The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music education: How long should you practice each day? And how should you go about learning a new piece?

September 2, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Fall is just about here and school is starting.

In fact, today is the first day of classes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the UW-Madison School of Music.

That means a lot of undergraduate and graduate students there will resume music lessons.

And of course, private lessons are resuming as Labor Day approaches.

The Ear wanted to post something that seemed appropriate and germane. And what issue could be more central to music lessons that the question of practicing?

How long should a student practice?

How many hours a day?

Those are questions faced by most, if not all, music students and their parents -– and by a lot of teachers too.

Recently, The Ear came across one of the best answers.

The sensible and insightful answer was given by Pamela Frank, a concertizing violinist who has taught at the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia since 1996. (In the YouTube video at the bottom, Frank also discusses how to learn a new piece of music. She has more insightful remarks to offer, including the role of using recordings.)

pamela frank

Now, Frank – who speaks from her own experience — is a string player.

But it seems to The Ear that her remarks apply equally well to the piano and to various other families of instruments –- winds, brass, percussion.

And here’s the payoff: She emphasizes the quality of practicing not the quantity, and the time commitment will seem pretty practical to many musicians.

For specifics, watch and listen to her video.

Here is a link:

http://www.theviolinchannel.com/vc-masterclass-pamela-frank-many-hours-practicing-everyday/

 

 


Classical music: YOU MUST HEAR THIS – Arvo Part’s “Spiegel im Spiegel”

September 1, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Maybe I missed it.

Or maybe my memory doesn’t serve me well.

But I can’t recall hearing either choral or instrumental music by Arvo Part in a live performance in Madison.

That’s too bad. The music by the 79-year-old composer (below), who was born in Estonia and now resides in Germany, is quite lovely. Plus, programming a popular contemporary composer might just draw in some new audiences.

But it is the same story for Philip Glass, who is perhaps the most performed living composer but whose works are rarely heard in Madison.

Arvo Part

Anyway, here is something of a miniature. It is called “Spiegel im Spiegel” and is usually translated as “Mirror in Mirror” to suggest the endless reflections you get if you put mirrors opposite each other.

It is a lovely piece, which possesses a minimalism and a certain kind of Asian austerity to it. It seems “reflective” also in the calm and meditative sense. You can hear how Gregorian chant influenced Arvo Part’s own style.

The work must be popular somewhere because there are many arrangements of it for viola, cello and harp.

The YouTube video at the bottom features the original scoring of solo violin with piano accompaniment. The musicians are violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and pianist Reiko Uchida in a live performance.

The Ear thinks it is a MUST-HEAR piece and hopes that you enjoy it — and that maybe it will convince some local individuals and ensembles to perform more music by Arvo Part.

 


Classical music: You can hear Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” on 5,000 kazoos at this year’s Burning Man Festival.

August 31, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Talk about counter-cultural!

This year’s famed Burning Man festival started yesterday and runs through Sept. 7.

The unusual event, held in the north Nevada desert, features many noteworthy things including nudity, drugs and lot of talk about peace and love — kind of like an updated Woodstock festival but on a much grander and more ambitious scale. (See the YouTube video at the bottom.)

One remarkable thing is the sheer size of the event (below, in an aerial photo by Kenny Reff), a temporary city estimated to be more than 60,000 strong this year:

Burning Man aerial CR Kenny Reff

Another is the impressive and dramatic sculpture that is set aflame (below is last year’s) at the festival’s end:

Burning Man 2014

But there is also classical music included at the iconic pop event.

In fact this year, the “Ode to Joy,” from Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, will be played 5,000 kazoos.

In addition, there will be strings (below top in a photo by Jaki Levy) and a certain conductor named Dr. FireTuba (below bottom in a photo of Eric Yttri by Jaki Levy) as part of the 63-piece pickup symphony orchestra that also includes winds such as flute and clarinets. The group will perform music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonio Vivaldi and Edvard Grieg and other composers on the playlist.

Burning Man music cellist 2014 Jaki Levy

Burning Man Dr FireTuba (Erio Ittry) CR Jaki Levy

Here is an illuminating and entertaining story about classical music at Burning Man that was reported in NPR or National Public Radio:

http://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2015/08/29/435244975/beethoven-flaming-tubas-and-5-000-kazoos-classical-music-at-burning-man

 


Classical music: Arts advocate Valerie Kazamias to receive the second annual John DeMain Award for Outstanding Commitment to Music.

August 30, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear’s friends at the Madison Symphony Orchestra write:  

Valerie Kazamias will receive the 2015 John DeMain Award for Outstanding Commitment to Music at the Madison Symphony Orchestra League’s annual Symphony Gala, Sept. 18, 2015, at The Madison Concourse Hotel.

The Madison Symphony Orchestra League (MSOL) is presenting the second annual John DeMain Award for Outstanding Commitment to Music in recognition of an individual or individuals for their longstanding and unwavering support of the League, the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) and music in the community. The award is sponsored by CUNA Mutual Foundation.

Valerie Kazamias (below) has been a philanthropist and volunteer with the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) since moving to Madison with her family over 50 years ago. Her tireless efforts and keen fundraising abilities have been instrumental to the success of the MSO, where she has served on the MSO Board and been an active member of the Madison Symphony Orchestra League for over four decades.

Valerie Kazamias

Kazamias has contributed to the MSO through her involvement with the Development, Marketing, and Nominating Committees. With the MSOL, she has given her time and talent to fundraising committees for a variety of events such as the Symphony Show House, POPS concerts, fashion show and galas.

She has been involved with the Arts Ball fundraiser since its inception 45 years ago and has coordinated the event for the past 40 years. The Arts Ball supports both the MSO and Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. It is one of the only dual arts fundraisers in the nation.

A Boston native, Kazamias showed her love for the arts as a child when she took piano lessons at the New England Conservatory and art lessons at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

“The arts, both performing and visual, are my passion,” Valerie explained. “I have been very fortunate that I have been afforded the opportunity to pursue this love affair in a community that appreciates the arts.”

Valerie’s involvement with the MSO is rooted in the satisfaction of being a part of bringing the best of classical music to the Madison area through fundraising and outreach. In her words, “A day without music is like a day without sunshine!”

The Madison Symphony Orchestra League presents the Symphony Gala as a benefit and all proceeds support the MSO’s nationally recognized Education and Community Engagement Programs. These programs enrich the cultural life of the entire community and help build the future of classical music.

To learn more about the Gala or to register, visit: http://www.madisonsymphony.org/gala

The Madison Symphony Orchestra marks its 90th concert season in 2015-2016 with Music Director John DeMain (below) in his 22nd year leading the orchestra.

John DeMain full face by Prasad

The MSO engages audiences of all ages and backgrounds in classical music through a full season of concerts with established and emerging soloists of international renown, an organ series that includes free concerts, and widely respected education and community engagement programs. Find more information at www.madisonsymphony.org.

 


Classical music education: For 75 years, here is how the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Tanglewood Festival, where composer John Harbison teaches, emphasizes new music and teaches young composers and student performers.

August 29, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

This is the closing weekend of this summer’s Token Creek Festival.

The closing “Buoyant Baroque” program, featuring the Lydian Quartet and others performing music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Arcangelo Corelli and Georg Frideric Handel among others, will be performed tonight at 8 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. (The Ear sees that Sunday’s performance is sold out, but you should check for yourself. Sometimes spots open up form cancellations.)

Here is a link to find out more:

http://tokencreekfestival.org

American composer John Harbison (below top) is the co-founder and co-artistic director of the festival along with his violinist wife Rose Mary Harbison (below bottom).

JohnHarbisonatpiano

RosemaryHarbison

Harbison is a very accomplished man and musician. He has played the piano this summer for the festival, and he is also a preeminent contemporary composer who teaches at MIT. He has won a Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur genius grant among his many honors. And at the Token Creek Festival, he is the most enlightening commentator on composers and specific works that The Ear has ever heard.

So it seemed a good time to bring to your attention a story done by NPR or National Public Radio about the Tanglewood Festival of the Boston Symphony Orchestra since it features John Harbison as a major source and interview. This summer the festival turned 75.

Harbison is, after all, the co-director – with fellow composer Michael Gandolfi — of the composing program at Tanglewood Music Center, which is where he often premieres his own new works and where he was busy working just before he came to Madison for the Token Creek Festival.

The Ear finds it interesting to hear how, ever since the festival’s beginning, the creativity of young composers and young performers has always been cultivated and encouraged, with an emphasis on creating new music and keeping the classical music world vibrant and current.

Below is a photo of this summer’s world premiere of a new work by Michael Gandolfi, with famed soprano Dawn Upshaw (on the far right in purple) working with student performers.

http://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2015/08/15/432242280/at-75-tanglewoods-student-program-holds-focus-on-new-music-and-people-making-it

Tanglewood at 75 dawn upshaw


Classical music: Sergei Pavlov is named the new artistic director and conductor of the Festival Choir of Madison as well as the new Director of Choral Activities at Edgewood College.

August 28, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following news release:

The Festival Choir of Madison is delighted to announce the appointment of Sergei Pavlov (below) as its new artistic director beginning with the 2015-16 season.

Pavlov will also join the faculty of Edgewood College this fall as their new Director of Choral Activities after serving as adjunct choral director during the 2014-15 school year. He succeeds Albert Pinsonneault, who has taken a position with Northwestern University in Illinois.

Sergei Pavlov

Pavlov’s past professional experience includes conducting positions, among others, with the opera program at the University of Illinois in Urbana; Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, South Carolina; the Théatre du Châtelet in Paris; the Classic FM Radio Symphony and Choir in Sofia, Bulgaria; National Repertory Orchestra in Breckenridge, Colorado.; and the Teatro Nacional Sucre and Coro Mixto Ciudad de Quito in Quito, Ecuador. (In a YouTube video at the bottom you can hear Sergei Pavlov discussing in fluent Spanish Charles Gounod’s opera “Faust” when it was produced in Quito, Ecuador.)

A native of Sofia, Bulgaria, Sergei Pavlov moved to the United States in 2004 and completed a Master of Music in 2007 and a Doctor of Musical Arts in Conducting in 2011 at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.

About his new position with the Festival Choir of Madison (below), Pavlov says: “I am excited to become part of a community with wonderful musical and choral traditions. Madison is a vibrant, modern city with great culture, and the Festival Choir has a unique place in the cultural scene of Wisconsin’s capital.”

festivalchoir

The Festival Choir of Madison is a mixed-voice choir of singers from all walks of life. Established in 1973, the choir has commissioned works from outstanding living composers while also performing many favorites of the choral repertoire.

Rehearsals are held Monday evenings from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, 203 Wisconsin Ave. For information about the Festival Choir and about joining the choir for the 2015-16 season, please see the choir’s website at http://festivalchoirmadison.org/


Classical music: The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society will perform a FREE concert this Sunday afternoon to help bring neglected Jewish music “out of the shadows” of history. Part 2 of 2.

August 27, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear’s friends at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society write:

The U.S. component of a major international research project, “Performing the Jewish Archive,” led by the University of Leeds, in England, has attracted significant funding to shine new light on forgotten works by Jewish artists.

The University of Wisconsin–Madison and the City of Madison are uniquely situated as the sole hosts for the global project’s performance events within the United States; one of the premier public research-intensive universities in the world, located in a community that lives and breathes diverse arts, while striving for social change.

Out of shadows poster

Here, in Madison, under the leadership of Teryl Dobbs, Chair of Music Education at the UW-Madison, “Out of the Shadows: Rediscovering Jewish Music, Literature and Theater” will be a full-day event held on this Sunday, August 30, 2015.

Local partners include the UW-Madison School of Music, Mosse-Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies, the Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture, and the Arts Institute at UW-Madison; and the Bach Dancing andDynamite Society.

Yesterday The Ear posted the schedule of all FREE events.

Here is a link to that post:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/08/26/classical-music-the-uw-madison-and-the-bach-dancing-and-dynamite-society-will-hold-free-events-this-coming-sunday-to-help-bring-neglected-jewish-music-and-culture-out-of-the-shadows/

Today’s post focuses on the classical music in the event:

The Ear’s friend Jeffrey Sykes of the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society writes:

The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society is proud to partner with Performing the Jewish Archive’s “Out of the Shadows” event by performing neglected and suppressed Jewish music from the early 20th Century.

The FREE concert will be held this Sunday 2:30-4:30 p.m. in the Atrium Auditorium of the First Unitarian Society, 900 University Bay Drive.

The program includes music from two composers who died at Auschwitz. Erwin Schulhoff’s flute sonata is a passionate mix of impressionism and jazz. Dick Kattenburg’s quartet for flute, violin, cello and piano is an irrepressible romp full of Gershwin-esque melodies and harmonies.

Robert Kahn (below) is a composer from an earlier generation whose work was suppressed by the Nazis. We perform his gorgeous song cycle “Jungbrunnen” (The Fountain of Youth) for soprano, violin, cello and piano.

Robert Kahn

The program concludes with two works by the Viennese wunderkind Erich Wolfgang Korngold (below). Already well-known in Austria, Korngold had begun to compose music for Hollywood movies. He was working California in 1938 when the Anschluss took place, and he never returned to his homeland.

We begin with three beautiful songs he composed for his mother and continue with his Suite for piano left-hand, two violins and cello based on those songs. A thrilling and important composition, the Suite was written for the Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who had lost his right arm in World War I.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold BW piano

Adds BDDS flutist Stephanie Jutt:

Dutch composer Dick Kattenburg (1919-1944, below) barely got started before his career and his life ended at Auschwitz at age 24. A supremely gifted young composer, bursting with originality and ingenuity, his love of jazz and the popular idioms of the day make his music irresistible – by turns a bit of Stravinsky, a bit of Wizard of Oz, a bit of Duke Ellington. His two dozen complete works were hidden in the attic where his mother had kept them, and were discovered by his sister, Daisy.

Dick Kattenburg

The music of Czech composer Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942, below) has become widely known over the last 20 years. Denounced as “Entartete Musik” (degenerate music) by the Nazis, he died in Wülzburg concentration camp. During the 30 years of his active career he wrote sonatas, quartets, sextets, jazz piano pieces, stage music, an opera, eight symphonies, and at least one oratorio.

Schulhoff, like Kattenburg, also fell in love with American jazz, and his flute sonata of 1927 reflects the infectious American rhythmic vitality with his great interest in the traditional music of Czechoslovakia.

Erwin Schulhoff

Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society performers are: Emily Birsan, soprano; Stephanie Jutt, flute; Parry Karp, cello; Leanne League, violin; Axel Strauss, violin; and Jeffrey Sykes, piano.

PROGRAM

Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942): Flute Sonata (1928). Jutt, Sykes

Robert Kahn (1865-1951): Seven Songs from Jungbrunnen, op. 46, for soprano and piano trio (1906). Birsan, League, Karp, Sykes

Dick Kattenburg: Quartet for flute, violin, cello and piano. Jutt, Strauss, Karp, Sykes.

Intermission

Erich Wolfgang Korngold 
(1897-1957): Three Songs, op. 22, for soprano and piano (1930). Birsan, Sykes

Erich Wolfgang Korngold 
(1897-1957): Suite, op. 23, for piano left hand, two violins, and cello (1930). Strauss, League, Karp, Sykes

For more about the performers, visit bachdancinganddynamite.org.

Here are biographies of the performers:

Founding Artistic Director STEPHANIE JUTT (below) is professor of flute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and principal flute of the Madison Symphony Orchestra. She is a winner of the International Pro Musicis Competition.

Stephanie Jutt in Gustavino at Taliesin BDDS 2014

Founding Artistic Director and pianist JEFFREY SYKES (below) is a faculty member of the University of California-Berkeley. He is a member of the San Francisco Piano Trio.

jeffrey sykes

Soprano EMILY BIRSAN (below) has completed her third year as a member of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, she is appearing with the Boston Lyric Opera this year.

Emily Birsan MSO 2014

Cellist PARRY KARP (bel0w) is artist-in-residence and professor of chamber music and cello at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has been cellist of the Pro Arte Quartet for the past 37 years.

Parry Karp

Violinist LEANNE KELSO LEAGUE (below) is assistant concertmaster of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, and associate concertmaster of the Madison Symphony Orchestra. She also teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and is a member of the Ancora String Quartet.

Leanne League profile

Violinist AXEL STRAUSS (below), winner of the International Naumburg Award, is professor of violin at the Schulich School of Music of McGill University in Montreal. He is also a member of the San Francisco Piano Trio.

Axel Strauss


Classical music: The UW-Madison and the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society will hold FREE events this coming Sunday to help bring neglected Jewish music and culture “out of the shadows” of history. Part 1 of 2.

August 26, 2015
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear’s friends at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and with the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society write:

The U.S. component of a major international research project, “Performing the Jewish Archive,” led by the University of Leeds, in England, has attracted significant funding to shine new light on forgotten works by Jewish artists.

The University of Wisconsin–Madison and the City of Madison are uniquely situated as the sole hosts for the project’s performance events within the United States; one of the premier public research-intensive universities in the world, located in a community that lives and breathes diverse arts, while striving for social change.

Here, in Madison, under the leadership of Teryl Dobbs (below top), Chair of Music Education at the UW-Madison, “Out of the Shadows: Rediscovering Jewish Music, Literature and Theater” will be a full-day event held on this Sunday, August 30, 2015. Local partners include the UW-Madison School of Music, Mosse-Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies, the Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture, and the Arts Institute at UW-Madison; and the Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society.

Teryl Dobbs

Out of shadows poster

Here is a schedule:

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Events that are free and open to the public in Madison include:

  • 12:20-2 p.m. | Sound Salon, Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture

Explore sound archives with Sherry Mayrent (clarinet) and Henry Sapoznik (tenor guitar, below) – both in a lecture and concert format. The Mayrent Institute holds over 9,000 Yiddish recordings from the first half of the 20th century.

BDDS Henry Saposnik

UW-Madison School of Music – Mills Hall; 3561 Mosse Humanities Building, 455 N. Park St.

  • 2:30-4:30 p.m. | Concert, Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society

Six members of Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society will perform neglected and suppressed Jewish music from the early 20th century. (Details will be posted tomorrow.)

First Unitarian Meeting House, Atrium Auditorium (below, in a photo by Zane Williams), 900 University Bay Dr.

FUS Atrium, Auditorium Zane Williams

  • 7-10 p.m. | Two-act Cabaret Evening“Laugh With Us” and “I’m a Stranger Here Myself.”  “Laugh With Us” is based on an original cabaret written by four young Czech Jews in the Terezin ghetto (below), staged by Minneapolis performers Sara Richardson, Ryan Lindberg, and Craig Harris, from research and with commentary by project co-investigator Dr. Lisa Peschel. “I’m a Stranger Here Myself” by New York actor Mark Nadler who will perform music written by French and German Jewish or gay (or both) songwriters during the age of the Weimar Republic.

Overture Center for the Arts, Promenade Hall, 201 State Street

terezin

Registration is required for the free events by visiting: http://eepurl.com/bttx_9

The Sunday, August 30 event will be the precursor to a longer event, which will run May 1–5, 2016, in Madison. This event will include the partners mentioned above as well as the UW-Madison Department of Theatre and Drama, Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra, and Madison Youth Choir.

ABOUT PERFORMING THE JEWISH ARCHIVE

The global project, Performing the Jewish Archive has been awarded $2.5 million by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), in England, under its Care for the Future: Thinking Forward Through the Past theme.

Led by Dr. Stephen Muir (below) of the University’s School of Music in Leeds, Performing the Jewish Archive will bring recently rediscovered musical, theatrical and literary works by Jewish artists back to the attention of scholars and the public, and stimulate the creation of new works.

Stephen Muir Leeds

A multidisciplinary team across four continents are focusing on the years 1880-1950 –– an intense period of Jewish displacement –– to explore the role of art in such upheaval.

The three-year “Performing the Jewish Archive” project involves a large number of partners, exploring archives, delivering community and educational projects, holding at least two international conferences and a series of symposia at the British National Library, as well as mounting five international performance festivals––in the United States (Madison, Wisconsin), the Czech Republic, South Africa, Australia and the United Kingdom.

Says Muir: “We are a unique combination of scholars from a diverse range of subjects, crossing traditional disciplinary boundaries––even integrating scientific research methodologies at the heart of an arts-led investigation. We seem to have caught the imagination of a huge range of organizations––both Jewish and non-Jewish––all interested in the Jewish artistic past and how it impinges on all of our futures.”

Dr. Muir is joined by Co-Investigators Dr. Helen Finch, School of Languages, Cultures and Societies, University of Leeds; Dr. Lisa Peschel, Film, Theatre and Television, University of York; Dr. Nick Barraclough, Psychology, University of York; Dr. Teryl Dobbs, Chair of Music Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Dr. Joseph Toltz, Sydney Conservatorium, University of Sydney; and Dr. David Fligg, Leeds College of Music.

More information can be found here:

http://ptja.leeds.ac.uk

http://www.music.wisc.edu/performing-the-jewish-archive/

TOMORROW: Members of the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society discuss the music they will perform.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Classical music: The Lydian String Quartet of Boston returns this Thursday night to the Token Creek Festival to perform two contemporary works and a quartet by Felix Mendelssohn. On Sunday, they will perform Baroque works.

August 25, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear’s friends at the Token Creek Festival write:

The Token Creek Festival is pleased to announce the return to Madison of the Lydian String Quartet from Boston on this Thursday night, Aug. 27, at 8 p.m. The Lydians last appeared at Token Creek in 1999, for a pair of outstanding concerts with the soprano Benita Valente.

The Lydian’s recital features two string quartets by two contemporary composers whose work they have championed for many years — Lee Hyla and John Harbison — along with the Mendelssohn Quartet in E flat, Op. 12 (1829).

The Lydian Quartet (below) has performed a large number of new pieces. Their Token Creek program includes two that were composed within a four-year span, but which speak two very different American musical languages.

Lydian Quartet USE

Both Hyla’s Quartet No. 3 (1989), commissioned by Chamber Music America, and Harbison’s Quartet No. 3 (1993), commissioned by Brandeis University, are single-movement works.

The work by Lee Hyla (below, in a photo by Mark Wilson for The Boston Globe) begins consonantly and reflectively, with a ravishingly beautiful homophonic passage that haunts much of the subsequent music. (You can hear the haunting Hyla work played by the Lydian Quartet in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

The work traverses a wide terrain and gradually branches out into a discourse that is hardly inferable from its opening strains, and that ultimately leads to a major climax and a quiet, inevitable conclusion.

Lee Hyla CR Mark Wilson Boston Globe

The quartet by John Harbison (below) is hymnodic, rarely contrapuntal, and sustains its central musical declaration throughout, with the exception of two  “out of the blue,” unexplained interludes.

The BBC Music Magazine called the piece “a fascinating, alluring, and moving musical argument,” and the Boston Globe considers it one of Harbison’s finest works, an important addition to the repertory for the string quartet. . . The moods are volatile and wide‑ranging ‑ intimate, public, ferocious, suave, passionate, masked, fleeting and sustained.”

John Harbison MIT

The string quartets by Felix Mendelssohn (below) are among his finest and most striking compositions. They reconcile classical models with romantic passion.

Mendelssohn’s admiration of Ludwig van Beethoven shines brightly in this work. It is lovely music throughout, ebullient and euphonious, and its third movement, the Canzonetta, is probably the single best-known chamber music movement in Mendelssohn’s output.

mendelssohn_300

In addition to their own recital, the Lydians will also appear on the closing concerts of the Token Creek Festival (Saturday, Aug. 29, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 30, at 4 p.m.). They will anchor a program of Baroque concerti (with some related smaller chamber pieces), including the irrepressible Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 by Johann Sebastian Bach as well as works by George Frideric Handel and Arcangelo Corelli.

Tickets are $30 ($10 for students) for all performances.

Tickets can be bought by using the order form at the Token Creek website www.tokencreekfestival.org, by phone at 608-241-2525, by email at info@tokencreekfestival.org, or by U.S. mail at P.O. Box 5201, Madison WI, 53705.

Performances take place at the Festival Barn, on Highway 19 near the hamlet of Token Creek (10 minutes north of Madison) with ample parking available. The venue, indoors and air-conditioned, is invitingly small—early reservations are recommended.

TokenCreekentrance

TokenCreekbarn interior

More information about the Token Creek Festival and all events can be found at the website, http://www.tokencreekfestival.org or by calling 608-241-2525.


Classical music: John W. Barker reviews conflicting concerts by the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra and the choral group Voces Aestatis.

August 24, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Here is a special posting, a two-fer or double 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.

John-Barker

By John W. Barker

Scheduled train-wrecks are, sadly, all too familiar in the regular music season, say in October and April. But at the very end of August? Absurd! Unacceptable!

And yet there it was. Last Friday night, August 21, we had two concerts needlessly set at loggerheads. One had been scheduled for months; the other was hastily set and on terms that had little to do with the risks of spoiling the logical audience for both.

The two events were: the second and final summer concert by the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO); and the only summer concert by the new choral group Voces Aestatis (Latin for Voices of Summer).

Feeling the need to report on both, I was boxed in and forced by circumstances to review one concert directly and the other though its dress rehearsal.

That is grossly unfair to the disadvantaged choice, the MAYCO concert, for obviously the ensemble needs to be judged on its definitive public performance. Still, rehearsals are themselves often fascinating, and so I hope my approach is not without merits of it own.

MAYCO

The MAYCO rehearsal (below, in a photo by John W. Barker; other performance photos were taken by The Ear) was held on Thursday morning, August 20, in the venue of the concert itself, Music Hall, at the foot of Bascom Hill on the UW-Madison campus.

The program is one that was connected to that of the earlier concert this summer, on June 20, in that each explored approaches to the Baroque ensemble idiom of the concerto grosso and brought together examples old and new.

MAYCO rehearsal 2015 JWB

This second program opened with an outstanding example of a Late Baroque masterwork, the fifth of George Frideric Handel’s great set of 12 Concerti Grossi, Op. 6.

Conductor and ensemble founder, Mikko Rankin Utevsky (below) showed his fresh and enterprising approach in so many ways.

Mikko Rankin Utevsky MAYCO 8-15

He used the supplemental wind parts that double merely the string voices but are authentic survivals. He opposes first and second violins, allowing the concertino’s trio of soloists a proper place in the texture. He had the players (save for cellos) stand for the performance, rather than sit. (In the rehearsal, too, he himself conducted while playing the viola part.) The performance stressed vitality and vigor, and showed that the 19 string players could make a quite coherent ensemble sonority.

By contrast, the second work was a modern counterpart, Ernest Bloch’s Concerto Grosso No. 1 for Strings and Piano, the latter played by UW-Madison student Jason Kutz (below). Composed in 1925 — and followed by a second one some years later — this is a remarkable example of neo-Classicism, in which a Baroque form and mentality could be recast in 20th-century harmony.

Bloch knew that the piano could not match the harpsichord as an “authentic” continuo instrument: while he often uses it to reinforce the string bass line, he gives it roles across the texture, while even allowing it tiny solo moments. The style is richly varied, with elements of folk dances, and an overall suggestion of the neo-Hebraic sound with which he was becoming identified.

Jason Kutz MAYCO

The final work was Franz Joseph Haydn’s beloved Symphony No. 94 in G major, the “Surprise.” Utevsky showed a thorough command of the score’s varieties and possibilities, exploiting them with some fine subtleties.

At the dress rehearsal and at the performance, Utevsky also gave two of his conducting students Maynie Bradley and Majestic Lor (below top and bottom respectively)  the chance to lead parts of the slow movement, as an introduction to actual podium experience — a wonderful idea!

Maynie Bradley

Majestica Lor

This has been the MAYCO’s fifth summer season. Utevsky promises to be back leading it at least one more year. He deserves every encouragement to arrange the extension beyond that, as an extension of this wonderful program he has created to allow talented young student players to have orchestral experience.

SUMMER VOICES

The conflicting choral concert was held Friday night in St. Andrew’s Church on Regent Street.

The group “Voces Aetatis” (Voices of Summer) is in its second season and offered a single concert. The group consists of 16 mixed voices, four singers to a part. They are devoted to “early” choral music, predominantly from the Renaissance, an age that offers particularly superlative choral writing just waiting to be exploited. Conductor Ben Luedcke has shaped them into a finely balanced ensemble, with beautifully nuanced overall sound.

Voces Aestatis 2015

The first (and larger) part of the program was devoted to sacred music by eight composers, chronologically: Jean Mouton (1459-1522), Jean Lhéritier (1480-1551), Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594), Orlando di Lasso (1532-1594), William Byrd (1540-1623), Giovanni Gabrieli (1554-1512), Carlo Gesualdo (1566-1613), and Antonio Lotti (667-1740). Of the last two, Gesualdo is a very late Mannerist, while Lotti is really a Baroque composer, represented by his retro-polyphonic warhorse, the eight-voice Crucifixus. Otherwise, the selection represented some prime Renaissance art.

The selections sounded lovely — and all the same. Director Luedcke (below) takes everything at a consistently smooth and stately pace, often rather too slowly to get at the textual and spiritual meanings. Only the Gesualdo Tenebrae motet conveyed any propulsive power. Pieces by Byrd and Gabrieli should have surged in excitement, but did not.

Ben Luedcke conducts voces aestratis

The program’s second part was devoted to madrigals by Jacques Arcadelt (1507-1568), Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643), John Bennet (1575-1614) and Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625). Now, the problem is that madrigals are not (and were not) intended as choral music. The particular attention to the texts the composers so carefully set is simply steamrollered by the blurred diction of a sizable chorus.

The ideal is one singer per part, and it is a pity that Luedcke did not pull out individual singers from the ensemble in varying combinations of such limited scale.

The obscured clarity of the Italian texts was bad enough, but was disastrous in the English pieces. The words to The Silver Swan (at bottom in a YouTube video) by Orlando Gibbons (below), offered as an encore, and to his What Is Our Life? were totally lost — a particular injustice since the latter sets an ironic poem attributed to Sir Walter Raleigh as he awaited execution, with interesting Shakespearian parallels. To render the words unintelligible is no way to treat madrigals, however prettily.

Orlando Gibbons

This ensemble has so much potential, and is a brave vehicle for an area of musical literature too little performed. One hopes it can mature in future years to the effectiveness of which it is capable.

And without competing with another event for attendance.

 


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