The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Madison native Ansel Norris returns to perform a FREE recital this Saturday night of songs transcribed for trumpet and piano

July 26, 2017
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CORRECTION: In some downloads of yesterday’s post, the performance by the Ancora String Quartet was mistakenly listed for Friday night. The performance is SATURDAY night. The Ear apologizes for the error. For more information, go to:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2017/07/25/classical-music-the-ancora-string-quartet-will-give-two-performances-this-coming-weekend-one-is-free-of-a-program-that-features-works-by-beethoven-shostakovich-and-niels-gade/

By Jacob Stockinger

On this Saturday night, July 29, at 7 p.m., trumpeter Ansel Norris and pianist Beth Wilson will perform a FREE recital of vocal music in an unusual format — for solo trumpet and piano, with the poetry that inspired the music spoken in between each song.

“In music for voice and piano there lies a special intimacy, and the composers featured each captured something close to the essence of the form,” Norris (below) told The Ear. “I wanted to see what happened if I split the songs up into a poem, read it out loud, and then played a wordless melody to follow. The result was interesting and felt meaningful, so I’ve decided to give it another go.”

The recital, in the Grand Hall at Capitol Lakes Retirement Community, 333 West Main Street, downtown and three blocks off the Capitol Square.

The program includes: Richard Strauss, “Morgen”; Robert Schumann, “Liederkreis,” Op. 24, No. 5;” Richard Strauss, “Die Nacht”: Robert Schumann, “Liederkreis,” Op. 24, No. 1; Robert Schumann, “Liederkreis,” Op. 24, No. 9; Johannes Brahms, “Die Mainacht”; Franz Schubert, “Der Einsame”; Johannes Brahms, “Unbewegte laue Luft”; Robert Schumann, “Liederkreis,” Op. 24, No. 3; Richard Strauss, “Befreit”; and Peter Tchaikovsky, “Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt” (“None but the Lonely Heart,” sung by Elizabeth Schwarzkopf in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Admission is FREE and open to the public.

Ansel Norris grew up on the east side of Madison, and last set foot in Capitol Lakes (below) in the spring of 2010, for his graduation recital. In recent years, he has distinguished himself as a soloist, orchestral and chamber musician of enthusiasm and diverse taste.

Norris has won a number of prizes as a soloist, including first-prize twice in the National Trumpet Competition, and has drawn acclaim as an orchestral player, performing with the Chicago and Boston Symphonies and holding a fellowship with the New World Symphony in Miami Beach, Florida.

Norris has also worked in close relationship with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, at the Tanglewood Music Center, in the summers of 2014 and 2015.

He says he is fascinated with the relationship between music and storytelling, and is currently exploring interesting formats of solo recitals to draw new connections between them. In a sense, this recital is an experiment, but one conducted with great love, care and curiosity.

While in Madison, Ansel Norris said, he was lucky to participate in a number of the diverse opportunities available to young musicians. He was a three-year member of Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra’s Youth Orchestra and a four-year, inaugural member of the Winds of Wisconsin.

He was also a participant in the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s “Final Forte” was a winner of the Neale-Silva Young Artist Competition held by Wisconsin Public Radio. He was a devoted student of the UW-Madison’s recently retired professor of trumpet, John Aley (below), who to this day is one of his greatest inspirations.

As he grows older, Norris says, he often reflects on what a special place Madison was to grow up in, and he looks forward to every chance he has to be home.

Beth Wilson (below) currently lives in Madison and is a freelance musician and professional pianist. She is a member of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, playing for the “Nutcracker Ballet” and “Concerts on the Square.” She also performs with Grupo Candela, a salsa band. Broadway touring shows contract her to play in the pit orchestra including the recent shows “Wicked,” “Book of Mormon,” “Sound of Music” and “Beautiful –The Carole King Musical.”

As an accompanist, Beth Wilson has collaborated with Bernhard Scully of the Canadian Brass; Diana Gannett of the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor; and Ansel Norris — with whom she is now reunited after seven years.


Classical music education: An impressive and long overdue brass festival -– “Celebrate Brass!” — will be held at the UW-Madison School of Music. It opens next Wednesday, Oct. 8, and runs through next Monday, Oct. 13.

October 3, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

A good friend in the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, who also happens to be an avid brass fan, recently wrote to The Ear:

“A young violinist I know heard a brass quintet perform last spring at the UW-Madison School of Music, and afterwards she said to me: ‘I had no idea this music is so beautiful.’

brass photo UW Celebrate Brass festival 2014

“She’s not alone. Most people don’t know. They associate brass with marching bands, or with obnoxious loud horns. And occasionally they notice a high trumpet solo in an orchestra concert (and don’t actually see the trumpeter as she or he is seated so far in back).

“But there’s much, much more. Think of the beauty of strings, with its complex interweavings of melodies and lushness of sound, but applied to trumpets, trombones, “French” horns and the tuba.

And then there are the works that are dramatic and insistent, such as “Quidditch,” written by John Williams (below) for the Harry Potter movie.

john williams 1

That is what the UW is offering during its weeklong Brass Festival — “Celebrate Brass”  — the first in 32 years at the School of Music and organized by John Aley (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot), professor and principal trumpet with the Madison Symphony Orchestra as well as a member of the Wisconsin Brass Quintet.

This event will even bookend John’s tenure here at the School of Music, as he helped organize the first brass festival 32 years ago.

John Aley Talbot

The main concert, called “Brass Alchemy,” on next Saturday, Oct. 11, will present a varied program of lyrical music that is just as much a part of the classical repertory as anything else.

“And the visiting performers are tops in their fields.

One is Oystein Baadsvik (below) an iconoclastic virtuoso tubist from Norway. Two are UW-Madison women alumna horn players. Another is a top composer and trumpeter.

oystein baadsvik behind tuba

“The two brass quintets – including the Western Brass Quintet (below top) from Michigan and Wisconsin Brass Quintet (below bottom in a photo by Megan Aley) at the UW-Madison School of Music — are frequent commissioners of new works, essential if one is to continue the growth and development of classical music. (The Western Brass Quintet will feature a new work by American composer Pierre Jalbert whose “Howl” Clarinet Quintet scored such a success in its world premiere by the Pro Arte Quartet last Friday night. Below is a link to The Ear’s rave review of the Jalbert work.)

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/10/02/classical-music-the-ear-gets-to-hear-a-masterpiece-in-the-making-pierre-jalbert-howl-clarinet-quintet-it-sure-sounds-like-it-will-become-a-chamber-music-staple-of-new-mu/

Western Brass Quintet

Wisconsin Brass Quintet 2014 CR Megan Aley

“The School of Music is ticketing this main concert only — a departure from the recent past but long overdue, one that will be followed during the year for selected other concerts. Money raised will be put toward the many needs of the UW-Madison School of Music, which is another topic in itself.

“All the rest of the week’s events — master classes, colloquia and several other concerts — are FREE and open to the public.

“Tickets for the general public are $25 for the one concert listed below, but all students get in FREE. For information, visit http://www.music.wisc.edu/about-us/tickets/

“One hopes that these performances and educational festivals this year can be continued into the future, as they offer so much more than a stand-alone guest artist.

“One can also hope that listeners will discover an angle that is particularly interesting to them –whether it’s a solo tuba work called “Fnugg” (seriously) or the grace of a choral work performed by soaring brass.

“Here are a few links that illustrate the program for that night’s concert:”

“Quidditch” by John Williams:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdVRaCibYLU

“Of Kingdoms and Glory” by Anthony Di Lorenzo:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4eeOPPon28

“O Magnum Mysterium” (choral music arranged for brass) by Morten Lauridsen:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g8y5GYboGdc

“Elegy” by Pulitzer Prize-winner Kevin Puts

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oliao3JixtY

http://www.amazon.com/Sound-Bells-Works-Brass-Ensemble/dp/B004DKDNYS

The Ear is also providing some other links that seem relevant and informative.

Here is one to the official UW-Madison School of Music press release with the full schedule and list of programs and performers:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/brass-festival/

And here is one to Wisconsin Public Radio’s recent session of “The Midday” with host Norman Gilliland and guest UW-Madison trumpeter John Aley. It has lots of good commentary and great samples of brass music:

http://www.wpr.org/shows/john-aley

And here is a link to a Tiny Desk Concert, given by the Canadian Brass, playing Johann Sebastian Bach in a studio for NPR or National Public Radio:

 


Classical music: The Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble will perform a NON-holiday concert this Saturday night. Also on Saturday, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and the Canadian Brass celebrate the holidays and the city of Middleton’s 50th anniversary.

