The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The UW Pro Arte Quartet in Belgium -– Day 5. The Belgian premiere of a Belgian composition at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Brussels draws a big enough crowd to run out of programs and bring three curtain calls. A visit to the Royal Conservatory Library reveals the notebooks of Mozart’s wife Constanza and takes the quartet back to its roots for a performance. Plus, the Pro Arte gets recorded by Belgian TV and radio.

May 31, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Editor’s note: The Well-Tempered Ear has asked people on tour with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) to file whatever dispatches. updates and photos are possible — from iPads, computers, cameras and smart phones — so that they can to keep the fans back here at home current with what is happening on the concert stage and off. 

By now it has become apparent that the Pro Arte Quartet’s tour of Belgium is as big an event to the Belgians and to local residents there as it has been to Madisonians, Wisconsinites and alumni of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

Pro Arte Qartet  Overture Rick Langer

Just before taking a day’s rest, Sarah Schaffer (below), who manages the University of Wisconsin-Madison Pro Arte String Quartet, sent this text and this photo essay. They cover the return to Brussels from Dolhain Limbourg, the hometown of founding violinist Alphonse Onnou. Then the members of the quartet visited the Royal Conservatory of Music in Brussels where they toured the archives and library and also performed, including a rehearsal that was recorded for the national radio network.

Current members are violinists David Perry and Suzanne Beia; violist Sally Chisholm; and cellist Parry Karp.

Sarah Schaffer mug 

Today’s Part 5 covers the extensive events at the Royal Conservatory of Music, where the frenetic pace just kept gathering speed. A concert tour is hard work, no glamorous vacation!

If you want background or need to catch up, here are links:

To Day 1:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/classical-music-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-lands-in-belgium-gets-detained-at-customs-and-is-rescued-in-time-for-practicing-and-playing-concerts/

To Day 2:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/24/classical-music-on-day-2-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-is-offered-rehearsal-time-in-a-bar-meets-descendants-of-the-original-members-of-the-quartet-and-performs-its-first-concert-to/

To Day 3:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/25/classical-music-on-day-3-in-belgium-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-plays-at-the-royal-library-gives-a-gift-to-king-philippe-and-keeps-performing-a-lot-of-hard-and-varied-music/

To Day 4, Part 1:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/classical-music-here-is-a-photo-essay-of-the-pro-arte-quartets-day-long-homage-stop-at-the-belgian-hometown-of-dolhain-linburg-of-the-groups-founding-violinist-alphonse-onnou/

To Day 4, Part 2:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/classical-music-the-pro-arte-quartet-in-belgium-day-4-part-2-the-quartet-performs-in-the-town-of-dolhain-limbourg/

Sarah Schaffer writes:

Today brought the Belgian premiere of Belgian composer Benoît Mernier’s Quartet No. 3, commissioned by Pro Arte Quartet for its centennial, a special commission harking back to its Belgian origins, in the very hall at the Royal Conservatory of Music where the founding quartet played countless times, both as students and after.

PAQ in Belgium Conservatory Hall 1

PAQ in Belgium Conservatory Hall 2

PAQ in Belgium Conservatory Hall 3

Engineers from musiq3, the French-speaking Belgian national radio, set up equipment and record the concert rehearsal for later broadcast. TV and newspapers have also covered the quartet.

PAQ in Belgium  Radio sets up in conservatory hall

PAQ in Belgium conservatory whole quartet and radio

PAQ in Belgium play in Conservatory before microphone

It was so perfectly appropriate, and so very moving: this hall, this city, this composer, this work, this audience of mainly students, all at the ages now that the original Pro Arte Quartet members (below) Onnou, Halleux, Prevost and Maas would have been back then.

Pro Arte Quartet in 1928 Onnou far left

There were so many concert attendees that the printed programs (below) ran out.

PAQ in Belgium Conservatory program for concert 1

PAQ in Belgium conservatory program old and new quartets

The short program included — after remarks from Anne van Malderen (below top) on the history of the quartet and an introduction of his work, with examples played by PAQ, by Messieur Mernier (below bottom): Mernier’s Third Quartet, the Adagio and Fugue, K. 546, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, American composer Randall Thompson‘s “Wind in the Willows” and the famous Adagio for Strings from the String Quartet No. 1 by American composer Samuel Barber.

PAQ in Belgium conservatory hall  5 Anne van Malderen welcome

PAQ in Belgium conservatory hall 6 Benoit Mernier talks

Applause called the PAQ back to the stage three times.

PAQ in Belgium bows 1 at conservatory SS

PAQ in Belgium Bows at conservatory USE 2

Our visit to the Conservatoire began earlier in the day with a tour by librarian Olivia Wahnon (below).

PAQ in Belgium Library 1 at conservatory

This distinguished archival collection contains the most manuscript holdings among all Belgian libraries, and she had prepared for our benefit some beautiful displays of rare materials.

PAQ in Belgium Conservatory library mss.

Some of what we saw was related to the Pro Arte and string quartets. There were many manuscript scores and parts, particularly from the collection of second violinist Laurent Halleaux, and many concert programs.

PAQ in Belgium Library quartet scores

But not everything was about PAQ! We see a Medieval handbook manuscript of chant:

PAQ in Belgium Library Medieval non-PAQ stuff 3

We also had a glimpse of Constanze Mozart’s diary (below, in a photo by Sally Chisholm, you can see it is multilingual, and contains many beautiful drawings and paintings), a page of manuscript by Franz Liszt, and the teensiest, tiniest bound volume of Medieval manuscripts. Such treasures! Constanza wrote about her husband Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: “Husband genius. Still poor.”

PAQ in Belgium Constanza Mozart's notebook in Royal  Conservatory Library CR Sally

For us, the division of the institution into two nationalities—Flemish and Walloon—seems somewhat incomprehensible and impossible to manage and navigate. Yet it is so much the history and culture of the whole country, especially evident after yesterday’s elections, it is simply taken in stride.

Although the whole infrastructure (below are photos of the conservatory’s exterior) is in a state of dilapidation—built in the mid-19th century, with a major renovation planned beginning in 2015 — it was in its way more touching and meaningful to see it now, while we can more easily imagine how it looked and felt when the first Quatuor Pro Arte (QPA) inhabited its halls and spaces a century ago.

PAQ in Belgium Conservatory exterior 2

PAQ in Belgium conservatory exterior 3

PAQ in Belgium conservatory exterior 4 photo 3

Composer Benoit Mernier (below top, applauding the Pro Arte Quartet, and below bottom) reports he is well pleased with the progress that he hears in the playing of his piece, from its world premiere March 1 in Madison to now, just 2-1/2 months later. He hears the players inhabiting the work more: details are more precise; at the same time they bring more fluidity; and the overall arc and shape are now more convincingly presented.

PAQ in Belgium Mernier applauds

Benoit Mernier 1

One more chance to improve even more at the final concert tomorrow at the university in Louvain-la-Neuve.

Tomorrow: Our last day and final concert, at Louvain-la-Neuve. The week has sped by.

 

 

 

 

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Classical music Q&A: Choral director Robert Gehrenbeck talks about his favorite works by British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. You can hear some of them when the Wisconsin Chamber Choir — which unveils its 2014-15 season here — performs works by Vaughan Williams and his followers this Saturday night. Part 2 of 2.

May 30, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

This Saturday night, the Wisconsin Chamber Choir (below) will wrap up its current season with a special concert of “Ralph Vaughan Williams and Friends.”

Wisconsin Chamber Choir Nov 17, 2012 Bethel Lutheran

The concert is at 7:30 p.m. on this Saturday, May 31, in the acoustically resonant Grace Episcopal Church, West Washington Avenue at Carroll Street on the Capitol Square, downtown Madison.

grace episcopal church ext

The soloists include violinist Leanne League and organist Mark Brampton Smith.

Admission is $15, $10 for students.

One of the best-loved choral composers, Ralph Vaughan Williams was renowned not only for his compositions, but also for his friendship and advocacy on behalf of countless other musicians.

The concert features some of Vaughan Williams’ best-known works including, “Serenade to Music,” Mass in G Minor, and the powerful anthem, “Lord, Thou Hast Been Our Refuge.”

Vaughan Williams shared a passion for collecting folksongs with his close friend Gustav Holst, whose heartfelt setting of “I Love My Love” will be heard alongside several of Vaughan Williams’ own folksong arrangements.

Works by Herbert Howells and Vaughan Williams’ students Imogen Holst and Elizabeth Maconchy will demonstrate Vaughan Williams’ influence on succeeding generations.

Finally, selections from the motets and anthems of Thomas Tallis exemplify Vaughan Williams’ debt to his English predecessors, notably Tallis’ “Third Mode Psalm Tune,” the inspiration for Vaughan Williams’ “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis.”

Joining the WCC in this performance are violinist Leanne League, associate concertmaster of both the Madison Symphony and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra; and organist Mark Brampton Smith.

Advance tickets are available for $15 from http://www.wisconsinchamberchoir.org, via Brown Paper Tickets, or at Willy Street Coop (East and West locations) and Orange Tree Imports. Student tickets are $10.

Founded in 1998, the Madison-based Wisconsin Chamber Choir has established a reputation for excellence in the performance of oratorios by Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Franz Joseph Haydn; of a cappella masterworks from various centuries; and of world-premieres. Dr. Robert Gehrenbeck, who teaches and directs choral activities at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, is the Wisconsin Chamber Choir’s Artistic Director.

Gehrenbeck recently agreed to an email Q&A about the upcoming concer.

Yesterday, Part 1 appeared. Here is a link to Part 1:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/classical-music-qa-choral-director-robert-gehrenbeck-talks-about-how-british-composer-ralph-vaughan-williams-sparked-two-renaissances-or-revivals-you-can-hear-the-results-when-the-wisconsin-cha/

Today’s post features the second and last part of the Q&A.

Robert Gehrenbeck new headshot 2013 USE

What are your favorite works –- choral or otherwise — by Vaughan Williams, ones you would recommend to those listeners who don’t know him?

Many discussions of Vaughan Williams’ body of works start with his visionary orchestral work, the “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis” from 1910. The “theme” of this work is a choral psalm tune in the Phrygian mode by Tallis (below) that Vaughan Williams discovered while working as music editor for the 1906 “English Hymnal.” (The WCC’s concert includes this Tallis work in its original form, using words from the English Hymnal.)

Not only did Vaughan Williams borrow Tallis’ melody, but, more importantly, his harmony, which is full of jarring cross relations, such as E-minor juxtaposed with E-major. Throughout his “Fantasia” — and throughout his career —Vaughan Williams exploited and extended this harmony based on what I like to call “consonances in unusual relation” (that’s a quote from the Grove Dictionary article on an obscure English composer named Alan Bush).

Thomas Tallis

Unlike his contemporaries who developed increasingly chromatic music around the same time, Vaughan Williams stuck with simple triads but subjected them to various sorts of modern treatments, especially by juxtaposing seemingly unrelated chords, as in the 1910 Fantasia.

Finally, the form of this piece is not, as one might expect, a theme and variations scheme, but rather a free, rhapsodic meditation on the ethos of Tallis’ tune, somewhat in the style of an Elizabethan keyboard fantasia by William Byrd.

So it is that in this work, we have the characteristics of Vaughan Williams’ mature style in a nutshell — a melody-based form that develops freely, rather than predictably, whose harmonic language is based on new, modally inspired ways of using common chords.

The overall effect is mysterious, awe-inspiring, and revelatory. The young Herbert Howells (below) was so awestruck by the premiere performance that he spent the rest of the night pacing the streets of Gloucester, trying to digest what he had heard.

herbert howells autograph

As I mentioned above, Vaughan Williams wrote nine symphonies, and several of these are favorites of mine, particularly the first, sixth, and ninth. His first symphony is a choral-orchestral masterpiece (following the examples of Ludwig van Beethoven, Felix Mendelssohn and Gustav Mahler). It’s called “A Sea Symphony,” with a libretto based on the poetry of Walt Whitman (below).

Completed the year before the Tallis “Fantasia,” this score gives voice to the muscular, optimistic humanism of Whitman’s poetry in triadic eruptions that stir the soul. I don’t claim to know all of Vaughan Williams’ music by any means, but, like many others, I am also a fan of his sixth symphony, composed in the aftermath of World War II and premiered in 1948, soon becoming the most popular English symphony of all time. The change in Vaughan Williams’ style during the 40-year period between his first and sixth symphonies is startling.

Walt Whitman 2

The sixth provides a good rebuttal to those who claim that Vaughan Williams remained a reactionary, rather than a modern composer. It’s full of dissonance and gnawing ostinatos that create an atmosphere of unease and dislocation, which seemed to fit the post-Hiroshima age — including our own times — extremely well.

The long final movement is marked “pianissimo, senza expressivo” (very quietly, without expression) throughout, eventually dissolving into a weird undulation between two unrelated triads, E-flat major and E-minor. Such a concluding movement is exactly the opposite of what traditional symphonic form leads listeners to expect. It’s one of the most eerie moments in the entire symphonic repertoire.

I’m afraid I’ll have to save a discussion of other orchestral works for another day, but I do want to mention a few additional favorite choral works: the war-time oratorio “Dona Nobis Pacem” (another Whitman libretto), the rarely heard oratorio “Sancta civitas” (libretto from the Book of Revelation), and the late “Three Shakespeare Songs” for unaccompanied choir. Several other favorite works of mine are on the WCC’s concert, so I’ll discuss them next.

shakespeare BW

What would you like the public to know about the specific composers and works on the program, and why you chose them?

We are looking forward to performing what I think is Vaughan Williams’ most inspired setting of William Shakespeare, his “Serenade to Music,” composed in 1938. Vaughan Williams adapted his libretto from Lorenzo’s meditation on the power of music to mediate between human passion and the harmony of the spheres in “The Merchant of Venice,” Act V

“How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!

Here will we sit and let the sounds of music

Creep in our ears: Soft stillness and the night

Become the touches of sweet harmony….

Thus begins Vaughan Williams’ one-movement nocturne featuring some of his most lovely melodies, exquisite modulations, and ethereal scoring. The original version was for 16 solo singers and orchestra, so we will alternate between multiple soloists from the choir with the full chorus singing the tutti passages. Our fabulous organist, Mark Brampton Smith (below top), is responsible for most of the orchestration, Leanne League, who is the associate concertmaster of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and a violinist with the Ancora String Quartet, is joining us to perform the original solo violin part. (You can hear “The Serenade to Music” in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Mark Brampton Smith

leanne league

The remainder of our program draws on the rich a cappella repertoire of Vaughan Williams and several of his followers.

We’re doing two movements from his incredible Mass in G minor, which he wrote in 1921 in response to the revival of the sacred music of Byrd and Tallis at Westminster Cathedral. We’ll precede that work with an actual motet by Tallis, “Mihi autem nimis.”

In addition to the Serenade, the second half of our program features folk song settings by both Vaughan Williams and his closest friend, Gustav Holst (below), including Holst’s justifiably famous “I Love My Love,” based on a Dorian-mode tune. This piece is one of the absolute masterpieces in the genre of choral folksong arrangements.

Gustav Holst

From Vaughan Williams’ numerous additional “friends” (composers who were all literally good friends of his) we have chosen Herbert Howells, Gustav Holst’s daughter Imogen Holst (below top) and Elizabeth Maconchy (below bottom). Howells is represented by the “Jubilate” movement from his “Collegium Regale Service,” a set of Anglican canticles he composed in 1945 for King’s College in Cambridge.

The flowing melodies, modally flavored harmonies and Howells’ expert control of pacing in this work are all reminders of Vaughan Williams’ influence. Imogen Holst (below) was the only child of Gustav and Isobel Holst, and an important composer, conductor, writer, and organizer of musical festivals in her own right. Her teachers included both Howells and Vaughan Williams, and she became closely associated with Benjamin Britten during her later years.

We will perform Holst’s “Hymne to Christ,” a luminous setting of a poem by John Donne.

Imogen Holst

Finally, Elizabeth Maconchy was another of Vaughan Williams’ students and a classmate of Imogen Holst. Maconchy (below) is best known for her chamber music, but also composed operas and a significant body of choral music. We have chosen two movements from a 1979 work called “Creatures,” settings of poems written for children about various animals and their foibles.

The music of “Cat’s Funeral” is an example of the English predilection for “consonances in unusual relation” that I mentioned earlier. The string of unexpected, descending minor triads that opens this movement creates a mood of exaggerated pathos perfectly matched to the poem. The other movement is “The Hen and the Carp,” a humorous dialogue that doubles as social commentary.

elizabeth maconchy

What are the current plans and future projects including programs for next season, for the Wisconsin Chamber Choir?

We are very excited about our upcoming season. On December 19, 2014 we will present “Wolcum Yole,” a Christmas-themed concert featuring Benjamin Britten’s “Ceremony of Carols,” and on April 18 and 19, 2015, we will perform Brahms’ “German” Requiem with full orchestra. Also featured on the April concerts will be the world premiere of a piece we have commissioned from English composer Giles Swayne, called “Our Orphan Souls.” Swayne has chosen an excerpt from chapter 114 of Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” as his text, and his piece will be scored for two soloists and choir with alto saxophone, harp, double bass and percussion.

Swayne (below, in a photo by Alice Williamson) plans to begin writing this piece next month, and I’m eagerly anticipating receiving the completed score in the fall. An interesting connection to our current season is that Swayne’s first composition teacher was Elizabeth Maconchy, who was his mother’s cousin.

giles swayne CR Alice Williamson

 

 

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Classical music Q&A: Choral director Robert Gehrenbeck talks about how composer Ralph Vaughan Williams sparked TWO renaissances or revivals of British music. You can hear the results when the Wisconsin Chamber Choir performs works by Vaughan Williams and his followers this Saturday night. Part 1 of 2.

May 29, 2014
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

This Saturday night, the Wisconsin Chamber Choir will wrap up its current season with a special concert of “Ralph Vaughan Williams and Friends.”

Wisconsin Chamber Choir 1

The concert is at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 31, in the acoustically resonant Grace Episcopal Church, West Washington Avenue at Carroll Street on the Capitol Square, downtown Madison.

Grace Episcopal harpsichord

The soloists include violinist Leanne League and organist Mark Brampton Smith.

Admission is $15, $10 for students.

One of the best loved choral composers, Ralph Vaughan Williams was renowned not only for his compositions, but also for his friendship and advocacy on behalf of countless other musicians.

The concert features some of Vaughan Williams’ best-known works including, “Serenade to Music,” Mass in G Minor, and the powerful anthem, “Lord, Thou Hast Been Our Refuge.”

Vaughan Williams shared a passion for collecting folksongs with his close friend Gustav Holst, whose heartfelt setting of “I Love My Love” will be heard alongside several of Vaughan Williams’ own folksong arrangements.

Works by Herbert Howells and Vaughan Williams’ students Imogen Holst and Elizabeth Maconchy will demonstrate Vaughan Williams’ influence on succeeding generations.

Finally, selections from the motets and anthems of Thomas Tallis exemplify Vaughan Williams’ debt to his English predecessors, notably Tallis’ “Third Mode Psalm Tune,” the inspiration for Vaughan Williams’ “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis.” (You can hear that “Fantasia” performed in a popular YouTube video at the bottom.)

Joining the WCC in this performance are violinist Leanne League, associate concertmaster of both the Madison Symphony and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra; and organist Mark Brampton Smith.

Advance tickets are available for $15 from www.wisconsinchamberchoir.org, via Brown Paper Tickets, or at Willy Street Coop (East and West locations) and Orange Tree Imports. Student tickets are $10.

Founded in 1998, the Madison-based Wisconsin Chamber Choir has established a reputation for excellence in the performance of oratorios by Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Franz Joseph Haydn; of a cappella masterworks from various centuries; and of world-premieres. Dr. Robert Gehrenbeck, who teaches and directs choral activities at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, is the Wisconsin Chamber Choir’s Artistic Director.

Gehrenbeck recently agreed to an email Q&A about the upcoming concert:

Robert Gehrenbeck new headshot 2013 USE

Why did you choose to do a program based on the influence of Ralph Vaughan Williams (below)? How and why was he so influential?

First and foremost, the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams (below) music is extremely rewarding to perform — it’s thrilling for players, singers and audiences alike. He seemed to have a special knack for writing for voices, and he composed an enormous amount of vocal music, from folksong settings, hymn tunes, and solo songs to large-scale operas, oratorios and choral symphonies.

Ralph Vaughan Williamsjpg

He was the leading figure in the “English Renaissance” of the early 20th century, a movement that began with Sir Edward Elgar and which extended beyond Vaughan Williams to those he influenced, including Gustav Holst, Herbert Howells, and Gerald Finzi (below).

Gerald Finzi 1

Even Benjamin Britten (below top) and Michael Tippet (below bottom), although they consciously distanced themselves from the style of Vaughan Williams, followed his pioneering embrace of earlier English composers as models, looking back to the luminaries of Tudor and Stuart periods for inspiration just as he did.

Benjamin Britten

tippett

It is as if the musical genius of Thomas Tallis (below top), William Byrd, and Henry Purcell (below bottom) was reawakened after a long slumber in the works of Vaughan Williams and his successors.

Thomas Tallis

purcell

How would you describe the individual musical style and historical importance of Ralph Vaughan Williams, especially given the modernist age?

The issue of Vaughan Williams’ relationship to musical modernism is an interesting one. It’s worth noting that Vaughan Williams, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Arnold Schoenberg, and Charles Ives were all born within two years of one another, between 1872 and 1874.

Although their music is vastly different, they all responded to a similar crisis facing composers after the heyday of the Romantic era -– namely, the challenge of writing music that would be original and distinctive while taking into account the fact that most concertgoers still embraced the Romantics.

One might call this the central dilemma of musical modernism: the need to break with the past while also acknowledging it.

Vaughan Williams’ response to this dilemma, while different from Schoenberg’s or Ives’, was nevertheless highly original and unique.

Comparing Vaughan Williams’ development to Schoenberg’s is instructive. Schoenberg (below) famously broke with tonality — an approach that Vaughan Williams vehemently rejected — but Schoenberg saw himself carrying on the tradition of Bach, Mozart, and Brahms, and he wrote in many of the same forms and used similar techniques as his German forebears. For Schoenberg, simply ignoring the music of late Romantics such as Brahms and Wagner was not an option; in the eyes of his German-speaking public, he was their competitor as much as their heir. Schoenberg thus felt compelled to transcend the highly chromatic musical language of Wagner by rejecting its central feature — tonality — while preserving its chromaticism and emotionalism.

Arnold Schoenberg

By virtue of geography, Vaughan Williams (as well as Rachmaninoff and Ives) did not feel so shackled to the legacy of German Romanticism. For composers on the periphery, as it were, rejecting the dominant German tradition and embracing native influences were virtues in the eyes of their compatriots, especially given the rise of nationalism throughout Europe during this period.

Thus, Vaughan Williams developed a kind of modernism that was infused with elements of his own English heritage. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Vaughan Williams’ music owes very little to Wagner, but he does carry on the symphonic tradition of Ludwig van Beethoven (Vaughan Williams wrote nine symphonies too!); he was a great admirer (and conductor) of Johann Sebastian Bach (below top); and he was strongly influenced by Johannes Brahms (below bottom).

Bach1

brahms3

Crucially, Vaughan Williams’ abiding interest in English folksong, in Tudor polyphony, and in writing music that would speak to the common people resulted in a style that was uniquely his — more conservative than other composers’, perhaps, but no less original because of that fact.

Three of the main characteristics of Vaughan Williams’ mature style are the primacy of melody; the retention and enrichment of triadic harmony; and his interest in creating large-scale forms and dramatic tension through non-traditional means. I’ll attempt to illustrate these traits in my answer to the following question.

Tomorrow: Favorite works by Ralph Vaughn Williams; his influence on his contemporaries and his students; and plans by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra for the next season.

 

 

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Classical music: The Pro Arte Quartet in Belgium –- Day 4, Part 2. The quartet performs in the town of Dolhain-Limbourg.

May 29, 2014
9 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Editor’s note: The Well-Tempered Ear has asked people on tour with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) to file whatever dispatches. updates and photos are possible — from iPads, computers, cameras and smart phones — so that they can to keep the fans back here at home current with what is happening on the concert stage and off.

By now it has become apparent that the Pro Arte Quartet’s tour of Belgium is as big an event to the Belgians and to local residents there as it is to Madisonians, Wisconsinites and alumni of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Pro Arte Quartet new 2 Rick Langer

Just before taking a day’s rest, Sarah Schaffer, who manages the University of Wisconsin-Madison Pro Arte String Quartet, sent this text and this photo essay. They cover the trip from Brussels to Dolhain Limbourg, the hometown of founding violinist Alphonse Onnou, and the official greetings and events that awaited the quartet. (Current members are violinists David Perry and Suzanne Beia; violist Sally Chisholm; and cellist Parry Karp.)

Today’s Part 2 covers the concert at Dolhain-Limbourg.

Here are links to Day 1:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/classical-music-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-lands-in-belgium-gets-detained-at-customs-and-is-rescued-in-time-for-practicing-and-playing-concerts/

To Day 2:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/24/classical-music-on-day-2-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-is-offered-rehearsal-time-in-a-bar-meets-descendants-of-the-original-members-of-the-quartet-and-performs-its-first-concert-to/

To Day 3:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/25/classical-music-on-day-3-in-belgium-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-plays-at-the-royal-library-gives-a-gift-to-king-philippe-and-keeps-performing-a-lot-of-hard-and-varied-music/

And to Day 4, Part 1:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/classical-music-here-is-a-photo-essay-of-the-pro-arte-quartets-day-long-homage-stop-at-the-belgian-hometown-of-dolhain-linburg-of-the-groups-founding-violinist-alphonse-onnou/

Schaffer’s latest installment once again shows the hard work of undertaking such a concert tour, which involves a lot more than playing and performing music. In this case, it also involves being cultural ambassadors.

Sarah Schaffer mug

After such an already full day, there is still the evening concert!

By evening the Kursaal (below) has warmed up and is now much more welcoming.

PAQ essay 5 Le Kursaal exterior Sarah Schaffer

We learn, as we wait through the sound check/rehearsal that the local television crew is on hand! They hope to interview a quartet member, but are so busy down the street at the Onnou house that they barely make it in time to film the concert.

PAQ essay 6 chekcing our stage at Le Kursaal David, Sally Parry Sarah Schaffer

Anne van Malderen opens the evening with a touching tribute to Onnou, and them outlines the concert program because there are, surprisingly, no printed versions on hand this evening:

Franz Joseph Haydn: Quartet in D Major, Op. 20, N. 4

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Adagio & Fugue, K. 546

Alexander Glazunov: Five Novelettes

Intermission

Igor Stravinsky: Elegy for Solo Viola

Cesar Franck: Quartet

It’s hard to imagine a program more strongly evocative of the original Quatuor Pro Arte (below, in 1928)!

Pro Arte Quartet in 1928 Onnou far left

Haydn represents their recorded legacy. Mozart is included because, well, it’s Mozart. The Glazunov was one of original violinist Alphonse Onnou’s favorite pieces, here in Onnou’s hometown, in the Kursaal, which he likely performed in himself.

Mozart old 1782

The Stravinsky Elegy for Solo Viola (below, Sally Chisholm playing the Stravinsky Elegy at the Wisconsin Union Theater in 2012) was commissioned by founding violist Germaine Prevost as a memorial to Onnou, who died in Madison just months after the quartet was stranded there, before ever playing a first concert with the newly artists-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

Sally Chisholm solo

And of course the tour-de-force quartet by Cesar Franck (below) is by one of Belgium’s most celebrated composers.

Cesar Franck photo

It’s very touching, this entire program, this small town.

And such an audience — rapt, attentive, knowledgeable, appreciative with the applause long and sustained, much whistling, many “bravos!” shouted out. An incredibly warm reception.

Those of us who have been with David and Suzanne and Sally and Parry this whole long day, coming after the past few days so full and dramatic, can hardly believe the intensity and concentration they’ve brought to this performance.

Once again, we hear a ravishing performance by this amazing quartet. (below, playing the same Haydn String Quartet at the concert on March 2, 2012.)

Pro Arte Quartet in Haydn at Mernier

Sunday is Election Day in Belgium -– and will bring a well-deserved day off for everyone.

Then on Monday, we go to the Conservatoire Royale, where the Quatuor Pro Arte originated — just students who, like music students everywhere, formed a pick-up group.

Sometimes they last a semester or two, sometimes they make a real go of it during and beyond school, and in one extraordinary case they made it to . . . 100! (Below is the Pro Arte Quartet in 1940.)

Pro Arte Quartet 1940 Brosa-Halleux-Prevost-Evans 1940

AN INTERMEZZO AND A PRELUDE

Pro Arte Quartet violist Sally Chisholm (below) writes of her latest adventure that occurred when there group arrived back in Brussels. It has no pictures but, trust me, it is well worth the read:

Sally Chisholm

“Last night a few steps from our hotel, in the center of the square, or rather Place, is the area normally occupied by touring jazz/rock groups during the multi-week jazz festival here in Brussels.

It was 8:30 p.m., and I was strolling for the last time of the day.

Mozart. “Eine Kleine Nacht Musik.” (The familiar opening movement is at the bottom in a popular YouTube video that has over 8 million hits.)

Hmm … and there they were: 3 young musicians, 2 violinists and a cellist, playing beautifully in front of a rapt audience of locals and tourists from many countries.

The open violin case was filling up with euros as listeners quickly tiptoed up to lay in their offering, then tiptoe away all smiles.

One violinist saw me, and the “fiddlers rose” (that red discoloration that comes from years of gripping the instrument) on my neck, immediately elbowing her partner.

When they finished, and started packing up, I went over to congratulate them.  

You play?

Yes, I said. Alto.

(That’s French for the viola.)

Are you students here?

Yes, at the Conservatoire.

Oh, I will be there tomorrow!

Pro Arte, Pro Arte! Yes, we are coming to hear you!

So I will see my new friends again tomorrow.

Mozart is very alive here in Brussels, with beautifully trained young musicians representing him well to an enthusiastic and grateful audience.

 

 

 

 

 

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Classical music: Con Vivo! will perform Russian and Eastern European chamber music this Saturday night.

May 28, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Con Vivo! … music with life, concludes its 12th season of chamber music with a concert entitled “Eastern Block Party” on Saturday, May 31, at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Avenue, across from Camp Randall.

Con Vivo core musicians

The program includes the Serenade for violin, viola, cello and two clarinets by Bohuslav Martinu (below top), the Polonaise No. 1 in D Major for violin and piano by Henryk Wieniawski (below middle), and Spiegel im Spiegel for clarinet and piano by Arvo Pärt (below bottom in a YouTube video that features the viola rater than the clarinet).

Bohuslav Martinu

Henryk Wieniawski

Arvo Part

The performance will also feature the outstanding church organ with the Prelude in G Major by Friedrich Constantin Homilius. To conclude the evening’s offering, con vivo! will perform the Piano Quintet for two violins, viola, cello and piano by Dimitri Shostakovich (below).

dmitri shostakovich

Audience members are invited to join Con Vivo! 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 at Carnegie Hall

Tickets can be purchased at the door for $18 for adults and $15 for seniors and students.

Artistic Director Robert Taylor, talking about the concert, said: “As is our tradition, con vivo!’s post Carnegie Hall debut season brings to our audience works that are familiar and some that are new. We’ve been honored as the “Best Classical Concert of 2013” by reviewer John W. Barker (below). With this concert, we aim to continue that trend.”

John-Barker

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.

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Classical music: Day 4 — the UW Pro Arte Quartet goes to Dolhain-Limbourg, Part 1 of 2: Prelude to the concert. Here is a photo essay of the Pro Arte Quartet’s day-long homage stop at the Belgian hometown of the group’s founding violinist Alphonse Onnou.

May 27, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Editor’s note: The Well-Tempered Ear has asked people on tour with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) to file whatever dispatches. updates and photos are possible — from iPads, computers, cameras and smart phones — so that they can to keep the fans back here at home current with what is happening on the concert stage and off.

By now it has become apparent that the Pro Arte Quartet’s tour of Belgium is as big an event to the Belgians and to local residents there as it is to Madisonians, Wisconsinites and alumni of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Just before taking a day’s rest, Sarah Schaffer, who manages the University of Wisconsin-Madison Pro Arte String Quartet, sent this text and this photo essay. They cover the trip from Brussels to Dolhain Limbourg, the hometown of founding violinist Alphonse Onnou, and the official greetings and events that awaited the quartet. (Current members are violinists David Perry and Suzanne Beia; violist Sally Chisholm; and cellist Parry Karp.) Part 2 will cover the concert at Dolhain-Limbourg.

Here are links to Day 1:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/classical-music-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-lands-in-belgium-gets-detained-at-customs-and-is-rescued-in-time-for-practicing-and-playing-concerts/

To Day 2:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/24/classical-music-on-day-2-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-is-offered-rehearsal-time-in-a-bar-meets-descendants-of-the-original-members-of-the-quartet-and-performs-its-first-concert-to/

And to Day 3:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/25/classical-music-on-day-3-in-belgium-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-plays-at-the-royal-library-gives-a-gift-to-king-philippe-and-keeps-performing-a-lot-of-hard-and-varied-music/

Schaffer’s latest installment also shows the hard work of undertaking such a concert tour, which involves a lot more than playing and performing music. In this case, it also involves being cultural ambassadors.

PAQ-8BIT03

 SATURDAY, MAY 24

We have to catch to train to Verviers to get to Dolhain Limbourg, the hometown of the quartet’s original founding violinist Alphonse Onnou. (Below, from left, are Parry Karp, John Schaffer, Sally Chisholm and David Perry. Below, hometown fans Linda and Bob Graebner of Madison come along.) 

So the day began with a peaceful, dozy train trip through verdant farm country southwest out of Brussels, gradually giving way to steep lush hillsides crisscrossed by many streams.

Trains passed more and more frequently, passing through the long tunnels the closer we got to Verviers, where we were advised not to take the connection to Dolhain but were instead met by a large and eager delegation, jabbering excitedly in, to us, yet another dialect of specifically Belgian French.

PAQ essay 1 Train to Vervier Parry, John Schaffer, Sally David CR Sarah Schaffer

PAQ essay 2 Linda and Bob Graebner on train platform Sarah Schaffer

PAQ essay 3 train platform Sally, David, Parry.

PAQ essay 4 train ticket to Verviers Sarah SchafferJPG

As we find out, the town is charming and the residents go out of their way to host and honor the quartet, which they clearly welcome with open arms.

They divvied us up into waiting cars and off we sped the 10K or so to Dolhain, birthplace of the quartet’s founding violinist Alphonse Onnou. Our hosts, it turned out, were all members of a local historical society club and were very excited about our visit.

First stop: Le Kursaal, the concert hall, which on initial glimpse appeared somewhat disheartening and unpromising. Much negotiating over the placement — high stage off flat floor, or on the floor, and lighting. A poster announces our appearance.

No notes were tried. We hoped on this cool damp day that it might be warmer when we returned, and that lighting and seating questions would be solved then.

PAQ essay 5 Le Kursaal exterior Sarah Schaffer

PAQ essay 6 chekcing our stage at Le Kursaal David, Sally Parry Sarah Schaffer

PAQ essay 7 audience seats at Le Kursaal Sarah Schaffer

PAQ essay 8 poster for Le Kursssal concert

Next stop: Old Dolhain Limbourg (not the cheese!), the ancient town with castle and military lookouts on top of the hill. Very charming!

PAQ essay 9 old dolhain 1 SS

PAQ essay 10 old Dolhain 2 SS

PAQ essay 11 old Dolhain 3 SS

PAQ essay 12 Old Dolhain 4 SS

PAQ essay 13 Old Dolhain 5 SS

PAQ essay 14 Old Dolhain 6 SS

Here we were joined by more club members and treated to a  “typical” lunch at the cafe. About 18 of us in all by now. (From left are Sally Chisholm, Parry Karp, Linda Graebner, David Perry and Suzanne Beia.)

PAQ essay 15 Lunch in Dolhain 1 SS

PAQ essay 16 Lunch in Dolhain 2 SS

We take part in a municipal ceremony at 4 p.m.

Genealogical charts of the Onnou family were shared, as well as a thick sheaf of papers describing — mostly in French, a few things translated to English — the historical sites of the village, which we experienced in person on the guided walking your after the meal.

The Mayor of Dolhain Limbourg is the woman on the left dressed in white. The interpreter-translator Alain Boucart is in red. The bald head belongs to the head of the Historical Society of Dolhain Limbourg. Then comes the head of the Alphonse Onnou celebration and exhibit, with tour organizer and quartet documentarian Anne van Malderen dressed in the turquoise sleeveless top and wearing eyeglasses.

PAQ essay 17 Municipal Ceremony 1 SS

PAQ essay 18 Municipal ceremony 2 SS

PAQ essay 19 Municipal essay 3 SS

Elections being on everyone’s minds — political posters everywhere, no concerts scheduled for Sunday because of elections in Belgium, the same reason the royals are sequestered — perhaps this explains Bob Graebner’s enthusiastic comment on meeting the Mayor of Dolhain: “I’d vote for her!”

Many speeches followed: the mayor, president of the historical society, and Onnou and Quatuor Pro Arte expert Anne Von Malderen (below left), all presented in French and then in translation (for our sakes) by an increasingly fatigued interpretor Alain Boucart (below right), who gave briefer and briefer summaries as the proceedings wore on, finally promising a written translation by email after the event.

Pro Arte in Belgium Anne vcan Malderen, translator Alain Boucart

At the reception that followed we were treated to excellent performances by the municipal band, made all the more enjoyable accompanied by chocolates and local cognac! (Below top and, below bottom in photo by Sally Chisholm of the band’s youngest member.) They sounded terrific and in our honor played “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

PAQ in Belgium Dolhain city band 1 SS

PAQ Belgium city band 2 youngest member Sally

And after another glass of wine, the grandniece of Alphonse Onnou autographed the first violin part of the score to composer Alexander Glazunov’s “Five Novelettes,” a favorite of Onnou that the quartet is to perform there, for violinist David Perry.

PAQ essay 20 Onnou grandniece with David SS

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Classical music: What music will you listen to on Memorial Day? The Ear offers several stirring stories about music and Memorial Day, from Walt Whitman and the Civil War through World War II to the Twin Towers and the War of Terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan.

May 26, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Today is Memorial Day, 2014

My Mom always referred to it as Decoration Day

I liked that name. It seemed to fit the occasion better.

army grave with flag and flowrds istock photo

To be honest, The Ear has always liked the idea of honoring military service, but is much less inclined to celebrate unabashed militarism with parades and flag-waving (below is a photo of a Memorial Day parade in Chicago).

I think of Memorial Day as a sadder, more introspective and memory-driven holiday, as well as the traditional start of summer -– which, especially after a Wisconsin winter like the last one, is nothing to apologize for.

chicago memorial day parade

In any case, here is a link to an informative but very accessible history of the holiday that also highlights the important difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memorial_Day

graves with flags USE day

But putting history aside for a moment, how would you celebrate the holiday artistically, especially musically?

That is what The Ear wants to know.

Every year, the excellent blog “Deceptive Cadence” on NPR offers its musical take on Memorial Day. This year is no different and NPR has chosen some moving words and music that you should check out:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/05/24/315107700/asleep-in-dress-blues-music-for-memorial-day

But over the past years, The Well-Tempered Ear has also offered previous blog posts – some offering suggested listening, others seeking it — that still seem relevant and still invite readers to participate.

Here is one from last year:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/classical-music-for-you-what-classical-music-best-celebrates-memorial-day/

And here is a link to memorable 2011 posting, which made a lot of suggestions for composers and specific works, then asked for reader feedback and also featured the moving version of Sir Edward Elgar’s beautifully poignant “Nimrod” Variation from the “Enigma” Variations (heard in the original orchestration  at the bottom in a YouTube video that has almost 2,5 million hits and features Daniel Barenboim and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra) and Norah Jones in her “Hymn to America,” both used convincingly and touchingly in Ken Burns’ mammoth documentary film “The War”:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2011/05/30/classical-and-classic-what-music-do-you-think-best-expresses-memorial-day/

Finally, here is a stirring story, much of it previously unknown to me, about the history of “Taps” that appeared on NPR:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2012/05/28/classical-music-for-memorial-day-and-as-a-tribute-to-all-veterans-here-is-the-long-and-moving-history-of-taps-from-npr/

TAPS Getty Images

What music comes to your mind and heart when you think of Memorial Day?

The Ear wants to hear.

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Classical music: On Day 3 in Belgium, the University of Wisconsin Pro Arte Quartet plays at the Royal Library, gives a gift to King Philippe and keeps performing a lot of hard and varied music.

May 25, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Editor’s note: The Well-Tempered Ear has asked people on the one-week tour of Belgium by the UW Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) to file whatever dispatches and photos they can to keep the fans at home current with what is happening on the concert stage and off.

Thanks goodness for iPads, iPhones, Androids and other smart phones, computers and digital cameras!

Here is a link to the first installment:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/classical-music-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-lands-in-belgium-gets-detained-at-customs-and-is-rescued-in-time-for-practicing-and-playing-concerts/

And here is the second installment:

Pro Arte Qartet  Overture Rick Langer

After troubles at customs and catching up from jet lag, the Pro Arte Quartet got down to the business of rehearsing and performing.

The quartet members  -– violinists David Perry and Suzanne Beia, violist Sally Chisholm, cellist Parry Karp and manager Sarah Schaffer —  and their entourage of “groupies” also spent time meeting and greeting the descendants of the original quartet members who started the ensemble over a century ago at the Royal Belgian Conservatory of Music in Brussels before World War II stranded them in Madison.

That’s when they became artists-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of music, where they have remained ever since.

Here are some updates on Day 3:

Read on:

Sarah Schaffer (below), who also took the photos, writes:

Sarah Schaffer mug

Day 3 — FRIDAY:

The “coats and cases” space was the room that houses the Bela Bartok archives at the Royal Library!

Here is the exterior with its name in the two official languages of Belgium: Flemish and French.

PAQ in Belgium Royal Library exterior with Flemish and French

The Bartok Room (below) has many rare and unique items – letters, photos, etc. It all rather takes one’s breath away. We each received a copy of a recent publication by the collection’s archivist, Denijs Dille.

PAQ in Belgium Bartok archives ar Royal Library

FYI, the fifth person, on the right in the photo (below) taken after the bows that followed the concert on the Arthur De Greef Auditorium — named for the early 20th-century Belgian composer — is Hubert Roisin, Counselor to the King.

PAQ in Belgium with Hubert Roisin on stage at De Greef Auditorium at Royal Library

Mr. Roisin (below, in a close-up by violist Sally Chisholm) seemed very honored to be in attendance. We were certainly honored by his presence at the concert.

PAQ in Belgium Mr Roisin for King Philippe Salky Chisholm

Here are the gifts we gave Monsieur Roisin for King Philippe: A framed photo (below top) of the original members and the current members of the Pro Arte Quartet plus an honorary letter (below bottom) from University of Wisconsin-Madison Rebecca M. Blank.

PAQ in Belgium photo gift to king

PAQ in Belgium Blank letter

PAQ played to a mostly full house and was very warmly received. Many accolades filled the air at the private reception afterwards.

PAQ in Belgium playing in De Dreef Auditorium at Royal Library

Afterwards, I pressed the willing-but-exhausted quartet into a “photo shoot” taking advantage of the spectacular architecture and gardens surrounding the library.

Then they all went off to rest.

It has been a very strenuous few days, and tomorrow is especially long, beginning with an 11 a.m. train trip to original quartet member Alphonse Onnou’s town of Dolhain, arriving in time for a 1 p.m. lunch. (Below is a photo of the Pro Arte Quartet in 1928. Alphonse Onnou is on the far left.)

Pro Arte Quartet in 1928 Onnou far left

Then it gets jam-packed with a full day of commemorations — including the municipal band offering “American” tunes in our honor — all BEFORE the 8 p.m. concert.

We will all be very glad to have Sunday “off.”

Not only is the SCHEDULE strenuous, but so also is the REPERTOIRE — with very few repeats over all these concerts.

The norm on tour is to recycle a handful of pieces.

Not so the Pro Arte Quartet, not on this trip.

They are holding up well but are, understandably, fatigués. (Below is the dual-language program notes from the concert of music by Bela Bartok and Franz Joseph Haydn — two composers the early Pro Arte Quartet was celebrated for and identified with — at the Royal Library.)

More soon.

PAQ in Belgium  program of Bartok 1 and Haydn De Greef Aditorium Royal Library

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Classical music: On Day 2 in Belgium, the University of Wisconsin Pro Arte Quartet is offered rehearsal time in a bar; meets descendants of the original members of the quartet; and performs its first concert to applause, appreciation and acclaim.

May 24, 2014
11 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Editor’s note: The Well-Tempered Ear has asked people and participants on the one-week tour in Belgium with the UW Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) to file whatever dispatches and photos they can to keep the fans at home current with what is happening on the concert stage and off.

Thanks goodness for iPads, iPhones and other smart phones, computers and digital cameras!

Here is a link to the dramatic first installment:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/classical-music-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-lands-in-belgium-gets-detained-at-customs-and-is-rescued-in-time-for-practicing-and-playing-concerts/

And here, below, is the second installment:

Pro Arte 3 Rick Langer copy

After troubles at customs and catching up from jet lag, the Pro Arte Quartet got down to the business of eating and sleeping, rehearsing and performing, of meeting its public and catching up with its history.

The quartet members and their entourage of groupies -– the quartet consists of violinists David Perry and Suzanne Beia, violist Sally Chisholm, cellist Parry Karp plus manager Sarah Schaffer — spent time meeting and greeting the descendants of the original quartet members who started the ensemble over a century ago at the Royal Belgian Conservatory of Music in Brussels before it became a Court quartet and then World War II stranded the quartet in Madison.

That’s when, in 1941, the quartet became artists-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, where they have remained ever since.

Here are some updates on Day 2 of the Belgium tour:

Read on:

Sarah Schaffer writes:

Day 2 — Thursday:

Much calmer!

Today’s “crisis” is small compared to yesterday’s:

The quartet needed a place to rehearse.

We’d assumed, incorrectly it turned out, that the hotel would have something like a meeting room that might be used.

No luck.

They offered instead the BAR! It is not open mornings.

And that is where Michel Arthur Prevost (below left in my photo), the grandnephew of founding violist Germaine Prevost and the impresario of the opening concert at Flagey Hall, first encountered the quartet when he unexpectedly arrived at the hotel this morning. On the right is his brother Jean Marie Prevost.

PAQ in Belgium brothers Michael Arthur Prevost (left) and Jean Marie Prevost Sarah Shaffer

Acoustics at Flagey were fantastic, as they quartet found out when rehearsing.

PAQ in Belgium rehearsing i Flagey Hall Sarah Schaffer

The opening concert was much enjoyed by a small but extremely appreciative audience.

PAQ in Belgium Performing in Flagey Hall Sarah Schaffer

Tomorrow we meet King Philippe’s counselor, Herbert Roisin, and offer him our gift of the photos of the old and current quartet members and a letter from our new University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank that we carried with us to Belgium.

Plus, the Pro Arte Quartet has received media attention, the local newspaper running a story (below) in French under a headline in English:

PAQ Belgium newspaper

Adds violist Sally Chisholm, who always has an eye for the feature and the fun:

What a fine way to travel!

Here is a very professional taxi driver taking us to Flagey Hall.

Much acceleration, good humor and the local title of Place des Morts (Square of the Dead) for the number of pedestrians crossing the street.

We are now in Studio 1, safe and greeting the grandnephews of Germain Prevost and many Pro Arte friends.

PAQ in Belgium taxi driver Sally Chisholm

Here is the grandson of cellist Robert Maas, speaking with Anne Van Malderen who is writing a documentary history of the Pro Arte. He speaks no English, but is very easy to understand!

PAQ in Belgium grandson of cellist Robert Maas  speaks with Anne van Malderen who is writing a documentary study of PAQ Sally Chisholm,

And here is the great-granddaughter of Robert Maas:

PAQ Belgium great grand daughter of Robert Maas Sally Chisholm

What a wonderful hall and appreciative audience.

Here is the stage before I played the Elegy for solo viola that was composed by Igor Stravinsky for one Pro Arte member and dedicated to the passing of another, Germaine Prevost. I performed it after remarks, in French, by Dr. Prevost, grand-nephew of Germain Prevost.

PAQ Belgium Stage Sally Chisholm

And here is the brief review by Dr. Robert Graebner, a UW-Madison alumnus and retired Madison neurologist who, with his wife Linda Graebner, is following the Pro Arte on its one-week tour and who commissioned for the quartet’s centennial the String Quartet No. 6 by American composer John Harbison — who teaches at MIT and co-directs the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival near Madison each August, and who has won both the Pulitzer Prize and a coveted MacArthur “genius” grant:

We just returned from a private concert at the historic Art Deco Flagey Studio 1. (Below is a photo of the concert posters taken by Sarah Schaffer.)

The Pro Arte was in top form, and attendees included two relatives of Germaine Prevost and two relatives of Robert Maas.

PAQ in Belgium Flagey concert poster Sarah Schaffer

Tomorrow brings a concert at the Royal Library.

So stayed tuned as the Pro Arte performs again (below is the printed program from Sarah Schaffer)  and meets The Royals – or at least their reps.

PAQ in Belgiium concert prgram Sarah Schaffer 

 

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Classical music: A major and long overdue revival of Franz Joseph Haydn seems at hand –- and The Ear applauds it.

May 23, 2014
5 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

The evidence just keeps on mounting, at least to The Ear’s ears.

What I hear tells me this: We are on the verge of a major rediscovery and revival of the works of Franz Joseph Haydn, who too often seems little more than a token inclusion or an afterthought in so much classical programming. The repertoire usually runs: Lots of Mozart, lots of Beethoven, some Schubert and far less Haydn.

Haydn

Almost all classical musicians, historical and contemporary, concede that “Papa” Haydn -– a more complex personality than it would appear at first, especially if you read the authoritative biographies and essays by H.C. Robbins Landon  — was one of the most inventive and creative, the most prolific and influential composers of all time.

Haydn was more or less the father of the symphony, as we know it; the string quartet as we know it; the piano trio as we know it; and the piano sonata as we know it.

But curiously, Haydn has never received the same intense attention that his more famous colleagues such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Schubert, have enjoyed. And this is even despite the fact that he was a teacher or mentor to all of them.

Haydnpiano

And on what does The Ear base his hunch about a Haydn revival?

Well, this past season I heard many more of Haydn’s string quartets and piano trios than usual. I also heard one of his two cello concertos and a trumpet concerto.

The string quartets and piano trios came from the Pro Arte Quartet (below top), plus the Hunt Quartet (below middle) and the Perlman Trio (below bottom, seen with a guest pianist and guest cellist) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music as well as from chamber musicians in the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO). Plus, the annual summer Token Creek Chamber Music Festival often likes to explore Haydn’s piano trios, although I don’t yet know this summer’s programs. (You can hear part of a great Piano Trio in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Pro Arte Quartet in Haydn at Mernier

Hunt Quartet Mills 2-2014 USE

perlman trio 2014 2 Esposito

I have also heard many more symphonies everywhere, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus concert halls to Wisconsin Public Radio and SiriusXM satellite radio. More importantly, I have heard far more of the 104 symphonies than the usual favorites such as “the Farewell,” “The Clock,” “The Drumroll” and “The Surprise,” including fine performances by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and the Madison Symphony Orchestra under conductor John DeMain — which played Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto with soloist Tine Thing Helseth — as well as the UW Symphony Orchestra and UW Chamber Orchestra under conductor James Smith.

WCO lobby

Then take a look at the concertos, which are relatively rare in the concert hall.

Next season the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra will feature Shai Wosner (below, in a photo by Marco Borgrevve), a first-rate and sensitive musician, performing two of Haydn’s many piano concertos, the unheard No. 4 in G Major and the more popular No. 11 in D Major. This season, his Piano Concerto in D Major –- the most famous one — was also featured at Edgewood College, and it will again be programmed this summer by the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO). That kind of repetition programming means something and bodes well.

Shai Wosner Photo: Marco Borggreve

One major disappointment of the revival so far is that local pianists don’t seem to be doing their part. They are not picking up on the 52 piano sonatas that are such a rich field of repertoire.

Too bad!

The Ear finds the piano sonatas of Haydn interesting and varied, and I am not alone: They were favorites of none other than the titanic talent Sviatoslav Richter (below top), who possessed a gigantic repertoire, but always spotlighted Haydn in performances and recordings. Alfred Brendel, Emanuel Ax, Leif Ove Andsnes, Andras Schiff and especially “super-virtuoso” Marc-Andre Hamelin (below bottom) -– all top names currently on the concert circuit –- have also championed Haydn through performances and recordings.

richterwithcross1

marc-andre hamelin

But perhaps those shortcomings will be overcome in time. After all, this past season, Archiv issued an outstanding CD of Haydn’s rarely played violin concertos with Giuliano Carmignola ad the Orchestra of the Champs-Elysees.

Giuliano Carmignola

Another area that needs some catching up with is Haydn’s choral music. It has been quite a few years since we have heard either of his large and magnificent oratorios “The Seasons” or “The Creation.” And I am not even talking about his wondrous, smaller-scale late masses (“Mass in Time of War,” “The Lord Nelson Mass”) that deserve far more performances than they usually receive, maybe from the UW Choral Union.

UW Choral Union and UW Symphony 11-2013

Will Haydn ever displace or dethrone the bigger masters and more famous names? Probably not.

The Ear finds Mozart more beautiful, but Haydn more interesting. 

Beethoven (below) is more dramatic, virtuosic and powerful, though much of what he learned about development, he learned from Haydn with whom he studied counterpoint, and whose work he knew intimately.

Beethoven big

And except in some of the “Storm and Stress” symphonies, Haydn seems more formal and objective, and rarely expresses the kind of heart-wrenching empathy and soulful humaneness we find in Mozart (below top)  and Schubert (below bottom), who were supreme melodists.

Mozart old 1782

Franz Schubert big

In fairness, we have to admit that Haydn did have his weak points. He wrote far too many works (123 trios!) for the outdated baryton (below) –- a kind of cello or viol with vibrating sympathetic strings -– simply because his royal patron at the Esterhazy Palace in Austria (now Hungary) played it. One can only imagine what would be the result if such energy had gone into other more important genres where Haydn excelled.

Baryton

Also, Haydn’s many operas seem deservedly neglected when they are compared to Mozart’s. Haydn just didn’t seem to have the flair necessary to combine theater and music in an engaging and insightful or moving way. And perhaps Haydn didn’t really take to vocal music because he subconsciously resented how close he had come to being castrated to preserve his boy soprano voice. Still, it might be interesting to see the Madison Opera do one of the better Haydn operas as its winter offering, or to see the University Opera, which often does neglected repertoire, tackle one. (Below is the English Touring Opera performing Haydn’s opera “Country Matters.”

Haydn's opera %22Country Matters%22 by the English Touring opera

But make no mistake. Haydn’s life and career were very long and his enormous output constitutes an endless vein of precious ore to mine, as these approximate numbers show: 104 symphonies, 60 piano trios, 72 string quartets, 52 piano sonatas, dozens of concertos and operas, a dozen or two major choral works.

Haydn, a humorous and good-natured man as well as a hard worker -– he always composed at the keyboard (below) — was a driving force behind all of them. And even though he developed and changed immensely over long life -– he was born in 1732 and died famous in 1809 -– all stages of his work offer masterpieces that deserve performances and acquaintance, and certainly far more attention than they generally receive.

Haydn_3

That is especially so now that early music, period instruments and historically informed performance practices are the norm. But I personally find that Haydn, unke some other composers, sounds terrific on either period instruments or modern instruments.

Haydn’s early symphonies like the triptych “Morning, Noon and Night;” (Symphonies Nos. 6, 7 and 8) are rich; his middle-period “Storm and Stress” minor key symphonies from his middle period are extraordinary and surprising for a Classical era composer. His sophisticated late work, when he twice took London by storm, includes the “Paris” and “London” symphonies as well as the “Oxford,” to celebrate his receiving an honorary degree. Next season, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra will perform Symphony No. 96, “The Miracle.”

The Ear would love to see WCO music director and conductor Andrew Sewell (below)  -– who has shown himself to be a masterful interpreter of Haydn – undertake either a major cycle or at least a major survey of Haydn’s symphonies in coming seasons. Maybe the UW’s Pro Arte Quartet could do the same with the string quartets.

andrewsewell

So rich is Haydn’s work that even if a major revival happens -– if it indeed has already started – it can keep going for a very long time to come, and still keeps surprising us and pleasing us.

Does anyone else sense that a major Haydn revival is at hand?

Why do you think Haydn has been comparatively ignored?

What Haydn works do you like best?

And what Haydn works would you like to get to know better or to see better known by the general public and performed more often?

The Ear wants to hear.

 

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