The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: What makes the 25th anniversary season of the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society special? The three-week annual summer season opens this Friday night and runs for the next three weekends in Madison, Stoughton and Spring Green.

June 7, 2016
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

The big classical music event this week is the opening of the 25th anniversary season of the Madison-based Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society.

BDDS 25th poster

It was co-founded and is still co-directed by pianist Jeffrey Sykes, who graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and now teaches at the University of California-Berkeley; and by Stephanie Jutt, professor of flute at the UW-Madison School of Music who is also principal flute of the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

Here is a link to the BDDS website with information about tickets, programs, venues and performers:

http://www.bachdancinganddynamite.org

Recently, Jutt (below) spoke to The Ear about the upcoming season, which runs June 10-26:

StephanieJuttNoCredit

“This silver anniversary season has something for everybody, and we’ve made it extra special in every way, with personnel, with repertoire and with audience favorites that we’re bringing back.

“In the first week, we have two short pieces by our featured composer, Kevin Puts “Air for Flute and Piano” and “Air for Violin and Piano,” and the world premiere of “In at the Eye: Six Love Songs on Yeats’ Poetry,” a piece we co-commissioned, with several other participating festivals, from the American composer Kevin Puts (below).

We commissioned him just before he won the Pulitzer Prize, luckily for us! We have performed several works by him in the past (“Einstein on Mercer Street,” “Traveler” and “Seven Seascapes”), and he will be here for the premiere performances at the Overture Playhouse and the Hillside Theater at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesen compound in Spring Green.

(NOTE: Composer Kevin Puts will speak about “How Did You Write That?” at the FREE family concert on this coming Saturday, to be held 11-11:45 a.m. in The Playhouse of the Overture Center.)

Kevin Puts pulitzer

“In Week 2, we have three crazy, inspired works by Miguel del Aguila (below), a Uruguayan composer from Montevideo, who now lives in Los Angeles, that we commissioned and premiered. We’ll be performing “Salon Buenos Aires,” the piece that we commissioned, along with “Presto II” and “Charango Capriccioso.”

Miguel del Aguila

During Week Two, we are also bringing back the amazing pianist, arranger and raconteur Pablo Zinger (below), also originally from Uruguay and a longtime New Yorker, to perform his arrangements of movie music by Nino Rota, Henry Mancini and others, as well as some of Pablo’s brilliant arrangements of tangos by Astor Piazzolla.

Pablo Zinger at piano

“In Week 3, we are bringing back the “Four Seasons of Buenos Aires” by Astor Piazzolla and the “Four Seasons” by Antonio Vivaldi. People have begged us to repeat this program for years. It’s one of the most thrilling programs we’ve done, and this seems like the perfect time to return to this beloved repertoire. (You can hear the Summer section of Piazzolla’s Four Season of Buenos Aires in the youTube video at the bottom.)

“In the same Week Three, you will also hear some favorite works, the Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 by Johann Sebastian Bach and, in Week 1, Franz Schubert’s final song cycle, “Schwanengesang” (Swan Songs”) with one of our favorite artists, bass-baritone Timothy Jones (below top). That third week also features the Ravel Piano Trio with the San Francisco Trio (below bottom), comprised of Axel Strauss on violin, Jean-Michel Fontaneau on cello, and JeffreySykes on piano.

Timothy Jones posed portrait

BDDS 2014 San Francisco Trio

“We wanted to repeat special things and also do new pieces. Some of the music has links to the number 25 for our 25th anniversary – like Opus 25 for the Piano Quartet by Johannes Brahms or the Piano Concerto No. 25 by Mozart.

“We’re spending a lot more on artist fees this summer – it increases our budget by a lot, but it makes for a very special 25th season. We will have special mystery guests and special door prizes, as we love to do, and some special audience participation activities. (Below is a standing ovation from the audience at The Playhouse.)

BDDS 2014 Playhouse standing ovation

“Did we think we would reach 25 years when we started? Of course not! We didn’t even think we’d reach two. It was started on such a lark.

“But the festival resonated with the summer audience and has every single year. I think we’ve been a success because listeners love to approach serious music with a light touch. You don’t have to behave very seriously to play serious music in a serious way. Artists from all over the United States come to play with the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society and it’s what draws them back year after year.

“We make a huge effort to make the music approachable, for ourselves as well as the audience. We talk about the music itself, about what it is like to learn it, and what it’s like to be together in such an intense way during the festival.

