The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Middleton Community Orchestra and solo flutist Iva Ugrcic turn in polished performances of a fun program to kick off the new season | October 12, 2018

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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 hosts an early music show once a month on Sunday morning on WORT 89.9 FM. For years, he served on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison. He also took the performance photo.

By John W. Barker

The opening concert on Wednesday night by the largely amateur Middleton Community Orchestra (below top), under the baton of Steve Kurr (below bottom), was a relatively brief but pithy one, with only three short works on the program.

The opener was Autumn, the most frequently played section of the ballet The Seasons, Op. 67 (1899), by Alexander Glazunov (below) and one of the composer’s most frequently heard pieces. It is a rondo-like sequence of varied dance movements, full of lyricism and bright colors. The Middleton players dug into it with gusto.

Second came the Flute Concerto in D Major, Op. 283, by the prolific 19th-century German composer Carl Reinecke (1824-1910, below). He was conservative as a teacher and as a prolific composer.

Among his concertos, this one was his last, written just two years before his death. It is an engaging work, not notable for great ideas, but amiable, with a good virtuosic workout for the soloist.

The soloist was the Serbian-born flutist Iva Ugrcic, an absolute whiz of a player, and, among other things, a product of the UW-Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music doctoral program.  She played with super-precision and confidence, giving her instrument great personality.

Without intermission, the concert ended with the Symphony No. 100, known as the “Military,” by Franz Joseph Haydn (below). It was first played in 1794 among the composer’s “London” Symphonies during his second visit to England. But it may well have been begun while he was in Vienna, for it reflects a particular fad popular there.

This was the use in orchestral writing of an adaptation of the sounds of the Turkish Janissary band. In the second movement, whose tune was taken from an earlier chamber work of his, Haydn introduced recurrently the “Turkish” instruments (two clarinets, triangle, cymbals, bass drums) with startling effect.

At the movement’s end, a trumpet call brings these novelties back for a crashing conclusion. And then, in the fourth movement’s ending, the “Janissary” instruments return for another razzle-dazzle finish. (You can hear the fourth movement in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

It’s all great fun, and the orchestra players seemed to find their own enjoyment in it.

The MCO continues its steady growth as a polished and reliable ensemble — all 98 players!

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3 Comments »

  1. Is this a joke?

    Comment by aneciabennett — October 12, 2018 @ 11:59 am

    • To what are you referring?

      Comment by bbento — October 12, 2018 @ 1:15 pm

    • I have to agree that this review was a “joke”.

      It was formulaic to the extreme: telling us who played what and not much else.

      Something the writer could have done the (the program begged for it), was to deal a bit with how the instruments in the program evolved. The flute is perhaps the oldest known musical instrument, dating back at least 43,000 years.

      In the Haydn, a discussion of what is referred to as “Janissary instruments” could have embellished this story, and lead to who they were and why they were important at the time of the music’s composition. For a former historian to have missed this and to have failed to talk about the Turkish assault on Vienna, with the Battle of Vienna in 1683 (and subsequent 15 year war in which Turkish army music would have been well known to the Austrians, in particular); all of this is preposterous and outlandish. Or comic, if you prefer, hence the “joke”.

      Instead, NONE OF THIS was in the review, which could have been written by a third grader.

      Comment by fflambeau — October 13, 2018 @ 12:35 am


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