The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music datebook: Best Bets for March 17-23 include celebrating J.S. Bach’s 325th birthday and hearing young talent at the Madison Symphony Orchestra

March 17, 2010
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By Jacob Stockinger

This weekend, the Madison Symphony Orchestra is offering a MUST-HEAR concert.

It seems to be escaping the attention of a lot of people – probably because it features young and relatively unknown names: the 29-year-old American pianist Jonathan Biss (below top, who will make his Madison debut and will be on Thursday’s “The Midday” program from noon to 1 p.m. on WERN 88.7 FM) and German conductor Patrick Strub (below bottom, who made his debut here last season with a stellar performance with UW Symphony Orchestra).

Plus, the repertoire is not that well-known or familiar: Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9 “Jeunehomme” is not the famous “Elvira Madison” or another of the most famous later of Mozart’s 27 concertos. And Brahms’ Serenade No. 1 doesn’t carry the cachet of his four symphonies, four concertos or two overtures. Plus, few people know more of Carl Maria von Weber’s music than “Invitation to the Dance.” His Overture to “Oberon” will be performed.

But the relative rarity of that repertoire is precisely one reason to go hear it. Here is a link to porgram notes if you want to find out more:

Plus, make no mistake.

These young, so-called no-name musicians have major firepower when it comes to delivering superior classical music. I have heard them and I know. Trust The Ear. If you haven’t heard them yet and don’t hear them now, I am sure you will be hearing about them in the future.

Performances are 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. Call the Overture Center box office at 258-4141.


Saturday is a historic day to celebrate Sunday as a historic day. And so is Tuesday (see below).

On Sunday, Johann Sebastian Bach – the composer of all composers — turns 325.

And to mark it Wisconsin Public Radio is sponsoring Bach Around the Clock or BATC, a noon to midnight event in the Pres House, 731 State St., near the Library Mall, where amateurs and professional musicians will perform Bach’s music to celebrate his birthday.

It’s live only, with no radio broadcast – although WPR is working on live web-streaming.

The event is the brainstorm – note storm? — of Cheryl Dring (below), the music director of WPR and the host of “Morning Classics” from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday. She borrowed it from her native New Orleans where they held a 24-hour Bach Around the Clock in a church.

She says she hopes if this is successful, to do it if future years and to expand it.

She may just have her wish come true, judging by the interest this inaugural BATC has created.

The full schedule is still being decided, but here are some highlights: Keyboardist Trevor Stephenson (below) of the Madison Bach Musicians and Edgewood College is kicking things off at noon.

Piano teacher, UW voice coach and former Wisconsin Public Radio host and music director Bill Lutes is bringing his piano studio with some Two-Part Inventions and Three-Part Sinfonias as well as some preludes and fugues from “The Well-Tempered Clavier,” and some movements from the French suites other suites.

The Wisconsin Chamber Choir is performing choruses from the “St. John Passion” at 5:30 p.m.; a couple of the Madison Symphony Orchestra musicians are coming after their concert Saturday night And UW organist and harpsichordist John Chappell Stowe is taking the late wrap-up shift from 10-midnight – when the Birthday Boy gets a cake.

Also on Saturday, at 4 p.m. in nearby Morphy Hall, UW pianist Ina Selvelieva (below), performs a recital.   The program includes “Desperate Measures” (Paganini Variations) by Robert Muczynski; “Sonata in E-flat major,” Op. 27, No. 1 by Beethoven; selected etudes from “Etudes tableaux” by Rachmaninoff; and “Gaspard de la Nuit” by Ravel. Admission is free and open to the public. (She will perform the same program without the Ravel at the First Unitarian Society’s free Noon Musicale on Friday from 12:125 to 1 p.m. at 900 University Bay Drive.)

Also on Saturday, and also at 4 p.m., in Mills Hall, the UW Trumpet Ensemble will perform. All the trumpet majors at the School of Music participate in this concert of works for different numbers of trumpets—quartets and quintets up to the full ensemble of 17 members. The program includes an arrangement for seven trumpets of the overture to “The Barber of Seville” by Rossini, utilizing instruments of different sizes and range. UW virtuoso trumpeter John Aley is the director.  Admission is free to the public.

On Sunday from 12:30 to 2 p.m., “Sunday Afternoon Live from the Chazen” welcomes Chris Cramer, guitar and Yi-Lan (Elaine) Niu, soprano, in Brittingham Gallery III at the Chazen Museum of Art.

The concert will be broadcast live on Wisconsin Public Radio, 88.7 FM in the Madison area.

Also on Sunday at 2:30 p.m., in St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive, Edgewood College presents its Spring Choral Concert. The Edgewood College Chamber Singers, conducted by Albert Pinsonneault, and the Women’s Choir, conducted by Kathleen Otterson will perform. Admission is free.

Also on Sunday, March 21 at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Faculty Concert Series offers Mark Hetzler (below) trombone, with Todd Hammes, vibes, tabla, harmonium and percussion.

The concert features Hetzler’s new composition “Three Views of Infinity,” a fusion of diverse Western styles with traditional Islamic and Indian classical music influences; and music from the landmark 1966 Latin jazz album “El Sonido Nuevo,” utilizing a 12-piece jazz ensemble of five trombones and full Latin rhythm section.

Guest musicians are Vincent Fuh, piano; Nickolas Moran, bass; Anthony Di Sanza, Jamie Ryan and Neil Sisauyhoat, percussion; Dawn Lawler, flute; and Eli Brauner, Corey Murphy, Kevan Feyzi and Ben Sorce, trombones. Admission is free to the public.

On Tuesday, March 23 at 7:30 p.m., Mills Hall, the UW Concert Band performs under the direction of Mike Leckrone (below). Admission is free to the public.


Also on Tuesday, March 23, at  7:30 p.m. in Overture Hall, three of Madison’s great organists get together for this festive celebration of Johann Sebastian Bach’s 325th birthday: Bruce Bengtson (below top), Director of Music and Organist at Luther Memorial Church; Gary Lewis (below middle), Director of Music & Organist at Bethel Lutheran Church; and the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Samuel Hutchison (below bottom), Principal Organist and Curator of the Overture Concert Organ join forces to bring you works by Bach and others.

Bach wrote more than 400 works for organ, and among them are some of the greatest masterworks for the instrument. They won’t have time for all 400 in this recital since they also say they want to leave room for other composers as well.

Tickets are $15, with $10 for student rush. Call the Overture Center box office at 608 258-4141.

Here is the program:

Gary Lewis:  Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in D Major, BWV 532, Chorale Partita “Sei gegrüsset, Jesu gütig,” BWV 768. Variation II; Max Reger’s “Benedictus,” Op. 59, No. 9 and Toccata in D Minor Op. 59, No. 5.

Bruce Bengtson: Bach’s Fugue in G Major, BWV 577, Orgelbüchlein (Little Organ Book), “Christe, du Lamm Gottes,” BWV 619, “O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde gross,” BWV 622; “Christ lag in Todesbanden,” BWV 625; and “In dir ist Freude,” BWV 615. He will also perform Alexandre Guilmant’s  “Variations and Fugue on the chant Stabat Mater.”

Samuel Hutchison: Marcel Dupré’s Prelude in B Major, Op. 7, No. 1; Bach’s “We All Believe in One True God,” BWV 740, and Bach’s Fantasy and Fugue in G Minor, BWV 542.

Gary Lewis, a native of Oshkosh, Wisconsin holds a Bachelor of Music Education from the University of Wisconsin and a Master of Church Music from Northwestern University where he studied organ with Wolfgang Rübsam and Arthur Poister and conducting with Margaret Hillis. For eight seasons he was Artistic Director of the 100-voice Virginia Choral Society. Since 1994 he has served as Director of Music and Organist at Bethel Lutheran Church in Madison where he directs a very active music program for all ages.

Bruce Bengtson is Director of Music at Luther Memorial Church in Madison, a position he has held for the past 32 years. Responsible for the choral and instrumental programs of the parish, he directs the adult, youth and children’s choirs. The church’s three pipe organs are heard weekly at a noon time recital played by Bengtson. He is active in the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians, the American Guild of Organists and has two commissioned anthems recently published by Augsburg Fortress.

Samuel Hutchison is Principal Organist and Curator for the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Overture Concert Organ where he holds the Wayne Curtis & Maybelle Slavens Hall and Francis Vincent & Lettie von Kalweit Dunnebacke Organ Curatorship endowed by an anonymous donor. An honors graduate of Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey he has played recitals at the Riverside Church in New York City in addition to many European cathedrals including St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, Notre Dame and St. Sulpice in Paris and the Marien Kirche in Helsingborg, Sweden.

Major funding for this concert is provided by Friends of the Overture Concert Organ. Support for all Overture Concert Organ performances is provided by the Diane Endres Ballweg Fund.  The Overture Concert Organ is the gift of Pleasant T. Rowland.

A reminder: On Wednesday, March 24, at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall the UW Symphony Orchestra, directed by James Smith will perform Gustav Mahler’s massive “Symphony No. 6” (“Tragic”), a 90-minute work performed in four movements without intermission.  Orchestra will be expanded with extra winds and percussion to 108 players. The sixth symphony is considered among Mahler’s greatest. Admission is free and open to the public.

Posted in Classical music

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