The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Amateurs who dream of playing with a professional orchestra should listen to this story.

July 19, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Violinist Tanesha Mitchell (below in a photograph by Richard Anderson) isn’t alone.

Academy Week  tanesha mitchell CR Richard Anderson

Like her, there are many string and brass players, wind players and percussionists, who have studied music and have become pretty accomplished amateurs.

And many of them, The Ear, suspects, dream of playing even just one concert with a professional orchestra.

Enter the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (below top) and its famed music director and conductor Marin Alsop (below bottom).

Baltimore Symphony November 20, 2008

Baltimore Symphony November 20, 2008

Marin Alsop big

Talk about community outreach!

Each year, the BSO holds an amateur week – it is called Academy Week — in which 80 talented amateurs get to play with and under the tutelage of professionals in the symphony orchestra and its conductor. Participants get seven rehearsals and a full concert as well as private lessons.

The Ear wonders how much it costs and how they choose participants.

You can hear more about it in a YouTube video from 2011 at the bottom.

It seems kind of like Interlochen summer music camp, but for adults instead of teens.

Here is a story that aired Saturday on NPR or National Public Radio.

For those amateurs with dreams of professional music-making glory – for even just a week – it is a must-hear story.

And it makes you wonder if it could help the future of classical music if more symphony orchestras and chamber orchestras – including the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra – adopted something similar.

What do you think?

The Ear wants to hear

http://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2015/07/18/423591573/amateur-musicians-go-pro-with-the-baltimore-symphony


Classical music: Maestro John DeMain talks about the challenges and rewards of Beethoven’s “Ninth” – the “Choral” or “Ode to Joy” symphony that he will conduct this weekend with the Madison Symphony Orchestra and Madison Symphony Chorus plus soloists.

May 4, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

It could well be a case of saving the best for last.

This weekend brings what, for The Ear, is the one of the most interesting programs – maybe THE most interesting program — of the season from the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

The sonic combination of a Romantic classic and post-World War II modern music includes the performance of a major symphony that is a beloved icon around the world: the Ninth Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven (below), also known as the “Choral” and “Ode to Joy” symphony.

Beethoven big

The Ninth was the symphony that Leonard Bernstein famously conducted in Germany to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall.

So what better offering to accompany it than something composed by Bernstein – his 1954 “Serenade” for solo violin and orchestra, with MSO concertmaster Naha Greenholtz, that is based on the Socratic dialogue “Symposium” by the ancient Greek philosopher Plato. (Greenholtz will talk about the Bernstein work in a Q&A here later this week.)

Love and joy: Can there be a better way to finish out a season?

The program will be performed under the baton of longtime MSO music director John DeMain, who studied and worked with Leonard Bernstein. It will feature the Madison Symphony Chorus, as prepared by MSO assistant conductor Beverly Taylor (below), who also heads the UW-Madison choral department.

Beverly Taylor MSO portrait COLOR USE

Guest vocal soloists are: soprano Melody Moore (below top); contralto Gwendolyn Brown (below second); tenor Eric Barry (below third); and bass Morris Robinson (below bottom).

Melody Moore

Gwendolyn Brown

Eric Barry

Morris Robinson

Performances are in Overture Hall in the Overture Center. Times are Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets are $12-$84.

For details, go to https://www.madisonsymphony.org or call the Overture Center Box Office at (608) 258-4141.

For more information, including audio samples and a link to program notes by MSO bass trombonist and UW-Whitewater professor Michael Allsen, visit: http://www.madisonsymphony.org/beethoven

Maestro DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad) recently agreed to do an email Q&A about Beethoven’s Ninth with The Ear:

John DeMain full face by Prasad

Why does Beethoven’s Ninth always appeal and what makes it an icon in the public mind? What makes it at the same time so revolutionary and so typically Beethoven?

