The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: In a MUST-HEAR concert, pianist Emanuel Ax solos this weekend in Beethoven with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, which will also perform Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 | March 9, 2016

CORRECTION: Yesterday’s post about the University Opera’s production of “Transformations” this weekend and early next week contained an error in the performance times. The correct times for performances in Music Hall are Friday night at 7:30 p.m.,  Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. (NOT 3:30) and Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The Ear apologizes and regrets the error.

By Jacob Stockinger

Talk about great performers making great music! This weekend’s concerts by the Madison Symphony Orchestra are a MUST-HEAR program of all masterpieces.

A Madison favorite — world-renowned pianist Emanuel Ax (below) — reunites for the third time with the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) and its music director and conductor John DeMain for three concerts this weekend in Overture Hall.

Emanuel Ax portrait 2016

The concerts will feature music by Ludwig van Beethoven, beginning with his Coriolan Overture. Ax will then perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 with the orchestra. The concert will end with Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 4.

The program will begin with Ludwig Van Beethoven’s brief but stormy Coriolan Overture. The concert will continue with Beethoven’s lyrical and impressive Piano Concerto No. 4.

Gustav Mahler’s light and sunny Symphony No. 4, with its famous finale featuring a soprano singing folk poetry, will bring the program to an elegant conclusion with the help of soprano Alisa Jordheim (below).

alisa jordheim 2016

The concerts are in Overture Hall on Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall of the Overture Center for the Arts, 201 State Street.

Born in Lvov, Poland, and raised in Winnipeg, Canada, pianist Emanuel Ax (below) first came to the public’s attention in 1974 when he won the first Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Competition in Tel Aviv. Ax concertizes extensively with the world’s top orchestras, and has been awarded seven Grammy Awards. He also teaches at the Juilliard School in New York City, where he himself studied.

A devoted chamber musician, Ax has worked regularly with artists such as cellist Yo-Yo Ma, pianist Peter Serkin, violinist Jaime Laredo, and the late violinist Isaac Stern. He has often performed solo recitals, chamber music and concertos in Madison with the MSO and at the Wisconsin Union Theater.

Emanuel Ax playing LA Times

Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture reflects the struggle of Roman general Coriolanus as he debates whether or not to invade Rome, a story told in William Shakespeare’s tragedy Coriolanus. The first part is introduced by explosive chords and almost violent strings representing the fires of war, while the second theme is much more graceful, inspired by the voice of his mother.

Piano Concerto No. 4 written by Beethoven in 1806 was one of the first piano concertos where the piano begins alone. Beethoven’s innovation of this concept was noted by scholars as was the rapidly developing technology behind pianos at the time. (You can hear Emanuel Ax discuss Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

The Symphony No. 4 by Mahler (below) represents a kind of peaceful interlude in his series of works as it is almost completely upbeat and joyful. Scored for a fairly small orchestra by Mahler’s standards, the work is built around the song, “Das himmlische Leben” (The Heavenly Life), which is finally sung in its entirety by a solo soprano in the fourth movement.

Gustav Mahler big

One hour before each performance, Anders Yocom (below), Wisconsin Public Radio host, will lead a 30-minute Prelude Discussion in Overture Hall to enhance concertgoers’ understanding and listening experience.

anders yocom studio head shot cr Jim Gill

More background on the music can also be found in the Program Notes at: http://www.madisonsymphony.org/ax

Single Tickets are $16 to $85 each, available at www.madisonsymphony.org/ax and through the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street or call the Box Office at (608) 258-4141.

Groups of 15 or more can save 25% by calling the MSO office at (608) 257-3734. For more information visit, www.madisonsymphony.org/groups

Student rush tickets can be purchased in person on the day of the concert at the Overture Box Office at 201 State Street. Students must show a valid student ID and can receive up to two $12 or $15 tickets. More information is at: www.madisonsymphony.org/studentrush. Students can receive 20% savings on seats in select areas of the hall on advance ticket purchases.

Seniors age 62 and up receive 20% savings on advance and day-of-concert ticket purchases in select areas of the hall. Discounted seats are subject to availability, and discounts may not be combined.

There will also be a Club 201 event for this concert on Saturday night. For $35, young professionals between 21 and 39 get a ticket and are invited to a post-concert party. Reservations must be made by TOMORROW, Thursday, March 10. For information, visit:

http://www.madisonsymphony.org/club201

Find more information at www.madisonsymphony.org.

Major funding for the March concerts is provided by The Madison Concourse Hotel & Governor’s Club, Stephen Morton, University Research Park, UW Health & Unity Health Insurance, and Marvin J. Levy. Additional funding is provided by James Gallegos and George Anglin, JP Cullen, and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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1 Comment »

  1. I played the 4th Concerto (soloist was Janina Fialkowska) on my first professional orchestra concert, back in 1986. Had never heard anything like it, and it continues to be my favorite piano concerto. One of my recordings is Ax, so I am very much looking forward to the concert–going Friday night.

    Comment by Steve Kurr — March 9, 2016 @ 5:11 pm


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