ALERT and REMINDER: Just a reminder that the Pro Arte Quartet will perform a FREE concert this Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall. The program features the WORLD PREMIERE of the quartet’s fifth of six commissions to mark its centennial. (Also on the work is Franz Jospeh Haydn’s Quartet, Op. 20, Np. 4, and Anton Bruckner’s Viola Quintet with guest Samuel Rhodes of the Juilliard School and formerly of the Juilliard String Quartet.) The new work is the String Quartet No. 3 by Belgian composer Benoit Mernier, who is in Madison to coach the quartet and attend the premiere, where he will be interviewed by John W. Barker preceding the concert at 7:15 p.m. And here is a link to a review of the new CD recording (below) of the first four commissions by Greg Hettmansberger, who writes Madison Magazine’s classical music blog “Classically Speaking.”
By Jacob Stockinger
Here is a special posting, a review written by frequent guest critic and writer for this blog, John W. Barker. Barker (below) is an emeritus professor of Medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also is a well-known classical music critic who writes for Isthmus and the American Record Guide, and who hosts an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT FM 89.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.
By John W. Barker
The third program in the current season of the Middleton Community Orchestra (below), on Wednesday night at the comfortable Middleton Performing Arts Center that is attached to Middleton High School, was a rich and ambitious one.
For this concert, the regular MCO conductor Steve Kurr retired modestly to the viola and percussion sections, and yielded the podium to a visiting maestro, Kevin McMahon (below), a University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music alumnus who directs the Sheboygan Symphony.
Of three works on the program, the first was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s sublime Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat for Violin, Viola and Orchestra. Well-known, especially from many recordings, the work is in fact rarely performed in concerts, perhaps because of the demand for two soloists of high and equal merit.
In this case, it got them.
Local violin star Eleanor Bartsch and Juilliard-trained violist Daniel Kim of New York City — but both distinguished and prize-winning former students in the UW School of Music — have known each other since childhood. They were clearly on a shared wavelength in this performance, paired beautifully in music that makes one glad to be alive. (At bottom, you can hear a popular YouTube recording of the work with violinist Itzhak Perlman and violist Pinchas Zukerman under the baton of Zubin Mehta conducting the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.)
The orchestra, a sturdy accompanist in the Mozart, came into its own in the next piece, the flashy “Capriccio espagnol” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (below). It is really a short five-movement concerto for orchestra, showing off a kaleidoscope of colors, and demanding a performance of virtuosic capacity.
Clearly, guest maestro McMahon had drilled the orchestra thoroughly, so that the performance was a stellar achievement for the MCO. And it also gave the concertmaster, Alice Bartsch, sister of the violin soloist in the Mozart, her own opportunities for some brilliant solo moments.
Finally came the longest work of the night, the Symphony No. 2 in D Major of Johannes Brahms (below).
This is perhaps the most genial of the composer’s four symphonies, but its lyricism conceals some challenging demands made on the orchestra. Brahms requires absolute perfection of technique and fully polished sonorities. And so, precisely because it is a very well-known score, it really puts an orchestra like the MCO to the test.
The group met the test quite creditably. Perhaps out of mercy, McMahon dropped the first-movement repeat. He had some very good ideas about phrasing and nuances throughout, and the players worked hard to put them to good effect.
Indeed, the performance gave one a chance to assess the community orchestra’s progress in no more than its fourth season of existence.
Well, there are still concerns to be faced. There are rough elements in the brass playing, but the woodwinds provide a secure and reliable anchor for the orchestra. The strings still lack that full sheen we might crave, but they are growing in security and discipline, especially the violins.
And so, after not that much time in the growing yet, music director and usual conductor Steve Kurr (below) has succeeded in building the MCO into a treasure for the city of Middleton and a genuine asset to the musical life of the Madison area. It deserves all possible support and encouragement — and attendance.
ALERT: On Saturday at 1 p.m. in Mills Hall, the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras’ (WYSO) Percussion Ensemble will perform the 13th annual Percussion ‘EXTRAVAGANZA’ in the UW Humanities Building. Directed by Vicki Peterson Jenks, the WYSO Percussion Ensemble is comprised of 12 talented young percussionists and one bassist from Madison, Middleton, Verona, Viroqua, Mount Horeb, DeForest, and Barneveld. (See the impressive individual profiles in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
WYSO will donate part of proceeds to support the American Red Cross Badger Chapter.
The concert features special guest artist Steve Houghton. A Kenosha, Wis., native, Houghton is an internationally renowned jazz drummer, percussionist, clinician, author and educator who is currently a professor at Indiana University’s prestigious Jacobs School of Music. Also joining the WYSO Percussion Ensemble in guest appearances will be two WYSO alumni, composer and pianist Jon D. Nelson and bassist Sam Olson – both Sun Prairie natives – the UW World Percussion Ensemble, UW-Madison Professor of Saxophone Les Thimming, and WYSO student flugelhorn player Noah Mennenga.
Tickets for the 2014 WYSO Percussion EXTRAVGANZA! are $10 for adults, $5 for youth (18 and under) and can be purchased at the door beginning one hour prior to the start of the concert. For more information, contact the WYSO office at (608) 263-3320. Parking is available at State Street Campus Ramp, Helen C. White Hall, and Grainger Hall parking facilities. You can also visit:
By Jacob Stockinger
What a close friend and colleague calls “train wrecks” — that is, competing or conflicting events and concerts — just keep on happening.
It is true that choices become more difficult, and more mutually exclusive, as the classical music scene continues to expand in the Madison area.
Take this Sunday, which is normally a pretty quiet day — but NOT this week.
Of course, from 12:30 to 2 p.m., the Pro Arte Quartet (below) will give the second premiere performance of Belgian composer Benoit Mernier’s String Quartet No. 3 on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen.” It will air live from the FREE concert in Brittingham Gallery No. 3 of the Chazen Museum of Art on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.
But check out these other events:
At 2:30 p.m., the ensemble Con Vivo (“Music with Life) continues its 12th season of chamber music with a concert entitled “Germanic Gems” at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Avenue, across from Camp Randall.
Tickets can be purchased at the door for $18 for adults, $15 for seniors and students.
The program includes the First Suite for Solo Cello by Johann Sebastian Bach; a duet for violin and viola by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; and the “Fairy Tales” Trio for clarinet, viola and piano by Robert Schumann. The program will also feature the outstanding church organ with duets for violin and organ by Joseph Rheinberger, a solo work for organ by 17th-century composer Johann Reincken, and “Ein Alterblatt” (An Old Page), a romantic piece for violin, viola, cello and organ by Ferdinand Manns.
To round out the afternoon’s offering, Con Vivo will perform a quintet for clarinet, two violas, cello and piano by a mystery composer who will be reveled at the concert!
Audience members are invited to join musicians after the concert for a free reception to discuss this chamber music literature and to hear about their Carnegie Hall debut this past December.
Con Vivo is a professional chamber music ensemble comprised of Madison area musicians assembled from the ranks of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, and various other performing groups familiar to Madison audiences.
EDGEWOOD CHAMBER ORCHESTRA
Also at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, the Edgewood Chamber Orchestra will perform in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive, on Madison’s near west side.
Admission is $5 for the public; free with Edgewood College ID.
The orchestra will perform under the direction of music conductor Blake Walter (below). The program of masterworks includes the Symphony No. 7 by Ludwig van Beethoven; the Orchestral Suite No. 3 by Johann Sebastian Bach; and the Overture to “Abduction from the Seraglio” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Included in the program is a special performance of the Piano Concerto in D Major by Franz Joseph Haydn. It will be performed by the recent Madison Memorial High School alumna Johanna Novich-Leonard (below), winner of the Edgewood College Student Concerto Competition.
SOUND ENSEMBLE WISCONSIN
At 6 p.m., Sound Ensemble Wisconsin (SEW) will be collaborating with Chef Dan Bonanno and poet Katrin Talbot (below in a photo with violinist Mary Theodore on the far right holding a violin bow) for a “delicious” event at A Pig in a Fur Coat restaurant, located at 940 Williamson Street, Madison, WI, 53703. Phone is (608) 316-3300.
Tickets are currently on sale at www.sewmusic.org and are $105 per person or $100 by check (with guests’ names) to: Sound Ensemble Wisconsin, 716 Edgewood Avenue, Madison, WI 53711. Performing musicians (below) are SEW members and incude violinists Mary Theodore and Mary Perkinson, violist Chris Dozoryst, and cellist Maggie Townsend.
More information and tickets are available at www.sewmusic.org.
Here is an excellent story written by Gayle Worland of The Wisconsin State Journal:
And here is the SEW press release:
“What does food sound like? What does music taste like?
“Participants enjoy a lovely evening out as they explore their senses as the pathway to their souls through the performing arts of food and music, accompanied by poetry. “SEWing Taste and Sound, Bite by Byte” is a collaboration between Sound Ensemble Wisconsin, Chef Dan Bonanno of Madison’s celebrated Pig in a Fur Coat, and SEW’s 2013-14 Artist-in-Residence, who is Madison poet and violist Katrin Talbot.
“The event centers around the aesthetic similarities of food and music, both of which Mary Theodore, SEW’s director and violinist, considers performing arts. SEW has based the evening on a movement from a Beethoven String Quartet, Op. 18 No. 5, Andante Cantabile, that is a theme and variations.
“Each variation, or byte of music, will inspire Chef Bonnano and be paired with one course, or bite, of food — and performed and served as such to create a seven-course meal, including a beverage pairing for each course.
“For example, the third variation, which might remind one of a bubbling brook with a contrast of smooth, running water and sunlight glistening through the trees as well as a touch of sweetness, has inspired Chef Bonanno to create a smooth, creamy risotto with fresh blueberries and sweetbreads.
“Katrin Talbot will also read poems composed for each variation.
“At the end of the meal, SEW musicians will perform the quartet movement from beginning to end with the aim of offering participants a new experience of the music, a new journey of taste and sound.
“As a large part of SEW’s mission is to bring more people to classical music, SEW makes an effort to demonstrate that music can be found in many things that we experience every day.
“SEW achieves this by collaborating with other artists, institutions, etc. through innovative programming and authentic events. Also, as SEW’s founding principle is that music is a vital part of humanity and should serve everyone, the ensemble strives to both offer engaging and unique programming to regular participants (their term for “audience”), as well as to offer music to those who might not have access to it otherwise.
“As part of the March 2 program, SEW will be performing during dinner hour at a food pantry and offering two free tickets to the Sunday event. As a side note, SEW also played at a correctional facility as a precursor to their last event.”
By Jacob Stockinger
This weekend will find us not only in the fading grip of the Polar Vortex but also in the full force of The Piano Vortex.
Here is an overview, with a complete schedule and list of names and repertoire, from Fanfare, the terrific new music blog at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music written and compiled by concert and publicity manager Kathy Esposito:
“Piano Extravaganza! will feature well-known pianists as well as rising stars”
“Hear the UW’s best collegiate pianists, faculty and high school talents at an all-day festival this Saturday at UW-Madison. Masterclasses, workshops and performances hosted by UW-Madison faculty and students. This year’s Piano Extravaganza will feature piano works influenced by jazz and blues.”
Here is the schedule of events, all of which are FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC:
FRIDAY, FEB. 28
8 p.m. in Mills Concert Hall: A FREE recital by Christopher Taylor, Faculty Concert Series. Here is what Taylor said about his program to the UW’s Fanfare blog about his program of the Sonata No. 6, Op. 82 (1939) by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) and the Symphony No. 3 in E-Flat Major (“Eroica”), Op. 55, by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), as transcribed by Franz Liszt (1811-1886).
Taylor writes: “I find altogether exhilarating the opportunity to re-experience works that inspired me even before taking my first piano lesson.
“Although, needless to say, a pianist cannot hope to duplicate the precise effect of Beethoven’s orchestrations, the attempt to simulate a few of them gives rise to endlessly fascinating pianistic possibilities.
“Virtually every technical resource of fingering, voicing, articulation, and pedaling (even the middle pedal, a device that Liszt himself lacked till late in his career) proves useful in these mighty transcriptions.
“While tonight’s version of the Eroica can obviously never displace the original form, I do hope that the pairing of a single musician with one versatile instrument can produce a fresh view of this immortal work, whose turbulent historical genesis and juxtaposition of heroism, tragedy, and redemption complement the Prokofiev so aptly.”
And here is a profile of Christopher Taylor that local critic Greg Hettmansberger wrote for Madison Magazine:
And here is a link to the complete Fanfare blog entry:
And here is a previous post with some background:
AND BECAUSE THE EAR FEELS THAT STUDENT MUSICIANS DESERVE TO GET AT LEAST AS MUCH MEDIA COVERAGE AND PUBLIC ATTENTION AS STUDENT ATHLETES, I HAVE INCLUDED A LENGTHY AND MUCH LONGER THAN USUAL LIST OF THE PIANO CONTESTANTS, REPERTOIRE, PARTICIPANTS AND JUDGES.
PIANO EXTRAVAGANZA! of Concerts, a Masterclass, a Young Pianists Competition (For High School Students) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music on Friday, February 28—Saturday, March 1, 2014. (1st Prize: $1,500; 2nd Prize: $1,000; 3rd Prize: $500)
SATURDAY, MARCH 1
8:30-11 a.m.: Piano Extravaganza Competition
11 a.m.-noon: Professor Johannes Wallmann, Jazz Improvisation Workshop
1:30-3:30 p.m. Masterclass and Q&A with UW-Faculty
3:45-6:30 p.m.: Jazz and Blues in Classical Music Extravaganza (Performed by UW-Madison Piano Majors)
ALL EVENTS ON SATURDAY TAKE PLACE IN MORPHY RECITAL HALL (below) ARE FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
SATURDAY, MARCH 1, 2014
8:30-11 a.m.: Piano Extravaganza Competition
FINALISTS WERE SELECTED FROM PRELIMINARY RECORDING ROUND.
8:30 a.m.: Anthony Cardella (17, from Porterfield, WI): Sonata Op. 2, No. 3, I. Allegro con brio –by Ludwig van Beethoven; Toccata, Op. 11, by Sergei Prokofiev
9:15 a.m.: Vivian Wilhelms (15, from Waunakee, WI); French Suite No. 6, BWV 817- Johann Sebastian Bach; Sonatine, I. Modéré – Maurice Ravel
9:30 a.m.: Michelle Xie (16, from Verona, WI): Sarcasm, Op. 17, No. 1 Tempestoso – Sergei Prokofiev; Sonata Op. 31, No. 1, I. Allegro – Ludwig van Beethoven
9:45 a.m.: Garrick Olson (17, from Madison, WI): Fantasy in C Major, II. Mäßig. Durchaus energisch – Robert Schumann; Etude No. 6, Omaggio a Domenico Scarlatti – Marc-Andre Hamelin
10 a.m.: Theodore Liu (15, from Waunakee, WI): Sonata in D Major, Op. 10, No. 3, I. Presto- Ludwig van Beethoven; Nocturne in D-flat Major, Op. 27, No. 2– Frederic Chopin
10:15 a.m. Quentin Nennig (15, from Sherwood, WI): Waldesrauschen”- Franz Liszt; Concerto in E-flat Major, KV 449 – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
10:30 a.m. Kaitlin Lalmond (17, from Germantown, WI): Prelude and Fugue in C-sharp Major, BWV 848 – Johann Sebastian Bach; Sonata in E-flat Major, Op. 7, I. Allegro molto e con brio – Ludwig van Beethoven
11 a.m.-Noon: Jazz Improvisation Workshop with Professor Johannes Wallmann (below): “Milestones,” John Lewis (1920-2001) of The Modern Jazz Quartet; “Night and Day,” Cole Porter (1891-1964); “Sonnymoon For Two,” Sonny Rollins (b. 1930). All selections performed by Johannes Wallmann (below) and local guest artist Dave Stoler
Noon-1:30 p.m.: Lunch
1:30-3:30 p.m.: Masterclass and Q&A with UW-Faculty
3:45-6:30 p.m.: Jazz and Blues in Classical Music Extravaganza, Performed by UW-Madison Piano Majors
Opening Remarks by Susan C. Cook, Professor of Musicology and Director of the School of Music
“Alla Turca Jazz,” (1993) Fazil Say, Jason Kutz (b. 1970)
“Nightmare Fantasy,” (1979) William Albright, Oxana Khramova (1944-1998)
“Prelude No. 1,” (1926) George Gershwin, Yana Groves (1898-1937)
From “Preludes, Book 2” (1912-1913) Claude Debussy, “General Lavine Eccentric” (1862-1918); Emili Earhart
“Fantasy on Bill Evans’ “Turn Out the Stars,” Jonathan Thornton (b. 1985), Jonathan Thornton
“Lonely House” from Street Scene (1947) Kurt Weill (1900-1950), Thomas Leighton, Tenor, & Emily O’Leary
Impromptu, Op. 66, No. 2 (2004) Nikolai Kapustin (b. 1937) ; Haley O’Neal
“The Serpent’s Kiss” (Rag Fantasy) (1969), William Bolcom, Sara Giusti (b. 1938)
Sonata for One Piano, Four Hands (1919), Francis Poulenc (1899-1963), Prelude Rustique
Ian Tomaz and Jason Kutz
“Milonga del Angel” (1965), Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992), Cody Goetz
From Gershwin Songbook (1932) George Gershwin (189801937): “My One and Only,” “Fascinatin’ Rhythm” and “I Got Rhythm,” Dino Mulic
“Etudes on Gershwin Songs,” (1973) Earl Wild (1915-2010), “Embraceable You,” Yusuke Komura
Excursions,” Op. 20, No. 1 (1942), Samuel Barber, Andrew Mlynczak (1910-1981)
“Carnaval Noir,” (1997) Derek Bermel, Ying Wang (b. 1967)
“Bamboula,” (1844-45) Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Duangkamon Wattanasak (1829-1869)
“A Little Jazz Exercise,” (1970) Oscar Peterson (1925-2007), Evan Engelstad
“Jazz Waltz” from Suite Impressions (1996) by Judith Lang Zaimont, Shengyin Chen (b. 1945)
“Magnetic Rag” (1914) Scott Joplin, Zach Campbell
“Deuces Wild” (1944) and “The Duke and the Count” (1944), Mary Lou Williams (1910-1981), Henry Misa
“Dreadful Memories” (1978), “Down by the Riverside” (1979) Frederic Rzewski (b. 1938) Sungho Yang
From Preludes, Book 1 (1909-1910) Claude Debussy (1862-1918) “Minstrels,” Jace Rockman
Sonata No. 2 in G Major for Violin and Piano (1927), II. Blues, Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) Elspeth Stalter-Clouse, violin, and Tiffany Yeh
From “Carnival Music” (1976), George Rochberg (1918-2005), Emily O’Leary
Three Preludes (2000), Shuai Zhang (b. 1979), I. Rubato: appassionato abandano, II. mesto misterioso, III. estemporale impetuoso, Zijin Yao
MEET THE UW-MADISON KEYBOARD FACULTY
Martha Fischer (below) is Professor of Piano and heads the Collaborative Piano Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. American Record Guide recently wrote: “…she is a marvelous pianist, profound interpreter, and expert collaborator.” She has recorded extensively and will soon release the complete works for two pianists at one keyboard by Robert Schumann with her frequent duet partner and husband, Bill Lutes. The Washington Post described their performance of Schubert’s F minor Fantasie as “bursting with heartfelt intensity.” A singer as well as pianist, Fischer is an expert on the works of Gilbert and Sullivan and has also presented unique recitals of art song in which she accompanies herself. A dedicated teacher, she has participated in international festivals, symposia, and competitions.
Jessica Johnson (below left, with UW percussionist Anthony Di Sanza) serves as Professor of Piano and Director of Graduate Studies in Piano Pedagogy at UW-Madison, where she was the 2006 recipient of the prestigious Emil Steiger Distinguished Teaching Award. She frequently commissions and programs contemporary solo and chamber works, regularly performing with Sole Nero, duo for piano and percussion. Johnson has been featured in workshops and recitals throughout North America, Europe and China. A two-time winner of AMT’s Article of the Year Award, Johnson has articles published in American Music Teacher, Piano Journal of EPTA, Klavier Companion and Piano Pedagogy Forum. Passionate about community engagement and arts outreach, she serves as Director of Piano Pioneers, a program that brings high quality piano instruction to low-income community members and high-risk youth in Wisconsin.
John Chappell Stowe (below) is Professor of Organ and Harpsichord at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. He graduated from Southern Methodist University and Eastman School of Music, studying organ with Robert Anderson and Russell Saunders. Stowe holds the Doctor of Musical Arts degree and Performer’s Certificate from the Eastman School and was the first-place winner in 1978 of the National Open Organ Playing Competition of the American Guild of Organists. In his appearances throughout the United States as a solo organist, Stowe’s recital repertoire includes a wide variety of literature extending from 1550 to the present day. His programming reflects both strong commitment to contemporary music and dedication to great repertoire of past generations.
Christopher Taylor (below) has performed extensively around the world, having appeared in recent years not only throughout the U.S. but in Russia, China, Korea, the Balkans, and elsewhere. Critics hail him as “frighteningly talented” (The New York Times) and “a great pianist” (The Los Angeles Times), and nu-merous awards have confirmed his high standing in the musical world (a Van Cliburn Competition Bronze Medal, an Avery Fisher Career Grant, an American Pianists’ Association Fellowship). Apart from concertizing, he has taught at UW-Madison since 2000 and pursues a wide variety of additional interests — most recently using his mathematical and computer skills in the design and construction of a new double-manual keyboard instrument.
Johannes Wallmann (below) joined UW Madison as Director of Jazz Studies in 2012. He previously taught at California State University East Bay, New York University, and at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. As a pianist, composer, and bandleader, Wallmann has released four critically acclaimed CDs, The Johannes Wallmann Quartet (1997), Alphabeticity (2003), Minor Prophets (2007), and The Coasts (2012). Over twelve years in New York City and five years in the San Francisco Bay Area, Wall Coasts (2012). Over 12 years in New York City and five years in the San Francisco Bay Area, Wallmann also established himself as a prolific sideman in styles as diverse as mainstream jazz and electric fusion, American spirituals, Cantonese pop music, and 20th century classical music. He has toured throughout North America and in Europe and Asia.
Todd Welbourne (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) is a pianist and chamber musician with appearances in this country as well as in Europe and South America. He has performed and given presentations on new music at national conferences of the Society of Electro/Acoustic Music (1995, 1997, 2009), the International Society for Electronic Arts, (1993, 1997, 2010), College Music Society (2001, 2003, 2006), and Music Teachers National Convention (1999, 2004) and has lectured and performed at new music festivals around the country. Welbourne uses the Yamaha Disklavier in his teaching providing students with the latest in teaching techniques and he has been an innovator in the area of interactive music performance systems using the Yamaha Disklavier and Max/MSP. He currently serves as Director of Graduate Studies at the School of Music.
GUEST ARTIST AND ALUMNUS
Madison native Dave Stoler (below) is one of the busier professional musicians in the Midwest, and was named 2009 Isthmus Jazz Personality of the Year. His current projects include the Tony Castaneda Latin Jazz Sextet and his own group, which has performed at Smalls Jazz Club in New York City. His CD “Urban Legends” features drummer Billy Hart, bassist Ron McClure and tenor saxophonists Rich Perry and Rick Margitza. He received a Master of Music degree from the University of Miami-Coral Gables in Jazz Performance, and a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Composition from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was a semi-finalist in the Thelonious Monk Piano Competition and the American Jazz Piano Competition, and a finalist in the Jacksonville Jazz Piano Competition.
Sponsors of The Piano Extravaganza are The Evjue Foundation, the charitable arm of The Capital Times, and UW-Madison Chancellor Emeritus Irving Shain.
ALERT: Our blog friend and radio host Rich Samuels at WORT-FM 89.9 writes: “On this Thursday, Feb. 27, I’ll be playing the following items which should help publicize the FREE concert this coming Saturday night by the Pro Arte Quartet . It takes place at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall and features an early quartet by Franz Joseph Haydn and a viola quintet by Anton Bruckner — with guest violist Samuel Rhodes of the Juilliard School and the Juilliard String Quartet — as well as the WORLD PREMIERE of Belgian composer Benoit Mernier’s String Quartet No. 3. The program should also help publicize the FREE open rehearsal wight he composer that same Thursday morning in Mills Hall from 9 a.m. to noon.
Here is the schedule of my 5-8 a.m. show “Anything Goes”: at 7:10 a.m. — the original Pro Arte Quartet’s December, 1933 recording of the final movement of the quartet by Maurice Ravel; at 7:18 a.m. — the present-day Pro Arte Quartet (below) and its recording (with UW-Madison pianist Christopher Taylor) of the final movement of William Bolcom‘s Piano Quintet No. 2, which was commissioned by the Pro Arte, performed and recorded for its centennial celebration two seasons ago; and at 7:25 a.m. — Invention No. 1 from Benoit Mernier’s “Five Inventions for Organ” (with the composer performing). I had to choose short selections because we’re in a pledge drive on Feb. 27, which mandates a certain amount of on-air fundraising.”
By Jacob Stockinger
Here is a special posting, a review written by frequent guest critic and writer for this blog, John W. Barker, who also took the performance photos. Barker (below) is an emeritus professor of Medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also is a well-known classical music critic who writes for Isthmus and the American Record Guide, and who hosts an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT FM 89.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.
By John W. Barker
The Mosaic Chamber Players is a group of instrumentalists in the area who enjoy performing chamber works for a public that still needs to grow and appreciate the players and programs.
On Saturday night, three members of the group presented two examples of the rare idiom of trio for piano, violin and horn — the one by Johannes Brahms (1865), which was the trail-blazer in the idiom, and the one by the modern Hungarian composer Gyorgy Ligeti (below, 1923-2006), composed in 1982 as a tribute to the older composer.
The Ligeti work was given first, and a very sensible touch was to have a little background presentation on it by Sarah Schaffer, who is also a cellist with the Mosaic group.
Having the players contribute actual examples of passages in the Ligeti score, Schaffer (below) did a fine job of sketching the background of the composer and work, and demonstrating the thematic and motivic ideas out of which Ligeti crafted his work with such considerable skill.
It is, to be sure, a thorny work, tremendously demanding on the players, and posing obstacles of an arcane style on the listeners. But Schaffer’s lecture was most helpful. In this trio Ligeti was, after all, playing the avant-gardist taking on classical forms.
The work is in essentially the same four-movement format as the Brahms, echoing the latter, but in Ligeti’s own terms. Listeners can gradually get their bearings. I, for one, came to appreciate the Lamento finale as packed with very moving beauty. (You can hear that finale in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
The style of Brahms (below) 117 years earlier is, of course, much more congenial to our ears, even if this trio is not that often performed. It also contrasts directly with Ligeti’s counterpart work in its rationale.
Whereas Ligeti pits the three players against each other, as veritable opponents, Brahms treats them as collaborators and partners. He retains their individuality: the muscularity of the piano, the sweetness of the violin, and the horn’s rugged suggestion of the forests and the hunt. And yet, the power of the horn is tamed, and made to consort comfortably with the violin, under the piano’s firm supervision.
The performers (below) were members of the group founded by pianist Jess Salek, who was joined in these two trios by violinist Laura Burns and hornist Brad Sinner. They had invested a good three months in working on the Ligeti, I was told, and their mastery of this very tricky score showed how deeply they had come to understand and appreciate it. (Its difficulties were highlighted by the use of not one but two page-turners for the players.)
The spirit with which they tackled it was appropriately transferred to the Brahms, in a rousing performance.
Barely over 30 people attended the concert, held in the historic old Landmark auditorium in the Meeting House of the First Unitarian Society of Madison. The Mosaic Players will return there on Sunday evening, June 8, for a concert of Cesar Franck and Franz Schubert. I certainly will be there. Why not you, too?
By Jacob Stockinger
This post is more of a reminder and an embellishment than something that is brand new.
It is a reminder that on this coming Saturday, March 1, at 8 p.m in Mills Hall, the UW-Madison’s Pro Arte Quartet will give a FREE concert that features the WORLD PREMIERE of the String Quartet No. 3 by Belgian composer Benoit Mernier (below). The concert to celebrate the historic centennial of the Pro Arte Quartet — which is now the long lived active quartet in history — had been postponed from the original date last Fall.
The guest artist of the night is the former Juilliard String Quartet violist Samuel Rhodes (below, in a photo by Peter Schaaf). The program includes an early quartet by Franz Joseph Haydn (Op. 20, No. 4, in D Major) and the String Quintet in F Major by Anton Bruckner, which has a soulful and elegy-like slow movement that you can hear in a YouTube video at the bottom.
The Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) commissioned the Mernier Quartet as part of its centennial celebration two years ago, and the group will take in on a tour to Belgium, the original home of the Pro Arte Quartet this May. It will even play again in the same royal court where the Pro Arte was once the official court quartet. (Its current members, below from left, are first violinist David Perry, second violinist Suzanne Beia, violist Sally Chisholm and cellist Parry Karp.)
The outstanding blog “Fanfare” that is done by concert manager Kathy Esposito at the UW School of Music recently posted an interview, with historic background, that critic Mike Muckian, who often writes for Brava magazine, did with Benoit Mernier (below in a photo by Lise Mernier) and appeared on the terrific blog “Fanfare” at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music:
Also, I want to remind everyone that the concert will be preceded at 7:15 p.m. by a public conversation-interview with the composer, also to be held in Mills Hall, in a home or living room environment with a light, carpet and cozy chairs – as was done to years ago with other composers (below, is music critic John W. Barker talking with composer Walter Mays on the left and cultural historian Joseph Horowitz on the right.)
For more information about the various events and background, including an open quartet rehearsal with the composer on Thursday from 9 a,m. to noon in Mills Hall, and a “Sunday Afternon Live From the Chazen” Museum broadcast 12:30 to 2 p.m. of the quartet’s second performance on Wisconsin Public Radio, visit the Pro Arte Quartet website (below):
I hope to be there and I hope to see you there.
By Jacob Stockinger
Is that an early Spring The Ear hears coming to Middleton, Wisconsin?
The very appealing and very accessible all-masterpiece Winter Concert by the Middleton Community Orchestra (below) is this Wednesday night, Feb. 26, at 7:30 p.m. at the Middleton Performing Arts Center that is attached to Middleton High School.
Tickets are $10 and are available at the door and at the Willy St. Coop West. Students are free. You can get tickets at the door on the night of the show. The box office opens at 6:30 p.m,; doors open at 7 p.m.
The concert — which is guaranteed to increase your respect for and love of amateur music-making — features three professional guest artists: guest conductor Kevin McMahon (below top), maestro of the Sheboygan Symphony Orchestra; violinist Eleanor Bartsch (below middle); and violist Daniel Kim (below bottom). All three are distinguished graduates of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, where they received various scholarships, and won awards, prizes and honors.
The MCO program of “great classical hits” includes: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s fetchingly lovely and dramatic Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola; the high-spirited “Capriccio Espagnol” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov; and the lyrical, pastoral-like Symphony No. 2 in D Major by Johannes Brahms, which is often compared to Ludwig van Beethoven’s famous and popular Symphony No. 6, the famous “Pastoral Symphony. (You can check out the opening movement of the Brahms, as performed by Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, in a popular YouTube video at the bottom).
Plus, the atmosphere is casual and informal, and the seats are quite comfortable.
Usually there is no intermission to the 90-minute or so MCO concert, but this time there WILL indeed be an intermission in the program, which runs Mozart, Rimsky-Korsakov, Intermission and then Brahms. (I prefer no intermission. Once I get in The Zone, I like to stay there and not emerge and then try to re-enter it.) But there will be snacks, and time to meet and greet other audience members as well as the musicians.
In some ways, The Ear thinks such a community orchestra and its concert practices provide a model that professional organizations ought to consider adopting if they want to attract newer, younger audiences and cut down on the ticket prices by reducing rehearsal costs and rentals fees.
If you still need some motivation here is a link of a review I did in 2012 of one of the MCO concerts. You can also find very positive review by guest blogger John W. Barker by using the search engine on this blog.
I asked MCO co-founder and orchestra player Mindy Taranto why the usual conductor Steve Kurr (below) was not conducting: “MCO enjoyed guest conductors maestros John DeMain (of the Madison Symphony Orchestra) and David Becker (from UW-Madison and Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin) for one week readings last year, and we decided that it was a good artistic opportunity for the players to experience playing under different conductors,” she told The Ear. “Kevin has been wonderful to work with and the orchestra has been very enthusiastic and inspired by his musical ideas and with the way he has engaged all of us during rehearsals for the last two months. This will be a fantastic concert! The orchestra sounds very good!
Sounds terrific. So, The Ear says let’s check it out.
And here is a link to the Middleton Community Orchestra’s website with more information about this and other upcoming concerts (the one on June 4, with Edward Elgar’s “Enigma” Variations and Edvard Grieg’s beloved Piano Concerto in A Minor featuring soloist Thomas Kasdorf, sounds like a MUST-HEAR) as well as information about how to support it and even join it.
By Jacob Stockinger
For quite some time now, NPR has featured “Tiny Desk Concerts” — classical, jazz, folk, roots music — during which major performers play live in the crowded NPR studio. They are easy to link to and stream over your computer or maybe even your TV set these days. (NPR books great guests, including, below bottom, superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma.)
You can also find NPR links to and archives of other live performances -– often through radios stations such as WQXR-FM in New York City and WGBH in Boston –- and include a recital of live music in major halls and venues, including one of Franz Joseph Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven, Claude Debussy and Frederic Chopin by the acclaimed Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes at Carnegie Hall (below). And there are many, many others.
And now Deceptive Cadence seems to be acting like musical anthropologist. The time they went out “into the field” – that is, not in the usual venues and concert halls.
That’s not unheard of, of course. That is how the great composer Bela Bartok (below) started out as a musical anthropologist or ethnologist of Hungarian and Romanian folk music, and then used his research to morph into one of the pioneers of musical modernism. Chopin used Polish music like the mazurka to create a new Romanticism. And in American folk music, the musical anthropology of Alan Lomax is legendary.
Specifically, NPR went to the piano factory of Steinway and Sons in New York City and recorded the red-hot glam pianist Yuja Wang playing the fiercely difficult Toccata in D Minor, Op. 11, with all its hypnotic repetition of a single note, by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev on a brand new Steinway concert grand. (You can see and hear it in a YouTube video at the bottom. Don’t forget to click on the icon that is second from the right to enlarge the video image to fill your computer screen.)
The music and the physical virtuosity or dexterity is amazing to behold.
It is also kind of cute and informal to watch the diminutive figure of the glamorous Wang playing difficult cert music in a cold, wood-strewn and equipment-strewn warehouse in fingerless wool hobo gloves that go up her forearm –- but only after she uses the reflective fallboard above the keys to put on glossy lipstick and so complete her outfit of black fur-like boa, black stiletto heels and geometrically high fashion black-and-white dress.
Ah! Those tribal ceremonies and native attire!
Anyway, here is a link to the performance by Yuja Wang at the Steinway and Sons factory in the borough of Queens, not the usual Steinway showroom in Manhattan where most pianists test and choose pianos for their performances.
The Tiny Desk Concerts archive has lots of kinds of live performances.
For example, here is the famed Kronos Quartet (below) doing a recent Tiny Desk Concert featuring its latest recordings. Many other such concerts by other artists have been archived and are readily accessible:
And here is a link to the archive, with links to other older archives, of music Live in Performance housed at NPR. It includes chamber music, orchestral music (below is the Mideast peace-promoting Palestinian-Israeli West-Eastern Divan Orchestra under co-founder and director Daniel Barenboim in Carnegie Hall), operas and recitals:
ALERT: The accomplished and always popular Lawrence Chamber Players, from the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music in Appleton, Wisconsin, will perform on this weekend’s edition of “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen” on Wisconsin Public Radio (88.7 FM in the Madison area). The FREE concert is in Brittingham Gallery III of the art museum at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and airs live from 12:30 to 2 p.m. The program includes the Piano Quartet No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 60, by Johannes Brahms; Duos for Violin and Viola by Elliott Carter, and the Sonata for Viola and Piano by Juan Orrego-Salas. As always, the host will be WPR’s Lori Skelton.
By Jacob Stockinger
Attention, all early music fans!
Major organizers, with their hometowns, include: Brett Lipshutz, Monica Steger and Christine Hauptly Annin, who all live in Milwaukee; and Eric Miller and Theresa Koenig, who live in Madison.
Brett Lipschutz and Monica Steger — you can hear them with cellist Anton Ten Wolde and harpsichordist Max Yount — performing flute music by Baroque master Georg Philipp Telemann in a YouTube video at the bottom — recently cooperated to answer an email Q&A by The Ear to give readers more information:
When and why did the collective come into being?
The idea began when Monica moved to Milwaukee. Being two of a very small disparate group of musicians playing on period instruments, they wanted to create more activity locally.
Having to travel all of the time to play with good musicians didn’t seem logical, considering the size of Milwaukee. The idea then went from local to statewide in the hopes of connecting a broad base of period musicians, regardless of affiliation.
Our first informal public gathering was July 3, 2013. Brett Lipshutz, Monica Steger, Eric Miller (below), Theresa Koenig, and Christine Hauptly-Annin came together to do open public rehearsals just to bring some awareness to historically informed performance practice.
We know that there are many musicians playing Baroque music on period instruments in Wisconsin, but some feel isolated. The collective offers an opportunity for such musicians to find like-minded colleagues with whom to collaborate, as well as a way to encourage improvement in performance through peer review or studying with guests we would like to bring here. (Below are the Madison Bach Musicians, who will perform a FREE program of J.S. Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, Corelli and Scarlatti this Saturday from noon to 1 p.m. at the Grace Episcopal Church, 116 West Washington Avenue, on the Capitol Square downtown.)
What does such a statewide collective say about the state of early music and how established it is among the general public by now?
Because this is such a new endeavor, the Collective is just starting to be discussed among musicians interested in developing such a community. It might take a bit of time and exposure for the general public to catch on. The emphasis now is the music and the people who play it. The hope is that this emphasis will create excitement about projects that lead to audience education and development.
How many members or chapters belong to it now and where are they located? How does the collective benefit its musician members?
This collective has just gotten started, and we have about 10 musicians in the Madison and Milwaukee areas who have participated in reading sessions and informal public performances, or concerts. But there are more and more who are expressing interest.
What is the plan of concerts and events that the collective has in mind? Do you have other projects such as recordings or special plans in mind?
At this point, members of the Collective have been creating concerts and playing for events under the name of the Wisconsin Baroque Musicians Collective. We’ve also had a music reading session and plan to do them on a regular basis. This includes discussions about relevant peripheral elements such as aesthetics of music, etc. (Below is a concert from the annual Madison early music Festival that takes place every July.)
Are there special aspects of Baroque music – composers, works, instruments (below) – that you expect to champion and educate the public about?
We want our audiences to learn to be curious about the music and its cultural context. Much of the music we play is enjoyable upon the first hearing, but we want to encourage listeners to take a “deep dive” into learning about styles and philosophies informing the music as well as the underlying systems that make the music’s narrative apparent.
How do musicians, presenters or the general public contact you and learn about you?
Musicians interested in playing Baroque music on period instruments are encouraged and welcome to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We also have a basic informational webpage up at www.harmonyhallforall.com/collective.
Because we are just beginning, our performances are mostly informal and sporadic. However, presenters can contact us for a list of potential projects that group members have expressed interest in realizing in the next couple of years.
ALERT: This Saturday from noon to 1 p.m., Grace Episcopal Church (below), downtown on the Capitol Square at 116 West Washington Avenue, will present a FREE early music concert of works by J.S. Bach, Vivaldi, Corelli, Scarlatti and Handel by the Madison Bach Musicians under the direction of keyboardist Trevor Stephenson.
By Jacob Stockinger
The concert will open with a modern Concerto Grosso by the 20th-century Italian composer Vittorio Giannini, another of the WCO discoveries of neglected or unknown composers. Then the young and critically acclaimed cellist Joshua Roman will join the WCO (below) in Franz Joseph Haydn’s Cello Concerto in D Major. The concert will close with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s masterful Symphony No. 41 “Jupiter.”
Tickets are $15-$67 and can be obtained from the Overture Center box office 212 State Street or by calling (608_ 258-4141. You can also visit http://wcoconcerts.org/performances/masterworks/70/event-info/ http://ev12.evenue.net/cgi-bin/ncommerce3/SEGetEventList?groupCode=WCO_E&linkID=overture&shopperContext=&caller=&appCode=
Haydn and Mozart (below, left is Haydn and right is Mozart) are often mentioned in the same breath and the same sentences if they were identical or fraternal twins — much like Beethoven and Schubert, or Ravel and Debussy.
So The Ear really likes this kind of contrast-and-compare program that helps to underline the similarities and especially the differences between two composers who were contemporaries and sometimes even colleagues who learned from each other and played in the same string quartet. In that spirit, I recently asked WCO’s longtime music director Andrew Sewell (below) to discuss the program and especially the Classical-era composers whom he is so convincing at interpreting:
Haydn and Mozart are often lumped in together as Classical-era contemporaries. What makes each composer so distinctive? What makes Mozart, Mozart and Haydn, Haydn?
It’s a question of style. They both used classical conventions and were each experimenting constantly, seeing what worked for their audiences. Haydn (below top) was for the longest time confined to writing for a specific audience, at the Esterhazy Palace in Eisenstadt as opposed to Mozart (below bottom), who moved from Salzburg to Vienna, and spent time in Paris as well.
The geographical demands of each musical center framed, I think, the level of sophistication being determined by their audience and who they were writing for. Mozart’s symphonies written for the Parisian orchestra and audience had more virtuosity factored in. They had clarinets, and a slightly bigger wind section. They used “flash and sparkle.”
Haydn’s 12 symphonies commissioned by Salomon for the London Salon Concerts were more refined and experimental than before. Again the orchestra was larger, and he had top quality musicians at his disposal, achieving a greater level of virtuosity.
What can you tell us about the Concerto Grosso by Vittorio Giannini (below)? How did you find out about it and why are you attracted to him and to that work? Why do you think it is so little known and rarely performed?
I first conducted a work by Giannini with a high school orchestra in Salem, Oregon in 2012 while guest conducting the Salem Chamber Orchestra. It included several school visits as part of a week-long residency. The work was Prelude and Fugue for String Orchestra. I kept a copy of the score, and was both enchanted and curious about other works by this composer.
He was born in Philadelphia, was a prodigy on the violin and spent time studying at the Milan Conservatory and the Juilliard School. He founded the North Carolina School of the Arts, as a “Juilliard of the South,” in 1965. His music is both Romantic and Expressionist. He wrote five symphonies and five concertos and several radio operas in the 1930s. His father was an opera singer as were two of his sisters, who sang at the Metropolitan Opera.
After conducting the Prelude and Fugue, I was curious about his Concerto Grosso. It is Baroque in form as the title suggests but stylistically would remind one of Hindemith. Written in 1955, it reflects the current trends at the time that took music to more strident, poignant and angular sonorities.
I hope performing his music will rekindle interest in his music, and I may program his Prelude and Fugue at a later date. Why did I choose this piece? Because in contrast to the very familiar names of Haydn and Mozart, this presents the other extreme. In fact, with a name like Vittorio Giannini, one is apt to mistake him as a period equivalent to say, Handel or Vivaldi, and the composition is entitled Concerto Grosso!
What would you like to say about the young cello soloist Joshua Roman and how he came to your attention to book for the WCO?
I first heard Joshua Roman perform with the University of Wisconsin Symphony Orchestra in November of 2012, and was very impressed by him. He played the Dvorak Cello Concerto, and afterwards I asked him what he would like to play if he were to return to perform with the WCO? He chose Haydn. His pedigree is such that at the age of 22, he won the Principal Cello position with the Seattle Symphony. He did this for two years before embarking on a successful solo career. He is a very engaging performer who makes the cello literally “sing” when he plays.
Do you have any other programming plans in the works like this Haydn-Mozart program to “compare and contrast” major composers -– say with, perhaps, Beethoven and Schubert, Schumann and Brahms, Debussy and Ravel?
I think one is always putting together programs that compare and contrast each other. Whether consciously or otherwise, it’s what fits together in a balanced program. This Haydn-Mozart program wasn’t a conscious “compare and contrast” decision. It really stems from a more fundamental question of programming. Once you establish the soloist’s repertoire, it’s a matter of putting a program together within the context of the five-concert Masterworks season.
But you do raise a good point. I chose Mozart’s Symphony No. 41, as it is his last and, in my opinion, greatest symphony. The last movement (below in a popular YouTube video with more than 1 million hits) is incredible, particularly as it contains a fugue, the subject of which is introduced in a very subliminal way at end of the trio of the previous movement. It is pure genius and so joyful. In contrast, the genteel nature of the last movement of the Haydn Cello Concerto makes that piece seem jaunty in comparison. Yet they are both highly sophisticated pieces.
ALERT: The concert of chamber music by Mozart, Verdi and Puccini next Tuesday night, Feb. 25, by the Rhapsodie Quartet (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson) of the Madison Symphony Orchestra has been CANCELLED.
By Jacob Stockinger
Word reaches The Ear with an intriguing and appealing tavern concert with some outstanding music by the laudable local chapter of a national populist movement that brings classical music to non-traditional audiences in non-traditional venues such as bar, cafes and coffee houses. Many of the members and performers come from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music:
“Classical Revolution Madison will be back with a jam-packed show of classical and contemporary favorites at Brocach Irish Pub (below) on the Capitol Square, 7 West Main Street) on Thursday, February 20th at 7 p.m.
From 7-8 p.m., members of CRM (below) will present a dynamic program featuring works by Brahms, Shostakovich, Haydn, and more! (See below for more information on the pieces and performers)
Then, from 8-9 p.m., we will open up the floor for anyone who wants to sight read or jam, so come with your fiddle or the sheet music of your favorite chamber work if you would like to join in on some casual music making!
We look forward to seeing you there!
Zou Zou Robidoux and Emily O’Leary
Here is the program for the Brocach appearance:
Clarinet Quintet by Johannes Brahms
Kai-Ju Ho, clarinet (below)
Thalia Coombs and Nathan Giglierano, violins
Mara Rogers, viola
Zou Zou Robidoux, cello
II. Poco adagio; cantabile
Tony Oliva and Keisuke Yamamoto, violins
Marissa Reinholz, viola
Chris Peck, cello
Excerpts from “Duo” by the 20th-century American composer Walter Piston (below)
Mara Rogers, viola
Tori Rogers, cello
Tom Leighton, tenor
Emily O’Leary, piano
III. Allegro non troppo
Thalia Coombs and Teddy Wiggins, violins
Mikko Utevsky, viola (below)
Rachel Bottner, cello