The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Ear does some more catching up. This time he takes in the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO). Plus, here is more news from Day 4 of WYSO’s tour in Argentina.

July 28, 2014
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Here is the daily alert for the tour though Aug. 3 by Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) in Argentina. Here is a link to the latest news from Day 4: www.wysotour2014.blogspot.com

WYSO Youth  Orchestra

By Jacob Stockinger

As I said yesterday, The Ear is finally getting a chance to catch up on some old business, now that live concerts have quieted down a bit for a while.

Here is an overdue review.

MADISON AREA YOUTH CHAMBER ORCHESTRA (MAYCO) EXCELS IN OLD MUSIC AND NEW MUSIC

On Friday, July 11, the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO) performed “Triumph and Delight,” the first of its two concerts this summer. This one was at the handsome new Atrium auditorium, with its bright acoustics, of the First Unitarian Society of Madison 900 University Bay Drive.

Founder and conductor Mikko Utevsky (below), who is currently a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, led the group through an intriguing program that include the Piano Concerto No. 11 in D Major, by Franz Joseph Haydn; the “Reformation” Symphony by Felix Mendelssohn; and the world premiere of a “Experiment No. 1” by his fellow student, composer Olivia Zeuske.

Mikko Utevsky with baton

The soloist in the Haydn Piano Concerto was UW-Madison graduate Thomas Kasdorf (below). The Ear recently heard him in the Romantic and evergreen Piano Concerto In A Minor by Edvard Grieg, played with the Middleton Community Orchestra. And the performance was impressive, so expectations were high.

And those expectations were both met and surpassed in the Haydn.

thomas kasdorf 2:jpg

This was not, thank goodness, period Haydn. From what The Ear heard, Kasdorf made no attempt to scale back his part and treat the piano like some Classical-era fortepiano. Instead this was robust and rich Haydn, an interpretation that made Papa Haydn sound more alive than dead. The humor and tunefulness plus the effective, if sparing, use of dissonance, all came through convincingly and in a contemporary way.

Add in the orchestra’s careful attention to part-playing and to dialogue with the piano, and you had a performance that The Ear loved.

Thomas Kasdorf at FUS MAYCO Haydn

The work by Olivia Zeuske (below) proved highly atmospheric –- not exactly 12-tone or atonal, but not exactly not, either. For the most part, The Ear found it appealing, engaging and attractive.

But for The Ear, who admits to being a “tunes” guy, it could have used some kind of melody or motif that was recognizable and repeated. In addition the piece could use more distinctiveness among the three sections, so the structure guides your listening.

True, the very end did seem to build to some kind of climax, and you knew something was about to happen. But a lot of the rest of the piece seemed to have a tad too much lateral drift. A good statement or speech is not made by a series of “um”’s and “you know”’s and similar filler. And it takes more than sound to make music.

Still, The Ear thinks that she has a future and looks forward to hearing more from Olivia Zeuske.

olivia zeuske 2014

The famous and familiar “Reformation” Symphony by Felix Mendelssohn was not weak except by comparison to the other performances. Some of it seemed a bit muddled, and The Ear wondered if it couldn’t have used more rehearsal time, which more likely went to working with the soloist and the world premiere. Still, the music carries itself in a great way.

Plus, it was set off and spotlighted by a stroke of genius and inspiration in programming. Utevsky opened the entire program with the chorale prelude-type arrangement by Johann Sebastian Bach for orchestra of the hymn by Martin Luther “Ein Feste Burg” (A Mighty Fortress is Our God”). (At bottom, you can hear an arrangement by Leopold Stokowski that sounds a bit Wagnerian and even “Parsifal”-like at the end because of the horns.)

That is the same Lutheran hymn that Mendelssohn, a Jew who converted to Christianity but was nonetheless banned from being performed under the Nazis and Adolf Hitler, used in the finale to his irresistible symphony.

Kudos, then, to this fine group of young up-and-coming musicians, who were warmly applauded by a good size audience of more than friends and family members.

Mikko Utevsky and MAYCO at FUS

MAYCO audience at FUS July 2014

It makes one look forward to MAYCO’s next concert at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 22. That’s when soprano Caitlin Ruby Miller (below) will join then in Samuel Barber’s “Knoxville, Summer 1915” with words by James Agee and music by Samuel Barber; the Symphony No. 9 in E-Flat Major, Op. 90, by Dmitri Shostakovich; and the Overture to “The Magic Flute” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

caitlin ruby miller

The advertised venue is Music Hall, though the Atrium auditorium and other venues are still being considered, so stay tuned. Tickets are an affordable $7 with students being asked to donate what they can.

The Ear says: Don’t miss it.

 

 


Classical music: The Ear catches up again. This time he takes in a terrific evening sampler of Edvard Grieg at Taliesin in Spring Green. Plus, here is more news from Day 3 of WYSO’s tour in Argentina.

July 27, 2014
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Here is the daily alert for the tour though Aug. 3 by Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) in Argentina. Here is a link to the latest news from Day 3: www.wysotour2014.blogspot.com

WYSO Youth  Orchestra

By Jacob Stockinger

As I said yesterday, The Ear is finally getting a chance to catch up on some old business, now that live concerts have quieted down a bit for a while.

I have another short review for today.

THE EAR HEARS A GREAT GRIEG SAMPLER AT TALIESIN

Earlier this month, The Ear found himself wondering: Why don’t we hear more music by Edvard Grieg?

Well, we know that famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright -– better known to his cult-like following as Mr. Wright –- much preferred the music of Ludwig van Beethoven.

Wright1

Beethoven big

Makes sense. One big and difficult ego attracted to another big and difficult ego. One would-be artistic titan wanting to cloak himself in the mantle of another.

But nevertheless on July 14 -– forget Bastille Day — the Hillside Theater (below) at Wright’s Taliesin compound in Spring Green saw an evening sampler of the 19th-century Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, and some other Scandinavian composers, performed, thanks to the Rural Musicians Forum and its director Kent Mayfield.

taliesin_hillside2

Called “Songs of Norway,” the program featured the kind of variety that The Ear would like to see in more concert programming: a dozen or so songs; 10 solo piano pieces from the “Lyric Pieces”; and the Sonata No. 2 in G Major, Op. 13, for violin and piano.

I found the music somewhat uneven, but never bad. And all the performances, turned in by three outstanding musicians (below), proved quite satisfying.

3 Grieg musicians

University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music soprano Mimmi Fulmer (below) showed fine control and tone while singing songs both a cappella and with the piano. Moreover, her Norwegian diction and pronunciation were quite good, or so I was told by a native Norwegian speaker.

Mimmi Fulmer at Taliesin 2014

Pianist Michael Keller, a retired professor from UW-Stevens Point, performed admirably both as soloist and accompanist or collaborator. He excelled at conveying the quickly changing moods of miniature Lyric Pieces, of which he played 10 contrasting ones.

Michael Keller playing

And violinist Stephen Bjella, an artist-in-residence at the UW-Stevens Point, played the more ambitious violin sonata with conviction and aplomb.

steven bjella norway

Now truth be told, Edvard Grieg’s music is no match for the achievement of Bach. Or Beethoven. Or Mozart. Or Haydn, Or Schubert. Or Schumann. Or Brahms. Or Mahler. And so on and so on. But The Ear thinks of Grieg as The Dvorak of the North. I think Claude Debussy once said his works were bonbons filled with snow.

That doesn’t mean his music is without value. His “salon”-like music certainly is enjoyable and worth hearing more often. Major artists like pianists Arthur Rubinstein, Emil Gilels and Stephen Hough play his Lyric Pieces and included several in their active repertoire. I think the violinist Jascha Heifetz also liked his three violin sonatas. And his songs are too rarely heard, perhaps because of the difficulty of singing Norwegian instead of German and French, Italian and English. Plus, the Emerson Quartet won a Grammy with his one string quartet.

edvard grieg

So this was a thoroughly enjoyable concert that reminded The Ear that the music of Grieg deserves to be heard more often in live performance than it currently is. Just listen to the lovely Nocturne, played by a contestant in the Grieg Piano Competition, in a YouTube video at the bottom.

Thanks go to Kent Williams (below top), to the Rural Musicians Forum –- which he directs and which is presenting a FREE tango quintet this Monday night at 7:30 p.m. in the Unity Chapel in Spring Green –- to Taliesin and especially to the three performers as well as to the full house (below bottom) that makes such a proposal all the more feasible and appealing.

Kent Mayfield at Taliesin

Grieg audience

Hear more music by Edvard Grieg?

As the late Eileen Stritch would sing: “I’ll Drink to That.”

Better break out the ice water.

 

 

 

 

 


Classical music: The Ear catches up with the 15th annual Madison Early Music Festival, and takes in the second annual Handel Aria Competition and the All-Festival Concert. Both get big, hearty shout-outs and Hallelujahs. Plus, see how the WYSO tour to Argentina is going.

July 26, 2014
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ALERT: If you want to find out the latest news about the tour to Argentina by the Youth Orchestra (below) of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras, here is a link to the blog:

www.wysotour2014.blogspot.com

WYSO Youth  Orchestra

By Jacob Stockinger

As you probably already know, The Ear is running a bit behind.

That’s how busy even the summer season has become, when it comes to classical music in the Madison area. And reviews take a second seat to previews and advance Q&A’s that benefit the performers and audiences.

So over the next few days, I want to provide some critiques and reviews, and even more shout-outs, to various events that took place over the past couple of weeks. I hope you will forgive my tardiness.

You should also know that I am not going in chronological order because some things seem more important or more timely, and therefore more overdue, than others.

So, first things first.

As you probably know, this summer marked the 15th anniversary of the annual Madison Early Music Festival that takes place each July at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

Here is the official website of the competition with the results plus background and biographies of all the finalists and other information:

www.handelariacompetition.com

memf banner 2014

True, the second annual Handel competition is not strictly speaking a part of MEMF. But it is affiliated with MEMF. And since I have already covered the extraordinary MEMF opening concert “The Leonardo da Vinci  Codex” by the Toronto Consort, I wanted to bring you up to date with the results of the aria competition, which has begun to attract national and even international attention.

Here are the big point to note: What a difference a year makes!

This year there was no unsatisfactory split or disagreement between the four judges and the public, as there was last year. BRAVO!!!!

This year, both the judges and the public — which had some pretty discerning listeners in it — agreed on the winner: She was Chelsea Morris (below), who might be familiar from other appearances in Madison with the Madison Bach Musicians and Trevor Stephenson, who whom she has released a CD of songs by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Joseph Haydn and  Franz Schubert.

Morris met all the criteria that Professor John W. Barker, an insightful critic and devoted Handelian, had outlined in his pre-concert lecture. He emphasized that it was not only about beautiful singing but also capturing the sense of drama in a role, of great diction, of ornamentation, of mastering the Handelian style.

Chelsea Morris did all of them, and the second time proved the charm. (You can hear her entry in last year’s aria competition in a YouTube video at the bottom.) And she is moving from Chicago to Madison as her base, where she will be a Studio Artist with the Madison Opera this coming season  So The Ear hopes to score a Q&A with her soon. She won $1,000 and free tuition (worth just under $500) to next summer’s Madison Early Music Festival.

Morris sang “Svelato il cor ti vedo” and “L’amor que per te sento” from “Alessandro” and “O Sleep, why dost thou leave me?” from “Semele.”

MEMF 2014 Chelsea Morris

Second Prize went to Daniel Moody (below), a countertenor who sang “Pomoe vane do morte! And “Dove aei, amato ben” from the opera “Rodelinda”:

MEMF 2014 Handel Daniel Moody

Third Prize ($500) went to soprano Yukie Sato, a Tokyo native who is now based in Basel, Switzerland where she won a similar competition. With much drama, she sang “A Ruggiero crudel” and “Ombre palle” from “Alcina” and “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion” from the oratorio “Messiah.

MEMF 2014 Yukie Sato

You read me right: Tokyo and Switzerland. This past year, some money had been raised to help pay travel expenses, and that paid off in the quality of singing, which was higher overall.

The applicants this time numbered 60, and they came from around the nation and world. That was whittled down to 30, and then 15 and then, in the end, to seven finalists (below) because the judges couldn’t agree on just six.

Each contestant had to sing one aria in Italian and another in English. The Ear likes that. It helped us in judging diction, and helped you to appreciate the range of Handel’s music. But The Ear wishes that in future competitions they would ban arias from “Messiah” since you hear that music enough already.

MEMF 2014 7 Handel contestants

One downside: Held in Music Hall, the Handel aria smack-down drew an audience about half as big as last year, maybe 250 instead of the 500 in Mills Hall. No doubt that fact that admission this year was $10, while last year it was free, figured in that lower attendance. I would sure like to see it return to free admission, if possible. It is a great way to introduce people to the world of Handel, and draw a general audience –- not just specialists.

But another plus this year was that the singers were accompanied by a small five-person pickup orchestra or consort (below) made up mostly of faculty members and professional instrumentalists from the Madison Early Music Festival. The sound sure added authenticity and helped both the singers and the listeners get into the mood of Handel operas, which have been rediscovered big time. Plus, it was just more fun to listen to with great variety of sound, timbre and tone.

MEMF 2014 Handel consort

This year’s Handel Aria Competition was nothing short of a triumph. The competition is well on its way to becoming an impressive and fun Madison summertime institution. All thanks go, then, to founders and sponsors Dean and Orange Schroeder (below, holding a bust of George Frideric Handel), the business owners of Orange Tree Imports on Monroe Street, who are such reliable and generous supporters of Madison’s classical music scene.

MEMF Handel 2014 Handel Orange and Dean Schroeder

THE ALL-FESTIVAL CONCLUDING CONCERT

A week ago tonight, the Madison Early music held its All-Festival Concert in Luther Memorial Church, 1021 University Avenue. (MEMF had to use Music Hall and Luther Memorial as alternative venues this summer because Mills Hall at the UW-Madison School of Music was undergoing repairs.)

And speaking of triumphs, the thematic program was based on the sonnet cycle of “Triumph” by Petrarch (below), who examined the importance of Love, Chastity, Death, Fame, Time and Eternity. It is a work that both anticipates and sums up the emerging humanism of the Italian Renaissance.

francesco petrarca or petrarch

There are not a lot of specific remarks I can make except that:

The program was well constructed by Grant Herreid (below), who also conducted it.

MEMF 2014 All-Festival Grant Herreid

The orchestra played beautifully and produced big full sound enhanced by the church’s acoustics. Yet a balance was maintained, and vocal and instrumental parts blended.

The various soloists -– and there were many –- were impressive.

Lasting just over an hour, it was a perfect wrap up to a great festival.

MEMF 2014 All-Festival

Co-founders and co-artistic directors UW-Madison baritone Paul Rowe and Cheryl Bensman Rowe, who both sang in the chorus parts, also announced that next year’s theme will be Early Music in Central and Eastern Europe, including Czechoslovakia, Poland and Bohemia.

Sounds great.

Can’t wait.


Classical music: Tangos will be featured in a FREE concert by the Yzafa Quintet this Monday night at 7:30 p.m. in the Unity Chapel in Spring Green.

July 25, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

This Monday night at 7:30 p.m. the Yzafa Quintet will perform a FREE concert of tangos at the Unity Chapel in Spring Green. Members of the quintet include (bottom left to right) Doug Brown, Michael O’Brien, August Jirovec, Amber Dolphin and Jamie Davis.

Quinteto Yzafa

To The Ear, it sure seems like this certainly has been the year for South American music in general and tangos in particular in the Madison area.

The Wisconsin Youth Chamber Orchestras’ Youth Orchestra (below) left yesterday for an extensive 10-day tour of Argentina, the home of the tango, which legend says was first danced in brothels.

Here is a link to background about the tour:

http://wyso.music.wisc.edu/2014-international-tour/

And here is a link to the tour blog:

http://wysotour2014.blogspot.com

WYSO Youth  Orchestra

Earlier this summer, The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society performed a dozen tangos by Astor Piazzolla and other composers with the help of Uruguayan pianist and tango master Pablo Zinger (below).

Pablo Zinger at piano

And flutist Stephanie Jutt (below), who is a co-founder and co-artistic director of BDDS, who teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and who is principal flute with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, has performed and recorded a bunch of tangos she brought back from a sabbatical year she spent in Argentina.

BDDS 2014 Jutt and Syles play Angel Lasala

Well, you really can’t blame them at all for programming tangos.

Was there ever a sexier or more sensual,  more seductive dance –- even if you don’t actually dance it?

Tango

And Madison isn’t alone in succumbing to Tango Fever.

Here is a note from our blog friend Kent Mayfield, who heads up the Rural Musicians Forum and is bringing the urban decadence of the tango out to the wholesome farm fields in south-central Wisconsin:

TANGO TAKES THE SPOTLIGHT IN SPRING GREEN CONCERT

The region’s only group specializing in traditional Argentine tango, Quinteto Yzafa, takes the spotlight in a concert in Spring Green’s Unity Chapel on Monday night, July 28, at 7:30 p.m.. The concert is part of an annual series sponsored by the Rural Musicians Forum. (You can hear a sample of a tango by the Quinteto Yzafa in a YouTube video of a performance in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at the bottom.)

The tango is a partner dance that originated in the 1890s in working class districts of Buenos Aires and along the Río de la Plata, the natural border between Uruguay and Argentina. Soon it became wildly popular around the world.

The dance derives from the Cuban and Argentine dance styles. It is said to contain elements from the African community in Buenos Aires, influenced both by ancient African rhythms and the music from Europe.

In 2009, the tango was declared part of the world’s “intangible cultural heritage” by UNESCO.

Quinteto Yzafa (pronounced “ee-SAH-fuh”) is dedicated to a fresh, dynamic approach to traditional Argentine tango music.

With backgrounds in classical music as well as jazz, bluegrass, Arabic music, Latin American folk and popular dance styles, the musicians perform tangos, waltzes and milongas from the 1910s through the present day.

Their dynamic new arrangements have the variety and intensity to entertain concert audiences, but they never lose the danceable essence of the true tango. They delight schoolchildren and serious tango dancers alike.

The ensemble’s sound features the bandoneón (below), the characteristic 71-button relative of the accordion whose distinctive timbre is essential for traditional tango music, filled out with the rich tones of a full string section (violin, cello and double bass) and piano.

Bandoneon

Bandoneon player and composer Michael O’Brien says he was inspired by the Argentinian classical composer Astor Piazzola (below bottom).

“There was something about the combination of sinuous, expressive melody interspersed with periods of brutal dissonance and percussive playing that lodged itself in my memory,” O’Brien says.

astor piazzolla

That was the beginning of a life-long interest which has led him to learn Piazzolla’s own instrument, the bandoneon, travel to Argentina to study, research and perform tango music, and even to make a career out of it. In his day job, O’Brien is a professor of ethnomusicology. O’Brien has created for the group a repertoire of little known and original tangos, waltzes and milongas as well as many tango classics.

Quinteto Yzafa has passion and zing … At times bold and brash and at other times heartbreakingly tragic, it covers every emotion in the spectrum.

The Unity Chapel (below top is the exterior, below bottom is the interior) is located at 6596 County Road T, just east of Highway 23. The chapel is a living testament to the simple and contemplative lives early settlers created for themselves in southwest Wisconsin.

There is no ticket charge but a freewill offering to support the concert series will be taken.

Unity Chapel in Spring Green exterior

Unity Chapel in Spring Green interior

For more information: www.ruralmusiciansforum.org

OR contact Kent Mayfield ruralmusiciansforum@yahoo.com.

https://www.youtube.com/watch


Classical music: A memorial for the late University of Wisconsin-Madison pianist Howard Karp is set for Sunday, Aug. 31, at 3 p.m. in Mills Hall. Here is a link to an obituary in The Wisconsin State Journal and to two other stories about Karp from Isthmus and the UW-Madison News Service.

July 21, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

The word is in: There will be NO annual Labor Day Concert by the Karp family this year.

Instead, on the day before Labor Day, friends, students and family members will gather to celebrate the life of professor, pianist and musical patriarch Howard Karp (below, playing with his son, fellow UW-Madison School of Music professor and Pro Arte Quartet cellist Parry Karp), who taught and performed for many decades at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, in a memorial event.

Karp family 2011 Brahms Parry and Howard Karp

The memorial is set for Sunday, August 31, at 3 p.m. in Mills Hall. Initial plans call for playing recorded live performances by Howard Karp; for selected speakers; and perhaps for some live music performances. As details develop, this blog will pass them along.

Howard Karp ca. 2000 by Katrin Talbot

On June 30, in Colorado. Howard Karp died at 84 of cardiac arrest. He was so loved and so respected that news of his death brought this blog a record number of comments and remarks (more than 70 so far), and close to a record number of “hits” or views:

Here is a link to the post, which has a lot of photos provided by the family, that broke the news:

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/classical-music-pianist-howard-karp-who-taught-at-the-university-of-wisconsin-madison-has-died-at-84/

Frances and Howard Karp June 22, 2014

Here is a link to the obituary that appeared two Sundays ago in The Wisconsin State Journal (below, Howard Karp is seen performing at a recent Labor Day Concert with his wife Frances Karp and his two of his four grandchildren, actors Isabel and Ariana Karp):

http://host.madison.com/news/local/obituaries/karp-howard/article_fbbd171c-96da-5166-93e6-66b05ca2239a.html

Howard, Frances, Isabel and Ariana Karp 2013

Two stories have also celebrated Howard Karp as the patriarch of Madison’s First Family of Music (below in a past photo by Mike DeVries of The Capital Times, are, from left, violinist-pianist and doctor son Christopher Karp, who works for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; daughter-in-law biologist and violist Katrin Talbot; Howard Karp; cellist son Parry Karp; and pianist wife Frances Karp):

Karp Family in color

One is from Isthmus by Sandy Tabachnick, who got statements from fellow pianists and teachers Christopher Taylor, Bill Lutes, Martha Fischer and Jessica Johnson:

http://www.isthmus.com/daily/article.php?article=43120

Howard Karp ca. 1955

Another memorable story about Howard Karp (below with his wife of 63 years Frances, who survives him) was filed by Susannah Brooks, who also spoke with UW-Madison School of Music head Susan Cook (below bottom), for the University of Wisconsin-Madison News Service:

howard and frances karp

Susan C. Cook UW SOM BW CR Michael Forster Rothbart

And here is a wonderful appreciation of Howard Karp and the new 6-CD set of Karp’s live recordings by UW-Madison and WYSO alumnus Kenneth Woods (below). Woods is a composer, professional cellist and now the conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, who is also an acclaimed blogger (“A View From the Podium”) and an honored recording artist whose releases include world premiere recordings of music by Hans Gal.

http://kennethwoods.net/blog1/2014/07/07/6162/

Kenneth_Woods

And, finally, here is a small excerpt from that new 6-CD set on Albany Records. It is a triumphant recording of the first movement of the epic Fantasy in C Major, Op 17, by the Romantic composer Robert Schumann, which was written to raise money for a memorial statue to Ludwig van Beethoven.

In mood and meaning, the masterpiece is a fitting tribute to Howard Karp and to the art, generosity and devotion to both beauty and love with which he lived his life. As a teacher, a friend, a family man and a performer, Howard Karp lived his long, rich life in the service of bringing and sharing whatever beauty he could to other people.

 

 

 


Classical music: Famed child prodigy conductor Lorin Maazel has died at age 84. To the end, he was surrounded by controversy and contradiction.

July 19, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Last Sunday. as you may have already heard, the distinguished conductor Lorin Maazel (below, in a photo by AFP-Getty Images) died at his summer festival grounds and home in Virginia from complications of pneumonia. He was 84. Many expected him to live much longer — since conducting is such aerobic exercise, since extreme longevity ran in his family, since  conductors are a very long-lived group as a rule. 

lorin maazel AFP Getty Images

Here is a specially posted tribute video, with Maazel conducting music by Gustav Mahler — the famed Adagietto from the Symphony No. 5:

I read a lot about outstanding and searing performances by Maazel, who had a truly international career, but never heard any first-hand.

I also read a lot about his mechanical and uninspired approach to conducting, despite his mastery of “stick technique” with the baton. I never heard that in person either.

When I did hear him, usually conducting the New York Philharmonic on the PBS program “Live From Lincoln Center” or the Vienna Philharmonic  “New Year’s Day in Vienna,” he seemed perfectly competent and acceptable, if never outstandingly original or impressive or inspired. (You can hear him conduct in Seoul, Korea, the dramatic and moving “Egmont” Overture by Ludwig van Beethoven in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Born in France, Maazel as a major talent who started as a violin prodigy and then went on to conducting major orchestras before he reached the age of 10. Later, he also turned to opera, including appearances at the Metropolitan Opera. And he often talked about how lucky he had been to have parents who did not exploit his talent during childhood. And he was full of forward-looking plans to the end.

Maazel’s death was all over the media -– including media that don’t normally care to give much coverage to the arts, especially to the current arts and to living artists. Perhaps the fact that he made history by taking the New York Philharmonic to Pyongyang, North Korea, where he also performed our national anthem “The Star-Spangled Banner” to applause, had something to do with it.

Nonetheless, here are some stories to help you catch up:

Here is a story, with sound clips and a fine appreciation, from the classical music blog “Deceptive Cadence” on NPR:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/07/13/331148634/conductor-lorin-maazel-who-brought-america-to-the-podium-dies

Here is an exhaustive and comprehensive obituary from The New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/14/arts/music/lorin-maazel-brilliant-intense-and-enigmatic-conductor-dies-at-84.html?_r=0

Here is a story from the Wall Street Journal:

http://online.wsj.com/articles/conductor-lorin-maazel-dies-at-84-1405273033

Here is a fine memorial from The Washington Post critic Anne Midgette:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/style/wp/2014/07/13/lorin-maazel-1930-2014/

Here is a fine summing up by The New Yorker magazine of the contradictions and controversies that surrounded Maazel’s conducting. I love the headline – “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” which is a timely reminder of the balance needed between intellectualism and emotional directness, the latter of which is, for The Ear, the heart of making music:

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2014/07/lorin-maazel-the-man-who-knew-too-much.html

Did you hear Lorin Maazel?

Do you have a favorite memorable performance or recording by him?

A least favorite one?

What do YOU think of Lorin Maazel?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: Grace Presents seeks a Program Coordinator and extends the application deadline through July 31.

July 17, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

The deadline for applying to be the new Program Coordinator of Grace Presents was originally this past Tuesday, July 15. But it has now been extended through the end of the month, to July 31. For details, see below.

In a city with a lot of FREE and accessible high-quality concerts, Grace Presents nonetheless offers an outstanding series that fits right in with the church’s mission of community service.

The program was the brainchild of founder and first director Bruce Croushore, who worked long and hard to ensure its success. The Ear has heard memorable and enjoyable vocal and instrumental music, from violin sonatas and a solo piano recital to art songs and opera arias, at Grace Presents. (At bottom is a YouTube video of the “Liebeslieder Waltzes” by Johannes Brahms.)

Grace Presents sign

But now Croushore, a longtime reader and friend of this blog, has asked for help in advertising the position, and The Ear is happy to help.

Here is what Croushore, a retired businessman and consultant, writes:

“Grace Presents is a series of FREE noontime concerts that began in the spring of 2011 at Grace Episcopal Church, in downtown Madison on the Capitol Square.

“To date, three dozen diverse musical performances have been enjoyed by audiences that range in size from 30 to as many as 300. Most concerts take place at noon on Saturdays, so as to attract Dane County Farmers’ Market shoppers (below).

dane county farmers' market

Grace Presents’ mission is to open the doors of Madison’s historic landmark, Grace Church, by continuing the ancient tradition of music in the marketplace. (Below are photos of Grace’s exterior and its interior, which features beautiful furnishings and great acoustics.)

grace episcopal church ext

Grace Episcopal harpsichord

The series seeks to provide musicians and music-lovers from Dane County and beyond an outstanding acoustical performance venue that is attractive, peaceful and in the heart of Madison.

Grace Presents also offers free concerts of exceptional quality by local performers representing a wide variety of musical styles including classical, jazz, world and folk. (Below, Madison Symphony Orchestra violinist Laura Burns and pianist Jess Salek perform the complete violin sonatas by Johannes Brahms at Grace Presents.”)

Laura Burns Jess Salek Brahms Grace Epis

Grace Presents attempts to attract and enrich a broad audience, including downtown neighborhood residents, secondary school and university students, farmers’ market shoppers, local business people, state workers, local visitors, tourists, and people who are homeless.

Grace Church’s close proximity to Overture Center, Monona Terrace and downtown shops, restaurants, museums and offices encourages attendees to walk, ride bikes or to use public transportation, and reduces the carbon footprint of an excellent cultural event.

MBM Grace stained glass window

Grace Presents seeks a Program Coordinator whose duties include:

1. Engaging musicians to perform 8-12 concerts throughout the calendar year. This includes scheduling dates that work for the musicians, Grace Church and the community at large. Dates should be far enough in advance to allow for promotion of each concert. At times, program content may be specific to a given audience (i.e., children or shelter meal participants).

2. Preparing and disseminating publicity through various media, including online and print listings, social media and similar promotional opportunities.

3. Arranging payment for musicians, including completing paperwork and coordinating checks with the church’s Finance Administrator.

4. Preparing and arranging the printing of programs, posters and flyers for the concerts.

5. Acting as a liaison between performers and the venue of Grace Church.

6. Attending the concerts to assist with day-of logistics and taking care of musicians’ needs, except in special circumstances.

7. Attending periodic meetings of Grace Presents’ Task Force.

8. Completing and submitting grant applications with the assistance of task force members.

QUALIFICATIONS: This is an excellent opportunity for someone interested in gaining experience in concert promotion and arts administration. That includes students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Edgewood College.

Strong organizational and communication skills, as well as a working knowledge of social media, are necessary.

Familiarity with the Madison music scene, both commercial and educational, is a plus.

COMPENSATION: T
he program coordinator receives a quarterly honorarium of $500, paid in advance.

APPLICATION DEADLINE: Apply by email with a resume attached by not later than July 31, 2014.

Although the Grace Presents’ concert series is booked through December 2014, the task force intends to fill the position in the near future so that the current program director will be able to train a successor over the summer.

CONTACT: 
Write to Bruce Croushore at croushoreb@gmail.com


Classical music: This Saturday morning is the second of this summer’s three FREE Dane County Farmers’ Market organ concerts at 11 a.m. in Overture Hall by the Madison Symphony Orchestra. It marks the Madison debut of guest organist Ahreum Han. Plus, tonight at 7 p.m. violinist and concertmaster Suzanne Beia solos in classical repertoire in the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra’s FREE Concert on the Square.

July 16, 2014
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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:

http://wcoconcerts.org/about-wco/musicians/suzanne-beia-concertmaster/

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.

suzanne beia

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.

Ahreum Han

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.

dane county farmers' market

“Bring your family and friends for a relaxing 45-minute concert. No tickets or reservations are needed and all ages are welcome!”

Overture Concert Organ overview

Here is more information and a detailed program from the MSO website:

THE PROGRAM

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:

http://www.madisonsymphony.org/farmershan

And here is a YouTube video of Ahreum Han performing another work, the opening of Organ Symphony No. 3 by Louis Vierne, at the Curtis Institute of Music:


Classical music: This year’s second annual Handel Aria Competition is Thursday night at 7:30 p.m in Music Hall with anpre-concert lecture at 6:30 p.m. in Room 2650 at the nearby Mosse Humanitites Building — and is almost guaranteed to be a sellout.

July 14, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

This week, in conjunction with the 15th annual Madison Early Music Festival that is running from Saturday, July 12, to Saturday, July 19, the second annual Handel Aria Competition will take place this Thursday, July 17, at 7:30 p.m. in Music Hall, 925 Bascom Mall, at the foot of Bascom Hill on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A free pre-concert lecture will be given at 6:30 p.m. in Room 2650 of the nearby UW-Madison Mosse Humanities Building by John W. Barker, who writes music criticism for Isthmus and for this blog and who is a big and longtime Handel enthusiast.

MusicHall2

NOTE: The Handel Smack-Down will NOT take place in Mills Hall, as it did last summer, because Mills Hall at the UW-Madison School of Music, is closed while it undergoes an upgrading of its electrical system.

The Handel Aria Competition was established in 2013 to encourage emerging singers to explore the repertoire of Handel. Founders Dean and Orange Schroeder (below bottom), who own Orange Tree Imports on Monroe Street, are  enthusiasts of the vocal repertoire of George Frideric Handel (below top) and are lifelong supporters of the arts.

Here is a link to the Q&A Dean Schroeder gave The Ear last summer:

http://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/classical-music-qa-organizer-dean-schroeder-talks-about-the-inaugural-handel-aria-competition-at-this-years-madison-early-music-festival-on-monday-night-july-8/

Handel etching

Carol %22Orange%22 and Dean Schroeder

An ongoing partnership with the Madison Early Music Festival has helped to continue the program, which is not actually part of MEMF.

This year over 60 singers applied. Seven were selected as finalists who were then invited to compete for scholarship awards to be used toward their professional development as young artists. That number, by the way, is fewer than last year, which should make the concert more manageable and enjoyable for both the public and the performers.

Handel arias Winnie Nieh

Handel arias all applaud

The live competition of the final round is what is being held Thursday.

The finalists for the 2014 Handel Aria Competition are: Nan Li, Sarah Brailey, Daniel Moody, Chelsea Morris, Michael Roemer, Yukie Sato, and Daniel Shirley. (At bottom is a YouTube video of Elisa Sutherland, who won last year’s competition. You can also hear other competitors on YouTube.)

Full biographies are available on the Handel Aria Competition website. Here is a link:

www.handelariacompetition.com.

This year’s competition is “new and improved,” it seems. Last year, just a solo harpsichord – finely played by two early music keyboard players — accompanied the singers. This time, they will be accompanied by a consort that includes a harpsichord, two violins, a viol and a viola da gamba.

Judges include faculty members and performers from the Madison Early Music Festival: Kristina Boerger, Drew Minter, Ian Pritchard, and Nell Snaidas. (Below are last year’s judges taking notes.)

Handel judges MEMF 14

Tickets are $10 and are available in advance through Brown Paper Tickets and are online at www.handelariacompetition.com.

You can also phone 1-800-838-3006.

On the day of the show, tickets go on sale in person at Music Hall at 6 p.m. – CASH ONLY — with doors to the theater opening at 7 p.m.

Please note: As the event is in Music Hall this year due to renovations taking place in Mills Hall, seating is limited to 375 audience members. Last year nearly 500 people attended the concert. Advance purchase is highly recommended.

For complete information, including performer biographies and qualifications of the judges, visit www.handelariacompetition.com

 


Classical music: Attention, adult music students and late-bloomers! Music-making by early starters amazes us, but music-making by late starters should startle us even more. Here is why from an NPR story about a writer who himself plays cello in an orchestra.

July 12, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Last night, I heard a fine concert of works by Felix Mendelssohn and Franz Joseph Haydn performed by the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO). The youth group was founded and is still directed and conducted by the young violist and conductor Mikko Utevsky, who is a scholarship student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

Mikko (below) is very accomplished and clearly started viola lessons when he was very young, as I suspect most of the outstanding orchestra musicians and the exceptional piano soloist Thomas Kasdorf did. By the time he was a student at Madison East High School, Mikko had founded MAYCO. He had also spent many years in the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras.

Mikko Utevsky with baton

He is articulate and impressive, to be sure.

Truth be told, I am always impressed by the achievements of young musicians, whether they are pre-school or elementary school students in Suzuki classes or in piano recitals, or middle school and high school students.

wyso violas

But what about adult students?

The Ear knows many newly retired people who say they want to take music lessons but are reluctant and think it is simply too late to start and have any success.

Now, I will admit that feel lucky that I play the piano, which I think is easier to pick up again later in life, largely because the notes are there right under your fingers and you don’t need a great ear.

But other instruments — strings, winds and brass — can also be learned or resumed late in life.

As a way of encouraging such people, I offer this story from NPR. It is an interview with Ari L. Goldman (below top and in a YouTube video at the bottom), a journalism professor at Columbia University in New York City, about his  new book, a first-person account of resuming cello studies and participating in “The Late Starters Orchestra” (below bottom), which is  an orchestra made up of fellow late-starters, of older people and adult students.

ari l. goldman

Late Starters Orchestra cover

Enjoy –- and start practicing if that is what you really want to do — because it is possible.

Here is a link to the NPR story and interview:

http://www.npr.org/2014/06/22/324480108/almost-intermediate-adults-learn-lessons-in-late-starters-orchestra

 


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