By Jacob Stockinger
If you love the music of Franz Schubert – and who doesn’t? – this promises to be a memorable week for you.
When it comes to Schubert (below) these days I find him more to my taste even than his mentor, Beethoven. Others can decide who was greater or more influential. What I do know is that I find Schubert somehow more human, more empathetic, more compassionate than Beethoven.
What an incredible composer Schubert (1797-1829) was – having done so much writing, and so much great compositing, before he died at 31 – almost five years younger than Mozart.
So why is the week Schubert Week?
For one, Bill McGlaughlin (below) is spending all this week exploring the music of Schubert. His program “Exploring Music” airs at 8-9 p.m. (NOT 7-8 p.m., as it used to) every weekday night on Wisconsin Public Radio (88.7 FM in the Madison area)
According to the playlist I saw, McGlaughlin, himself a composer and former conductor who is a Great Explainer of classical music, will look at many different kinds of masterpieces: symphonies, chamber music, songs and solo piano works.
Here is a general link to his show form WFMT in Chicago:
Here is a link to his listings of his show:
Add to that a concert with TWO FREE performances that includes three beautiful but under-performed chamber music works by Schubert: the D major sonata and the great C major “Fantasy” for violin and piano (in a YouTube video at the bottom) as well as String Trio in Bb major.
The performers are Madison violinist Kangwon Lee Kim (below left) who will be joined by pianist Li-Shan Hung (below right), violist Matthew Michelic and cellist Mark Bridges.
Here are the details:
The first performance is this Saturday, May 11, at 3 p.m. in the Grand Hall (below) of the Capital Lakes Retirement Community, 333 West Main Street, in downtown Madison, off the Capitol Square.
Then the program is repeated on Sunday, May 12 at 12:30 p.m. in Brittingham Gallery No. 3 of the Chazen Museum at 800 University Avenue on the UW-Madison campus. The concert is the season finale of the program “Sunday Afternoon Live from Chazen.” It is FREE concert and will be broadcast LIVE by Wisconsin Public Radio from 12:30 to 2 p.m.
ALERTS: The frenetic pace of semester-ending concerts continues over at the University of Wisconsin School of Music. ITEMS: On tomorrow night, Tuesday, April 30, 8:30 p.m., in Morphy Hall. the UW Early Music Ensemble, directed by John Chappell Stowe, will perform a FREE concert. Sorry, no word on the program. Then on Wednesday, May 1, at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the Western Percussion Ensemble (below), directed by Tom Ross will perform a FREE concert. The program will feature David M. Gordon’s “Apocryphal Dances,” which is scored for percussion quartet and prepared piano and includes many unusual sounds including strummed mandolin and autoharp as well as melodica, side whistles, Indonesian gongs and toy piano. The program will also include Franco Donatoni’s “Mari II” for marimba quartet and works by Michael Udow, Takayoshi Yoshioka and Louis Andriessen. Also on Wednesday, May 1, at 8:30 p.m., in Morphy Hall, the UW Student Clarinet Ensemble will perform a FREE concert. Performers include Emily Barley, Alex Charland, Danielle Anderson and Michelle Andrews on clarinet. Sorry, again no word on the program.
By Jacob Stockinger
Today’s Q&A is by a guest blogger Kathy Esposito (below, in a self-portrait), the new concert manager and director of public relations for the University of Wisconsin School of Music.
By Kathy Esposito
After 34 years as professor of violin at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, Tyrone Greive is retiring this spring.
But the indefatigable musician, well-known to Madison audiences as the former concertmaster of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, will still teach, perform and indulge his lifelong passion for Polish string literature.
That area of specialty has resulted in numerous discoveries of previously unknown music scores, multiple journal articles, several research grants and awards. In 1997, the Polish Music Center awarded him a research prize for one of his articles.
On Friday, May 3 at 8 p.m., in a farewell concert with the UW Symphony Orchestra in Mills Hall, Greive will perform the Concerto No. 2, Op. 61 by Karol Szymanowski. Also on the program are Charles Ives’ Symphony No. 2 and “Symphonic Miniatures” by Erno Dohnanyi. (The concert will be repeated on Saturday, May 4, at 7 p.m. in a ticketed performance at the River Arts Center in Prairie du Sac. Purchase tickets through the website: www.riverartscenter.org)
Unlike many of the manuscripts he has discovered in Polish libraries over the years, the Szymanowski concerto is famous.
Greive (below, in a recent photo by Kathy Esposito of the UW School of Music) recently reflected on his choice of this concerto for his final performance, and on a few other aspects of his life’s work as well.
How does it feel to discover or publicize a composition that no one else had been aware of? That must be an amazing sensation!
You are correct about the sensation, but this happens in varying degrees. Much of Polish violin music is virtually unknown or little known. Other pieces, like Szymanowski’s Second Violin Concerto, have been known by some of the finest performers and relatively small audiences for a long time. (Below is a photo of Karol Szymanowski.)
It is very satisfying to share this music, particularly with those audiences and players who don’t know it because while its worthiness is already proven but its performance practice is far from fixed. So the opportunity for creativity in this music is multiple: first, the idiom of the music is far from ordinary; and performers can be very creative in how they present it.
Is there any end to how much music exists in the violin repertoire? Are you still unearthing compositions by Polish composers?
The repertoire seems boundless. Even within the Polish violin repertoire, I constantly discover new composers and music. I am also aware of specific Polish violin pieces that have yet to be published or are long out of print.
Given that the violin was the long favored instrument in Polish folk music and that there is a long, very large-scale national tradition centered around the violin in Poland, which was preceded by an extensive bowed folk instrument tradition, this is not surprising.
But, I also enjoy repertoire surprises relating to other countries as well. For example, in 2011 International Music of New York published my performance edition of Edouard Lalo’s hardly known but wonderful Sonata, Op. 12, for violin and piano.
A violinist could live six lifetimes and, yet, not play everything that is worthwhile. Hence, we have to choose. (Below is a photo of Tyrone Greive by Katrin Talbot for the Madison Symphony Orchestra.)
Do you have a favorite Polish composer? I have heard pieces by Wieniawski and Lutosławski, and they are quite beautiful.
It is almost impossible to choose one favorite. Just to name a select few besides those whom you mention, I really enjoy the Baroque ensemble music of Adam Jarzębski, Marcin Mielczewski and Stanisław Sylwester Szarzyński (particularly his sonata for two violins and continuo), the classical solo and ensemble music by Feliks Janiewicz (especially the second of his five violin concertos), Jan Kleczyński and Franciszek Lessel, the romantic sonatas, miniatures and chamber music of Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Juliusz Zarębski and Mieczysław Karłowicz, and the varied 20th century styles represented by Poldowski (Irena Wieniawska/Lady Dean Paul), Artur Malawski, Grażyna Bacewicz (below), Henryk Mikołaj Górecki, and Romuld Twardowski.
The large number of truly effective transcriptions of Frédéric Chopin’s piano music constitutes a special category.
What made you decide to perform Szymanowski’s Second Violin Concerto with the UW Symphony Orchestra (below)? How did you choose that piece?
This is one of the really major concertos in the Polish violin repertoire. I enjoyed playing it with the UW Symphony Orchestra when I last did it with David Becker and thought that it needed to be heard again. Also, the fact that the university orchestra’s proficiency continues to grow and that this concerto is as much a piece for the orchestra as the soloist makes it a good choice.
I just listened to it in a YouTube video (at the bottom). It is truly a beautiful work. Do you have any personal reflections on the piece?
This is not only the last major work by Szymanowski, but it also represents the culmination of a longtime collaboration between the composer and violinist Paul Kochański (below).
Paralleling the collaborations between Mendelssohn and Ferdinand David, Brahms and Joseph Joachim, Stravinsky and Samuel Dushkin, the Szymanowski-Kochański partnership not only resulted in a number of unique violin-piano and violin-orchestra works but also impacted a number of other composers such Ravel, Bartok, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Bloch and de Falla. Also, this music reflects a largely unknown history and culture.
What do you plan to do following retirement? Will you continue your research?
Yes, I have several projects underway, the most important being work on a book manuscript with the working title “Polish Violin Repertoire, in Its Historical and Cultural Context.” While much of the writing and research has already been done, some large segments remain. The ability to focus on it in larger time blocks should help me to complete it.
Next year, on a volunteer basis, I will also work with six of my current students who are to complete their studio degree requirements during that academic year.
Of course, I will continue to play and perform – once a violinist, always a violinist. Music is more than a profession; it is a way of life.
My cellist wife Janet (below, with Tyrone) and I also hope to do some traveling, more reading and getting outside more. I also hope to devote a little more time to my model railroad, which has always been one of my great interests but to which I have been able to devote hardly any time in recent years.
Do you keep in touch with former students?
I always enjoy hearing from former students and interacting with them. During this school year, I have been hearing from a large number of them from a wide geographic range. I don’t like mentioning specific students because, in doing, I will be leaving out other deserving students. Every student is important.
By Jacob Stockinger
To The Ear, this seems a particularly promising time for young violinists, and especially for young women violinists such as Julia Fischer, Lelia Josefowicz, Lisa Batiashvili, Janine Jansen and Hilary Hahn.
But among all those violinists and their prodigious amounts of talent, one in particular stands out as unique: Jennifer Koh (below, in a photo by Christopher Berkey for The New York Times).
An American of Korean heritage who was born in Chicago, Kho is an international competition winner who also came into a career in professional music somewhat via the back door, which has only deepened her music-making and her interpretations. Koh is anything but predictable and mainstream or traditional. A master of the old classics, she is also devoted to new music.
Her breadth of interests and her open personality show in her intense and exciting playing. We in Madison are lucky that the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and its music director-conductor Andrew Sewell booked her to perform the Beethoven Violin Concerto early on, in 2004 before word got out and she became so in demand. (Below, a photo by Karsten Moran for The New York Times.)
Kohn has made many acclaimed recordings. But the first CD (below) in her three-volume series of “Bach and Beyond” (for the non-profit, Chicago-based label Cedille Records) made many critics’ lists of The Best Classical Recordings of 2012” – including mine. (At bottom, she discusses the project.)
I had been a waiting for a Q&A from Jennifer Koh. But she is obviously busy with more important things like playing the violin and, one suspects, reading serious English literature (you have to know her background to understand the reference!).
All the more reason, then, to read the excellent profile that appeared recently in The New York Times.
Here is a link to that detailed but readable and very accessible profile that leaves you wondering: How can you not like Jennifer Koh?:
By Jacob Stockinger
During the dark cold days of deep winter, it is always welcome to be reminded of the warm weather and the summer season of music that awaits us.
Now comes the latest update on the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival, which will be held Aug. 20 through Sept. 1 in the refurbished barn (below) and surrounding fields near Madison where last summer’s theme of the environment proved especially popular.
Here are the largest themes.
Drama is the main theme—and where drama intersects with music.
Specifically, Shakespeare (below) will be highlighted with dramatic readings and musical accompaniment. No details yet about specific texts or plays.
An improvisational ensemble, a piano quintet called the Open End Ensemble, based at Syracuse University, will be a major player and will provide classical improvisations by Andy Waggoner (see the YouTube video at bottom).
Shakespeare monologues will be interpreted by Madison-born Ali Schaffer and guest artists.
Robert Levin (below top), the Harvard professor who specializes in completing Mozart’s unfinished manuscripts, will reveal his latest discoveries and reconstructions: completions of violin sonatas with John Harbison (below bottom).
Much more is in store, including the usually sold-out jazz cabarets, but often the detailed planning comes later and closer to the actual festival.
“The rest we leave to our imaginations, with the thought that the Token Creek Festival is likely to continue in an experimental, free-thinking way,” write John and Rose Mary Harbison in the brief winter update preview that also seeks donations and support.
By Jacob Stockinger
Sometimes the same subject draws the interest of different reporters, and we have a happy convergence of information that can often remain esoteric and known only to specialists.
Traditionally, the Old Master violins, made by Stradivarius (above, the 1729 “Solomon ex-Lambert” Strad photographed by Dan Emmert/Getty Images) and by Guarneri, sell for millions and are legendary. They are always considered more beautiful in tone, louder in volume and easier to play than more modern instruments.
But how much of that received wisdom is, in fact, wisdom or truth? And how much of it is myth or hype?
Defying conventional wisdom, some high-profile professional concertizing musicians have turned to modern string instruments, including cellist David Finckel (below) of the Emerson String Quartet who will perform an all-Mendelssohn program with the David Finckel, pianist Wu Han and violinist Philip Setzer Piano Trio at the Wisconsin Union Theater on Friday, Feb. 24. And the acclaimed German violin virtuoso Christian Teztlaff (at bottom, playing solo Bach) also performs on a modern violin.
This is a particularly interesting topic to Madison circles. Until his death last summer, William “Jack” Fry (below), a retired professor in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Physics Department, had long investigated the sonics and engineering of violins. The Token Creek Chamber Music Festival has used some of Fry’s instruments as played by John and Rose Mary Harbison, the husband composer/violist and wife-violinist who co-direct the summer festival.
So both old and new violins have their defenders and partisans.
Now you can try the test and decide for yourself.
Here is a link to an illuminating background story in the New York Times.
And here is a link to the NPR story – listen to the streamed broadcast over reading the typescript, if you can — where you can take a “blindfold” hearing test to see whether the old or new violin sounds better to you, and then compare your results to the panel of experts and violinists:
How did you do?
What did you learn?
What do you say in the debate about the superiority of older violins and the inferiority of newer violins?
The Ear wants to hear.