The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical Music Best Bets for Oct. 21-27: Mahler’s ‘Titan’ towers in MUST-HEAR concerts

October 21, 2009
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By Jacob Stockinger

This is the week that Gustav Mahler (below right)  looms over the Madison music scene — titan that he is. Mahler

For one, here’s a reminder: TONIGHT at 8 on PBS’ “Great Performances” (WHA-TV Channel 21, high-def channel 600 on cable) the Los Angeles Philharmonic opens its new season with its new music director, the young, charismatic phenom Gustavo Dudamel in John Adams’ “City Noir” and Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 “Titan.” This live, pre-recorded TV concert gets a MUST-HEAR rating from The Ear.

But then the Mahler’s “Titan” makes repeat appearances three times this weekend when the Madison Symphony Orchestra, under its conductor and music director John DeMain (below), also performs Mahler’s Symphony No.1.

It’s a great work — The Ear’s favorite by Mahler. I find it the most cohesive of all nine completed Mahler symphonies and the template for his other ones.

Oh, there are many individual movements I love in the other symphonies, but the “Titan” remains my favorite symphony to hear live.

A Mahler cycle helped kick off the DeMain Years 16 seasons ago. DeMainOpera

Now DeMain returns to Mahler, and I, for one, am excited to hear what differences show in his interpretation.

(There are many recordings of the Titan that I love, but I am particularly attached to the historic Bruno Walter one. Walter was an assistant to Mahler and was close to Leonard Bernstein, who was really the driving force behind the rediscovery and renaissance of Mahler in the 1950s and 1960s.)

A great overture — Glinka’s popular Overture to “Russlan and Ludmilla” — opens the concert.

And the guest soloist, violinist Nadia Salerno-Sonnenberg (below right), will perform Astor Piazzolla’s “Four Seasons in Buenos Aires.” NadiaSS

It’s a modern Latin reworking of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” — the most recorded classical work by far — by the father of the “New Tango.” It was last performed here several summers ago by the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society. But it will be interesting to hear what a much biger group with a super-exciting soloist does with it.

Add it all up — the Mahler with Demain, the Piazzolla with Salerno-Sonneberg and the Glinka overture – and this MSO concert gets a MUST HEAR rating from The Ear.

Here’s a link to some program notes and ticket information as well as some sound snippets to preview the concerts that will take place in Overture Hall on Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $15-$75.

Things seem uncommonly quiet this week over the UW School of Music, perhaps because so many faculty members will be playing the MSO’s Mahler concert.

But elsewhere things are happening.

FRIDAY, OCT 23: Halloween comes early for the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra which will perform its Halloween “Spooktacular” concert for young people Thursday night at 7 p.m. in the Madison Area Technical College’s Mitby Theater. The fun program includes costumes and usually a few serious classical pieces — music by Mussorgsky, Berlioz, Holst and Bizet —  making it a good starter’s introduction to classical music.

Free activities include a storyteller starting at 5:45 p.m.

Tickets are available at the Overture Center box office (608 258-4141) and the Mitby box office (608 243-4000) and at the door. Admission is $19 for adults, $6 for seniors, $10 for students and $5 for children.

For more information, visit:

SATURDAY, Oct. 24: If you’re an opera fan, the weekend offers you a chance to see the Metropolitan Opera‘s hi-def broadcast of Verdi’s “Aida” (below). It is the second brand-new production to be booed by Met fans this season. It will air at noon at the Point Cinemas on the far west side of Madison. Tickets are $22 for adults, $20 for seniors, $15 for students. Call 608 833-3981 for information. met_aida

Here are links to program details:

SUNDAY, OCT. 25: UW violinist David Perry (below right) was slated to play a recital at “Sunday Afternoon Live from the Chazen” but has CANCELLED.

Instead, the cellists Paul and Paula Kosower will be performing due to illness of the part of Perry’s pianist.


The concert will be broadcast live from 12:30 to 2 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Radio, WERN 88.7 FM in the Madison area.

The duo will be accompanied by pianist Kuang-Hao Huang.

The program will include Chopin’s Sonata in G minor; Francis Poulenc’s Sonata for Cello and Piano; and a piece composed by Paul Kosower himself called “Autumn Seasons.”

We’ll have to catch Perry another time. He plays with the Pro Arte Quartet and always is a sure bet. The Ear remembers his performance of a Beethoven sonata with Christopher Taylor and wishes the duo would perform the whole Beethoven violin sonata cycle.

Here is news from the UW School of Music about Perry:

What’s your favorite Mahler symphony?

Do you have favorite Mahler recording or conductor?

What did you think of DeMain and the MSO’s performance this time?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

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