By Jacob Stockinger
Here is the official announcement of the 2017-18 season by the Madison Symphony Orchestra:
The 2017-18 season of the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO, below, in a photo by Greg Anderson) presents nine programs that invite audiences to “listen with all your heart” and “feel the emotion, power and majesty” of great classical music.
Subscriptions are available now, and single tickets for all concerts go on sale to the public Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.
For more information about tickets and ticket prices plus discounts for new subscribers and renewing subscribers, go to:
MSO music director John DeMain, who will be marking his 24th season with the MSO, has created an exciting season that features favorites combined with firsts.
Says DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad): “I must point out two monumental firsts: the MSO debut of the great violinist Gil Shaham, renowned and sought after the world over, whose appearance Madison has waited for for many years; and the Madison premiere of the Glagolitic Mass by Czech composer Leos Janacek, a gargantuan work for chorus and orchestra with a prominent role for our “Colossal Klais,” the Overture Concert Organ.”
Performances are in Overture Hall of the Overture Center at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays; 8 p.m. on Saturdays; and 2:30 p.m. on Sundays.
The 2017-2018 subscription series concerts begin on Sept. 15, 16 and 17 with “Orchestral Brilliance”—proudly presenting the Madison Symphony Orchestra performing the Johann Sebastian Bach/Leopold Stokowski version of the organ Toccata and Fugue in D minor; Felix Mendelssohn’s Reformation Symphony and Hector Berlioz’s “Harold in Italy” with MSO principal viola Christopher Dozoryst (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) as soloist. (You can hear Leopold Stokowski conduct his own transcription of the work by Bach, which was used in Walt Disney’s film “Fantasia,” in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
“From the New World” on Oct. 20, 21 and 22 features the return of beloved pianist Olga Kern (below), a gold medalist in the Van Cliburn competition, performing Samuel Barber’s Piano Concerto, and the MSO performing Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 “From the New World” and Maurice Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite.
On Nov. 17, 18, and 19 “Troubadour: Two Faces of the Classical Guitar” features sensational guitar virtuoso Sharon Isbin (below) playing two works, one by American composer Chris Brubeck, and the other by the Spaniard Joaquin Rodrigo, with the MSO performing two Suites—Manuel DeFalla’s The Three-Cornered Hat and Aaron Copland’s Billy the Kid.
The cherished kickoff to the holiday season, “A Madison Symphony Christmas,” returns on the first weekend in December — the 1, 2, and 3. Guest artists Emily Pogorelc, soprano, and Eric Barry, tenor, join John DeMain, the MSO, the Madison Symphony Chorus (below), Madison Youth Choirs and Mount Zion Gospel Choir on stage for the family-friendly celebration.
The MSO season subscription continues in 2018 with the long awaited appearance of violinist Gil Shaham (below) with the MSO—“Gil Shaham Plays Tchaikovsky” on Jan. 19, 20 and 21. This program features works by three of the most popular Russian composers of all time— Sergei Prokofiev’s The Love for Three Oranges Suite, Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 3 and Peter Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto.
“Richly Romantic” concerts take place on Feb. 16, 17 and 18 when one of MSO’s favorite cellists, Alban Gerhardt (below), returns performing the lyrical William Walton’s Cello Concerto, and the MSO presents Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 and Gioachino Rossini’s Overture to Semiramide.
Spring arrives April 13, 14, and 15 with “String Fever” featuring Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 1, Spring, Benjamin Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem and Grammy Award-winning violinist Augustin Hadelich (below) performing the Antonin Dvorak’s Violin Concerto.
The season finale, “Mass Appeal,” takes place on May 4, 5 and 6. Star of NPR’s From the Top, pianist Christopher O’Riley (below), will open the program with Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22. The MSO premiere of the monumental Glagolitic Mass by Czech composer Leos Janacek features the Overture Concert Organ and the Madison Symphony Chorus, along with soloists Rebecca Wilson, soprano, Julie Miller, mezzo-Soprano, Roger Honeywell, tenor, and Benjamin Sieverding, bass.
The MSO’s 17-18 season includes the popular multimedia production of Beyond the Score®, “Edward Elgar: Enigma Variations,” featuring live actors and visuals in the first half, with the entire work performed in the second half. Joining the orchestra are American Players Theatre actors James Ridge (below), Colleen Madden and Brian Mani, along with Wisconsin Public Radio’s Norman Gilliland of Wisconsin Public Radio as the Narrator. This single performance takes place on Sunday, March 18, 2018*.
NOTE: *Advance tickets for Beyond the Score® are available only to MSO 17-18 season subscribers prior to single tickets going on sale to the general public on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. Beyond the Score® is a production of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Gerard McBurney, Creative Director for Beyond the Beyond the Score®
ABOUT THE MADISON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
The Madison Symphony Orchestra celebrates its 92nd season in 2017-2018 and its 24th season under the leadership of music director John DeMain.
The MSO has grown to be one of America’s leading regional orchestras, providing Madison and south central Wisconsin with cultural and educational opportunities to interact with great masterworks and top-tier guest artists from around the world.
Find more information at madisonsymphony.org
By Jacob Stockinger
You might remember that at holiday time, The Ear offered a series of roundups of the best recordings and classical music gifts of the past year. The idea is to use them as holiday gift guides.
One of those days was Grammy Day.
This past Monday night, the winners of the 58th annual Grammy were announced.
The Ear notes that there were a few items of special local and regional interest.
The late Twin Cities composer Stephen Paulus, whose works were often commissioned and premiered in Madison by the Festival Choir of Madison, the Wisconsin Chamber Choir and groups at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, was nominated for several works. And he won in two categories.
In addition, producer Judith Sherman, who already has several Grammys to her credit, was nominated again and won again. She is also the producer to the two recordings of the six centennial commissions by the Pro Arte Quartet at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The last one – with the String Quartet No. 3 by Belgian composer Benoit Mernier and a Clarinet Quintet by Canadian composer Pierre Jalbert – will be released this spring.
In addition, violinist Augustin Hadelich (below), who has turned in outstanding and memorable performances with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, received his first Grammy for a recording of the late French composer Henri Dutilleux.
