By Jacob Stockinger
Today, the stock markets, banks and many businesses are closed in observance of the Fourth of July.
But Saturday is the real Independence Day for the United States of America.
Now, The Ear has some ideas about what classical music to celebrate the event -– and the choices do NOT include the “1812 Overture” by Peter Tchaikovsky or the “Marseillaise,” the French national anthem that started during the French Revolution. Maybe one of the overtures by Ludwig van Beethoven or an aria by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or Giuseppe Verdi would do. Try and see if you can convince me.
But here is your choice to play DJ.
Leave your choice -– with a YouTube link, if possible -– in the COMMENT section.
Then I will decide which choice is most appropriate and best, and post a YouTube video of the work on Saturday to mark the real Fourth of July, the real Independence Day.
Thanks for your help.
I know I have some very knowledgeable readers, so I am looking forward to the seeing and hearing their suggestions.
By Jacob Stockinger
The major event in the world of classical music for the past several weeks has been the 15th International Tchaikovsky Competition that was held in Moscow and St. Petersburg. (Below is American pianist Van Cliburn, who won the first competition and made history.)
The winners – in the categories of piano, violin, cello and voice — were announced yesterday.
Here they are, along with a link to a way for you to stream the winners’ concerts, under competition head and conductor Valery Gergiev (below), live TONIGHT and Friday and for FREE.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Madison-based Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society finished up its three-week, 24th annual season this past weekend.
The populist chamber music group used local and imported artists to perform six programs over three weekends in three different venues -– all based around the theme of “Guilty as Charged,” which meant emphasizing borrowings and similar transgressions. Talk about a hard-working group of performing artists!
Over the next week or two, The Ear wants to share some of the lessons that he learned from attending several of the BDS concerts.
Today is Lesson 1: Chamber music transcriptions, arrangements and reductions of large orchestral works deserve a wider hearing so that more people can enjoy those works more often.
I cite two examples from the “Crooked Business” program that BDDS performed at the Stoughton Opera House (below, where I saw and heard it) and at the Hillside Theatre on the Taliesin compound of architect Frank Lloyd Wright in Spring Green.
First, there was the Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K. 491, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. BDDS co-founder, co-artist director and house pianist Jeffrey Sykes led the group of 11 players from the keyboard and played with his back to the audience.
(Believe it or not, if The Ear recalls music history correctly, that was the standard performance practice, as was playing with the score, until the legendary piano virtuoso Franz Liszt turned the piano to the side to highlight his dramatic profile and also memorized the music to astonish his audiences.)
The Mozart piano concerto is a great work — you can hear the whole work in its full orchestral version with pianist Mitsuko Uchida in a YouTube video at the bottom. And the arrangement or reduction they used made it seem even more remarkable. That is because the smaller size of the forces allowed one to hear more clearly the interplay of various parts.
Then on the second half of the program came a second example: The Serenade No. 1 in D Major, Op 11 (1857) by Johannes Brahms. It was performed with nine players in a reduction by Christopher Nex.
The Ear found the work to be a bit too long and repetitive — the structure of its six movements lacked the tightness of a symphony. But then again, a tuneful serenade is by definition supposed to be lighter and have a looser structure, to spur more relaxed and informal listening and to demand less focused attention.
Such reductions originated in the desire of amateurs to make house music at a time when professional orchestras and chamber music groups and commercial concerts did not exist in a widespread way.
It is an approach that can and should be revived. To be fair, the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival has also done a few of these transcriptions or arrangements, often with the Harvard University Mozart scholar and pianist Robert Levin.
But nonetheless it is largely thanks to the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society that listeners can make their way through the 27 piano concertos by Mozart and the 104 symphonies by Franz Joseph Haydn -– to say nothing of the many Baroque, Classical, Romantic and modern works that must already exist in similar arrangements or could be rearranged on demand.
To which The Ear simply says: Bravo! Do more of them!
What do you say?
The Ear -– along with BDDS organizers and performers – wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
I had never heard this work or even heard of the composer, the Baroque Italian composer Domenico Zipoli (1688-1726, below) who traveled to Paraguay to part in what amounts to genocide of the indigenous natives and ended up bringing European music to South Americans. (See a reader comment for more information.)
But there it was, playing on Wisconsin Public Radio during the noontime Midday program.
Some movements featured the glorious playing of the late virtuoso and prolific French trumpeter Maurice Andre.
