The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: This weekend boasts a wealth of 19th, 20th and 21st century chamber music and vocal concerts — all of them FREE.

February 28, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

This weekend offers a lot of great music, with very varied programs. Plus, all of them are FREE.

But there just aren’t enough days in the week to write separate posting for each of them. So instead, here is a round-up:

FRIDAY, MARCH 1

From 12:15 to 1 p.m. the weekly FREE Friday Noon Musicale at the First Unitarian Society, 900 University Bay Drive, will feature pianists Vladislava Henderson and Ludmila Syabrenko in piano duets in an unspecified program. (Below is a YouTube video of them playing Schubert‘s beautiful Fantasy in F Minor.)

At 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, University of Wisconsin cellist Parry Karp (below), who also plays with the Pro Arte String Quartet, will perform a FREE recital on the Faculty Concert Series with two of his favorite pianist: long-time collaborator and UW-Madison graduate who now teaches at the UW-Oshkosh Eli Kalman; and his mother Frances Karp.

Parry Karp

The program features the Sonata in F Major (1913) by Giacomo Orefice with Kalman; British composer Rebecca Clarke’s Rhapsody (1923) with Frances Karp; and a cello transcription of Cesar Franck’s popular Violin Sonata with Kalman.

On the coming SUNDAY, the program — with a cello transcription of Ludwig van Beethoven‘s Horn Sonata substituted for Cesar Franck’s Violin Sonata — will also be repeated and broadcast live statewide on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen” from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in Gallery III (below) of the  UW-Madison’s Chazen Museum of Art.

SALsetupgallery

SATURDAY, MARCH 2

At noon in Grace Episcopal Church, in downtown Madison on the Capitol Square, a FREE program by Grace Presents will offer a program on art songs that also features songs and the “Liebeslieder” Waltzes of Johannes Brahms for vocal quartet and two pianists. (The church’s exterior is below top; the beautiful and acoustically superior interior is below bottom.)

grace episcopal church ext

MBM Grace altar

The program, the order of which is yet to be determined, includes:

Mezzo-soprano Kathy Otterson (below) will sing Reynaldo Hahn’s “To Chloris” and Gabriel Faure‘s “Chanson d’Amour.”

Kathleen Otterson 2

Baritone John Bohman (below) will sing Franz Schubert‘s “Du bist die Ruh” and Robert Schumann’s “Intermezzo” from “Liederkreis” (Song Cycle).  

John Bohman

Soprano Rachel Eve Holmes (below) will sing Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Zingara” and Donoudy’s “O del mio amato ben.”

Rachel Eve Holmes big

Tenor Jesse Hoffmeister (below) will sing Norman Dello Joio‘s “There is a lady sweet and kind,” and Ned Rorem’s “The Lordly Hudson.”

Jesse Hoffmeister

The vocal quartet of Otterson (below top), Holmes, Hoffmeister and Bohman along with pianists Kirstin Ihde (below top) and Michael Roemer (below bottom) with perform all 18 of Brahm’s “Liebeslieder” Waltzes, Op. 52.

Kirsten Ihde

Michael Roemer naritone

All the singers and pianists have extensive educational and performing experience in the Madison area.

On Saturday at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, the Wingra Woodwind Quintet (below) will offer a FREE concert. The group will perform Quintet No. 2 in E flat Major by Peter Müller; “Le Tombeau de Couperin” by Maurice Ravel, joined by UW pianist Martha Fischer; Suite, Op. 57, by Charles Lefebvre; and Dixtuor, Op. 14 by Georges Enesco.

The Wingra will be joined by a student woodwind quintet including flutist Erin Murphy, English hornist Allison Maher, clarinetist Paul Yu, bassoonist Brian Ellingboe and hornist Sarah Gillespie.

Wingra Woodwind Quintet 2012

SUNDAY, MARCH 3

12:30-2 p.m.: “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen”: see above for Friday’s listing for cellist Parry Karp.

At 3:30 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall (with a post-concert reception in Strelow Lounge), there will be a FREE public recital by the winners of the 7th Annual Duo Competition for Woodwinds and Piano, sponsored by former UW-Madison Chancellor and chemistry professor Irving Shain (below) – an avid classical music fan (and a former devoted flutist) who also started the Beethoven Piano Sonata Competition some 30 years ago.

Irving Shain

Here are the winning and performers and programs: Elizabeth Lieffort, flute, and Sara Giusti, piano, performing Sonata for Flute and Piano, op. 14, by Robert Muczynski; Introduction and Variations on “Trockne Blumen,” Op. 160, D. 802 by Franz Schubert; and Danielle Breisach, flute, and Yana Groves, piano, playing the Sonata for Flute and Piano, op. 14 by Robert Muczynski (different movements); Sonatine for Flute and Piano by Henri Dutilleux; Sonata for Flute and Pianoforte by Erwin Schulhoff, movements I and IV. Honorable mention team of Sergio Acosta, bassoon, and Hazim Suhadi, piano.

Then at 7:30 p.m. Mills Hall, there is a FREE concert by the Contemporary Chamber Ensemble (below top) under UW composer Laura Schwendinger (below bottom).

The program of contemporary and new music, entitled “Heartstrings,” will feature works by Michelle McQuade Dewhirst, Ross Bauer, George Perle and Robert Dick.

Contemporary Chamber Ensemble

Performers include Dan Jacobs, Yosuke Komura, George Rochberg, Roxana Pavel, Erin Murphy, Sergio Acosta and Maxfield Wollam-Fisher.

Laura_Schwendinger,_Composer

 

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Classical music: Pianist Van Cliburn, an icon of American classical music, died today at 78.

February 27, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

These days, “icon” is an overused word.

But it certainly applies in the case of American pianist Van Cliburn (below). For five decade, he was ever-present in the mind of classical music fans ever since he won, against all odds, the first Tchaikovsky International Competition in 1958, held in Moscow during the height of The Cold War.

Cliburn's hands

I have written before about Cliburn, who died today at 78 after a long battle with bone cancer.

Here is one posting about the controversy that surrounded his playing:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/classical-music-how-good-was-pianist-van-cliburn/

Here is the most important blog posting, and be sure to reader the many intelligent and deeply felt comments by readers:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/classical-music-american-pianist-van-cliburn-is-diagnosed-with-advanced-cancer-the-ear-returns-cliburns-playing-of-the-beautiful-and-touching-liszt-schubert-song-dedication-to-honor-him/

There are many reasons to like him and his playing. Not for nothing was he the first classical musician to ask and get a concert fee of $10,000 for one night;s performance.

But if you asked me to sum it up, I would say: Van Cliburn made every note come from some place and go to another place, and he always developed a logic – melodic, harmonic or rhythmic — to a particular phrase or passage.

van cliburn playing

His Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No.1 (below, the first classical recording to sell 1 million copies) and his Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3 remain for me the best, the absolute best, versions ever recorded.

Cliburn Tchaikovsky LP

I didn’t like his Brahms or Schumann so much, but I liked much of his Chopin — hear the Nocturne he plays at the bottom in a YouTube video — and I adored his playing of Edward MacDowell‘s Piano Concerto No. 2, which also remains definitive for me.

His personal and professional story proved fascinating and courageous as well as inspiring to many young musicians, including myself. (Below is the 23-year-old Van Cliburn in the ticker tape parade he received in New York City after his win in Moscow.) 

Van Cliburn ticker tape parade in 1958

Here are links to some important obituaries and stories. You’ll find many memorable quotes and many unforgettable facts as well as some wonderful photos from all stages of his life and career:

From The New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/28/arts/music/van-cliburn-pianist-dies-at-78.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

van cliburn ill

From the Associated Press:

http://entertainment.time.com/2013/02/27/van-cliburn-american-classical-pianist-dies/

From The Dallas Morning News:

http://www.dallasnews.com/entertainment/arts/headlines/20130227-pianist-van-cliburn-dies-at-age-78.ece

From the Houston Star-Telegram, the first a story and the second, a life in photos:

http://www.star-telegram.com/2013/02/27/4647640/van-cliburn-dies.html

http://www.star-telegram.com/2013/02/27/4647679/van-cliburn-dead-at-78.html

From National Public Radio:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/02/27/173061668/remembering-van-cliburn-a-giant-among-pianists-and-a-cold-war-idol

From The Los Angeles Times:

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/culture/la-et-cm-van-cliburn-obit-20130227,0,6919189.story

From The Washington Post:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/music/american-pianist-van-cliburn-whose-1958-triumph-at-a-moscow-competition-impressed-world-dies/2013/02/27/8d8a1dec-8100-11e2-a671-0307392de8de_story.html

From CNN:

http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/27/showbiz/van-cliburn-obit/?hpt=en_c2

From USA TODAY:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/music/2013/02/27/van-cliburn-american-classical-pianist-dies/1951217/

What would you like to say on Van Cliburn’s passing? Leave a COMMENT.

What is your favorite recording of Cliburn’s?


Classical music: It is Wagner Week with the Middleton Community Orchestra tonight and the Metropolitan Opera’s “Live in HD” production of “Parsifal” with German tenor Jonas Kaufmann this Saturday.

February 27, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

It almost seems like Wagner Week in Madison, a good time to start this year’s bicentennial celebration of the birth of the still controversial and larger-than-life composer.

Tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Middleton Performing Arts Center that is attached to Middleton High School, the Middleton Community Orchestra (below) will perform two well-known excerpts: “Elsa’s Procession” from “Lohengrin” and “Siegfried’s Funeral Music” from the last Ring opera, “Gotterdammering” or “The Twilight of the Gods.”

Admission is $10 adults, student are free. For information about tickets and joining or supporting the orchestra and about the program, visit:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/classical-music-the-middleton-community-orchestra-spotlights-the-young-local-violinist-alice-bartsch-plus-music-of-saint-saens-verdi-wagner-and-britten-at-its-winter-concert-next-wednesday-night-p/

http://middletoncommunityorchestra.org/concert_information

Middleton Community Orchestra by William Ballhorn

Then on this Saturday, the next production of “Live From the Met in HD” will offer Wagner’s last opera “Parsifal,” in an acclaimed updated staging by Francois Girard for the Metropolitan Opera, at the Point and Eastgate cinemas.

Much of the music by Wagner (below) is hauntingly beautiful — I love the Prelude — though at 5 hour and 40 minutes, it will be a long, long afternoon, starting at 11 a.m. and ending at almost 5 p.m.

Richard Wagner

The title role of the innocent Knight of the Round Table who quests to find The Holy Grail will be sung by the young Munich-raised, German tenor Jonas Kaufman, which is pronounced “Yonas KaufmaHn.” (Below is a preview of his Kaufmann’s performance in “Parsifal” from a video on YouTube.)

And here is a review by senior critic Anthony Tommasini who calls the new production “brilliant”:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/18/arts/music/parsifal-at-the-metropolitan-opera.html?_r=1&

Here is a link with more details, including a synopsis (if you can follow it) and a cast list as well as a video:

http://www.metoperafamily.org/metopera/liveinhd/LiveinHD.aspx

Perhaps like me, you last saw Kaufman last season in the Met’s latest production of Wagner’s “The Ring.”

This young singer (below) seems to have everything. He is handsome and trim, so he is visually believable in both heroic and romantic roles on stage. He acts well. He sings superbly and beautifully. And to top it all off, he is smart and very articulate.

jonas kaufmann leather coat

Decca has just released a terrific album by Kaufmann simply called “Wagner” (below) that includes music from all the major periods, early to late, of Wagner’s amazing artistic output. The music includes excerpts from The Ring and other operas as well as the early “Wesendonck Songs.”

Now, I am not a big Wagnerite, or a Wagnerite at all, really. Small doses do me just fine. I love his orchestral overtures more than I do his entire operas, which sit with me much like a 15-course dinner. For me, Wagner suffers from opera gourmandise.

But I am enthralled with Kaufmann’s Wagner, and think his album, in which Kaufmann is partnered with Donald Runnicles conducting the German State Opera Orchestra and Chorus, is a great candidate for a Grammy next year, much like Renee Fleming’s CD of French songs, which won this year.

Kaufmann Wagner CD

Why do I like Kaufmann’s Wagner’s singing so much? Well, he always seems pitch-perfect, and I love his big sound and rich tone coupled to relative lack of vibrato. He never shows a sense of strain or exaggeration, which you cannot say of many Wagnerian Heldentenors.

Kaufmann’s talent seems so comprehensive and total. To me he is the perfect and natural blend of the Italian and German opera styles, of the lyrical and the profound. He should have a very great future. Perhaps Jonas Kaufmann is the German Pavarotti.

Jonas Kaufmann face

I am especially impressed by an interview he recently did on National Public Radio to promote his CD and the upcoming opera appearance. Kaufman recalls how he came to Wagner in his youth and in his family; but he also understands and does not shy away from the anti-Semitism of this great composer or how Hitler’s Third Reich used and abused Wagner. I like his candor, and his appeal to let the music speak for itself apart from the composer.

Here is a link to that interview:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/02/16/172002771/jonas-kaufmann-on-wagner-its-like-a-drug-sometimes

I think Jonas Kaufmann’s time has come. The Ear predicts that this year or next, he will break out into The Really Big Time — and maybe even superstardom.

What do you think of Jonas Kauffman?

And of Wagner?

And, of course, of Jonas Kauffman’s new recording “Wagner”?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music education: Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) holds an open rehearsal and an open house plus its Percussion Ensemble concert this Saturday at the UW-Madison. Also, audition applications are now available for membership next season.

February 26, 2013
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A SHOUT-OUT: Three cheers for Wisconsin Public Television for broadcasting on Monday night a one-hour program from the State Honors Concerts for choirs, band and orchestra (below) of the Wisconsin School Music Association, held in the Capitol Theater of Madison’s Overture Center. It was so encouraging and inspiring to see all the serious and talented young students making such beautiful music. Imagine — Prep Arts getting coverage comparable to Prep Sports!!! What a goal to have!!! Here’s hoping more such programs are in the works and that this one gets repeated showings and becomes an annual tradition. If you saw it, what did you think? Leave a Comment.

wpt wisconsin state honors concert 2-13 2

By Jacob Stockinger

Spread the word among middle and high school student musicians in southcentral Wisconsin as well as among their families and friends!

This coming Saturday, March 2, is a big day for the Wisconsin Youth Orchestras (WYSO).

That’s when an open house and open rehearsals will be held and auditions applications for next season will be available. Then at 1:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, a performance by the WYSO Percussion Ensemble will take place.

Also noteworthy: Audition applications are now available for young musicians interested in joining the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO).

WYSO Youth Orchestra Violins

Students age 10-18 who are interested in enhancing their musical skills and performing throughout the community are invited to audition for the 2013-2014 WYSO season. Audition applications are currently available on the WYSO website at http://wyso.music.wisc.edu.

WYSO will offer an Open Rehearsal opportunity for students, parents and teachers who would like to see the WYSO program in action on this Saturday, March 2.

WYSO rehearse

The event will begin at 10 a.m. with a meet-and-greet featuring breakfast snacks in the Strelow Lounge of the University of Wisconsin-Madison‘s Mosse Humanities Building in the basement at 455 North Park Street. Guests will be able to talk with WYSO staff and parents of current members, and will get a chance to tour WYSO’s four orchestras in rehearsal.

After the tour, guests will have an opportunity to speak with current WYSO members in a Q&A session. Staff and current students will also address visitors’ questions about upcoming auditions, which begin in April.

Audition applications will be due March 9 and students who play viola, string bass, horn, bassoon, trombone or tuba are especially encouraged to apply.

wyso horns

WYSO includes three full orchestras and a string orchestra, a chamber music program, a harp program, a percussion ensemble, and a brass choir program.

The orchestras rehearse on Saturday mornings during the academic year, perform three to four public concerts per season, and tour regionally, nationally and internationally. Scholarships are available for tuition, private lessons, the chamber music program, and international touring.

For more information or to RSVP for the Open Rehearsal, please contact Nicole Sparacino, WYSO Communications & Development Manager at 608-263-3320 ext. 11.

You can also visit wyso.music.wisc.edu. There you will see that since its founding in 1966, WYSO has educated more than 5,000 students from more than 100 communities in southcentral Wisconsin.

You can see and hear some of the results of that training when WYSO also hold its concert by the Percussion Ensemble (below) this coming Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in Mills Hall. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for students. For more information and details, including the program for the concert, visit:

http://wyso.music.wisc.edu/WhatsNew.html

WYSO percussion Ensemble 2013


Classical music EXTRA: News flash – Famed German conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch has died at 89.

February 25, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

I especially loved his Schumann symphonies. (The first movement from Robert Schumann‘s Symphony No. 4 in D minor is  in a YouTube video at bottom, with Wolfgang Sawallisch conducting the Dresden State Orchestra.)

The German conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch always exuded a sense of proportion and rightness in the music he conducted. (Below is a photo from his younger years):

wolfgang wolfgang sawallisch young color

He was not a flashy maestro, but one who let the music do the talking and feeling for him.

And now Wolfgang Sawallisch (below) has died at 89 in his native Germany after a globe-spanning career that include major stops in the U.S., Japan and Great Britain as well as Europe.

Conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch obit

Here is a link to an obituary in the Australian arts magazine Limelight, which is well worth following:

http://www.limelightmagazine.com.au/Article/334319,legendary-german-conductor-wolfgang-sawallisch-has-died.aspx

(Below is another photo of him conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra in a photo by Hiroyuki Ito for The New York Times.)

And here is the obituary from the Associated Press:

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/sfgate/obituary.aspx?n=wolfgang-sawallisch&pid=163307682#fbLoggedOut

Wolfgang Sawallisch

And here is a long obituary-appreciation from The New York Times written by critic and blogger Anne Midgette (is she back at the Times from The Washington Post?)”

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/25/arts/music/wolfgang-sawallisch-german-conductor-dies-at-89.html?ref=wolfgangsawallisch&_r=0

Finally, here is a noteworthy remembrance by the famed British critic Norman Lebrecht:

http://www.artsjournal.com/slippeddisc/2013/02/he-was-proud-to-be-known-as-a-kapellmeister-wolfgang-sawallisch-by-a-close-friend.html


Classical music: The Middleton Community Orchestra spotlights the young local violinist Alice Bartsch plus music of Saint-Saens, Verdi, Wagner and Benjamin Britten at its Winter Concert this Wednesday night.

February 25, 2013
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ALERT: Tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall, the Guest Artist Series at the UW-Madison School of Music will present oboist Pavel Morunov (below, center front, in a photo of the troubled Honolulu Symphony players) and his violinist-wife Yana Bourkova-Morunov (below right) in a FREE concert of works by Giuseppe Sammartini, Robert Schumann, J.S. Bach and Georg Philipp Telemann.

Pavel Morunov

By Jacob Stockinger

The recently formed Middleton Community Orchestra, now only in its second season, has rapidly established itself as an enriching and enjoyable provider of classical music in an area that is saturated with classical music.

There is, first and foremost, the quality of the playing, from ensemble instrumentalists and young local soloists who are both professionals and amateurs, all under the baton of music director Steve Kurr (below).

Middleton Community Orchestra Steve Kurr conducting

You can check out reviews yourself you look up reviews by John W. Barker (below) on this website. Just go to the search engine and type in “John W. Barker” and “Middleton Community Orchestra.”

John-Barker

Then there are the other aspects, many of them social and educational, which I covered in a very positive review I did last spring. Here is a link to that blog post:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2012/06/04/classical-music-review-let-us-now-praise-amateur-music-makers-and-restoring-sociability-to-art-here-are-9-reasons-why-i-liked-and-you-should-attend-the-middleton-community-orchestra

In any case, the Middleton Community Orchestra will present its Winter Concert on this coming Wednesday evening, February 27, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. at the comfortable Middleton Performing Arts Center (below), which is attached to Middleton High School.

Tickets are $10 general admission. Students are free. Tickets are available at the door, Willy St. Coop West or by calling (608) 212-8690.

Middleton PAC1

The concert once again spotlights a rising local “star” — one of the many laudable things about the orchestra — 20-year old violinist Alice Bartsch (below), in Saint-SaensViolin Concerto No. 3 in B minor. How refreshing to sample the talent around and amid us right here at home!

Alice Bartsch

Other works on the program are: Verdi’s Overture to  “Nabucco”; Wagner’s “Siegfried’s Funeral Music” from “Gotterdamerung” (2013 is the bicentennial of the birth of Wagner, below top), the final opera in the “Ring” cycle; Wagner’s “Elsa’s Procession” from the opera “Lohengrin”; and Benjamin Britten’s “Matinees Musicales” (2013 is the centennial of the birth of Britten, below bottom).

Richard Wagner

Benjamin Britten           

Alice Bartsch is a member of the first violin section in the Madison Symphony and studies with Felicia Moye (below), Professor of Violin at University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

Felicia Moye color

Wanna sample of what awaits? Try this YouTube video of the concerto by Saint-Saens:


Classical music: Meet new guest blogger Greg Hettmansberger, who reviews and praises “The Story of Naxos” because it compellingly documents the rise of the budget record label Naxos as it grew from ‘David vs. Goliath’ to ‘David Becomes Goliath.’

February 24, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger 

Today’s posting marks the debut of guest blogger Greg Hettmansberger. Since August, 2011 he has authored the blog “Classically Speaking” for Madison Magazine, and added a print column of the same name nearly a year ago. He was first published as a critic by the Los Angeles Times in 1988, and free-lanced as a critic and features contributor for a number of newspapers and other publications in Southern California. He began writing program notes in 1996, and is currently completing his 18th season as an annotator for the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. Moving to the Madison area in 2001, Hettmansberger (below) was the director of bands for Abundant Life Christian School until 2008.

greg hettmansberger mug

By Greg Hettmansberger

Rarely do I hear anything (a celebrity birthday, etc.) that evokes the response “that makes me feel old.” But it happened last fall, when it was announced that Naxos — the one-time “little classical label that could” — was turning 25 years old. It seemed like almost yesterday that I had interviewed the founder of Naxos, Klaus Heymann, on the occasion of Naxos’ fifth anniversary.

