The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Oakwood Chamber Players take a “Journey” to explore neglected and oppressed German and Dutch composers this Saturday night and Sunday afternoon | May 16, 2018

By Jacob Stockinger

The accomplished and acclaimed Oakwood Chamber Players (below) continue their exploration of neglected repertoire and end their “Journey” season with two performances of a concert titled Legacy on this Saturday night, May 19, at 7 p.m. and on Sunday afternoon, May 20, at 2 p.m.

The concerts will be held at the Oakwood Center for Arts and Education, 6209 Mineral Point Road, on Madison’s far west side near West Towne Mall.

Tickets can be purchased with cash or personal checks at the door: $25 general admission, $20 seniors and $5 students. Visit www.oakwoodchamberplayers.com for more information.

Trio for flute, clarinet and bassoon by Dutch composer Julius Röntgen (below) was written in 1917 and is neo-Classical in style. Röntgen was a classmate and lifelong friend of Edvard Grieg’s whom he met at the Leipzig Conservatory. He studied with Lachner and Reinecke, and collaborated with Brahms and Casals in concerts. His musical career spanned the roles of composer, teacher, and concert pianist. He was instrumental in the founding of the Amsterdam Conservatory and the world-famous Concertgebouw Orchestra.

A frequent participant in chamber music himself, he was a fine contributor to the genre. Röntgen’s Wind Trio in G Major shows his compositional facility: from a playful Haydn-influenced first movement (which you can hear in the YouTube video at the bottom) to an adagio melody in the second movement that is drawn from Johann Sebastian Bach’s “St. Matthew’s Passion” and to the final movement with a Danish folk melody at its heart that is enhanced by upbeat creative variations.

German composer Heinrich Kaminski (below) wrote his atmospheric String Quartet in F major. Written over the time period leading up to World War I, this four-movement piece encompasses moodiness contrasted with high energy. The scherzo movement has the feel of a driven dance, the adagio movement is emotionally charged, and Kaminski’s final movement recaps themes of the piece’s restless expressivity.

Recognition of his talent in Berlin was cut short when the Nazi Gestapo intercepted correspondence that revealed Jewish heritage. His music was deemed unsuitable for performance in Germany and banned in 1937. He fled to Switzerland yet his life was profoundly impacted by events. He died shortly after the war, having endured the dissolution of his marriage, declining health and loss of children. However interest in Kaminski’s unique composition style has led to resurgence in recent performances of his works.

Dutch composer Leo Smit (below) studied at the Amsterdam Conservatory and then lived in Paris for a decade before returning to Holland. He was greatly influenced by Ravel and Stravinsky’s innovations and exchanged ideas with fellow composers Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc and Arthur Honegger. He enjoyed jazz rhythms and they often are found in his works.

His three-movement Sextet for piano and wind quintet is full of variety, warm melodic lines and fascinating harmonies. With the German invasion during World War II Smit’s circumstances as a Jewish musician deteriorated and he was forbidden to continue as a professional musician. Despite the dire circumstances he continued composing, completing a Sonata for flute and piano in 1943 just prior to his transportation to and death in a concentration camp.

The program ends with a cleverly written piece by German composer Bernhard Sekles (below). The final movement from his Capriccio for violin, cello and piano is titled Yankee-Doodle with variations and a delightful way to conclude the concert. Based in Frankfurt, Sekles was an innovative composer and teacher, and in 1928 became the first European teacher of jazz.

Oakwood Chamber Players members are Marilyn Chohaney, flute; Amanda Szczys, bassoon; Anne Aley, horn; Leyla Sanyer, violin; and Maggie Darby Townsend, cello. They will be joined by guests Martha Fischer, piano; Elspeth Stalter-Clouse, violin; Shannon Farley, viola; Aaron Hill, oboe; and Bernard Parish, clarinet.

The Oakwood Chamber Players are a group of Madison-area professional musicians who play in other professional organizations such as the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, and who have rehearsed and performed at Oakwood Village for over 30 years.

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The Oakwood Chamber Players are a professional music ensemble proudly supported by Oakwood Lutheran Senior Ministries and the Oakwood Foundation.

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4 Comments »

  1. Many composers, especially those who were Jewish, gay, or Romanish, were persecuted by the Nazis in the 1930’s.

    Leo Smit, for example, was killed at Sobibor extermination camp in 1943 at the age of 43.

    The Leo Smit Foundation continues to spread the word about his work and that of other similarly persecuted composers. See
    http://www.leosmit.org/leosmitfoundation.php#.WvwIgKSFPIV

    and the website Forbidden Music Regained:
    http://www.forbiddenmusicregained.org/?DOC_INST=1

    You can find scores, historical materials including biographies and pictures and more at both web sites.

    Again, interesting programming in Madison.

    Comment by fflambeau — May 16, 2018 @ 5:32 am

  2. It’s a delightful idea to spotlight neglected composers.

    By continuing to focus on “war horses” and overplayed and recorded composers, gatekeepers of classical music do a great injustice to many, many talented individuals.

    I noted that one of the first recordings that the new conductor of the New York Philharmonic made with that group was a recording of…Beethoven’s 5th symphony. Did he add to our understanding of that work (especially since so many outstanding conductors have recorded it)?

    So hats off to this group.

    Comment by fflambeau — May 16, 2018 @ 12:07 am

    • Thanks so much for your comments, fflambeau! We work really hard on our programming, finding much current relevance and joy in playing works that might go unsung otherwise. This results in many Wisconsin premieres, not to mention that we also program a lot of new contemporary works. This is our special niche, and we love it! Our audiences love the music, too!

      Comment by Marilyn Chohaney — May 16, 2018 @ 11:02 am

      • I’m glad to hear, Dr. Chohaney, that your audiences love this kind of music and that you enjoy performing it.

        Maybe your innovative programming should serve as a wake-up call to those who think that classical music consists only of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, and Brahms.

        Comment by fflambeau — May 16, 2018 @ 10:18 pm


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