The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The University of Wisconsin Pro Arte Quartet in Belgium — Day 6: The quartet plays its final concert -– a midday concert in an old converted farm barn on a new campus in an old country. A reception and dinner follow. Then the quartet splits up, one member traveling on and the others departing for back home and braving U.S. customs.

June 1, 2014
4 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Editor’s note: The Well-Tempered Ear has asked people on tour with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) to file whatever dispatches. updates and photos are possible — from iPads, computers, cameras and smart phones — so that they can to keep the fans back here at home current with what is happening on the concert stage and off.

By now it has become apparent that the Pro Arte Quartet’s week-long tour of Belgium is as big an event to the Belgians and to local residents there as it is to Madisonians, Wisconsinites and alumni of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Pro Arte Quartet new 2 Rick Langer

All week long, Sarah Schaffer, who manages the University of Wisconsin-Madison Pro Arte String Quartet, sent text and photo essays.

Current members are violinists David Perry and Suzanne Beia; violist Sally Chisholm; and cellist Parry Karp.

Today’s Part 6 covers the final concert and events at the Belgian campus of Louvain-La-Neuve (LLN) and the return to the U.S.

Once again, ones sees that a concert tour keeps a frenetic pace loaded with hard work. A concert tour is no vacation!

If you want background or need to catch up, here links:

To Day 1:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/classical-music-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-lands-in-belgium-gets-detained-at-customs-and-is-rescued-in-time-for-practicing-and-playing-concerts/

To Day 2:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/24/classical-music-on-day-2-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-is-offered-rehearsal-time-in-a-bar-meets-descendants-of-the-original-members-of-the-quartet-and-performs-its-first-concert-to/

To Day 3:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/25/classical-music-on-day-3-in-belgium-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-plays-at-the-royal-library-gives-a-gift-to-king-philippe-and-keeps-performing-a-lot-of-hard-and-varied-music/

To Day 4, Part 1:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/classical-music-here-is-a-photo-essay-of-the-pro-arte-quartets-day-long-homage-stop-at-the-belgian-hometown-of-dolhain-linburg-of-the-groups-founding-violinist-alphonse-onnou/

To Day 4, Part 2:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/classical-music-the-pro-arte-quartet-in-belgium-day-4-part-2-the-quartet-performs-in-the-town-of-dolhain-limbourg/

To Day 5:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/31/classical-music-the-uw-pro-arte-quartet-in-belgium-day-5-the-belgian-premiere-of-a-belgian-work-at-the-royal-conservatory-draws-a-big-enough-crowd-to-run-out-of-programs-and-bring-three-c/

DAY 6: Sarah Schaffer (below) writes about the Last Day:

Sarah Schaffer mug

Louvain-la-Neuve

PAQ in Belgium LLN poster 1 SS

Disembarking the train from Bruxelles Centrale we were once again greeted by paparazzi on the platform — the inveterate translator Alain Boucart (below right holding camera, with tour organizer Anne van Malderen on the left) is always on hand, camera at the ready!

Pro Arte in Belgium Anne vcan Malderen, translator Alain Boucart

The university at Louvain-la-Neuve or LLN (below) was created from scratch, out of nothing, in 1976, a consequence of the language/culture split, Flemish-Walloon, in 1968.

The Dutch campus of this Catholic college remains in Louven, the new French campus here in Louvain. There are about 15,000 students, and a town of about 40,000 has grown up around it, all brand new, hence “neuve,” and something of a dissonance where everything else “belgique” has been “tres ancien.”

PAQ in Belgium Louvain la neuve

The campus was built literally out in the fields around the remains of four abandoned farms, at last explaining the curious name of the concert hall: La Ferme du Biereau.

PAQ in Belgium LLN farm hall exterrior 1 SS

PAQ in Belgium LLN farm hall exterior 2 SS

PAQ in Belgium farm hall exterior 3 SS

PAQ in Belgium farm hall etxerior 4 SS

It’s an old grange or barn, beautiful old timbers exposed in the renovation that transformed it into a concert hall with a surprisingly attractive acoustic; warm and forthcoming; invitingly beautiful and comfortable as well.

PAQ in Belgium LLN hall interior 1 SS

One of the students in audio engineering, Thomas Vanelstlande (below, with his assistant Marine Haitt), will be recording the concert as his final exam for the reception. The recording set-up is below bottom.

PAQ in Belgium LLN 2 recording engineers SS

PAQ in Belgium LLN hall recording setup 2 SS

The concert is one on the afternoon series sponsored by LLN , under the guidance of Guillaume Wunsch. Programs are offered every couple of weeks.

Again, the capacity audience brought an impressive attentiveness and concentration to Belgian composer Benoit Mernier’s new work, String Quartet No. 3, which was commissioned by the Pro Arte Quartet for its historic centennial and which asks a lot on a first hearing.

Benoit Mernier 1

It is such a pleasure to be in the company of such intentional engagement. We’d thought the famous Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber a strange closer, coming after the Mernier, but it turns out to be in fact a rather appropriate coda.

PAQ in Belgium LLN program SS JPG

Happy for a chance to meet Benoit’s wife Helene (below with her husband beside her and his father in the background).  She reminds us she’s heard the piece once already, when it was streamed live from Wisconsin Public Radio on its “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen” broadcast on March 2, at its Madison world premiere, and we once again mourn the loss — announced two weeks ago — of that distinguished statewide concert series.

PAQ in Belgium LLN Benoit Mernier and wife Helene plus father in bakgrd SS

We were alerted that a reception would follow the concert, and assumed the champagne in the lobby was it, appropriate for 2:30 in the afternoon.

What we were UN-prepared for was the formal lunch, for us and about 20 guests, that ensued.  It was a beautiful buffet, quite elaborate, with very nice wines. Many interesting conversations, many new friends, many promises to follow up and stay in touch.

PAQ in Belgium post-concert lunch at LLN with both Benoit Mernier's parents SS

And after THIS, we are ferried to Waterloo in cars, for a more private supper with Alain and Anne and the Prevost brothers (below, Michael Arthur on the left, Jean Marie on the right). Helene and Benoit Mernier, still not feeling well, and in fact now feverish, have to decline.  It is, in all, a very sweet closing to our time in Belgium.

PAQ in Belgium brothers Michael Arthur Prevost (left) and Jean Marie Prevost Sarah Shaffer

Many toasts and congratulations, but most thanks and special tribute to Anne, who put together this special week.  “I em veery ‘appy!” she tells me quietly.

Alain has purchased our train tickets, and Michel Arthur Prevost accompanies us to Brussels Centrale.  He has ambitious ideas for a return trip.

A CODA

It is over.

Parry went on to the UK for a couple of weeks of concerts. “Having a wonderful time in England,” he emails.

The rest of us parted company at the Brussels airport — three quartet members on United Airlines to Chicago, John and I went through Amsterdam.

BUT — and this is the coda to the dispatches:

Sally exited Belgium and returned to the US without incident.

The “fish” lady (the agent of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that enforces the CITES law about protecting endangered species) was waiting for her at O’Hare, whisked her through in 4 minutes, and even got her a shortcut through the lines and out to Van Galder. (She’d made appointment the required 48 hours ahead).

Below are her instrument “passport,”  her CITES documentation. It is readily accepted this time, unlike on our arrival in Belgium.

PAQ in Belgium LLN Sally CITES document 1 SS

PAQ in Belgium LLN Sally CITES document 2 SS

All goes smoothly.

Sally is so relieved.

I’ll see Sally today — we’re writing up the experience to be ready for an article and other inquiries — and will learn if she’s heard about Parry’s England entry. I’m guessing she has info. I guessing he was fine, with the “EU” stamp received in Belgium.

Thanks for keeping up with us while we zoomed around Belgium. It was extraordinary to be there with these musicians, and to feel the gravitas and all the promise of the incredible legacy they continue to carry on.

Pro Arte Quartet in 1928 Onnou far left

Pro Arte Quartet 1940 Brosa-Halleux-Prevost-Evans 1940

PAQ 9-2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Classical music: The UW Pro Arte Quartet in Belgium -– Day 5. The Belgian premiere of a Belgian composition at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Brussels draws a big enough crowd to run out of programs and bring three curtain calls. A visit to the Royal Conservatory Library reveals the notebooks of Mozart’s wife Constanza and takes the quartet back to its roots for a performance. Plus, the Pro Arte gets recorded by Belgian TV and radio.

May 31, 2014
3 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Editor’s note: The Well-Tempered Ear has asked people on tour with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) to file whatever dispatches. updates and photos are possible — from iPads, computers, cameras and smart phones — so that they can to keep the fans back here at home current with what is happening on the concert stage and off. 

By now it has become apparent that the Pro Arte Quartet’s tour of Belgium is as big an event to the Belgians and to local residents there as it has been to Madisonians, Wisconsinites and alumni of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

Pro Arte Qartet  Overture Rick Langer

Just before taking a day’s rest, Sarah Schaffer (below), who manages the University of Wisconsin-Madison Pro Arte String Quartet, sent this text and this photo essay. They cover the return to Brussels from Dolhain Limbourg, the hometown of founding violinist Alphonse Onnou. Then the members of the quartet visited the Royal Conservatory of Music in Brussels where they toured the archives and library and also performed, including a rehearsal that was recorded for the national radio network.

Current members are violinists David Perry and Suzanne Beia; violist Sally Chisholm; and cellist Parry Karp.

Sarah Schaffer mug 

Today’s Part 5 covers the extensive events at the Royal Conservatory of Music, where the frenetic pace just kept gathering speed. A concert tour is hard work, no glamorous vacation!

If you want background or need to catch up, here are links:

To Day 1:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/classical-music-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-lands-in-belgium-gets-detained-at-customs-and-is-rescued-in-time-for-practicing-and-playing-concerts/

To Day 2:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/24/classical-music-on-day-2-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-is-offered-rehearsal-time-in-a-bar-meets-descendants-of-the-original-members-of-the-quartet-and-performs-its-first-concert-to/

To Day 3:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/25/classical-music-on-day-3-in-belgium-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-plays-at-the-royal-library-gives-a-gift-to-king-philippe-and-keeps-performing-a-lot-of-hard-and-varied-music/

To Day 4, Part 1:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/classical-music-here-is-a-photo-essay-of-the-pro-arte-quartets-day-long-homage-stop-at-the-belgian-hometown-of-dolhain-linburg-of-the-groups-founding-violinist-alphonse-onnou/

To Day 4, Part 2:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/classical-music-the-pro-arte-quartet-in-belgium-day-4-part-2-the-quartet-performs-in-the-town-of-dolhain-limbourg/

Sarah Schaffer writes:

Today brought the Belgian premiere of Belgian composer Benoît Mernier’s Quartet No. 3, commissioned by Pro Arte Quartet for its centennial, a special commission harking back to its Belgian origins, in the very hall at the Royal Conservatory of Music where the founding quartet played countless times, both as students and after.

PAQ in Belgium Conservatory Hall 1

PAQ in Belgium Conservatory Hall 2

PAQ in Belgium Conservatory Hall 3

Engineers from musiq3, the French-speaking Belgian national radio, set up equipment and record the concert rehearsal for later broadcast. TV and newspapers have also covered the quartet.

PAQ in Belgium  Radio sets up in conservatory hall

PAQ in Belgium conservatory whole quartet and radio

PAQ in Belgium play in Conservatory before microphone

It was so perfectly appropriate, and so very moving: this hall, this city, this composer, this work, this audience of mainly students, all at the ages now that the original Pro Arte Quartet members (below) Onnou, Halleux, Prevost and Maas would have been back then.

Pro Arte Quartet in 1928 Onnou far left

There were so many concert attendees that the printed programs (below) ran out.

PAQ in Belgium Conservatory program for concert 1

PAQ in Belgium conservatory program old and new quartets

The short program included — after remarks from Anne van Malderen (below top) on the history of the quartet and an introduction of his work, with examples played by PAQ, by Messieur Mernier (below bottom): Mernier’s Third Quartet, the Adagio and Fugue, K. 546, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, American composer Randall Thompson‘s “Wind in the Willows” and the famous Adagio for Strings from the String Quartet No. 1 by American composer Samuel Barber.

PAQ in Belgium conservatory hall  5 Anne van Malderen welcome

PAQ in Belgium conservatory hall 6 Benoit Mernier talks

Applause called the PAQ back to the stage three times.

PAQ in Belgium bows 1 at conservatory SS

PAQ in Belgium Bows at conservatory USE 2

Our visit to the Conservatoire began earlier in the day with a tour by librarian Olivia Wahnon (below).

PAQ in Belgium Library 1 at conservatory

This distinguished archival collection contains the most manuscript holdings among all Belgian libraries, and she had prepared for our benefit some beautiful displays of rare materials.

PAQ in Belgium Conservatory library mss.

Some of what we saw was related to the Pro Arte and string quartets. There were many manuscript scores and parts, particularly from the collection of second violinist Laurent Halleaux, and many concert programs.

PAQ in Belgium Library quartet scores

But not everything was about PAQ! We see a Medieval handbook manuscript of chant:

PAQ in Belgium Library Medieval non-PAQ stuff 3

We also had a glimpse of Constanze Mozart’s diary (below, in a photo by Sally Chisholm, you can see it is multilingual, and contains many beautiful drawings and paintings), a page of manuscript by Franz Liszt, and the teensiest, tiniest bound volume of Medieval manuscripts. Such treasures! Constanza wrote about her husband Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: “Husband genius. Still poor.”

PAQ in Belgium Constanza Mozart's notebook in Royal  Conservatory Library CR Sally

For us, the division of the institution into two nationalities—Flemish and Walloon—seems somewhat incomprehensible and impossible to manage and navigate. Yet it is so much the history and culture of the whole country, especially evident after yesterday’s elections, it is simply taken in stride.

Although the whole infrastructure (below are photos of the conservatory’s exterior) is in a state of dilapidation—built in the mid-19th century, with a major renovation planned beginning in 2015 — it was in its way more touching and meaningful to see it now, while we can more easily imagine how it looked and felt when the first Quatuor Pro Arte (QPA) inhabited its halls and spaces a century ago.

PAQ in Belgium Conservatory exterior 2

PAQ in Belgium conservatory exterior 3

PAQ in Belgium conservatory exterior 4 photo 3

Composer Benoit Mernier (below top, applauding the Pro Arte Quartet, and below bottom) reports he is well pleased with the progress that he hears in the playing of his piece, from its world premiere March 1 in Madison to now, just 2-1/2 months later. He hears the players inhabiting the work more: details are more precise; at the same time they bring more fluidity; and the overall arc and shape are now more convincingly presented.

PAQ in Belgium Mernier applauds

Benoit Mernier 1

One more chance to improve even more at the final concert tomorrow at the university in Louvain-la-Neuve.

Tomorrow: Our last day and final concert, at Louvain-la-Neuve. The week has sped by.

 

 

 

 

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Classical music: The Pro Arte Quartet in Belgium –- Day 4, Part 2. The quartet performs in the town of Dolhain-Limbourg.

May 29, 2014
9 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Editor’s note: The Well-Tempered Ear has asked people on tour with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) to file whatever dispatches. updates and photos are possible — from iPads, computers, cameras and smart phones — so that they can to keep the fans back here at home current with what is happening on the concert stage and off.

By now it has become apparent that the Pro Arte Quartet’s tour of Belgium is as big an event to the Belgians and to local residents there as it is to Madisonians, Wisconsinites and alumni of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Pro Arte Quartet new 2 Rick Langer

Just before taking a day’s rest, Sarah Schaffer, who manages the University of Wisconsin-Madison Pro Arte String Quartet, sent this text and this photo essay. They cover the trip from Brussels to Dolhain Limbourg, the hometown of founding violinist Alphonse Onnou, and the official greetings and events that awaited the quartet. (Current members are violinists David Perry and Suzanne Beia; violist Sally Chisholm; and cellist Parry Karp.)

Today’s Part 2 covers the concert at Dolhain-Limbourg.

Here are links to Day 1:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/classical-music-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-lands-in-belgium-gets-detained-at-customs-and-is-rescued-in-time-for-practicing-and-playing-concerts/

To Day 2:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/24/classical-music-on-day-2-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-is-offered-rehearsal-time-in-a-bar-meets-descendants-of-the-original-members-of-the-quartet-and-performs-its-first-concert-to/

To Day 3:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/25/classical-music-on-day-3-in-belgium-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-plays-at-the-royal-library-gives-a-gift-to-king-philippe-and-keeps-performing-a-lot-of-hard-and-varied-music/

And to Day 4, Part 1:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/classical-music-here-is-a-photo-essay-of-the-pro-arte-quartets-day-long-homage-stop-at-the-belgian-hometown-of-dolhain-linburg-of-the-groups-founding-violinist-alphonse-onnou/

Schaffer’s latest installment once again shows the hard work of undertaking such a concert tour, which involves a lot more than playing and performing music. In this case, it also involves being cultural ambassadors.

Sarah Schaffer mug

After such an already full day, there is still the evening concert!

By evening the Kursaal (below) has warmed up and is now much more welcoming.

PAQ essay 5 Le Kursaal exterior Sarah Schaffer

We learn, as we wait through the sound check/rehearsal that the local television crew is on hand! They hope to interview a quartet member, but are so busy down the street at the Onnou house that they barely make it in time to film the concert.

PAQ essay 6 chekcing our stage at Le Kursaal David, Sally Parry Sarah Schaffer

Anne van Malderen opens the evening with a touching tribute to Onnou, and them outlines the concert program because there are, surprisingly, no printed versions on hand this evening:

Franz Joseph Haydn: Quartet in D Major, Op. 20, N. 4

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Adagio & Fugue, K. 546

Alexander Glazunov: Five Novelettes

Intermission

Igor Stravinsky: Elegy for Solo Viola

Cesar Franck: Quartet

It’s hard to imagine a program more strongly evocative of the original Quatuor Pro Arte (below, in 1928)!

Pro Arte Quartet in 1928 Onnou far left

Haydn represents their recorded legacy. Mozart is included because, well, it’s Mozart. The Glazunov was one of original violinist Alphonse Onnou’s favorite pieces, here in Onnou’s hometown, in the Kursaal, which he likely performed in himself.

Mozart old 1782

The Stravinsky Elegy for Solo Viola (below, Sally Chisholm playing the Stravinsky Elegy at the Wisconsin Union Theater in 2012) was commissioned by founding violist Germaine Prevost as a memorial to Onnou, who died in Madison just months after the quartet was stranded there, before ever playing a first concert with the newly artists-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

Sally Chisholm solo

And of course the tour-de-force quartet by Cesar Franck (below) is by one of Belgium’s most celebrated composers.

Cesar Franck photo

It’s very touching, this entire program, this small town.

And such an audience — rapt, attentive, knowledgeable, appreciative with the applause long and sustained, much whistling, many “bravos!” shouted out. An incredibly warm reception.

Those of us who have been with David and Suzanne and Sally and Parry this whole long day, coming after the past few days so full and dramatic, can hardly believe the intensity and concentration they’ve brought to this performance.

Once again, we hear a ravishing performance by this amazing quartet. (below, playing the same Haydn String Quartet at the concert on March 2, 2012.)

Pro Arte Quartet in Haydn at Mernier

Sunday is Election Day in Belgium -– and will bring a well-deserved day off for everyone.

Then on Monday, we go to the Conservatoire Royale, where the Quatuor Pro Arte originated — just students who, like music students everywhere, formed a pick-up group.

Sometimes they last a semester or two, sometimes they make a real go of it during and beyond school, and in one extraordinary case they made it to . . . 100! (Below is the Pro Arte Quartet in 1940.)

Pro Arte Quartet 1940 Brosa-Halleux-Prevost-Evans 1940

AN INTERMEZZO AND A PRELUDE

Pro Arte Quartet violist Sally Chisholm (below) writes of her latest adventure that occurred when there group arrived back in Brussels. It has no pictures but, trust me, it is well worth the read:

Sally Chisholm

“Last night a few steps from our hotel, in the center of the square, or rather Place, is the area normally occupied by touring jazz/rock groups during the multi-week jazz festival here in Brussels.

It was 8:30 p.m., and I was strolling for the last time of the day.

Mozart. “Eine Kleine Nacht Musik.” (The familiar opening movement is at the bottom in a popular YouTube video that has over 8 million hits.)

Hmm … and there they were: 3 young musicians, 2 violinists and a cellist, playing beautifully in front of a rapt audience of locals and tourists from many countries.

The open violin case was filling up with euros as listeners quickly tiptoed up to lay in their offering, then tiptoe away all smiles.

One violinist saw me, and the “fiddlers rose” (that red discoloration that comes from years of gripping the instrument) on my neck, immediately elbowing her partner.

When they finished, and started packing up, I went over to congratulate them.  

You play?

Yes, I said. Alto.

(That’s French for the viola.)

Are you students here?

Yes, at the Conservatoire.

Oh, I will be there tomorrow!

Pro Arte, Pro Arte! Yes, we are coming to hear you!

So I will see my new friends again tomorrow.

Mozart is very alive here in Brussels, with beautifully trained young musicians representing him well to an enthusiastic and grateful audience.

 

 

 

 

 

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Classical music: Day 4 — the UW Pro Arte Quartet goes to Dolhain-Limbourg, Part 1 of 2: Prelude to the concert. Here is a photo essay of the Pro Arte Quartet’s day-long homage stop at the Belgian hometown of the group’s founding violinist Alphonse Onnou.

May 27, 2014
9 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Editor’s note: The Well-Tempered Ear has asked people on tour with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) to file whatever dispatches. updates and photos are possible — from iPads, computers, cameras and smart phones — so that they can to keep the fans back here at home current with what is happening on the concert stage and off.

By now it has become apparent that the Pro Arte Quartet’s tour of Belgium is as big an event to the Belgians and to local residents there as it is to Madisonians, Wisconsinites and alumni of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Just before taking a day’s rest, Sarah Schaffer, who manages the University of Wisconsin-Madison Pro Arte String Quartet, sent this text and this photo essay. They cover the trip from Brussels to Dolhain Limbourg, the hometown of founding violinist Alphonse Onnou, and the official greetings and events that awaited the quartet. (Current members are violinists David Perry and Suzanne Beia; violist Sally Chisholm; and cellist Parry Karp.) Part 2 will cover the concert at Dolhain-Limbourg.

Here are links to Day 1:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/classical-music-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-lands-in-belgium-gets-detained-at-customs-and-is-rescued-in-time-for-practicing-and-playing-concerts/

To Day 2:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/24/classical-music-on-day-2-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-is-offered-rehearsal-time-in-a-bar-meets-descendants-of-the-original-members-of-the-quartet-and-performs-its-first-concert-to/

And to Day 3:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/25/classical-music-on-day-3-in-belgium-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-plays-at-the-royal-library-gives-a-gift-to-king-philippe-and-keeps-performing-a-lot-of-hard-and-varied-music/

Schaffer’s latest installment also shows the hard work of undertaking such a concert tour, which involves a lot more than playing and performing music. In this case, it also involves being cultural ambassadors.

PAQ-8BIT03

 SATURDAY, MAY 24

We have to catch to train to Verviers to get to Dolhain Limbourg, the hometown of the quartet’s original founding violinist Alphonse Onnou. (Below, from left, are Parry Karp, John Schaffer, Sally Chisholm and David Perry. Below, hometown fans Linda and Bob Graebner of Madison come along.) 

So the day began with a peaceful, dozy train trip through verdant farm country southwest out of Brussels, gradually giving way to steep lush hillsides crisscrossed by many streams.

Trains passed more and more frequently, passing through the long tunnels the closer we got to Verviers, where we were advised not to take the connection to Dolhain but were instead met by a large and eager delegation, jabbering excitedly in, to us, yet another dialect of specifically Belgian French.

PAQ essay 1 Train to Vervier Parry, John Schaffer, Sally David CR Sarah Schaffer

PAQ essay 2 Linda and Bob Graebner on train platform Sarah Schaffer

PAQ essay 3 train platform Sally, David, Parry.

PAQ essay 4 train ticket to Verviers Sarah SchafferJPG

As we find out, the town is charming and the residents go out of their way to host and honor the quartet, which they clearly welcome with open arms.

They divvied us up into waiting cars and off we sped the 10K or so to Dolhain, birthplace of the quartet’s founding violinist Alphonse Onnou. Our hosts, it turned out, were all members of a local historical society club and were very excited about our visit.

First stop: Le Kursaal, the concert hall, which on initial glimpse appeared somewhat disheartening and unpromising. Much negotiating over the placement — high stage off flat floor, or on the floor, and lighting. A poster announces our appearance.

No notes were tried. We hoped on this cool damp day that it might be warmer when we returned, and that lighting and seating questions would be solved then.

PAQ essay 5 Le Kursaal exterior Sarah Schaffer

PAQ essay 6 chekcing our stage at Le Kursaal David, Sally Parry Sarah Schaffer

PAQ essay 7 audience seats at Le Kursaal Sarah Schaffer

PAQ essay 8 poster for Le Kursssal concert

Next stop: Old Dolhain Limbourg (not the cheese!), the ancient town with castle and military lookouts on top of the hill. Very charming!

PAQ essay 9 old dolhain 1 SS

PAQ essay 10 old Dolhain 2 SS

PAQ essay 11 old Dolhain 3 SS

PAQ essay 12 Old Dolhain 4 SS

PAQ essay 13 Old Dolhain 5 SS

PAQ essay 14 Old Dolhain 6 SS

Here we were joined by more club members and treated to a  “typical” lunch at the cafe. About 18 of us in all by now. (From left are Sally Chisholm, Parry Karp, Linda Graebner, David Perry and Suzanne Beia.)

PAQ essay 15 Lunch in Dolhain 1 SS

PAQ essay 16 Lunch in Dolhain 2 SS

We take part in a municipal ceremony at 4 p.m.

Genealogical charts of the Onnou family were shared, as well as a thick sheaf of papers describing — mostly in French, a few things translated to English — the historical sites of the village, which we experienced in person on the guided walking your after the meal.

The Mayor of Dolhain Limbourg is the woman on the left dressed in white. The interpreter-translator Alain Boucart is in red. The bald head belongs to the head of the Historical Society of Dolhain Limbourg. Then comes the head of the Alphonse Onnou celebration and exhibit, with tour organizer and quartet documentarian Anne van Malderen dressed in the turquoise sleeveless top and wearing eyeglasses.

PAQ essay 17 Municipal Ceremony 1 SS

PAQ essay 18 Municipal ceremony 2 SS

PAQ essay 19 Municipal essay 3 SS

Elections being on everyone’s minds — political posters everywhere, no concerts scheduled for Sunday because of elections in Belgium, the same reason the royals are sequestered — perhaps this explains Bob Graebner’s enthusiastic comment on meeting the Mayor of Dolhain: “I’d vote for her!”

Many speeches followed: the mayor, president of the historical society, and Onnou and Quatuor Pro Arte expert Anne Von Malderen (below left), all presented in French and then in translation (for our sakes) by an increasingly fatigued interpretor Alain Boucart (below right), who gave briefer and briefer summaries as the proceedings wore on, finally promising a written translation by email after the event.

Pro Arte in Belgium Anne vcan Malderen, translator Alain Boucart

At the reception that followed we were treated to excellent performances by the municipal band, made all the more enjoyable accompanied by chocolates and local cognac! (Below top and, below bottom in photo by Sally Chisholm of the band’s youngest member.) They sounded terrific and in our honor played “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

PAQ in Belgium Dolhain city band 1 SS

PAQ Belgium city band 2 youngest member Sally

And after another glass of wine, the grandniece of Alphonse Onnou autographed the first violin part of the score to composer Alexander Glazunov’s “Five Novelettes,” a favorite of Onnou that the quartet is to perform there, for violinist David Perry.

PAQ essay 20 Onnou grandniece with David SS

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Classical music: On Day 3 in Belgium, the University of Wisconsin Pro Arte Quartet plays at the Royal Library, gives a gift to King Philippe and keeps performing a lot of hard and varied music.

May 25, 2014
12 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Editor’s note: The Well-Tempered Ear has asked people on the one-week tour of Belgium by the UW Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) to file whatever dispatches and photos they can to keep the fans at home current with what is happening on the concert stage and off.

Thanks goodness for iPads, iPhones, Androids and other smart phones, computers and digital cameras!

Here is a link to the first installment:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/classical-music-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-lands-in-belgium-gets-detained-at-customs-and-is-rescued-in-time-for-practicing-and-playing-concerts/

And here is the second installment:

Pro Arte Qartet  Overture Rick Langer

After troubles at customs and catching up from jet lag, the Pro Arte Quartet got down to the business of rehearsing and performing.

The quartet members  -– violinists David Perry and Suzanne Beia, violist Sally Chisholm, cellist Parry Karp and manager Sarah Schaffer —  and their entourage of “groupies” also spent time meeting and greeting the descendants of the original quartet members who started the ensemble over a century ago at the Royal Belgian Conservatory of Music in Brussels before World War II stranded them in Madison.

That’s when they became artists-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of music, where they have remained ever since.

Here are some updates on Day 3:

Read on:

Sarah Schaffer (below), who also took the photos, writes:

Sarah Schaffer mug

Day 3 — FRIDAY:

The “coats and cases” space was the room that houses the Bela Bartok archives at the Royal Library!

Here is the exterior with its name in the two official languages of Belgium: Flemish and French.

PAQ in Belgium Royal Library exterior with Flemish and French

The Bartok Room (below) has many rare and unique items – letters, photos, etc. It all rather takes one’s breath away. We each received a copy of a recent publication by the collection’s archivist, Denijs Dille.

PAQ in Belgium Bartok archives ar Royal Library

FYI, the fifth person, on the right in the photo (below) taken after the bows that followed the concert on the Arthur De Greef Auditorium — named for the early 20th-century Belgian composer — is Hubert Roisin, Counselor to the King.

PAQ in Belgium with Hubert Roisin on stage at De Greef Auditorium at Royal Library

Mr. Roisin (below, in a close-up by violist Sally Chisholm) seemed very honored to be in attendance. We were certainly honored by his presence at the concert.

PAQ in Belgium Mr Roisin for King Philippe Salky Chisholm

Here are the gifts we gave Monsieur Roisin for King Philippe: A framed photo (below top) of the original members and the current members of the Pro Arte Quartet plus an honorary letter (below bottom) from University of Wisconsin-Madison Rebecca M. Blank.

PAQ in Belgium photo gift to king

PAQ in Belgium Blank letter

PAQ played to a mostly full house and was very warmly received. Many accolades filled the air at the private reception afterwards.

PAQ in Belgium playing in De Dreef Auditorium at Royal Library

Afterwards, I pressed the willing-but-exhausted quartet into a “photo shoot” taking advantage of the spectacular architecture and gardens surrounding the library.

Then they all went off to rest.

It has been a very strenuous few days, and tomorrow is especially long, beginning with an 11 a.m. train trip to original quartet member Alphonse Onnou’s town of Dolhain, arriving in time for a 1 p.m. lunch. (Below is a photo of the Pro Arte Quartet in 1928. Alphonse Onnou is on the far left.)

Pro Arte Quartet in 1928 Onnou far left

Then it gets jam-packed with a full day of commemorations — including the municipal band offering “American” tunes in our honor — all BEFORE the 8 p.m. concert.

We will all be very glad to have Sunday “off.”

Not only is the SCHEDULE strenuous, but so also is the REPERTOIRE — with very few repeats over all these concerts.

The norm on tour is to recycle a handful of pieces.

Not so the Pro Arte Quartet, not on this trip.

They are holding up well but are, understandably, fatigués. (Below is the dual-language program notes from the concert of music by Bela Bartok and Franz Joseph Haydn — two composers the early Pro Arte Quartet was celebrated for and identified with — at the Royal Library.)

More soon.

PAQ in Belgium  program of Bartok 1 and Haydn De Greef Aditorium Royal Library

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Classical music: On Day 2 in Belgium, the University of Wisconsin Pro Arte Quartet is offered rehearsal time in a bar; meets descendants of the original members of the quartet; and performs its first concert to applause, appreciation and acclaim.

May 24, 2014
11 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Editor’s note: The Well-Tempered Ear has asked people and participants on the one-week tour in Belgium with the UW Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) to file whatever dispatches and photos they can to keep the fans at home current with what is happening on the concert stage and off.

Thanks goodness for iPads, iPhones and other smart phones, computers and digital cameras!

Here is a link to the dramatic first installment:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/classical-music-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-lands-in-belgium-gets-detained-at-customs-and-is-rescued-in-time-for-practicing-and-playing-concerts/

And here, below, is the second installment:

Pro Arte 3 Rick Langer copy

After troubles at customs and catching up from jet lag, the Pro Arte Quartet got down to the business of eating and sleeping, rehearsing and performing, of meeting its public and catching up with its history.

The quartet members and their entourage of groupies -– the quartet consists of violinists David Perry and Suzanne Beia, violist Sally Chisholm, cellist Parry Karp plus manager Sarah Schaffer — spent time meeting and greeting the descendants of the original quartet members who started the ensemble over a century ago at the Royal Belgian Conservatory of Music in Brussels before it became a Court quartet and then World War II stranded the quartet in Madison.

That’s when, in 1941, the quartet became artists-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, where they have remained ever since.

Here are some updates on Day 2 of the Belgium tour:

Read on:

Sarah Schaffer writes:

Day 2 — Thursday:

Much calmer!

Today’s “crisis” is small compared to yesterday’s:

The quartet needed a place to rehearse.

We’d assumed, incorrectly it turned out, that the hotel would have something like a meeting room that might be used.

No luck.

They offered instead the BAR! It is not open mornings.

And that is where Michel Arthur Prevost (below left in my photo), the grandnephew of founding violist Germaine Prevost and the impresario of the opening concert at Flagey Hall, first encountered the quartet when he unexpectedly arrived at the hotel this morning. On the right is his brother Jean Marie Prevost.

PAQ in Belgium brothers Michael Arthur Prevost (left) and Jean Marie Prevost Sarah Shaffer

Acoustics at Flagey were fantastic, as they quartet found out when rehearsing.

PAQ in Belgium rehearsing i Flagey Hall Sarah Schaffer

The opening concert was much enjoyed by a small but extremely appreciative audience.

PAQ in Belgium Performing in Flagey Hall Sarah Schaffer

Tomorrow we meet King Philippe’s counselor, Herbert Roisin, and offer him our gift of the photos of the old and current quartet members and a letter from our new University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank that we carried with us to Belgium.

Plus, the Pro Arte Quartet has received media attention, the local newspaper running a story (below) in French under a headline in English:

PAQ Belgium newspaper

Adds violist Sally Chisholm, who always has an eye for the feature and the fun:

What a fine way to travel!

Here is a very professional taxi driver taking us to Flagey Hall.

Much acceleration, good humor and the local title of Place des Morts (Square of the Dead) for the number of pedestrians crossing the street.

We are now in Studio 1, safe and greeting the grandnephews of Germain Prevost and many Pro Arte friends.

PAQ in Belgium taxi driver Sally Chisholm

Here is the grandson of cellist Robert Maas, speaking with Anne Van Malderen who is writing a documentary history of the Pro Arte. He speaks no English, but is very easy to understand!

PAQ in Belgium grandson of cellist Robert Maas  speaks with Anne van Malderen who is writing a documentary study of PAQ Sally Chisholm,

And here is the great-granddaughter of Robert Maas:

PAQ Belgium great grand daughter of Robert Maas Sally Chisholm

What a wonderful hall and appreciative audience.

Here is the stage before I played the Elegy for solo viola that was composed by Igor Stravinsky for one Pro Arte member and dedicated to the passing of another, Germaine Prevost. I performed it after remarks, in French, by Dr. Prevost, grand-nephew of Germain Prevost.

PAQ Belgium Stage Sally Chisholm

And here is the brief review by Dr. Robert Graebner, a UW-Madison alumnus and retired Madison neurologist who, with his wife Linda Graebner, is following the Pro Arte on its one-week tour and who commissioned for the quartet’s centennial the String Quartet No. 6 by American composer John Harbison — who teaches at MIT and co-directs the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival near Madison each August, and who has won both the Pulitzer Prize and a coveted MacArthur “genius” grant:

We just returned from a private concert at the historic Art Deco Flagey Studio 1. (Below is a photo of the concert posters taken by Sarah Schaffer.)

The Pro Arte was in top form, and attendees included two relatives of Germaine Prevost and two relatives of Robert Maas.

PAQ in Belgium Flagey concert poster Sarah Schaffer

Tomorrow brings a concert at the Royal Library.

So stayed tuned as the Pro Arte performs again (below is the printed program from Sarah Schaffer)  and meets The Royals – or at least their reps.

PAQ in Belgiium concert prgram Sarah Schaffer 

 

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Classical music: The University of Wisconsin Pro Arte Quartet lands in Belgium, gets detained at customs and is rescued in time for practicing and playing concerts.

May 22, 2014
17 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Editor’s note: The Well-Tempered Ear has asked people on tour with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) to file whatever dispatches. updates and photos — from iPads, computers, cameras  and smart phones — so that they can to keep the fans back here at home current with what is happening on the concert stage and off.

Here is a link to a schedule of planned events, repertoire and venues:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/19/classical-music-its-final-and-official-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-will-tour-to-belgium-this-week/

Here is the first installment of the tour updates:

Pro Arte Quartet new 2 Rick Langer

For the University of Wisconsin-Madison Pro Arte Quartet, Tuesday night into Wednesday morning was spent flying across the Atlantic Ocean to a one-week tour to the group’s homeland of Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.

But despite reassurances from U.D. officials, complications occurred on landing and then going through customs.

Read on:

Showing her sense of humor, Pro Arte Quartet violist Sally Chisholm sends word about starting the quartet’s one-week tour in Belgium and heads it “News from a broad” in the subject line of her email:

“Today, Sarah Schaffer (below) stood eye to eye with the U.S. consulate and freed us from Belgium customs. Our passports for our instruments and bows were the first ever seen at the Brussels airport.

Sarah Schaffer mug

“Despite the initial determination that both Parry and I could not pass through customs in time for the concerts, suddenly, at 3:15 p.m. we were declared admitted by investigators (below):

PAQ Belgium investigators SALLY CHisholm

“Sarah will have details about her consulate experience! A million thanks to Sarah, once again, and to all of our supporters. We are now at our hotel just off the Grand Place, enjoying an evening of warm friendship and memorable cuisine.”

–Sally (below)

Sally Chisholm

And here is the latest from Sarah Schaffer, who works at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, heads up the Pro Arte Quartet Centennial Committee and is accompanying the quartet on tour:

“Our first afternoon was spent at American Embassy, trying to spring violist Sally Chisholm and cellist Parry Karp (below), who were both detained at the Brussels airport and refused entry into Belgium over the endangered species business about ivory and wood.

“Oh, boy.

Parry Karp

“Also called on our Belgium friends, who reached the cabinet minister in the agency overseeing CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna), and between all efforts we got them sprung.

“We’re all here at last, exhausted, a little tattered, but a much better outcome than we feared for many hours today.”

“Here is a photo of the necessary permit we finally obtained:

-Sarah

PAQ Belgium permit

And here is a link to another posting about the 1973 international law, now being strictly enforced, that has created such fuss and confusion:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/04/16/classical-music-catch-the-pro-arte-quartets-free-must-hear-concert-of-the-program-for-its-upcoming-back-to-belgium-tour-on-thursday-night-at-730-especially-sinc/

And here is a link to the official CITES website:

http://www.cites.org

And here is an informational video on YouTube about the well-intentioned, if inconvenient, CITES  law and the role of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

 

 

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Classical music: It’s final and official — the University of Wisconsin Pro Arte Quartet will tour to Belgium this week.

May 19, 2014
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Madison, Wis. -– After much worrying, nail-biting and hectic phone calls, the final and official word is in: The Pro Arte Quartet tour to Belgium is on!

And not a minute too soon, since the tour concerts start at the end of this week and the musicians leave for Belgium on Tuesday.

Here is an update from Sarah Schaffer (below), who manages the Pro Arte String Quartet for the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music:

Sarah Schaffer mug

The University of Wisconsin Pro Arte Quartet will be returning to its roots this week with a concert tour of Belgium, where the group was first formed in 1912. Current musicians in the Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) include violinist David Perry, violinist Suzanne Beia, violist Sally Chisholm and cellist Parry Karp. (The current Pro Arte Quartet can be heard at the bottom in a YouTube video playing the Prelude for String Quartet by Ernest Bloch at one of its centennial concerts.)

Pro Arte Quartet new 2 Rick Langer

The trip is occurring thanks largely to efforts by Wisconsin’s Democratic U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin who helped the UW-Madison ensemble-in-residence overcome government restrictions that prohibit traveling across international borders with anything containing elephant ivory and other endangered flora and fauna.

The Brussels concert series — the capstone of the Pro Arte’s centennial year as the world’s oldest continuously performing string quartet — returns the ensemble to its roots for the first time since World War II.

The concert series highlight will be the European premiere of the quartet’s latest commission, the String Quartet No. 3 by contemporary Belgian composer Benoît Mernier (below, in a photo by Lise Mernier). The composition had its world premiere March 1, at Mills Concert Hall in the George Mosse Humanities Building on the UW-Madison campus.

Benoit Mernier by Lise Mernier

The Quatuor Pro Arte of Brussels, first formed in 1911-1912, was performing at the Wisconsin Union Theater on the UW campus on May 10, 1940, when Belgium was overrun and occupied by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi forces, turning three of its original four musicians into war orphans. By October of that year, the group had officially become the UW Pro Arte Quartet, making it the first artist ensemble-in-residence at any university in the world.

The current tour to Belgium, which occurs May 20-28, almost didn’t happen thanks to renewed efforts by the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service’s International Affairs division, which since February has been actively enforcing a 1976 law prohibiting the importation of any items or materials containing elephant ivory, tortoise-shell, Brazilian rosewood and other materials.

Three of Pro Arte’s four musicians have ivory on the tips of their bows. The fourth, Sally Chisholm, has an antique viola heavily inlaid with either ivory or bone on the face of the instrument.

ivory on 2 bows

Chisholm’s viola was manufactured in Cremona, Italy, in 1680. It is her primary instrument and has a unique voice that has become central to the Pro Arte’s sound. “Violas have not been standardized, and to find a replacement instrument for the trip would have been difficult and have changed the sound of the entire group,” said Chisholm (below).

Sally Chisholm

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service does issue permits enabling musicians with instruments containing prohibited products to travel with them, but it was unlikely that the permits would have been issued in time for the Pro Arte’s May 20 departure.

The UW-Madison Chancellor’s office worked with U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (below), who helped facilitate more rapid processing of the permits, which arrived just prior to the ensemble’s departure.

Tammy Baldwin official portrait

The trip to Belgium will feature a variety of concerts in Brussels and elsewhere.

The Pro Arte will kick off the week-long tour on Thursday, May 22, with a performance in Studio 1 of the Flagey Building (below top with its handsome concert hall studio at below bottom), home to Belgium’s broadcast industry.

Flagey Building Brussels

Flagey building concert hall, studio

The program includes compositions by the “Dissonant” Quartet in C Major, K. 465, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (below top), the Quartet in D Major by Belgian composer César Franck (below bottom), “The Wind in the Willows” by American composer Randall Thompson and the “Elegy” for solo viola by Russian composer Igor Stravinsky, who wrote it for a member of the Pro Arte Quartet. Studio 1 has historic significance for the Pro Arte. An earlier iteration of the quartet recorded a complete cycle of the 16 Quartets by Ludwig van Beethoven there in 1938.

Mozart old 1782

Cesar Franck photo

On Friday, May 23, the Pro Arte will perform in the Arthur de Greef Auditorium of the Royal Library of Belgium (below top) in Brussels with a program featuring works by String Quartet No. 1 by Bela Bartok (below middle) and Quartet in D Major, Op. 20, No, 4 by Franz Joseph Haydn (below bottom).

Royal Library of Belgium

bartok

Haydn

On Saturday, May 24, the Pro Arte travels to Dolhain Limburg, birthplace of the quartet’s founding violinist Alphonse Onnou for a reception, dinner and performance at Kursaal Dolhain. The evening program will include previously listed compositions by Mozart, Franck and Haydn plus “Waltz from Five Novelettes” by Alexander Glazunov (below).

glazunov

The Mernier European premiere at the Royal Brussels Conservatory (its exterior is below top, the grand concert hall is below bottom) follows on Monday, May 26.

Royal Conservatory Brussels exterior

Royal Conservatory Grand Hall Brussells

The program features the Adagio and Fugue, K. 546, by Mozart, the work by Randall Thompson (below top) and the slow movement or “Adagio for Strings” (premiered in Rome in 1938 by the Pro Arte) from the  String Quartet No. 1, Op. 11, by American composer Samuel Barber (below bottom).

Randall Thompson

barber 1

The final performance of the tour on Tuesday, May 27, will take place at the Catholic University of Louvain-la-Neuve (below).

Catholic University of Lovain

In addition to the Mernier work, the performance will include works by Mozart and Barber. In addition, the audience will view a 1975 documentary film about the Pro Arte by Pierre Bartholomée that includes interviews with composers Darius Milhaud, Igor Stravinsky and others. Denise Bauer (below), the U.S. Ambassador to Belgium will be present.

Denise Bauer

 

 

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Classical music: Here is a good news update on the tour to Belgium later this month by the University of Wisconsin’s Pro Arte Quartet.

May 12, 2014
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

If you remember, the last you heard about it  — and the last time I posted something about it — the planned tour to its homeland of Belgium by the Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer), longtime resident artists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was in jeopardy.

Pro Arte Quartet new 2 Rick Langer

That came about because of an international ban on materials from endangered species that were used in new and even old musical instruments.

Here is a link to that background post:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/04/16/classical-music-catch-the-pro-arte-quartets-free-must-hear-concert-of-the-program-for-its-upcoming-back-to-belgium-tour-on-thursday-night-at-730-especially-sinc/

Well, things are looking up.

Here is an update from Sarah Schaffer (below), the tireless and clever contact at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music who also heads the Centennial Committee of the string quartet and has been arranging the tour:

Sarah Schaffer mug

“Hello everyone,

“I just wanted to catch you all up on the latest developments concerning the PAQ trip to Belgium.

“As most of you know, recent efforts by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to step up enforcement of long-standing policies related to international trade of endangered species have jeopardized travel for all musicians because so many (especially old) instruments contain material most of interest: ivory, Brazilian rose wood, and sea turtle.

ivory on 2 bows

“An “instrument passport” allows border crossing with instruments containing these materials but, since learning of the new enforcement in late March, PAQ members simply did not have time to obtain these permits before travel on May 20.

“We’ve spent the past month on a multi-pronged strategy in hopes of finding some solution that would allow PAQ members to travel with their own instruments: an accelerated permitting process, a waiver, a “diplomatic suitcase,” intervention from the Belgian government, even (briefly) the untenable possibility of alternate instruments and bows.

“We seemed to be beating our heads against unyielding walls, until last Thursday when a solution appears to have presented itself.

“The path led from friends advocating our case to the Chancellor’s’ office, the engagement of her Office of Federal Relations who reached the office of U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (below), who in turn took our case to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency overseeing the new enforcement and also the issuer of the permit.

Tammy Baldwin official portrait

“Thanks to the efforts of all of these individuals and agencies, US F&W assured us last Thursday that if all application materials were received by this past Monday, the instrument “passports” will be issued in time for PAQ to travel.

“We are now in that optimistic uneasy phase of waiting for the arrival of the documents, but with the news have now actually booked travel and are in the process of finalizing details for the Belgian tour.

” With luck, everything will go off without a hitch. The necessary permits will probably go out on Wednesday or Thursdayfor receipt here Thursday or Friday.

“Meanwhile, we’ve purchased plane flights, booked the hotel, and are in general behaving as if we’re
travelling next week. Of course, it still all depends on those permits arriving.

“But we are now assuming the remarkable set of concerts and centennial events — including a day in the village of founding violinist Alphonse Onnou where, among many events,  a street will be named after him, a Pro Arte Quartet exhibit will take place — arranged largely by our friend in Belgium, Anne van Malderen, will indeed take place from May 20 to May 28.”

For more about the Pro Arte Quartet’s centennial, listen to this special CBS-TV/WISC-TV Channel 3 news show on YouTube:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Classical music review: UW”s Pro Arte Quartet wows the crowd in the world premiere of William Bolcom’s Piano Quintet No. 2.

March 29, 2012
1 Comment


By Jacob Stockinger

First things first: For the sake of full disclosure, I need to tell you that I am a member of the Pro Arte Quartet’s centennial committee. Please keep that in mind as you read the following review.

There was The New York Times’ acclaimed senior music critic Anthony Tommasini (below right) talking about the importance and excitement of programming new music as he also praised the deeply American eclecticism of composer William Bolcom (below left) to Bolcom’s face.

And then on the same stage shortly later came the world premiere of William Bolcom’s Piano Quintet No. 2, given Saturday night at a free community concert at the Wisconsin Union Theater by the University of Wisconsin’s Pro Arte Quartet and UW pianist Christopher Taylor (below).

The nearly full house of about 1,000 greeted the work with an enthusiastic standing ovation. Was it because of the music? Or was it because of the history-making event by the “home team”? Hard to tell, and maybe it doesn’t really matter.

But they stood and cheered the Pro Arte Quartet, which this season is celebrating its centennial as the longest lived, still active quartet in history.

The concert started with an opening tribute to famed geneticist and Pro Arte supporter James Crow, who died in January. Standing alone on the big stage, Pro Arte violist Sally Chisholm performed Stravinsky’s Elegy for Solo Viola. It fit the occasion. It was commissioned by Pro Arte violist Germain Prevost to pay homage to Alphonse Onnou, the group’s founding first violinist and was premiered in Madison in 1944 at Edgewood College with Stravinsky present.

The concert officially opened with the Webern’s “Langsamer Satz” or “Slow Movement,” a beautiful, rich and late Romantic work that was composed in 1905 and premiered in 1962, one that drew you into it at one.

Then came Darius Milhaud’s Quartet No. 7, another work commissioned by and then premiered by the Pro Arte String Quartet in 1925. Its plucky pizzicato passages and clear textures plus some upbeat music hall-like tunes gave it a certain French lightness that balanced the thicker texture of the Webern. Together, they made a perfect package.

Then came Bolcom’s piano quintet.

The Bolcom work received a rousing, energetic performance. This is a dark and dynamic work with virtuosic passages, especially for the piano, and a lot of parts talking to each other  – and Taylor brought his part off brilliantly. But if you were looking for the kind of tuneful, earlier ragtime and cabaret music, more lyrical, easy-going and elegiac, that you find in Bolcom’s “Graceful Ghost” and similar works, you were probably a bit disappointed or let down.

The work by Bolcom (below) seemed thoroughly competent and professional, very good but not great. It did not seem especially inspired, even on a second hearing over the radio. I walked out of the hall and couldn’t recall a passage that made me want to hear it again right away. That is not a good sign that a contemporary masterpiece is at hand.

Of course Time will have the final say, and I hope I am wrong. I have spoken to professional musicians who say I am wrong and who are more positive about its future. And my own track record with contemporary music is not great. The Bolcom quintet had some beautiful and dramatic movements, and the second movement proved the most moving.

Maybe Bolcom’s piano quintet will indeed enjoy a long shelf life and many repeat performances soon. But my ears said don’t count on it, and my thoughts told me it is easier to create an event than it is to create great music.

I hope we get to read what Tommasini thought, given his forceful advocacy of new music and eclecticism.

The concert concluded with Mozart’s great String Quintet in G Minor, K. 516, with guest violist Samuel Rhodes (below, with fellow violist Sally Chisholm) of the Julliard String Quartet. Rhodes is a frequent and favorite guest artist of the quartet and he seems right at home whenever he sits in.

I have heard, and really like, a more aggressive and muscular Mozart (below), a more dramatic or even operatic Mozart that is edgy within limits and good taste.

So I wondered if perhaps if some of my small letdown came from being the familiar Mozart being comparatively under-rehearsed with all the attention going to the new Bolcom score and maybe even the unfamiliar and difficult Milhaud.

Or maybe the music itself seemed a bit subdued and less forthright because of the context: The Mozart lacks the piercing and spiky percussiveness of the piano in the Bolcom and the pluckiness of the strings of the Milhaud.

Or maybe the quartet was just a bit tired from all the events and playing that led up to the concert.

Or maybe, just maybe, that is how the various players like their Mozart.

After all, it was elegant and lyrical Mozart all the same, beautiful Mozart, and it was refreshing to hear the work performed live. Mozart’s string quintets are among the most unjustly programmed chamber music works we have. And the audience sure liked it, giving it another standing ovation (below).

All in all, it was a long and successful afternoon and evening event that lasted a good seven hours. It started with Tommasini’s lecture on the state of contemporary music at 3; then people adjourned for cocktails and dinner that reunited past member the Pro Arte, including former first violinist Norman Paulu (below top) and the former husband-and-wife team of violist and second violinist Richard and Martha Blum (below middle).

Then came an engaging pre-concert discussion with comoser Bolcom and critic Tommasini that was moderated by UW pianist Todd Welbourne; then came the concert; and then the dessert reception. It was quite the historic arts event, all free and well attended and very well received.

Here are links to two other reviews:

Here is the review by Lindsay Christians for 77 Square, The Capital Times and the Wisconsin State Journal:

http://host.madison.com/entertainment/arts_and_theatre/reviews/pro-arte-premieres-stormy-bolcom-quintet/article_65c8c108-7686-11e1-96be-001871e3ce6c.html

And here is Greg Hettmansberger’s review for Madison Magazine and his blog “Classically Speaking”:

http://www.madisonmagazine.com/Blogs/Classically-Speaking/March-2012/Pro-Arte-Party-Resumes-with-Expanded-Guest-List/

The final of the four FREE centennial concerts and commissions this season will be in Mills Hall on Saturday, April 21, at 8 p.m. It features the world premiere of John Harbison’s String Quartet No. 5, composed in 10 short movements. Also featured will be quartets by Haydn (Op. 54, No. 2 in C major) and Cesar Franck, plus a lecture by British critic Tully Potter, a dinner at the Chazen Museum of Art; and a pre-concert interview with British musicologist and critic Tully Potter and composer Harbison. Be sure to mark your calendars and datebooks.

For more information, go to www.proartequartet.org


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