The Well-Tempered Ear

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

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

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