The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Madison’s Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society is Musician of the Year for 2012. | December 31, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

Right now we are in the midst of the chilly and snowy month-long, mid-season intermission that comes during the regular fall-winter schedule for classical music.

So the memories of last summer’s concerts by the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society are all the more welcome and warming.

There are so many things to single out. I especially love their advocacy of little-known chamber versions of Haydn’s symphonies; I always look forward to their premiering of new music; and I treasure their high-octane readings of such beloved masterworks as Brahms’ Piano Quintet and Schubert’s Cello Quintet.

BDDS Stravinsky

Let us recall that last year marked BDDS’ 21st anniversary, the Coming of Age of the eclectic and reliable chamber music group that boasts of providing “Chamber Music With a Bang!”

It is not an idle boast. BDDS makes good on its promises – in every way you can think of and in quite a few ways you probably wouldn’t think of.

Even as so many other newer and younger groups are trying to innovate in untraditional ways and untraditional venues in the hopes of drumming up new and younger audiences for classical music -– groups like Classical Music Revolution and NEW MUSE (New Music Everywhere) – BDDS has been trying to achieve the very same goal for 21 years now. And they do it successfully — selling well, as the crowd below in the Overture Center’s Playhouse clearly shows.

BDDS Playhouse audience

This June 14-30 they will do it again, for the 22nd season. The theme is “Deuces Are Wild!” — no doubt because of the two two’s. That probably means we will get to hear many duets, quartets and other multiples of two. Trust me, you can expect to like whatever they decide to do.

Here is a link to the BDDS site where you can find more information, profiles, reviews, biographies and background as well as recordings:

Still young at heart and rebellious, BDDS nonetheless has a history, a long and distinguished record, that the principals can be very proud of.

Co-founders and co-artistic directors flutist Stephanie Jutt (below left, who teaches at the UW-Madison) and pianist Jeffrey Sykes (below right, who trained at the UW-Madison and now teaches in San Francisco) have consistently put together memorable seasons.


And it even seems to The Ear that BDDS has only gotten better with age. It is now a local musical resource every bit as valuable and important as the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Madison Opera, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the University of Wisconsin’s Pro Arte String Quartet and the Madison Early Music Festival, to take just a few prominent examples.

BDDS concerts have always been fun. But I find them even more fun now, especially since there is more music and less shtick. And all the ambition in the world wouldn’t help if they couldn’t deliver the musical goods – which they do in unfailing abundance and quality.

The typical BDDS concert series includes an umbrella theme that leads to both standard classics and neglected works, all done in first-rate performances.

It has programs and publicity filled with puns.

It has photo exhibits by Dick Ainsworth.

It has entertaining Mystery Guests. (Below is retired UW-Madison opera professor Karlos Moser as J.S. Bach.)

BDDS Karlos Moser as Bach

It has wonderfully creative and appropriate stage installations (below), done on a shoestring budget by local artists.

BDDS set white

It has door prizes, some of them quite inventive and original, and to audience participation.

It has readings of poetry, letters and novels.

It takes chamber music to such diverse places as the Overture Center in downtown Madison; to the historical and restored Stoughton Opera House; and to the landmark Hillside Theater at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin compound in Spring Green (below).


It offers to audiences the chance to hear great musicians from the Madison area, but also important performing artists from New York City, San Francisco, Boston, Milwaukee and the Twin Cities.

Last summer’s season even led to a BDDS appearance on Wisconsin Public Television when it performed Couperin, Haydn and Schubert in the renovated Stoughton Opera House (below) as was part of WPT’s “Jewel Box: concert series that took place in historic theaters. As far as I know it, it was a first for WPT, for BDDS and for classical music in the area. (Check out the preview at the bottom.)

BDDS Schubert Quintet

And because BDDS turned 21, they offered patrons a chance to have cocktails, chosen with a theme to match the musical program of the night, at intermission.

It all takes a lot of planning, practicing and plain old hard work from Jutt and Sykes and other performers, as well as executive directive director Samantha Crownover and the many support staffers and financial backers.

But all of BDDS’ efforts have paid off consistently, with first-rate chamber music that offers the whole integrated arts package, as Richard Wagner’s famous cooperative opera aesthetic put it.

That is why you should hear and know and support, BDDS if you haven’t already done so.

And that is also why Madison’s Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society is this year’s Musician of the Year.


  1. Thanks to the Well-Tempered Ear for this well-deserved recognition of BDDS. Every time I attend one of their concerts it affirms my belief that their performances and imaginative choices of repertoire are as good as anybody’s, at any price, anywhere in the world.


    Comment by Johanna Fabke — December 31, 2012 @ 3:25 pm

  2. Thank you for recognizing a unique, first class Madison treasure. It is the musical highlight of my summer, so much so that I plan vacations to make sure I’ll be in town for the three BDDS weekends.


    Comment by Margaret Irwin — December 31, 2012 @ 8:27 am

    • Hi Margaret,
      Thank you for reading and replying.
      I couldn’t agree with you more.
      It is worth planning one;s summer to be around for Bach Dancing and Dynamite concerts.
      Happy New Year to you!


      Comment by welltemperedear — December 31, 2012 @ 1:26 pm

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