The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The new Fall season begins on Monday night with the 36th annual FREE Labor Day Concert by the Karp Family. It features three generations performing music of Handel, Beethoven, John Harbison and Mendelssohn plus readings from Shakespeare.

August 30, 2013

By Jacob Stockinger

Literally overnight, Madison’s classical music scene will move from the Summer season into the new Fall season.

On Sunday afternoon the final concert – a mostly Mozart program – will take place at the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival.

On the very next night, Monday night, Sept. 2, at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, three generations of the Karp Family  (below) plus friend Suzanne Beia, the second violinist of the UW-Madison Pro Arte String Quartet, will present their 36th Labor Day Concert in Mills Hall on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Karp Family in color

Last year’s concert was cancelled at the last minute, you may recall, because of illness.

This year’s program includes Pro Arte Quartet second violinist Suzanne Beia (below) plus three generations of the Karps.

suzanne beia

The patriarch and matriarch are husband-and-wife pianists Howard and Frances Karp. Here is a link to an informative and appreciative profile of Howard Karp by Jess Anderson, the former music critic for Isthmus.

The Ear would only add that Frances Karp, who taught piano privately for many years in Madison, is also an astounding performer and interpreter, especially in chamber music. She is physically a small woman but one who possesses a big, beautiful sound and fleet fingers

howard and frances karp

Also performing are their two accomplished sons: cellist Parry Karp (below top), the cellist with the Pro Arte Quartet who also teaches cello and heads the chamber music program at the UW School of Music; and Christopher Karp (below bottom), a fine violinist and pianist who is a medical doctor and who travels the globe to fight infectious diseases on behalf of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 

Parry Karp

Christopher Karp

Parry’s wife, Katrin Talbot, will play viola, as she does with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, and two of their three daughters will take part: the eldest, Ariana (below with her father in 2011) will play cello and the youngest Isabel, along with her sister Ariana, will recite Shakespeare.

parry and ariana karp

It sounds like a terrific program, and all the more terrific when you realize that the Karp Family Labor Concerts have never repeated the same piece twice. That is quite the accomplishment, and also a testament to the richness of the repertoire as well as to the hard work on the Karp family. Talk about enriching the musical knowledge of the audience!      

The year’s program includes: the Sonata in G minor, Op. 2 No. 8 for Two Cellos and Piano (ca. 1719) by George Frideric Handel; “
November 19, 1828” for Piano and String Trio (1988) by John Harbison, who wrote the work to memorialize the death of Franz Schubert; the Sonata in D major for Piano and Cello, Op. 102, No. 2 (1815) by Ludwig van Beethoven; and dramatic excerpts from Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Op. 61, with incidental music by Felix Mendelssohn. (Below are Frances and Howard Karp at a performance for the Red Hot Lava Festival in Hawaii.)

Howard and Frances Karo at Red Hot Lava Festival in Hawaii 1

Here are program notes about the concert written for The Ear by Howard Karp, who taught piano for decades at the UW-Madison and who studied with Rosina Lhevine, the famed Juilliard School piano teacher whose most famous students were the late Van Cliburn and John Browning.

Writes Howard Karp:

“The program will consist of Handel’s Sonata for Two Cellos and keyboard, performed by Parry Karp, Ariana Karp and Howard Karp.

“That will be followed by Quartet for piano and strings “November 19, 1828”, composed in 1988 by John Harbison (below). The title refers to the date of Franz Schubert’s death in Vienna at age 31.


“Shortly before his death, Schubert went to the theorist Simon Sechter (below) to work on a very specific problem pertaining to the tonal answer of the fugue subject, important to Schubert in the composition of his masses. Sechter, well aware that he was teaching the most extraordinary student who ever came for a lesson, concluded by assigning Schubert a fugue subject on Schubert’s own name.

simon sechter

Schubert (below) was unable to undertake the task; he died about a week later. Harbison’s completion of the Fugue in the finale is one of the musical highlights of the work.

The composition will be performed by violinist Suzanne Beia, violist Katrin Talbot, cellist Parry Karp and pianist Frances Karp.

Franz Schubert big

Pianist Christopher Karp will join his cellist brother Parry Karp in a performance of Beethoven’s fifth and final sonata in D major, Op.102 No. 2, with its lengthy fugue finale (at bottom in a YouTube video).

The intricate fugue led Beethoven (below) later to the mammoth fugue finale of the Hammerklavier piano sonata, Op.106, as well the “Grosse Fuge” from the string quartet Op. 130 and Grand Fugue from the “Missa Solemnis,” Op. 123, all three in B-flat major.

Beethoven big

After Intermission, Howard and Frances Karp will be joined by two of their three grand-daughters as narrators, with the incidental music from Mendelssohn’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The music will be played in the piano, four-hands version arranged by the composer. (Below is Isabel Karp.)

isabel karp USE

All three of Parry and Katrin’s daughters have had extensive experiences with Madison’s “Young Shakespeare Players” (YSP). The organization is led by the remarkable couple, Richard and Anne DiPrima. Ariana is a graduate of Reed College in Portland, Oregon, and Isabel is a junior at Memorial High in Madison.

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