The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Today is the start of Fall. Here is autumnal music by Richard Strauss. Plus, UW-Madison soprano Jeanette Thompson makes her FREE debut tonight at 7 p.m. in Mills Hall.

September 22, 2017
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ALERT: UW-Madison faculty soprano Jeanette Thompson gives her FREE debut recital tonight at 7 p.m.  in Mills Hall. Guest performers are pianist Thomas Kasdorf and faculty colleague baritone Paul Rowe.

Thompson has put together a concert of some of her favorite love songs, though not always typical of love songs:  some of them are about a love that is lost, some of them are about a love desired, and some of them are about a love for God.

These songs include excerpts from Gustav Mahler’s Rückert Lieder and Johannes Brahms’ Volksbuchlieder. In addition to Rückert, they include some of her favorite poets like Charles Baudelaire and Eduard Möricke. She will perform songs by Cole Porter and George Gershwin, and will be joined by baritone Paul Rowe to sing two of the most beautiful “Porgy and Bess” love duets ever written.

Thompson (below) will conclude the concert with some of her favorite spirituals, including her mother’s favorite song, “His Eye is on the Sparrow.“

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is the autumnal equinox, which arrives at 3:02 p.m. CDT. It marks when the day has an equal amount of daylight and night.

It also means that today is the first official day of Fall.

And despite the hot weather right now, Fall is often a great time to start returning to indoor activities.

That makes it a good time for listening to classical music.

There are the usual candidates such as Antonio Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” and its modern counterpart “Four Seasons of Buenos Aires” by tango master Astor Piazzolla.

If you want to hear other season-appropriate music, YouTube, Spotify, Classical-music.com and other websites have generous compilations. Just Google “classical music for autumn.”

But today The Ear want to feature just one selection to celebrate the season. It is soprano Jessye Norman singing “September” from “Four Last Songs” by Richard Strauss.

What is you favorite music to greet autumn with?

Use the COMMENT section to let us know, along with a link to a video performance if possible.


Classical music: What classical music best celebrates the solstice and the arrival of summer?

June 21, 2017
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REMINDER: Today is the fifth annual citywide Make Music Madison that celebrates the coming of summer with FREE, PUBLIC and LOCAL performances. For more information, go to: https://welltempered.wordpress.com

By Jacob Stockinger

Summer arrived late last night – at 11:24 p.m. — in the Midwest.

To mark and celebrate the welcome event, here are three pieces of well-known summer-related music:

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Eine kleine Nachtmusik” or a “A Short Night Music” (or “A Little Night Music”:

Summer from Astor Piazzolla’s “Four Seasons in Buenos Aires”:

And Samuel Barber’s “Knoxville, Summer of 1914” with soprano Dawn Upshaw.

But there is so much more to choose from.

Here is a link to five other pieces by different composers –- Antonio Vivaldi, Felix Mendelssohn, Frank Bridge, Alexander Glazunov, Frederick Delius and George Gershwin.

http://www.classical-music.com/article/six-best-pieces-classical-music-summer

Which music would you choose to mark the summer solstice and the coming of summer?

Leave word and a YouTube link, if possible, in the COMMENT section.

The Ear wants to hear.


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
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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: Today, Sept. 22, 2014, is the first day of Fall. So The Ear plays two of Richard Strauss’ “Four Last Songs.” But what would you listen to to mark the coming of Autumn?

September 22, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Today is the first day of Fall in the Northern Hemisphere. The Autumn Equinox arrives tonight at 9:29 p.m. CDT.

autumn-leaves

This year, the timing of the season and the music I recently listened to worked out just perfectly.

Last week, you see, The Ear went to see the film “The Trip to Italy” (below), a sequel with British funnymen Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. It was made by the award-winning director Michael Winterbottom, who also directed the first installment.

Steve Coogan and Rob†Brydon in†Camogli, Italy

I loved the first one, “The Trip,” in 2010. But like so many sequels, this film suffers from self-indulgence. There was too little plot, a lot of impersonations that are not immediately recognizable or entertaining, and the film goes on for too long.

The movie has its enjoyable, entertaining  and touching moments. to be sure.  But the really outstanding characters in this film are the Italian landscape and Italian cuisine, captured in stunning cinematography.

But, oh, the music! That was the high note, so to speak, for The Ear.

A recurrent theme is from “Four Last Songs” by the Late Romantic Richard Strauss (below, in 1914). It is “Im Abendrot,” and it strikes the right notes, even for The Ear, who not a big voice fan, whether in choral music, opera or Lieder and art songs.

richard strauss in 1914 Hutton Archive Getty Images

I was thinking of some appropriate music to play for the coming of the new season. There is always “Autumn” from “The Four Seasons” by Antonio Vivaldi or the new “Four Seasons in Buenos Aires” by Astor Piazzolla.

