By Jacob Stockinger
Today is Memorial Day 2015.
Try as I might, The Ear cannot think of better music to remember and memorialize the wounded and fallen than the “Nimrod” Variation from “Enigma” Variations by Sir Edward Elgar (below).
The holiday is much more complex and psychological than the usual funeral march permits.
It was, after all, the same music that the American documentary filmmaker Ken Burns used in “The War” — about World War II — played in a hauntingly wonderful solo piano arrangement that I simply cannot find on YouTube.
But the music’s meaning, and the way it affects you, can change in the instruments performing it.
So today I offer three ways or versions, arrangements or transcriptions.
First is the very popular YouTube video of the original orchestral version featuring Daniel Barenboim conducting in Carnegie Hall the Chicago Symphony Orchestra – with its great strings and brass — in memory of his predecessor, music director and conductor Georg Solti.
And the third version is an a cappella choral version using the Latin lyric “Lux Aeterna” (Eternal Light) from the Roman Catholic Mass for the Dead that was put together in England.
All versions are moving and attest to the emotional power of Elgar’s music.
But which version do you like best and why?
And is there other music you would play to commemorate Memorial Day?
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
Here is a special posting, a review written by frequent guest critic and writer for this blog, John W. Barker, who also took the performance photos. Barker (below) is an emeritus professor of Medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also is a well-known classical music critic who writes for Isthmus and the American Record Guide, and who for 12 years hosted an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT FM 89.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.
By John W. Barker
Eliza’s Toyes (below top), the consort of voices and instruments devoted to early music, is led by the formidably talented Jerry Hui. The group gave another of its imaginative programs, this time on Friday night at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery (below bottom).
The theme and title of this program was “Music: The Miracle Medicine.” Offered were 15 selections, conveying various ideas or beliefs about health (both physical and spiritual), illness, medicine, miracle cures and good living.
Each selection was preceded by the reading of passages from moral and medical texts of various periods. (I wonder if today’s medical and health-advice writings will sound as comical generations from now as do those of the past to us!)
Fifteen composers were represented in the course of the program, from Medieval through Baroque: Hildegard von Bingen (below top, 1098-1179), Alfonso El Sabio (1221-1284), Thomas Tallis (1505-1585), Cipriano da Rore (1516-1565),Hubert Waelrant (1515-1595), Orlando di Lassus (1532-1594), William Byrd (1540-1623), Lelio Bertani (1553-1612), John Wilbye (1574-1638), Gabriel Bataille (1575-1630), Melchior Franck (1579-1639), John Maynard (15??-16??), Anonymous 17th-Century (2 items), Marin Marais (1656-1728) and John Eccles (1668-1735).
The selections were mostly vocal, either solo or ensemble. One instrumental selection stood out as probably the one most likely to be familiar: Marin Marais’ excruciatingly detailed “Representation of the Operation for Gallstone” (below top is Marais, below bottom is the introduction to his work) — complete with narrative headings for each section. (You can hear the narration and the music to the unusual piece in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
The performances were earnest and often accomplished. But it must be said in honesty that, in motets and madrigals, the vocal ensemble was not balanced or smooth — the singers clearly need to live with this kind of musical writing somewhat longer. Still, the overall effect was certainly entertaining and thematically fascinating.
There were no printed programs, but the titles and text translations were projected on a background screen. These projections were fully visible and readable, so they worked well.
This is a program that will be offered again, I understand, at the Chazen Museum of Art on July 15, so that it can be caught and savored once more.
Above all, it is one more tribute to the thoughtful, deeply researched and intriguing program skills of Jerry Hui (below).
By Jacob Stockinger
Yesterday, The Ear posted notice about the Madison-based choral director Albert Pinsonneault (below), the Edgewood College professor who wanted to clarify some things about his new job at Northwestern University, near Chicago, and what it means for Madison.
Here is the link to the original posting:
And here is his clarification:
Dear Jake and readers of The Ear,
Thank you for this gracious send-off, but it is too early!
I am committed to continuing my work in Madison, including the forthcoming seasons of the Madison Choral Project, and hopefully, the Madison Chamber Choir.
My family and I adore Madison, and I am very proud to support our arts landscape here.
The administration at Northwestern has graciously arranged my schedule to make living in both cities a possibility in the short-term.
They are also highly supportive of my continuing work with MCP, and see that connection as a positive for both myself and for Northwestern. My new colleague, Director of Choral Organizations Donald Nally, also is Artistic Director of a professional choir in Philadelphia (called “The Crossing,” which just won the Margaret Hillis award), so this isn’t too bizarre of a notion.
We love Madison and don’t want to say goodbye just yet …
By Jacob Stockinger
Last week, it was a critically acclaimed performance of music by Gian Carlo Menotti by the Madison Chamber Choir.
At the end of this month, it is two performances of a concert by the Madison Choral Project with guest conductor Dale Warland.
Now both appear to be farewell concerts to Albert Pinsonneault (below), a professor at Edgewood College who is the choral director of Madison Chamber Choir and the Madison Choral Project as well as assistant choral director for the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s chorus.
Here is his how Pinsonneault posted the move on Facebook:
“I am so excited to announce that I will be joining the faculty of the Bienen School of Music as Associate Director of Choral Organizations at Northwestern University next fall!
And here is the official press release from the Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University:
“The Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University announces the appointment of Dr. Albert Pinsonneault (PEN-son-oh) as Associate Director of Choral Organizations.
“Dr. Pinsonneault will join the faculty Fall 2015, conducting Northwestern’s University Singers and teaching choral literature at the graduate level, part-time. He will also assist in various musical activities of the expanding choral program at the Bienen School of Music, working closely with Director of Choral Organizations Dr. Donald Nally.
“Dr. Pinsonneault is founder and artistic director of the professional chamber choir Madison Choral Project, as well as assistant conductor of the Madison Symphony Chorus. From 2009 to 2015 he served as Associate Professor of Music at Edgewood College. A native of St. Paul, Minnesota, he attended St. Olaf College and the University of Minnesota before completing his doctoral study at the College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) of the University of Cincinnati.
“Dr. Pinsonneault’s scholarship focuses on choral blend and intonation, the physical/kinesthetic act of conducting and the music of F. Melius Christiansen. His book, “Choral Intonation Exercises,” is published by Graphite Publishing.”
The Ear offers hearty Congratulations to Albert Pinsonneault, who has proven a tireless and gifted advocate for choral music. Madison’s loss is his gain and Northwestern University’s gain.
I am sure he will appreciate it if you leave word for Pinsonneault about his work in the COMMENTS column of this blog
By Jacob Stockinger
Loyal readers of this blog know very well the name of Mikko Rankin Utevsky. The young violist, baritone and conductor is a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, where he studies with Pro Arte Quartet violist Sally Chisholm, plays in the UW Symphony Orchestra, and sings with the University Opera.
Utevsky, who has won awards and impressive reviews for his work in music education since his days at Madison’s East High School, is the founder and conductor of the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO — www.MAYCO.org), which will perform its fifth season this summer. He also directs a local community orchestra, The Studio Orchestra (www.disso.org).
You can check out his many honors and projects by typing his name into the search engine on this blog site.
Utevsky offered The Ear a guest preview review of this past weekend’s performance by Clocks in Motion.
I immediately took him up on the offer. After all, he is a fine and perceptive writer who, you may recall, blogged for this post when he was on tour with the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) tour to Vienna, Prague and Budapest.
Here is the review by Mikko Rankin Utevsky (below), who also took the performance photos:
By Mikko Rankin Utevsky
On Sunday, University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music graduate percussion ensemble Clocks in Motion performed as part of artist Jeannine Shinoda’s MFA Exhibition “The Collector’s Set” in what can only be described as a smashing success.
Shinoda’s exhibition consisted of a room filled with ceramic plates, cups and dishes suspended from the ceiling by strings (below), which the attendees were invited to cut, sending the dishes crashing to the concrete floor.
The performance took place in an adjacent room, where it was counterpointed by the occasional crunching noise from the exhibition.
The four core members of Clocks (below) played an assortment of bowls, plates, cups, spoons and ceramic-shard wind chimes in a four-movement composition – his Opus 1 — by music director Sean Kleve. Composed as a set of rhythmic patterns and relative pitches before the instruments were chosen, the creatively scored work was orchestrated cooperatively by the ensemble for this eclectic assortment of pottery, played mostly with chopsticks.
It was structured in four movements. I quite enjoyed the lively second one in particular. A slightly eerie third movement made use of threaded metal rods that were scraped along the edges of the instruments to produce a sustained tone, and wind chimes made of broken plates and ceramic spoons (below).
One of the curiosities of the piece was discovering the range of sounds that can be produced from kitchenware — in particular, the gradual acclimation of the ear to the variety of pitches produced. The music seemed to coalesce out of the clatter of dishes and smashing china from the other room, emerging in minimalist rhythmic patterns and creative imitative passages.
All four parts were of equal importance, and each player could be seen taking the lead at various points — a sense of equality that is a hallmark of Clocks performances.
The fourth movement introduced a couple of small gongs, as though signaling that the grand finale was at hand. As the rest of the ensemble played, Dave Alcorn solemnly crossed in front and began the ritualistically choreographed conclusion — slowly and deliberately smashing the instruments.
The other three joined in with equal gravitas, sending plates and cups and bowls alike crashing to the ground. (The performers and audience, seen below, were equipped with protective eyewear for this portion of the work.)
As the last of the instruments were reduced to shattered fragments, the four musicians — straight-faced among stifled laughter from the audience — produced brooms and proceeded to sweep the remains into a single pile in the center of the stage, leaving the rooms silently when finished. They returned moments later to a standing ovation.
Here in his first work, Kleve demonstrates a sophisticated ear for texture and a shrewd understanding of pacing, both key to crafting a musically satisfying work that does not leave the listener feeling that the whole thing was just a setup to the final gambit of breaking dishes — an admitted risk with such a performance piece.
One of the wonderful gifts of Clocks in Motion is its ability to focus the ear on the sounds of “found objects” — whether they are plates or brake drums or cow jawbones — and provide a framework for listening to them as musical.
And, as is so often the case with Clocks in Motion, their strength of commitment and musical integrity is such that the enthusiastic audience is drawn into the fabric of even the most outwardly implausible works — their striking “Percussion is Revolution” program in September 2013 was a powerful example.
It is a testament to Madison’s musical community and to the School of Music percussion program that we continue to host such a remarkable performing ensemble, and this innovative performance is just the latest feather in their collective cap.
A PERSONAL NOTE:
Clocks in Motion will be joining my own ensemble, the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO) on June 20 to open our fifth season, “Concerto Grosso!” It features the world premiere of UW-Madison graduate composer Jonathan Posthuma’s Concerto Grosso No. 1 in E minor for Percussion, Piano and Strings.
The performance will be at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, and tickets are $7 at the door with students admitted by donation).
The program will also feature UW-Madison Professor and Pro Arte Quartet cellist Parry Karp in Robert Schumann’s Cello Concerto in A minor; the American premiere of contemporary British composer Cecilia McDowall‘s “Rain, Steam and Speed”; and the Symphony No. 6 in D major (“Le Matin” or Morning) by Joseph Haydn. (You can hear the sound painting that gives the symphony its nickname in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
By Jacob Stockinger
A friend writes:
The Oakwood Chamber Players (below) have spent the 2014-2015 season – entitled “Reprise” — encoring performances of unique and much-loved musical works of art over their 30 years, as well as continuing their tradition of presenting memorable, neglected and newer chamber works to their audiences.
Their final concerts of the anniversary season – to be held this Saturday night and Sunday afternoon — highlight music from significant moments in the history of the ensemble.
The concerts are this Saturday, May 23, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, May 24, at 1:30 p.m. Both concerts will be held at the Oakwood Village Center for Arts and Education, 6209 Mineral Point Road, on Madison’s far west side near West Towne.
Tickets are available at the door and cost $20 for adult general admission, $15 for seniors and $5 for students. Visit www.oakwoodchamberplayers.com for more information.
Guests for the final concert are Laura Burns (below top), Geri Nolden, Wendy Buehl, violins; Katrin Talbot, viola; Mark Bridges, cello; Bradley Townsend, string bass; and Scott Teeple (below bottom), conductor.
The original version of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring (1944), scored for 13 players, was first performed in concert by the Oakwood Chamber Players 25 years ago on stage at the Wisconsin Union Theater.
This enduring and popular chamber work will be conducted by director of University of Wisconsin-Madison Wind Ensemble, Scott Teeple. This chamber version of Appalachian Spring features 10 strings, flute, clarinet and bassoon. Originally commissioned by pioneering American modern dance choreographer Martha Graham (below top), this stunning compositional achievement earned Copland (below bottom) the Pulitzer Prize.
Included in that concert by the group was Serenata Invano (1914), for clarinet, horn, bassoon, cello and string bass. The work was described by its composer Carl Nielsen (below top) as a “humorous trifle.” The Oakwood Chamber Players will be joined by guest bassist Bradley Townsend (below bottom) for this upbeat work.
Two additional contemporary works of new music, performed for the first time by the Oakwood Chamber Players this season, will provide listeners with contrasting concepts on dance forms.
Italian composer and horn player Corrado Maria Saglietti (below) wrote his Suite for horn and string quartet (1992) in three movements. It features a sensual tango, a plaintive canzone and a jazz-influenced final movement with driving rhythms subtitled “Speedy,” which you can hear in a YouTube video at the bottom.
Not Just a Place, by contemporary British composer Cecilia McDowall (below) – who did a residency this winter at the UW-Madison School of Music — is written for the sultry tones of viola, double bass and piano. Subtitled “dark memories from an old tango hall,” the piece is based on late night impressions of an Argentinian dance hall and creates a mesmerizing atmosphere.
The Oakwood Chamber Players is a group of Madison-area professional musicians who have rehearsed and performed at Oakwood Village for 30 years.
The Oakwood Chamber Players is a professional music ensemble proudly supported by Oakwood Lutheran Senior Ministries and the Oakwood Foundation.
By Jacob Stockinger
The critically acclaimed Madison-based Ancora String Quartet (below) will present two concerts this weekend to close its 14th season.
The two events are:
A FREE performance this Friday night, May 22 at 7:30 p.m., at the Janesville Woman’s Club Association. Donations will be gratefully accepted.
A ticketed performance on Saturday night, May 23 at 7:30 p.m., in the Landmark Auditorium in the meeting house of the First Unitarian Society of Madison (below), designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, at 900 University Bay Drive, in Madison.
Tickets are general seating and available at the door. They cost $15 for the general public, $12 for seniors and students, $6 for children under 12.
The program includes:
The Quartet No. 1 in C major, Op. 49, by Dmitri Shostakovich, which presents the composer’s trademark quirkiness in fresh, innocent and fantastical form.
The String Quartet No. 3 in B-Flat Major, Op. 67, by Johannes Brahms, where the beautiful lyricism of the composer’s final string quartet closes with a delightful Theme and Variations movement. (You can hear the theme-and-variations movement, as performed by the Jerusalem String Quartet, in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
A reception will follow the concert.
Current members of the Ancora (below, in a photo by Barry Lewis) are cellist Benjamin Whitcomb, who teaches at the UW-Whitewater; violinist Robin Ryan, left) and violist Marika Fischer Hoyt, who also plays with the Madison Bach Musicians and Madison Symphony Orchestra, and is a weekend host for Wisconsin Public Radio.
With first violinist Leanne League on leave until next fall, we are excited to work this spring with guest violinist Eleanor Bartsch (below), a University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music graduate and a musician of superb musicality with an impressive resume and a devoted local following.
The members’ credentials include degrees from the Indiana University School of Music and the University of Texas-Austin, as well as study at the New England Conservatory and Eastman School of Music. Individually, they have attended numerous chamber music festivals and performed across the United States and Europe.
The four players have well-established individual musical careers as soloists, chamber musicians and orchestral players. They perform constantly in Madison and beyond, appearing regularly in such ensembles as the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Madison Bach Musicians, the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble, and the Bach Collegium of Fort Wayne, Indiana.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear’s friend Jerry Hui –- a supremely talented individual and graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music who performs, composes and teaches at UW-Stout – sends the following word:
The Madison-based early music group Eliza’s Toyes (below top) has a concert this Friday night, May 22, at 7:30 p.m. at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery (below bottom). The concert is titled “Music: The Miracle Medicine.”
Here is an introduction to the program:
“Rediscover the integral role of music as the restorer of health in the early days of medical science during the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods.
“Music has been an integral part of our wellbeing. To this date, many listen to music for its power in relaxation, excitement, and even catharsis. The development of music therapy as a medical profession, as well as increasing research in the physiological and psychological effects of music, signifies our ongoing interest to understand and utilize music.
“As scientists continue to examine music in a utilitarian light, it is worthwhile for us to rediscover how human beings have historically viewed music and its connection with health.”
Tickets will be available at the door: $15 for the general public and $10 for students.
