The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: This Saturday night chamber music fans in Madison will have to choose between two great string quartets and two outstanding programs.

September 10, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

Here we go again!

Madison is barely into its new concert season, and already concert-goers are presented with a Catch-22 — or is it a Hobson’s Choice?

If you are a chamber music fan, you will surely be pleased this weekend. You have the opportunity to hear two excellent string quartets in terrific programs.

(And that doesn’t include the opening concerts of the 28th season of the Oakwood Chamber Players, which are on Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Oakwood Village West and on Sunday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. at the UW Arboretum’s Visitors Center. I will have more to post about the  Oakwood Chamber Players on Wednesday.)

But the problem is that, unfortunately, you can’t hear both string quartets perform on Saturday night in their preferred venues.

The Pro Arte String Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) will perform an intriguing and beautiful program of late Haydn (Op. 103), early Schubert (D. 353) and late Dvorak (Op. 106) at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall as part of the UW Faculty Concert Series.

The Pro Arte, which celebrated its centennial last season, has been in residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison since its was stranded by World War II in 1940.

For more information, visit:

Also on Saturday night, at 7:30 p.m., the Ancora String Quartet, will perform a unusually eclectic and lovely program of Beethoven (Op. 18, No. 5), Mendelssohn (the premiere of four of the recently rediscovered 12 Fugues in a new revised edition) and Schumann (Op. 41, No. 1). The Anchor will play in the Landmark Auditorium of the First Unitarian Society, 900 University Bay Drive. The Ancora (below, in a photo by John Devereux) is artists-in-residence at the FUS.

The Ancora Quartet will also be making a guest appearance on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Midday” from noon to 1 p.m. onthis  Friday, Sept. 14, with host Norman Gilliland. The players will speak about the new edition of the Mendelssohn fugues, and play selections from the recital program.

For more, visit

Here are some more details: The Pro Arte concert is FREE. The Ancora concert costs $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and students, and $6 for children under 12, and features a champagne reception at the end.

So why do two such fine chamber music groups have to go head-to-head and force fans to choose?

Well, according to what The Ear hears, it has to do with scheduling. That means dates ar dictated by both the availability of the halls or venues and especially by dates that don’t preclude members from fulfilling other obligations to earn a livelihood, such as playing in the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra among other duties.

All that is, of course, understandable.

Still, it is too bad that such a mutually exclusive choice has to be made in a relatively small city filled with musical riches.

But The Ear thinks that there is one possible, if not ideal, solution:

Go the Ancora on Saturday night, then catch the Pro Arte in Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen Museum” on Sunday afternoon – either live in the limited-seating gallery at the museum, below, or via live broadcast on WPR (88.7 FM, WERN,  in the Madison area) – from 12:30 to 2 p.m. (Visit for details about reservations and seating,)

But really, can’t music groups of all kinds think more about listeners and do more to avoid such conflicts and competition in the future?

What do you think? Leave an opinion in the COMMENT section and maybe it will help eliminate such conflicts in the future.

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