The Well-Tempered Ear

Pick of the Week: Head to Token Creek for Mozart, Chopin, Debussy | August 26, 2009

By Jacob Stockinger

It’s Wednesday. That means it’s time for me to choose some best picks for classical music fans in the Madison area to attend during the next week.

Things are pretty slow here right now, so this week’s selection is easy: If you have the time, go check out the 20th annual Token Creek Chamber Music Festival, which runs Aug. 29 through Sept. 6. (The barn entrance and ticket office are pictured below right in a photo by Tom Artin.) Entrance02a

You can visit the festival’s well organized website and see details about performers and programs as well as tickets prices ($10-$35) and availability. Information can be found at or by calling 608 241-2525.

Here are driving directions:  the Festival Barn is located northeast of Madison at 4037 Highway 19 in DeForest. The Barn is 0.6 miles east of Highway 51, just west of the hamlet of Token Creek.

Look for the Festival sign on the south side of the road, right after you see the striking Tidy Bowl-blue pond that stands out against the surrounding green fields. After turning at the Festival sign, bear to the left to reach the parking area, then walk the short distance to the Barn. Ample parking is available for all events.  Dress for comfort. Doors open 30 minutes before the program begins.

Also, here is a quick run-down of an event that is unique and justly celebrated for the quality of the local and imported talent (both established and up-and-coming) as well as the often usual and inventive programming.

It all takes place in a comfortably refurbished and intimate setting of a real barn in nearby Token Creek. If you’ve been there, you know the charm of the woody music room (below right, in another photo by Tom Artin), the beautifully kept grounds and the friendly hospitality.Concert12

And if you haven’t been there, well you owe it to yourself to check it out.

The concert opens with Harvard pianist and Mozart scholar-reconstructor Robert Levin performing two Mozart piano concerts (in C Major, K. 413, and F Major , K. 415) with a pick-up orchestra. That will take place this Saturday, Aug. 29, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 30, at 4 p.m. (The Sunday performance is sold-out, but you can call and check for last-minute cancellations.)

Other highlights of the 20th annual season:

*The 70th birthday year of artistic director, the Pulitzer Prize-winning, MacArthur Fellowship winning composer John Harbison (below right, in a photo by Katrin Talbot), celebrated with two of his own works, and two of his favorite composers, Bach and Haydn, on the festival’s final concert.  Harbison, whose brief but illuminating commentaries about the programs are alone with the price of admission, co-directs the festival with his violinist-wife Rose Mary Harbison.Harbison

*A recital on Tuesday, Sept. 1, at 8 p.m. by the iconoclast pianist Russell Sherman, of the New England Conservatory of Music. Sherman was the teacher of Madison’s own UW virtuoso Christopher Taylor and of Christopher O’Riley, who two seasons ago performed his solo piano transcriptions of Radiohead coupled to preludes and fugues by Shostakovich at the Wisconsin Union Theater. Sherman will perform Chopin’s 24 Preludes (op. 28) and Debussy’s Book 2 of Preludes.

Although they are not part of this week’s picks, others notable events — the last of which will surely be among next Wednesday’s picks — include:

*A popular jazz club on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, (Sept. 3, 4 and 5) featuring songs of Jimmy van Heusen, most with lyrics of Johnny Burke, one of the most important American lyricists of popular songs from the 1920s through the 1950s (works performed by the likes of Guy Lombardo, Paul Whiteman, Bing Crosby, and Frank Sinatra) who was also a student at UW-Madison in the late 1920s. (I know, I know–it’s not classical. But it is deeply American and very popular and Madison-related.)

*John Harbison/Georgia O’Keeffe concerts and special event. Both worked in Santa Fe and are featured in an event that is co-sponsored by the Sun Prairie Historical Society. Harbison’s 1987 Piano Quintet. Other works (Harbison’s Microwaltzes, for piano; Bach’s Sonata in F minor, for violin and keyboard; and Haydn’s Trio in G minor, Hob. XV:19, for violin, cello and piano) on Saturday, Sept. 5, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 6, at 4 p.m.

In addition, a special program about O’Keeffe and Harbison who share Sante Fe ties, will take place on Saturday, Sept. 5, at 4 p.m. when University of Wisconsin Chazen Museum of Art curator Maria Saffiotti Dale, historian Joe Chase and others will join in a discussion and presentation of O’Keeffe and Harbison. Tickets are specially priced at $10. NOTE: For ticket and information, contact Joe Chase at 608 825-1164 of THE TOKEN CREEK FESTIVAL IS UNABLE TO SUPPLY TICKETS TO THIS EVENT.

If you go, be sure to say what you saw and heard, and what you think of what you saw and heard. You be the critic.

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music


  1. Where are you from? Is it a secret? 🙂


    Comment by AnnaHopn — September 7, 2009 @ 9:54 am

  2. Hi,
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    Thank you


    Comment by Elcoj — September 5, 2009 @ 4:13 pm

  3. Hi, Ugh, I liked! So clear and positively.


    Comment by Rufor — September 4, 2009 @ 3:00 pm

  4. I’m so glad I found this site…Keep up the good work


    Comment by Bill Bartmann — September 2, 2009 @ 3:44 am

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