The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Acclaimed pianist Paul Badura-Skoda returns this week to Madison to play a Mozart concerto as well as a solo recital of Bach, Mozart, Schubert and Chopin

March 8, 2011


Today’s guest blog about two concert sto be given later this week (see below) by pianist Paul Badura-Skoda, is by Dr. Robert Graebner, who is a retired neurologist and classical music aficionado.  He serves on the Advisory Board of the University of Wisconsin School of Music and on the Board of Directors of the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival. He is seen below on the right, with his wife Linda, and with UW School of Music director  John William Schaffer (far left) and UW pianist Christopher Taylor.

By Robert Graebner, M.D.

Forty-seven years ago, the prominent Viennese pianist Paul Badura-Skoda arrived in Madison as a Brittingham Professor of Music.

In his mid-30s, he had already attained international prominence as a concert pianist, but was perhaps best-known to Madisonians for his extensive discography of nearly 100 LP recordings on the Westminster label.  On arrival in early 1964,he embarked on a series of nine formal recitals in Music Hall.

These were unforgettable standing-room-only concerts, many of them televised on WHA-TV. The audience was treated to a survey of many of the greatest, and most demanding, works for piano from Bach to Bartok.  Beethoven‘s “Hammerklavier” and Op.  111 sonatas (see and hear below), Schumann’s  “Symphonic Etudes,” the Liszt B-minor sonata and the Schubert B-flat major sonata and “Wanderer Fantasy” were included, as well as many works by Mozart and Chopin.

Mr. Badura-Skoda returned to Madison as a UW Artist-in-Residence for additional recitals in subsequent years, including a memorable four-hand and two-piano concert with his colleague Jorg Demus, in the Wisconsin Union Theater.  The relationship with the University of Wisconsin eventually ended, but Paul returned to Madison periodically and performed a number of salon concerts at Farley’s House of Pianos.

In November of 2008, he performed a dedicatory recital for the Farley-restored Mason and Hamlin piano at the Unitarian Meeting House, a program that included the final sonatas of Haydn, Beethoven, and Schubert.

Born in Vienna, where he has been a lifelong resident, Badura-Skoda won the Austrian Music Competition in 1947.  Shortly thereafter, as an assistant to Edwin Fischer, his career was launched with concerto engagements with Furtwangler and von Karajan.  He has subsequently ha performed in most of the important venues in Europe, North and South America, Australia, Japan, and China, and has collaborated with conductors Bohm, Maazel, Gardiner, Solti, and Mackerras.  He also was a recital colleague of David Oistrakh, with whom he played the violinist’s final recital.

In addition to his concert career of 65 years, Badura-Skoda has a long history of scholarly contributions to musicology and performance.  The book “Interpreting Mozart,” written with co-author Eva Badura-Skoda, is a detailed study of textual and performance issues  which are of  importance to the serious pianist, but also to any listener desiring insight into the significant  issues that a pianist must deal with when presenting Mozart  piano works.

Other contributions include a performing version of Schubert’s ” Wanderer Fantasy,” a completion of Mozart’s D-major “Coronation” Concerto, many cadenzas for the Mozart concertos, and performing versions of the Beethoven sonatas, the latter with Jorg Demus.

As an early advocate for performing early classical works on the then-contemporary fortepiano. Paul has collected many historical instruments, and has recorded, among other works, the complete Schubert sonatas on fortepiano.

As a recording artist, other projects have included the complete sonatas of Schubert, Beethoven, and Mozart, all on the modern piano, and a recent series of the Mozart concertos, conducted from the piano, with the Prague Chamber Orchestra (also available on DVD).

In 1964, I could not have anticipated that Badura-Skoda, now a grandfather in his ninth decade, would return to Madison for two important concerts.

On Thursday, March 10, at 7:30 in Mills Hall  he will perform Mozart’s dramatic Piano Concerto in C Minor, K. 491 – a favorite of Beethoven — with the University of Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra in Mills Hall. (Also on the program, to be conducted by James Smith, are Beeth0ven’s rarely heard “Music for a Knights’ Ballet” and Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Chamber Symphony,” based on his String Quartet No. 8 in C minor. Admission is free and open to the public.

Two days later, on Saturday, March 12, at 7:30 p.m., pianist Paul Badura-Skoda will present a recital at Farley’s House of Pianos, 6522 Seybold Road, on  Madison’s far west side near West Towne.

The recital will include works by Bach (Partita No. 1), Schubert (Impromptus, Op. 90, Nos. 2 and 3) , Mozart (Fantasy in D minor and the Sonata in A minor, K. 310) and Chopin (3 Waltzes, 2 Nocturnes, Four Mazurkas, Op. 30. the Barcarolle and the Scherzo No. 2).

A reception will follow the concert.

Tickets are $30, $25 for seniors and students, and are available at Farley’s and Orange Tree Imports. Call (608) 271-2626 or visit:

Thank you, Paul, and please return again! Soon.

For a conversation with Paul Badura-Sloda, visit this site:,r:5,s:0&tx=114&ty=117

Posted in Classical music

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