The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: What’s the best classical music of the past 100 years? Take part in the contemporary music poll by radio station Q2 Music -– and help determine the Top 100 musicians and compositions of the past 100 years. Then tune in starting Dec. 27 to hear the results. Plus, this afternoon’s Christmas concert by the Madison Symphony Orchestra is SOLD OUT.

December 7, 2014
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ALERT: This just in: This afternoon’s performance at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall of the Madison Symphony Orchestra‘s Christmas concert, with guest soloist and local groups under the baton of John DeMain (below, in a photo by Bob Rashid) is virtually SOLD OUT. But you can call the Overture Center Box Office (608-258-4141) to determine any availability.

DeMain Santa Bob Rashid

By Jacob Stockinger

Sure, you look at the entirety of classical music history and you can name your favorite composers and favorite works: Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and Ninth Symphony, right?

But there are surprises awaiting you, if you restrict the choices to the past century.

Looking over the past 100 years — starting Jan, 1, 1914 — who would have guessed, for example, that: Music for 18 Musicians (at bottom, in a complete performance in a YouTube video by the acclaimed and Grammy Award-winning new music group eighth blackbird) by contemporary minimalist composer Steve Reich (below, in a photo by Wonge Bergmann) would pull out ahead of George Gershwin, Dmitri Shostakovich, Bela Bartok, Charles Ives, Alban Berg and all others in last year’s Q2 Music poll?

Steve Reich  CR Wonge Bergmann

The Q2 Music poll is done by WQXR in New York City, a radio station that is a member station of NPR, or National Public Radio.

Anyway, the terrific classical music blog “Deceptive Cadence” recently posted a story about the Q2 Music poll.

It included an entry form that will allow readers to pick up to FIVE works and composers as they participate in this year’s poll that dates back to Jan. 1, 1915.

Voting closes on Dec. 20, 2014.

Then, starting on Saturday, Dec. 27, as a way to close out the old year and ring in the new, a marathon countdown will begin and all the works will be played in reverse order of the survey results.

No word if it will be webcast, but The Ear suspects you can easily tune into Q2 Music by going to the website for WQXR.

Here is a link to the NPR story by Anastasia Tsioulcas  and to the poll entry form.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/12/01/366570066/whats-your-top-100-of-the-last-100-years

And here is a link to WQXR where you can find a way to listen (at the top of the page), to sign up for the Q2 Music Newsletter and also see the results of the Q2 polls for 2011, 2012 and 2013 as well as the upcoming 2014. It makes for some interesting reading and listening.

http://www.wqxr.org/#!/story/q2-musics-2014-new-music-countdown/

And here is a link to a Dec. 2 concert, now archived at NPR, in which some of the best new recordings and music from 2014 was performed:

http://www.npr.org/e2014/11/26/366570255/celebrate-some-of-the-years-best-new-releases-with-q2

As for the Q2 Music poll, The Ear hopes someone chooses – make that that many people choose – the gorgeous Violin Concerto by the American composer Samuel Barber, who was less hot and controversial but much more gifted as a composer.

barber 1

But whatever happens, have fun choosing and voting.

Don’t forget to use the COMMENTS section to tell The Ear and his readers what works you entered.

And don’t forget to fill in your date book for some happy listening to new music.


Classical music: On Day 3 in Belgium, the University of Wisconsin Pro Arte Quartet plays at the Royal Library, gives a gift to King Philippe and keeps performing a lot of hard and varied music.

May 25, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Editor’s note: The Well-Tempered Ear has asked people on the one-week tour of Belgium by the UW Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) to file whatever dispatches and photos they can to keep the fans at home current with what is happening on the concert stage and off.

Thanks goodness for iPads, iPhones, Androids and other smart phones, computers and digital cameras!

Here is a link to the first installment:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/classical-music-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-lands-in-belgium-gets-detained-at-customs-and-is-rescued-in-time-for-practicing-and-playing-concerts/

And here is the second installment:

Pro Arte Qartet  Overture Rick Langer

After troubles at customs and catching up from jet lag, the Pro Arte Quartet got down to the business of rehearsing and performing.

The quartet members  -– violinists David Perry and Suzanne Beia, violist Sally Chisholm, cellist Parry Karp and manager Sarah Schaffer —  and their entourage of “groupies” also spent time meeting and greeting the descendants of the original quartet members who started the ensemble over a century ago at the Royal Belgian Conservatory of Music in Brussels before World War II stranded them in Madison.

That’s when they became artists-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of music, where they have remained ever since.

Here are some updates on Day 3:

Read on:

Sarah Schaffer (below), who also took the photos, writes:

Sarah Schaffer mug

Day 3 — FRIDAY:

The “coats and cases” space was the room that houses the Bela Bartok archives at the Royal Library!

Here is the exterior with its name in the two official languages of Belgium: Flemish and French.

PAQ in Belgium Royal Library exterior with Flemish and French

The Bartok Room (below) has many rare and unique items – letters, photos, etc. It all rather takes one’s breath away. We each received a copy of a recent publication by the collection’s archivist, Denijs Dille.

PAQ in Belgium Bartok archives ar Royal Library

FYI, the fifth person, on the right in the photo (below) taken after the bows that followed the concert on the Arthur De Greef Auditorium — named for the early 20th-century Belgian composer — is Hubert Roisin, Counselor to the King.

PAQ in Belgium with Hubert Roisin on stage at De Greef Auditorium at Royal Library

Mr. Roisin (below, in a close-up by violist Sally Chisholm) seemed very honored to be in attendance. We were certainly honored by his presence at the concert.

PAQ in Belgium Mr Roisin for King Philippe Salky Chisholm

Here are the gifts we gave Monsieur Roisin for King Philippe: A framed photo (below top) of the original members and the current members of the Pro Arte Quartet plus an honorary letter (below bottom) from University of Wisconsin-Madison Rebecca M. Blank.

PAQ in Belgium photo gift to king

PAQ in Belgium Blank letter

PAQ played to a mostly full house and was very warmly received. Many accolades filled the air at the private reception afterwards.

PAQ in Belgium playing in De Dreef Auditorium at Royal Library

Afterwards, I pressed the willing-but-exhausted quartet into a “photo shoot” taking advantage of the spectacular architecture and gardens surrounding the library.

Then they all went off to rest.

It has been a very strenuous few days, and tomorrow is especially long, beginning with an 11 a.m. train trip to original quartet member Alphonse Onnou’s town of Dolhain, arriving in time for a 1 p.m. lunch. (Below is a photo of the Pro Arte Quartet in 1928. Alphonse Onnou is on the far left.)

Pro Arte Quartet in 1928 Onnou far left

Then it gets jam-packed with a full day of commemorations — including the municipal band offering “American” tunes in our honor — all BEFORE the 8 p.m. concert.

We will all be very glad to have Sunday “off.”

Not only is the SCHEDULE strenuous, but so also is the REPERTOIRE — with very few repeats over all these concerts.

The norm on tour is to recycle a handful of pieces.

Not so the Pro Arte Quartet, not on this trip.

They are holding up well but are, understandably, fatigués. (Below is the dual-language program notes from the concert of music by Bela Bartok and Franz Joseph Haydn — two composers the early Pro Arte Quartet was celebrated for and identified with — at the Royal Library.)

More soon.

PAQ in Belgium  program of Bartok 1 and Haydn De Greef Aditorium Royal Library

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Classical music: Celebrate Mothers’ Day this weekend with chamber music by the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) and by graduate students in the Hunt String Quartet at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

May 9, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

If you are looking for something unusual or different to do to celebrate Mothers’ Day this weekend, you could turn to three FREE chamber music events.

SATURDAY

This Saturday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. and at 3:30 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus in the Mosse Humanities Building, 455 North Park Street, the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) will present two different chamber music concerts, both FREE and open to the public.

More than a dozen various combinations of chamber music — duets, trios, quartets — will be performed by middle school and high school students. Sorry, no word on specific programs or works but you are sure to hear what jazz people call “standards.” The Ear would be surprised if we didn’t hear some music by Franz Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Johannes Brahms and Antonin Dvorak among others.

Most people probably think of WYSO members as primarily orchestral musicians, and indeed they are. Next weekend, Saturday and Sunday, May 17 and 18, WYSO will present various orchestral concerts during the Spring Concert Weekend.

For more information including the groups and the programs, here is a link:

http://wyso.music.wisc.edu/events/concerts-recitals/

WYSO DSC_8972

SUNDAY

Then on Sunday evening, it is the turn of the Hunt Quartet to perform a FREE concert, their second and final of the season, in honor of Mother’s Day.

Members of the quartet (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) are graduate students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music: Paran Amirinazari (center right) and Elspeth Stalter-Clouse (center left), violins; Ju dee Ang (far left), viola; and Lindsey Crabb (far right), cello. They will be joined by guests violist Molly O’Brien and cellist Rachel Bottner.

hunt quartet 20-13-14 CR katrin talbot

The Ear heard the Hunt Quartet perform a concert (below) in Mills Hall in February of string quartets by Franz Joseph Haydn and Bela Bartok, and he was impressed.

Hunt Quartet in Mills 2-2014

Sunday’s FREE concert will be at 7 p.m. in the Madison Country Day School (below), located at 5606 River Road in Waunakee. It is a lovely setting for a spring concert, surrounded by scenic landscape and farm fields.

Madison Country Day School BIG USE 2

The program includes the String Quartet No. 1 in C minor, Op. 51, by Johannes Brahms (bel0w) and the string sextet “Transfigured Night” (“Verklarte Nacht”), an early work by Arnold Schoenberg that is based on a poem by Richard Dehmel – an unusual but fitting choice for the holiday, as you can find out in the program notes further down.

Here are notes of the program provided by the Hunt Quartet:

Brahms, String Quartet No. 1 in C minor, Op. 51: This quartet is considered to be a masterwork of string quartet repertoire. It was written in 1873 and was a long work in progress for the prolific composer. Out of his three string quartets the quartet in C minor is one of the more popularly performed works. Consisting of four movements, the outer movements are angst driven and energetic while the middle two movements show Brahms’ lyrical and singing style.

brahms3

“Verklarte Nacht” (“Transfigured Night”), Op. 4, by Arnold Schoenberg (below): This is a programmatic one-movement string sextet divided up into five distinct sections, each corresponding to one of the stanzas in the poem by Richard Dehmel. At the bottom, you can hear a wonderful YouTube performance of it by Pierre Boulez and members of the acclaimed Intercontemporary Ensemble of Paris.

The title translates to “Transfigured Night,” and the poem is about a man and woman walking through the woods by the light of the moon. They are in a relationship, but the woman has a secret— before meeting her current partner, she conceived a child by a stranger.

She confesses this and the man accepts the child she is carrying as his own, thereby “transfiguring” both the unborn child and the night itself.

Arnold Schoenberg 1936

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Classical music: Could a new ivory protection law derail the Pro Arte Quartet’s tour to Belgium in May? Don’t miss the Pro Arte’s FREE preview concert of the MUST-HEAR program for its “Back to Belgium” tour on Thursday night at 7:30. Plus, a terrific new one-hour documentary about the Pro Arte airs Thursday night at 9 and other times on Wisconsin Public Television.

April 16, 2014
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EDITOR’S NOTE: Please note that some reviews of productions last weekend are being delayed to make room for previews of the many upcoming concerts and musical events this week.

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear hears:

The Pro Arte String Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) may well be prevented from taking its long-planned centennial tour to its homeland Belgium next month because of a seemingly small but very significant government regulation designed to curtail the trade in illegal ivory.

Pro Arte Qartet  Overture Rick Langer

Now, who can argue with the intent to protect elephants from being poached for their ivory tusks? But clearly there are unintended consequences that make the humane regulation look absurd and silly, if not mean-spirited, in its requirements for out-of-date documentation.

Take the Pro Arte Quartet, artists-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Music since 1940. It turns out that the acclaimed string quartet may not make its long-planned centennial tour to Belgium next month -– depending on what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which, with the help of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), inspects and confiscates or destroys musical instruments it deems in possible violation of the law at U.S. customs.

As for how it applies to the Pro Arte Quartet: It seems that ivory inlay on one old instrument –- a beautiful and full voiced viola -– and the ivory used in the tips of bows for one or more of the old instruments may violate the new ban and regulation.

ivory on bow tip

It that seems an exaggeration consider the following stories about the difficulties that other musicians and other countries have faced in confronting the situation:

Here is a link to an overview story on NPR:

http://www.npr.org/2014/04/07/300267040/musicians-take-note-your-instrument-may-be-contraband

The problem is not so much getting out of the U.S., since other countries are taking a more lenient or understanding view. The problem comes at U.S. Customs when you leave or even, and especially, return.

Here is the story about one Canadian musician is being held hostage from seeking a professional job by the ban. Be sure to view the video:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/u-s-ivory-ban-makes-musician-cancel-winnipeg-audition-1.2609434

Here is the take by famed critic Norman Lebrecht on his classical music blog “Slipped Disc:

http://www.artsjournal.com/slippeddisc/2014/03/new-threat-to-musical-instruments-entering-the-usa.html

As for the Pro Arte: People are reportedly working behind the scenes to secure a solution, which ranges from getting an exemption to using either a substitute instrument or a substitute player, to cancelling the tour. Stay tuned.

ivory on 2 bows

But while you stay tuned you have two chances tonight to hear the Pro Arte:

Thursday night at 9 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Television’s main channel is the extremely we’ll done one-hour documentary about the Pro Arte and its Centennial celebration will air. It features great photos and historic footage, but it also features the quartet playing a studio concert of music by Darius Milhaud, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ernest Bloch, Samuel Barber (the famous “Adagio for Strings” that was originally a string quartet movement and that received its world premiere in Rome from the Pro Arte) and contemporary composer John Harbison. (Other airings are also scheduled. Here is a link:

http://www.wptschedule.org/episodes/45015629/The-Pro-Arte-Quartet-A-Century-of-Music/

But you can record that on a DVD or some other device. And here are other times on The Wisconsin Channel (21.2). The airdates are: April 18 at 8 p.m.; April 19 at 2 a.m.; and April 19 at 5 p.m. In addition, WPT will be offering this documentary program via web-streamibng at the same time as the broadcast, so people can see it globally. The link to the program page, on which the streaming link is also housed, is http://wptschedule.org/episodes/45015629/The-Pro-Arte-Quartet-A-Century-of-Music/

 

Here is the real treat: At 7:30 p.m. on this Thursday night in Mills Hall, the Pro Arte Quartet -– playing its own instruments — will perform a FREE MUST-HEAR concert of the same program that was requested by the Belgian hosts for whom they will play. Consider it a warm-up or run-through.

ProArte 2010 3

The program features one the Ear’s top all-time favorite string quartets: the so-called “Dissonant” Quartet, K. 465 (1785) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, which was so advanced in its harmonies that early publishers actually changed some of the opening notes that Mozart wrote to make the work conform to the practices of the day. (The opening that gives it its nickname can be heard in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

The program also includes the Quartet No. 1 (1909) by the pioneering modernist Bela Bartok (below top), and the Quartet in E Minor, Op. 44, No. 2, (1837) by the early Romantic composer Felix Mendelssohn.

In its blend of the Classical, the Romantic and the Modern repertoire, the program seems quintessentially Pro Arte. And it should be a pure joy to hear.

Members of the current Pro Arte Quartet (below in a photo by Rick Langer and with links to biographies) are:Parry Karp, cello; Suzanne Beia, second violin; 
Sally Chisholm, viola; and 
David Perry, first violin.

Pro Arte Quartet new 2 Rick Langer

If didn’t already know it, here is a capsule history of the quartet:

The Pro Arte Quartet was founded in 1911-12 by students at the Brussels Conservatory. Violinist Alphonse Onnou was the leader, and the other founding members included Laurent Halleux (violin), Germain Prévost (viola), and Fernand Auguste Lemaire (cello). The quartet made its debut in Brussels in 1913 and soon became known as an exponent of modern music.

The Pro Arte played their American debut in 1926, performing at the inauguration of the Hall of Music in the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. They returned for 30 tours to the United States, as well as a tour of Canada, often under the auspices of the noted patron of chamber music, Mrs. Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge.

Pro Arte Quartet 1940 Brosa-Halleux-Prevost-Evans 1940

Their first visit to Madison was in 1938, where, two years later, the musicians were stranded by Hitler’s invasion of Belgium and the outbreak of World War II. Following their concert on campus, the University of Wisconsin chancellor offered a permanent home to the quartet.

It was the first such residency ever in a major American university, and became the model on which many other similar arrangements were developed at other institutions.

Onnou died in 1940, but the quartet continued until 1947 as quartet-in-residence at Wisconsin University, led first by Antonio Brosa and from 1944 by Rudolf Kolisch.

The Pro Arte became the faculty string quartet at UW-Madison in the late 1950s, an appointment that continues to the present day -– making the ensemble more than 100 years old, the oldest on-going string quartet ever in history.

 

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Classical music: NPR plays musical anthropologist and goes into the field to bring back a live recording of glam pianist Yuja Wang playing Prokofiev at the Steinway Factory in New York City.

February 22, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has to hand it to NPR’s terrific classical music blog “Deceptive Cadence” and to NPR’s “All Songs Considered.”

For quite some time now, NPR has featured “Tiny Desk Concerts” — classical, jazz, folk, roots music — during which major performers play live in the crowded NPR studio. They are easy to link to and stream over your computer or maybe even your TV set these days. (NPR books great guests, including, below bottom, superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma.)

Tiny Desk Concert set at NPR

Yo-Yo Ma and Tiny Desk Concert

You can also find NPR links to and archives of other live performances -– often through radios stations such as WQXR-FM in New York City and WGBH in Boston –- and include a recital of live music in major halls and venues, including one of Franz Joseph Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven, Claude Debussy and Frederic Chopin by the acclaimed Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes at Carnegie Hall (below). And there are many, many others.

carnegiehallstage

And now Deceptive Cadence seems to be acting like musical anthropologist. The time they went out “into the field” – that is, not in the usual venues and concert halls.

That’s not unheard of, of course. That is how the great composer Bela Bartok (below) started out as a musical anthropologist or ethnologist of Hungarian and Romanian folk music, and then used his research to morph into one of the pioneers of musical modernism. Chopin used Polish music like the mazurka to create a new Romanticism. And in American folk music, the musical anthropology of Alan Lomax is legendary.

bartok

Specifically, NPR went to the piano factory of Steinway and Sons in New York City and recorded the red-hot glam pianist Yuja Wang playing the fiercely difficult Toccata in D Minor, Op. 11, with all its hypnotic repetition of a single note, by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev on a brand new Steinway concert grand. (You can see and hear it in a YouTube video at the bottom. Don’t forget to click on the icon that is second from the right to enlarge the video image to fill your computer screen.)

The music and the physical virtuosity or dexterity is amazing to behold.

It is also kind of cute and informal to watch the diminutive figure of the glamorous Wang playing difficult cert music in a cold, wood-strewn and equipment-strewn warehouse in fingerless wool hobo gloves that go up her forearm –- but only after she uses the reflective fallboard above the keys to put on glossy lipstick and so complete her outfit of black fur-like boa, black stiletto heels and geometrically high fashion black-and-white dress.

yuja_2

Ah! Those tribal ceremonies and native attire!

Anyway, here is a link to the performance by Yuja Wang at the Steinway and Sons factory in the borough of Queens, not the usual Steinway showroom in Manhattan where most pianists test and choose pianos for their performances.

The Tiny Desk Concerts archive has lots of kinds of live performances.

For example, here is the famed Kronos Quartet (below) doing a recent Tiny Desk Concert featuring its latest recordings. Many other such concerts by other artists have been archived and are readily accessible:

http://www.npr.org/event/music/246393060/kronos-quartet-tiny-desk-concert

kronos1

And here is a link to the archive, with links to other older archives, of music Live in Performance housed at NPR. It includes chamber music, orchestral music (below is the Mideast peace-promoting Palestinian-Israeli West-Eastern Divan Orchestra under co-founder and director Daniel Barenboim in Carnegie Hall), operas and recitals:

http://www.npr.org/series/10210144/classics-in-concert/?ps=sa

West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, Daniel Barenboim, Carnegie Hall

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Classical music: It will be a busy week with many FREE concerts of many different kinds of music at the University of Wisconsin School of Music. Plus, the Miro Quartet of Austin, Texas, will perform Haydn, Schubert and Philip Glass on Friday night.

February 17, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

The next two weeks will be especially busy ones at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

All save one of the concerts will be FREE, and they include orchestral music, percussion, strings, winds and even lectures linking science and music.

The one major non-free exception is a notable MUST-HEAR: The acclaimed Miro Quartet (below) as presented by the Wisconsin Union Theater, will perform on Friday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall. The Miro Quartet is in residence at the University of Texas-Austin. (You can hear it playing Beethoven in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

miro quartet informal

The program of Classical and contemporary masterpieces of features the “Lark” Quartet, Op. 64, No. 5, by Franz Joseph Haydn; Franz Schubert’s well-known and the String Quartet No. 14 “Death and the Maiden”; and Philip Glass’ Quartet No. 5 (1991).

Tickets are $25 for the general public; $21 for UW faculty and staff and for Memorial Union members; and $10 for UW students.

Here is a link to more information that includes tickets, sound samples and critical reviews:

http://www.uniontheater.wisc.edu/Season13-14/Miro-String-Quartet.html

miro quartet playing

TUESDAY

At 7:30 p.m.in Mills Hall, the accomplished UW Chamber Orchestra, under the baton of director James Smith, the Overture to “La scale di seta”  (The Silk Ladder) by Gioacchino Rossini;
 the Chamber Symphony by Franz Schreker; the
 “Classical” Symphony by Sergei Prokofiev; and the
 “Winter’s Tale” by Lars-Erik Larsson.

UW Chamber Orchestra entire

WEDNESDAY

At 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, guest artist Todd Reynolds (below) will give a FREE recital. Reynolds is the violinist of choice for such well known individual and ensemble performers as composers as Steve Reich and Meredith Monk and the group Bang on a Can. He violinist, composer, educator and technologist is known as one of the founding fathers of the hybrid-musician movement.

Todd Reynolds will be performing compositions of his own from his critically acclaimed 2011 CD “Outerborough,” including music by Michael Gordon, David Little, Michael Lowenstern and Ingram Marshall, and a couple of pieces written and improvised  especially for the evening, right there, from the stage and in real time.

Todd Reynolds

THURSDAY

At 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Western Percussion Ensemble (below) will perform a concert that features the monumental work “Strange and Sacred Noise” by the contemporary American composer John Luther Adams (below), whose work was also featured recently by Clocks in Motion. Directors of the Western Percussion Ensemble are Tom Ross and Anthony Di Sanza.

Western Percussion Ensemble

FRIDAY

At 7 p.m. in the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery (below), at 330 North Orchard Street, across from the Union South, the ongoing SoundWaves program, curated by UW hornist Daniel Grabois, program will explore the science and art of wood. Here is a summary that, unfortunately, offers no information about the music and specific topics and speakers:

Wood You Could You? The Science and Music of Wood

“SoundWaves combines scientific lectures about the world with live classical music performances. Each event revolves around a theme, exploring it first from many scientific angles and then through the lens of music. The program concludes with a live performance of music related to the evening’s theme.

“The science lectures are delivered using language that the curious layman can understand, with a minimum of jargon and formulas. The music lectures, while demanding careful listening, are likewise designed for the layman and not the specialist.

“Every SoundWaves event brings UW-Madison scientists from several departments together with UW-Madison School of Music faculty performers to explore a topic that is relevant to our world and our lives. SoundWaves is free and open to the public. This series generally is held in the evening at the Town Center of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.’

8 p.m. in Mills Hall: The Miro Quartet. (See above.)

WID_night10_2152

SATURDAY

At 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Wind Ensemble (below) will give concert under director Scott Teeple that features the Wisconsin premiere of a work by composer Roger Zare

Works on the program include “Smetana Fanfare,” by Karol Husa; “Mar Tranquillitatis (Sea of Tranquility),” by Roger Zare (Wisconsin premiere); and “Ecstatic Waters for Wind Ensemble and Electronics,” by Steven Bryant.

UW School of Music

SUNDAY

At 2 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Concert Band will perform under Mike Leckrone (below). Sorry, no details about the program are available yet.

leckrone

Then at at 3:30 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall, the Hunt Quartet will perform a FREE concert. The program includes Franz Joseph Haydn’s “Sunrise” Quartet, Op. 76, No. 4, and Bela Bartok’s String Quartet No. 1.

The Hunt Quartet (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) is comprised of outstanding graduate students from the School of Music, and is sponsored by the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

This year’s members (from the left) include Ju Dee Ang, Elspeth Stalter-Clouse, Paran Amirinazari and Lindsey Crabb.

hunt quartet 2013-14

 

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Classical music education: What makes for a great and productive student-teacher relationship in music? Pianists Lang Lang and Gray Graffman answer that question for NPR. Plus, the memorial service for WYSO founder Marvin Rabin is today at 3.

December 29, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

It seems only fitting that today is a day to talk about music education.

After all, the memorial service for Marvin Rabin (below top), the founder and longtime music director and conductor of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) will be held today at 3 p.m. in the new Atrium auditorium (below bottom, in a photo by Zane Williams) of the landmark First Unitarian Society, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, at 900 University Bay Drive, near UW Hospital and Clinics.

marvin rabin BW

FUS Atrium, Auditorium Zane Williams

Many young WYSO players will perform at the service and here is a link to a previous story with more about the memorial service, about WYSO and about Marvin Rabin.

So the question that lingers in the air is: What makes for a great teacher-student relationship between musicians?

Recently, NPR’s great lcassical music blog Deceptive Cadence got the young Chinese superstar pianist Lang Lang (below top) and his much older former teacher Gary Graffman (below bottom, in a photo by Carol Rosegg) at the Curtis institute of Music, to talk about what makes for a great teacher-student relationship.

lang lang plain

Gary Grafman BIG profile cr Carol Rosegg

The dialogue interview meanders a bit, but it quite informative and even inspirational. It is particularly interesting for two reasons.

One is that Lang Lang seems to be simmering down in his annoying flamboyance and especially in his new release of piano concertos by Sergei Prokofiev and Bela Bartok with Sir Simon Rattle conducting the Berlin Philharmonic (see the YouTube video at the bottom),  is focusing more on the music. For his part the 85-year-old Graffman, who, like Leon Fleisher, saw his big concert career undone by a major injury, is undergoing a rediscovery though the release of a box set of re-mastered recordings from decades ago.

Lang Lang Prokofiev Bartok CD cover

gary graffman box

Second, The Ear believes that Marvin Rabin had the same gift of being an inspiring teacher and seemed to share the right temperament and similar ideas with Gary Graffman.

So here is a link to the story, which I found better is listen to than to read in transcript:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/12/22/255751206/talking-great-teachers-and-students-with-two-piano-masters


Classical music: Pianist Jeremy Denk is named a MacArthur “genius.” Here is a sampler of his immense talent as displayed in concerts at the Wisconsin Union Theater, at NPR, in his blog “Think Denk” and on his latest Nonesuch recordings of Bach, Beethoven and Ligeti.

September 28, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

As you may have already heard, classical pianist Jeremy Denk (below) received a prestigious MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” this week. The stipend is $625,000 to be paid over five years and to be used for whatever the recipient wants, no string attached.

Here is a link to the MacArthur Foundation announcement (curiously, yet another year has gone by without any recipients from the UW-Madison):

http://www.macfound.org

Jeremy Denk 1

Several observations and interpretations come to mind.

One is that Jeremy Denk, a trained chemist as well as pianist, has already performed in Madison – TWICE – at the Wisconsin Union Theater. Both programs were mammoth undertakings. I met and worked with Denk both times, especially the first, and he is a remarkably deserving artist who is honest, droll, articulate and original. I also very much like his philosophy that radical music should stay sounding radical, no matter how many years later.

The first recital featured J.S. Bach’s “Goldberg” Variations on the first half with Charles Ives’ Sonata No. 1 on the second half. Whew!

While here for that concert, Denk, a master blogger as you can find in “Think Denk,” he gave a public master class for young pianists (below), a fascinating talk on pedaling in Chopin at the UW School of Music, and a panel on blogging. As you can tell, Denk is a terrifically gifted musician with many different achievements to his credit.

Jeremy Denk teaching 1

Then last season, Denk appeared again in recital, in Mills Hall, to a regrettably small audience, and he played Franz  Liszt and Bela Bartok, followed by J.S. Bach and Beethoven. It was nothing short of phenomenal and utterly convincing.

Both concerts were outstanding events.

And both events point to the wisdom of the Wisconsin Union Theater in finding and booking up-and-coming talent.

Not that Jeremy Denk is young.

At 43, Denk is a seasoned concert veteran and he has taken the time to make the music he plays his own. He is not fresh out of some competition win at 23 or 24, and still stretching to find his maturity and a personal point of view. He is writing a book for Alfred A. Knopf based, to be published this year, based on some articles (on making his first recording and on being a piano student under various teachers) that he wrote for The New Yorker magazine and on his blog “Think Denk.”

Denk is also a devout Francophile who loves Proust and Balzac as well as great food and drink. The Ear thinks that helps to explain the sheer beauty and sensuality as well as logic of his playing.

Jeremy Denk street 1 

If you have any qualms about the Wisconsin Union Theater concert series this year –which features violinist Rachel Barton Pine (below top) with the UW Symphony Orchestra under UW alumnus conductor Kenneth Woods on Saturday, Nov. 2, the Miro String Quartet (below middle, in a photo by Jim Leisy) on Friday, Feb. 21; the Chicago Symphony Orchestra principal tuba player Gene Pokorny with the UW Symphony Orchestra on Sunday, March 8; and pianist Inon Barnatan (below bottom) on Friday, April 18. The MacArthur’s high-profile recognition of Jeremy Denk is a good reminder to trust the WUD series, however unexpected its choices may seem.

Here is a link to the Wisconsin Union Theater series:

http://www.uniontheater.wisc.edu/season2013-14.html

Rachel Barton Pine

Miro Quartet Jim Leisy

Inon Barnatan

Here is a link to Jeremy Denk’s blog:

http://jeremydenk.net/blog/

And here are links to NPR, where Denk was an artist-in-residence  for a week and where you can hear both interviews and excerpts from his first Nonesuch recording of etudes by Gyorgy Ligeti and Beethoven’s final Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111; and excerpts from his CD and DVD of J.S. Bach’s “Goldberg” Variations (the famous opening Aria is at the bottom in a YouTube video) that will be released this coming week. (He also recorded a fabulous album of Turn-of-the-20th-Century French violin sonatas with Joshua Bell for Sony Classical.)

http://www.npr.org/event/music/155236091/in-practice-jeremy-denk

jeremy denk ligeti-beethoven CD

http://www.npr.org/2013/09/21/224429650/first-listen-jeremy-denk-j-s-bach-goldberg-variations

jeremy denk bach golbergs cd

Personally, The Ear hopes Jeremy Denk records a lot more repertoire, and soon, especially now that he is a house artist of the prestigious Nonesuch Records label, which gives the notoriously difficult-to-record piano  outstanding sonic engineering. Several requests come to mind: Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 15, for which he is well-known; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25 in C Major, K. 503, which he is touring with right now; the six Piano Pieces, Op. 118, by Johannes Brahms; some shorter J.S. Bach preludes and fugues as well as various suites; some sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti; and some works by Frederic Chopin, preferably the thorny and often underplayed mazurkas and the ballades that are so rich for fresh interpretation.

Did you hear Jeremy Denk perform in Madison?

Have you listened to his recordings?

What do you think of Denk’s playing and writings?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music Q&A: Creator and host Anders Yocom talks about Wisconsin Public Radio’s “The Sunday Brunch,” which will mark its one-year anniversary this coming Sunday morning from 10 a.m. to noon.

August 15, 2013
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

For the most part, the classical music you hear on Wisconsin Public Radio is demarcated by a time of day and the particular host or programmer. Only occasionally does a unifying theme emerge -– say, American composers and American classical music on the Fourth of July or Thanksgiving; or holiday music on Christmas.

However, one major exception is the weekly program called “The Sunday Brunch,” which airs every Sunday from 10 a.m. to noon. (Then the program segues into New Releases with the same host.)

brunch

“The Sunday Brunch” is the brain-child of Anders Yocom, who hosts it and adds his congenial commentaries. The amiable and resonant-voiced Yocom is familiar to Madison audiences in many ways. He is the welcoming voice at concerts by the Madison Symphony Orchestra in Overture Hall and he has served as the narrator in various pieces by local musical groups. (Below is Yocom narrating works by Bela Bartok at a concert by the Sound Ensemble Wisconsin — SEW — at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.)

SEW Anders Yocum as Bartok

This Sunday’s broadcast will mark and celebrate the one-year anniversary of “The Sunday Brunch.” The play list will feature 17 selections of music in all kinds of musical genres, from a cappella singing to symphonies and concertos to guitar etudes.

The well-known composers on the play list include Cesar Franck, Alexander Borodin, Franz Liszt, Arcangelo Corelli, Antonin Dvorak, Philip Glass, Richard Wagner, Antonio Vivaldi, Franz Schubert, Gabriel Faure, Richard Rodgers and of course Johann Sebastian Bach, for whom Yocom has a special affinity. The less well-known composers to be included are Antonio Salieri, Benjamin Godard, Alessandro Marcello, Etienne-Nicholas Mehul, Giaches de Wert and Giulio Rigondi.

Anders Yocom (below, in a photo by Jim Gill) recently answered an email Q&A for The Ear:

anders yocom studio  head shot cr Jim Gill

How and when did you come up with the idea for “The Sunday Brunch,” and when did show first air?

I have been thinking about it for years, inspired by two classical radio hosts I like to listen to. I heard Carl Grapentine (below) every day on WFMT when I lived in Chicago, and more recently Emma Ayres (at bottom, in a YouTube video busking with her violin for flood relief) on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Classical in Australia on my Internet radio.

Carl Grapentine WFMT

Both people host weekday morning drive programs with short pieces interspersed with information about the day and stories about music. I marvel at the music selection. Each piece they choose, one after another, seems to perfectly fit the moment. I wanted to follow their lead. I proposed “The Sunday Brunchfour years ago and it began one year ago.

Is your show part of a larger strategy by Wisconsin Public Radio for attracting new listeners? What are the future plans for the show?

WPR is always looking for new programming ideas and ways to attract new listeners, not just over the air, but via the growing digital technologies as well.

I was hosting music on WPR last summer, and when Mike Arnold (below), WPR’s Associate Director, heard my proposal for “The Sunday Brunch,” he gave it an immediate green light.

Mike Arnold Wisconsin Public Radio

Next month, Peter Bryant (below), a veteran public broadcaster and music lover, will come from Kentucky to WPR as the Program Director of the News and Classical service. I look forward to his encouragement and guidance to make “The Sunday Brunch as good as it can be.

peter bryant

What are your goals for the show? And what has been the public or listener response so far?

What weekly time feels warmer or more enjoyable than Sunday morning? I think of families and friends at leisure, possibly before or after church; maybe enjoying their own Sunday breakfasts or brunches; or sipping their favorite hot beverages while reading their favorite publications.

My goal is to enhance whatever pleasant and relaxing Sunday environment they may have created for themselves. All of the response I have received so far has been very positive. And over the last year, we are seeing increased audiences on Sunday mornings.

People eating Brunch

How do you choose the music that is suitable for The Sunday Brunch? Do you look to celebrate certain special holidays like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day?

I like to play music that somehow addresses what listeners might be thinking about on given days such as holidays. I also call attention to music anniversaries.

In general, I select short pieces and excerpts from longer works, with varied instrumentation from solo to chamber to symphony, including choral and vocal, representing the music periods from Baroque to contemporary. Also, the fun and joy of an occasional movie or Broadway show tune.

The Sunday Brunch specializes in joyful or “feel good” music. I hasten to add that not all music meets these criteria, and much of the music I don’t play should be heard on radio. And it is played at other times every day on WPR.

You often use sections – single movements of a larger work. What do you say to critics of that practice?

So far, we have received not one complaint about the practice of playing single movements. And I agree that complete performances of symphonies, concertos and other works are often required for a satisfying listening experience.

I respect adherence to the artistic intent of composers. However, the composers of most of the works I play never envisioned electronically reproduced performances heard in kitchens, bedrooms, cars or any of the places where mobile devices can go.

At concerts, audiences focus on the music. For radio listeners, the music is there to accompany something else listeners are attending to. I wish we could ask Mozart what he thinks about one of his rondos playing through speakers in my kitchen, followed immediately by a Philip Glass waltz.

anders yocom studio wider cr Jim Gill

What else would you like to say or add about “The Sunday Brunch” or about Wisconsin Public Radio in general?

I am a music lover and listen to music nearly every waking hour. I am also a veteran radio listener and broadcaster. I look for ways to please people who like to have music in their environments, wherever they may be. “The Sunday Brunch is a unique approach, and I hope listeners like it as much as I like presenting it. I am grateful to WPR for supporting me in this effort.

https://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=145473145510630


Classical music: This weekend’s concerts by the Madison Symphony Orchestra and returning violinist Henning Kraggerud offer a terrific mix of Classical-era Mozart and modernist Shostakovich. Plus, a UW-Madison horn and trombone duo, with electronics, plays a FREE concert tonight.

March 6, 2013
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A REMINDER: Tonight, Wednesday, March 6, at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall,  the duo “Gretzler”  — made up of UW-Madison hornist Daniel Grabois (below) and UW-Madison trombonist Mark Hetzler will perform a FREE concert. The new electronica power duo combines the horn and trombone with electronics, both computer- and hardware-based. The program will feature “Volcano Songs” by Meredith Monk; “Available Forms” by Meyer Kupferman; “Videotape” by Radiohead; and “Love Meant Living” Alone by Daniel Grabois.

Daniel Grabois color use

By Jacob Stockinger

It is exactly my kind of programming: Putting very disparate or contrasting styles side-by-side, and it often proves irresistible.

The Madison Symphony Orchestra’s music director John DeMain (below) has done it before—one of the most memorable examples for me was his combining Haydn cello concerto with a massive Mahler symphony, and the last MSO concert combined Prokofiev and Beethoven. This weekend he is doing is again with the “Champagne and Vodka” program.

This time, Mozart is the champagne and Shostakovich is the vodka. But you don’t even have to be a drinker to get intoxicated by this music.

John DeMain conducting 2

This weekend, DeMain and the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) team up with the quiet but forceful Norwegian violinist Henning Kraggerud.

Kraggerud (below) will perform Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 4, the most elegant of the composer’s five violin concertos – Mozart was an excellent violinist as well as keyboardist. They are all relatively early works, full of charm but less dramatic and less dark than many of Mozart’s later and more mature works.

Henning Kraggerud playing

The MSO will open the concert with the lively overture to Mozart’s opera “The Impresario” and conclude with Shostakovich’s powerful Symphony No. 10.

The MSO concerts will take place in Overture Hall at 201 State Street this Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets cost $16.50 to $78.50, and are available at www.madisonsymphony.org and through the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street, (608) 258-4141. Groups of 15 or more save 25 percent.

Seniors and students save 20 percent, and the MSO’s $10 Student Rush is good for best available seats on the day of the concert. Discounted seats are subject to availability and discounts may not be combined.

Full concert details, music samples and links to buy tickets can be found on the MSO website at http://madisonsymphony.org/kraggerud

For comprehensive but very accessible program notes by MSO trombone player and UW-Whitewater professor J. Michael Allsen, visit:

http://facstaff.uww.edu/allsenj/MSO/NOTES/1213/7.Mar13.html

Allsen (below) will also be giving the free pre-concert talks.

MEMF 2012 J. Michael Allsen

Kraggerud, who is returning to the MSO stage for the third time in just six years, has been praised for his “virtuosity minus theatrics” by the Washington Post, and has gained a reputation as a violinist to watch: “Kraggerud has extraordinary sweetness of tone,” said The Telegraph of London recently, “his sound always dances as much as it sings.”

About the D Major Mozart concerto, Kraggerud said, “The Mozart concerto is one of my favorites. It is like champagne in the bloodstream, so fresh.”

All five of violin concertos by Mozart (below) were written in 1775 when the composer was a teenager. Though they are youthful works, the violin concertos are also worldly, showing the influence of Mozart’s having traveled through much of Europe as a child prodigy, absorbing ideas and influences. The overture that opens the concert is light and comic, an apt introduction.

mozart big

By contrast, the Shostakovich symphony that closes the March concerts is a late work and was first performed after the death of the ruthless Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, who had threatened the composer many times, in 1953.

The Symphony No. 10 is in many ways the reaction of Shostakovich (below) to Stalin’s death as the tight artistic controls of the 1930s and ‘40s were relaxed. It represents a new beginning, pouring forth all that had been repressed under the dictator’s oppression.

dmitri shostakovich

Anyone wishing to share dining and conversation with other music lovers can join Club 501 before any Saturday or Sunday performance. Hosted by members of the Madison Symphony Orchestra League, Club 501 welcomes everyone to the Madison Concourse Hotel’s Dayton Street Grille on concert Saturdays at 6 p.m. and concert Sundays at 12:30 p.m.

Participants receive a generous 20% meal discount and free parking with a validated underground parking ticket. Guests should ask for the Club 501 tables when arriving. Reservations are welcome — but not necessary — at (608) 294-3068.


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