The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music news: UW pianist Howard Karp has recovered and will play in 34th Karp Family Concert on Sept. 6

August 16, 2010

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has some great news to share today.

The 34th Karp Family (below) Labor Day concert will indeed take place this year — and it will include pianist Howard Karp.

This is great and, in some ways, unexpected news.

In case you didn’t already know it, Howard Karp — who taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for more than 30 years before retiring 10 years ago and who spent almost 50 years teaching at the college level here, in Kentucky and at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana — underwent risky heart surgery last May. That surgery proved difficult and there were complications.

It required a long, hard recuperation.

But Howard is a fighter. The last time he had open heart surgery some 25 year ago, he bounced back to perform the mammoth Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat.

When I saw him recently, Howard was in terrific spirits. His mind and conversation were sharp, and he was full of optimism and stories about music and musicians, especially pianists.

Most important, he confided, he was practicing the piano again.

And he was working on one of Madison’s great traditions: The annual Karp Family Labor Day Concert, it has gone on for 33 years without repeating a piece. And it kicks off the new season at the UW School of Music, which hosts more than 300 events each season.

This year’s concert is on Monday, Sept. 6, at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall.

As always, it is FREE and OPEN to the public – which usually responds by making it the best attended event of the season on the UW School of Music’s Faculty Concert Series.

The program this year is an unusual and appealing one.

It will include Howard’s pianist wife Frances Karp and cellist son Parry Karp who teaches at the UW-Madison and plays in the Pro Arte Quartet) performing the Sonata for Violin and Piano, as transcribed for cello, by the 20th century Polish composer Karol Syzmnanowki (below).

Frances will also play in the “Phantasy” Piano Quartet in F-sharp minor by 20th-century British composer Frank Bridge (below) with violinist Suzanne Beia, cellist Parry Karp and Parry’s wife, violist Katrin Talbot.

Howard Karp will perform his son Parry’s own cello transcription of Brahms’ beautiful and popular Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano, Op. 78.

Then there will be a world premiere of a work commissioned by the Karps that is by Cleveland, Ohio composer Joel Hoffman (below), whom the Karps have become close to, championed and even recorded.

This year’s new work is a duo, “Three Paths for Cello and Piano,” with doctor son Christopher Karp (below of far left) on piano (he normally performs on the violin) playing with his brother Parry on cello.

Here’s hoping all the Karps – but especially the pianist patriarch Howard  (below center,  at the 2008 Red Hot Lava Festival in Hawaii) – get a hearty welcome and a long standing ovation.

They certainly deserve it — for both musical and non-musical reasons.

The Karps really are Madison’s First Family of Music.

So The Ear says Thank You to all and notes that you can pass along your own good wishes at the free courtyard reception that will follow the Labor Day concert.

Do you have wishes or comments you wish to pass along to the Karps?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

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