The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Check out The Violin Channel. Read about the International Competition for violin and cello in Harbin, China plus news, videos, celebrity interviews and playing tips

July 31, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear loves the string family of the violin, viola, cello and double bass – as solo instruments, in duets with the piano, in piano trios, in string trios and string quartets, and of course in orchestras.

cello strings

The various string instruments can be so songful and sound so like a human voice – plus without the words!

There are so many things The Ear, as a string fan, just learned from The Violin Channel:

That Deutsche Grammophon has an office in China. Which should come as no surprise, really, since so much of the classical music world – especially in strings and piano – now seems increasingly located in China.

That prize winners in violin and cello were just announced at the International Competition in Harbin, China. (The city of Harbin is, by the way, the capital of Heilongjiang province, the sister state of Wisconsin in China.) Frenchman Christoph Croise, below, took the top prize for cello. 

Christoph Croise Cellist

That the website also has several blogs, including some that offer practical advice on playing, specifically about bow strokes for example.

That the website tells you about new recordings, including some news by Benjamin Beilman, who soloed impressively here with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra in the Violin Concerto by Ludwig van Beethoven.

Benjamin Beilman close up playing

And it keeps you up to date on new YouTube videos, including one by the late Henryk Szeryng playing the Violin Concerto by Robert Schumann.

henryk szeryng BW

The Ear especially likes the master classes and the 20-question interviews called Meet the Pros. (You can hear one with Sarah Chang in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Here is a link:

https://www.theviolinchannel.com

The Ear hopes you enjoy it enough to bookmark it or subscribe to it.

Let us all know what you think.

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: Prize-winning Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara has died at 87

July 30, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

He was a contemporary composer who wasn’t afraid to change or adapt his compositional style in radically differently ways, and who found a broad public as well as great respect from fellow composers and performers.

He was Einojuhani Rautavaara (below, in a photo from Getty Images), who was considered the most important composer of his country since Jean Sibelius, and he died at 87 this past week.

einojuhani rautavaara GETTY IMAGES

Here is a fine summary and obituary by Tom Huizenga for the Deceptive Cadence blog on NPR or National Public Radio.

http://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2016/07/28/487824438/eclectic-finnish-composer-einojuhani-rautavaara-dies-at-87

And here, in the YouTube video below, is the piece, complete with recorded bird songs recorded by the composer — Cantus Arcticus, Op, 61, from 1972 — that Rautavaara is perhaps best known for. It is also the piece that his fellow Finn, conductor Osmo Vanska, now the music director of the Minnesota Orchestra, says he most admires.


Classical music: The Madison Early Music Festival announces the theme and dates for next summer

July 29, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

The final figures from this summer’s 17th annual Madison Early Music Festival – which celebrated William Shakespeare and the reign of Queen Elizabeth I — are not in yet.

But from what The Ear saw and heard, it sure looked like a successful one.

So what can we expect next summer?

The 18th annual Madison Early Music Festival will take place July 8-15, 2017 and have the theme “The Musical World of Don Quixote.” That would suggest Spanish and Iberian music of the 17th century Golden Age during the time when Miguel de Cervantes (below) wrote and published what is generally considered the first modern novel.

Miguel de Cervantes

From what The Ear has learned so far, the group Piffaro (below top) has been booked to return and the always impressive All-Festival Concert will be assembled and directed by MEMF veteran faculty member and performer Bob Wiemken (below bottom), who is a member of the Renaissance band Piffaro.

piffaro indoors

Bob Wiemken

According to MEMF officals, more information will become available at the end of September.

Here is a link to the MEMF website:

https://artsinstitute.wisc.edu/memf/

MEMF logo


Classical music: A big shout-out and thank you goes to Mead Witter Foundation for supporting music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. But did the entire School of Music have to be renamed?

July 28, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

Well, it has happened again.

The great University of Wisconsin-Madison, which was recently once again named one of the best public schools in the country and the world, shows more and more signs of being privatized.

UW logos

As of July 1,  the official name of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music  is now the Mead Witter School of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

That’s an ungainly mouthful to say and write.

But The Ear doesn’t blame the School of Music and its directors for having to take such steps.

To The Ear, the renaming means that the state legislators and the state government have once again been negligent in preserving and bettering this great institution that generations of ordinary Wisconsin citizens supported through taxes, and then benefitted from through “The Wisconsin Idea” that the university serves the public that supports it.

Underfunding goes along with the Republicans’ anti-education and anti-intellectual agenda of imposing steep budget cuts, undermining tenure, alienating faculty who then leave and implementing other measures that hurt this great state university. 

So, The Ear objects to the move, much as he did with the selling of the Law School; with the renaming of the Elvehjem Museum of Art to the Chazen Museum of Art; and with the Wisconsin Union Theater, which was renamed Shannon Hall (below top).

Plus, there is the new music building and performance center (below bottom), which sees a groundbreaking in late October, named — not renamed — for the Hamel family.

Shannon Hall UW-Madison

uw hamel performance center exterior

Such naming and renaming by big private money blurs the distinction between a donation or a gift and a purchase. Call it branding, naming, PR, advertising, whatever – The Ear doesn’t like it. What is public should remain public.

Do the egos of the wealthy really know no bounds, especially during these days when the political talk is of wealth inequality and income distribution?

So The Ear says a deep and hearty thank you to the Mead Witter Foundation of Wisconsin Rapids for its help.

But he sure wishes its corporate ego had been satisfied with a hall or a building being named after it, and with perhaps a big bronze bas-relief plaque containing a history about its fortune in the paper industry and an appreciation of its generous philanthropy.

But to rename an entire school that has more than a century of history behind it?

Sorry. That’s over the top.

It is overkill and seems downright tacky.

To The Ear it will always be the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, just as it has for the past century-plus.

If you want more background and details, here are three official UW links, with the most recent ones coming first

https://uwmadisonschoolofmusic.wordpress.com/2016/07/26/a-new-name-for-the-school-of-music/

http://www.music.wisc.edu/2015/12/03/mead-witter-foundation-gives-25-million-to-uw-madison-school-of-music/

http://www.music.wisc.edu/2014/12/05/new-music-performance-center-named-in-honor-of-the-hamel-family/

What do readers and the tax-paying public think and say?

Do you agree or disagree with The Ear?

The Ear wants to hear.

 


Classical music: Female classical musicians are coerced to sex up their image, says star violinist Nicola Benedetti

July 27, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear loves all the talk about female equality happening at the Democratic National Convention this week.

It seems only fitting, after all, given that Hillary Rodham Clinton last night became the first female presidential nominee of a major political party in the U.S.

Now, you might think that culture and especially the arts lead the way in such progressive matters.

And sometimes they do.

But not always.

In a story in the newspaper The Daily Mail, published in the United Kingdom, Scottish star violinist Nicola Benedetti (below) says that female classical musicians are still coerced to “sex it up” to have major careers. (Y0u can hear another interview with her in the YouTube video at the bottom. She seems both charming and candid.)

NIcola Benedetti PIcture:- Decca/Simon Fowler

NIcola Benedetti
PIcture:- Decca/Simon Fowler

Hmmm. Sounds almost like an appropriate story at a time when conservative political genius and news director Roger Ailes was forced to leave his Fox News job because of multiple allegations of sexual harassment.

Benedetti cites her own career as an example, and also the case of singer Charlotte Church (below), who had to wear sexy lingerie in a crossover video.

Charlotte Church

It sure sounds like sexism is alive and well in the world of classical music.

Here is a link to a story with Benedetti’s charges.

Read it and see what you think:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3682724/Proms-star-Nicola-Benedetti-Charlotte-Church-parading-lingerie-does-NOT-empower-women.htm

Then tell the rest of us what your opinion is.

And if you know of other examples.

The Ear recalls a sexed up album cover for American violinist Lara St. John (below) who, on a recording of solo works by Johann Sebastian Bach, used her instrument to conceal her bare breasts.

