URGENT CORRECTION: The time for tonight’s performance of “Privilege” by the Madison Choral Project has been moved from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. due to noise from a nearby football game in Camp Randall Stadium. For more about the concert, go to:
THIS JUST IN: Hi Jake: We’ve got cellist Karl von Huene and bassist John Dowling at the Malt House, at 2609 East Washington Avenue on the corner of Milwaukee Street, again this Saturday, from 3-5 p.m. Karl says the pieces they’ll play are by J.S. Bach, W. A. Mozart, Arcangelo Corelli, S. Lee, F. J. Haydn, G.F. Handel, Dmitri Kabalevsky, and Francesco Durante. It should be fun! Cheers, Bill Rogers
BIG ALERT: This is a reminder that, in this busy week of music, one stand-out concert is by the Grammy Award-winning Los Angeles Guitar Quartet. It will perform the annual Fan Taylor Memorial Concert this Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Shannon Hall of the Wisconsin Union Theater. (You can hear a sample of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 they will play in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
The acclaimed quartet will perform music by Bach, Bizet, Debussy, and Villa-Lobos as well as 17th-century Spanish music from the age of the novelist Cervantes For more information about the group, the program and tickets ($10-$48), go to: https://union.wisc.edu/events-and-activities/event-calendar/event/los-angeles-guitar-quartet/
By Jacob Stockinger
The Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble will give a concert of baroque chamber music on Saturday night, April 22, at 7:30 p.m.
It will take place in Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 1833 Regent Street.
Members of the WBE are: Mimmi Fulmer, soprano; Nathan Giglierano, baroque violin; Brett Lipshutz, traverse flute; Eric Miller, viola da gamba; Sigrun Paust, recorder; Monica Steger, traverse flute and harpsichord; Anton TenWolde, baroque cello; and Max Yount, harpsichord.
The program includes:
Georg Philipp Telemann – Quartet for two traversi, recorder and basso continuo, TWV 43:d1
Mr. De Machy – Pièces de Violle, Suite No. 3 (Pieces for Viol)
Francesca Caccini – “Lasciatemi qui solo” (Leave me here alone)
Quentin – Trio Sonata for two traversi and basso continuo, Op. 13, No. 3
Johannes Hieronymus Kapsberger – “Interrotte Speranze” (Vain Hope)
Johann Christoph Pepusch – Trio Sonata for recorder, violin and basso continuo
Georg Philipp Telemann (below) – Nouveaux Quatuors (Paris Quartets), No. 6 in E minor
Giulio Caccini – “Odi, Euterpe” (Hear, Euterpe)
Tickets at the door are $20, $10 for students.
A post-concert reception will be held after the concert at 2422 Kendall Ave, second floor.
For more information, go to: www.wisconsinbaroque.org
By Jacob Stockinger
By any measure the opening concert last Friday night of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below) under music director Andrew Sewell was a complete and compelling success.
It left The Ear with several big lessons:
The Ear remembers hearing one of the first Compact Discs commercially available: a recording of the famous “Eroica” Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven performed by the popular chamber orchestra, the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields under its recently deceased founder and longtime conductor Sir Neville Marriner.
Was it going to be Beethoven Lite after all the versions from the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein and the Berlin Philharmonic under Herbert von Karajan?
Not at all.
It turned out that symphony orchestras are about power while chamber orchestras are about subtlety. The same work sounds very different when performed by the two different kinds of ensembles.
So it was with the Violin Concerto by Peter Tchaikovsky with Russian prize-winning soloist Ilya Kaler and conductor Andrew Sewell. The WCO players performed beautifully, and with the chamber orchestra you felt a balance and an intimacy between the soloist, the orchestra and conductor Sewell (below).
You could hear with more clarity or transparency the structure of the concerto and the dialogue of the violin with various orchestral sections – the flutes and clarinet stood out – that often get drowned out by bigger accompanying forces.
So when you see the same work programmed by the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, do not think of them as duplications you have to choose between. Go hear both. Listen for the differences. You will not be disappointed.
That’s what The Ear did and he came away enthralled and enchanted with this smaller-scale Tchaikovsky.
The world has more first-rate musical talent than ever. Ilya Kaler (below), the only violinist ever to win gold medals at the Tchaikovsky, Paganini and Sibelius competitions, is a case in point. We owe a big thanks to the WCO for finding and booking him. He is right up there with the American violinist Benjamin Beilman, whom the WCO booked last season.
Kaler’s playing was first-rate and world-class: virtuosic, both lyrical and dramatic, but also nuanced. His tone was beautiful and his volume impressive – and all this was done on a contemporary American violin made in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (You can hear Kaler play in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
The Ear says: Bring Kaler back – the sooner, the better. The Ear wants to hear him in violin concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach, Georg Philipp Telemann, Antonio Vivaldi and other Italian Baroque masters like Francesco Geminiani and Arcangelo Corelli. Classical-era concertos by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart would be wonderful. More Romantic concertos by Ludwig van Beethoven, Felix Mendelssohn, Nicolo Paganini, Johannes Brahms and Robert Schumann would also be great. And how about the Violin Concerto No. 2 by Sergei Prokofiev and the neo-Classical Violin Concerto by Igor Stravinsky?
But anything will do. Kaler is a violinist – he records for the Naxos label — we should hear more often. These days, we need fewer big stars and more fine talent that makes attendance affordable. The Ear will take young and talented cellists Alisa Weilerstein and Joshua Roman over such an overpriced celebrity as Yo-Yo Ma, great as he is.
The WCO opened with a rarely heard eight-minute work, the Symphony No. 5 in D Major, by Baroque English composer William Boyce (below top). It was enjoyable and The Ear is happy he heard it.
True, it comes off as second-rate Handel (below bottom). Why? Because as composer John Harbison explained so succinctly at the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival he co-directs here every summer, the music by George Frideric Handel has a hard-to-explain “heft.” Just a few notes by Handel make memorable music that somehow sticks in your memory.
So The Ear heard the pleasantness of Boyce and ended up appreciating even more the greatness of Handel. What a two-fer!
The rarely played Symphony No. 4 “Tragic” by Franz Schubert received an outstanding reading. But it ended the concert and left the audience sitting in its seats.
The Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, by contrast, got an immediate standing ovation and an encore – a wonderful rendition of an unaccompanied Gavotte by Johann Sebastian Bach — and they ended the first half triumphantly.
Maybe the Schubert and Tchaikovsky should have been reversed in order. Or else, what about programming a really energetic symphony by Mozart or Beethoven to end the concert on an upbeat note. Just a thought.
If you went to the season-opener by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, what thoughts and impressions did you have?
Do you agree or disagree with The Ear?
The Ear wants to hear.
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 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.
By John W. Barker
The Willy Street Chamber Players (below) gave the second concert of their 2016 season on Friday night at Immanuel Lutheran Church, 1021 Spright Street, on Madison’s near east side.
The program might have been called the “three Sch-es” in view of the alphabetical incipits of the three composers involved.
The first item was titled The Violinists in My Life, composed in 2011 by Laura Schwendinger (below), the American composer currently on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.
The Belgian violin virtuoso and composer Eugène Ysaÿe set an example with his set of six Sonatas, Op. 27, for solo violin, each one a tribute to a great musician with whom he had worked. So Schwendinger composed five pieces for violin and piano, each one a kind of character piece about violinists with whom she has had fruitful contact.
The style can be sharp and abrupt, but there is a clear individuality to each piece, evoking the different personalities. The first of the five is dedicated to UW-Madison alumna Eleanor Bartsch (below), one of our Willys, and she played the whole set, deeply engaged in it, with pianist Thomas Kasdorf, also a graduate of the UW-Madison.
Kasdorf (below) joined another of the group’s violinists, Paran Amirinazari, who also graduated from the UW-Madison, in a rarely heard late work by Franz Schubert, the Fantasie in C Major (D.934).(You can hear it played by violinist Benjamin Beilman, who has performed with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
Schubert’s compositions for violin and piano are rarely heard in concerts these days, but this one has particular interest in that its latter portion is another of the composers set of variations on one of his own songs—in this case, the beautiful Sei mir gegrüsst. The total piece has a lot of lively passage work, which Amarinazari played with a mix of flair and affection.
The crowning work was that extraordinary string sextet by Arnold Schoenberg (below), Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night). Composed in 1899 at the beginning of the composer’s career, it catches him still emerging from Late Romantic sensibilities, a good way before his radical move into the 12-tone idiom he created.
The score is just a trifle longish for the musical content, but its gorgeous chromatic richness is irresistible. It was inspired by a poem of Richard Dehmel, and both the original German text and an English translation were supplied to the audience, an interesting touch.
Above all, however, the performance was glowing, avoiding too much sentimental lushness, but conveying the emotionally charged writing with beautiful balance.
A clever touch, too, was the sitting pattern chosen, with the two violas facing the two violins and the two cellos in the rear—allowing the recurrent interaction between the first violin and first viola to emerge more clearly.
In sum, this was another wonderful session of first-class music-making by this remarkable assemblage of young talent.
NOTE: A program of music by Ludwig vanBeethoven, Philip Glass and Dmitri Shostakovich will be given next Friday at Immanuel Lutheran, but at NOON; and then that evening (at 8:30 p.m.) the group will participate in a special performance of George Crumb’s “Black Angels” — with an accompanying video — at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art in the Overture Center.
The final Friday evening concert will be back at Immanuel Lutheran, at 6 p.m. on Friday, July 29, with music by Baroque composer Arcangelo Corelli (Concerto Grosso), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Clarinet Quintet), and George Enescu (Octet).
ALERT: Late news comes that pianist Joyce Yang will give a FREE and PUBLIC master class for the UW-Madison School of Music on Wednesday from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Play Circle of the Wisconsin Union Theater. On Thursday at 8 p.m. in Shannon Hall of the Wisconsin Union Theater, Yang will perform a solo recital of music by Domenico Scarlatti, Claude Debussy, Isaac Albeniz, Alberto Ginastera and Sergei Rachmaninoff. For more information about Joyce Yang, the concert and tickets, visit:
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 for 12 years hosted an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT-FM 89.9. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.
By John W. Barker
The Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble (below) opened its new season in Madison with a fine concert at the Gates of Heaven on Saturday night.
As always, the program was varied in contents and in performer involvements.
Running as a thread throughout was the artistry of University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music professor and soprano Mimmi Fulmer (below center left, in a photo by John W. Barker) and mezzo-soprano Consuelo Sañudo (below center right), a familiar team.
At intervals, they sang a pair of madrigals by Girolamo Frescobaldi (most familiar as a keyboard composer); an extended setting by Marc-Antoine Charpentier of the Miserere Psalm, with concluding lines added from the Lamentations of Jeremiah; and an Ave Maria by the really obscure Dutch composer Benedictus Buns (c.1642-1716), also known as Benedictus a Sancto Josepho.
The instrumentalists (Nathan Giglierano, Mary Parkinson, violins; Brett Lipshutz and Monica Steger, flutes; Eric Miller, gamba; plus cellist Anton TenWolde and Max Yount, harpsichord, as continuo) joined with them variously as appropriate, to lovely effects.
At one extreme of texture, violinist Perkinson, supported by continuo, played a richly demanding sonata by Johann Heinrich Schmelzer. At the other extreme, all the players joined in for a vivacious finale with excerpts from the Suite in E minor from the first book of Georg Philipp Telemann’s Musique de Table (Tafelmusik) anthologies.
For me, however, and I think for a lot of the good-sized audience, the real high point of the program came just after the intermission, when the two violinists, with continuo, gave an absolutely smashing rendition of the Follia Sonata, the last of the 12 Trio Sonatas, Op. 1, by Antonio Vivaldi. (Below in an ensemble shot by John W. Barker.)
In this tour de force of writing, Vivaldi surpassed his model, Arcangelo Corelli’s Violin Sonata Op. 5, No. 12, whose 19 variations, cascade one virtuosic extravagance after another. (You can hear the Vivaldi’s “La Follia” sonata in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
Fabulous Late Baroque music, fabulously played!
The WBE has been giving these concerts for the past 18 years. They continue to be unpretentious but thoroughly satisfying programs of Baroque chamber music in an appropriate chamber setting. Long may they continue!
The group’s next concert in Madison will be on Sunday, Nov. 29, at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.
For more information visit: http://www.wisconsinbaroque.org
By Jacob Stockinger
Since then the MBM has turned in many memorable performances of cantatas and concertos by Bach and other early music on period instruments, including works by Antonio Vivaldi, Arcangelo Corelli and George Frideric Handel.
But this Easter weekend will bring a special treat.
The Madison Bach Musicians, will partner with the Madison Choral Project, under Albert Pinsonneault, to perform Bach’s magnificent and monumental Mass in Minor.
Performances are at on this Friday night at 8 pm. in the First Congregational United Church of Christ. And on Saturday night at 8 p.m. in the Atrium Auditorium of the First Unitarian Society of Madison at 900 University Bay Drive, near UW Hospital.
Advance tickets are $20 for adults; $15 for students and seniors over 65; at the door, $25 and $20, respectively. For more information about how to buy advance tickets, visit:
For more information about the music and the performers, visit:
Stephenson (seen below, in a pre-concert lecture in a photo by Kent Sweitzer), who is a knowledgeable, articulate and entertaining speaker about Baroque music, agreed to an email Q&A about the Mass in B Minor.
Musicians often talk about their “desert island piece”— the work they would most want to have at hand if they were forced to live on a desert island. For me, the B minor Mass has always been my desert island piece. (But if I could sneak in the Well-Tempered Clavier too, that would be great.)
The Passions are incomparable investigations into the relationship between the human embodiment of divine spirit and the dark machinations of this world. The Passions are also Bach’s great statements on the importance of self-sacrifice for the greater good of love. (Jesus gave up his life for love of us, and we should in turn give of ourselves to that which we love.)
The Cantatas are the laboratory where Bach worked out–on a nearly weekly basis–the fusion of musical and textual material toward a spiritual end.
The Mass in B minor focuses more on the relationship between—and really the joining of–the metaphysical and the everyday. Just as an example, as Bach expert John Eliot Gardiner (below) points out in his wonderful new book, “Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven,” look how the opening of the Credo fuses the gravitas, dignity, and mysticism of plainchant (in the voices) with the elegant, bubbling stride of the baroque bass line. And together these elements create a third thing, beyond themselves, a new joy. (At bottom is a YouTube video of the uplifting and joyous “Gloria” movement, performed by Karl Richter leading the Munich Bach Orchestra.)
Why did a devout Lutheran like Bach turn to a Roman Catholic musical form? Is it appropriate to the Easter season, like the Passions and certain cantatas? What kind of liberties does Bach take with it? How does he reinvent it, if he does?
In Bach’s family, the work was often referred to as “The great catholic mass”–precisely because it was not usual Lutheran practice to set the entire Latin mass. The first appearance of the Mass in B minor comes in 1733 when Bach and his family copied out a beautiful set of presentation parts for the Dresden court–which had not only one of the greatest orchestras and vocal ensembles in Europe, but was also a Catholic court.
I’ve always felt that Bach’s Mass in B minor is something of a reconciliation with the Catholic church after the spiritual and political upheaval of the 17th century and the devastation of the 30-years War.
The Mass in B minor, though it is certainly Christian, also points toward a more inclusive picture of humanity’s universal — the original meaning of catholic — spiritual quest. It is hard to quantify, but I feel there is something in this music that speaks to—and really helps and inspires–us all.
Why will Marc Vallon conduct it rather than you?
Marc and I have been working together for several years now. He has played several bassoon concertos with MBM; also with MBM he has conducted symphonies and concertos by Wolfgang Amadeus, Franz Joseph Haydn and Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach.
Marc, who now teaches and performs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, was principal baroque bassoon—for 20 years—with the internationally acclaimed Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra under Ton Koopman. And during that time Marc performed and recorded many of Bach’s Cantatas, Passions and the B minor Mass.
Marc’s tremendous performance background with the Mass, and his infectious enthusiasm for this timeless masterpiece make him perfectly suited to lead the rehearsals and the concerts. I really can’t wait to hear what happens on Friday and Saturday when these amazing musicians and Marc Vallon (below, in a photo by James Gill) and a great audience gather for the Mass in B minor.
What are the special aspects (one-on-one versus larger chorus, for example, or the Madison Choral Project or the period instruments and practices) that you would like to point out about this performance?
The Madison Choral Project is providing a 17-voice choir for the Mass in B minor concerts. In this work, since Bach usually uses a five-part choral texture (soprano I, soprano II, alto, tenor, bass), this comes to about three voices per part, depending on how things are distributed in a particular moment.
In two movements of the Mass (first Credo and Confiteor), we’ll have the soloists sing one-voice-per-part.
The orchestra will consist of 25 players, all on period instruments: 12 strings, 2 baroque oboes, 2 baroque flutes, 2 baroque bassoons, natural horn, 3 baroque trumpets, timpani, and continuo organ, which I what I will play. The balance between choir, soloists and orchestra should work out beautifully. (Below is the Madison Bach Musicians performing the “St. Matthew Passion” in a photo by Karen Holland.)
What should the public listen for in the mass both musically and performance-wise?
I would say notice how Bach contrasts grandeur with intimacy, metaphysical inquiry and prayer with rollicking celebration, and yet makes an exquisitely coherent whole. I think the Mass in B minor is a miracle of form.
Also, these concerts will feature an entirely period-instrument orchestra of outstanding baroque performance specialists hailing from throughout the United States — Madison, Milwaukee, Oshkosh, San Francisco, Chicago, New York City, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
The wonderful thing about playing this incomparable baroque masterwork on instruments that Bach was familiar with, is that the sound becomes fresh and energized in a way that is readily apparent. It really is a way of going Back to the Present!
The 18th-century instruments typically speak faster than their modern descendants — that is, the pitch actually forms more quickly, often by just a fraction of a second. But in music-making—especially very intricate baroque music-making—that fraction of a second can be the critical difference.
Bach’s absolutely amazing counterpoint in the Mass in B minor, which he often weaves effortlessly in 4 and even 5 independent parts is much more transparent when played on period instruments. You can peer more deeply into the infinite world of Bach’s fugues.
Period instruments are also set up to articulate quite deftly, that is, baroque instruments help the players define the shorter musical groupings of connected and non-connected notes. This in turn assists the audience in assimilating the elegant rhetorical shapes of Bach’s lines.
I will also preface both the concerts starting at 6:45 p.m. with a 30-minute lecture on period instruments (below is Stephenson discussing the keyboard action of an 18th-century fortepiano), approaches to singing baroque music, and the structure and history of the Mass in B minor.
Is there anything else you would like to say or add?
I’d like to say a bit about the two venues where we’ll perform the Mass in B minor. “Where is it?” is one of the first questions most people ask when they hear of an exciting upcoming musical event. Because–particularly for classical music–the acoustics really matter. And the feel of the place, the vibe, needs to be right too.
The sound will be rich and the mood will be spiritually focused on Friday and Saturday as the Madison Bach Musicians and the Madison Choral Project collaborate in two performances of J. S. Bach’s monumental masterpiece the Mass in B minor, BWV 232.
The Friday concert will be given in the magnificent setting of the sanctuary at First Congregational United Church of Christ, at 1609 University Avenue, a landmark building in Madison’s cultural life.
The Saturday concert will be in the acoustically brilliant Atrium Auditorium (below in a photo by Zane Williams) of the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive. The performances will feature a 24-piece period-instrument baroque orchestra, 5 outstanding vocal soloists, and a 17-voice professional choir from the Madison Choral Project.
Bach composed the Mass in B minor during the final 18 years of his life; adding, editing, and re-working it into his final year, 1750. The result is about 100 minutes of music that is instantly engaging, highly varied in its variety of ensemble and style, unified to the Nth degree, and structurally perfect. And somehow the Mass in B minor it is at once both magnificent and intimate.
The First Congregational United Church of Christ, with its neo-Georgian design (begun in 1928), captures the 18th-century ideals of dignified ambiance and sonic balance that Bach understood. The sound has tremendous detail, yet everything contributes to the warm cumulative tonal glow.
