The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: This afternoon is your last chance to hear pianist Emanuel Ax and soprano Alisa Jordheim with the Madison Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven and Mahler. Plus, the Madison Bach Musicians will hold a chamber music workshop this summer for players of early music and Baroque music | March 13, 2016

ALERT: Today at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall is your last chance to hear pianist Emanuel Ax perform the Piano Concerto No. 4 by Ludwig van Beethoven and soprano Alisa Jordheim in the Symphony No. 4 by Gustav Mahler.

Here is a rave review for Madison Magazine by Greg Hettmansberger:

And here is another rave review for Isthmus by John W. Barker:

And here is third rave review by Jessica Courtier for The Capital Times and the Wisconsin State Journal:

Emanuel Ax portrait 2016

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following information to pass along:

The Madison Bach Musicians will offer a Summer Chamber Music Workshop July 26-29 focusing on historically-informed performance of baroque and classical music.

This workshop is co-directed by MBM founder and director, harpsichordist Trevor Stephenson (below top, in a photo by Kent Sweitzer), and MBM member, violinist Kangwon Kim (below bottom). There will also be guest instructors.

Trevor Stephenson at harpsicord CR Kent Sweitzer

Kangwon Kim close up

The workshop, which costs $400, is open to intermediate and advanced players who are high school age and older.

The public can attend master classes and concerts. Four-day passes for auditors are available for $75. A single-day pass costs $25.

Instruments included are: violin, viola, cello, harpsichord, fortepiano, piano, flute, recorder and oboe.


Participants will be assigned to an ensemble group, and music will be sent in advance to allow musicians to learn their parts beforehand.

The workshop will include personalized coaching, master classes, a faculty concert, community lunches and a final closing concert for a supportive and appreciative audience.

All of this will take place in the beautiful and acoustically rich spaces of First Unitarian Society of Madison (below, in a photo by Kent Sweitzer), located at 900 University Bay Drive.

FUS by Kent Sweitzer USE

Applications are being be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis since Jan. 1, 2016. (There is an early application discount until March 15.)

For information, including the local and guest faculty members, and an online application, visit:

A spokesperson for the Madison Bach Musician adds:

“Some people might ask how this workshop relates to the Madison Early Music Festival. The MBM workshop stands independent of the Madison Early Music Festival, and we do not intend to compete with the festival but to just add another great music option for Madison-area musicians. We intentionally set the dates for our workshop well after the Early Music Festival so as not to compete with it.

“The focus of the Madison Bach Musicians Summer Chamber Music Workshop is to create a supportive music community where participants can further develop their appreciation and playing ability of baroque and early classical chamber music through personalized coaching and performance experience.”



  1. Since you asked…it seems Madison audiences are much tougher on critics than on performers. I find a total of four criticisms in Barker’s review (“a few rough entrances”, “smallish voice”, “limited German diction”, along with his inability to find the lyrics). I find too many raves to bother counting them all, from the choice of program, to the particular works, to the work of the soloists, the conductor, and the orchestra. With words like “passionate”, “forceful”, “total mastery”,”immensely satisfying”,”magnificent”, and “devoted”, I think the Ear’s use of “rave” is totally justified. Merriam-Webster defines “critic” as “one who expresses a reasoned opinion…”. If our critics are only allowed to say nice things, then we should give them a different name, perhaps “cheerleaders”. Granted, the human voice is a tough instrument to play and having a cold has a major effect on that, but should Barker have to interview a touring soloist to find out how s/he is feeling before he is allowed to write? (And could he if he wanted to?)

    Comment by Steve Rankin — March 14, 2016 @ 9:16 am

  2. Dear Ear,
    A strange “rave” review from John Barker. I would say muted. He’s wrong by the way about the words to the Mahler. They did appear in the program and I for one could read them in the not so very darkened hall. He is also unusually uncharitable about the soprano soloist, who by the way had a cold. I thought her performance was gentle, not overbearing, in synch with the orchestra.

    Comment by Ronnie Hess — March 13, 2016 @ 9:37 am

    • Dear Ronnie,
      Thanks for reading and replying.
      The Ear hasn’t heard it yet but will take your words criticism as valid.
      John W. Barker certainly gave raves to the Madison Symphony Orchestra and pianist Emanuel Ax.
      True, he described soprano Alisa Jordheim’s voice as “smallish” and criticized her German diction, but said she captured the child-like qualities of the music. Hardly a real pan.
      But maybe a lot of others agree with you.
      Best wishes,
      The Ear

      Comment by welltemperedear — March 13, 2016 @ 10:20 am

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