The Well-Tempered Ear

Picks of the Week: Token Creek’s O’Keeffe Tribute, the Karp Family’s 33rd Labor Day Concert

September 1, 2009
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By Jacob Stockinger

This Wednesday I have two Best of the Week suggestions for classical music fans.karps 2008 - 13

First up, this weekend sees the two closing concerts at the 20th Token Creek Chamber Music Festival. (For more details, see the posting below (Aug. 25) about the festival.

The repeated program includes the 1980 Piano Quintet and Microwaltzes for piano by the festival’s co-director John Harbison (who has won the Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant) as well as a violin sonata by J.S. Bach and a piano trio (G minor) by Haydn. Performances are at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 5, and 4 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 6. There is also a special presentation, with a Sun Prairie historian, of the John Harbison-Georgia O’Keeffe (who was born in Sun Prairie) connection (both worked in Santa Fe and O’Keeffe attended the premiere of the Harbison Piano Quintet, which was dedicated to her) on Saturday at 4 p.m. (For a late-life portrait of the artist and a typical, colorful and erotic still-life painting, “Pink Tulip,” by O’Keeffe (see the photos below.)

For tickets (most tickets are $25, some student tickets are $10) and other information, call 608 241-2525 or visit the festival website at


Then on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 7, at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall on the UW campus, the Karp Family (pictured at the top in a photo by Katrin Talbot) will be giving its 33rd annual Labor Day Concert. Talk about tradition and longevity! (In the photo, from  left, are:  violinist-son Christopher, violist daughter-in-law Kartrin Talbot, pianist-father Howard, cellist son Parry and pianist mother Frances.)

The Karp program, by Madison’s longtime First Family of Music, is an exciting and accessible one, a not-to-miss event. It includes Mendelssohn’s Piano Quartet in C minor, Op. 1; Hans Huber’s Waltzes for piano, four-hands, violin and cello; and Beethoven’s famed “Archduke” Piano Trio in B-flat Major, Op. 97. You get all that enjoyable music, plus a free outdoor reception with cake and champagne after the concert. How can you beat that?

What’s more, this season, UW faculty concerts are free.okeeffepink-tulip-lg

Given that, this event is a great program at a perfect price for both newcomers and seasoned listeners. There is simply no excuse for the hall not being full or the applause not being thundering, preferably with a standing ovation. I know from personal experience the Karps’ annual concert represents live music at its best.

And be sure to let the rest of us know what you thought of what you heard, either at Token Creek or the Karps. After all, everyone’s a critic.

As always, The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

UW Choral Union sets 2009-10 programs

September 1, 2009
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

Here’s just a tidbit to whet your appetite:BevTaylor

The Ear has learned that the University of Wisconsin Choral Union (members of which didn’t learn about the new season at the end of the last season, as they typically do), a campus and community choir, will give the following performances this season:

First Semester:  Haydn’s rarely performed “Missa Cellensis” (what a great way to mark Papa Haydn’ds 200th birthday this year) and Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms” with the UW Chamber Orchestra on Dec. 10 (that’s a THURSDAY!) at 7:30 p.m. and on Friday, Dec. 11, at 8 p.m.

Second Semester: Beethoven’s powerful “Missa Solemnis” with the UW Symphony Orchestra at 8 p.m. on Saturday, May 1, and at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 2.

All four concerts are in Mills Hall.

(Too bad the Choral Union, which usually has between 150 and 200 voices, can’t afford to sing in Overture Hall. I think they could sell it out with Brahms’ “German” Requiem or Verdi’s Requiem or Mozart’s requiem. Maybe getting a break on rent or a major donor or both could help them out.)

Tickets for each concert are $15 general admission, $8 for seniors over 62 and all UW students. They will be available at the Wisconsin Union Theater box office, 262-2201, later each semester.

The late Beethoven piece, which hasn’t been done by the Choral Union in over a decade, speaks for itself as a major masterwork.

I particularly like pairing the Haydn and the Bernstein. Choir director and conductor Beverly Taylor (pictured above) did that once before several seasons ago with a late Haydn Mass (“Lord Nelson,” I seem to recall) and Stravinsky’s “Symphony of Psalms,” and it worked great. The classical music and the 20th-century neo-classical music mixed beautifully with both similarities and contrasts.

What a winning program.

But what do you think of the two programs?

Of the UW Choral Union in general?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

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