The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: UW’s Pro Arte Quartet and new UW clarinet professor Alicia Lee perform a sublime all-Mozart program

September 30, 2017
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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. 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 hosts an early music show once a month on Sunday morning on WORTFM 89.9 FM. For years, he served on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.

By John W. Barker

The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s acclaimed Pro Arte Quartet has begun its 2017-18 season amid uncertainties.

The most notable one is the current indisposition of cellist Parry Karp, whose injury to two fingers of his left hand has prevented him from playing for the immediate future.

Quartet members (below in a photo by Rick Langer) are, from left, David Perry and Suzanne Beia, first and second violins; Sally Chisholm, viola: and Parry Karp, cello.

But the group has pressed on bravely, offering an all-Mozart concert last Sunday night in Mills Hall.

The first of two works was the buoyant but challenging String Quartet in G Major, K. 387. Replacing Karp was a guest cellist, Jean-Michel Fonteneau (below right and bottom), who is familiar to Madison audiences from his many appearances with the San Francisco Trio for the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society’s summer concerts.

Fonteneau played elegantly and fitted into the ensemble quite smoothly. And the other three players performed with their accustomed precision and style.

But just one personnel change makes a difference. Clearly missing was the robust tone and firm foundation that Karp has imparted to the ensemble’s playing for so long.

If the G major Quartet is a Mozartean model of its kind, we move to Olympian heights with the Quintet in A for Clarinet and Strings, K. 581 — a chamber work (below) with only the tiniest number of peers in this scoring.

Joining the quartet this time was a new UW-Madison faculty member, clarinetist Alicia Lee (below).

Petite but totally confident, Lee brought to the string ensemble not the edgy aggressiveness so often heard from clarinetists but rather a glowing mellowness that balanced neatly with the string sounds.

The loveliest moments seemed to me to be the slower passages, and the exquisite slow movement was truly ethereal. (You can hear the Larghetto slow movement, played by clarinetist Anthony McGill and the Pacifica Quartet, in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Preceding the concert was an announcement by Linda Graebner of the consolidation of the Pro Arte Quartet Forward Fund, which is seeking to raise an major endowment for the quartet.

Bolstered by that effort, then, the PAQ is some five years into its second century, determined from many sides to cope with its uncertainties.

NOTE: The Pro Arte Quartet’s next performance is this coming Thursday: a FREE performance at NOON in Mills Hall of the String Quintet No. 1 in G Major, Op. 111, by Johannes Brahms. Jean-Michel Fonteneau will again be the cellist and the guest artist is the internationally renowned violist Nobuko Imai (below). Imai will also give a FREE and PUBLIC master class in strings and chamber music on Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall.

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Classical music: Pianist Gabriela Montero plays music by Schubert and Schumann and then does her own spontaneous improvisations this Saturday night at the Wisconsin Union Theater

February 8, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

Pianist Gabriela Montero (below, in a photo by Shelley Mosman) will perform in Shannon Hall at the Wisconsin Union Theater on this Saturday night, Feb. 11, at 8 p.m. Montero last performed in Madison with the Madison Symphony Orchestra and wowed the house at the Overture Center.

On this Friday, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. in Mills Hall, Montero will also hold a master class, FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

gabriela-montero-2017-shelley-mosman

Here are ticket prices for her recital: UW-Madison students are $10; Union members and non-UW students are $42, $38 and $25; UW-Madison faculty and staff are $44, $40 and $25; the general public is $46, $42 and $25; and young people 18 and under are $20.

Tickets can be bought online; by phone at 608-265-ARTS (2787); or in person — see locations and hours here.

The first half of Montero’s program features the first set of Four Impromptus, Op. 99, D. 899, by Franz Schubert and the playfully Romantic “Carnival” by Robert Schumann.

After intermission, the former prodigy will perform the spontaneous improvisations – usually on themes suggested by the audience – that she is acclaimed for.

According to The New York Times, “[Gabriela] Montero’s playing has everything: crackling rhythmic brio, subtle shadings, steely power in climactic moments, soulful lyricism in the ruminative passages and, best of all, unsentimental expressivity.”

Here she is performing the third Schubert impromptu, in G-flat major, in the set of four that she will play here:

Montero was born in Venezuela and gave her first performance to a public audience at the age of five. When she was eight, she made her concerto debut in Caracas, which led to a scholarship for private study in the United States.

Montero played with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist Itzhak Perlman and clarinetist Anthony McGill at Barack Obama’s 2008 Presidential Inauguration.

She has been invited to perform with the world’s most respected orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Liverpool Philharmonic, Vienna Symphony and more, performing in the Kennedy Center, Avery Fisher Hall and Wigmore Hall, among others.

Celebrated for her ability to brilliantly improvise, compose and play new works, Montero is an award-winning and best-selling recording artist.

She has received the Bronze Medal at the Chopin Competition, two Echo Klassik Awards in 2006 and 2007, and a Grammy nomination for her Bach and Beyond follow-up Baroque work in 2008.

She participated in the 2013 Women of the World Festival in London and spoke at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. She has also been recognized as a composer for her Piano Concerto No. 1.

In the YouTube video at the bottom you can hear Montero improvise on a famous melody by Sergei Rachmaninoff in the style of Johann Sebastian Bach.

This performance is presented by the Wisconsin Union Directorate’s Performing Arts Committee and was supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts. Media sponsors are WORT 89.9 FM and the UW-Madison student station WSUM 91.7 FM. 


Classical music: The Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble performs music by J.S. Bach, Handel, Purcell, Telemann and others this Sunday afternoon at 3. In Sunday night Con Vivo performs music by Prokofiev, Mozart, Bruch, Gershwin and others at the Stoughton Opera House.

February 6, 2015
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REMINDER: The Con Vivo! (music with life) chamber music ensemble (below) invites the public to its debut performance at the Stoughton Opera House on this coming Sunday night. The concert has been rescheduled to this Sunday evening due to the snowstorm last weekend.

Here are the details: Sunday, February 8, 2015, at 7:30 p.m.
Stoughton Opera House
381 E. Main St. Stoughton, WI
(608) 877-4400
Tickets are $20, $10 for an obstructed view and are available at www.stoughtonoperahouse.com

Here is the program:
Sergei Prokofiev: “Overture on Hebrew Themes” for Piano, string quartet and clarinet, Op.34
Max Bruch: “Romance” for Viola and Piano op. 85
Jay Ungar: “Ashokan Farewell” for violin and piano
John Williams – “Air and Simple Gifts” for violin, cello, clarinet and piano (It was performed by violinist Itzhak Perlman, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, clarinetist Anthony McGill and piano Gabriela Montero and others at President Barack Obama’s first inauguration.)
George Gershwin – Preludes for solo piano
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet, KV 581

Here is a link to the original post about the concert:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/01/29/classical-music-con-vivo-music-with-life-will-perform-chamber-music-by-mozart-gershwin-prokofiev-bruch-and-others-at-the-stoughton-opera-house-this-sunday-afternoon-before-kickoff/

Con Vivo core musicians

By Jacob Stockinger

The Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble will give a concert of baroque chamber music on this coming Sunday afternoon, February 8, at 3 p.m.

Madison Baroque Ensemble

The concert will take place in the historic Gates of Heaven synagogue located in downtown Madison, in James Madison Park at 300 East Gorham Street.

Gates of Heaven

Tickets are at the door only: $20, $10 for students.

For more information, call 238-5126 or info@wisconsinbaroque.org, or you can visit www.wisconsinbaroque.org.

Participating members in the concert – the veteran ensemble uses period instruments and historically informed performance practices — are:

Mimmi Fulmer – soprano

Brett Lipshutz – traverso

Eric Miller – viola da gamba, baroque cello

Consuelo Sañudo – mezzo-soprano

Monica Steger – traverso, harpsichord

Anton TenWolde – baroque cello

Max Yount – harpsichord

Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble composite

Here is the program:

Gabriel Bataille – “Sortez soupirs”

Henry Purcell – “Sweeter than roses”

Gabriel Bataille – “Que douce est la violence”

Georg Philipp Telemann – “Die Landlust”

Louis de Caix d’Hervelois – sonata for traverso and continuo

INTERMISSION

Benoît Guillemant – Sonata in D Major, Op. 2 Nr. 6 for two traversos

Johann Sebastian Bach – “Betörte Welt”

Giuseppe Sammartini – Sonata 3 for violoncello and continuo

George Frideric Handel – “Tanti Strali”

 

 


Classical music: Chicago’s South Side natives and inspirational brothers Anthony and Demarre McGill set an example for young African-Americans about the importance of classical music. Plus, Classical Revolution Madison performs Mozart and Schubert this morning.

March 3, 2013
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ALERT: Just a reminder that this morning from 11 a,m. to 1:20 p.m., members of Classical Revolution Madison (below) will perform a free concert a Fair Trade Coffee House, 418 State Street. The program includes the first movement of Franz Schubert‘s sublime cello Quintet in C Major; the first movement of Schubert’s “Arpeggione” Sonata in A Minor for cello as arranged for guitar and viola; “Deh Vieni” from the opera “Don Giovanni” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; and “Flow My Tears” by John Dowland.

Classical Revolution Madison

By Jacob Stockinger

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may remember that twice in the past month or so, I have written about the lack of African-American young people going into or at least studying classical music.

The first blog entry by me, written for Martin Luther King Jr. birthday holiday and the second Inauguration of President Barack Obama (below), brought in some great reader comments that you should be sure to read:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/classical-music-on-martin-luther-king-jr-day-and-president-barack-obamas-second-inauguration-day-the-ear-wonders-why-arent-there-more-african-american-players-in-and-audiences-fo/

obama

And then I wrote again about this on the occasion of Black History Month, which is held each February, and specifically linked to NPR’s story about conductor Marin Alsop rediscovering the classical side of jazz great James P. Johnson (below, in a photo by William Gottlieb).

Here is a link to that posting:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/classical-music-conductor-marin-alsop-helps-to-rediscover-jazz-master-james-p-johnson-as-a-serious-classical-musician-and-composer-of-symphonies

alsop_johnson

Now it turns out that I am hardly alone in thinking about this question and about how to draw young black students from hip-hop, rap, pop, R&D and jazz to classical music.

NBC reporter Ron Mott filed a terrific report, one that is even inspirational that aired this past week on the top-rated network news show, the NBC Evening News with Brian Williams.

It is a story about the very accomplished McGill brothers (below), originally from the South Side of Chicago – much in the news these days for gun violence. Their parents supported their music lessons and they played in the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra. (See the joint YouTube video at bottom.)

Brother Anthony is the principal Clarinet player in the prestigious Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.

Brother Demarre is the principal flute player in the well-known and highly respected Seattle Symphony Orchestra.

demarre and anthony-mcgill th egrio

Both brothers have played with many orchestras and performed a lot of chamber music, Both teacher and do outreach to schools as well as perform. Both won Avery Fisher grants – the only sibling ever to do so. And their list of accomplishments goes on and on.

Anthony and Demarre McGill performing

Both men speak not only musically with eloquence on their chosen instruments; they are also articulate spokesmen for why classical music can be beneficial and should be pursued by more black youth – and, I would add, by more black adults as audience members.

McGill brothers performing 2

In fact, they are so impressive, I think they should be invited again (Anthony played his clarinet at the first Inauguration) to The White House for a nationally broadcast concert of classical chamber music. What great role model they are for all young people, but especially African-American young people, who often either get negative press coverage or are ignored by the mainstream media.

Here is the report as it appeared on NBC  TV:

http://www.nbcnews.com/video/nightly-news/50964613#50964613

And here is the version that appeared on NBC’s website devoted to news and features about African-Americans called ‘The Grio” (the name is derived from the West African word for the tribal member who keeps oral history and is a “storyteller” who passes along music, poetry and drama as well as stories and news):

http://thegrio.com/2013/02/27/thegrios-100-anthony-mcgill-and-demarre-mcgill-brothers-making-it-big-in-classical-music/

You can keep up with the latest developments of the these two remarkable brothers. You can find a lot of their individual and joint performances and master classes by going to YouTube and typing their names in the search engine. It is well worth the effort, believe me, and was eye-opening.

You find yourself wondering: HOW CAN SUCH ADMIRABLE ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND INSPIRATIONAL HUMAN INTEREST ESCAPE THE NOTICE OF THE MAINSTREAM PRESS AND MEDIA FOR SO LONG? So thank you, Ron Mott, Brian Williams and the NBC crew.

And, most of all, thank Anthony and Demarre McGill and their parents!

You can also follow Anthony McGill on Twitter at @mcgillab


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