Aside from the Ninth Symphony being a great musical composition, one cannot get away from the inclusion of the poem by Friedrich Schiller (below, in a painting by Ludovick Simanowiz). The “Ode to Joy” literally shouting that all men in our universe are brothers is what makes this symphony an icon in the public mind. (At bottom is a more informal street scene flash mob performance in a YouTube video that has more than 8 million hits.)

The first three movements are typically Beethoven in style, though consummate in his compositional development. It is the inclusion of voices in the last movement, and the length and structure of the last movement that makes this symphony truly revolutionary. This was the first symphony to have included a chorus and soloists for its final movement.

Friedrich Schiller by Ludovike Simanowiz

It isn’t hard to guess what meaning it holds for the public and why audiences find it popular. But what does this music do to you? How do you feel when you perform it and have finished it?

Music for me is a powerful aural emotional experience. While there is great beauty, majesty and excitement to be found in the first three movements, it is that last movement that fires up my own emotions, not dissimilar to what the listening audience is feeling as well.

Literally shouting for a united brotherhood on Earth under our Maker in heaven, Beethoven develops this movement from a lovely and simple melody in the beginning, to a massive and wild declaration at the end.

It is always a uniquely significant event, often conjuring up whatever injustices are occurring in our contemporary world. Certainly our challenges in the Middle East, and our domestic situations, most recently in St. Louis and Baltimore, will resonate in people’s minds as they listen to this music. It’s a call for harmony in the universe.

When you finish conducting the Beethoven Ninth, you are emotionally and physically drained having conducted not one, but two symphonies, as the last movement is a symphony unto itself.

John DeMain conducting 2

What are the challenges, technically and interpretatively, for you, as a conductor and for the orchestra players, the soloists and the chorus?

There is rather elaborate contrapuntal writing for the orchestra, which always poses a problem for ensemble and clarity. Length poses a challenge for endurance, particularly for the strings. The recitative sections for the orchestral basses as well as the soloist are particularly challenging for the conductor, as are the on the spot pull backs in tempo during the last movement.

We all know that the vocal writing is a challenge to both the soloists and the chorus, but particularly for the chorus. The high tessitura (average pitch range) of the writing makes it extremely difficult for the sopranos and tenors to sustain a thrilling fortissimo, for example. (Below is a photo of the Madison Symphony Chorus by Greg Anderson.)

Beethoven was completely deaf at this point in his life, and was writing what was in his mind, not paying particular attention to what was doable. But then, isn’t that how musical innovation and the stretching of form sometimes happen?

MSO Chorus from left CR Greg Anderson

Why did you choose to pair The Ninth with the Bernstein’s Serenade? Do you see certain parallels or contrasts?

Well, Lenny was a real devotee of Beethoven, and in this composition, he does marvelous things with the use of leitmotif. I love juxtaposing 20th century harmonies with the musical language of the early 19th century. Both composers use dissonance as a part of their language, but in very different ways.

The Serenade, while not specifically programmatic, deals with the various aspects of love, and relates to the Beethoven in that love has to be the basis that binds all men and women together.

I  also love featuring our wonderful concertmaster, Naha Greenholtz (below), and when she suggested the idea, I thought it would make a wonderful contrast to the Ninth, and fill out the concert in a truly wonderful way to close our season.

Naha Greenholtz [playing


Classical music: J.S. Bach turns 330 on Saturday. At noon in Grace Episcopal Church, the Madison Bach Musicians mark the event with a FREE concert of baroque music. On SATURDAY night at 8 the Wisconsin Brass Quintet plays a FREE concert in Mills Hall. And on Sunday afternoon, Madison native pianist Kathryn Ananda-Owens performs a Mozart concerto at St. Olaf College, and the performance will be streamed live.

March 20, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Three items deserve attention today.

J.S. BACH TURNS 330 ON SATURDAY

This Saturday is the 330th birthday of composer Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). That means you can expect to hear a lot of Bach played on Wisconsin Public Radio and streamed by other radio stations and music institutions from around the country and world.

Bach1

To mark the occasion, the program “Grace Presents” – which takes place at Grace Episcopal Church, 116 West Washington Avenue, on the Capitol Square – is presenting a FREE concert by the early music group the Madison Bach Musicians from noon to 1 p.m.

grace episcopal church ext

MBM Grace altar

Explains MBM founder and director Trevor Stephenson: “Madison Bach Musicians (MBM) was formed to foster a love of music and to provide education about great music within the community. MBM is dedicated to presenting the music of Bach-as well as works by other great composers of the Baroque, Renaissance and Classical periods — to both the general public and to educational institutions through performances, lectures, and workshops.

“Bach’s music was chosen as a focal point because of its outstanding beauty, variety and profundity, and because it speaks with urgency to modern audiences.

In pursuit of the greatest clarity of musical texture, MBM performs primarily on period instruments, using historically informed performance practices, and the ensemble sizes are typical of those used by Bach himself. MBM provides a unique forum for experienced professional and exceptionally talented young professional musicians to work together in an exciting period performance style.”

Grace Presents is a FREE monthly concert series that takes place in the historic Grace Church on Madison’s Capitol Square. The series features a diverse range of music, everything from classical and folk to jazz and bluegrass.

Members of the Madison Bach Musicians (below) include: Kangwon Kim, baroque violin; Martha Vallon, viola da gamba and baroque cello; Chelsea Morris, soprano; and Trevor Stephenson, harpsichord.

Kangwon KIm with Madison Bach Musicians

Here is the program for Saturday’s concert:

Sonata No. 4 in D major from Sonatae unarum fidium by Johann Heinrich Schmelzer (below, 1623-1680)

Johann Heinrich Schmelzer

Sonata in G Major, BWV 1027, by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Adagio; Allegro ma non tanto; Andante;  Allegro moderato

Prelude & Fugue in E-flat minor, from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I by Johann Sebastian Bach

Violin Sonata in F major, HWV 370, by George Frideric Handel (below, 1685-1759)

Adagio; Allegro;  Largo; Allegro

handel big 2

Recitative and Aria from “Ach Gott, wie manches HerzeleidBWV 58, by Johann Sebastian Bach. (You can hear the beautiful music in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Aria from “Gott, wie dein Name, so ist auch dein Ruhm” BWV 171, by J.S. Bach 

The harpsichord (below) to be played in Saturday’s concert was made by area instrument builder Norman Sheppard in 2009 and is modeled on a circa 1720 German double-manual instrument by Michael Mietke of Berlin, one that Bach bought and used.

PLEASE NOTE: Madison Bach Musicians will repeat the FREE concert on this Sunday, March 22, at 3 p.m. in the West Middleton Lutheran Church, 3763 Pioneer Road in Verona.

BrandenburgsHarpsichord

WISCONSIN BRASS QUINTET PERFORMS SATURDAY NIGHT

The Wisconsin Brass Quintet (below, in a photo by Megan Aley) performs a FREE concert SATURDAY night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall — NOT tonight as incorrectly first stated here.

The program includes music by William Mathias, James Stephenson, Anders Hillborg and Malcolm Arnold.

Here is a link to background about the members of the faculty ensemble that was founded in 1972 at the UW-Madison School of Music:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/wisconsin-brass-quintet-faculty-recital/

Here is link to the program:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/2015-0321-WBQ.pdf

Wisconsin Brass Quintet on Mendota K. Esposito

ON SUNDAY AFTERNOON, MADISON-BORN PIANIST KATHRYN ANANDA-OWENS STREAMS MOZART’S D-MINOR PIANO CONCERTO WITH HER OWN CADENZAS

The following news has come to the attention of The Ear: Pianist Kathryn Ananda-Owens (below), is a graduate of James Madison Memorial High School on Madison’s far west side and the first winner of Wisconsin Public Radio’s Neale-Silva Young Artists Competition. She was promoted to full professor at St. Olaf College in February.

