The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music datebook: It’s Pro Arte Quartet Week in Madison. Let’s turn out, cheer them on and fill the house to celebrate a world record and world premiere in music.

October 19, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

This week in Madison is really devoted to chamber music – and should really be called and officially proclaimed  “Pro Arte Quartet” Week.

That is because the week will see the official kick off of the season-long celebration marking the world record CENTENNIAL of the University of Wisconsin’s Pro Arte String Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer)  including lectures, open rehearsals and a fabulous FREE concert that features a world premiere of Walter Mays’ String Quartet No.2, one of four commissions from American composers by the Pro Arte to mark 100 years.

Below is a complete list of Pro Arte Quartet Centennial events.

But of course the Pro Arte Quartet celebration isn’t the only important musical event taking place. There are other concerts, including another famous modern quartet. Here is a wrap-up:

On Friday, in the Landmark Auditorium (below) of the First Unitarian Society Meeting House, 900 University Bay Drive, the weekly FREE Friday Noon Musicale, from 12:15 to 1 p.m., will feature the “Quartet for the End of Time” by Olivier Messiaen with local performers  Nancy McKenzie, clarinet; Kangwon Kim, violin; Andre Kleesattel, cello; and Ankie Foell, piano. For information, call 233-9774. The performance will be repeated on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. in the Grand Hall of the Capitol Lakes Retirement Community, 330 West Main St., with a special lecture by pianist Foell who knew and worked with Messiaen. Admission there is free too.

Also on Friday, at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, is a violin recital on the Faculty Concert Series with Tyrone Greive (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot), violin and Martha Fischer, piano.  The program includes “First Elegy” by Liszt, “Sonata in B-flat major” by Barbieri, “Fountains of Arethuse,” Op. 30, No. 1 by Szymanowski, “Flight” by Kochanski and “Sonata No. 1 in F minor,” Op. 80 by Prokofiev. Free admission.

On Sunday at 2:30 p.m. in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive, Edgewood College (below) will give its FREE Fall Band Concert with the Edgewood Concert Band, conducted by Walter Rich. The concert will include music of Samuel R. Hazo, David Holsinger, Eric Whitacre, Norman Dello Joio, Johann Strauss, Robert Russell Bennett and Zo Elliott.

On Sunday at 3 p.m., Trevor Stephenson (below) will hold the first of three intimate house concerts this season and play 10 sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti on a harpsichord in his west side home at 5729 Forsythia Place. There is room for about 40. Reservations are required. Tickets are $35.  Call (608) 238-6092 or send an email to

Now on to a round up of the Pro Arte Quartet Centennial events, which a city like Madison – with so many classical music events and fans – should be a MUST-ATTEND for those who like contemporary or new music, for those who like chamber music and for those who like participating in historic events, including a world premiere.


This season the University of Wisconsin’s Pro Arte String Quartet (below, seen in 1940, when they joined the  UW-Madison) turns 100. It is a one-of-a-kind world milestone, maybe like winning five Rose Bowls back-to-back. SO THEY DESERVE OUR SUPPORT AND ATTENDANCE.

No other quartet in history has done that.

And the Pro Arte did it in a hard way.

The Belgian quartet was exiled on tour in Wisconsin when, in May 1940, Hitler invaded their homeland and they couldn’t return home. So the UW-Madison approached them to be artists-in-residence – the first quartet ever to do so – and they did.

That, in turn, changed the standard “business model” for string quartets by allowing quartets both to teach and to survive and thrive by performing and touring.

Understandably, the Pro Arte Quartet is celebrating the event in a big way, to the tune of a $500,000 commemoration.

