The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Today is the start of Fall. Here is autumnal music by Richard Strauss. Plus, UW-Madison soprano Jeanette Thompson makes her FREE debut tonight at 7 p.m. in Mills Hall.

September 22, 2017
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ALERT: UW-Madison faculty soprano Jeanette Thompson gives her FREE debut recital tonight at 7 p.m.  in Mills Hall. Guest performers are pianist Thomas Kasdorf and faculty colleague baritone Paul Rowe.

Thompson has put together a concert of some of her favorite love songs, though not always typical of love songs:  some of them are about a love that is lost, some of them are about a love desired, and some of them are about a love for God.

These songs include excerpts from Gustav Mahler’s Rückert Lieder and Johannes Brahms’ Volksbuchlieder. In addition to Rückert, they include some of her favorite poets like Charles Baudelaire and Eduard Möricke. She will perform songs by Cole Porter and George Gershwin, and will be joined by baritone Paul Rowe to sing two of the most beautiful “Porgy and Bess” love duets ever written.

Thompson (below) will conclude the concert with some of her favorite spirituals, including her mother’s favorite song, “His Eye is on the Sparrow.“

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is the autumnal equinox, which arrives at 3:02 p.m. CDT. It marks when the day has an equal amount of daylight and night.

It also means that today is the first official day of Fall.

And despite the hot weather right now, Fall is often a great time to start returning to indoor activities.

That makes it a good time for listening to classical music.

There are the usual candidates such as Antonio Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” and its modern counterpart “Four Seasons of Buenos Aires” by tango master Astor Piazzolla.

If you want to hear other season-appropriate music, YouTube, Spotify, Classical-music.com and other websites have generous compilations. Just Google “classical music for autumn.”

But today The Ear want to feature just one selection to celebrate the season. It is soprano Jessye Norman singing “September” from “Four Last Songs” by Richard Strauss.

What is you favorite music to greet autumn with?

Use the COMMENT section to let us know, along with a link to a video performance if possible.


Classical music: On Veterans Day, what is the best music to honor fallen soldiers? The Ear chooses Ravel’s “Le Tombeau de Couperin.” Plus, a FREE concert of music for flute and percussion will be held on Friday at noon

November 11, 2015
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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 flutist Ivano Ugrcic and percussionist David Alcorn in music by Gareth Farr, Marius Constant, Christos Hatzis and Nebojsa Macura.

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is Veterans Day.

It has become a day to honor all members, living and dead, of the U.S. armed forces and their service.

That’s just fine with The Ear.

But the holiday started as Armistice Day to honor the end of World War I, which occurred at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.

world war1 somme

And since the modern world we know is in large effect the result of the outcomes of World War I, The Ear likes going back to the origins.

If you accept that premise -– and of course you don’t have to — it allows us to listen to what is probably the best piece of classical music ever written to honor fallen soldiers. That piece is Maurice Ravel’s “Le Tombeau de Couperin.”

The title refers to the formal structures that harken back to the underperformed and under-appreciated French Baroque composer Francois Couperin.

Each of the six movements takes a special form and each one is dedicated to a friend of Ravel who was killed in World War I. (Ravel, below, tried to enlist to fight, but was too old.)

Funny, the more I listen, the more the two 20th-century composers who matter most to me are not Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky, but Maurice Ravel and Bela Bartok.

But elaborating on why is another topic for another post.

ravel

Anyway, Ravel, who was one of the greatest orchestrators of all time, orchestrated “Le Tombeau de Couperin” (literally, the tomb of Couperin – “le tombeau” being the word used for an homage to honor the dead that was also used by the French poets to honor other writers or members of the royal family, including Francois Villon, Joachim du Bellay, Pierre de Ronsard Charles Baudelaire and Stéphane Mallarmé.)

But The Ear prefers the original piano version, which is very difficult to play. It has color but also a certain clarity and austerity that fit the purpose of the music. He thinks you hear the distinctive dance rhythms better and more sharply, and the sections with tolling bells sounds much more, well, bell-like.

Here, dedicated to all veterans but especially to World War I and what that history-changing meat-grinder of a conflict brought us, is a YouTube video of Canadian pianist Louis Lortie playing Maurice Ravel’s “Le Tombeau de Couperin”:

 


Classical music: Pianist Aldo Ciccolini, who popularized the music of Erik Satie, is dead at 89.

February 7, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Did I come to know the pianist Aldo Ciccolini through the music of Erik Satie?

Or did I come to know the music of Erik Satie through the playing of pianist Aldo Ciccolini (below in his later years)?

Aldo Ciccolini old

It says something to me – something very Sixties and very dear – that the two were, and remain, inextricable for me. (Once discovered, the more soulful music of Erik Satie (below) even found its way into popular culture and rock music through groups like ‘Blood, Sweat and Tears.”)

And the public’s taste for Satie continues. Satie, as played by Pascal Roge, was recently featured on the soundtrack to the documentary film “Man on Wire,” about Philippe Petit and his historic tightrope walk between the Twin Towers in New York City.)

Erik Satie

And maybe it was that way for you too.

Last Saturday night, Aldo Ciccolini, a prize-winning concert pianist, a prolific recording artist and a renowned teacher whose students included Jacques-Yves Thibaudet, died in his sleep at the age of 89.

There is not much for The Ear to say except that Ciccolini did for me what the greatest artists do: Use beauty to hijack me from the ordinary world and elevate me in an unforgettable way.

I am pretty sure that I and many others did not know the beautiful, graceful and contemplative “Trois Gymnopedies” until the young and handsome Ciccolini’s perfectly paced recordings of those pieces, and of Satie’s complete works, received worldwide circulation and acclaim.

Perhaps the same goes for the music of Camille Saint-Saens, another of Ciccolini’s specialties.

aldo ciccolini young

Ciccolini was Italian, but he had an uncanny flair for French music, which remains under-appreciated even today — including the music of Francois Couperin, Jean-Philippe Rameau and Gabriel Faure — even if the works of Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy have fared much better.

I think Ciccolini understood that special French hybrid of clarity and mystery, of rationality and passion, of Descartes and Baudelaire. (You can hear Ciccolini’s incomparable playing of Satie in a popular YouTube video at the bottom which has a lot of reader comments.)

Anyway, here are three obituaries with lots of great background information.

From NPR (National Public Radio):

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2015/02/02/383253499/aldo-ciccolini-an-italian-pianist-with-a-french-soul

From The New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/04/arts/music/aldo-ciccolini-dies-at-89-pianist-interpreted-satie.html?_r=0

From the BBC:

http://www.classical-music.com/news/aldo-ciccolini-1925-2015

 

 


Classical music: The UW-Madison School of Music has a busy weekend, including a FREE orchestra concert for the Wisconsin Academy’s marking of the centennial of the extinction of the passenger pigeon plus a FREE cello recital and a voice faculty showcase.

October 29, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

It will be a busy weekend at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

Events include a FREE orchestra concert on Sunday afternoon for the Wisconsin Academy’s marking of the centennial of the extinction of the passenger pigeon.

But there is also a FREE cello recital on Saturday night and a voice faculty showcase concert on Sunday evening.

Here are details.

SATURDAY

At 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, cello Professor Parry Karp (below left), who also plays in the Pro Arte Quartet, will play a FREE recital with his longtime pianist partner Eli Kalman (below right), who teaches at UW-Oshkosh and did his doctoral work at the UW-Madison School of Music.

Parry Karp and Eli Kalman

The program includes the Sonata in C Minor for Piano and Violin, Op; 30, No. 2 (1802), by Ludwig van Beethoven as transcribed for cello by Parry Karp, who also transcribed all the violin sonatas by Johannes Brahms; the Sonata in E-flat Major for cello and piano (1922) by Ettore Desderi; and the Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, Op 22 (1945) by Samuel Barber.

Parry Karp and Eli Kalman 2014

REMEMBERING THE PASSENGER PIGEON

On Sunday, Nov. 2, at 2 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Symphony Orchestra will perform the Wisconsin premiere of “The Columbiad,” preceded by a talk by acclaimed emeritus wildlife professor Stanley Temple (below).

Stanley Temple

The music program is: A. P. Heinrich, “The Columbiad, or Migration of American Wild Passenger Pigeons”; the Concerto for Orchestra by Witold Lutoslawski; and the “Tragic” Overture by Johannes Brahms.

The concert is part of a two-day symposium on the 100th anniversary of the demise of the fabled passenger pigeon. It features a short talk by Stanley Temple, Beers-Bascom Professor Emeritus in Conservation, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Senior Fellow, Aldo Leopold Foundation.

Learn more here.

On the occasion of the 2014 centenary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon, the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters and the UW-Madison Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology invite the public to join in an exploration of the sobering story of the passenger pigeon (below is a photo of a stuffed real passenger pigeon) and what it can tell us about the ongoing extinction crisis and our relationship with other species.

passenger pigeon stuffed

Events include the Wisconsin premiere of The Columbiad, a symphony by Anthony Philip Heinrich, performed by the UW Symphony Orchestra. The Columbiad created a sensation at its premiere in Prague in 1858 and will be performed once again this fall at UW-Madison and Yale University. (You can hear the beginning of the work as performed at Yale in early October in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Anthony Philip Heinrich

Heinrich was inspired by witnessing vast flocks of passenger pigeons in 1831. Known in his day as “the log cabin composer” and “the Beethoven of America,” Anthony Philip Heinrich is the only important composer of the early 19th century to have experienced the North American frontier as he did. He saw Niagara Falls, he encountered Native Americans and slave musicians, and he witnessed the astonishing migration of giant flocks of passenger pigeons.

To learn about the national effort, please see Project Passenger Pigeon.

Here are related events and links:

The Savage Passengers (play)

A staged reading of a new play about the passenger pigeon by The Bricks Theatre

Saturday, November 1, 2014 from 7 to 9 p.m.

UW-Madison Biotechnology Auditorium, 425 Henry Mall

From Billions to None (Documentary)

An afternoon documentary screening and panel discussion on the demise of the passenger pigeon

Saturday, November 1, 2014 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

UW–Madison Union South, Marquee Theater

1308 W. Dayton St.

Stanley Temple: “A Bird We Have Lost and a Doubt We Have Gained” (Fellows Forum).

Stanley A. Temple is the Beers-Bascom Professor Emeritus in Conservation in the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology and former Chairman of the Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development Program in the Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at UW–Madison. For 32 years he held the academic position once occupied by Aldo Leopold, and during that time he won every teaching award for which he was eligible. Temple has a PhD in ecology from Cornell University where he studied at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. (below is a photo of one mass shooting of passenger pigeons.)

passenger pigeon slaughter

VOICE FACULTY SHOWCASE CONCERT

At 7:30 p.m. on Sunday night, Nov. 2, in Mills Hall the UW-Madison voice faculty presents an evening of chamber music featuring the solo voice. Featuring a premiere, “White Clouds, Yellow Leaves,” written by composer and saxophone professor Les Thimmig (below).

Les Thimmig color

Participants includes: Mimmi Fulmer and Elizabeth Hagedorn, sopranos; Paul Rowe, baritone; with Karen Atz, harp; Thomas Kasdorf, piano; Marc Vallon, bassoon; Parry Karp, cello; and many students and faculty from the UW-Madison School of Music.

Tickets are $10 with students getting in for FREE. Tickets will be available at the door as well as online or at the box office. Please see this link.

Here is the full program:

“Don Quichotte à Dulcinée” (1934) by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) Chanson Romanesque; Chanson épique; Chanson á boire with Paul Rowe, baritone, with Thomas Kasdorf, piano.

“La lettre” by Jules Massenet  (1842-1912)

“Absence” by Georges Bizet  (1838-1875)

“L’invitation au voyage” by Emmanuel Chabrier (1841-1894) with Elizabeth Hagedorn, soprano; Marc Vallon, bassoon, with Thomas Kasdorf, piano, and Karen Atz, harp.

“Barcarolle” by Charles Gounod  (1818-1893) with Elizabeth Hagedorn, soprano; Paul Rowe, baritone, with Thomas Kasdorf, piano.

INTERMISSION

“Long Pond Revisited” (2002) by Lori Laitman (below, b. 1955). From poetry by C.G.R. Shepard: “I Looked for Reasons,” “The Pond Seems Smaller,” “Late in the Day,” “Days Turn,” “Long Pond Revisited” with Paul Rowe, baritone; Parry Karp, cello.

lori laitman

“White Clouds, Yellow Leaves” (2013) by UW-Madison composer Les Thimmig (b. 1943) fromTexts derived from 8th- and 9th-century Chinese poetry with Mimmi Fulmer: mezzo-soprano; Mi-Li Chang: flute, piccolo, alto flute; Kostas Tiliakos,: English horn; Marc Vallon: bassoon; Sean Kleve: percussion; Karen Atz, harp; Paran Amirinizari: violin; Rachel Hauser: viola; Andrew Briggs: violoncello; and Les Thimmig: conductor.

Here is a link to the full program with program notes:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/voice-faculty-recital/

Tickets are $10 for the public; students get in free.

Ticket info here.

 

 

 

 


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