The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Wisconsin Chamber Choir presents “Inspired by Greatness” this Saturday night, pairing famous teachers with famous students.

November 13, 2012
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ALERT:  This Wednesday night at 6 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall, the UW School of Music’s Guest Artist Series presents violinist Ernest Salem (California State University-Fullerton) and pianist Alison Edwards in a FREE recital.  The program features “Konzertstuck” (for violin and orchestra) in D Major, D. 345 by Franz Schubert;, Sonata for Violin and Piano, Op. 119, by Francis Poulenc; and Sonata in E-Flat Major, Op.18 by Richard Strauss. Salem will also give a free and public violin master class on Thursday at 1 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall. 

By Jacob Stockinger

The Wisconsin Chamber Choir (below top) will present a concert entitled “Inspired by Greatness” on Saturday, November 17 at 7:30 p.m. at Grace Episcopal Church (below bottom, exterior photo), 116 West Washington Avenue, on the Capitol Square in downtown Madison.By Jacob Stockinger

In celebration of great teachers everywhere, this concert features composers from six centuries who are linked as teachers and students of one another.

The wide-ranging program includes music by Josquin, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Nathaniel Dett and Adolphus Hailstork. In his debut performance with the WCC, organist Mark Brampton Smith will perform works by Bach and Buxtehude on Grace’s Casavant pipe organ in addition to accompanying the WCC at the piano.

Tickets are available in advance for $15 through Brown Paper Tickets or via www.wisconsinchamberchoir.org or at the door.  Advance student tickets are $10.

The concerts opens with early Renaissance music of Jean Ockeghem (below top) and his student, Josquin des Prez (below bottom), who soon emerged as the leading composer of the era. In addition to mass movements by both composers, the WCC will perform Josquin’s glorious “Ave Maria—Virgo serena” and “Nymphes des bois” (at bottom), Josquin’s lament on the death Ockeghem and one of the most moving musical memorials of all time.

Three generations of Russian composers exemplify the incredible flowering of Russian liturgical music in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Tchaikovsky’s “Cherubic Hymn” is a movement from his groundbreaking setting of the Orthodox Divine Liturgy. Tchaikovsky often referred to his student Sergei Taneyev (below) as “The Russian Bach” because of Taneyev’s obsession with counterpoint, as evidenced in Stars, a movement from Taneyev’s Twelve Choruses, Op. 27.

As professor of composition at the Moscow Conservatory, Taneyev numbered among his students Sergei Rachmaninoff (below), whose “All-Night Vigil” (commonly referred to as Rachmaninoff’s Vespers) is the greatest single achievement in all of Russian choral music. The WCC presents three movements from this beloved work.

The German Romantic composers Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms and Heinrich von Herzogenberg, while not formally teachers and students of one another, were nevertheless closely linked. Brahms was one of the Schumann family’s closest friends, and Herzogenberg (below) and his wife Elisabeth were two of Brahms’s closest confidantes.

The WCC’s selections illustrate a particularly intriguing connection between a piano quartet by Herzogenberg, “Die Nacht,” and Brahms’s work in the same genre, “O schöne Nacht.” Brahms’s debt to the younger composer, Herzogenberg, is unmistakable in this case, as the audience will hear when the WCC presents both works side by side.

The WCC’s program concludes with rousing spirituals arranged by pioneering African-American composers Nathaniel Dett (below top) and Adolphus Hailstork (below middle) who were both students of famed French composition teacher, Nadia Boulanger (below bottom).

Founded in 1999, the Madison-based Wisconsin Chamber Choir has established a reputation for excellence in the performance of Bach oratorios, a cappella masterworks from various centuries, and world premieres. Robert Gehrenbeck (below) is the Wisconsin Chamber Choir’s Artistic Director.


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