The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: This Wednesday night, warm up to Spring with the Middleton Community Orchestra, which will perform music by Mozart, Brahms and Rimsky-Korsakov with guest violin and viola soloists and a guest conductor, who are all distinguished graduates of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. | February 23, 2014

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.

Middleton Community Orchestra press photo1

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.

Kevin McMahon

Eleanor Bartsch

Daniel Kim 2014

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.

MIddleton Community Orchestra audience

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.

Middleton Community Orchestra reception

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!

Steve Kurr conducting

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.

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  1. In general, I like to go straight through with no intermission. But when the works are a bit longer (say a total of more than a CD’s worth of music), I think all involved need a few minutes of rest. For this concert, an intermission is a must, not just for length but also for intensity.
    For the June MCO concert, I am still undecided: program length will be around 1:10-1:20 depending on tempos. But the Enigma is broken into smaller chunks and many instruments have a movement or 2 off. Stay tuned.

    It has been a treat and a privilege working with Maestro McMahon. His great skill and expertise has taught us all so much. I will still be on stage for the show this week: I get to play timpani for the Rimsky-Korsakov and viola for Brahms. But I get to sit back and listen to the Mozart–sublime!

    Comment by Steve Kurr — February 23, 2014 @ 10:40 am

    • Hi Steve,
      Thank you for clarifying so much with details.
      Glad to know you will be playing and listening this week.
      As for June’s program, it seems like another one worthy of an intermission.
      But overall I agree with you: I prefer to go straight through and think it would be good to have programs in the future that do just that.
      Good luck to the MCO in the future.

      Comment by welltemperedear — February 23, 2014 @ 11:37 am

  2. For a program of this length, the absence of an intermission seems unconscionable. As a player, I can’t imagine going through Capriccio Espagnol and the Sinfonia Concertante and not needing a few minutes to relax, especially before a massive work like Brahms 2. Are you certain that there will not be one?

    Comment by Mikko Utevsky — February 23, 2014 @ 12:05 am

    • Hmmm,
      You may be right, Mikko. I will ask again and see.
      But no word about one this time.
      And that was the usual format when I heard an overture, a Mozart Piano Concerto and another Brahms symphony.
      Plus,when I add up timing from YouTube videos
      I get about 15 minutes for the Rimsky-‘Korsakov,
      about 33 for the Mozart Sinfonia Concertante
      and about 45-50 for the Brahms.
      That totals about 93-98 minutes,
      which doesn’t seem all that long,
      but could indeed include an intermission.
      So I will check and revise accordingly.
      Thanks for bringing it up.

      UPDATE: Mikko, you are indeed right.
      I am told there WILL indeed be an intermission this time.
      The program is Mozart, Rimsky-Kosakov, intermission and then Brahms.
      I will fix the post.
      I understand the need, but I still like concerts without intermission.
      Once in the zone, I like to stay there,
      not emerge and then reenter.
      Thank you for your sharp attentiveness.

      Comment by welltemperedear — February 23, 2014 @ 6:36 am

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