The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Suzuki Strings of Madison performs in Puerto Rico

June 30, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

The last time The Ear checked in on the Suzuki Strings of Madison, they were holding a 20th anniversary Open House at the First Unitarian Society earlier in the month of June.

Here is a link to that blog posting, which also included information about Suzuki Strings and a link to its homepage:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2011/06/11/classical-music-suzuki-strings-of-madison-marks-20-years-with-a-free-open-house-this-sunday/

Shortly after that, the more advanced student group– the Sonora Strings — left for a tour of Puerto Rico. It strikes The Ear as a wonderful opportunity for cultural exchange and learning, one that other Madison groups should initiate with its Cuban sister city of Camaguey and maybe Havana.

Here, as a guest blog posting, is a first-hand account of that tour to Puerto Rico. It is written by violinist Diana Popowycz (below), who co-founded Suzuki Strings of Madison, where she still teaches. She accompanied the group and also took the photos that accompany her report.

By Diana Popowycz

Sonora Strings , the advanced violin touring ensemble of the Suzuki Strings of Madison completed its annual summer tour by travelling to Puerto Rico from June 15-22, 2011.

The 19 students ranged in age from 11-17, accompanied by the artistic co-directors me and Janse Vincent, pianist Tom Waegli and two chaperone parents, Charles Valmadrid and Debbie Ford.

Sonora Strings has travelled to Costa Rica; Washington, D.C.; Vancouver, Canada; Door County; and Milwaukee. The group has performed in venues ranging from a bullring in a small town of Costa Rica to the Midsummer’s Music Festival in Door County.

This year’s Puerto Rico tour had us playing five concerts.

We started the trip with a concert at the Veteran’s Hospital (below) in Rio Piedres joined by the Puerto Rican Suzuki program of Susan Ashby. The evening concert on the same day was held at the Centro Capuchino, a Franciscan monastery in Trujillo Alto a suburb of the capital city San Juan.

This monastery was our home for the week and was part of  “bosque urbano,” the urban forest. Strange as it may seem by turning off a major highway and driving not even a quarter mile, we entered a true jungle in the center of the city. Going to sleep with the call of the coqui frogs and indigenous birds took some getting used to.

Our later concerts were government-sponsored. We performed for the Department of Finance and for the Puerto Rico Department of State with Mr. Kenneth McClintock (below), the Secretary of State, in attendance. The final concert was at Casa Cuna, a government foster care and adoption agency.

The students were enthusiastically received and feted with parties. They made new friends with from the Puerto Rican Suzuki program, played with the little toddlers at Casa Cuna after their concert and engaged with government officials

Our tours always find us exploring the new country or cities finding often hidden areas not often visited by tourists. In this case, we had two new wonderful friends act as guides, Nora and Vicenz who are tropical ecology specialists in the natural wonders of Puerto Rico. They let us to the Karst region as we explored the Cueva Ventana (http://www.PuertoRicoDayTrips.com/cueva-ventana/) and and an adjacent smaller cave (below) followed by a trip to view ancient petroglyphs of the Taino, Aztec and Mayan people deep in a cave accessed by a ladder. This same cave is where the Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed, La Cueva del Indio (http://www.puertoricodaytrips.com/ceuva-del-indio-petroglyphs/º)

Of course we visited El Morro (http://www.PuertoRicoDayTrips.com/el-morro/) , gorgeous beaches, and we took an evening group kayak tour through the mangroves into the bioluminescent bay Laguna Grande, which glowed as we swirled our paddles through the water and splashed water into our kayaks like glittering diamonds.

Our final night at the Centro Capuchino was a full blown salsa dance party with our ecology friend Nora and her entourage encouraged us in new dance moves amidst salsa music blending with the evening coqui frog sounds.

A trip of this nature creates a very special bond between the students, which in turn helps to nurture them as a musical ensemble. The majority of our pieces are student led.  We look forward to many more trips together as Sonora Strings.


Posted in Classical music

Classical music Q&A: Concerts on the Square start tonight. Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra conductor Andrew Sewell talks about how he plans them and why he loves conducting.

June 29, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

Tonight, Wednesday, June 29, at 7 p.m., the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra will kick off its 28th year of FREE summer Concerts on the Square.

The orchestra will perform on the King Street corner of the Capitol Square in downtown Madison.

Each of the six two-hour concerts will be given on consecutive Wednesdays through Aug. 3 and each is expected to draw up to 20,000 people or more who sit around the state Capitol and eat dinner, have drinks, chat with family and friends, and listen to some fine music finely performed. (Rain dates are Thursday. Cancellations will be called by 3 p.m. and announced on the website, Facebook page and on MAGIC 98 radio – as well as here, if possible.)

The conductor for five of the concerts is WCO music director Andrew Sewell.

Here is a link to the web site with information about COS dates, times, music, food and other aspects of what is billed as “the biggest picnic of summer.”

http://wcoconcerts.org/performances/concerts-on-the-square/

And here is a link to the opening concert:

http://wcoconcerts.org/performances/concerts-on-the-square/8/event-info/

The guest soloist for tonight’s opening concert is Madison West High School student Amy Hua (below), who won the WCO’s concerto competition for students and who will perform the first movement of Grieg’s popular Piano Concerto in A Minor. None other than Sergei Rachmaninoff called the most effective piano concerto ever written — and Rachmaninoff himself knew a thing or two about writing piano concertos.

Here is a link Amy Hua gave to The Ear and that was posted last Friday:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/?s=hua

Also on the program are Mendelssohn’s Overture to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”; Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz of the Flowers” with dancers of the Madison Ballet in choreography by their director W. Earle Smith; and Ravel’s “Mother Goose” Suite.

