The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music datebook: Best bets for March 31-April 6 include J.S. Bach’s “St. John Passion” and a free concert by the American Brass Quartet | March 31, 2010

By Jacob Stockinger

A reminder: It’s spring break. Because of staffing for the blog, your comments may take a bit longer to get posted. But don’t despair — they will get there.

It’s spring break for the UW-Madison and Madison public schools. So not a lot is on the slate.

But the one big event that is gets a MUST-HEAR rating.

On Good Friday night, April 2, at 8 p.m. in the new Atrium auditorium of the First Unitarian Society, 900 University Bay Drive, the Wisconsin Chamber Choir (below, under director Robert Gehrenbeck, will perform — with such fitting timing for the Holy Season —  J.S. Bach’s “St. John Passion.”

Tickets are $25 for adults, $15 for students.

The cast of soloists, representing the very best singers in the region, will include: UW tenor James Doing (below) as the Evangelist (one of his specialty roles) and UW baritone Paul Rowe as Jesus.

Other performers include William Rosholt as Pilate; Julie Hutchinson Soprano; Julie Cross Mezzo Soprano; Ryan McEldowney Tenor; and Brian Leeper Bass.

The concert will mark Wisconsin’s first performance of the St. John Passion using Bach’s original instrumentation, according to the Gehrenbeck (below), who is also the director of choral activities at the UW-Whitewater.

According to notes from the WCC, Bach (below) employed an astonishing variety of tone colors in this work, including rare eighteenth-century instruments such as the wooden flauto traverso, three different types of oboes (the Baroque oboe, oboe d’amore and oboe da’caccia), and the viola da gamba (the ancestor of the modern cello).

Wisconsin’s finest period instrumentalists, along with guests from throughout the upper Midwest, will join forces with the Wisconsin Chamber Choir.

At 7 p.m. on the night of the performance, retired UW-Madison historian and music critic John W. Barker will present a pre-concert lecture illuminating the background and structure of the “St. John Passion.”

Director Gehrenbeck adds: “The “St. John Passion” is one of Bach’s most moving and exciting works. This particular oratorio is the closest Bach came to writing an opera, owing to its dramatic portrayal of the story of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion as relayed in the Gospel of John.

“Bach’s music conveys intense emotions of love and loss, anger and empathy, fear and bravery, despair and hope, bridging differences of time, place, and belief.”

Perhaps taking its cue from the opera world, the WCC will sing the “St. John Passion” using the original German words, with an English translation projected as supertitles above the performers in order to make Bach’s music and its message accessible to a wide audience.

The Ear likes that idea a lot. The whole point of the music and text, after all, is to communicate.

The St. John Passion will be accompanied by an orchestra playing on period instruments.  Some of the area’s most distinguished orchestral musicians include:

Violin I: Edith Hines, Concertmaster – Christine Liu – Go Yamamoto

Violin II: Kangwon Kim – Janelle Davis – Marie-Elise McNeeley

Viola: Marika Fischer Hoyt – Andrew Waid

Cello: Anton TenWolde

Viola da Gamba: Eric Miller

Violone: Jerry Fuller

Traverso I & II: Rebecca Meier – Rob Turner

Oboe I & II, Oboe d’amore, & Oboe da caccia: Sung Lee – Christopher Morgan

Bassoon: Brian Ellingboe

Organ: John Chapell Stowe

Lautenwerk: Marika Fischer Hoyt

If you go, what did you think?

The Ear wants to hear.


Also on the schedule, after the end of the UW spring break is a concert by guest visiting artists The American Brass Quintet (below).

The FREE concert is on Tuesday, April 6, in Mills Hall, at 7:30 p.m.

The program includes three Canzoni by late 16th-early 17th century composers, arranged by ABQ member Raymond Mase; the Fantasia e Rondo by Brazilian composer Osvaldo Lacerda; the Brass Quintet by Shafer Mahoney; “Entrance” by David Sampson; “Five Pieces” by Ludwig Maurer (1789-1878); and “Copperwave” by Joan Tower.

Celebrating its 50th year this season, the ABQ is internationally recognized as one of the premiere chamber music ensembles of our time. The quintet’s rich history includes tours of Europe, Central and South America, the Middle East, Asia, Australia and all 50 states; a discography of more than 50 recordings; and the premieres of more than 100 contemporary brass works.

The ABQ has been in residence at the Juilliard School since 1987 and at Aspen Music Festival since 1970.

The concert is free and open to the public.

Posted in Classical music

1 Comment »

  1. I’m not sure there are any tickets left, but if you can get one, you’re in for an intensely glorious experience. Evangelist James Doing alone is worth the price of admission 🙂 I wish this week would never end.

    Comment by Marika F-H — April 1, 2010 @ 11:44 am

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