The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music news: The Madison Symphony Orchestra announces its new season for 2011-12

March 22, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

On Monday, the Madison Symphony Orchestra officially announced its 2011-12 season—its 86th season — complete with guest artists and programs that run from Haydn and the Classical era to two contemporary composers.

Music director and conductor John DeMain, now in his 16th season, also said that most of the works are either receiving their Madison premiere or have not been played by the MSO in a decade or more.

Prominent in the new season, which opens Sept. 16 and closes May 13, are the appearances of internally renowned violinist Midori (below, in a photo by Timothy Greenfield Sanders) in Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1; the young violinist Augustin Haidelich in Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2; and the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet. All making their MSO debut, as will guest conductor Ward Stare of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.

Soprano Laquita Mitchell (below top) and baritone Eric Greene (below bottom), who have worked before with DeMain, will also perform in an all-Gershwin tribute.

For the first time in 25 years, the MSO will also feature a new concertmaster  who will be announced in May at the end of the current season. Three candidates — all women — have tried out during the current season.

Returning soloists and guest artists include pianists Andre Watts (below, in a photo by Steven J. Sherman) and Philippe Bianconi, cellist Lynn Harrell and conductor Carl St. Clair as well as several singers including soprano Jamie-Rose Guarrine and local bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen.

Local artists to perform, both at the opening and at the traditional Christmas Spectacular, will include the Madison Symphony Chorus, the Madison Youth Choirs and the Mt. Zion Gospel Choir.

Especially noteworthy programs include a 10th anniversary commemoration of the 9/11 terrorist attacks with the Pulitzer Prize-winning composition “On the Transmigration of Souls” by John Adams (below) and a season-closing all-Gershwin program conducted by MSO music director and conductor John DeMain, who won Grammy, Tony and Grand Prix du Disque awards for his pioneering recording of “Porgy and Bess” with an African-American cast.

Besides the John Adams work, another contemporary work is featured: “Inspiring Beethoven” by Kevin Puts (below, in a photo by Andrew Shapter).

Hard economic times continue to take their toll: The MSO is still offering eight subscription concerts, reduced for the past couple years from nine. MSO officials said they hope to return to nine concerts in the 2012-13 season.

But despite a still recovering economy, each program will still be performed three times in Overture Hall: on Fridays at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m.

The MSO is continuing its popular new subscriber discount of 50% off single ticket prices for subscriptions of six, seven and eight concerts, and has added another option, allowing new subscribers to choose just five concerts at a 40% discount.

New subscriber packages start at $56 for five concerts. There is no deadline for new subscriptions; however, you are encouraged to order early for the best available seats.

Renewing subscribers save up to 25% off the price of single tickets and must renew by May 9, 2011 to keep current seats or request a priority upgrade.

Flex-Ticket Packages make an attractive alternative to regular subscriptions; they come in booklets of 10 ticket vouchers, good in any combination to any concert in the 2011-2012 Season.

Details are available at at http://madisonsymphony.org/flex

and

http://www.madisonsymphony.org/2011-2012season

In addition to subscriber discounts, unlimited ticket exchange and optional reserved subscriber parking in the Dane County Ramp, the MSO also offers an exclusive 10% discount on single tickets during Subscriber Courtesy Days, August 10-12, 2011.

Call (608) 257-3734 with any questions or to be added to the MSO’s mailing list.

Or visit: http://www.madisonsymphony.org

Here is the complete schedule of concerts for the 2011-12 season:

SEPTEMBER 16 17 18
John DeMain, Conductor
André Watts, Piano
Madison Symphony Chorus, Beverly Taylor, Director
Madison Youth Choirs, Michael Ross, Artistic director
Adams, On the Transmigration of Souls
Grieg, Piano Concerto in A minor
Beethoven, Symphony No. 5

OCTOBER 14 15 16
Ward Stare, Conductor
Lynn Harrell, Cello (below, in a photo by Christian Steiner)
Rossini, Overture to The Barber of Seville
Lalo, Cello Concerto in D minor
Sibelius, Symphony No. 2

NOVEMBER 11 12 13
John DeMain, Conductor
Midori, Violin
Haydn, Symphony No. 104 (London)
Ravel, La Valse
Shostakovich, Violin Concerto No. 1

DECEMBER 2 3 4
Christmas Spectacular
John DeMain, Conductor
Jamie-Rose Guarrine, Soprano (below top, in a photo by Peter Konerko)
Kyle Ketelsen, Bass-Baritone (below bottom, in a photo by Dario Acosta)
Madison Symphony Chorus
Beverly Taylor, Director
Madison Youth Choirs (below)
Michael Ross, Artistic Director
Mt. Zion Gospel Choir
Leotha Stanley, Director

JANUARY 20 21 22
John DeMain, Conductor
Augustin Hadelich, Violin (below)
Debussy, Images No. 2: Ibéria
Prokofiev, Violin Concerto No. 2
Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 2 (Little Russian)

MARCH 9 10 11
Carl St. Clair, Conductor
Los Angeles Guitar Quartet (below)
Brahms, Symphony No. 3
Rodrigo, Concierto Andaluz
Rimsky-Korsakov, Capriccio Espagnol

MARCH 30 31 APRIL 1
John DeMain, Conductor
Philippe Bianconi, Piano (below)
Kevin Puts, Inspiring Beethoven
Beethoven, Piano Concerto No. 4
R. Strauss, Ein Heldenleben

MAY 11 12 13
John DeMain, Conductor
Martina Filjak, Piano (below top)
Laquita Mitchell, Soprano (below middle)
Eric Greene, Baritone (below bottom)
Madison Symphony Chorus
Beverly Taylor, Director
Gershwin, Cuban Overture
Gershwin, An American in Paris
Gershwin, Rhapsody in Blue
Gershwin, Excerpts from Porgy and Bess

What do you think of the new Madison Symphony Orchestra season?

Of the guest conductors and soloists?

Of the programs?

The Ear wants to hear.


Posted in Classical music

Classical music review: the marathon “Bach Around the Clock” concert is now officially a tradition in Madison, Wisconsin. Let’s go for three.

March 21, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

When does an event become a tradition?

Probably when the promise of a so-called “first annual” event turns into reality and actually becomes the second annual.

And that is the case with the marathon noon-to-midnight “Bach Around the Clock” concert that was held last Saturday, March 19. Like last year, it was organized by Wisconsin Public Radio and hosted at the Pres House chapel, 731 State St.

The event, patterned after a similar 24-hour event in New Orleans, is to greet the birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach (March 21, 1685-July 28, 1750), who is generally considered the be the greatest and most seminal or influential of all composers.

In some ways, this year was harder to do. The momentum for starting something new is often considerably less than the momentum for continuing it.

Add in the early spring break at the University of Wisconsin, where the outstanding School of Music usually provides great performers, both student and faculty, and you have some idea of the challenge.

“We were just killed this year by spring break,” admitted Cheryl Dring, WPR’s music director and morning host who dreamed up and organized the event, then hosted it (below, with Pres House music director Michael Hillestad.)

Dring promised that next year, the event would not coincide with UW Spring Break (March 31-April 8, 2012). I’m happy personally because then it is more likely I will play. The Ear’s guess is BATC-3 will be held on Saturday, March 17, 2012.

But from what I saw and heard, this year was still a resounding success.

It started perfectly, with great contrast between student and professional musicians. Bach’s universality clearly calls to both.

First came 10-year-old Mikaela Steckelis, whose playing was also used for a radio engineer’s sound check, performing Bach’s Two-Part invention No. 13 in A minor on the piano (below).

And she was followed by UW professor and early music specialist John Chappell Stowe (below, with his page-turner, baroque violinist Edith Hines) explaining and playing Bach’s long, difficult and dark English Suite, No. 6 in D Minor, in its entirety on the harpsichord.


Organ music was once again provided in plenty by Alex Ford (below), who played a handful of trio sonatas, preludes and fugues, and choral preludes, including “Wachet auf” (Sleepers, Wake) from Cantata 147 (below and at bottom).

Along the way several piano teachers brought their studios to perform.

They included Denise Taylor, who also accompanied her violinist daughter Ellie (below) in a minuet from the “Notebook of Anna Magdalena Bach” and who herself performed the difficult opening movement of Bach’s big Partita No. 4 in D major.

Sophia Musacchio (below) played three movements from the French Suite, No. 6 in E Major.

Caroline Zhou (below) played the Two-Part invention No. 1.

Caleb Zimmick (below) played two of the “Little Preludes,” which don’t seem so little when you are performing them in public.

And Sevan Virperian (below) played the Two-Part Invention No. 8.

Gloria Chuang, who coincidentally also played the same partita movement as Taylor, also brought students, including some very young very talent children – one boy (below) who played with great sensitivity and from memory. But her students (and their pieces) were never identified by themselves or by her, so I can’t credit them by name. I regret that because they worked hard and performed well.

Casey Oelkers (below top) played a solo flute partita that was a delight, while Aaron Catalano showed up in a red badger athletic shirt and played a prelude for guitar (below bottom).

I was particularly impressed with the musicality of solo violinist Maynie Bradley (below).

Some snafus were inevitable – a baritone got a cold and cancelled and a cellist lost a tuning pegged and couldn’t play – but host Dring made the best of it and stay unruffled.

In a nearby cafeteria, generously donated snacks – cookies and peanuts, water and lemonade, coffee and tea – had been provided along with tables and chairs to sit and talk about the music and greet the various performers.

And this year, the statewide live and real-time webcast (below) did NOT fail. So before I went to bed at home, I got to see baroque violinist play a sonata with Stowe and then a wonderful solo sonata of Bach.

Were there mistakes, wrong n motes and memory lapses? Of course, this was a live event. But there was also wonderful music-making and an appreciative and forgiving public.

All in all, it was a lot of fun for the performers and the listeners.

The Ear says: Do It Again Next Year.

Let’s make it No. 3!

And I have a few suggestions to offer:

WPR should start signing up players soon. It gives people an incentive and lots o time to learn pieces and practice them.

Have someone or a couple of people do the same piece – maybe a two- or three—part invention or a prelude and fugue from the Well-Tempered Clavier – on the piano and harpsichord so listeners can compare period performance to modern performance. The same goes for the baroque and modern violin.

Maybe a particular teacher could line up five students to each do three Two-Part Inventions and then in Tag Team fashion perform the complete set? Or 15 students to do one each.

Oh well, ideas are easy and execution is hard.

However BATC-3 is planned and turns out, The Ear expects to be there again next year and hear another successful homage to Mr. Bach.

And hopes you will too.

What do you think of this year’s Bach Around the Clock?

Should it continue?

The Ear wants to hear.


Posted in Classical music

Classical music: Which piece of classical music best expresses the coming of spring?

March 20, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

Today is the vernal equinox – the first day of spring. It arrives in Wisconsin at  6:21 p.m.

And boy, is it ever welcome this year.

It’s no secret that a lot of composers have written music as a response to the coming of spring. And you can understand it, especially after a winter with as much cold and snow and ice and gray days as this past winter has brought.

Of course, some spring-inspired music is very well known.

There is the spring section of Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons,” and Schumann’s “Spring” Symphony; Mendelssohn’s “Spring Song” in his “Songs Without Words” for the piano; Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” and, for a more severe and pagan vision of springtime, Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.”

Of the best known spring-inspired works, probably my favorite is Beethoven’s “Spring” Sonata for violin and piano, which I recently heard performed incomparably by Hilary Hahn and Valentina Lisitsa.



But there is so much more spring-inspired music, much of it relatively unknown.

Schubert wrote at least two songs about spring: “Fruhlingsglaube” and, from “Winterreise,” “Fruhlingstraum” (Dream of Spring). Schumann also wrote a “Spring Song” in his “Album for the Young” and the song “In wundermonat Mai” (In the wonderful month of May) in the cycle “Dichterliebe” (A Poet’s Loves).

Haydn has a spring section, of course, in his oratorio, ‘The Seasons.” Respighi has a portrait of spring in his “Three Botticelli Pictures.” Mozart’s string quartet, K. 387, the first of his six “Haydn” quartets (to whom they were dedicated) is often called “Spring.” J.S. Bach wrote “Awake, Thou Wintry Earth” in Cantata No. 202. His contemporary Handel wrote “Spring Is Coming” in his opera “Ottone.”

The human voice, understandably, is often the preferred way to express the joy of spring.

Even Chopin wrote a song “Spring” that is not well; known. (Well, what of his non-piano music is well known?) Rachmaninov, also a piano virtuoso, wrote two songs: “Spring Waters” and “Floods of Spring” (which will be especially fitting for some parts of the country, according to the weather predictions).

In bigger and more epic works, Wagner has Siegmund sing a “Spring” Song” in “Die Walkure.” Verdi wrote ‘Spring” in his “Four Seasons Ballet” in “The Sicilian Vespers.”

Of course Johann Strauss wrote the famous “Voices of Spring.” And Tchaikovsky wrote a piano work, “Spring” as part of the cycle “The Seasons” and a song “It Happened in the Early Spring.”

Three of the less well-known works are written by Nordic composers who surely felt a deep personal appreciation of the easing of winter’s grip and the coming of spring thaws and budding flowers. Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg wrote two of his many “Lyric Pieces” for solo piano: “Spring” and “To Spring”; and Norwegian composer Christian Sinding wrote “The Rustles of Spring” for piano.

So here is my question today:

Do you have a favorite piece of music that for you embodies spring?

If so, what is it and do you have a favorite performance to recommend?

And do you know of any other rarely heard spring-inspired classical music?

The Ear wants to hear.


Posted in Classical music

Classical music news: Conductor Riccardo Muti wins a million-dollar prize. Should James Levine also leave the Metropolitan Opera? Altanta Symphony’s Robert Spano heads out to head up Aspen Festival. Is a new Chopin deathbed photo authentic?

March 19, 2011
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A REMINDER: WISCONSIN PUBLIC RADIO AND PRES HOUSE, 731 STATE ST., ARE HOLDING T ‘BACH AROUND THE CLOCK’ FROM NOON TO MIDNIGHT TODAY, SATURDAY, MARCH 19. TO CELEBRATE THE BIRTHDAY OF JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH. IT SHOULD BE FUN WITH LOTS OF MUSIC AND PERFORMERS TO HEAR. HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE.

By Jacob Stockinger

It’s really a mixed bag this week when it comes to classical music news.

Must be the change of seasons!

ITEM: Chicago Symphony Orchestra maestro Riccardo Muti has won a million-dollar prize:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/16/us-riccardomuti-idUSTRE72F9PI20110316

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-riccardo-muti-prize-20110316,0,7314863.story

ITEM: The Aspen Festival and School turn to Atlanta Symphony’s Robert Spano (below) for a new director:

http://www.gramophone.co.uk/classical-music-news/robert-spano-headed-to-aspen

ITEM: Americans are trying to import Venezuela’s famed “el sistema” music education system that produced Gustavo Dudamel (below):

http://www.npr.org/2011/03/15/134567922/the-road-to-an-american-el-sistema

ITEM: A new photo of Chopin on his deathbed has been found – or  has it?:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/03/10/AR2011031001937.html

ITEM: Should James Levine leave the Metropolitan Opera as well as the Boston Symphony? A blogger for New York Magazine thinks so:

http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2011/03/justin_davidson_on_the_disappe.html

ITEM: Famed oboist Heinz Holliger (below) and Robert Schumann are profiled and celebrated in London:

http://www.gramophone.co.uk/classical-music-news/heinz-holliger-profiled-in-london

ITEM: Gifted conductor Yakov Kreizberg dies at 51:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2011/03/16/134592101/conductor-yakov-kreizberg-dead-at-51

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/culture/stephenhough/100052200/the-sad-and-too-early-death-of-yakov-kreizberg/


Posted in Classical music

Classical music: Saturday is your chance to celebrate J.S. Bach’s birthday for 12 hours

March 18, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

JUST A REMINDER: Wisconsin Public Radio and the Pres House are teaming up again to offer the second annual “Bach Around the Clock” marathon concert.

It will be held from noon to midnight on this Saturday, March 19, at the Pres House, 731 State St. The church has a good organ, a fine piano and a nicely intimate performance space (below). Like last year, snacks will be available for free in the nearby cafeteria.

And like last year, a cake will be served around midnight to celebrate the Birthday Boy.

The purpose of the event is to mark the birthday (March 21, 1685) of Johann Sebastian Bach (below), who died at 65 on July 28, 1750 is generally conceded to be the greatest composer of all time and the one who most affected the future path of Western classical music.

The organizer of the event, and the person who inaugurated the event based on a similar event at a church in her native New Orleans, is Cheryl Dring (below). Dring hosts the “Morning Classics” program on WPR from 9 to 11 a.m. each weekday morning. She is also the music director of Wisconsin Public Radio.

Here is my account of it last year:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2010/03/26/classical-music-review-we-bached-around-the-clock-last-saturday

Once again, Dring, in her remarkably upbeat and friendly radio voice, made a Public Service Announcement (PSA) for Wisconsin Public Radio that called on all kinds of musicians — professionals, amateurs and students — to take part in the celebratory event.

Last year, the performers included professionals like keyboardist Trevor Stephenson and the Madison Bach Musicians (below) and baroque violinist Edith Hines and some church organists and choirs. Others who took part included elementary, middle and high school students as well as UW students and faculty members and amateurs from the community.

Several local piano teachers made the event a kind of class or studio project.

This year, it is more difficult to round up musicians because of the UW Spring Break, Dring says. Nonetheless, she has got a program that includes keyboardist and Madison Bach Musicians founder and director Trevor Stephenson (performing from 5-6 p.m.) and baroque violinist Edith Hines (below) who will kick things off at noon with solo violin works including the famous, beautiful and difficult Chaconne.

The performances were also webcast to the rest of the state in real time. Dring told the Ear she is trying to arrange that again, but I have had no final word about this year.

It was a lot of fun last year, both to play and to listen – though I do not have new Bach to offer this year. I hope to next year.

This  year’s official logo is Warhol playful.

For more information or to book a time slot, visit the site below and contact Dring on the following page. I imagine even last-minute offers might l be accepted and fit into the schedule:

http://www.wpr.org/regions/msn/

You can also email Dring at: cheryl.dring@wpr.org

What do you think of Bach Around the Clock last year?

Did you take part of listen?

What did you think of this year’s party?

The Ear wants to hear.


Posted in Classical music

Classical music news: The Madison Symphony Orchestra announces the winners of the Final Forte concert Wednesday night

March 17, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

Here is the official announcement from the Madison Symphony Orchestra about the winners of the Final Forte concert competition last night:

“The free Final Forte concert, held last night, in Overture Hall was a true celebration of the power of music and music education. All four finalists played beautifully, wowing a large audience.

“After the judging was complete, Pianist Ariela Bohrod (left, in the above photo by Jim Gill) and Violinist Leah Latorraca (second from right) emerged as the winners.

“Cellist Elliot Yang and Violinist Valerie Clare Sanders also gave stunning performances.

“We’d like to thank all four finalists for their dedication and professionalism. Good luck to you all!”

For more information about the participants and the prizes, check out the postings on this blog for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and visit:

http://www.madisonsymphony.org/bolz


Posted in Classical music

Classical music datebook: Use the silence of Spring Break to renew your appetite for music

March 17, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

It is Spring Break at the University of Wisconsin, so much less than usual is going on in the way of live concerts. This would be a good time to read a book about music – and there are many — or listen to some recordings.

Or better yet:

How about going without music for a while, at least a few days? Funny, how silence can whet you appetite for music?

It’s a kind of renewal of appreciation.

In fact, I think that is part of composer John Cage (below) and his cagey strategy – sorry, I can’t help the wordplay – in the famous or infamous 4’ 33”, the silent piano piece which also asks the audience or listen to the music of the environmental sounds, or “music,” around them.

Anyway, it’s something to think about. Which pieces or composers do you miss most when you don’t hear classical music regularly?

The Ear wants to hear. I remember the joy of hearing Bach’s simple (or not so simple) Two-Part Inventions after spending a week on a beach without music as a long drink of refreshing cold water.

Still, there is live music this week.

On FRIDAY, the weekly free Friday Musicale, from 12:15 to 1 p.m. at the First Unitarian Society’s Meeting House, 900 University Bay Drive,  will feature Marilyn Chihaney, flute, and Linda Warren, harp, in music of Bach, Beauchamp, Corigliano, Hovhannes and Mussorgsky.

 

Then ON SATURDAY, from noon to midnight at the Pres House, 731 State St., Wisconsin Public Radio is sponsoring the second annual Bach Around the Clock to greet the birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach.

 

There will be professionals, amateurs and students all playing and the public is invited to the free event that also features free cookies, drinks and other refreshments. It was fun last year and will be fun again this year.

I’ll post more information, along with some photos from last year.

In the meantime, for details you can visit:

http://wpr.org/madison

On SUNDAY:

Sunday Afternoon Live from the Chazen features Raffi Besalyan and the North Shore Quartet from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. in Brittingham Gallery III at the Chazen Museum of Art.  The performance will feature music from Franck’s Piano Quintet, J. Haydn’s Sonata in G-Major, Ravel’s La Valse, and three Armenian pieces for violin and piano.

Pianist Raffi Besalyan has performed in various places such as North and South America, Europe, Russia and Asia.  In 2008 he joined the faculty at UW Stevens Point and currently is an assistant consultant for Dover Publications.  Besalyan will be joined by the North Shore Quartet consisting of members Yuliya Smead, Yuri Segawa, Matthew Michelic, and Luara Kenney Henckel.

Members of the Chazen Museum of Art or Wisconsin Public Radio can call ahead and reserve seats for Sunday Afternoon Live performances. Seating is limited. All reservations must be made Monday through Friday before the concert and claimed by 12:20 p.m. on the day of the performance. For more information or to learn how to become a museum member, contact the Chazen Museum at (608) 263-2246.

A reception follows the performance, with refreshments generously donated by Fresh Madison Market, Coffee Bytes and Steep & Brew. A free docent-led tour in the Chazen galleries begins every Sunday at 2 p.m.

On MONDAY, Keyboard Conversations pianist Jeffrey Siegel will hold a free and public master class at 7 p.m. in Morphy Hall.

On TUESDAY, at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall,  pianist Jeffrey Siegel (below), long a staple of Madison’s concert life, returns with “Paris – 1911! A Century Celebration!” The program features enduring, forever engaging masterpieces composed exactly 100 years ago.

Selections include Ravel’s “Noble and Sentimental Waltzes,” exotic preludes of Debussy and Faure, humorous short pieces of Eric Satie and Stravinsky’s colorful “Petrouchka.”

Tickets are $34, for the public; UW-Madison students are admitted free. Youth tickets are only $14 with purchase of adult ticket – limit 2 youth tickets per adult ticket. Youth tickets must be purchased at the same time as the adult tickets and are valid for youths 6-18 years old. Age is verified at door.




Posted in Classical music

Classical music: Meet violinist Valerie Clare Sanders — the fourth and final competitor in the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s “Final Forte” concert to be broadcast live tonight

March 16, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

Usually, Wednesdays are reserved for a datebook with the coming week’s concerts. But I am postponing that until tomorrow because I have the last interview to publish with violinist Valerie Clare Sanders, who is among the Final Forte competitors.

TONIGHT, the Madison Symphony Orchestra will perform with the Final Forte competitors.

The finalists (below in a photo below by James Gill) in the 2011 Bolz Young Artists Competition are (from left) pianist Ariela Bohrod, cellist Elliot Yang and violinists Leah Latorraca and Valerie Clare Sanders. (The last two days on this blog have featured interviews with three of the four.  Today is the fourth interview.)

Each finalist will perform a concerto excerpt with the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) under the baton of Music Director John DeMain before a live audience in Overture Hall.

Bohrod will perform “Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22” by Camille Saint-Saëns. Yang will perform “Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major, Op. 107” by Dmitri Shostakovich. Latorraca will perform Concerto No. 2 by Béla Bartók and Sanders will perform “Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 77” by Dmitri Shostakovich.

The winner and runner-up will be featured as soloists with the MSO at the Spring Young People’s Concert. In addition, each student will receive a $2,000 scholarship; either the Marian Bolz Prize or the Steenbock Youth Music Award. Up to two Honorable Mention scholarships of $1,000 may be awarded.

The free concert, which will also determine the final order and prizes of the winners, will take place tonight in Overture Hall, at 6:45 p.m. Tickets are free but must be reserved.

The concert will be broadcast LIVE Wednesday night starting at 7 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Radio, 88.7 FM in the Madison area.

Wisconsin Public Television will broadcast the concert on Monday, March 28, at 8 p.m. and then on Saturday, April 3, at 3:30 p.m.

What a perfect use of public radio and television, The Ears says. Why would anyone want to defund such meritorious and deserving public services?

For more information about the Final Forte, visit:

http://www.madisonsymphony.org/bolz

or http://wpr.org/madison

Four high school students from around the state are the finalists. Today is the last of the four interviews with them.

What is your name? How old are you and when did you start studying music?

My name is Valerie Clare Sanders.  I am 18 years old, and I started studying violin when I was 3.

What grade are you in now and what school do you go to?

I am a high school senior, and I currently attend Divine Savior Holy Angels High School in Milwaukee.

What are your favorites subjects? Do you have other areas of interest (such as sports, theater, dancing, debating, chess – please be specific)

My favorite subjects in school include English, Latin, Science, and all of the fine arts elective classes that I’ve taken, including Theory, Playwriting and Dance.

In addition to my schoolwork and practicing, I am very active in the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra (MYSO, below).  Through that organization, I have been in a variety of orchestras, chamber ensembles, and extra collaborative performing projects, as well as competitions.

Outside of music and school, I also enjoy reading, writing (stories and poetry), theatre, attending ballets and concerts, being with friends and family, going running or walking outdoors, and creating costumes.

What are your plans for higher education and a career?

I plan to earn a degree in violin performance in college, and then beyond that perhaps a master’s and doctorate in some form of musical pursuit.  I would really love to teach in some way, whether that be in the form of a classroom music professor, a violin professor or private violin studio teacher, or a director of a youth orchestra program.  And of course, hopefully I will always be performing in some way at least once in a while.

Who is your music teacher?

I have quite a number of teachers who influence my musical education.

Currently, I study violin privately with Eugene Purdue, who teaches in Madison.  In the past, my violin teachers have been Jeanyi Kim, of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, and Mary Ellen Meyer.

Additionally, I study piano with Stefanie Jacob at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, and have been studying with her for about 7 years now.

At school, my music teacher is Sam Grabow, and at MYSO, my directors include Carter Simmons, Margery Deutsch, and Shelby Keith Dixon.

Do you have a favorite composer and favorite pieces to listen to or to play?

I tend to enjoy Russian and Eastern European music – Shostakovich (below), Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Bartok.  I love its grittiness and intriguing harmonies.  I also like the music of Copland and Debussy.  Overall, however, I pretty much love all types of classical music.

Why is playing music important to you and what does playing music teach you?

Playing music is important to me because it keeps me sensitive and in touch with the details of everyday experience.  I love the abstract nature of music, as well as its paradox: music is simultaneously very tangible (we can all experience it with our physical senses) and highly intangible (the profound emotional power of music is invisible).

Since I view it as a sort of intersection point between human experience and the deeper, indescribable truths about that experience, I see music as a kind of calling.  Not many people can say that they are able to make an audience cry, think deeply, or simply be touched in some way; and so I also view being a performing artist/musician as a form of serving others and enriching the community, which is obviously important.

Music has taught me too many things to count!  To name a few:

Music has fashioned my work ethic.  It has taught me how to focus my energy on any given task, and to persevere in pursuing my goals passionately no matter what happens.

It has taught me to be an assertive leader on many levels, including socially, physically, and verbally.

It has taught me how to be humble; it has taught me the importance of paying attention to detail, and the value of complexity and subtlety.  It has taught me the value and the meaning of community.  And it has made me a more sensitive individual.  All these things and more!

What different kinds of music do you listen to and like?

Most of the time, I listen to classical music, including ballets and operas.  Sometimes, I enjoy Christian or popular music if someone recommends it.  I am fond of many musicals.  Also, I love listening to Gregorian chant and other medieval or Renaissance styles.

Was there an Aha! Moment or turning point – perhaps a certain performer or piece — when you knew you wanted to be very serious about pursuing classical music?

When I was in 8th grade, I played the orchestral version of Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” ballet suite with the Milwaukee Youth Chamber Orchestra.  I remember feeling poignantly that the music was taking everyone in the room on a journey, and at the end of the performance, a perfect, nearly sublime sense of peace and tranquility pervaded the room.

Several of my fellow orchestra members, some audience members, and I were in tears as the piece came to a close, because the experience was just that beautiful and magical.  That was my first deep encounter with the indescribable power of music to touch human hearts and spirits, and from that point on I knew I would just have to keep playing.

What advice would you give others, students and adults, about studying music?

If you are serious about studying music, take advantage of as many opportunities as you can find.  Be assertive and get yourself out there, but be humble at the same time.  Never assume that there’s nothing more to learn, because when you’re a musician of any kind, there will ALWAYS be more to learn.

Be willing to choose to work ridiculously hard, and embrace every challenge as best you can.  Allow your teachers to expand your musical horizon beyond your comfort zones.  Take time to devote lots of energy to building relationships with your teachers and fellow musicians, since I think that helps music to become a more meaningful communal experience.  Most of all, remember to keep joy and a positive attitude a vital part of all your musical experiences.

For less serious learners, I would say generally the same – take advantage of as many opportunities as you can, like classes, performances, and lessons.  Do everything you can to understand the language of music, since this understanding and appreciation will undoubtedly continue to enrich many other areas of your life long after you’re “done” learning.  Continue enjoying music in your own life, and don’t be afraid to advocate for it within your community, especially among younger people.

How important do you think music education is in relation to other areas of education?

Music affects people’s brains in ways that absolutely no other discipline can.  It makes parts of the brain work together that don’t normally communicate with each other, and leads to a greater appreciation for abstract-ness and complexity.

It creates a healthy emotional environment, and perhaps a spiritual outlet for those who need it to be so.  It stimulates creative and collaborative thinking, encourages humility and respectful behavior, allows for individuality of expression, and promotes solid work ethic, self-discipline, and self-control.

I think part of the reason that music and fine arts are shortchanged or cut from our educational systems is that its benefits are not as tangible or measurable as those from other disciplines.

The value of music to those who learn it – or who are at least exposed to it in some way – is usually not statistically measurable or necessarily rewarding in the modern sense of success.  Yet, I think that is precisely why we need to keep it as a part of young people’s lives.

What does getting the chance to perform a concerto with an orchestra mean to you and why?

Certainly, it is a great honor. Working with professional musicians will be very eye-opening for me.  I also think it will be a challenge to grow as an amateur young musician, since I will be performing with people I’ve never met before.

Also, learning how to play a piece with many orchestra parts behind you is quite different from learning to play the same piece with a piano accompaniment – there’s a lot more going on with more people to keep track of!

Additionally, as I’ve been preparing for the concert, it’s been eye-opening to discover new ways to project my performance to such a large audience; suddenly, as a soloist, I have to figure out how to ‘magnify’ my playing so that the nuances and meanings of the piece are clear to both the orchestra and the audience.

And then I think the cherry on the top of the cake is the fact that my older sister Erica Sanders is a violinist in the Madison Symphony Orchetsra, so she’ll be playing with me – that just makes everything that much more exciting, endearing, and memorable!

 


Posted in Classical music

Classical music: Previewing the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s “Final Forte” teen concerto concert this Wednesday night — Part 2

March 15, 2011
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

I promised earlier this year that I would focus on music education.

With Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker cutting back on school aids and Congressional Republicans looking to defund – read, gut or kill – NPR and PBS – music education (an arts education in general) needs all the help it can get.

In that spirit, I want to highlight the upcoming Final Forte concert and Bolz Young Artist Competition held each year for high school instrumentalists by the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

The finalists in the 2011 Bolz Young Artists Competition are pianist Ariela Bohrod, cellist Elliot Yang and violinists Leah Latorraca and Valerie Clare Sanders.

Each finalist will perform a concerto excerpt with the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) (below) under the direction of Music Director John DeMain before a live audience.

Bohrod will perform “Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22” by Camille Saint-Saëns. Yang will perform “Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major, Op. 107” by Dmitri Shostakovich. Latorraca will perform Piano Concerto No. 2 by Béla Bartók and Sanders will perform “Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 77” by Dmitri Shostakovich.

The winner and runner-up will be featured as soloists with the MSO at the Spring Young People’s Concert. In addition, each student will receive a $2,000 scholarship; either the Marian Bolz Prize or the Steenbock Youth Music Award. Up to two Honorable Mention scholarships of $1,000 may be awarded.

The free concert, which will also determine the final order and prizes of the winners, will take place this Wednesday, March 16, in Overture Hall, at 6:45 p.m. Tickets are free be must be reserved.

Four high school students from around the state are the finalists.

The concert will be broadcast LIVE Wednesday night starting at 7 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Radio.

Wisconsin Public Television will broadcast the concert on Monday, March 28, at 8 p.m. and then on Saturday, April 3, at 3:30 p.m.

What a perfect use of public radio and television, The Ears says. Why would anyone want to defund such meritorious and deserving public services?

For more information about the Final Forte, visit:

http://www.madisonsymphony.org/bolz

http://wpr.org/madison

In the meantime, I asked each participant to answer some basic questions for a profile. All of them did so, each with an intelligence and a maturity that should whet listeners’ appetite to hear them perform – and to support music education. Yesterday, we heard from Leah and Elliot. Today, we hear from Ariela. (Valerie will be featured tomorrow.)

PIANIST ARIELA BOHROD (far left in the above photo by James Gill)

How old are you and when did you start studying music?

I am 15 years old, and I started studying piano when I was four years old.

What grade are you in now and what school do you go to?

I am a sophomore at Interlochen Arts Academy in Interlochen, Michigan.

What are your favorites subjects?

English and French. I also love to dance; I take ballet and modern. I am also very enthusiastic about Pilates and yoga.

What are your plans for higher education and a career?

After I graduate from High School, I would love to attend either a university or a conservatory, preferably in a big city. Most of my top schools are either in New York or California.

Who is your music teacher?

At Interlochen, I study with T.J. Lymenstull. In Madison, Wisconsin, I study with Julie Chang. They are both so influential to me, and they have taught me so much: both musically and personally.

Do you have a favorite composer and favorite pieces to listen to or to play?

Narrowing down all the composers I love to just one is so difficult because I have so many favorites. A few of my favorite composers are Chopin, Debussy and Rachmaninoff. I mainly like to listen to pieces from either the Romantic or Impressionistic era.

Why is playing music important to you and what does playing music teach you?

Playing music is my way of expressing myself. I can express any emotion I have through my music, no matter if I’m happy, sad, angry, excited, etc. It’s really my only way of thoroughly emitting my feelings, and connecting them to others. That’s really my ultimate goal as a pianist – to connect to others, and to emote my feelings to my audience.

What different kinds of music do you listen to and like?

There really isn’t any of genre of music I don’t like. I listen to a broad range of music; from Alternative Rock to Hip-Hop. My favorite music, besides Classical music, is soft, Alternative Rock music.

Was there an Aha! Moment or turning point – perhaps a certain performer or piece — when you knew you wanted to be very serious about pursuing classical music?

As soon as I began my freshman year at Interlochen Arts Academy, I knew that I wanted to pursue classical music for the rest of my life. I became so inspired, and I really began looking at and thinking about piano in a totally different way. At that moment, I became so incredibly passionate about music, and I jumped at every opportunity I had to play or perform. It became more than just something I did – it turned into a part of my life.

What advice would you give others, students and adults, about studying music?

The main piece of advice I can give to others studying music would be to do it because you love it. Enjoy what you are doing, and take every opportunity offered to you. Make the most of your experiences, and love every minute of what you’re doing.

How important do you think music education is in relation to other areas of education?

Music has this incredible way of connecting to many people at a time. Unlike other areas of study, a group of students can play and work together to create a beautiful sound, piece, or performance. Besides bringing kids together, music can be influential in other classes as well, such as math and foreign languages.

But most important, educating children about music will increase the importance of the arts in their life. I am so passionate about the issue of education in schools because of how important the arts are in my life. I am incredibly privileged to go to such an amazing arts school, and I wish that all children would be able such a rich atmosphere of art around them.

What does getting the chance to perform a concerto with an orchestra mean to you and why?

I am so honored to have the opportunity to play with the Madison Symphony Orchestra. Playing with an orchestra is one of the most exciting experiences I’ve ever had, and it’s so invigorating to feel the excitement from the audience and the orchestra when I go onstage. I am so thankful for this experience, and I can’t wait to perform!

Tomorrow: Meet violinist Valerie Clare Sanders


Posted in Classical music

Classical music news: Meet the winners of the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s youth competition who perform this Wednesday night

March 14, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

I promised earlier this year that I would focus on music education.

With Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker cutting back on school aids and Congressional Republicans looking to defund – read, gut or kill – NPR and PBS – music education (an arts education in general) needs all the help it can get.

In that spirit, I want to highlight the upcoming Final Forte concert and Bolz Young Artist Competition held each year for high school instrumentalists by the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below).

The free concert, under the baton of maestro John DeMain, which will also determine the final order and prizes of the winners, will take place this Wednesday, March 16, in Overture Hall, at 6:45 p.m. Tickets are free but must be reserved. Go to htttp://wpr.org/madison

Four high school students from around the state are the finalists. Two will be profiled today and the rest tomorrow.

The finalists in the 2011 Bolz Young Artists Competition are pianist Ariela Bohrod, cellist Elliot Yang and violinists Leah Latorraca and Valerie Clare Sanders.

Each finalist will perform a concerto excerpt with the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) under the direction of Music Director John DeMain (below) before a live audience.

Bohrod will perform “Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22” by Camille Saint-Saëns. Yang will perform “Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major, Op. 107” by Dmitri Shostakovich. Latorraca will perform Violin Concerto No. 2 by Béla Bartók and Sanders will perform Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 77 by Dmitri Shostakovich.

The winner and runner-up will be featured as soloists with the MSO at the Spring Young People’s Concert. In addition, each student will receive a $2,000 scholarship; either the Marian Bolz Prize or the Steenbock Youth Music Award. Up to two Honorable Mention scholarships of $1,000 may be awarded.

The concert will be broadcast LIVE Wednesday night starting at 7 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Radio.

Wisconsin Public Television will broadcast the concert on Monday, March 28, at 8 p.m. and then on Saturday, April 3, at 3:30 p.m.

What a perfect use of public radio and television, The Ears says. Why would anyone want to defund such meritorious and deserving public services?

For more information about the Final Forte, visit:

http://www.madisonsymphony.org/bolz

In the meantime, I asked each participant to answer some basic questions for a profile. Three of them did so, all with an intelligence and maturity that should whet listeners’ appetite to hear them perform – and to support music education.

LEAH LATORRACA (second from right in the photo above by James Gill):

What is your name? How old are you and when did you start studying music?

My name is Leah Latorraca and I am 17 years old. I began playing violin at age 4.

What grade are you in now and what school do you go to?

I am a senior at Madison La Follette High School.

What are your favorites subjects and other areas of interest?

I really enjoy math and languages, especially Spanish. I also enjoy running, biking, and tennis; any outdoor activities.

What are your plans for higher education and a career?

I intend to attend music school for violin performance. If all goes well I would love to perform in a professional orchestra and/or chamber group.

Who is your music teacher?

I study with Desiree Ruhstrat at the Music Institute of Chicago.

Do you have a favorite composer and favorite pieces to listen to or to play?

I really love Romantic composers — Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, Dvorak etc., and I love the Romantic chamber music. Mozart and Beethoven are also very refreshing to listen to and play.

Why is playing music important to you and what does playing music teach you?

Music is important to me because it is a form of communication and expression for me. It is the universal language, bringing people of all cultures and ethnicities together. Playing music not only teaches creativity and expression, but also dedication, responsibility, and diligence.

Was there an Aha! Moment or turning point – perhaps a certain performer or piece — when you knew you wanted to be very serious about pursuing classical music?

In 6th grade I attended a music camp in Philadelphia. That was the first time that I was surrounded by so many amazing players and the first time I realized the possibilities available to me in music.

What advice would you give others, students and adults, about studying music?

Follow your heart, and be passionate about your dreams.

How important do you think music education is in relation to other areas of education?

I believe that music education is just as important as other academics. Ideally, music education should begin at an early age as it fosters creativity, expression, and responsibility. Studies have shown that students exposed to Mozart and other music at an early age increases their aptitude in math and languages. Having at least a basic musical education helps lead to a more enriched, cultured, and well-rounded individual.

What does getting the chance to perform a concerto with and orchestra mean to you and why?

Having the chance to perform a concerto with an orchestra is an amazing experience. With the exception of young prodigies, it is rare for students to have such a wonderful opportunity to play with a great orchestra. Additionally, since there is no required repertoire for the competition, I am able to play any piece of my choice. Having the full texture of an orchestra behind you is an exhilarating experience.

ELLIOT YANG (second from left in the photo below by James Gill)

What is your name? How old are you and when did you start studying music?

My name is Elliot Yang and I started playing the cello at the age of six.

What grade are you in now and what school do you go to?

I am currently in the 11th grade at New Berlin West High School

What are your favorites subjects and other areas of interest?

Aside from music I enjoy competitive swimming, catching up with friends, baseball, action/drama movies, and reading nonfiction. Khaled Hoessini is definitely one of my more recent favorite authors.

What are your plans for higher education and a career?

I always thought I would go to a university, but I’ve recently had aspirations to attend music school.  I’m currently aiming to become a cello professor.

Who is your music teacher?

I currently study with Dr. Stefan Kartman of UW-Milwaukee.

Do you have a favorite composer and favorite pieces to listen to or to play?

My favorite composer is Bach because without him, the music we have today wouldn’t exist. Bach managed to bridge medieval music with modern music and anticipated everything to come.  My favorite pieces include Schubert’s “Arpeggione Sonata,” Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2, the Sibelius Violin Concerto, “Rhapsody in Blue,” “Appalachian Spring,” “Adagio for Strings,” and many others.

Why is playing music important to you and what does playing music teach you?

Playing music is important because it is another way to express myself and understand others.  Music teaches me discipline and challenges me to be original in my ideas.

Aside from classical music — which should definitely be more than just one genre! — I enjoy pop, easy listening, folk music, alternative, and world music.  More specifically, Edith Piaf, Michael Buble, Frank Sinatra, Coldplay, Jack Johnson, and Herbie Hancock are among my favorite artists.

Was there an Aha! Moment or turning point – perhaps a certain performer or piece — when you knew you wanted to be very serious about pursuing classical music?

No, I wouldn’t say there was a moment I truly knew this is what I wanted to pursue.  However, I would say that my appreciation for music has been exponential.  At the start, I really hated playing the instrument because I didn’t have the basics established.  But when the mechanical aspects of playing were reached, I could stop agonizing over elementary things and was then able to focus on making music, which is fantastic.

What advice would you give others, students and adults, about studying music?

The key to musical success is acknowledging the failures.  I simply accept what happens on stage and move on.  There’s no reason to be nostalgic for I cannot change the past.  Instead, along with success, I see the failures as necessary steps needed to reach my goals.  Studying music is a lifelong process that one can never master.  Also, you practice!

How important do you think music education is in relation to other areas of education?

Musicians and actors have a lot in common.  For one, both are involved in the entertainment industry.  They make people cry, laugh, and tell them stories.  Story-telling is very important because it challenges the performer to take what’s on the page and present it in his or her own way. Interpretation and ideas are shared, and music education acts as the catalyst.  Even though music is an art, it isn’t confined to just artists.  These musical ideas can be shared with anyone willing to listen.

What does getting the chance to perform a concerto with and orchestra mean to you and why?

This opportunity of playing with the Madison Symphony Orchestra in Overture Hall is the biggest event so far in my career.  I don’t know anyone personally who has performed in this hall and it is an incredible honor to do so. This is also my first performance with a professional symphony and I’m very excited!


Posted in Classical music
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