The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Minnesota Orchestra made history with its recent visit to Cuba. If you missed it, here are stories to catch up. Plus, fans of great singing should hear the Madison Choral Project under the legendary Dale Warland on Sunday afternoon.

May 30, 2015
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ALERT: The Ear attended an outstanding choral concert Friday night. It was put on by the Madison Choral Project with singers (below) plus UW-Madison trumpeter John Aley (far right), cellist Eric Miller and UW-Madison pianist Martha Fischer, all under the direction of the legendary conductor Dale Warland. The concert “Music of Our Time” will be repeated at 2:30 p.m. on this Sunday at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Ave. You can park in the lot two blocks away at the UW Foundation. If you love choral music, don’t miss it.

Madison Choral Project 5-15 1

By Jacob Stockinger

Yesterday, President Obama made it official. He removed Cuba from the State Department‘s list of outlaw countries that sponsor terrorism.

The economic and cultural thaw is gathering momentum. And just as happened with the Soviet Union, cultural exchanges are going to play a major role.

The Minnesota Orchestra made history with its recent visit to Cuba, where it gave two concerts, played a side-by-side concert with a youth orchestra, played in a cafe informally with Cuban musicians and tutored music students.

Minnesota Orchestra in Cuba with banner

If you missed it, here are stories — and a YouTube video interview with the orchestra’s Finnish-born music director and conductor Osmo Vanska and orchestra players at the bottom — to catch up.

Here is a photo essay put together by Minnesota Public Radio:

http://www.mprnews.org/story/2015/05/18/photos-a-look-back-at-the-orchestras-trip-to-cuba

Here is the story from the Deceptive Cadence blog on NPR (National Public Radio):

http://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2015/05/17/406993869/after-thaw-minnesota-orchestra-returns-to-cuba

Here is The New York Times account of the two well received concerts that include the “Eroica” Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven and the two countries’ national anthems:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/17/arts/music/minnesota-orchestra-in-groundbreaking-cuba-tour-sells-out-house.html?_r=0

And here is The New York Times account of a more informal café get-together:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/18/arts/music/fire-and-ice-minnesotans-join-orquesta-aragon-in-havana.html?src=relcon&moduleDetail=lda-articles-0&action=click&contentCollection=Music&region=Footer&module=MoreInSection&version=WhatsNext&contentID=WhatsNext&configSection=article&isLoggedIn=false&pgtype=article

Finally, here is an account from the orchestra’s hometown Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

http://www.startribune.com/minnesota-orchestra-wins-hearts-in-cuba-as-it-caps-a-historic-trip/304004891/

 


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
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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: To play or not to play Hanon? Should piano students do five-finger exercises as well as scales and arpeggios? Sergei Rachmaninoff thought so and Stephen Hough thinks so. What do today’s piano students and teachers think?

May 28, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Should piano students play exercises?

Should they play repetitive five-finger etudes by Hanon (below and in a YouTube video at the bottom), Czerny and other pedagogues?

Should they learn and play scales and arpeggios?

hanon 1

Should they learn them separately? Or within the context of a musical composition?

These remain controversial questions.

But the British classical pianist Stephen Hough (below top) recently blogged about how he and Sergei Rachmaninoff (below bottom) – often considered the greatest pianist of the 20th century as well as a major post-Romantic composer –- defend the practice.

Hough_Stephen_color16

Rachmaninoff

Here is a link to the recent blog post by Stephen Hough for The Guardian newspaper in the UK:

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/culture/stephenhough/100076542/remembering-what-nourished-our-roots/

The Ear wants to know what you think, especially if you are a pianist, a piano student or a piano teacher.


Classical music: The sixth National Summer Cello Institute and “Feldenkrais for Performers” will take place over the next two weeks at the UW-Madison School of Music. The event culminates in a FREE cello choir concert on June 12.

May 27, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Our friends at the National Summer Cello Institute have informed The Ear about the upcoming programs at the UW-Madison School of Music:

cello choir 2

For complete information about “Your Body is Your Strad” Summer Program Events, under artistic director and UW cello professor Uri Vardi, visit www.yourbodyisyourstrad.com

Following the success of five previous seasons, the Your Body is Your Strad summer programs are open for auditors and concert-goers in 2015.

This includes events during the Feldenkrais for All Performers program (May 30-June 3) and the National Summer Cello Institute (May 30-June 12). The programs focus on the connection between body awareness and technical proficiency, artistic expression, effective teaching and injury prevention.

The workshops feature husband-and-wife  musicians and Feldenkrais practitioners Uri Vardi and Hagit Vardi (below with a student), with other faculty including Paul Katz of the New England Conservatory and Tim Eddy of the Juilliard School and Mannes Conservatory.

hagitvardistretching artm

There will also be featured presentations by specialists in Integrative Health, Authentic Performance, Mind-Eye Connection, Stage Anxiety and Improvisation.

hagitvardirelaxingstudent

All events will take place at the Humanities Building at 455 N. Park St. in Madison, Wisconsin unless noted otherwise.

The following presentations are open for auditors and audience members for a fee of $25:

Saturday, May 30, at 3:15 PM in Morphy Hall: “Master class: focused use of the body” presented by Artistic Director Uri Vardi (below), a performance-based class that focuses on enhancing body awareness through the Feldenkrais method

Uri Vardi with cello COLOR

Sunday, May 31, at 4:30 PM in Morphy Hall: “Seminar with Dr. Deborah Zelinsky: ‘The mind-eye connection'” — presented by Dr. Zelinsky, a specialist of neuro-optometric rehabilitation and visual processing

Monday, June 1, at 2 PM in Morphy Hall: “Master class: focused use of the body” — the second presentation by Artistic Director Uri Vardi, a performance-based class that focuses on enhancing body awareness through the Feldenkrais method

Monday, June 1, at 4:30 PM in Mills Hall: “Seminar with Susan Sweeney: The Imaginative Voice” — presented by Susan Sweeney, Head Voice and Text Coach for the American Players Theatre with extensive coaching experience on an international scale

Tuesday, June 2, at 3:30 PM in Morphy Hall: “Presentation by Dr. Adam Rindfleisch, MD: The Art of Self Care” — presented by Dr. Adam Rindfleisch, MD in the Integrative Medicine Division of the UW Health system

Wednesday, June 3, at 3:30 PM in room 1321: “Seminar with Matt Turner on Improvisation” — presented by Matt Turner, one of the world’s leading improv cellists, who will lead participants in an improv session

cello choir 1

Thursday, June 4, at 4 PM in Morphy Hall: “Master class with Paul Katz” — a performance-based master class for participants that will be led by Paul Katz, Professor of Cello at Boston’s New England Conservatory

Friday, June 5, at 2 PM at Capitol Lakes Retirement Center (FREE): “Outreach Concert” — a performance by the participants of the Your Body is Your Strad programs, selected on a national scale through audition

Cello Choir 2014 Aleks Tengesdal, Claire Mallory piano

Friday, June 5, at 4:30 PM in Morphy Hall: “Master class: focused use of the body” — the third presentation by Artistic Director Uri Vardi, a performance-based class that focuses on enhancing body awareness through the Feldenkrais method (below is student Micah Cheng, on left, with Uri Vardi)

NSCI Cell Institute 2015 Micah Cheng with Uri Vardi

Friday, June 5, at 8 PM in Mills Hall: “Seminar with Paul Katz” — led by Paul Katz, Professor of Cello at New England Conservatory, who will cover topics of musicianship and wellness

Saturday, June 6, at 9 AM in Morphy Hall: “Master class with Paul Katz” — the second performance-based master class for participants that will be led by Paul Katz, Professor of Cello at Boston’s New England Conservatory

Sunday, June 7, at 2 PM in Morphy Hall: “Master class: focused use of the body” — the fourth presentation by Artistic Director Uri Vardi, a performance-based class that focuses on enhancing body awareness through the Feldenkrais method

Cello Choir 2014 Kyle Price Requiem cellos

Monday, June 8, at 10:15 AM in Morphy Hall: “Master class: focused use of the body” — the fifth and final presentation by Artistic Director Uri Vardi, a performance-based class that focuses on enhancing body awareness through the Feldenkrais method

Tuesday, June 9, at 4:30 PM in Morphy Hall: “Master Class with Tim Eddy” — a performance-based master class for participants that will be led by Tim Eddy (below), Professor of Cello at the Juilliard School and Mannes Conservatory

