By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received the following news:
Several local musicians received prestigious awards from the Board of Directors of the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) at the board’s recent June meeting in recognition of their musical contributions.
Margaret Rupp Cooper Award
The Margaret Rupp Cooper Award is presented in honor of the Symphony’s original harpist, who performed in the first concert in 1926 through the 50th anniversary season. The award is presented annually to two orchestra members based upon years of service, commitment to the orchestra, and musicianship. This year’s awardees were Naha Greenholtz, MSO Concertmaster, and Josh Biere, MSO Principal Tuba.
Naha Greenholtz (below, in a photo by Chris Hynes) has now completed her fifth season as concertmaster with the MSO. A graduate of the Juilliard School and winner of the prestigious Concertmaster Academy Fellowship at Cleveland State University, she has held numerous concertmaster positions and has participated in music festivals as both a performer and music director.
Josh Biere (below) joined the Madison Symphony Orchestra as Principal Tuba in 2013. He also holds the principal tuba chair with the Kenosha (Wisconsin) Symphony and regularly performs with the Chicago Composers Orchestra. Mr. Biere holds degrees from Illinois Wesleyan University and Northwestern University.
Marie Spec Award
The Marie Spec Award honors the Symphony’s long-time first violinist, who also played in the first performance in 1926. The award consists of a fund that provides both the concertmaster and Madison Symphony Chorus accompanist with an annual bonus. MSO Concertmaster Naha Greenholtz and Chorus Accompanist Dan Lyons received this year’s award.
A Chicago native, Dan Lyons (below) holds performance degrees from DePaul University and a doctoral performance degree from UW-Madison. He has performed solo, concerto and chamber recitals throughout the Midwest. In addition to serving as the accompanist and chorus manager for the Madison Symphony Chorus, he maintains a private teaching studio and continues to accompany throughout the Madison area.
Ann Stanke Award
The Ann Stanke Award is presented in honor of the former Madison Symphony Chorus accompanist and manager for her years of excellent service. This year’s award was presented to chorus member Bob Gentile.
Bob Gentile, a lifelong music educator, has sung in the bass section of the Madison Symphony Chorus for over 15 years, has served as President and Vice-President, and has shown valued leadership with his counsel, wisdom, good humor and kindness.
The Madison Symphony Orchestra engages audiences of all ages and backgrounds in live classical music through a full season of concerts with established and emerging soloists of international renown, an organ concert series, and diverse educational and community engagement programs. Learn more at: www.madisonsymphony.org
By Jacob Stockinger
Over the past week, The Ear has heard a lot about the effect of Brexit – of the United Kingdom, and especially England, leaving the European Union – on national and international politics, on the economy and on culture in general.
But he has not heard anything about how Brexit will affect classical music.
Leave it to veteran British critic and blogger Norman Lebrecht to do some research and give you a taste of what Brexit could mean for classical music in England, a country that has such a long history of being a welcoming home to classical music and classical musicians.
Here is are link to some of his posts on his blog Slipped Disc:
Do you have ideas about the effect of Brexit on classical music?
Tell us in the COMMENT section.
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
Here is a special posting, a review written by frequent guest critic and writer for this blog, John W. Barker. Barker (below) is an emeritus professor of Medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also is a well-known classical music critic who writes for Isthmus and the American Record Guide, and who for 12 years hosted an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT-FM 89.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.
By John W. Barker
For eight years, the Madison Summer Choir (below) has been giving an annual concert. This year’s, on Saturday night, under founder and conductor Ben Luedcke, was built around the theme “This is My Song! – Music in the Struggle for Peace and Justice.”
And, indeed, Luedcke (below) introduced most of the selections with pointed remarks, addressing issues faced today, and the need for making ours a better world.
The first part of the program began with the “big tune” from Jean Sibelius’ Finlandia, set to English words. This was sung a cappella, while the four short items that followed had piano accompaniment.
Two of those pieces—by composers Stephen Chatman and Sven Lekberg—carried poems by Walt Whitman, while another, by Joan Szymko, set a text by Wendell Berry. But the gem of the set was a short partsong, An die Heimat (To my Homeland), by that truly great choral master, Johannes Brahms.
After the intermission, the chorus of 66 voices was joined by an orchestra (below) of 32, for the musical plateau.
Felix Mendelssohn is one of the handful of supreme choral composers (think of his oratorio Elijah!). As a warmer-upper, we were given his brief setting of Martin Luther’s translation of the Latin Dona nobis pacem as Verleih uns Frieden (Grant us Peace). (You can hear Mendelssohn’s beautiful “Verleih uns Frieden” in a YouTube video at the bottom)
But the true main event was a rousing performance of Mendelssohn’s unfairly neglected cantata, Die erste Walpurgisnacht (The First Walpurgis Night). This sets a ballad by Goethe portraying a band of Druids arranging to celebrate a holy solstice rite in the face of newly triumphant Christian intolerance. By making an unholy racket, they drive away their persecutors and launch the myth of St. Walburga’s Night (Walpurgisnacht, on April 30) as an occasion of Satanic rumpus (think Goethe’s and Gounod’s Faust).
The work calls for three solo singers (below), this time contralto Jessica Timman Schwefel, tenor Dan O’Dea, and baritone Ben Li (of whom the tenor was the most impressive). This score is one of striking dramatic effect and musical force, but it is too brief to find a place in most concert repertoire.
Singers and players threw themselves into it with wonderful gusto under propulsive direction. We must thank Luedcke for giving us a rare chance to enjoy it.
The final piece was a movement from a choral symphony by Srul Irving Glick: making a truly splendid choral sound that, however, quite obliterated the uplifting words.
Overall, the program showed that Luedcke had nurtured, in a short time, a choir of nicely balanced and blended voices. With the best of their material, they made a wonderfully glowing sound.
One more example, then, of the quite stunning riches of Madison’s summer musical life!
By Jacob Stockinger
This coming Wednesday night at 7 p.m., on the downtown Capitol Square, marks the opening of what has been billed as “The Biggest Picnic of Summer” — the six annual outdoor summer Concerts on the Square (below) by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and guest soloists.
They are big because each concert, under the baton of WCO artistic director Andrew Sewell, last year averaged a weekly crowd of more than 42,000 people, up from 35,000 the previous year, according to the Capitol Police. (The highest was 50,000; the lowest 28,000.)
You should also know that this year the Concerts on The Square will include a generous — maybe, The Ear suspects, even an unprecedented — amount of classical music on June 29, July 6, July 17, July 27 and Aug. 3.
On the programs you will find music by Felix Mendelssohn, Joaquin Turina, Aaron Copland and Ottorino Resphighi (this Wednesday); by Leo Delibes, Peter Tchaikovsky (including the annual and traditional Fourth of July or Independence Day performance of his “1812 Overture”) and Jules Massenet (with famed local Metropolitan Opera singer, mezzo-soprano Kitt Reuter-Foss on July 6); by Paul Dukas, Jean Sibelius, Niels Gade and Antonin Dvorak (on July 13); Ludwig van Beethoven (July 27); Arthur Honegger and Peter Tchaikovsky (Aug. 3).
Here is a link with more information including links to tickets, rules about behavior and seating, and food options:
Even as it prepares for this summer’s six Concerts on the Square, which start Wednesday night, June 26, and run through August 3, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra has announced its 2016-27 indoor Masterworks season of five classical concerts. It is an impressive lineup that features a local violist who has made it big, Vicki Powell, and the very young violin sensation Julian Rhee, who won the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Final Forte with a jaw-dropping reading of the Violin Concerto by Johannes Brahms, as well as a guitarist and duo-pianists.
Here is a link to more information:
By Jacob Stockinger
Here is a special posting, a review written by frequent guest critic and writer for this blog, John W. Barker. Barker (below) is an emeritus professor of Medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also is a well-known classical music critic who writes for Isthmus and the American Record Guide, and who for 12 years hosted an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT 89.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison. Barker also took the performance photos.
By John W. Barker
The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society opened the final weekend of its 25th season at the Overture Center’s Playhouse on Friday night in a first-class program of three undeniable masterpieces.
The first was the Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G Major by Johann Sebastian Bach. An appropriately sized chamber group (below) consisted of nine string players plus harpsichord, with the three soloists on two flutes and violin.
The playing was clear and precise, with elegant flute playing by BDDS co-founder and co-artistic director Stephanie Jutt (far right) and Ivana Ugrčić (center) and fabulous virtuosity from violinist Hye-Jin Kim (left).
The second work was Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25, K. 503. (Remember that this summer is the 25th anniversary season of BDDS.)
For this, the BDDS mustered a miniaturized orchestra of eight string players, three winds, and two substitutes (a violin for oboe, a cello for second bassoon). Though the concerto is a big-scaled one, this kind of performance suggests what might have been done in a salon musicale of the composer’s day.
For Jeffrey Sykes (below) as piano soloist it was a stellar outing, his playing marked by agility and vivacity. Also a bit of wit. For the first movement, he prepared his own cadenza, in which he carefully contemplated the main themes of the movement. When he came to the later part of its first theme, he discovered that its notes could become the opening notes of La Marseillaise (which had not been written yet). He carefully pondered, then moved on, unwilling to follow that explosive direction. (No Mozart on the Revolutionary barricades!)
In all, it was a finely scaled-down performance, one that worked beautifully.
The last work was Felix Mendelssohn’s teenage miracle, the Octet in E-flat for strings. This work our eight players took on with a fine balance of exuberance and introspection—the fugal finale quite dazzling. (You can hear the final ,movement in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
Part of the fascination of this score is how the young Mendelssohn was constantly able to devise, for each player, individual contributions to make to the whole. And actually witnessing the performance allows one to follow these interactions quite compellingly.
We could see the splendid musicians the BDDS brings together just relishing their chance to work together in such music. (And it was interesting to compare with the superlative excitement of the Willy Street Chamber Players when they performed it last summer.)
That makes 25 years of BDDS as of now.
Let’s have another 25, and maybe still another 25 after that — maintaining one of the happy mainstays of Madison’s summer musical life!
Due to technical difficulties beyond his control at the web site host, The Ear cannot publish a new post today that has many links in the text. He apologizes and will let you know if and when the problems are solved. In the meantime, he will offer what he can.
By Jacob Stockinger
The following announcement has been sent for posting by The Ear by the Rural Musicians Forum:
Widely praised for his shimmering virtuosity and technical precision, violinist Alexander Ayers performs a FREE recital at 7:30 p.m. on this Monday, June 27, in a concert sponsored by the Rural Musicians Forum in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hillside Theater at Taliesin, south of Spring Green, Wisconsin.
Ayers (below, in a photo by O’Brien Photos of Waukesha), a native of Waukesha, Wisconsin, joined the Milwaukee Symphony in 2013. He was previously a member of the Madison Symphony Orchestra.
After studying nine years at the String Academy of Wisconsin-Milwaukee he studied at Indiana University, and in 2006 he won the grand prize of the Milwaukee Symphony Stars of Tomorrow Competition. This resulted in performances of the Violin Concerto No. 1 by Sergei Prokofiev with the MSO. He has performed collaboratively with Joshua Bell, Alex Kerr, Jaime Laredo, Gilles Apap and Soovin Kim.
Ayers’ June 27 program is international in scope. It includes works by German-born Ludwig van Beethoven and Parisian Camille Saint-Saens as well as the Belgian violinist and composer Eugene Ysaye and virtuosic Polish violinist Henryk Wieniawski, who was regarded by many as an exciting and flamboyant re-incarnation of Niccolo Paganini.
About the concert RMF Artistic Director Kent Mayfield said, “We are honored to work in close collaboration with Taliesin Preservation Inc. to host much of this year’s series at Taliesin’s Hillside Theater (below). It provides an especially dramatic but intimate setting for Ayers’ performance which will be totally consistent with Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision: imaginative, bold and beautiful.”
Hillside Theater is located at 6604 Highway 23, Spring Green.
The concert is not ticketed and is open to the public. A free-will offering will be taken to support the concert series.
For additional information and driving directions, see www.ruralmusiciansforum.org
Due to technical difficulties beyond his control and at the web site host, The Ear cannot publish a new post today that is long or complicated, or has many links in the text. He apologizes and will let you know if and when the problems are solved. In the meantime, he will offer what he can.
There are several noteworthy concerts taking place this weekend:
BACH DANCING AND DYNAMITE SOCIETY
The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society finishes up its Silver Jubilee summer season this weekend. The ensemble will perform two programs at the Playhouse in the Overture Center (Friday and Saturday nights) and in the Hillside Theater (Sunday afternoon and evening) at the Frank Lloyd Wright compound at Taliesin in Spring Green.
The “Quicksilver” program features: the Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 by Johann Sebastian Bach; a reduced chamber version of the Piano Concerto No. 25 in C Major, K. 503, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; and the String Octet in E-flat Major, Op. 20 — a double string quartet — by Felix Mendelssohn.
The second program is “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.” It features a miniature viola concerto, “Soul Garden,” by the contemporary American composer Derek Bermel; and then the “Four Seasons” by Antonio Vivaldi and the “Four Seasons of Buenos of Aires” by Argentinean composer Astor Piazzolla. Movements from the two will be interspersed.
Here is a link with more information:
THE MADISON SUMMER CHOIR
On Saturday night, at 7 p.m. in Mills Hall on the UW-Madison campus, the Madison Summer Choir (below), under the direction of Ben Luedcke, will perform a program called “This Is My Song: Music in the Struggle for Peace and Justice.” It includes music by Johannes Brahms, Felix Mendelssohn, Jean Sibelius and other composers. It features piano and orchestral accompaniments.
Here is a link with more information:
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received the following update from the Madison Bach Musicians and its founder and artistic director, early music keyboardist Trevor Stephenson:
“We just wanted to follow up about the Madison Bach Musicians Chamber Music Workshop.
“The chamber ensembles have been assigned and are now closed.
“We have 24 participants forming 7 different ensemble groups and ages ranging from age 14 to a few in their 70s. And the total number of accumulated years studying music for the participants is over 334 years!
“We are offering an “auditor option” for people who would like to attend the afternoon master classes and concerts. I thought you might want to put some of this information on The Ear.
Our deadline for registering as an auditor is July 24. Below is a link to a flyer on the master class offerings and the concerts.
Information about the enrolling as an auditor is on our website and “auditor passes” can be purchased on the website as well.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Wisconsin Union Theater has announced some news:
The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra with conductor Edo de Waart and Principal Cello Susan Babini will perform in Shannon Hall on Sunday afternoon, May 21, 2017 at 2:30 p.m.
The program includes the Overture to the opera “Don Giovanni,” K. 527, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; “Schelomo, A Hebraic Rhapsody for Cello and Orchestra” by Ernest Bloch; and the Symphony No. 1 in A-flat major, Opus 55, by Sir Edward Elgar.
Ticket prices are as follows: General public tickets are $49, $45 and $25, Union Member and non-UW students tickets are $44, $40 and $25, UW Faculty and Staff tickets cost $46, $42 and $25, UW-Madison student tickets cost $15, and youth tickets (age 6-18) cost $20, limit 2 with the purchase of a full-priced ticket.
