The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Performers and presenters should list individual pieces as well as composers. Plus, a FREE concert of saxophone music is this Friday at noon. | March 10, 2016

ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, to be held from 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Meeting House of the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features Peter and Joseph Ross playing original music for saxophone and piano.

By Jacob Stockinger

This Friday night at 8 p.m. in the Capitol Theater, the Ahn-Core-Ahn Piano Trio (below) returns to Madison to play ….

Well, The Ear just doesn’t know what they will play.

Not the specific works.

Not even the composers.

He can’t find a hint of a program anywhere on the Overture Center website. Just a link for blindly purchasing tickets for $30-$40.

Is The Ear — who is more interested is helping to correct the situation than in scolding — missing something?

Check it out for yourself:

Ahn Trio 2

That kind of omission has long been an annoyance for The Ear. It does a disservice to potential audiences and to the performers.

His friend The Curmudgeon agrees.

The Curmudgeon asks: How do you know whether to attend a concert or not when either no program is listed or some kind of generic program saying works by, say, Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven and Benjamin Britten?

Why do press releases and concert listings so often refuse to list specific pieces?

Do they think the name of an individual or group performer is enough to sell tickets?

The Ahn Trio — with its cute proper-name pun Ahn-Core (“encore”) — is hardly alone.

Same goes for the program for the Intergenerational Choir (below) of the Madison Youth Choirs and the Capitol Lakes Retirement Community for this coming Saturday night. All The Ear knows is that it features music by William Billings, Henry Purcell and Bob Dylan as well as some traditional Irish tunes.

Intergeneration Choir

The Ear loves piano trios.

So when he looked at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music to see what the Perlman Piano Trio (below) will play at its FREE concert on Saturday, April 9 at 3:30 p.m., nothing – not even composers — was listed.

Yet one suspects that the trio is already rehearsing the program, which has been set for a long time. (Below, in a photo by Katherine Esposito, is the current Perlman Piano Trio, made up, from left, of violinist Adam Dorn, pianist SeungWha Baek and cellist Micah Cheng.)

Perlman Piano Trio 2016

It is also true for this month and in coming weeks.

The UW Symphony Strings, which performs a FREE concert on Thursday, March 17, at 7:30 p.m in Mills Hall, lists neither composers nor pieces on the website calendar for the UW-Madison School of Music.

UW Chamber Orchestra, James Smith, conductor

The same goes for the interesting FREE homage concert to the late French avant-garde composer and conductor Pierre Boulez (below), on Friday, March 18, at 8 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall. It has a great faculty lineup, including the gifted UW-Madison bassoonist Marc Vallon, who worked with Boulez. And what is the music? Works by Boulez, Anton Webern, Johann Sebastian Bach and Claude Debussy. Well, that certainly narrows it down.

Pierre Boulez obit portrait

The examples I cite are not rare.

It happens often and with many groups and individuals, and it looks very unprofessional and proves very unhelpful to potential audiences. You know, the same customers who are supposed to be always right.

To be fair, many major performers and presenters – including the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Madison Opera, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Wisconsin Union Theater, the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, the Madison Early Music Festival, the Willy Street Chamber Players,  the Ancora String Quartet, the First Unitarian Society of Madison, the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble and the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival among others — generally do list specific works as well as composers.

But when it comes to the ones who do not, it is all very frustrating.

Do such omissions result from laziness or neglect? Or perhaps making wrong assumptions?

Why would they refuse to share their specific program with publicists and the public? Individual works, as well as composers, bring audiences to concerts—or keep them away.

Is The Ear – or The Curmudgeon – alone in thinking this way?

Are you also frustrated when performers and presenters leave out specific programs or make them hard to find?

Do you, as readers and concertgoers, like to see individual pieces as well as composers listed for an upcoming concert program?

Does knowing the individual works to be performed help you decide whether or not to attend a concert?

Leave your opinion in the COMMENT section.

The Ear wants to hear.


  1. Yes! Not listing the program looks unprofessional, neglectful, and foolish. “The more you tell the more you sell.”

    Comment by CHUCK Bauer — April 11, 2016 @ 7:14 am

  2. I also agree with your comments, Jake. It seems only fair to the audience members to know in advance most of the program. Perhaps this discussion will encourage performing groups to send you their program pieces.

    Comment by Sue Reget — March 10, 2016 @ 10:28 am

  3. I, too, like to have some specific program info listed. But more importantly, I like to know the correct dates and times. This email lists March 17 as a Wednesday and March 19 as a Friday. I think the string program is Thursday the 17, and the Boulez is Friday the 18. ???? Please check.

    Comment by Ruth Dahlke — March 10, 2016 @ 10:03 am

    • I did check and you are absolutely RIGHT about the days and dates.
      Thank you for catching my stupid mistakes.
      I must have misread the calendar format.
      I apologize for the errors and have made the corrections in the posting
      Best wishes,
      The Ear

      Comment by welltemperedear — March 10, 2016 @ 10:12 am

  4. Might be transferred from popular music concert practice: It’s the performer who matters, audience members assume they’ll like what they hear.

    Comment by slfiore — March 10, 2016 @ 8:25 am

    • Maybe you are right.
      And maybe it does indeed work for some superstars like cellist Yo-Yo Ma or violinist Itzhak Perlman.
      And maybe it also works for other professional musicians.
      But most of the time, that would be a wrong assumption for the general public.
      The potential audience should know the classical play list well in advance, especially given the sometimes overwhelming and conflicting amount of classical music events to choose from.
      Thanks for reading and responding.
      The Ear

      Comment by welltemperedear — March 10, 2016 @ 9:22 am

  5. I totally agree. I really want to know what I’m going to hear before I attend.

    Comment by John Beutel — March 10, 2016 @ 7:40 am

  6. Yes, yes, and YES. It frustrates the heck out of me! I always want to know the specific works to be played. That definitely influences my decision about whether or not to attend!

    Comment by Ann Boyer — March 10, 2016 @ 5:39 am

  7. I totally agree with the Ear. Let’s have full information about the works to be performed.

    Comment by Pat Henson — March 10, 2016 @ 12:23 am

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