Then there is the late piano music and chamber music of Johannes Brahms, so often and aptly described as “autumnal.” Of course, the symphonies and songs of Gustav Mahler qualify as do many of the songs of Franz Schubert. And there is more, much more.

But this year, perhaps because of personal circumstances and sheer coincidence, anyway I found the Strauss songs — which were composed in 1948, a year before Strauss died at 84 — perfectly appropriate and fitting in mood.

Here are two of them, found on YouTube video and sung by the incomparable soprano Jessye Norman with Kurt Masur conducting the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra on the Philips label.

The first is “In Abendrot” (At Sunset). The poem or text, written by Joseph von Eichendorff — which is translated on the YouTube site if you click on “Show More” – – does not deal with autumn per se, but with loss and death. So the mood is surely autumnal and, I find, deeply moving. And it is a common motif in the film:

And then there is “September” from the poem by Nobel Prize-winning German writer Hermann Hesse.

I hope you enjoy these two songs by Strauss and also find them fitting to the season, just as I hope we have sunny and warm, a long and colorful Fall.

And I would love to know what other music best expresses the new season for you.

Just leave your suggestions, with YouTube links if possible, in the COMMENTS section.

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: Tangos will be featured in a FREE concert by the Yzafa Quintet this Monday night at 7:30 p.m. in the Unity Chapel in Spring Green.

July 25, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

This Monday night at 7:30 p.m. the Yzafa Quintet will perform a FREE concert of tangos at the Unity Chapel in Spring Green. Members of the quintet include (bottom left to right) Doug Brown, Michael O’Brien, August Jirovec, Amber Dolphin and Jamie Davis.

Quinteto Yzafa

To The Ear, it sure seems like this certainly has been the year for South American music in general and tangos in particular in the Madison area.

The Wisconsin Youth Chamber Orchestras’ Youth Orchestra (below) left yesterday for an extensive 10-day tour of Argentina, the home of the tango, which legend says was first danced in brothels.

Here is a link to background about the tour:

http://wyso.music.wisc.edu/2014-international-tour/

And here is a link to the tour blog:

http://wysotour2014.blogspot.com

WYSO Youth  Orchestra

Earlier this summer, The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society performed a dozen tangos by Astor Piazzolla and other composers with the help of Uruguayan pianist and tango master Pablo Zinger (below).

Pablo Zinger at piano

And flutist Stephanie Jutt (below), who is a co-founder and co-artistic director of BDDS, who teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and who is principal flute with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, has performed and recorded a bunch of tangos she brought back from a sabbatical year she spent in Argentina.

BDDS 2014 Jutt and Syles play Angel Lasala

Well, you really can’t blame them at all for programming tangos.

Was there ever a sexier or more sensual,  more seductive dance –- even if you don’t actually dance it?

Tango

And Madison isn’t alone in succumbing to Tango Fever.

Here is a note from our blog friend Kent Mayfield, who heads up the Rural Musicians Forum and is bringing the urban decadence of the tango out to the wholesome farm fields in south-central Wisconsin:

TANGO TAKES THE SPOTLIGHT IN SPRING GREEN CONCERT

The region’s only group specializing in traditional Argentine tango, Quinteto Yzafa, takes the spotlight in a concert in Spring Green’s Unity Chapel on Monday night, July 28, at 7:30 p.m.. The concert is part of an annual series sponsored by the Rural Musicians Forum. (You can hear a sample of a tango by the Quinteto Yzafa in a YouTube video of a performance in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at the bottom.)

The tango is a partner dance that originated in the 1890s in working class districts of Buenos Aires and along the Río de la Plata, the natural border between Uruguay and Argentina. Soon it became wildly popular around the world.

The dance derives from the Cuban and Argentine dance styles. It is said to contain elements from the African community in Buenos Aires, influenced both by ancient African rhythms and the music from Europe.

In 2009, the tango was declared part of the world’s “intangible cultural heritage” by UNESCO.

Quinteto Yzafa (pronounced “ee-SAH-fuh”) is dedicated to a fresh, dynamic approach to traditional Argentine tango music.

With backgrounds in classical music as well as jazz, bluegrass, Arabic music, Latin American folk and popular dance styles, the musicians perform tangos, waltzes and milongas from the 1910s through the present day.

Their dynamic new arrangements have the variety and intensity to entertain concert audiences, but they never lose the danceable essence of the true tango. They delight schoolchildren and serious tango dancers alike.

The ensemble’s sound features the bandoneón (below), the characteristic 71-button relative of the accordion whose distinctive timbre is essential for traditional tango music, filled out with the rich tones of a full string section (violin, cello and double bass) and piano.

Bandoneon

Bandoneon player and composer Michael O’Brien says he was inspired by the Argentinian classical composer Astor Piazzola (below bottom).

“There was something about the combination of sinuous, expressive melody interspersed with periods of brutal dissonance and percussive playing that lodged itself in my memory,” O’Brien says.

astor piazzolla

That was the beginning of a life-long interest which has led him to learn Piazzolla’s own instrument, the bandoneon, travel to Argentina to study, research and perform tango music, and even to make a career out of it. In his day job, O’Brien is a professor of ethnomusicology. O’Brien has created for the group a repertoire of little known and original tangos, waltzes and milongas as well as many tango classics.

Quinteto Yzafa has passion and zing … At times bold and brash and at other times heartbreakingly tragic, it covers every emotion in the spectrum.

The Unity Chapel (below top is the exterior, below bottom is the interior) is located at 6596 County Road T, just east of Highway 23. The chapel is a living testament to the simple and contemplative lives early settlers created for themselves in southwest Wisconsin.

There is no ticket charge but a freewill offering to support the concert series will be taken.

Unity Chapel in Spring Green exterior

Unity Chapel in Spring Green interior

For more information: www.ruralmusiciansforum.org

OR contact Kent Mayfield ruralmusiciansforum@yahoo.com.

https://www.youtube.com/watch


Classical music education: One of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras will embark on an international tour to Argentina that runs July 24 to Aug. 3. So WYSO says “Bon Voyage” with a FREE send-off preview concert on this coming Tuesday night, July 22, at 7 p.m. in Olbrich Gardens.

July 18, 2014
4 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger 

The young musicians of Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) and its premier performing ensemble, the Youth Orchestra, are preparing for a fantastic opportunity this month when they will tour to Argentina.

WYSO Youth  Orchestra

Youth Orchestra members will have a chance to visit the three cities of Buenos Aires, Rosario and Mar del Plata. While in these cities they will visit some of the most beautiful places in South America and perform in world class venues.

The tour will be led by WYSO Music Director James Smith (below). He has served as conductor of the Youth Orchestra for 29 years and also serves as the Director of Orchestras for the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, where WYSO is housed.

Smith_Jim_conduct07_3130

The 67 WYSO musicians who will participate in the tour range in age from 14 t0 18 years old and hail from 19 different communities across southern Wisconsin. (You can hear a great sample of the Youth Orchestra under James Smith in the “Carmen” Suite by Georges Bizet in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

The tour will run from July 24 to August 3. It will include performances at Facultad de Derecho, the famed Teatro Colon (below) in Buenos Aires, Escuela 23 Distrito Escolar, La Usina de Musica, and Teatro el Circulo.

Teatro Colon interior

Repertoire for the tour will include the Overture to “Candide” by Leonard Bernstein, “Billy the Kid” Suite by Aaron Copland;  Liturgical Scenes by Dwane S. Milburn, the Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 36, by Peter Tchaikovsky; and “Malambo” from “Estancia” Suite, Op. 8a by Argentinean composer Alberto Ginastera (below).

Alberto Ginastera with cat

The Youth Orchestra will be posting a live blog before and during their trip to keep friends, family, and supporters of WYSO up to date with how the tour is going.

The writers will mainly be students, but a handful of chaperones will also be offering their perspectives.

You can visit the blog, and bookmark it, at http://wysotour2014.blogspot.com.

FREE PREVIEW CONCERT ON TUESDAY

Prior to departing on their international tour, the Youth Orchestra members will give a bon voyage send-off concert at Olbrich Botanical Gardens this coming Tuesday night, July 22, at 7 p.m. The concert is FREE and outdoors (weather permitting; otherwise it will be held indoors), and is open to the public, with a $1 suggested admission donation to support the gardens.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Olbrichsummermusic

The Ear thinks it would be great if local media – especially television – paid as much attention and gave as much coverage (even an audiovisual sample or clip with a voiceover) to these distinguished cultural ambassadors and exceptional products of music and arts education as they do to, say, student athletes.

Since 1966, WYSO has been providing excellence in musical opportunities for more than 5,000 young people in southern Wisconsin.

WYSO includes three full orchestras and a string orchestra, a chamber music program, a harp program, a percussion ensemble, and a brass choir program. The orchestras rehearse on Saturday mornings during the academic year, perform three to four public concerts per season, and tour regionally, nationally and internationally.

For more information, contact WYSO, Room 1625, Mosse Humanities Building, 455 North Park Street, Madison, WI 53706. You can also call (608) 263-3320 or visit www.wyso.music.wisc.edu

 


Classical music education: Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) presents fall concerts this weekend. Plus, the Pro Arte Quartet concert on Nov. 22 has been CANCELLED.

November 13, 2013
3 Comments

NEWS FLASH: The concert and all attendant events by the UW-Madison‘s Pro Arte Quartet, centered around the world premiere of Belgian composer Benoit Mernier’s String Quartet No. 3, scheduled for Friday, Nov. 22, 2013, has been CANCELLED. Plans are to reschedule the concert and events for the weekend of March 1 and 2, 2014. I will pass along more news as I get it.

By Jacob Stockinger

Last year was a very good year for the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (below). Fundraising met or exceeded goals, enrollment of student musicians from around southcentral Wisconsin was up. Michelle Kaebisch, the Madison Symphony Orchestra‘s educational and outreach coordinator who is also a violinist, was named to succeed retiring longtime conductor Thomas Buchhauser. And public performances drew large, enthusiastic crowds as well as great playing from the students. (Full disclosure: The Ear sits on WYSO’s board of directors as of this past summer.)

WYSO Philharmonia Tom Buchhauser 2011

This year also has all the makings of a banner year for WYSO. Enrollment – by audition — is up. WYSO just landed a $200,000 gift to set up an endowment fund (from the Theodore W. Batterman Family Foundation in memory of former WYSO member Eric D. Batterman) for its percussion program. The chamber music program has expanded. Fundraising is going well. And a tour to South American is scheduled for the spring, including a concert at the famed Teatro Colon (a photo of its plush interior is below) in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Teatro Colon interior

All that gives one reason to celebrate – which is exactly what you can do this Saturday and Sunday when WYSO groups perform for the public. And they can really play, as you can hear at the bottom in the YouTube video of WYSO student performing the difficult Finale to Dmitri Shostakovich’s epic Fifth Symphony.

Here is a summary, thanks to a WYSO detailed press release:

“WYSO will present its first concert series of the year, the Evelyn Steenbock Fall Concerts, on Saturday, November 16, and Sunday, November 17.

More than 350 young musicians will display their talents to the community during the three concerts, which are dedicated to local music teachers.

WYSO poster fall 2013

“The Evelyn Steenbock Fall Concerts will be held in Mills Concert Hall in the UW Humanities Building, 455 N. Park Street, Madison.

WYSO concerts generally run about an hour and a half in length, providing a great orchestral concert opportunity for families.

Tickets are available at the door, $10 for adults and $5 for youth 18 and under.

WYSO’s string orchestra, Sinfonietta, will kick off the concert series at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday with “Wood Splitter Fanfare” by Balmages; “America, the Beautiful” by Ward/Wagner; “Lincoln at Gettysburg” by Dabczynski; “Ashokan Farewell” by Ungar/Custer; “Labyrinth” by Zuehlsdorff; “Many Miles Away Across the Sea” by Day; and “Kentucky 1800” by Grundman/Longfield. (Below is a photo by Jon Harlow of the Sinfonietta’s violin section.)

Sinfonietta strings

The Concert Orchestra will follow with selections from “West Side Story” by Leonard Bernstein and “Russian Chorale and Overture” by Piotr Tchaikovsky.

WYSO Concert Orchestra violins 

At 4 p.m. on Saturday, the popular Percussion Ensemble will perform “Sleepless” by Dan Moore and “Prelude to Paradise” by Jacob Remington under the direction of Vicki Jenks, in her 32nd season at WYSO.

WYSO Percussion Ensemble 2012

The Philharmonia Orchestra (below is its brass section) will then entertain the audience with “Rákóczi March” from “La damnation de Faust” by Hector Berlioz: the Largo from “Xerxes” by George Frideric Handel; “The Montagues and Capulets” from “Romeo and Juliet” by Sergei Prokofiev, and selected movements from Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5

Philharmonia Brass Section

At 1 p.m. on Sunday, the Harp Ensemble will perform Felix Mendelssohn’s “Spinning Song,” “Nocturne” and “On Wings of Song.”

WYSO Harp Ensemble 2011

The Youth Orchestra will close out the concert series with Aaron Copland‘s “Billy the Kid” Suite and Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8 in G major, Op. 88.

WYSO Youth  Orchestra

For more information, visit WYSO’s newly redesigned website: http://wyso.music.wisc.edu

The fall Steenbock concerts are is supported by Dane Arts with additional funds from the Evjue Foundation, Inc., charitable arm of the The Capital Times. This project is also supported by the Alliant Energy Foundation and by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.


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