The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Famed Japanese violist Nobuko Imai joins the UW-Madison’s Pro Arte String Quartet this Wednesday night in a MUST-HEAR and FREE concert of Mozart, Brahms and Britten. Plus, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra ends its winter “Masterworks” season Friday night with Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Canteloube. And pianist Jeremy Denk gives a public master class on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. (NOT 7) in Morphy Hall.

April 9, 2013
3 Comments

AN ALERT and  A REMINDER: Pianist Jeremy Denk’s masterclass is Wednesday night at 8 p.m. (NOT 7 p.m., as erroneously stated yesterday in a reader comment, in Morphy Hall. Also, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra closes out its current Masterworks season this Friday night at 8 p.m. in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center. The conductor is WCO music director Andrew Sewell, and the emphasis in on the Classical era composers — Haydn (Symphony No. 83, “The Hen”), Mozart (love songs from the opera “Don Giovanni” with Metropolitan Opera soprano Susanna Phillips, below) and Beethoven (Symphony No. 2) — that Sewell performs so brilliantly and so convincingly. Joseph Canteloube’s popular and more Romantic “Songs of the Auvergne” are also featured. For more information and tickets, here is a link: http://wcoconcerts.org/performances/masterworks/51/event-info/

susanna phillips

By Jacob Stockinger

The music schedule for April is crazy busy, and it just keeps getting crazier and busier.

Take the University of Wisconsin’s Pro Arte String Quartet (below in a photo by Rick Langer), which has a fine reputation when it plays by itself.

PAQ-8BIT03

But it also brings in some respected guests fairly often, especially guests cellist, violists and pianists. That is what makes the PAQ’s FREE concert this Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall so special.

The guest this time will be the acclaimed Japanese violist Nobuko Imai (below), who once played with the esteemed Vermeer String Quartet and who rarely plays in America.

Nobuko Imai CR Marco Borggreve

The program includes: the masterful Viola Quintet in C major, K. 515, by Mozart (substituted for the Quintet, Op. 11, No. 5 by Luigi Boccherini); Benjamin Britten’s Solo Cello Suite No. 2 transcribed for solo viola; and the great String Quintet No. 2 in G major, Op. 111, by Johannes Brahms.

Violist Elias Goldstein (below) – who did his doctorate here at UW-Madison and now teaches at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge –will also perform with members of the Pro Arte Quartet.

elias goldstein 2

Here is some background about Noboku Imai, provided by the UW-Madison School of Music: s

“With her exceptional talent, musical integrity and charisma, Nobuko Imai is considered to be one of the most outstanding violists of our time. She has excelled as a soloist, recitalist, chamber musician, and pedagogue, and performs often with world-renowned artists.

“In 2003, Nobuko Imai, Mihaela Martin, Stephan Picard and Frans Helmerson formed the Michelangelo Quartet (below), which gained an international reputation has become one of the finest quartets in the world.

michelangelo quartet

“Imai currently teaches at the Geneva and Amsterdam Conservatories, Kronberg International Academy and Ueno Gakuen University in Tokyo.”

Here are words of tribute from the regular Pro Arte Quartet violist Sally Chisholm (below) about Imai and about the role of the viola, which often goes understated in the shadow on violins and cellos:

Sally Chisholm

“Nobuko Imai is coming to Madison from Curtis where she is giving a master class just before arriving here, and will also appear in the Chamber Music Society of Minnesota on April 14. We are very lucky to bring her to Madison, both because she is so renowned a musician and violist, but also because she makes very few appearances in the US. Nobuko teaches in Geneva, Switzerland, and in Germany and Japan. Busy lady. She will be in residence at the Marlboro Festival this summer.

“We are honored and thrilled to have Nobuko Imai, one of the world’s most famed violists, include Madison for a rare U.S. appearance. She is a star in the solo world of string playing, and a person of humility and vision. Though she is one of the most influential performers and teachers in Europe and Asia, she seldom performs in the United States.

Nobuko Imai

“On this coming trip she will be performing only at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, St. Paul, Minn., and in Madison. Her master classes are renowned for her ability to show a student how to transform from good to superb, all in a public setting.”

As for the role of the viola (below), Chisholm adds: “Brahms loved the sound of contralto, which is one reason he is so generous to the viola in his chamber music. With so many roles to fulfill, as an inner voice, a leader of harmonic motion, a primary texture, and a solo voice, the sound of the viola is often turned to as the soul of the quartet.

viola

Whether contralto or mezzo-soprano, the voice of the viola is used when a composer has something very important to say. For performers, the luxury of living inside the quartet sound, yet having many occasions to soar above, is so rewarding that it lasts a lifetime.”


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