The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Madison-based new music ensemble Clocks in Motion will perform John Luther Adams’ look at Arctic life in Alaska in “Earth and the Great Weather” on Saturday night for FREE at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Plus, “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen” features an all-Brahms concert.

January 31, 2014
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ALERT: Is there no end to the great music awaiting you this weekend? This week’s “Sunday Live From the Chazen” features clarinetist John Marco, pianist Eugene Alcalay and cellist Parry Karp of the UW-Madison‘s Pro Arte Quartet. They will perform an all-Brahms program. It will be broadcast LIVE from 12:30 to 2 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Radio (WERN 88.7 FM in the Madison area). The FREE concert is in Brittingham Gallery 3 of the Chazen Museum of Art on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. The Ear wishes he could tell you the specific works on the program, but WPR lists nothing about the concert and the Chazen only lists dates and performers plus reservation information (visit  http://www.chazen.wisc.edu/search/9254ec53aee7833b552dad8b6f5cda84/ and read from bottom to top. Please, webmasters, update your websites for the new semester in a reader-informative and reader-friendly way! Otherwise, what good is all the high technology?

SAL logo and cellist

By Jacob Stockinger 

We are not quite yet mid-winter in this season of sub-zero Polar Vortex slippages, and yet we have another chance to Hear the Cold this weekend.

You cay recall that this weekend the Oakwood Chamber Players will give two performances on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon of a “Nordic” program that features works by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, Danish composer Carl Nielsen and Sveinbjorn Sveinbjornsson of Iceland.  (For details, here is a link:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/classical-music-hear-the-cold-oakwood-chamber-players-will-perform-a-nordic-program-of-icelandic-finnish-and-danish-chamber-music-this-saturday-and-sunday/

But on SATURDAY night — NOT Sunday night as mistakenly listed in some press releases — there is also a chance to hear an unusual work by a contemporary American composer, John Luther Adams (below), who is not to be confused with the Minimalist John Adams, the composer of the operas “Nixon in China” and “Doctor Atomic” among many other works.

John Luther Adams

Here are more details about he work, drawn largely from a press release by the performing ensemble.

Clocks in Motion (below), Madison’s cutting-edge new music ensemble, will present the Madison premiere of John Luther Adams’ “Earth and the Great Weather,” a collaborative multi-media performance depicting the Arctic physical, cultural and spiritual landscapes of Northern Alaska. (An excerpt, “Drums of Winter,” can be heard at the bottom in a YouTube video.)

clocks in motion in concert

Percussion, strings, chorus, digital delay patterns, spoken texts and pre-recorded nature sounds will join forces in this ambitious and innovative work on Saturday, Feb. 1, in Mills Hall at 7:30 p.m.

Admission is free.

Each movement of the genre-defying piece focuses on a different element of Arctic life. 

According to the composer, “The landscape from which “Earth and the Great Weather” is drawn is the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (below) …one of the last great wilderness regions of North America.  It also embraces the homelands of both the Gwich’in Indians and the Inupiat Eskimos.”

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Arctic Wildlife Refuge map

The 10 colorful and drastically different movements are meant to envelope the listener in a transcendental sound environment. In this YouTube video below, the composer explains his personal view of music.

Clocks in Motion has assembled a team of professional musicians to present this unique concert experience to the community.

Chelsie Propst (below top), Sarah Richardson, Cheryl Rowe, and Paul Rowe will comprise the vocal chorus, while Carol Carlson, Max Wollam-Fisher, Spencer Hobbs, and Mikko Utevsky (below bottom) will serve as the string quartet.

Chelsie Propst USE

MAYCO Mikko Utevsky by Steve Rankin

Steve Gotcher, audio engineer for Audio for the Arts, will control the complex electronic component of the performance.  Matthew Schlomer (below, in a photo by Laura Zastrow) will conduct.

MatthewSchlomer cr Laura Zastrow

Hailed as “nothing short of remarkable” (ClevelandClassical.com), Clocks in Motion is a group that performs new music, builds rare instruments, and breaks down the boundaries of the traditional concert program.

Formed in 2011, the ensemble is currently in residence at the University of Wisconsin School of Music.  The individual members of Clocks in Motion’s unique skill sets and specialties contain an impressive mix of musical styles including, rock, jazz, contemporary classical music, orchestral percussion, marching percussion and world music styles.

Among its many recent engagements, the group served as resident performers and educators at the Interlochen Arts Academy, the Rhapsody Arts Center, the University of Michigan, Baldwin-Wallace University, and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.  

This project is supported by Dane Arts.

For more information, including repertoire, upcoming events, biographies, and media, visit:

http://clocksinmotionpercussion.com.

Here is a story about the concert (plus other news) on the UW School of Music’s outstanding blog “Fanfare”:

http://uwmadisonschoolofmusic.wordpress.com

And here is a link to a profile of Clocks in Motion that appeared in The Wisconsin State Journal:

http://host.madison.com/entertainment/music/music-the-fast-moving-hands-of-clocks-in-motion/article_d033d14e-b8cf-5257-bd09-f14f9e794526.html#ixzz2rp9u1KMw

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Classical music: University of Wisconsin-Madison flutist Stephanie Jutt will survey Spanish and Latin American music at her two recitals with pianist Thomas Kasdorf this weekend in Madison and Richland Center. Plus pianist Mark Valenti performs music by Ives, Bach, Beethoven and Debussy for FREE on Friday at noon.

January 30, 2014
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ALERT: Pianist Mark Valenti will perform this Friday at the weekly FREE Noon Musicale in the Landmark Auditorium of the historic First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, from 12:15 to 1 p.m. His program includes: “The Alcotts” movement from the “Concord” Sonata by Charles Ives; Four Preludes and Fugues (three from Book II of the Well-Tempered Clavier) by Johann Sebastian Bach; Sonata No. 30 in E Major, Op. 109, by Ludwig van Beethoven; and “L’Isle Joyeuse” by Claude Debussy.

Mark Valenti

By Jacob Stockinger 

This Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music flute professor Stephanie Jutt will perform recitals that survey flute masterpieces from Spain and Latin America. 

Jutt (below, in a photo by Paskus Photography) will perform her program for FREE on Saturday at 8 pm. in Mills Recital Hall; and then again on Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Richland Center, where it is presented by the Richland Concert Association. The address is: 26625 Crestview Drive, Richland Center. Tickets are $15 for adults, $5 for students and FREE for students with UW-Richland ID.

Stephanie Jutt CR Dick Ainsworth

Jutt — who is also known as the principal flute of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and as the co-founder and co-artistic director of the Madison-based Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society –- has sent the following notes and background.

“I have received a grant from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) to record Latin American and Spanish masterpieces for flute and piano. Recording will take place in New York in August of 2014, with Venezuelan pianist Elena Abend and Uruguayan pianist Pablo Zinger. The music was collected and researched during my sabbatical to Argentina in 2010.

“The pianist for my recitals is the impressive Thomas Kasdorf (below), a Middleton native who studied at the UW-Madison with pianists Christopher Taylor and Martha Fischer.

“While at the UW, he won many award and prizes, and was an inaugural member of the Perlman Piano Trio. He has also studied at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor with Martin Katz and been very active in Madison-area concerts including being a vocal coach for the University Opera and working in dozens of productions of musical theater, especially works by Stephen Sondheim.

“Thomas is the co-director and musical director of the Middleton Players Theatre’s production of “Les Miserables” and has performed a Mozart piano concerto with the Middleton Community Orchestra. He has also performed and appeared on Wisconsin Public Radio.

thomas kasdorf 2:jpg

“The theme of my concert is “Evocaçao” (Evocation), and it features music from Argentina, Brazil and two distinctive ethnic regions of Spain. 

“The program includes works by South Americans: the “the Schubert of the pampas” Carlos Guastavino (below top, 1912-2000), whose popular and beautiful song “The Dove Was Confused” s on the program and can he heard as a song with guitar accompaniment in a YouTube video at the bottom); Heitor Villa-Lobos (below middle, 1887-1959); and the “New Tango” innovator Astor Piazzolla (below bottom, 1921-1992):

Carlos Guastavino

Villa-Lobos BW

astor piazzolla

Also included are the Barcelona Catalan composer Salvador Brotons (b. 1959) and the Basque composer Jesús Guridi (1886-1961).

Salvador Brotons

Jesus Guridi sepia

For more information, here is a link to the UW-Madison School of Music’s website. Click on events calendar and then click on Feb. 1 and the concert by Stephanie Jutt:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/calendar?eventcategory_id=0&ensemble_id=0&faculty_id=0&month=1&year=2014&nextmonth.x=7&nextmonth.y=4&nextmonth=true

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Classical music: Hear the cold! Oakwood Chamber Players will perform a “Nordic” program of Icelandic, Finnish and Danish chamber music this Saturday and Sunday. Plus, a Pro Arte Quartet dinner is Thursday night at the University Club.

January 29, 2014
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ALERT:  The University Club, 803 State St. will host another Arts Outreach dinner with the Pro Arte String Quartet (below) tomorrow night, Thursday, Jan. 30. Cocktails and appetizers are at 5:30 p.m.;  a three-course dinner will be served at 6:30 p.m.; and a concert of Mendelssohn’s Quartet in E Minor and Haydn’s Quartet in D Major, Op. 20, No. 4, will take place at 7:30 p.m. The cost is $40 a head. Reservation are required and, along with menu choices, can be made here: Make your reservation online! You can also call (608) 262-5023. For more information, visit  uclub@uclub.wisc.edu and http://artsoutreach.wisc.edu/pro_arte.html

Pro Arte Quartet new 2 Rick Langer

By Jacob Stockinger

The title of Ann Beattie’s first collection of short stories — “Chilly Scenes of Winter” — comes immediately to mind.

Haven’t yet had enough of the “bitter” and “dangerous” polar vortex cold this winter? Well, you can hear it as well as feel it and fight it.

This weekend, the Oakwood Chamber Players (below) of Madison, Wisconsin, will present two performances of “Nordic,” a concert that reflects the musical landscapes created by composers influenced by the contrast of dark and light in their Northern physical environments. The concert is typical of the innovative and creative approach that the Oakwood Chamber Players usually take to their eclectic programming. Few local groups perform as many unknown or neglected composers or works. They also make intriguing connections and provide original contexts.

Oakwood Chamber Players 2012 2

Featured composers this time include Sveinbjorn Sveinbjornsson, Jean Sibelius and Carl Nielsen.

The Oakwood Chamber Players will present Nordic on this coming Saturday, Feb. 1, at 7 p.m. in the Oakwood Village Center for Arts and Education (below top), 6205 Mineral Point Road; and on Sunday Feb. 2 at 1:30 p.m. at the Visitor Center (below bottom) in the University of Wisconsin Arboretum.

Tickets are available at the door, and are $20 for general admission, $15 for seniors and $5 for students.

Oakwood Village Auditorium and Stage

UW Arboretum Visitor Center

Here are program based largely on a press release:

Icelandic composer Sveinbjorn Sveinbjornsson (below) is known primarily as the writer of the Iceland’s National Anthem. He wrote romantic music in the style of Felix Mendelssohn. The mark of his individual compositional voice is the northern folk elements incorporated into his music, which will be heard in the rich melodies of his Piano Trio for violin, cello and piano. 

SSveinbjorn örn_Sveinbjörnsson

The essence of the darkly expressive Finnish identity can be heard in compositions by Jean Sibelius (below), from his famous tone poem “Finlandia” to his symphonies, and is echoed in the Suite in A Major for String Trio for violin, viola and cello that is on the program.

Jean Sibelius at piano

Carl Nielsen (below) is Denmark’s most noteworthy and widely performed composer, famous for his symphonies. The Oakwood Chamber players will perform his Woodwind Quintet (at the bottom in a YouTube video played by members of the Berlin Philharmonic), which captures a variety of moods from lilting melodies, tour-de-force technical passages, to individual cadenzas that showcase an inherent understanding of the characteristics of each instrument. 

Carl Nielsen at piano

This is the third concert in the 2013-14 Oakwood Chamber Players’ season series titled “OrigiNATION:  Exploring Musical Regions of the World.”  Upcoming concerts include:

  • Russian Radius – March 22 and 23
  • Down Under – May 17 and 18

The Oakwood Chamber Players is a group of Madison-area professional musicians who play with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and other groups and who have rehearsed and performed at Oakwood Village for 30 years.

For more information, visit www.oakwoodchamberplayers.com

The Oakwood Chamber Players are a professional music ensemble proudly supported by Oakwood Lutheran Senior Ministries and the Oakwood Foundation, in collaboration with Friends of the Arboretum, Inc.

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Classical music: So, what symphony should be next? Maestro John DeMain, guest actors and the Madison Symphony Orchestra score a sold-out triumph with the Beyond the Score presentation of Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony. Plus, read the reviews of John W. Barker for Isthmus and Greg Hettmansberger for Madison Magazine.

January 28, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

On Sunday, we saw the “New World” Symphony in a new light.

I think I can speak for both seasoned concertgoers and novices.

And what I say is no overstatement in describing the triumphant Sunday afternoon multi-media performance of the popular work by Antonin Dvorak (below).

dvorak

It was turned in by the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below top, with the Jumbotron screen behind it) under the baton of its longtime music director and conductor John DeMain (below bottom, in a photo by Prasad), along with guests actors and the inaugural use of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s almost decade-old “Beyond the Score” format.

MSO Dvorak

John DeMain full face by Prasad

In a one-time only performance, the house in the Overture Hall of the Overture Center was sold-out, something that has happened in recent years only with the Christmas concerts. And it was an enthusiastic audience that offered two long standing ovations: the first, after the 60-minute background presentation; and the second, after the post-intermission 40-minute complete performance, which was an exemplary reading that was convincingly dramatic in the fast movements and movingly lyrical in the songful slow movement.

The Ear listened not only to what the actors and players said and did, but also to what other audience members had to say. And the judgment seemed unanimously positive.

Everyone agreed that the multi-media part of the program was very well constructed and very well presented. It was remarkably tight. There were no awkward silences or lapses or pauses. This was not like when the A-V Club used to come to your middle school science or history class and you stared at your shoes while they figured out how to make the technology work.

Instead this was a thoroughly professional presentation that proceeded smoothly from start to finish. It was well researched and well written. It incorporated historical still photos and historical film footage. It used primary sources such as the music’s score and Dvorak’s own letters; and it used secondary sources such as newspaper stories and the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha” and its influence on the impressionable and culturally curious Dvorak and his interest in American Indian music and Negro spirituals.

The orchestral excerpts that underlined the points were precisely played, and such starting-and-stopping is not an easy thing to do unless you are well rehearsed.

The Ear does have one minor concern with this Musicology for the Masses: The “Beyond the Score” format tends to turn all music into program music. Still, there is no questioning that it enhances one’s appreciation of a masterpiece by putting a frame around the painting, by providing a historical context. A specialist could probably pick out small flaws or gaps, but lengthy scholarship was not the point.

All in all, this new format seems exactly what a lot of American symphony orchestras need right now, especially at a time when so many of them are financially troubled and have to figure out a way to attract new and younger audiences.

And this presentation-performance combination sure did that. Remarkably few audience members left at intermission and it was inspiring to see so many, right up to the balcony, filled. Except for an all-Gershwin concert two seasons ago, it has been a few years since such a packed house showed up for a non-holiday MSO concert.

So, who gets credit and whom do we thank? The list is long and, happily, no one got into the kind of postured declaiming that can make it feel false, too staged and overly dramatic. Distraction was kept to a quiet minimum, the characters sitting on stools on the prone of the stage. Theatricality was minimal.

Wisconsin Public Radio host Anders Yocom (below, in a photo by Jim Gill) delivered the goods as a resonant and articulate but calmly expressive narrator.

anders yocom studio  head shot cr Jim Gill

American Players Theater actor David Daniel (below) did an outstanding job of playing the composer without overdoing the Czech accent and using only a bit of a costume suit.

david daniels color

Another APT actor, James Ridge (below), played Dvorak’s son who also commented on his father’s American adventures, but never overshadowed him.

James Ridge

And local mezzo-soprano Jacqueline Colbert (below), who graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and who directs the Mt. Zion Gospel Choir, sang Negro spirituals beautifully in a way that proved less showy and concert hall-like than you often hear today. She sang in a subdued, simple and traditional manner that seemed more authentic, more true to the music’s roots.

Jacqueline Colbert

Even conductor John DeMain got into the act playing the German conductor Anton Seidl, who headed the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and in 1893 conducted the world premiere of the symphony in New York City, with a German accent.

But perhaps the person we have to thank the most is the one whose checkbook made it possible: the Anonymous Donor, who suggested trying the format and who underwrote it financially.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable and thoroughly enlightening event. The Ear hopes it will get perhaps a second performance from the MSO (below in a photo by Greg Anderson) next season if the audience interest warrants it, and that it might even be incorporated into the regular subscription season. (The MSO, by the way, is using an email link to an on-line survey to sample the opinion of those who attended the concert, something i do not trembler them doing before.)

John DeMain and MSO from the stage Greg Anderson

So the question now becomes: What symphony do you want to see done next in the new format?

In an interview I posted last week, John DeMain told The Ear that 22 symphonies have been performed this way in Chicago since the “Beyond the Score” format started in 2005. (At bottom is a YouTube video in which no less a musician than composer-conductor Pierre Boulez introduces, explains and defends the format. And you can find many other videos of Beyond the Score performance on YouTube.) 

So I vote for Beethoven’s Third and Ninth Symphonies and the “Emperor” Piano Concerto; Tchaikovsky’s Fourth and Sixth “Pathetique” symphonies; Shostakovich’s Fifth; Brahms’ First and Fourth; Mozart’s “Jupiter”; and Schubert’s “Unfinished” and Ninth or “The Great.”

Which symphony would you like to hear in the Beyond the Score format?

Tell The Ear.

Tell the MSO.

In the meantime, you can read what some other critics said about the performance:

Here is a link to a review by John W. Barker (bel0w) for Isthmus:

http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=41921&sid=69de797c613436f12703124d949ffd66

John-Barker

And here is a link to the review by Greg Hettmansberger (bel0w) for his blog “Classically Speaking” blog for Madison Magazine:

http://www.madisonmagazine.com/Blogs/Classically-Speaking/January-2014/Madison-Debut-of-Beyond-the-Score-Opens-New-Worlds-of-Dvorak/

greg hettmansberger mug

 

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Classical music: This Friday night will see a FREE “Schubertiade” salon held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to celebrate Franz Schubert’s 217th birthday with the kind of friendly and informal musicale that the composer himself participated in.

January 27, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

How do you celebrate the birthday of a famous composer?

In the case of the early 19th-century Austrian Romantic composer Franz Schubert (below, 1797-1828), you re-create a MUST-HEAR “Schubertiade” – without the drinking and dancing but with the stage looking more like a living room, with carpet and a lamp, than as a concert hall.

Schubert watercolor by Wilhelm August Reider 1825

That was the informal salon gathering (depicted below in a painting by Julius Schmid with Schubert seated at the piano) that the composer and his friends regularly participated in. It is the occasion where Schubert premiered many of his newly composed works, which invariably had a more intimate, social and congenial nature than the works of his mentor and model, Ludwig van Beethoven.

Schubertiade in color by Julius Schmid

This Friday night at 8 pm. in Mills Hall, just such an event – with FREE admission — will be recreated by a group of UW faculty members and students.

The program is a varied one. UW collaborative pianist Martha Fischer and her pianist-husband Bill Lutes (both below) will play Schubert’s sublimely haunting Fantaisie in F minor for piano, four-hands.

martha fischer and bill lutes

Fischer will also be joined by UW cellist Parry Karp (below top) and UW student violinist Alice Bartsch (below bottom) in the beautiful “Notturno” (Nocturne),” the original slow movement of Schubert’s lovely and dramatic Piano Trio in B-Flat. Op. 99.

Parry Karp

Alice Bartsch

In addition there will be many songs and various vocal ensembles, fitting for the man who is considered the Father of the Art Song and who is known his many beautiful songs cycles, especially “Winterreise” (Winter Journey), “Die Schoene Muellerin” (The Beautiful Miller’s Daughter) and “Schwanengesang” (Swansong).

Performers include UW-Madison tenor James Doing (below top) and UW baritone Paul Rowe (below bottom).

James Doing color

Paul Rowe

At the higher end of the vocal range, there will be UW soprano Mimmi Fulmer (below top, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) and visiting UW-Madison teacher mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Hagedorn, a Wisconsin native whose has built a distinguished opera career in Europe and whose family lives in Vienna.

Mimmi Fulmer

Elizabeth Hagedorn 1

The Ear doesn’t know if the song “To Music” (An die Musik) is on the program, but it should be because it summarizes and embodies what makes Schubert so beautiful and heartbreaking. So here is a YouTube video of the song as sung on the BBC in 1961 by Elizabeth Schwarzkopf and introduced by the acclaimed piano accompanist Gerald Moore:

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Classical music: Opera diva Renee Fleming will sing the National Anthem to open the NFL Super Bowl XVIII (48) next Sunday. But WHY and HOW did that happen and WHAT does it mean for professional music and professional sports?

January 26, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

What is THIS all about?

Next Sunday -– a week from today – is Superbowl XVLIII (that’s 48 in plain English numerals — does the NFL think Latin adds class to football?)) between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos. It will be held in bad cold weather in New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands. That’s the football game where the best seats are going for more than $25,000. (Where are you now, Tony Soprano?) Not that a wealth gap exists between professional sports like football (below) and the rest of America. Oh, no — never that.

football

And guess who will sing the national anthem, the tricky “The Star-Spangled Banner,” to open the show – and it is a show. None other than superstar soprano Renee Fleming (below).

reneefleming

Yep, the lovely and gifted opera diva herself.

Now, I am not about to complain about a classical music star getting a chance for such exposure. But it does makes you wonder how it happened.

Did her agent approach the NFL?

Or did the billionaire-packed NFL decide on its own — somewhere in its posh 280 Fifth Avenue headquarters (below top is the exterior, below bottom is the interview its tacky half-Football Desk) that are tax-exempt – that it would buy some highbrow class and at the same time help the cause of classical music and maybe build a new audience?

NFL headquarters 280 Park Ave

Inside NFL headquarters

The Ear can’t imagine it was done by popular choice, under pressure from the fans.

And WHY was it done?

Did a lot of classical music presenters, who already realize that it is commercial suicide to hold a concert on Super Bowl Day, think to put some class into the Super Bowl and not risk bad attendance?

Was it just out of a taste for variety?

Fleming, who has a deep background in jazz and popular music, will probably nail it of course.

But will Renee Fleming create the same kind of rowdy, over-the-top atmosphere that is appropriate to the occasion as some bluesy-gospel, pop-rock or hip-hop star rendition would? Sure, Fleming sells a lot of records and tickets — but nowhere near as much as the superstars in those others genres of music do.

I guess we will see.

If she goes over well, maybe they can book her for the half-time act in a couple of years. But someone like superstar pianist Lang Lang (below), who will perform with metal rockers Metallica at this year’s Grammy Awards to be broadcast live tonight, seems a more likely candidate. Why book Rubinstein when you can get Liberace?

Lang Lang goofy

Well, at least folks at the Super Bowl can feel as classy as the Metropolitan Opera folks for a couple of minutes –- until the concussions start.

I don’t know if we will ever get the back story about the why and the how. But here is a link to the story that NPR’s excellent Deceptive Cadence blog had about Renee Fleming and the Super Bowl.

It is good, short and to the point, even if it doesn’t move beyond the headlines.

See what you think.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/01/21/264553311/guess-whos-singing-the-national-anthem-at-the-super-bowl

And for True Fans, here is a link to the official NFL Super Bowl 48 site, loaded with information and complete with a clock counting down to the coin toss and kickoff:

http://www.nfl.com/superbowl/48

What would be a good, an appropriate opera aria to mark the Super Bowl? How about Puccini’s “Nessum dorma” (“No one sleeps”) from “Turandot,” below in a popular YouTube video with almost 9 million hits. It features tenor Luciano Pavarotti, who made it his signature aria, and it shows the last time he sang it in 2006 at the Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. Look at the sets. Listen to the crowd going wild. It seems in keeping with the Super Bowl, no?

But if you can suggest another choice, The Ear wants to hear it.

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Classical music: The Madison Symphony Orchestra sells out Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony tomorrow. Critic Greg Hettmansberger weighs in on the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. And NPR provides a terrific comprehensive look at the life and career of the late Italian conductor Claudio Abbado.

January 25, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

FIRST, SOME LOCAL NEWS:

1. The Madison Symphony Orchestra has scored a SOLD-OUT HOUSE with its inaugural “Beyond the Score” performance of the “New World” Symphony by Antonin Dvorak (below) this Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall at the Overture Center. The official word comes from MSO marketing director Teri Venker.

That sellout –- the first in a while for the MSO, I think — bodes well for future success and repeat performances of the “Beyond the Score” format applied to different symphonic works.

Dvorak sepia photo

Here are two other links to posts I did about the concert.

The first post describes what happens during the multi-media “Beyond the Score” format that was pioneered by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra,

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/classical-music-the-madison-symphony-orchestra-will-unveil-its-first-beyond-the-score-multi-media-performance-of-antonin-dvoraks-popular-symphony-no-9-fro/

The second link is to a Q&A with MSO music director and conductor John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad) who discusses how the “Beyond the Score” format came about and how likely it is that future such concerts will be programmed by the MSO:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/classical-music-conductor-john-demain-takes-listeners-behind-the-scenes-of-the-madison-symphony-orchestras-inaugural-beyond-the-score-concert-of-dvoraks-popular/

John DeMain full face by Prasad

All in all, The Ear is impressed with what seems a smart marketing move that will benefit the MSO (below), but will also attract new listeners and younger, inexperienced audiences. As for seasoned, symphony loyalists, the multi-media format sounds as if it will deepen anyone’s appreciation of the iconic work — or so DeMain promises.

But WHAT DO YOU THINK? Leave a comment that tells The Ear and the MSO.

John DeMain and MSO from the stage Greg Anderson

2. A week ago Friday, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below top), under the baton of music director and conductor Andrew Sewell, (below bottom) turned in a superb performance as it opened the second half of the current season. I offered a review of my own and linked to a review by John W. Barker of Isthmus.

WCO lobby

andrewsewell

Here are links to those reviews:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/01/19/classical-music-the-wisconsin-chamber-orchestra-shows-its-impressive-mastery-of-many-musical-styles-in-a-concert-of-mozart-castelnuovo-tesdeco-and-bruckner-that-marks-again-just-how-superb-its-music/

http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=41864

But unfortunately, I overlooked another very positive and very perceptive review by Madison Magazine’s experienced classical music blogger Greg Hettmansberger (below top). Here is his review of the WCO with its guest guitar soloist Ana Vidovic (below bottom) and its program of music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Anton Bruckner.

http://www.madisonmagazine.com/Blogs/Classically-Speaking/January-2014/Wisconsin-Chamber-Orchestra-Goes-Big-Small-and-Just-Right/

greg hettmansberger mug

Ana Vidivic

Finally, as you may have already heard, Italian conductor Claudio Abbado (below) died this past week at the age of 80.

Earlier, I provided some links to stories in The New York Times and The Washington Post. Here they are.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/21/arts/music/claudio-abbado-italian-conductor-dies-at-80.html?_r=1

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/claudio-abbado-age-italian-conductor-who-led-european-orchestras-into-modern-era/2014/01/20/d23c267c-30f7-11e3-8627-c5d7de0a046b_story.html

Claudio Abbado

But the best summary of Claudio Abbado’s career – which also included recommended recordings and even sounds clips from some of those recordings (include a symphony by Gustav Mahler and an opera  by Giacchino Rossini – came later, as it often does, on NPR’s outstanding classical blog “Deceptive Cadence.”

Here is a link that you how Abbado developed from a young man into a world-class star complete with compelling professional and personal information, including testimonials from musicians who loved performing under his direction of this refreshingly and even surprisingly humble and self-effacing master maestro.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/01/21/264506409/tracing-the-career-of-claudio-abbado-a-consummate-conductor

And here – to mark his passing — is Claudio Abbado’s memorial video on YouTube. He is conducting the Lucerne Festival Orchestra is the lovely, bittersweet and pensive Adagietto movement from Mahler’s Symphony no. 5, the same piece of music that was memorably used as the soundtrack to the film of Thomas Mann’s famous novella “Death in Venice.”

If you have a favorite Abbado performance – operatic or symphonic – leave a comment to direct the rest of us:

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Classical music: A new movie traces the many political and cultural uses around the world of Beethoven’s iconic Ninth Symphony.

January 24, 2014
4 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Beethoven (below) would have approved.

And no doubt he would have been very, very happy.

Beethoven big

In his famous Ninth Symphony, Beethoven quoted a poem by German writer Friedrich Schiller to announce his solidarity with the revolutionary ideals of universal brotherhood and universal freedom.

And sure enough, all around the world, in many different cultures, Beethoven’s Ninth has found a place as an emblem of those aspirations. During the Pinochet Years, it was sung by Chilean women outside the walls of prisons where political activists were being tortured — the men could hear them and took heart from their singing,

Of course Hitler also appropriated the Ninth too. But then Leonard Bernstein used it to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of East Germany. And protesting Chinese students (below) in the Tiananmen Square uprising where they rebelled to strains of the Ninth coming out of loudspeakers.

The Ear wonders if it was played anywhere in the Mideast or Northern Africa during the Arab Spring?

Beethoven and Tiananmen Square

I particularly like the way the Japanese sing it out loud en masse – in German no less — as a rite of ushering in the coming New Year. (Below is a photo of 10,000 Japanese singing the “Ode to Joy” as a huge stadium choir that spent months studying and rehearsing the music and the German language.)

As a ritual, it is kind of like dancing waltzes in Vienna or watching the ball drop in Times Square in New York City, only a lot more soulful, beautiful and personal in the public’s involvement and its own cultural meaning. (You can hear for yourself the Japanese stadium concert of singing “Ode to Joy” finale of the last movement in a YouTube video at the bottom. It has had about 1.5 million hits and is pretty impressive and moving to experience even in a audio-video recording.)

10,000 Japanese sing Beethoven's  Ninth

Here is the story that I first heard about the movie documenting Beethoven’s Ninth — “Following the Ninth: In the Footsteps of Beethoven’s Final Symphony” — around the world on NPR. It moved The Ear and I hope it moves you. I also hope someone out there knows if or when it is scheduled to play in Madison and will let the rest of us know the dates.

The film also redeems all the baloney we hear about classical music being outdated and old-fashioned and elitist and so on ad nauseam. Other music would be damn lucky to get even close to this kind of universality, significance and appreciation.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/01/14/262481960/the-ode-to-joy-as-a-call-to-action

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Classical music: Conductor John DeMain takes listeners behind the scenes of the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s inaugural “Beyond the Score” concert of Dvorak’s popular “New World” Symphony this Sunday afternoon. Plus, flutist Kirstin Ihde plays a FREE concert of Saint-Saens, Shostakovich, Prokofiev and Bach this Friday at noon.

January 23, 2014
3 Comments

ALERT:  This Friday’s Free Noon Musicale, held from 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the Landmark Auditorium at the historic the First Unitarian Society of Madison‘s Meeting House, 900 University Bay Drive, will feature flutist Dawn Lawler and pianist Kirstin Ihde in music of Camille Saint-Saens, Dmitri Shostakovich, Sergei Prokofiev and Johann Sebastian Bach.

Dawn Lawler

By Jacob Stockinger

Ever since he arrived in Madison from Houston 20 years ago, maestro John DeMain has never ceased to innovate and try new things to boost the fortunes of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Madison Opera, where he is the music director and the artistic director, respectively.

His many efforts have included new audition procedures for players; opening up rehearsals to the public; helping to procure and build the Overture Center; expanding educational programs and community outreach programs; and tirelessly promoting his efforts through Wisconsin Public Radio and WORT-FM, Wisconsin Public Television and commercial TV network affiliates.

He also tried a special New Year’s concert that didn’t work out, and going to triple performances, which did work out.

So it seemed only natural that The Ear should asked DeMain about his latest effort in both music education and concert performance: Doing the “Beyond the Score” version of Antonin Dvorak’s popular “New World” Symphony this Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall. (Tickets are $15-$60 and are selling fast towards a sell-out; they can be bought through the Overture Center box office or by calling at (608) 258-4141.)

Here is a link with more details about the production and concert:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/classical-music-the-madison-symphony-orchestra-will-unveil-its-first-beyond-the-score-multi-media-performance-of-antonin-dvoraks-popular-symphony-no-9-fro/

And here is an email Q&A with John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad) about the background and future of the Beyond the Score series, which was pioneered by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

John DeMain full face by Prasad

How and when did the idea for this kind of concert or special event come to you?

Actually some of our patrons witnessed “Beyond the Score” in Chicago several years ago and brought it to our attention. We immediately investigated the program and found it fascinating and wonderful. We felt it was something that Madison should have.

The “Beyond the Score” concert on Sunday afternoon is almost sold out. What do you attribute its popularity to? When did it start, and how has it been received by the public and the musicians at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra?

I think the public loves the “New World” Symphony by Dvorak (below) and is anxious to get deeper into this great symphony and it’s connection to America. “Beyond the Score” is in its ninth season in Chicago and has been wildly successful with their audience. This year they’re adding three more symphonies to their canon of works for this program.

dvorak

Why did you decide to program this event, and can you give us some background to it? Do you think it will help build new audiences? Deepen the appreciation of current audiences? How so?

I hope this will attract new listeners and deepen the experience of our current audience. This is not a musicological or theoretical analysis of the symphony, although many examples are cited to illustration certain aspects of the music. Rather it is a multi-media presentation that is highly entertaining as well as informative look into the creative process.

What makes this symphony American, Czech and Beethovenian all in one? This is what “Beyond the Score” examines as it conjures up the wonderful historical context in which this work was written. (Below is a photo of the manuscript score of the “New World” Symphony.)

Dvorak ms Symphony nO 9 New World

If this format is popular and well received here, might the MSO (below) do another one next season, or maybe even more performances? What other works are available in that format and have you considered?

We hope that if the performance is well received here and that other underwriters step forward, we can possibly see more of these in the future. Currently, there are 22 works in the “Beyond the Score” canon.

MSO playing

Are there parts about the Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony program that particularly attract you, or parts that you want to draw the public’s attention to?

I know that after the intermission, when we perform the symphony in its entirety, the audience will listen to it in a whole new way. (Below is a YouTube video, with more than 1.5 million hits of the soulful slow movement, which borrows from Negro spirituals, of the “New World Symphony as performed by conductor Herbert von Karajan and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. It is The Ear’s favorite movement of this wonderful symphony.)

Editor’s note: Here are the official program notes by University of Wisconsin-Whitewater professor and Madison Symphony Orchestra trombonist J. Michael Allsen for the “New World” Symphony:

http://facstaff.uww.edu/allsenj/MSO/NOTES/1314/4A.BTM_Dvorak.html

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Classical music: An newly formed early music trio will give two performances of rarely played 16th-century and 17th-century Baroque music this weekend at two Madison churches. Plus, Madison Symphony Orchestra maestro John DeMain discusses Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony on WORT-FM 89.9 Thursday morning.

January 22, 2014
3 Comments

ALERT: Blog friend Rich Samuels, who hosts his “Anything Goes” show from 5 to 8 a.m. every Thursday on WORT-FM 89.9, writes: John DeMain joins me at 7:08 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 23, to talk about the Madison Symphony Orchestra‘s “Beyond the Score” presentation and performance of Antonin Dvorak‘s Symphony No. 9 on Sunday, 1/26. In addition to John DeMain’s take on the symphony “From the New World.” I’ll also be offering a 1927 discussion of the work by Leopold Stokowski (with musical examples performed by Artur Rodzinski, who was then Stokowski’s assistant at the Philadelphia Orchestra), and a 1956 analysis by Leonard Bernstein taken from an LP distributed by the Book of the Month Club. I’ll also be airing the one and only recording by African-American composer Harry T. Burleigh (below) who, as a young music student, introduced Dvořák to the Negro spiritual. And I’ll be playing Marian Anderson’s first recording (made when she was 26) of Burleigh’s arrangement of “Deep River.”

harry t burleigh

By Jacob Stockinger 

The Ear met Eric Miller (below) at Wisconsin Public Radio‘s now defunct “Bach Around the Clock,” which used to e held annual to mark the birth of Johann Sebastian Bach. Miller, who plays the viola da gamba and is a friend of the blog, writes about two performances by an early music and  period instrument trio of 16th-century and 17th-century Baroque music coming up this weekend:

Eric Small

Miller writes: “Come hear our new trio, as part of the newly formed Wisconsin Baroque Musicians Collective, a collection of musicians from across the state interested in historically informed performance.

“The musicians for this concert are: Theresa Koenig (below top), recorder and dulcian; Sigrun Franzen (below bottom) on organ; Koenig; and me on cornetto and baroque cello:

Theresa Koenig

Sigrun Franzen

“Here is the program: Daniel Speer, Sonata II; Giovanni Cima, Capriccio and Sonate from “Concerti Ecclesiastici”; Girolamo Frescobaldi (below top), “Canzon Prima, Ricercar”; Phillipe Boddecker, Sonat Sopra la Monica; Giovanni Bassano (below bottom and in a YouTube video at the bottom), “Dolci rosate labia”; Giovanni Fontana, Sonata Nona”; and Bartolome de Selma, Canzon.

Girolamo Frescobaldi

Giovanni Bassano

“There will be two chances to hear this program: on Saturday, Jan. 25, at 7 p.m. in Saint Andrew‘s Episcopal Church (below), 1833 Regent Street, with a $15 suggested donation; and on Sunday, Jan. 26, at 3 p.m. at Zion Lutheran Church, 2165 Linden Ave.; also with a $15 suggested donation, with all proceeds going to the Zion food pantry.

St. Andrew's Episcopal Madison Front

“The program will feature the beautiful organs at both Saint Andrew’s Episcopal and Zion Lutheran, both in Madison and a variety of instrument combinations, including the dulcian (below top), a predecessor of the modern bassoon, and the cornetto (below bottom), a wooden instrument with holes like a flute, but played with a brass embouchure.

Dulcian

cornetto 2

For more information, here is a link to a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/496065417177605/?source=1

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