The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Middleton Community Orchestra and UW-Madison horn player Dafydd Bevil excel in a concerto by Richard Strauss and a theater suite by Ralph Vaughan-Williams. Plus, the UW’s Perlman Trio performs Saturday afternoon

April 13, 2018

ALERT: On SATURDAY – (not today as first mistakenly listed) –at 3:30 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall, the annual FREE concert by the UW’s Perlman Trio — named after benefactor Kato Perlman — will perform piano trios by Franz Joseph Haydn and Robert Schumann, and a piano quartet by Johannes Brahms. A reception will follow For more information about the student performers and the full program, go to:

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 FM 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. Barker also took the performance photos.

By John W. Barker

The Middleton Community Orchestra (below), under conductor Kyle Knox, brought off a splendid concert on last Wednesday evening.

The opening item was the Introduction and Allegro, Op. 47, for string quartet and string orchestra by Edward Elgar.  This is a broad work of great Romantic sweep, featuring the lush textures pitting a large ensemble against a miniature one.

The largely amateur Middleton orchestra fields a very large string section. It has not yet completely fused into a suave entity, but the 30-odd players did a brave job of capturing the music’s rhetorical richness.

The soloist for the evening was Dafydd Bevil (below), a French horn player who is very active in a number of orchestras and ensembles in the Madison area while currently engaged in doctoral studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music.

Bevil boldly chose as his vehicle the second of Richard Strauss’ two horn concertos. Neither is heard in concert very much, though the Concerto No. 1 is a little more familiar from recordings. That is a bravura piece, composed in 1882, when Strauss (below) was 18, and was written for his father, Germany’s foremost horn virtuoso.

The Concerto No. 2 dates from the other end of Strauss’s career, in 1942, the first of some wind concertos undertaken during and after World War II.  Intended to recapture his earlier instrumental style, it is a much more studied piece than its predecessor.

Bevil, clearly a player of exceptional skill and musicality, powerfully met Strauss’ showy and florid solo writing.  This is a virtuoso musician with a promising future.

The remainder of the concert was devoted to the first of what would be a number of scores Ralph Vaughan Williams (below) prepared to fit Classical Greek plays.  (RVW was himself a very accomplished master of ancient Greek.)

In 1912, inspired by the translations of Gilbert Murray, he produced music to set Murray’s English texts for three of the plays by Euripides: The Bacchae, Electra, and Iphigenia in Tauris.

Before that, however, in 1909, still early in his career, Vaughan Williams composed incidental music to a production (in Greek) of the comedy by Aristophanes, The Wasps.

From that Aristophanic score, the composer put together an orchestral concert suite of an overture and five incidental numbers. The overture itself has enjoyed some frequency of concert performances, but the full suite is little known to the public over here.

It was a clever stroke of programming that Kyle Knox (below) led the orchestra in the full suite.   This is delightful music, full of typical Vaughan Williams whimsy, inventiveness, and cleverness.  Sounding simple, it creates balances and details not easy to manage, but Knox and the orchestra performed it with dazzling flair. (You can hear the rarely performed full suite in the YouTube video at the bottom)

This is exactly the kind of enterprise that makes the Madison area’s musical life so stimulating and joyous.

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Classical music review: Middleton Community Orchestra and UW’s Perlman Trio shine together in Beethoven’s Triple Concerto

June 3, 2011
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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. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.

By John W. Barker

The Madison area’s musical season is hardly over, with continuing concert events of quality still very much in evidence.

The Middleton Community Orchestra (below top) gave the final concert of its season on Wednesday evening, June 1, in the Middleton Performing Arts Center (below bottom) at Middleton High School. And, once again, it was a generous program.

To be sure, the opening item was something of a disappointment. “An Outdoor Overture” by Aaron Copland (below) is one of the weakest of Copland’s overtly American orchestral pieces. Conductor Steve Kurr and his players sounded less than committed to it. The pacing was slow, without much lift, and the effect was generally ponderous rather than exhilarating.

On the other hand, the concerto component was an exceptional treat. Beethoven‘s “Triple Concerto” for violin, cello and piano, with orchestra, is not very frequently programmed in concerts – although it coincidentally was broadcast live Tuesday night on PBS” Carnegie Hall tribute with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, pianist Emanuel Ax and violinist Gil Shaham with the New York Philharmonic under Alan Gilbert.  After all, what managements want to pay three soloists instead of just one?

The solo parts certainly demand great skills and artistry, but, while three individual virtuosos can bring illumination to a performance, Beethoven (below) was writing not so much for three separate players as for a three-member team.

Some commentators have compared this early Romantic work to the Baroque concerto grosso. But the carefully limited and restricted textures of that idiom are not at all the precedent Beethoven had in mind. He came from a musical world still delighted by the form known as the “sinfonia concertante,” an orchestral work of symphonic scope but with “concertizing” soloists, usually more than one. Such scores would feature passages of individual prominence, but the players would also function as a team integrated into the orchestral scheme.

Beethoven’s team, in this case, was one with which he was already well familiar: the piano trio. This work is a concerto not for three soloists, but for piano trio and orchestra.  Both live and recorded performances of the work derive special benefit when the three “solo” players are accustomed to working together, as a standard piano trio in its chamber literature. And such was the case for this Middleton concert, with the added interest of showing off a very distinctive group of University of Wisconsin School of Music students, the Perlman Trio).

The group takes its name from retired Prof. Kato Perlman, whose munificence has created a continuing chamber group to be filled by top students (so far, undergraduates) in the School of Music. This team (below) has consisted, for the year now ending, of violinist Eleanor Bartsch (below right), cellist Taylor Skiff (below center) and pianist Thomas Kasdorf (below left).

Already seasoned players and ensemble partners who have offered performance of professional quality, they learned this concerto for this concert, so they clearly were still working their way into it. But their experience as a team, together with their individual talents, made for an already secure and strong performance. The orchestra rode along comfortably with them, visibly delighted to have their company.

For the second half there was Rimsky-Korsakov’s famous symphonic “Scheherazade.” Maestro Kurr seems to have an affinity for Russian Romantic music, and he demonstrated it in a thoughtful and unconventional performance of this rich score.

Knowing he does not have a virtuoso orchestra (below) at his disposal, he made no effort to achieve plush sonorities and dramatic bombast. His string band is less than lush so far, but it is healthy and well-disciplined, allowing Kurr to nourish the more carefully his fine wind players — especially the woodwinds –in their very important contributions.

There were some rough entries and brittle joints here and there, with tempos on the somewhat relaxed side, but the shaping was often quite poetic, amid the unfolding of the absolutely amazing orchestral writing by Rimsky-Koraskov (below).

For an encore, there was a lively polka by Johann Strauss the Younger (I think “Unter Donner und Blitzen,” but I may be wrong), played for all the fun it was worth.

Middleton is really blessed to have a community orchestra of such talent and enterprise.

Posted in Classical music

Classical music Q&A: The UW’s Perlman Trio talks performing Beethoven’s Triple Concerto next Wednesday, June 1, with the Middleton Community Orchestra

May 27, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

Next Wednesday, June 1, the Middleton Community Orchestra will perform at 7:30 p.m. in the Middleton Performing Arts Center (below) at Middleton High School.

The talented amateur group will perform under the baton of Steve Kurr.

The program includes Rimsky-Korsakov’s beautiful and lushly dramatic “Scheherazade” and Aaron Copland’s rarely heard “Outdoor” Overture.

But for many listeners, the highlight will be Beethoven’s mighty Triple Concerto for Piano, Violin and Cello, which will be performed by the student group the Perlman Trio, from the University of Wisconsin School of Music.

Admission is $10, free for students. Advance tickets can be bought at Willy Street Coop West on University Avenue in Middleton. Student tickets are available only at the door.

Trio violinist Eleanor Bartsch (below middle in the photo by Katrin Talbot) recently spoke about the Perlman Trio and its upcoming performance to The Ear:

Can you give a short introduction to each member of the trio?

I have the pleasure of working with two extremely talented colleagues, pianist Thomas Kasdorf (below right) and cellist Taylor Skiff (below left).

Thomas is from Middleton originally, and recently graduated with his Bachelor’s from UW-Madison studying with Christopher Taylor.  In addition to being an amazing classical pianist, he has a great love of musical theater, and especially the music of Stephen Sondheim.  He has arranged and performed reduced and solo orchestrations of many Sondheim scores and serves on the board of directors for Middleton Players Theater.  Next year, he’ll be attending the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and working to get a master’s degree in collaborative piano.

Taylor is the newest member of the trio, and is from Mequon, Wisconsin.  He is a fantastic cellist, and in addition to winning the UW-Madison School of Music concerto competition this year, he has also played solos with the Milwaukee Symphony and Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.  He would like to go on and get a master’s degree in cello, but as only a junior, he leaves his options open for the future.

I’m originally from Bloomington, Minnesota, and spend my time performing in many chamber groups in the Madison area including the Madison Bach Musicians, the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble, the UW Contemporary Ensemble, and, of course, the Perlman Trio. You may have also seen me in the Madison Symphony Orchestra first violin section.  I also recently received my bachelor’s degree from UW-Madison studying with David Perry of the Pro Arte Quartet.

How did you get together as a trio? How long have you played together and what other chamber music (especially trios but other genres too) have you performed? Is this your first time doing the Beethoven Triple?

Taylor, Thomas and I are all recipients of the Perlman Trio Scholarship.  Through the generosity of Dr. Kato Perlman, a retired UW-Madison research scientist, we all receive scholarship money that helps us with tuition for the UW.

All the scholarship recipients are chosen by the chamber music faculty at the University. But even though we didn’t get together on our own, we are lucky to get along very well.  We are also extremely lucky to have Kato Perlman in our lives — she is quite an amazing woman and has shown such incredible support of all three of us in our musical (and non-musical) endeavors.  She is always in the audience cheering us on.

Thomas is an inaugural member of the trio, and has been a member for four years.  This was my third year as violinist of the trio, and Taylor just finished out his first year as cellist.  There are things that are challenging about changing personnel every year, but Taylor has been an amazing fit for the group, and for the Beethoven Triple Concerto in particular.

Besides the Triple Concerto, we give a spring recital every year, and sometimes have other engagements for the school, and on our own.  Our spring recital program this year included the Beethoven C minor trio, op. 1, the Chausson trio in G minor, and the Schumann Piano Quartet, for which we were joined by the fabulous violist, Daniel Kim.

This is our first time any of us have performed the Beethoven Triple Concerto, and we are very excited to be learning it.  It’s been a bit difficult for us to rehearse because we aren’t in school anymore (though, I’m not complaining about summer vacation!)  Taylor has been kind enough to travel from his home in Milwaukee to rehearse with Thomas and me, who are both living in Madison for the summer.

Will you continue to play together? What do you like about playing chamber music as contrasted with solo or orchestral playing? How is it different or rewarding?

Since Thomas and both recently graduated with our bachelor’s degrees from UW, we will no longer be members of the trio.  But Taylor still has one more year left, so he will continue in the group and work with two new great players.  I look forward to hearing the group next year.

Chamber music is such a great part of being a musician because it has great elements of solo and ensemble playing.  Working closely with a small group of people is incredibly rewarding, and, unlike an orchestral setting, there are a lot of soloistic elements involved.  Not to mention that the repertoire is unbeatable!

What do you want to say and tell the public about the Beethoven Triple Concerto?

This is truly a great piece of music.  It’s exhilarating to listen to not one, but three soloists at once—with all these parts in one piece, there is never a dull moment! The orchestra part is so powerful, and though it may seem like the piece could get a little too complex to listen to with four different parts (including orchestra) being juggled, Beethoven creates a balance which makes the piece seem simple and easy to listen to.

Do you have anything to say about the rest of the program, the Rimsky-Korsakov (below top) and the Copland? About the Middleton Community Orchestra (below bottom)?

If you look closely, you may see Taylor and me sitting in the violin and cello sections during “Scheherazade.”  This piece is very dear to both of us, as it was one of the first pieces either of us got to play in big orchestra (myself in the Minnesota Youth Symphonies, and Taylor in the Milwaukee Youth Symphony).

I still remember what it felt like to be in the middle of such a powerful group during this great piece of music.  It was definitely one of the things that hooked me on music.

We are so thankful to the Middleton Community Orchestra for giving us this opportunity. Everyone in the orchestra clearly loves the music so much, and it definitely comes off in the music.  I look forward to this performance, and to hearing the group for many years to come.

Posted in Classical music

Classical music: The Middleton Community Orchestra closes out its fifth season next Wednesday night with music by Marquez, Bruch, Brahms and the never-fail Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1.

May 29, 2015

By Jacob Stockinger

The Middleton Community Orchestra (below) will present its final concert of the season on Wednesday, June 3, at 7:30 p.m.

Middleton Community Orchestra press photo1

The concert will take place at the Middleton Performing Arts Center (below, exterior and interior), attached to Middleton High School.

Middleton PAC2

Middleton PAC1

This concert concludes MCO’s fifth year.

On the program is Danzon No. 2 by Mexican composer Arturo Marquez; the “Haydn” Variations by German composer Johannes Brahms; the slow Adagio movement from the Violin Concerto by Max Bruch with MCO concertmaster Valerie Sanders (below top) soloing; and the never-fail Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-Flat Minor by the Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky –- the same exciting concerto that launched the career of Van Cliburn — by performed by the talented Middleton native, Thomas Kasdorf.

Valerie Sanders MCO 2015

Tickets are $10 for general admission.  Students are admitted free of charge.  Tickets are available at Willy St. Coop West and at the door. The box office opens at 7 p.m.

There will also be a meet-and-greet reception (below) after the concert.

Middleton Community Orchestra reception

Here is information about pianist Thomas Kasdorf (below):

He is a recent graduate of UW-Madison School of Music with his Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance, where he studied with Christopher Taylor.

thomas kasdorf 2:jpg

He was an inaugural member of the Perlman Piano Trio, which awards scholarships and performance opportunities to talented undergraduate students to give performances of chamber music.

His work with the Perlman Trio (below, with cellist Maureen Kelly and violinist Eleanor Bartsch) has been featured in performances on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Live at the Midday” series and as part of Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society’s House Concerts series, as well as in Middleton Community Orchestra’s inaugural season performance of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto.

Perlman-Trio Thomas Kasdorf piano, Eleanor Bartsch violin and Maureen Kelly cello

He was named co-winner of the Irving Shain Woodwind and Piano Duo Competition, with collaborative partner, flutist Morgann Davis. He was awarded the Bolz Prize of the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Concerto Competition and performed Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor at their Spring Youth Concerts.

He has performed in master classes given by Nadja Salerno-Sonnenburg, Pinchas Zukerman, Sam Rhodes, Steven Isserlis, Ronald Leonard, Ralph Kirshbaum, Jonathan Miller, Timothy Eddy, Robert MacDonald, Jeffrey Siegel and Adam Neiman.

Thomas has worked in a variety of roles (both on and offstage) with a multitude of local theatre groups in over 100 different shows. With a specialty in the oeuvre of Stephen Sondheim, he has been called upon to arrange and perform reduced or solo orchestrations of Sondheim scores, including “A Little Night Music,” “Sunday in the Park with George,” “Putting It Together,” “Sweeney Todd,” “Side by Side by Sondheim,” “Into the Woods” and, most recently, “Company.” He proudly serves on the board of directors for Middleton Players Theatre, and was the director of the company’s recent production of “Les Mis.”

Last year’s performance of the Grieg Piano Concerto (below) was Thomas Kasdorf’s third performance with the Middleton Community Orchestra. He had performed the Triple Concerto by Ludwig van Beethoven as part of the Perlman Trio, and the Piano Concerto in A major by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

MCO june 2014 Thomas Kasdorf plays Grieg

He has just concluded a wildly successful collaboration with MCO to produce a staged production of “Carousel,” and he says he is looking forward to his performance of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the MCO. (You can hear Van Cliburn play the opening movement of the concerto in a YouTube video at the bottom. It has some great shots of hands and fingers.)



Classical music Q&A: Native son pianist Thomas Kasdorf talks about playing solo recitals, chamber music and the Grieg Piano Concerto with the Middleton Community Orchestra, which also closes out its fourth season on Wednesday night with Elgar’s “Enigma” Variations, a Romance for violin and orchestra by Dvorak, and a suite by de Falla.

June 2, 2014

By Jacob Stockinger

This coming Wednesday night, June 4, at 7:30 p.m. the Middleton Community Orchestra (below) will close out its fourth season.

Middleton Community Orchestra press photo1

The concert will take place in the comfortable Middleton Performing Arts Center (below), located at 2100 Bristol Street and attached to Middleton High School.

Middleton PAC1

The program is very appealing and ambitious. It features some popular works that are also first-rate music: the Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16, by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg; a Romance for violin and orchestra by Czech composer Antonin Dvorak; the enthralling “Enigma” Variations by the British composer Sir Edward Elgar; and a suite of dances from “The Three-Cornered Hat” by Spanish composer Manuel de Falla.

The conductor is Steve Kurr. The soloists are both graduates of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music: pianist Thomas Kasdorf, who hails from Middleton and who is returning to perform with the MCO; and concertmaster Alice Bartsch.

Tickets are $10 general admission. All students get in free.

Tickets are available at Willy St. Co-op West three weeks prior to each concert and at the door on the night of the concert.

Student tickets are available at the door only on the night of the show. The box office opens at 6:30 p.m. Doors open at 7 p.m.

A free informal reception, where you can meet and greet the performers, follows the performance.

Middleton Community Orchestra reception

Here is a link to the website with information about the MCO, how to support it, how to join it and what its next season will offer:

And here is a link to a previous review by me -– guest critic John W. Barker has done many other reviews for this blog and you can use the blog’s search engine to find them. My review will help to explain why The Ear so looks forward to the upcoming concert:

Pianist Thomas Kasdorf recently answered an email Q&A for The Ear:

thomas kasdorf 2:jpg

Can you briefly introduce yourself, your achievements and current or future plans, and your personal history including how and when you started playing the piano and the Aha Moment (artist, piece) when you knew you wanted to do it professionally?

I am 27 years old. I grew up in Middleton and completed my Bachelor’s of Music in Piano Performance at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music where I studied with Professor Christopher Taylor.

I was an inaugural member of the Perlman Piano Trio (below), which gives scholarships to musicians at the UW-Madison with a particular interest in chamber music.

Currently, I am working as co-Artistic Director and Musical Director for Middleton Players Theatre on their summer 2014 season productions of “Rent,” which plays June 27–July 5, and “A Chorus Line,” which runs August 8-16.

In the fall I will begin my graduate studies with Professor Martha Fischer at the UW-Madison studying Collaborative Piano as a Paul Collins Fellow.

I started playing piano in the first grade. My grandmother was a choir director at our church and so I was constantly hearing music. One day, I decided that I wanted to play and sat down at the piano to try to fake my way into it alongside her.

Regarding an Aha! moment, I had several. The first time I played in recital, I was so at ease with the whole process and enjoyed the fact that people were listening to everything I was doing, the control and the demonstrative ability to express myself for an audience. It was something I knew I would never be able to give up.

Perlman-Trio Thomas Kasdorf piano, Eleanor Bartsch violin and Maureen Kelly cello

How does playing the piano differ for solo repertoire, chamber music and concertos, all of which you have done? Do you have a favorite genre and advice to other pianists about each kind of playing?

That’s an interesting question.

I’m not sure how to express what is different when I approach these genres, or if I even do think of them differently. I think the scale of audience expectations changes between them.

If you are playing a full-length solo recital, there is less room for hiding. It is you, the music and an audience.

But in chamber music and concertos, which I find to be very linked, there is direct communication between you and the other musicians, or between you and a conductor and the other musicians, and that communication is linked to the audience’s perception.

I think that when I approach any piece of music, I think about the soundscape of it, the soundscape for me at the keyboard, the soundscape for the audience in whatever seat in whatever venue.

My advice to other pianists is to listen intently to what you are producing, and to what is being produced around you, and not to settle for a single sound that you do not feel fully expresses what you want — in any genre. (Below, Thomas Kasdorf is seen playing Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488, with the Middleton Community Orchestra.)

Middletopn Community Orchestra Thomas Kasdorf playing

What would you like the public to know about the Piano Concerto by Edvard Grieg (below)? Why is it so popular?

I fell in love with the Grieg a long time ago. One of my first teachers and I played this old piano, four-hands version of the themes from the first movement, eased off in technical difficulty but retaining the grandeur and emotion.

The first movement of Grieg (Editor’s Note: Readers can hear it played by Arthur Rubinstein in a YouTube video at the bottom) was the first piece that I performed with an orchestra, when I won the Madison Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition, and that experience has a lingering memory of pride; performing in the then Oscar Mayer Theater  in the then Madison Civic Center (where I was constantly hearing and seeing events all through my childhood), with the orchestra so dear to my heart, the MSO.

I think that there exists a public familiarity with the Grieg, and its popularity is probably due to the fact that it really does possess such a wide array of colors and textures. There are so many different mood shifts over the course of the piece, and juxtapositions between repose and struggle, lyricism and percussiveness, between the soloist and the orchestra. Plus, it seems so accessible and consistently intense for the audience.

edvard grieg

Is there anything else you would like to add or say?

I urge people to come and listen to the Middleton Community Orchestra. This is my third time as a soloist with them, and I can honestly say that there is something unique happening in Middleton with this organization.

The orchestra is made up not only of a fabulous bunch of musicians, but also of people who really do their all to express their passion for the music for their audience.

Also on this program is the phenomenal violinist Alice Bartsch (below), their concertmaster, soloing on an incredible “Romance” by Anton Dvorak that I just heard in rehearsal for the first time last night and was blown away by.

Hearing the two soloists is well worth the admission. But the two orchestral works in this concert –- British composer Sir Edward Elgar’s “Enigma” Variations” and the dance suite from “The Three-Cornered Hat” by Spanish Manuel De Falla — are also amazing and challenging, and a lot of fun for both players and audience.

Alice Bartsch



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Classical music news: Middleton pianist Thomas Kasdorf joins the Middleton Community Orchestra next Wednesday night in a concert of Mozart and Brahms.

May 25, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

This coming three-day holiday weekend includes Memorial Day.

After all the patriotic music and marches you’re likely to hear, you might just be in the mood for something more serious, both dramatic and lyrical.

And even though we are in the intermission between the spring and summer concert season, one event looks very promising.

Next Wednesday night (May 30, 2012) at 7:30 p.m. at the Middleton Performing Arts Center, attached to Middleton High School, The Middleton Community Orchestra (below, in a photo by William Ballhorn) will present its Spring Concert.

The concert features terrific three works: the “Jolly Robbers” Overture by Franz von Suppe; the contagiously tuneful and charming Piano Concerto in A major, K. 488 by Mozart; and the dense Symphony No. 4 by Brahms, one of the greatest symphonies ever composed.

Tickets are $10 general admission. Students are free. Tickets are available at the door, Willy St. Coop West or by calling (608) 212-8690.

The conductor is Steve Kurr (below).

The guest soloist is pianist Thomas Kasdorf (below), a life-long Middleton resident, who will be performing the Mozart concerto.

Kasdorf is a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with his Bachelor’s of Music in Piano Performance, where he studied with Professor Christopher Taylor.

At UW-Madison, Kasdorf was selected to be an inaugural member of the Perlman Piano Trio, which awards scholarships and performance opportunities to talented undergraduate students to give performances of chamber music.

His work with the Perlman Trio (below, with violinist Eleanor Bartsch and cellist Maureen Kelly) and with other instrumentalists has been featured in performances on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Live at the Midday” series, as well as in Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society’s House Concert Series.

He was named co-winner of the Irving Shain Woodwind and Piano Duo Competition, with collaborative partner, flutist Morgann Davis and was awarded the Bolz Prize of the Madison Symphony Concerto Competition and performed Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor at their Spring Youth Concerts.

He has performed in master classes given by: composer William Bolcom, violinists Nadja Salerno Sonnenburg and Pinchas Zukerman; cellists Steven Isserlis, Ronald Leonard, Ralph Kirshbaum and Timothy Eddy, and pianists Robert MacDonald, Jeffrey Siegel and Adam Neiman.

Kasdorf has worked in a variety of roles (both on and offstage) with a multitude of local performing arts groups, including Strollers Theatre, Madison Theatre Guild, Four Seasons Theatre, University Theatre, University Opera, and Children’s Theatre of Madison, in over 100 different shows.

With a specialty in the works of Stephen Sondheim, he has been called upon to arrange and perform reduced or solo orchestrations of Sondheim scores, including “A Little Night Music,” “Sunday in the Park with George,” “Putting It Together,” “Sweeney Todd,” “Side by Side by Sondheim,” “Into the Woods” and “Company.” He also serves on the board of directors for Middleton Players Theatre and will be musical director for Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” with them in August at the Middleton Performing Arts Center (below), where he will perform Wednesday night.

John W. Barker of Isthmus has reviewed several previous concerts by the Middleton Community Orchestra for this blog. Here are links to Barker’s reviews:

And if you want more information about the upcoming concert or the Middleton Community Orchestra, including how to join it and support it, here is a link:

Classical music: The Madison Youth Area Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO) performs music by Haydn and Schumann as well as premieres by Cecilia McDowall and Jonathan Posthuma this Saturday night.

June 19, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The talented Mikko Rankin Utevsky (below) – who is a conductor, a violist and a baritone singer in the UW-Madison School of Music – writes about the concert this Saturday night by the Madison Youth Area Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO), which he founded in high school, and still directs and conducts:

new Mikko Utevsky baton profile USE

This week kicks off the fifth season of the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO, below), consisting of two concerts loosely organized around the theme “Concerto Grosso.”

MAYCO Aug. 2014 Shostakovich 9

We will be presenting three works explicitly in that form this summer — one of them on this week’s concert — and others touching on it in various fashions: the late Cello Concerto by Robert Schumann, which integrates a solo part into the orchestral texture; and a symphony by Franz Joseph Haydn that features soloists drawn from the orchestra, more akin to a “sinfonia concertante.”

The first concert is this Saturday night, June 20, at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall. Tickets are $7. Students are admitted by donation.

More information about the orchestra can be found on our website:

On August 21, we will welcome members of the Madison Bach Musicians and UW-Madison faculty for a workshop on historical performance practices. This season also marks the first year of a new conducting program for high school students. (Below is a photo by Steve Rankin of MAYCO rehearsing.)

MAYCO group 1 Steve Rankin

For those unfamiliar with us, MAYCO is a student-run training orchestra for players ranging in level from middle school and high school through doctoral study. Each summer, the group presents two public concerts, each preceeded by a week of intensive rehearsal.

The program is presented with the support of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO), of which many of our players are members or alumni. The ensemble typically numbers 25-35 players, balanced evenly between high school and university students.

MAYCO Mikko conducting Steve Rankin

Our program this Saturday night opens with Franz Joseph Haydn’s early Symphony No. 6 “Le Matin” (Morning) — it is the first part of the composer’s triptych “Morning,” “Noon” and “Night” Symphonies. This symphony was  his first written for the Esterhazy family that would employ him for most of his career.

It owes its nickname to a majestic Adagio introduction that sounds like a sunrise. (You can hear the opening movement in a YouTube video at the bottom.) Nearly every principal player, all the way down to the principal bassist, has some sort of solo passage -– the way that Haydn (below) signaled to the orchestra at his new post that they were going to like working with him.


The most prominent part is given to the concertmaster, in this case the acclaimed Valerie Sanders, whom you may know as concertmaster of the Middleton Community Orchestra or the violinist of the Perlman Piano Trio at the UW-Madison School of Music. I am particularly delighted to note that we will be performing the work with natural horns, a fascination of mine.

Valerie Sanders MCO 2015

Composer Jonathan Posthuma (below) received his Master’s from the UW-Madison School of Music in 2015, studying with Professors Steve Dembski and Laura Schwendinger. His Concerto Grosso No. 1 in E minor, cast in three movements, is the first of a set of 12, and melds strict Baroque form with minimalist-influenced textures.

Jonathan Posthuma USE 2015

It will receive its premiere at this concert, with the percussionists of Clocks in Motion (below, not in order, are members Sean Kleve, Dave Alcorn, James McKenzie, and Michael Koszewski) and pianist Kyle Johnson, a doctoral student of Christopher Taylor. It is tremendously exciting music, with great melodies and complex soundscapes.

Clocks in Motion Group Collage Spring 2015

British composer Cecilia McDowall (below), winner of the 2014 British Composer Award for choral music, came to the UW-Madison for a residency in February.

I was quite taken with her distinctive style — communicative, cogent and highly expressive. I’m honored to be giving the U.S. premiere of her orchestral work “Rain, Steam and Speed,” named after the J.M.W. Turner painting of the same title.

Cecilia McDowall 2

Finishing our program is an acknowledged masterwork, Robert Schumann’s Cello Concerto in a minor, Op. 129. Pro Arte Quartet cellist and professor Parry Karp (below) will be joining us for this monumental piece. Its three movements are played without break in a tightly integrated web of melody that is also one of the great orchestral works in Schumann’s body of works.

Parry Karp

Classical music: University of Wisconsin-Madison flutist Stephanie Jutt will survey Spanish and Latin American music at her two recitals with pianist Thomas Kasdorf this weekend in Madison and Richland Center. Plus pianist Mark Valenti performs music by Ives, Bach, Beethoven and Debussy for FREE on Friday at noon.

January 30, 2014
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ALERT: Pianist Mark Valenti will perform this Friday at the weekly FREE Noon Musicale in the Landmark Auditorium of the historic First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, from 12:15 to 1 p.m. His program includes: “The Alcotts” movement from the “Concord” Sonata by Charles Ives; Four Preludes and Fugues (three from Book II of the Well-Tempered Clavier) by Johann Sebastian Bach; Sonata No. 30 in E Major, Op. 109, by Ludwig van Beethoven; and “L’Isle Joyeuse” by Claude Debussy.

Mark Valenti

By Jacob Stockinger 

This Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music flute professor Stephanie Jutt will perform recitals that survey flute masterpieces from Spain and Latin America. 

Jutt (below, in a photo by Paskus Photography) will perform her program for FREE on Saturday at 8 pm. in Mills Recital Hall; and then again on Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Richland Center, where it is presented by the Richland Concert Association. The address is: 26625 Crestview Drive, Richland Center. Tickets are $15 for adults, $5 for students and FREE for students with UW-Richland ID.

Stephanie Jutt CR Dick Ainsworth

Jutt — who is also known as the principal flute of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and as the co-founder and co-artistic director of the Madison-based Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society –- has sent the following notes and background.

“I have received a grant from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) to record Latin American and Spanish masterpieces for flute and piano. Recording will take place in New York in August of 2014, with Venezuelan pianist Elena Abend and Uruguayan pianist Pablo Zinger. The music was collected and researched during my sabbatical to Argentina in 2010.

“The pianist for my recitals is the impressive Thomas Kasdorf (below), a Middleton native who studied at the UW-Madison with pianists Christopher Taylor and Martha Fischer.

“While at the UW, he won many award and prizes, and was an inaugural member of the Perlman Piano Trio. He has also studied at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor with Martin Katz and been very active in Madison-area concerts including being a vocal coach for the University Opera and working in dozens of productions of musical theater, especially works by Stephen Sondheim.

“Thomas is the co-director and musical director of the Middleton Players Theatre’s production of “Les Miserables” and has performed a Mozart piano concerto with the Middleton Community Orchestra. He has also performed and appeared on Wisconsin Public Radio.

thomas kasdorf 2:jpg

“The theme of my concert is “Evocaçao” (Evocation), and it features music from Argentina, Brazil and two distinctive ethnic regions of Spain. 

“The program includes works by South Americans: the “the Schubert of the pampas” Carlos Guastavino (below top, 1912-2000), whose popular and beautiful song “The Dove Was Confused” s on the program and can he heard as a song with guitar accompaniment in a YouTube video at the bottom); Heitor Villa-Lobos (below middle, 1887-1959); and the “New Tango” innovator Astor Piazzolla (below bottom, 1921-1992):

Carlos Guastavino

Villa-Lobos BW

astor piazzolla

Also included are the Barcelona Catalan composer Salvador Brotons (b. 1959) and the Basque composer Jesús Guridi (1886-1961).

Salvador Brotons

Jesus Guridi sepia

For more information, here is a link to the UW-Madison School of Music’s website. Click on events calendar and then click on Feb. 1 and the concert by Stephanie Jutt:

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Classical music datebook: Students and amateur community performers headline a busy week

February 23, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

This week’s concerts are especially notable for the performances by UW students and by amateur instrumentalists who perform for the love of it in the Middleton Community Orchestra.


Today at noon in Morphy Hall, UW master’s alumnus horn player Bernard Scully (below) and pianist Kirstin Ihde will play works by Beethoven and Gounod.

Admission is free and unticketed.

Tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Middleton Performing Arts Center (below), which is attached to Middleton High School, the Middleton Community Orchestra (bottom), under conductor Steve Kurr, will perform its Winter Concert.

The program includes Liadov’s “Babi Yaga,” Liszt’s “Les Preludes,” Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with soloist Isabella Lippi (below top), one of the candidates to fill the vacant Concertmaster’s chair at the Madison Symphony Orchestra; and mezzo-soprano Rebecca De Waart (below bottom) in arias from Bizet’s “Carmen:” and Saint-Saens’ “Samson and Delilah.”

Tickets are $10 general admission. Students are free.

Tickets are available at Willy St. Coop West and at the door.

Call 212-8690 for information and advanced tickets.

For more information, visit:

Also tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the Western Percussion Ensemble Student Ensembles will perform under director Anthony Di Sanza (below).

Admission is free and open to the public.


At 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Symphony Orchestra, conducted by James Smith (below), will perform. Featured are winners of the annual concerto and composition competition.

Concerto soloists are bass-baritone John Arnold, pianist Hyojung Huh, cellist Taylor Skiff and violinist Qi Cao; composition winner is Thomas C. Lang.  Graduate assistant conductor David Grandis directs the opening work, Wagner’s Overture to “Die Meistersinger.”

Admission is free and open to the public.

The backgrounds of the student competition winners are impressive.

John Arnold is pursuing the doctoral degree in vocal performance, studying with Julia Faulkner.  In January, he was a winner of the Middle/East Tennessee District of the 2011 Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions.  He will perform the first three movements of Maurice Ravel’s “Don Quichotte à Dulcinée.”

Qi Cao is pursuing his doctoral degree in violin performance in the studio of Felicia Moye.  Cao, originally from Shanghai, China, has been a winner of the Wisconsin and Connecticut solo competitions, Singapore’s national piano and violin competition and the Kennedy Center/National Symphony Orchestra Summer Institute concerto competition.  She will perform Henryk Wieniawski’s “Fantaisie brillante on themes from Gounod’s Faust,” Op. 20.

Hyo Jung Huh is pursuing his doctoral degree in piano performance and a master’s degree in choral conducting.  She studies piano with Christopher Taylor.  Originally from Seoul, Korea, Huh received the first place award in the World Peace Piano Competition and second place in the Korean Young Artists Competition. In 2009, she was a winner of the UW Beethoven Piano Competition.  Hyo Jung Huh will perform Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Piano Concerto No. 2.”

Taylor Skiff, a junior, is pursuing the B.M. degree in cello performance in the studio of Uri Vardi.  Hailing from Mequon, Wisconsin, Skiff has been a winner of the UW-Milwaukee Young Artist Competition, Civic Music Association of Milwaukee’s High School Showcase Competition and Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s Young Artist Competition.  At the School of Music, he holds the coveted Music Clinic scholarship and is a member of the Perlman Trio, an undergraduate piano trio receiving generous support from Dr. Kato Perlman.  In addition, he is the assistant principal cello of the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra.  Taylor Skiff will perform the first seven variations of Tchaikovsky’s “Variations on a Rococo Theme.”

Thomas C. Lang, originally from Avon, Minnesota, is pursuing his doctoral degree in music composition, under the guidance of Laura Schwendinger and Stephen Dembski. Lang’s music has been performed at the Midwest Graduate Music Consortium; UW-Madison New Music Festival; University of Minnesota Xperimental Theatre; and UW-La Crosse New Music Festival and by the Winona State University Wind Ensemble.  “Music for Orchestra in Eleven Incarnations” will eventually have 11 movements, each one a character sketch of the 11 actors who portrayed Dr. Who for the BBC.  The first two movements are denoted with the initials “W. H.” and “P. T.” for the actors William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton.  Lang says the second movement is virtually a mini-percussion concerto utilizing temple blocks and tom-toms, befitting the second Dr. Who’s personality.

For more information, see Capital Times reporter Lindsay Christians’ interviews with and story about the students and judges:


At noon, the “Live at the Met in Hi Def” production of Gluck’s “Iphigenia en Tauride,” with mezzo-soprano Susan Graham and tenor Placido Domingo (below, as Orestes), will be screened at Point and Eastgate cinemas.

Tickets are $24 with discounts for seniors and students.

For more information, visit:

At 8 p.m. in Mills Hall: the UW Wind Ensemble, conducted by Scott Teeple (below) and graduate assistant conductor Matthew Schlomer, performs a program entitled “ca. Now” featuring recent compositions.

The new works include: “Precious Metal” (concerto for flute and wind ensemble) by D. J. Sparr, with flutist Stephanie Jutt (below top, Wisconsin premiere); “Braziliano” (concerto for trombone and wind ensemble) by James Stephenson, with trombonist Mark Hetzler (below bottom, Wisconsin premiere); “Passacaglia and Fugue” by Marianne Ploger; “Poema Alpestre” (tone poem for symphony wind ensemble) by Franco Cesarini; and “Figures in the Garden” by Jonathan Dove. Ploger and Sparr are composers-in-residence this week, supported in part by gifts from Lau and Bea Christiansen and the White House of Music.

Admission is free and open to the public.


“Sunday Afternoon Live from the Chazen” features the UW-Whitewater Faculty from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in Brittingham Gallery III at the Chazen Museum of Art.  The performance will feature Libby Larsen’s “Mary Cassatt,” African American songs by various composers, and Brahms’ Piano Quartet in G Minor, Op. 25.

Featured are UW-Whitewater faculty members Julie Cross a mezzo-soprano, Michael Dugan on trombone, Leanne League on violin, Jennifer Paulson on viola, Benjamin Whitcomb on cello, and Myung Hee Chung on piano.

Members of the Chazen Museum of Art or Wisconsin Public Radio can call ahead and reserve seats for Sunday Afternoon Live performances. Seating is limited. All reservations must be made Monday through Friday before the concert and claimed by 12:20 p.m. on the day of the performance. For more information or to learn how to become a museum member, contact the Chazen Museum at (608) 263-2246.

A reception follows the performance, with refreshments generously donated by Fresh Madison Market, Coffee Bytes and Steep & Brew. A free docent-led tour in the Chazen galleries begins every Sunday at 2 p.m.

“Sunday Afternoon Live from the Chazen” is a free, weekly chamber music series presented by the Chazen Museum of Art and Wisconsin Public Radio, with the cooperation of the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Music.

The series, hosted by music commentator Lori Skelton, is broadcast live on Wisconsin Public Radio stations WERN, 88.7 Madison; WHRM, 90.9 Wausau; WPNE, 89.3 Green Bay; WUEC, 89.7 Eau Claire; WVSS, 90.7 Menomonie; WHSA, 89.9 Brule; WGTD, 91.1 Kenosha; WLSU, 88.9 LaCrosse; and WHND, 89.7 Sister Bay. Generous support for the series is provided by individual donations to the Chazen Museum of Art and Wisconsin Public Radio.

At  2:30 p.m., in the St. Joseph Chapel at Edgewood College, 1000 Edgewood College Drive, guitarist Nathan Wysock performs a faculty recital. The performance will include Suite Venezolana by Antonio Lauro, selections from Cinco Pieces by Astor Piazzolla, Nightshade Rounds by Bruce MacCombie, Three Preludes by George Gershwin, and Toccata “in Blue” by Carlo Domeniconi.

Nathan Wysock (below) began playing guitar at the age of 9 and started classical studies at 15.  He is an active soloist and chamber musician and has performed in competitions in the United States and abroad.  He has been a featured performer on Wisconsin Public Radio’s ‘Live at the Chazen’ and ‘Higher Ground.’  He has performed with the Lawrence University chamber players, the Festival City Orchestra, the Lawrence University Wind Ensemble, and L’ensemble Portique.  A native of Wisconsin, Wysock is currently on the faculty of Lawrence University in Appleton and Edgewood College in Madison.

Admission is  $7 to benefit the Music Scholarship fund.

Posted in Classical music

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