Here is the program, which is organized by theme, and which include singing i English, Latin, French, German and Spanish:
CONCERNING THE FOUR HUMORS
Vos flores rosarum — Hildegard von Bingen (below top, 1098-1179)
Descendi in hortum meum — Cipriano de Rore
Absterge Domine (1575) — Thomas Tallis (1505-1585)
Turn Our Captivity (1611) — William Byrd (below bottom, 1540-1623)
MIRACLES AND REMEDIES
Tantas en Santa María — (Cantigas de Santa Maria)
In principio erat Verbum (1566) — Orlando di Lassus (below, 1532-1594)
Caecus quidam (1558) — Hubert Waelrant (1518-1595)
Gehet hin und saget Johanni wieder — Melchior Franck (1579-1639)
Qui veut chasser une migraine — Gabriel Bataille
The nurse’s song — (Pills to Purge Melancholy)
A Wonder: The Physician — John Maynard
GOOD HEALTH THROUGH GOOD LIVING
Chloe found Amyntas lying — (Pills to Purge Melancholy)
My fair Teresa — (Pills to Purge Melancholy)
O Sonno / Ov’e’l silenzio — Marco da Gagliano (1582-1643)
Cara mia Dafne — Lelio Bertani (1553-1612)
Sweet honey sucking bees — John Wilbye (1574-1638)
By Jacob Stockinger
Here is a special posting, a review written by frequent guest critic and writer for this blog, John W. Barker. Barker (below) is an emeritus professor of Medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also is a well-known classical music critic who writes for Isthmus and the American Record Guide, and who for 12 years hosted an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT FM 89.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison. Barker also provided performance photos for this review.
By John W. Barker
The curtain-raiser was a group of Four Pastorales by American composer Cecil Effinger (below), to texts by Thomas Hornsby Ferril. The poems are varied and sensitive, and are set with a good feeling for choral texture.
The catch is that Effinger composed an obbligato part for a single instrument (oboe or, as here, clarinet) that is generally irrelevant musically and even a hindrance at times to choral projection and diction. It may have been partly the composer’s fault, but the diction could have been more clearly delivered, too. (Hit those consonants, folks!)
Diction issues were somewhat lessened, thanks to the composer’s care, in the major work of the concert.
Gian Carlo Menotti (below) was at a creative peak in 1956, when he created his work for 10 dancers, nine instrumentalists, and chorus, entitled The Unicorn, the Gorgon, and the Manticore, or the Three Sundays of a Poet. He called this a “madrigal fable,” using the Renaissance form of the “madrigal comedy,” in which action is conveyed without soloists but by the choir.
This Italian idiom of the late 16th-century was something Menotti apparently discovered as he mastered Renaissance polyphonic style for the choruses in his supreme opera, The Saint of Bleecker Street (1954)—following his triumphs of The Consul (1950) and Amahl and the Night Visitors (1951).
As always, Menotti wrote his own text, which reflects on the phases of the creative life (as represented by the three animals), but also satirizes the shallow understanding and reflexive faddism of ordinary folk. In the process, he showed how wonderfully he had mastered the elements of colloquial American speech patterns.
And, above all, he put this in music that combines hilarious comedy with extraordinarily moving poetry.
I know of only one prior performance of this gem of a work in Madison, by the UW-Madison Madrigal Singers, in April of 2001, and it included the dance dimension.
Dancers were not involved in this latest production, but the music still carried the work brilliantly. The nine instrumentalists (below, on flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, percussion, cello, double bass and harp) were excellent.
The chorus of 33 voices (below) sang with superb sonority and ensemble. You could see them relishing the humor as well as the pathos.
And credit is due for the church’s fine acoustics especially in furthering the richness of choral sound.
Conductor Albert Pinsonneault (below), who also teaches at Edgewood College and heads up the Madison Choral Project, led with confidence and obvious delight.
It really pains me that so wonderful a work as this is so little known and — partly for practical reasons — so rarely performed. Nothing but gratitude is due these performers for bringing it to life for us this time. And the quite sizable audience expressed that gratitude in a prolonged ovation.
By Jacob Stockinger
This weekend is Graduation or Commencement Weekend.
That seems a good time to check out the year-end issue of “A Tempo,” the new blog done by the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.
The issue features stories about graduates and where they are headed.
Here is a link: