The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: This summer’s Token Creek Chamber Music Festival will feature Shakespeare readings, reconstructed violin sonatas by Mozart and a new violin sonata composed by John Harbison for his wife Rose Mary Harbison. | January 16, 2013

By Jacob Stockinger

During the dark cold days of deep winter, it is always welcome to be reminded of the warm weather and the summer season of music that awaits us.

So far we have heard about the Madison Early Music Festival and the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society.

Now comes the latest update on the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival, which will be held Aug. 20 through Sept. 1 in the refurbished barn (below) and surrounding fields near Madison where last summer’s theme of the environment proved especially popular.

TokenCreekbarn interior

Here are the largest themes.

Drama is the main theme—and where drama intersects with music.

Specifically, Shakespeare (below) will be highlighted with dramatic readings and musical accompaniment. No details yet about specific texts or plays.


An improvisational ensemble, a piano quintet called the Open End Ensemble, based at Syracuse University, will be a major player and will provide classical improvisations by Andy Waggoner (see the YouTube video at bottom).

Open End Ensemble BW

Shakespeare monologues will be interpreted by Madison-born Ali Schaffer and guest artists.

Robert Levin (below top), the Harvard professor who specializes in completing Mozart’s unfinished manuscripts, will reveal his latest discoveries and reconstructions:  completions of violin sonatas with John Harbison (below bottom).

robert levin mug BIG USE


A world premiere will also be featured: A violin sonata that composer and festival co-direction has long promised for his violinist wife and festival co-director Rose Mary Harbison (below).


Much more is in store, including the usually sold-out jazz cabarets, but often the detailed planning comes later and closer to the actual festival.

“The rest we leave to our imaginations, with the thought that the Token Creek Festival is likely to continue in an experimental, free-thinking way,” write John and Rose Mary Harbison in the brief winter update preview that also seeks donations and support.

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