The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Native daughter violist Vicki Powell returns from her globe-trotting career to solo this Friday night in music by Vaughan Williams with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra | March 21, 2017

By Jacob Stockinger

Madison has produced its share of important classical musicians who have gone on to achieve international reputations.

Among them was the composer Lee Hoiby (1926-2011).

More recently, there are the Naughton Twins, sister-duo pianists Christina and Michelle, who perform around the world.

And there is violist Vicki Powell (below), who was born in Chicago but started music lessons in Madison where she studied with the husband-and-wife team of violinist Eugene Purdue and Pro Arte Quartet violist Sally Chisholm, both of whom have taught at the UW-Madison.

She then attended the Juilliard School in New York and the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. (You can see her typical day at Curtis in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Powell, who recently finished a tour of Asia and whose playing has garnered rave reviews internationally, returns to Madison this Friday night to perform with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra at 7:30 p.m. in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center.

WCO music director Andrew Sewell will conduct. Unlike Sewell’s typical eclectic programming that mixes music from different eras, this concert feature music from a single period – the mid-20th century.

It offers “Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge” by British composer Benjamin Britten, who studied with Bridge. Also included are two other British works: the Suite for Viola and Chamber Orchestra by Ralph Vaughan Williams, with Vicki Powell, and “Benedictus” by Sir Alexander Mackenzie. All three works are rarely performed.

The concluding work, on the other hand, is the popular and well-loved “Appalachian Spring” – a timely work for the coming of spring yesterday morning — by the American composer Aaron Copland.

For more information about the program, about how to get tickets ($10-$80) and about Vicki Powell, go to:

And here is a link to Vicki Powell’s website with a biography, concert bookings, recordings, reviews and her community outreach projects:


  1. Nice programming. Madison is a creative, innovative town and its nice to see people in classical music start, (albeit, ever so slowly), to get that message. Yes, the great classics are wonderful but so is much that has been written after them!

    Meanwhile, the MSO 2017-18 program has been up for a couple of days now over at their website and it too embraces more modern music and music from outside the core group that is so often overplayed–the old and familiar excessive reliance on classical music war- horses from Beethoven, Haydn and the like.

    They do program Bach and Brahms and Mozart but also Dvořák and Janáček and Copland and even Chris Brubeck. It’s a refreshing change. The massive, Glagolitic mass by Janáček , is a nice way to close the season for the orchestra, the organ (it features an extended organ solo), and choir. The concert featuring music for the guitar, featuring Spanish and American pieces, looks especially delightful.

    Comment by FFlambeau — March 21, 2017 @ 1:19 am

  2. She is a fabulous player. I heard her play Mozart’s Sinfonie Concertante, years ago, and the Bartók Viola Concerto, more recently. With the Madison Symphony’s principal violist, Chris Dozoryst, soloing in Berlioz’ Harold in Italy this September, maybe we should dub 2017 ‘The Year of the Viola.’

    Comment by Marika Fischer Hoyt — March 21, 2017 @ 12:08 am

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