Kathryn Ananda-Owens, horizontal

On this Sunday at 3:30 p.m., with the St. Olaf Orchestra, she will perform the dark, dramatic and lovely Piano Concerto in D Minor, K. 466, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (below) — with her own cadenzas. (The concert will be live-streamed. St. Olaf officials say to tune in 10 minutes ahead).

For anyone who might be interested, here is the link to the streaming part of the website, and scroll to March 22:

http://www.stolaf.edu/multimedia/streams/upcoming.cfm?category=concerts

By way of background, the Mozart piano concerto cadenzas were the study of Ananda-Owens’ doctoral dissertation and lecture recital at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore that is attached to Johns Hopkins University.

Mozart old 1782

Mozart wrote cadenzas for some, but not all, of his 27 piano concertos. No one else has analyzed the topic in-depth, and she is more than halfway through turning her dissertation into a book, thanks to a sabbatical during academic year 2012-13. She annually lectures at the Juilliard School (and occasionally at some other places, including internationally) on this topic.


Classical music: Cellist Amit Peled celebrates historical mentor Pablo Casals with Casals’ own cello. Peled performs this Friday night with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.

March 16, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

There is much to look forward to during this Friday night’s MUST-HEAR “Masterworks” concert by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra under the baton of its longtime music director Andrew Sewell.

But clearly the big draw is the Israeli-born cellist Amit Peled (below), who is a now a very successful teacher at the Peabody Conservatory that is attached to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and who also tours the globe performing.

Amit Peled playing

The concert is at 8 p.m. in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center.

Tickets cost $15, $37, $62 and $65. Call the Overture Center box office at (608) 258-4141.

Amit Peled has played here with the WCO before, and he showed then that his talent is as big as he is, a 6’5” man who projects a big presence physically and musically.

But Peled is also a congenial, humorous and curious musician who knows how to find an unusual angle, a new take on old music.

As an homage, Peled recently recreated a century later a concert by Pablo Casals, who remains perhaps the most famous and influential cellist in history, by performing the same program.

Pablo Casals BIG USE

The program included a solo suite by Johann Sebastian Bach since it was Casals who first discovered them and then who convinced the experts and the public that they were not exercises but genuine gorgeous music.

It also included a Catalan folk song, “The Song of the Birds,” which Casals himself arranged and frequently performed as an anthem to the need for freedom from Nazism and Fascism for his homeland. In fact it became a signature of Casals, and Peled will perform the same piece here.

Moreover, Peled performed this concert on Casal’s own cello, a superb 1733 Goffriller instrument, which Peled got on loan from Casals’ widow and which he had restored. (You can hear Amit Peled talk about and play the famed Casals cello in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

And that is the same cello he will bring to his date in Madison.

Here is a link to a story – two conjoined stories really — that NPR (National Public Radio) did about Peled and the Casals cello.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2015/02/11/385240526/what-it-means-to-play-pablo-casals-cello

Amit Peled 1

On the same cello, Peled will also perform the “Tarantella” by David Popper – another favorite of Casals — and the rarely played Cello Concerto by Robert Schumann (below), a late work written as the composer was descending into the mental illness that would eventually claim his life.

Schumann photo1850

Adding to the concert’s appeal are two other works.

One is the penultimate symphony by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (below), the dark, dramatic and appealing Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, K. 550.

Mozart old 1782

The performance by the WCO (below top) should be a lively treat, given the complete mastery of the Classical-era style that conductor Andrew Sewell (below bottom) continues to demonstrate.

WCO lobby

andrewsewell

Another attraction is the Suite for String Orchestra by Frank Bridge (below), who was the teacher of famed 20th-century British composer Benjamin Britten. And if you have heard Sewell, who originally hails from New Zealand, you know he has a way for finding neglected repertoire and possesses a special fondness of and talent for performing British works.

Frank Bridge

For more information about the WCO and this concert, visit:

http://www.wcoconcerts.org/performances/masterworks-iv

And here is a link to Amit Peled’s website, where you can find more information including reviews, recordings, biographical facts and more:

http://www.amitpeled.com


Classical music: Baltimore Symphony Orchestra music director and conductor Marin Alsop lends her late parents’ valuable violin and cello as living memorials to them and as a way to help musicians in her orchestra.

February 21, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Perhaps you have read about the rapidly escalating cost of great musical instruments.

That puts a lot of younger or less well-known, cash-strapped players in a difficult spot.

For quite a while, banks and other financial institutions as well as museums and historical institutions such as the Smithsonian Institution have been putting the investment-quality instruments on loan to younger players whose playing deserves the instrument.

But individuals can do so too.

Take the case of the pioneering conductor Marin Alsop (below), a protégée of Leonard Bernstein who now heads the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Sao Paulo State Symphony in Brazil, and who is being mentioned as a prominent candidate to follow Alan Gilbert when he steps downs from the podium of the New York Philharmonic in 2017.

Marin Alsop

When both her parents, who were distinguished professional musicians, died last year, they left behind valuable string instruments — a violin and a cello.

stradivari-solomon-ex-lambert

Cello and bow

Alsop didn’t want to sell the instruments.

But she also didn’t want them to lie unused and defeat their original purpose.

So Alsop (below, in a photo by Gabriella Dumczek of The New York Times) decided to turn the violin and cello into living memorials by placing them on loan with players in her Baltimore orchestra -– a move that has benefitted everyone and the instruments as well.

Here is a story from The New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/14/arts/music/at-baltimore-symphony-a-cello-and-a-violin-make-more-than-music.html?_r=0

It gives you ideas about what might be done on the local level, where some very fine instruments – including pianos — could benefit some very young but very fine local players who otherwise couldn’t afford to have them.

Marin Alsop  2015 CR Gabriella Demczuk NYT


Classical music: Can you sing? Famed diva Jessye Norman thinks you can -– and should try. She says it is good for your physical health and mental health.

December 26, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

We have just come through Christmas and the holiday season where the instrument of choice – quite appropriately – is the human voice, both solo and in choruses.

Do you sing?

Can you sing?

The famous Grammy Award-winning soprano diva Jessye Norman (below) thinks you can -– and should, or at least try to.

In an interview with the Deceptive Cadence blog for NPR (National Public Radio), Norman explains why all  people can sing.

She also explains why you should: Singing, she says, is healthy for your body and mind.

Jessye Norman

She may be 69, but Norman, who was born in Georgia but now lives in France, is not retiring from singing, even if she is cutting down on professional appearances. She is following her own advice and so continues to sing, as she recently did on The David Letterman Show in New York City.

The interview traces her career from her earliest years in Augusta, Georgia, through training at the famed Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. It has samples of her fabulous voice, and also her remembrances of great voices she has admired in others, such as the great history-making African American contralto Marian Anderson (below, during her historic concert at the Lincoln Memorial).

anderson

She also names some favorite orchestral music and instrumental music, including a prelude from the opera “Lohengrin” by Richard Wagner, as conducted by James Levine (below top) of the Metropolitan Opera; a cello sonata by Johann Sebastian Bach performed by cellist Yo-Yo Ma (below middle); and a Beethoven piano concertos performed by pianist Alfred Brendel (below bottom) and the conductor Simon Rattle along with the Berlin Philharmonic.

James Levine conducting

yo-yo ma

Brendel playing BIG

Norman also singles out American jazz composer Duke Ellington (below) for praise.

Duke Ellington at piano

And the NPR interview includes some fine music audio samples.

Here is a link:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/11/25/364758676/guest-dj-jessye-norman-from-augusta-to-valhalla

And here is one of my favorite and landmark or legendary performances by Jessye Norman: “Im Abendrot.” It is one of the “Four Last Songs” by Richard Strauss that was recently used in the movie “The Trip to Italy” to such great and repeated effect:


Classical music: University of Wisconsin percussion group Clocks in Motion will give a FREE concert of unusual new music, including the world premiere of the winner of its first composing contest, this Sunday afternoon. Plus, on Saturday a harpsichord recital of Baroque masters will be given at the First Unitarian Society.

February 13, 2014
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ALERT: This Saturday night at 7 p.m. in the Landmark Auditorium at the historic Meeting House at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, Stephen Alltop of Northwestern University will give a harpsichord recital. The program features the music of Johann Sebastian Bach (Toccata in E minor, Preludes and Fugues in D major and D minor from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I), Domenico Scarlatti (two sonatas), Jean-Philippe Rameau (Suite in A Minor), Franz Joseph Haydn (Sonata No. 6 in G Major) and George Frideric Handel (Suite in G Minor). A free will offering will be taken. 

Stephen Alltop harpsichord

By Jacob Stockinger

Clocks in Motion, Madison’s cutting-edge new music ensemble, will present Unfamiliar Voices 1.0, an expansive program featuring music from both the heart of the established percussion ensemble literature and the forefront of modern percussion composition. 

The FREE performance is this coming Sunday, Feb. 16, at 3 p.m. in Mils Hall. It will celebrate composer and UW-Madison student Ben Davis, the 2014 Clocks in Motion Call for Scores winner, with the world premiere of his exciting new work, “Night.”

The ensemble will also perform the meditative percussion quartet, “Threads,” by Paul Lansky and the grand percussion sextet, “Kryptogramma,” by Georges Aperghis.

clocks in motion in concert

Ben Davis (below), a composer, trumpeter and teacher from Richmond, Virginia, writes for unique instruments built by Clocks in Motion. His new work employs sixxen — large aluminum keyboard instruments that are tuned microtonally (vastly different from the standard repeating 12-tone scale in most western music).

ben davis

The three sets of sixxen (below, in the foreground with other percussion instruments) in the piece are purposefully out of tune with each other, creating an entrancing sound cloud of beading frequencies for the listener.  In contrast, the other three players in the piece each play a bombastic multi-percussion setup of tom toms, snare drums, kick drums, and china cymbals.  Davis’ innovative work is sure to impress.

sixxen ensemble foreground-1

Paul Lansky (below) shares some insightful thoughts on his 2005 work: “Threads… is a half-hour long ‘cantata’ for percussion quartet in ten short movements. (You can hear it at the bottom in a YouTube video performance from the Peabody Conservatory of Music at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.)

Adds Lansky: “There are three “threads” that are interwoven in the piece: Arias and Preludes that focus on the metallic pitched sounds of vibraphones, glockenspiel and pipes; Choruses in which drumming predominates; and Recitatives made largely from John Cage-like noise instruments, bottles, flower pots, crotales, etc. The aim of the different threads is to highlight the wide range of qualities that percussion instruments are capable of, from lyrical and tender to forceful and aggressive, and weave them into one continuous ‘thread.’ The movements are performed without interruption.”

paul lansky

Georges Aperghis’ 1970 composition “Kryptogramma” is a massive undertaking. Puzzling instrumental combinations and bizarre rhythmic structures make this one of the most fascinating and complex percussion ensemble works ever written.

“Kryptogramma” means “concealed text/writing”.  In the  words of composer Aperghis (below): “Every cyptogram [in the piece] conceals a text or number sequence, behind which information is hidden…simple rhythms…are developed in a tapestry of soaring movements, and…subjected to a mass of variation.”

georges aperghis

Clocks in Motion members are Dave Alcorn, Jennifer Hedstrom, Sean Kleve, Michael Koszewski James McKenzie, and Joseph Murfin.  For the concert on Feb. 16, Clocks in Motion will welcome percussionists Vincent Mingils and Somali Wilson as guest performers.

All performers are either current or former students of the UW-Madison percussion studio.

Hailed as “nothing short of remarkable” (ClevelandClassical.com), Clocks in Motion is a group that performs new music, builds rare instruments, and breaks down the boundaries of the traditional concert program.

Formed in 2011, the ensemble is currently in residence at the University of Wisconsin School of Music.  The individual members of Clocks in Motion’s unique skill sets and specialties contain an impressive mix of musical styles including, rock, jazz, contemporary classical music, orchestral percussion, marching percussion, and world music styles.

Among its many recent engagements, the group served as resident performers and educators at the Interlochen Arts Academy, Rhapsody Arts Center, University of Michigan, Baldwin-Wallace University, and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.

Admission is free. For more information, including repertoire, upcoming events, biographies, and media, visit http://clocksinmotionpercussion.com.

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Classical music: Native daughter and St. Olaf College pianist Kathryn Ananda-Owens returns to Madison for FREE recital of Mozart, Debussy and Justin Merritt on this Friday at noon at the First Unitarian Society.

February 5, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

When I first met Kathryn Ananda-Owens (below), I was a journalist reporting on education and she was a promising student at Memorial High School where she had just won a prestigious national science award and competition.

But she was also a very gifted young pianist, and music proved to be the profession she ended up pursuing. Indeed, she became the winner of the first annual Neale-Silva Young Artists Competition held in 1993 by Wisconsin Public Radio.

Kathryn Ananda-Owens, horizontal

Kathy studied at Oberlin College and then the Peabody Conservatory of Music at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. For many years now, she has been a professor of piano at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, which is renowned for its music department and especially its choral music.

She has toured in Asia and Europe, has perform solo recitals chamber music and concertos with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and the St. Olaf Orchestra. She has performed at Lincoln Center in New York City and has made several Compact Disc recordings.

Here is a link to a biographical sketch:

http://wp.stolaf.edu/music/people/kathryn-ananda-owens/

Kathy returns to Madison periodically, but not always to play in public. But she will perform this Friday at the FREE Noon Musicale held weekly in the Landmark Auditorium (below top and bottom) of the historic First Unitarian Society of Madison Meeting House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built at 900 University Bay Drive, from 12:15 to 1 p.m.

FUS exterior BIG COLOR USE

FUS1jake

Her program is a terrific combination of the old classics and new music.

Kathy will play Mozart’s dramatic Sonata in C Minor K. 457 and two of Debussy’s “Estampes” (Prints): “Pagodes” (Pagodas, played by David Cabassi during the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in a popular YouTube video at that bottom) and “Jardins Sous la Pluie”  (Gardens in the Rain.)

In addition she will perform a contemporary work that was written for her: “Album Leaves” by Justin Merritt (below), who has been in residence at St. Olaf College.

Justin Merritt

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Classical music Q&A: It is time to rediscover composer Luigi Boccherini, says acclaimed cellist Amit Peled, who on Friday night will perform with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, which he calls “one of the best chamber orchestras in the U.S.”

January 11, 2012
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UPDATE: The FREE astronomy program this Saturday at the UW Space Place about the Madison Opera‘s production of Philip Glass’ “Galileo” has now been filled. I posted about the program on Monday, if you want to read about it.

By Jacob Stockinger

 The first big concert to kick off the second half of the current concert season in Madison is this Friday at 8 p.m. in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center.

That is when the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra will perform a program of Classical and modern music under the baton of WCO music director Andrew Sewell.

Tickets are $15-$62. Call the Overture Center box office at 608 258-4141. For more information about the program and tickets, visit:

http://www.wcoconcerts.org/performances/masterworks/26/event-info/

The program is classic Sewell (below), who likes to mix it up and introduce the audience to new works they probably don’t know as well give them a chance to hear a familiar work or composer they love.

This program features a well-known masterpiece, the Symphony No. 100 (“Military”) by Hadyn, one of Sewell’s specialties for which he has been praised. There will also be a work, “Diversions for Sttring Orchestra,” by the 20th century composer Douglas Lilburn (below, 1915-2001) who, like Sewell, hailed from New Zealand.

The program also features an unknown work,  “Kaddish,” based on the Hebrew service for the dead – a kind of Jewish requiem – for cello and strings by the little known contemporary Russian-Israeli composer Mark Kopytman (1929-2011).

And there will be a Cello Concerto by Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805), an unjustly neglected composer of the Classical era.

The guest soloist, returning to the WCO for a second time, is the acclaimed cellist Amit Peled (below), who concertizes widely but also teaches at the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

His website, which has his biography, reviews of his concerts, his statement about his teaching philosophy, a list of recordings and more, can be found at:

http://www.amitpeled.com/

And here is a long interview with Peled on a website devoted to the cello:

http://www.cello.org/newsletter/articles/peled/peled.htm

Peled, a busy performer and pedagogue, kindly agreed to an interview about his upcoming concert in Madison:

You have played here before. How do you like Madison?

I love Madison. I have been there several times. I have played at the University of Wisconsin and performed with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. It is a little too cold, but I love the town and the people and the restaurants. It is a really nice place.

The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below) is one of the best chamber orchestras in the U.S. Playing with them is literally like playing chamber music. There’s no feeling of accompanying or the group being superior to the soloist.

It has a lot to do with Andrew being in charge. I am looking forward to this concert. I love performing with them. And we will do the same combination of Baroque and Jewish music that we did last time, except that last time the Jewish piece was an encore.

Speaking of Jewish music, what can you tell us about the “Kaddish” by Mark Kopytman?

The piece is not well-known in the U.S. although I have recorded it. I knew the composer (below), who just passed away last month. I worked with him on the piece. There is a direct story line in it that I might be allowed to tell the audience before I play it.

He grew up in Russia and was a big admirer of Shostakovich. it has a lot of Shostakovich. It is a very exciting piece of the orchestra as well. I would think it is probably a Midwest premiere as well as a Madison premiere. I thin the combination of this and Boccherini will be wonderful.

The language is very tonal and accessible. The whole piece is a dialogue between the cello, which is the surviving son, and the orchestra, which is the dead father.

What do you want to say about Boccherini and the concerto?

For cellists, Boccherini (below) is like the Bible. He was a great cellist and wrote 13 concertos for the cello as well as quintets with two cellos that are really gorgeous. But Gruetzmacher, who was a 19th-century cellist, reworked this one in a more Romantic way. For us cellists, it is fun to play because it is even more lyrical and singing, and more demanding technically, than what Boccherini originally wrote. So it has become the most famous of all the Boccherini cello concertos.

Boccherini was an Italian composer who lived in Spain, but his music has the quality of an Italian opera aria all through the piece. It is just gorgeous.

It in the 1950s, everybody played this concerto. (See the Jacqueline du Pre at bottom.) Now it mostly a student piece, though students often find it too difficult technically. So I am happy that Andrew was open to doing it.

It is an exciting piece. Boccherini has been overshadowed by more famous contemporaries such as Haydn and Mozart. But the concerto is a fine piece and it is a pity it is neglected today.

There are wonderful pieces that unfortunately we cellists don’t get to play. Orchestras always want to give audiences the safe cello pieces — the Elgar, Dvorak and Schumann concertos — and not take a chance. In that sense Andrew is very brave to program two pieces that are not played very often. More people should know Boccherini and I hope people will like it.

I hope Boccherini receives a major revival or rediscovery. The best thing I can do is to promote him and play his music. The rest is left to the public and music organizations around the country to give it a chance. I am excited about it.

This week you will also teach students at Middleton High School. How well do performing and teaching go together?

I love the combination of teaching and performing. (Below is Peled with students at the Peabody Institute.) It is great to try to verbalize everything I try to do with the cello to students. But when I teach too much, I miss the playing and when I play too much, I miss the teaching. So it is a good combination for me.


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