Wednesday, June 10, at 8 PM in Morphy Hall: “Master Class with Tim Eddy” — the second performance-based master class for participants that will be led by Tim Eddy, Professor of Cello at the Juilliard School and Mannes Conservatory

Timothy Eddy of the Mannes College New School for Music

Thursday, June 11 at 2 PM at Fair Trade Coffee (FREE): “Outreach Concert” — a performance of cello ensembles at the Fair Trade Coffee Shop on State Street

Thursday, June 11 at 8 PM in Mills Hall: “Seminar with Tim Eddy” — led by Tim Eddy, Professor of Cello at the Juilliard School and Mannes Conservatory, who will cover topics related to musicianship and wellness

Friday, June 12 at 8 PM in Mills Hall (FREE): “Final Concert” — the culminating concert of the National Summer Cello Institute, featuring solo performances of the Institute’s talented participants and the NSCI Cello Choir led by Kyle Knox (below).

Kyle Knox 2

The program for the final concert is partially set: the first half will be solo performances by participants of the National Summer Cello Institute, and the after intermission will be pieces for the NSCI Cello Choir. The solos will be decided through audition next week, but the rep for the Cello Choir is decided.

Cello Choir 2014 with Uri Vardi

The pieces to be included in the public concert (which The Ear heard and loved last year) are:

Johann Sebastian Bach/arr. Akira: Adagio from the C major Sonata for Violin

Astor Piazzolla/arr. Villarejo: “Oblivion” (see the YouTube video at the bottom)

David Popper: Requiem

Kyle Price*: Requiem (movements 4 and 5)

Klengel: Hymnus for 12 cellos

*Kyle Price is the student composer and a Collins Fellow at the UW-Madison School of Music, studying cello as a Masters student with Uri Vardi. He is also an avid composer, and runs a music festival in upstate New York called Caroga Lake. The Requiem to be performed was written in memory of his aunt, a cellist who had attended NSCI in previous summers.

 


Classical music: This Thursday night, Con Vivo performs the chamber music program it will take on tour in June to Dane County’s Sister County of Kassel, Germany.

May 26, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Our friends at the Madison-based chamber music group Con Vivo! (Music With Life) write:

SAVE THE DATE! 

The latest concert by Con Vivo’s (below) is this Thursday night, May 28, at 7:30 p.m. at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Avenue, near the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Camp Randall Stadium.

Con Vivo core musicians

con vivo!…music with life invites you to join us for our chamber music concert, “Bon Voyage: Dane to Kassel!”

Come help send us off as we represent you on our cultural exchange tour June 5-12 to Kassel, Germany, Dane County’s Sister County. Don’t miss the Madison presentation of some favorite pieces from our concerts that we will perform in Germany this June. 

Our program includes diverse chamber music by Lukas Foss, Louis Spohr, Reinhold Gliere, Alan Hovhaness and others. So come join us for truly exciting chamber music!

Con Vivo Octet

Convenient FREE parking is only 2 blocks west at the University Foundation at 1848 University Ave.

Tickets at the door are $20 for adults; $15 for seniors and students.

Listen to con vivo! live on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Midday” show with Norman Gilliland on Wednesday, May 27, at noon, 88.7 FM or at www.wpr.org.

Like con vivo! on Facebook to follow us on our tour to Dane County’s Sister County of Kassel, Germany, June 5-12.

For information, call (6708) 277-8087 or visit our website:

www.convivomusicwithlife.org 

convivo_mwl@convivomusicwithlife.org

Con Vivo is a professional chamber music ensemble comprised of Madison area musicians assembled from the ranks of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and various other performing groups familiar to Madison audiences.

This concert is sponsored in part by First Congregational Church and is supported by Dane Arts.

 


Classical music: Which music best commemorates Memorial Day?

May 25, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Today is Memorial Day 2015.

graves with flags USE day

Try as I might, The Ear cannot think of better music to remember and memorialize the wounded and fallen than the “Nimrod” Variation from “Enigma” Variations by Sir Edward Elgar (below).

Edward Elgar

The holiday is much more complex and psychological than the usual funeral march permits.

It was, after all, the same music that the American documentary filmmaker Ken Burns used in “The War” — about World War II — played in a hauntingly wonderful solo piano arrangement that I simply cannot find on YouTube.

But the music’s meaning, and the way it affects you, can change in the instruments performing it.

So today I offer three ways or versions, arrangements or transcriptions.

First is the very popular YouTube video of the original orchestral version featuring Daniel Barenboim conducting in Carnegie Hall the Chicago Symphony Orchestra – with its great strings and brass — in memory of his predecessor, music director and conductor Georg Solti.

Second is a stirring rendition by a military brass band in England playing on Remembrance Day 2011 before Queen Elizabeth II:

And the third version is an a cappella choral version using the Latin lyric “Lux Aeterna” (Eternal Light) from the Roman Catholic Mass for the Dead that was put together in England.

All versions are moving and attest to the emotional power of Elgar’s music.

But which version do you like best and why?

And is there other music you would play to commemorate Memorial Day?

The Ear wants to hear.

 


Classical music: Early music group Eliza’s Toyes offers a fascinating exploration of the role of music in medicine from Medieval though Baroque times.

May 24, 2015
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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, who also took the performance photos. 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

Eliza’s Toyes (below top), the consort of voices and instruments devoted to early music, is led by the formidably talented Jerry Hui. The group gave another of its imaginative programs, this time on Friday night at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery (below bottom).

eliza's toyes 2015

WID_extr11_1570

The theme and title of this program was “Music: The Miracle Medicine.” Offered were 15 selections, conveying various ideas or beliefs about health (both physical and spiritual), illness, medicine, miracle cures and good living.

Toyes medicine motet JWB

Each selection was preceded by the reading of passages from moral and medical texts of various periods. (I wonder if today’s medical and health-advice writings will sound as comical generations from now as do those of the past to us!)

Toyes medicine physician JWB

Fifteen composers were represented in the course of the program, from Medieval through Baroque: Hildegard von Bingen (below top, 1098-1179), Alfonso El Sabio (1221-1284), Thomas Tallis (1505-1585), Cipriano da Rore (1516-1565),Hubert Waelrant (1515-1595), Orlando di Lassus (1532-1594), William Byrd (1540-1623), Lelio Bertani (1553-1612), John Wilbye (1574-1638), Gabriel Bataille (1575-1630), Melchior Franck (1579-1639), John Maynard (15??-16??), Anonymous 17th-Century (2 items), Marin Marais (1656-1728) and John Eccles (1668-1735).

ST. HILDEGARD OF BINGEN DEPICTED IN ALTARPIECE AT ROCHUSKAPELLE IN GERMANY

The selections were mostly vocal, either solo or ensemble. One instrumental selection stood out as probably the one most likely to be familiar: Marin Marais’ excruciatingly detailed “Representation of the Operation for Gallstone” (below top is Marais, below bottom is the introduction to his work) — complete with narrative headings for each section. (You can hear the narration and the music to the unusual piece in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Marin Marais 2

Toyes medicine Marais operation JWB

The performances were earnest and often accomplished. But it must be said in honesty that, in motets and madrigals, the vocal ensemble was not balanced or smooth — the singers clearly need to live with this kind of musical writing somewhat longer. Still, the overall effect was certainly entertaining and thematically fascinating.

Toyes medicine motet 2 JWB

There were no printed programs, but the titles and text translations were projected on a background screen. These projections were fully visible and readable, so they worked well.

Toyes medicine projection JWB

This is a program that will be offered again, I understand, at the Chazen Museum of Art on July 15, so that it can be caught and savored once more.

Above all, it is one more tribute to the thoughtful, deeply researched and intriguing program skills of Jerry Hui (below).

Jerry Hui

 


Classical music: Choral director Albert Pinsonneault clarifies his “move” to Northwestern University. He will continue to live in Madison and still conduct the Madison Choral Project.

May 23, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Yesterday, The Ear posted notice about the Madison-based choral director Albert Pinsonneault (below), the Edgewood College professor who wanted to clarify some things about his new job at Northwestern University, near Chicago, and what it means for Madison.

Albert Pinsonneault 2

Here is the link to the original posting:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/05/22/classical-music-choral-conductor-albert-pinsonneault-is-leaving-edgewood-college-and-madison-for-a-new-job-at-northwestern-university/

And here is his clarification:

albert pinsonneault Edgewood mug BW

Dear Jake and readers of The Ear,

Thank you for this gracious send-off, but it is too early!

I am committed to continuing my work in Madison, including the forthcoming seasons of the Madison Choral Project, and hopefully, the Madison Chamber Choir.

albert pinsonneault conducting BW

My family and I adore Madison, and I am very proud to support our arts landscape here.

The administration at Northwestern has graciously arranged my schedule to make living in both cities a possibility in the short-term.

They are also highly supportive of my continuing work with MCP, and see that connection as a positive for both myself and for Northwestern.  My new colleague, Director of Choral Organizations Donald Nally, also is Artistic Director of a professional choir in Philadelphia (called “The Crossing,” which just won the Margaret Hillis award), so this isn’t too bizarre of a notion.

We love Madison and don’t want to say goodbye just yet …

Thanks,

Bert


Classical music: Choral conductor Albert Pinsonneault is leaving Edgewood College and Madison for a new job at Northwestern University.

May 22, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Last week, it was a critically acclaimed performance of music by Gian Carlo Menotti by the Madison Chamber Choir.

At the end of this month, it is two performances of a concert by the Madison Choral Project with guest conductor Dale Warland.

Now both appear to be farewell concerts to Albert Pinsonneault (below), a professor at Edgewood College who is the choral director of Madison Chamber Choir and the Madison Choral Project as well as assistant choral director for the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s chorus.

Pinsonneault (below) has been named Associate Director of Choral Organizations at the Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University, near Chicago. He will take up his new post this fall.

Albert Pinsonneault 2

Here is his how Pinsonneault posted the move on Facebook:

“I am so excited to announce that I will be joining the faculty of the Bienen School of Music as Associate Director of Choral Organizations at Northwestern University next fall!

I could not be more honored to work alongside Donald Nally NU, and the amazing student-musicians in the Northwestern University Choirs.”

And here is the official press release from the Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University:

“The Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University announces the appointment of Dr. Albert Pinsonneault (PEN-son-oh) as Associate Director of Choral Organizations.

“Dr. Pinsonneault will join the faculty Fall 2015, conducting Northwestern’s University Singers and teaching choral literature at the graduate level, part-time. He will also assist in various musical activities of the expanding choral program at the Bienen School of Music, working closely with Director of Choral Organizations Dr. Donald Nally.

albert pinsonneault Edgewood mug BW

“Dr. Pinsonneault is founder and artistic director of the professional chamber choir Madison Choral Project, as well as assistant conductor of the Madison Symphony Chorus. From 2009 to 2015 he served as Associate Professor of Music at Edgewood College.  A native of St. Paul, Minnesota, he attended St. Olaf College and the University of Minnesota before completing his doctoral study at the College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) of the University of Cincinnati.

albert pinsonneault conducting BW

“Dr. Pinsonneault’s scholarship focuses on choral blend and intonation, the physical/kinesthetic act of conducting and the music of F. Melius Christiansen.  His book, “Choral Intonation Exercises,” is published by Graphite Publishing.”

The Ear offers hearty Congratulations to Albert Pinsonneault, who has proven a tireless and gifted advocate for choral music. Madison’s loss is his gain and Northwestern University’s gain.

I am sure he will appreciate it if you leave word for Pinsonneault about his work in the COMMENTS column of this blog

 

 


Classical music: Percussion ensemble Clocks in Motion joins UW-Madison ceramic artist in making an MFA installation a “smashing success.”

May 21, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Loyal readers of this blog know very well the name of Mikko Rankin Utevsky. The young violist, baritone and conductor is a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, where he studies with Pro Arte Quartet violist Sally Chisholm, plays in the UW Symphony Orchestra, and sings with the University Opera.

Utevsky, who has won awards and impressive reviews for his work in music education since his days at Madison’s East High School, is the founder and conductor of the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO — www.MAYCO.org), which will perform its fifth season this summer. He also directs a local community orchestra, The Studio Orchestra (www.disso.org).

You can check out his many honors and projects by typing his name into the search engine on this blog site.

Utevsky offered The Ear a guest preview review of this past weekend’s performance by Clocks in Motion.

I immediately took him up on the offer. After all, he is a fine and perceptive writer who, you may recall, blogged for this post when he was on tour with the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) tour to Vienna, Prague and Budapest.

Here is the review by Mikko Rankin Utevsky (below), who also took the performance photos:

new Mikko Utevsky baton profile USE

By Mikko Rankin Utevsky

On Sunday, University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music graduate percussion ensemble Clocks in Motion performed as part of artist Jeannine Shinoda’s MFA Exhibition “The Collector’s Set” in what can only be described as a smashing success.

Shinoda’s exhibition consisted of a room filled with ceramic plates, cups and dishes suspended from the ceiling by strings (below), which the attendees were invited to cut, sending the dishes crashing to the concrete floor.

Clocks china hanging

The performance took place in an adjacent room, where it was counterpointed by the occasional crunching noise from the exhibition.

The four core members of Clocks (below) played an assortment of bowls, plates, cups, spoons and ceramic-shard wind chimes in a four-movement composition – his Opus 1 — by music director Sean Kleve. Composed as a set of rhythmic patterns and relative pitches before the instruments were chosen, the creatively scored work was orchestrated cooperatively by the ensemble for this eclectic assortment of pottery, played mostly with chopsticks.

Clocks playing china

It was structured in four movements. I quite enjoyed the lively second one in particular. A slightly eerie third movement made use of threaded metal rods that were scraped along the edges of the instruments to produce a sustained tone, and wind chimes made of broken plates and ceramic spoons (below).

Clocks china hanging spoons

One of the curiosities of the piece was discovering the range of sounds that can be produced from kitchenware — in particular, the gradual acclimation of the ear to the variety of pitches produced. The music seemed to coalesce out of the clatter of dishes and smashing china from the other room, emerging in minimalist rhythmic patterns and creative imitative passages.

All four parts were of equal importance, and each player could be seen taking the lead at various points — a sense of equality that is a hallmark of Clocks performances.

The fourth movement introduced a couple of small gongs, as though signaling that the grand finale was at hand. As the rest of the ensemble played, Dave Alcorn solemnly crossed in front and began the ritualistically choreographed conclusion — slowly and deliberately smashing the instruments.

The other three joined in with equal gravitas, sending plates and cups and bowls alike crashing to the ground. (The performers and audience, seen below, were equipped with protective eyewear for this portion of the work.)

Clocks China audience with goggles

As the last of the instruments were reduced to shattered fragments, the four musicians — straight-faced among stifled laughter from the audience — produced brooms and proceeded to sweep the remains into a single pile in the center of the stage, leaving the rooms silently when finished. They returned moments later to a standing ovation.

Clocks clean up china

Here in his first work, Kleve demonstrates a sophisticated ear for texture and a shrewd understanding of pacing, both key to crafting a musically satisfying work that does not leave the listener feeling that the whole thing was just a setup to the final gambit of breaking dishes — an admitted risk with such a performance piece.

Clocks china Sean Kleve score

One of the wonderful gifts of Clocks in Motion is its ability to focus the ear on the sounds of “found objects” — whether they are plates or brake drums or cow jawbones — and provide a framework for listening to them as musical.

And, as is so often the case with Clocks in Motion, their strength of commitment and musical integrity is such that the enthusiastic audience is drawn into the fabric of even the most outwardly implausible works — their striking “Percussion is Revolution” program in September 2013 was a powerful example.

Clocks chna audience applauding

It is a testament to Madison’s musical community and to the School of Music percussion program that we continue to host such a remarkable performing ensemble, and this innovative performance is just the latest feather in their collective cap.

A PERSONAL NOTE:

Clocks in Motion will be joining my own ensemble, the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO) on June 20 to open our fifth season, “Concerto Grosso!” It features the world premiere of UW-Madison graduate composer Jonathan Posthuma’s Concerto Grosso No. 1 in E minor for Percussion, Piano and Strings.

The performance will be at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, and tickets are $7 at the door with students admitted by donation).

The program will also feature UW-Madison Professor and Pro Arte Quartet cellist Parry Karp in Robert Schumann’s Cello Concerto in A minor; the American premiere of contemporary British composer Cecilia McDowall‘s “Rain, Steam and Speed”; and the Symphony No. 6 in D major (“Le Matin” or Morning) by Joseph Haydn. (You can hear the sound painting that gives the symphony its nickname in the YouTube video at the bottom.) 

 


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