The much more recent Atrium Auditorium (below), built in 2008, at First Unitarian Society brings out the immediacy of the music-making. The sight lines are direct, and the acoustics brilliant; the audience feels very connected with the performers.
Both venues are absolutely perfect for period-instrument performance, which emphasizes the detail and vitality of the music rather than sheer decibels.
Seating is limited at both venues, so purchasing tickets in advance is highly recommended.
ALERT: This Saturday from noon to 1 p.m., Grace Episcopal Church (below), downtown on the Capitol Square at 116 West Washington Avenue, will present a FREE early music concert of works by J.S. Bach, Vivaldi, Corelli, Scarlatti and Handel by the Madison Bach Musicians under the direction of keyboardist Trevor Stephenson.
By Jacob Stockinger
The concert will open with a modern Concerto Grosso by the 20th-century Italian composer Vittorio Giannini, another of the WCO discoveries of neglected or unknown composers. Then the young and critically acclaimed cellist Joshua Roman will join the WCO (below) in Franz Joseph Haydn’s Cello Concerto in D Major. The concert will close with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s masterful Symphony No. 41 “Jupiter.”
Tickets are $15-$67 and can be obtained from the Overture Center box office 212 State Street or by calling (608_ 258-4141. You can also visit http://wcoconcerts.org/performances/masterworks/70/event-info/ http://ev12.evenue.net/cgi-bin/ncommerce3/SEGetEventList?groupCode=WCO_E&linkID=overture&shopperContext=&caller=&appCode=
Haydn and Mozart (below, left is Haydn and right is Mozart) are often mentioned in the same breath and the same sentences if they were identical or fraternal twins — much like Beethoven and Schubert, or Ravel and Debussy.
So The Ear really likes this kind of contrast-and-compare program that helps to underline the similarities and especially the differences between two composers who were contemporaries and sometimes even colleagues who learned from each other and played in the same string quartet. In that spirit, I recently asked WCO’s longtime music director Andrew Sewell (below) to discuss the program and especially the Classical-era composers whom he is so convincing at interpreting:
Haydn and Mozart are often lumped in together as Classical-era contemporaries. What makes each composer so distinctive? What makes Mozart, Mozart and Haydn, Haydn?
It’s a question of style. They both used classical conventions and were each experimenting constantly, seeing what worked for their audiences. Haydn (below top) was for the longest time confined to writing for a specific audience, at the Esterhazy Palace in Eisenstadt as opposed to Mozart (below bottom), who moved from Salzburg to Vienna, and spent time in Paris as well.
The geographical demands of each musical center framed, I think, the level of sophistication being determined by their audience and who they were writing for. Mozart’s symphonies written for the Parisian orchestra and audience had more virtuosity factored in. They had clarinets, and a slightly bigger wind section. They used “flash and sparkle.”
Haydn’s 12 symphonies commissioned by Salomon for the London Salon Concerts were more refined and experimental than before. Again the orchestra was larger, and he had top quality musicians at his disposal, achieving a greater level of virtuosity.
What can you tell us about the Concerto Grosso by Vittorio Giannini (below)? How did you find out about it and why are you attracted to him and to that work? Why do you think it is so little known and rarely performed?
I first conducted a work by Giannini with a high school orchestra in Salem, Oregon in 2012 while guest conducting the Salem Chamber Orchestra. It included several school visits as part of a week-long residency. The work was Prelude and Fugue for String Orchestra. I kept a copy of the score, and was both enchanted and curious about other works by this composer.
He was born in Philadelphia, was a prodigy on the violin and spent time studying at the Milan Conservatory and the Juilliard School. He founded the North Carolina School of the Arts, as a “Juilliard of the South,” in 1965. His music is both Romantic and Expressionist. He wrote five symphonies and five concertos and several radio operas in the 1930s. His father was an opera singer as were two of his sisters, who sang at the Metropolitan Opera.
After conducting the Prelude and Fugue, I was curious about his Concerto Grosso. It is Baroque in form as the title suggests but stylistically would remind one of Hindemith. Written in 1955, it reflects the current trends at the time that took music to more strident, poignant and angular sonorities.
I hope performing his music will rekindle interest in his music, and I may program his Prelude and Fugue at a later date. Why did I choose this piece? Because in contrast to the very familiar names of Haydn and Mozart, this presents the other extreme. In fact, with a name like Vittorio Giannini, one is apt to mistake him as a period equivalent to say, Handel or Vivaldi, and the composition is entitled Concerto Grosso!
What would you like to say about the young cello soloist Joshua Roman and how he came to your attention to book for the WCO?
I first heard Joshua Roman perform with the University of Wisconsin Symphony Orchestra in November of 2012, and was very impressed by him. He played the Dvorak Cello Concerto, and afterwards I asked him what he would like to play if he were to return to perform with the WCO? He chose Haydn. His pedigree is such that at the age of 22, he won the Principal Cello position with the Seattle Symphony. He did this for two years before embarking on a successful solo career. He is a very engaging performer who makes the cello literally “sing” when he plays.
Do you have any other programming plans in the works like this Haydn-Mozart program to “compare and contrast” major composers -– say with, perhaps, Beethoven and Schubert, Schumann and Brahms, Debussy and Ravel?
I think one is always putting together programs that compare and contrast each other. Whether consciously or otherwise, it’s what fits together in a balanced program. This Haydn-Mozart program wasn’t a conscious “compare and contrast” decision. It really stems from a more fundamental question of programming. Once you establish the soloist’s repertoire, it’s a matter of putting a program together within the context of the five-concert Masterworks season.
But you do raise a good point. I chose Mozart’s Symphony No. 41, as it is his last and, in my opinion, greatest symphony. The last movement (below in a popular YouTube video with more than 1 million hits) is incredible, particularly as it contains a fugue, the subject of which is introduced in a very subliminal way at end of the trio of the previous movement. It is pure genius and so joyful. In contrast, the genteel nature of the last movement of the Haydn Cello Concerto makes that piece seem jaunty in comparison. Yet they are both highly sophisticated pieces.
ALERT: Two early music friends who perform together as the Ensemble SDG, baroque violinist Edith Hines and UW harpsichordist and organist John Chappell Stowe, write to The Ear: “Ensemble SDG (below) is pleased to invite the public to our FREE upcoming performance on Wisconsin Public Radio‘s “Sunday Afternoon Live from the Chazen.” The recital will be this Sunday, October 6, from 12:30-2 p.m. in Brittingham Gallery III at the Chazen Museum of Art (750 University Avenue, Madison). It will be broadcast live on WPR’s News and Classical Music network (in the Madison area, 88.7 WERN) and streamed online here.
By Jacob Stockinger
This weekend will witness a landmark: It marks the opening of the 10th anniversary season of the Madison Bach Musicians.
In only a decade, the accomplished baroque ensemble (below) has risen to the fore of the many early music group in the area.
The MBM, under director and founder Trevor Stephenson will give two performances – on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon of a concert that features the acclaimed guest baroque violinist Marilyn McDonald (below), who tours widely and also teaches at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.
Stephenson is a masterful and humorous explainer and will also give a pre-concert lecture at each performance. Other MBM musicians include: Marilyn McDonald, Kangwon Kim, Brandi Berry, Mary Perkinson on baroque violins; Nathan Giglierano on baroque viola; Anton TenWolde on baroque cello’ and Trevor Stephenson on harpsichord. (You can hear MBM musicians play and talk in a News 3/Channel 3000 YouTube video from 2011 at the bottom.)
The program features: Georg Philipp Telemann’s Concerto in G major for Four Violins; George Frideric Handel’s Violin Sonata in G minor, HWV 364, and Trio Sonata in E major, Op. 2, No. 9, HWV 394; Jean-Marie Leclair’s Violin Duo in G minor; Johann Pachelbel Canon and Gigue in D major; J.S. Bach’s Contrapunctus 19 from The Art of Fugue (with B-A-C-H Fugue); and Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto in A minor for Two Violins, RV 522.
Performances are on Saturday, October 5, with a 7:15 p.m. lecture and 8 p.m. concert at the First Unitarian Society’s crisp Atrium Auditorium (below, in a photo by Zane Williams) at 900 University Bay Drive on Madison’s near west side; and on Sunday, October 6, with 2:45 p.m. lecture and 3:30 p.m. concert in Blessing Room of Madison’s Christian Community Church, 7118 Old Sauk Road on the far west side of Madison.
Advance tickets, cash or check only, are discounted and run $20 for general admission, $15 for students and seniors 65 and over; and are available at A Room of One’s Own; Farley’s House of Pianos; the east and west locations of the Willy Street Co-op; Orange Tree Imports; and Ward-Brodt Music Mall.
At the door, tickets are $25 for general admission and $20 for students and seniors.
For more information, call (608) 238-6092 or visit www.madisonbachmusicians.org
MORE ABOUT THE GUEST SOLOIST
Marilyn McDonald, a founding member of the Smithson Quartet and the Castle Trio, currently plays in the Axelrod Quartet in residence at the Smithsonian Institution; the Axelrod Quartet is named in honor of the donor of the decorated Stradivarius instruments on which the quartet performs.
She has toured world-wide as a chamber musician playing repertoire ranging from baroque to contemporary, appearing at Alice Tully Hall, the Metropolitan Museum, the Frick Gallery, the Caramoor, Utrecht and Mostly Mozart Festivals, Wigmore Hall, Disney Hall, Ravinia and the Concertgebouw, as well as appearing as soloist with the Milwaukee and Omaha Symphonies. Concertmaster positions include Boston Baroque and the Peninsula Music Festival.
She has been artist in residence at Boston University and has held visiting professorships at the Eastman School of Music and at Indiana University. She teaches each summer at the Oberlin Baroque Performance Institute and has been honored with the “Excellence in Teaching” award at Oberlin, where she is professor of violin. McDonald’s recordings are heard on the Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, Virgin Classics, Decca, Gasparo, Smithsonian and Telarc labels.