“We try to share the whole experience with the audience, and it’s something you just don’t find anywhere else. The concert doesn’t just go on in front of you, presented on a fancy plate. It surrounds you and you are a part of it.”


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
Leave a Comment

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.


Classical music: A FREE musical tribute to the French avant-garde composer and conductor Pierre Boulez is this Friday night at 8 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall. Plus, Saturday brings the Winterfest concerts by the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO)

March 16, 2016
Leave a Comment

ALERT: This Saturday will see the annual Winterfest concerts by the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Some 400 student musicians will take part. The special guest is bassoonist Nancy Goeres (below), an alumna of WYSO from 1966 to 1970, who now performs professionally with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Music by Johann Stamitz, Francois Joseph Gossec, Franz Joseph Haydn, Jean Sibelius, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Emmanuel Chabrier, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Witold Lutoslawski and Duke Ellington will be performed,  Here is a link to the lists of impressive programs and performers:

http://www.wysomusic.org/dianne-endres-ballweg-winterfest-concert-series/

nancy goeres

By Jacob Stockinger

UW-Madison faculty members bassoonist Marc Vallon and saxophonist-composer Les Thimmig will lead a FREE musical tribute to the French avant-garde composer and conductor Pierre Boulez (below) this Friday night a 8 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall.

Pierre Boulez obit portrait

Boulez, who frequently conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and served as music director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, died recently.

Here is a link with more background about Boulez, including an essay by UW professor Marc Vallon (below, in a  photo by James Gill), who worked with Boulez:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/?s=boulez

Marc Vallon 2011 James Gill (baroque & modern)[2]

Called “Le Domaine Musical,” the event will also feature other UW-Madison faculty members and student musicians.

They include violist Sally Chisholm, violinist Soh-Hyun Park Altino, flutist Stephanie Jutt, organist/keyboardist, John Chappell Stowe, hornist Daniel Grabois, pianist Christopher Taylor as well as cellist Martha Vallon, Micah Behr, Thalia Coombs, Ivana Ugrcic, Joanna Schulz, Dave Alcorn, Kai-Ju Ho, Sarah Richardson, Michel Shestak, Rosalie Gilbert and the Hunt String Quartet (Paran Amirinazari, Clayton Tillotson, Blakeley Menghini and Andrew Briggs)

Music will include the following composers: Pierre Boulez, Anton Webern, Claude Debussy and Johann Sebastian Bach

Here is the complete program:

Pierre Boulez (1925-2016) – Dérive 1 for 6 instruments (1984) — Heard in a YouTube video at the bottom as performed by the same group, the Ensemble Intercontemporain, that Boulez founded and led for many years in Paris.

Pierre Boulez (1925-2016) – Notations for piano (1946)

Anton Webern (1883-1945) Six Bagatelles for string quartet, Op. 9

Anton Webern (1883-1945) – Drei Gesänge (Three Songs) aus “Viae inviae” von Hildegard Jone, Op. 23

Claude Debussy (1962-1918) – Three Poems of Stéphane Mallarmé

Claude Debussy (1962-1918) Sonate for flute, viola and harp (1904). Pastorale: Lento, dolce rubato; Interlude: Tempo di Minuetto; Finale. Allegro moderato ma risoluto

Short Webern style intermission

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 (no marking) –Adagio ma non tanto- Allegro

Pierre Boulez (1925-2016) Mémoriale (…explosante fixe… Originel) for solo flute and eight instruments (1985)


Classical music: Just a reminder that Friday night the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra again hosts virtuoso flutist Dionne Jackson in music of Bach and Carl Nielsen plus works by Respighi and Haydn

February 16, 2016
Leave a Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

This is a very busy week for classical music in Madison.

But today The Ear wants to remind you of a stand-out concert by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below) on Friday night at 8 p.m. in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center.

Tickets are $15-$80.

WCO lobby

The virtuoso flutist Dionne Jackson (below) — who now teaches at the University of Connecticut — will solo with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra under the baton of its longtime music director and conductor Andrew Sewell.

This marks Jackson’s first return to the WCO since her debut in 2000, when she wowed the crowd with her performance of the snappy and colorful Flute Concerto by the French composer Jacques Ibert.

This time she is performing the Flute Concerto by the Danish composer Carl Nielsen as well as the Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 by Johann Sebastian Bach. (You can hear it performed in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Dionne Jackson

To top off the varied program of 18th-, 19th- and 20th-century composers – such eclecticism is a hallmark of Sewell’s programming – the WCO will perform the “Ancient Airs and Dances” Suite No. 1, based on lute music of the 16th century, by the Italian composer Ottorino Respighi.

The WCO’s finale will be the Symphony No. 79 in F Major by Franz Joseph Haydn, whose underappreciated output is quickly becoming a specialty of Maestro Sewell (below) – something to rejoice over since Haydn is, according to American composer John Harbison, easily the most neglected on the great composers.

andrewsewell

Here is more information about the concert, the performers, tickets, the pre-concert dinner and the repertoire:

http://www.wcoconcerts.org/performances/masterworks-iii-1/


Classical music education: For 75 years, here is how the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Tanglewood Festival, where composer John Harbison teaches, emphasizes new music and teaches young composers and student performers.

August 29, 2015
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

This is the closing weekend of this summer’s Token Creek Festival.

The closing “Buoyant Baroque” program, featuring the Lydian Quartet and others performing music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Arcangelo Corelli and Georg Frideric Handel among others, will be performed tonight at 8 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. (The Ear sees that Sunday’s performance is sold out, but you should check for yourself. Sometimes spots open up form cancellations.)

Here is a link to find out more:

http://tokencreekfestival.org

American composer John Harbison (below top) is the co-founder and co-artistic director of the festival along with his violinist wife Rose Mary Harbison (below bottom).

JohnHarbisonatpiano

RosemaryHarbison

Harbison is a very accomplished man and musician. He has played the piano this summer for the festival, and he is also a preeminent contemporary composer who teaches at MIT. He has won a Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur genius grant among his many honors. And at the Token Creek Festival, he is the most enlightening commentator on composers and specific works that The Ear has ever heard.

So it seemed a good time to bring to your attention a story done by NPR or National Public Radio about the Tanglewood Festival of the Boston Symphony Orchestra since it features John Harbison as a major source and interview. This summer the festival turned 75.

Harbison is, after all, the co-director – with fellow composer Michael Gandolfi — of the composing program at Tanglewood Music Center, which is where he often premieres his own new works and where he was busy working just before he came to Madison for the Token Creek Festival.

The Ear finds it interesting to hear how, ever since the festival’s beginning, the creativity of young composers and young performers has always been cultivated and encouraged, with an emphasis on creating new music and keeping the classical music world vibrant and current.

Below is a photo of this summer’s world premiere of a new work by Michael Gandolfi, with famed soprano Dawn Upshaw (on the far right in purple) working with student performers.

http://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2015/08/15/432242280/at-75-tanglewoods-student-program-holds-focus-on-new-music-and-people-making-it

Tanglewood at 75 dawn upshaw


Classical music: The Lydian String Quartet of Boston returns this Thursday night to the Token Creek Festival to perform two contemporary works and a quartet by Felix Mendelssohn. On Sunday, they will perform Baroque works.

August 25, 2015
Leave a Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear’s friends at the Token Creek Festival write:

The Token Creek Festival is pleased to announce the return to Madison of the Lydian String Quartet from Boston on this Thursday night, Aug. 27, at 8 p.m. The Lydians last appeared at Token Creek in 1999, for a pair of outstanding concerts with the soprano Benita Valente.

The Lydian’s recital features two string quartets by two contemporary composers whose work they have championed for many years — Lee Hyla and John Harbison — along with the Mendelssohn Quartet in E flat, Op. 12 (1829).

The Lydian Quartet (below) has performed a large number of new pieces. Their Token Creek program includes two that were composed within a four-year span, but which speak two very different American musical languages.

Lydian Quartet USE

Both Hyla’s Quartet No. 3 (1989), commissioned by Chamber Music America, and Harbison’s Quartet No. 3 (1993), commissioned by Brandeis University, are single-movement works.

The work by Lee Hyla (below, in a photo by Mark Wilson for The Boston Globe) begins consonantly and reflectively, with a ravishingly beautiful homophonic passage that haunts much of the subsequent music. (You can hear the haunting Hyla work played by the Lydian Quartet in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

The work traverses a wide terrain and gradually branches out into a discourse that is hardly inferable from its opening strains, and that ultimately leads to a major climax and a quiet, inevitable conclusion.

Lee Hyla CR Mark Wilson Boston Globe

The quartet by John Harbison (below) is hymnodic, rarely contrapuntal, and sustains its central musical declaration throughout, with the exception of two  “out of the blue,” unexplained interludes.

The BBC Music Magazine called the piece “a fascinating, alluring, and moving musical argument,” and the Boston Globe considers it one of Harbison’s finest works, an important addition to the repertory for the string quartet. . . The moods are volatile and wide‑ranging ‑ intimate, public, ferocious, suave, passionate, masked, fleeting and sustained.”

John Harbison MIT

The string quartets by Felix Mendelssohn (below) are among his finest and most striking compositions. They reconcile classical models with romantic passion.

Mendelssohn’s admiration of Ludwig van Beethoven shines brightly in this work. It is lovely music throughout, ebullient and euphonious, and its third movement, the Canzonetta, is probably the single best-known chamber music movement in Mendelssohn’s output.

mendelssohn_300

In addition to their own recital, the Lydians will also appear on the closing concerts of the Token Creek Festival (Saturday, Aug. 29, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 30, at 4 p.m.). They will anchor a program of Baroque concerti (with some related smaller chamber pieces), including the irrepressible Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 by Johann Sebastian Bach as well as works by George Frideric Handel and Arcangelo Corelli.

Tickets are $30 ($10 for students) for all performances.

Tickets can be bought by using the order form at the Token Creek website www.tokencreekfestival.org, by phone at 608-241-2525, by email at info@tokencreekfestival.org, or by U.S. mail at P.O. Box 5201, Madison WI, 53705.

Performances take place at the Festival Barn, on Highway 19 near the hamlet of Token Creek (10 minutes north of Madison) with ample parking available. The venue, indoors and air-conditioned, is invitingly small—early reservations are recommended.

TokenCreekentrance

TokenCreekbarn interior

More information about the Token Creek Festival and all events can be found at the website, http://www.tokencreekfestival.org or by calling 608-241-2525.


Classical music: What if Johann Sebastian Bach had composed more of his popular “Brandenburg” Concertos? What might they look like and sound like? The Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble and guest artists from Chicago explore that possibility this Friday night.

May 21, 2014
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Few pieces of Baroque music, or of any classical music in any style from any period for that matter, are more beloved than the six secular “BrandenburgConcertos that Johann Sebastian Bach (below) composed when he was seeking a court appointment.

Bach1

So what is one to make of a concert called “Brandenburg X” this Friday night by the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble (below), a terrific early music ensemble that uses period instruments and  historically informed performance practices?

Does it mean “X” as in the alphabet or FX (a phonetic stand-in for fantasy-like special “effects”? Or does it mean 10 as in a number or sequence, or perhaps as used in algebra to represent an “unknown”?

Maybe all of those possibilities are correct.

If it sounds like something out of science fiction or something futuristic, well that isn’t far off the mark. That is because Brandenburg X is indeed experimental.

Madison Baroque Ensemble

The concert is this Friday night, May 23, at 7:30 p.m. in Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 1833 Regent Street, on Madison’s near west side, near Randall Elementary School.

St. Andrew's Episcopal Madison Front

The performers are Peter Lekx and Marika Fischer Hoyt on baroque violas; Eric Miller, Phillip W. Serna and Russell Wagner on bass viols; Eric Miller and Anton TenWolde on Baroque cellos); Marilyn Fung on violone; and Emily J. Katayama and Max Yount on harpsichords.

Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble composite

Tickets are available at the door only: Admission is $20; $10 for students.

The Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble and New Comma Baroque of Chicago (below) will explore Johann Sebastian Bach’s music for the Viola da Braccio, the Violoncello, and the Viola da Gamba.

New Comma Baroque

The program includes: Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 in B-flat major, BWV 1051 (heard in a YouTube video at the bottom); Brandenburg Concerto “No. 12” (arranged by Bruce Haynes and Susie Napper); the Sonata in G Major, BWV 1027/1039, in an arrangement for 3 violas da gamba; the Concerto in C Major for Two Harpsichords, BWV 1061a; and the Brandenburg Concerto “No. 7” in C minor, BWV 1029, as arranged by Duncan Druce.

Here are some program-like comments written by performer Anton TenWolde (below):

“We are very excited about our collaboration with the New Comma Baroque, based in Evanston, Illinois. The program is entitled “Brandenburg X: J.S. Bach’s Exploration of the Viola da Braccio (arm viola), the Violoncello and the Viola da Gamba (leg viola).”

“The idea for this concert was conceived when several members of our two groups met last spring to perform the sixth Brandenburg concerto with the Bach Collegium of Fort Wayne, Indiana. We all said after that concert: “This is wonderful! We wish Bach would have written more for this combination of instruments.”

Well, of course he did not, so we opted for the next best thing: compositions Bach could have written or arranged for these lower string instruments (violas, violas da gamba, cello, violone and harpsichord, without violins).

The program is set around three “Brandenburg” concertos.

We start with a “real” Brandenburg Concerto, No. 6, BWV1051 for two violas, two violas da gamba, cello, violone and harpsichord. This is followed by an arrangement by Bruce Haynes, “Brandenburg Concerto No. 12” created for Montreal Baroque, completely based on compositions by J.S. Bach. It incorporates Bach’s arias “Nur jedem das Seine”, BWV163; “Lass mein Herz die Munze sein, Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott“, BWV80; “Wie selig sind doch die, die Gott im Munde tragen”, and the Sinfonia from “Gleich wie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fallt,” BWV18. It is scored for 2 cellos, 2 violas da gamba, and basso.

The last “Brandenburg” concerto (Number “7”) is scored as Brandenburg No. 6: two violas, two violas da gamba, cello, violone, and harpsichord. It is based on the G minor sonata for viola da gamba and harpsichord (BWV 1029) and was arranged by Duncan Druce.

Some may frown on the practice of arranging Bach’s works for different instrumentations, but it is good to remember that Bach frequently re-arranged his own work, and that of other composers. Numerous cantata movements show up in different places, in different arrangements, sometimes in different keys. In fact, movements of the first Brandenburg concerto show up in three different cantatas, and Bach adapted the fourth Brandenburg into a harpsichord concerto. So the precedent has been set by the great master himself.

In addition to the Brandenburgs we will be performing Bach’s Sonata in G-Major, BWV1027/1039 arranged for three bass viols. This work originated as a trio sonata for two flutes and basso continuo (BWV1039), which Bach recast as a solo sonata for viola da gamba and harpsichord (BWV1027).

The program is rounded out with the Concerto for two Harpsichords, BWV1061a., as originally composed without an orchestral accompaniment.

-Anton TenWolde

anton tenwolde

For more information (608) 238-5126 or visit www.wisconsinbaroque.org or www.newcommabaroque.org.

Do you have a favorite “Brandenburg” Concerto?

The Ear wonders: Why doesn’t a compete cycle of J.S. Bach’s “Brandenburg” Concertos get performed by the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, the Madison Early Music Festival, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra or the Madison Symphony Orchestra? It is an annual holiday treat every year in New York City from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center — which uses modern instruments — and The Ear thinks it would be a big draw in Madison.

The Ear loves all of them, but especially prizes the busily virtuosic and exciting keyboard part in Brandenburg Concerto No. 5.

And you?

The Ear wants to hear.

div class=”zemanta-pixie” style=”margin-top: 10px; height: 15px;”>

Enhanced by Zemanta

Classical music: University of Wisconsin-Madison bassoonist Marc Vallon and saxophonist-clarinetist Les Thimmig will revive an homage to French composer and conductor Pierre Boulez in a FREE concert Friday evening that mixes Baroque and and new music.

March 31, 2014
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

Bassoonist Marc Vallon and saxophonist-clarinetist Les Thimmig, who both teach and perform at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, are emerging as two of the most interesting, eclectic faculty members, who display a variety of gifts and talents, at the UW School of Music.

Vallon (below, in a photo by James Gill) not only performs bassoon music from the Baroque and Classical eras, he is also a conductor who will lead two performances later this month of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Mass in B Minor” for the Madison Bach Musicians.

Marc Vallon 2011 James Gill (baroque & modern)[2]

Thimmig plays jazz as well as classics, and recently finished his three-concert exploration of trios by the American composer Morton Feldman.

Les Thimmig color

Here are the details that were sent by Marc Vallon to The Ear:

“Hi Jake,

“I thought I would let you know about my next musical adventure.

“In the 1960s, French composer and conductor Pierre Boulez (below) had a group, called Le Domaine Musical, that played contemporary music mixed with early music by Bach, Dufay and Guillaume de Machaut — unusual music for the time.

Pierre Boulez

“As an homage, Les Thimmig and I are reviving the concept in a FREE concert on this coming Friday, April 4, at 6:30 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall.

“The program will feature music by Alban Berg, Luciano Berio, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Boulez, and includes Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 on period instruments.

The program includes Four Pieces for Clarinet and Piano, Op.5 (1920), by Alban Berg (below top); Twelve Notations (1945, in a piano version performed by Maurizio Pollini in a YouTube video at the bottom) by Pierre Boulez (born 1925); “D’un geste apprivoisé” for bassoon and tape (1997) by Jose-Luis Campana  (born 1949); and ) “Sequenza VII” for oboe (1969) by Luciano Berio (below bottom, 1925-2003).

alban berg

Luciano Berio

After intermission, we will perform “Kontra-punkte for 10 instruments” (1953) by Karlheinz Stockhausen (below top, 1928-2007); and the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 (dedicated in 1721) by Johann Sebastian Bach (below bottom, 1685-1750).

karlheinz stockhausen knobs

 Bach1

There will be a presentation of the pieces and an introduction to “Kontra-Punkte” by Lee Blasius (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot), who teaches music theory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

Lee Blasius Katrin Talbot

The performers include: Mi-Li Chang, flute; Kirstin Ihde, piano; Sung Yang Sara Giusti, piano; Kai-Ju Ho, clarinet; Les Thimmig, bass clarinet; Mary Perkinson, Baroque and modern violin; Eric Miller, baroque and modern cello; Joe Greer, trombone; Jessica Jensen, trumpet; Rosalie Gilbert, harp; Ross Duncan, bassoon; Kangwon Kim and Nate Giglierano, baroque violin; Sally Chisholm, Ilana Schroeder and Erin Brooks, baroque viola; Martha Vallon, Anton ten Wolde, Baroque cello; John Chappell Stowe; harpsichord; and Marc Vallon, bassoon.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Classical music: This weekend’s concerts by the Madison Symphony Orchestra and returning violinist Henning Kraggerud offer a terrific mix of Classical-era Mozart and modernist Shostakovich. Plus, a UW-Madison horn and trombone duo, with electronics, plays a FREE concert tonight.

March 6, 2013
Leave a Comment

A REMINDER: Tonight, Wednesday, March 6, at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall,  the duo “Gretzler”  — made up of UW-Madison hornist Daniel Grabois (below) and UW-Madison trombonist Mark Hetzler will perform a FREE concert. The new electronica power duo combines the horn and trombone with electronics, both computer- and hardware-based. The program will feature “Volcano Songs” by Meredith Monk; “Available Forms” by Meyer Kupferman; “Videotape” by Radiohead; and “Love Meant Living” Alone by Daniel Grabois.

Daniel Grabois color use

By Jacob Stockinger

It is exactly my kind of programming: Putting very disparate or contrasting styles side-by-side, and it often proves irresistible.

The Madison Symphony Orchestra’s music director John DeMain (below) has done it before—one of the most memorable examples for me was his combining Haydn cello concerto with a massive Mahler symphony, and the last MSO concert combined Prokofiev and Beethoven. This weekend he is doing is again with the “Champagne and Vodka” program.

This time, Mozart is the champagne and Shostakovich is the vodka. But you don’t even have to be a drinker to get intoxicated by this music.

John DeMain conducting 2

This weekend, DeMain and the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) team up with the quiet but forceful Norwegian violinist Henning Kraggerud.

Kraggerud (below) will perform Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 4, the most elegant of the composer’s five violin concertos – Mozart was an excellent violinist as well as keyboardist. They are all relatively early works, full of charm but less dramatic and less dark than many of Mozart’s later and more mature works.

Henning Kraggerud playing

The MSO will open the concert with the lively overture to Mozart’s opera “The Impresario” and conclude with Shostakovich’s powerful Symphony No. 10.

The MSO concerts will take place in Overture Hall at 201 State Street this Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets cost $16.50 to $78.50, and are available at www.madisonsymphony.org and through the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street, (608) 258-4141. Groups of 15 or more save 25 percent.

Seniors and students save 20 percent, and the MSO’s $10 Student Rush is good for best available seats on the day of the concert. Discounted seats are subject to availability and discounts may not be combined.

Full concert details, music samples and links to buy tickets can be found on the MSO website at http://madisonsymphony.org/kraggerud

For comprehensive but very accessible program notes by MSO trombone player and UW-Whitewater professor J. Michael Allsen, visit:

http://facstaff.uww.edu/allsenj/MSO/NOTES/1213/7.Mar13.html

Allsen (below) will also be giving the free pre-concert talks.

MEMF 2012 J. Michael Allsen

Kraggerud, who is returning to the MSO stage for the third time in just six years, has been praised for his “virtuosity minus theatrics” by the Washington Post, and has gained a reputation as a violinist to watch: “Kraggerud has extraordinary sweetness of tone,” said The Telegraph of London recently, “his sound always dances as much as it sings.”

About the D Major Mozart concerto, Kraggerud said, “The Mozart concerto is one of my favorites. It is like champagne in the bloodstream, so fresh.”

All five of violin concertos by Mozart (below) were written in 1775 when the composer was a teenager. Though they are youthful works, the violin concertos are also worldly, showing the influence of Mozart’s having traveled through much of Europe as a child prodigy, absorbing ideas and influences. The overture that opens the concert is light and comic, an apt introduction.

mozart big

By contrast, the Shostakovich symphony that closes the March concerts is a late work and was first performed after the death of the ruthless Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, who had threatened the composer many times, in 1953.

The Symphony No. 10 is in many ways the reaction of Shostakovich (below) to Stalin’s death as the tight artistic controls of the 1930s and ‘40s were relaxed. It represents a new beginning, pouring forth all that had been repressed under the dictator’s oppression.

dmitri shostakovich

Anyone wishing to share dining and conversation with other music lovers can join Club 501 before any Saturday or Sunday performance. Hosted by members of the Madison Symphony Orchestra League, Club 501 welcomes everyone to the Madison Concourse Hotel’s Dayton Street Grille on concert Saturdays at 6 p.m. and concert Sundays at 12:30 p.m.

Participants receive a generous 20% meal discount and free parking with a validated underground parking ticket. Guests should ask for the Club 501 tables when arriving. Reservations are welcome — but not necessary — at (608) 294-3068.


Classical music: Here are 7 reasons why Madison’s Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society is Big League and The Ear can’t wait for their next season.

July 3, 2012
8 Comments

A REMINDER: Tonight (July 3) at 7 p.m. in Olbrich Gardens, on Madison’s far east side, the Youth Orchestra (below) of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras, will perform a free concert. (A $1 donation is suggested to benefit the gardens.) The concert is a preview of the group’s concert tour to Vienna, Prague and Budapest July 7-17.

By Jacob Stockinger

Every fall, concert-goers look forward to the opening of The New Season by such big-name local classical music groups as the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Madison Opera, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Wisconsin Union Theater and the University of Wisconsin School of Music – to name just a few of the most prominent.

Over many years, those seasons have become recognizable landmarks in our cultural landscape.

But more than ever, The Ear is convinced that that same kind of reception, that same excitement and anticipation, should await the annual three-week summer season of Madison’s Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society (below, pianist Jeffrey Sykes, violinist Axel Strauss and cellist Jean-Michel Fonteneau perform Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 2 in C Minor ).

With no more than six or eight players on the stage at any one time, BDDS is a small group that makes big and beautiful music.

Between June 15 and July 1, BDDS played six programs in four different venues, and once again proved remarkable for the quality of its programs, performers, performances, venues and audiences.

Everything it did showed that BDDS is indeed Big League, despite being a modestly sized chamber music ensemble and despite performing after the close of the main concert season and the arrival of The Heat of Summer.

So after thinking about the four programs I heard in the past three weeks, let me offer seven reasons why BDDS deserves gets my respect and support, and deserves yours. (You can help by attending, but also by going to the donation site www.power2give.org  and to BDDS’ home page: www.bachdancinganddynamite.org)

1. BDDS takes chances and risks, and so succeeds in allowing listeners to have fun with serious music. Their enthusiasm is contagious.

BDDS advertises itself as offering “Chamber Music with a Bang.” And they mean it.

Sometimes they do it through sheer affability and cordiality. Sometimes they do it through the doors prizes, which this season ran from a gift card for cocktails to homemade pies. Sometimes they use an unusual Mystery Guest like the Yiddish singer Henry Saposnik or the Madison Hoop Team or a black leather jacket cello duo (below) furiously playing a Michael Jackson song.

But even the music they play takes chances. BDDS did its own arrangement (below) of Stravinsky’s popular and jauntily tuneful neo-Classical “Suite Italienne” or “Pucinella Suite,” which is normally heard in a violin and piano arrangement. They used eight players and turned it into a kind of modern-day Brandenburg Concerto, a Baroque concerto grosso in which each “section” or individual got a chance to show off – including twirling two cellos and mixing the modern grand piano and the harpsichord in the same program. Guess what? It all worked superbly. And it is completely within the aesthetic that Stravinsky was shooting for. Igor would be pleased.

2. BDDS gets you to hear music you otherwise wouldn’t hear.

There were many examples this season. Some of my favorites are the orchestral miniatures. They included Salomon’s chamber arrangements of Haydn’s late symphonies, of which they have done three out of 12. (This year’s offering, below, was Symphony No. 85, “La Reine.”) Then there was the Hummel’s similar arrangement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto in D minor. And when was the last time you heard a complete Couperin Suite?

3. BDDS plays masterpieces masterfully. All the untraditional shtick and stuff could serve to compensate for other shortcomings. But that is decidedly NOT the case with the BDDS. If you heard the BDDS perform Schubert’s sublime Cello Quintet or Brahms’ driving Piano Quintet in F Minor (below), you heard fiery and committed as well as subtle performances that rival or surpass any performances you will hear live and even recorded.

BDDS doesn’t need to rely on gimmicks or make any excuses. Just because it chooses to stray from the beaten path doesn’t mean it isn’t a first-rate guide to take you down that beaten path and let you see – and hear – new things about old and familiar music.

4. BDDS takes the music – NOT themselves – seriously and teaches the audience new things.

We went to hear the rarely performed “The Apotheosis of Lully” by Couperin, and ended up getting a mini-lesson in the French Baroque style versus the Italian Baroque style. And pianist Jeffrey Sykes hammed it up just right as the pseudo-pious narrator (below left). The audience listened, laughed and learned.

5. BDDS gets away from the celebrity culture of the contemporary classical music scene and brings us great artists from outside whose names are unknown.

Sure, you can pay $100 or more to hear superstar violinist Itzhak Perlman or cellist Yo-Yo Ma. But I’ll take BDDS. I don’t think any local group does a better job of finding and presenting low-profile but absolutely first-rate musicians than BDDS.

Here are some examples: Harpsichordist Layton James (below) was the principal harpsichordist of the renowned St. Paul Chamber Orchestra for an astonishing 41 years (1969-2010). Animated violinist Carmit Zori founded and directs the Brooklyn, New York Chamber Music Society. San Francisco-based violinist Axel Strauss and cellist Jean-Michel Fonteneau joined pianist Jeffrey Sykes in piano trios performances that are consistently outstanding. Percussionists Dane Richeson (from Lawrence University in Appleton) is as interesting and accomplished to me as the world-famous Evelyn Glennie. And you won’t find a better piano partner than Randall Hodgkinson from the New England Conservatory of music.

And this year The Ear finally got his wish: To hear BDDS co-founder and co-director pianist Jeffrey Sykes (below) perform a solo work, Haydn’s Piano Sonata No. 49. There is no better ensemble pianist than Sykes, but I hope we get to hear him in some solos again in future seasons.

6. BDDS is refreshingly unapologetic and candid in its down-to-earth approach. Because they have fun, we feel we can have fun.

Co-founder and co-director flutist Stephanie Jutt publicly admitted one night that she herself gets bored when she goes to concerts and all there is to watch are the musicians. Wow! She is just like a lot us!

So BDDS commissions on-stage installations and backgrounds to maintain audience interest. They get local artists from the UW-Madison — Carolyn Kallenborn, Teresa Getty and Michael Villequette – to design and construct wondrously beautiful and inexpensive sets of that can be subtlety changed with lights, with little trinkets like plastic glasses and cut-outs, and with pieces of abstract dyed fabric to match different concerts, different moods and different works. The effect is original, welcoming and civilized.

7. BDDS is militantly eclectic and likes to mix it up. You won’t find purism or snobbery here!

Consider just the range of repertoire: from the 18th century, they played works by Couperin, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven; from the 19th century, works by Schubert, Mendelssohn, Brahms and Tchaikovsky; from the 20th century, works by Bartok, Barber, Bernstein, Rorem, Jolivet and Stravinsky; and from the 21st century, a piece by Kenji Bunch.

Put it all together and you realize that, as I said in another recent post, when you go to one BDDS concert, you always end up wanting to hear others.

I can’t wait for next June and BDDS’ 22nd season next summer.

And neither should you.

Do you have COMMENTS to leave about any BDDS programs you heard this season?

The Ear wants to hear.


« Previous Page

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,238 other followers

    Blog Stats

    • 2,163,604 hits
%d bloggers like this: