The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: This weekend’s concerts by the Madison Symphony Orchestra and returning violinist Henning Kraggerud offer a terrific mix of Classical-era Mozart and modernist Shostakovich. Plus, a UW-Madison horn and trombone duo, with electronics, plays a FREE concert tonight.

March 6, 2013
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A REMINDER: Tonight, Wednesday, March 6, at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall,  the duo “Gretzler”  — made up of UW-Madison hornist Daniel Grabois (below) and UW-Madison trombonist Mark Hetzler will perform a FREE concert. The new electronica power duo combines the horn and trombone with electronics, both computer- and hardware-based. The program will feature “Volcano Songs” by Meredith Monk; “Available Forms” by Meyer Kupferman; “Videotape” by Radiohead; and “Love Meant Living” Alone by Daniel Grabois.

Daniel Grabois color use

By Jacob Stockinger

It is exactly my kind of programming: Putting very disparate or contrasting styles side-by-side, and it often proves irresistible.

The Madison Symphony Orchestra’s music director John DeMain (below) has done it before—one of the most memorable examples for me was his combining Haydn cello concerto with a massive Mahler symphony, and the last MSO concert combined Prokofiev and Beethoven. This weekend he is doing is again with the “Champagne and Vodka” program.

This time, Mozart is the champagne and Shostakovich is the vodka. But you don’t even have to be a drinker to get intoxicated by this music.

John DeMain conducting 2

This weekend, DeMain and the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) team up with the quiet but forceful Norwegian violinist Henning Kraggerud.

Kraggerud (below) will perform Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 4, the most elegant of the composer’s five violin concertos – Mozart was an excellent violinist as well as keyboardist. They are all relatively early works, full of charm but less dramatic and less dark than many of Mozart’s later and more mature works.

Henning Kraggerud playing

The MSO will open the concert with the lively overture to Mozart’s opera “The Impresario” and conclude with Shostakovich’s powerful Symphony No. 10.

The MSO concerts will take place in Overture Hall at 201 State Street this Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets cost $16.50 to $78.50, and are available at and through the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street, (608) 258-4141. Groups of 15 or more save 25 percent.

Seniors and students save 20 percent, and the MSO’s $10 Student Rush is good for best available seats on the day of the concert. Discounted seats are subject to availability and discounts may not be combined.

Full concert details, music samples and links to buy tickets can be found on the MSO website at

For comprehensive but very accessible program notes by MSO trombone player and UW-Whitewater professor J. Michael Allsen, visit:

Allsen (below) will also be giving the free pre-concert talks.

MEMF 2012 J. Michael Allsen

Kraggerud, who is returning to the MSO stage for the third time in just six years, has been praised for his “virtuosity minus theatrics” by the Washington Post, and has gained a reputation as a violinist to watch: “Kraggerud has extraordinary sweetness of tone,” said The Telegraph of London recently, “his sound always dances as much as it sings.”

About the D Major Mozart concerto, Kraggerud said, “The Mozart concerto is one of my favorites. It is like champagne in the bloodstream, so fresh.”

All five of violin concertos by Mozart (below) were written in 1775 when the composer was a teenager. Though they are youthful works, the violin concertos are also worldly, showing the influence of Mozart’s having traveled through much of Europe as a child prodigy, absorbing ideas and influences. The overture that opens the concert is light and comic, an apt introduction.

mozart big

By contrast, the Shostakovich symphony that closes the March concerts is a late work and was first performed after the death of the ruthless Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, who had threatened the composer many times, in 1953.

The Symphony No. 10 is in many ways the reaction of Shostakovich (below) to Stalin’s death as the tight artistic controls of the 1930s and ‘40s were relaxed. It represents a new beginning, pouring forth all that had been repressed under the dictator’s oppression.

dmitri shostakovich

Anyone wishing to share dining and conversation with other music lovers can join Club 501 before any Saturday or Sunday performance. Hosted by members of the Madison Symphony Orchestra League, Club 501 welcomes everyone to the Madison Concourse Hotel’s Dayton Street Grille on concert Saturdays at 6 p.m. and concert Sundays at 12:30 p.m.

Participants receive a generous 20% meal discount and free parking with a validated underground parking ticket. Guests should ask for the Club 501 tables when arriving. Reservations are welcome — but not necessary — at (608) 294-3068.

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