The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: This week offers FREE concerts by the Pro Arte String Quartet on Wednesday night and the Trio Unprepared for piano and percussion on Thursday night

September 26, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

Two FREE and appealing but very different concerts are on tap this week at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music:

PRO ARTE QUARTET

On Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the acclaimed Pro Arte Quartet (below in a photo by Rick Langer) will perform a program that features standard works as well as new music.

Pro Arte Quartet new 2 Rick Langer

The quartet will play the String Quartet in B-flat Major (1790), Op. 64, No. 3, by Franz Joseph Haydn; and the String Quartet No, 10 (1809), Op. 74, called the “Harp” Quartet, by Ludwig van Beethoven.

You can hear the first movement of Beethoven’s “Harp” Quartet, performed by the Alban Berg Quartet, in a YouTube video at the bottom.

Less well is the contemporary work “Fantasies on the Name of Sacher” (2012) by French composer Philippe Hersant.

Here are program notes from Pro Arte cellist Parry Karp (below):

“The Haydn and Hersant are new pieces for the Pro Arte and it has been a great pleasure to learn them.

“The Haydn was written at the time that Haydn’s job as the court composer of the court of Esterhazy had come to an end. It is one of the “Tost” Quartets, named for the Hungarian violinist Johann Tost. Haydn dedicated the quartets to him to thank him for his performances and for helping Haydn get a publisher for the quartets.

Parry Karp

“The next piece on the program is the “Fantasies for String Quartet” by the French composer Philippe Versant (b. 1948, below). Here are the composer’s notes on this piece:

“This piece has been in the works for years. First performed in 2008, the first version for string trio included six fantasies. I added two the following year, then an additional instrument (second violin). This version for string quartet was commissioned for the Cully Classique Festival, where it was premiered in 2012. Finally, for the Grand Prix Lycéen for Composers, I imagined a version for string orchestra, commissioned by Musique Nouvelle en Liberté (2013).

“The initial challenge was to write a series of pieces that were as different as possible, from a basic material that was very narrow. That common material is a short motif of 6 notes, which correspond (in Germanic notation) to the letters of Sacher’s name (with a few twists): S (E-flat) A C H(B) E R(D).

“This motif has already been used by a number of composers (Henri Dutilleux, Pierre Boulez and Benjamin Britten) in their homages to Paul Sacher, the great patron and conductor.

“Joined together by the omnipresence of these six notes, the eight fantasies offer strong contrasts in character and style:the first has a high-pitched, rarefied atmosphere a la Shostakovich; the second has a taunting and obsessional tone; there is a dramatic, tense ambience in the fourth …. Two others showcase the voices of the soloists: viola (lyrical) in the third and the cello (stormy) in the seventh.

“Some quotations pepper the discourse: In the third fantasy an altered version of a passage from Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 13, Op. 130, and the sixth combines motifs borrowed from Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 4, Igor Stravinsky’s “Symphony of Psalms” and Dmitri Shostakovich. A falsely naive, short children’s song closes the set.

“-P. H.”

The last piece on the program, the String Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 74, by Beethoven, was named the “Harp” Quartet by the first publisher of the work. It was so named because of the the unique use of pizzicato in the first movement of the piece.

This string quartet is one of the great masterpieces of the quartet repertoire with a brilliant first movement, a profound slow movement which foreshadows Beethoven’s late period, a brilliant scherzo, and a classical style variation movement as the finale.

philippe-hersant

TRIO UNPREPARED

On Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the Trio Unprepared will perform a FREE concert of improvised music.

Here is the blurb from the UW-Madison School of Music’s website:

Drawing from the vast resources of contemporary, jazz, classical and global music, the Trio Unprepared presents an evening of IMPROVISED music for piano and percussion. Ensemble members are Andre Gribou, piano, and Roger Braun and Anthony DiSanza on percussion. (DiSanza teaches at the UW-Madison and is a member of the Madison Symphony Orchestra.)

trio-unprepared-poster

Trio Unprepared has performed globally in extraordinarily diverse musical settings and worked together in various configurations for many years.

This concert — and the subsequent tour of Wisconsin — brings the trio back together for the first time since performing in Switzerland in July 2015.

A master class will follow this concert, from 9 to 10:30 p.m.

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Classical music: Meet Korean pianist Ji-Yong and see the back story to the great TV piano ad for Google Android apps.

February 29, 2016
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ALERTS: Tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Morphy Hall is a FREE recital by the UW-Madison percussion studio. Sorry, no details about the program. Also please note that the joint faculty recital on this coming Saturday night by flutist Stephanie Jutt, oboist Kostas Tiliakos and pianist Christopher Taylor has been CANCELLED. 

By Jacob Stockinger

Maybe you’ve seen one of The Ear’s favorite TV ads these days.

He finds it to be both very eye-catching and very ear-catching. It is called “Monotune.”

It is about the Google Android apps and it features the well-known young Korean pianist Ji-Yong (Kim) playing a section of the emotionally ferocious and technically difficult last movement of the famous “Moonlight” Sonata by Ludwig van Beethoven on a regular Steinway piano and then an on a specially build “monotune” piano where all the notes are the same – specifically, Middle C.

The ad emphasizes difference and complementarity of difference – and provides a good metaphor for social diversity too. So The Ear bets that it wins some awards in the advertising profession.

Here is the YouTube video of the ad:

Making of the Android App ad included building a special piano that could be tuned so all notes play a middle C. Here is the fascinating back story:

From the playing The Ear thought: This is a serious and accomplished pianist – not some second-rate hack brought in for an ad. He is expressive but not self-indulgent or flamboyant like, say, the Chinese superstar pianist Lang Lang.

He was right.

Ji-Yong is a serious pianist and former impressive prodigy, so maybe the Android ad will further his career with many new bookings. He deserves it. The Ear sure would like to hear him live.

Here are other samples of his playing:

Here he is playing the complete Partita No. 1 in B-flat Major, BWV 825, by Johann Sebastian Bach. The Ear likes his lively but convincing interpretation of Baroque music on a modern piano:

And here he plays the opening movement of the virtuosic “Waldstein” Sonata, Op. 53, by Beethoven:

Along more miniature and less heroic lines, here he plays two favorites from Robert Schumann’s “Scenes From Childhood” – first “Of Foreign Lands and People” and then “Träumerei” or “Dreams,” which was a favorite encore of Vladimir Horowitz:

Finally, here is a pretty amazing YouTube video of him as a young prodigy playing at the Miami International Piano Festival in 2008. He is performing a difficult work, the Andante and Grande Polonaise, Op. 22, by Frederic Chopin:

What do you think of the Android ad?

And what do you think of pianist Ji-Yong?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: Master pianist and teacher Frank Glazer dies just shy of 100. He performed several times in Madison at Farley’s House of Pianos.

January 17, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Sad news comes to The Ear via his good friends Renee and Tim Farley, who own and operate Farley’s House of Pianos, on Madison’s far west side.

It concerns the death this past week of the Wisconsin-born and Maine-based American concert pianist and piano teacher Frank Glazer (below), who taught as an artist-in-residence for decades at Bates College. He continued performing in public right up until the end.

frank glazer 2

You may recall that the Farley store not only sells pianos but also features a distinguished piano recital series, which has featured Glazer.

Here are links to three stories and reviews that appeared on this blog about the legendary Frank Glazer playing in Madison:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/08/06/classical-music-critic-john-w-barker-tells-his-sideswiped-tale-of-two-concerts-as-he-reviews-the-isthmus-vocal-ensemble-and-pianist-frank-glazer/

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/classical-music-pianist-frank-glazer-98-will-perform-haydn-beethoven-liszt-and-barber-when-he-returns-to-farleys-house-of-pianos-this-sunday-afternoon/

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/classical-music-at-96-pianist-frank-glazer-returns-to-farley’s-this-friday-night-to-perform-an-impressive-program-of-bach-mozart-beethoven-chopin-and-liszt/

Frank Glazer

The new season of piano recital at Farley’s — the Salon Piano Series — kicks off next weekend at 4 p.m. on Sunday afternoon with Russian pianist Ilya Yakushev (below), who is also in town to solo in two piano concertos – in D Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach and in G Minor by Felix Mendelssohn – with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra next Friday night at 8.

ilya yakushev 3

For more information about Yakushev’s recital of music by Ludwig van Beethoven, Robert Schumann and Sergei Prokofiev at Farley’s, visit:

http://salonpianoseries.org/concerts.html

But more about that recital that in another posting.

Here is what the Farleys (below is Tim Farley in his store’s workshop) write about a loss:

Villa Louis Tim Farley working on piano action 4

“We have sad news to report to you.  Pianist Frank Glazer died on Tuesday, Jan. 13, after a brief illness.

“He was scheduled to play at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Feb. 19, 2015 for his 100th birthday.

“He also had concerts planned around this time in Maine, Boston, Paynesville, Winston-Salem and one in Janesville that was co-sponsored by Farley’s House of Pianos.

“Frank told Tim that he understood that there were other pianists playing concerts at around age 100 but none of them played the difficult literature – like Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Sonata and “Diabelli” Variations — that he played. (See the impressive list of a recent concert tour below.)

2012-2013 Season

A retrospective of piano repertoire in eight concerts performed by Frank Glazer during the course of his 32 years as Artist-in-Residence at Bates College (1980 – 2012).

Friday, September 14, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.

  1. Handel, Chaconne in G major

Mozart, Adagio in B minor, K. 540

Beethoven, Sonata in C minor, Op. 13

Debussy, Suite Bergamasque

Chopin Polonaise-Fantaisie, Op. 61

Chopin, Ballade in G minor, Op. 23

Encore: Chopin, Mazurka, Op. 17, No. 4

Friday, October 12, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.

  1. Schoenberg, Six Short Pieces, Op. 19

Schubert, Sonata in A Major, D. 959

Brahms, Fantaisies, Op. 116

Chopin, Berceuse, Op. 57

Chopin, Impromptu in G-Flat major, Op. 51

Chopin, Fantasy in F minor, Op. 49

Encore: Chopin, Nocturne, Op. 27 No. 2

Friday, November 9, 2012 at 7:30 PM

III.      Bach, Toccata in D major, BWV 912

Mozart, Rondo in A minor, K. 511

Beethoven, Sonata in C minor, Op. 111

Ravel, Valses nobles et sentimentales

Chopin, Nocturne in B major, Op. 9 No. 3

Chopin, Etude in A-flat major, Op. 10, No. 10

Chopin, Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise brillante in E major, Op. 22

Encore: Ravel, Pavane

Sunday, December 2, 2012 at 3 p.m.

  1. Franck, Prélude, Chorale and Fugue

Weber, Sonata in A-flat major, Op. 39

Gershwin, Preludes for piano

Barber, Excursions for the piano

Copland, Piano Variations (1930)

Brahms, Variations on a Theme by Paganini, Op. 35, Book II

Encore: Weber Rondo brillant (La Gaitié), Op. 62

Sunday, January 13, 2012 at 3:00 PM

  1. Mendelssohn, Songs Without Words:

Book V, Op. 62, No. 1

Book VI, Op. 67, No. 2

Mendelssohn, Rondo capriccioso, Op. 14

Schumann, Sonata in G minor, Op. 22

Liszt, Consolation No. III in D-flat major

Liszt, Concert Etude in D-flat major

Chopin, Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op. 58

Encore: Mendelssohn, Song Without Words: “Spring Song”

Sunday, February 10, 2013 at 3 p.m.

  1. Berg Sonata, Op. 1

Beethoven, Eroica Variations, Op. 35

Brahms, Andante & Variations, Op. 18 (String Sextet)

Brahms, Scherzo in E-flat minor, Op. 4

Liszt, Sonetto 104 del Petrarca

Liszt, Franziscus-Legende No. 1 (St. Francis Preaching to the Birds)

Verdi-Liszt, Rigoletto: Paraphrase

Encore: Schubert-Liszt, Soirées de Vienne, No. 6

Friday, March 8, 2013 at 7:30 p.m.

VII.     Haydn, Variations in F minor, Hob. XVII:6  (Sonata – Un Piccolo Divertimento)

Schubert, Sonata in B-flat major, D. 960

Brahms, Three Intermezzi, Op. 117

Schumann, Fantasy in C major, Op. 17

Encore: Schumann “Träumerei”

Friday, April 5, 2013 at 7:30 p.m.

VIII.   Beethoven, 33 Variations on a Waltz by Anton Diabelli, Op. 120

Beethoven, Hammerklavier Sonata, Op. 106

Frank Glazer at the piano

“Tim called Frank late one evening and asked if he had called too late. Frank told Tim that he was usually up every night until midnight playing the piano.

“Tim asked him how much playing he did every day.  He said that he usually played six hours, but on the days he went to his yoga class, he only played four hours.  He said this was how he was able to keep a concert schedule like the 2012-2013 season, which featured big and technically difficult works.

Frank Glazer at piano

“Frank was so enthused about preparing the concerts for his 100th birthday that he already projecting what he might play for his 101st birthday!

“We feel so fortunate to have been able to get to know this remarkable person and to hear him play.

“There will be a memorial gathering announced at a later date.

“Best regards,

“Renee and Tim Farley”

Editor’s Note: Below is a YouTube video of Glazer playing the “Trois Gymnopedies” of the eccentric French composer Erik Satie. They possess the right contemplative and slightly sorrowful mood for memorial thoughts about  the end of a great life and great career. And if you click on Show More on the YouTube site, you can read the impressive biography of Glazer, who was born in Wisconsin and who studied with Artur Schnabel and Arnold Schoenberg in Berlin, Germany.

 


Classical music: Here are 10 myths about Mozart. How many did you believe? Plus, WYSO’s Youth Orchestra Honors Recital is FREE at 7 TONIGHT at Oakwood Village West.

January 16, 2015
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ALERT: This Friday night at 7 p.m. in the Oakwood Village West Auditorium, located on Madison’s far west side at 6209 Mineral Road, the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) will present the Youth Orchestra Honors Recital.

The recital will feature eight talented young musicians who participated in the Youth Orchestra Concerto Competition this past fall and were runners-up.

Tickets are FREE, but space is limited. WYSO advises getting there early for this event.

This recital will feature the following performers: Isabelle Krier – Violin; Sarah Moniak – Flute; Nikhil Trivedi – Clarinet; Thea Valmadrid – Violin; Aurora Greane – Violin; Jessica Liu – Violin; Roy Weng – Violin; and Antonia Rohlfing – Piano.

Sorry, but no word on the program.

WYSO clarinet

By Jacob Stockinger

The birthday of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (below, circa 1780 in a detail from a portrait by Johann Nepomuk della Croce) is coming up.

Mozart c 1780 detail of portrait by Johann Nepomuk della Croce

The most famous of the Classical-era composers was born on Jan. 27, 1756, and died on Dec. 5, 1791, just shy of his 36th birthday.

Even in his own time, there were many myths about Mozart, about his life and his work and his death.

Our own times have added others.

Here are 10 of those Mozart Myths.

http://www.classical-music.com/article/10-mozart-myths

The Ear finds the myths interesting, both entertaining and enlightening.

What ones did you buy into?

I myself believed the one about his copying of Allegri’s famous “Miserere” after one hearing and also the so-called “Mozart Effect” that increases intelligence.

And what is your favorite Mozart work? There are so many to choose from.

Leave word in the Comments section.

My own Mozart Favorites change over time.

Right now, I favor the Piano Concerto: No. 27 in B-Flat Major, K. 595. You can hear it in a YouTube video at the bottom. It features a performance by Mitsuko Uchida and conductor Jeffrey Tate with the English Chamber Orchestra.

Did anyone ever use simple scales and arpeggios more beautifully than Mozart?

But ask me next week, and I will probably have a different choice.

 


Classical music: The Ancora String Quartet will perform a FREE concert of rarely heard quartets for winds and strings this Friday night at 7:30 p.m..

September 12, 2013
12 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Over the past decade, the Madison-based Ancora String Quartet (below) has received critical acclaim and established a solid reputation as part of the Madison chamber music scene. For more information, visit: http://ancoraquartet.com

Ancora CR Barry Lewis

Usually the Ancora plays at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, where its members have been artists-in-residence for several years. The members (above) are Robin Ryan and Leanne Kelso League, violins; Marika Fischer Hoyt, viola; and Benjamin Whitcomb, cello..

But not this time.

And usually the Ancora performs as a typical string quartet with two violins, a viola and a cello.

But not this time.

The concert of the Ancora takes place tomorrow night, Friday, Sept. 13, at 7:30 p.m. in St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 1833 Regent Street, across from Randall Elementary School.

St. Andrew's Episcopal Madison Front

There is no admission charge, but free will offerings will be accepted.

Because a usual member of quartet cannot play the date, some distinguished area wind players have stepped in.

The program includes:

Quartet in B-Flat Major, Op. 40, No. 3, by Franz Danzi (below top, 1763-1826) with bassoonist Carol Rosing (below bottom), a University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate who studied with Richard Lottridge and who plays with the Beloit-Janesville, Oshkosh and Madison Symphony Orchestras.

Franz Danzi

Carol Rosing

Quartet in A Major, Op. 56 No. 3, by Ignaz Pleyel (1757-1831, below top) with flutist Robin Fellows (below bottom), who teaches at the UW-Whitewater.

Ignaz Joseph Pleyel

Robin Fellows

INTERMISSION

Quartet in B-Flat Major, Op. 18, by Heinrich Baermann (1784-1847, below top and in a different work in a YouTube video at the bottom) with clarinetist Christian Ellenwood (below bottom), who teaches at the UW-Whitewater.

Heinrich Baermann

Christian Ellenwood


Classical music: Reading during a live concert is rude and disrespectful — like knitting, texting or checking email. Don’t do it.

April 26, 2012
36 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

So there I was last Saturday afternoon, in the small and intimate Morphy Recital Hall listening to the three winners of the 27th annual Beethoven Sonata Competition – the Bagatelles also can be entered — at the University of Wisconsin School of Music.

Three talented students – one undergraduate and two graduate students – were playing three difficult and famous Beethoven sonatas. They had some slips, but each played very well with fluency and an understanding of the music.

Aelin Woo (below) played the dark and dramatic  Sonata in D Minor, Op. 31, No. 2 “Tempest.”

Jonathan Thornton (below) played the Sonata in E Major, Op. 109, with its sublimely soulful theme-and-variations final movement.

And Sung Ho Yang played the mammoth “Hammerklavier” Sonata, in B-Flat Major, Op. 106, perhaps the Mount Everest of the piano repertoire because of its length and its gnarly fugue in the last movement.

Mind you, these were students — not seasoned or veteran performers. They needed all the focus, concentration and calm they could muster. And they needed attentiveness from the audience.

But they weren’t getting any help from one woman who sat right in front of me.

For most of the 90 minutes of actual playing, she carefully read an issue of The New Yorker Magazine, folding the pages and underlining passages with a ballpoint pen (below).

That shows good taste in reading.

But it also shows bad taste – very bad taste – in concert manners and etiquette. She should know better – and probably does.

Not only might she have distracted the performers who were close by on stage. She also clearly distracted several people in the audience sitting near her who commented to me—but not directly to her.

I understand their reticence. After all, I too did not talk directly to her, even though she was only a row in front of me.

For the same reason, you will see in the photo below that I did not show her face but just her companion — who also induced the rudeness and didn’t apparently say anything to her about the offensive behavior — looking at an ad in The New Yorker during intermission. And I did not try to get her name.

I am more interested in correcting or, better, preventing the behavior than in embarrassing the violator.

Now, this is not the first time such intrusive rudeness has caught the attention of The Ear.

Quite a while ago, I wrote a blog posting that was critical of a woman who sat in the front row of a concert and knitted. Then I did the same thing about people who checked e-mail and texted during a theater performance.

I think they should be kicked out – that is, politely but firmly asked to leave – unless they are willing to pay attention and be polite.

I think most readers agreed with me that such behavior is indeed rude and out-of-place.

If you go to the concert, you should listen to the music.

If you want to use music as background, stay home, put on a CD and knit or read your magazine.

And if you don’t want to go to a concert to hear the music, then stay home or go somewhere else.

Period.

But, with a few exceptions — such as the outdoors Opera in the Park, which is loud and asks audience members to text in donations, or a vocal or choral concert where you follow lyrics or text — you do not read books or magazines at a concert. It is rude to the performer and to the audience. It is also demeaning to yourself.

Even program notes should be read before or after the concert or during intermission. Reading program notes at the wrong time—when it is quiet during the performance or when you make a noise folding the page – is also rude.

My post about knitting drew a lot of reader comments, both pro and con, including comments about some special disorder or disability that makes people need to knit during a concert.

Sorry, I’m not buying that baloney. Just stay home.

Anyway, here are links to those posts about knitting and about texting during performances. Be sure to pay attention to the many comments about knitting:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/?s=knitting

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2009/11/03/classical-music-etiquette-kick-texters-out-of-concerts-plays-movies/

And let me know what you think about reading magazines or books during a concert.

And what you think should be done?

The Ear wants to hear.


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