The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: A FREE recital by the Del Sol string quartet on Monday night honors pioneering composer Ben Johnston

May 20, 2018
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has been asked to post the following announcement:

The San Francisco-based ensemble the Del Sol Quartet will give a FREE public recital on Monday night, May 21, in Madison in honor of pioneer composer, teacher and mentor Ben Johnston (below).

For more information about the composer, go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Johnston_(composer)

The recital is on the occasion of Johnston’s upcoming induction into the American Academy of Arts and Lettershttps://artsandletters.org/pressrelease/2018-newly-elected-members/

This FREE performance will be held in the new Atrium Auditorium (below, in a photo by Zane Williams) of the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, on Monday night at 7 p.m.

The program will feature Johnston’s two most popular string quartets: the Fourth Quartet (based on the beloved theme “Amazing Grace”); and the Tenth Quartet (also based on a popular folk melody). In addition there will be works by some of Johnston’s contemporaries. (You can hear the Fourth Quartet of Ben Johnston in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Johnston, 92, has made his home in the Madison area for the past 11 years, where he continues to advance the field of microtonal music composition and performance, most notably initiated in the U.S. by music legend Harry Partch, with whom Johnston studied for several years. Partch’s seminal work, “Genesis of Music,” was first published in Madison by the University of Wisconsin Press in 1949.

Winner of numerous awards and honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award, Johnston spent most of his career at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. He had a significant role in some of the Contemporary Arts Festivals, which were annual events in the 1960s. His service, as composition teacher and mentor there, led to an honorary doctorate from that institution. He is also the author of “Maximum Clarity,” published by the University of Illinois Press.

Hailed by New York Times critic Mark Swed as “probably [America‘s] most subversive composer …able to make both radical thinking and avant-garde techniques sound invariably gracious,”Johnston’s diligent dedication recently resulted in the release of the third CD by the Milwaukee-based Kepler Quartet https://www.keplerquartet.com/ on the New World Music label https://www.newworldmusic.com/

The three CD series encompasses all of Johnston’s string quartets and took 14 years of painstaking collaboration to bring to fruition, receiving high acclaim internationally. Johnston has been well-known in experimental music circles since his second quartet came out on Nonesuch Records in 1969.

Hailed by Gramophone as “masters of all musical things they survey” and two-time winner of the top Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, the Del Sol String Quartet shares living music with an ever-growing community of adventurous listeners.

Del Sol (below) was founded in 1992 at Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada and is recognized as a “vigorous champion of living composers,” focusing on music that reflects the cultural diversity of the community, advocating works by both world-renowned and emerging composers, and collaborating across disciplines. Del Sol has commissioned and premiered over 100 works by a diverse range of composers.

The Quartet has performed on prominent concert series nationwide, including the Kennedy Center, Library of Congress, National Gallery of Art, Symphony Space, Cabrillo Festival, Other Minds Festival, and Santa Fe Opera.

The quartet conducts an active educational program in the San Francisco Bay Area, in addition to regular residencies at universities and music schools across the country.”

For more information, go to: http://delsolquartet.com/


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Classical music: This weekend the Madison Symphony Orchestra and Grammy-winning guitarist Sharon Isbin will perform Spanish music and a new concerto by Chris Brubeck

November 13, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

This weekend, the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO), with music director John DeMain conducting, will present the third concert of its 92nd season.

“Troubadour: Two Faces of the Classical Guitar” features Grammy-winning guitar virtuoso Sharon Isbin (below) playing two works: one written for Isbin by American composer Chris Brubeck; and the other by the Spaniard Joaquin Rodrigo. (Isbin will also give a FREE and PUBLIC master class on Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon in Morphy Recital Hall on the UW-Madison campus in the Humanities Building on North Park Street.)

In addition the MSO will perform two 20th-century ballet suites — The Three-Cornered Hat by Spanish composer Manuel De Falla and Billy the Kid by American composer Aaron Copland.

The concerts (below, in a photo by Peter Rodgers) are in Overture Hall at the Overture Center, 201 State Street on Friday, Nov. 17, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 18, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Nov. 19, at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets are $18-$90. Details are below.

Invoking a sense of the American heartland, Billy the Kid was written by Copland (below) as a ballet following the life of the infamous outlaw. This piece is most well-known for the memorable “cowboy” tunes and American folk songs that paint a vivid picture of the Wild West.

The virtuosity and versatility of multiple Grammy Award-winner Sharon Isbin is on display in this program of contrasts: the jazz idioms of the American composer Chris Brubeck’s “Affinity: Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra,” written for Sharon Isbin, alongside the lush romanticism of the Spaniard Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez.” (You can hear Sharon Isbin play the beautiful slow movement of the Rodrigo concerto in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

The piece by Brubeck (below) contains strong hints of the jazz influence of his father, noted pianist and composer Dave Brubeck. Inspired by the gardens at Palacio Real de Aranjuez, Rodrigo’s composition attempts to transport the listener to another place and time through the evocation of the sounds of nature.

Isbin’s performances of Chris Brubeck’s “Affinity: Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra” have received wide acclaim: “The concerto takes off with Isbin delivering rapid-fire virtuosity with infectious themes. The slow middle is a tender jazz-based tribute to Dave Brubeck, and Isbin played with heartfelt warmth and tenderness. The finale was an infectious rhythmically driven journey through myriad styles. It was as intriguing as it was moving … Isbin is much more than a virtuoso; she is an artist of depth.”

The Three-Cornered Hat by De Falla (below) is based on a story written by Pedro de Alarcón about a Corregidor (magistrate) who tries, without success, to seduce the pretty wife of the local miller.

One hour before each performance, Michael Allsen (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot), professor at UW-Whitewater, MSO trombonist and writer of MSO’s program notes, will lead a 30-minute Prelude Discussion in Overture Hall to enhance concertgoers’ understanding and listening experience.

For more background on the music, please read Allsen’s Program Notes at: http://www.allsenmusic.com/NOTES/1718/3.Nov17.html.

The Symphony recommends concert attendees arrive early for each performance to make sure they have time to pass through Overture Center’s security stations, and so they can experience the pre-concert talk (free for all ticket-holders).

Single Tickets are $18-$90 each and are on sale now at https://www.madisonsymphony.org/singletickets, through the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street, or by calling the Box Office at (608) 258-4141.

Groups of 15 or more can save 25% by calling the MSO office at (608) 257-3734. For more information, go to: https://www.madisonsymphony.org/groups

Student rush tickets can be purchased in person on the day of the concert at the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street. Students must show a valid student ID and can receive up to two $12 or $18 tickets. More information is at: https://www.madisonsymphony.org/studentrush

Seniors age 62 and up receive 20% savings on advance and day-of-concert ticket purchases in select areas of the hall.

Discounted seats are subject to availability, and discounts may not be combined.

ABOUT SHARON ISBIN

Acclaimed for her extraordinary lyricism, technique, and versatility, Sharon Isbin has been hailed as “the pre-eminent guitarist of our time.” Recipient of numerous prestigious awards, her debut concert with the MSO comes after over 170 solo performances with orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, National Symphony, London Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Orchestre National de France, and the Tokyo Symphony.

Isbin is the subject of a one-hour documentary presented by American Public Television. Seen by millions on over 200 PBS stations throughout the US, it is also available on DVD/Blu-ray and won the 2015 ASCAP Television Broadcast Award. “Sharon Isbin: Troubadour” paints the portrait of a trailblazing performer and teacher who over the course of her career has broken through numerous barriers to rise to the top of a traditionally male-dominated field.

The following is a dedicated website where you can view the trailer, read rave reviews, and see detailed broadcast dates: www.SharonIsbinTroubadour.com

Major funding for the September concerts is provided by: NBC-15, the Madison Symphony Orchestra League, and Elaine and Nicholas Mischler. Additional funding provided by Scott and Janet Cabot, John DeLamater and Janet Hyde, Steven Weber, and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.


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Classical music: Madison composer Scott Gendel discusses the new piece he wrote to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of architect Frank Lloyd Wright. It receives its world premiere this coming Sunday afternoon and Monday night in Spring Green

August 3, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

As The Ear posted yesterday, this coming Sunday afternoon and Monday night will see a special commemorative concert at the Hillside Theater of the Taliesin compound in Spring Green.

It will mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright (below).

Here is a link to an overview with more details about the concerts and program:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2017/08/02/classical-music-the-150th-anniversary-of-architect-frank-lloyd-wrights-birth-will-be-celebrated-with-two-concerts-on-this-coming-sunday-afternoon-and-monday-night-in-spring-green-they-featu/

Certainly the standout piece will be the world premiere of a work for chorus, string quartet and piano, commissioned by Taliesin from Scott Gendel, a Madison-based composer who studied at the UW-Madison.

Gendel recently commented on his work:

“When I first heard about this opportunity to write a musical work in honor of Frank Lloyd Wright’s 150th birthday, I had a lot of grandiose ideas about big architectural music, music that would be huge in sound and concept.

“But when Taliesin Director of Music Effi Casey (below top) took me on a tour of the house and the grounds (below bottom), what struck me more than anything else was the beautiful intimacy of the spaces, the way in which every room was designed to draw you in closer.

“And then when I learned of the Taliesin Community Chorus and their love of singing together to create community, I knew “That Which Is Near” was going to take a different direction than I’d originally thought, and really become a piece about intimacy and connections between people.

““Some Flowers For Frank Lloyd Wright” by Hendrik Theodorus Wijdeveld (below) felt like the perfect text to use for such a piece. It’s stunning in its descriptions of Wright’s work, but also has a charming sweetness about it, the way he’s just offering “some flowers” rather than a huge extravagant gift.

“And so “That Which Is Near” is two things at once: First, it’s a celebration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s incredibly masterful work, and how wonderfully persistent and evergreen that work still is, 150 years after his birth.

“But second, it’s a celebration of the community at Taliesin, and the ways in which the place brings people together and fosters human connection.”

ABOUT  SCOTT GENDEL

Here are some impressive biographical details about Gendel (bel0w):

Scott Gendel is a composer, vocal coach, theatrical music director and pianist living in Madison, Wisconsin. As a composer, his music has a wide-ranging scope, but Scott is particularly fond of all things vocal, and of the artistry of the human voice in all its forms. As a performing musician, Scott collaborates on vocal recitals around the country, and is the official pianist and vocal coach for Madison Opera.

Recently, he recorded his piece “At Last” with soprano Camille Zamora and cellist Yo-Yo Ma, as part of “An AIDS Quilt Songbook: Sing For Hope,” a recording released on Naxos Records and GPR, benefiting amfAR, the American Foundation for AIDS Research. (You can hear “At Last” in the YouTube video at there bottom.)

Last year, his song “Advice to Those Like Me, With Hearts Like Kindling” was premiered by soprano Melody Moore in her Carnegie Hall debut recital.

This spring, Gendel’s choral-orchestral oratorio “Barbara Allen,” based on the traditional Appalachian folk song, was premiered by the Santa Clara Chorale and San Jose Chamber Orchestra.

In 2005, the same year he received his doctoral degree from UW-Madison, Gendel was awarded first prize in the ASCAP/Lotte Lehmann Foundation Song Cycle Competition, a juried national award in its inaugural year.

More recently Scott was the second prize winner of the 2016 NATS Art Song Composition Award, and winner of the 2017 Ortus International New Music Competition.

His music is published by Classical Vocal Reprints, ECS Publishing, and the Tuba/Euphonium Press. His art songs have been recorded on Albany Records, GPR Records and Naxos.

Upcoming commissions include the original opera “Super Storm!” for Opera for the Young’s 2018-2019 season, which will be performed in nearly 200 schools around the Midwest; and a song cycle for soprano, cello and piano on the poetry of Emily Dickinson, to be premiered and recorded in her hometown of Amherst, Massachusetts by UW-trained soprano Jamie-Rose Guarrine (below), cellist Karl Knapp and the composer at the piano.

Gendel will also perform some of his art songs with soprano Emily Birsan (below), another UW-Madison graduate who also attended classes and sang at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, at the Friday night concert, Aug. 11, of the Madison New Music Festival.

Go to http://www.scottgendel.com for more information.


Classical music: The UW-Madison Concert Choir performs a FREE concert of three contemporary works this Sunday afternoon. Plus, here are the winners and works of the Beethoven piano competition’s FREE concert on Sunday

April 15, 2016
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ALERT: The University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music has announced the winners of the 31st annual Beethoven piano competition. The FREE winners’ concert is this Sunday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall. Oxana Khramova will play the Polonaise in C Major, Op. 89,  and Two Rondos, Op. 51; Kyle Johnson will play the Sonata in F minor, Op. 57, “Appassionata“; and Shuk-Ki Wong will play the late Sonata in E Major, Op. 109. There will be a reception after the concert. The judge for the competition was Dan Lyons, a UW-Madison graduate and the pianist of the Madison Symphony Orchestra. Here is a link to more information about the winners and their teachers:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/31st-annual-beethoven-piano-competition-honors-concert/

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following message:

This Sunday, April 17, at 2 p.m. in Mills Hall the UW-Madison Concert Choir (below top) will perform a FREE concert under its director and conductor Beverly Taylor (below bottom).

Concert Choir

Beverly Taylor MSO portrait COLOR USE

The “Three for Free” program, features three wonderful contemporary works that have something delightful for everyone.

We’ll begin with “The Hope of Loving” by Jake Runestad – for chorus with a string quartet — a warm, and Romantically phrased work that was premiered by the ensemble Seraphic Fire last year.

It will feature three fine Concert Choir soloists: Kenny Lyons, Talia Engstrom and Eliav Goldman.

Runestad recently received the ASCAP award for composers.

Jake Runestad

The second work on our program is the 2016 edition of “Llorona,” written for the Concert Choir and guitar by UW-Madison composition Professor Laura Schwendinger (below), who has won numerous awards for her works.

It’s based on a famous Mexican song and tale of a woman who dies with her children; her voice can be heard on the wind.

Laura Schwendinger 2

Our final work is “The World Beloved” by Minnesota composer Carol Barnett (below). It is a “Bluegrass Mass,” which features many Concert Choir soloists and blue grass instruments. (You can hear it in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

The Mass combines parts of the usual mass forms of Kyrie and Agnus Dei with folk hymn ballads presented both by themselves and used to replace part of the usual mass text.

Carol Barnett

The program will be approximately 75 minutes long, including a short intermission.


Classical music: Brass Week in Madison kicks off with tuba and French horn concerts at the University of Wisconsin by John Stevens and Daniel Grabois, who will highlight works by contemporary UW composers.

February 10, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Call it Brass Week in Madison.

Concerts this week will feature three different brass instruments: the tuba, the French horn and the trumpet.

brass instruments

The Ear guesses it is all due more to happenstance than planning.

But whatever the origin, Brass Week begins Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music with a FREE recital by tuba professor and composer John Stevens, who will retire at the end of this semester.

It continues on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall with a FREE recital by French horn professor, who also is the latest addition to the Wisconsin Brass Quintet, Daniel Grabois.

And then on Thursday, Norwegian trumpeter Tine Thing Helseth will start her three performances as soloist in concertos by Haydn and Alexander Arutiunian with the Madison Symphony Orchestra under John DeMain.

Helseth will be featured in a separate Q&A on this blog tomorrow.

But here are details, drawn from the UW School of Music calendar of events, about the first two concerts.

JOHN STEVENS

UW tuba professor John Stevens (below) will perform three well-known masterpieces – the Horn Quintet by Mozart, the “Songs of a Wayfarer” by Gustav Mahler and the Horn Trio by Johannes Brahms– all adapted for the tuba.

Guest artists include violinist David Perry, violist Sally Chisholm, cellist Parry Karp, all of the UW Pro Arte Quartet, and UW pianist Martha Fischer.

John Stevens

John Stevens (below with his instrument) has enjoyed a distinguished career as a teacher, orchestral, chamber music, solo and jazz performer and recording artist, composer/arranger, conductor and administrator. He has performed with every major orchestra in New York and was a member of the New York Tuba Quartet and many other chamber groups. He was principal tubist in the Aspen Festival Orchestra; toured and recorded with a wide variety of groups including Chuck Mangione, the American Brass Quintet and the San Francisco Ballet; and was the tuba soloist in the original Broadway production of BARNUM.

john stevens with tuba 1

Stevens has released two solo recordings; an LP of his own compositions titled POWER (Mark Records, 1985) and a CD titled REVERIE (Summit Records, 2006). He joined the UW-Madison faculty in 1985 and, in addition to his other duties, was the Director of the School of Music from 1991 to 1996 and 2011 to 2013.

As a composer and arranger with over 50 original compositions and almost as many arrangements to his credit, Stevens is internationally renowned for his works for brass, particularly for solo tuba, euphonium and trombone, tuba/euphonium ensemble, brass quintet and other brass chamber combinations. He is the winner of numerous ASCAP awards and has received many composition grants and commissions.

In 1997 Stevens (below, composing at his Madison home and at bottom in an interview in a YouTube video) was commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to compose a tuba concerto. This work, entitled JOURNEY, was premiered by the CSO, with tubist Gene Pokorny as soloist. Recent compositions include the CONCERTO FOR EUPHONIUM AND ORCHESTRA, SYMPHONY IN THREE MOVEMENTS, a composition for wind band commissioned by a consortium of 14 American universities, and MONUMENT for Solo Tuba and String.

And here is a link to a long story by local writer Paul Baker about Stevens, his career and the activities surrounding his retirement this semester. It appeared on the outstanding blog “Fanfare” at the UW-Madison School of Music:

http://uwmadisonschoolofmusic.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/stevens/

John Stevens writing

DANIEL GRABOIS

The program by horn professor Daniel Grabois (below, in a photo by James Gill), who also curates the SoundWaves program at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, and pianist Jessica Johnson will perform a program of “All in the Family: 21st Century Music by UW-Madison Composers.”

Daniel Grabois 2012  James Gill

The works include “Gossamer Snowfall, Crystalline Pond” (2000), by UW saxophone professor Les Thimmig (below); 
the world premiere of “War Suite” (2014) by
 Alex Charland
 (1. War Song, 
2. Dirge, 
3. Ballad); “Indigo Quiescence” (2000) by Les Thimmig; “Soliloquy in June” (2000) by Les Thimmig; the world premiere  “Antilogy” (2014) by Daniel Grabois;
Sonata for Horn and Piano (2008) by John Stevens; and “Song at Dusk” (2000) by Les Thimmig
.

Les Thimmig color

Daniel Grabois is Assistant Professor of Horn at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. The former Chair of the Department of Contemporary Performance at the Manhattan School of Music, he is the hornist in the Meridian Arts Ensemble, a sextet of brass and percussion soon to celebrate its 25th anniversary. With Meridian, he has performed over 50 world premieres, released 10 CDs, received two ASCAP/CMA Adventuresome Programming Awards, and toured worldwide, in addition to recording or performing with rock legends Duran Duran and Natalie Merchant and performing the music of Frank Zappa for the composer himself.

UW School of Music

The author/composer of two etude books for horn, Grabois has appeared as a frequent guest with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and has performed in New York and on tour with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and many other ensembles. He also appears on over 30 CD recordings, and has recorded a concerto written for him by composer David Rakowski. Grabois taught horn for 14 years at The Hartt School, and has taught courses on the business of music at both the Hartt and the Manhattan School of Music.

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