The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: What piece first hooked you on classical music?

October 9, 2015
18 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

So there we were.

Riding in the car and listening to music.

“What piece do you remember first getting hooked on and loving?” The Ear asked The Friend.

Turned out it was Soviet composer Reinhold Gliere’s “The Red Poppy” Suite. (You can hear that work in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

That seemed a pretty sophisticated and rarefied work, compared to The Ear’s more predictable choices.

He recalls two first works, both of which he was exposed to through a budget set of vinyl LPs that his mom brought back each week from the A&P grocery store way back when.

One was the sweeping tone poem about the Bohemian river and landscape called “The Moldau” by Czech composer Bedrich Smetana, which you can hear below  performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic in a YouTube video that has more than two million hits.

The other was the popular Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor Op. 18, by Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff as performed by Artur Rubinstein (now generally spelled Arthur, as he wanted, although The Ear prefers the more exotic Artur) and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under conductor Fritz Reiner. (I think copyright and licensing agreements were a lot less restrictive and less expensive back then, which may help explain the larger audience for classical music and classical recordings in those days.)

Here is that work and that historic performance in a YouTube video:

And The Ear still loves both works passionately. And all three works testify to the largely Romantic taste of young listeners.

Anyway, it was a fun recollection to have and got The Ear to thinking:

Maybe readers of this blog would be willing to share their first memory of the classical music that they loved first and got hooked on?

The Ear would love to hear from the general public but also from professional musicians. Especially professional musicians.

You can  leave the title, composer and performer in the COMMENTS section along with a link to a YouTube video if possible.


Classical music: The opening of this week’s Madison Early Music Festival blossomed with a stunning performance of early Slavic choral music by The Rose Ensemble of St. Paul, Minnesota.

July 13, 2015
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

The 16th annual Madison Early Music Festival opened on Saturday night.

The coming week of daily workshops, lectures and concerts could hardly have enjoyed a more promising opening than the stunning a cappella singing turned in by the justly acclaimed Rose Ensemble (below) of St. Paul, Minnesota. (You can hear the Rose Ensemble in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

MEMF Rose Ensemble 12

The group consists of 12 singers and one string player – she plays a Medieval violin-like instrument called “la vielle” — with some singers doing double duty and playing a drum or recorder.

MEMF 2015 solo and instruments

Somewhere around two-thirds of a house (below) turned out in Mills Hall to hear a thoroughly masterful display of early Eastern European music from the 11th century through the 16th century, which is the topic of this year’s festival.

MEMF 2015 Slavic banner

MEMF 2015 Rose audience

Start with the basics.

As far as The Ear could tell, there was not a single weak link in the chain. Each singer sang strongly and with conviction.

Each excelled at pitch and diction, even in multiple Slavic languages from Poland, Bohemia, Czechoslovakia and Russia.

And the balance that allowed different lines to emerge was nothing short of miraculous.

They sang as a large group of 12.

They sang smaller motets with groups of six women or six men (below).

MEMF 2015 Rose 6 women

MEMF 2015 Rose 6 men

They sang duets and they sang solos.

And all of the permutations proved successful.

They were terrific in all the liturgical music that makes up the bulk of the early Slavic repertory.

But The Ear’s favorite pieces were some of the folksongs from Ukraine and elsewhere. The performers moved around the stage and used their voices in what American poet Walt Whitman aptly described as a “barbaric yawp” that came close to artful shouting.

The singing was nothing short of thrilling as the performers cut loose with chopping arms, moving feet and howling mouths. Yet it all remained controlled and convincing. It reminded The Ear of plain chant and shape-note singing.

The Rose Ensemble organized a masterful display of varied programming and performances that, to be honest, helped offset a lot of the similarities of so much of the music.

MEMF Rose folk

One other thing: If you wonder about attending the lectures, just go. They start one hour before the concerts, at 6:30 p.m. in 2650 Mosse Humanities Building.

For this concert, John W. Barker, a veteran music critic and retired professor of Medieval history at the UW-Madison, provided a terrific historical context that help the audience appreciate the achievement of early Slavonic music. His lecture was filled with wit and facts as he pointed to the map to show how Slavic culture was born and how extensive it became.

What we learned in one hour!

MEMF 2015 John Barker

For more detail about events, venues and prices, go to the comprehensive website:

http://artsinstitute.wisc.edu/memf/MEMF2015.htm

 


Classical music: The UW-Madison’s Wingra Woodwind Quintet performs a FREE concert this Friday night and will mark its 50th anniversary with a party and mini-concert on April 25. Plus, the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Rhapsodie String Quartet and soprano Nancy Vedder-Shults perform concerts on Friday.

February 26, 2015
1 Comment

ALERTS:

1) The master class by the Takacs String Quartet on Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. has been moved from Room 1341 of the UW-Madison Humanities Building to MOPRHY RECITAL HALL. The string quartet is in town to perform a concert of works by Schubert, Haydn and Beethoven at 8 p.m. on Saturday at the Wisconsin Union Theater.

2) The free Friday Noon Musicale, to be held 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the Landmark Auditorium of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features soprano Nancy Vedder-Shults and pianist Dan Broner, who is also the FUS music director, in art songs by Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Mary Howe and Seymour Barab.

3) The Madison Symphony Orchestra‘s Rhapsodie String Quartet (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson) will perform a concert this Friday night at 7 p.m. in St. Andrew’s Church, 1833 Regent Street, near Randall Elementary school on Madison’s near west side. The program is the Quartet No. 22 in B-flat Major by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the Quartet No. 2 in A Minor by Felix Mendelssohn. Admission is open to the public, with a free-will donation requested.

Rhapsodie Quartet MSO Greg Anderson

By Jacob Stockinger

There are two reasons to pay attention to the Wingra Woodwind Quintet, one of the major performing artists ensembles at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

The first reason is that this Friday, Feb. 27, at 7:30 p.m. in Morphy Hall, the group will perform a FREE concert. The program is “Tradition and Innovation: Music from the Old Country — Austria, Hungary and Bohemia, 1892-1969.”

Then on Saturday, April 25, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the University Club, the Wingra (below, in a photo by Michael R. Anderson) will celebrate its 50th year as an ensemble. The public is asked to RSVP by April 20 by sending an email to news@music.wisc.edu

Wingra Woodwind Quintet 2013 Michael Anderson

Here is a link to an extensive biography, member list and history of the Wingra Woodwind Quintet, done by Sarah Schaffer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, along with more details about the 50th anniversary part.

http://www.music.wisc.edu/wingra-woodwind-quintet/

And here is the program for the concert on Friday:

Humoreske (1939) by Alexander Zemlinsky (1871-1942)

Woodwind Quintet No. 1 (1953) by Endre Szervánsky (1911-1977). You can hear this tuneful and dance-like work in a YouTube video at the bottom.

Nine Short Pieces for Children (1909) by Béla Bartók (1881–1945), arranged by UW-Madison bassoonist Marc Vallon (2014), who is a member of the Wingra Woodwind Quintet.

Intermission

Three Songs from “Das Knaben Wunderhorn” by Gustav Mahler ) (1860-1911), arranged by Trevor Cramer (1983)

Rheinlegendchen (1893)

Wer hat dies Liedl erdacht? (1892)

Lob des Hohes Vertandes (1896)

Wind Quintet No. 2 (1969) by Frigyes Hidas (1928–2007)

 


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