. Later, after many years, his statement probably also included his love for his country, which he could never go back to.
Whatever the love might be, I hope you too find it in this piece.
You are a competition veteran and winner. How do you cope with performance, especially before such a big crowd? Do you get nervous? How do you prepare? Are there “tricks” you would like to share with others?
Performance anxiety is a nasty deal. Experience usually helps, but isn’t the ultimate solution. For me, yes, I do get nervous, but the key is to channel the nervousness into a positive asset. Nervousness, if directed correctly, gives you the extra boost.
Another occasional problem is “Paralysis by Analysis,” which occurs when the analytical left brain tries to dominate the more natural right brain. However, if you manage to find the zone where your mind clicks, you will do fine.
I usually do stretching exercises and slow down my breathing. I also have some pieces I’ve designated as “warm-up” pieces that tend to click. Try to develop a routine; it will all feel natural in good time.
What do you think we have to do to interest more young people in classical music? How did you get interested in it?
For me, music just always happened to be around, with the stereo playing Johann Sebastian Bach while I went to sleep. The big difference, say, between pop music and classical is the accessibility of pop music. Pop songs are generally around 5 minutes long and “catchier,” and can be easily simulated by voice. Classical music, however, requires — most unfortunately — money, and usually a good deal of it. Not to mention classical music’s centuries-old rules, whereas pop songs are more spontaneous and thriving.
The problem is that our liberal-minded age seeks the more libertarian values. However, we’ve been doing a good job introducing classical music to the young public. The high school music program, and to a lesser degree, the middle school program, does a good job of introducing students to an individual instrument and developing a passion for ensemble works. Even some of the elementary school programs are noteworthy, with the common recorder and occasional musicals.
Around here in Madison, Michelle Kaebisch (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot), of both the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras, does an excellent job of bringing classical music to the schools through numerous programs — Link-Up, the Hunt Quartet and the Fall Youth Concerts, in which I soloed twice — that are eye-openers to students.
What else would you like to say or add?
Hope to see you Wednesday!
By Jacob Stockinger
It sure doesn’t seem like the Metropolitan Opera (below) could or should be the hero in this opera. More like it plays the role of the bad guy, the villain.
Or is it really more of a soap opera?
In case you haven’t been following the news, the general director of the Metropolitan Opera Peter Gelb has caved in to pressure from Israeli lobbies and agreed to cancel the scheduled “Live in HD” broadcast of the opera “The Death of Klinghoffer” by the acclaimed contemporary American composer John Adams (below and at bottom in a YouTube video with the stage director of the Met’s production.)
The Ear finds that action thoroughly reprehensible.
It seems the pro-Israeli lobby thinks the opera is anti-Semitic and too kind in the way it treats the four Palestinian terrorists — from the Palestine Liberation Organizations — who in 1985 took over the luxury cruise ship the Achille Lauro and killed the disabled Jewish passenger Leon Klingerhoffer in his wheelchair and then threw him overboard.
Well, I want to tell the head honchos at the famed Met: Don’t do my thinking about terrorism and Mideast peace for me. Just give me the facts and let me make up my own mind.
I want to see art, not propaganda, which is apparently what some pro-Israeli activists think would be good for the rest of us. I think I can see tragedy where there is tragedy, whether it is Jewish or Arab tragedy, Israeli or Palestinian tragedy. Just listen to the “Night Chorus” (below) and watch the videos that go with it:
This whole affair sound more than a little to my mind like a protester who would censor William Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” or Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn” in the name of a higher morality.
I say: Let us see the opera –- it is one of next season’s “Live in HD” satellite broadcasts that I would like most to attend -– and then decide for ourselves.
Stop condescending to us, stop underestimating us.
Now, one suspects that the poor finances of the Met would help to explain a lot of the shameful action. And Gelb admits that donors didn’t pressure him but that groups connected to donors did.
So here is the compromise: There will be no protesting at the actual opera production in New York City –- where tickets can run hundreds of dollars and seating is limited and most of the world cannot and will not see it — and no boycotting or withdrawing of financial support if the Met doesn’t broadcast it worldwide to a much larger audience.
I think I smell blackmail.
What do you smell?
I know I smell censorship on the part of the protesters and self-censorship of the part of the famed opera company’s administrators who caved in to their demands.
“The Death of Klinghoffer” would seem to build on the other news-based or reality-based operas of John Adams that the Met has staged and then broadcast so successfully by the Met: “Nixon in China” (below) about President Richard Nixon meeting Chairman Mao; and “Doctor Atomic,” about J. Robert Oppenheimer and the building of the first atomic bomb.
Here is a line to the story in The New York Times about the original decision:
And here is a link to reaction from the composer John Adams, who counters objections and make convincing points:
Here is a link to a fine critique from the longtime senior music critic for The New York Times Anthony Tommasini:
Here a link to a fine editorial that appeared in The Boston Globe:
And here is another great editorial, this one from The New York Times, which is located in a city known for its large Jewish population and, one presumes, its large body of Jewish subscribers: