The Well-Tempered Ear

Tell us: What was Madison’s best summer classical music concert?

September 6, 2009
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By Jacob Stockinger

Just a reminder: The fall classical music season in Madison officially kicks off Monday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall on  the UW campus (Mosse Humanities Building) with the 33rd annual Karp Family Labor Day Concert. (See a photo of the family performers taken by Katrin Talbot at right.)karps 2008 - 13

The program is a winner with Mendelssohn’s early Piano Quartet in C Minor, Op. 1; Hans Huber’s Brahms-like Waltzes for piano-four hands, violin and cello; and Beethoven’s famed “Archbduke” Piano Trio. In 33 years, the Karps have never repeated a piece and have never disappointed either the audience or this critic.

So it’s a sure bet and a concert that The Ear would like to see reviewed by readers. You be the critic, OK? I’ll also post my review of it, probably on Tuesday.

The Karp family concert also means another summer has come to an end.

But Madison is one lucky city. The classical music season runs right through the summer, even after the regular concert season ends. (It usually runs from September though May.)

This past summer was a particularly rich one.

It started in June with the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society (below), which in its usual punningly playful manner, called the season “Haydn Seek.” Whatever they called it, BDDS was the only local group so far to offer a prolonged and varied celebration of the 200th birthday of Franz Joseph Haydn, which occurred this year.BDDS

And Haydn certainly deserves homage. He composed 104 symphonies, about 70 string quartets, 65 piano trios and 52 piano sonatas — all forms he pioneered in a way that proved invaluable for Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. It turns out Papa, who personally knew Wolfie and taught Ludwig, was indeed a father.

In short, Haydn deserves better from local groups.

Haydn might have been well treated by the Madison Early Music Festival, but the festival has decided that the Classical era (Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert) are just too modern for them — even if such great composers and their works would pull in a big audiences and big donations. (Surprise! In its 10-year history, the Bach Year was MEMF’s biggest success.) Now what they do, they do very well indeed. But to The Ear’s mind, they could expand out a bit in time and do more to serve their own interests as well as the public’s.

This summer the Madison Early Music Festival had an original and unusual focus by celebrating the influence of astronomy and 17th-century science (remember “the Music of the Spheres”?) on classical music. (Will it mark this year’s 350th anniversary of Henry Purcell’s birth next summer? Or is he, too, not early enough?) Members of the Venere Lute Quartet (shown below) spent a week in residence and performed lute music from Galileo’s family at the MEMF.MEMF2

The 20th Token Creek Chamber Music Festival, which ends Sunday night with a John Harbison-Georgia O’Keeffe tribute concert, offered Bach, Haydn , Mozart, Chopin, Debussy and Harbison along with a tribute to Sun Prairie native painter Georgia O’Keeffe.

And of course I’m not even including the classical aspects of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra’s Concerts on the Square or the community choral events at Madison Area Technical College or events at the UW School of Music or the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s fundraiser Concert on the Green, or a piano concert at Farley’s House of Pianos. And on and on.

So, those of you who attended summer music events must surely have preferences about what you heard.

What do you think was the most memorable summer classical music offering here this past summer, and why?

Did something disappoint you?

Are there ways to improve the summer classical music scene here?

The Ear wants to hear.


Posted in Classical music

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