The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Does Madison have enough listeners for the city’s many classical music concerts? | January 15, 2016

By Jacob Stockinger

Is the problem that Madison has too many concerts by too many musicians?

Or is the problem maybe instead that Madison, a mid-size city, has too few listeners for so many musicians?

PAQ Jalbert audience ovation

Here is what got The Ear wondering about that question.

This coming Sunday afternoon is another “train wreck,” as The Wise Critic likes to describe worthwhile events that conflict.

What’s a listener to do?

At 1:30 p.m., the Oakwood Chamber Players (below) perform an intriguing program of unusual music at Oakwood Village West, on Madison’s far west side.

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2016/01/12/classical-music-the-oakwood-chambers-players-will-perform-playful-works-by-elisenda-fabregas-malcolm-arnold-and-robert-schumann-this-saturday-night-and-sunday-afternoon/

Oakwood Chamber Players 2015-16

At 3:30 p.m., Opera Props stages a benefit for the University Opera at the First Unitarian Society of Madison that features talented singers (including soprano Tyana O’Connor, below top) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music joined by UW-Madison alumnus, “Barihunk” baritone and rising Broadway star Christiaan Smith-Kotlarek (below bottom). Lots of famous arias and duets will be sung to piano accompaniment, with a reception following.

Here is a link to details:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2016/01/14/classical-music-broadway-star-and-uw-madison-alumnus-joins-students-for-the-university-opera-benefit-this-sunday-afternoon/

Tyana O'Connor soprano

Christiaan Smith-Kotlarek as barihunk

At 4 p.m., there is a terrific duo-piano recital at Farley’s House of Pianos, on Madison’s far west side, by the husband-and-wife team of Alessio Bax and Lucille Chung (below) featuring the music of Franz Schubert and Francis Poulenc.

Here is more about that concert:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=43117&action=edit

Lucille Chung and Alessio Bax 2015

The Ear has mentioned such conflicts before and knows that there is little point to complaining. Others will chime in and point out how lucky we are to live in a city with so many choices.

Nonetheless, it got The Ear to wondering.

Maybe the problem is not that Madison has so many musicians and music-makers.

Maybe the problem is that Madison doesn’t have enough listeners to go around and reward them all.

The Ear finds it hard to believe that each of the three events being held on Sunday afternoon won’t affect attendance for the other two.

And it will happen again and again later this winter and spring. Even in the summer too, if last summer is any guide.

Take Friday night, Feb. 5 when the St. Lawrence String Quartet plays two quartets by Franz Joseph Haydn and the new String Quartet No. 2 by John Adams at the Wisconsin Union Theater and the Madison Opera also opens its production of Mark Adamo’s opera “Little Women” at the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center.

Take Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day, when the Madison Symphony Orchestra will perform music by Maurice Ravel, Peter Tchaikovsky and the famous Violin Concerto by Ludwig van Beethoven, with Russian-born soloist Alina Ibragimova, that afternoon at 2:30 p.m. and then that same night the winners of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music concerto competition will perform works by Sergei Rachmaninoff, Sergei Prokofiev, Richard Strauss and more, including a student work, at 7:30 p.m.

And if you look over the semester, you will find other conflicts.

Are there enough listeners to go around?

So many Madison classical musicians, both individuals and groups, are top quality and deserve big, enthusiastic audiences — and the kind of financial support that comes with good attendance.

But scheduling conflicts, along with a limited number of listeners, might be preventing that. And that doesn’t even include competition from the wealth of non-classical music events in the area!

So: Does Madison just have too many music-makers for the number of listeners?

Please say what you think about the problem of competition and scheduling conflicts in the COMMENT section.

The Ear wants to hear.

BDDS 2014 Playhouse standing ovation

Advertisements

6 Comments »

  1. A late response: While listening to great music is a pleasure, playing great music is a joy. I fear the preoccupation with audience neglects the performers themselves. Is it all about ‘marketing’? Supply and demand? Or is it that we have so many fine performers, including amateurs, who simply love to play together? If others want to come listen, fine, but that’s not the whole purpose. Unless it’s about money.

    Comment by slfiore — January 29, 2016 @ 12:09 pm

  2. I think we are favored by an abundance of riches–also think that the quality of the audience means more than the size–a small but appreciative audience can generate a lot of warmth toward performers.

    Comment by Mary Gordon — January 19, 2016 @ 11:48 am

  3. Hi, Jake! I’ve seen this “train wreck” theme come up many times, and it frankly leaves me scratching my head — why is this framed as a problem, needing fixing somehow? Using an analogy from the business world, it’s typically considered to be an ideal situation when you have 2 – 3 times the potential business than you can possibly handle. Sure, there’s a lot of tactical problems that arise with that situation, but “in the big picture” that’s exactly where you want to be.To answer your question directly — no, there probably aren’t enough listeners to accord every performing group full justice for their efforts — but, again, why not just celebrate the fact that there IS all that richness out there, rather than raise concerns about there being too much to absorb?

    Comment by Tim Adrianson — January 15, 2016 @ 8:45 am

  4. Hmmm. I agree it would be nice to see a broader spectrum of people at concerts, as in younger for sure, but my main concern is not the train wrecks but the levels of performance. Some groups are well intentioned but underwhelming, while others simply knock the socks off of you. Like the Willy Street Chamber Players. You wind up choosing to return to those groups that wowed you. Which is why your reviews are always helpful.

    Comment by Ronnie Hess — January 15, 2016 @ 8:42 am

  5. “Take Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day, when the Madison Symphony Orchestra will perform music by Maurice Ravel, Peter Tchaikovsky and the famous Violin Concerto by Ludwig van Beethoven, with Russian-born soloist Alina Ibragimova, that afternoon at 2:30 p.m. and then that same night the winners of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music concerto competition will perform works by Sergei Rachmaninoff, Sergei Prokofiev, Richard Strauss and more, including a student work, at 7:30 p.m.”

    Train wreck or a surfeit of delights? Assuming the MSO concert is 2:30 hours long that means finish time is 5 PM and after a light dinner/snack of 1 hour or so one can easily get to campus to attend the winners of the UW School of Music competition.

    Comment by fflambeau — January 15, 2016 @ 12:15 am

  6. No problemo.

    Every time you write a column about “train wrecks” (which is far too frequently, by the way) lots of people (including me) wince because since when is diversity and some competition a problem?

    How to deal with this surfeit of goodies? It’s like life itself: you have to prioritize.

    In my case, that means giving top priority to UW and its music school. I also prefer opera to most forms of classical music so for me, there’s not much conflict amongst the items you presented. Other people will doubtlessly have other priorities and tastes so it should work out well in the end.

    Comment by fflambeau — January 15, 2016 @ 12:10 am


Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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 )

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s

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

    Join 1,093 other followers

    Blog Stats

    • 1,724,569 hits
%d bloggers like this: