The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical Music Best Bets Dec. 30-Jan. 5: Let us now praise programs for young people | December 30, 2009

By Jacob Stockinger

It’s still winter intermission here, and not much is going on. All the major arts presenters are still in recess, as is the UW-Madison.

But there are some events worth attending – or at least listening to.

After a two-week holiday hiatus, “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen” starts up again this Sunday, Jan. 3.  

The UW-Whitewater music faculty will perform a varied program that includes some major music: Samuel Barber’s Cello Sonata, Takakishvili’s Flute Sonata and Serge Prokofiev’s Piano Sonata No. 8 in B-Flat, Op. 84. As usual, the concert will be broadcast live on Sunday from 12:15 to 2 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Radio (in the Madison area, tune into WERN 88.7 FM).

For details about reserving seats and program or upcoming concerts, use these links:

Some good classical music will be on TV this Thursday at 7 p.m. when “Live From Lincoln Center” on Wisconsin Public Television broadcasts a New Year’s Eve concert by the New York Philharmonic under its new maestro Alan Gilbert. The program runs to 9 p.m. (then is repeated 10 p.m. to midnight) and features baritone Thomas Hampson (below) in American music by Copland and Gershwin.

On the lighter and more celebratory side of classical music, this Friday we will once again have the chance to hear and see “New Year’s Live From Vienna.” The conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic will be Georges Pretre, who did very well several years ago at the same event. It will be broadcast Friday morning from 10 a.m. to noon on Wisconsin Public Radio (in the Madison area, WERN 88.7 FM) and in the evening (with dancers, horses and landscape and interior shots) on Wisconsin Public Television from 8 to 9:30 and then 11 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.

As we look forward to the new year, this is also the usual wrap-up time.

It has been a good fall semester and a good year for music.

I see no need for redundancy. So here is an excellent round-up by my fellow music critic John W. Barker, who writes for Isthmus and whose comments are included in the round-up of the entire Madison area arts scene in 2009:

I have great respect for Barker. But I do take some exceptions and have somewhat different opinions.

For example, I think Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg (below) was not a “clunker” soloist with the Madison Symphony Orchestra. She was a winner star who played Astor Piazzolla and communicated effectively and emotionally with the audience. I was there and I know.

Barker is also right about the richness of the Madison classical music scene and how much of its stems from an increasing number of smaller groups. But I also think there is a danger that the Madison scene is becoming too competitive and a shake-up may not be far off. I’ve seen some unexpectedly small audiences at events that deserve better.

I note, by way of example, that this semester, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra has some terrific programs that go head-to-head against the famed Emerson String Quartet (performing at the Wisconsin Union Theater on Jan. 22) and the Pro Arte String Quartet at the UW-Madison free Faculty Concert Series on April 23.)

Finally, I would also note the richness of the classical music scene for young people in Madison, in part because I think it helps to explain why the overall classical music scene here is so rich for a city its size (say, 300,000) and a county the size of Dane County (say, 550,000).

Items: There is the Bolz Young Artist Competition and Final Forte concert and other events for young musicians by the Madison Symphony Orchestra, some of which are broadcast on Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television; the Young Artists Concerto Competition and Side-By-Side Concert through the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra; Opera for the Young, which performs in schools, and the Madison Opera, which performs specially for students;  Wisconsin Public Radio’s Neale-Silva Young Artists Competition where the winners perform at the Wisconsin Union Theater and are broadcast live on Wisconsin Public Radio; the Madison Youth Choir; and many, many more programs and groups.

Last — but by no means least — is the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras organization, which schedules many performances and each week trains dozens of music students from dozens of communities in southcentral Wisconsin. (Over the years since its founding in 1966, WYSO estimates, it has trained more than 5,000 students from more than 100 communities.)

The enjoyment of making and listening to classical music starts young.

So — let us now praise local classical music groups and programs that reach out to young people.

Beneath the surface successes and high-profile events, they may be the real classical music heroes of 2009 — and of every year.

What was the best classical music performance you heard in Madison in 2009?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

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