The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: This Thursday morning, WORT will broadcast a live performance of Gideon Klein’s String Trio, composed in a concentration camp, by three up-and-coming musicians from the Dynamite Factory of the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society

June 14, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following note from blog fan and local live music documentarian Rich Samuels, who hosts his radio show “Anything Goes” on Thursday morning on WORTFM 88.9. It concerns an unusual performance of Holocaust music by a kind of apprenticeship program that The Ear really likes as a way for to provide continuity between different generations of musicians:

“At 7:26 a.m. on this Thursday morning, June 15, on my WORT broadcast I’ll be playing a performance of Gideon Klein‘s 1944 String Trio by violinist Misha Vayman, violist Jeremy Kienbaum and cellist Trace Johnson (below, from left, in a photo by Samantha Crownover).

“They are the three members of the “Dynamite Factory,” the three emerging musicians who have joined the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society for its 2017 season.

“I recorded this performance — thanks to co-artistic director Stephanie Jutt and executive director Samantha Crownover — last Thursday at an event at the Central Library of the Madison Public Library system.

Trace and Jeremy are Madison natives and alumni of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO); Misha comes to Madison from the Russian Republic by way of southern California.

“I think it’s a compelling performance of a remarkable piece. It was the last work Klein (below) composed before he was transported from the Theresienstadt concentration camp to Auschwitz where, in a coal mining sub-camp, he died in early 1945.”


Classical music: The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society opens its 26th season with a bang worthy of its name. Plus, TONIGHT the Willy Street Chamber Players open the summer season of the Rural Musicians Forum in Spring Green

June 12, 2017
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A REMINDER: Tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Hillside Theater at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin compound in Spring Green, six members of the Willy Street Chamber Players will open the summer season of the Rural Musicians Forum. The program features works by Johannes Brahms, American composer Charles Ives, and Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera. A free-will donation will be requested. The Hillside Theater is located at 6604 County Highway 23, Spring Green. For more information about the Rural Musicians Forum, go to: http://ruralmusiciansforum.org/home

By Jacob Stockinger

This guest review is by a new contributor, Kyle Johnson (below). As a pianist since elementary school, Johnson has devoted most of his life to music. Born and raised in Lexington, Kentucky, he is now a doctoral candidate in piano performance at the UW-Madison, where he studies with Christopher Taylor and specializes in modern and contemporary music. He participates in many festivals and events around the U.S. and Europe. Recently, he co-founded the Madison-based ensemble Sound Out Loud, an interactive contemporary music ensemble. For more information, visit: www.kyledjohnson.weebly.com

By Kyle Johnson

The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society’s 26th season — themed “Alphabet Soup” for 26 letters — began on Friday evening at the historic Stoughton Opera House (below bottom) with a program of underprogrammed French, German and Russian works.

BDDS is led by artistic directors (below) Stephanie Jutt, UW-Madison’s newly-retired flute professor and principal flute of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, and Jeffrey Sykes, pianist of the San Francisco Piano Trio who studied at the UW-Madison. The two musicians assembled a “dynamite” group of musicians for their opening concert.

First on the program was Médailles antiques (Old Medals) for flute, violin and piano from 1916 by Philippe Gaubert (below). Like the weather throughout the day on Friday, the piece provided a sunny and spry start to the program in the centennial year of World War I.

At times, I wanted the ends of phrases to have a little more stretch and grace to them. However, the richness of sound from each musician, as well as the ensemble’s superb blend, made up for any small qualm I may have had.

The next piece, Gideon Klein’s String Trio (1944), featured three “apprentice” musicians from BDDS’s Dynamite Factory. Violinist Misha Vayman (below top), violist Jeremy Kienbaum (below middle) and cellist Trace Johnson (below bottom) are the program fellows for this year’s series.

Striking about the work was Klein’s musical optimism amid stark reality – the piece was written at the Auschwitz concentration camp just a few months before the death of the composer (below).

The Dynamite Factory artists gave a spirited rendition of the weighty work, which at times resembles the rollicking intensity of Bela Bartok’s folk dances.

Before the intermission, the audience was treated to Sergei Prokofiev’s chilling Sonata No. 1 in F Minor, Op. 80, for violin and piano. Like the preceding piece, Prokofiev’s sonata was written during the strife of World War II. (You can hear the first movement, played by Maxim Vengerov, in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Prokofiev labeled one passage at the end of the first movement as “wind passing through a graveyard”; the passage (a series of quick violin scales) returns at the close of the piece. Under the hands of violinist Carmit Zori (below top) and pianist Jeffrey Sykes (below bottom), the sonata seemed both devastating and human.

A brief, unprogrammed presentation began the second half of the concert, which was a performance of “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” from the oratorio Solomon by George Frideric Handel.

The work was lauded and produced by the Fourth Earl of Sandwich in the mid-1700s. Fittingly, during the music, characters clad in 18th-century attire roamed the Stoughton Opera House to hand out sandwiches.

Last on the program was Johannes Brahms’s Piano Quartet No. 2 in A Major, Op. 26, played by violinist Zori; Pro Arte Quartet violist Sally Chisholm (below top); Toronto Symphony principal cellist Joseph Johnson (below bottom); and pianist Sykes.

The quartet brimmed with musical swells and overlapping layers of sound. There are a number of memorable themes that allow the listener to simply ride the wave of sound throughout the 40-minute work.

All of the musicians were fully deserving of the ovation (below, in a photo by Kyle Johnson) they received in Stoughton, as all technical demands were met with superb musicality and passion.

Future BDDS concerts run through June 25 and are not to be missed! For more information about programs and about performers, performance dates, times and venues, go to www.bachdancing.org


Classical music: The 26th season of the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society chamber music festival opens this weekend with two programs in three locations

June 6, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society (BDDS) presents its 26th annual summer chamber music festival — Alphabet Soup — starting this weekend.

It will run from this Friday, June 9, through Sunday, June 25. The festival features 12 concerts over three weekends, and each weekend offers two different programs.

Concerts will be performed in The Playhouse at the Overture Center in Madison, the Stoughton Opera House in Stoughton and the Hillside Theater at Taliesin in Spring Green.

In the three-weekend festival, you can hear great classical masterpieces and fine contemporary works. A roster of musicians with national and international reputations will perform.

The venues are suitably intimate for chamber music: The Playhouse (below top) at the Overture Center at 201 State St.; the jewel box historic Stoughton Opera House (below middle) at 381 East Main St.; and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hillside Theater (below bottom) at Taliesin on County Highway 23 in Spring Green.

Added attractions include stories about the music, mystery guests and even door prizes. As BDDS puts it, “It’s chamber music with a bang!”

BDDS is led by co-artistic directors and performers flutist Stephanie Jutt (below right), who is principal flute with the Madison Symphony Orchestra and who just retired from the UW-Madison faculty; and pianist Jeffrey Sykes (below left), who graduated from the UW-Madison and teaches in Berkeley, California,  where he is a member of the San Francisco Trio. Nineteen guest artists will also perform in the festival.

This season’s theme is Alphabet Soup, because it’s the 26th year and there are 26 letters in the alphabet. Each program is named after a combination of letters used in everyday language. Sometimes the musical interpretation of those letters is literal and sometimes it’s quite loose.

Musicians for Week One include three veteran string players: Naumberg Award-winning violinist Carmit Zori (below top); Madison’s very own violist Sally Chisholm (below middle) of the Pro Arte Quartet; and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s principal cellist Joseph Johnson (below bottom).

They will be joined by young artists who are participants in the newly formed Dynamite Factory, a BDDS program for nurturing and furthering the talents of three exceptional young musicians — violist Jeremy Kienbaum, violinist Misha Vayman and cellist Trace Johnson.

In one of two “sandwich” programs this weekend, PB&J, Carmit Zori will play the haunting Violin Sonata in F minor by Sergei Prokofiev and the program includes the heavenly Piano Quartet in A Major of Johannes Brahms.

The Dynamite Factory artists are featured in the emotional String Trio by Gideon Klein (below), a work he wrote at the Auschwitz concentration camp shortly before his death. (You can hear the trio by Gideon Klein in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

PB&J will be performed at the Stoughton Opera House on Friday, June 9, at 7:30 p.m.; and in Spring Green at the Hillside Theater, Sunday, June 11, at 2:30 p.m.

A second “sandwich” program, BLT, features the emotionally complex Cello Sonata (featuring Joseph Johnson) by Benjamin Britten (below top); all of the artists working together in the great “London” Symphony by Franz Joseph Haydn as arranged by Haydn’s contemporary and impresario Johann Peter Salomon (below bottom); and the beautiful string sextet “Souvenir de Florence” by Peter Tchaikovsky.

BLT will be performed at The Playhouse, Overture Center for the Arts, on Saturday, June 10, at 7:30 p.m. and at the Hillside Theater, Taliesin, Spring Green, on Sunday, June 11, at 6:30 p.m. 

For the seventh year, BDDS will perform two FREE family concerts, interactive events intended for all ages.

One event takes place 11–11:45 AM, on Saturday, June 10, in The Playhouse of the Overture Center.  The other will be at the Central Library Bubbler on this Thursday afternoon, June 8, from 4 to 5 p.m.

This is a performance for families with children of all ages and seating will be first come, first served. CUNA Mutual Group, Pat Powers and Thomas Wolfe and the Overture Center underwrite these performances.

Photos by Dick Ainsworth of BDDS performances and behind-the-scenes are on exhibit in The Playhouse Gallery through July 9.

Single general admission tickets are $43. Student tickets are always $10.

Tickets can also be purchased at Overture Center for the Arts, (608) 258-4141, www.overturecenter.org (additional fees apply). Tickets are available at the door at all locations.

For more information about the group, performers and programs, including audiovisual clips, go to: http://bachdancing.org


New Life for “The Great Gatsby”: John Harbison’s “Roaring ‘20s” opera has its European premiere this month in Dresden, Germany

December 5, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear’s good friend, Sarah Schaffer, who works with composer John Harbison, writes:

Many Madisonians were among those who travelled to New York City in 1999 for the world premiere of John Harbison’s opera, “The Great Gatsby,” which is based on the iconic novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald and which was commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera in celebration of renowned conductor James Levine’s 25th anniversary there. (Below, from the original production, are the late tenor Jerry Hadley as Jay Gatsby and soprano Dawn Upshaw as Daisy Buchanan.)

Harbison Great Gatsby Gatbsy (Hadley) and Daisy (Upshaw)

The work has since been presented by Lyric Opera of Chicago, in Boston and at Tanglewood by Emmanuel Music, and, in a reduced orchestra chamber version, by Opera Parallele in San Francisco and at the Aspen Music Festival.

A suite from the opera, commissioned by conductor David Zinman, was performed by the Madison Symphony Orchestra under Maestro John DeMain here in 2010.

And of course, John Harbison and his wife, violinist Rose Mary Harbison, are best known in Madison as the artistic directors of the fiercely imaginative annual Token Creek Chamber Music Festival, held in their refurbished barn near Sun Prairie just before Labor Day each summer.

John and Rose Mary Harbison Katrin Talbot

Now, the first European performance of “The Great Gatsby” will take place at Semperoper (below) in Dresden, Germany from this Sunday, Dec. 6, through Dec. 21. It will be presented in English, with German surtitles.

semperoper dresden exter

Semperoper interior

Preceding the first performance, Semperoper is offering a preview event where two film versions of “The Great Gatsby” will be shown: the 1974 version with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow; and the 2013 Baz Luhrman version with Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan.

According to Semperoper, “The opera blends modern classical music with jazz and swing to paint a thrilling portrait of a debauched and decadent society, where double standards clash with idealism. European audiences can now enjoy this work for the first time.”

John Harbison directing Gatsby

Wayne Marshall is music director, Keith Warner stage director, with dramaturgy by Stefan Ulrich, and set design by the late John Engels, whose stunning and evocative work was seen last spring in the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s production of The Passenger, Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s powerful opera about how the horrors of Auschwitz impact people’s lives in the present.

Wayne Marshall, renowned interpreter of the works of George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein, Duke Ellington and other 20th-century American composers, serves as music director.

In making a new production of The Great Gatsby, Director Keith Warner does not adopt an “update” strategy, often seen in recent European productions.  Instead he goes directly to the period, the American mid-1920s, making its excesses, its excitements, and its cloak of impending doom the essential color of the opera. (below is the party scene.)

Harbison Great Gatsby Party Scene

In the upcoming Dresden production, tenor Peter Lodahl makes his Semperoper debut in the role of Jay Gatsby. For more information, visit: www.peterlodahl.co

Daisy Buchanan will be performed by soprano Maria Bengtsson. For more information, visit: www.mariabengtsson.com

A complete cast list and production personnel can be found at https://www.semperoper.de/en/whats-on/schedule/stid/Gatsby/60545.html

A brief video regarding the launching of Gatsby at Semperopera can be found at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7x_dVimgYg

While not without its detractors, over the years and through its many productions Gatsby has garnered significant praise from some of the most respected critics and publications.

With such an iconic and thoroughly American novel, story and music as its origin and soundscape, it will be fascinating to see what kind of reception Gatsby’s eagerly anticipated European premiere will garner across the pond.

Harbison Great Gatsby 2

Europeans, very conversant with the Fitzgerald novel, tend to emphasize the role of class more than American readers.  Warner uses a number of theatrical devices to starkly outline the attitudes and surroundings of the Wilsons, the working-class couple so crucial to conflicts within the story.

The racist and elitist rants of Tom Buchanan, perhaps more comfortably folded into his familiar character by American fans of the book, emerge in stark outline in Warner’s conception.

 


Classical music: The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society will perform a FREE concert this Sunday afternoon to help bring neglected Jewish music “out of the shadows” of history. Part 2 of 2.

August 27, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear’s friends at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society write:

The U.S. component of a major international research project, “Performing the Jewish Archive,” led by the University of Leeds, in England, has attracted significant funding to shine new light on forgotten works by Jewish artists.

The University of Wisconsin–Madison and the City of Madison are uniquely situated as the sole hosts for the global project’s performance events within the United States; one of the premier public research-intensive universities in the world, located in a community that lives and breathes diverse arts, while striving for social change.

Out of shadows poster

Here, in Madison, under the leadership of Teryl Dobbs, Chair of Music Education at the UW-Madison, “Out of the Shadows: Rediscovering Jewish Music, Literature and Theater” will be a full-day event held on this Sunday, August 30, 2015.

Local partners include the UW-Madison School of Music, Mosse-Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies, the Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture, and the Arts Institute at UW-Madison; and the Bach Dancing andDynamite Society.

Yesterday The Ear posted the schedule of all FREE events.

Here is a link to that post:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/08/26/classical-music-the-uw-madison-and-the-bach-dancing-and-dynamite-society-will-hold-free-events-this-coming-sunday-to-help-bring-neglected-jewish-music-and-culture-out-of-the-shadows/

Today’s post focuses on the classical music in the event:

The Ear’s friend Jeffrey Sykes of the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society writes:

The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society is proud to partner with Performing the Jewish Archive’s “Out of the Shadows” event by performing neglected and suppressed Jewish music from the early 20th Century.

The FREE concert will be held this Sunday 2:30-4:30 p.m. in the Atrium Auditorium of the First Unitarian Society, 900 University Bay Drive.

The program includes music from two composers who died at Auschwitz. Erwin Schulhoff’s flute sonata is a passionate mix of impressionism and jazz. Dick Kattenburg’s quartet for flute, violin, cello and piano is an irrepressible romp full of Gershwin-esque melodies and harmonies.

Robert Kahn (below) is a composer from an earlier generation whose work was suppressed by the Nazis. We perform his gorgeous song cycle “Jungbrunnen” (The Fountain of Youth) for soprano, violin, cello and piano.

Robert Kahn

The program concludes with two works by the Viennese wunderkind Erich Wolfgang Korngold (below). Already well-known in Austria, Korngold had begun to compose music for Hollywood movies. He was working California in 1938 when the Anschluss took place, and he never returned to his homeland.

We begin with three beautiful songs he composed for his mother and continue with his Suite for piano left-hand, two violins and cello based on those songs. A thrilling and important composition, the Suite was written for the Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who had lost his right arm in World War I.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold BW piano

Adds BDDS flutist Stephanie Jutt:

Dutch composer Dick Kattenburg (1919-1944, below) barely got started before his career and his life ended at Auschwitz at age 24. A supremely gifted young composer, bursting with originality and ingenuity, his love of jazz and the popular idioms of the day make his music irresistible – by turns a bit of Stravinsky, a bit of Wizard of Oz, a bit of Duke Ellington. His two dozen complete works were hidden in the attic where his mother had kept them, and were discovered by his sister, Daisy.

Dick Kattenburg

The music of Czech composer Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942, below) has become widely known over the last 20 years. Denounced as “Entartete Musik” (degenerate music) by the Nazis, he died in Wülzburg concentration camp. During the 30 years of his active career he wrote sonatas, quartets, sextets, jazz piano pieces, stage music, an opera, eight symphonies, and at least one oratorio.

Schulhoff, like Kattenburg, also fell in love with American jazz, and his flute sonata of 1927 reflects the infectious American rhythmic vitality with his great interest in the traditional music of Czechoslovakia.

Erwin Schulhoff

Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society performers are: Emily Birsan, soprano; Stephanie Jutt, flute; Parry Karp, cello; Leanne League, violin; Axel Strauss, violin; and Jeffrey Sykes, piano.

PROGRAM

Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942): Flute Sonata (1928). Jutt, Sykes

Robert Kahn (1865-1951): Seven Songs from Jungbrunnen, op. 46, for soprano and piano trio (1906). Birsan, League, Karp, Sykes

Dick Kattenburg: Quartet for flute, violin, cello and piano. Jutt, Strauss, Karp, Sykes.

Intermission

Erich Wolfgang Korngold 
(1897-1957): Three Songs, op. 22, for soprano and piano (1930). Birsan, Sykes

Erich Wolfgang Korngold 
(1897-1957): Suite, op. 23, for piano left hand, two violins, and cello (1930). Strauss, League, Karp, Sykes

For more about the performers, visit bachdancinganddynamite.org.

Here are biographies of the performers:

Founding Artistic Director STEPHANIE JUTT (below) is professor of flute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and principal flute of the Madison Symphony Orchestra. She is a winner of the International Pro Musicis Competition.

Stephanie Jutt in Gustavino at Taliesin BDDS 2014

Founding Artistic Director and pianist JEFFREY SYKES (below) is a faculty member of the University of California-Berkeley. He is a member of the San Francisco Piano Trio.

jeffrey sykes

Soprano EMILY BIRSAN (below) has completed her third year as a member of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, she is appearing with the Boston Lyric Opera this year.

Emily Birsan MSO 2014

Cellist PARRY KARP (bel0w) is artist-in-residence and professor of chamber music and cello at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has been cellist of the Pro Arte Quartet for the past 37 years.

Parry Karp

Violinist LEANNE KELSO LEAGUE (below) is assistant concertmaster of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, and associate concertmaster of the Madison Symphony Orchestra. She also teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and is a member of the Ancora String Quartet.

Leanne League profile

Violinist AXEL STRAUSS (below), winner of the International Naumburg Award, is professor of violin at the Schulich School of Music of McGill University in Montreal. He is also a member of the San Francisco Piano Trio.

Axel Strauss


Classical music: NPR explores the music soundtracks for movies that nominated for Academy Awards and could receive an Oscar at tonight’s ceremonies airing on ABC-TV.

March 2, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Oscar would no doubt say that movie soundtracks deserve special attention and serious consideration as art music.

YL Oscar foods statue

Of course purists will probably argue that movie soundtracks are not really classical music – except in certain cases like Roman Polanski’s “The Pianist,” “Shine,” “Amadeus” and such obvious fare.

And it would be hard to disagree with them.

Perhaps some would say that movies are the real operas of our day, except that the music plays a secondary or tertiary role.

Besides, more and more symphony orchestras are turning to concert programs that feature movie soundtracks, perhaps to attract new and younger audiences.

And radio stations seem to be mixing in and playing more and more movie music on their classical programs.

And more and more composers who aspired to be classical composers but who were forced earn a living in Hollywood –- Erich Wolfgang Korngold (below) comes immediately to mind –- are being increasingly programmed for their classical fare as well as their commercial Hollywood work.

erich wolfgang korngold at piano

Besides, “crossover” and “fusion” are the key words of the day in the classical music scene, as you can see with the success of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project (below top) and the “new tangos” by Astor Piazzolla (below bottom), to name but two examples.

Silk Road Ensemble

astor piazzolla

So perhaps it is only natural that, in the run-up to the Academy Awards tonight, NPR and its terrific blog “Deceptive Cadence’ have featured several posts about the music that is featured in nominated movies, especially the story of Alice Herz-Sommer, the late 110-year-old pianist (below, in photo by Yuri Dojc) who survived Auschwitz by playing music, especially the etudes of Frederic Chopin -– and who just died last week. (You can hear her speak and play the piano at the bottom in a popular YouTube video that has almost a million hits.) 

The Ear suspects her story, “The Lady in Number 6,” will win the Oscar for short documentary because she was the oldest survivor of the Holocaust and was a testament to the power of music, and therefore of all art and beauty, over evil and adversity. She embodied hope — a cherished value.

Here is a link to her fascinating and detailed obituary in The New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/28/world/europe/alice-herz-sommer-pianist-who-survived-holocaust-dies-at-110.html

Alice Herz Sommer CR Yuri Dojc

So as you prepare to watch the live broadcast on ABC-TV tonight starting at 6 p.m. CST (it will also be streamed live), here are links to consider when you think about music and films.

Here is the link to a story about music and documentaries:

http://www.npr.org/2014/02/28/283072030/music-takes-center-stage-in-oscar-nominated-documentaries

Here is an overview of several nominees, including William Butler (below) of Arcade Fire, for Best Score:

http://www.npr.org/2014/02/26/283026146/and-the-oscar-goes-to-mr-star-wars-or-arcade-fire

william butler of arcade fire

And here is a link to another story about quiet music — specifically, composer Alexandre Desplat and his score for “Philomena” starring Judi Dench (below) — and how hard it is to compose and perform:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/02/08/273151282/philomena-and-the-power-of-a-quiet-film-score

Judi Dench in %22Philomena%22

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Classical music: Once again the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society violates taboos and brings me wondrous surprises and rare finds in their final two programs of this 22nd season.

July 1, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

I am still not sure how they do it. But every summer, the Madison-based Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society brings me and its devoted audiences many surprises – revelations, even – that fill even experienced listeners with both pleasure and awe.

This past weekend provided the last of three weekends and six programs in their 22nd season –- hence the overall theme of “Deuce Are Wild” and the stage sets and costumes based on playing cards – and it proved no exception.

The Ear heard both programs: “Poker Face” on Friday night at the Stoughton Opera House; and “Play the Hand You’ve Been Dealt” at the Overture Center’s Playhouse. Both concerts had good sized and enthusiastic audiences, though not the sold-out houses they deserved.

BDDS 6 2013 Playhouse audience

In “Poker Face,” BDDS explored the art of transcription – one of the taboos that these supremely talented but also humane, funny and down-to-earth musicians like to break as they take the music seriously, but not themselves.

In this case, the program featured another Classical era concerto in a chamber music arrangement. This time is was Mozart’s lovely Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-Flat, K. 482, as arranged by the pianist, composer and student of both Mozart and Beethoven, Johann Nepomuk Hummel. (Last year, it was a late Haydn symphony as arranged by Haydn’s friend and impresario, Solomon.)

BDDS 5 2013 Mozart concerto 22

Five Songs, or “melodies,” for soprano and piano by Sergei Prokofiev also were re-arranged for the flute and piano. One wonders what happened to the words, if any ever existed and the music was not originally simple vocalises. But they nonetheless provided a sparkling opening or curtain-raiser.

Finally – and most impressively – the BDDS guest players, the San Francisco Trio of BDDS pianist Jeffrey Sykes plus guests violinist Axel Strauss and cellist Jean-Michel Fonteneau -– played a very usual arrangement. It was the String Sextet in G Major by Brahms that was arranged for piano trio by Brahms’ friend Theodor Kirchner (below).

theodor kirchner

Unusual maybe; but it proved very successful. Little wonder that, as Sykes explained, Brahms knew of the transcription and approved of it. For one, the trio form allowed the piano to contrast with and cut through the very rich texture of the original six string instruments. Brahms liked the piano trio as a genre, and composed three great ones. So, why not a derivative one?

BDDS 5 2103 Stoughton Brahms Trio

Once again, BDDS showed how transcriptions popularized music into home and smaller venues and groups in the days before radio and recordings.

Transcriptions are often looked down upon these days –- sort of crossover music. But almost all of the great Baroque and Classical era composers borrowed from their own works and others’ to make transcriptions.

Sticking to the original form is just another of those serious longhair myths or fictions – like not clapping between movements and not playing isolated movements from great works – that just don’t stand up as historical fact.

We are lucky to have someone to show us the mistakes of overzealous purity. And that is something BDDS does supremely well every summer.

The second  program also had its unusual moments. For one, it offered a Flute Quartet by the Dutch composer Dick Kattenburg (1919-1944, below), who died in Auschwitz at 24. What a loss! Who even knew of this composer, who could sounds both classical and jazzy a la George Gershwin (check out the slow moment of the Flute Quartet that the BDDS played in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Dick Kattenburg

And if you look down on YouTube, you might do well to recall that pianist Sykes himself apparently discovered the music of Kattenburg on YouTube, which is using hi-tech to rescue serious composers from near-total obscurity. He wrote such wonderful and suitably eclectic and playful pieces that BDDS promises to perform more in future season, including a work for piano-four hands and a tap dancer.

In the same concert, BDDS played a work by another composer who survived the Holocaust by fleeing to Hollywood where he became better known for his scores to swashbuckling movies than for his serious concert music. But Erick Wolfgang Korngold has been undergoing a rediscovery, and his Suite for two violins (with Madison Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Naha Greenholtz making her BDDS debut), cello and piano LEFT-HAND was an impressive and welcome new offering.

(PS: The unusual left-hand scoring comes because the work was commissioned by pianist Paul Wittgenstein (below), brother of famed philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, who lost his right arm in World War I and then commissioned the famous Concertos for Left Hand from Maurice Ravel and Sergei Prokofiev.)

Paul Wittgenstein

This proved both a forcefully fiery and lyrical work that deserves a wider hearing. But so far as I know, both the flute quartet by Kattenburg and the suite by Korngold (below) were premieres for Madison and maybe even Wisconsin or the Midwest.

erich wolfgang korngold at piano

What can one say but: Thank You.

And to show that BDDS isn’t just about horsing around – although there was some of that in card costumes (below) and everyone sang Happy Birthday to a 17-year-old audience member – the San Francisco Piano Trio turned around and closed out the season by showing how a new approach illuminates an old masterpiece.

BDDS 6 2013 Card costumes

The work in question was Beethoven’s “Archduke” Trio, Op. 97, an unqualified giant and genius of a work from The Master. But instead of the loud, somewhat martial approach that the opening theme invites — similar to the “Emepror” Piano Concerto — the players emphasized the softer side and balance, especially the dialogue between the violin and cello.

The effect of such subtlety and nuance was to hear an old and familiar work as if it were new and unfamiliar. It was a quiet triumph that proved beautiful and totally engaging.

BDDS 6 2013 Playhosue Beethoven Archduke Trio

So at the end of the BDDS season, what are you left with?

Well if you are at all like The Ear, you are not especially anxious for winter to return, especially given the long, wet and cold spring and summer we have had so far.

But if you are like me, you too are anxious to see what cards (so the speak) the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society has up its sleeve for next season – its 23rd– and eventually for its Silver Anniversary 25th season.

The old saying has it that the only thing we can be sure of is change.

In the case of BDDS, The Ear would simply add the words “and great music.”


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