The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Here are memorable local concerts in 2016 from critic John W. Barker and The Ear. What ones would you add?

January 4, 2017
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ALERT: The FREE Friday Noon Musicales at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, resume this week after a break for Christmas, New Year’s and other holidays. This Friday, from 12:15 to 1 p.m., pianist Olivia Musat will perform music by Olivier Messiaen, Isaac Albeniz and Paul Constantinesco.

By Jacob Stockinger

It seems a tradition throughout the media to offer a roundup of the Year’s Best with a local slant.

The Ear already offered a national and international roundup. Here is a link to that, especially to the surprisingly rich roundup that he unexpectedly found on Wikipedia:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2017/01/02/classical-music-wikipedia-and-wfmt-in-chicago-offer-a-review-of-classical-music-of-2016-that-includes-important-performances-new-music-and-deaths/

For a more local perspective, The Ear trusts and generally agrees with critic John W. Barker (below), who writes frequently for this blog and more often for Isthmus.

John-Barker

Here is a link to Barker’s list of memorable concerts in the Madison area, Because Isthmus mixes classical with other genres like pop, folk and jazz, you have to scroll down to “Classical cornucopia”:

http://isthmus.com/music/year-in-music-2016/

Although I agree with all the concerts that Barker mentions, he left out some that The Ear really loved. One was the absolutely riveting and moving performance in November by the Madison Symphony Orchestra under John DeMain of the momentous Fifth Symphony by Dmitri Shostakovich.

For example just about everything that the Pro Arte Quartet does at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music is first-rate and memorable, whether they play in Mills Hall or on “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen Museum of Art.”

But this past fall, a free noontime concert by the Pro Arte with legendary pianist Leon Fleisher especially stood out. Together (below), they performed the Piano Quintet in F Minor by Johannes Brahms – an unquestionable masterpiece in an unforgettable performance.

leon-fleisher-and-pro-arte-quartet-2016

The Ear would also add two events, both violin recitals, at the Wisconsin Union Theater.

Last spring Hilary Hahn (below top, in a photo by Peter Miller) turned in a stunningly superb recital. Then this fall, superstar Joshua Bell (below bottom) did the same. Both artists displayed terrific musicality combined with terrific virtuosity in generous and first-rate, ambitious programs.

Hilary Hahn 2016 CR Peter Miller

joshua-bell-2016

He would add several summer concerts by the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, especially the sizzling dueling violin concert (below) where the BDDS interspersed “The Four Seasons” buy Antonio Vivaldi with “The Four Seasons in Buenos Aires” by Astor Piazzolla.

axel-strauss-bdds-2016-piazzolla

The Ear would also add an experimental concert at which UW-Madison pianist Christopher Taylor (below) unveiled his reworked two-keyboard “Hyperpiano.” While the concert, which featured the “Goldberg” Variations by Johann Sebastian Bach, wasn’t successful musically, it certainly was intriguing, unusual and highly memorable, even with imperfect digital technology.

Hyperpiano stage

And The Ear also recalls a fine concert by the Rhapsodie Quartet (below) of the Madison Symphony Orchestra at the Overture Center.

Rhapsodie Quartet MSO Greg Anderson

And let’s not forget the University Opera’s production of “Falstaff” by Giuseppe Verdi that was impressively and successfully updated to Hollywood by director David Ronis.

uw-falstaff-benjamin-schultz-left-paul-rowe-and-jiabao-zhang

The Ear is sure there are more memorable concerts that escape him right now. Madison just features so much wonderful music-making in the course of a year.

Moreover, The Ear is also sure you have your favorites – whether they are individual plays; small chamber music groups such as duos, string quartets and piano trios; larger ensembles like the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Union Theater; or entire events like the UW Brass Festival.

I am sure that fans of the innovative percussion group Clocks in Motion and the acclaimed Madison Choral Project have a concert or two to nominate.

So please use the COMMENT section to tell us what were your most memorable classical concerts in Madison during 2016.

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: Duo-pianists Alessio Bax and Lucille Chung perform Schubert and Poulenc at Farley’s House of Pianos this Sunday afternoon. Plus, a FREE guitar concert takes place at noon on Friday.

January 13, 2016
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ALERT: The week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, held from 12:15 to 1 pm. at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features guitarist Steve Waugh, who will perform music by Johann Sebastian Bach, John Dowland, Isaac Albeniz, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Francisco Tarrega and more.

By Jacob Stockinger

As part of the Salon Piano Series held at Farley’s House of Pianos, Alessio Bax and Lucille Chung (below) will perform numerous pieces by Franz Schubert and a concerto by Francis Poulenc, all for one piano-four hands and for two pianos.

Lucille Chung and Alessio Bax 2015

The concert is this Sunday, Jan. 17, starting at 4 p.m. when Bill Lutes, a local distinguished piano teacher who also used to be the music director and a program host at Wisconsin Public Radio and a voice coach at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and University Opera, will give an introduction to the concert.

Tickets are $45 in advance or $50 at the door, and are available online at salonpianoseries.org, or at Farley’s House of Pianos (call 608 271-2626) or Orange Tree Imports.

But a new development will help students, says Renee Farley.

“The Salon Piano Series recently got word of being awarded a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board,” says Farley. “Their board liked what we do, but wanted us to increase our outreach to younger people. So, effective today we are offering student tickets to this concert for $30 each. Right now this is just being offered for the Bax-Chung concert. But our SPS board meets later this month and will discuss how to handle it for future programs.”

The two-piano pieces will be played on rare “twin” pianos restored by Farley’s House of Pianos: a 1914 Mason & Hamlin CC and a 1914 Mason & Hamlin BB.

Farley Daub plays

Bax, a winner of the Leeds International Piano Competition and the Martin E. Segal Award from Lincoln Center, started off 2016 performing several concerts in Japan with other concerts scheduled in Spain, Chile, South Korea and China.

Chung, an alumna of the Curtis Institute of Music and the Juilliard School, is a winner of the Virginia Parker Prize from the Canada Council for the Arts and an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Governor General of Canada.  In 2015, she performed in Canada, Italy, Germany and Argentina.

Here is the program:

Fantasia in F Minor, D. 940 — Schubert

Andantino varie, D. 823 — Schubert

Military March No. 1, D. 733 — Schubert

Lebensstürme, D. 947 — Schubert

Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra in D minor, original transcription for two solo pianos — Poulenc (NOTE: You can hear the poignant Mozartian second movement in its original form and with the composer at a keyboard in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

The Salon Piano Series is a non-profit organization founded by Tim and Renée Farley to continue the tradition of intimate salon concerts at Farley’s House of Pianos.

For ticket information and concert details see salonpianoseries.org.

All events are held at Farley’s House of Pianos, 6522 Seybold Road, on Madison’s far west side near the Beltline. Plenty of free parking is available and it is easy to reach by bicycle or Madison Metro.

 


Classical music: The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra kicks off the second half of this concert season with a performance this Friday night of orchestral music by Mozart and Bruckner and a guitar concerto by Castelnuovo-Tedesco.

January 13, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Event by event, The Ear sees that the winter intermission of the concert season is coming to an end.

To be specific: This Friday night, Jan. 17, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below) will kick off the major performances of the season. Then next week comes the Madison Symphony Orchestra, and after that the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and the Madison Opera. And that doesn’t even begin to touch many other smaller chamber music ensembles and Edgewood College.

WCO lobby

At 8 p.m. in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center, WCO music director and conductor Andrew Sewell will lead the orchestra with guest Croatian guitar soloist Ana Vidovic (below), who is making her Madison debut.

Ana Vidivic

The program includes the energetic “Impresario” Overture by Mozart from the 18th century; the accessible and Romantic guitar Concerto by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco form the 20th century; and the dramatically introspective Symphony No. 2 in C Minor by Anton Bruckner from the 19th century.

Anton Bruckner 2

Tickets are $15 to $67 and can be obtained by calling the Overture Center box office at (608) 258-4141 or by visiting:

http://ev12.evenue.net/cgi-bin/ncommerce3/SEGetEventInfo?ticketCode=GS%3AOVERTURE%3A13WCO%3ACT0117%3A&linkID=overture&shopperContext=&pc=&caller=&appCode=&groupCode=WCO_D&cgc=

The well-planned and eclectic program is a terrific combination of the light and the heavy, the lyrical and the dramatic. It is distinguished not only by the colorful guitar concerto by also by the second straight second season in which longtime WCO music director and conductor Andrew Sewell (below) has programmed a Bruckner symphony – while Bruckner has yet to find its way on a program of the Madison Symphony Orchestra for a couple of decades.

For a fine profile and interview with and on overview of Sewell’s achievements, you should read Sandy Tabachnick’s excellent story “The Malleable Maestro” in the Jan. 10 issue of Isthmus. Here is a link:

http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=41783

andrewsewell

Here is a link to an impressive biography of the guitar soloist Ana Vidovic. And you can hear her in a performance in a YouTube video at the bottom. She is playing Isaac Albeniz‘ popular “Asturias” and the video has over 6 million hits!

http://wcoconcerts.org/anavidovicbiography/?utm_source=FY14+MW2+Ana+Vidovic&utm_campaign=FY14+MW2+1.8.14&utm_medium=email

An addendum: I am not sure if the reservation deadline has already passed, but if you want to eat on the premises right before the concert, it can’t hurt to call right away if you are interested.

There is an appealing pre-concert dinner from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Wisconsin Studio of the Overture Center. And the menu of roast chicken with peach and walnut chutney or roast salmon with tomato chutney plus rice pilaf, green beans and chocolate mousse for dessert looks to The Ear to be pretty tasty and satisfying for a mid-winter meal. The cost is $33 per person. For reservations, call 257-0638.

http://wcoconcerts.org/performances/masterworks/2013-2014_pre-concert_dinners/

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