The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: A FREE CD and a dedicated concert are perfect memorial tributes for flutist Robin Fellows — or for any musician

March 24, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

There was so much to like about last Friday night’s concert by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below), including a fantastic performance of the sublimely beautiful Violin Concerto by the American composer Samuel Barber.

WCO lobby

The concerto, with its soaring melodies, poignant harmonies and spiky perpetual motion finale, was played superbly by Russian-born, London-based virtuoso Alexander Sitkovetsky (below), who received a masterful accompaniment from longtime music director and conductor Andrew Sewell and the WCO. (As an encore and change of pace, Sitkovetsky played the soulful Sarabande from the Partita No. 2 in D Minor for Solo Violin by Johann Sebastian Bach.)

Here are two very positive reviews, written by John W. Barker for Isthmus and Greg Hettmansbeger for Madison Magazine, with which The Ear agrees:


But The Ear notes this: Perhaps the most touching moment came off-stage.

As you may have heard, last October Robin Fellows died of cancer at 66. For 26 years, he had been the principal flutist of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and also taught at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. He also played and taught at many other places.

If you went to the indoor classical Masterworks concerts by the WCO, you heard him.

And if you went to the popular summertime Concerts on the Square, you heard him.

So it was right and fitting, as they say, for the WCO to dedicate the concert to Fellows (below). Indeed, the program seemed perfect in its homage.

We heard a new principal flutist and heard lots of prominent flute playing in works by Irish composer Joan Trumble, Swedish composer Lars-Eric Larsson and especially the Symphony No. 4 by Ludwig van Beethoven.

robin fellows with flute

But the most stirring tribute happened off-stage.

That is because the family gave out a FREE memorial tribute CD of 20th-century flute music – with singers, bassoonists, clarinet, harp and piano — that was played by Fellows, recorded and released in 2002.

It includes music by Aaron Copland, Walter Piston, Albert Roussel, Ernst Toch, Daren Hagen (a UW-Madison alumnus) and Vincent Persichetti.

Out in the lobby of the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center was a table with not only the new season brochures for 2016-17, but also many stacks of FREE CDs. The audience was invited to take one by a current WCO flutist and oboist.

Robin Fellows CD table

And as you entered and left the theater, there was a large poster with a picture of Fellows and a paragraph about his life and accomplishments.

Robin Fellows poster

The Ear is still sampling all the pieces on the CD.

So far, it is both enjoyable and enlightening. The Ear would include a sample, but unfortunately he doesn’t see that any tracks have been uploaded to YouTube.

Still, one cannot imagine Fellows — or any musicians, for that matter — wishing for a better tribute.

The Ear says: Kudos to the Fellows family and to the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra for providing such memorable memorials.

Classical music: The Oakwood Chamber Players take a musical journey to modern Hungary and France this weekend. Plus, the UW-Madison Wisconsin Brass Quintet marks 40 years with a FREE concert TONIGHT that will be STREAMED LIVE.

March 15, 2013
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ALERT REMINDER: The 40th Anniversary Season Finale Concert by the UW-Madison‘s Wisconsin Brass Quintet (below) will take tonight at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall. Admission is FREE and open to the public. The program is a serious and challenging one. As trombonist Mark Hetzler told the Wisconsin State Journal, “This [brass] music, while it is virtuosic and exciting, is also quite intellectual and cerebral. Imagine modern music for string quartet. This kind of music branches into those deeper places like that sort of music would.” On the program are: “Gravikord,” written for the quintet’s 40th birthday by UW horn professor Daniel Grabois; “Magnum Mysterium,” by local celebrity composer John Harbison; “Suite of Madrigals,” by Carlo Gesualdo, arranged for brass quintet by Mark Hetzler; and “Adam’s Rib,” by James MacMillan. And here is another first: If you cannot attend in person, consider watching it LIVE on your computer via streaming! It starts at 8 p.m. CDT; subtract or add hours as your time zone requires.

Livestream webcast link

Read a story by Gayle Worland in last Sunday’s Wisconsin State Journal:

“A milestone of note for Wisconsin Brass Quintet”

Wisconsin Brass Quintet 2013

By Jacob Stockinger

For three decades, The Oakwood Chamber Players have offered the most imaginative programming of chamber music you will find in the Madison area.

The OCP consistently chooses off-the-radar composers and works to perform, And the players invariably bring off the programs they choose with professionalism and welcoming good cheer.

This weekend provides an ideal example. That’s when the Oakwood Chamber Players will offer two concerts with works from France and Hungary.

The concerts are on this Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 7 p.m. at the Oakwood Village University Woods Auditorium (below above), in Madison far west side at 6209 Mineral Point Road; and on this Sunday, March 17, at 1:30 p.m. at the UW-Arboretum Visitor Center (below bottom).

Oakwood wheelchair

UW Arboretum Visitor Center

The “Influences” concerts will explore music from composers of the late 19th and 20th centuries who created their music while living in times of tremendous compositional changes and political upheaval.

Six composers will be featured during the concerts -– four are French and two are Hungarian – and the focus will be on their fascinating relationships and creative exchanges. The composers to be performed include:

Phillipe Gaubert (below): The famed flute performer, teacher, conductor and prominent French composer will be highlighted through his “Medailles Antiques” for flute, violin and piano.

Philippe Gaubert

Francis Poulenc (below): A jaunty Duo for Clarinet and Bassoon will showcase this early 20th century French composers, one of The Ear’s favorites. With great tunes, textural clarity and charm, he often sounds like a modern-day Gallic Mozart.

Francis Poulenc

Albert Roussel (below): A love of poetry and creative projects will be represented in his violin, cello and piano Trio, Op. 2.

Albert Roussel.jpeg

Florent Schmitt (below): After losing some of his initial rise in popularity due to Nazi connections, his work is now seen as evocative and beautifully melodic. The Oakwood Chamber players will play his Piano Trio.

Florent Schmitt

Ference Farkas (below): The composer of “Five Antique Dances,” a woodwind quintet, harkens back to spirited older musical traditions.

Ferenc FarkasGyorgi Ligeti (below): Censored for his groundbreaking and “dangerous” musical style, these “Six Bagatelles” for woodwind quintet catapault the audience through rapid shifts in tempo and texture. 

gyorgy ligeti

The Oakwood Chamber Players (below) is a group of Madison-area professional musicians who have rehearsed and performed at Oakwood Village for 30 years.

Tickets are available at the door:  $20 for general admission, $15 for seniors and $5 for students.

Visit for more information.

Oakwood Chamber Players 2012 1

The Oakwood Chamber Players are a professional music ensemble proudly supported by Oakwood Lutheran Senior Ministries and the Oakwood Foundation, in collaboration with Friends of the Arboretum, Inc.

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