But the section that really caught my attention for its beauty –- its melodic lines, harmonies and rich string sound — is the Air.
It could be a great piece for the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra to perform. Or maybe the Edgewood College Chamber Orchestra. Or maybe the all-string orchestra that The Ear hears will be formed at the UW-Madison School of Music in the fall.
The Ear hopes you enjoy it too:
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear’s friends at the Green Lake Festival of Music write to tell us about a program important to music education – which means a program important to the future of classical music:
Here is the press release:
On Sunday, July 5, at the Thrasher Opera House (below bottom) in Green Lake, The Green Lake Chamber Players open the 17th annual Green Lake Music Festival Chamber Music Camp, as string and piano students (below top) from nine states, ages 11 to 20, convene at Ripon College for two weeks of stimulating music-making along with just plain fun.
Part of the fun includes a trip to Larry Miller’s farm and a shopping scavenger hunt at K-Mart.
The daily schedule includes coaching sessions by Thomas Rosenberg (Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition Director, cellist and the Camp’s Artistic Director); Samantha George, Associate Professor of Violin at Lawrence Conservatory of Music; Karen Kim, Grammy Award winning violinist; David Perry, Professor of Violin at the UW-Madison and first violin of the Pro Arte String Quartet; Renee Skerik, Instructor of Viola at Interlochen Arts Academy; Andrew Armstrong from the Amelia Piano Trio; James Howsmon, Professor of Instrumental Accompanying at Oberlin College Conservatory; and guest artists, including Shen Lu, 2014 Hilton Head International Piano Competition Winner, the Jupiter Quartet (below top), and the Bergonzi String Quartet (below bottom).
Join us for the first of several Green Lake Chamber Players concerts on Sunday, July 5, at 3 p.m. This concert is a “BUY ONE, GET ONE” ticket concert. The Green Lake Chamber Players includes the Green Lake Festival Chamber Music Camp faculty and guest artists who will perform music by Alexander Scriabin, Ludwig van Beethoven and Johannes Brahms. This is also the first concert in a series of matinees that offer a special package for bus pick up and ticket from Appleton, Oshkosh, and Beaver Dam. Call the Festival office for more details on this package.
The 2014 Hilton Head International Piano Competition Winner, Shen Lu (below) will perform Thursday, July 9, at 7:30 p.m. at the Thrasher Opera House, along with teaching a piano master class on Friday, July 10, at 10 a.m. John O’Conor, the Jury Chair from the 2014 Hilton Head International Piano Competition, says, “Shen Lu is a young Chinese pianist with an exciting future. His interpretations have great depth, his technique seems effortless and he communicates wonderfully with his audience.”
Students will attend master classes and five Festival concerts, and perform a variety of community service engagements in such facilities as nursing homes, service clubs, and libraries.
The program includes three public concerts – a Chamber Camp Student Recital on Saturday, July 11, and the popular “Circle of Sound” string orchestra concert at the Boston Barn on Tuesday, July 14, as part of the Boston Barn Concert package that includes appetizers and music by the Bergonzi String Quartet, and the final Chamber Music Celebration at Rodman Center for the Arts, Ripon College, on Saturday, July 18.
Please visit www.greenlakefestival.org for information about these and other artists performing throughout July at the Festival or to purchase tickets. Tickets are also available by calling the office at 920-748-9398. You can also stop by one of the following ticket outlets: Green Lake Bank (Green Lake) and Ripon Drug (Ripon).
The Green Lake Festival of Music is supported in part by the Arts Midwest Touring Arts Fund, a program of Arts Midwest, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional funding from the Wisconsin Arts Board, the Crane Group, and General Mills Foundation. Additional support comes from the Horicon Bank, Oshkosh Area Community Foundation, Agnesian Healthcare, Wisconsin Department of Tourism, Oshkosh Area Community Foundation, and private and corporate donations.
Chamber Workshop FREE Public Events
Get the inside story on the rehearsal process as you watch these artists work with talented students. All master classes will be held at the Rodman Center for the Arts at Ripon College.
Chamber Workshop Concerts
By Jacob Stockinger
He was also an avid amateur pianist.
He collected and published his “Notes on Chopin,” which The Ear was reading the other day.
The Ear came across this sentence: “Any good performance should be an explanation of the work.”
Makes a lot of sense as a way to explain memorable performances.
The comment brought to mind conductor (and educator as well as composer) Leonard Bernstein (below) and the Vienna Philharmonic performing the Symphony No. 4 by Johannes Brahms (at the bottom in a YouTube video) and the Symphony No. 3 “Eroica” by Ludwig van Beethoven as well as conductor Bruno Walter’s performance of the Symphony No. 1 by Gustav Mahler.
It also brought to mind pianist Arthur Rubinstein performing so much Chopin, but especially the Ballades.
It brought to mind the Belgian violinist Arthur Grumiaux performing the solo sonatas and suite for violin by Johann Sebastian Bach, and the Hungarian cellist Janos Starker performing the solo cello suites of Bach. Glenn Gould’s keyboard Bach probably also qualifies.
The Ear thinks maybe Gide is right.
What do you think?
And can you name performances and performers that explain the works they play?
Leave a message in the COMMENT section along with a link to a YouTube video, if possible.
By Jacob Stockinger
But now, given Friday’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that same-sex marriage is legal across the country — IS indeed The Law of the Land under the U.S. Constitution — the same people can now be heading to the chapel (or city hall) where they’re gonna get married!
And have it recognized in all 50 states.
So how can one celebrate this long-awaited occasion, which so many gay composers would have wished for and benefitted from?
One way is to feature a piece by a gay composer.
The Ear chose the lovely slow movement from the Concerto for Two Pianos by Francis Poulenc (below), that tuneful and forthright 20th century French composer who said, “If I were not homosexual, I could not compose my music.”
You can hear the music, performed by the composer at one of the keyboards, at the bottom in a YouTube video.
What piece would you choose to mark the occasion? Leave your answer and, if possible, a YouTube link to a performance of the work in the COMMENT section. The Ear wants to hear!!
Now, how many LGBT composers and songwriters can you name?
Here is one pretty impressive list with a lot of names that even The Ear didn’t know.
By Jacob Stockinger
Harpsichord (below) or piano?
Historical or modern music?
Well, you don’t really have to choose.
Certainly one young performer sees the benefits in both. (Below is a photo of Trevor Stephenson of the Madison Bach Musicians working at his modern replica of a two-manual harpsichord that Johann Sebastian Bach used.)
But he also favors the harpsichord for various reasons, including a curious one: Annoying somebody special!
Read the interview on National Public Radio (NPR) for yourself.
Here is a link:
By Jacob Stockinger
If you needed more proof about why you should take in one or both of the final two programs – “Crooked Business” and “Highway Robbery” — by the Madison-based Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, you should have been at one or both of the BDDS concerts last weekend.
For this coming weekend of the 24th season: “Crooked Business” features the Sonata for Flute and Keyboard in B Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach; the chamber music reduction of the Piano Concerto in C minor, K. 491, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; and a chamber music arrangement version of the Serenade in D Major, Op. 11, by Johannes Brahms.
For more information about programs and performers, venues and tickets, visit: http://www.bachdancinganddynamite.org
The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society continues to be incapable of being boring, ordinary or mediocre. It’s just not in their genes or DNA.
Last Saturday night, The Ear took in the “Breaking and Entering” concert in The Playhouse of the Overture Center. The theme was meant to explore how composers broke new ground and violated boundaries.
The theme might seem a bit of a stretch — they often do — and when one of the two fake security guards frisked an audience member for a gun or weapon, it might have struck some audience members as uncomfortable or in questionable taste rather than amusing or funny, given the recent shootings in Charleston, South Carolina.
But humor and silliness aside, there is no question that the music received the superb performances it deserved.
The San Francisco Trio, veteran BDDS guest artists, delivered two masterful readings of two Romantic masterpieces. The trio opened the concert perfectly with the lovely and short “Notturno” (1827) by Franz Schubert. Then it closed the concert with the revised version of the substantial and even epic Piano Trio No. 1 in B Major (1854, revised in 1889), Op. 8, by Johannes Brahms. The trio is made up of pianist Jeffrey Sykes (a co-founder and co-artistic director of BDDS), violinist Axel Strauss and cellist Jean-Michel Fonteneau.
Then came the somewhat eccentric Sonatina for Trio (1934) by the rarely performed French composer and eccentric music critic Florent Schmitt.
