The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The best audiences in town and hundreds of talented young musicians will be in the spotlight at Sunday’s concerts by the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras.

May 17, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

What classical music group plays to the best audiences in town?

You might pick a large, well known group like the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Madison Opera or the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. Or you might even pick the UW School of Music faculty members, guest artists and students – all of which receive many standing ovations in a given season.

But you would be wrong.

Hands down —  hands together, really — The Ear’s prize for the BEST AUDIENCES goes to the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras.

If you want to feel how energized a classic music crowd can – and should — get, I heartily suggest you take in the very affordable spring concerts by WYSO this coming Sunday afternoon and night.

Every time I have attended WYSO, concerts I have not only been deeply impressed with the high level of playing and musicianship (you will be too, if you listen to the Shostakovich Symphony No. 5 excerpt at the bottom); I have also been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm from friends, family and other fans that greets these young people who range from middle school to high school.

Informality rules – a lesson, perhaps for other classical music groups looking to grow attendance. You see the audience members, who pack the hall, show up in T-shirts, bluejeans and shorts. You hear the loud cheers, hoots and hollers as the young musicians come on stage, perform and then leave the stage. The audience members photograph and videotape the musicians as they perform. Audiences just don’t come energetic, more serious and more appreciative than you find at WYSO.

It is all so exciting. You would never get the idea that classical music audiences are typically old, stodgy and staid when you attend these concerts. WYSO concerts are filled with young people, with children (below), and even a sound-proof room is provided for parents of small children who get restless and cry out or act up.

On Sunday afternoon and evening, more than 300 talented young musicians will wrap us this season of hard work at home and weekly ensemble practicing with the annual Eugenie Mayer Bolz Family Spring Concerts.

At 1:30 p.m., WYSO’s string orchestra, Sinfonietta, will open the concert series with a performance of “Sakura” for Solo Cello and String Orchestra by M.L. Daniels, featuring soloist Hannah Wolkstein, a WYSO alumna and sectional coach.

The Concert Orchestra will follow with Bach’s “Chorale and Fugue” and Bizet’s “Intermezzo” from “L’Arlésienne.

At 4 p.m., WYSO’s Percussion Ensemble will perform selections including “Londonderry Air,” dedicated to the ensemble’s graduating seniors. The Percussion Ensemble (below) will feature two world premieres, “Rhapsody,” by Matt Halloran, arranged by WYSO alumna Amy Novick, and “Tacoma,” by WYSO percussionist Corinne Steffens. “Tacoma” is dedicated to Madison West High School music educator Steve Morgan, who is retiring this year.

Then comes the Philharmonia Orchestra (below in a photo by Cheng-Wei Wu).

The Philharmonia will showcase the talents of Concerto Competition winner Isabella Wu (below), who will perform the first movement of Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, accompanied by her fellow orchestra members. Philharmonia will also bring a few audience favorites to life, including “Danse Bacchanale” from Saint-Saëns’s “Samson and Delilah,” and the first movement of Schubert’s “Unfinished Symphony.”

The Youth Orchestra, WYSO’s premier performing group, which travels to Europe this summer, will take the stage following the Harp Ensemble (below) at 7 p.m. and will also highlight this year’s Concerto Competition winners.

With the Youth Orchestra (below), clarinetists Hattie Bestul and Max Butler (below top)  will perform the first movement of Krommer’s Concerto for Two Clarinets. David Cao (below middle) will perform the third movement of Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor. Anthony Cudzinovic (below bottom) will perform the first movement of Khachaturian’s Violin Concerto in D minor. All four soloists will be accompanied by the Youth Orchestra, which will also perform Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet” Overture.

The Bolz Family Spring Concerts, act of which typically last about 90 minutes, will be held in Mills Concert Hall in the UW-Madison’s Mosse Humanities Building, 455 North Park Street, in Madison. Tickets are available at the door, and cost $8 for adults and $5 for children under 18 years of age.

And let’s not forget to praise the sponsors of such important educational events especially at a time when the state and schools are cutting back on music and the arts:

These concerts are supported by the Eugenie Mayer Bolz Family and the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission with additional funds from the Endres Mfg. Company Foundation, and the Evjue Foundation, Inc., charitable arm of The Capital Times. This project is also funded in part by additional funds from the Wisconsin Arts Board, the State of Wisconsin, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

For more information, including impressive historical background about WYSO as well as details about how to  donate or become a sponsor and how to audition to play in WYSO, write to WYSO, Room 1625 Humanities Bldg., 455 N. Park St, Madison, WI 53706; call (608) 263-3320; or visit:

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