The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Sunday brings the winners’ concert of the UW Concerto and Composition Competition plus a harpsichord recital

March 9, 2019
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By Jacob Stockinger

Two more noteworthy concerts will take place this coming Sunday, March 10.

UW-MADISON CONCERTO AND COMPOSITION COMPETITION

On Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the annual winners’ concert of the UW-Madison Concerto and Composition Competition will take place.

The concert features the UW Symphony Orchestra (below top) under conductor Chad Hutchinson (below bottom) with four instrumentalists, one singer and one composer. All are current students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music.

Admission is $12, but free to students, children, music majors, faculty and staff.

Well-know works on the program include: Adalia Hernandez Abrego and Jiawan Zhang playing the Concerto for Two Pianos in D minor by Francis Poulenc; Richard Silvers playing the first two movements of the Violin Concerto in A minor by Antonin Dvorak; soprano Cayla Rosché singing the first and third songs of the “Four Last Songs” by Richard Strauss; and Chia-Yu Hsu playing the Concertino for Bassoon and Orchestra by Marcel Bitsch. In addition, there will be the world premiere of “Fanfare for Orchestra” by student composer Anne McAninch.

To learn more about the concert, and to see photos and videos of the performers who discuss themselves and the works they will play, see the YouTube video below and go to:

https://www.music.wisc.edu/event/symphony-showcase-concerto-winners-solo-with-the-uw-madison-symphony-orchestra/

HARPSICHORD RECITAL

Earlier on Sunday afternoon is a concert that should appeal to early music fans: At 3 p.m. the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, will present the fifth Annual Mark Rosa Harpsichord Recital.

The performance features harpsichordist Jason J. Moy (below), with special guests bass violist Katherine Shuldiner and baroque violinist Kangwon Lee Kim.

The all-French baroque program is called “The Angel, The Devil and The Sun King: Music and Rivalry in the Court of Louis XIV” and features works by Marin Marais, Antoine Forqueray, Jacques Duphly and Jean-Philippe Rameau.

Tickets will be available at the door: $20 for general admission, $12 for seniors, students and veterans.

Moy is director of the Baroque Ensemble and a harpsichord instructor at the DePaul University School of Music. He has performed across the United States, Canada and Europe, including every Boston Early Music Festival since 2013.

One of Chicago’s most sought-after early keyboard specialists, Moy was recently named artistic director of Ars Musica Chicago. He also plays as part of the Dame Myra Hess International Concert Series at the Chicago Cultural Center. Madisonians may be familiar with his playing from his appearances with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.

You can hear him discuss playing the harpsichord and talk about its modern history in the YouTube video below. For more information, go to: www.jjmoy.com

Kangwon Lee Kim (below) is a versatile violinist on both baroque and modern violins. She is familiar to Madisonians as the concertmaster and assistant artistic director of Madison Bach Musicians. She has also given recitals throughout the U.S. and in Korea, Canada, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, Norway and the Czech Republic.

Katherine Shuldiner (below) graduated from the Oberlin Conservatory in viola da gamba. She performs regularly with other early music specialists, and ensembles such as the Bach and Beethoven Experience, VOX3 Collective and the Newberry Consort. She has taught at the Whitewater and Madison Early Music Festivals. www.kateshuldiner.com


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Classical music: The new period-instrument group Sonata à Quattro makes its debut and excels in early Baroque music

July 13, 2018
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ALERT: The All-Festival Concert that closes this summer’s 19th annual Madison Early Musical Festival will take place in Mills Hall on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $20 for the general public, $10 for seniors and students. Here are two links where you can find more specific information, including composers and works on the program:

https://memf.wisc.edu/event/all-fest-2018/

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2018/07/03/classical-music-this-saturday-the-19th-annual-madison-early-music-festival-memf-starts-a-week-long-exploration-how-the-500thanniversary-of-the-lutheran-reformation-in-changed-western-music-part-2/

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 hosts an early music show once a month on Sunday morning on WORT FM 89.9 FM. For years, he served on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.

By John W. Barker

Marika Fischer Hoyt (below) is becoming another powerhouse in our musical scene. Already a spark plug of the Ancora String Quartet, and now the director of the annual “Bach Around the Clock” bashes, she has organized a new ensemble, Sonata à Quattro, which made its debut on Wednesday night at Pres House.

This was done under the aegis of the current Madison Early Music Festival (MEMF) as a “fringe concert” — in the manner long-established by the Boston Early Music Festival. Plus, the concert’s theme was “The Lübeck Connection,” clearly tying it to the MEMF.

The music was early Baroque, almost entirely from the 17th century.

The first half presented pieces by seven composers, including, among the better-known ones, Michael Praetorius, Giovanni Gabrieli, Heinrich Schütz, Heinrich Ignaz Biber and Antonio Vivaldi.

In the earlier pieces, the instruments were not originally specified at all — and one of them was in fact purely vocal. But the later ones clearly displayed the definition of the early string ensemble.

Indeed, the basic players — besides the backup harpsichord — were seated (below) in what is now familiar in the configuration of the latter-day string quartet, with the subtle suggestion that the earlier sonata à quattro genre was its natural predecessor.

The presence here of Vivaldi—besides Gabrieli, the only Italian among these Germans, and of later date—seemed a bit incongruous, but his familiar Sinfonia ‘al Santo Sepolcro’ actually illustrated well the mature à quattro texture. (You can hear the Vivaldi in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

And a most impressive conclusion for this first half of the program was the fascinating eight-part Sonata in A minor by the sadly neglected Samuel Capricornus (1628-1665)—its eight-voice scoring not serving as a double choir but as a richly textured study in contrasting high with low parts.

For this first half, the core performers were Nathan Giglierano and Christine Hauptly Annin, violins; Fischer-Hoyt, viola; and Charlie Rasmussen, cello, with harpsichordist Daniel Sullivan.

They were joined along the way by gambist Phillip Serna (below top) who performed later on violone; and, for the Capricornus also violinist Thalia Coombs (below second), violist Micah Behr (below third) and viola da gambist Eric Miller (below bottom, in a photo by Katrin Talbot).

The program’s second half was devoted entirely to the music of Dietrich Buxtehude (below, ca. 1637-1707), the big star of the MEMF constellation.

First we had a Trio in B-flat from his Op. 2 collection, then a slightly French-style solo harpsichord Suite in D minor from Daniel Sullivan (below top).

Finally, we had two solo cantatas, sung by Kristin Knutson (below bottom), whose lovely soprano voice blended beautifully with the instruments.

This new ensemble will continue with concerts scheduled ahead for the coming season. But certainly this appearance represents a beautiful, and perfectly timed, introduction in a concert of true delight.


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Classical music: The early music group Ensemble SDG will perform psalms by Heinrich Schütz and other composers as well as sonatas and a canticle this Saturday night at Luther Memorial Church.

November 20, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Madison-based duo Ensemble SDG will perform a concert of early music on this Saturday night, November 22, 2014, at 7 p.m. in the Luther Memorial Church (below), 1021 University Avenue, in Madison, Wisconsin.

luther memorial church madison

The concert will feature special guests William Hudson, tenor, and Katherine Shuldiner, viola da gamba.

The program includes settings of Psalm texts by Heinrich Schütz (below with his psalms at bottom in a YouTube video), Johann Hermann Schein, and Jacques de Bournonville, with a setting by Johann Philipp Krieger of the anonymous canticle Laetare anima mea, as well as sonatas by Giovanni Battista Fontana, Dieterich Buxtehude and Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre.

Heinrich Schutz

Ensemble SDG (below) features Madison musicians Edith Hines, baroque violin, and John Chappell Stowe, professor of harpsichord and organ at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. The duo has performed across the United States, and their recording of the complete works of J. S. Bach for violin and keyboard is soon to be released by Arabesque Records.

William Hudson is a founding member and director of LIBER: Ensemble for Early Music and was recently appointed Assistant Professor of voice and diction at Illinois Wesleyan University (Bloomington, Ill.).

Katherine Shuldiner recently graduated from Oberlin Conservatory of Music, specializing in viola da gamba performance. She lives and works in Chicago, Illinois.

ensemble sdg new USE

Admission to the concert on November 22 is $15; admission is free for students with a valid ID.

Ensemble SDG, a baroque violin and keyboard duo formed in 2009, performs music spanning the entire Baroque period, with a particular focus on the works of Johann Sebastian Bach. The duo has presented works by German, French and Italian composers of the 17th and 18th centuries in recitals from the Midwest to the East Coast. Venues include Fringe Concerts at the 2009, 2011, and 2013 Boston Early Music Festivals; a recital featuring the Brombaugh organ at First Presbyterian Church in Springfield, Illinois; the biennial meeting of the American Bach Society and the annual joint conclave of the Midwest and Southeastern Historical Keyboard Societies; the Michigan Festival of Sacred Music; Wisconsin Public Radio’s Sunday Afternoon Live from the Chazen; and multiple appearances at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, one being a performance of J.S. Bach’s six sonatas for violin and obbligato keyboard. This fall the duo will release a recording of Bach’s complete works for violin and keyboard.

Ensemble SDG takes its name from the epigraph (below top) used by Johann Sebastian Bach (below bottom) to sign many of his works. Soli Deo Gloria (“to God alone the glory”) represents the members’ common approach to music and to life, and it is with this grounding that they approach their technique, choice of repertoire, and interpretative decisions.

sdg

Bach1

Highly sought after as a specialist in historical performance, tenor William Hudson has been described as “positively hypnotic” by Gramophone magazine.  An accomplished ensemble singer, Mr. Hudson has performed with many of the nation’s leading early music ensembles including the Boston Early Music Festival Opera, The New York Collegium, The Waverly Consort, The Rose Ensemble, Boston Bach Ensemble, and Ensemble Project Ars Nova (PAN).

As a founding member and director of LIBER: Ensemble for Early Music (formerly Liber unUsualis), he has performed extensively throughout North America and abroad at international music festivals in England, Wales, Ireland, Belgium, Germany, France, Latvia, Estonia, and Spain. Mr. Hudson also enjoys an active solo career, singing the Evangelist in Johann Sebastian Bach’s St. John Passion, Apollo in Claudio Monteverdi’s Orfeo, the title role in Giacomo Carissimi’s Jephte, Lucano in Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea, Mercury in Eccles’ Judgment of Paris, and Alessandro Stradella’s oratorio San Giovanni Battista with the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra.

An active scholar and clinician, Mr. Hudson (below, in a photo by Tall & Small Photography) was the winner of the 2009 Noah Greenberg award and has presented at the International Congress of Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo. He has led master-classes and given lecture-demonstrations in medieval performance practice at universities throughout North America. He has recorded with Naxos, Passacaille, Arsis, Titanic and Dorian. Mr. Hudson holds a Master’s degree in Historical Performance from the Longy School of Music and a Doctor of Music in Early Music from Indiana University. He is a Visiting Assistant Professor of voice and diction at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Illinois.

William Hudson Tall & Small Photography

Katherine Shuldiner graduated from Oberlin Conservatory in viola da gamba performance under the tutelage of Catharina Meints. She has performed with Chicago based ensembles such as The Newberry Consort, BBE: Bach and Beethoven Ensemble, and The OC (The Opera Company).

She has also performed with Washington Bach Consort and La Follia Austin Baroque. Katherine recently finished her two-year term on the board of the Viola da Gamba Society of America and was chosen to perform in the first Early Music America’s Young Performers Festival during Boston Early Music Festival. This past summer, Katherine taught at the Madison Early Music Festival as well as the VdGSA Conclave.

katherine shuldiner USE

 


Classical music: The weeklong Madison Early Music Festival starts Saturday. It turns 15, puts early Italian music in the spotlight and adds FREE noontime lectures while enhancing the second annual Handel Aria smack-down and using new venues. Part 2 of 2.

July 8, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Can it really be 15 years already?

The Madison Early Music Festival began as a dream and an experiment. But it has endured, survived and prospered. This summer it marks its 15th anniversary with a focus on Italian music from 1300 to 1600. The theme is called “Italia Mia.”

memf banner 2014

This year’s installment starts on this Saturday, July 12, and runs through the following Saturday, July 19. It features many of the traditional things such as workshops, lectures and public concerts. But it also features new out-of-town groups, free noon-time lectures and only the second annual Handel Aria Competition, which has been enhanced.

Venues are the biggest challenge this year, given the upgrading of Mills Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

Here is a link to the festival’s home website for information about tickets, events, programs and performers:

http://continuingstudies.wisc.edu/conferences/madison-early-music-festival/index.html?source=madisonearlymusic.org

To get things straight, and to provide a larger context, The Ear asked University of Wisconsin-Madison baritone Paul Rowe and his soprano wife Cheryl Bensman Rowe -– who are the co-artistic directors of the Madison Early Music Festival -– to do an email Q&A for this blog.

They graciously agreed, and the results has been posted in two parts, yesterday and today.

Here is a link to Part 1:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/07/07/classical-music-the-weeklong-madison-early-music-festival-gets-more-national-attention-as-it-marks-15-years-the-festival-kicks-off-on-saturday-and-focuses-on-italian-early-music-and-art-from-1300-to/

Handel arias Paul and Cheryl Rowe

How does Italian music from that period differ from its counterparts in, say, Germany, France and England? How does it set up and participate in the artistic qualities we identify with the Italian Renaissance? What is the historical origin and role of the music from that era in that part of the world, and what is its legacy today?

Paul: Italy was the leading artistic, educational and philosophical country in Europe until the mid- to late-17th century. Its influence continued to be felt long afterwards. The musical language of Italy spread throughout Europe because many composers came to study in Italy before returning home and because it was the center of publishing.

Many of the developments in music such as polyphony, virtuosic solo writing, opera, monodic song and improvements in instrument-making took place in Italy or in other areas where Italians settled. Italy gradually lost its position of cultural leadership. It was replaced first by France and then by Germany.

What music and composers of the era have been most neglected and least neglected by historians and performers?

Monteverdi and Palestrina (below) are probably the most well-known of the major composers from Italy at this time. Others who should be better known are Cipriano de Rore, Luzzaschi, Caccini, Gesualdo, Lassus, Tromboncino, Landini and many others.

Giovanni Pierluigi  da Palestrina

Can you tell us about the program “Trionfi: The Triumphs of Petrarch” for the concluding All-Festival Concert on Saturday, July 19?

Cheryl: Grant Herreid, who is a member of Piffaro, has been a part of the MEMF faculty since the beginning. When we chose the topic for this year, he had a wonderful selection in mind for the July 19 program. I’ve included his notes, which describe the All-Festival Concert that Grant designed for our 15th season.

TRIONPHI: A Poet’s Vision of Love and Truth — Petrarch’s Triumphs Expressed in Music of the Italian Renaissance

Francesco Petrarca (Petrarch, July 20, 1304 – July 19, 1374, below), considered the father of humanism, was the most influential poet of the Italian Renaissance. Autobiographical, composed and revised over 30 years, his Trionfi, or “Triumphs,” is a series of poems composed in terza rima (the same form and meter as Dante’s “Inferno” in “The Divine Comedy”) in which the poet witnesses a succession of triumphal entries or trionfi, each featuring an allegorical figure more powerful than the first: Love, Chastity, Death, Fame, Time and Eternity.

The idea of the succession of trionfi or triumphs was a popular theme in Italian art and literature of the 15th and 16th centuries, and may even have influenced the development of tarot and playing cards (trionfo = “trump”). Many bridal chests were depicted with scenes from the trionfi, and in Florence troupes of young men and women acted out the battle of Cupid and Chastity on decorated wagons during the festivities of Carnival and Calendimaggio (May Day). Two of these “canto carnascialeschi” or “carnival songs” have come down to us without their musical settings, and are incorporated into our performance set to other carnival tunes of the early Renaissance.

francesco petrarca or petrarch

The music chosen to illustrate the Trionfi runs the gamut of musical styles of the 1500s, from light-hearted “frottole” and carnival songs by Bartolomeo Tromboncino and others, through the rise of the polyphonic madrigal as cultivated by Cipriano da Rore and Orlando di Lasso, to Francesco Cavaliere and the beginnings of monody. Some pieces are actual settings of passages of Petrarch’s poem itself, including Wert’s “Nel tempo che rinnuova,” the anonymous “Dura legge d’amor” and Lassus’ “Passan vostri triumph.’ Portions of the Trionfo di Morte are sung to 16th-century melodic formulae designed for reciting terza rima or other kinds of verse.

Finally, attesting to its popularity, many characters and themes of the Trionfi are featured in songs and madrigals of the 16th century, including the frottole “Nui siam tutti amartelati,” “Alla guerra” and “Huom terren caduco et frale”; and the early monody by Cavaliere “Il tempo fugue.” The lauda (devotional song) collected by Serafino Razzi, “Dolce Dio,” reflects in its simplicity the poet’s final vision of a world conquered by Eternity, in which Time stands still. In the midst of this vision of Eternity, we rejoice with Claudio Monteverdi‘s setting of Psalm 116.

Program notes by Grant Herreid (below)

Grant Herreid

Are there other sessions, guest lectures and certain performers, performances or programs that you especially recommend to the general public?

Paul: This will be a great summer to explore all things Italian with a special emphasis on poetry and painting. Music is always at the center of things at the Madison Early Music Festival, but there were so many other cultural and philosophical developments that this will be a great summer to learn about other aspects of Italian culture.

Cheryl: This is a difficult question to answer, because I am so enthusiastic about everything we have to offer this summer! That said, everyone should be aware that there are new artists at MEMF this summer.

The Toronto Consort is new to MEMF, as is the group Trefoil (below), a hearty trio of medieval minstrels! On Friday, July 18, in Music Hall, Trefoil (at bottom in a YouTube video playing 13th-century Spanish music at a concert on Wall Street) will be performing their program “Dio Mio! That’s Amore!” that features musical works of the trecento and the Italian fixation upon love.

Trefoil

Countertenors Drew Minter (below top) and Mark Rimple (below middle) and soprano Marcia Young (below bottom) have appeared with leading early music ensembles around the country, and it’s the first time we’ve had two countertenors appear on one program.

drew minter

Mark Rimple with lute

Marcia Young

There are special lectures on Monday and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to noon that are not repeated as pre-concert lectures, but all the daytime lectures from 11 a.m. to noon are FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.

Several University of Wisconsin-Madison professors will be lecturers, including John W. Barker (below), Professor Emeritus of History, who has written music criticism for Isthmus and The Well-Tempered Ear.  Besides the lectures, we have a fun dance event with a live band, featuring dances of the Italian Renaissance. (Costumes are welcome!) The European court dance specialist will be teaching the dances, and she is a delightful presence, all week long!

John-Barker

Please check out our web site to get full descriptions about everything that is happening: www.madisonearlymusic.com

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Cheryl: The electrical system in Mills Concert Hall is being overhauled this summer, and this has been our biggest obstacle. We almost used the Wisconsin Union Theater, which would have been really exciting, because we would have been the first group in there after the renovations at the Union. But the cost was prohibitive.

So we decided to use Luther Memorial Church (below top) for the Saturday, July 12, Toronto Consort performance, the Sunday, July 13, LIBER concert, and the final All-Festival Concert on Saturday, July 19. We will be in Music Hall (below bottom) for the other concerts; Ex Umbris on Tuesday, July 15; the second annual Handel Aria Competition on Thursday, July 17; and Trefoil on Friday, July 18.

luther memorial church madison

MusicHall2

The singers in the finals of the second Handel Aria Competition (below is a photo of the first competition last year that featured just a harpsichord accompaniment) will be accompanied by a small instrumental ensemble this year. We had a higher number of applicants this year from all over the country and several from Europe.

Handel arias Winnie Nieh

Also, Piffaro (below), the Renaissance Wind Band, will have their only performance in Edgerton at the Wartmann Prairie, on Friday, July 11, which will benefit the Edgerton Arts Council. MEMF artists have appeared on this benefit concert for the past 11 years. William Wartmann, a great patron of the arts in Rock and Dane counties, invited us to start this series and help raise scholarship funds for students in the Edgerton area to attend summer music programs.

piffaro indoors

Paul: Since this is our 15th year, we will be celebrating some of our past events and planning for new things in the future. We are excited about several new developments that we feel will set us up well for the next 15 years.


Classical music: The weeklong Madison Early Music Festival gets more national attention as it marks 15 years. The festival kicks off on Saturday and focuses on Italian early music and art from 1300 to 1600. Part 1 of 2.

July 7, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Can it really be 15 years already?

The Madison Early Music Festival began as a dream and an experiment. But it has endured, survived and prospered. This summer it marks its 15th anniversary with a focus on Italian music from 1300 to 1600. The theme is called “Italia Mia.”

memf banner 2014

This year’s installment starts on this coming Saturday, July 12, and runs through the following Saturday, July 19. It features many of the traditional things such as workshops, lectures and public concerts. But it also features new out-of-town groups and only the second annual Handel Aria Competition, which has been enhanced.

Venues are perhaps the biggest challenge this year, given the upgrading of Mills Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

Here is a link to the festival’s home website for information about tickets, events, programs and performers:

http://continuingstudies.wisc.edu/conferences/madison-early-music-festival/index.html?source=madisonearlymusic.org

To get things straight, and to provide both some history and a larger context, The Ear asked baritone Paul Rowe and his soprano wife Cheryl Bensman Rowe -– who are the co-artistic directors of the Madison Early Music Festival -– to do an email Q&A for this blog.

They graciously agreed, and the results will be posted in two parts, today and tomorrow.

Handel arias Paul and Cheryl Rowe

How successful is this year’s festival compared to others in terms of enrollment, budgets, guest performers, ticket sales, media interest, etc.? This is the 15th anniversary of MEMF. After 15 years, is MEMF clearly established now nationally or even internationally?

Cheryl: We have been getting more attention in the national press, and we continue to feature ensembles and artists from Europe and Canada. This year the Toronto Consort — seen below and heard at the bottom in a YouTube video of Italian music and art from the period that MEMF will cover — will open the festival with their program “The Da Vinci Codex,” which features Italian Music from the musical world of Leonardo Da Vinci.

Toronto Consort

Leonardo da Vinci

In May, the blog Deceptive Cadence from NPR Classical mentioned MEMF 2014 as a “Can’t Miss Classical Music Festivals” in the Midwest region.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/05/01/307968750/10-cant-miss-classical-music-festivals.

MEMF was again the only Wisconsin music festival listed on May 14, 2014 in the The New York Times story “Birds Aren’t The Only Music Amid Nature.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/18/arts/music/birds-arent-the-only-music-amid-nature.html

Besides the attention in the press, we are well-known in early music circles. Our performers and faculty are also hired by many well-established festivals, including the Berkeley Early Music Festival, Boston Early Music Festival (below), Amherst Early Music Festival, Oberlin Baroque Performance Institute and others.

Boston Early Music Festival boston early music festival overview hall

What is new and what is the same in terms of format, students, faculty members and guest performers?

Paul: This year we are adding two new intensive workshops that will run concurrently with MEMF. One is focused on wind instruments that will form a loud band and be led by Robert Wiemken (below top) of Pifarro.

There are eight people in the loud band intensive class who play sackbut, shawm, dulcien and other instruments (below bottom). The other is a Baroque opera workshop that will be led by Drew Minter, Christa Patton and me.

Bob Wiemken

MEMF 14 2013 Piffaro instruments

We will use music from the operas “Orfeo” and “The Coronation of Poppea” by Claudio Monteverdi (below) as source material to explore Baroque gesture and dance as well as ornamentation and stylistic singing. We have 15 singers who will be taking this workshop. The two intensive classes will present an informal performance on Saturday afternoon, July 19, at 2 p.m.

monteverdi

Why was the topic of the Italian music 1300-1600 chosen for the early music festival? What composers and works will be highlighted?

Paul: We wanted to have a broader historical focus this year in order to include very early instruments and music as well as the larger format pieces that are a feature of the later Renaissance and early Baroque.

The most famous composer of this period is Claudio Monteverdi, but there are many others. Italy was really the hub of poetry and music for all of Western culture during the time period we are considering. The poetry of Petrarch (below) will provide the focus for the All-Festival Concert this year. This is the era of Boccaccio and Dante as well as Petrarch.

francesco petrarca or petrarch

Tomorrow: What makes early music in Italy different?  What will the All-Festival Concert next Saturday night be like? What is new about the second annual Handel Aria Competition and the new FREE noontime lectures?

 

 


Classical music: Mikko Utevsky and the Madison Youth Area Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO) show a growing maturity of technique and interpretation in music by Mozart, Copland and Prokofiev.

June 24, 2013
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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 hosts an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT 88.9 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

As a point of context, I note that on Thursday evening I returned from New England after attending the Boston Early Music Festival, where world-class artistry so saturates the air that one can almost cut it (with a bow or a reed).  I arrived just in time for the weekend in Madison.

To some that might sound like a descent from Parnassus into the boondocks. But it is hardly so at all. I returned to two successive evenings of concerts that could make any community proud – the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (below, in Mills Hall) on Friday night and the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society on Saturday night.

MAYCO playing

The concert on Friday evening, June 21, had particular significance as it symbolized one of the things that makes Madison so special: its capacity for nurturing young talent.

The proof of that was the first of the two concerts being given this summer by the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO) in Music Hall on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. This ensemble, now in its third performing season, is the creation of the remarkable Mikko Utevsky (below), who has just completed his freshman year studying viola and conducting at the UW School of Music.

(For background here is a link to a Q&A Utevsky did for this blog: https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/classical-music-qa-conductor-violist-mikko-utevsky-discusses-his-first-year-at-the-university-of-wisconsin-madison-school-of-music-and-the-lessons-he-brings-to-the-concert-friday-night-by-the-ma/)

Mikko Utevsky with baton

Already a seasoned player, Utevsky is also a conductor of growing experience.  And he is a musician of enterprise, having drawn together young music students of high school and college age to produce a working orchestra.

Thirty-two players (below) were his resource this time, and they showed a seriousness of commitment that was palpable. There were rough patches of playing, for sure, but Utevsky has been able, in a short time with limited rehearsal opportunities, to forge them into a thoroughly credible, and creditable, ensemble.

MAYCO orchestra close up

His program this time was both intelligent and (deliberately, I suspect) challenging.

He opened with the suite that Aaron Copland drew from his film score for “Our Town.”  It is music that sounds so soothing and relaxed, but it demands great suavity of ensemble.  This was managed well, with some particularly fine work from the woodwinds.

Following that came Serge Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf.” This is so easy and entertaining to listen to that one assumes that it is easy and just fun to play.  But the composer not only has an ear for orchestral colors but also for very tricky instrumental techniques.

Once again, the woodwind players achieved high standards, but the full group was alert to what was asked of them, under the steady and intelligent control provided by the conductor.  The narration was provided, in a warm story-telling style, by Lori Skelton (below) of Wisconsin Public Radio.

Lori Skelton

Following the intermission came the program’s crown jewel, Mozart’s “Sinfonia concertante” in E-flat for violin and viola, K. 364. This is arguably one of the composer’s greatest concerted works, an absolute masterpiece of invention and expression, especially in its moving slow movement.

In this work, the orchestra sounded best prepared, and it had as soloists two local stalwart professionals: violinist Eugene Purdue (below top) and violist Diedre Buckley Below bottom, in a photo by Katrin Talbot). For all involved, performers and audience, this was an artistically satisfying rendition of great music.

Eugene Purdue 1 Thomas C. Stringfellow

Deidre Buckley Katrin Talbot

In all, this concert was a renewed tribute to Utevsky, as conductor and as ensemble builder. He is clearly a musician with a future and certainly what Madison can be so proud of.

The second MAYCO concert will be on Friday, Aug. 9, at 7:30 p.m. in Music Hall. It will feature music by those great masters Beethoven, Haydn, and Jerry Hui (below) — oh yes, he’s another Madison product to be proud of!

Jerry Hui


Classical music: What does it feel like to hold, play and hear Mozart’s own violin and viola? America just had its first chance ever to find out. Here’s a report.

June 22, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

If you want some idea of what a prodigious talent the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791, below) was, you might recall not only his enormous amount of music in 35 years with such a high percentage of masterpieces, or his astonishing virtuosity as a keyboard player (he composed all and premiered most of his 27 piano concertos).

You might also recall that he was an outstanding violinist — his oppressively ambitious father Leopold said that his son could have become the best violinist in Europe with some more effort and work – and also a violist who loved to pay the viola in the same string quartet where fellow composer Franz Joseph Haydn played the violin.

mozart big

Anyway, for more than 200 years Mozart’s instruments have been stored in a museum in Mozart’s hometown of Salzburg, Austria.

But the instruments were recently brought to the United State for the first time in history and appeared at the Boston Early Music Festival. (That is also where the University of Wisconsin-Madison duo Ensemble SDG, featuring keyboard John Chappell Stowe and baroque violinist Edith Hines, performed an all-Heinrich Bieber concert.)

Hearing about the unusual security measures taken for the trip to guarantee their security – including separate airplane flights — is fascinating.

But most fascinating of all is a first-person account of what it feels like to hold and play and listen Mozart’s own string instruments, which generally featured mellowness rather than brilliance.

You can hear about it all on NPR’s great classical music blog “Deceptive Cadence” and through writer Anastasias Tsioulcas’ experience with Mozart’s own string instruments. (Below is a photo by Kathy Wittman of Amandine Beyer holding the violin backstage in Boston during the festival.)

amandine_beyer_violin

Here is a link. Do yourself a favor listen to it — don’t just read the transcript. I hope that you enjoy it and that it enhance even further (deeper?) your opinion of Wolfie:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/06/14/190975113/playing-mozart-on-mozarts-violin

And here is a link to a live performance on Mozart’s own:

http://www.npr.org/event/music/191709140/mozarts-violin-comes-to-boston-live-in-concert

Of course, possessing a fine instrument doesn’t guarantee being a great composer. But Mozart could play his own works, including the Violin Concerto No. 3, which you can hear below with Hilary Hahn in a YouTube video that has had more than a million hits:


Classical music: You can hear six of Heinrich Biber’s early Baroque “Mysteries of the Rosary” partitas for violin and organ this Saturday night when the Madison-based early music duo Ensemble SDG gives a preview performance of its appearance at next week’s Boston Early Music Festival.

June 6, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

Madison has a lot of classical music, especially for a city its size, and it also has a good amount of early music events and performers that include the Madison Early Music Festival, the Madison Bach Musicians, Eliza’s Toyes, the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble and many others.

One of the lesser known but outstanding group is the Madison-based early music ensemble Ensemble SDG (below), which is inviting the public to a concert this Saturday, June 8, at 7:30 p.m. in Luther Memorial Church (below), 1021 University Avenue in Madison.

luther memorial church madison

The concert is entitled: “Youth, Power, and Wisdom: Biber’s Pictures of the Life of Christ.” The program will comprise six of partitas on the Mysteries of the Rosary by the Baroque composer Heinrich Biber (below): To be performed are Nos. I (The Annunciation, in a popular YouTube video at the bottom), IV (The Presentation), X (The Crucifixion), XI (The Resurrection), XII (The Ascension), and XIII (The Descent of the Holy Spirit).

The partitas, surviving in a manuscript from the 1680s, are unique examples of musical representation of historical events central to Christianity.

Heinrich Biber

This recital is a “preview” for a performance on the Boston Early Music Festival Fringe Concert Series at First Lutheran Church of Boston. That program will double as a demonstration recital for violin makers who will display their work at the BEMF Exhibition. The Boston Early Music Festival runs from 9 to June 16. Here is a link to the festival’s homepage: http://www.bemf.org

There is no admission charge for the SDG concert, but voluntary contributions to offset the expenses of the concert and the tour to Boston will be very much appreciated.

Boston Early Music Festival

Ensemble SDG – for “Soli Deo Gloria” or Latin for “To the glory of God alone,” which is what J.S. Bach write at the end of many of his manuscripts – is made up of (below) organist and harpsichordist John Chappell Stowe, who teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Baroque violinist Edith Hines, who graduated from the UW-Madison School of Music with a specialty in early music and performs often in the Madison area.

Ensemble SDG Stowe, Hines 2

In this Madison program, Edith Hines will play several of the violins she will be demonstrating at BEMF, and John Chappell Stowe will play the church’s portative organ built by Gene Bedient.  The duo will be joined by Philip Spray (below) on a “violone”  crafted in emulation of 17th-century German models.

Philip Spray


Classical music review: British soprano Amy Haworth brings her outstanding voice to Madison in Baroque arias and Schubert songs.

October 12, 2012
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REMINDER: This Sunday in Mills Hall, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Concert Band and the University Bands — the first directed by  Scott Teeple  (below) and the second by Justin Stolarik and Matthew Mireles — will perform FREE concerts at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., respectively. The Concert Band  will perform works by Del Borgo, Jacob, Chance, Holst and Nixon. Sorry, no word about the program for the University Bands.

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 hosts an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT 88.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the MadisonEarly Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.

By John W. Barker

Save for the astute scrutiny of Jake Stockinger and his Ear, a striking young artist has stolen into town, otherwise under most everyone’s radar, for a pair of exciting concerts.

The artist is the British soprano Amy Haworth (below), brought to the upper Midwest through the auspices of Trevor Stephenson, founder and director of the Madison Bach Musicians.

Stephenson first heard Haworth a few years ago when, at the Boston Early Music Festival, he singled her out among members of the famous Tallis Scholars chamber choir. Excited by her talents, he negotiated for her to work with him in what has become now a complex of activities. This is built around a series of their appearances in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois during the month of October, offering a pair of concert programs.

These programs were showcased in Madison in recent days. Last Saturday night at the First Unitarian Society, Haworth presented one of these programs, with the backing of Stephenson on harpsichords and Chicago gamba-player Anna Steinhoff (below).

The two instrumentalists each had their solo moments, but the concentration was on Haworth’s singing of short selections by Baroque composers ranging from Luzzasco Luzzaschi and Giulio Caccini of the late 16th century, through Monteverdi, Caldara, Cesti, the two Scarlattis, and Purcell, of the 17th and early 18th centuries, culminating in examples from J. S. Bach and Handel.

Then, on this past Wednesday evening, Haworth and Stephenson gave their second program, devoted entirely to Lieder of Schubert, and held at his home.

Haworth (below) is an example of the singers generated by early music-making in England — with Emma Kirkby as prime specimen of the type. Haworth’s experience in working with chamber choirs and vocal concerts has carried over into solo singing of a wide literature extending through the 19th century.

Her background experience is shown in her cultivation of the clear and “white,” vibrato-less singing now common in early music performance. But she has developed a technique, used variably, of attacking a note with a “straight,” almost piercing tone and then letting it blossom into carefully controlled vibrato.

Her sense of pitch is invariably spot-on, her diction is refined in any language, and her projection can be fitted to venues either small or large. Though successful in singing a Handel aria, she professes no interest in opera performance, Baroque or otherwise, preferring concert work.

Particularly endearing was her singing of Schubert with Stephenson. He has experimented before with accompanying that composer’s Lieder on the fortepiano, the early keyboard model expanded eventually into the modern concert grand.

But the lighter, more deft and delicate sound-world of the fortepiano (below) gives a whole meaning to such music. The singer no longer has to fight the power of the later instrument and can enjoy the intimate balance and more silvery tone of the earlier one. With Haworth Stephenson has found a perfect partner for the kind of music-making that Schubert himself relished in his “Schubertiad” evenings with his friends.

But there is more.

In addition to giving these two performances in Madison, and to the carrying them on tour this month, the ever-resourceful Stephenson has used the opportunity to add two new recordings to his Light and Shadow label. The 24 vocal items of the Baroque Songs and Arias program has already been recorded and just now released. And the program of 17 Schubert songs heard at the house concert are about to be recorded, for imminent release.

Finally, a word should be said about the house concert idea itself. House concerts have become quite common in our musical life these days, many of them designed for promotional and fund-raising purposes. But, for some years now, Stephenson has been presenting a season of offerings in his home, parallel to his season with the Madison Bach Musicians.

For these domestic concerts, Stephenson has sometimes brought other musicians to join him, but mostly he gives programs by himself on harpsichord or piano, regularly on some theme or on the music of a given composer.

Stephenson (below, explaining the action of the fortepiano) has developed a practice of giving pre-concert talks at the MBM events, and he extends the idea for the house concerts, filling them with both insightful commentary and witty charm.

These programs are open to the public by reservation, since space is limited to about 40 people each time. For those who have become habituated to them, they are among the special delights of Madison’s variegated musical life.

Stephenson’s MBM has two public appearances ahead, on Dec. 14-15 and April 20-21, while dates for further house concerts are pending. Information on events, and on recordings, may be had at www.trevorstephenson.com


Classical music: Madison’s early music duo Ensemble SDG explores the rarely heard music of Johann Georg Pisendel and his Baroque contemporaries with outstanding results.

October 1, 2012
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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 hosts an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT 88.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the MadisonEarly Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.

By John W. Barker

The motto “Soli Deo gloria” (Glory [be] to God Alone) was once a familiar one to musicians, and was used very frequently by J.S. Bach as the sign-off to manuscripts of his sacred works. John Eliot Gardiner and his Monteverdi Choir have created a recording label using this SDG motto.

The Ensemble SDG (below) in Madison consists of violinist Edith Hines and harpsichordist John Chappell (“Chappy”) Stowe. Hines, trained in both period and modern playing at the University of Wisconsin School of Music, among other places, has been serving with the two local orchestras, plus the Madison Bach Musicians and other groups for some years. Stowe is the well-established professor of organ and harpsichord, who is expert in early keyboard music.

They formed this duo in 2009 and have been giving regular concerts here and elsewhere, including at the Boston Early Music Festival. They seem to relish exploring together Baroque music both familiar and unjustly neglected. Their concert on the UW campus on Saturday evening exemplified their collegial enterprise.

The program was an unusually well-focused one. Under the title of “Music of Dresden in the Time of Johann Georg Pisendel,” they sampled the connections and assimilative efforts of a major music center at a pivotal time in late Baroque musical development.

Pisendel (1687-1755) was an almost exact contemporary of J.S. Bach, who was a personal friend and colleague. Pisendel travelled extensively, especially in Italy, where he met many masters and absorbed much.

The program opened with a four-movement Sonata in G minor, and closed with a three-movement Sonata in D, adapted from a violin concerto of his own. These two, among his many compositions, show his style as a kind of fusion of Bach and Vivaldi, bringing to his Dresden center a remarkable degree of Italianate passion and exuberance.

Other works were linked to Pisendel and his Dresden world. A four-movement Sonata in B-flat by Tomaso Albinoni (below) was a gift to him from the composer, and possibly composed explicitly for him. A four-movement Sonata in F, Op. 1, No. 7, reveals a French virtuoso striving to sound Italian, with much success. Pisendel copied out this work personally, as part of his exploration of different styles of the moment and their possible interaction.

Most curious was a six-movement Suite in A by the lutenist Silvius Leopold Weiss (below, 1686-1750), a Pisendel colleague at Dresden and also a friend of Bach. The latter took this suite, transcribed the lute writing for keyboard, superimposed a violin part on top, and added an opening movement entirely of his own. (For this, Stowe shifted to a “Lautenwerk” harpsichord that parallels lute sound.) In this one could hear the more stiff German style of Baroque Saxony, though perhaps unfairly represented in a work that did not quite crystallize coherently.

The duo brought off this unusual and rarely heard literature with flair. Hines was breathtaking in her command of the wild virtuosity for which Pisendel was famous as a player and which he build into his compositions. In general, her pure, vibrato-less playing took on also, it seemed to me, a new strength and projecting power. And “Chappy,” as always, was the understanding and expert partner.

The usual printed program, be it noted, was augmented by a sheet of extensive and excellent notes on Pisendel and the music.

Once again, the concert proved a reminder of Madison’s vibrant musical life in general, and of its early music scene in particular.


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