This season they have commissioned four American composers – Walter Mays, John Harbison, William Bolcom and Paul Schoenfield – to writer quartets that they will give the world premieres of. Here is a schedule:

• Walter Mays’ String Quartet No. 2 (Oct. 22, this Saturday, at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall)

• Paul Schoenfield’s Three Rhapsodies for Piano Quintet (Nov. 19 in Mills Hall)

• William Bolcom’s Piano Quintet No. 2 (March 24 in Wisconsin Union Theater) with UW faculty pianist Christopher Taylor

•  John Harbison’s String Quartet No. 5 (April 21 in Mills Hall)

In addition, there will be out-of-town guest lecturers including Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times and Bill McGlaughlin of “Exploring Music” on National Public Radio. There will be lectures, art exhibitions and more, including a book about the history of the Pro Arte Quartet and a 2-CD set of the commissions for Albany Records.

And in keeping with the spirit of the Wisconsin Idea, which is also marking its centennial and which says that the university should benefit the citizens who support it, all events are FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.

So mark your calendars and datebooks for the forthcoming events surrounding the first commission and concert:

Today, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 3:30 to 5 p.m. in Room 1351 in the Mosse Humanities Building, 455 N. Park St. Composer Walter Mays (below) will discuss “My Recent Music” as part of Pro Arte Quartet Centennial.

Thursday, Oct. 20, 9 a.m. to noon in Mill Hall. Open rehearsal by the Pro Arte Quartet with composer Walter Mays of the program for Saturday night.

Friday, Oct. 21, 4-5 p.m. in Room 2650 in the Mosse Humanities Building, 455 N. Park St. Lecture by culture historian Joseph Horowitz on “Wagnerism and the New American Woman.” (Part of the Wisconsin Book Festival.)

Saturday, Oct. 22, 3-5 p.m. in the Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St. Lecture on “Artists in Exile” by culture historian Joseph Horowitz (below), who wrote a book on that topic and will tracing the impact of exiled performing artists on America in the 20th century) followed by a question-and-answer session. Horowitz will be introduced by Paul S. Boyer, UW Professor Emeritus of American intellectual and cultural history. Boyer worked with Horowitz when Boyer edited the “Oxford Companion to United States History,” to which Horowitz contributed several articles and in 2008 when both men were involved in the New York Philharmonic’s observance of what would have been Leonard Bernstein’s 90th birthday.

Saturday, Oct. 22, at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall in the Mosse Humanities Building, 455 N. Park St. First of the four concerts with the WORLD PREMIERES of commissioned works: The Pro Arte Quartet will perform on the first half Ernest Bloch’s “Prelude” (1925), Samuel Barber’s String Quartet No. 1 (with the world-famous Adagio for Strings slow movement that the Pro Arte gave the world premiere of in Rome in 1936) and the the WORLD PREMIERE of Walter Mays’ String Quartet No. 2 (2011). The second half features Schubert’s gorgeously beautiful  Cello Quintet (1828), with guest cellist Bonnie Hampton (below) from the Juilliard School. A free reception will follow in the lobby of Mills Hall. (Pre-concert events with introductions to the composer Walter Mays and culture historian Joseph Horowitz and questions from the audience at 7-7:30 p.m.) Within 24 hours, the concert will also be available for free streaming at under the Events Calendar.

Sunday, Oct. 23, from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in Brittingham Gallery III of the Chazen Museum of Art, 800 University Ave. “Sunday Live From the Chazen” (below) will feature part of the Pro Arte Quartet’s Saturday night concert, including the second performance of Walter Mays’ String Quartet No. 2. The event will be broadcast live over Wisconsin Public Radio (WERN 88.7 FM in the Madison area) and is part of the opening celebration for the opening of the new wing of the Chazen Museum of Art. Call 608 263-2246.

For more information and background, visit:

Or call UW School of music at (608) 263-1900.

Or visit Pro Arte web sites:

For a sample, try:

For even more information, I suggest reading the recent stories by Gayle Worland in The Wisconsin State Journal. They were thoroughly research, extremely well written, with great human interest, and clearly organized and laid out:

And here is the official notice sent out to UW students, faculty and staff as well as to news media:


Posted in Classical music

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