The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music best bets Nov. 11-17: Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra marks 50 years; WYSO holds fundraising gala, concerts; vocal music soars at UW

November 11, 2009
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By Jacob Stockinger

It seems a perfect match: The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra will celebrate its Golden Anniversary with a Gold Flute. gallways

Sir James Galway, the most internationally celebrated flutist since Jean-Pierre Rampal—and, truth be told, the Irish Galway is a bigger phenomenon than the French Rampal ever was – returns to be the guest soloist at the WCO concert this Saturday, Nov. 14, at 8 p.m. in the Overture Center’s Capitol Theater. His wife, flutist Lady Jeanne Galway will join him.

The program includes Ibert’s Flute Concerto, which was featured in Sewell’s debut concert way back at the Wisconsin Union Theater back in 2000; Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 4, with two flutes, will be heard with concertmaster Suzanne Beia doing the solo violin work; Aaron Copland’s rarely heard Three Latin American Sketches; and Stravinsky’s “Pulcinella Suite,” the charming Neo-Classical work that the WCO recorded in 2004 on its first CD.

So the concert is a summing up of sorts.

The special celebration concert will be overseen by maestro Andrew Sewell, who must be relieved, after the labor problems that led to cancelled concerts last season, that the WCO has even made it to 50.

The rest of us can be relieved too. Over many years, the WCO has proven a valuable community resource. And this season sees it returning to such community events as the Sing-Out Messiah (Friday, Dec. 11, at Blackhawk Church).

For a while, it seemed then WCO would transcend its primary reputation as the orchestra for Concerts on the Square, now 26 years old. After all, the New Zealand-born Sewell is in my experience a seriously talented and deeply convincing classical musician. andrewsewell

But  this season seems a bit too scattered, too uncentered. The Ear would like to see a more concentrated focus that draws in subscribers.

Somehow I want more predictability. Eclectic programming is Sewell’s hallmark and there is much to be said in favor of eclecticism.

But somehow I think some kind of organizing unity is needed, especially to draw in patron dollars in tough economic times and in a very competitive performing arts environment.

What about an annual concert of all the Bach Brandenburg concertos, such as the Chamber Society of Lincoln Center does in New York City each holiday season?

Perhaps the WCO could dedicate itself to doing chamber orchestra versions of all nine Beethoven symphonies, five piano concertos and violin concerto. Or perhaps a Vivaldi survey. Or a limited cycle of Haydn symphonies (say, the Paris or London symphonies).

Or perhaps the late Mozart symphonies and piano concertos. Perhaps the WCO could have an annual all-Mozart concert with the same pianist, Adam Neiman, with whom they cut such an outstanding CD.

The WCO has already done much of this repertoire, but somehow I think it needs to package itself better. It needs something to link one season to another—an on-going project for listeners to pursue for several years and look forward to.

Anyway, I speak as a friend and fan. And I wish them well and a hearty HAPPY BIRTHDAY with hopes for another 50 years!

For more information about WCO tickets and concerts, call 608 258-4141. Here is a link:

This week is also a big week for the WISCONSIN YOUTH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRAS, which kicked off its current season with an open rehearsal and get-together last week.

This weekend, it has double-barrel events.

On FRIDAY, NOV. 13, from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the First Unitarian Society’s Auditorium, 900 University Bay Drive, WYSO will hold its annual fundraising gala Art of Note, featuring the auction and sale of artistically refurbished broken violins. (See Madison artist Randall Berndt‘s Green Man violin below.) This is the sixth year for the successful campaign, though it has been moved form the spring to the fall. There will be a silent auction and many more activities. BerndtViolin

Then on SATURDAY NOV. 14, and SUNDAY, NOV. 15, there will be several WYSO concerts by small and large student groups, orchestras and ensembles.

Here’s a link to both WYSO events:

Also on FRIDAY at 7 p.m., the Music Teachers National Association UW-Madison Collegiate Chapter is continuing its successful Fundraising Concert Series at the Steinway Gallery (6629 Mineral Point Rd). Sonatas by Schubert, Haydn and Prokofiev will be featured. Suggested donation is $10.

Also on SATURDAY, NOV. 14, at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, Pro Arte cellist Parry Karp will perform a recital that features of the greatest classic cello works: J.S. Bach’s Solo Suite No. 2 in D Minor (used as the soundtrack in Ingmar Bergman’s classic film “Though a Glass Darkly”) and Schubert’s “Arpeggione” Sonata, D, 821.

The program also features “Ricordanza” by George Rochberg; “Three Pieces from Jewish Life” by Ernest Bloch; “Variations on a Slavic Theme” by Bohuslav Martinu; “Two Pieces for Violoncello and Piano” by Felix Mendelssohn; “Hebrew Mediation” by Bloch; and “Variations on a Theme of Rossini” by Martinu.

Karp’s pianist parents Howard and Frances will take turns accompanying him.

The concert is free and open to the public.


On THURSDAY, NOV. 12, at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Chamber Orchestra under James Smith, will perform a program of featuring the Concerto Grosso in E-flat, “Dumbarton Oaks” by Igor Stravinsky; “Pan and Syrinx,” Op. 49 by Carl Nielsen; the world premiere of “Waking Dream” by the award-winning UW composer Laura Elise Schwendinger, with flutist Christina Jennings; and Symphony No. 4 (“Tragic”) by Franz Schubert.

The concert is free and open to the public.

On FRIDAY, NOV. 13, at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, the Concert Choir, conducted by Beverly Taylor, will perform a program including motets by Otto Olsson, Stanford and Gibbons, plus the “Lamentations of Jeremiah” by Ginastera; Lukas Foss’ “Behold I Build an House”; and Swedish and American partsongs and folksongs. BevTaylor

Admission is free and open to the public.

At the same time, also 8 p.m., in Morphy Hall Scott Teeple will lead the UW Wind Ensemble’s Chamber Concert. The program includes “Le Bal De Beatrice D’Este” by Reynaldo Hahn; Symphony for Brass and Percussion by Gunther Schuller; and “Dog Breath Variations” by Frank Zappa (yes, the late leader of the rock band “The Mothers of Invention”).

The concert is free and open to the public.

Then on SUNDAY, NOV 15, at 3 P.M. in the LUTHER MEMORIAL CHURCH – 1021 University Ave. — the UW Madrigal and Chorale singers, under Bruce Gladstone, perform a shared program “Hail and Farewell.” The choirs perform separately and together in the acoustics of a neo-Gothic church. Chorale begins with “African Processional” by David Montoya and Carah Reed and “Ave Maria” by Tomas Luis de Victoria. Madrigal Singers perform “Songs of Farewell” by C. H. H. Parry. The combined voices and organist John Chappell Stowe perform Maurice Durufle’s Requiem – a must-hear if you like the quietude of Faure’s Requiem.

So whatever you go to and listen to, let us know what you thought.

I’m especially interested in what you thought of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra’s anniversary concert and how area students performed in the WYSO concerts.

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

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