The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music datebook: The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society wraps up its season with trips to London, Paris and Eden

June 23, 2010
Leave a Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

It’s Wednesday — the day of the week when The Ear picks his Best Bets for the coming week.

But when it comes to classical music, there isn’t much choice this week.

I haven’t heard all the programs that the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society has put on this summer for its 19th season. But of the two concerts I have heard, I would have to nit-pick to find a flaw.

So I will gladly recommend the four remaining concerts of the two remaining programs.

As for performers, it is a bit like tag-team music-making.

This week’s team switches from the San Francisco-based guest players of last week to local players — cellist Parry Karp and violinist Suzanne Beia of the UW Pro Arte String Quartet — as well as imported harpist Heidi Krutzen of Vancouver (below top), freelance violist Yura Lee (below middle) and Brooklyn, N.Y., violinist Carmit Zori (below bottom).

You’ll recall that the unifying theme of this summer’s season is “Novel Obsessions.”

On Friday and Sunday — first at the Stoughton Opera House (below top) at 7:30, then at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin Hillside Theater in Spring Green (below bottom) at 2:30 p.m. — the BDDS will perform  “A Tale of Two Cities” program, playing off Charles Dickens’ famous novel of the French Revolution and the roles of Paris and London. The Ear finds this program particularly noteworthy for its attention to less well-known British composers who deserve a wider hearing.

On Saturday and Sunday — first at the Overture Center Playhouse at 7:30 p.m., then at the same Hillside Theater at 6:30 p.m. — the BDDS will perform the “East of Eden” program. It doesn’t really seem to relate much to the novel of the same name by John Steinbeck, but I nonetheless find noteworthy for its mix of modern and contemporary music.

This year’s Birthday Boys — Chopin, Schumann and Samuel Barber — will also be featured in the concerts.

Here  is a link to the BDDS homepage, where you can find information about dates, programs, performers and tickets:

And here are the selections and notes provided by pianist and co-artistic director Jeffrey Sykes:


With all respect to Dickens, we hope that you find this evening — with great music from two of the glittering capitals of Europe, Paris and London — the best of times rather than the worst.

From north of the Channel we have Elegiac Trio for flute, viola, and harp by Arnold Bax (below), a gorgeous work full of mists, fogs, and more than a little French spirit.

Frank Bridge’s Phantasy Piano Quartet epitomizes both the somber and the witty sides of British life.

From sunny Paris, we have Debussy’s famous Prelude to “The Afternoon of a Faun” in an arrangement for flute and harp.

Chopin’s Sonata for cello and piano, his last published work, is a thrilling piece full of passion and sweep.

We conclude with the Suite for two violins and piano of Moritz Moszkowski, a work that’s so exciting, it will send your head spinning.


Inside its walls, the Garden of Eden was a paradise of perfection and plenty where all was clear and beautiful. The art of chamber music dwelled in a metaphoric Eden for a long, long time.  Composers like Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, and Debussy used the language of Western harmony and rhythm — the language of our musical Eden — to create masterpiece after masterpiece.

But some composers longed to know what lay beyond the gate.  They ate the apple, metaphorically speaking, and suddenly the clear and beautiful language of their forbears wasn’t enough for them.  They started changing the language, adding to the language, even making up their own language.  (Sounds like the Tower of Babel, doesn’t it?)

Some of these composers looked to the East for inspiration.  They found musical elements that helped them craft modern masterpieces, masterpieces from beyond the gates of tonality.

We begin our journey beyond the gates of Eden with Samuel Barber’s Canzone for flute and piano, a work of rare beauty that achieves a Zen-like timelessness.

Albert Roussel drew from the music of India in his compelling Serenade for flute, harp, violin, viola, and cello.

And Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer (below) took inspiration from Greek myth for Theseus, a thrilling work for harp and string quartet.

In Taheke, Australian composer Gareth Farr (below), a virtuoso tour de force for flute and harp, was inspired by the sounds of waterfalls in New Zealand.

Our season concludes with a return to Eden: Schumann’s great Piano Quintet in E-flat Major, likely the most perfect work of its kind ever written, a work that was taken as the ideal for every composer of piano quintets that followed.

OK — it’s back to The Ear.

Now that the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society is about to finish this summer’s season, what would you like to tell them about its performances?

About its programs?

About its schedule and venues?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,254 other followers

    Blog Stats

    • 2,306,257 hits
%d bloggers like this: