The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music datebook: Rarely heard percussion, piano and chamber music, as well as a community orchestra, are featured in a week packed full with performances by smaller, less well-known ensembles plus a public opening reception for the Pro Arte Quartet exhibit at Dane County Airport.

February 29, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

It isn’t just the larger performing music groups (the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and the Madison Opera) and the larger presenters (the Overture Center, the Wisconsin Union Theater) that demonstrate what a vibrant classical music scene Madison has for a city its size.

Just take a look below at the long and varied list of lower-profile groups that will be making some memorable music. They include a Czech choir next Wednesday as well as a UW-Madison piano student marathon on Saturday (it sounds similar to the great Chopin Mazurkathon of 2010) as well as several others smaller chamber music groups.


At 7:30 p.m. in the Middleton Performing Arts Center, attached to Middleton High School, The Middleton Community Orchestra performs its Winter Concert, conducted by Steve Kurr.

The concert features a performance of “Schelomo,” by Ernest Bloch with cellist Jordan Allen (below) as soloist. The orchestra will also play “John Henry” by Aaron Copland and “The Firebird Suite” by Igor Stravinsky.

Tickets are $10 for general admission. Students and retirement home residents are free. Tickets are available at the door and at Willy St. Coop West.

Call (608 -212-8690 for more information.


From 5 to 7 p.m., the UW Pro Arte String (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) will perform live at at the FREE and PUBLIC opening reception at the Dane County Airport Exhibit about the history of the quartet and its centennial season this year as well as the centennial of The Wisconsin Idea.

At 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Contemporary Chamber Ensemble (below) will perform under composer and artistic director Laura Schwendinger.

This program, sub-titled “The Young and the Experimental,” is the first in a new series called “The Living Composers Project,” a three-year initiative designed to present concerts of works by living composers. The program begins with a panel discussion with student composers and Laura Schwendinger, followed by performances of works by Michael Finnissy and Tamar Diesendruck; “String Quartet” by student composer Dara Tennikova; and “Kaläämang” (“Fish Game”) by student composer Jerry Hui.  Pianist Christopher Taylor is the special guest.

Free admission.


Friday’s FREE Noon Musicale, from 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the Landmark Auditorium of the First Unitarian Society Meeting House, 900 University Bay Drive, features Catherine Schweitzer, soprano (below)  and Jeff Gibbens, piano, in music by Mozart, Brahms, Verdi and other composers. For information, call 608.233-9774 or visit

At 8 p.m. in Morphy Hall, the  UW’s Wingra Woodwind Quintet (below) performs.  The program — “Around the World in 80 minutes with the Wingra Quintet” features works by Bach, Skalkottas, Debussy, Zemlinsky, Bartok, Gershwin, Piazzolla and Rodriguez.

Free admission.


Starting at noon in Morphy Recital Hall, the UW-Madison School of Music’s piano department, in association with the Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies program, will present “Carnival: Celebrating Music from Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula.”

The concert is free and a Latin American-themed reception for musicians and audience will follow the event. The concert is expected to last three hours, and audience members are invited to drop in at any time.

Carnival’s mission is to celebrate the diversity of musical cultures too often neglected in concert programming and academic study in the United States. More than 30 student performers will present music by 20 different composers from Argentina, Brazil, Catalonia, Cuba, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, Venezuela and more. (It sounds a lot like the great Chopin Mazurkathon in 2010, below.)

Composers featured range from well-known figures like Astor Piazzolla (below) and Enrique Granados to lesser-known names like Xavier Montsalvatge, Tania Leon and Alicia Terzian.

Pieces for solo piano will be featured along with music for voice and piano, flute and piano, piano-4 hands and piano-8 hands.  An international roster of undergraduate and graduate students of the school’s acclaimed piano faculty will perform.

Piano faculty members represented are Martha Fischer, Jessica Johnson, Christopher Taylor and Todd Welbourne. In addition, Christina Baker, a scholar on salsa dance forms from the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, will give a brief presentation on salsa in Mexico City at approximately 1 p.m.

Also at noon, until 1 p.m., at Grace Church, 116 West Washington Avenue, on the Capitol Square in downtown Madison, a FREE concert will feature soprano Rachel Holmes (below) in a program of Mozart arias.

At 1:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) Percussion Ensemble (below) will present its 11th annual Percussion Extravaganza.  The event serves as a showcase of the talents of the local young musicians age 12-17 who perform with the Percussion Ensemble under the direction of Vicki Jenks.

Entitled “Pan-tastic,” this year’s Percussion Extravaganza will feature Liam Teague (below), known in the percussion world as Paganini of the Steelpan.”  Teague currently serves as the Head of Steelpan Studies, co-directs the NIU Steelband and is Associate Professor of Music at Northern Illinois University.

Teague has distinguished himself as the recipient of many awards in his homeland, Trinidad and Tobago.  He has performed across the world with such groups as the Chicago Sinfonietta, the Taiwan National Symphony, Czech National Symphony, Panama National Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, and recently, the UW-Madison Marching Band.

A strong advocate for original steelpan compositions, Teague has commissioned a number of significant composers to write for the instrument.  On Saturday, he will perform some of his own compositions plus several selections with the WYSO Percussion Ensemble.  He is currently the musical arranger for the Starlift Steel Orchestra, one of the most celebrated steelbands in the world. For more information,  visit

Admission to Percussion Extravaganza is $8 for adults and $5 for students 18 and under.  Tickets can be purchased in the lobby of Mills Hall beginning one hour prior to the concert. A portion of ticket sales will be donated to Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin. A voluntary food and/or monetary donation for Second Harvest would also be greatly appreciated. The Humanities Building is located at 455 N. Park St., Madison. Parking is available at State Street Campus Ramp, Helen C. White, and Grainger Hall.  For more directions and information, contact the WYSO office, (608) 263-3320 x 11.

At 7 p.m. in the Oakwood Village West Auditorium, 6209 Mineral Point Road, on Friday and then at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon at the UW Arboretum Visitors Center the Oakwood Chamber Players (below, in a photo by Bill Arthur) will perform a program of rarely heard lyrical music.

Tickets can be purchased at the door: $20 for general admission, $15 for seniors and $5 for students.

The theme for this concert is “Aubade,” or poems about the dawn, and the concert appropriately begins with “Aubade” by Paul de Wailly for flute, oboe, clarinet.

The ensemble will present three pieces original to the piano arranged for woodwinds including two of the “Fleeting Moments” by Sergei Prokofiev – Dolente and Ridicolosamente (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon); “The Diary of a Fly” by Bela Bartok for woodwind quintet); and “Petite Suite” by Debussy (ww quintet). The program will also include “Threesome” (for woodwind trio) by New England composer Gwynneth Walker and the romantic Quintet, op. 43 (piano, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn) by Heinrich von Herzogenberg.

At 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Faculty Concert Series presents the Wisconsin Brass Quintet (below). Works on the program are by Lutoslawski, Monteverdi, Villa-Lobos and by quintet members Douglas Lindsey, Daniel Grabois and John Stevens.  Free admission.


This week’s “Sunday Afternoon Live from the Chazen” offers faculty members from the Wausau Conservatory of Music 12:30-2 p.m. in Brittingham Gallery Number III at the Chazen Museum of Art. It will be broadcast live by Wisconsin Public Radio. Performers include Karen Juliano, soprano (below); Scott S. Hunsberger, baritone; and Ann Applegate, pianist.

The program features works of some of the most beloved composers from the 19th and 20th centuries, including selections from “Images” Book II for solo piano by Claude Debussy; solos for soprano by Francesco P. Tosti; “In quelle trine morbide” from Manon Lescaut by Giacomo Puccini; Etudes for piano by Frédéric Chopin, and “An die Ferne Geliebte” (To the Distant Beloved) for baritone by Ludwig van Beethoven.

The musicians have each performed throughout Wisconsin and have toured the major musical epicenters of Europe before joining the faculty of the Wausau Conservatory to pursue teaching.

Members of the Chazen Museum of Art or Wisconsin Public Radio can call ahead and reserve seats for Sunday Afternoon Live performances. Seating is limited. All reservations must be made Monday through Friday before the concert and claimed by 12:20 p.m. on the day of the performance. For more information or to learn how to become a museum member, contact the Chazen Museum at 608.263.2246.

NOTE: Due to the 2012 UW Art Department Faculty Exhibition, the post-concert reception will not be held again until the April 15th concert. We would like to thank our generous donors, Fresh Madison Market, Steep & Brew, and Coffee Bytes. A free docent-led tour in the Chazen galleries begins every Sunday at 2 p.m.

At 1:30 p.m. the Oakwood Chamber players perform “Aubade” at the UW Arboretum Visitors Center (below). See Saturday’s listings.

At 2 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Faculty Concert Series presents the Thimmig-Johnson Duo, with Les Thimmig (below), clarinets and saxophone and Jessica Johnson, piano.  The program includes works by Mozart, Janacek, Monk and Bernstein.  Free admission.

At 2:30 p.m. in the St. Joseph Chapel of Edgewood College, 1000 Edgewood College Drive, Edgewood College presents the Edgewood College Women’s Choir and Chamber Singers. They will perform under the direction of Kathleen Otterson (below) and Albert Pinsonneault. Included on the program are works of Salieri, Purcell, Tallis, Byrd and Bruckner, as well as arrangements of traditional Irish folk songs.

Admission is free.


At 7 p.m.  Jitro, a Czech Girls’ Choir (below) will perform in concert at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Middleton at 7337 Hubbard Avenue.  The concert is open to the public; a freewill offering will be taken at the door.

Jitro (“The Daybreak” in Czech) is co-sponsored by the Madison Youth Choirs and St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, with additional support from The Edgewater. Jitro is presented by Joanne Rile Artists Management.

“This internationally acclaimed touring choir is selected from over 350 children in six preparatory ensembles. In the span of 38 years, they have performed 2,500 concerts and have toured 700,000 miles around the globe. In the Fourth World Choir Games in Xiamen, China (2006) they received three gold medals. Among its many tours, Jitro has performed 12 tours in the US, six in Japan, and over 200 throughout Europe. Their discography includes 30 recordings.

Since 1997, Jiri Skopal has led the choir as Artistic Director, winning high praise for his brilliant leadership. Pianist Michael Chrobak’s superb playing adds luster to the choir’s remarkable performances.”

The concert will feature an opening performance by Madison Youth Choirs Cantabile choir and Jitro’s performance will include works by Britten, Gallus, Dvorák, Smetena, Macha, Badings and more.

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