This performance will be conductor and former music director Edo de Wart’s the second-t0-last concert as MSO’s chief conductor. (His final ones are performances of the Symphony No. 3 by Gustav Mahler on the following weekend in Milwaukee ) He has served as conductor also for the Netherlands Wind Ensemble, the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.
De Waart was awarded the Australian Centenary Medal, and was appointed an Honorary Officer of the Order of Australia. He is also a knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion. De Waart also has vast experience in opera conducting, from the Santa Fe Opera House and the Metropolitan Opera to the Royal Opera House.
The performance is presented by the Wisconsin Union Theater’s Performing Arts Committee.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received the following announcement:
It will feature local classical and jazz musicians in the inspiring natural setting of the stately English Garden at Allen Centennial Garden at 620 Babcock Drive, on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the heart of Madison.
The concerts will take place on every other Sunday through Sept. 18 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. They are sponsored by the Friends of Allen Centennial Garden.
Attendees are encouraged to bring a blanket or lawn chair for these free concerts.
Families are welcome.
Established in 1989, Allen Centennial Garden is situated on 2.5 acres surrounding the historic landmarked “Dean’s Residence (below),” adjacent to the Lake Mendota Lakeshore Nature Preserve and path.
This public botanical garden is open to the public free of charge 365 days a year, dawn to dusk.
Although located on the UW-Madison campus, the garden is supported entirely by private funds. In 2013, the Friends of Allen Garden formed to enhance the educational and cultural mission of the gardens and to increase awareness of this “hidden gem” by expanding programming initiatives to better serve the public.
Summer Sundays in the Garden, one of many programs developed by the Friends, is the first public concert series at Allen Centennial Gardens, now in its 26th year.
Sponsored by the Friends, the series is supported by grants from the Madison Arts Commission, with additional support from the Wisconsin Arts Board; from Dane Arts, with funds from the Overture Foundation and the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation; and from the Evjue Foundation of The Capital Times. In the event of inclement weather, concerts will be cancelled.
For more information, please visit www.allencentennialgarden.org
Summer Sundays in the Garden. Afternoon Concerts in the English Garden. June 26 – Sept. 18. 4–5:30 p.m.
June 26 – Johannes Wallmann’s Quartet West. Known as a “remarkable pianist and composer” (Downbeat Magazine) and “a truly international kind of cat” (Midwest Record), Johannes Wallmann, Director of Jazz Studies at UW-Madison, opens SUMMER SUNDAYS with a quartet of top-notch guest artists from Los Angeles and San Francisco to offer up a high-energy, imaginative, and infectious kickoff for the new summer concert series.
July 10 – Quartessence (below). One of Madison’s most often heard society quartets, award-winning Quartessence String Quartet brings a stylish sophistication to a wide range of repertoire including jazz, golden oldies, and imaginative covers of current rock and pop hits, from Bach to the Beatles, Puccini to Pops, Classics to Covers.
July 24 – Doug Brown Group. Acoustic jazz guitarist Doug Brown brings his infectious spirit and imagination to irrepressibly joyous, finely honed swing-era jazz standards.
Aug. 7 – Willy Street Chamber Players (below). Fun and sassy chamber music by one of Madison’s newest groups, bringing a fresh, imaginative take to classical music that is appealing to both lifelong classical music fans and newcomers to the genre. Expect some serious fun!
Aug. 21 – Clocks in Motion (bel0w). Breaking down barriers of a traditional concert performance, this groundbreaking percussion ensemble serves up virtuosic performances that include theater and art and consistently offer a joyous entertainment experience.
Sept. 4 – Harmonious Wail. Smoldering vocals laced among jazzy mandolin and guitar, Harmonious Wail offers an infectious blend of continental jazz, swing, gypsy music, and melodic vocals.
Sept. 18 – Paul Muench Quartet. Now firmly established in the Madison jazz scene, Paul Muench’s group offers up imaginative improvs and creative modern arrangements of timeless jazz standards.