Conductor Andrew Sewell (below) recently gave The Era an e-mail interview in which he discussed how he plans the Concerts on the Square and what he loves about conducting:

What is the social or public value of Concerts on the Square, and how has it evolved over the years and during your tenure? What are your plans for the future?

Concerts on the Square has developed into an important public and social event. Now in it’s 28th season, it has grown in size and stature to be Madison’s main downtown attraction for the summer. The six weeks of Wednesday night concerts attract a regular audience of over 20,000.

Business and retailers benefit, as do the vendors who provide food and other amenities each week. It is a free concert and on the Capitol grounds, so it has a significant community spirit that brings people from all walks of life and is multi-generational.

At the 25th anniversary a few years ago, there were many stories of families who brought their children to the concerts, who now in turn bring their own families down to the concerts at the Capitol. It is an opportunity to socialize as well as enjoy top class entertainment in a variety of genres from classics to pops.

The concerts have evolved into a mixture of classical, popular classics and pops depending on the guest artists and repertoire.  I try to mix it up each year to keep things fresh and appealing.  Sometimes we have a theme, other times it is a touring group such as the ABBA tribute band, Arrival, who will be playing on July 20th.

The concert attendance has increased over the past 10 years, and the audience has become more attentive, although that can depend on the repertoire.

Each year I try different things to stretch the audience, for example, last year we performed the entire first movement of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 – a work of 23 minutes or so .  I will usually program selected movements of a symphony or concerto rather than play the entire selection. The concert is intended for a general audience, including families with small children, so it should be user-friendly.

We have found that six weeks of concerts is an optimum number and so maintaining this format and selling out patron tables each season are our goals.

What is the role or purpose of more classical music versus more popular music in Concerts on the Square?

I think there is a balance.  You will find with such a general audience, you have to traverse all styles and genres, and so I try to balance the six-week season with a classical-to-popular ratio.

Some years the pendulum may swing further in one direction than another, and then it may swing back the following year. Our second concert celebrating the July 4th holiday has evolved into a tradition with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and the “Armed Forces Salute” by Bob Lowden, honoring all veterans in the audience.

We also feature our Young Artist Concerto Competition winner usually on the first concert. But aside from that, we begin each year with a clean slate so to speak.

You are a well-known fan of French music. But this summer you have an all-Spanish program. Why? What are the qualities that you find to be Spanish and what do you like and audiences should look for in Spanish music or Spanish-inspired music?

For the last two seasons, I have included one program devoted to one country or style.  For example, we had an all-Russian program, entitled “Russian Fireworks,” and an Italian program, “Viva Italia.”

Manuel De Falla’s music is very appealing, and our concertmaster, Suzanne Beia (below), wanted to perform Lalo’s “Symphonie espagnole,” so we continued in that vein. I also enjoy Rodrigo’s music and found a lovely chamber orchestra suite by him, as well as music by Ginastera.  To top it off, Rimsky-Korsakov’s suite, “Capriccio espagnol” is a very popular orchestral piece, and he is such a great orchestrator. So the Spanish-inspired program was born.

I think what will be appealing to the audience, is how differently the Spanish style has influenced and inspired each of these composers.  In program order, from a Spanish, French, Spanish, Russian and Argentinian perspective.

How do you choose programs and pieces to perform?

I’m always on the lookout for repertoire for both indoor and outdoor concerts. For example, I recently found a great CD of works by Percy Grainger (below). In wanting to bring these to the public’s attention, I plan to program a couple of short pieces by him, one very familiar and one less familiar on the Square, next summer.  The same goes for the composer, John Williams.  He has written some great show stopping pieces, besides his popular film scores, that just aren’t heard in the concert hall.

So, on July 27th our American Heroes program will feature these works by John Williams as well as music of Bernstein, Barber, Copland and Gershwin.

Why do you conduct?

That’s a very broad question but also intensely personal. I enjoy it more than anything, and always have. It inspires me in the same way as playing an instrument does. And to that end, I have endeavored to be a conductor since I was a teenager.

Simply put, conducting is making music with a very large instrument of people. Without them, however, you can’t make a sound.  So, conducting involves interacting with people, inspired by the composer’s music, and invested in the same result, to produce the best possible performance.


Posted in Classical music

Classical music: How should you present chamber music today? Follow the example of the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society of Madison.

June 28, 2011
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A REMINDER: This Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the Summer Choir will present Saint-Saens’ Requiem and other choral work in a free performance. For more information, visit this link: http://madisonsummerchoir.org/ and https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2011/05/22/classical-music-news-madison-summer-choir-for-campus-and-community-to-do-rarely-heard-saint-saens-requiem-and-perform-for-free-june-29/

By Jacob Stockinger

The Madison-based Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society just turned 20 and just wrapped up three weekends (12 mostly sold-out performances of six programs) of summer concerts to mark its passing from adolescence into early adulthood.

I heard five of the six Bach-themed programs, and have these observations as a summing up.

Mind you, BDDS was always good, even at its beginning. Then they got very good. Now BDDS is nothing short of superb. They deserve the standing ovations and loud admiration they get.

BDDS has flowered into a beautiful maturity. I will long remember its performances of piano trios by Ravel and Brahms, of Barber and J.S. Bach, among other performances.

That got me to thinking about what I and others like so much about their concerts, especially in these challenging times for classical music of TV, the movies and the Internet. After all, I now look forward to concerts by BDDS with an enthusiasm and anticipation that I share for only a few other chamber groups, such as the University of Wisconsin’s Pro Arte String Quartet.

So, here are some things I like about BDDS:

I like the small venues they pick. They choose relatively intimate places – the Playhouse in Overture Center, the Hillside Theatre at Taliesin and the Stoughton Opera House – where chamber music sounds most at home and where audience members can sit close to the music and the music-makers, if they so choose.

I like the eclectic programs they come up with. I don’t think any other group in town knows how to balance diverse composers and contrasting styles from different eras (J.S. Bach and Olivier Messiaen, for example) better than BDDS.

I like that they are risky and take chances. This year they did Bach sonatas and a Brandenburg concerto using a piano. Try finding recordings of those. But they sounded great – even if the piano lid stick should have been lower to damper the piano sound which occasionally overwhelmed the others.

I like the surprises, the odd-ball repertoire they find and perform. This season it was a two-piano version of Gershwin’s “An American in Paris” and a fugue, arranged largely by BDDS co-founder and pianist Jeffrey Sykes, of a tango by Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla. Both sizzled and seduced.

I like the way they use technology. This includes a really cool, hi-tech Jumbotron-type screen with a real-time view in the Overture Center’s Playhouse of the keyboard as two pianists (below, Randall Hogkinson in the striped blue shirt and Jeffrey Sykes in the solid blue shirt) played Samuel Barber’s souvenirs.

I like the quality of the players they get. BDDS draws and cultivates the best local talent, including pianist Christopher Taylor, cellist Parry Karp, violinist Suzanne Beia and co-founder flutist Stephanie Jutt. But they also import impressive talent. This season that included standouts such as, among others too numerous to name them all, bass-baritone Timothy Jones from the University of Houston; violinists Carmit Zori from the Brooklyn Chamber Music Society and Erin Keefe of the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society; ; violist Daniel Panner from the Juilliard School; pianist Randall Hodgkinson from the New England Conservatory of Music; and violinist Axel Strauss (below, playing J.S. Bach’s Chaconne) and cellist Jean-Michel Fonteneau from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

I like the BDDS strikes the right balance between art and entertainment. (I’m guessing it is maybe 90 or 95 percent art and the rest entertainment. It is just the right amount of yeast to leaven the bread. Over the years, they have perfected the light touch, the right touch. This year’s highlighted mystery guests, for example, were retired UW Opera director Karlos Moser dressed as J.S. Bach and audio engineer Buzz Kemper (below bottom) as a bluesman singing a sexy and suggestive “I’ll Be Your Bee” blues song. The puns, photo exhibits and door prizes are there, but no longer overdone.

I like that BDDS makes no assumptions and educates you. The performers usually make short but perceptive and helpful introductions to the music. They also program composers who are often treated as similar but who are really quite different. This summer it was Ravel and Debussy – both often lumped together as French Impressionist composers but each very different from the other. One could say the same about programming Bach and Handel, Mozart and Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert, Brahms and Schumann.

I like the sense of celebration BDDS exudes. All the players and support staff seem to be having fun, even though it is hard work. They meet the public over birthday cake (Irv’s cakes were the best, by the way) and they are chatty and agreeable, informative and grateful. There’s nothing stodgy about BDDS. I think they should serve cake next year too – to mark their 21st birthday and coming of legal age. Art is meant to be both instructive and enjoyable. It is meant to give pleasure. And that is what BDDS does.

But the then, the secret to BDDS’ success is not gimmicks. It is the hard work of making art and bringing to a public that is too often overwhelmed by entertainment, not serious art. BDDS is the model of a bridge – and it works very well.

Did you attend any of the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society concerts?

What did you think?

The Ear wants to hear.


Posted in Classical music

Classical music: University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music announces concerts for the 2011-12 season

June 27, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

Most classical music groups in Madison have already announced their next season.

But until now, the biggest presenter of concerts, the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music has not announced its next season. It usually offers some 300 events per year, if you include student concerts, master classes and degree recitals.

So get out your datebooks and start penciling in things.

Most specific programs are not decided yet – and many won’t be available until the next academic year gets underway. Also, the Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen series, which is co-sponsored by the UW School of Music and often features UW faculty members, has not yet been announced.

Still, this will give you some ideas of groups and possible conflicting dates until printed brochures are ready in mid-July.

Here is a guide to the symbol key:

Free admission except where noted $

FCS is the Faculty concert series, which will again be free, even though donations have dropped off, according to the School of Music

GAS is the Guest Artist Series

For the first semester, now, and later the entire year, you call also visit: http://www.music.wisc.edu/calendar

SEPTEMBER

Sat 3:  Color Field (GAS), Morphy, 8 p.m.

Mon 5:  35th Karp Family Opening Concert (FCS), Mills Hall (below), 7:30 p.m.

Sun 18: Les Thimmig, woodwinds (FCS), Matan Rubinstein, piano, Mills, 2 p.m.

Thu 22: Black Music Ensemble, Richard Davis, director, Morphy, 8:30 p.m.

Sun 25: University Opera Gala Concert $, “Arias Over Lake Mendota,” Holy Wisdom Monastery, 3 p.m.

Sun 25: Malcolm Bilson, fortepiano (GAS), Mills, 7:30 p.m.

Fri 30: Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble (below) $, Wisconsin Union Theater, 7:30 p.m.

OCTOBER

Sun 2: UW Symphony Orchestra, James Smith, conductor (below); Mills, 2 p.m.

Wed 5: Joseph Johnson, violoncello (GAS) with Victor Asuncion, piano; Morphy, 7:30 p.m.

Thu 6: UW Chamber Orchestra with James Smith, conductor; Mills, 7:30 p.m.

Fri 7: Wind Ensemble, Scott Teeple, conductor; Mills, 8 p.m.

Sat 8: Mark Hetzler, trombone (FCS) and Martha Fischer, piano; Mills, 8 p.m.

Fri 14: Wind Ensemble Collage, Mills, 8 p.m.

Sat 15: Choral Collage, Mills, 4 p.m.

Sun 16: Concert Band with Scott Teeple, conductor; Mills, 2 p.m.

Sun 16: University Bands, Mills, 4 p.m.

Fri 21: Tyrone Greive, violin (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) (FCS) with Martha Fischer, piano; Mills, 8 p.m.

Sat 22: Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) Centennial (FCS); String Quartet No. 2 by Walter Mays (world premiere) Mills, 8 p.m.

Thu 27: Contemporary Chamber Ensemble with, Laura Schwendinger, artistic director; Mills, 7:30 p.m.

Fri 28, Sun 30 and Tue 1: University Opera with Symphony Orchestra $, William Farlow, director, and James Smith, conductor; “La Bohème” by Puccini; Music Hall, 7:30 p.m. (Fri and Tue), 3 p.m. (Sun)

Sat 29: Wisconsin Brass Quintet (FCS); Mills, 8 p.m.

NOVEMBER

Wed 2: Symphony Strings with James Smith, conductor; Mills, 7:30 p.m.

Thu 3: Wind Ensemble Chamber Winds; Mills, 7:30 p.m.

Thu 3: Caroline Goulding, violin (below) $; Wisconsin Union Theater, 7:30 p.m.

Sat 5: Chamber Orchestra ($) with James Smith, conductor, and Caroline Goulding, violin; Wisconsin Union Theater, 7:30 p.m.

Sun 6: Parry Karp, violoncello (FCS) with pianists Howard and Frances Karp; Mills, 7:30 p.m.

Thu 10: Christopher Taylor, piano (below) (FCS); Mills, 7:30 p.m.

Thu 10: Black Music Ensemble with Richard Davis, director; Morphy, 8:30 p.m.

Fri 11: Madrigal Singers with Bruce Gladstone, conductor; Mills, 8 p.m.

Tue 15: Trombone Choir with Mark Hetzler, director; Mills, 7:30 p.m.

Wed 16: Keyboard Conversations with Jeffrey Siegel (below) $; “A Beethoven Bonanza”; Mills Hall, 7:30 p.m.

Wed 16: Guitar Ensemble; Javier Calderón, director; Morphy, 8:30 p.m.

Fri 18: Concert Choir and Chorale with Beverly Taylor and Bruce Gladstone, conductors; Mills, 8 p.m.

Sat 19: Women’s Chorus and University Chorus; Mills, 4 p.m.

Sat 19: Pro Arte Quartet Centennial (FCS): Piano Quintet by Paul Schoenfield (world premiere); Mills, 8 p.m.

Sun 20: Wingra Woodwind Quintet (below) (FCS) with Christopher Taylor, piano; Mills, 2 p.m.

Sun 20: Tuba and Euphonium Ensemble with Matthew Mireles, director; Mills, 7:30 p.m.

Tue 22: Opera Workshop; Music Hall; 7:30 p.m.

Tue 29: Early Music Ensemble with Jeanne Swack, director; Morphy, 8:30 p.m.

Wed 30: Western Percussion Ensemble with Anthony Di Sanza, director; Mills, 7:30 p.m.

DECEMBER

Fri 2: Wind Ensemble with Scott Teeple, conductor; Mills, 8 p.m.

Sat 3: All University String Orchestra with Janet Jensen, conductor; Mills, 4 p.m.

Sun 4: Winter Choral Concerts; Luther Memorial Church; 2 and 4 p.m.

Sun 4: Concert Band with Scott Teeple, conductor; Mills, 2 p.m.

Sun 4: University Bands; Mills, 4 p.m.

Mon 5: Masters Singers; Mills, 7:30 p.m.

Wed 7: Jazz Orchestra; Jim Doherty, director; Mills, 7:30 p.m.

Fri 9: UW Symphony Orchestra with James Smith, conductor; Mills, 8 p.m.

Sat 10: World Percussion Ensemble with Neil Sisauyhoat, director; Music Hall, Noon

Sat 10 and Sun 11: Choral Union (below) with UW Chamber Orchestra $, Beverly Taylor, conductor; Mills, 8 p.m. (Sat) and 4 p.m. (Sun)

JANUARY

Fri 27: Martha Fischer and Bill Lutes, piano (FCS); Mills, 8 p.m.

FEBRUARY

Wed 8: Daniel Grabois, horn (FCS) with Kirstin Ihde, piano; Morphy, 7:30 p.m.

Fri 10: UW Symphony Orchestra with James Smith, conductor; Student Concerto Competition Winners; Mills, 8 p.m.

Sun 12: UW Chamber Orchestra (below) with James Smith, conductor; Mills, 2 p.m.

Sun 12: Robert Shannon, piano (GAS); Mills, 7:30 p.m.

Tue 14: Mark Hetzler, trombone (below) (FCS) with Vincent Fuh, piano; Mills, 7:30 p.m.

Thu 16: Black Music Ensemble; Richard Davis, director; Morphy, 8:30 p.m.

Sat 18: Bonerama (GAS); Mills, 8 p.m.

Wed 22: Western Percussion Ensemble with Anthony Di Sanza, director; Mills, 7:30 p.m.

Thu 23: Julia Faulkner, soprano (below) (FCS) with Martha Fischer, piano; Mills, 7:30 p.m.

Fri 24: David Finckel, Wu Han and Philip Setzer, piano trio, $; Wisconsin Union Theater, 7:30 p.m.

Sat 25: Wind Ensemble; Scott Teeple, conductor; Mills, 8 p.m.

Sun 26: Concert Band with Michael Leckrone, conductor; Mills, 2 p.m.

MARCH

Thu 1: Contemporary Chamber Ensemble with Laura Schwendinger, artistic director; Mills, 7:30 p.m.

Fri 2: Wingra Woodwind Quintet (FCS); Morphy, 8 p.m.

Sat 3: Wisconsin Brass Quintet (FCS); Mills, 8 p.m.

Sun 4: The Thimmig-Johnson Duo (FCS) with Les Thimmig, clarinets and saxophone; Jessica Johnson, piano; Anthony Di Sanza, marimba; Mills, 2 p.m.

Fri 9: Parry Karp, violoncello (below) (FCS) with Eli Kalman, piano; Mills, 8 p.m.

Sat 10: Marc Vallon (below), bassoon (FCS); Morphy, 8 p.m.

Sun 11: University Bands; Mills, 4 p.m.

Fri 16, Sun 18 and Tue 20: University Opera with Chamber Orchestra $; William Farlow, director, and James Smith, conductor; “Don Giovanni” by Mozart; Music Hall, 7:30 p.m. (Fri & Tue), 3 p.m. (Sun)

Sat 17: UW Symphony Orchestra with James Smith, conductor; Mills, 8 p.m.

Fri 23: Enric Madriguera, guitar (GAS); Morphy, 8 p.m.

Sat 24: Pro Arte Quartet Centennial (FCS); Christopher Taylor, piano; Piano Quintet No. 2 by William Bolcom (world premiere); Wisconsin Union Theater, 8 p.m.

Sun 25: Horn Choir with Daniel Grabois, director; Mills, 2 p.m.

Sun 25: Wisconsin Brass Quintet (FCS); Mills, 7:30 p.m.

Mon 26: Arabesque Winds (GAS); Morphy, 7:30 p.m.

Tue 27: Concert Band; Michael Leckrone, conductor (below); Mills, 7:30 p.m.

APRIL

Wed 11: Lincoln Trio (GAS); Morphy, 7:30 p.m.

Sat 14: Concert Choir with Beverly Taylor, conductor (below); Mills, 8 p.m.

Sun 15: Trombone Choir with Mark Hetzler, director; Mills, 4 p.m.

Tue 17: Contemporary Chamber Ensemble (below) Laura Schwendinger, artistic director; Mills, 7:30 p.m.

Wed 18: Jazz Orchestra with Jim Doherty, director; Mills, 7:30 p.m.

Thu 19: Black Music Ensemble with Richard Davis, director; Morphy, 8:30 p.m.

Thu 19: Guitar Ensemble with Javier Calderón, director (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot); Mills, 8:30 p.m.

Fri 20: Choral Union with Symphony Orchestra $ with Beverly Taylor, conductor; Requiem by Verdi; Overture Hall, 8 p.m.

Sat 21: Beethoven Piano Competition Winners; Morphy, 3:30 p.m.

Sat 21: Women’s Chorus and University Chorus; Mills, 4 p.m.

Sat 21: Pro Arte Quartet Centennial (FCS); String Quartet No. 5 by John Harbison (below) (world premiere); Mills, 8 p.m.

Sun 22: Tuba and Euphonium Ensemble with Matthew Mireles, director; Mills, 4 p.m.

Wed 25: Opera Workshop; Music Hall, 7:30 p.m.

Thu 26: UW Chamber Orchestra; James Smith, conductor; Wilson Center, 7:30 p.m.

Fri 27: Chorale, with Bruce Gladstone, conductor (below, photo by Katrin Talbot); Mills, 8 p.m.

Sat 28: All University String Orchestra; Janet Jensen, conductor; Mills, 4 p.m.

Sat 28: Javanese Gamelan Ensemble with R. Anderson Sutton, director; Mills, 8 p.m.

Sun 29: University Bands; Mills, 4 p.m.

Mon 30: Masters Singers;  Mills, 7:30 p.m.

MAY

Tue 1: Early Music Ensemble with John Chappell Stowe, director (below); Morphy, 7:30 p.m.

Tue 1: Western Percussion Ensemble with Anthony Di Sanza, director; Mills, 7:30 p.m.

Wed 2: Keyboard Conversations with Jeffrey Siegel $; “A Musical Love Triangle”; Mills Hall, 7:30 p.m.

Thu 3: Wind Ensemble with Scott Teeple, conductor; Mills, 7:30 p.m.

Fri 4: Madrigal Singers with Bruce Gladstone, conductor; Mills, 8 p.m.

Sat 5: World Percussion Ensemble with Neil Sisauyhoat, director; Music Hall, Noon

Sat 5: Peter Serkin, piano (below) $; Wisconsin Union Theater, 7:30 p.m.

Sun 6: Concert Band with Michael Leckrone, conductor; Mills, 1 p.m.

Sun 6: UW Chamber Orchestra with James Smith, conductor; Mills, 4 p.m.


Posted in Classical music

Classical music: Revivals of John Adams’ opera “The Death of Klinghoffer” raise questions during tough times for Israelis and Palestinians.

June 26, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

American composer John Adams (below) has been on a roll this past year or two.

First came the Metropolitan Opera premiere production of his new “Dr. Atomic,” an opera about physicist and H-bomb inventor Edward Teller that was televised on PBS.

Then came the Met’s own premiere of “Nixon in China,” which was also seen in the “Met Live in HD” cinema series this past season.

And now comes the Opera Theatre of  St. Louis revival (photos below) of “The Death of Klinghoffer,” a 1985 work done with librettist Alice Goodman that was based on the real-life hijacking of a cruise ship and that will also be revived elsewhere.

The works has raised controversy and debate, especially for its sympathetic depiction of the plight of Palestinian terrorists – or so some critics say.

The tensions are heightened, on suspects, because peace talks are stalled, with Hamas and the Palestinian Authority forming an alliance and with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defending West Bank settlements and an all-Israeli Jerusalem.

Here are some links to stories for you to make up your own mind.

http://www.npr.org/2011/06/17/137244640/the-death-of-klinghoffer-returns-to-face-the-music

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/18/arts/music/the-death-of-klinghoffer-onstage-in-st-louis.html

What do you think about “The Death of Klinghoffer” and its depiction of Palestineans, terrorists and Jews?

The Ear wants to hear.


Posted in Classical music

Classical music: Moldovan soprano is new Singer of the World. Neville Marriner to conduct for peace. Can “new music” save freelance musicians? Visit the Boston Early Music Festival.

June 25, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

Today’s news clips involve both new musicians and honored veterans.

Plus, there is of mixing early music and new music.

Take a look, have a read and see what you think.

ITEM: Wales proclaims a new Singer of the World (below):

http://www.gramophone.co.uk/classical-music-news/soprano-becomes-first-moldovan-winner-of-bbc-cardiff-singer-of-the-world

ITEM: Conductor Sir Neville Marriner (below) wants to follow Daniel Barenboim in making music an instrument of peace and cultural understanding in Eastern Europe:

http://www.gramophone.co.uk/classical-music-news/sir-neville-marriner-spearheads-the-i-culture-orchestra

ITEM: New York City, like other cities around the world,  throws an unusual do-it-yourself music and  piano sculpture (below) party to mark  the summer solstice and a citywide Make Music New York festival:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2011/06/22/137302271/one-day-who-knows-how-many-performers-make-music-2011

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/23/arts/music/make-music-new-yorks-swelter-at-central-park-lake.html

ITEM: Look at flutist Claire  Chase (below) and see if New Music a salvation for freelance musicians caught in the tough economy today:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/therecord/2011/06/22/137306745/following-claire-chase-a-week-in-the-life-of-the-modern-freelance-musician

ITEM: Maybe you couldn’t be there. So, what was the celebrated Boston Early Music Festival (below) like?

http://www.npr.org/2011/06/18/137248042/-the-orchestra-at-play-giddy-energy-at-the-boston-early-music-festival


Posted in Classical music

Classical music: Madison pianist Amy Hua, 16, will open the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra’s 28th annual summer Concerts on the Square next Wednesday night with Grieg’s popular Piano Concerto

June 24, 2011
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A REMINDER: This summer’s season of by the Madison-based Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society wraps up today, Saturday and Sunday with concerts at the Stoughton Opera House, The Playhouse in Madison’s Overture Center and at Hillside Theater at Frank Lloyd Wright‘s historic Taliesin compound  in Spring Green. The programs include some wonderful piano trios by Ravel, Debussy and Brahms and a two-piano work as well as other chamber music and works by J.S. Bach. It’s been an outstanding season so far for the group, so you might want to catch at least one or both of the final programs celebrating the 20th anniversary of the BDDS. For more information about programs, artists, venues and tickets, visit: http://www.bachdancinganddynamite.org/

By Jacob Stockinger

Next Wednesday night, June 29, at 7 p.m., the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra will open its 28th year of FREE summer Concerts on the Square (below).

The orchestra will perform the two-hours concerts on the King Street corner of the Square.

Each of the six concerts will be given on consecutive Wednesdays through Aug. 3 is expected to draw up to 20,000 people or more to each concert (and 120,000 for the entire series) who sit around the state Capitol and eat dinner, have drinks, chat with family and friends, and listen to some fine music finely performed. (Rain dates are Thursday, and cancellations will be called by 3 p.m. and announced on the website, Facebook page and on MAGIC 98 radio – as well as here if possible.)

The conductor for five of the concerts is WCO music director Andrew Sewell (below).

Here is a link to the web site with information about COS dates, times, music, food and other aspects of what is billed as “the biggest picnic of summer.”

http://wcoconcerts.org/performances/concerts-on-the-square/

And here is a link to the opening concert:

http://wcoconcerts.org/performances/concerts-on-the-square/8/event-info/

The guest soloist for the opening concert is Madison high school student Amy Hua, who will perform the first movement of Grieg’s popular Piano Concerto in A Minor. None other than Sergei Rachmaninoff called the most effective piano concerto ever written — and Rachmaninoff himself knew a thing or two about writing piano concertos.

Also on the program are Mendelssohn’s Overture to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”; Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz of the Flowers” with dancers of the Madison Ballet in choreography by their director W. Earle Smith; and Ravel’s “Mother Goose” Suite.

Hua (below) won this year’s WCO concerto competition for young people.

She recently gave an email interview to The Ear, who this year is emphasizing musical education and students, in view of the budget cuts to education and the tough economic times for arts support.

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

My name is Amy Hua and I am 16 years old. I began studying the piano when I was four and the violin when I was seven.

What are you going to perform?

I will be performing the first movement Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 16, by the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg (below).

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

I just finished my sophomore year at Madison West High School (below) and I will be a junior in the fall.

What are your favorite subjects? Do you have other areas of interest?

I love learning, so I don’t have a favorite subject in particular. But I especially enjoy studying science (chemistry, biology, physics), math, and languages. I’m involved in many extracurricular activities at West High, including Math Team, Science Olympiad, Rocket Club, SMART (Students Modeling A Research Topic) Team, Student Council, Student Support Foundation, tutoring, and community service. I also enjoy drawing, painting, swimming and playing tennis in my free time.

What are your plans for higher education and a career?

I plan to attend college and pursue a double major in science and music. I’d love to perform in a chamber orchestra or symphony orchestra.

Where did you get your musical training?

When I was four, I discovered that I have perfect pitch. As a result, I began pursuing music and started studying the piano with Janet Esser. Since, I have been studying piano performance with Gloria Chuang and Heejeong Hyong.

I have also studied the violin for seven years with Bonnie Greene and Eugene Purdue. Aside from performing as an individual, I was a violinist in the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras from 2005 to 2008 and in the 2009-2010 season and a flutist in my school band.

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

I have numerous favorite composers, including Tchaikovsky, Debussy, Shostakovich, Mahler, Saint-Saëns, Rachmaninoff, and Chopin. I especially enjoy listening to works of composers of the Romantic era because I can feel a true connection to the emotions conveyed in the music.

A few of my favorite works are Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, Mendelssohn’s Concerto No. 1, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2, and Beethoven’s “Pathetique” Sonata.

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

Music is important to me because it allows me to communicate my emotions and experiences in a unique manner. It transcends other forms of communication since music is able to touch people of all cultures, languages, and backgrounds. When I perform, I can feel a true connection to the piece and to the audience, through the emotions transmitted.

While the general framework of a work of music is set, the performer is able to shape the music in their own way, creating a unique work of art and convoking different emotions. For this, I love playing music since it allows me to fit my own life into the piece.

Was there an Aha! moment or turning point when you knew you wanted to be very serious about pursuing classical music?

I’ve had a couple of significant turning points. When I was eleven, I was featured in the Verona Arts Showcase and I performed the third movement of Shostakovich’s Concerto No. 2. My audience was very responsive and enthusiastic, and it was then that I realized the power of music and the feelings it can communicate.

Just after my grandpa passed away, I had another piano performance that ended up having a great impact on me. It was very difficult to play some of the repertoire because I was so emotional, but I felt a deeper connection to the music than I had ever had before. I learned that music has many layers and that its true meaning is uncovered by developing each layer. For this, I enjoy performing music for others, as it allows me to expose people to its wonders and convey the sense of sheer elation I feel when I hear music.

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

Play because you love it and do it for yourself, not just for others or to succeed in competitions. When you’re performing, let go of any inhibitions and just dive into your music. That way, it will be easier to relate to the music and find its true meaning. There are many aspects of music, so don’t get too wrapped up in the technical issues.

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

I believe that music is very important in relation to development in other areas of education. Studies have shown that music has a considerable impact on people’s brains and, as a result, develops logic, perception, and agility and increases aptitude in languages, math and the sciences.

Music also cultivates self-expression, creativity and an understanding of oneself. It nurtures values that are essential for learning in all areas of education – respect, a strong work ethic, self-discipline, and perseverance. Hence, music has an immeasurable impact on a person’s development, emotionally and tangibly.

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

I am so honored to have the opportunity to perform with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. This will be my first performance with a professional symphony, so I’m very excited to play with all the wonderful orchestra musicians. I really look forward to performing the Grieg Piano Concerto (below) and being able to both fit my piano part into place with the orchestral parts and create my own music as a pianist.


Posted in Classical music

Classical music: Grace Episcopal Church teams up with Classical Revolution and kicks off a new series of free concerts this Saturday morning with the Quadre French Horn Quartet

June 23, 2011
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A REMINDER: Speaking of summer music festivals, the impressive fifth annual Minnesota Beethoven Festival, held in Winona, Minn., kicks off this Saturday, June 26, and runs through July 17. A lot of great artists and great music is scheduled. For information about artists, performances, tickets and directions, visit: http://www.mnbeethovenfestival.com/

By Jacob Stockinger

This Saturday at 11:30 a.m., during the Dane County Farmers’ Market, Grace Episcopal Church (below), at 116 West Washington Avenue on the Capitol Square in downtown Madison, is starting a new series of free concerts – with a special mission or purpose in mind.

The first group of performers to inaugurate the series is a French horn quartet called QUADRE (below).

Here is a press release from organizer and participant Laura Weiner:

““Grace Presents” is a new venture on the part of Grace Episcopal Church to provide free classical chamber concerts to the public on the square, whether that be during a Farmer’s Market (below), during the workweek, or even during the homeless shelter evening meals.

“Grace have teamed up with another venture, Classical Revolution, which is a group of musicians that aims to bring classical music into more culturally accessible venues.  These have ranged from bars, restaurants, and coffee shops to outdoor festivals and UW events.

“Classical Revolution is an international organization with chapters in many different cities and towns. The Madison chapter began in fall 2010, and this next year is moving forward with a wider range of concert venues, audiences and programming.  They are in the process of getting our website up (hopefully by the end of next week): classicalrevolutionmadison.org

“And you can check out the national organization at classicalrevolution.org.

“Both Grace and Classical Revolution are very excited about presenting the first concert, Quadre Horn Quartet (below).

“Since its inception in 1998, this award-winning group of funny, self-deprecating, highly entertaining and quintessentially virtuosic French Horn masters (listen below) has performed over 1,000 concerts, lectures and workshops throughout the United States.  QUADRE’s core mission is to make music accessible, engaging and enjoyable for audiences of all ages.

“In their program of “Global Horning,” you can travel with Quadre as they adventure around the world with horns in hand- from the beaches of Waikiki to the Swiss Alps to romps with hounds on an English hillside.  “Global Horning” explores the evolution of the horn from pre-historic to futuristic, and horn music of all kinds from around the globe.

The concert will be Saturday, June 25, at 11:30 a.m. inside Grace Episcopal Church (interior is below) and is open free to the public.

You can find information about Quadre on the web at www.quadre.org.

The next concert is July 9.

Although no information about the specific program by Quadre has been provided, The Ear is betting the chances are very good that the 90-minute program will feature some of the works the same group will perform before paying customers the night before at the Green Lake Festival of Music in Ripon.

That program was posted here yesterday. Use this link to see the choices or possibilities:


Posted in Classical music

Classic music: The QUADRE Horn Quartet performs at the Green Lake Festival this Friday and at Grace Episcopal Church in Madison this Saturday morning; the Minnesota Beethoven Festival kicks off Saturday and runs through July 17.

June 22, 2011
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A REMINDER: Speaking of summer music festivals, the impressive fifth annual Minnesota Beethoven Festival, held in Winona, Minn., kicks off this Saturday, June 26, and runs through July 17. A lot of great artists and great music is scheduled. For information about artists, performances, tickets and directions, visit: http://www.mnbeethovenfestival.com/

By Jacob Stockinger

Next up for this summer’s Green Lake Festival in Ripon is the concert by the QUADRE Horn Quartet. The concert takes place this Friday at 8:15 p.m. in the Rodman Center for the Arts (below) at Ripon College.

 Members of the quartet of French horns are: Amy Jo Rhine, Daniel Wood, UW-trained Lydia Van Dreel and Nathan Pawalek.

A free pre-concert conversation will start at 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 7:15 p.m.

Advance tickets are $22 for adults and $5 for student, and go up $2 at the door.

For more information about the Green Lake Festival, this concert, ticket information and driving directions, use these links:

http://www.greenlakefestival.org/

http://www.greenlakefestival.org/quadre.htm

http://www.greenlakefestival.org/ticketorderinfo.html

Then on this Saturday, June 25, at 11:30 a.m., a free Farmers’ Market concert by the same group will take place at Grace Episcopal Church (below) on the Capitol Square in downtown Madison. But I will have more on that in tomorrow’s post.

The horn quartet’s program is a “travelogue” through the use of horning around the world.

Here is a press release along with some program notes:

“GLOBAL HORNING”

(Program order and titles are subject to change)

Travel with QUADRE as they adventure around the world with horns in hand – from the beaches of Waikiki to the Swiss Alps to romps with hounds on an English hillside.  GLOBAL HORNING explores the evolution of the horn in all of its forms from pre-historic to futuristic and horn music of all kinds from around the globe. QUADRE goes off the grid with GLOBAL HORNING.  Grab your passports, and don’t forget the sunscreen! 

Jamie Keesecker “Impetuous Winds”
(1981—)

Charles King “Waiting for Thee”
(1874-1950) arr. Nathan Pawelek                         

Johannes Brahms Symphony No. 1
(1833-1897)
arr. Lydia Van Dreel

Daniel Wood “Sliding Overtones”

Aaron CoplandSimple Gifts
(1900-1990)
arr. Daniel Wood

Traditional  “Hunting Horn Works”

George Frederic HandelWater Music”
(1685-1759)
arr. Leigh Martinet

Intermission

Jacques-Francois Gallay Grand Quartet
(1795-1864)

Nicolas Tcherepnine “3 Dances”
(1873-1945)

Anthony Plog Horn Quartet No. 1
(1947—)

Looping Improvisations

Daniel Wood Moonshine from the Hills of Attleby


Posted in Classical music

What is the best classical music to greet summer with?

June 21, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

Today, Tuesday, June 21, 2011 is the first day of summer, which arrives in the Northern Hemisphere at 12:16 p.m. Central Daylight Time.

Here in the Upper Midwest, it has been a long time coming, especially after the long, wet winter and the cold, wet and violent spring that brought floods and tornados.

As I often do, I want to ask readers what is the best music they can recommend to greet the new season – even if it has largely been a hot and cold affair, a rainy and cloudy affair, where I live.

There are obvious choices, like Vivaldi’s “Summer” concerto from “The Four Seasons” and Beethoven “Spring” violin sonata and Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.” There is the “Summer” section from Haydn’s oratorio “The Seasons.” And there is also the aria “Summertime” from George Gershwin’s opera “Porgy and Bess” and Ravel’s “A Boat on the Ocean” from “Mirrors.”

There are several of Debussy’s Preludes for piano that conjure up summer and warm weather for me. And there are many songs by Schubert, Schumann (who also wrote a “Spring” Symphony), Brahms and Faure that evoke summer with all its blossoming greenery.

But after mulling it overall and looking at a lot of choices, this year I think it comes down to choice of two great works for voice with orchestra.

One is a 19th-century proto-Romantic works by the French composer Hector Berlioz, “Les Nuits d’ete” or “Summer Nights.”

I wanted to offer a sample sung by the late great mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson in a posthumously released but beautiful live recording of the Berlioz songs  — paired with several Handel arias — with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra under Nicholas McGegan. But it isn’t available on YouTube.

So here is Dame Janet Baker with a lovely excerpt from the Berlioz:

The other choice is a 20th century work by the lyrical American composer Samuel Barber, “Knoxville, Summer of 1915” based on words by James Agee, who wrote “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.”

I wanted to link to an excerpt sung by the terrific American soprano Dawn Upshaw, who scored quite a commercial success with her recording of the work. But again, that performance is not up on YouTube.

When will some of the record companies learn the value of “social media” as an advertising vehicle that gives potential buyers a sample of what they want to hear and might even buy?

So here is Part 1 of an equally beautiful, if now historic,  performance by the American soprano Leontyne Price:

What classical music do you most like and recommend to greet summer with?

The Ear wants to hear.


Posted in Classical music
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