The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The bigger concert hall doesn’t necessarily have the better music.

November 2, 2012
9 Comments

ALERT: On Saturday night ay 8 p.m. in Morphy Hall, UW bassoonist Marc Vallon (below, in a photo by James Gill, with modern and baroque bassoons) will perform a FREE concert on the University of Wisconsin School of Music Faculty Concert Series. The program will feature a variety of works by Georg Philipp Telemann; “Récit et Allegro “by Noël-Gallon; “Stick” by UW composer by Stephen Dembski; “Chamber Concerto for Bassoon and Strings” by David Dies and a selection of John Coltrane songs.

By Jacob Stockinger

This is A Tale of Two Concert Halls.

One is Mills Hall (below), the largest concert hall at the University of Wisconsin School of Music. It has a capacity of about 700.

The second is the smaller Morphy Recital Hall, which is right across from Mills. It has a capacity of about 170.

Mills is usually where the Faculty Concert Series takes place; where the UW Symphony Orchestra and Chamber orchestra take place; where the Choral Union and other large groups take place.

I know Mills mostly from smaller events such as student recitals, master classes and the annual concert by the winners of Beethoven Sonata Competition.

But last Thursday night, Oct. 25, provided a wonderful example of how you cannot and should not use the size of the hall to judge the quality of the music.

Most people in line were waiting to get into a flute recital that featured Stephanie Jutt with acclaimed pianist Christopher Taylor and cellist Trace Johnson. That was in Mills Hall and turned out to be, I have no doubt, a memorable concert.

But The Ear was going to the warm and woody Morphy Hall to hear a concert that was advertised simply as an appearance by the soprano Jamie-Rose Guarrine and keyboardist-composer Scott Gendel.

That concert turned out to be so much more than was advertised.

Despite the comparatively small, though enthusiastic, attendance (below) and empty seats, the concert proved to be a perfect Homecoming event.

In addition to Guarrine and Gendel, who were classmates and graduated from the UW School of Music in 2005, we heard Guarrine’s husband Karl Knapp (below, who studied with UW professor and Pro Arte Quartet cellist Parry Karp)

These two distinguished and talented alumni, who have gone on to big careers as singer and composer, were also joined in Baroque music by UW oboist Marc Fink, Pro Arte Quartet violinist Suzanne Beia and UW trumpeter John Aley (see the three below).

In perhaps the most touching moment, her teacher of 12 years, UW tenor James Doing, joined Guarrine on stage for a warm and touching Nocturne by Donizetti.

So it was indeed a reunion in so many ways. As I said: A perfect event for Homecoming.

Other things only added to the concert.

The Baroque arias by Handel, Bach and Alessandro Scarlatti were wonderful – light, transparent, lyrical and soulful. Guarrine’s singing of bel canto from Donizetti and Bellini was admirable. And she sang two lovely songs by Gendel, who talked a bit about his music.

Imagine: A voice concert with no Mozart, no Schumann or Brahms, no Puccini or Verdi. But I did hear two beautiful songs (one is at the bottom) by the neo-Romantic Italian composer Stefano Donaudy (1880-1941, incorrectly identified on the program as his poet brother Alberto, whom I had never even heard of. I’ll have to check him out, and so should you. (See the YouTube video at bottom.)

As for Guarrine, who has sung locally with the University Opera and the Madison Opera as well as the Santa Fe Opera, the Minnesota Opera and many others, she is a voice to continue to watch as her career will no doubt continue to blossom. Her pitch is impeccable, her tone is beautiful and her diction is excellent. She has stage presence.

And she has power to spare. Gendel, who not only an award-winning composer but also a professional opera rehearsal pianist and vocal coach played difficult piano parts powerfully. His playing is not shy or timid. But Guarrine was never drowned out. She easily held her own and then some in great balance.

And as an encore for the standing ovation she received, she  delighted the audience with one of Harvard math professor Tom Lehrer’s old but enduringly naughty ditty “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park.”

As I recently wrote, the UW School of Music really is attracting more and more talented students with better and better performances as a result:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/classical-music-hear-for-yourself-how-university-of-wisconsin-music-students-have-gotten-better-by-going-to-the-uw-chamber-orchestras-free-opening-concert-of-maxwell-davies-ravel-and-schube/

Here are links to individual websites that will convince you.

First, through her agent, for Jamie-Rose Guarrine:

http://jamieroseguarrine.com

Then for Scott Gendel:

http://www.scottgendel.com/Home.html

No doubt I will see and you will see me many more time this semester in Mills Hall.

But I also expect you will see me more than usual in Morphy Hall. I hope to see you there.


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