The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Next season the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra will expand to two performances of its winter Masterworks concerts by adding a Saturday night concert in Brookfield, near Milwaukee | May 21, 2019

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By Jacob Stockinger

Next season will mark the 20th anniversary of Andrew Sewell (below top) coming to Madison to serve as the music director and principal conductor of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below bottom).

It is hard to imagine a better Bravo! or anniversary gift for the maestro – who has said he wants the WCO to become a chamber orchestra, as its name implies, for the entire state of Wisconsin — than what will in fact take place: the WCO will expand its winter Masterworks concerts to two performances by adding a Saturday night performance at 7:30 p.m. in the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts (below) in Brookfield, a suburb of Milwaukee. (Sewell is also the music director of the San Luis Obispo Symphony in California.)

Madison performances of Masterworks will continue to take place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday night in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center.

You can find out more about the Masterworks programs for next season by going to the WCO home website:

There you will find the usual eclectic mix of new guest artists and new or neglected composers and repertoire that has marked Sewell’s tenure and brought him critical acclaim.

Pianist Orion Weiss will perform the popular  Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major, K. 467 – “Elvira Madigan” – by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; violinists Giora Schmidt and Eric Silberger will perform concertos by Dmitri Kabalevsky and Niccolo Paganini, respectively; harpist Yolanda Kondonassis will perform a concerto by Argentinian Alberto Ginastera; and Andrew Balio (below), principal trumpet of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, will return to Madison where he grew up and perform a 1948 trumpet concerto by Italian composer Andre Tomasi.

Early music and new music to be featured includes works by: Donald Fraser (an acclaimed English conductor, composer and arranger, below) who now lives in Illinois, and often comes to Madison); Joseph Martin Kraus, known as the “Swedish Mozart”; Norwegian composer Johann Svensen; and three English composers (always favorites of Sewell who was born and educated in New Zealand) who are John Marsh, James Macmillan and York Bowen. (In the YouTube video at the bottom you can hear the English Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Kenneth Woods — a native Madisonian who will return next season to conduct the Madison Symphony Orchestra — recording the Scherzo movement from Donald Fraser’s “Sinfonietta,” the same work that the WCO will perform.) 

Works by Franz Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Felix Mendelssohn and Sergei Prokofiev also figure prominently, including Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 “Jupiter” and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 “Pastoral” in honor of the composer’s 250th birthday in 2020.

Also on the website, you will find the upcoming season of Wednesday night Concerts on the Square for this summer (June 26-July 31) plus the dates and themes – although no guest artists or works — for 2020 (June 24-July 29).

Go to:

You can also find information for next season about the WCO performing George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah,” Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ballet “The Nutcracker” with the Madison Ballet; the Young Artist Concerto Competition; the free Family Series; and the community Super Strings program for elementary students.

To receive a brochure with information about all these events and about how to get tickets — an “early bird” discount on subscription tickets runs through May 31– call (608) 257-0638 or go to:

Posted in Classical music
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  1. Another question that comes to mind (and one frequently raised here but I think not seriously) is:
    what does this do for outreach for classical music and building new audiences and especially building audiences with the young?

    In Brookfield? I can just see the conversation between an aged dowager and Maestro Sewell: “But Andrew, Dear, you must bring your people to concertize at Brookfield. I and my family foundation will make it worth your while.”

    I could see doing a summer program at a place like Lake Geneva or even better, Wisconsin Dells (big crowds, people probably not going to much classical music, or even Devil’s Lake State Park. But outreach to Brookfield? Now we know that outreach here is just a bunch of meaningless words.


    Comment by fflambeau — May 21, 2019 @ 6:45 am

  2. What about the musicians who, of course, will be directly affected by this change and their families and loved ones? Have they been consulted? What about the effect of this on the concert hall in Madison where the WCO now performs (built at great expense, by the way)? How will this play with musical artists being booked? Do they actually want to have the inconvenience of going to different locations within the space of one day? Will it mean a fee structure difference or that Madison will be subsidizing Brookfield?

    I further note that having visited the website of the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts (below) in Brookfield, there is no information about this change whatsoever. Does this mean that this “announcement” is being made as a trial balloon at a friendly website with a blogger who is perhaps a friend of the maestro involved? Is that best for classical music, with momentous decisions being made in private rooms between friends with zero input from the public?

    I can think of a number of ways of expanding the WCO’s presence: a summer program similar to Ravinia (at a place like Lake Geneva which is closer and underrepresented in classical music; Brookfield has the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra nearby), or even more dates on the program. This dual, split presence, one in Madison and the other in Brookfield, I do not see as a realistic and workable change. But shouldn’t the merits and demerits of that be discussed openly?


    Comment by fflambeau — May 21, 2019 @ 6:17 am

  3. The lone friday night performance conflicts with another musical performance I like to attend at that time. Brookfield is close.


    Comment by p — May 21, 2019 @ 6:13 am

    • Brookfield is about 70.1 miles away and the drive (in good traffic) takes one hour and 15 minutes or so. And that’s without navigating side streets.

      Have you ever moved 50 or so people (30 plus musicians and support staff) with their instruments, equipment and music that distance? It’s not going to be easy (or cheap).


      Comment by fflambeau — May 21, 2019 @ 6:26 am

  4. Another performance is good. Let’s share.


    Comment by p — May 21, 2019 @ 6:07 am

  5. I think it is a mistake for both Madison-based orchestras to have Maestros on what appear to be unending, Evergreen contracts. It encourages complacency when only death will bring about change.

    This is not to say that these people are not good and decent folk: they are. But new blood can bring in new ideas, new ways of doing things and new approaches, and one would hope, new pieces in the repertoire. There are lots of good and talented people out there who can do just as well or even better.

    I would offer an initial 4-6 year contract, that is renewable for a maximum of about 12 years and then finito.

    It also appears to me that change is coming to Madison very, very slowly as a result of this staid approach in classical music and that the driving forces are neither the MSO nor the WCO. For a city that is known for its dynamism, the situation in classical music is much too static.

    Some would argue that these Maestros have brought success to the local scene and need to be retained because they can pay the bills. Nonsense; it is Overture and the buildings where they perform (as seen by crowds for other events over which they do not preside) and the expansion of the city’s population that has done that.

    It seems Maestro Sewell would rather work elsewhere and perhaps lead a full orchestra (that was shown months ago by his performing Bruckner with a chamber orchestra, under the preposterous claim that such a group would reveal the “sinews” of that work). Fine. Go for it.


    Comment by fflambeau — May 21, 2019 @ 4:53 am

    • Is it only me that thinks it odd that a major change involving the WCO is being made without any public discussion at all, zero, about the merits of this? or the difficulties? And that an announcement of this magnitude should appear here under the dubious assertion that it is a nice “birthday gift” for a Maestro who already has one leg planted in California?

      The Minnesota Orchestra has the name of a state but that hasn’t meant that they needed to change their venue, did it? It seems to me that the claim that a group with the state’s name in it is justification for this is just nonsense. Piffle.

      I’m sure Brookfield is nice but it will mean lots of transportation issues (and costs) and perhaps an even greater “split personality” than what now exists.

      At least be upfront with what is going on.


      Comment by fflambeau — May 21, 2019 @ 5:21 am

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