The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music alert: Reviews and reminders — Saturday is a busy day for Chopin fans and Beethoven fans

March 13, 2010

By Jacob Stockinger

Remember the book and movie about D-Day called “The Longest Day”?

The title comes to mind because today, Saturday, March 13, may just be the busiest day – and the longest day — of the entire classical music season this year in Madison. You can easily spend a full 12 hours taking in classical music.

Starting this morning, the University of Wisconsin School of Music will host a Chopin Fest in Music Hall (below) to mark the bicentennial of Chopin (1810-1849). ALL EVENTS ARE FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.

From 9 a.m. to noon there is a master classes for area middle school and high school piano students about Chopin, given by University of Wisconsin School of Music faculty. Take the master classes in, and you might learn a thing or two about interpreting this deceptive composer who seems so very listenable that he must be straightforward and easy to play. (WRONG!).

Here is the line-up: 9-9:15:  “Black Key” Etude, Op. 10, No. 5 in G-flat (Christopher Eom); 9:15-9:30: “Military” Polonaise, Op. 40, No. 1 (Garrick Olsen); 9:30-9:45: Nocturne, Op. 9, No. 2 in E-flat (Vivian Wilhelms); 9:45-10: Prelude, Op. 28 No. 8 in F-sharp minor (George Degen); SHORT BREAK 10:15-10:30: Prelude, Op. 28, No. 18 in F minor (Daniel Turner); 10:30-10:45: Prelude, Op. 28, No. 24 in D minor (Benjamin Wade); 10:45-11: Waltz in A-flat, Op. 69, No. 1 (Sophia Musacchio); 11-11:15: Nocturne, Op. 9, No. 1 in B-flat Minor (Cody Coetz); SHORT BREAK 11:30-11:45: Mazurkas, Op. 67, Nos. 2 and 4 (Antonia Rolfing); 11:45-Noon: Preludes, Op. 28, Nos. 1-4 (Amy Hua)

Then from 1:30 to 3:15 p.m. is a Community Chopin Recital where area piano teachers, piano students and amateur pianists will perform various works of Chopin and talk about what Chopin means to them. It is the Wisconsin Idea in action, arts-wise.

Here is the program: Polonaise-Fantasie in A-Flat, Op. 61 (Bill Lutes); Nocturne in C-sharp Minor, Op. 27, No. 1 (Denise Taylor); Nocturne in B Major, Op. 62, No.1, and Nocturne in E Major, Op. 62, No. 2 (Timothy Mueller); Scherzo -Allego con brio and Largo from Sonata for cello and piano in G Minor, Op. 65   (Sig Midelfort, cello, and  Gloria Chuang, piano); Nocturne in F Minor, Op. 55, No. 1  (Jacob Stockinger); Ballade in G Minor, Op. 23 (Vincent Fuh); Prelude in A-flat, Op. 28, No. 17 (Carol Ricker); Scherzo in E Major, Op. 54 (Stephen Leeds); Fantasie in F Minor, Op. 49 (Gloria Chuang).

Finally, from 3:30 to about 6:30, undergraduate and graduate students at the UW School of Music will perform the complete mazurkas – more than four dozen miniatures that offer perhaps the most representative and original form of Chopin’s music.

The Ear is calling it a tag-team Mazurka-thon, and it promises to be both fun and instructive. The mazurkas are usually among the more playable of Chopin’s works for amateurs, but they can be very tricky and flexible, and open to a wide variety of interpretations. (Who, you might ask while you are listening, is more Polish?)

There is also a terrific colorful booklet- program to take home with the names of all the UW students and opus numbers and composition dates of the mazurkas as well as program notes by Denise Taylor. Clearly, this event has been very well planned and very well executed.

Mid-way through the Mazurka-thon, there will be a reception with a cake to celebrate the Birthday Boy – Chopin (below), who turned 200 on March 1.

Then there is a break for dinner.

And a break from Chopin as well.

At 8 p.m. in the Wisconsin Union Theater, the Eroica Trio (below) will perform Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with the UW Chamber Orchestra under conductor James Smith. (Also on the program is an orchestral arrangement of Domenico Scarlatti keyboard sonatas and Charles Ives’ rarely heard Symphony No. 3.) Tickets are $10 at the Union Theater – with free admission for those of you who attended the Eroica Trio’s recital Thursday night.

And it was a fine recital.

They opened with a performance of Beethoven’s early Piano Trio, Op. 1, No. 3, in C minor – the most Beethovenian of keys – and ended up turning is a high-octane performance that cooked.

Joan Tower’s “Trio for Daniel” was performed with virtuosity, emotion and commitment. The work itself did not speak deeply to me, but it did please a good number of listeners.

Then came a delicious – no other word will do – performance of Dvorak’s zesty “Dumky” Trio. It danced and pranced and went from minor-key melancholy to vivacious major-key dance steps. It had sparks and sparkle.

The crowd was smaller than it should have been, but it was enthusiastic enough to get a great encore: a wonderful arrangement for piano trio of Saint Saens’ “The Swan,” created by the cellist Sarah Sant’ambrogio. It even showed off the violinist, who until then sometimes seemed timid on the otherwise exemplary balance and dynamics of the trio.

As I recall, the Eroica Trio knows Beethoven’s Triple Concerto so well, and performs it so frequently, they play it from memory.

And you should also know, I heard a recent concert with major Haydn and Mozart works by the UW Chamber Orchestra (below top) under James Smith (below bottom), and they were terrific.

So it all bodes well for a memorable day, memorable afternoon and memorable night of music-making.

But: Was it memorable?

What events did you go to?

What did you think of them?

What did you think especially of all the Chopin festivities?

Everyone’s a critic.

Plus, The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

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