The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music news: As we say Happy New Year — in Vienna and here — and Cheers to 2012, let us also take one last look at memorable concerts of 2011.

January 1, 2012

ALERTS: For many years now — since it began in 1959,  -, the unofficial start of the new year in classical music has been been marked by the New Year’s Day Concert From Vienna. The radio version will air on Wisconsin Public Radio at 10 a.m. today; the TV version, on the series “Great Performances,” which run on Wisconsin Public Television from 6:30 to 8 p.m. tonight. The Vienna Philharmonic will be conducted by Latvian conductor Mariss Jansons (below). The TV host for this broadcast that reaches over a billion viewers in 72 countries and is considered the largest classical music event in the world, will again be Julie Andrews. And the recording industry will see to a fast turn-around: Sony Classical recordings will release the CD on Jan. 7 and then the DVD on Jan. 21.

By Jacob Stockinger

The music-making of the New Year will begin seriously in just under two weeks. Then, once the University of Wisconsin School of Music reopens after Winter Break, the classical season will get under way full steam .

In the meantime, even as we look forward, it is a chance to remember the music that most moved us during 2011, the year that just ended.

For various reasons I did not have time to do a full compilation this that this year. Yet I can honestly say that every organization or presenter I heard offered at least one or more very memorable performance that will stay with me for a long time.

First — given persistent concerns about the aging and decline of classical music audiences and the future of classical music — let me note that, in the words of Bob Dylan: The times, they are a-changin.

Some of my colleagues did a more comprehensive Year in Review type of piece, even though they seemed to miss out on such news and music trends as the local branch of Classical Revolution, which presents classical music free in alternative venues (for example, Grace Episcopal Church) and New MUSE (below), or New Music Everywhere, which performs classical and contemporary music in alternative venues (Fair Trade Coffeehouse on State Street) and generated a 9/11 flash mob at the Dane County Farmers Market on the Capitol Square  in 2010 and performed at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (below) in 2011.

I also think not enough attention was paid to the small early music ensembles, such as the Madison Bach Musicians (below), that Madison finds itself so blessed with.

But when it comes to mainstream fare and bigger venues –the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Madison Opera, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Wisconsin Union Theater and the UW School of Music —  these two of roundup surveys strike me as generally pretty fair.

Here is the assessment from Greg Hettmansberger, an experienced music critic, who writes the “Classically Speaking” blog for Madison Magazine:

And here are summary judgments by Isthmus’ former news editor and now freelancer Marc Eisen, who has a sensitive set of ears and a refined if universal taste in music. His classical choices alternate with jazz, pop and others, but his summation story is well worth the read and reminders of a memorable year:

Finally, no one mentioned the impressive performances by the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra, including the world premiere (below) of Madison composer John Stevens’ “Fanfare for an Uncommon Man,” a tribute to WYSO founder Marvin Rabin.

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