The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music datebook: Best bets for April 21-27 are plentiful and include early music and new music, symphonic music, chamber music and an opera

April 21, 2010
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By Jacob Stockinger

As we rush toward the end of the semester, the classical music calendar keeps getting busier and busier.

It would be hard to pick a more difficult day in the entire 2009-10 season to have to choose events to attend than this coming Friday: Do you go to the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra? The University Opera? Or the Pro Arte String Quartet? It’s a dilemma.

Sometimes it feels as if we classical fans in Madison need a space-time machine, so we can get to everything we want to hear.

It’s a hectic time — so here’s a run-down in chronological order:


Tonight, at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, UW composer Laura Schwendinger (below) will direct the UW’s Contemporary Chamber Ensemble.

On the program are works by highly acclaimed composers, featuring “A City Called Heaven,” and “Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano” by Olly Wilson and “Dance Converging,” “Lullaby,” and “Imaginary Folk Song” by Sheila Silver.

Performers include Jessica Johnson, Anthony Di Sanza, Nick Jeffery and Jacki Whisenant.

The composers will be present for the concert.

Admission is free and open to the public.


At 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, you can heard all three of the Brahms piano trios in one evening done by UW performers cellist Uri Vardi (below), violinist David Perry, and Chilean pianist Paulina Zamora.

The program features the three piano trios (C major, C minor and B major) by Johannes Brahms.  The artists will record these works this summer for the Eroica label, along with Brahms’ clarinet trio (with Uri Vardi’s son, Amitai Vardi).

(The same performers will also perform two of the three piano trios on Wisconsin Public Radio’s live broadcast  “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen” this Sunday from 12:30 to 2 p.m.)

The concert, part of the Faculty Concert Series, is free and open to the public.


You can hear another great piano trio at the free and public Noon Musicale at the First Unitarian Society Meeting House, 900 University Bay Drive.

The concert runs from 12:15 to 1 p.m. and offers free coffee.

The program features Schubert’s great Piano Trio No. 1 in B-Flat Major performed by Kangwon Kim, violin; Eleanor Cox, cello; and Ina Selvelieva, piano.

For information, call 608 233-9774.

Friday night, at 8 p.m. in the Overture Center’s Capitol Theater, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, under the baton of Andrew Sewell (below) concludes its 50th anniversary season.

Tickets are $19-$62. Call the Overture Box office at 608 258-4141.

The program includes pianist Stewart Goodyear (below) in Hummel’s Piano Concerto A Minor, Op. 85; Richard
Strauss’ “Capriccio Sextet; and Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 in C Major, “The Great.”

The performers are very good, but I am giving this a MUST–HEAR rating especially because of the original program. Hummel was an older contemporary of Beethoven, whose music was more popular at the time than even Beethoven. Technically challenging and full of brilliance and vigor, this work is gaining popularity in the repertory.

According to WCO program notes, the Sextet for Strings by Strauss, is from his last opera, “Capriccio,” and is both lush and romantic.  Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 “The Great” in C major is a special work. Even though his life was cut short at the age of 31 in 1828, Schubert was the master of the German song or “lieder.”  Applying his gift for melody and bridging the gap between the classical and romantic periods in music, Schubert’s last symphony is on a grander scale than anything previously, and points the way to the next generation of symphonists.

Also on Friday, at 7:30 p.m. in Old Music Hall, Donizetti’s opera “Maria Stuarda” will be performed by the University Opera with the UW Chamber Orchestra. (In the photo below, by Brent Nicastro, are from left Celeste Fraser as Queen Elizabeth, Emily Birsan as Maria Stuarda,  and J. Adam Shelton as Leicester.) William Farlow directs the opera, and conductor James Smith leads the orchestra. (For more information and background, see the post here on last Monday.)

The opera will have two additional performances: Sunday, April 25, at 3 p.m.; and Tuesday, April 27, at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $20 for the general public, $18 for senior citizens and $10 for UW-Madison students, available in advance through the Wisconsin Union Theater Box Office at (608) 265-ARTS, Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. and Saturdays, noon–5 p.m.

Tickets are also available at the Vilas Hall Box Office (262-1500) from Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m., and after 5:30 p.m. on University Theatre performance evenings.

Because shows often sell out, advance purchase is recommended.  If unsold tickets remain, they may be purchased at the door beginning one hour before the performance. The Carol Rennebohm Auditorium is located in Music Hall at the foot of Bascom Hill on Park Street.

Gaetano Donizetti’s “Maria Stuarda,” based on the play by the great German writer Friedrich von Schiller, offers what history could not: a fictional meeting between Queen Elizabeth and Mary Stewart. The confrontation leads to an epic power play that ignites vocal fireworks seldom seen in “bel canto” opera.

Graduate student Emily Birsan (below) – who sang the title role  in Massenet’s “Thais” last semester — performs the title role; the role of Queen Elizabeth is shared by Celeste Fraser (April 23 & 27) and Jennifer Grace Sams (April 25). The role of Leicester is performed by J. Adam Shelton; Talbot, by John Arnold; Cecil, by Justin Niehoff Smith; and Anna, by Megan Gryga.

The opera will be sung in Italian with projected English surtitles by Christine Seitz.

The production is a University Opera premiere and is generously supported by the Dara Elizabeth Welty Memorial Fund.

Finally, on Friday, at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, the Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) — which turns 100 years old during the 2011-12 season — performs on the Faculty Concert Series.

The program includes the same works that the Pro Arte will perform at CARNEGIE HALL’s Weill Hall on Wednesday, May 12: Haydn’s String Quartet in C Major, Op. 64, No. 1; the String Quartet No. 2 in F-sharp minor, Op. 15 by Alexander Zemlinsky; and the String Quartet in E-flat major, Op. 51 by Antonin Dvorak.


In Mills Hall at 4 p.m., the University Chorus and Women’s Chorus perform under Michael Pfitzer and Kimberly Dunn Adams, respectively.

Then at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW group Chorale will perform under Bruce Gladstone.

Also at 8 p.m. in Morphy Hall, the University of Minnesota New Music Ensemble will perform.

The New Music Ensemble, directed by Young-Nam Kim and Jerry Luckhardt, participates in a three-way exchange with UW-Madison’s Contemporary Chamber Ensemble and the University of Iowa’s Center for New Music.

Away from the UW School of Music, on Saturday at 8 p.m. in the new Atrium Auditorium of the first unitarian Society, 900 University Bay Drive – on Madison’s near west side – Trevor Stephenson (below) and the Madison Bach Musicians will perform J.S. Bach’s “Brandenburg” Concertos Nos. 4, 5 and 6. There will be a free lecture at 7:15.

You may recall I named Stephenson this blog’s “Musician of the Year” for 2009 after his memorable performance of Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” and his terrific lecture-recitals with harpsichord and fortepiano.

I’ve heard excerpts from the first performance of this concert on April 10, and the quality is high, just as the quantity of sound is amazing for 11 musicians playing period instruments. Call it tuneful transparency.

Advance tickets are $20, $15 for student s and seniors over 65, and are available at A Room of One’s Own, Farley’s House of Pianos. Orange Tree Imports, Ward-Brodt Music Mall and the Willy Street Coop.

At the door, tickets go to $25 and $20, respectively.

If you want more information, call 608 238-6092 or visit:


On Sunday, April 25, at 2 p.m. in Mills Hall the UW Concert Band will perform under director Mike Leckrone.

Then at 4 p.m. in mills Hall, the University Bands will perform under Justin Stolarik, Erik Jester and Matthew Schlomer.

Sunday night, at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, UW soprano Mimmi Fulmer will perform with UW pianist Christopher Taylor.

This is the new date for the concert originally scheduled for January 29, 2010.

The program begins with four Finnish songs and continues with the celebrated song cycle “Frauenliebe und Leben” (“Woman’s Love and Life”), Op. 42 by Robert Schumann – which to The Ear is the best female song cycle ever composed.  (This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Schumann.)

Following intermission, the duo performs two other song cycles: “The Nursery” by Modeste Mussorgsky and “Histoires Naturelles” by Maurice Ravel.

The concert is part of the Faculty Concert Series, and is free and open to the public.


At 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Western Percussion Ensemble performs with Roger Braun under the direction of Anthony Di Sanza.

The WPE performs two works by percussionist-composer Roger Braun: “A Spirit Unbroken” with Braun as vibraphone soloist and “A Terrible Beauty” for six percussionists.  Roger Braun is a member of the Biakuye Percussion Group, Galaxy Percussion and the Latin jazz group Los Viejos Blanquitos.

At 8:30 p.m. in Morphy Hall, the UW Early Music Ensemble will perform under director John Chappell Stowe. No program has been announced, but the concert is free and open to the public.

WHEW!! That’s a lot of music and events in one week.

That’s a lot.

Anything I left out? If so, leave a comment.

And leave a capsule review.

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

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