The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Sound Ensemble Wisconsin excels in a concert of songs, poetry and chamber music to a small audience hurt by competing concerts.

February 18, 2014
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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.

John-Barker

By John W. Barker

The Sound Ensemble Wisconsin is one of a number of new and enterprising chamber groups that has been developed in Madison in recent years.

This one is in its second season, and offered its second concert of that season in the Atrium auditorium of the First Unitarian Society of Madison on Sunday night.

The group’s premise is to seek “a provocative and original approach to chamber music.”

Something of that aim was represented in the unusual seating plan set up in the auditorium, with double ellipses (below) surrounding the performing space.

SEW setup Barker

Further, for this concert, the approach was to match a number of vocal and instrumental pieces with readings of the poetry that provided the inspiration or even the very texts for the selections.  These were read by Katrin Talbot (below, far right), herself a poet, as well as an admired photographer and violist.

SEW Katrin Talbot Barker

The first half of the program offered (though not in this order) some songs. One, by Debussy, “Nuit d’etoiles” (Starry Night) , was sung by soprano Rachel Eve Holmes (below right) with pianist Jess Salek.  They were joined by violinist Mary Theodore, the group’s guiding spirit, and cellist Maggie Townsend to present one of Franz Joseph Haydn’s settings of Scottish folk songs.

SEW songs Barker

Without the soprano, this trio went on to present the Three Nocturnes of Ernest Bloch. The trio in turn yielded to a quintet (below), with Susanne Beia and Mary Perkinson, violins, and Chris Dozoryst and Jen Paulson, violas, joining Townsend in Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Nocturne and Scherzo for String Quintet — for which Holmes returned to sing the English folksong, which inspired that gentle and thoughtful music.

SEW sextet Barker

The high point came as the closing music, Arnold Schoenberg’s string sextet (below), “Verklärte Nacht” (Transfigured Night), with cellist Parry Karp, acting as a last-minute substitution for Karl Lavine, joining the previous quintet.

In the past I have found that I much prefer the original chamber form of this remarkable 1899 work over the more commonly heard adaptation of it for string orchestra; though, to be honest, one does not often have a chance to hear either in live performances.  The chamber version allows the richly complex six-part writing to be heard more clearly, without the lush overload of the orchestral version. (You can hear it for yourself at the bottom in the YouTube video of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center playing the opening of “Transfigured Night.”)

SEW Schoenberg sextet Barker

I have also found that this outpouring of late-Romantic, hyper-chromatic polyphony makes particular sense when one can experience this music not only played close-up, as in this concert, but also in plain view.

The result is that one can really see as well as hear which instrument is doing what as the piece unfolds.  I note, in fact, that, thanks to this hearing, I understood better than before the important role of the first viola, even amid the propelling forces of Beia and Karp. All the players were caught up in a unified and impassioned performance that was simply riveting.

It was a pity that barely 30 people turned up as an audience.  Perhaps that was due to so much competition, including the Madison Symphony Orchestra concert among other things.

Still, those who attended certainly came away feeling richly rewarded by this experience, and with heightened awareness of the stimulating contributions to the Madison chamber music scene that SEW is making.

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Classical music: It will be a busy week with many FREE concerts of many different kinds of music at the University of Wisconsin School of Music. Plus, the Miro Quartet of Austin, Texas, will perform Haydn, Schubert and Philip Glass on Friday night.

February 17, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

The next two weeks will be especially busy ones at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

All save one of the concerts will be FREE, and they include orchestral music, percussion, strings, winds and even lectures linking science and music.

The one major non-free exception is a notable MUST-HEAR: The acclaimed Miro Quartet (below) as presented by the Wisconsin Union Theater, will perform on Friday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall. The Miro Quartet is in residence at the University of Texas-Austin. (You can hear it playing Beethoven in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

miro quartet informal

The program of Classical and contemporary masterpieces of features the “Lark” Quartet, Op. 64, No. 5, by Franz Joseph Haydn; Franz Schubert’s well-known and the String Quartet No. 14 “Death and the Maiden”; and Philip Glass’ Quartet No. 5 (1991).

Tickets are $25 for the general public; $21 for UW faculty and staff and for Memorial Union members; and $10 for UW students.

Here is a link to more information that includes tickets, sound samples and critical reviews:

http://www.uniontheater.wisc.edu/Season13-14/Miro-String-Quartet.html

miro quartet playing

TUESDAY

At 7:30 p.m.in Mills Hall, the accomplished UW Chamber Orchestra, under the baton of director James Smith, the Overture to “La scale di seta”  (The Silk Ladder) by Gioacchino Rossini;
 the Chamber Symphony by Franz Schreker; the
 “Classical” Symphony by Sergei Prokofiev; and the
 “Winter’s Tale” by Lars-Erik Larsson.

UW Chamber Orchestra entire

WEDNESDAY

At 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, guest artist Todd Reynolds (below) will give a FREE recital. Reynolds is the violinist of choice for such well known individual and ensemble performers as composers as Steve Reich and Meredith Monk and the group Bang on a Can. He violinist, composer, educator and technologist is known as one of the founding fathers of the hybrid-musician movement.

Todd Reynolds will be performing compositions of his own from his critically acclaimed 2011 CD “Outerborough,” including music by Michael Gordon, David Little, Michael Lowenstern and Ingram Marshall, and a couple of pieces written and improvised  especially for the evening, right there, from the stage and in real time.

Todd Reynolds

THURSDAY

At 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Western Percussion Ensemble (below) will perform a concert that features the monumental work “Strange and Sacred Noise” by the contemporary American composer John Luther Adams (below), whose work was also featured recently by Clocks in Motion. Directors of the Western Percussion Ensemble are Tom Ross and Anthony Di Sanza.

Western Percussion Ensemble

FRIDAY

At 7 p.m. in the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery (below), at 330 North Orchard Street, across from the Union South, the ongoing SoundWaves program, curated by UW hornist Daniel Grabois, program will explore the science and art of wood. Here is a summary that, unfortunately, offers no information about the music and specific topics and speakers:

Wood You Could You? The Science and Music of Wood

“SoundWaves combines scientific lectures about the world with live classical music performances. Each event revolves around a theme, exploring it first from many scientific angles and then through the lens of music. The program concludes with a live performance of music related to the evening’s theme.

“The science lectures are delivered using language that the curious layman can understand, with a minimum of jargon and formulas. The music lectures, while demanding careful listening, are likewise designed for the layman and not the specialist.

“Every SoundWaves event brings UW-Madison scientists from several departments together with UW-Madison School of Music faculty performers to explore a topic that is relevant to our world and our lives. SoundWaves is free and open to the public. This series generally is held in the evening at the Town Center of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.’

8 p.m. in Mills Hall: The Miro Quartet. (See above.)

WID_night10_2152

SATURDAY

At 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Wind Ensemble (below) will give concert under director Scott Teeple that features the Wisconsin premiere of a work by composer Roger Zare

Works on the program include “Smetana Fanfare,” by Karol Husa; “Mar Tranquillitatis (Sea of Tranquility),” by Roger Zare (Wisconsin premiere); and “Ecstatic Waters for Wind Ensemble and Electronics,” by Steven Bryant.

UW School of Music

SUNDAY

At 2 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Concert Band will perform under Mike Leckrone (below). Sorry, no details about the program are available yet.

leckrone

Then at at 3:30 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall, the Hunt Quartet will perform a FREE concert. The program includes Franz Joseph Haydn’s “Sunrise” Quartet, Op. 76, No. 4, and Bela Bartok’s String Quartet No. 1.

The Hunt Quartet (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) is comprised of outstanding graduate students from the School of Music, and is sponsored by the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

This year’s members (from the left) include Ju Dee Ang, Elspeth Stalter-Clouse, Paran Amirinazari and Lindsey Crabb.

hunt quartet 2013-14

 

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Classical music: Court victories favoring same-sex marriage equality and an extended Valentine’s Day weekend add up to a magical and loving mix for musical partners, including opera star Patricia Racette, who comes out as a lesbian.

February 16, 2014
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ALERT: If you are undecided about going to this afternoon’s concert at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall by the Madison Symphony Orchestra with Norwegian trumpet soloist Tine Thing Helseth (below), here are links to positive reviews by John W. Barker for Isthmus and by Greg Hettmansberger for Madison Magazine’s blog “Classically Speaking”:

http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=42078&sid=4d977189e5be9d039af0d641c547219f

http://www.madisonmagazine.com/Blogs/Classically-Speaking/February-2014/Madison-Symphony-Gives-the-Large-Variety-Box-for-Valentines-Day/

Tine Thing Helseth big profile

By Jacob Stockinger

Well, when a holiday falls on a Friday – like Valentine’s Day this year — one can be forgiven for prolonging it over the weekend, don’t you think?

But it seems a good chance to blend two recent stories and trend lines that are increasingly coming together.

And coming out.

One is the recent various court victories for marriage equality, or same-sex marriage, or gay marriage. Whatever you want to call it, it seems to becoming more and more a legal and social reality with every week that passes.

gay marriage in suits

And those legal victories lead to more and more gays and lesbians coming out, including the star football player and top NFL draft possibility star Michael Sam (below top) and “Juno” actress Ellen Page (below bottom).

Here is a link to a New York Times story about Michael Sam:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/10/sports/michael-sam-college-football-star-says-he-is-gay-ahead-of-nfl-draft.html?_r=0

Michael Sam in football uniform

And here is a link to a Washington Post story about Ellen Page:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/juno-actress-ellen-page-comes-out-as-gay/2014/02/15/f3327800-9627-11e3-ae45-458927ccedb6_story.html

Ellen Page

As for Valentine’s Day, imagine what how rewarding it could be to work cooperatively in the performing arts with your life partner and love.

That is exactly what was documented in a recent story on NPR’s great blog “Deceptive Cadence.”

NPR highlighted various musical couples in classical music who met in a musical setting and fell in love while working, and who now get to work together.

And for good measure, they included the Metropolitan Opera star soprano Patricia Racette (below top, out of costume, and below bottom in the title role of Puccini’s “Tosca”), who openly talks about what a great marriage she has with her female partner. (You can hear Patricia Racette as the title character Cio-Cio-San sing the finale of Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” at the Metropolitan Opera in a popular YouTube video at the bottom.)

Patricia Racette soprano

Patricia Racette in Tosca

Of course, most of the couples are heterosexual in the story just as they are in real life. And we have seen some of them – tenor Stephen Costello (below top) at the Madison Opera‘s Opera in the Park as well as cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han (below bottom) at the Wisconsin Union Theater, in Madison.

Fort Worth Opera 2008

Wu Han and David Finckel BIG

But it is both sensitive and brave of NPR, which is always under the gun and budget knife of the self-righteous and nutty right-wing extremists and homophobes, to do the story.

Here is a link:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/02/11/273159447/classical-couples-sweethearts-sharing-the-stage

One can only hope and imagine the chain reaction that is to happen as each coming out brings several more, as bravery and tolerance build, and as the visible becomes visible.

Saint Valentine -– at least my Saint Valentine — would be very pleased.

Saint Valentine

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Classical music: The German hunka-hunka tenor Jonas Kaufmann is profiled at length as he heads into the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Massenet’s “Werther” and prepares for his Carnegie Hall debut next Sunday. Plus, Sony releases his CD of Schubert’s “Winterreise.”

February 15, 2014
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ALERT:  The University of Wisconsin School of Music’s Guest Artist series will present flutist Sarah Frisof (below) of the University of Kansas and pianist-composer Daniel Pesca in a FREE recital on this Sunday night at 7 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall.  The program includes Ballade by Frank Martin; Sonata in E minor by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach; “A Memory of Melisande” and “Brief Pause” by Daniel Pesca; and Sonata No. 1 in A Major for Violin by Gabriel Faure (transcribed by Stallman).

Frisof trained at the University of Michigan, the Juilliard School theEastman School of Music. She was a semi-finalist in the 2009 Kobe International Flute Competition, and 2nd Prize winner of both the National Flute Associations’ Young Artist Competition in 2008 and the Heida Hermann?s International Woodwind Competition in 2007. Dr. Frisof is the principal flute of the Dallas Wind Symphony and a frequent performer with the Dallas Symphony. She has performed with the Chicago Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Detroit Symphony and Boston Symphony. Daniel Pesca (b. 1985) is currently pursuing a DMA in Composition at the Eastman School of Music. He is the recipient of many commissions; his work for wind ensemble. Pieces by Pesca have been performed by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, the Huntsville (Alabama) Symphony Orchestra, and Eastman’s Musica Nova.

Sarah Frisof

By Jacob Stockinger

The 40-year-old German heart-throb tenor from Munich, Jonas Kaufmann is on a roll.

jonas kaufmann leather coat

Well, truth be told, he has been for years.

But this week seems a kind of trifecta for Jonas (pronounced Yonas) Kaufmann.

On Friday, Feb. 17, Maestro Hunka-Hunka opens the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of French composer Jules Massenet’s “Werther,” the opera based on the famous and influential early 19th century Storm-and-Stress novel by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Jonas Kaufmann in %22Met's Werther%22

Then two days later, Kaufmann makes his Carnegie Hall debut – presumably and unfortunately, if you have seen his Met production of Wagner’s “Parsifal” (below, in a photo by Sara Krulwich of The New York Times), with his shirt on — with a recital of Romantic songs by Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner. It seems rather late for his first appearance at Carnegie Hall, but I bet it is a sell-out.

The Ear hopes they have some smelling salts handy, just in case.

Jonas Kaufmann as Parsifal Sara Krulwich NYT

All that plus Sony Classical is releasing an album of Franz Schubert’s famous and season-appropriate song cycle “Winterreise” (Winter Journey, below top) on the heels of Kaufmann’s bestselling and critically acclaimed CDs for Decca Records of arias by Richard Wagner (below  bottom) and Giuseppe Verdi (below bottom and in a YouTube video of “La donna e mobile” from “Rigoletto” at the bottom of the post).

Jonas Kaufmann Winterreise CD cover

Kaufmann Wagner CD

Well, what can you say such success?

Not much.

But you can read about how Kaufmann’s career has developed and what kind of rather modest and thoughtful person lies behind the glamorous and charismatic tenor, who may be the first really BIG vocal and operatic talent to emerge in this century.

I mean, Kaufmann has it all: strength and endurance, great tone, variety and handsome looks.

Did I mention handsome looks?

Yep. Kaufmann is thoroughly beautiful in his singing and thoroughly believable in his acting. Now that is a combination devoutly to be wished, don’t you think?

Here is a link to the comprehensive profile of Jonas Kaufmann by Zachary Woolfe that shows just how much consideration goes into Kaufmann’s personal life and professional career. All that talent, plus he seems like a nice guy:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/09/arts/music/jonas-kaufmann-chooses-his-met-roles-carefully.html

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Classical music: Today is Valentine’s Day. What piece of music best celebrates love? Here are Limelight Magazine’s Top 10 Sexiest Moments in Classical Music. Leave some music and words for your Valentine right here. Plus, the University of Wisconsin School of Music has successfully reinvented the annual Concerto Competition Winners’ concert -– to loud approval and multiple standing ovations from a packed house.

February 14, 2014
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READER SURVEY: Today is Valentine’s Day. What is the best piece of romantic music you know of to listen to or to send to someone to celebrate this day? You can even leave a link to a YouTube video and a dedication in the COMMENT section. Here is a link to Limelight Magazine’s Top 10 Sexiest Moments in Classical Music:

http://www.limelightmagazine.com.au/Article/371934,the-10-sexiest-moments-in-classical-music.aspx

Cupid

By Jacob Stockinger

Little things can add up to a big difference.

Take the annual concert given by the winners (below) of this year’s concerto competition at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

Here are links to background of the event and the performers in the preview story that was posted  on this blog and and a link to the performers’ biographies that appeared on “Fanfare,” the outstanding bog of the UW School of Music:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/classical-music-education-the-university-of-wisconsin-school-of-music-ramps-up-its-annual-student-concerto-competition-concert-this-saturday-night-with-a-gala-reception/

http://uwmadisonschoolofmusic.wordpress.com/2014/01/07/symphony-showcase2013-14/

UW concerto winners 2014 Michael R. Anderson

Someone at the SOM (as the School of Music is referred to by insiders) rightly decided that the event deserved a higher public profile. (Except where noted, performance photos are by The Ear.)

So they made a few adjustments.

They booked Mills Hall for a Saturday night – last Saturday night, in fact — the best night of the week for entertainment events.

Then they rechristened the event the Symphonic Showcase, since the UW Symphony Orchestra (below with graduate student and assistant conductor Kyle Knox) is the common denominator and accompanies all the concerto winners and also premieres the winning piece by a student composer. The Ear likes that emphasis on collective or collaborative music-making.

They started the concert early, at 7 p.m.

That was because they also added a small and informal dessert reception from 9 to 11 p.m. — with all the proceeds of a $10 ticket going to a student scholarship fund — at the nearby Tripp Commons in the UW Memorial Union.

Kyle Knox and UW Symphony Orchestra

And what were the results?

Nothing short of a spectacular success.

Mills Hall was packed just about full (see the photo below by Michael R. Anderson).

uw concerto winner 2014 big audience Michael R. Anderson

And the big, enthusiastic audience greeted each performer with cheers and a standing ovation. And they deserved that. All of the winners played well and all chose great works to perform.

Here a rundown by contestant.

If you weren’t there -– well, you probably should regret it, You missed out on a lot of fun and a lot of beautiful music-making by a very impressive group of talented students. Maybe some state legislators were in the audience and will stop clowning around trying to micro-manage and ruin the UW while they say they’re really trying to fix it.

The evening started out with an orchestral showpiece, a kind of Romantic tone poem-concerto grosso that highlighted each section. That might be expected since the “Russian Easter” Overture came from Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, a master orchestrator who taught Igor Stravinsky the craft of scoring music.

Graduate student Kyle Knox (below) conducted and did a fine job of bouncing the music around to various sections and keeping a clear line.

Kyle Knox 2

Violinist Madlen Breckbill (below) confidently commanded the stage with an appropriately lyrical and heart-breaking reading of the first movement of Samuel Barber’s masterful Violin Concerto. It was a thoroughly convincing rebuff to those people and critics who say you need to hear a new piece of music several times to know it is great. This kind of greatness you get from the first notes.

Madlen Breckbill

Saxophonist Erika Anderson (below left) played and projected with absorbing conviction the new “Poema” (2014) by student composer 24-year-old Russian-born composer Daria Tennikova (below right), who writes in an impressively accessible yet thoroughly modern idiom.

Erika Anderson and Daria Tennikova

Clarinetist Kai-Ju Ho (below top) brought both lyricism and swing to Aaron Copland’s underperformed Clarinet Concerto, pleasing conductor James Smith (below bottom right), himself a very accomplished clarinetist who performed the same concerto five times under the composer.

Kai-Ju Ho

James Smith and UW Symphony Orchestra with clarinet soloist Kai-Ju Ho

SeungWha Baek (below top, playing; below bottom by Michael R. Anderson) brought out the sizzle and virtuosity in the dazzling first movement of Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3, with its ingenious Hanon-like five-finger exercise motif – except that this is no work for beginners, as you can see and hear at the bottom in a YouTube video with pianist Martha Argerich and conductor Andre Previn.

SeungWha Baek playing

UW concerto winners SeungWha Baek Michael R. Anderson 2014

Flutist Mi-Li Chang brought beautiful tone and playfulness, even Gallic charm, to the Concerto for Flute by Jacques Ibert.

Mi-Li Chang

And pianist Sung-Ho Yang brought the show to a close with a surprising subtle reading of Franz Liszt’s flashy and bombastic Piano Concerto No 1. The whole work is like one long cadenza – not one of the Ear’s favorites — so it was refreshing to hear Yang emphasize the quiet passages and subtlety, all the while bringing out the dialoguing back and forth between the piano and the orchestra.

Sung-Yo Yang playing

And after the music, we went to a quiet but friendly reception that featured coffee and tea as well as chocolate cake and pumpkin bars (below), set out much like a Wayne Thiebaud painting. It was a chance to meet the musicians and thank them for a splendid evening.

Chocolate cake al a Wayne Thiebaud

Pumpkin bars a la Wayne Thiebaud

Bravo to all.

The Ear is betting and hoping that next year will find the new format repeated.

Tinkering with failure is one thing.

But why tinker with success?

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Classical music: University of Wisconsin percussion group Clocks in Motion will give a FREE concert of unusual new music, including the world premiere of the winner of its first composing contest, this Sunday afternoon. Plus, on Saturday a harpsichord recital of Baroque masters will be given at the First Unitarian Society.

February 13, 2014
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ALERT: This Saturday night at 7 p.m. in the Landmark Auditorium at the historic Meeting House at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, Stephen Alltop of Northwestern University will give a harpsichord recital. The program features the music of Johann Sebastian Bach (Toccata in E minor, Preludes and Fugues in D major and D minor from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I), Domenico Scarlatti (two sonatas), Jean-Philippe Rameau (Suite in A Minor), Franz Joseph Haydn (Sonata No. 6 in G Major) and George Frideric Handel (Suite in G Minor). A free will offering will be taken. 

Stephen Alltop harpsichord

By Jacob Stockinger

Clocks in Motion, Madison’s cutting-edge new music ensemble, will present Unfamiliar Voices 1.0, an expansive program featuring music from both the heart of the established percussion ensemble literature and the forefront of modern percussion composition. 

The FREE performance is this coming Sunday, Feb. 16, at 3 p.m. in Mils Hall. It will celebrate composer and UW-Madison student Ben Davis, the 2014 Clocks in Motion Call for Scores winner, with the world premiere of his exciting new work, “Night.”

The ensemble will also perform the meditative percussion quartet, “Threads,” by Paul Lansky and the grand percussion sextet, “Kryptogramma,” by Georges Aperghis.

clocks in motion in concert

Ben Davis (below), a composer, trumpeter and teacher from Richmond, Virginia, writes for unique instruments built by Clocks in Motion. His new work employs sixxen — large aluminum keyboard instruments that are tuned microtonally (vastly different from the standard repeating 12-tone scale in most western music).

ben davis

The three sets of sixxen (below, in the foreground with other percussion instruments) in the piece are purposefully out of tune with each other, creating an entrancing sound cloud of beading frequencies for the listener.  In contrast, the other three players in the piece each play a bombastic multi-percussion setup of tom toms, snare drums, kick drums, and china cymbals.  Davis’ innovative work is sure to impress.

sixxen ensemble foreground-1

Paul Lansky (below) shares some insightful thoughts on his 2005 work: “Threads… is a half-hour long ‘cantata’ for percussion quartet in ten short movements. (You can hear it at the bottom in a YouTube video performance from the Peabody Conservatory of Music at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.)

Adds Lansky: “There are three “threads” that are interwoven in the piece: Arias and Preludes that focus on the metallic pitched sounds of vibraphones, glockenspiel and pipes; Choruses in which drumming predominates; and Recitatives made largely from John Cage-like noise instruments, bottles, flower pots, crotales, etc. The aim of the different threads is to highlight the wide range of qualities that percussion instruments are capable of, from lyrical and tender to forceful and aggressive, and weave them into one continuous ‘thread.’ The movements are performed without interruption.”

paul lansky

Georges Aperghis’ 1970 composition “Kryptogramma” is a massive undertaking. Puzzling instrumental combinations and bizarre rhythmic structures make this one of the most fascinating and complex percussion ensemble works ever written.

“Kryptogramma” means “concealed text/writing”.  In the  words of composer Aperghis (below): “Every cyptogram [in the piece] conceals a text or number sequence, behind which information is hidden…simple rhythms…are developed in a tapestry of soaring movements, and…subjected to a mass of variation.”

georges aperghis

Clocks in Motion members are Dave Alcorn, Jennifer Hedstrom, Sean Kleve, Michael Koszewski James McKenzie, and Joseph Murfin.  For the concert on Feb. 16, Clocks in Motion will welcome percussionists Vincent Mingils and Somali Wilson as guest performers.

All performers are either current or former students of the UW-Madison percussion studio.

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, Rhapsody Arts Center, University of Michigan, Baldwin-Wallace University, and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.

Admission is free. For more information, including repertoire, upcoming events, biographies, and media, visit http://clocksinmotionpercussion.com.

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Classical music: Sound Ensemble Wisconsin performs music and poems about love and night this Sunday evening. Plus, three guitarists perform new music for FREE this Friday at noon.

February 12, 2014
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ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale from 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the Landmark auditorium of the historic First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright will feature guitarists Jamie Guiscafre (below), Chris Allen and Chris Murray in new music of Margaret Brouwer, Dan Cosely, Guiscafre and Justin Merritt.

Jaime Guiscafre

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following announcement violinist and SEW founder Mary Theodore about an appealing and unusual combined concert and poetry reading that is coming up this Sunday afternoon:

“Sound Ensemble Wisconsin (below are some SEW musicians) follows November’s highly successful opening to their second season, “Sound Stories,” with a concert on Sunday, Feb. 16, at 5:45 p.m. at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, the historic landmark designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Performers for this concert are SEW musicians violinist Suzanne Beia, violist Chris Dozoryst, Jen Paulson, violinist Mary Perkinson, pianist Jess Salek, violinist Mary Theodore, Maggie Townsend, and guest artists cellist Karl Lavine and soprano Rachel Eve Holmes.

SEW group

“Sound Stories:  Of Love and Night” features 60 minutes of vocal and instrumental works based on nocturnal themes, many based on love poems or ballads. It seems like a program matched to Valentine’s Day weekend.

The program includes Ernest Bloch’s Nocturnes for Piano Trio (1924); Ralph Vaughan Williams‘ Nocturne and Scherzo for String Quintet (1906); and songs by Franz Joseph Haydn and Claude Debussy. The concert features Arnold Schoenberg‘s “Verklarte Nacht” (Transfigured Night) for String Sextet (1898), based on Richard Dehmel‘s poem of 1896. (The work can be heard performed under the direction of Pierre Boulez in a popular YouTube video at the bottom.)

Poems by Richard Dehmel and Walt Whitman will be read by Katrin Talbot (below), a Madison violist and poet and SEW’s Artist-in-Residence for the 2013-14 season.  Talbot will also read the English translation for Debussy’s “Nuit d’Etoiles” (Starry Night).

Katrin Talbot face on

The performance will take place in the new Atrium Auditorium (below, in a photo by Zane Williams) at the First Unitarian Society.  Beginning at 5:45 p.m., the event will be timed with the sunset and last a little over an hour with intermission.

Tickets are $10 with cash, check or charge at the door.

Please note: Coming soon, SEW will be collaborating with Chef Dan Bonanno and Katrin Talbot for a truly unique and delicious event at “Pig in a Fur Coat” on Sunday, March 2, at 6 p.m.  More information and tickets are available at www.sewmusic.org.

FUS Atrium, Auditorium Zane Williams

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Classical music Q&A: Norwegian trumpeter Tine Thing Helseth discusses being a female brass player and her program with the Madison Symphony Orchestra this weekend.

February 11, 2014
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ALERT: Blog friend Rich Samuels writes: “At 7:22 a.m. on this Thursday morning,  my classical music show “Anything Goes” that is broadcast weekly from 5 to 8 a.m. on WORT-FM 89.9 will be airing an interview with Norwegian trumpet soloist Tine Thing Helseth, who will be in Madison for concerts this weekend with the Madison Symphony Orchestra and a master class at the UW-Madison School of Music (see more below). Listeners can hear a sampling of her solo work as well as a performance by tenThing, her all-female Norwegian brass ensemble. Tune in to 89.9 FM.

By Jacob Stockinger

As he tells the story, Madison Symphony Orchestra’s longtime music director and conductor John DeMain was riding in his car and listening to Sirius XM radio. He heard a new recording by a terrific trumpet player and he was so impressed that he determined then and there that he would try to book her for a Madison concert — especially since most soloists he books are pianists, string players or singers.

Her name in Tine Thing Helseth (below), and DeMain succeeded. He booked her for a debut that will take place in Madison this weekend.

Tine Thing Helseth big profile

Helseth is young, energetic and articulate. She is also generous with her time and talent. In fact she will give master class for trumpet and brass players with the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras and a FREE public master class at the UW-Madison School of Music at 1:30 p.m. in Mills Hall on this Thursday, Feb. 13.

Then come her MSO concerts, which she will perform under the baton of DeMain in Overture Hall on Friday night at 7:30 pm.; Saturday night at 8 p.m.; and Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m.

Helseth will perform Franz Joseph Haydn’s well-known Trumpet Concerto in D Major and Alexander Arutiunian’s lesser known Trumpet Concerto in A-Flat Major (1920).

Rounding out the program is Jean Sibelius’ powerful and popular tone poem “Finlandia”; the symphonic suite from John Adams’ opera about physicist Edward Teller and the A-Bomb called “Dr. Atomic”; and the luscious late Romantic suite from Richard Strauss’ opera “Der Rosenkavalier,” a perfect offering for Valentine’s Day weekend.

A prelude discussion by musicologist Susan Cook, the new director of the University of Wisconsin School of Music, will take place in Overture Hall one hour before each curtain time.

Tickets are $8.25-$82.50 with rush tickets and discounts available. They can be purchased at the Overture Center box office, 211 State St., or by calling (608) 258-4141 or by visiting:

http://www.madisonsymphony.org/helseth

http://ev12.evenue.net/cgi-bin/ncommerce3/SEGetEventList?groupCode=MSO_H&linkID=overture&shopperContext=&caller=&appCode=

Here is a link to the MSO’s program notes, written superbly as always by trombonist J. Michael Allsen who also teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater:

http://facstaff.uww.edu/allsenj/MSO/NOTES/1314/5.Feb14.html

Helseth recently granted an email interview to The Ear:

Helseth (c) ColinBell EMI Classics

Can you briefly introduce yourself, and tell us when and how you started studying music? How did you get into brass and what attracted you to brass and specifically the trumpet?

I started to play the trumpet when I was seven years old, basically because my mother plays the trumpet. I had played piano a couple of years already, but from the first moment the trumpet felt like my best friend — and we’ve stayed that way ever since! My mum had a good friend who played in the Norwegian Opera Orchestra, and she became my first teacher. I also played in my school band. 


tine thing helseth side view with trumpet

Do you find that being a woman plays any role, positive or negative, in your career or reception as a world-class trumpet player?

The most important thing as a performer will always be if you have something to say. Nothing else really matters.

But, that being said, I do feel comfortable with the fact that for some it might be a bit rare to see a woman having my profession. I feel a responsibility to show all the young kids out there that you can pick up whatever instrument you feel like, and make it your voice. Stereotypes can be boring. Just listen to your inner voice and follow your heart. 


(Here is a link to a more extensive answer she gave about the issue of gender and sex roles in another interview:

http://www.standard.co.uk/goingout/music/trumpet-trailblazer-tine-thing-helseth-on-women-in-the-classical-music-world-8749414.html

trumpet

What would you like to tell the audience about the Trumpet Concerto by Haydn (below)?

Franz Joseph Haydn’s trumpet concerto is basically the most famous concerto for my instrument. This year marks my very own 10-year anniversary for the first time I played it with a professional orchestra. I was 16 and it was with the Bergen Philharmonic in Norway.

This piece will forever have a truly special place in my heart. I play it several times a year, but I never get tired of it. There are always new things to discover, new colors and voices in the orchestra. It’s a true chamber music work, and I absolutely love performing it.  (And she performs it very well. You can hear the final movement at the bottom in a YouTube video that has drawn more than 3.3 million hits.)

Haydn

What would you like the audience to know about the Trumpet Concerto by Alexander Arutiunian (below)?

It’s very romantic in style, with clear folk music elements and the harmonics reveals that it’s written in the middle of the 20th century. It reminds me a bit of Khachaturian. It has beautifully melodic material and a really catchy fast theme.

Alexander Arutiunian

These concerts mark your debut in Madison, perhaps even Wisconsin and the Midwest? Is there anything special you want to say about the city, the Madison Symphony Orchestra, conductor John DeMain or the rest of the program (Jean Sibelius, John Adams and Richard Strauss)?

I am just very much looking forward to coming to Madison and working with the orchestra and Maestro DeMain, and to meeting the audience. As a performer I live for the communication with the musicians I work with and with the audience. It’s always exciting to come to new places and communicate with music.

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Classical music: Brass Week in Madison kicks off with tuba and French horn concerts at the University of Wisconsin by John Stevens and Daniel Grabois, who will highlight works by contemporary UW composers.

February 10, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Call it Brass Week in Madison.

Concerts this week will feature three different brass instruments: the tuba, the French horn and the trumpet.

brass instruments

The Ear guesses it is all due more to happenstance than planning.

But whatever the origin, Brass Week begins Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music with a FREE recital by tuba professor and composer John Stevens, who will retire at the end of this semester.

It continues on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall with a FREE recital by French horn professor, who also is the latest addition to the Wisconsin Brass Quintet, Daniel Grabois.

And then on Thursday, Norwegian trumpeter Tine Thing Helseth will start her three performances as soloist in concertos by Haydn and Alexander Arutiunian with the Madison Symphony Orchestra under John DeMain.

Helseth will be featured in a separate Q&A on this blog tomorrow.

But here are details, drawn from the UW School of Music calendar of events, about the first two concerts.

JOHN STEVENS

UW tuba professor John Stevens (below) will perform three well-known masterpieces – the Horn Quintet by Mozart, the “Songs of a Wayfarer” by Gustav Mahler and the Horn Trio by Johannes Brahms– all adapted for the tuba.

Guest artists include violinist David Perry, violist Sally Chisholm, cellist Parry Karp, all of the UW Pro Arte Quartet, and UW pianist Martha Fischer.

John Stevens

John Stevens (below with his instrument) has enjoyed a distinguished career as a teacher, orchestral, chamber music, solo and jazz performer and recording artist, composer/arranger, conductor and administrator. He has performed with every major orchestra in New York and was a member of the New York Tuba Quartet and many other chamber groups. He was principal tubist in the Aspen Festival Orchestra; toured and recorded with a wide variety of groups including Chuck Mangione, the American Brass Quintet and the San Francisco Ballet; and was the tuba soloist in the original Broadway production of BARNUM.

john stevens with tuba 1

Stevens has released two solo recordings; an LP of his own compositions titled POWER (Mark Records, 1985) and a CD titled REVERIE (Summit Records, 2006). He joined the UW-Madison faculty in 1985 and, in addition to his other duties, was the Director of the School of Music from 1991 to 1996 and 2011 to 2013.

As a composer and arranger with over 50 original compositions and almost as many arrangements to his credit, Stevens is internationally renowned for his works for brass, particularly for solo tuba, euphonium and trombone, tuba/euphonium ensemble, brass quintet and other brass chamber combinations. He is the winner of numerous ASCAP awards and has received many composition grants and commissions.

In 1997 Stevens (below, composing at his Madison home and at bottom in an interview in a YouTube video) was commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to compose a tuba concerto. This work, entitled JOURNEY, was premiered by the CSO, with tubist Gene Pokorny as soloist. Recent compositions include the CONCERTO FOR EUPHONIUM AND ORCHESTRA, SYMPHONY IN THREE MOVEMENTS, a composition for wind band commissioned by a consortium of 14 American universities, and MONUMENT for Solo Tuba and String.

And here is a link to a long story by local writer Paul Baker about Stevens, his career and the activities surrounding his retirement this semester. It appeared on the outstanding blog “Fanfare” at the UW-Madison School of Music:

http://uwmadisonschoolofmusic.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/stevens/

John Stevens writing

DANIEL GRABOIS

The program by horn professor Daniel Grabois (below, in a photo by James Gill), who also curates the SoundWaves program at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, and pianist Jessica Johnson will perform a program of “All in the Family: 21st Century Music by UW-Madison Composers.”

Daniel Grabois 2012  James Gill

The works include “Gossamer Snowfall, Crystalline Pond” (2000), by UW saxophone professor Les Thimmig (below); 
the world premiere of “War Suite” (2014) by
 Alex Charland
 (1. War Song, 
2. Dirge, 
3. Ballad); “Indigo Quiescence” (2000) by Les Thimmig; “Soliloquy in June” (2000) by Les Thimmig; the world premiere  “Antilogy” (2014) by Daniel Grabois;
Sonata for Horn and Piano (2008) by John Stevens; and “Song at Dusk” (2000) by Les Thimmig
.

Les Thimmig color

Daniel Grabois is Assistant Professor of Horn at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. The former Chair of the Department of Contemporary Performance at the Manhattan School of Music, he is the hornist in the Meridian Arts Ensemble, a sextet of brass and percussion soon to celebrate its 25th anniversary. With Meridian, he has performed over 50 world premieres, released 10 CDs, received two ASCAP/CMA Adventuresome Programming Awards, and toured worldwide, in addition to recording or performing with rock legends Duran Duran and Natalie Merchant and performing the music of Frank Zappa for the composer himself.

UW School of Music

The author/composer of two etude books for horn, Grabois has appeared as a frequent guest with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and has performed in New York and on tour with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and many other ensembles. He also appears on over 30 CD recordings, and has recorded a concerto written for him by composer David Rakowski. Grabois taught horn for 14 years at The Hartt School, and has taught courses on the business of music at both the Hartt and the Manhattan School of Music.

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Classical music: The Madison Opera’s premiere production of Donizetti’s “La Fille du Regiment” (The Daughter of the Regiment) hits all the high notes, figuratively and literally. And other local critics also give it raves.

February 9, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Loyal readers of this blog know very well the name of Mikko Utevsky. The young violist and conductor is a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, where he studies the viola with Pro Arte Quartet violist Sally Chisholm and plays in the UW Symphony Orchestra.

Utevsky, who has won awards and impressive reviews for his work in music education since his days at Madison’s East High School, is the founder and conductor of the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra, which will perform its fourth season next summer. He has was recently named the new Music Director of a local community orchestra, The Studio Orchestra. The ensemble has an out-of-date website here (www.disso.org).

You can check out his many honors and projects by typing his name into the search engine on this blog site.

Utevsky offered The Ear a guest review of this weekend’s two performances on Friday night and Sunday afternoon of Gaetano Donizetti’s light “bel canto” opera “La Fille du Regiment” (The Daughter of the Regiment) by the Madison Opera in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center. The production, a first for the Madison Opera, sounded very promising from the preview I posted earlier this week, which was an interview with tenor Javier Abreu. Here is a link:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/02/03/classical-music-how-hard-is-it-to-sing-nine-high-cs-tenor-javier-abreu-talks-about-the-feat-he-will-perform-in-the-madison-operas-premiere-production-of-donizettis/

I immediately took Mikko up on the offer. After all, he is a fine and perceptive writer who, you may recall, blogged for this post when he was on tour two summers ago with the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) tour to Vienna, Prague and Budapest.

Here is the review by Mikko Utevsky (below):

Mikko Utevsky with baton

By Mikko Utevsky

Drumroll, please!

Gaetano Donizetti’s popular “Daughter of the Regiment” is classic “bel canto” opera — a simple, almost corny plot, improbable love, show-stopping arias and high notes, lots of high notes.

And in the hands of the Madison Opera, it is a rousing success. (Production photos are by James Gill for the Madison Opera.)

madison opera 5 witness party set Virginia Opera CR James GIll

The romantic plot is simple enough.

Marie, an orphaned girl raised by the 21st Regiment of the French army, meets and falls in love with a civilian, Tonio, who joins the regiment to marry her.

Their romance seems thwarted by her long-lost “aunt,” the Marquise of Berkenfeld, who sweeps her away to be married to a noble Duke, but her regiment swoops in (below, played by the Madison Symphony Chorus) at the last second to intervene, and she and Tonio are reunited at last.

Everyone ends up happy in this tale.

madison opera daughter 6 chorus, abreu, cislin, apple, Douglss Swenson as Hortensius James Gill

The production marches merrily along, buoyed by brilliant singing from Appleton-native and UW-Madison-educated Caitlin Cisler (below left) in the title role as Marie. Cisler’s sparkling sound and agile coloratura make her ideal for the part, a tremendously difficult one replete with high Cs and beyond (several Ds and more than one F!).

Caitlin Cisler 2

Her girlish demeanor in the first act is both charming and entirely suited to the character. There is no profound depth to the role, but a great deal of fun, and Cisler certainly seems to enjoy it — as do we!

Singing opposite her is one of the best tenors the Madison Opera has hosted in recent years, Puerto Rican-born Javier Abreu (below).

Javier Abreu color mug 1

As Tonio, he boasts a light, lyric voice capable of the necessary acrobatics for such a famously challenging role – in particular, his Act 1 aria “Ah, mes amis!” (which demands no less than NINE high Cs in the space of about a minute and a half, as demonstrated by Juan Diego Florez in a YouTube video at the bottom). Below, Tonio steals kiss from Marie.

madison opera Daughter 1 Javier Abreu (Tonio) and Caitlin Cislin (Marie) CR James Gill

As the commander of Marie’s regiment of adoptive fathers, Nathan Stark (below, recently heard as the Commendatore in 2013’s Don Giovanni) is excellent as well. His acting is at least as solid as his powerful bass voice, both of which are again wonderfully suited to the role.

He is compelling as the most fatherly of the soldiers, moved to support his daughter’s romantic aspirations by his own. The comic chemistry he and Cisler have enlivens the whole show, making their early scenes possibly my favorite part of the whole evening.

madison opera daughter 2 Nathan Stark (Sulpice) CR James Gill

Also appearing is Madison contralto Alisanne Apple (below), alternately and appropriately outraged by Marie’s antics and embarrassed at her own as the Marquise (and whose true contralto guts are displayed early in the opera, to great amusement).

Alisanne Apple BW mug

madison opera daughter 4 allisanne apple marquise CR James Gill

As her butler Hortensius, bass Douglas Swenson (below) projects a hilariously palpable air of self-importance at every moment.

Douglas Swenson

Director David Lefkowich’s blocking is frequently hilarious (though the silly shuffling “quick march” of the soldiers was distracting and absurd), and helps bring the characters to life admirably.

David Lefkowich 2013

The sets by the Virginia Opera and the costumes from the Opera Theatre of St. Louis Opera livened up the stage, particularly in the first act where the soldiers’ bright red uniforms stood out sharply against distant hills and misty mountains.

As always, John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad) leads musicians of the Madison Symphony Orchestra in a capable and flexible pit ensemble, with good attention to balance.  The Madison Opera Chorus, solidly prepared by Chorus Master Anthony Cao, also featured two small, well-sung solo spots for Robert Goderich and Christopher Apfelbach.

John DeMain full face by Prasad

The production is sung in French with projected English supertitles, with a small amount of (sensibly) English dialogue. The running time is 2 hours and 15 minutes including one 20-minutes intermission.

The last performance is today, Sunday, Feb. 9 at 2:30 p.m. the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center. Tickets are $25-$107. Call the Overture Center box office at (608) 258-4141.

And maybe you would like to see what other reviewers had to say:

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

http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=42027&sid=ee9c4f61ce09fdf1d9cc5e1c40f29f2c

John-Barker

Here is a link to the very favorable review by Greg Hettmansberger (bel0w) for Madison Magazine’s blog “Classically Speaking”:

http://www.madisonmagazine.com/Blogs/Classically-Speaking/February-2014/A-Daughter-We-Can-All-Adopt/

greg hettmansberger mug

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