The Well-Tempered Ear

The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra starts its four-concert Winter Chamber Series TONIGHT at 7:30. Tickets are $30 for one-time access from Friday night to Monday night

January 22, 2021
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By Jacob Stockinger

The new semester of virtual online concerts begins tonight with the inauguration of the Winter Chamber Series by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (WCO, below in a photo by Mike Gorski).

Tonight’s program features music by Giovanni Gabrieli, Valerie Coleman, Alec Wilder, Craig Russell and Franz Schubert. (In the YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear the first movement of the Schubert Cello Quintet, played by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.)

The programs are short and feature classic works as well as new music and neglected composers. Often single movements or excerpts rather than complete works are performed.

Concerts all debut on Fridays and remain available through Monday night. Debut dates are TONIGHT, Jan. 22; Feb. 26; March 26; and April 16. A ticket entitles the purchaser to one viewing.

Here is a description of the chamber music series from the WCO:

“While full orchestras remain sidelined, the WCO is excited to present the Winter Chamber Series. This new series will feature chamber works for multiple ensembles ranging from trios to octets, showcasing the versatility and caliber of the WCO’s 34 world-class musicians.

“Patrons will enjoy the four-concert series in the comfort of their own home, streaming each concert on WCO Live on-demand starting at 7:30 p.m. on the evening of the concert launch.

“All programs will be 60–75 minutes in length, with not only music but also stories from the WCO’s own musicians on their journey to becoming professional musicians.

“Also included is a pre-concert talk with maestro Andrew Sewell and Norman Gilliland, as well as a post-concert reflection with musicians of the WCO.” 

Here is a link to the concerts, with programs plus notes by music director and conductor Sewell (below in a photo by Alex Cruz) as well as a link to purchase tickets from the Overture Center box office: https://wcoconcerts.org/concerts-tickets/winter-chamber-series

In addition, the WCO has started a musician’s relief fund. It seeks donations to pay musicians for the wages they have lost due to postponed or canceled concerts.

Here is a link: https://wcoconcerts.org/support/donate

 


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The UW-Madison’s Wingra Wind Quintet performs a FREE online virtual concert this Wednesday night. Plus, local music critic Greg Hettmansberger has died

December 8, 2020
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NEWS ALERT: Local music critic and blogger Greg Hettmansberger (below) was killed in a car accident on Dec. 2, near Wichita, Kansas. Hettmansberger, 65, was driving when he hit a deer and then another car hit him. His wife survived but remains hospitalized in Wichita in critical condition. Here is a link to a news account:  https://www.kake.com/story/42993718/man-dies-in-crash-caused-by-deer-in-pratt-county

By Jacob Stockinger

This Wednesday night, Dec. 9, the UW-Madison’s Wingra Wind Quintet (below, in 2017) will perform a FREE virtual online concert from 7:30 to 9 p.m.

Here is a direct link to the pre-recorded video premiere on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/e1NhVZJW2cA

Due to the pandemic, the Wingra Wind Quintet has been unable to perform chamber music in a traditional way since March 2020. (You can hear the quintet play “On, Wisconsin” in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

In response, the quintet put together a program that allowed each member to record parts separately and have those parts edited together.

Current faculty members (below) are: Conor Nelson, flute; Lindsay Flowers, oboe; Alicia Lee, clarinet; Marc Vallon, bassoon; and Devin Cobleigh-Morrison, horn

The engineer/producer is Kris Saebo.

The program is: 

The first piece “Allegro scherzando” from Three Pieces by Walter Piston (below, 1894-1976)

The Chaconne from the First Suite in E-flat for Military Band by Gustav Holst (below, 1874-1934)

“Retracing” by Elliott Carter (below, 1908-2012)

Selections from “Mikrokosmos” by Bela Bartok (below, 1881-1945)

“A 6 letter letter” by Elliott Carter

Intermezzo from the First Suite in E-flat for Military Band by Gustav Holst

“Esprit rude/esprit doux” by Elliott Carter

Since its formation in 1965, the Wingra Wind Quintet at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Mead Witter School of Music has established a tradition of artistic and teaching excellence.

The ensemble has been featured in performance at national conferences such as MENC (Miami), MTNA (Kansas City), and the International Double Reed Society (Minneapolis). 

The quintet also presented an invitational concert on the prestigious Dame Myra Hess series at the Chicago Public Library, broadcast live on radio station WFMT.

In addition to its extensive home state touring, the quintet has been invited to perform at numerous college campuses, including the universities of Alaska-Fairbanks, Northwestern, Chicago, Nebraska, Western Michigan, Florida State, Cornell, the Interlochen Arts Academy, and the Paris Conservatoire, where quintet members offered master classes.

The Wingra Wind Quintet has recorded for Golden Crest, Spectrum, and the UW-Madison Mead Witter School of Music recording series and is featured on an educational video entitled Developing Woodwind Ensembles.

Always on the lookout for new music of merit, the Wingra has premiered new works of Hilmar Luckhardt, Vern Reynolds, Alec Wilder, Edith Boroff, James Christensen and David Ott. The group recently gave the Midwest regional premiere of William Bolcom’s “Five Fold Five,” a sextet for woodwind quintet and piano, with UW-Madison pianist Christopher Taylor (below).

New York Times critic Peter Davis, in reviewing the ensemble’s Carnegie Hall appearance, stated “The performances were consistently sophisticated, sensitive and thoroughly vital.”

The Wingra Wind Quintet is one of three faculty chamber ensembles in-residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Mead Witter School of Music. 

Deeply committed to the spirit of the Wisconsin Idea, the group travels widely to offer its concerts and educational services to students and the public in all corners of the state. (Editor’s note: For more about the Wisconsin Idea, which seems more relevant today than ever, go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wisconsin_Idea.)

Portions of this recording were made at the Hamel Music Center, a venue of the Mead Witter School of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

 


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The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra cancels its first Masterworks concert and launches an online virtual Winter Chamber Series in January

November 22, 2020
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By Jacob Stockinger

With the surge in the coronavirus pandemic, the dominos are starting to fall again — this time for the spring series of live, in-person concerts that had been planned.

Friday night brought important news from the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below, in photo by Mike Gorski).

The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (WCO) has canceled its first Masterworks concert, with guest cellist Amit Peled, in late January. In its place the WCO is launching its first-ever digital Winter Chamber Series.

The virtual, online series of digital concerts will feature the ensemble’s 34 players in smaller groups of four to eight, That will be safer for both players and audiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Four home-viewable virtual online concerts are planned: Jan. 22, Feb. 26, March 26, and April 16. Programs are not available except for the first concert.

Also included are a pre-concert talk with WCO music director and maestro Andrew Sewell (below top, in a photo by Alex Cruz) and Wisconsin Public Radio host Norman Gilliland (below bottom), and post-concert reflections with musicians of the WCO.

The ticket price for each concert, which will run 60-75 minutes, is $30 per household. A ticket entitles you to one viewing of the concert between Friday, Jan. 22, and Monday, Jan. 25. The concert will start streaming at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.

Patrons who have already purchased season subscription tickets can apply that to the full series of four concerts.

Tickets are available online at the Overture Center box office. See below.

The program for the first Winter Chamber Concert on Jan. 22 is:

Four Canzonas by the Baroque Italian composer Giovanni Gabrieli (below):

“Tzigane” (a term for music by Hungarian gypsies or Romani) for Wind Quintet by the contemporary American composer Valerie Coleman (below):

The first movement of the famed String Quintet in C major, D. 956, by the Austrian Romantic composer Franz Schubert (below):

Four Octets by the 20th-century American composer and jazz musician Alec Wilder (below), which you can sample in the YouTube video at the bottom.

To see more background about the composers, more details about the concert and purchase tickets, go to: https://www.overture.org/events/wco-chamber-series

You can also check out the series as it progressively gets announced on the WCO home website: https://wcoconcerts.org/concerts-tickets/winter-chamber-series

The concert series sounds like a terrific substitution for the regular concerts that cannot yet take place.

But The Ear wonders if the price per concert is a bit steep, given that comparable concerts by UW-Madison Mead Witter School of Music , the Wllly Street Chamber Players and Just Bach are free – although they do ask for donations — and that the Madison Opera charged $50 for its entire fall digital series while the Wisconsin Union Theater charges between $10 and $20 per virtual concert.

The Ear likes the eclectic programming, but also thinks it is kind of teasing and unsatisfying to offer just the first movement of such an organic masterpiece and profoundly beautiful work as the Schubert Cello Quintet. Doing one movement of a chamber music work somehow seems very different from doing one movement of a symphony.

It would also be nice to see the programs for all the concerts plus a series discount as an incentive.

What do you think about the WCO’s Winter Chamber Series?

What do you think about the price and the programming?

The Ear wants to hear.

 


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Classical music: The Oakwood Chamber Players open its new season with “Weekend Stroll” this Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

September 16, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Oakwood Chamber Players (below) will give the kickoff of their 2015-2016 concert series when they present their first concert of the season: Weekend Stroll on this Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

Oakwood Chamber Players 2015-16

The program will include a two-movement trio from early 20th-century American composer Amy Beach (below), Pastorale and Caprice, for flute, clarinet and piano, subtitled “Watersprites.”

Amy Beach BW 1

Also on the program is the jazz-influenced Suite for horn, clarinet and piano by American composer Alec Wilder (below top). You can hear the work in a YouTube video at the bottom.

Norwegian composer and famed violinist Ole Bull’s best known work, Dairy Maid’s Sunday, arranged by Edvard Grieg, will be performed on violin, viola and cello.

Sonata en Trio for flute, clarinet and piano by French composer Maurice Emmanuel (below bottom, in 1930) takes listeners from a movement of folk-like melodies to a contemplative theme to a dazzling scherzo close.

Alec Wilder

Maurice Emmanuel in1930

Chicago-based composer James Stephenson (below) wrote five short movements for his chamber piece Thinking in 2007. He gives the performers clever and creative musical lines that link to his whimsical movement titles such as: “Outside the Box,” “Twice” and “It’s Over.” The music is vital and virtuosic and at times a bit jazzy. It showcases violin, cello, clarinet, bassoon, piano and trumpet.

James Stephenson composer

The concerts are this weekend: Saturday, Sept. 19 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 20 at 1:30 p.m. Both concerts will be held at the Oakwood Center for Arts and Education, 6209 Mineral Point Road, on Madison’s far west side.

This is the first of five concerts in the Oakwood Chamber Players 2015-2016 season series titled “Play.” Remaining concerts include Holiday Fun on Nov. 29 (two performances), Fairy Tales and Other Stories on Jan. 16 and 17 (2016), Children’s Games on March 5 and 6 (2016) and Summer Splash on May 14 and 15 (2016).

For a previous post abut the Oakwood Chamber Players’ new season, see:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/08/11/classical-music-the-oakwood-chamber-players-announces-its-new-season-for-2015-16/

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

Tickets are available at the door and $20 general admission, $15 seniors and $5 students. Visit www.oakwoodchamberplayers.com for more information.

The Oakwood Chamber Players is a professional music ensemble proudly supported by Oakwood Lutheran Senior Ministries and the Oakwood Foundation.


Classical music: The Oakwood Chamber Players announces its new season of serious “Play” for 2015-16.

August 11, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Oakwood Chamber Players (below) has announced its new season for 2015-16. It has the theme of serious “Play.”

Oakwood Chamber Players 2015-16

As usual, the eclectic programs feature well-known masterpieces but also neglected repertoire and new music. Notice that you don’t see anything by Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johannes Brahms, Antonin Dvorak, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel and many other standard composers on this season. That is unusual — and most welcome!

All concerts take place on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons in the Oakwood Village West auditorium (below) – now known as the Oakwood Center for Arts and Education — at 6201 Mineral Point Road, on Madison’s far west side.

For more information about the players, the programs, the group’s history and individual or season tickets, visit: http://www.oakwoodchamberplayers.com

Oakwood Village Auditorium and Stage

Here is the press release:

“The Oakwood Chamber Players welcomes you to our 2015-16 season, which promised to be FUN! We often refer to our work in music as “play,” and this season we look forward to sharing the fun with you.

“Our concerts will stir memories of fun and games in the outdoors! Join us for musical performances that contemplate the beauty and pleasure of nature. This season will lift your spirits and please your ears. We love to play for you … now come play with us!

Oakwood Village Players on playground

WEEKEND STROLL

Saturday, Sept. 19, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 20, at 1:30 p.m.

Amy Beach (below) – Pastorale and Caprice for flute, cello and piano

Ole Bull/Edvard Grieg – Dairy Maid’s Sunday for violin, viola and cello

Alec WilderSuite for clarinet, horn and piano

Amy Beach BW 1

HOLIDAY FUN

Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015 at 1 and 3:30 p.m.

Annual Christmas Lights Concert

ChristmasTreeBranch.j

FAIRY TALES AND OTHER STORIES

Saturday, Jan. 16, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 17, at 1:30 p.m.

Malcolm Arnold (below) – Quintet for violin, viola, flute, horn and bassoon

Elisenda Fábregas – Voces de mi Tierra (Voices of My Land) for flute, cello and piano

Robert Schumann — Fairy Tales, Op. 132 for clarinet, viola and piano

malcolm arnold

CHILDREN’S GAMES

Saturday, March 5, at 7 p.m. and Sunday March 7, at 1:30 p.m.

Irving Fine (below, at Tanglewood in 1956) – One Two Buckle My Shoe for oboe, clarinet, violin and cello

Georges BizetJeux d’Enfants for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn

Jack GallagherAncient Evenings & Distant Music for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn

Irving Fine at Tanglewood 1956

SUMMER SPLASH

Saturday, May 14, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, May 15, at 1:30 p.m.

Franz SchubertTrout Quintet for violin, viola cello, bass and piano

Samuel BarberSummer Music for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn (heard at bottom in a YouTube video)

Craig Bohmler – Six Pieces After Shakespeare for flute, oboe, clarinet, horn and bass


Classical music: SUNDAY afternoon Edgewood College mezzo-soprano Kathleen Otterson will perform a recital of songs by Schubert, Gustav and Alma Mahler, Berlioz, Rossini, Gershwin, Alec Wilder, Andre Previn and others. Plus, Ilona Kombrink memorial is set for Oct. 20.

September 10, 2013
3 Comments

ALERT: Edgewood College teacher and mezzo-soprano Kathleen Otterson, a loyal reader and friend of The Ear, writes: “There will be a memorial concert for the UW-Madison soprano and voice professor Ilona Kombrink (below), who died last month and with whom I was privileged to study, on Sunday, October 20, at 3 p.m., at the Capitol Lakes Retirement Community’s Grand Hall. We are very early in the planning stages, but we hope that former students and colleagues will perform or speak on the program. More information will follow soon.”

Ilona Kombrink color

By Jacob Stockinger

Edgewood College mezzo-soprano and voice professor Kathleen Otterson will perform a song recital this coming Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive. Admission is $7 to benefit the music scholarship fund at Edgewood.

Otterson writes:

“I am dedicating this concert to my former teacher, the UW-Madison soprano Ilona Kombrink who died last month. But the program is a collage of things I performed on two concerts in Bayfield this summer — hence its title: “What I Did With My Summer Vacation.”

The pianist is Edgewood College coach and accompanist Susan Goeres (below top, on the right with Otterson on the left) . Flutist Elizabeth Marshall (below bottom), who performs in the Black Marigold wind quintet, teaches at Edgewood College, UW-Platteville and Madison Area Technical College and who is the second flute of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, will also participate.

Kathleen Otterson (l) and pianist Susan Goeres

Elizabeth Marshall flute

Describing the major works to be performed, Otterson continues: “Of particular interest, I think, is the Andre Previn piece: “Two Remembrances,” written for Sylvia McNair and first performed by her at the Tanglewood Festival in 1995. The intermingling of the alto flute and the voice is really remarkable, with the flute providing the second voice in the evocative dialogue. 

andre previn color

McNairSylvia2

“Ilona had a special fondness for the “Rueckert-lieder” of Gustav Mahler (below top), and I was fortunate to work on these wonderful songs with her for my graduate recital.

“The poems of Friedrich Rueckert held deep personal meaning for Mahler, and these songs are very much more intimate than the better-known “Wunderhorn Songs.””Ich atmet einen Lindenduft” is included in the program, paired with a song by Alma Schindler Mahler (below bottom) composed at around the same time: “Laue Sommernacht” (performed in a YouTube video at the bottom with some good listener comments.)

Gustav Mahler big

Alma Mahler

“Rossini’s song cycle “La Regatta Veneziana” tells the story of the historical Venetian Regatta, which takes place each year on the waters of the Grand Canal (below) at the beginning of September (this year it was on Sunday, September 1).

“Along with a spectacular procession of elaborately carved boats and costumed participants, there is a race – the subject of the song cycle, as the young girl Anzoletta watches anxiously for her lover Momolo, offering scorn if he fails to win and kisses if he succeeds.

Grand Canal, Venice

“Three songs from the beautiful “Nuits d’été” (Summer Nights) by Hector Berlioz (below) round out the program. They are not specifically about “summer” but instead seem to be summertime musings, both sweet and bitter, settings of texts by Théophile Gautier. Musically, they are everything from playful to melancholy in character.

berlioz

“Parking at Edgewood is free and the Chapel is accessible to all.”


Classical music news: UW-Madison hornist Daniel Grabois will pay homage to his department with his recital on Wednesday night.

February 3, 2012
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

The second semester of the University of Wisconsin School of Music’s Faculty Concert Series opens mid-week next week, on Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. in Morphy Hall.

The FREE and PUBLIC series begins with a recital by UW-Madison hornist Daniel Grabois (a Roumanian name pronounced gra-BOY) who is just in his second year of teaching in Madison.

Grabois (below, in a photo by James Gill) agreed to  Q&A in which he talks about the special program he has chosen to play to pay homage to his department and predecessors, and how satisfied he is with his teaching post and performing life:

Your recital program is intended to pay homage to the horn department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where you now teach and also perform with the Wisconsin Brass Quintet. Can you elaborate on that, and on your view of the UW horn department and how it compares to other places you have taught?

Perhaps what has distinguished the horn teaching at UW is: first, the quality of the teaching; and secondly, the longevity of the teachers. My immediate predecessor, Douglas Hill, started teaching here in 1974 when I was finishing up fourth-grade, and he retired last year. I am only the fourth horn professor in the UW School of Music’s history.

Beyond that, however, every place I have taught employs adjunct professors, who are in and out of school quickly, without being a real on-site presence for their students. Having a full-time faculty makes a very special situation for UW students: They can find their professor in his or her office, ready to help by listening, talking, giving advice, or whatever. A student can run in and play through audition material. The faculty members are a resource for the students.

Can you give a brief description of what listeners should look for or pay attention to in each piece, and how each piece fits into the overall theme?

I’ll go in program order.

The piece by Alec Wilder (below) uses a language that I would call almost jazz. You can feel the jazz bubbling beneath the surface (in the third movement, it actually comes to the surface). The piece was written for John Barrows, who taught at the UW (he was also the teacher of one of my teachers). I love the piece because it is very approachable and fun but also a nicely structured piece of classical music.

The second piece is by Todd Hammes (below), the percussionist who is playing with me on the recital. After our first rehearsal, we were talking about – what else? – music, and I was telling him about an instrument I had sort of invented. I showed it to him, and he said “I have a piece we could play together and you could play that thing.” We tried it out, and it worked great, so I put it on the program. I love discovering things by accident like that. The piece itself is a simple slow meditation. If you want to see what the instrument is, you’ll have to come to the concert!

After that is a piece I wrote called “The Spikenard.” I wrote it as a solo horn piece, but in the concert Todd will be accompanying me on some really great drums from the Middle East. That fits perfectly with the flavor of the piece. I think of it as Middle Eastern chant meets rock and roll, for solo horn. Pretty odd idea, I know. I wrote the piece in little chunks backstage on tour waiting to go on stage.

After intermission, there are two pieces. The first requires a little explanation. I used to run a contemporary music degree program at Manhattan School of Music (below), and I had students with all kinds of creativity. One violinist had been an art major in college, and she found a way to fuse art and music by writing graphic scores.

These are basically sequences of pictures that you read from left to right and interpret musically as you please. They are beautiful to look at and are structured in a very “musical” way (for example, there might be a shape on the first page, that is repeated with variations on the second page and returns again on the seventh page). The composer’s name is Leah Asher, and I commissioned a graphic score from her for this concert, which will be the world premiere. I’ll be projecting the images on a big screen as I play the piece.

The last piece is by Doug Hill (below, in  photo by Katrin Talbot), who taught at UW from 1974 until his retirement last year. It’s a five movement work called “Song Suite in Jazz Style.” It’s written for horn and piano, but I decided to have Todd play drum set to make it even more in a jazz style. It’s very fun to play and very fun to listen to.

In summary: a piece written for my predecessor’s predecessor, a piece written by my predecessor, a piece I wrote, a piece I commissioned, and I piece I discovered here through collaboration.

What current or upcoming projects are you involved in?

Lots. This coming summer, I’ll be writing a brass quintet for the Wisconsin Brass Quintet, which is the faculty ensemble I play in. I also have been in the Meridian Arts Ensemble (below top)  for the last 24 years. It’s a brass quintet plus percussion. With that group, I just finished recording 3 CDs (yes, three of them), and we’ll be editing and releasing them. I’m also working with another faculty member at UW, trombone professor Mark Hetzler (below bottom, in a photo by Katrin Talbot), on writing and playing tunes that involve lots of electronics and lots of groove. When we get together, it’s like two kids messing around with fun stuff.

How have you found Madison as place to live, to teach and to perform in the year since you arrived here? High points? Low points?

I love it. There’s lots to do. Believe it or not, this is my first full-time job – and I’m 47 years old. I have always been a freelancer with about a million different jobs all put together in a crazy patchwork schedule. Now, I wake up, eat breakfast, and go to work. Have you ever heard of such a thing? I hadn’t.

Anyway, I don’t feel like I’ve hit any low points yet, knock on wood. My students are incredibly talented and motivated, the faculty is wonderful, the city is great, my family is happy, and I eat Thai noodle soup for lunch two or three times a week. I’ve been dealt a royal flush!

What else would you like to say about the horn department, your recital, your life and career here, or the classical music scene in Madison?

I would like to speak more generally. Across the country, classical music is in grave trouble. Orchestras are folding, musicians are out of work, people aren’t going to concerts. Please note that this seems not to be the case, thank God, in Madison. But, as an educator, I have to look at my students’ futures.

We classical musicians need to figure out what our purpose is, what the role of serious music is in society. We need to play music that is enjoyable, yes, but that stretches people, makes them see (and hear) the world in a richer way, opens them to experience bigger than themselves and to see the connections between things. In a tiny way, I’m hoping to do that in my concert.

I want to thank my two performer collaborators, Todd Hammes (percussion) and Kirstin Ihde (piano, and she’s a graduate student who REALLY gets the job done), and Leah Asher (below), who wrote me a really cool piece, and all my fellow faculty members who have been so supportive in my first year at the UW.


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