Plus, the critically acclaimed Chicago-based record company Çedille (below top), which has celebrated its 25th anniversary and which specializes in Midwest artists as well as unusual repertoire of both old and new music, had several nominations and won a Grammy for a recording of the new music group Eighth Blackbird. Two other superb artists who record for Çedille and have performed in Madison with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra are violinists Rachel Barton Pine and Jennifer Koh.
Here are all the winners in classical music for the 2016 Grammys. All the nominees are listed and the winners are noted with three asterisks (***):
***Ask Your Mama (below): Leslie Ann Jones, John Kilgore, Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum & Justin Merrill, engineers; Patricia Sullivan, mastering engineer (George Manahan & San Francisco Ballet Orchestra) Label: Avie Records
Dutilleux: Métaboles; L’Arbre Des Songes (Tree of Dreams); Symphony No. 2, ‘Le Double’: Dmitriy Lipay, engineer; Alexander Lipay, mastering engineer (Ludovic Morlot, Augustin Hadelich & Seattle Symphony) Label: Seattle Symphony Media
Rachmaninoff: All-Night Vigil: Beyong Joon Hwang & John Newton, engineers; Mark Donahue, mastering engineer (Charles Bruffy, Phoenix Chorale and Kansas City Chorale) Label: Chandos
Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3, ‘Organ’: Keith O. Johnson and Sean Royce Martin, engineers; Keith O. Johnson, mastering engineer (Michael Stern and Kansas City Symphony) Label: Reference Recordings
73. PRODUCER OF THE YEAR, CLASSICAL
Blanton Alspaugh: • Hill: Symphony No. 4; Concertino Nos. 1 & 2; Divertimento (Peter Bay, Anton Nel & Austin Symphony Orchestra) • Rachmaninoff: All-Night Vigil (Charles Bruffy, Phoenix Chorale & Kansas City Chorale) • Sacred Songs Of Life & Love (Brian A. Schmidt & South Dakota Chorale) • Spirit Of The American Range (Carlos Kalmar & The Oregon Symphony) • Tower: Violin Concerto; Stroke; Chamber Dance (Giancarlo Guerrero, Cho-Liang Lin & Nashville Symphony)
Manfred Eicher: • Franz Schubert (András Schiff) • Galina Ustvolskaya (Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Markus Hinterhäuser & Reto Bieri) • Moore: Dances & Canons (Saskia Lankhoorn) • Rihm: Et Lux (Paul Van Nevel, Minguet Quartet & Huelgas Ensemble) • Visions Fugitives (Anna Gourari)
Marina A. Ledin, Victor Ledin: • Dances For Piano & Orchestra (Joel Fan, Christophe Chagnard & Northwest Sinfonietta) • Tempo Do Brasil (Marc Regnier) • Woman At The New Piano (Nadia Shpachenko)
Dan Merceruio: • Chapí: String Quartets 1 & 2 (Cuarteto Latinoamericano) • From Whence We Came (Ensemble Galilei) • Gregson: Touch (Peter Gregson) • In The Light Of Air – ICE Performs Anna Thorvaldsdottir (International Contemporary Ensemble) • Schumann (Ying Quartet) • Scrapyard Exotica (Del Sol String Quartet) • Stravinsky: Petrushka (Richard Scerbo & Inscape Chamber Orchestra) • What Artemisia Heard (El Mundo) • ZOFO Plays Terry Riley (ZOFO)
***Judith Sherman: • Ask Your Mama (George Manahan & San Francisco Ballet Orchestra) • Fields: Double Cluster; Space Sciences (Jan Kučera, Gloria Chuang & Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra) • Liaisons – Re-Imagining Sondheim From The Piano (Anthony de Mare) • Montage – Great Film Composers & The Piano (Gloria Cheng) • Multitude, Solitude (Momenta Quartet) • Of Color Braided All Desire – Music Of Eric Moe (Christine Brandes, Brentano String Quartet, Dominic Donato, Jessica Meyer, Karen Ouzounian, Manhattan String Quartet & Talujon) • Rzewski: The People United Will Never Be Defeated! (Ursula Oppens) • Sirota: Parting The Veil – Works For Violin & Piano (David Friend, Hyeyung Julie Yoon, Laurie Carney & Soyeon Kate Lee) • Turina: Chamber Music For Strings & Piano (Lincoln Trio)
Bruckner: Symphony No. 4: Manfred Honeck, conductor (Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra) Label: Reference Recordings
Dutilleux: Métaboles; L’Arbre Des Songes; Symphony No. 2, ‘Le Double’: Ludovic Morlot, conductor (Seattle Symphony) Label: Seattle Symphony Media
***Shostakovich: Under Stalin’s Shadow – Symphony No. 10 (below): Andris Nelsons, conductor (Boston Symphony Orchestra) Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Spirit Of The American Range: Carlos Kalmar, conductor (The Oregon Symphony) Label: Pentatone
Zhou Long and Chen Yi: Symphony ‘Humen 1839’: Darrell Ang, conductor (New Zealand Symphony Orchestra) Label: Naxos
Janáček: Jenůfa: Donald Runnicles, conductor; Will Hartmann, Michaela Kaune & Jennifer Larmore; Magdalena Herbst, producer (Orchestra Of The Deutsche Oper Berlin; Chorus Of The Deutsche Oper Berlin) Label: Arthaus
Monteverdi: Il Ritorno D’Ulisse In Patria: Martin Pearlman, conductor; Fernando Guimarães & Jennifer Rivera; Thomas C. Moore, producer (Boston Baroque) Label: Linn Records
Mozart: Die Entführung Aus Dem Serail: Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor; Diana Damrau, Paul Schweinester & Rolando Villazón; Sid McLauchlan, producer (Chamber Orchestra Of Europe) Label: Deutsche Grammophon
***Ravel: L’Enfant Et Les Sortilèges; Shéhérazade (belw): Seiji Ozawa, conductor; Isabel Leonard; Dominic Fyfe, producer (Saito Kinen Orchestra; SKF Matsumoto Chorus & SKF Matsumoto Children’s Chorus) Label: Decca
Steffani: Niobe, Regina Di Tebe: Paul O’Dette & Stephen Stubbs, conductors; Karina Gauvin & Philippe Jaroussky; Renate Wolter-Seevers, producer (Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra) Label: Erato
Beethoven: Missa Solemnis: Bernard Haitink, conductor; Peter Dijkstra, chorus master (Anton Barachovsky, Genia Kühmeier, Elisabeth Kulman, Hanno Müller-Brachmann & Mark Padmore; Symphonieorchester Des Bayerischen Rundfunks; Chor Des Bayerischen Rundfunks) Label: BR Klassik
Monteverdi: Vespers Of 1610: Harry Christophers, conductor (Jeremy Budd, Grace Davidson, Ben Davies, Mark Dobell, Eamonn Dougan & Charlotte Mobbs; The Sixteen) Label: Coro
Pablo Neruda – The Poet Sings: Craig Hella Johnson, conductor (James K. Bass, Laura Mercado-Wright, Eric Neuville & Lauren Snouffer; Faith DeBow & Stephen Redfield; Conspirare) Label: Harmonia Mundi
Paulus: Far In The Heavens: Eric Holtan, conductor (Sara Fraker, Matthew Goinz, Thea Lobo, Owen McIntosh, Kathryn Mueller & Christine Vivona; True Concord Orchestra; True Concord Voices) Label: Reference Recordings
***Rachmaninoff: All-Night Vigil (below): Charles Bruffy, conductor (Paul Davidson, Frank Fleschner, Toby Vaughn Kidd, Bryan Pinkall, Julia Scozzafava, Bryan Taylor & Joseph Warner; Kansas City Chorale & Phoenix Chorale) Label: Chandos
Brahms: The Piano Trios: Tanja Tetzlaff, Christian Tetzlaff & Lars Vogt. Label: Ondine
***Filament (below and in a YouTube video at the bottom): Eighth Blackbird. Label: Cedille Records
Flaherty: Airdancing For Toy Piano, Piano & Electronics: Nadia Shpachenko & Genevieve Feiwen Lee. Track from: Woman At The New Piano. Label: Reference Recordings
Render: Brad Wells & Roomful Of Teeth. Label: New Amsterdam Records
Shostakovich: Piano Quintet & String Quartet No. 2: Takács Quartet & Marc-André Hamelin. Label: Hyperion
***Dutilleux: Violin Concerto, L’Arbre Des Songes (below): Augustin Hadelich; Ludovic Morlot, conductor (Seattle Symphony) Track from: Dutilleux: Métaboles; L’Arbre Des Songes; Symphony No. 2, ‘Le Double’ Label: Seattle Symphony Media
Grieg & Moszkowski: Piano Concertos: Joseph Moog; Nicholas Milton, conductor (Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern) Label: Onyx Classics
Mozart: Keyboard Music, Vol. 7: Kristian Bezuidenhout. Label: Harmonia Mundi
Rachmaninov Variations: Daniil Trifonov (The Philadelphia Orchestra) Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Rzewski: The People United Will Never Be Defeated! Ursula Oppens (Jerome Lowenthal). Label: Cedille Records
Beethoven: An Die Ferne Geliebte; Haydn: English Songs; Mozart: Masonic Cantata: Mark Padmore; Kristian Bezuidenhout, accompanist. Label: Harmonia Mundi
***Joyce & Tony – Live From Wigmore Hall: Joyce DiDonato; Antonio Pappano, accompanist. Label: Erato
Nessun Dorma – The Puccini Album. Jonas Kaufmann; Antonio Pappano, conductor (Kristīne Opolais, Antonio Pirozzi & Massimo Simeoli; Coro Dell’Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia; Orchestra Dell’Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia) Label: Sony Classical
Rouse: Seeing; Kabir Padavali: Talise Trevigne; David Alan Miller, conductor (Orion Weiss; Albany Symphony) Label: Naxos
St. Petersburg: Cecilia Bartoli; Diego Fasolis, conductor (I Barocchisti) Label: Decca
As Dreams Fall Apart – The Golden Age Of Jewish Stage And Film Music (1925-1955): New Budapest Orpheum Society; Jim Ginsburg, producer. Label: Cedille Records
Ask Your Mama: George Manahan, conductor; Judith Sherman, producer. Label: Avie Records
Handel: L’Allegro, Il Penseroso Ed Il Moderato, 1740: Paul McCreesh, conductor; Nicholas Parker, producer. Label: Signum Classics
***Paulus: Three Places Of Enlightenment; Veil Of Tears & Grand Concerto (below): Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor; Tim Handley, producer. Label: Naxos
Woman At The New Piano: Nadia Shpachenko; Marina A. Ledin & Victor Ledin, producers. Label: Reference Recordings
Barry: The Importance Of Being Earnest: Gerald Barry, composer (Thomas Adès, Barbara Hannigan, Katalin Károlyi, Hilary Summers, Peter Tantsits & Birmingham Contemporary Music Group) Label: NMC Recordings
Norman: Play: Andrew Norman, composer (Gil Rose & Boston Modern Orchestra Project) Track from: Norman: Play. Label: BMOP/Sound
***Paulus: Prayers & Remembrances (below): Stephen Paulus, composer (Eric Holtan, True Concord Voices & Orchestra). Track from: Paulus: Far In The Heavens. Label: Reference Recordings
Tower: Stroke: Joan Tower, composer (Giancarlo Guerrero, Cho-Liang Lin & Nashville Symphony). Track from: Tower: Violin Concerto; Stroke; Chamber Dance. Label: Naxos
Wolfe: Anthracite Fields: Julia Wolfe, composer (Julian Wachner, The Choir Of Trinity Wall Street & Bang On A Can All-Stars) Label: Cantaloupe Music
ALERT: The Madison Symphony Orchestra has started its annual holiday cut-rate ticket sale. And you can get some great deals. Between now and Christmas Eve (Dec. 24), you can buy seats for $20 (with a value up to $44) and $45 (valued up to $88). The spring has four concerts, two of which feature piano concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach, Frederic Chopin and Franz Liszt plus a concert of music by exiles from Nazi Germany in Hollywood during World War II and the Ninth Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven and a violin concerto by Leonard Bernstein. For more information, visit: http://www.overturecenter.org/events/madison-symphony-orchestra/
By Jacob Stockinger
Well, today is another Shopping Day left before Christmas and other holidays.
With that in mind, The Ear usually offers lists that other media suggest about the best classical music recordings of 2014.
If you recall, I have already posed a link to the 57th annual Grammy Award nominations, which can be useful when it comes to holiday gift-giving.
Here is a link to that post:
And below is a link to the Top 10 classical albums that appeared on the appeared on the NPR (National Public Radio) blog Deceptive Cadence over the weekend. It is an eclectic list that features early music, well-known classics and new music.
You will find music by composers John Dowland, John Adams (below and at bottom in a YouTube video), John Luther Adams and Thomas Adès as well as Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Jean Sibelius and Carl Nielsen.
Performers include violinist Augustin Hadelich (below), who has played twice with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, and Leon Fleisher, who performed at the Wisconsin Union Theater; mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato; the New York Philharmonic under music director and conductor Alan Gilbert; and the Danish String Quartet playing works by Danish composers.
The list also shows CD covers and feature sound snippets and samples.
REMINDER: “New Year’s Day From Vienna,” with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra performing waltzes, polkas and marches under Daniel Barenboim, will be broadcast live on Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. on Wisconsin Public Radio, and then air at 1:30-3 p.m. and again at 7-8:30 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Television.
By Jacob Stockinger
Today is the day last of the old year, New Year’s Eve — which means it is that time of the year again when The Ear looks back over the past year and decides who deserves to be named “Musician of the Year.”
That is never an easy decision, especially in a city with as much fine classical music and as many fine classical musicians as Madison has. There are so many talented individuals and so many outstanding groups or ensembles in the area that any number of them could qualify for the honor.
It was particularly difficult this year because, due to personal circumstances, The Ear didn’t get to attend a lot of live events he wanted to. Even so, this year the choice seemed somewhat obvious.
For example, here is a link to an insightful overview of the 2013 season offered in Isthmus by critic John W. Barker, who often is a guest writer on this blog. You just have to scroll down through the long story until you find Barker’s spot-on assessments of the year in classical music. It should make any classical music fans envious and proud to be in Madison:
So on to the man who happens to be the most common denominator among Barker’s Best Picks: John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad) is the Musician of the Year for 2013.
Let’s start at the beginning.
It has been 20 years since maestro John DeMain came to Madison as the Music Director of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Artistic Director of the Madison Opera. And he is a supremely articulate — he often does interviews on TV and radio — and cordial advocate of his own causes, as you can hear for yourself in a video at the bottom and in more than a dozen video on YouTube.)
Even before he arrived here, DeMain had a high profile as the artistic director of the Houston Grand Opera, where he commissioned and premiered John Adams’ “Nixon in China” and has a long history with the City Opera, where he conducted while still a student at the Juilliard School. He had also won a prestigious Grammy Award for his landmark recording of George Gershwin’s opera “Porgy and Bess.”
But coming to Madison, DeMain had a chance to show his strength as an organizational builder and planner -– with results that the Madison public could easily see, hear and be impressed by.
John DeMain inherited a fine organization for an amateur or semi-professional orchestra, one that had been built up especially by Roland Johnson during his long tenure.
But once he took over, DeMain vastly improved the playing and then programmed more ambitious pieces for the players, and developed his approach to them. His Brahms now is tighter and leaner and more exciting than when he arrived. John DeMain (below in a photo by Greg Anderson) is devoted to lifelong learning and improvement, and doesn’t take even the music he already knows and performs for granted.
Over his tenure, DeMain has discovered and booked exciting and affordable young guest soloists – pianist Philippe Bianconi, violinists Augustin Hadelich and Henning Kraggerud, cellist Alisa Weilerstein tenor Stephen Costello — although The Ear would also like to see some big and more expensive figures brought to town to allow us to hear these artists live. Plus, DeMain listens to dozens of auditions each year and unerringly picks great young up-and-coming singers for the Madison Opera’s season including the popular Opera in the Park each summer.
I also find it noteworthy and important. DeMain is in demand elsewhere and every season has many opportunities to guest conduct out of town — for the now defunct New York City Opera, the San Francisco Opera, the Glimmerglass Opera in upstate New York and many others.
No less important is his willing to expand out into the local scene. In addition to the opera, he has conducted the chamber groups Con Vivo the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society. He continues to play the piano — he was trained as a pianist before turning to conducting.
As an administrator and organizer, he has demonstrated great skills at putting together a team. True, the orchestra has suffered somewhat during the Great Recession and its aftermath – as did all artistic groups. It had to cut back its season by one concert, which DeMain says he hopes to restore to the subscription season.
But the same labor strife that has led to great damage to the Minnesota Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and so many others has not touched the MSO. DeMain’s contained the damage.
Having inherited double performances, DeMain took the MSO to three performances of each concert, reaching about 5,000 people or so with each “triple” performance. He continues to experiment with programming, and in late January will try out the “Behind the Score” series of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with the “New World” Symphony by Antonin Dvorak (below).
And while some listeners might complain about the lack of more adventurous contemporary music, DeMain has seats to fill and still manages to program contemporary works every season, even with many experimental offerings nearby at the University of Wisconsin School of Music.
DeMain attends concerts at the University of Wisconsin School of Music, and is a tireless promoter of music education from the televised “Final Forte” Bolz concerto competition to the matinée Young People’s concerts (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson).
And let’s not forget that DeMain was instrumental in getting the impressive Overture Center built and then programming concerts for the orchestra’s and opera’s home in Overture Hall (below).
I am sure there is more I am overlooking.
Do I have some disappointments? Sure.
I thought his 20th anniversary season would be a bit more ambitious and adventurous, and feature some big works by Gustav Mahler and Anton Bruckner. I would like to see few more big-name and hot young soloists, including pianists Joyce Yang, Daniil Trifonov and Jeremy Denk (below), who has done two recitals at the Wisconsin Union Theater but has yet to perform a concerto. And there are so many young talented soloists out there today, we should be hearing more of them live and while they are still affordable in our market.
I also get impatient with what I call “playing the Gershwin card” too often -– including again for this year’s season finale -– because the important and identifiable George Gershwin (bel0w) had such an easy-listening and crossover pop-like musical style that it unfailingly draws so many listeners. I loved DeMain’s last concert version of “Porgy and Bess,” but there must be other solutions.
But in the end I have to defer to his judgment. The excellence that John DeMain has brought to the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Madison Opera has extended to the entire city and to other groups. The rising tide he brought has lifted all boats.
If any one individual can take credit for the ever-increasing quality of the classical music that wehear in Madison, that person is John DeMain (below in a photo by Katrin Talbot).
Little wonder, then, that on this 20th anniversary of his arrival in Madison, maestro John DeMain is the Musician of the Year for 2013.
Thank you, John DeMain. We all – listeners and performers alike — are in your debt.
Cheers and good luck in the coming years!
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear thinks that discovering and then booking young up-and-coming violinists is among the biggest success stories that the Madison Symphony Orchestra and its music director and conductor John DeMain have had over the last 20 years, ever since DeMain arrived in Madison.
One example is the Austrian violinist Augustin Hadelich, below.
Another is the Norwegian violinist Henning Kraggerud, below.
Both Hadelich and Kraggerud seem totally natural and complete artists who do exactly what a world-class virtuoso should do: Make the difficult seem effortless without sacrificing musicality.
Hadelich — who also has a compelling personal back story that involves overcoming adversity — will solo again this weekend with the MSO.
Here is the informative press release from the orchestra:
“How does one goes from a farm accident of severe burns to becoming a violin virtuoso, who enchants millions all over the world?
“Augustin Hadelich (pronounced HOD-uh-lick), a child prodigy with a violin in rural Tuscany, was told he might never play a violin again after he barely survived a farm accident that burned his home and him, including his bow arm at age 15.
From those challenging days, he has emerged as a violinist of international renown, who will return to Madison again to join John DeMain and the Madison Symphony Orchestra for three performances this weekend in Overture Hall.
Hadelich will take the stage in the first half to perform Edouard Lalo’s exotic Symphonie Espagnole, a virtuosic concerto with a lush Spanish flavor that he performed in his 2012 debut with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
The concert will open with the wild and spontaneous Too Hot Toccata, by American composer Aaron Kernis.
The Symphony No. 2, by Sergei Rachmaninoff, is a monumental late Romantic work. It is a lush, unmistakably Russian work, and it will close the program. (The melody-rich work’s third movement — the slow Adagio that can be heard at the bottom in a popular YouTube video with conductor Andre Previn and the NHK Symphony Orchestra of Tokyo, part of the public broadcasting system in Japan — more than “inspired” the bestselling pop song “Never Gonna Love Again.” Carmen also “borrowed” from Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 for his bestselling song “All By Myself.”)
The concerts are in the Overture Center’s Overture Hall on Friday, Nov. 15 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 16, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Nov. 17, at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall, 201 State Street.
A free prelude discussion by UW-Madison musicology professor Charles Dill (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot for the UW School of Music) will take place one hour before each performance.
For more information, including a link to Augustin Hadelich’s website, critics’ reviews and audio/video samples, visit:
Here is a link to program by notes by MSO trombonist J. Michael Allsen (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot for the Madison Symphony Orchestra) who teaches at UW-Whitewater:
“Symphonie Espagnole” remains Lalo’s most popular work. He composed it during a period when French composers were fascinated with Spanish music, and Lalo (below) tastefully incorporates this culture’s melodic and dance figures into the work. The soaring violin parts require both technical precision and immense musicianship.
Hadelich is often noted in the media for his “gorgeous tone,” “poetic communication” and “fast-fingered brilliance.” The New York Times wrote, “[Hadelich] has become one of the most distinctive violinists of his generation…he plays with dazzling technique, a gorgeous tone, and penetrating, spontaneous musicality.”
Kernis (below) describes his “Too Hot Toccata” as predominantly “high energy” and “out of control.” Composed in 1996, the piece excitedly works through a series of furious, oddly-metered and sometimes jazzy ideas. Multiple players in the ensemble are featured with virtuosic solos, including violin, clarinet, piccolo, trumpet and percussion.
In his Symphony No. 2, Rachmaninoff (below) achieves an unending and beautiful flow of melody, citing a motto from the opening bars throughout the piece. This is especially impressive given the size of the composition. The 320-page, carefully detailed score rivals the largest of Anton Bruckner’s or Gustav Mahler’s scores in length and breadth. The piece also promises some orchestral fireworks during an hour-long sonic experience.
Tickets are $16.50 to $82.50 each, available at www.madisonsymphony.org/singletickets and through the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street or call the Box Office at (608) 258-4141.
New subscribers can receive up to a 50% discount. For more information and to subscribe, visit: www.madisonsymphony.org/newsub or call (608) 257-3734.
Groups of 15 or more can save 25% by calling the MSO office at (608) 257-3734. For more information visit, www.madisonsymphony.org/groups
Student rush tickets can be purchased in person on the day of the concert at the Overture Box Office at 201 State Street. Full-time students must show a valid student ID and can receive up to two $12 or $15 tickets. More information is at: www.madisonsymphony.org/studentrush On advance ticket purchases, students can receive 20% savings on seats in select areas of the hall.
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.
The Madison Symphony Orchestra is marking its 88th concert season in 2013-2014 by celebrating John DeMain’s 20th anniversary as music director. The Symphony engages audiences of all ages and backgrounds in live classical music through a full season of concerts with established and emerging soloists of international renown, an organ series that includes free concerts, and widely respected education and community engagement programs. Find more information at www.madisonsymphony.org.
Major funding for this concert is provided by the Steinhauer Charitable Trust, UW Health Burn Center and UW-Madison Department of Surgery, and Rosemarie Blancke with additional funds from DeEtte Beilfuss-Eager and Leonard P. Eager, Jr., and the Wisconsin Arts Board.
TWO ALERTS: On this Thursday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. in the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, UW-Madison dramatic soprano Elizabeth Hagedorn (below) — filling in for soprano Julia Faulkner, who is on a leave-of-absence this academic year — will make her local debut. The FREE concert features her singing Gustav Mahler‘s moving “Rueckert Songs” with UW pianist Martha Fischer. It is part of the Wisconsin Science Festival that combines science lectures and live classical music in the SoundWaves program that is organized and directed by UW horn professor Daniel Grabois. For more information, visit the outstanding “Fanfare” blog at the UW School of Music: Here is a link:
And here are links to more stories about Elizabeth Hagedorn:
ALSO: Blog friend and radio host Rich Samuels (below) writes: “On this Thursday morning, Sept. 26, beginning at 7:08 a.m. on my weekly show “Anything Goes” that is broadcast from 5-8 a.m. on WORT 89.9 FM. I’ll be airing an interview I recently recorded with the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s music director John DeMain (the MSO’s 2013-2914 concert season begins, of course, on this Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoon.
“Maestro DeMain talks about his transition from the Houston Grand Opera to the Madison Symphony Orchestra and about the artistic state of the orchestra as he begins his 20th season on the podium.
“Music for the segment will include selections from DeMain’s 1996 Grammy award-winning recording the Houston Grand Opera made when its production of George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” was playing Broadway.
“Half the segment deals with the upcoming season and some of the younger soloists who will be heard between now and next May. We’ll hear performances by Norwegian trumpeter Tine Thing Helseth, violinist Augustin Hadelich, soprano Emily Birsan and the young Madison pianist Garrick Olsen (not to be confused with pianist Garrick Ohlsson).”
By Jacob Stockinger
This is the week of orchestral season debuts. Yesterday, The Ear spotlighted the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s concerts this weekend.
But at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall on this Sunday evening — on what The Ear calls “Symphony Sunday” with performances by the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the UW Symphony Orchestra and the Edgewood College Chamber Orchestra — the University of Wisconsin-Madison Symphony Orchestra will perform a FREE concert under its longtime director James Smith, who also directs the UW Chamber Orchestra and is the music director of University Opera.
Smith recently granted The Ear an email Q&A about the concert:
You programmed “The Rite of Spring” by Igor Stravinsky (below) because this is the centennial year of its world premiere. How important is that work in the symphonic repertoire and to music history in general?
It is often cited as a landmark work in all respects. Several faculty members mentioned that we ought to perform it so that the students can appreciate its impact. At the time, 1913, the harmonies, the savage rhythms and the choreography were all quite jolting to the Paris audiences.
Right from the start, the bassoon explores a new range for the instrument as it sets the stage for the pagan ritual ahead.
How challenging technically is the “Rite of Spring” in general to perform but especially for UW undergraduate students? What makes it such a difficult work?
It is difficult on all levels: rhythmic, technical and tessitura (the comfort range of notes for a specific kind of voice or instrument).. We have performed works by Bohuslav Martinu, Alban Berg, Anton Webern and Gustav Mahler who also posed special difficulties. The students are working very hard outside of the rehearsals so that we can all experience this exciting work. (Below is a photo of the UW Symphony Orchestra performing with the UW Choral Union plus a link to a video by Kathy Esposito, concert manager and public relations director at the UW School of Music, of the UW Symphony Orchestra and conductor James Smith rehearsing “The Rite of Spring” that Esposito posted on Facebook.)
Why did you choose the “Egmont” Overture by Ludwig van Beethoven to go with this program? Are there special thematic or pedagogical reasons?
Simple answer: It is a great way to start a program, and an opportunity for my graduate assistant to be introduced to the audience. His name is Kyle Knox (below). He is also an accomplished clarinetist who is the assistant principal clarinetist of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.
The Third Symphony is not one of the most famous or popular symphonies by Jean Sibelius (below). Why did you choose to program it and what should audience members listen for or pay attention to?
Good question. After the rather romantic and somewhat conventional First and Second Symphonies, the Third Symphony loses much of the bombast and announces a more austere and restless path. As my teacher one commented, Sibelius became more and more “north” in style and mood: austere and quixotic. (The first movement can be heard in a YouTube video at the bottom as performed by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic.)
By Jacob Stockinger
In case you don’t already know, today is the expiration date of a special offer for subscribers to the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below).
Not only can you save up to 50 percent but you could also see the handling fee waived and also receive a free copy of a CD by John DeMain and the MSO that was done in Overture Hall of the Overture Center.
Here is a link for more information about the subscription and about the concerts in the 2013-14 season, including the special one-time only “Behind the Notes” performance of Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony:
As you may recall, this coming season is the celebration the 20th year that John DeMain (below) has been music director of the symphony. He has selected a lot of special programs – though some of us are disappointed that there is no Mahler symphony or song cycle and no Bruckner symphony on the list.
The programs include an all-Beethoven program with acclaimed pianist Yefim Bronfman (below) perform two piano concertos (Nos. 2 and 5); the fabulous violinist Augustin Hadelich in Lalo; the Mozart Requiem and an all-American concert with Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein among other composers.
But one big surprise was DeMain’s choice of a Norwegian trumpeter player – and a female trumpet player, which is rarer still – to appear as a new guest soloist in two trumpet concertos, including the famous one in E-flat Major by Franz Josef Haydn.
Her name in Tine Thing Helseth (below).
At the publicity launch of the new season last spring, DeMain explained to The Ear that he heard playing on Sirius Radio while he was driving in his car, and he was quite impressed.
He also said that he thought it would be interesting for MSO audiences to hear a different soloist, someone besides the usual pianist, violin, cellist or singer.
Time and the box office will tell how big the appeal of a brass player as soloist is.
But it turns out that DeMain isn’t the only one impressed with her talent.
In fact, Helseth has been put in charge of a new summer music festival.
Here is a link to the story:
Here is a link to Helseth’s own website:
ALERT: In case you haven’t already heard the news, Middleton High School pianist Christopher Eom (below, on the far left) won the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s “Final Forte” part of the Bolz Young Artists Competition on Thursday night when he performed the first movement of Saint-Saens’ Piano Concerto No. 2. Here is a link to the MSO website with other information, including biographies of all the four participants and when the live airing by Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television will be re-broadcast.
By Jacob Stockinger
On Friday afternoon, the Madison Symphony Orchestra announced its next season for 2013-14. As in the past five season, it is holding its subscription concerts to eight, with a ninth one-performance only special event added. Difficult economic times forced the MSO to reduce its season several years ago.
Tickets will also increase 5 percent, according to Executive Director Rick Mackie.
“We have held the line on no increase for many years,” Mackie told The Ear. “But costs are going up. We had to do something.”
2013-24 is a special season because it marks the 20th anniversary of the tenure of music director and conductor John DeMain, who came to Madison from the Houston Grand Opera, where he was the artistic director. DeMain (below in a photo by Prasad) also is the music director of the Madison Opera, which will soon announce its new season.
To mark the occasion, an MSO press release says, DeMain has put together a season designed to highlight the growth of the ensemble during his tenure, which will be showcased prominently in September by opening with an all-orchestral season premiere.
Regular MSO concerts take place in the Overture Center’s Overture Hall (below) on Fridays at 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays at 8 p.m.; and Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m.
Throughout the season, DeMain has programmed works by composers integral to his relationship with the orchestra, including Copland, Beethoven, Gershwin, Mozart, Brahms, Dvorak, Rachmaninoff and Strauss.
A world-class roster of guest artists — their desire to return to Madison is more proof, says DeMain, of the high caliber of the MSO’s ensemble playing — has been invited to Madison for the season’s performances, including pianist Yefim Bronfman, violinist Augustin Hadelich, organist Nathan Laube, and Tony Award-winning singer Karen Ziemba.
New this season is a one-performance only presentation of Beyond the Score® in January, featuring Symphony No. 9 (“New World”) in a multimedia context that illuminates the stories behind the music.
The orchestra’s website has already been updated about the new season. Details about purchasing tickets and the concert season–including music previews and guest artist biographies–can be found on the MSO website at www.madisonsymphony.org.
The season begins on September 27, 28 and 29, 2013 with a program of orchestral favorites spotlighting the musicians of the Madison Symphony Orchestra. The American harmonies of Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” open the concert, followed by Richard Wagner’s majestic and moving Prelude and Liebestod from “Tristan und Isolde.” Rimsky-Korsakov’s epic “Scheherazade” concludes this program of touchstone works that demonstrate the full expressive range of orchestral music and highlight MSO concertmaster Naha Greenholtz (below).
On October 18, 19 and 20, 2013 French pianist Philippe Bianconi (below, in a photo by Bernard Martinez) returns to the MSO for a performance of Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2. Of the piece, Bianconi says, “What I really love is that it’s like playing in a symphony. Being immersed in the orchestral texture is always an exhilarating experience.” Two 20th century works round out the program: Benjamin Britten’s “Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell” (better known as The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra), recently featured prominently in Wes Anderson’s Academy Award-nominated film “Moonrise Kingdom,” and Debussy’s “La Mer,” a musical seascape sure to transport audiences.
The program for November 15, 16, and 17, 2013 features violinist Augustin Hadelich (below) — one of The Ear’s favorite young fiddlers — in Lalo’s “Symphonie Espagnole.” Hailed as “one of the most distinctive violinists of his generation” by The New York Times, Hadelich describes the Lalo as “emotional and hot-blooded” and is excited to help listeners “rediscover what a great piece it is” as he makes his second appearance with the orchestra. Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Aaron Jay Kernis’ “Too Hot Toccata” opens the program and the lush Romanticism of Rachmaninoff is on full display in his Symphony No. 2.
Conductor DeMain and the orchestra don their Santa hats for the 20th anniversary of A Madison Symphony Christmas (below top, in a photo by Greg Anderson) on December 6, 7, and 8, 2013. A beloved Madison tradition, this concert brings together the Madison Symphony Chorus, Madison Youth Choirs and the Mt. Zion Gospel Choir with outstanding guest vocalists. This season, soprano Melody Moore (below top) and bass Nathan Stark (below bottom, in a photo by Paul Sarouchman) take the stage to help mark Madison’s unofficial start of the holiday season.
January 26, 2014, brings a special, one performance-only concert entitled Beyond the Score®. The first half of this concert is a multi-media exploration of Symphony No. 9 (“From the New World”) by Antonin Dvorak (below), weaving together historical narrative with live actors, visual illustrations and musical examples played by the MSO, all exploring the life and times of the composer. The second half is a full performance of the work. Beyond the Score® is designed not only for classical music aficionados, but also for newcomers looking to delve deeper into the world of classical music. Developed by and licensed from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Beyond the Score® has been celebrated by orchestras and critics around the country, with the Chicago Tribune raving, “Seldom has enlightenment proved so entertaining.”
On February 14, 15, and 16, 2014 the young Norwegian trumpet virtuoso Tine Thing Helseth (below, in a photo by Colin Bell of EMI Classics) makes her MSO debut in performances of two contrasting concertos: Hadyn’s Concerto for Trumpet, and Arutiunian’s Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra. The concertos are framed by three orchestral gems: Sibelius’ symphonic poem “Finlandia,” the “Doctor Atomic” Symphony from John Adams’ new American opera of the same name, and Strauss’ Suite from “Der Rosenkavalier,” which DeMain, known as an opera conductor, says is his favorite opera.
Beethoven is at the heart of the orchestral experience and no anniversary celebration would be complete without his music. Concerts on March 7, 8, and 9, 2014, offer an ALL-BEETHOVEN program and features one of the world’s great pianists, Yefim Bronfman (below, in a photo by Odad Antman), in not one, but two concertos by Beethoven: his rarely played Piano Concerto No. 2 (actually composed before the first) and Piano Concerto No. 5 (“Emperor”). The Beethoven bonanza continues throughout the program, with the orchestra performing his Symphony No. 1 and Overture to “The Creatures of Prometheus” — from the great composer’s only ballet!
April 4, 5, and 6, 2014 brings together six guest artists for spectacular performances of Jongen’s “Symphonie Concertante” and Mozart’s Requiem led by acclaimed guest conductor Julian Wachner, praised as a “major talent” by The Boston Globe. Organist Nathan Laube (below top) is featured in the Jongen, a grand, dramatic concerto heard previously in Madison at the dedication of the Overture Concert Organ. UW-Madison trained soprano Emily Birsan (below bottom), mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack, tenor Wesley Rogers, and bass Liam Moran join the Madison Symphony Chorus for Mozart’s Requiem, his final composition and one of his most compelling to this day. Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance No. 1 opens the program.
Concluding the season on May 2, 3, and 4, 2014, is a concert event close to Maestro DeMain’s heart: “The Gershwin Legacy.” George Gershwin left an indelible imprint on American music, says DeMain who is known for his award-winning performances and Grammy-winning recording of “Porgy and Bess.” This grand finale brings together soprano Emily Birsan, and Broadway stars Karen Ziemba (below top) and Ron Raines (below bottom). The program features works by Gershwin, including the fascinating “I Got Rhythm Variations,” which will be played by 2012 Bolz Young Artist Competition winner, local pianist Garrick Olsen (below middle, in a photo by Chris Paskas), along with the “Catfish Row Suite” from “Porgy and Bess.” Then Leonard Bernstein steps up with the Symphonic Dances from “West Side Story,” and music by Kurt Weill, Marc Blitzstein and Stephen Sondheim — all also influenced by Gershwin — round out the season finale. It is a fitting closer since DeMain worked closely with Bernstein.
As for tickets:
As mentioned above, there is a 5 percent ticket increase.
The MSO is also continuing its popular new subscriber discount of 50% off single ticket prices for subscriptions of six, seven and eight concerts. New subscriber packages start at just $56 for five concerts, including a 40% discount off single ticket prices. There is no deadline for new subscriptions; however, patrons are encouraged to order early for the best available seats.
Renewing subscribers save up to 25% off the price of single tickets. The renewal deadline in May 6.
In addition to subscriber discounts, unlimited ticket exchange and optional reserved subscriber parking in the Dane County Ramp, the MSO also offers an exclusive 10% discount on single tickets during Subscriber Courtesy Days, August 10-12, 2013.
Subscribers can contact the MSO by calling (608) 257-3734 with questions or to be added to the mailing list.
By Jacob Stockinger
In these hard economic times, it seems with few exceptions that the news about national symphonies just keeps getting worse – with tales of cancelled seasons, curtailed budgets, bankruptcies and labor strife.
But the regional symphonies – at least some of them – are doing a lot better.
Witness the spate of great coverage the Madison Symphony Orchestra has garnered.
Below is a press release from the MSO’s new marketing director, Madison-native Henry Peters, who has worked for EMI records and has sung in the campus-community Choral Union:
“CHRISTMAS COMES IN JANUARY FOR THE MADISON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
“Accolades pour in as Madison’s Symphony Orchestra enters a New Year
“During the past week, Music Director John DeMain and the Madison Symphony Orchestra have received a flood of recognition from both local and national sources.
“First, new Concertmaster Naha Greenholtz hit the cover of Symphony Magazine (below), the magazine of note for America’s orchestras.
“Then the Symphony won the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra’s prestigious Rabin Youth Arts Award for significant contributions to enriching youth through the arts.
The Symphony’s weekend concerts with violinist Augustin Hadelich (below) received both standing ovations from audiences and high praise from the critics.
HERE ARE MORE DETAILS:
In an article entitled “The New Masters,” Symphony Magazine notes a trend as talented young violinists take on leading roles at some of the nation’s most storied ensembles including the orchestras of Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Madison, Dayton and Nashville.
The MSO’s Naha Greenholtz, currently in her first year as concertmaster, graces the cover of the issue. The article inside focuses on the talent, strength, and authority these new stars bring to bear in leading ensembles composed mostly of players much older than they. See the entire article at www.madisonsymphony.org
On Friday, the MSO received notification that it had won the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra’s Rabin Youth Arts Award in the category of Artistic Achievement by an Organization. Named in honor of WYSO’s founder, the award recognizes individuals and organizations that have contributed significantly to the enrichment of youth through the Arts.
The winners were selected by a panel of Wisconsin arts education leaders who were “very impressed with the quality and scope of [the MSO’s] work to bring music education opportunities” to the region. The award letter stated, “The talent, passion, and commitment of those involved…especially [MSO Director of Education] Michelle Kaebisch is quite remarkable,” and went on to say, “Thank you for not only believing in the power of arts education but also for working tirelessly to spread the message.” (Below is a photo by Greg Anderson of MSO’s 2011 packed Fall Youth Concerts.)
Over the weekend, concert-goers and critics alike were hard-pressed to find the words to express their elation over the weekend’s concerts, especially violinist Augustin Hadelich’s performance of Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2. Making his MSO debut, violinist Augustin Hadelich (below) drew standing ovations and rave reviews.
It was the first time in the Symphony’s 86 seasons that this extraordinarily beautiful concerto was played, and Mr. Hadelich’s performance proved what the Washington Post recently said of him: “The essence of [his] playing is beauty.”
Local critics couldn’t have agreed more. “What is it about the Madison Symphony Orchestra and violin soloists who deliver performances of Russian concertos that could melt Siberian tundra?” asked Greg Hettmansberger for Madison Magazine. John W. Barker of Isthmus also praised Hadelich’s playing, pointing out one of the 28-year-old’s most charming characteristics: “Still with youthful qualities in so mature a musician, he seems at times to look down the strings with boyish wonder at what the instrument (a Strad) in his hands is doing.” And Jake Stockinger of Well Tempered Ear concluded, “I doubt I will hear a better performance of any concerto in this season, or many others, than I heard at the Sunday afternoon concert by the MSO.”
And finally, when New York Times op-ed columnist Joe Nocera wrote a retrospective on the cultural significance of Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” on January 21st, he paid tribute to John DeMain (below, in a photo by James Gill) for revitalizing “arguably the most important piece of American music written in the 20th century.” He notes that as they developed the Houston Grand Opera’s 1976 production, “the young director, Jack O’Brien, and the company’s musical director, John DeMain, did something no white director had ever done before: they consulted with the cast on how ‘Porgy and Bess’ should be played.” Donny Albert, who sang the role of Porgy in that production, recalled that “Jack and John kept asking us, ‘How do we feel about doing it this way?’ ‘Does this feel right to you?’”
Nocera credits DeMain’s production with restoring the work to its “rightful place in the pantheon of American Art.” That history-making production, both with Houston Grand Opera and New York City Opera went on to win Grammy, Tony, and Emmy awards (the last for a Live from Lincoln Center broadcast) along with France’s prestigious Gran Prix du Disque. And it led to great things for the young DeMain: after hearing the performance, Leonard Bernstein (below) went backstage to tell DeMain, “I’ve waited my whole life to hear it done this way. You’ve done it. I don’t have to.”
That meeting led to a collaboration between Bernstein and DeMain that culminated with DeMain conducting the world premiere of Bernstein’s last opera, “A Quiet Place.” DeMain went on to conduct the world premieres of a dizzying array of important operas.
And though he has conducted more than 350 performances of “Porgy and Bess” throughout the world, he has never conducted it here. Finally, John DeMain brings “Porgy and Bess” – in excerpts, not the complete opera (such as the acclaimed Seattle Opera production he led, below) — home to Madison this May 11, 12 and 13.