ALERT: Because of weather and storms, the Madison Opera’s 15th annual FREE “Opera in the Park” has been postponed from last night to TONIGHT. Here is a link with more details about the event:
By Jacob Stockinger
You might recall that last Sunday—at the start on a new week, just like today — The Ear suggested a FREE app for iPhones, iPads and iPods that offers a daily briefing on classical music.
It is called “Composer of the Day” and is put together by the music department at Wittenberg University.
Here is a link to that post and that app:
But there is another FREE classical musical datebook that a loyal and knowledgeable reader of this blog suggested. The reader specifically praised the fact that it works on many different platforms.
It is “Composers Datebook” with host John Zeck (below), and it is done for Minnesota Public Radio and then distributed through American Public Media.
It seems similar to the format of “The Writer’s Almanac” with Garrison Keillor that, unfortunately, Wisconsin Public Radio no longer carries. But maybe WPR would consider including the “Composers Datebook” in its “Morning Classics” lineup? It certainly would be an educational addition, something just right for an alternative to commercial radio.
The two-minute daily diary streams nicely. It has many more details and examples about composers and includes sound clips of their work. It also does more than one entry for each day.
Turns out that the Ear already wrote about it in 2010. But it is worth a repeat visit to remind readers about this fine resource.
Here is a link, which you can bookmark or subscribe to, that post:
And here is a direct link to “Composers Datebook.”
See what you think.
And decide whether Wisconsin Public Radio should air it.
Then tell The Ear and his readers what you think.
The Ear wants to hear.
NEWS ALERT: Because of weather, Madison Opera’s 15th annual “Opera in the Park” has been CANCELLED tonight, but will take place TOMORROW NIGHT, Sunday, July 24.
Here is link with details about the event. Just substitute Sunday for Saturday:
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has some catching up to do on several fronts.
Well, that is what happens in a city with such a busy musical life and in a year with so many news items.
And it also happens when you give priority to previews, then reviews and then trend stories, as The Ear likes to do.
Plus, there are only seven days in the week, which usually means just seven posts.
Anyway, one neglected or belated item is a generous piece — a recollection homage — that was kindly sent to The Ear by Beverly Taylor, the longtime director of choral activities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and the assistant music director of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.
Her remarks concern the death at 86 in late May of Swiss-born conductor Gustav Meier (below, in a photo by Doug Elbinger), who trained several other Madison-area musicians as well as her. Born in Switzerland, Meier was a quiet celebrity who trained many students at Yale University, the Eastman School of Music and the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and who led the Lansing Symphony Orchestra for 27 years.
Taylor (below) writes:
“Did you know Gustav Meier died in this year of losing so many?
“Maybe the others were more famous, but he was my teacher, mentor and friend from 1990 on, and we visited regularly. I even coached the Beethoven Ninth with him a year ago, before our performance here.
“I wanted you to know how many people he influenced. I wouldn’t have had the life I’d had without his help. He was a GENEROUS musician and he was beloved.”
Here is a link to a fascinating obituary, one that is well worth reading, in the Lansing, Michigan newspaper that Taylor shared:
By Jacob Stockinger
Performing on a variety of percussion instruments, the experimental quartet Clocks in Motion (below, in 2015) is the featured performer at the next Rural Musicians Forum concert.
The concert will be held on this coming Monday night, July 25, at 7:30 p.m. in the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Hillside Theater (below) on the Taliesin estate, south of Spring Green at 6604 Highway 23.
The concert is not ticketed and is open to the public. A free-will offering will be taken to support the concert series. For additional information and driving directions, see www.ruralmusiciansforum.org
Clocks in Motion is known for engaging performances of the classic repertoire for percussion quartets presented alongside new compositions and rarely heard works.
Featured in this performance are the great masterworks “Mallet Quartet” and “Drumming, Part I” by Steve Reich (below). In addition to these classic compositions, Clocks in Motion will perform their commissioned work by Marc Mellits, “Gravity.” (You can hear “Mallet Quartet” in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
The quartet will also perform Moldavian folk music for hammered dulcimer, experimental music by John Cage (below), and a not-to-be-missed theatrical work for wooden spoons on lunch trays.
Hailed as “nothing short of remarkable” (ClevelandClassical.com) and “the most exciting addition to Madison’s classical music scene” (Isthmus), Clocks in Motion is a percussion quartet that performs new music, builds many of its own instruments and breaks down the boundaries of the traditional concert program.
The current mebers of Clocks in Motion (below from left, in a photo by Strom Strandell) are Sean Kleve, Kyle Flens, Matt Coley and Garrett Mandelow.
Formed in 2011 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Clocks in Motion is quickly becoming a major artistic force in today’s contemporary music scene.
Among its many recent and upcoming engagements, the group served as performers at the Interlochen Arts Academy (Michigan), The Overture Center for the Arts (Wisconsin), Casper College (Wyoming), University of Michigan (Michigan), Baldwin Wallace University (Ohio), The University of North Carolina-Pembroke (North Carolina) and The Ewell Concert Series (Virginia).
The concert is made possible in part through a grant from the Spring Green Art Fair and an anonymous gift to Clocks in Motion.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received the following notice from one of his favorite classical musical groups in the area:
String players: This is your chance to join the largely amateur Middleton Community Orchestra (below, in photos by Brian Ruppert).
We need string players for our upcoming season, and we’ll hold short, informal auditions in August.
There are no openings in the other sections right now, but please spread the word to your string-playing friends.
For more information, contact us through our website at http://middletoncommunityorchestra.org/contact_us.
By Jacob Stockinger
You have to hand it to early music advocate, scholar, conductor and performer Grant Herreid (below), who once again was a major player in the 17th annual Madison Early Music Festival, which wrapped up this past Saturday night.
What could have been a scissors-and-paste job to wrap up the celebration of music in Shakespeare and Elizabethan England was turned by the creative Herreid into an event that was thoroughly enjoyable and thoroughly inventive.
What the final All-Festival Concert did was to bring together what seemed a very large number of students, faculty and guest performers.
Then what the combined forces did was offer a sampler of a typical Elizabethan day. That day included the usual routines from waking up, exercising and going to bed, but also included prayers, romance and entertainment.
It used snippets from plays by William Shakespeare (below) and snippets by many composers of the period including Thomas Tomkins, Anthony Holborne, Thomas Morley, Orlando Gibbons, Thomas Weelkes, John Bennet, John Coperario, Thomas Ravenscroft, John Dowland and Thomas Tallis as well an anonymous composers and reconstructions.
The formula must have appealed because it drew a large and enthusiastic audience.
Since it was such an ensemble effort, it is difficult to single out individuals for praise or criticism.
Instead, The Ear simply wants to mention a few of his favorite things with photos to illustrate them.
Here is what The Ear liked:
He liked that the entire 90-minute program of sacred and secular music was done without an intermission. Once you were in the zone, you didn’t have to leave it and then have to get back into it. Plus, the unity of the day was preserved.
He liked the diverse and always highly accomplished singing.
He liked seeing the unusual period string and wind instruments that are beautiful as well as useful.
He liked how the entire hall, not just the main stage, was used, including the balconies from which a fanfare opened the concert:
He liked the many “actors” who stepped to the edge of the Mills Hall stage and did an exceptional job reading the excerpts of Shakespeare that were kept short and to the point:
He liked the period and very energetic dancing with handkerchiefs and leg bells:
There was more. But you get the idea.
Once again, if you can’t make it to other concerts in the Madison Early Music Festival’s annual week-long schedule, try to make it to the impressive All-Festival Concert at the end.
In 17 years, it has never disappointed.
That is a record to be envied and praised.
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 for 12 years hosted an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT-FM 89.9 FM. 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 Willy Street Chamber Players (below) gave the second concert of their 2016 season on Friday night at Immanuel Lutheran Church, 1021 Spright Street, on Madison’s near east side.
The program might have been called the “three Sch-es” in view of the alphabetical incipits of the three composers involved.
The first item was titled The Violinists in My Life, composed in 2011 by Laura Schwendinger (below), the American composer currently on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.
The Belgian violin virtuoso and composer Eugène Ysaÿe set an example with his set of six Sonatas, Op. 27, for solo violin, each one a tribute to a great musician with whom he had worked. So Schwendinger composed five pieces for violin and piano, each one a kind of character piece about violinists with whom she has had fruitful contact.
The style can be sharp and abrupt, but there is a clear individuality to each piece, evoking the different personalities. The first of the five is dedicated to UW-Madison alumna Eleanor Bartsch (below), one of our Willys, and she played the whole set, deeply engaged in it, with pianist Thomas Kasdorf, also a graduate of the UW-Madison.
Kasdorf (below) joined another of the group’s violinists, Paran Amirinazari, who also graduated from the UW-Madison, in a rarely heard late work by Franz Schubert, the Fantasie in C Major (D.934).(You can hear it played by violinist Benjamin Beilman, who has performed with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
Schubert’s compositions for violin and piano are rarely heard in concerts these days, but this one has particular interest in that its latter portion is another of the composers set of variations on one of his own songs—in this case, the beautiful Sei mir gegrüsst. The total piece has a lot of lively passage work, which Amarinazari played with a mix of flair and affection.
The crowning work was that extraordinary string sextet by Arnold Schoenberg (below), Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night). Composed in 1899 at the beginning of the composer’s career, it catches him still emerging from Late Romantic sensibilities, a good way before his radical move into the 12-tone idiom he created.
The score is just a trifle longish for the musical content, but its gorgeous chromatic richness is irresistible. It was inspired by a poem of Richard Dehmel, and both the original German text and an English translation were supplied to the audience, an interesting touch.
Above all, however, the performance was glowing, avoiding too much sentimental lushness, but conveying the emotionally charged writing with beautiful balance.
A clever touch, too, was the sitting pattern chosen, with the two violas facing the two violins and the two cellos in the rear—allowing the recurrent interaction between the first violin and first viola to emerge more clearly.
In sum, this was another wonderful session of first-class music-making by this remarkable assemblage of young talent.
NOTE: A program of music by Ludwig vanBeethoven, Philip Glass and Dmitri Shostakovich will be given next Friday at Immanuel Lutheran, but at NOON; and then that evening (at 8:30 p.m.) the group will participate in a special performance of George Crumb’s “Black Angels” — with an accompanying video — at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art in the Overture Center.
The final Friday evening concert will be back at Immanuel Lutheran, at 6 p.m. on Friday, July 29, with music by Baroque composer Arcangelo Corelli (Concerto Grosso), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Clarinet Quintet), and George Enescu (Octet).
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received the following press release about one of the fun cultural highlights of the summer, which was started by the late Ann Stanke 15 years ago.
In The Ear’s experience, the whole event is a kind of light opera in itself, with food and amusements as well as community social interactions and of course great music that is beautifully performed.
Madison Opera’s FREE Opera in the Park will celebrate its 15th year on this Saturday, July 23, at 8 p.m. in Garner Park on Madison’s far west side.
The annual free concert of opera and Broadway favorites closes the company’s fantastic 2015-16 season and provides an enticing preview of the upcoming 2016-17 season.
A Madison summer tradition that attracts over 15,000 people every year, Opera in the Park brings the best of opera and Broadway to the community, creating an enchanting evening of music under the stars.
Opera in the Park 2016 stars soprano Emily Birsan (below top), soprano Angela Brown (below second), tenor Scott Quinn (below third) and baritone Sidney Outlaw (below fourth).
They are joined by the Madison Opera Chorus and Madison Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the returning Gary Thor Wedow (below) instead of John DeMain, who is spending the summer guest conducting at the acclaimed Glimmerglass Festival in upper New York State.
The evening is hosted by Madison Opera’s General Director Kathryn Smith and WKOW TV’s 27 News Wake-Up Wisconsin anchor Brandon Taylor.
“Opera in the Park is without question my favorite night of the year,” says Smith (below, in a photo by James Gill). “When you combine a live performance of beautiful music with thousands of people from across our community, all under a gorgeous night sky, you get the most important performance Madison Opera gives.
“I often brag to my colleagues around the country about our Opera in the Park, as it is so distinctly important in our community – not to mention having the highest per capita attendance of any such concert in the U.S.
“I am so proud that we are celebrating our 15th summer of this incredible event, and grateful to all who make it possible.”
Opera in the Park 2016 features arias and ensembles from Charles Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet, which opens the 2016-17 season in November; Daniel Schnyder’s jazz-inspired Charlie Parker’s Yardbird, which will be performed in February; and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Magic Flute, which will be performed in April.
In celebration of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, the concert will also offer selections from Shakespeare-based operas and musicals such as Hamlet, The Boys from Syracuse and Kiss Me, Kate.
Classic selections from Aida and Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi, The Pearl Fishers by Georges Bizet; Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin and more round out this spectacular evening, which always includes one number conducted by the audience with light sticks (below).
Garner Park is located at 333 South Rosa Road in Madison’s far west side. Parking is available in the CUNA Mutual Group and University Research Park lots.
Attendees are encouraged to bring picnics, blankets and chairs.
Alcohol is permitted but not sold in the park.
On the day of the concert, Garner Park will open at 7 a.m. Audience members may NOT leave items in the park prior to this time.
The rain date for Opera in the Park is Sunday, July 24, at 8 p.m.
Madison Opera is grateful to the major sustaining donors who support Opera in the Park not only this year, but have done so for many years, enabling the concert to reach this 15th anniversary: CUNA Mutual, the Berbeewalsh Foundation, the John and Carolyn Peterson Charitable Foundation, Full Compass Systems, University Research Park, Colony Brands, the MGE Foundation, and an Anonymous Friend.
Opera in the Park 2016 is also generously sponsored by the Richard B. Anderson Family Foundation, BMO Harris Bank, Starion Financial, Wisconsin Bank & Trust, National Endowment for the Arts Wisconsin Arts Board, Dane Arts, the Evjue Foundation, and the Madison Arts Commission. WKOW, Isthmus, Madison Magazine, Wisconsin Public Radio, Triple M, Mix 105.1, and WOLX are media sponsors for this community event.
RELATED EVENT: PRELUDE DINNER AND FUNDRAISER
The Prelude Dinner (below) at Opera in the Park 2016 is at 6 p.m.
This annual fundraiser to benefit Opera in the Park helps support Madison Opera’s free gift to the community.
The event includes dinner catered by Upstairs Downstairs, VIP seating at the concert, a complimentary light stick and a reception with the artists following the performance.
Tickets are $135 per person or $1,000 for a table of eight. More information is available at www.madisonopera.org
By Jacob Stockinger
In China, the piano is not what it used to be for many decades.
Especially during the era of Chairman Mao Zedong, the piano became a symbol of Western culture and bourgeois decadence that the Communist leader and his followers rejected.
But with the recent economic resurgence of China and its emphasis on education – coupled to the “tiger mom” phenomenon — the piano has become a status symbol.
The Ear earlier ran a piece on the way Western classical music is treated in today’s China versus how it was treated during the Cultural Revolution.
Here is a link to that background story:
And this past week, The New York Times featured an extended story about the future of the piano in China – along with the future in China of the Steinway piano company, the most famous maker of pianos in the world.
Here is a link to that fascinating story that certainly suggests that the center of the classical piano culture is shifting from Western Europe and North America to Asian and specifically China: