The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Token Creek Chamber Music Festival starts Saturday. It celebrates 25 years with observing the 300th anniversary of C.P.E. Bach and by offering a wide range of works and composers that includes a world premiere by Jeffrey Stanek and a Midwest premiere by John Harbison.

August 18, 2014
4 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Every year, it marks the end of the summer classical musical season in Madison.

But this year brings something special.

This year, the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

The festival opens this coming Saturday night, Aug. 23, and runs through Sunday, Aug. 31. It features the usual lineup of outstanding imported artists, all assembled by the co-artistic directors, who are the award-winning composer John Harbison (Pulitzer Prize, MacArthur Foundation “genius grant”) and his violinist wife Rose Mary Harbison (both below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot). This year, there is NO jazz cabaret.

John and Rose Mary Harbison Katrin Talbot

The five performances of three programs -– with two Sunday matinee concerts –- will all take place in the lovely renovated barn (below) in nearby Token Creek. The space is ideal for the intimacy of chamber music, which is important since the festival is more of a niche event for serious music fans than a popular or populist event.

TokenCreekbarn interior

In addition to the playing, John Harbison will provide his always pithy and insightful commentaries on the composers and the works.

The festival will focus not on itself and its own anniversary so much as on the 300th anniversary of the birth of composer Carl Philip Emanuel Bach (below), one of the composer sons of Johann Sebastian Bach.

carl philipp emanuel bach

The acclaimed musicologist and keyboard artist Robert Levin (below top) will return from Harvard University -– John Harbison teaches at nearby MIT –- and will perform with his pianist wife Ya-Fei Chuang (below bottom).

Levin with piano

Ya-Fei Chuang 2014

Boston-area pianist Judith Gordon (below) will also return to play works by Scarlatti and Chopin.

judith gordon

But once again, as is customary, fine local talent will also perform, including Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra principal cellist Karl Lavine (below top, in a photo by Brynn Brujinn), Madison Symphony Orchestra violinist Laura Burns (below middle, by Brynn Brujinn) and flutist Dawn Lawler (below bottom).

IV Karl Lavine, CR Brynn Bruijn

- Laura Burns CR Brynn Bruijn

Dawn Lawler

Rose Mary Harbison will perform Bach and Debussy among other works.

And new music will not be forgotten. There will be a world premiere of a specially commissioned piece by local composer Jeff Stanek (below) and the Midwest premiere of John Harbison’s own “Songs America Loves to Sing.”

jeffrey Stanek

Today, The Ear offers an overview of the festival with the artists, programs and concert information. Tomorrow, The Ear will offer two appetite-whetting essays: the first, by Rose Mary Harbison, talks about the festival anniversary; the second, by John Harbison, talks about the achievement and music of C.P.E. Bach.

For more information, including programs, performer biographies and archives, visit: http://tokencreekfestival.org

For tickets ($30 with a limited number of $10 student tickets):

Call (608) 241-2524 or visit http://tokencreekfestival.org/2014-season/tickets/

Token Creek 2011 Mozart Trio, Levin, Harbison, Ryder

PROGRAM I: AMERICAN SPRING

Saturday, Aug. 23, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 24, at 4 p.m. (The Sunday performance is SOLD-OUT.)

Works of Johann Sebastian Bach, Carl Philip Emmanuel Bach, Franz Joseph Haydn, John Harbison and Jeffrey Stanek will be featured.

Says John Harbison: “It would be inarticulate to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the birth of C.P.E. Bach without the music of J.S. Bach and Joseph Haydn, both his origins and in some sense his destiny. Let’s not kid ourselves, these anchors have more weight than the ship we are launching.

“But CPE’s virtues are made clearest by juxtaposing his cheeky, mischievous and iconoclastic imagination against the stabilizing, normative and, finally, more clear-minded music of his father precursor and his successor ‘heir.’

“It could be said that CPE’s task was to dismantle some of his father’s synthesis, and Haydn’s was to reassemble, balance and clarify the brilliant musical vistas glimpsed by CPE.”

“Songs America Sings proposes to adapt J.S. Bach’s chorale prelude principle, his inclusion of familiar melodies as tugboats through unfamiliar musical waters, into a modern setting, the tune supposedly widely and currently familiar, the compositional terrain complicated by canons, re-harmonizations and diversions.”

The program includes:

J.S. Bach: Solo Violin Partita in E Major (selections)

Haydn: Trio in D major for violin, cello, and piano, Hob XV:24

Jeffrey Stanek: A WORLD PREMIERE (commissioned for the festival’s 25th anniversary) for flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano

C.P.E. Bach: Sonata V in E minor for piano, violin, and cello, Wq 89, no. 5

John Harbison: “Songs America Loves to Sing” (Midwest Premiere) for flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano

Dawn Lawler, flute; 
Joe Morris, clarinet; 
Rose Mary Harbison, violin; 
Karl Lavine, cello; 
John Harbison, piano
; Jeffrey Stanek, commissioned composer

TokenCreekentrance

Wednesday, Aug. 27, at 8 p.m.
 Works of C.P.E. Bach, Domenico Scarlatti, Frederic Chopin and Ludwig van Beethoven

“What can we say about a composer who winds up composing entirely, or at the least primarily, for one medium? Chopin (below) and Scarlatti both found that restriction to the keyboard, rather than limiting their resources, freed their imaginations. By immersing themselves in the sound and attach of a single instrument they each became more peculiar, un-imitatable, and irresistible. In small forms, they found snowflake variety.

“Anchoring the program, Beethoven, a universal large-scale composer whose Sonata in F somehow acquired the title “Spring.” If spring, it is the changeable, difficult weather, more showers than flowers.”

The program includes:

Scarlatti: Selected keyboard sonatas

Chopin: Selected Preludes for piano

C.P.E. Bach: Arioso with Variations in A, for keyboard and violin, Wq 79

Beethoven: Violin Sonata in F major, Op. 24 (“Spring”)

Judith Gordon, piano; 
Rose Mary Harbison violin

Chopinphoto

PROGRAM III: THE PERENNIAL AVANT-GARDE

Saturday, Aug. 30 at 8 p.m., and Sunday, Aug. 31, at 4 p.m.

Works of C.P.E. Bach, Franz Schubert, Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy

“Occasionally, but not always, composers decide to take it further, to write a piece with absurd levels of discontinuity (C.P.E. Bach’s Fantasy), radical conciseness and semaphoric, sketchy formal outline (Debussy’s Sonata), over-the-top nostalgia and apocalyptic prediction (Ravel’s La Valse), and form and scope too big for its medium (Schubert’s Grand Duo, for one piano, two players). A program of extremes: in the service of liberty — no vice.”

The program includes:

C.P.E. Bach: Fantasia in F-sharp minor for Keyboard, Wq 67; 
 Sonata in C Minor for Keyboard and Violin, Wq 78

Debussy: Sonata for Violin and Piano (heard in a performance by James Ehnes in a YouTube video at the bottom)

Ravel: La Valse (arranged for piano by Ya-Fei Chuang)

Schubert: Grand Duo, for one piano-four hands

Robert Levin, piano; 
Ya-Fei Chuang, piano; 
Rose Mary Harbison, violin

Tomorrow: Violinist and co-director of Token Creek Festival Rose Mary Harbison writes about 25 years of presenting the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival. Composer John Harbison writes about his changed appreciation of C.P.E. Bach.

 

 


Classical music: How YouTube vaulted pianist Valentina Lisitsa to fame and fortune. Plus, here are reminders about concerts today by the Madison Symphony Orchestra and at the University of Wisconsin School of Music.

October 20, 2013
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

First, some reminders and alerts.

MADISON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

The final performance of the second concert of the season by the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below) is today at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall.

MSO playing

The program, conducted by longtime MSO music director John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad) features Benjamin Britten’s Variations and Fugue on a Theme on Purcell (also used for the popular ‘The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra); Claude Debussy’s “La mer” (The Sea); and Johannes Brahms’ Piano Concerto No.2 with guest artist Philippe Bianconi.

John DeMain conducting 2

Here is a link to a Q&A I posted earlier this week with pianist Philippe Bianconi (below) about the Brahms concerto. It also contains other information and useful links about the entire program, including program notes and ticket prices:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/10/15/classical-music-qa-what-makes-brahms-piano-concerto-no-2-so-great-french-pianist-philippe-bianconi-discusses-his-upcoming-performances-of-it-this-weekend-with-the-madison-symphony-orc/

bianconi_philippe

So far, the concert has received critical acclaim – and there is still time to catch it this afternoon.

Here is a link to a review by John W. Barker (below) in Isthmus:

http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=41208

John-Barker

And here is a link the review by Greg Hettmansberger (below) for Madison Magazine’s blog “Classically Speaking”:

http://www.madisonmagazine.com/Blogs/Classically-Speaking/October-2013/Madison-Symphony-Program-Suggests-a-New-Normal/

greg hettmansberger mug

UW CLARINET RECITAL

Also, tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW-Madison Guest Artist series will present clarinetist Michael Norsworthy (below), who will perform a FREE concert of modern and contemporary works.

The program includes “Pastoral” by Elliot Carter;
 Three American Pieces by Lukas Foss; 
nebraska impromptu by Marti Epstein; 
”SchiZm,” by Derek Bermel; “Black Anemones” by Joseph Schwantner;
 and Souvenirs, by Robert Beaser.

Michael Norsworthy

Michael Norsworthy, professor of clarinet at the Boston Conservatory, is one of the most celebrated champions of the modern repertoire. To date, he has given over 125 world premieres with leading contemporary music groups, including Klangforum Wien, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Manhattan Sinfonietta, Fromm Players at Harvard, Boston Musica Viva, Callithumpian Consort in Boston, Ensemble 21 in New York and the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble. His current discography numbers over 15 releases and can be found on the Albany, Mode, Gasparo, Canteloupe, BMOP/sound, ECM, Nonesuch, Cirrus Music and Cauchemar labels.

YOUTUBE AND PIANIST VALENTINA LISITSA

Finally, speaking of pianists, as I did above, this past week, The New York  Times featured a comprehensive story about the pianist Valentina Lisitsa (below), who has performed in Madison at least three times – twice in solo recitals at Farley’s House of Pianos and once at the Wisconsin Union Theater as the accompanist for violin virtuoso Hilary Hahn.

Lisitsa_Valentina_2

What makes the story so fascinating is how Lisitsa used the popular website YouTube to launch her career the way that pop stars, not classical stars, so often do. From her success on YouTube she even got a contract with a major record company, Decca Records.

Usually, YouTube features videos of performing artists who have already established their careers. But this time, it worked vice-versa. (At the bottom is a YouTube video of Valentina Lisitsa playing a live performance in Seoul , Korea, of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s popular Prelude in G Minor. It has more than 3.5 million hits!)

The story is a terrific testament to the power of new media in the performing arts.

Here is a link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/13/arts/music/valentina-lisitsa-jump-starts-her-career-online.html?_r=0


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