REST OF THE ANNIVERSARY SEASON
The Madison Bach Musicians’ 10th anniversary season also includes:
On December 14, the third annual Baroque Holiday Music program at the First Congregational Church.
On April 18 and 19, the season will conclude with Johann Sebastian Bach’s Mass in B minor, conducted by University of Wisconsin-Madison bassoonist Marc Vallon (below). The MBM will collaborate on this venture with the Madison Choral Project under Edgewood College choral director Albert Pinsonneault.
By Jacob Stockinger
For the most part, the classical music you hear on Wisconsin Public Radio is demarcated by a time of day and the particular host or programmer. Only occasionally does a unifying theme emerge -– say, American composers and American classical music on the Fourth of July or Thanksgiving; or holiday music on Christmas.
However, one major exception is the weekly program called “The Sunday Brunch,” which airs every Sunday from 10 a.m. to noon. (Then the program segues into New Releases with the same host.)
“The Sunday Brunch” is the brain-child of Anders Yocom, who hosts it and adds his congenial commentaries. The amiable and resonant-voiced Yocom is familiar to Madison audiences in many ways. He is the welcoming voice at concerts by the Madison Symphony Orchestra in Overture Hall and he has served as the narrator in various pieces by local musical groups. (Below is Yocom narrating works by Bela Bartok at a concert by the Sound Ensemble Wisconsin — SEW — at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.)
This Sunday’s broadcast will mark and celebrate the one-year anniversary of “The Sunday Brunch.” The play list will feature 17 selections of music in all kinds of musical genres, from a cappella singing to symphonies and concertos to guitar etudes.
The well-known composers on the play list include Cesar Franck, Alexander Borodin, Franz Liszt, Arcangelo Corelli, Antonin Dvorak, Philip Glass, Richard Wagner, Antonio Vivaldi, Franz Schubert, Gabriel Faure, Richard Rodgers and of course Johann Sebastian Bach, for whom Yocom has a special affinity. The less well-known composers to be included are Antonio Salieri, Benjamin Godard, Alessandro Marcello, Etienne-Nicholas Mehul, Giaches de Wert and Giulio Rigondi.
Anders Yocom (below, in a photo by Jim Gill) recently answered an email Q&A for The Ear:
How and when did you come up with the idea for “The Sunday Brunch,” and when did show first air?
I have been thinking about it for years, inspired by two classical radio hosts I like to listen to. I heard Carl Grapentine (below) every day on WFMT when I lived in Chicago, and more recently Emma Ayres (at bottom, in a YouTube video busking with her violin for flood relief) on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Classical in Australia on my Internet radio.
Both people host weekday morning drive programs with short pieces interspersed with information about the day and stories about music. I marvel at the music selection. Each piece they choose, one after another, seems to perfectly fit the moment. I wanted to follow their lead. I proposed “The Sunday Brunch” four years ago and it began one year ago.
Is your show part of a larger strategy by Wisconsin Public Radio for attracting new listeners? What are the future plans for the show?
WPR is always looking for new programming ideas and ways to attract new listeners, not just over the air, but via the growing digital technologies as well.
I was hosting music on WPR last summer, and when Mike Arnold (below), WPR’s Associate Director, heard my proposal for “The Sunday Brunch,” he gave it an immediate green light.
Next month, Peter Bryant (below), a veteran public broadcaster and music lover, will come from Kentucky to WPR as the Program Director of the News and Classical service. I look forward to his encouragement and guidance to make “The Sunday Brunch” as good as it can be.
What are your goals for the show? And what has been the public or listener response so far?
What weekly time feels warmer or more enjoyable than Sunday morning? I think of families and friends at leisure, possibly before or after church; maybe enjoying their own Sunday breakfasts or brunches; or sipping their favorite hot beverages while reading their favorite publications.
My goal is to enhance whatever pleasant and relaxing Sunday environment they may have created for themselves. All of the response I have received so far has been very positive. And over the last year, we are seeing increased audiences on Sunday mornings.
How do you choose the music that is suitable for The Sunday Brunch? Do you look to celebrate certain special holidays like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day?
I like to play music that somehow addresses what listeners might be thinking about on given days such as holidays. I also call attention to music anniversaries.
In general, I select short pieces and excerpts from longer works, with varied instrumentation from solo to chamber to symphony, including choral and vocal, representing the music periods from Baroque to contemporary. Also, the fun and joy of an occasional movie or Broadway show tune.
“The Sunday Brunch” specializes in joyful or “feel good” music. I hasten to add that not all music meets these criteria, and much of the music I don’t play should be heard on radio. And it is played at other times every day on WPR.
You often use sections – single movements of a larger work. What do you say to critics of that practice?
So far, we have received not one complaint about the practice of playing single movements. And I agree that complete performances of symphonies, concertos and other works are often required for a satisfying listening experience.
I respect adherence to the artistic intent of composers. However, the composers of most of the works I play never envisioned electronically reproduced performances heard in kitchens, bedrooms, cars or any of the places where mobile devices can go.
At concerts, audiences focus on the music. For radio listeners, the music is there to accompany something else listeners are attending to. I wish we could ask Mozart what he thinks about one of his rondos playing through speakers in my kitchen, followed immediately by a Philip Glass waltz.
What else would you like to say or add about “The Sunday Brunch” or about Wisconsin Public Radio in general?
I am a music lover and listen to music nearly every waking hour. I am also a veteran radio listener and broadcaster. I look for ways to please people who like to have music in their environments, wherever they may be. “The Sunday Brunch” is a unique approach, and I hope listeners like it as much as I like presenting it. I am grateful to WPR for supporting me in this effort.
ALERT: The FREE Friday Noon Musicale, from 12:15 to 1 p.m. this Friday at the historic Frank Lloyd Wright First Unitarian Society Meeting House, 900 University Bay Drive, will feature soprano Rachel Eve Holmes (below top) and pianist Thomas Kasdorf (below bottom) performing songs and arias by Verdi, Copland, Mozart, Puccini and others.
By Jacob Stockinger
Back from its Carnegie Hall debut last winter, Con Vivo or “music with life” will conclude its 11th season of chamber music with a concert entitled “Homecoming” this Friday, May 17, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Ave., across from Camp Randall.
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.
Members of Con Vivo (below in a photo by Katrin Talbot) include organist Donald DeBruin; pianist Dan Lyons; violinists Olga Pomolova and Kathryn Taylor; violist Janse Vincent; cellist Maggie Darby Townsend; and clarinetist Robert Taylor.
Tickets can be purchased at the door for $18 for adults and $15 for seniors and students.
The performance will feature chamber music by Mozart, Corelli, Bach, Tchaikovsky and Gliere.
The magnificent organ will be featured with none other than Johann Sebastian Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in b minor, BWV 544.
The famous “Kegelstatt” Trio by Mozart (at bottom in a YouTube video), and works for strings by two Russian composers, Tchaikovsky, and Gliere will also be performed.
As part of their student outreach, Con Vivo has invited some outstanding musicians from Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) to join them in performing Corelli’s Concerto Grosso No. 3 in C Minor.
Audience members are invited to join Con Vivo musicians after the concert for a free reception to discuss this chamber music literature and to hear about their Carnegie Hall debut (below, photo courtesy of Con Vivo) this past December.
Here is a link to the blog post The Ear did about that appearance:
About this Friday night’s concert, the ensemble’s Artistic Director Robert Taylor, said: “This concert promises to be enjoyable in many ways. We share a responsibility to tomorrow’s musicians to expose them to great chamber music both as performers and listeners. To that end we are excited to have four members of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra join us for this concert.
“We continue the tradition of bringing to our audience works that are familiar and some that are new. So come welcome us back from our Carnegie Hall debut!”
By Jacob Stockinger
Music – and especially baroque music — is such an integral part of holiday celebrations, and you would be hard put to find a better sampler than the one being offered this coming weekend.
The Madison Bach Musicians (below) will offer two Baroque Holiday Concerts on this Friday night, Dec. 14, and Saturday afternoon, Dec. 15, in Madison’s First Congregational Church United Church of Christ, 1609 University Ave.
MBM will play the same program twice, but with somewhat differing formats.
Friday night will be the usual sequence of a 7:15 p.m. pre-concert lecture followed by an 8 p.m. concert.
On Saturday, the program will start at 3 p.m. in the afternoon and have lecture and demo interludes between the pieces. The Saturday concert will be geared particularly toward children and young adults and promises to be very fun and informative.
The Madison Bach Musicians players will talk about their 18th-century instruments — such as the baroque violin, viola, and cello. The singers will discuss their approach to singing baroque music. And the audience will be invited onto the stage after the program to speak with the players. For the Family Concert, ticket prices for ages 6-18 are half-price.
The program includes J.S. Bach’s Cantata BWV 122, “Das Neugeborne Kindelein”; Schütz’ “Allein Gott in der Höh ”; Lassus’ “Ave Regina Coelorum ”; Vivaldi’s Concerto for Strings in D major, RV 12; Corelli’s Concerto Grosso in C minor, Op. 6, No. 3 (middle movement is at bottom); selections from Handel’s “Messiah ” including “Every Valley” (tenor), “Thus saith the Lord” (bass), “But who may abide” (countertenor), “If God is for us” (soprano) and “ His yoke is easy” (vocal quartet).
Performers include Chelsea Morris, soprano; Joseph Schlesinger, countertenor ; Peter Gruett, tenor; Joshua Copeland, bass ; Kangwon Kim (below), Edith Hines, Lauren Basney, Mary Perkinson on baroque violins; Marika Fischer Hoyt and Micah Behr on baroque violas; Martha Vallon and Anna Steinhoff on baroque cellos; and Trevor Stephenson on harpsichord.
Tickets are $20 general admission and $15 for students and seniors over 65 if purchased in advance; $25 and $20, respectively, at the door
The Dec. 15 Family Concert tickets are half-price for children and young adults ages 6-18 ($7.50 in advance, $10 at the door)
Advance-price discount tickets are on sale at: A Room of One’s Own, Farley’s House of Pianos, Willy St. Co-op (east and west), Orange Tree Imports & Ward Brodt. Tickets also available at the door. Call (608) 238-6092 or visit www.madisonbachmusicians.org for more information.