The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Willy Street Chamber Players excel again – this time in music by Franz Schubert, Arnold Schoenberg and UW-Madison composer Laura Schwendinger

July 19, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

Here is a special posting, a review written by frequent guest critic and writer for this blog, John W. Barker. Barker (below) is an emeritus professor of Medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also is a well-known classical music critic who writes for Isthmus and the American Record Guide, and who for 12 years hosted an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT-FM 89.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.

John-Barker

By John W. Barker

The Willy Street Chamber Players (below) gave the second concert of their 2016 season on Friday night at Immanuel Lutheran Church, 1021 Spright Street, on Madison’s near east side.

Willy Street Chamber Players group color

The program might have been called the “three Sch-es” in view of the alphabetical incipits of the three composers involved.

The first item was titled The Violinists in My Life, composed in 2011 by Laura Schwendinger (below), the American composer currently on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

The Belgian violin virtuoso and composer Eugène Ysaÿe set an example with his set of six Sonatas, Op. 27, for solo violin, each one a tribute to a great musician with whom he had worked. So Schwendinger composed five pieces for violin and piano, each one a kind of character piece about violinists with whom she has had fruitful contact.

Laura Schwendinger 2

The style can be sharp and abrupt, but there is a clear individuality to each piece, evoking the different personalities. The first of the five is dedicated to UW-Madison alumna Eleanor Bartsch (below), one of our Willys, and she played the whole set, deeply engaged in it, with pianist Thomas Kasdorf, also a graduate of the UW-Madison.

Eleanor Bartsch

Kasdorf (below) joined another of the group’s violinists, Paran Amirinazari, who also graduated from the UW-Madison, in a rarely heard late work by Franz Schubert, the Fantasie in C Major (D.934).(You can hear it played by violinist Benjamin Beilman, who has performed with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Schubert’s compositions for violin and piano are rarely heard in concerts these days, but this one has particular interest in that its latter portion is another of the composers set of variations on one of his own songs—in this case, the beautiful Sei mir gegrüsst. The total piece has a lot of lively passage work, which Amarinazari played with a mix of flair and affection.

thomas kasdorf 2:jpg

The crowning work was that extraordinary string sextet by Arnold Schoenberg (below), Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night). Composed in 1899 at the beginning of the composer’s career, it catches him still emerging from Late Romantic sensibilities, a good way before his radical move into the 12-tone idiom he created.

Arnold Schoenberg 1936

The score is just a trifle longish for the musical content, but its gorgeous chromatic richness is irresistible. It was inspired by a poem of Richard Dehmel, and both the original German text and an English translation were supplied to the audience, an interesting touch.

Above all, however, the performance was glowing, avoiding too much sentimental lushness, but conveying the emotionally charged writing with beautiful balance.

A clever touch, too, was the sitting pattern chosen, with the two violas facing the two violins and the two cellos in the rear—allowing the recurrent interaction between the first violin and first viola to emerge more clearly.

In sum, this was another wonderful session of first-class music-making by this remarkable assemblage of young talent.

NOTE: A program of music by Ludwig vanBeethoven, Philip Glass and Dmitri Shostakovich will be given next Friday at Immanuel Lutheran, but at NOON; and then that evening (at 8:30 p.m.) the group will participate in a special performance of George Crumb’s “Black Angels” — with an accompanying video — at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art in the Overture Center.

The final Friday evening concert will be back at Immanuel Lutheran, at 6 p.m. on Friday, July 29, with music by Baroque composer Arcangelo Corelli (Concerto Grosso), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Clarinet Quintet), and George Enescu (Octet).


Classical music: The acclaimed Willy Street Chamber Players announces its second summer season. Plus, this afternoon is your last chance to hear Madison Opera’s production of “The Tales of Hoffmann”

April 17, 2016
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ALERT: This afternoon at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall of the Overture Center is your last chance to hear the Madison Opera‘s production of Jacques Offenbach‘s “The Tales of Hoffmann.”

Here are two preview posts that appeared here:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2016/04/12/classical-music-jacques-offenbachs-fantastical-masterpiece-the-tales-of-hoffmann-will-be-performed-by-madison-opera-performs-friday-night-and-sunday-afternoon-here-is-part/

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2016/04/13/classical-music-its-easy-and-wrong-to-underestimate-offenbachs-tales-of-hoffmann-it-is-literally-fantastic-but-not-light-it-will-be-performed-by-madison-opera-on-friday/

Here is a review written by Greg Hettmansberger for his blog WhatGregSays and Madison Magazine:

https://whatgregsays.wordpress.com/2016/04/16/making-a-spectacle-of-themselves/

And here is a review by Lindsay Christians for The Capital Times:

http://host.madison.com/ct/entertainment/arts_and_theatre/opera-review-hoffmann-pines-drinks-and-chases-skirts-in-madison/article_8c998a0e-038d-11e6-8a1a-3b3aba924b6d.html

By Jacob Stockinger

No new classical music group generated more great buzz last year than The Willy Street Chamber Players. And that enthusiasm was shared by The Ear, who can’t recall hearing anyone or anything being negative about the group’s inaugural season.

Here is a link to one rave review, written by John W. Barker for this blog, that focused on astounding performance of the famous Octet by Felix Mendelssohn and a Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 by Johann Sebastian Bach:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/08/03/classical-music-the-willies-the-willy-street-chamber-players-excel-in-bach-and-mendelssohn-at-the-last-concert-of-the-new-groups-inaugural-season/

A friend of The Ear who plays with the Willy Street Chamber Players (below) sends the following word:

Willy Street Chamber Players 2016 outdoors

Newcomers to the Madison classical music scene, the critically acclaimed group The Willy Street Chamber Players, will be returning to the stage for a second season this July.

The group will perform four concerts at Immanuel Lutheran Church (below), 1021 Spaight St., and season tickets are available now.

immanuel lutheran church ext

Immanuel Lutheran interior

Here is a link to the updated events page:

http://www.willystreetchamberplayers.org/events1.html

This summer’s concerts will include fresh performances of time-honored classics. They include the Clarinet Quintet by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the fiery “Souvenir de Florence” by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

The season will also include works that will be new to many Madison audience members.

Guest artists include violinist Suzanne Beia (below top) of the UW-Madison’s Pro Arte Quartet, the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra; clarinetist Joe Morris (below middle), who is leaving the Madison Symphony Orchestra; and UW-Madison graduate student pianist Thomas Kasdorf (below bottom).

suzanne beia

Joseph Morris principal clarinet MSO

thomas kasdorf 2:jpg

New this season will be a performance given in partnership with the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art on the evening of Friday, July 22, 2016.

MMOCA icon 3

That’s when the Willy Street Chamber Players will present the monumental work, “Black Angels,” composed by George Crumb (below) for electric string quartet, in what promises to be an unforgettable performance.

Written in response to the Vietnam War, this avant-garde work requires players to amplify their instruments, speak with their mouths, perform with extended techniques, play on crystal glasses and more. (You can hear Part 1 in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

George Crumb

In the meantime, you can hear the group live on Wisconsin Public Radio‘s Midday Show with Norman Gilliland (below) on this Thursday, April 21, at noon. This special broadcast will be performed in front of a live studio audience in celebration of the Midday Show’s 25th anniversary.

Gilliland_Norman_100

Visit www.willystreetchamberplayers.org for 2016 season details, tickets and more.


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