Lara St. John Bach breasts

Let us know what you think.

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: The Madison Savoyards’ production — with paid singers — of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Gondoliers” opens this coming Friday night and runs through Aug. 7

July 26, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following press release to share:

The Madison Savoyards presents The Gondoliers (or The King of Barataria) by Gilbert and Sullivan (below), starting this Friday night, July 29, at 7:30 p.m. and running through Sunday, Aug. 7, at Music Hall, at the base of Bascom Hill on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

There will be six performances: Friday, July 29, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, July 30, at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, July 31, at 3 p.m.; Friday, August 5, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 6, at 7:30 pm; Sunday, Aug. 7, at 3 p.m. UW-Madison conducting student Kyle Knox will make his Madison Savoyards debut as Music Director for The Gondoliers. 

Gilbert and Sullivan (left)

Gilbert and Sullivan fans will not want to miss this tale of romantic complication, silliness and wonderful music, set in beautiful 18th-century Italy.

The story opens with a conundrum. Casilda, the young daughter of the Duke of Plaza-Toro, has arrived in Venice to meet her future husband, the prince of Barataria.

Upon arrival, however, she finds that his identity is in question. As an infant, the young prince was entrusted to a drunken gondolier, who promptly mixed up the baby with his own son.

Thus, in the wake of the king’s recent death, both gondolier brothers must jointly rule the kingdom until the prince’s nurse can be brought in to correctly identify him.

To further complicate the matter, both gondoliers have recently married their loves, and Casilda is, in fact, in love with another man. The story plays out and eventually resolves in typical Gilbert and Sullivan fashion, with hilarious circumstances intertwined with poignant, relatable moments.

Stage Director Audrey Lauren Wax has her artistic eye on the set design to help bring this story to life. “I am truly excited to work with a functional Gondola in this production,” says Wax, who most recently directed Princess Ida with the Savoyards in 2014.

“Our design and stage management team have gone above and beyond discussing and collaborating on the logistics of it.” Wax says. “I do think the audience will be quite pleased and excited the moment it hits the stage. And in the fashion of my directing approach, it has been designed with the idea of a puzzle in mind. You’ll just have to see the show in order to see this fabulous creation.”

Puzzle-like stage pieces aside, no Gilbert and Sullivan show would be complete without the trademark hummable tunes and patter songs, and The Gondoliers does not disappoint in either realm. You can hear a sample in the YouTube video at the bottom.

In a historic move for the Savoyards, all roles and some chorus positions will be paid. This has drawn a larger mix of current students and recent grads from University of Wisconsin-Madison and Edgewood College, as well as local youth and adult performers.

One such local favorite is Bill Rosholt, playing the Duke of Plaza-Toro in his 11th principal role with the Savoyards. Anmol Gupta appears with Rosholt as Luiz, the Duke’s assistant, and UW-Madison graduate student Becky Buechel (below) portrays the Duchess of Plaza-Toro, along with Deanna Martinez as her daughter, Casilda.

Savoyards Gondoliers Becky Buechel

Christopher Smith (below) and Brian Schneider play the handsome gondoliers Marco and Giuseppe, flanked by Gavin Waid (Antonio), Nicholas Kaplewski (Francesco), Coltan Bratland (Giorgio), and Sara Wojtak (Annibale) as the brothers’ Venetian gondolier friends.

Savoyards Gondoliers Christopher Smith

Contadine (peasant farmers) Gianetta and Tessa are portrayed by Lauren Welch (below) and Alaina Carlson, and Julia Ludwiczack plays all three contadine Fiametta, Giulia and Vittoria.

Savoyards Gondoliers Lauren Welch

Natalie Falconer portrays Inez, the King’s Foster-mother, and the cast is rounded out by a chorus of Gondoliers, Men-at-Arms, Heralds, Pages, and Contadine from the greater Madison area.

Tickets for The Gondoliers are $30 and $40, and can be purchased through the Campus Arts Ticketing Box Office, by phone at (608) 265-ARTS, or online at www.arts.wisc.edu

The Children’s Pre-Show is Sunday, August 7 from 1 to 2 p.m., and is free for any ticket holder age six to 12. Limited spots are available, so please contact Krystal Lonsdale at krys.lonsdale@gmail.com to reserve a space for your child.

For more information about the opera and the production, visit: www.madisonsavoyards.org

The Madison Savoyards, Ltd. has been presenting Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operas for 53 years and strives to make each presentation come alive by knowing and respecting the special gifts of the authors and gathering a gifted and enthusiastic cast and crew.

The Savoyards first presented “The Gondoliers” in 1974, and most recently in 2003.


Classical music: The Ear offers a big shout-out and good luck to three girl choirs in the Madison Youth Choirs. They are headed this week to a major world youth festival in Aberdeen, Scotland and give a FREE send-off concert this Tuesday night

July 25, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

Two years ago, it was the boy choirs of the Madison Youth Choirs that were invited to sing at the prestigious international festival in Aberdeen, Scotland.

It is, after all, the oldest youth arts festival in the world, about 40 years old and features performers form around the world.

Aberdeen International Youth Festival Opeing Ceremony

This week, on Thursday, 68 members of three girl choirs in the Madison Youth Choirs – the Capriccio (below top, in a photo by MYC director Michael Ross), Cantilena and Cantabile (below bottom) choirs — along with three conductors, are headed to the same festival.

Madison Youth Choir Capriccio CR Mike Ross

Madison Youth Choirs Cantabile

NOTE: You can hear a FREE send-off sampler concert on this Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at the Covenant Presbyterian Church, 326 South Segoe Road.

It is a BIG DEAL.

The repertoire the girls will sing covers classical music (Franz Schubert); folk music from Canada, Serbia, Bulgaria and Peru; and more popular music. Plus, they will sing in several languages. They will also sing a song composed in the Terezin concentration camp, or death camp, in Hitler’s Nazi Germany during World War II.

They will also give the world premiere of a piece – based on two Scottish melodies including a traditional walking song and the beautiful “The Water Is Wide” — that they commissioned from composer Scott Gendel, who graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. (You can hear James Taylor sing a heart-breaking version of “The Water Is Wide” in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Scott Gendel color headshot

The Ear heard the girls sing live last week on the Midday program with Norman Gilliland on Wisconsin Public Radio. And they sounded great.

What an honor, especially in the wake of the concert tour to Italy two weeks ago by the Youth Orchestra of the Wisconsin Youth Chamber Orchestras.

Madison sure seems to be doing a fine job providing music education to its young people while many other areas of the state and country are cutting back on arts education and where many   politicians and businesspeople are mistakenly trying to turn public support to the so-called STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and math — at the expense of the arts. But the arts and the sciences really feed each other, and success in one field often helps to assure success in the other.

madison youth choirs logo

Here is a link so you can learn more about the tour and how to support or join the Madison Youth Choirs, which serves young people in grades 5-12:

http://www.madisonyouthchoirs.org

http://www.madisonyouthchoirs.org/aberdeen

And here is a link to the festival itself:

http://www.aiyf.org

And finally here is a link to the Facebook page for the Madison Youth Choirs, with face photos of participants:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/448022498728594/


Classical music: Opera in the Park takes place TONIGHT!!! Start your week – and every day – with John Zeck’s “Composers Datebook.” Should Wisconsin Public Radio air it?

July 24, 2016
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ALERT: Because of weather and storms, the Madison Opera’s 15th annual FREE “Opera in the Park” has been postponed from last night to TONIGHT. Here is a link with more details about the event:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2016/07/18/classical-music-madison-operas-free-opera-in-the-park-turns-15-and-takes-place-this-saturday-night/

By Jacob Stockinger

You might recall that last Sunday—at the start on a new week, just like today — The Ear suggested a FREE app for iPhones, iPads and iPods that offers a daily briefing on classical music.

It is called “Composer of the Day” and is put together by the music department at Wittenberg University.

Here is a link to that post and that app:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2016/07/17/classical-music-composer-of-the-day-app-is-a-great-way-to-start-a-new-week/

But there is another FREE  classical musical datebook that a loyal and knowledgeable reader of this blog suggested. The reader specifically praised the fact that it works on many different platforms.

It is “Composers Datebook” with host John Zeck (below), and it is done for Minnesota Public Radio and then distributed through American Public Media.

It seems similar to the format of “The Writer’s Almanac” with Garrison Keillor that, unfortunately, Wisconsin Public Radio no longer carries. But maybe WPR would consider including the “Composers Datebook” in its “Morning Classics” lineup? It certainly would be an educational addition, something just right for an alternative to commercial radio.

john zech

The two-minute daily diary streams nicely. It has many more details and examples about composers and includes sound clips of their work. It also does more than one entry for each day.

Turns out that the Ear already wrote about it in 2010. But it is worth a repeat visit to remind readers about this fine resource.

Here is a link, which you can bookmark or subscribe to, that post:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/classical-music-review-“composers-datebook”-is-a-radio-gem-for-classical-fans-listen-to-it-read-it-get-free-podcasts/

And here is a direct link to “Composers Datebook.”

http://www.yourclassical.org/programs/composers-datebook/episodes

Try it.

See what you think.

And decide whether Wisconsin Public Radio should air it.

Then tell The Ear and his readers what you think.

The Ear wants to hear.


NEWS ALERT: Madison Opera’s “Opera in the Park” has been CANCELLED tonight. It will take place TOMORROW NIGHT, Sunday, July 24

July 23, 2016
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NEWS ALERT: Because of weather, Madison Opera’s 15th annual “Opera in the Park” has been CANCELLED tonight, but will take place TOMORROW NIGHT, Sunday, July 24.

Here is link with details about the event. Just substitute Sunday for Saturday:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2016/07/18/classical-music-madison-operas-free-opera-in-the-park-turns-15-and-takes-place-this-saturday-night/

Opera in Park 2012 crowd 2 James Gill


Posted in Classical music

Classical music: Maestro Gustav Meier has died at 86. UW-Madison choral conductor Beverly Taylor pays tribute to him.

July 23, 2016
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has some catching up to do on several fronts.

Well, that is what happens in a city with such a busy musical life and in a year with so many news items.

And it also happens when you give priority to previews, then reviews and then trend stories, as The Ear likes to do.

Plus, there are only seven days in the week, which usually means just seven posts.

Anyway, one neglected or belated item is a generous piece — a recollection homage — that was kindly sent to The Ear by Beverly Taylor, the longtime director of choral activities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and the assistant music director of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.

Her remarks concern the death at 86 in late May of Swiss-born conductor Gustav Meier (below, in a photo by Doug Elbinger), who trained several other Madison-area musicians as well as her. Born in Switzerland, Meier was a quiet celebrity who trained many students at Yale University, the Eastman School of Music and the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and who led the Lansing Symphony Orchestra for 27 years.

(You can see and hear Gustav Meier conducting the Greater Bridgeport Symphony in the slow movement of Sergei Rachmaninoff‘s Symphony No. 2 in  the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Gustav Meier CR Doug Elbinger

Taylor (below) writes:

“Did you know Gustav Meier died in this year of losing so many?

“Maybe the others were more famous, but he was my teacher, mentor and friend from 1990 on, and we visited regularly.  I even coached the Beethoven Ninth with him a year ago, before our performance here.

“I wanted you to know how many people he influenced.  I wouldn’t have had the life I’d had without his help.  He was a GENEROUS musician and he was beloved.”

Beverly Taylor MSO portrait COLOR USE

Here is a link to a fascinating obituary, one that is well worth reading, in the Lansing, Michigan newspaper that Taylor shared:

http://lansingcitypulse.com/article-13267-%E2%80%98tchaikovsky-turns-me-on%E2%80%99.html


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