The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music alert: UW-Madison’s Chopin Fest begins a week from Friday

March 5, 2010

By Jacob Stockinger

This has pretty much been a Chopin week — which is understandable given that Monday, March 1, was the 200th anniversary of the popular composer’s birth. Chopin is seen below, in a photo taken a year or so before his death in 1849, standing beside he own piano.

The University of Wisconsion-Madison, along with the support group Piano Partners,  is doing some interesting and unusual things to mark the Chopin Year.

The activities start a week from today, on Friday, March 12.

It will begin with a FREE recital by UW-Madison virtuoso pianist Christopher Taylor (below)at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 12, in Mills Hall.

The critically acclaimed Taylor — who last seasonperformed all 32 Beethoven sonatas — will perform both of the big Chopin sonatas: No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op. 35, nicknamed “Funeral March” because it has the famous funeral march (“Pray for the dead and the dead will pray for you!”) that was used at Chopin’s own funeral in 1849 as its slow movement; and Sonata No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 58, a great late work in all movements with an especially sublime slow movement, (Chopin also wrote a youthful first piano sonata that is rarely performed or recorded.)

Rounding out Taylor’s ambitious and appealing program are Beethoven’s “Thirty-Two Variations in C minor,” WoO (without opus) 80, and the “Van Gogh Nocturnes” that were composed by UW composer Laura Schwendinger (below top) who was inspired by three of Van Gogh’s paintings including “Starry Night” (below bottom).

Can anyone doubt that the recital will be an exciting event.

And it is, I repeat, FREE and open to the public.

As a teaser, here is a short excerpt of Taylor talking about a piece he performed with the Orpeheus Chamber Orchestra:

The festival continues on Saturday, March 13, with several unique events in Old Music Hall (below) at the foot of Bascom Hill.

From 9 a.m. to noon, middle school and high school students will perform in master classes taught by UW piano faculty.

At 1:30 p.m., a community music recital presents teachers and amateur pianists in an informal setting of performance and personal reflection about Chopin.

From 3:30 to 6 p.m., a marathon performance of the complete mazurkas will feature most piano majors — both undergraduate and graduate — at the School of Music. At the midpoint of the marathon, at about 4:45 p.m., a reception in Music Hall lobby will allow performers and audience to meet and mingle.

Who makes such things happen? The School of Music thanks the Evjue Foundation and Chancellor Emeritus Irving Shain for their sponsorship of the extravaganza.

The Ear also hears the UW piano pedagogy professor Jessica Johnson is responsible for a lot of these wonderful free public events. To me, the Chopin Fest seems to embody the Wisconsin Idea.


If you go, let everyone know what you thought of the Taylor recital.

Of the master classes.

Of the community play-in.

Of the Mazurka-thon.

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

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