November 27, 2013
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ALERT: Middleton Tourism and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra invite you to a holiday celebration with the world famous Canadian Brass (below) at Middleton’s Performing Arts Center attached to Middleton High School. Two performances are on this Saturday, November 30, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.  The concert will also celebrate “Happy 50th Anniversary” to the city of Middleton with an exciting program of seasonal favorites including “Gesu Bambino,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Christmas Time is Here” and “Polonaise” from “Christmas Eve.” For more information, visit:

http://wcoconcerts.org/performances/special-performances/73/event-info/

Canadian Brass

By Jacob Stockinger

This Saturday night at 8 p.m., the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble (below) will perform a concert of baroque vocal and instrumental chamber music performed on period instruments.

Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble composite

The concert will take place at the Historic Gates of Heaven Synagogue (below) in James Madison Park in downtown Madison at 300 East Gorham Street.

Gates of Heaven

The performers include: Consuelo Sañudo – mezzo soprano; Theresa Koenig – recorder, baroque bassoon; Brett Lipshutz – traverse; Monica Steger – traverso, recorder; Eric Miller – viola da gamba, baroque cello; Anton TenWolde – baroque cello (below); and Max Yount – harpsichord

Tickets are available at the door only: General admission is $15 ($10 for students). Feel free to bring your own chair or pillow (the wooden pews can feel very hard and uncomfortable).

Here is the unusual program. The first composer is so obscure, the members of the ensemble say that they don’t even have initials for him.

1.    Company – “Pagando estoy”

2.    Louis-Antoine Dornel (1685-1765) – Sonata No. 4 in D Major from Sonatas for Solo Violin and Suite for Flute

3.    Jean Baptiste Barrière – Cello Sonata No. 3, Book 2

4.    George Friderich Handel – Sonata 4 in A minor for recorder and basso continuo, HWV 362   (See and hear the YouTube video at bottom.)

5.    Clemente Imaña – “Filis yo tengo”

INTERMISSION

6.    Georg Böhm – Capriccio in D major

7.    Antoine Forqueray – Pièces de viole, Suite No. 1

8.    Jaques-Martin Hotteterre – Sonates en trio, Book 1, Op. 3, No. 1

9.    Georg Philipp Telemann – Sonata in F minor for bassoon and basso continuo

10. Sebastián Durón – “Al dormir el sol”

For more information, visit www.wisconsinbaroque.org.


Classical music: The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra opens its winter Masterworks season with fiery pianism in Saint-Saens’ “Egyptian” Concerto plus fluid strings and energetic brass in Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Also, the Middleton Community Orchestra opens its fourth season on Wednesday night with music by Berlioz, Wagner and Mendelssohn.

October 14, 2013
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ALERT: The Middleton Community Orchestra (below) will open its fourth season this Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. in the Middleton Performing Arts Center that is attached to Middleton High School. The program, conducted by Steve Kurr, features Hector Berlioz’ “Roman Carnival Overture,” Richard Wagner‘s Overture to “Tannhauser” and Felix Mendelssohn’s “Italian” Symphony. Admission at the door and advance tickets at Willy Street West are $10 for adults and free for students. Here is a review of a previous concert I attended with a lot of reasons why the MCO is a fun and fine event to attend:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2012/06/04/classical-music-review-let-us-now-praise-amateur-music-makers-and-restoring-sociability-to-art-here-are-9-reasons-why-i-liked-and-you-should-attend-the-middleton-community-orchestra/

And here is a link to the MCO’s website with information about the rest of its fourth season:

http://middletoncommunityorchestra.org

Middleton Community Orchestra Steve Kurr conducting

By Jacob Stockinger

Loyal readers of this blog know very well the name of Mikko Utevsky. The young violist and conductor is a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin School of Music, where he studies with Pro Arte Quartet violist Sally Chisholm and plays in the UW Symphony Orchestra.

Utevsky, who has won awards and impressive reviews for his work in music education since his days at Madison’s East High School, is the founder and conductor of the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra, which will perform its fourth season next summer. He was recently named the new Music Director of a local community orchestra, The Studio Orchestra. The ensemble has an out-of-date website here (www.disso.org).

You can check out his many honors and projects by typing his name into the search engine on this blog site.

Utevsky offered The Ear a guest review of a concert this past weekend by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. I immediately took him up on the offer. After all, he is a fine and perceptive writer who, you may recall, blogged for this post when he was on tour two summers ago with the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) tour to Vienna, Prague and Budapest.

Here is the review by Mikko Utevsky (below):

MAYCO Mikko Utevsky by Steve Rankin

BY Mikko Utevsky

Following on the heels of the Madison Symphony Orchestra‘s season-opening concerts two weeks ago, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra opened its winter Masterworks season in the Overture Center’s Capitol Theater this past Friday night.

WCO lobby

The WCO offered an intriguing program: Benjamin Britten (in his centennial year, sadly overshadowed by the bicentennials of Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi); Camille Saint-Saëns; and Beethoven.

Benjamin Britten

Madison is fortunate to have both of these accomplished ensembles, whose divergent repertoires provide a welcome breadth for local audiences.

We can always rely on WCO music director and conductor maestro Andrew Sewell (below) to bring us a work unfamiliar to our ears, and often quite a good one. He has a particular sympathy for British composers, Britten and Gerald Finzi among them.

andrewsewell

But to my ears, Friday’s opener was not up to the usually high standard of these under-appreciated offerings, but still an enjoyable piece to hear.

Britten’s texturally minimal fanfare for piano, string quartet, and string orchestra “Young Apollo” (at bottom in a YouTube video) showed off its soloists well, particularly WCO pianist Beth Wilson, whose virtuoso part was rendered with fire and flair, complemented by commendable work from both the solo quartet and the section strings.

The whole piece seemed to sag slightly, however, and overplayed its hand somewhat in terms of pacing and texture, leaving too little left for the final burst of energy.

This apparent lack of energy was remedied effectively by guest soloist Bryan Wallick, the pianist the  Piano Concerto No. 5 (“Egyptian”), Op. 103, by Camille Saint-Saens (below).

Camille Saint-Saens

The work’s “Egyptian” elements bear the crude imprint of indiscriminate French appropriation of anything “Oriental,” sounding more like a hodgepodge of exoticisms than a unified sonic world. But while they are jarring after the first movement, the second and third together feel more unified, if no more authentic.

Wallick (below) played with personality and a palpably propulsive energy, and the orchestra complemented his drive with lush, shimmering tutti playing in the slow movement in particular. Some discomfort with tempo was detectable in the first movement, but it was transitory and overshadowed by Wallick’s fiery performance. He was rewarded with a lengthy ovation.

His encore, in recognition of Verdi’s 200th birthday, was Liszt’s “Rigoletto” paraphrase, which brought the audience to their feet for a second time.

Bryan Wallick mug

The second half brought us a typical season-opening warhorse, the Fifth Symphony by Beethoven (below), which Sewell conducted from memory — a risk seemingly rewarded by his increased freedom on the podium.

Beethoven big

In contrast to what felt like a wind-heavy Ninth Symphony in the 2011-12 season, the Fifth was string-focused, even to the point that winds were obscured in a few critical places like the canon in the slow movement Andante con moto (though the difference could have been my seats).

The WCO has fine string players, and it showed in the Beethoven. The aforementioned slow movement featured particularly lovely, fluid viola, cello and bass work. The lack of a fourth cello was felt acutely at points in the work – I found myself desiring a bigger bottom end to the Finale from the low strings and contrabassoon, whose contributions were unfortunately lost in the mix, to support the widened middle range provided by the addition of trombones.

Energetic brass playing supplemented the core string energy of the WCO sound in the Finale of the Fifth, which unfortunately suffered from inconsistent tempi, disregarding the critical relationship between the Scherzo and Finale.

The latter movement is decisively slower than the preceding one, and whatever one may think of Beethoven’s metronome markings, the relationship they establish is indisputable.

In Friday’s performance, this disregard was to the work’s detriment, and whatever perceived excitement was gained from pumping up the majestic Finale was taken out of the Scherzo.

Tempo aside, the work was well-received by the audience (swelled by an encouraging influx of student listeners, particularly young players from the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras), and Sewell was generous in his recognition of the orchestra, beginning with the particularly deserving low strings.

WCO ovation B-9

The concert proved a worthwhile beginning to what should be a diverse and enlightening season (the appearance of yet another rendition of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto aside).

The orchestra returns with its holiday performances (A Canadian Brass Christmas on Nov. 30, and Handel’s “Messiah” on Dec. 13). Then its Masterworks season resumes Jan. 17 with guitarist Anna Vidovic and Bruckner’s Second Symphony.

For information , visit: http://www.wcoconcerts.org


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