The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO) will perform music by Handel, Haydn and Bloch this Friday night. | August 19, 2015

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear’s multi-talented friend Mikko Rankin Utevsky (below) -– who is a singer, violist and conductor -– writes:

new Mikko Utevsky baton profile USE

The Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO, below) closes its fifth season with works by Franz Joseph Haydn, Ernest Bloch and George Frideric Handel in a program titled “Concerto Grosso II: Surprise!”

The concert is this Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the Old Music Hall on Bascom Hill. Tickets are $7 at the door (students are admitted by donation). The program is presented with the support of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO), and co-sponsored by the UW-Madison School of Music.

This concert will also feature the most returning players in five seasons — fully 20 of the 30-odd members of the orchestra have performed with the group before, some throughout all five years.

MAYCO Aug. 2014 Shostakovich 9

The program opens with a Concerto Grosso by Handel — Op. 6, No. 5 in D major — whose contributions to the form (which has been our theme for the season) were many and varied. This one opens with a majestic French Overture, followed by a light-footed Presto, a weeping Largo, a graceful Minuet, and a spirited Allegro to close.

handel big 2

Trevor Stephenson (below top), of the Madison Bach Musicians, joined the orchestra this past weekend for a wonderful workshop on the music of Handel as part of our new historical performance program, which also included coaching on Haydn with UW-Madison bassoon professor Marc Vallon (below bottom, in a photo by James Gill).

Trevor Stephenson Explains

Marc Vallon 2011 James Gill (baroque & modern)[2]

Next up is another Concerto Grosso, the first by Swiss-American composer Ernest Bloch (below top). Written in 1925 for piano obbligato and string orchestra, it is an exciting and powerful work encompassing a broad emotional range. Our piano soloist is Jason Kutz (below bottom), currently finishing his master’s degree at the UW-Madison School of Music with Professor Martha Fischer.

Ernest Bloch in 1915

jason kutz at piano

Our second Haydn symphony of the summer closes the concert, the famous “Surprise”  Symphony, No. 94. I’m excited to explore both ends of his career this season.

Our last program opened with his Symphony No. 6 (“Le Matin” or Morning), written for the Esterhazy family; the “Surprise” belongs to his final series of 12 “London” symphonies. Everyone is well acquainted with the slow movement — heard at the bottom in a YouTube video — but how many people remember the fantastic Finale?


  1. Here’s a lovely Concerto Grosso (No. 4, Part 1) by A. Corelli with almost half a million hits on YouTube (performed by Ensemble L’aura Soave – Cremona):

    Comment by fflambeau — August 20, 2015 @ 9:49 am

  2. Yikes, another performance of the tedious and over performed and over played Haydn?

    There’s nothing wrong with the Concerto Grosso form but why not a more inspired (and contemporary) program? There are many more works deserving to be performed such as those by Vaughan Williams, Schnittke, Martinu and others.

    It is nice to see the Bloch on the program.

    Comment by fflambeau — August 19, 2015 @ 12:57 am

    • Perhaps you missed the June program with a Concerto Grosso composed in 2015. Would that be contemporary enough for you? I believe the orchestra programmed this way intentionally, with concerti from a range of composers and periods, but you would have to ask them to be sure.

      Comment by Steve Rankin — August 19, 2015 @ 8:33 pm

      • Thanks for the reply Steve R and the information you provided.

        I stand by my comment that the Haydn “Surprise” is over performed and over played. If you enjoy Baroque music, A. Correli wrote some masterpieces (and I believe is the person credited with originating the Concerto Grosso form). Anything by Correli would be preferable to the gimmicky Haydn.

        Comment by fflambeau — August 19, 2015 @ 10:56 pm

    • The “tedious and over performed and over played Haydn” has not been performed in Madison in my lifetime, as far as I am aware. However, it is as standard rep as it gets, and thus part of my responsibility as the director of a training orchestra to program. Besides, the finale really is superb – and so is the slow movement, never mind how familiar.

      Why not Corelli? Because I heard and played a lot of great Handel this past year, and it was time for the orchestra to do some. Op. 6/5 is a tremendously enjoyable piece. Sure, there is certainly equally enjoyable Corelli out there, but I didn’t choose to program it when I had soloists who wanted to play the Handel. Maybe next year. (How that would be interchangeable or comparable to a late Haydn symphony does escape me, though.)

      If you want to donate the rental fees for Martinu or Schnittke, be my guest. But if you had come to hear two premieres (one world, one American) on our last concert, or any of the three other world premieres we’ve presented in so many seasons, I might be inclined to take your criticism more seriously. As it stands, perhaps you could come to the concert and tell me what you think afterwards. In the meantime, our SoundCloud page (linked on our website) has a few of our past performances, with works of Barber and Schumann and two of our premieres, including the aforementioned Concerto Grosso commissioned for this June.


      Comment by Mikko Utevsky — August 19, 2015 @ 11:37 pm

      • The Andante from the Haydn Surprise Symphony was played by the MSO as recently as May, 2013. I mentioned Corelli because people who like Haydn would probably love him (and he in contrast, is underperformed). I salute you for the premieres. But remember, by its nature, concerts by young performers attract their young friends and presenting them with tripe that they can (and likely have) heard repeatedly elsewhere does nothing for the advancement of classical music.

        Comment by fflambeau — August 20, 2015 @ 6:00 am

      • “Well, we’re going to make musical history by not playing the Surprise Symphony today, because you all know it so well from hearing it year after year that we’re going to play something else. We’re going to take the last movement of the Symphony in B-flat – No. 102 – imagine writing 102 symphonies! – in fact he wrote 104! – well anyway, this last movement of no. 102 is full of surprises and fun. Now, let me show you some of the ways Haydn makes fun in this piece.”

        That is commentary by Leonard Bernstein from one of his Young People’s Concerts “What is Classical Music”. Assuredly, he said (and wrote that) before your birth but it rings true today.

        You could have really surprised people, as Mr. Bernstein did, by playing something from Haydn that is not so well known (like his symphony #102).

        Comment by fflambeau — August 20, 2015 @ 6:15 am

      • The Andante alone is performed very frequently, yes – I am aware that MSO throws it on children’s concerts, etc. We are not performing the Andante alone, because there are three movements of a great symphony that deserve to be heard framing it, and we are not going to do the standard disservice to young audiences by condescending to play for them only the part they’ve already heard.

        It occurs to me that I do not need to justify my programming decisions to you (or anyone else, other than perhaps the members of the orchestra). If you want to know why we are playing the concert we’re playing, come hear it. Talk to me afterwards if you are still so terribly upset that you had to hear a whole piece that you’ve heard part of before. Heck, ask me about Haydn 102 – I’d be happy to tell you why it’s not on the program tomorrow night. But please, judge the performance on what it is, not what you imagine it to be.

        Comment by Mikko Utevsky — August 20, 2015 @ 7:44 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

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

    Join 1,260 other followers

    Blog Stats

    • 2,334,980 hits
%d bloggers like this: