The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music Q&A: Conductor-violist Mikko Utevsky discusses his first year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and the lessons he brings to the concert Friday night by the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra. Plus, please leave word if you are going to play the piano at Friday’s “Make Music Madison” festival.

June 20, 2013
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REMINDER: This Friday is the Summer Solstice and the first-ever Make Music Madison citywide festival. If you plan to play on one of the four acoustic pianos being provided at fire stations around the city (no previous sign-up is required), or do other performances, please leave word in the COMMENT section with your name, the piece you will play, the place and the time. Here are links to previous posts about the event:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/classical-music-the-free-make-music-madison-festival-on-the-summer-solstice-friday-june-21-has-lined-up-four-acoustic-open-mic-pianos-at-four-fire-stations-around-the-city-so-lets-get-p/

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/05/06/classical-music-on-friday-june-21-the-summer-solstice-madison-will-be-filled-with-outdoors-music-by-the-first-make-music-madison-citywide-festival-but-so-far-no-acoustic-piano-is-available-for-p/ Make Music Madison logo square By Jacob Stockinger

Friday is the Summer Solstice.

And that means there will be a lot of music performances in the Madison area since it is also the date of the inaugural Make Music Madison festival.

But once of the stand-out events is a performance by the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO), which was founded a couple of years ago by Mikko Utevsky (below), a violist who at that time was a student at Madison East High School and a violist in the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras.

The MAYCO concert is at 7:30 in Old Music Hall, at the foot of Bascom Hill on the UW-Madison campus. The program features Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola, with soloists violinist Eugene Purdue and violist Deidre Buckley; Aaron Copland’s “Our Town” and Serge Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” with narrator Lori Skelton.

Admission to the concert, called “A Tribute to Educators,” is at the door and costs $5 for adults and donations for students.

Conductor Mikko Utevsky, who wrote posts for this blog from the WYSO tour last summer to Vienna, Prague and Budapest, and who just completed his freshman year the UW-Madison School of Music, recently gave an email interview to The Ear.

Mikko Utevsky with baton

You just completed your first year at the UW-Madison School of Music. How did it go? What lessons do you bring to the upcoming concert by MAYCO?

I had an excellent first year – the faculty is superb, and it’s an exciting, collaborative environment. During the school year, I try to focus as much as possible on the viola. I am, after all, a performance major, and while I hope to make a career of conducting, right now I am first and foremost a violist. MAYCO Mikko Utevsky by Steve Rankin

When I first spoke with Professor Smith about studying conducting, his advice was to become the best violist I could. That’s what I’m doing. Prof. Sally Chisholm (below) is a wonderful teacher, and I am learning a great deal from her. The viola studio at the UW is great.

Sally Chisholm

Over the summer, I have some more time to work on my conducting: I have been taking lessons with Prof. Smith (below), and spending more time with my scores, library work and much, much more time on the phone finding players.

Smith_Jim_conduct07_3130

I think out of the whole year, the greatest influence on my work with MAYCO didn’t come from lessons. In the past, I’ve been wary of the Classical repertoire; it poses particular stylistic problems that can be difficult to address with a youth orchestra. I am coming to it with a new appreciation and understanding founded in my music history class with Professor Charles Dill and Charles Rosen’s book “The Classical Style” (below).

Charless Rosen The Classical Style

I had the fortune to end up reading it during the class, and together it and Prof. Dill (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) opened my ears to a new way of hearing this music, a way that leaves much more room for growth than the way I was used to listening. That’s a large part of why we’re doing three Classical works this summer (one each by the Big Three — Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven).

Charles Dill

Which direction do you want to pursue as a career — violist or conductor– and why?

My hope is to become a conductor, hopefully working with a university orchestra or youth symphony program. I love to teach, and want that to be a part of my work some day. I do not plan to give up the viola, of course; at the very least I will continue to play chamber music for as long as I can still hold my bow.

Mikko Utevsky conducts MAYCO Steve Rankin

What would you like to say about the soloists and narrator?

Diedre Buckley (below top, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) was my first viola teacher, all through middle and high school. She and Gene Purdue (below bottom) both have thriving private teaching studios in Madison, and have several students in the orchestra — about half of the violins and violas are current or former students of theirs. They are both fantastic players and teachers, and bring a lot to the stage in terms of both experience and musicality. It’s been a real pleasure working with them this week, for me and the orchestra.

Deidre Buckley Katrin Talbot

Eugene Purdue 1 Thomas C. Stringfellow

Lori Skelton (below) does a lot of the classical programming on Wisconsin Public Radio. I’ve been listening to her “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen” since it was “Live From the The Elvehjem,” and frequently tune in for her Afternoon Classics when I’m not in school. She is a wonderful storyteller with a wonderful voice, and working with her on Peter and the Wolf has been a lot of fun. Lori Skelton

What would you like the audience to know about the pieces on the program?

This isn’t quite your typical Overture/Concerto/Symphony program. For starters, the symphony and the concerto are the same piece: Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola, and Orchestra, K. 364. This is probably the greatest piece in its genre, conceived on a more symphonic scale than most of Mozart’s middle concertos, and runs more than half an hour in length. (You can hear the opening in a YouTube video with Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman at bottom.) It has wonderful orchestral writing, more substantial than one would expect from a simple concerto, and it uses double viola sections to match the soloist.

We’re opening the program with music by Aaron Copland (below) to the 1939 film adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” — both the movie and the score got Oscar nominations, though they both lost. It’s a beautiful piece with a very characteristic Copland sound, depicting life in a fictional New England town.

aaron copland

Finally, we are playing the famous orchestral fairy tale, “Peter and the Wolf,” by Serge Prokofiev (below). This work usually gets programmed on children’s concerts, and is seldom appreciated for its musical value, which is considerable (despite the rather silly — if charming — story). Lori Skelton will narrate the work.

Serge Prokofiev

Can you tell us any news about MAYCO and its plans, and about the same for yourself?

We have another concert coming up on August 9, also at 7:30 in Music Hall, for which we are still accepting players. The program is “New Horizons,” and includes Beethoven’s First Symphony; Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto with Madison native and two-time National Trumpet Competition winner Ansel Norris (below top); and a new work by the local composer, singer and conductor Jerry Hui (below bottom).

Ansel Norris

Jerry Hui

We will be back next summer, of course. And while I have a pretty good idea of what we’ll be playing, I don’t want to spoil the surprise. As usual, I can promise variety of programming, some solid Classical works, and a spotlight on local artists.

As for me, I’ll be performing some solo Bach at the Madison Area Music Awards this weekend, taking a bike trip in July, camping, and preparing for our August concert.


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