The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music news: Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society will use the theme of MIXOLOGY next summer after scoring its biggest success ever last summer. The Ear adds: “Let us now praise pianist Jeffrey Sykes.”

October 10, 2011
4 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

This is a catch-up entry, a commentary that should have been posted during the summer and the height of the concerts by the Madison-based Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society back in June or July. But somehow, alas, it got crowded out.

Happily, now it is pertinent again.

That’s because of two things.

One: The BBDS players are back in town for the first of this season’s private House Concerts at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 23, at the home of UW-Madison violin professor Felicia Moye (below).

Performers include Felicia Moye, and BDDS co-founders and co-artistic directors flutist Stephanie Jutt and San Francisco-based, UW-Madison alumnus pianist Jeffrey Sykes. The afternoon’s program will include the “Madrigal” Trio by Bohuslav Martinu, the Trio Sonata in C Major, BWV 1037 by J.S. Bach, and “Oblivion” by Astor Piazzolla among others.

Tickets are $45 and are limited to 45 people.  As usual,it should be an intimate gathering, with excellent treats and fabulous music as BDDS always sees music, along with socializing and food, as part of The Good Life. You can click here to reserve a place.

By the way, the BDDS’ next House Session will take place on Sunday, March 25, 2012, at a location To Be Announced.

The other reason for this posting is because The Ear has learned things: Not only did last summer’s 20th anniversary season turn out to be the best for making money and attendance that the BDDS has EVER had, according to executive director Samantha Crownover, but the BBDS will also follow up on it with the theme of their upcoming season.

That new theme is “Mixology” (in regular lingo, drink recipes) to mark the Coming of Age of BDDS as it turns 21.

Last year, BDDS served free cake at the end of each performance to celebrate 20 years. Will it be free champagne at the end of next summer’s concerts?

Anyway, the theme is a natural continuation and it as good a peg as any on which to hang a series of programs.

Sorry: No word yet on repertoire or programs. Still, I’m betting it will be terrific.

But back to my purpose: To say – Let Us Now Praise Jeffrey Sykes (below).

As the head pianist  of BDDS, Sykes is prolific. Every summer he learns and plays a ton of music, from all kinds of eras and styles, and in all kinds of combinations. He does all the hard work of performing, yet whenever we talk I am constantly astonished by his good humor and his talent.

As a pianist Sykes is a chameleon – in the best sense – much like Richard Goode, (below) who sounds like a natural and a specialist in whatever he plays — Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, Brahms. Jeffrey Sykes plays two pianos,  four-hands all kinds of duets, trios, quartets, quintets — you name it. Sykes is a master blender and partner, accompanist and collaborator, much like Richard Goode.

Jeffrey can play Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Modern or Contemporary music and sound absolutely convincing and sure of himself and the music. That is a big talent, and one reason Goode, who has worked with the acclaimed Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society, co-directs the prestigious Marlboro Festival and School with pianist Mitsuko Uchida.

I compare Sykes to Goode because I think Goode too is underestimated and under-exposed as an artist. When Goode plays Bach, he sounds thoroughly Bachian. When he plays Beethoven, he sounds thoroughly Beethovenian. When he plays Schubert, he sounds thoroughly Schubertian. His Mozart concertos set a standard. He is, in short, a complete pianist.

And I think the same is true of Sykes (below, rehearsing last summer). I would like to hear him play some solo pieces, perhaps to open a concert and get people in the mood, much like Con Vivo did with two of Schubert’s “Moments Musicaux” for solo piano as its last concert last season, an all-Schubert event.

For that matter, maybe co-founder and flutist Stephanie Jutt could also do one or two of Telemann’s solo flute fantasies at the beginning of a program or two each season.

It is kind of fun and personal or intimate to listen to a single person making solo music. It gets you into The Zone. Then the combinations become more meaningful as they become more complex.

Anyway I want to hear Jeffrey Sykes solo – either at BDDS or perhaps at a recital, though I prefer the first as a context.

I also think BDDS would make a lot of money by raffling off not only a dinner with a private concert, but also a hour-long lesson or private master class with Sykes and Jutt and some of the other outstanding BDDS musicians.

Imagine taking a piece or two to Sykes for his comments, advice and help. Or to Jutt. Or to cellist Parry Karp or violinist Axel Strauss (below). I think a lot of people – including myself – would take a chance on that for themselves, their spouse or children, their friends or family.

And what a way to extend the legacy of making fine music!

Anyway, what do you think of the theme of Mixology to mark BDDS turning 21?

Do any special pieces on that theme come to mind?

And what do you think of pianist Jeffrey Sykes?

The Ear wants to hear.

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