The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music Q&A: Cellist Benjamin Whitcomb hopes to build classical music fans with his FREE concert of three cello masterpieces by Beethoven, Debussy and Rachmaninoff this Friday night at the Wisconsin Center for Music Education in Waunakee and on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen.”

September 17, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

This Friday night, Sept. 20, at 7 p.m. adults and students have a chance to hear a FREE concert of three unqualified masterpieces for cello and piano.

The concert is by cellist Benjamin Whitcomb, who teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and is a member of the acclaimed Madison-based Ancora String Quartet. The pianist is Whitcomb’s longtime collaborator Vincent de Vries, who teaches at Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea.

The concert is at the Wisconsin Center for Music Education (below)
, located at 1005 Quinn Drive in 
Waunakee, Wisconsin, 53597.

Wisconsin School Music sign

Wisconsin School Music Association building

The program includes: Cello Sonata No. 5 in D Major, Op. 102 No. 2 by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-0827), a late work especially known for its final fugue movement; the Cello Sonata by Claude Debussy (1862-1918); and the Cello Sonata in G Minor by Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943, heard at the bottom in a YouTube video with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Emanuel Ax ). 

Benjamin Whitcomb is an accomplished teacher and performer who does both solo recitals (more than a dozen recitals of the complete six Solo Cello Suites by Johann Sebastian Bach, some at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, below) and chamber music.

Benjamin Whitcomb playing Bach 1

Whitcomb recently explained his reasons for doing the free concert to The Ear:

benjamin whitcomb3

“Vincent and I get together a once or twice a year to do a series of performances, despite the distance between us — he is based in Seoul, Korea. We have been doing this since 2002.

“Every time we get together, we talk about how some concerts pay very well but are poorly attended whereas others are just the opposite, and we both agree that we prefer performing for more people (not surprisingly). So, for any given series of concerts, once we have lined up enough to “pay the bills,” we start looking for other venues that might reach more people and/or different audiences.

“Sometimes we end up performing for groups that don’t hear much live classical music, and it is very rewarding to have some of the audience members come up afterwards and express just how much our performance moved them and affected them.

“Vincent (below) and I are both of the opinion that there are many people who would be fans of live classical music if they but were exposed to it.

Vincent de Vries

“The idea of playing at the Wisconsin Center for Music Education springs primarily from the fact that part of their mission, too, is to spread and encourage the appreciation for music (including live classical music) in the region.”


You should also know that if you miss this Friday night concert, the same performers and program will be featured in concert and in the live broadcast on this Sunday’s edition of Wisconsin Public Radio‘s “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen” Museum in Madison (below). It runs from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in Brittingham Gallery 3.


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