The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music updates: Pro Arte Quartet gets $40,000 grant from the NEA and Marcus Theatres won’t screen the Metropolitan Opera’s summer encores of “Live in HD”

May 31, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

It has been a busy couple of weeks, what with concerts that concluded the regular concert season, graduation ceremonies, holidays, festivals, competitions and other timely topics or events. So let’s start catching up this week. And let’s start with two smaller items:

ITEM 1: The University of Wisconsin’s Pro Arte String Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) has received a major grant for new commissions – part the quartet’s centennial celebration this coming season. It is $40,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts and will go to the creation of new works of art, specifically four new American works (two string quartets and two piano quintets).

“A great country deserves great art” is the motto of the NEA. It’s a good branding campaign, especially now that the barbarians are waiting at the gates in the form of Republican budget-cutters who would, if they could, gut culture and education funding – including public radio and television — in favor of business and defense. Here is a link to the grant story in 77 Square/The Capital Times:

http://host.madison.com/entertainment/arts_and_theatre/blog/article_71236122-8620-11e0-b7af-001cc4c03286.html

Of course, I have my bias, since I sit of the centennial planning committee. But putting that aside, I still can’t believe the way local, state, regional and national Republicans see everything in terms of a private-sector bottom line. Some things of value, of major value, just can’t be measured as profit or loss. Only small people living in a small world think that way all the time.

Here is the official statement posted on the NEA website:

Washington, D.C. — National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Rocco Landesman today announced the latest round of NEA funding for Fiscal Year 2011 totaling more than $88 million awarded through 1,145 grants to not-for-profit national, regional, state, and local organizations nationwide.

Chairman Landesman said, “NEA research shows that three out of four Americans participate in the arts. The diverse, innovative, and exceptional projects funded in this round will ensure that Americans around the country continue to have the opportunity to experience and participate in the arts.”

This round of funding is provided through four grant programs: Access to Artistic Excellence, Learning in the Arts for Children and Youth, Arts on Radio and Television, and Partnership Agreements (State and Regional). Access to Artistic Excellence grants foster and preserve excellence in the arts and provide access to the arts for all Americans. Grants in this round focus on two primary themes: access to the arts and preservation activities. A broad range of activities are funded in the disciplines of dance, design, folk and traditional arts, literature, media arts, museums, music, musical theater, opera, presenting, theater, and visual arts.

Projects include outreach, touring, artists’ workshops and residencies, technology, preservation, recordings, and conferences and symposia. In addition, this round of funding includes grants to local arts agencies. Through the Access to Artistic Excellence category, 789 grants out of 1,415 eligible applications are recommended for funding for a total of $24.9 million.

University of Wisconsin at Madison Madison, WI

$40,000

CATEGORY: Access to Artistic Excellence

FIELD/DISCIPLINE: Music To support a commissioning and performance project celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Pro Arte Quartet. Founded in 1912 in Brussels, the Belgian string ensemble was performing on a U.S. concert tour when Europe broke out in World War ; the musicians remained permanently in the U.S. by accepting a residency at the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1940.

ITEM 2: Tomorrow, Wednesday night, June 1, at 6:30 p.m. are the encore presentations of “Live From the Met in HD” of Wagner’s “Die Walkure” at the Marcus Point and Eastgate cinemas in Madison. Tickets are $24. If you haven’t seen it, you really should. The entire cast is great, and you will especially be blown away by the German tenor Jonas Kauffmann – to say nothing of Bryn Terfel, Deborah Voigt, Stephanie Blythe and the controversial hi-tech set.

In both attendance and the quality of the productions, it has been a great year for that series, which has been renewed for next season. Yet Marcus Theatres, which operates 600 cinemas in Wisconsin and around the Midwest, apparently is again refusing to screen the summer encore productions of “The Metropolitan Opera: Live in HD”, even though the several productions I went to were sold out or close to sold out (below), including the 5-1/2 hour production, with a 45-minute delay, of Wagner’s “Die Walkure” (The Valkyries).

