The Well-Tempered Ear

The eighth annual UW Schubertiade is this Sunday afternoon. It features a FREE online retrospective of the past seven years plus a new four-hand piano performance

January 29, 2021
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By Jacob Stockinger

The University of Wisconsin has posted the following announcement:

For the eighth consecutive year, the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music will present its annual Schubertiade — a special concert celebrating the music of Franz Schubert (below).

Traditionally these concerts have been held around the composer’s birthday. This year’s concert will in fact occur on his birthday — this Sunday, Jan. 31, at 3-4:30 p.m. CST. The pre-recorded premiere is at: https://youtu.be/7sshhKiFPAg

You can also use the link to prepare for the concert before or during the concert. You will find the program with song titles, the original German texts and English translation, and biographies of the performers by simply clicking on “SHOW MORE” on the YouTube website and follow the links to PDFs.

BECAUSE THERE ARE NO COPYRIGHT ISSUES, ACCORDING TO UW OFFICIALS, THE POST SHOULD BE UP AND AVAILABLE INDEFINITELY AFTER ITS PREMIERE.

As in past years, founders and performers Martha Fischer (below left), professor of piano and head of the collaborative piano program at UW-Madison, and her husband Bill Lutes (below right), an independent piano teacher, and UW emeritus artist-in-residence, will host the program.

These concerts have been presented in the sprit of the first Schubertiades (below, in a painting by Julius Schmid) that took place during the composer’s lifetime (1797-1828) in the homes of his friends and fellow artists, poets and fans.

These were social as well as musical occasions with Schubert himself presiding at the piano, giving his audience a chance to hear his latest songs, piano duets and chamber music, as well as pieces that had already become favorites.

This year’s Schubertiade will be different in response to the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. It will be an online look back — or Rückblick — at past concerts, with songs chosen from performances that have been preserved in the audio and video archive.

The featured performers will include faculty members, students and alumni from the Mead Witter School of Music, along with special guests.

In addition, pianists Fischer and Lutes will give a “new” performance recorded for this occasion of the great Fantasie in F minor for piano duet. (In the YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear that work, performed by Dutch brothers Lucas and Arthur Jussen and recorded live in Seoul, South Korea.)

The songs have been chosen to reflect themes that were not only relevant to Schubert and his circle, but also to all of us in the midst of this challenging time: hope for a brighter future; the need for connection with others; remembrance of happier times; and the consolation to be found in nature.

Schubert left a vast and precious legacy of beauty — an enormous output of music that he composed in his short lifetime.

In a sense, each time his music is performed and heard, it is a journey from the past to our own time, the sounds speaking to us today as vividly and consolingly as they did when they were created 200 years ago.

Performers

Martha Fischer and Bill Lutes, pianists

Alumni:

Jamie-Rose Guarrine, soprano (below, in a photo by Peter Konerko)
Emily Birsan, soprano
Michael Roemer, baritone
Jennifer D’Agostino, soprano
Daniel O’Dea, tenor
Wesley Dunnagan, tenor
Sarah Brailey (alumna and current DMA student)
Sara Guttenberg

Guests:

Marie McManama, soprano
Cheryl Bensman-Rowe, mezzo-soprano

Faculty:

Mimmi Fulmer, soprano
Paul Rowe, baritone (below)
Julia Rottmayer, soprano

Staff

David Alcorn, videographer, editor, etc.
Katrin Talbot, images for audio only tracks

 


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Due to popular demand, Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) opens its FREE virtual master classes to the public. Today features the violin and Monday features the bass

January 10, 2021
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) welcomes back two distinguished and successful alumni this weekend to teach the fifth and sixth master classes in an ongoing series that has already wowed observers. (WYSO alumni are noted below with an asterisk.)

Each virtual event is free and open to the general public with registration required in advance.

“The series has been so fabulous that, due to popular demand, we’ve opened up the events to anyone who wants to attend,” says Susan Gardels, marketing and communications director for WYSO. 

TODAY – Sunday, Jan. 10 — from 5:30-7:30 p.m. CST Derek Powell, a violinist with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C., will coach four WYSO violin members in a two-hour master class.

This will be followed the next evening with a master class coached by Scott Pingel, Principal Bass with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra (Monday, Jan. 11, 6:30-8:30 p.m. CST).

A master class presents a one-on-one opportunity for a student musician to learn from a guest artist with an audience invited to observe the process.

In previous master classes in this series, the audience has learned instrument performance techniques and musical interpretation tips from a wide variety of guest artists who professionally play music around the world.

With the master classes presented in an intimate Zoom setting, the audience learns along with the student— and it is amazing to see the sudden growth in a student’s musical prowess as a master class proceeds.

Derek Powell’s bio includes his experience with the New World Symphony where Powell (below) performed as concertmaster with famed conductor Michael Tilson Thomas and as a violinist with the Army Strings, as well as his current experience with the National Symphony Orchestra. 

Scott Pingel (below) was a trumpet player in his WYSO days with a side love for electric bass. Pingel switched to concert bass as an undergraduate at UW-Eau Claire, continued studies at the Manhattan School of Music, and played with the New World Symphony and the Charleston Symphony before joining the San Francisco Symphony as Principal Bass in 2004. He recently created buzz by playing with Metallica in a packed house with the San Francisco Orchestra.

For more information, go to: WYSO Amazing Masterclass Series

Here are details and links to register:

*Derek Powell, Violin Master Class

TODAY, Sunday, Jan. 10, 5:30-7:30 p.m. CST

Free and open to the public

Click here to register in advance

_______________________________

*Scott Pingel, Bass Master Class

Monday, Jan. 11, 6:30-8:30 p.m. CST

Free and open to the public

Click here to register in advance

Here are is a schedule of future WYSO alumni master classes:

Katherine Steele (below), oboe 
Sunday, Jan. 17, 6-8 p.m. CST
(Principal Oboe, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra) https://wysomusic.org/katherine-steel-masterclass/

James Shields (below), clarinet
Sunday, Jan. 24, 7-9 p.m. CST
(Principal Clarinet, Oregon Symphony Orchestra)
Read more about James Shields

*Nancy Goeres (below), bassoon
Sunday, Feb. 7, 6-8 p.m. CST
(Principal Bassoon, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra)

Danbi Um (below), violin
Sunday, Feb. 21, Time TBD
(Soloist, member Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center)

Megumi Kanda (below), trombone
Sunday, Feb. 28, 5:30-7:30 p.m. CST (Principal Trombone, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra)

David Perry (below), violin
Sunday, March 7, 6-8 p.m. CST
(First Violin, UW-Madison Pro Arte Quartet and UW-Madison Music Professor)

Naha Greenholtz (below), violin
Sunday, March 28, 6-8 p.m. CST
(Concertmaster, Madison Symphony Orchestra and Quad Cities Symphony Orchestra)

*Sharan Leventhal (below), violin
Sunday, April 11, 6-8 p.m. CST
(Boston Conservatory)

For more information, go to https://wysomusic.org or call (608) 733-6283.


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Can American film director Ron Howard make a sensitive and accurate biopic of Chinese superstar pianist Lang Lang? Or is it a cultural appropriation that deserves to be condemned?

September 27, 2020
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By Jacob Stockinger

The self-appointed PC diversity police have struck again.

This is getting silly and tiresome, insulting and embarrassing.

Some advocates of cultural diversity are crying foul over the latest project of the American and Academy Award-winning Hollywood film director Ron Howard: making a biopic of the superstar Chinese classical pianist Lang Lang (below).

The script will be drawn from the pianist’s bestselling memoir “Journey of a Thousand Miles” — which has also been recast as an inspirational children’s book — and the director and scriptwriters will consult with Lang Lang.

It seems to The Ear a natural collaboration, as well as a surefire box office hit, between two high-achieving entertainers. Check out their bios:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lang_Lang

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_Howard

But some people are criticizing the project in the belief that because Ron Howard  (below) is white and Western, he cannot do justice to someone who is Chinese or to Asian culture.

Here is an essay, found on the website of Classic FM, by one objector. She is Chinese film director Lulu Wang (below), who says she has no interest in doing the project herself: https://www.classicfm.com/artists/lang-lang/pianist-biopic-ron-howard-faces-criticism-lulu-wang/

Talk about misplaced alarm over “cultural appropriation.”

Don’t you think that Lang Lang will have a lot to say about how he is depicted?

Do you wonder if Wang thinks cultural appropriation works in reverse?

Should we dismiss Lang Lang’s interpretations of Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev and Bartok simply because he is non-Western and Chinese rather than German, French or Russian?

Of course not. They should be taken on their own merits, just as the interpretations of any other Asian classical musician, and artists in general including Ai Weiwei, should be.

But however unfairly, cultural appropriation just doesn’t seem to work in reverse.

Mind you, The Ear thinks that cultural appropriation is a valid concept and can indeed sometimes be useful in discussing cross-cultural influences.

But it sure seems that the concept is being applied in an overly broad and even misdirected or ridiculous way, kind of the way that the idea of “micro-aggressions” can be so generously applied that it loses its ability to be truthful and useful.

Take the example of the heterosexual Taiwanese movie director Ang Lee. He certainly proved himself able to depict American culture in “The Ice Storm” and the gay world in “Brokeback Mountain.”

Let’s be clear. The Ear is a piano fan.

But if he objects to the project, it is because he doesn’t like Lang Lang’s flamboyant playing, his Liberace-like performance manners and showmanship, and his exaggerated facial expressions.

Yet there is no denying the human appeal of his story. He rose from a young and suicidal piano student (below) who was emotionally abused by his ambitious father – shades of the lives of young Mozart and Beethoven and probably many other prodigies – to become the best known, most frequently booked and highest paid classical pianist in the world. 

Yet not for nothing did some critics baptize him with the nickname Bang Bang.

Still, the Curtis Institute graduate does all he can to foster music education, especially among the young and the poor.

And there is simply no denying his virtuosity. (See Lang Lang playing Liszt’s Paganini etude “La Campanella” in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

So there is plenty to object to about Lang Lang the Piano Star besides the ethnicity of Ron Howard, who also did a biopic of opera superstar Luciano Pavarotti, in telling his story.

What do you think?

Is it culturally all right for Ron Howard to direct a film about Lang Lang?

Do you look forward to the movie and seeing it?

What do you think of Lang Lang as a pianist and a celebrity?

The Ear wants to hear.

 


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