The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Madison Symphony Orchestra announces its new 2014-15 season. It includes programs from Bach to Hollywood exiles from Hitler and the Nazis, acclaimed soloists and ticket prices with only modest increases.

March 19, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Madison Symphony Orchestra (below) has just announced its next season for 2014-15.

MSO-HALL

It strikes The Ear as both deeply interesting and tightly cohesive, a good blend of sure-fire hits and unknown or rarely heard repertoire. It also features some fine local talent and some unusual repertoire, though, unlike the past several seasons, no new or contemporary music is included. After all, this is a business with seats to fill, not some theoretical exercise in programming.

“You can’t have everything, especially when you are playing only eight concerts,” lamented MSO maestro John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad) when he discussed the new season with me.

But, DeMain added, the MSO is exploring doing another Chicago Symphony Orchestra “Beyond the Score” format concert — like this season’s presentation of Antonin Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony, which sold out — probably in January and probably with more than one performance, if they can find a sponsor to front the $50,000 cost. Then he will decide on what work out of more than 20 possibilities would be right.

John DeMain full face by Prasad

Concerts take place in Overture Hall in the Overture Center on Friday nights at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday nights at 8 p.m.; and Sunday afternoons at 2:30 p.m.

The deadline for subscriptions renewals and keeping your current seat is May 8.

Here is the official press release that unveils the new season. The Ear also talked at length one-on-one with MSO music director and conductor John DeMain. Since the announcement is long enough for one post, DeMain’s insightful comments will appear a bit later in another post.

mso from above

MADISON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA ANNOUNCES 2014-15 SEASON

Maestro John DeMain and the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) will deliver a diverse and exciting season of composers and guest artists for 2014-2015.

Beginning with a September program that focuses on the highly-talented musicians in the orchestra, DeMain will lead the audience through an exhilarating variety of themes and cultures throughout the season.  Russia, Scandinavia, and Golden-Age Hollywood are just a few of the sound worlds the MSO will explore, while monumental works central to the orchestra, such as Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, will anchor the year.

A world-class roster of guest artists has been invited to Madison for the season’s performances, including violinist Sarah Chang, pianist Olga Kern, violinist Daniel Hope, pianist Ingrid Fliter and University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music pianist Christopher Taylor.

SEPTEMBER 19, 20 and 21, 2014

“Orchestral Splendor,” John DeMain, Conductor

RICHARD STRAUSS, “Also sprach Zarathustra”

FRANK MARTIN, Concerto for Seven Winds

CAMILLE SAINT-SAËNS, Symphony No. 3 (“Organ” Symphony)

German composer Richard Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra was once among his least performed works, but it is now firmly established as standard orchestral repertoire.  The trumpet theme and thunderous timpani entrance (heard in Stanley Kubrick’s epic film “2001: A Space Odyssey”) are unmistakable.

Swiss composer Frank Martin’s Concerto for Seven Winds was written in 1949.  It features seven solo instruments, exploring differences in sonority and expression.  The virtuosic and conversational writing in these piece results in a playful, sportive character.

French composer Camille Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3, known also as the “Organ” Symphony, draws on elements of both the conventional symphony and the tone poem. Formally unusual in its own time, yet popular from its conception, the work features virtuosic piano and organ passages and a masterful display of the vast colors possible in the symphony orchestra.

John DeMain and MSO from the stage Greg Anderson

OCTOBER 17, 18 and 19, 2014

“The Russian Spirit” with John DeMain, conductor, and Olga Kern (below), piano

PETER ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY, Suite from “Swan Lake”

SERGEI RACHMANINOFF, Concerto No. 1 for Piano

DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH, Symphony No. 6

The Suite from “Swan Lake” tells the magical tale of a young prince enchanted by a swan maiden under the moonlight.  Peter Tchaikovsky’s charming work utilizes haunting melodies, captivating waltzes, Russian and Hungarian folk themes, and a Spanish dance.

Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 1 for Piano displays a youthful freshness and an assertive, extroverted personality.  Indeed, the composer began this work when he was 17!  For audience members who delight in keyboard fireworks, this piece will thrill.

Symphony No. 6 by Dmitri Shostakovich, written as war clouds were gathering in Russia, was quite a contrast to Symphony No. 5.  Lopsided movement lengths, a lack of obvious theme, and characters of anxiety and desolation reflect the intriguing political situation of the time, as well as Shostakovich’s own remarkably wide emotional compass.

Olga Kern, Mogens Dahl Konsertsal 26.1.2009

NOVEMBER 7, 8 and 9, 2014

“Scandinavian Wonders” with John DeMain, conductor, and Sarah Chang (below), violin

EDVARD GRIEG, Lyric Suite

JEAN SIBELIUS, Concerto for Violin

CARL NIELSEN, Symphony No. 4 (“The Inextinguishable”)

Over the course of his long career, Edvard Grieg composed 66 Lyric pieces for piano, strongly rooted in the songs, dances, mythology, and spirit of Norway.  He selected four of these fragrant and diverse miniatures for an orchestral suite, premiered in 1906.

 “…For…10 years it was my dearest wish to become a great virtuoso.” wrote Finnish composer Jean Sibelius in his diary.  Unfortunately the composer never reached great proficiency on the instrument, and his Concerto for Violin, awash in Nordic textures, expresses a melancholic farewell to that childhood dream.

As a philosophical guideline to his often raging Symphony No. 4, Danish composer Carl Nielsen said, “Music is life, and, like life, inextinguishable”.  Four interlinked movements of frequently agitated energy lead to a climax of ultimate triumph and grand 19th century symphonic tradition.

Sarah Chang playing

DECEMBER 5, 6 and 7, 2014

A Madison Symphony Christmas

With John DeMain, conductor; Alyson Cambridge (below), soprano; Harold Meers, tenor; the Madison Symphony Chorus, Beverly Taylor, director; the Madison Youth Choirs, Michael Ross, artistic director; and the Mt. Zion Gospel Choir, Leotha Stanley, director.

John DeMain and the Madison Symphony don their Santa hats for this signature Christmas celebration. This concert is filled with traditions, from caroling in the lobby with the Madison Symphony Chorus to vocal performances by hundreds of members of Madison’s musical community. Christmas classics are interwoven with enchanting new holiday music. The culminating sing-along is Madison’s unofficial start of the holiday season!

Alyson Cambridge

DeMain Santa Bob Rashid

FEBRUARY 13, 14 and 15, 2015

“Fliter Plays Chopin” with John DeMain, conductor, and Ingrid Fliter (below), piano

BENJAMIN BRITTEN, Variations on a Theme by Frank Bridge

FREDERIC CHOPIN, Concerto No. 2 for Piano

ROBERT SCHUMANN, Symphony No. 4

Frank Bridge, one of Benjamin Britten’s earliest composition teachers, was certainly responsible for the surpassing clarity, individuality, and discipline in Britten’s most cherished works.  Britten’s “Variations” on Bridge’s theme range from passionate to playful, capturing the heartfelt musical admiration of a pupil for his teacher.

From the moment he arrived in Paris at age 21, Frederic Chopin drew the admiration of both the public and esteemed critics, alike.  Concerto No. 2 was in fact his first concerto, displaying the composer’s prolific improvisatory and imaginative style.  

In composing Symphony No. 4, Robert Schumann departed significantly from the standard Classical form he previously employed, connecting all four movements with recurring musical ideas–a novel proposition at the time.

Ingrid Fliter playing

MARCH 6, 7 and 8, 2015

“Composers in Exile: Creating the Hollywood Sound” with John DeMain, conductor, and  Daniel Hope (below), violin

FRANZ WAXMAN, Sinfonietta for Strings and Timpani Ride of the Cossacks from “Taras Bulba”

MIKLÓS RÓZSA, Theme, Variations and Finale;  Parade of the Charioteers from “Ben Hur”;                          Love Theme from “Ben Hur”; Love Theme from “Spellbound”

ERICH KORNGOLD, Concerto for Violin and the  Suite from “Captain Blood”

This unique concert features the works of great classical composers before they fled Nazi persecution and also showcases their later brilliant contributions to Hollywood film scores.

Franz Waxman (below) is responsible for a long list of memorable Hollywood scores, including “The Bride of Frankenstein,” “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and “Rebecca.”  His Sinfonietta, written for only strings and timpani, is comprised of three wildly different movements. Waxman also composed the soundtrack for the 1962 epic, “Taras Bulba.”  “Ride of the Cossacks” is the exhilarating theme to which Taras and his army gallop to Dubno.

Franz Waxman

According to Miklos Rózsa (below), his “Theme” was conceived in the manner of a Hungarian folk song, then treated in variations of contrasting feeling, and summarized in a wild and swift finale.  The 1934 work earned him his first international success. By the late 1940’s Rózsa was an Oscar-winning, film score composer, and joined the staff of Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer.  His thrilling score for the 1959 film “Ben Hur” is one of his lasting achievements, earning him his third and final Oscar.

Miklos Rozsa

The Concerto for Violin, written by Erich Wolfgang Korngold (bel0w top) in 1945, perfectly blends the two musical lives of the composer, unapologetic in both its rigorous craftsmanship and its Hollywood charm. “Captain Blood” was a milestone for Korngold, as it was his first fully symphonic movie score.  Produced in only three weeks, the music evidences his most professional and imaginative effort.

erich wolfgang korngold at piano

savannah_french

APRIL 10, 11 and 12, 2015

“Piano Genius” with John DeMain, conductor, and Christopher Taylor (below), piano

JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH, Concerto No. 4 for Clavier

FRANZ LISZT, Concerto No. 1 for Piano

ANTON BRUCKNER, Symphony No. 7

Concerto No. 4 by Johann Sebastian Bach is part of a set of six concertos, dated to 1738.  The piece was originally written for harpsichord and is ripe with movement and ornamentation. Bach’s concertos laid a crucial formal and harmonic groundwork for centuries of composition to follow.

Franz Liszt’s Concerto No. 1 for Piano is more than a century-long leap forward in time. Liszt’s Romantic genius is unabashedly on display, with thick orchestration, cadenzas that range from delicate to thundering, and lush harmonies.

Anton Bruckner was a country man, transplanted into bustling cosmopolitan Vienna, and he and his music were unlikely successes with audiences and critics. His music was said to “compel the element of the divine into our human world”.

ChristopherTaylorNoCredit

MAY 8, 9 and 10, 2015

“Ode to Joy” with John DeMain, conductor; concertmaster Naha Greenholtz (below top), violin; Melody Moore, soprano; Gwendolyn Brown, contralto; Eric Barry, tenor; Morris Robinson (below bottom), bass; and the Madison Symphony Chorus, Beverly Taylor, director.

LEONARD BERNSTEIN, “Serenade” (after Plato’s “Symposium”)

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN, Symphony No. 9 (“Choral”)

Leonard Bernstein’s “Serenade” for violin and orchestra, resulted from a rereading of Plato’s charming dialogue, “The Symposium.”  The music dances through a series of inter-related “speakers” at a banquet (Phaedrus, Aristophanes, Erixymachus, Agathon, and Socrates), praising love.

Naha Greenholtz [playing

Ludwig van Beethoven’s last and monumental Symphony No. 9 stands apart from his other symphonies by virtue of its humanistic message, enormous scale and organic unity of design.  The mammoth fourth movement, operating like a symphony in miniature, is like nothing else in symphonic music.  Four soloists, full chorus, the entire orchestra, and the famous “Ode to Joy” theme will conclude the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s season. (You can hear a populist flash mob version of the “Ode to Joy” at the bottom in a popular YouTube video that had almost 4-1/2 million hits.)

Morris Robinson

MSO Chorus CR Greg Anderson

Single tickets for individual concerts have increased slightly and are $16 to $84 each, and go on sale Aug. 16. They are available at www.madisonsymphony.org/singletickets and through the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street or call the Box Office at (608) 258-4141.

New subscribers can receive savings up to 50%.  For more information and to subscribe, visit www.madisonsymphony.org/newsub or call (608) 257-3734.

Groups of 15 or more can save 25% by calling the MSO office at (608) 257-3734. For more information visit, www.madisonsymphony.org/groups

Discounted seats are subject to availability, and discounts may not be combined.

You can also check out the official MSO website announcement of the new season by visiting:

http://www.madisonsymphony.org/14-15

The Madison Symphony Orchestra engages audiences of all ages and backgrounds in live classical music through a full season of concerts with established and emerging soloists of international renown, an organ series that includes free concerts, and widely respected education and community engagement programs. Find more information at www.madisonsymphony.org.

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Classical music: Hear the cold! Oakwood Chamber Players will perform a “Nordic” program of Icelandic, Finnish and Danish chamber music this Saturday and Sunday. Plus, a Pro Arte Quartet dinner is Thursday night at the University Club.

January 29, 2014
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ALERT:  The University Club, 803 State St. will host another Arts Outreach dinner with the Pro Arte String Quartet (below) tomorrow night, Thursday, Jan. 30. Cocktails and appetizers are at 5:30 p.m.;  a three-course dinner will be served at 6:30 p.m.; and a concert of Mendelssohn’s Quartet in E Minor and Haydn’s Quartet in D Major, Op. 20, No. 4, will take place at 7:30 p.m. The cost is $40 a head. Reservation are required and, along with menu choices, can be made here: Make your reservation online! You can also call (608) 262-5023. For more information, visit  uclub@uclub.wisc.edu and http://artsoutreach.wisc.edu/pro_arte.html

Pro Arte Quartet new 2 Rick Langer

By Jacob Stockinger

The title of Ann Beattie’s first collection of short stories — “Chilly Scenes of Winter” — comes immediately to mind.

Haven’t yet had enough of the “bitter” and “dangerous” polar vortex cold this winter? Well, you can hear it as well as feel it and fight it.

This weekend, the Oakwood Chamber Players (below) of Madison, Wisconsin, will present two performances of “Nordic,” a concert that reflects the musical landscapes created by composers influenced by the contrast of dark and light in their Northern physical environments. The concert is typical of the innovative and creative approach that the Oakwood Chamber Players usually take to their eclectic programming. Few local groups perform as many unknown or neglected composers or works. They also make intriguing connections and provide original contexts.

Oakwood Chamber Players 2012 2

Featured composers this time include Sveinbjorn Sveinbjornsson, Jean Sibelius and Carl Nielsen.

The Oakwood Chamber Players will present Nordic on this coming Saturday, Feb. 1, at 7 p.m. in the Oakwood Village Center for Arts and Education (below top), 6205 Mineral Point Road; and on Sunday Feb. 2 at 1:30 p.m. at the Visitor Center (below bottom) in the University of Wisconsin Arboretum.

Tickets are available at the door, and are $20 for general admission, $15 for seniors and $5 for students.

Oakwood Village Auditorium and Stage

UW Arboretum Visitor Center

Here are program based largely on a press release:

Icelandic composer Sveinbjorn Sveinbjornsson (below) is known primarily as the writer of the Iceland’s National Anthem. He wrote romantic music in the style of Felix Mendelssohn. The mark of his individual compositional voice is the northern folk elements incorporated into his music, which will be heard in the rich melodies of his Piano Trio for violin, cello and piano. 

SSveinbjorn örn_Sveinbjörnsson

The essence of the darkly expressive Finnish identity can be heard in compositions by Jean Sibelius (below), from his famous tone poem “Finlandia” to his symphonies, and is echoed in the Suite in A Major for String Trio for violin, viola and cello that is on the program.

Jean Sibelius at piano

Carl Nielsen (below) is Denmark’s most noteworthy and widely performed composer, famous for his symphonies. The Oakwood Chamber players will perform his Woodwind Quintet (at the bottom in a YouTube video played by members of the Berlin Philharmonic), which captures a variety of moods from lilting melodies, tour-de-force technical passages, to individual cadenzas that showcase an inherent understanding of the characteristics of each instrument. 

Carl Nielsen at piano

This is the third concert in the 2013-14 Oakwood Chamber Players’ season series titled “OrigiNATION:  Exploring Musical Regions of the World.”  Upcoming concerts include:

  • Russian Radius – March 22 and 23
  • Down Under – May 17 and 18

The Oakwood Chamber Players is a group of Madison-area professional musicians who play with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and other groups and who have rehearsed and performed at Oakwood Village for 30 years.

For more information, visit www.oakwoodchamberplayers.com

The Oakwood Chamber Players are a professional music ensemble proudly supported by Oakwood Lutheran Senior Ministries and the Oakwood Foundation, in collaboration with Friends of the Arboretum, Inc.

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Classical music: Madison’s Oakwood Chamber Players kicks off its 28th season of neglected composers and works this Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

September 12, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

Given the high level of its playing and its devotion to overlooked composers and unusual repertoire, the Oakwood Chamber Players might just be the most overlooked and underrated chamber music group in Madison.

The players have many affiliations with other professional groups in Madison. They include  (below): Nancy Mackenzie, Leyla Sanyer, Vincent Fuh, Amanda King Szczys, Anne Aley, Christopher Dozoryst, Maggie Darby Townsend, and Marilyn Chohaney

The group’s 28th annual season starts this weekend, on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, which means, unfortunately, it is going up against the season openers of the Pro Arte and Ancora string quartets. 

Still, the Oakwood Chamber Players have much to recommend them.

Each of the Oakwood season’s concerts features a collection of pieces with a common theme. For example, the first concert — “Twenty-somethings” — features pieces written by composers in their twenties.

Performances are Saturday Sept. 15, at 7 p.m. in the Oakwood Village University Oaks Auditorium, 6209 Mineral Point Road, on Madison’s far west side; and on Sunday, Sept. 16, at 1:30 p.m. in the UW Madison Arboretum’s Visitor Center Auditorium (below).

The program includes Alexander Borodin’s String Trio; Maurice Durufle’s Trio for flute, viola and piano; Kaspar Kummer’s Trio for flute, clarinet and bassoon, and Svend Erik Tarp’s Serenade for winds and strings.

Tickets are available at the door – $20 general admission, $15 seniors and $5 students

Here are some program notes for the first concerts provided by the group:

“The unstoppable creative force of young composers is celebrated on the first concert of the Oakwood Chamber Players season.  Each of the composers featured on the program wrote captivating music while in their twenties, many while juggling multiple career interests.

“The youthful energy and enthusiasm for music is tangible in the featured compositions. For example, as a fine amateur cellist, Russian composer Alexander Borodin wrote charming chamber music (at bottom, his String Trio) throughout his twenties, yet in his chosen career in the sciences, Borodin lead a remarkable life as a prestigious innovator in the field of chemistry.

Composer Kaspar Kummer, was gifted as a technically dazzling flute player and his popularity sent him on frequent tours throughout Europe. Throughout his twenties he added many delightful pieces of chamber music featuring the flute, including the wind trio programmed on the concert.

Music by the young Parisian organist Maurice Durufle (below with top), and by Svend Erik Tarp (below bottom), Danish musician and contemporary of Carl Nielsen, will round out the performances. Audiences will learn more about the lives of these young composers along with the Oakwood Chamber Player’s musical presentation.

Here is the rest of the 2012-13 season for the Oakwood Chamber Players:

Nov. 23: “Christmas Lights,” a tradition at Oakwood Village, showcases music of the season. Friday, Nov. 23, 2012 at 2:30 and 7 p.m., Oakwood Village University Woods Auditorium (below):

February 2 and 3: “The Americas” features a blend of the music of North, Central and South American composers. On Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013 at 7 p.m., in the Oakwood Village University Woods Auditorium, and Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013, at 1:30 p.m. in the UW Arboretum Visitor Center

March 16 and 17: “Influences” focuses on the works of French composers and their mentors. On Saturday, March 16, 2013 7 p.m., in the Oakwood Village University Woods Auditorium; on Sunday, March 17, 2013, at 1:30 p.m., UW Arboretum Visitor Center.

May 4 and 5: The finale, “The Movies,” features music from film. For this performance, Madison-area native and film music composer, Ian Honeyman, created a special arrangement of his music from Disney’s Lilly the Witch. On Saturday, May 4, 2013, at 7 p.m., in Oakwood Village University Woods Auditorium; on Sunday, May 5, 2013, 1:30 p.m., at the UW Arboretum Visitor Center.

Visit www.oakwoodchamberplayers.com for more information, including specific programs and works.

The Oakwood Chamber Players are a professional music ensemble proudly supported by Oakwood Lutheran Senior Ministries and the Oakwood Foundation, in collaboration with Friends of the Arboretum, Inc.


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