The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky performs Samuel Barber’s beautiful and popular Violin Concerto this Friday night with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, which also celebrates spring with works by Beethoven and other composers. Plus, University Opera’s production of “Transformations,’ which ends Tuesday night, gets a rave review from Isthmus

March 14, 2016
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ALERT: University Opera’s production of “Transformations,” with dark and adult takes on fairy tales by the late Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet Anne Sexton and music by Conrad Susa, gets a rave review from critic Jay Rath writing for Isthmus. It calls the production breath-taking and an astonishing success. It also gives you tasty morsels of the show to whet your appetite.  The last performance is this Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m in Music Hall. Here is a link:

http://isthmus.com/arts/stage/university-opera-transformations/

And here is a link to the A Tempo blog, with more information, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music:

https://uwmadisonschoolofmusic.wordpress.com

By Jacob Stockinger

The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below) will perform a captivating concert this Friday night at 8 p.m. in Capitol Theater of the Overture Center.

WCO lobby

As usual, longtime music director and conductor Andrew Sewell (below) has pulled together an arresting program of both well-known and rarely heard works.

Indeed, Sewell seems to have an endless knack for finding modern music that is not well-known but nonetheless appeals on first hearing.

andrewsewell

Not that he neglects tried-and-true masterpieces.

Take the famous Violin Concerto by American composer Samuel Barber — most famous for his “Adagio for Strings” – which will feature the return of the young European prize-winning soloist Alexander Sitkovetsky (below).

alexander-sitkovetsky

The Ear always finds the work by Barber (below) absolutely riveting. It takes all of about 10 seconds before you realize you are hearing a beautiful masterpiece that will endure. And then it just gets better. (You can hear the slow second movement — performed by James Ehnes who has played with the Madison Symphony Orchestra — in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Samuel Barber

The concert opens with a work by Irish composer, Joan Trimble (below), specifically her ethereal Suite for Strings from 1955.

joan trimble

That work proves a perfect complement to the popular Pastorale by Swedish composer Lars-Erik Larsson (below).

Lars-Erik Larsson

The Symphony No. 4 in B flat major, by Ludwig van Beethoven (below) is like his Symphony No. 6 “Pastoral” in that it celebrates the joy, fullness and robust qualities of life. The slow movement has an other-worldly beauty. With its driving finale, the symphony packs a punch.

Yet wedged in between the three of Beethoven’s most famous symphonies – Nos. 3 “Eroica,” 5 and 6 “Pastoral” – the Symphony No. 4 often gets overlooked. Sewell’s mastery of the Classical style should bring it to life in a memorable performance.

Beethoven big

Tickets are $15-$80 with student rush tickets for $10, available on the day of the performance. For tickets, call the Overture Center box office at 608 258-4141 or visit www.wcoconcerts.org

ABOUT ALEXANDER SITKOVETSKY

Alexander Sitkovetsky, 32, was born in Moscow into a family with an established musical tradition and made his concerto debut at the age of eight. That same year he went to study at the Menuhin School in England.

Lord Yehudi Menuhin (below) was his inspiration throughout his school years and they performed together on several occasions, including the Double Concerto by Johann Sebastian Bach and Duos for Two Violins by Bela Bartok at the St. James Palace, and he played the Violin Concerto by Felix Mendelssohn under Menuhin’s baton.

Yehudi Menuhin

Since then, Sitkovetsky has gone on to perform with the Netherlands Philharmonic, the Philharmonia, Royal Philharmonic, London Mozart Players, Konzerthaus Orchester Berlin, Brussels Philharmonic, the European Union Chamber Orchestra, Malmo Symphony Orchestra, Anhaltische Philharmonie Dessau, Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Moscow Chamber Orchestra, Mulhouse Symphony Orchestra, Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra, St. Petersburg Symphony, Welsh National Opera and the BBC Concert Orchestra among many others.

This season, Alexander Sitkovetsky will make his debut in Brussels, Poznan, Santa Cruz in Bolivia and St. Petersburg and will go on two nationwide tours of the UK with the Brussels Philharmonic and St. Petersburg Symphony. He will also tour Australia with the Australian Chamber Orchestra and perform with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

Sitkovetsky will return to the Kuhmo and Cheltenham Festivals and make debuts at the Verbier and Lockenhaus Festivals

Sitkovetsky, an avid chamber musician, has recorded for Angel/EMI, Decca, Orfeo, Onyx, BIS and Avanti Classics including the Bach Double Concerto with Julia Fischer.


Classical music: Why couldn’t the New York Philharmonic find an American conductor? Meet Dutchman Jaap van Sweden, its next music director. Plus, Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen, is NEXT SUNDAY — NOT TODAY — and tonight’s concert of new music by UW-Madison professor Les Thimmig has been CANCELLED

January 31, 2016
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ALERT 1: The Sunday Afternoon Live performance by the Wisconsin Brass Quintet at the Chazen Museum of Art is NEXT SUNDAY, NOT TODAY. The Ear apologizes for the mistake.

 ALERT 2: Tonight’s concert of new music for woodwinds and piano by UW-Madison professor Les Thimmig and pianist Jessica Johnson has been CANCELLED.

By Jacob Stockinger

This week the New York Philharmonic announced its next music director and conductor who will succeed Alan Gilbert, starting in 2018.

He is Jaap van Sweden (below, in a photo by Todd Heiser for The New York Times , a 55-year-old Dutchman, acclaimed for his technical prowess, who now is the music director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and the Hong Kong Philharmonic.

Jaap van Sweden CR Todd Heisler NYT

There are a lot of stories The Ear could link to.

Here is a short summary from NPR (National Public Radio) with audio clips of his conducting:

http://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2016/01/27/464563264/jaap-van-zweden-named-new-music-director-of-the-new-york-philharmonic

But he found the coverage by the New York Times quite comprehensive and, on balance, fair.

It featured a main news story with some important feature elements, including the critical acclaim van Sweden received for conducting music by Gustav Mahler and Ludwig van Beethoven. (Below, you can see van Sweden conducting the New York Philharmonic in 2014 in a photo by Hiroyuki Ito for The New York Times).

Jaap van Sweden conducting the NY PHIL cr Horiyuki Ito NYT

And it also featured a column or commentary by senior classical music critic Anthony Tommasini, who spoke in Madison on the occasion of the centennial of the Pro Arte Quartet that was held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

Overall, Tommasini’s notebook entry is a fine and insightful piece, even if it gets tiring to hear Tommasini climb up on his high horse and whine yet again about the neglect of new music and contemporary composers – which does not seem fully justified based on the record of this particular conductor.

Tommasini – who himself was trained as a composer — clearly would have preferred former Los Angeles Philharmonic conductor and composer Esa-Pekka Salonen (below) as the new music director and conductor. Hmmm – could they be friends?

Esa Pekka Salonen

For his part, it may sound provincial but The Ear is more concerned that the very same symphony orchestra that made history in American culture for hiring the first American-born and American-trained maestro – Leonard Bernstein (below), who also just happened to put Jaap van Sweden on the path to a conducting career – is once again turning to Europe rather to the many fine conducting talents in this country.

Leonard Bernstein CR Jack Mitchell

Why was no American conductor chosen. One who comes to mind is Marin Alsop of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (below top) and the Sao Paulo State Symphony Orchestra in Brazil who is also a Bernstein protege. And then there is David Robertson of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and chief conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in Australia(below bottom).

Seems odd that Marin Alsop is good enough for Brazil and David Robertson is good enough for Australia — but not for New York?

The Ear wants to ask the Philharmonic’s board of directors: Do you really find all American conductors to be that inferior to Jaap van Sweden?

Maybe there were practical considerations — salary, contracts, availability, refusals — that made hiring an American conductor impossible. But the stories suggest that the choice of van Sweden was made early on and the fix seemed in. Too bad. It still seems like a great opportunity that was lost.

Marin Alsop big

David Robertson

You can decide for yourself.

Here is the news story by Michael Cooper:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/28/arts/music/new-york-philharmonic-taps-jaap-van-zweden-as-its-next-maestro.html?_r=0

And here is Tommasini’s column:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/28/arts/jaap-van-zweden-and-the-future-of-the-new-york-philharmonic.html

Do you know the work of Jaap van Sweden?

Have you heard him in live or recorded performances?

What do you think?

Here is a sample of Jaap van Sweden conducting Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in a YouTube video at the bottom.

Leave your opinion in the COMMENT section.

The Ear wants to hear.


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” of history. Part 1 of 2.

August 26, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear’s friends at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and with 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 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.

Here, in Madison, under the leadership of Teryl Dobbs (below top), 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 & Dynamite Society.

Teryl Dobbs

Out of shadows poster

Here is a schedule:

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Events that are free and open to the public in Madison include:

  • 12:20-2 p.m. | Sound Salon, Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture

Explore sound archives with Sherry Mayrent (clarinet) and Henry Sapoznik (tenor guitar, below) – both in a lecture and concert format. The Mayrent Institute holds over 9,000 Yiddish recordings from the first half of the 20th century.

BDDS Henry Saposnik

UW-Madison School of Music – Mills Hall; 3561 Mosse Humanities Building, 455 N. Park St.

  • 2:30-4:30 p.m. | Concert, Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society

Six members of Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society will perform neglected and suppressed Jewish music from the early 20th century. (Details will be posted tomorrow.)

First Unitarian Meeting House, Atrium Auditorium (below, in a photo by Zane Williams), 900 University Bay Dr.

FUS Atrium, Auditorium Zane Williams

  • 7-10 p.m. | Two-act Cabaret Evening“Laugh With Us” and “I’m a Stranger Here Myself.”  “Laugh With Us” is based on an original cabaret written by four young Czech Jews in the Terezin ghetto (below), staged by Minneapolis performers Sara Richardson, Ryan Lindberg, and Craig Harris, from research and with commentary by project co-investigator Dr. Lisa Peschel. “I’m a Stranger Here Myself” by New York actor Mark Nadler who will perform music written by French and German Jewish or gay (or both) songwriters during the age of the Weimar Republic.

Overture Center for the Arts, Promenade Hall, 201 State Street

terezin

Registration is required for the free events by visiting: http://eepurl.com/bttx_9

The Sunday, August 30 event will be the precursor to a longer event, which will run May 1–5, 2016, in Madison. This event will include the partners mentioned above as well as the UW-Madison Department of Theatre and Drama, Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra, and Madison Youth Choir.

ABOUT PERFORMING THE JEWISH ARCHIVE

The global project, Performing the Jewish Archive has been awarded $2.5 million by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), in England, under its Care for the Future: Thinking Forward Through the Past theme.

Led by Dr. Stephen Muir (below) of the University’s School of Music in Leeds, Performing the Jewish Archive will bring recently rediscovered musical, theatrical and literary works by Jewish artists back to the attention of scholars and the public, and stimulate the creation of new works.

Stephen Muir Leeds

A multidisciplinary team across four continents are focusing on the years 1880-1950 –– an intense period of Jewish displacement –– to explore the role of art in such upheaval.

The three-year “Performing the Jewish Archive” project involves a large number of partners, exploring archives, delivering community and educational projects, holding at least two international conferences and a series of symposia at the British National Library, as well as mounting five international performance festivals––in the United States (Madison, Wisconsin), the Czech Republic, South Africa, Australia and the United Kingdom.

Says Muir: “We are a unique combination of scholars from a diverse range of subjects, crossing traditional disciplinary boundaries––even integrating scientific research methodologies at the heart of an arts-led investigation. We seem to have caught the imagination of a huge range of organizations––both Jewish and non-Jewish––all interested in the Jewish artistic past and how it impinges on all of our futures.”

Dr. Muir is joined by Co-Investigators Dr. Helen Finch, School of Languages, Cultures and Societies, University of Leeds; Dr. Lisa Peschel, Film, Theatre and Television, University of York; Dr. Nick Barraclough, Psychology, University of York; Dr. Teryl Dobbs, Chair of Music Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Dr. Joseph Toltz, Sydney Conservatorium, University of Sydney; and Dr. David Fligg, Leeds College of Music.

More information can be found here:

http://ptja.leeds.ac.uk

http://www.music.wisc.edu/performing-the-jewish-archive/

TOMORROW: Members of the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society discuss the music they will perform.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Classical music: It’s a very busy week at the UW-Madison School of Music. Here is a roundup of the mostly FREE concerts, master classes and other events.

April 13, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

You always know when we are coming down to the end of a semester or the end of the school year. The music events start stacking up over the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music likes planes stacked up over O’Hare.

Talk about Train Wreck Weekends! And this is just the UW. There is plenty more to come, as you will see here over the course of this week.

In a way, it is a testament to the vitality of the music scene here in the Madison area.

But it is also too bad to the degree that so many events almost guarantee that some audiences will be smaller than they might otherwise be because people just can’t keep up with so many things that are so closely scheduled that they compete with each other for listeners’ free time. And we are not even talking about big draws like the three performances of the annual concert and show by the UW-Madison Varsity Band.

TUESDAY

Guest artists the Elaris Duo (below) will give master classes Tuesday night, April 14. The violin class with Larisa Elisha will be from 6-7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, and the cello class will be with Steven Elisha from 8-9:30 p.m. They perform a concert Wednesday night at 8 in Mills Hall. See below.

elaris duo

WEDNESDAY

A FREE concert will be given by the UW-Madison Guitar Ensemble at 7:30 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall under the direction of Javier Calderon (below top). Sorry, The Ear has received no word about the program. For more information, go to: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/uw-guitar-ensemble-2/

$2 Broom, a FREE concert of electro-acoustic improvised music by students will be held in Music Hall, under the direction of UW-Madison horn professor Daniel Grabois (below bottom, in a photo by James Gill). For more information when it is posted, go to: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/2-dollar-broom-2015/

A FREE concert by guest artists the Elaris Duo — husband-and-wife cellist and violinist — in Mills Hall at 8 p.m. The program includes works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Zoltan Kodaly and Erwin Schulhoff. For more information, visit: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/elaris-duo-guest-artists/

Javier Calderon color

Daniel Grabois 2012  James Gill

THURSDAY

The Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) will perform a FREE concert at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall. The program includes the String Quartet in A Major, K. 464, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; the String Quartet No. 4 by Leon Kirchner; and the early String Quartet in C Minor by Ludwig van Beethoven, Op. 18, No. 4. For more information about the concert and the Pro Arte Quartet, go to: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/pro-arte-quartet_4_16/

Pro Arte Quartet new 2 Rick Langer

FRIDAY

At 2 p.m. in Room 1629 of the Humanities Building, Brazilian percussionist Ney Rosauro (below) will give a master class that is open to the public. For information about the artist, go to: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/master-class-with-brazilian-percussionist-ney-rosauro/

ney rosauro

At 7:30 p.m. in Music Hall, the Mad City Brass Quintet, made up of UW-Madison students, will perform a FREE concert of music by UW-Madison professor emeritus of tuba and euphonium John Stevens (below) as well as by Billy Joel, Michael Kamen and Andre Lafosse. For more information, visit: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/mad-city-brass-quintet/

john stevens lon gprofile with tuba

At 7:30 p.m. in Luther Memorial Church, 1021 University Avenue, the UW-Madison Concert Choir, Chorale, and Madrigal Singers will perform. Bruce Gladstone will conduct. The joint concert of the three choirs is themed “O Beauty” but each ensemble will have its own section. (Below is the Concert Choir performing.)

The choirs will perform together on the following large works: Blest Pair of Sirens by C.H.H. Parry and Missa “O Pulchritudo” by Gian-Carlo Menotti.

These will be performed with UW-Madison Professor John Chappell Stowe on organ.

For information, visit: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/uw-concert-choir-chorale-and-madrigal-singers/

Concert Choir 2

SATURDAY

At 3:30 in Morphy Recital Hall, the Perlman Trio (funded by local philanthropist Kato Perlman) and two guest artists (below in a photo by Tori Rogers) will perform a FREE concert. The piano trio members (three in the front) are SeungWha Baek, piano; Valerie Sanders, violin; and Daniel Ma, cello. Guests are Keisuke Yamamoto, violin, and Jeremy Kienbaum, viola.

The program includes: Piano Trio in E-flat Major, Hoboken XV: 29, by Franz Joseph Haydn; the Piano Quintet in D Major, Op. 51, by Anton Arensky; and the Piano Trio in B Major, Op. 8 (original version) by Johannes Brahms. For information, go to: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/perlman-trio-recital/

Perlman Trio (left three) and guests CR Tori _Rogers

At 4 p.m. in Mills Hall, the Low Brass Ensemble will offer a FREE concert. Sorry, no other details are available. When they are, go to: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/low-brass-ensemble/

At 6 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall. UW-Madison bassoonist-conductor Marc Vallon (below top, in a photo by James Gill) and Madison Bach Musicians founder, director and keyboard player Trevor Stephenson (below bottom) will host a demonstration of early music practices and period instruments, featuring performers from the Madison Bach Musicians. The event is part of the year-long “Rediscovering Rameau” music festival.

Later this week there will be two semi-staged performances of Rameau’s 1748 ballet-opera “Pygmalion” that Stephenson and the Madison Bach Musicians will give at the First Unitarian Society of Madison this Friday night at 6:45 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 2:45 p.m. Go to: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/pygmalion-madison-bach-musicians/

Marc Vallon 2011 James Gill (baroque & modern)[2]

Prairie Rhapsody 2011 Trevor Stephenson

At 6:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the gala concert of the 12th annual Madison Flute Festival, “Flutes Down Under,” will take place. Admission is $5 for those not taking part in the day-long festival. It is held by the Wisconsin Flute Club and the flute studio of UW Professor Stephanie Jutt, who is Principal Flute of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and also a co-founder and co-director of the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society.

The Madison Flute Club is winding up a fund-raising drive — nearly $15,000 — for the purchase of a contra bass flute. This instrument was made by Eva Kingma in the Netherlands, and is in transit now. This instrument will be the first contra bass flute in Wisconsin.

The Madison Flute Club also recently sponsored a composition contest for the contra bass flute, and the winning piece will be performed at the Flute Club’s Spring Recital May 9 at Midvale Lutheran Church.

At the conclusion of the Flute Festival this week, the public is invited to hear a performance featuring the family of low flutes. This concert will present pieces by Gary Shocker, Vaughan McAlley and many other composers writing for the low flutes. Attendees will hear performances on alto, bass, contra bass and subcontrabass flute –an extremely rare instrument.

Other festival events take place at the UW-Madison Pyle Center. The festival features guest artist Peter Sheridan (below), low flutes specialist visiting from Australia.  Activities include flute choir reading sessions, master class, performances, presentations, vendors and competitions featuring monetary prizes. For more information, go to: http://www.madisonfluteclub.org/FluteFestival.html

and

http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/gala-concert-wisconsin-flute-festival/

British Flute Society Convention 2010

SUNDAY

At 3:30 p.m., the winners of UW-Madison’s annual Beethoven Piano Sonata Competition will perform. A reception will follow. The event is made possible by the generosity of former UW-Madison Chancellor Irving Shain (below bottom). For word on the winners and the sonatas to be performed, go to: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/beethoven-competition-recital/

Beethoven big

Irving Shain

 


Classical music: The famed Takacs Quartet performs a MUST-HEAR concert of chamber music by Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert this Saturday night at the Wisconsin Union Theater.

February 24, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

This Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Shannon Hall of the Wisconsin Union Theater, the famed and long-lived Takács Quartet performs a MUST-HEAR concert of music by Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert.

Members of the Takács Quartet (below) are Edward Dusinberre, violin; Károly Schrantz, violin; Geraldine Walther, viola; András Fejér, cello.

Takacs Quartet BIG and Square

The program includes the Quartettsatz (Quartet Movement) in C Minor, D. 703, by Franz Schubert (1797-1828); the String Quartet No. 50 in B-flat Major, Op. 64, No. 3 by Joseph Haydn (1732-1809); and the “Razumovsky” String Quartet No. 7 in F Major, Op. 59, No. 1 — from his middle period — by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827) with its well-known “Russian Theme.” (You can hear the Russian Theme in a performance by the now disbanded Tokyo String Quartet in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Tickets are: General Public: $45, 25; Wisconsin Union Members and Non UW-Madison Students: $40; UW-Madison Faculty and Staff: $42; UW-Madison Student (with ID): $10. Prices do not include fees. See more at:

http://www.uniontheater.wisc.edu/#sthash.8TViWP04.dpuf

The Takacs Quartet seems to The Ear a perfect choice for the annual Fan Taylor Memorial Concert — an event designed to honor the first and longtime director of the Wisconsin Union Theater.

Shannon Hall UW-Madison

For more about Fan Taylor (below), whose name is also used for the Wisconsin Union Theater’s endowment fund, or to donate to it, visit these links:

http://www.union.wisc.edu/waysofgiving-fantaylor.htm

https://www.myuwconnect.org/give?id=F97553A1-38F4-4550-9FE1-4E50C69BB7F5

Fan Taylor

Here is some publicity material from the Wisconsin Union Theater:

Widely heralded as modern masters of classical music, the Takacs Quartet has delighted audiences in Europe, Asia, Australia and North America, bringing a vivid intensity to the works that built their genre. Known for their “supreme artistry manifest at every level,” (The Guardian) they are the only string quartet ever to be inducted into Gramophone’s Hall of Fame.

Such an honor is hardly unfamiliar to the group, however, having also taken home Disc of the Year and Chamber Award from BBC, as well as a Grammy for their Beethoven collection.

This talented quartet (below, in a photo by Hiroyuki Ito for The New York Times) continues to amaze while pushing the boundaries of chamber music.

Takacs Quartet playing Hiroyuki Ito NYT

Please note that there is a WIAA Individual Wrestling Tournament this evening, so allow enough time to find parking.

Because of a conflict at the UW-Madison School of Music, a master class will be held on this FRIDAY from 5 to 7 p.m. in Room 1341 Humanitites Building — NOT as previously stated on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. See more at:

http://www.uniontheater.wisc.edu/#sthash.8TViWP04.dpuf

Here is a link to the Wisconsin Union Theater, which also features audiovisual clips and reviews:

http://www.uniontheater.wisc.edu/season14-15/takacs-quartet.html

For the quartet’s website, go to:

http://www.takacsquartet.com


Classical music: Today is Veterans Day in the U.S. and this week brings Remembrance Day in the Commonwealth nations including Great Britain, Canada and Australia. To honor veterans -– both military and civilian — The Ear plays the “Nimrod” section from Sir Edward Elgar’s “Enigma Variations.” What music would you play?

November 11, 2014
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ALERT: On this Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW-Madison Guitar Ensemble, under the direction of UW-Madison professor Javier Calderon, will give a FREE concert of music by Heitor Villa-Lobos, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Gilbert Bibarian and others.

Javier Calderon color

By Jacob Stockinger

He may be wrong, but The Ear does not think that Veterans Day — and Remembrance Day in the Commonwealth nations of the former British Empire — is just about war. And there is plenty of music one could play that aims to depict war and conflict.

But Veterans Day -– which was originally Armistice Day and was intended to mark the end of that vicious meat-grinder World War I that started 100 years ago this year and officially ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 –- is more about people and loss. So is Remembrance Day.

world war1 somme

Given the way “total war” has evolved and been waged since World War I — just look at the Middle East and ISIS these days — one has to wonder: Shouldn’t civilians, including women and children, also be honored? When war is waged, usually all suffer and all sacrifice.

Not that the armed forces don’t come at the head of the line and hold a special place in our thoughts.

But these days a Requiem for All seems fit and appropriate.

That is why The Ear can’t think of a more moving and quietly appropriate piece of music than the “Nimrod” section from the Edwardian era British composer Sir Edward Elgar’s “Enigma” Variations.

That is probably why the prize-winning and popular documentary filmmaker Ken Burns also used the same music, arranged for solo piano, in his 2007 epic film about World War II called, simply, ‘The War.”

Here it is, played by conductor Daniel Barenboim and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra  in a popular YouTube with more than 2.5 million hits — as a salute to all those who suffered and who served:

 

 


Classical music: The Oakwood Chamber Players conclude their season by performing Australian and New Zealand music this Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. On Saturday afternoon, the Arbor Ensemble performs a benefit concert of works by English composers.

May 15, 2014
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ALERT: Violist Marie Pauls, a blog reader and music teacher, writes: “I have a newer chamber group called Arbor Ensemble, and I wanted to share with you info about a benefit recital we are doing. It is called “Steeped in Tradition: A Celebration of English Composers” and it will take place this Saturday, May 17, at 2:30 p.m. at the McFarland United Church of Christ, 5710 Anthony Street in McFarland.” 

The Anglophile recital program will include works by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Rebecca Clarke, Ian Clarke and Sir Arthur Bliss. Tea and scones will be served following the performance.

Reservations are strongly encouraged to guarantee your place. PLEASE NOTE: Reserved tickets not claimed 10 minutes prior to the recital will be released to the public. Visit the lick below and click the “tickets link” to make your reservation today. If you are interested in donating an item to the silent auction, please contact Arbor Ensemble! Tickets are $10 for general admission, $5 for students. All ages are welcome.

http://arborensemble.com/events

Marie Pauls violist

By Jacob Stockinger

Talk about performing rarely heard repertory — even in the same English-speaking world!

Plus, add in some unknown women composers, and you have the makings of a memorable event.

This Saturday night and Sunday afternoon the Oakwood Chamber Players (below) will perform “Down Under,” its final concert in the season exploring music by composers from various regions around the world, featuring a program of music by Australian and New Zealand composers.

Oakwood Chamber Players 2012 2

Map of Australia and New Zealand

The Oakwood Chamber Players will present the program “Down Under” on Saturday, May 17 at 7 p.m. and on Sunday, May 18, at 1 p.m., in the Oakwood Village Center for Arts and Education, 6205 Mineral Point Road, 6205 Mineral Point Road, on Madison’s far west side.

Tickets are available at the door. Admission is $20 for the general public, $15 for seniors and $5 for students.

This is the fifth and final concert in the 2013-2014 Season Series titled “Origination: Exploring Musical Regions of the World.”

Australian compositions to be performed include a string quartet (at bottom in a YouTube video performed by the Australian String Quartet)  by Miriam Hyde (below top), written in the 20th century pastoral style, as well as “Concertina di Camera” for winds and piano by Peggy Glanville-Hicks (below bottom), who was a student of Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Miriam Hyde and music mss

Peggy Glanville-Hicks at piano

Compositions by Percy Grainger (below) will be represented with a grouping of favorites including “Country Gardens “ for solo piano and three pieces in mixed chamber ensemble settings including “Handel on the Strand”, “Shepherd’s Hey” and “Walking Tune.”

Percy Grainger

Two centuries of New Zealand compositions will be represented by Keith Statham’s melodic “Lansdown Gardens” and “Flora” for flute, clarinet and piano, by Keith Statham (below top) as well “Morningstar II” for mixed winds and strings by 21st century composer Paul Stanhope (below bottom, in a photo by Jacky Ghossein).

Keith Statham drawing

Paul Stanhope CR Jacky Ghossein

The lively and familiar “Jamaican Rumba” buy Australian Arthur Benjamin (below) will round out the programming.

Paul Stanhope CR Jacky Ghossein

arthur benjamin

The Oakwood Chamber Players is a group of Madison-area professional musicians who have rehearsed and performed at Oakwood Village for 30 years. Many have affiliations with and perform with well-known groups such as the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Madison Opera and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

Visit www.oakwoodchamberplayers.com for more information.

The Oakwood Chamber Players are a professional music ensemble proudly supported by Oakwood Lutheran Senior Ministries and the Oakwood Foundation, in collaboration with Friends of the Arboretum, Inc.

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Classical music: Easter Sunday is a fitting time to think about death, forgiveness and redemption — and about the Madison Opera’s upcoming premiere production of Jake Heggie’s famed opera “Dead Man Walking” next Friday night and Sunday afternoon.

April 20, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

It is Easter Sunday — a day when Christians and many others around the world think about the spiritual meaning of death, redemption and forgiveness. That also makes it an appropriate time to think about certain pieces of music — say, the Passions and Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach — and certain operas. 

Take, for example, the Madison Opera’s upcoming production of the contemporary opera “Dead Man Walking.”

Later this week, The Well-Tempered Ear will feature interviews that arts critic Mike Muckian did with “Dead Man Walking” composer Jake Heggie and librettist Terrence McNally. (Below in a photo by James Gill are Daniela Mack as Sister Helen Prejean and Michael Mayes as the convicted killer facing execution Joseph DeRocher.)

PLEASE NOTE: The real Sister Helen Prejean and composer Jake Heggie will be in Madison and offer a FREE public discussion this Thursday night at 7 p.m. at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Avenue. No reservations are needed.

Dead Man Walking Daniela Mack and Michael Mayes

But on this special day, to whet your appetite and set the stage, so to speak, with basic facts, here is an official press release:

“The Madison Opera will present Jake Heggie’s “Dead Man Walking” at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 25 and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 27 in Overture Hall at the Overture Center for the Arts.

Sets and costumes come from the Eugene Opera’s acclaimed production in Oregon.

Dead Man Walking Eugene Opera

The opera will be sung in English with project text in surtitles. Tickets are $18 to $121. Call (608) 258-4141 or visit www.madisonopera.org.

The opera does carry a Parental Advisory because it contains nudity, graphic violence, and explicit language; it is not recommended for anyone under age 18.

The production is a Madison Opera and Upper Midwestern premiere, and “Dead Man Walking” is cathartic and humanizing, set to a stunning American score that ranges from hymns to zydeco.

With a libretto by Terrence McNally, “Dead Man Walking” is based on the book of the same name by Sister Helen Prejean, which also served as the inspiration for the critically acclaimed 1995 film starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn.

The opera tells of a nun’s journey as the spiritual advisor of 
a convicted murderer on Louisiana’s death row. From its shocking beginning to its emotionally searing final scene, this opera changes everyone who encounters it. Its stunning score and intense story combine into a work that the San Francisco Chronicle says, “must be reckoned something of a masterpiece – a gripping, enormously skillful marriage of words and music to tell a story of love, suffering and spiritual redemption.”

At bottom is a YouTube video of the production by the Houston Grand Opera, where Madison Symphony Orchestra music director and Madison Opera artistic director John DeMain worked before coming to Madison 20 years ago) with Joyce Di Donato, Frederica von Stade and Philip Cutlip in the title roles.

Dead Man Walking is, for me, unquestionably one of the greatest operas ever written,” says Madison Opera’s General Director Kathryn Smith (below in a photo by James Gill). “When I saw it in 2002 at New York City Opera, I was completely blown away by its music, its dramatic power, and the sheer theatrical intensity that seared particular scenes in my mind for a decade. I am thrilled to produce it in Madison with this stunning cast, and particularly honored that Jake Heggie and Sister Helen Prejean are coming to Madison for opening night and to speak with our community the evening before.”

Kathryn Smith Fly Rail Vertical Madison Opera

“Dead Man Walking” also has special significance to conductor and Madison Opera Artistic Director John DeMain (below, in a photo by Harper Fritsch), who has a long history with the opera.

“From my very first encounter with “Dead Man Walking” at its 2000 premiere in San Francisco, I knew it was an opera for the ages, and one that I wanted to conduct and present to an ever-widening audience,” recalls DeMain. “I was fortunate to be able to create the second new production of the work, and conduct it in Orange County, Detroit, New York City, and its first international production in Australia.

“In every instance, this new opera connected viscerally with its audience for all the right reasons. It was a powerful, immensely moving drama with lyrical, memorable music, and a fine libretto. The playwright, Terrence McNally, knew exactly how to handle a sad and tragic situation with pathos, great humanity, and a wonderful sense of humor. “

John DeMain casual opera by Harper Fritsch

Maestro DeMain encourages local audiences, whether long-time devotees of opera or completely new to the art form, to experience “Dead Man Walking.”

“It is deeply spiritual, deeply moving, and deeply human with a score steeped in the American vernacular including the blues, which is so appropriate to New Orleans and the protagonist’s world,” he says. “This is a real opera that works the way all operas that we cherish work. Powerful arias, duets, and ensembles, sung by a variety of characters, all of whom we can identify with. I assure our Madison audiences that this is a riveting evening, a great moment in our history, and an occasion not to be missed.”

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Classical music: Attention, Downton Abbey fans! Here is what you should know about the history of the real-life opera singers in last week’s episode in which Dame Kiri Te Kanawa portrayed Dame Nellie Melba.

January 18, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

No doubt about it, “Downton Abbey” has become a global television drama phenomenon. Fans of the new season, which started two weeks ago, are eagerly looking forward to the third installment of the new season that will air this Sunday night on PBS  (and Wisconsin Public Television at 8 p.m. CST).

Just how seriously “Downton Abbey” writers and producers also take the show could be seen in last week’s episode. There is where a side plot and secondary character -– a special gala performance by the Australian opera diva Dame Nellie Melba – was taken seriously. Where should she stay? was one issue. Another was whether a performing artist like Melba, who had been privately hired for a small command performance in the salon (below) should eat with the servants and help or with the aristocratic landowners? 

melba concert downton abbey

And how many of you realized that Nellie Melba was played by the New Zealand opera diva Dame Kiri Te Kanawa (below)? The Ear sure didn’t, but now he knows why the singing of Puccini arias and Dvorak songs sounded so good.

Kiri Te Kanawa as Nellie Melba

In fact, the historical episode was taken so seriously that NPR’s terrific blog “Deceptive Cadence” this week posted a primer on just how important, acclaimed and controversial the real Nellie Melba (below, in a photo taken around 1900, and singing at the bottom in a YouTube was) really was.

nellie melba ca 1900

Here is a link to Episode 2 of Season 4 that aired last week on “Masterpiece Theatre” and can be streamed via the Internet or viewed in an encore broadcast this Sunday night at 7 p.m. CST:

http://video.wpt.org/program/masterpiece/

Here is a link to the NPR story about Nellie Melba and the episode:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/01/17/263356751/note-to-downton-abbey-viewers-nellie-melba-was-a-big-deal

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Classical music: The iconic Sydney Opera House turns 40 this week. A concert will celebrate the event.

October 26, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

The upright, stacked and leaning white partial shells, located on a jetty and surrounded by water, have become iconic around the world.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The opera house is to Sydney, Australia, what the Empire State Building is to New York, the Eiffel Tower to Paris, the Coliseum to Rome.

The building is now synonymous with the place it was built.

True, right now the news focus Down Under Is on the devastating wildfires in New South Wales that surround Sydney and have left the city with colorful huge ash clouds (below in a photo from The  Daily Telegraph in the United Kingdom).

But is good to take time out to remember the anniversary of the Sydney Opera House.

sydney fires ash cloud The Telegraph

But here are some links to help you explore the opera house and its history.

Here and at the bottom in a YouTube video are background stories about the architect, the design and the construction of the place where, I believe, the famous YouTube Symphony, recruited via the internet from around the world, meets and performs.

http://www.architectureanddesign.com.au/news/sydney-opera-house-turns-40

And here is a link to the concert that will take place this Sunday, Oct. 27. Can you guess what the main work on the program is?

http://www.sydneyoperahouse.com/whatson/40th_anniversary_concert.aspx

Here is a link so you can see the variety of programming and performers that use the famous venue:

http://40.sydneyoperahouse.com

And here is a comprehensive story about the past, present and future:

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/arts/review/performance-anxiety-as-the-sydney-opera-house-turns-40/story-fn9n8gph-1226735636045


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