The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: On the last day of the Fiscal Year, The Ear says to arts groups “Show us the money” — and where it goes — if you want more. Cultural organizations should be transparent about their budgets, and accountable to the public about money, power and politics.

June 30, 2014
8 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is June 30, 2014.

You might well think it is just another day of another month in another year.

Except that it is not.

It marks the end of Fiscal Year 2013-14.

That means that all kinds of organizations -– for-profit businesses, non-profit groups and charitable organizations – will be figuring out how they met, exceeded or failed to meet their budgets for the past fiscal year that ends today.

It also means they have set budgets for the new fiscal year that starts tomorrow, Wednesday, July 1.

budget columns compared

 

The Ear knows that he has been deluged with requests for donations, often multiple mailings from the same organization. Now, perhaps it is due to the gradual recovery and an expanding economy, with more disposable income at play.

The requests have come from big organizations like the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Madison Opera, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, the Overture Center for the Arts, the Wisconsin Union Theater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, Edgewood College and the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) among many others.

Of course the requests for help have also come from smaller organizations including the Oakwood Chamber Players, the Madison Early Music Festival (MEMF), the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society (BDDS), the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble, the Middleton Community Orchestra and the Ancora String Quartet among others.

But there has been a lot of turmoil in the music world lately. Last year saw the death of the City Opera of New York and of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra. It saw the death and resurrection of the Minnesota Orchestra, which chose to spend a lot on money on a new hall rather than on the musicians who make the “product.”

Anyway, it all got The Ear to thinking that we hear constant pleas about need, including how ticket prices just don’t cover production expenses. So no wonder that there is a lot of competition for donor dollars.

money.3

But what we don’t hear very much about is what happens to the money that the various groups collect –- often in large amounts. Does anyone out there know the salaries of the conductors and executive directors, of directors of development and of the musicians?

So here is my proposal to classical music groups in the area:

Fair is fair. If you feel you can honestly ask the public for money because you need it, then I think the public is entitled to know why that money is needed, and how it has been spent and will be spent.

I would like to see how big many endowment funds are, and how much many groups draw from them each year.

I would like to see how much money goes to top administrators. And how much goes to overhead expenses like hall rental and score rental, to advertising and business operations. And how much actually goes to musicians.

budget calculator

Maybe it could be cast in percentages, like in a budget pie chart — then posted on the group’s home website.

Budget pie chart

Better yet, I would like to see raw total numbers out in the open and easy to access.

How about stating expenses and income in terms of how a given amount of cents is spent out each dollar donated.


budget pie

I would also like to see some comparative salaries over the past five years. Partially that is because I want to see a history of percentage raises at a time when most working people are not seeing their wages rise, and have not seen that for a very long time.

I suspect a lot, maybe even most, of donation requests and organizations are completely above-board. But I also suspect some potentially embarrassing things are being kept quiet or secret or conveniently overlooked. They could be things that might discourage ordinary listeners from making donations, or help the rest of us to prioritize to whom we will give money.

But The Ear says: If you don’t come clean about spending the public’s money, then you forfeit your right to ask for that money.

I don’t say all this as an enemy or even skeptic of the arts. I say it as someone who supports the arts and culture, someone who thinks transparency and accountability will help the arts, especially given the current widening wealth gap and the concern it has raised.

So The Ear says:

“Show us the money.”

He also notes that bring a non-profit organization and being a charity are not the same thing, just as he recalls the abuses more than a decade ago of the national head of the United Way who was living in luxury off the money that good people donated to eradicate or at least alleviate social misery and inequality.

Finally, The Ear can’t stop thinking that a big part of the problem that classical music organizations face with falling attendance and not attracting young audiences has to do with how much a ticket goes for. Moreover, he suspects that the lion’s share of such expenses are NOT going to the individual musicians’ salaries.

Madison Symphony Orchestra overhead 2

So I ask all large and small music organizations -– all arts organizations, really –- to move quickly and openly toward greater transparency and accountability. Even if it is available on some tracking website, we should not have to search for it. Such research should be done for us, the targeted donors.

When you ask for our money, please also tell us where it has gone in past fiscal years and where it will go in the coming fiscal year.

Talking about money and power and politics in the arts often seems to demean the arts in the minds of many people. It somehow seems to dirty the arts to link them to such non-aesthetic things.

But such is the reality. The Ear knows from many years of being an investigative reporter -– one who uncovered criminal wrongdoing and even scandal at the Wisconsin Arts Board — that money, power and politics rule the art world as much or more than beauty does, and they do so in the arts no less than in other worlds.

It is too bad that the regular media don’t do a better job of policing the arts, which only want positive feature stories, approving reviews and good PR. Citizens need to be informed, especially since Big Money has become more important.

So isn’t it time to get some things cleared up, specifically the financing of arts group in the coming fiscal year?

budget money in a jar

What do you readers think?

Do you have relevant facts to share?

Should arts groups disclose -– either by law or voluntarily — their budgets and where the money that they have already received has gone before they are entitled to ask for more money?

Let The Ear and his readers and especially the arts groups in town know where you stand and what they should do to satisfy you so that you can help them.

 

 

Advertisements

Classical music: Conductor Julius Rudel, longtime director of the defunct New York City Opera, has died at 93.

June 29, 2014
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

Julius Rudel (below, in a 2010 photo from The New York Times), the longtime artistic director of the now defunct New York City Opera, has died at 93.

Julius Rudel at home in 2010 NY Times

By all accounts, Rudel was a knowledgeable, impeccable and insightful musician, and a generous man and instructive role model. And that is how he comes across in an interview for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) you can listen to at the bottom in a YouTube video.

An unassuming man and a populist for the arts, Rudel, who was a native Austrian and a refugee from Adolf Hilter’s Nazi Germany at 17 in 1938, had the misfortune to outlive the opera company that he so nourished but which went bankrupt and defunct eight months ago.

He had a local tie in that, early on, he recognized and encouraged the talent of a young piano and conducting graduate of the prestigious Juilliard School of Music in New York City who was also a student at the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s famed Tanglewood Festival.

Julius Rudel middle age conducting NPR

That man was John DeMain (below), who is the music director and conductor of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the artistic director of the Madison Opera. Before coming to Madison, DeMain led the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Huston Grand Opera.

Here is a link to the story where John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad) talked briefly about his link and debt to Rudel.

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/06/19/classical-music-madison-symphony-orchestra-and-madison-opera-conductor-john-demain-talks-about-the-role-of-the-piano-in-his-career-and-his-upcoming-performances-this-weekend-of-robert-and-clara-schum/

John DeMain full face by Prasad

Rudel lived a long and productive life, filled with nurturing many famous opera singers, including Beverly Sills who is seen below, at left, in 1976 talking to Rudel) and Placido Domingo, and with guest stints around the world conducting all kinds of music.

new york city opera in 1976 soprano Beverly Sills, stage director Sarah Caldwell and then-director Julius Rudel

Here is a great story from the Deceptive Cadence blog on NPR:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/06/26/325809149/julius-rudel-longtime-director-of-new-york-city-opera-dies-at-93

And here is an impressively comprehensive obituary from The New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/27/arts/music/julius-rudel-longtime-city-opera-impresario-dies-at-93.html?_r=0

And here is the NEA interview on YouTube:

 


Classical music: The United States advances in the World Cup of soccer and The Ear advances to another great moment in music by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos.

June 28, 2014
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

After its one-point loss to Germany, the U.S. soccer team will advance to the knockout round of the  FIFA World Cup, which is being held in Brazil until July 13.

The next game for the U.S. is against Belgium on Tuesday.

Loyal fans of The Ear may recall that a week or so ago he decided the global soccer event being held in Brazil was a good opportunity to explore the music of Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos (below), whose music is beautiful and much too under-programmed and under-played here and elsewhere.

Villa-Lobos BW

Here is a link to the original post that also featured the gorgeous Cantilena movement for soprano from the Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 that has been recorded by folk singer Joan Baez as well as opera divas Kiri Te Kanawa, Barbara Hendricks, Victoria de los Angeles and Kathleen Battle.

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/06/20/classical-music-the-fifa-world-cup-of-soccer-is-a-perfect-time-to-become-acquainted-with-the-astonishing-music-of-brazilian-composer-heitor-villa-lobos/

Here is another great moment in Villa-Lobos that I heard at the Cello Choir concert by the National Summer Cello Institute that was held this month at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

This moment comes from the Bachianas Brasileiras No. 1 in a YouTube video below. It is the third movement, the finale, that happens in fugal form and again shows how Heitor Villa-Lobos tried to adapt the compositional techniques of Johann Sebastian Bach to the folk music and native dance rhythms of Brazil. That was an ambitious project, to be sure, and one in which The Ear thinks the composer was surprisingly successful.

Enjoy as you prepare to root for Team U.S.A.


Classical music: Does a clarinet sonata by Camille Saint-Saens sound like “On, Wisconsin”? Tell The Ear.

June 27, 2014
6 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

There The Ear was, sitting at home the other afternoon earlier this past week and listening to Wisconsin Public Radio’s afternoon music program.

And I thought I heard “On Wisconsin,” the contagious rah-rah fight song for the Badgers in all kinds of sports at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Now that song is of course a favorite, but I would hardly call it classical music, though it is undeniably a classic as far as The Ear is concerned.

So I listened to the host when she identified the piece and the composer.

It was the lovely Sonata for Clarinet and Piano in E-flat Major, Op. 167, by the 19th-century French composer Camille Saint-Saens (below) who, along with Gabriel Faure, is one the most under-appreciated of all classical composers.

Camille Saint-Saens

Am I the only one who thinks that the main theme of the sonata, a theme that gets repeated several times, even in different movements, sounds a lot like “On, Wisconsin”?

Here are the two different melodies.

Or are they different?

Take a listen to the two YouTube videos that are below.

Decide for yourself.

Then please use the REPLY or COMMENT section to let me and other readers know what you think.

 

 


Classical Music: At Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society concerts, The Ear always learns as he listens. Here are some lessons from last weekend that will no doubt reappear this coming weekend.

June 26, 2014
3 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

This summer, The Ear has yet to see a missed opportunity or hear a false note from the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, which seems headed for a perfect season.

I find that each of the two weekend programs that the BDDS offers in three venues for three weekends each summer usually rewards me with a generous share of pleasure plus important lessons and pleasant surprises. Little wonder, then, that the BDDS has had its best second weekend ever last Friday, Saturday and Sunday, according to BDDS executive director Samantha Crownover.

Last weekend certainly did offer much pleasure, plus many lessons and surprises, with the “Take a Hike” and “Hasta la Vista, Baby” programs. And there is no reason to think that this coming weekend’s two programs — “Cut and Run” and “Hightail It” — won’t do the same.

So here are some quick looks backward that are likely to serve as good looks forward.

Here is a link for more information about performers, date and times, programs and tickets:

www.bachdancinganddynamite.org

An avid amateur pianist myself, I get to hear terrific pianists whom I can emulate and who inspire me to practice and play better.

Almost every concert features BDDS co-founder and co-artistic director Jeffrey Sykes, who teaches at University of California-Berkeley and California State University-East Bay. Sykes never disappoints. He is a master of different styles, color and dynamics — in short, an ideal collaborator.

And last weekend, this Pianist for All Seasons demonstrated yet another skill with his improvised embellishments and ornamentation on themes and passage work in a well-known Mozart piano concerto (Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488).

BDDSrehearsalJeffrySykes

This weekend Sykes will play by himself in piano trios by Dmitri Shostakovich and Antonin Dvorak with the San Francisco Piano Trio of which he is a member. He will also perform duets and trios with his BDDS co-founder and co-artistic director flutist Stephanie Jutt. Particularly noteworthy is that this weekend, Sykes will again be joined by fellow pianist Randall Hodgkinson (below) in works for one piano, four hands, one by Darius Milhaud with a Charlie Chaplin movie to accompany it.  Hodgkinson teaches at the New England Conservatory of Music and Wellesley College, and he is really good.

Randall Hodgekinson 1

Still, the real piano treat last weekend was tango pianist – and also music arranger -– Pablo Zinger (below), a native Uruguayan who now lives in New York City. Zinger once arranged music for and performed the works of Argentinean tango master Astor Piazzolla. And it was in two evenings of Piazzolla’s tangos that Zinger displayed his amazing skills.

I watched how carefully he pedaled, never overdoing it. I listened to how well he balanced volume with other instruments. I heard his unfailing ability to execute complex rhythms and to quickly but naturally change tempi. I listened to what seemed an undeniably classical keyboard technique that allowed him to play multiple voices independently, as in a Bach fugue. Articulate and laconic, Pablo Zinger (below top, he is talking; below bottom, he is playing) proved nothing short of a master instrumentalist, not just some generic dance-band pianist. I don’t think I will ever forget his rendition with BDDS of Astor Piazzolla’s heartbreakingly beautiful “Oblivion,” which you can hear in a comparable chamber music arrangement in a YouTube video at the bottom.

BDDS 2014 Pablo Zinger talks

BDDS 2014 Pablo Zinger playing

I get to hear first-rate, terrific artists from out-of town.

Some of the performers who were familiar from past BDDS seasons included husband-and-wife cellists Anthony Ross and Beth Rapier, who both play with the Minnesota Orchestra. They are terrific separately and together, as when they played the only Concerto for Two Cellos composed by Antonio Vivaldi (below) whose appealing works we hear played live too infrequently.

Beth Rapier and Anthony Ross BDDS 2014

Violinist Carmit Zori, who is the founder and artistic director of the Brooklyn (NY) Chamber Music Society, never fails to impress me with her sound and her expressiveness. This was especially true is the Romance, Op. 23, for Violin and Piano by Amy Beach, which I had never heard before. (You can hear it below in a YouTube video of Chicago violinist Rachel Barton Pine, who also discusses the American violinist Maud Powell to whom the Romance was dedicated and who gave the world premiere of the work. Barton Pine will perform with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra next season.)

The Beach Romance also reminded me of what a great strategy it is to open a concert with a slow piece to help get the audience into The Zone. In a way, it seems like back to the future, back to Baroque-era sonatas that went Slow-Fast-Slow-Fast rather than the Classical-era style of Fast-Slow-Fast in their sequence of movements. More concert programs should do the same.

Carmit Zori BDDS 2014

Clarinetist Alan Kay, who performs in New York City and who teaches at both the Mannes School of Music and the Juilliard School of Music in New York City, proved simply sublime in the great “autumnal” Clarinet Trio by Johannes Brahms as well as other pieces. What tone, color and control the man has. He made klezmer-like passages both howl with laughter and lament with moans.

Alan Kay 1 BDDS 2014

I get to hear unknown or neglected repertoire, both old and new.

Last weekend, as I said earlier, one gem was the Romance for Violin and Piano by Amy Beach; another was the chamber music arrangement by Johann Nepomuk Hummel of a Mozart piano concerto. I also liked a pampas- or gaucho-inspired work by Alberto Ginastera for cello and piano. Contemporary composer Osvaldo Golijov’s string quartet and clarinet called “The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind” (1994) was breathtaking.

This weekend I will get to hear music by composers I have never even heard of: Philippe Gaubert (below top), who, I suspect, sounds a bit like Gabriel Faure, and will feature virtuoso flutist Stephanie Jutt, BDDS co-founder and co-artistic director ; plus another Argentinean composer Angel Lasala (below bottom)  and William Hirtz (below bottom right with pianist Jon-Kimura Parker on the left), who are also complete unknowns to me. That adds excitement.

Philippe Gaubert 2

Angel Lasala

John Kimura Parker (left) and composer William Hirtz

I learned that the importance of dance forms in music survives.

In Baroque suites like the French and English Suites of Johann Sebastian Bach, the Concerti Grossi of George Frideric Handel and of various Italian composers, you find the allemande, gigue, minuet and sarabande among other dance forms.

In the Romantic era, it was the waltz, the polonaise, the mazurka, the polka and the Slavonic Dances of Antonin Dvorak and Hungarian Dances of Brahms.

Right into that tradition fits the Tango or, more precisely, the “new tango” or “nuevo tango.”

I could go on, but, you get the idea.

I find the Bach Dancing and Dynamite programs extremely well planned and then extremely well executed. And I am not alone, as repeated standing ovations demonstrate (below left at the Stoughton Opera House, below right at The Playhouse in the Overture Center).

To miss music and performances as fine as these is to cheat yourself.

And that just doesn’t make sense, does it?

BDDS 2014 Standing ovation in Stoughton

BDDS 2014 Playhouse standing ovation

 

 


Classical music Q&A: Pianist Isabella Wu discusses Sergei Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 1, which she will perform tonight at the opening of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra’s 31st annual Concerts on the Square. Plus, the Madison Summer Choir sings Brahms and Bizet on Friday night.

June 25, 2014
1 Comment

ALERT: Just a reminder that the Madison Summer Choir (below) will present the “Song of Destiny” by Johannes Brahms and the “Te Deum” by Georges Bizet with orchestra this Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Ave. The concert is entitled “Philosophically Speaking,” also features pieces exploring human reality, existence, and reason.  The first half includes works by Orlando Gibbons, Stephen Chatman, Cecil Effinger and Daniel Mulholland. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for students. Here is a link with information about the concert and about how to join the choir:

http://madisonsummerchoir.org

Madison Summer Choir

By Jacob Stockinger

Tonight at 7 p.m. brings the opening of what has been billed in the past as “The Biggest Picnic of Summer”: The 31st annual FREE Concerts on the Square (below) by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra under the baton of WCO music director and conductor Andrew Sewell. Each of the six concerts draws upwards of 10,000 people.

(NOTE: The weather reports call for possible storms tonight. To find out about  possible cancellation of the concert, final word will be posted every Wednesday afternoon by 3 p.m. on www.wcoconcerts.org.)

Over the next six consecutive Wednesday nights (Thursdays are the rain date), all kinds of music -– from classical to rock, pop and blues -– will be featured on the King Street corner of the Capitol Square in downtown Madison.

ConcertsonSquaregroupshot

Of special note is the appearance tonight by Madison pianist Isabella Wu (bel0w), who won the annual young artist concerto competition this year. She will perform the first movement of the Piano Concerto No. 1 in F-sharp minor by the Romantic 20th-century Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninov.

Isabella Wu

Also on the “Midsommer Stars” program are: the “Swedish Festival Music” by Swedish composer August Soderman (1832-1876); Swedish Dance Nos. 1-7 by Max Bruch; the “Cossack Scherzo” from the Symph0ny No. 2 by Mily Balakirev; the Festival Overture on the American National Air by British composer Percy C. Buck (1871-1947); and “Midsommervaka” by Swedish Hugo Alfven (1872-1960).

Here is a link to an overview of this summer’s six Concerts on the Square.

http://wcoconcerts.org/performances/concerts-on-the-square/

Here is a link to rules and guidelines that are useful for attending the concerts:

http://wcoconcerts.org/performances/concerts-on-the-square/attendingtheconcerts/

And here is a link to vendor menus if you don’t bring your own food for dinner:

http://wcoconcerts.org/assets/files/153411_2014COSVendorMenus.pdf

Pianist Isabella Wu recently agreed to doing an email Q&A about her performance tonight:

Isabella Wu2

Can you briefly introduce yourself to readers.

I am Isabella Wu, age 15 and a freshman at Madison Memorial High. I began piano lessons at the age of 5. In third grade, I became interested in picking up a second instrument, the violin (below, Wu is seen soloing with WYSO’s Philharmonia Orchestra) and have been in the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (below) for six years. (I will be on WYSO’s tour to Argentina in late July).

My other pursuits in music have been numerous. I am an avid singer, and recently finished a semester coaching choir at my middle school. Most recently, my interests have extended to playing percussion and composing.

Music has been the most essential part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I would consider it my first language and my first world. Where I would be without music or art, for that matter, would be most certainly a cataclysmic shift; hence, I expect to be in the music world in the future. Where, I don’t know. I have an interest in the back-stage business area of the artistic world, and being an impresario is a possibility.

Isabella Wu on violin with WYSO Philharmonia Soloist 3

Why did you choose the rarely played Piano Concerto No. 1 by Sergei Rachmaninov to study, play and perform?

When I heard the Rachmaninov 1, the work touched me as something soulful and heart-wrenching, yet fleeting at times, and touched with a bit of bravura. The soaring theme following the opening passage became an immediate favorite with my daily spontaneous outbursts of singing.

But the cadenza of the first movement is where I felt the heart of the first movement could be found. Around that time, I was deciding between this Rachmaninov 1, and his famous second concerto. I was a bit puzzled when I found I was reluctant to play the second, as I had always longed to play it. (The second concerto is much-loved and very popular).

Something didn’t quite seem so right. Months after I had chosen the first, I was still pondering why. I think I knew the Second Concerto by Rachmaninov (below) was too ingrained in the public’s mind, too well-known by onlookers and by me to search for my own voice. If I had chosen the second, I would have felt overwhelmed by the high stature placed on it, and been (as I already was) too influenced by the numerous recordings to call it my own.

But the first concerto — that was something different. The sparse recordings I found were none alike, and it was not well-known, but equally special. The concerto is not so spectacular at first glance, but has the capability of bringing tears to the most reticent of audience members.

rachmaninoffyoung

What do you most like about the concerto and what would you like the public to know about it?

Rachmaninov wrote this concerto, his Op. 1, at the age of 19, when he was still a student at the Moscow Conservatory. As was the custom for novitiates of the Conservatory, Rachmaninov based his work on that of another composer — in this case, the Piano Concerto in A Minor by Edvard Grieg (below).

“Based” is an understatement — Rachmaninov literally wrote his music into Grieg’s concerto, copying it form for form. If you compare the two concertos, you will see that they are very much alike in structure.

edvard grieg

Rachmaninov entered his concerto into the conservatory competition, and took first place. However, years later, after Rachmaniov had sought asylum in the United States, and even after he had edited his second and third concertos, Rachmaninov went back to redraft the first.

As the concerto was already published, there was not much structural change he could make to the piece. Instead, he filled in the lines, developing a much more mature work, and completely re-writing the cadenza.

Yet the public did not receive his work well, and Rachmaninov is said to have stated: “I have rewritten my First Concerto; it is really good now. All the youthful freshness is there, and yet it plays itself so much more easily. And nobody pays any attention. When I tell them in America that I will play the First Concerto, they do not protest, but I can see by their faces that they would prefer the Second or Third.”

Once when Rachmaninov was asked what inspired his music, he replied, “Love. Love -– this is a never fading source of inspiration. It inspires like nothing else. To love means to combine happiness and force of the mind. It becomes a stimulus for the flourishing of intellectual energy, and as such -– for creativity.”

One can only wonder what he meant. At the time of 19, he had already experienced a great number of tragedies, including the deaths of two of his sisters. He had also fallen in love with a neighbor, Verochka Skalon, but was forbidden to write letters to her. Later, after many years, his statement probably also included his love for his country, which he could never go back to.

Whatever the love might be, I hope you too find it in this piece.

Rachmaninoff

You are a competition veteran and winner. How do you cope with performance, especially before such a big crowd? Do you get nervous? How do you prepare? Are there “tricks” you would like to share with others?

Performance anxiety is a nasty deal. Experience usually helps, but isn’t the ultimate solution. For me, yes, I do get nervous, but the key is to channel the nervousness into a positive asset. Nervousness, if directed correctly, gives you the extra boost.

Another occasional problem is “Paralysis by Analysis,” which occurs when the analytical left brain tries to dominate the more natural right brain. However, if you manage to find the zone where your mind clicks, you will do fine.

I usually do stretching exercises and slow down my breathing. I also have some pieces I’ve designated as “warm-up” pieces that tend to click. Try to develop a routine; it will all feel natural in good time.

stage fright

What do you think we have to do to interest more young people in classical music? How did you get interested in it?

For me, music just always happened to be around, with the stereo playing Johann Sebastian Bach while I went to sleep. The big difference, say, between pop music and classical is the accessibility of pop music. Pop songs are generally around 5 minutes long and “catchier,” and can be easily simulated by voice. Classical music, however, requires — most unfortunately — money, and usually a good deal of it. Not to mention classical music’s centuries-old rules, whereas pop songs are more spontaneous and thriving.

The problem is that our liberal-minded age seeks the more libertarian values. However, we’ve been doing a good job introducing classical music to the young public. The high school music program, and to a lesser degree, the middle school program, does a good job of introducing students to an individual instrument and developing a passion for ensemble works. Even some of the elementary school programs are noteworthy, with the common recorder and occasional musicals.

Around here in Madison, Michelle Kaebisch (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot), of both the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras, does an excellent job of bringing classical music to the schools through numerous programs — Link-Up, the Hunt Quartet and the Fall Youth Concerts, in  which I soloed twice — that are eye-openers to students.

Michelle Kaebisch WYSO cr Katrin Talbot

What else would you like to say or add?

Hope to see you Wednesday!


Classical music: The Ear sees blackmail, censorship, self-censorship and moral weakness –- NOT “compromise” – in the Metropolitan Opera’s decision to cancel the “Live in HD” broadcast of John Adams’ “The Death of Klinghoffer” next fall.

June 24, 2014
10 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

It sure doesn’t seem like the Metropolitan Opera (below) could or should be the hero in this opera. More like it plays the role of the bad guy, the villain.

Met from stage over pit

Or is it really more of a soap opera?

In case you haven’t been following the news, the general director of the Metropolitan Opera Peter Gelb has caved in to pressure from Israeli lobbies and agreed to cancel the scheduled “Live in HD” broadcast of the opera “The Death of Klinghoffer” by the acclaimed contemporary American composer John Adams (below and at bottom in a YouTube video with the stage director of the Met’s production.)

John Adams

 The Ear finds that action thoroughly reprehensible.

It seems the pro-Israeli lobby thinks the opera is anti-Semitic and too kind in the way it treats the four Palestinian terrorists — from the Palestine Liberation Organizations — who in 1985 took over the luxury cruise ship the Achille Lauro and killed the disabled Jewish passenger Leon Klingerhoffer in his wheelchair and then threw him overboard.

Well, I want to tell the head honchos at the famed Met: Don’t do my thinking about terrorism and Mideast peace for me. Just give me the facts and let me make up my own mind.

I want to see art, not propaganda, which is apparently what some pro-Israeli activists think would be good for the rest of us. I think I can see tragedy where there is tragedy, whether it is Jewish or Arab tragedy, Israeli or Palestinian tragedy. Just listen to the “Night Chorus” (below) and watch the videos that go with it:

This whole affair sound more than a little to my mind like a protester who would censor William Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” or Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn” in the name of a higher morality.

I say: Let us see the opera –- it is one of next season’s “Live in HD” satellite broadcasts that I would like most to attend -– and then decide for ourselves.

Stop condescending to us, stop underestimating us.

Now, one suspects that the poor finances of the Met would help to explain a lot of the shameful action. And Gelb admits that donors didn’t pressure him but that groups connected to donors did.

So here is the compromise: There will be no protesting at the actual opera production in New York City –- where tickets can run hundreds of dollars and seating is limited and most of the world cannot and will not see it — and no boycotting or withdrawing of financial support if the Met doesn’t broadcast it worldwide to a much larger audience.

I think I smell blackmail.

What do you smell?

I know I smell censorship on the part of the protesters and self-censorship of the part of the famed opera company’s administrators who caved in to their demands.

“The Death of Klinghoffer” would seem to build on the other news-based or reality-based operas of John Adams that the Met has staged and then broadcast so successfully by the Met: “Nixon in China” (below) about President Richard Nixon meeting Chairman Mao; and “Doctor Atomic,” about J. Robert Oppenheimer and the building of the first atomic bomb.

DeMainNixon Orth2

Here is a line to the story in The New York Times about the original decision:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/18/arts/music/met-opera-cancels-telecast-of-klinghoffer.html?_r=0

And here is a link to reaction from the composer John Adams, who counters objections and make convincing points:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/19/arts/music/klinghoffer-composer-responds-to-mets-decision.html

Here is a link to a fine critique from the longtime senior music critic for The New York Times Anthony Tommasini:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/21/arts/music/what-the-death-of-klinghoffer-could-have-accomplished.html

Here a link to a fine editorial that appeared in The Boston Globe:

http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/editorials/2014/06/21/met-opera-embarrasses-itself-and-cheats-its-audience-cancelling-klinghoffer-broadcast/2zsWa83uXtcIsFU5eQd0nI/story.html

And here is another great editorial, this one from The New York Times, which is located in a city known for its large Jewish population and, one presumes, its large body of Jewish subscribers:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/20/opinion/the-metropolitan-operas-backward-move.html

 

 

 

 


Classical music: Madison Symphony Orchestra hands out this year’s annual awards for service, commitment and musicianship.

June 23, 2014
Leave a Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

A friend writes:

Dear Jake,

Here are some recent awards that the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below) recently gave out at its Board of Directors’ annual meeting. I thought you might be interested in them for your blog.

John DeMain and MSO from the stage Greg Anderson

The citations come with comments by music director and conductor John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad).

John DeMain full face by Prasad

The 2014 Madison Symphony Orchestra Musician Awards were presented at the Annual Meeting of the Board this June.

MARGARET RUPP COOPER AWARDS

Margaret Rupp Cooper (below), was the harpist in the Madison Symphony Orchestra from its first concert in 1926 until the 50th Anniversary season. The awards in her honor are presented annually to two orchestra members based upon years of service, commitment to the orchestra, and musicianship.

Margaret Rupp Cooper

The two award winners this year are:

ELIZABETH MARSHALL, FLUTE

John DeMain said: “Liz has performed extraordinary service as our second flute since 2005. She often plays as Principal in Stephanie Jutt’s absence and is always superbly prepared and performs beautifully in whatever capacity we ask of her.  She is an excellent colleague and sets the standard for professional demeanor. It gives me great personal pleasure to recognize Liz this season, and thank her for her outstanding contributions to our orchestra.”

DAN LYONS, PRINCIPAL KEYBOARD

Dan Lyons joined the orchestra in 2011 filling the remarkable shoes of Ann Stanke, both as manager and accompanist of the chorus and as the principal piano and celeste player for the orchestra.

John DeMain said: “Dan Lyons has had an outstanding season, performing in many varied styles.  In addition to some particularly challenging solo work in the orchestral repertoire, he performed as accompanist on the Beyond the Score concert and the Chorus’ own concert in February.  In each instance he has performed brilliantly.  In his capacity as chorus manager, Dan has reorganized and modernized the internal communications within the chorus.  Thank you for your excellence in the orchestra and your dynamic and valuable contributions to the chorus.”

Recipients of the 2014 Madison Symphony Musician Awards -– pictured below from left to right –- are soprano Maureen Kind, keyboardist Dan Lyons and flutist Elizabeth Marshall.

MSO awards 2014

ANN STANKE AWARD

Ann Stanke (below top) was the long-time manager and accompanist for the Madison Symphony Chorus (below bottom, in a photo by Greg Anderson). The award winner is second soprano Maureen Kind, who has been with the Chorus since she started as a graduate student 46 years ago.

ann stanke

MSO Chorus CR Greg Anderson

MARIE SPEC AWARD

Marie Spec played first violin in the MSO’s first concert in 1926 and for many seasons after. The Marie Spec Award consists of a fund that allows an annual bonus to be paid to the MSO Concertmaster, Naha Greenholtz (below, in a  photo by Chris Hynes), and to the accompanist for the Madison Symphony Chorus, Dan Lyons.

Naha Greenholtz 2014 CR  Chris Hynes

 

 

 


Classical music: Learn more about the waltz — and other forms of dance music — and why it endures in classical music. Then tell The Ear about your favorite waltz and waltz composer.

June 22, 2014
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear spent much of the past weekend listening to dance music.

To the tango, to be specific, the new tango or “nuevo tango.”

He heard eight or 10 sexy and bittersweet tangos that were played superbly by the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, which was certainly helped by the presence of pianist Pablo Zinger who played with New Tango master and Argentinean composer Astor Piazzolla. (You can still catch the two BDDS concerts with tangos — and much more — TODAY at 2:30 and 6:30 p.m. at the Hillside Theater at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin compound in Spring Green. For details, visit, www.bachdancinganddynamite.org)

I will have more to say about those concerts later this week.

But all that South American dance music brought to mind what is no doubt the most popular dance of Western European classical music: the waltz. (Below are people dancing the Viennese waltz.) Music is so tied to the dance.

viennese waltz

The great music blog “Deceptive Cadence” that is written by NPR recently featured an overview of the waltz with history and some very fine sound samples.

I thought the history was a little skewed or thin. Personally, I wish the blog had said how the waltz -– which by now we so identify with aristocratic nobility and with elegance – evolved out of rougher peasant dances, including the landler. You can hear the similarities especially in Landler movements by Franz Joseph Haydn (below) and even Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven.

Haydn

I would also like to have heard a wider range of waltzes and waltz composers. Sure, there is the Strauss family. But some of my favorites are the smaller waltzes by Franz Schubert (below top) and Frederic Chopin (below bottom) to say nothing of Franz Liszt, Johannes Brahms, Antonin Dvorak, Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy and Dmitri Shostakovich among others.

Franz Schubert big

Chopinphoto

But the waltz is a huge subject and the NPR essay is a fine starting point.

Here is a link to the NPR posting:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/06/18/322930952/a-rhythm-thats-waltzed-away-with-hearts

And here is a popular YouTube video, with more than 1.3 million hits, of the great pianist Arthur Rubinstein playing one of The Ear’s all-time favorite waltzes, which has just the right hint of bittersweetness, by one of the all-time great waltz composers, Frederic Chopin.


Classical music: Today is the first day of summer. Also today, the second annual Make Music Madison celebration features folk, blues, pop, bluegrass and other genres. Check out the artists, times and venues. But The Ear thinks that classical music is underrepresented for a city so rich in that kind of music.

June 21, 2014
4 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is Saturday, June 21, 2014.

That makes it the Summer Solstice, the first day of summer, which arrived early here in the Midwest at 5:51 a.m. CST.

Summer Solstice

It seems so soon for the longest day of the year to arrive. Much too soon, really.

Can it really be that from now on until Dec. 21 the days will start getting shorter and the nights longer? That we are on our way toward the winter solstice? Why, it hardly seems we had a spring.

winter solstice image

Well, the good news is that today is also when the second annual FREE Make Music Madison celebration will take place.

Make Music Madison logo square

The FREE event will take place CITYWIDE.

It takes place INDOORS and OUTDOORS.

MMM 2014 indoors

MMM 2014 crowd outdoors playing

It starts in the early morning and runs until almost midnight. It features some 394 individual and group performers — lots of amateurs and some professional musicians.

All kinds of musical genres will be heard.

The emphasis and quantity are clearly on jazz, pop, rock, folk, bluegrass, gospel, hip-hop and roots music and other genres. But classical music is also included – though no specific composers, works or programs are listed.

Here is a link to the Make Music Madison homepage:

http://www.makemusicmadison.org

And here is a link to the performers, venues, time and maps for direction:

http://www.makemusicmadison.org/2014-performances/

From the homepage, you can clock on artists, times, venues.

Here are just a few hints of the offerings –- including string quartets and a performance by the Classical Guitar Quartet of Madison — that you might be interested in if you are a classical music fan:

The very young Suzuki Strings of Madison will perform:

Suzuki Strings of Madison MMM 2014

Duo-cellists Kristin Scheeler and Angie Griffith (below) will perform.

Kristin Scheeler and Angie Griffith duo-cellists MMM 2014

On Madison far west side, nest West Towne, Farley’s House of Pianos will host keyboard musicians:

Farley's House of PIanos MMM 20141

If you attend Make Music Madison either to perform or to listen, let The Ear know what you heard and how it went. You can even include photos if you have them. (Please don’t forget IDs and the photo credits.)

Here is the promotional video for last year’s Make Music Madison.

Unfortunately, it gives short shrift to classical music, which The Ear finds to be an odd oversight. After all, Madison is a city that can boast of a very active classical music scene for its size: It is the home of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Madison Opera, the Wisconsin Union Theater, the Pro Arte String Quartet, Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television and so many other fine classical individual and group classical performers and presenters.

It is posted on YouTube, where you can also find samples from last year’s performances.

The Ear thinks this year’s performance should have more YouTube videos posted, along with more videos of classical music to encourage other amateur and professional longhairs to participate:


Next Page »

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,120 other followers

    Blog Stats

    • 1,776,204 hits
%d bloggers like this: