By Jacob Stockinger
The time for announcing new seasons has arrived.
Pretty soon, over the next several weeks and months, The Ear will hear from larger and smaller presenters and ensembles in the Madison area, and post their new seasons.
First out of the gate is the critically acclaimed and popular summer group, the Madison-based Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society. (You can see a short promo video about BDDS on the YouTube video at the bottom.)
It has just announced its upcoming summer season this June, and sent out brochures with the season’s details.
This will be the 26th annual summer season and it has the theme of “Alphabet Soup.”
The concept is explained online and in a brochure newsletter (also online) in an editorial essay by BDDS co-founder and co-artistic director flutist Stephanie Jutt (seen below with co-founder and co-director pianist Jeffrey Sykes).
In many ways it will be a typical season of the eclectic group. It will feature local and imported artists. Many of both are favorites of The Ear.
His local favorites include UW-Madison pianist Christopher Taylor; violist Sally Chisholm of the UW-Madison’s Pro Arte Quartet; UW violinist Soh-Hyun Park Altino (below top, in a photo by Caroline Bittencourt); and Pro Arte cellist Parry Karp (below bottom).
Among The Ear’s favorite guest artists are violinist Carmit Zori, clarinetist Alan Kay, the San Francisco Piano Trio (below top); UW alumna soprano Emily Birsan; pianist Randall Hodgkinson; and baritone Timothy Jones (below bottom).
As usual, the season features 12 concerts of six programs over three weeks (June 9-25) in three venues – the Playhouse in the Overture Center (below top), the Hillside Theater (below middle) at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin compound in Spring Green and the Stoughton Opera House (below bottom).
In addition, there is a FREE family concert in the Overture Playhouse on June 10.
What does seem somewhat new is the number of unknown composers and an edgier, more adventurous choice of pieces, including more new music and more neglected composers.
Oh, there will be classics by such composers as Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Luigi Boccherini, Franz Schubert, Johannes Brahms, Peter Tchaikovsky, Sergei Prokofiev, Maurice Ravel, Bela Bartok, Arnold Schoenberg, Benjamin Britten and others. These are the ABC’s of the alphabet soup, according to BDDS.
But also represented are composers such as Philippe Gaubert, Czech Holocaust victim Gideon Klein (below), Guillaume Conneson, Carl Czerny, Paul Moravec and Franz Doppler. These are the XYZ’s of the alphabet soup.
In between come others. Contemporary American composer, and Pulitzer Prize winner, Kevin Puts (below) is a BDDS favorite and is well represented. You will also find less performed works by Ned Rorem, Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Gerald Finzi.
For the complete programs and schedules as well as the list of performers, some YouTube videos and ticket prices, both for season tickets ($109.50, $146, $182 and $219) and for individual concerts ($43), and other information, go to:
By Jacob Stockinger
Yesterday, I posted a disconcerting story from the Columbia Journalism Review about how most mainstream newspapers and traditional media are cutting way back on art coverage.
After all, runs the conventional wisdom, how can the arts compete with sports, politics and crime for attracting readers?
Here is a link to that post:
Well, that kind of mistaken thinking is one reason why The Ear likes to watch PBS and national Public Radio or NPR. Especially on the PBS NewsHour, you find terrific stories about and interviews with major figures in the fine arts and the performing arts.
PBS treats the arts as vital and essential, not ornamental or secondary.
A wonderful example happened this week on the segment called “Brief But Spectacular” in which people offer their thoughts about their own lives and careers.
In this case, it was Jean Stark — a 90-year-old Belgian-born woman who was an accomplished concertizing classical pianist. She performed in Carnegie Hall and Town Hall in New York City, and in halls around the world, and who talks about her life and career for PBS.
In the four-minute interview, she laments how classical music isn’t promoted these days and emphasizes how wonderful it was to be alive during the golden years of classical music with such great figures as composer-pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff and Sergei Prokofiev.
But, she confesses, for all her accomplishments she was unsatisfied with how she played slow movements of sonatas by Classical-era masters Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven.
Until she came to the U.S. and went with a friend to a concert by Ray Charles.
Charles, she says, taught how to play slowly.
The Ear only wishes she had been more specific about the lessons she learned. Was it phrasing? Tempo? Accents? “Rubato,” or flexible timing?
It is a great, heart-warming story and typical of the kind of human interest arts coverage that you generally do not find on other television news channels, whether traditional networks like CBS, NBC, ABC and FOX or cable TV channels such as CNN and MSNBC.
So The Ear offers it as both an enjoyable and informative arts story, and as an endorsement of the PBS NewsHour and especially reporter Jeffrey Brown, who does such a terrific job of reporting on the arts.
Here is the segment, which you can find on YouTube, along with other recordings by Stark:
An after-thought: To the best of his knowledge, The Ear thinks that the music you hear her playing is the “Aeolian Harp” Etude in A-Flat Major, Op. 25, No. 1, by Frederic Chopin and part of the suite “Pour le piano” (For the Piano) by Claude Debussy.
What do you think of arts coverage on the mainstream media and on PBS?
What do you think Jean Stark learned from Ray Charles?
If you saw this story, how did it affect you?
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has an announcement to pass on from the Volta Quartet:
“Join us for our first concert in Madison!
“It is this Saturday night from 7 to 8 p.m. at the Capitol Lakes Retirement Community, 333 West Main Street, two blocks off the Capitol Square.
“The program features the Quartettsatz (Quartet Movement), D. 703, by Franz Schubert; String Quartet, Op. 33, No. 5, by Joseph Haydn; and Quartet No. 1 by Béla Bartók. (You can hear the beautiful “Quarttetsatz by Schubert played by the Alban Berg Quartet in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
“We are called the Volta Quartet, and we are based in Chicago. It is comprised of Alex Norris, and Ben Seeger on violins; Willie Mclellan on viola; and Elizabeth Oar on cello.
The members are pictured below (left to right)” Willie, Ben, Elizabeth and Alex.
“We formed the quartet this summer because we all love to play string quartets and we don’t want to give up that part of our lives just because we are busy with other things.”
By Jacob Stockinger
Recently The Ear stumbled upon a fascinating story, on a blog by Nathan Cole, about famous violin concertos.
It was NOT about the Top 10 Best Violin Concertos ranked in order.
It was NOT about the Top 10 Most Difficult Violin Concertos.
It was simply about the most difficult openings of violin concertos – about what happens when the violinist walks on stage and starts up along with the orchestra or before it or after it.
It uses the Olympics’ sports competitions as a model and awards degrees of difficulty along with explanations for the scoring.
(For a close to simultaneous start by orchestra and soloist, listen to American violinist Hillary Hahn, who played a recital last spring at the Wisconsin Union Theater, and conductor Paavo Jarvi in the opening of the popular Violin Concerto in E Minor by Felix Mendelssohn in the YouTube video at the bottom. It has over 8 million hits and it is very relevant to the story.)
The story reminds The Ear of famous literary critic Frank Kermode’s classic book “The Sense of an Ending” — only now it would be “The Sense of a Beginning,” a subject the late literary critic, cultural analyst and Palestinian activist Edward Said wrote about in his book “Beginnings: Intention and Method.”
The musical discussion features accessible and informative analysis by an accomplished violinist as well as terrific audio-visual clips of each concerto and the openings in question.
It’s a long piece – good for weekend reading, perhaps because it can be done in different segments at different times.
But even if you read only a part of it, it certainly imparts a sense of the challenges that a soloist faces. You vicariously experience the thrill and intimidation of walking out on stage and starting to play.
And it enhances your appreciation of some famous violin concertos and of what it takes to pull them off in live performance.
Like The Ear, you will come away with a new appreciation of the challenges that any concerto soloist – violinist, pianist, cellist, brass player, wind player, whatever — faces.
Here is a link:
The Ear also hopes the website violinist.com follows up with a listing or ranking of the most difficult ENDINGS of violin concertos and a discussion of what makes them so difficult.
In the meantime, The Ears asks:
Do violinists out there agree or disagree with the scoring and reasons?
Do they care to leave a comment one way or the other?
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
In an age of jet-set, millionaire celebrity maestros, The Ear finds that the modest Fischer – a pianist by training who is also the music director of the Konzerthaus in Berlin, Germany — shows a refreshing lack of ego and ambition.
Fisher — who has also challenged the conservative right-wing government of Hungary –seems to have a healthy perspective on making music, which depends on taking the long view, with the acclaimed Budapest Festival Orchestra (below), which he founded and still leads.
In short, Ivan Fischer seems a model non-superstar musician.
The Ear hopes you agree.
Here is a terrific profile that appeared in The Guardian newspaper in the UK:
By Jacob Stockinger
Two concerts at the UW-Madison this week are especially noteworthy:
A winner of the bronze medal at the 1993 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, Taylor (below, in a photo by Michael R. Anderson) concertizes around the world to rave reviews, especially for his performances of modern or contemporary music.
This Friday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, Taylor will perform a more tradition recital, but with a still noteworthy program made up of Baroque and Romantic music.
He is known as an interpreter of that music too since he has performed all 32 piano sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven and the Franz Liszt transcriptions of the nine symphonies by Beethoven. (You can hear Taylor play the opening of the Famous Fifth Symphony at a festival in Russia in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
Plus, Taylor is known for playing the “Goldberg” Variations, by Johann Sebastian Bach, on a special double keyboard piano that he has tinkered with and refined or improved upon, and which is now being built.
In the upcoming recital Taylor will perform the French Suite No. 1 in D Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach; the rarely played Piano Sonata No. 1 by Johannes Brahms; and the even more rarely played compete Twelve Etudes, Op. 8, of Russian composer Alexander Scriabin. (The etudes include the last one in D-sharp minor that was a favorite of pianist Vladimir Horowitz.)
Tickets are $15. Students get admitted free.
For more information, visit:
Then on Saturday night, at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, the critically acclaimed Wisconsin Brass Quintet will perform a FREE concert of music by a variety of older composers and works as well as living composers and new music.
Members of the Wisconsin Brass Quintet (WBQ, below, in a photography by Michael R. Anderson) are, from left: Mark Hetzler, trombone; Matthew Onstad, trumpet; Tom Curry, tuba; John Aley, trumpet; Daniel Grabois, horn.
The program is: Sonatine by Eugène Bozza (1905-1981); Allegretto Pizzicato by Béla Bartók (1881-1945); Madrigaux Slaves by Ivan Jevtić (1947- ); Morning Music by David Sampson (1951-); Contrapunctus IX from “The Art of Fugue” by Johann Sebastian Bach (1695-1750); Elegy by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975, arranged by UW-Madison emeritus professor of tuba and euphonium and a nationally recognized composer John Stevens); and Music for Brass Instruments by Ingolf Dahl (1912-1970) with special guest Tom Kelley, bass trombone.
A native of Appleton, Wisconsin, Tom Kelley is a junior at UW-Madison studying trombone performance under Professor Mark Hetzler. At the UW_Madison, Kelley has performed with the Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, Jazz Orchestra, Blue Note Ensemble, Low Brass Ensemble and a number of chamber groups.
He has also played outside the university in groups such as the Rock River Philharmonic and the Darren Sterud Jazz Orchestra. In the summer of 2015, Kelley attended the Sewanee Summer Music Festival where he won the Jacqueline Avent Concerto Competition. He enjoys biking, cooking and binge-watching TV and movies.
For general background on the Wisconsin Brass Quintet:
By Jacob Stockinger
It will be a busy week in Madison and especially at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. Here is a list to help you decide what you want to attend.
At 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW-Madison Chamber Orchestra will give a FREE concert under its music director James Smith.
The program is: Rumanian Folk Dances by Béla Bartók; the “Holberg” Suite by Edvard Grieg; and Symphony for Strings, Opus 118a, by Dmitri Shostakovich (arranged by Russian violist Rudolf Barshai and based on Shostakovich’s well known String Quartet No. 8.)
UW-Madison professor of chamber music and cellist Parry Karp, who performs in the Pro Arte Quartet, is a newly elected member of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters.
On Friday night at 8 p.m. he will give a FREE recital in Mills Hall.
The program features: the Partita in A Minor for Solo Flute, BWV 1013 (1723?) by Johann Sebastian Bach, as transcribed for solo cello in C Minor by Parry Karp.
Sonata No. 1 in D Major Piano and Violin, Op. 12 No. 1 (1798) by Ludwig van Beethoven, as transcribed for piano and cello by Parry Karp. He will perform with pianist mother Frances Karp.
“Märchenbilder” (Fairy Tales) for Piano and Viola, Op. 113 (1851) by Robert Schumann, as transcribed for piano and cello by Robert Hausmann. With pianist Frances Karp.
Sonata in A Minor for Piano and Cello, D. 821, “Arpeggione,” (1824) by Franz Schubert. Pianist Bill Lutes will perform with Karp.
SATURDAY AFTERNOON AND NIGHT
Attention all pianists and especially those with smaller hands!
UW pianist and pedagogue Jessica Johnson (below) will give an afternoon workshop and evening concert on “The Joy of Downsizing.”
All events are FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC and take place in Morphy Recital Hall.
WORKSHOP — 2:30-3:45: “All Hands on Keys: Strategies for Teaching Students with Small Hands”
MASTERCLASS — 4:15-5:45 p.m.
TRY THE PIANO — 5:45-6:45 p.m.
FACULTY CONCERT — 8 p.m. Performed on a Steinbuhler DS 5.5™ (“7/8”) Size Piano; Tentative program includes: Thee Piano Pieces, D. 946, by Franz Schubert (played by Alfred Brendel in a YouTube video at the bottom); Ballad, Op. 6, by Amy Beach; Concert sans Orchestre in f minor, Op. 14, by Robert Schumann.
Here is a statement about the workshops and concert from Jessica Johnson:
“The hands of great pianists come in all shapes and sizes. Spending literally thousands of hours at the piano, we develop time-tested, proven strategies for learning repertoire in a way that suits our unique physiology. We know best that which we have experienced within our own bodies.
“How does this impact our ability to work with students with different hand sizes than our own?
“As a small-handed pianist, I have spent my entire professional career seeking creative strategies to adapt to playing conventional-sized piano keyboards.
“I have become a guru of innovative fingerings and have learned how to employ ergonomic movements and compensatory gestures in order to perform technically challenging repertoire on the conventional piano.
“Since the life-changing moment when I started practicing on an alternatively sized keyboard, I have experienced a whole new level of artistic and technical freedom.
“Research related to the use of Ergonomically-Scaled Piano Keyboards (ESPKs) suggests similar benefits for small-handed pianists, including less pain and injury, greater technical facility and accuracy, and ease of learning.
“Using a Steinbuhler DS 5.5TM (7/8) Size Piano Keyboard insert, manufactured by Steinbuhler & Company, that was custom-made for a Steinway B piano, this workshop will demonstrate effective strategies for teaching students with small hands and ways to exploit musical and technical choices that maximize artistry and biomechanical ease.”
“I’ve spent most of my life thinking that I could not play with a big sound and that I was never going to be comfortable with large chords and octaves. Now I simply believe that I’ve been playing the wrong size piano keyboard.”
The University of Wisconsin-Madison clarinet studio will host a Clarinet Day on Saturday, Feb. 20, starting at 1:30 p.m. and running to 6 p.m. in Mills Hall at the School of Music.
Wesley Warnhoff (below), visiting assistant professor of clarinet, and the UW-Madison Clarinet studio have invited all high school clarinetists to attend.
The day includes concerts, master classes, chamber music, student performances and dinner with the UW-Madison clarinetists. It must be a popular idea because registration is now CLOSED.
But at 7:30 P.M. the group will end the day by attending a FREE concert – which is OPEN TO THE PUBLIC — by the UW Wind Ensemble (below top), conducted by Professor Scott Teeple (below bottom).
The program includes: “Spin Cycle” by Scott Lindroth; “Colonial Song” by Percy Grainger/Rogers; “Heavy Weather” by Jess Turner, featuring Tom Curry, adjunct professor of tuba; the Symphonies of Wind Instruments by Igor Stravinsky; and “Apollo Unleashed” by Frank Ticheli.
The UW-Madison Concert Band will give two FREE concerts in Mills Hall at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. under band director Mike Leckrone (below), best known for leading the acclaimed UW Marching Band. Sorry, no word about program.
ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, held from 12:15 to 1 p.m. at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features bassoonists Rozan Anderson and Willy Walter with oboist Scott Ellington and English hornist Ruth Dahlke in music by Bela Bartok, Bill Malcolm, Ange Flegier, Sarah Woolsey, Thomas Morley and John Wilbye with a world premiere by Louise Hillery.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received word from the Madison-based wind quintet Black Marigold about its upcoming winter concerts running from January 23 through January 31.
Members of Black Marigold (below) include Elizabeth Marshall, flute; Laura Medisky, oboe; Bethany Schultz, clarinet; Kia Karlen, horn; and Carl Wilder, bassoon.
Here is the announcement:
“Add a dash of heat to your winter with a hearty dose of chamber music!
“Black Marigold’s winter program features: the Wind Quintet in C major, Op.79 (ca. 1898, heard at bottom in a YouTube video) by August Klughardt; “La Cheminée du Roi René,” Op. 205 (1939) by Darius Milhaud; and two contemporary pieces by Brian DuFord: Vignettes Balletiques (2011) and Variations on an Afro-Cuban Lullaby (2012).
“You can learn more about Black Marigold’s 2016 commissioning collaboration with Brian DuFord (below), a musical salute to Wisconsin craft brews and beer, at http://www.blackmarigold.com/beermusic.html
“All concerts are FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.
Here is a complete schedule:
“Saturday, January 23, 2016 – 7 p.m. Orchard Ridge United Church of Christ 1501 Gilbert Rd, Madison
“Friday, January 29, 2016 – 12:15 p.m. First Unitarian Society, Noon Musicale Series, 900 University Bay Drive, Madison
“Black Marigold is a dynamic wind quintet that has performed throughout Wisconsin since 2012.
“As advocates of new music and living composers, the quintet presents captivating concerts introducing new music, while also highlighting classic woodwind quintet repertoire.
“For more information, visit: