The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music review: The Ear hears the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra perform and says “Let us now praise young musicians.”

March 21, 2010
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By Jacob Stockinger

I stopped into the Winterfest concert last Sunday afternoon in Mills Hall by the Youth Orchestra, the premier performing group of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras.

It was quite an event. It’s another reason that leads me to say: Let us now praise student musicians.

The music-making itself was impressive. The large ensemble (below) played under conductor James Smith, who had a busy weekend since he also conducted the UW Chamber Orchestra with the Eroica Trio on Saturday night.

They opened with an upbeat performance of  Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Festival Overture.” Then, rounding out the first half, came Manuel De Falla’s colorful and very Spanish-sounding suite from “The Three-Corner Hat.”

Then finally, after intermission, the group finished with Dvorak’s Symphony No. 6. They gave it a big beautiful reading with lots of nuances and subtleties. You don’t make that mind of music without talent, without practice or without caring. They played with total commitment, and as a result they made me optimistic about the future of classical music.

This is extraordinary group of young people. Not for nothing did the program booklet feature ads about music scholarships available at Edgewood College and Lawrence University.

I was impressed with the accuracy and precision of the playing, with the cohesion of a stage full of somewhere near 100 young and talented classical musicians.

I also took some photos (done low light and with no flash so as not to distract the players or other listeners) that I am using on this blog post.

I was struck not just by the age of the players, but by the age of the listeners. Somehow, it reassured me about the future of classical music and its audience.

I saw quite a video cameras set up by families and friends of the performers (see below). I also saw a lot of young brothers and sisters and maybe other relatives. Good listening is a good habit to start young.

At the end, the performance earned a loud standing ovation (below) and quite rightfully so. Like me, many in the audience, I suspect, were applauding not only this particular performance but the whole idea of WYSO and the people who have made it happen since 1966, teaching some 5,000 students from more than 100 communities in southcentral Wisconsin.

I also note, with admiration, that the WYSO members have raised some $29,000 towards a goal of $44,000, according to WYSO officials. They did it not by gimmicks or selling things at a discount, but by writing letters to people they know and simply explaining why they find WYSO a valuable experience and why it should be supported. That too is exemplary on their part.

They also deserve your support. If you care about the future of talented young people and the future of classical music, consider making as donation. It couldn’t go to a better use.

You can send your donations to: WYSO, 455 North Park Street, Madison, WI 53706. For information, call 608 263-3320. CDs of various concerts held during Winterfest will soon be available.

Do you hear any of WYSO’s Winterfest concerts?

What did you think?

What do you think of WYSO?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

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