The players were an unusual combination of flutist Stephanie Jutt (the UW-Madison professor is a co-founder and co-artistic director of BDDS as well as principal flute of the Madison Symphony Orchestra); local pianist Thomas Kasdorf, who is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music; and the incredible clarinetist Alan Key from New York City who teaches at the Manhattan School of Music and the Juilliard School, and who plays with the respected Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.
Violinist Axel Strauss, who teaches at McGill University in Montreal, sure showed some impressive fiddling skills in two crossover pieces – “Pining for Betsy” and “Who Let the Cat Out Last Night?” — by Paul Schoenfield (b. 1947). It brought audible WOWs and cheers from the audience. (Listen for yourself to the virtuosic “Cat” piece in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
An unusual and rarely heard piece by the Venezuelan composer Paul Desenne (b. 1959) imagines Franz Joseph “Papa” Haydn and a South American composer discussing music at the Esterhazy estate where Haydn worked. The work was delivered with great panache by flutist Stephanie Jutt, clarinetist Alan Kay and cellist Jean-Michel Fonteneau.
Both the variety of the repertoire and the players and the quality of the performances recommend the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society to any serious classical music fan as well as to beginners. The Ear says: Go have some classical fun!
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 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
On Saturday night, in Mills Hall on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, Mikko Rankin Utevsky led his Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO) in the first of this year’s two summer concerts. More than ever, it showed Utevsky in new degrees of bravery and enterprise.
The program was organized around the idea of the Baroque concerto grosso, in various later transformations.
To begin, there was one of the “Morning, Noon, and Night” trilogy of Haydn’s symphonies, No. 6 in D, Le Matin. Haydn used the first of his symphonies composed for his new Esterhazy employer to show off the solo skills of his players.
The young MAYCO counterparts did themselves proud in both ensemble and solo playing, with particular flair displayed by first violinist Valerie Clare Sanders (below) in her virtuosic solos. And Utevsky’s care in have his string players totally avoid vibrato gave a good demonstration of 18th-century instrumental sound.
The second work, by recent UW-Madison School of Music graduate in composition, Jonathan Posthuma (below), more explicitly recreated the old configuration in his Concerto Grosso No. 1 in E minor.
It presents indeed the proper concertino of two violins and cello, against a ripieno string orchestra. In place of the traditional continuo, however, Posthuma brought in four percussionists and a pianist. The percussionists are members of the local ensemble Clocks in Motion (below), currently making a name for itself as an avant-garde group.
The idea was fascinating, but in two of the three movements the results were confusing. In the first, the string orchestra was overwhelmed by floods of color worthy of a Busby Berkeley Hollywood spectacular, while the second movement was a long procession of pops and moans. All color and hardly any real musical ideas.
The third movement, on the other hand, was a lusty fugue, given forth at first by only the strings, with the percussionists then integrated into a quite well-balanced texture. This is stated as the first in what will be a full set of 12 concertos, to make up a typical Baroque dozen.
It will be interesting to see how such a project unfolds. But one must credit Utevsky (below) for giving this first venture its world premiere performance.
Another premiere followed the intermission. Utevsky was able to secure from the contemporary British composer Cecilia McDowall (below) the rights to the first American performance of her piece for chamber orchestra, Rain, Steam, and Speed, inspired by J.M.W. Turner’s powerful painting of the same title, with its subtitle of The Great Western Railway.
Less literally conceived than Arthur Honegger’s famous railroad evocation, Pacific 231, this piece is an effort to suggest the kaleidoscopic contents of the painting, in what might be called a British neo-Impressionist style. A challenging work for the orchestra, which they brought off very effectively.
Finally came not a concerto grosso, but a Romantic solo concerto, the one for Cello and Orchestra by Robert Schumann. Not as often heard as it should be, it is a handsome and enjoyable work.
The soloist was Parry Karp (below), of the UW-Madison School of Music faculty, of the Pro Arte Quartet, and of so much else. He approached the piece not in bravura pretentiousness but with a kind of affectionate warmth that suited it admirably, while also allowing Utevsky the chance to give his players experience in collegial ensemble interaction with a soloist.
What these gifted young players of high school and college ages are able to do is really amazing. Utevsky grows better and better in giving them — and himself — marvellous training opportunity. Watch for the second concert, with music by Ernest Bloch, George Frideric Handel and Haydn (the famed “Surprise” Symphony) with piano soloist Jason Kutz, at 7:30 pm. on Friday, August 21, location to be announced.
You can find more information here: http://www.mayco.org