That was in Los Angeles, and Heymann (below bottom, in Hong Kong) was making a North American tour to do everything he could to turn his foothold of credibility as the all-digital budget label into a foundation of respectability as a significant force in the classical recording industry. Late 1992 was still the time of the Naxos “white wall,” the point-of-purchase displays of their distinctively plain white covers that featured not the glossy pose of the latest Tchaikovsky Competition winner but (gasp!) simply the composer and work in the largest type, against a mostly white background.

In the U.S. the CDs sold for about $5, but a number of leading critics and periodicals — if they deigned to review them at all — rarely exceeded the left-handed compliment “excellent quality for a budget cd.”

But what was a story of “David vs. Goliath” morphed into “David becomes Goliath”: over the next two decades, Naxos not only became competitive with the former giants of the classical industry, it overtook them all.

We get the whole story in the new book “The Story of Naxos: The Extraordinary Story of the Independent Record Label that Changed Classical Recording Forever” (below).

Naxos book

In a detailed, and often fascinating, 450 pages, author Nicolas Soames chronicles the story of Klaus Heymann (below), the “German businessman from Hong Kong,” as he almost by accident moved from new kid on the classical block, to producer and distributor of not only affordable, high-quality classical CDs, but branched out into audiobooks, jazz, world music, DVDs — and, oh yes, they have quite the digital/web presence today as well.

Heymann’s personal story is told at once, a fleshing-out of his great quote that is given on p. 423: “When I am asked the secret of my success, I reply: 1. I didn’t read music. 2. I didn’t play an instrument. 3. I hadn’t worked for a record label.” What he did do is combine a lifelong passion for classical music with great business skills, and a personal radar for rare opportunities that never seems to be turned off.

Klaus Heymann with CDs and awards

Soames opens with a fabulous overview of the state of the classical recording industry from the mid-1960’s through the mid-1980’s, overlapping the layers of business, technological and artistic factors that led to the Naxos “revolution.” Then we meet the man who made it all happen — and quite unexpectedly. It really started with Heymann’s marriage to the Japanese violinist, Takako Nishizaki — who also became his leading artist on his first label, Marco Polo.

But what makes this book worthwhile are the chapters that give dozens of snapshot sketches of soloists and conductors who, in most cases, went from obscurity to solid careers and occasionally, international fame beyond the walls of Naxos’ recording studios.

Naxos Records logo

But there was a catch, and one that Heymann had in place from the beginning. He paid a flat fee per recording, and no royalties; the artist also had to agree not to record for any other budget label. But back in 1992 I asked him, what happens if an artist comes to Heymann and says they have been offered a large contract by one of the “big” labels? He replied: “I say to them, ‘My friend, I understand. Take it; I’ll never pay you that kind of money, and if your new label spends $2 million promoting you, I will sell lots more of your recordings.’ There are no hard feelings.”

But what dozens of artists did get was a chance to record that they might never have gotten, and often recorded repertoire that no mainstream label would ever touch. And over the last quarter-century, Heymann can be said to have nurtured in varying degrees the careers of such artists as pianists Jeno Jando and Idil Beret, the Kodaly Quartet, and the conductor Marin Alsop (below), among others.

Marin Alsop

There is no questioning the qualifications of Nicolas Soames for writing this history: he was involved at the beginning of Naxos Audiobooks about 15 years ago, and has seen the growth of Naxos from the inside. (Originally Naxos was a distributor of Soames’ small label, Clarinet Classics).

Nicolas Soames Naxos book BIG

I was surprised to learn how much I didn’t know about how Naxos grew, and as both a music lover and writer about music, the book has pointed me in a handful of exciting new directions. Want a place to start? Go to the appendix, which contains a partial list of Naxos’ award-winning discs in its seven and a half pages.

For everyone from hard-core classical fan to someone who just likes a story about a business phenomenon no one saw coming via a model that likely will remain unique, “The Story of Naxos” is a great read.


Classical music: On Oscar weekend, The Ear asks: How realistic are the “quartet” films – “A Late Quartet” and “Quartet” – in dealing with classical music and the lives of classical musicians? Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times offers his level-headed assessment. Plus Steven Bryant’s Concerto for Wind Ensemble gets its Wisconsin premiere tonight at 8.

February 23, 2013
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ALERT: Just a reminder that a Wisconsin premiere takes place tonight — for FREE and with   composer Steven Bryant ( below) present — at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall on the UW-Madison campus by the Wisconsin Brass Quintet (below) and the UW Wind Ensemble. Here are some links: http://www.madisonmagazine.com/Blogs/Classically-Speaking/February-2013/The-Most-Successful-Composer-You-Never-Heard-of-Is-Here/ and https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/02/19/classical-music-qa-american-composer-steven-bryant-explains-why-wind-and-brass-bands-dont-get-more-respect-as-serious-music-ensembles-even-as-he-prepares-for-a-residency-and-a-premiere/

Steven Bryant 2

By Jacob Stockinger

It is Oscar weekend.

On this Sunday night at 6 p.m. CST on the ABC TV network, the Beautiful People, in their Beautiful Gowns and Beautiful Jewelry, will line up to collect the gold-plated statuettes knows as The Oscars.

It is the Academy Awards, and after a record-breaking box office year at the cinemas, it should be interesting to see who takes home an Oscar.

Here is a link to all the nominees in the many categories:

http://oscar.go.com/nominees

YL Oscar foods statue

Curiously, this has been a terrific year for classical music in the movies. That comes as something of a pleasant surprise, given how much negative coverage is written about the declining state of classical music today.

The film “A Late Quartet” stars (below and from left) Mark Ivanir, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken and Catherine Keener. It examines the individual lives and collective life of a string quartet. I really liked it, despite some awkward moments. And it centers on the late Op. 131 String Quartet in C-sharp minor by Beethoven. That is the same sublime work of chamber music that a dying Franz Schubert asked to hear played.

A Late Quartet frontal

Then legendary actor Dustin Hoffman (below) made his directing debut in “Quartet,” about retired opera singers and instrumentalists living in a retirement home for musicians in England. This romantic comedy starred Maggie Smith, she of “Downton Abbey” fame right now, and was a lot of fun to watch and listen to. (“Quartet” is still playing the Point Cinemas on Madison’s far west side.)

dustin hoffman directing

“Quartet” stars (below and from the left, in a photo by Kerry Brown for the Weinstein Company) Billy Connolly, Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay and Pauline Collins. It features opera music and chamber music by Haydn, Rossini, Puccini and others,  but the film centers on a quartet from Verdi’s “Rigoletto” plays an especially pivotal role.

QUARTET Large

And the shattering, much nominated film “Amour,” by Michael Haneke, featured the story of the decline and death of a piano teacher. (Haneke also directed the unsettling film “The Piano Teacher” several years ago, and seems to have something with pianos and pianists.)

“Amour” (with screen vetefans Jean-Louis Trintignant (below top) and Emmanuelle Riva (below bottom) is playing in Madison at the Sundance Cinemas at Hilldale.

Amour Jean-Louis Trintignant

amour emmanuelle riva

It also uses piano music of Bach-Busoni, Beethoven and Schubert (below bottom), played by the young and wonderful French pianist Alexandre Tharaud (below bottom), who is best known for his playing of Baroque music (Francois Couperin, Jean-Philippe Rameau, Johann Sebastian Bach and Domenico Scarlatti ) on the modern piano although he has also recorded Chopin, Ravel, Satie and others. His playing is a model of clarity and fluidity.

Alexandre Tharaud  Marco Borggreve Virgin Classics

Anyway, I have heard somewhat mixed reactions to the various films, although the shattering “Amour,” comes the closest to being unanimous in the acclaim it has received and it is up for several Oscars, including Best Picture.

As for the two “Quartet” films: a very perceptive and understanding appreciation was published several weeks ago by Anthony Tommasini (below), the senior music critic for the New York Times.

tommasini-190

Here is a link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/03/arts/music/a-late-quartet-and-quartet-with-music-making-on-film.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

What do you think about the resurgence of classical music in the films, as both plot and soundtracks?

And what do you think of the films and of Tommasini’s take on them?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: Native son trumpeter Andrew Balio returns to Wisconsin and Madison this Saturday night with organist Felix Hell; and the Edgewood Chamber Orchestra performs Sunday afternoon.

February 22, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

Two noteworthy concerts will take place this weekend.

On Saturday might at 7:30 p.m. — NOT 8 p.m. — in Overture Hall, the organist Felix Hell and trumpeter Andrew Balio  will perform a recital concert sponsored by the Madison Symphony Orchestra

The recital by acclaimed German organist Felix Hell (below) and trumpeter Andrew Balio, a Wisconsin native and principal trumpet of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, will feature a century-spanning program that concludes with multiple works by Johann Sebastian Bach. The Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) is presenting The Hell/Balio Duo as part of its Overture Concert Organ (below) Series.

To see the full program and see other information, use this link:

http://www.madisonsymphony.org/hell

And here is a sample video from YouTube of Felix Hell playing an organ transcription of Samuel Barber’s famous “Adagio for Strings”:

overture organ

Tickets are $19.50 and are available through the Overture Center Box Office at (608) 258-4141 or online at madisonsymphony.org.

The concert career of Felix Hell (below) began at the age of nine and has included more than 700 recitals worldwide. He has received global recognition for his performances of the entire organ works of Johann Sebastian Bach in three full cycles as well as the complete organ works of Felix Mendelssohn. A frequent guest of American orchestras, Hell gave his debut performance in Boston’s famous Symphony Hall in 2004.

Felix Hell

Wisconsin native Andrew Balio (below) was appointed as principal trumpet of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in 2001. He was previously the principal trumpet of the Israel Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta and the Orquesta Sinfonica del Estado de Mexico. His solo debut, at age fifteen, was with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, performing the Haydn trumpet concerto.

Here is a link to his official and impressive biography:

http://www.bsomusic.org/main.taf?p=4,4,1,1&id=AndrewBalio

Andrew Balio

And here is a sample of Andrew Balio’s playing in a YouTube video:

Then on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. in the St. Joseph Chapel at Edgewood College, 1000 Edgewood College Drive, the Edgewood Chamber Orchestra, under Edgewood professor and conductor Blake Walter (below, in a photo by John Maniaci),

blake walter john maniaci

The Edgewood Chamber Orchestra will perform works include Rossini’s “Barber of Seville” Overture; Beethoven’s Symphony Number 2 in D (at bottom in a YouTube video with Christian Thielemann conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in the first movement); and Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf,” narrated by guest performer John Fields, interim Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Edgewood College.

Admission is $5; free with Edgewood College I.D.


Classical music: Wisconsin Public Television to broadcast State Honors Concerts this Monday night as part of a new emphasis on Young Performers. Plus, violinist Laura Burns and pianist Jess Salek perform the complete music for violin and piano by Brahms this Friday night.

February 21, 2013
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ALERT: This Friday night, tomorrow, at 7:30 p.m. in the new Atrium Auditorium of the First Unitarian Society, 900 University Bay Drive, violinist Laura Burns of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and Rhapsodie String Quartet)  and pianist Jess Salek will perform the complete violin and piano music by Johannes Brahms. I heard some of the program at a “Grace Presents” concert recently at Grace Episcopal Church (below). The two were terrific. If Brahms’s string and piano music is to your liking—and how can it not be? – then The Ear suggests you seriously consider going. (Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for student, paid by check or cash only.) It is just too bad the concert conflicts with the great program of J.S. Bach, Prokofiev, Finzi and Gounod by Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and violinist Tasmin Little in the Overture Center’s Capital Theater at 8 p.m. that same night. What contradictory and mutually exclusive musical riches we often live among and have to choose between!

Laura Burns Jess Salek Brahms Grace Epis

By Jacob Stockinger

During the Year of the Arts, Wisconsin Public Television is appropriately undertaking a very praise-worthy and brand new multi-year initiative to spotlight young performers around the state.

Classical music, of course, is not the only music to be featured, but it will be included – and that it important in spotlighting the role of music education.

The opening program in the series will be the State Honors Concerts, which will air this coming Monday night, Feb. 25, at 8 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Television (Channel 21 in the Madison area; Channel 600 on the Charter hi-def schedule.)

The program offers excerpts from the Wisconsin School Music Association (WSMA) High School Honors Concerts for Band, Orchestra (below), Mixed Choir and Treble Choir.

It features some of Wisconsin’s best young musical talents in performance at Madison’s Overture Center.

wpt wisconsin state honors concert 2-13 2

The State Honors Concerts kicks off WPT’s multi-year Young Performers Initiative that celebrates Wisconsin’s young artists.

The WSMA State Honors Music Project brings Wisconsin’s top young musicians to work together with nationally known conductors in a highly disciplined, professional setting.

The students in grades 9 through 11 were selected from more than 1,400 who auditioned.

The Ear think you should watch the broadcast — which does a great public service and spotlights young people for more than sports —  and then go to WPT website and sent them an email or phone call thanking them for such commitment to engaging the public in youth arts education.

Here is a link for feedback to WPT:

http://www.wpt5.org/contact_us


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