It’s curious choice on Marcus’ part because, according to promotional material, Marcus will carry the satellite-beamed productions of five Shakespeare plays including “Henry IV,” Parts 1 and 2 and “The Merry Wives of Windsor.” And opera seems to be outdrawing classic theater these days. Lots of people, I suspect, would find refreshing shelter in listening to great music and seeing great acting in an air-conditioned setting during the hot and humid summer months. And it’s not all Wagner!

So I suspect there is a demand for summertime opera. If you think so too, why not fill out and send an e-mail to Marcus and let them know what you think and what they should do. Sure, it didn’t work last year, but you can always try again for either this summer or next summer.

Here’s a link: http://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/WEB22AM894RMEW

Send’em a message!


Posted in Classical music

Classical and classic: What music best expresses Memorial Day?

May 30, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

Today is Memorial Day, 2011.

All wars have many things in common. One thing is music.

From the American Civil War and World War I and World War II to the wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, music has proven vital to heading off to war, coming home from war and remembering war.

It seems only fit and just then, as Abraham Lincoln might say, to mark this Memorial Day with appropriate music.

I choose not to celebrate the upbeat or jingoistic side of war, the Sousa marches, victory suites and the like.

That’s probably because in the long run, war always seems a solution of last resort – sometimes necessary but rarely desirable and never totally victorious or without terrible cost. It is a bittersweet and poignant, not joyful, occasion. And that is how remembering it should also be.

Today I offer three pieces of music that I hope will help you and those close to you to remember war and its human cost.

Curiously, all three have been used as soundtracks by documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, who clearly has a sharp ear for music that, to my mind, fits the occasion.

First, I offer a piece by Sir Edward Elgar often used to remember the dead and the fallen, one that is particularly popular in Britain and Commonwealth countries on Remembrance Day, which is similar to the American Memorial Day.

It is the “Nimrod” Variation from Elgar’s wonderfully effective “Enigma” Variations, often used by Burns in a solo piano transcription that I cannot find to link to.

The second is the bluegrass-type of music, which to me resonates with a certain American classicism, as does the words written by Sullivan Ballou. It is Jay Ungar’s “Ashoken Farewell” and was used by Burns in “The Civil War” to create one of the most moving moments in television history.

If you go to YouTube, you can even find it used to memorialize 9/11 and the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers. That is how current it remains.

Finally, there is a newer piece, a pop song that also resonates of becoming a future classic, called the “American Anthem” and sung by Norah Jones, which Burns also used is his film about World War II, though it could apply to all wars and all forms of patriotic sacrifice.

This one is for you, Dad.

To all who have served and are serving and will serve, thank you. I hope you and your loved ones find these choices a fitting and worthy memorial in sound and will share this link with others.

If you want other ideas, here is a link:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2011/05/29/136721458/what-music-helps-tell-your-memorial-day-stories

I would also like to hear whatever music you think is most appropriate and most moving to mark Memorial Day – a song, an instrumental piece, an orchestral or choral work, whatever. Just leave a comment and a link.

The Ear wants to hear.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sa2hv8U8cWU


Posted in Classical music

How do you best introduce classical music to children? Professionals and parents respond with suggestions.

May 29, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

If you don’t already follow NPR’s classical music blog Deceptive Cadence, you should.

The latest big issue they tackle – and they tackle many – is: What is the best way to introduce children to classical music.

And it isn’t just pontificating by NPR’s classical fans or NPR’s very smart classical blog director Tom Huizenga.

NPR also invited various professional musicians including conductor Marin Alsop (below), pianist Leif Ove Andsnes and soprano Christine Brewer to answer the question.

NPR writer Anastasia Tsioulcas also has some observations and suggestions to make as a parent.

I found it enlightening and suggestive, although I also have my own ideas.

Apparently many readers and listeners, many of them parents themselves, also responded with suggestions and observations. Here are some:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2011/05/25/136587945/connecting-kids-with-classical-music-heres-what-you-told-us

Perhaps you will have a similar reaction.

And the picture of the young Nigel Kennedy – who later become a punky virtuoso violinist by the single name of Kennedy and then went back to his full name – is worth a look.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2011/05/17/136359353/how-do-you-introduce-classical-music-to-kids

How were you introduced to classical music?

The Ear wants to hear.


Posted in Classical music

Classical music news: Winner at Cannes Film Festival uses lots of classical music. Cellist Bernard Greenhouse of the Beaux Arts Trio dies. Lost Verdi manuscript to be auctioned off. An American conductor goes to Ulster. Sony Classical Records continues its signing frenzy. Beethoven and baseball share something — what is it?

May 28, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

The main concert season is over and the summer concert season, replete with festivals like the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society (June 10-26), the Madison Early Music Festival (July 9-16), Madison Opera‘s Opera in the Park (July 16) and the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival (Aug. 24-Sept. 4 ).

But the news and commentaries just keep on happening.

Here is this holiday weekend’s round-up:

ITEM: Classical music figured big in this year’s winner at the Cannes Film Festival, Terrence Malick‘s “Tree of Life.” Here’s a play list that may help a popular art form give a boost to an endangered one:

http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/archives/music_list_all_37_songs_features_in_terrence_malicks_the_tree_of_life/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed#

ITEM: Fragment of a Verdi manuscript score (below) to be auctioned off:

http://www.gramophone.co.uk/classical-music-news/verdi-fragment-to-be-auctioned

ITEM: Famed cellist Bernard Greenhouse (below), of the Beaux Arts Trio, dies at 95. Here are some obituaries and appreciations:

http://www.cello.org/Newsletter/Articles/greenhouse.htm

http://www.gramophone.co.uk/classical-music-news/obituary-bernard-greenhouse-founder-cellist-of-the-beaux-arts-trio

http://www.npr.org/2011/05/16/136368728/cellist-bernard-greenhouse-dies

ITEM: If the people won’t come to the music, can you take the music to the people? The Detroit Symphony, rescued from the brink of bankruptcy, thinks so and has started a suburb series:

http://www.detnews.com/article/20110519/ENT01/105190301/1033/DSO-launches-new-metro-concerts

ITEM: Sony Classical Records continues its signing frenzy. Recently, Sony signed the Emerson String Quartet and pianist Leif Ove Andsnes. Now comes pianist-conductor David Greilsammer (below). Looks like Sony is taking advantage of the other labels cutting back and retrenching – and I, for one, welcome that move and think it is smart and forward-looking:

http://www.gramophone.co.uk/classical-music-news/sony-signs-pianist-and-conductor-david-greilsammer

ITEM: American conductor JoAnn Falletta (below) heads to Ulster, North Ireland and scores some firsts. Falletta, who is the music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic and the Virginia Symphony Orchestra will be the first woman and the first American to head the Ulster Orchestra, starting with the 2011-12 season:

http://www.gramophone.co.uk/classical-music-news/joann-falletta-to-head-ulster-orchestra

ITEM: Is innovative programming pushing the New York City Opera to the brink of disaster? One labor union thinks so and wants a return to more traditional repertoire like Puccini’s “La Boheme” (below):

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/20/arts/music/nyc-opera-budgeters-seek-to-save-next-season.html?_r=2

ITEM: What do Beethoven and baseball have in common?

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/05/11/a-pitch-for-new-music/?ref=music


Posted in Classical music

Classical music Q&A: The UW’s Perlman Trio talks performing Beethoven’s Triple Concerto next Wednesday, June 1, with the Middleton Community Orchestra

May 27, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

Next Wednesday, June 1, the Middleton Community Orchestra will perform at 7:30 p.m. in the Middleton Performing Arts Center (below) at Middleton High School.

The talented amateur group will perform under the baton of Steve Kurr.

The program includes Rimsky-Korsakov’s beautiful and lushly dramatic “Scheherazade” and Aaron Copland’s rarely heard “Outdoor” Overture.

But for many listeners, the highlight will be Beethoven’s mighty Triple Concerto for Piano, Violin and Cello, which will be performed by the student group the Perlman Trio, from the University of Wisconsin School of Music.

Admission is $10, free for students. Advance tickets can be bought at Willy Street Coop West on University Avenue in Middleton. Student tickets are available only at the door.

Trio violinist Eleanor Bartsch (below middle in the photo by Katrin Talbot) recently spoke about the Perlman Trio and its upcoming performance to The Ear:

Can you give a short introduction to each member of the trio?

I have the pleasure of working with two extremely talented colleagues, pianist Thomas Kasdorf (below right) and cellist Taylor Skiff (below left).

Thomas is from Middleton originally, and recently graduated with his Bachelor’s from UW-Madison studying with Christopher Taylor.  In addition to being an amazing classical pianist, he has a great love of musical theater, and especially the music of Stephen Sondheim.  He has arranged and performed reduced and solo orchestrations of many Sondheim scores and serves on the board of directors for Middleton Players Theater.  Next year, he’ll be attending the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and working to get a master’s degree in collaborative piano.

Taylor is the newest member of the trio, and is from Mequon, Wisconsin.  He is a fantastic cellist, and in addition to winning the UW-Madison School of Music concerto competition this year, he has also played solos with the Milwaukee Symphony and Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.  He would like to go on and get a master’s degree in cello, but as only a junior, he leaves his options open for the future.

I’m originally from Bloomington, Minnesota, and spend my time performing in many chamber groups in the Madison area including the Madison Bach Musicians, the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble, the UW Contemporary Ensemble, and, of course, the Perlman Trio. You may have also seen me in the Madison Symphony Orchestra first violin section.  I also recently received my bachelor’s degree from UW-Madison studying with David Perry of the Pro Arte Quartet.

How did you get together as a trio? How long have you played together and what other chamber music (especially trios but other genres too) have you performed? Is this your first time doing the Beethoven Triple?

Taylor, Thomas and I are all recipients of the Perlman Trio Scholarship.  Through the generosity of Dr. Kato Perlman, a retired UW-Madison research scientist, we all receive scholarship money that helps us with tuition for the UW.

All the scholarship recipients are chosen by the chamber music faculty at the University. But even though we didn’t get together on our own, we are lucky to get along very well.  We are also extremely lucky to have Kato Perlman in our lives — she is quite an amazing woman and has shown such incredible support of all three of us in our musical (and non-musical) endeavors.  She is always in the audience cheering us on.

Thomas is an inaugural member of the trio, and has been a member for four years.  This was my third year as violinist of the trio, and Taylor just finished out his first year as cellist.  There are things that are challenging about changing personnel every year, but Taylor has been an amazing fit for the group, and for the Beethoven Triple Concerto in particular.

Besides the Triple Concerto, we give a spring recital every year, and sometimes have other engagements for the school, and on our own.  Our spring recital program this year included the Beethoven C minor trio, op. 1, the Chausson trio in G minor, and the Schumann Piano Quartet, for which we were joined by the fabulous violist, Daniel Kim.

This is our first time any of us have performed the Beethoven Triple Concerto, and we are very excited to be learning it.  It’s been a bit difficult for us to rehearse because we aren’t in school anymore (though, I’m not complaining about summer vacation!)  Taylor has been kind enough to travel from his home in Milwaukee to rehearse with Thomas and me, who are both living in Madison for the summer.

Will you continue to play together? What do you like about playing chamber music as contrasted with solo or orchestral playing? How is it different or rewarding?

Since Thomas and both recently graduated with our bachelor’s degrees from UW, we will no longer be members of the trio.  But Taylor still has one more year left, so he will continue in the group and work with two new great players.  I look forward to hearing the group next year.

Chamber music is such a great part of being a musician because it has great elements of solo and ensemble playing.  Working closely with a small group of people is incredibly rewarding, and, unlike an orchestral setting, there are a lot of soloistic elements involved.  Not to mention that the repertoire is unbeatable!

What do you want to say and tell the public about the Beethoven Triple Concerto?

This is truly a great piece of music.  It’s exhilarating to listen to not one, but three soloists at once—with all these parts in one piece, there is never a dull moment! The orchestra part is so powerful, and though it may seem like the piece could get a little too complex to listen to with four different parts (including orchestra) being juggled, Beethoven creates a balance which makes the piece seem simple and easy to listen to.

Do you have anything to say about the rest of the program, the Rimsky-Korsakov (below top) and the Copland? About the Middleton Community Orchestra (below bottom)?

If you look closely, you may see Taylor and me sitting in the violin and cello sections during “Scheherazade.”  This piece is very dear to both of us, as it was one of the first pieces either of us got to play in big orchestra (myself in the Minnesota Youth Symphonies, and Taylor in the Milwaukee Youth Symphony).

I still remember what it felt like to be in the middle of such a powerful group during this great piece of music.  It was definitely one of the things that hooked me on music.

We are so thankful to the Middleton Community Orchestra for giving us this opportunity. Everyone in the orchestra clearly loves the music so much, and it definitely comes off in the music.  I look forward to this performance, and to hearing the group for many years to come.


Posted in Classical music

Classical music correction: Madison Symphony Orchestra will choose and announce its new concertmaster next week

May 26, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

I have a correction to make and an apology to offer: It appears that my sources for posting lats night that the Madison Symphony Orchestra‘s new concertmaster is Naha Greenholtz was premature and possibly incorrect. An official with the MSO called me Thursday afternoon to say that a final decision will not be made and announced until next week. I regret any inconvenience and inaccuracy.


Posted in Classical music

Classical music news: Naha Greenholtz is the new concertmaster of the Madison Symphony Orchestra

May 26, 2011
3 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

The search is over: According to sources, the new concertmaster of the Madison Symphony Orchestra is Naha Greenholtz (below).

She will move from Cleveland, Ohio, and begin her duties in the fall.

To read about the selection process and the biographies of the three outstanding candidates, including current co-concertmaster Suzanne Beia, who all tried out for the post during the past season’s concerts, go to:

http://madisonsymphony.org/candidates

What do you think of the choice?

The Ear wants to hear.


Posted in Classical music

Classical music: The Van Cliburn competition for amateurs runs through May 29. See and hear it live.

May 26, 2011
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REMINDER: Tonight at 7 p.m. in the Playhouse of the Overture Center, the Rhapsodie String Quartet (below, in a photograph by Greg Anderson), which is made up of members of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, will perform a recital of Haydn’s String Quartet in D minor, Op. 76 No. 2 “Quinten” of “Fifths”; Ravel’s String Quartet in F Major; and Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in E-Flat Major, Op. 12. A $5 donation at the door is suggested.

By Jacob Stockinger

I didn’t know this, but there is a whole world of amateur piano competitions held in North America and Europe and soon, if not already, in Asia, I expect.

But certainly the most prestigious is the Van Cliburn International Amateur Competition, started in 1999. It takes place every fours years in Fort Worth, Texas, falling in between the more famous competition for young professional pianists. (It is named, of course, after Van Cliburn, below, who was recently awarded the National Medal of the Arts.)

The latest amateur competition, the sixth, started Monday night and runs through May 29, this Sunday.

And as usual, the Van Cliburn Foundation, which runs it, is doing a terrific job of getting it to reach the public, though I think it could have even more publicity.

It features three rounds with recitals of varying lengths (10-12 minutes, 16-20 minutes and 25-30 minutes) but no concertos. And the amateur pianists compete for cash prizes, not recording contracts and touring engagements.

Here in a website to visit:

http://www.cliburn.org/index.php?page=amateur-competition-2

And here is a link to an interview/profile of the organizer and jury foreman John Giordano and the idea behind the amateur competition, where the minimum age is 35 (hooray):

http://frontrow.dmagazine.com/2011/05/what-the-van-cliburn-amateurs-bring-to-classical-music/

Finally, you can watch it live – as I did for a while Monday night, and heard  Mozart‘s Fantasy in D Minor and Debussy‘s “L’Isle joyeuse” — or via delayed archives with a real-time chat room for viewers and critics, who make interesting remarks about he performers and performances even as the performances are taking place.

http://cliburn.org/

I still don’t see some of the great information, I saw last time around, especially the list of performers (with their history of prizes in other competitions, their bios and non-musical professional lives) and the complete repertoire list (fascinating and helpful as well as envy-generating for other amateurs such as myself.)

But if you click on “Competitors,” you will see how many scientists and medical workers are in the contest — people like the John A. DeRuntz, 73, a retired scientist and mathematician (below) from Oregon:

http://www.oregonlive.com/performance/index.ssf/2011/04/john_deruntz_scientist_compose.html

Unfortunately, this time around, there is no one from Wisconsin to root for.

Bu t take a look. Share it with other students and amateurs. And let me know what you think.

The Ear wants to hear.


Posted in Classical music

Classical music obituary: Here is my goodbye aria for Ann Stanke

May 25, 2011
18 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

A couple hundred of us said goodbye to Ann Stanke Tuesday afternoon at Cress Funeral Home on the west side of town.

Ann (below) was a co-founder and longtime general director of the Madison Opera and a veteran member of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, where she played piano and viola and rehearsed the Madison Symphony Chorus. She died last week at 76 of ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, after an almost two-year ordeal that gradually but cruelly and inevitably deprived her of making music and talking – two of her greatest pleasures and talents.

Music is probably the best way to pay homage to Ann, who played the piano, the viola and the French horn and who loved singing. So I have already played, and will continue to play, some Chopin nocturnes and waltzes, and a few Bach sarabandes, slow and stately and contemplative pieces, in the privacy of my thoughts, my heart and my home.

But I also feel some words are in order, especially if you didn’t know Ann  the way I did .

So here are a few things that I know about Ann that maybe you know – and maybe you don’t know. I call it my Aria for Ann because I cannot sing or carry a tune except with my fingers and a keyboard.

Ann didn’t talk about feminism. She didn’t have to. She was a feminist long before the term became commonplace. She did things her way and never let a man’s world or old boys’ network stop her or shut her out. She was the model of a can-do person, male or female.

A longtime Madisonian, she married her music teacher at Madison’s West High School (below), an older man named Ernie Stanke. I’d call that adventurous and independent-minded. She liked to get what she wanted, and she really didn’t care who thought what about it. She was brave that way.

She loved to gamble. She eagerly looked forward to trips to Las Vegas and the Ho-Chunk casino. If I recall correctly, she especially loved slots and blackjack. And I suspect it took someone with a mind for risks and beating the odds to build an opera company from the ground up and then commission new works like Daron Hagen’s “Shining Brow” opera about Wisconsin architect Frank Lloyd Wright And Jake Heggie’s revised version of “The End of the Affair,” based on the Graham Greene novel.

Ann, who attended the UW School of Music, was an avid and loyal sports fan who followed football, the Badgers and the Packers. And she loved to watch them on TV or listen to them on the radio — even during rehearsals. Again, to me this seems relevant to the opera world, which demands its own form of athleticism and team spirit.

Ann was no isolated or aesthetic elitist. Down-to-earth, she was an active citizen who believed in social justice and equal opportunity for all. She participated in local community and worked hard through various organizations and causes to better it. Little wonder, then, that in 2008 she received a Distinguished Alumni award from West High School (below) from which she graduated in 1952.

Whether it was her personal life or professional life, Ann was never a shirker but instead someone who worked tirelessly to make the world, both her world and that of others, a better and more rewarding place. She believed in doing her fair share, but always ended up doing much, much more. She had more energy than any three individuals I know, and she always put it to good use.

Ann was a proud mother, stepmother and grandmother. When her daughter Kristin Erickson (below top) asked her to write a column for her magazine Brava (below), Ann was thrilled. It was no inside-the-family job for her, but a special invitation that came from a businesswoman she respected as well as loved. She worried about writing the best column she could. She wanted to reflect well on her daughter. And she always did.

Ann also loved garage sales. She helped organize her neighborhood garage sale every Labor Day for many, many years – I suspect because she loved socializing with her neighbors and because it was much like organizing a complicated opera or a mass event like Opera in the Park. I went to one sale and bought some used CDs just as a pretext to see her. “Are you sure you don’t need more?” she said, knowing full well I wasn’t there for the CDs since I already owned hundreds. But she always liked to bargain and to close a deal, and she had mastered the skill over many years and many ventures.

Ann, who knew a lot about a lot of things and always wanted to know more, loved gossip and rumors – if they were true, not harmful or malicious. She could be a great source for news stories, a first-class tipster when I worked in the newsroom of The Capital Times. “But you never heard it from me,” she would say. Understood and obeyed. You did not cross Ann – or, to be more accurate, you only crossed her once.

Ann was witty and self-deprecating. When in this blog I mentioned seeing her at Opera in the Park last summer (below) – an event she inaugurated 10 years ago – she told me it made her cry. “But I do a lot of that these days,” she added. It was after the symptoms of that insidious and terrible neurological disease had already set in and made her shaky, and after she knew the fatal outcome that was so certain. But the event and people mattered more than her vanity or physical impairment.

Ann was generous, considerate and kind. When my wife went through surgery and chemo for breast cancer five years ago, at the end of the ordeal Ann invited us to see Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” from her special box in the then still new Overture Hall, given to her on her retirement from the Madison Opera in 2005. The flute wasn’t the only thing magical that Sunday afternoon.

Ann was a loyal friend to the end. The last time I saw her – when she was confined to a lounge chair and to watching TV and speaking very slowly and deliberately and writing things out – her first concern was for her colleague and longtime friend Roland Johnson (below), the retired music director of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and artistic director of the Madison Opera. He himself was recuperating and she worried more about him, I think, than about herself. “Go see Roland,” she said. “I will,” I promised her. And I will.

Ann was a forgiving and unashamed friend. At the garage sale I described above, I saw former Civic Center and Overture Center director Bob D’Angelo (below), released from prison, sitting beside her. A good man, she said simply, sometimes does a bad thing in addition to so many  good things. For her, Bob had unquestionably helped Madison’s arts scene to flourish and had paid his dues for his crime. He has also put the Madison Opera on the Civic Center season instead of importing touring companies. That boost meant a lot to her and to the opera company. She did not turn on you or forget you long after you had helped her out.

Well, I’m sure there are other things to recall about Ann Stanke. But to me these are the important ones, the key ones, the telling ones.

I feel about Ann’s death much the way I felt, and still feel 21 years later, about the death of Leonard Bernstein, another larger-than-life personality and artist who brought me the gift of music.

Suddenly the world feels smaller, less generous and less beautiful.  And I’m afraid it will feel that way for quite a while.

Thank you, Ann, for so many songs sung so well.

Do you memories or stories you want to share about Ann Stanke?

I, and others, would love to hear them.


Posted in Classical music

Classical music news: Hear the world premiere of “Fanfare for an Uncommon Man,” composed by John Stevens to honor music educator Marvin Rabin

May 24, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

Sunday night was a night to remember.

At their annual series of spring concerts, the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras performed “Fanfare for an Uncommon Man.”

The short brass and percussion piece was composed by University of Wisconsin-Madison professor John Stevens (below top) to honor Marvin Rabin (below bottom), who founded WYSO in 1966, on the occasion of his receiving a Lifetime Achievement award from the Wisconsin Foundation for School Music. which commissioned the work. (I will post more about the various WYSO groups and concerto competition winners in concert, with lots of photos, a bit later.)

I found the Fanfare an appealing work that referenced Aaron Copland‘s famous “Fanfare for the Common Man” without repeating or copying it.

I also found the performance, under Stevens’ baton, dignified, dramatic and accessible in a modern way — and very well played by the students in the advanced-level Youth Orchestra who owe so much to Rabin.

The audience felt the same way, judging by the applause, standing ovation and cheers that the players, Stevens and Rabin — who signaled a thumbs-up approval of the piece — all received. The hall was filled with affection and respect.

It proved a moving and exciting as well as historic occasion.

But don’t take my word for it.

Listen for yourself, and tell me your reactions.

The Ear wants to hear.


Posted in Classical music
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