The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Flutist and activist Iva Ugrcic is Musician of the Year for 2018

December 31, 2018
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IF YOU LIKE A CERTAIN BLOG POST, PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD. FORWARD A LINK TO IT OR, SHARE or TAG IT (not just “Like” it) ON FACEBOOK. Performers can use the extra exposure to draw potential audience members to an event.

By Jacob Stockinger

The classical music scene in Madison is so rich that it is always a challenge to name a Musician of the Year.

There are just so many deserving candidates. One obvious example is conductor John DeMain, who is completing his 25th year of outstanding stewardship in directing the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Madison Opera.

But part of the intent behind such an honor is not just to recognize well-known figures. It is to encourage a broader awareness of those people who do a lot for local classical music but who often fly under the radar for many people.

That is why The Ear is naming flutist and activist Iva Ugrcic (below) as the Musician of the Year for 2018.

As both a performer and entrepreneur, Ugrcic is always very busy broadening her varied career. Being both a player and an activist, she is making a difference, musically and socially, that deserves to be recognized and supported.

Serbian by birth and educated in Belgrade and Paris, she came to Madison where she completed her doctorate in flute performance and also took business courses at the UW-Madison Business School.

She is a first-rate performer who has won a national prize for performing. While at the UW-Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music, she won both the concerto competition (below) and the Irving Shain competition for wind instruments in duets. (You can hear her amazing technique in the YouTube video at the bottom. In it Ugrcic performs “Voice” for solo flute by the Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu.)

She now plays with the Black Marigold Wind Quintet and Sound Out Loud, both of which are based in Madison and both of which devote themselves to contemporary composers and new music.

This year, Urgcic also soloed with the Middleton Community Orchestra (below, in a photo by John W. Barker), performing to critical acclaim a relatively unknown concerto by 19th-century composer Carl Reinecke.

This year, Urgcic also took over as artistic director of the Rural Musicians Forum, which brings classical music, jazz, world music and ethnic music, played by outstanding performers to the Spring Green area, often at the Taliesin compound of architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

But perhaps her most long-lasting contribution is her founding and now directing the LunART Festival that, in the same year of the Me Too movement, sought to present an all-women event that featured composers, performers, visual artists and writers.

Such was its inaugural success in 2018 that it won a national prize from the National Flute Association and a second festival will take place from June 9 through June 9, 2019.

2019 will also see the release of her second solo recording devoted to the music of the contemporary Romanian composer Doina Rotaru, even while she is working on a recording of “Beer Music” by contemporary American composer Brian DuFord.

And all that is just the beginning for such a promising talent. We will be hearing much more from her and about her in years to come.

To see her impressive biography, as well as updated activities, video and audio clips, photographs and other information, go to: https://www.ivaugrcic.com/bio

Here is one more thing that speaks to The Ear. It feels important, even necessary, to recognize the positive contributions of an immigrant at a time when the current “America First” administration under President Donald Trump seems so paranoid and negative, so xenophobic and afraid of foreigners.

The U.S government should be less intent on condemning or stigmatizing immigrants, whether legal or undocumented, and should put more emphasis on their contributions and on the long and distinguished history they have in the United States.

Iva Urgcic is yet another example of the talent we Americans stand to lose if we do not accept and encourage the gifts that immigrants bring in so many ways — from the arts, medicine, education and technology to everyday life and work.

Please join The Ear is expressing gratitude and congratulations to Iva Urgcic.


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Classical music: The Middleton Community Orchestra and solo flutist Iva Ugrcic turn in polished performances of a fun program to kick off the new season

October 12, 2018
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IF YOU LIKE A CERTAIN BLOG POST, PLEASE FORWARD A LINK TO IT OR SHARE IT (not just “Like” it) ON FACEBOOK. Performers can use the extra exposure to draw potential audience members to an event.

By Jacob Stockinger

Here is a special posting, a review written by frequent guest critic and writer for this blog, John W. Barker. Barker (below) is an emeritus professor of Medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also is a well-known classical music critic who writes for Isthmus and the American Record Guide, and who hosts an early music show once a month on Sunday morning on WORT 89.9 FM. For years, he served on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison. He also took the performance photo.

By John W. Barker

The opening concert on Wednesday night by the largely amateur Middleton Community Orchestra (below top), under the baton of Steve Kurr (below bottom), was a relatively brief but pithy one, with only three short works on the program.

The opener was Autumn, the most frequently played section of the ballet The Seasons, Op. 67 (1899), by Alexander Glazunov (below) and one of the composer’s most frequently heard pieces. It is a rondo-like sequence of varied dance movements, full of lyricism and bright colors. The Middleton players dug into it with gusto.

Second came the Flute Concerto in D Major, Op. 283, by the prolific 19th-century German composer Carl Reinecke (1824-1910, below). He was conservative as a teacher and as a prolific composer.

Among his concertos, this one was his last, written just two years before his death. It is an engaging work, not notable for great ideas, but amiable, with a good virtuosic workout for the soloist.

The soloist was the Serbian-born flutist Iva Ugrcic, an absolute whiz of a player, and, among other things, a product of the UW-Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music doctoral program.  She played with super-precision and confidence, giving her instrument great personality.

Without intermission, the concert ended with the Symphony No. 100, known as the “Military,” by Franz Joseph Haydn (below). It was first played in 1794 among the composer’s “London” Symphonies during his second visit to England. But it may well have been begun while he was in Vienna, for it reflects a particular fad popular there.

This was the use in orchestral writing of an adaptation of the sounds of the Turkish Janissary band. In the second movement, whose tune was taken from an earlier chamber work of his, Haydn introduced recurrently the “Turkish” instruments (two clarinets, triangle, cymbals, bass drums) with startling effect.

At the movement’s end, a trumpet call brings these novelties back for a crashing conclusion. And then, in the fourth movement’s ending, the “Janissary” instruments return for another razzle-dazzle finish. (You can hear the fourth movement in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

It’s all great fun, and the orchestra players seemed to find their own enjoyment in it.

The MCO continues its steady growth as a polished and reliable ensemble — all 98 players!


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Classical music: Oakwood Chamber Players take a “Journey” to explore neglected and oppressed German and Dutch composers this Saturday night and Sunday afternoon

May 16, 2018
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By Jacob Stockinger

The accomplished and acclaimed Oakwood Chamber Players (below) continue their exploration of neglected repertoire and end their “Journey” season with two performances of a concert titled Legacy on this Saturday night, May 19, at 7 p.m. and on Sunday afternoon, May 20, at 2 p.m.

The concerts will be held at the Oakwood Center for Arts and Education, 6209 Mineral Point Road, on Madison’s far west side near West Towne Mall.

Tickets can be purchased with cash or personal checks at the door: $25 general admission, $20 seniors and $5 students. Visit www.oakwoodchamberplayers.com for more information.

Trio for flute, clarinet and bassoon by Dutch composer Julius Röntgen (below) was written in 1917 and is neo-Classical in style. Röntgen was a classmate and lifelong friend of Edvard Grieg’s whom he met at the Leipzig Conservatory. He studied with Lachner and Reinecke, and collaborated with Brahms and Casals in concerts. His musical career spanned the roles of composer, teacher, and concert pianist. He was instrumental in the founding of the Amsterdam Conservatory and the world-famous Concertgebouw Orchestra.

A frequent participant in chamber music himself, he was a fine contributor to the genre. Röntgen’s Wind Trio in G Major shows his compositional facility: from a playful Haydn-influenced first movement (which you can hear in the YouTube video at the bottom) to an adagio melody in the second movement that is drawn from Johann Sebastian Bach’s “St. Matthew’s Passion” and to the final movement with a Danish folk melody at its heart that is enhanced by upbeat creative variations.

German composer Heinrich Kaminski (below) wrote his atmospheric String Quartet in F major. Written over the time period leading up to World War I, this four-movement piece encompasses moodiness contrasted with high energy. The scherzo movement has the feel of a driven dance, the adagio movement is emotionally charged, and Kaminski’s final movement recaps themes of the piece’s restless expressivity.

Recognition of his talent in Berlin was cut short when the Nazi Gestapo intercepted correspondence that revealed Jewish heritage. His music was deemed unsuitable for performance in Germany and banned in 1937. He fled to Switzerland yet his life was profoundly impacted by events. He died shortly after the war, having endured the dissolution of his marriage, declining health and loss of children. However interest in Kaminski’s unique composition style has led to resurgence in recent performances of his works.

Dutch composer Leo Smit (below) studied at the Amsterdam Conservatory and then lived in Paris for a decade before returning to Holland. He was greatly influenced by Ravel and Stravinsky’s innovations and exchanged ideas with fellow composers Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc and Arthur Honegger. He enjoyed jazz rhythms and they often are found in his works.

His three-movement Sextet for piano and wind quintet is full of variety, warm melodic lines and fascinating harmonies. With the German invasion during World War II Smit’s circumstances as a Jewish musician deteriorated and he was forbidden to continue as a professional musician. Despite the dire circumstances he continued composing, completing a Sonata for flute and piano in 1943 just prior to his transportation to and death in a concentration camp.

The program ends with a cleverly written piece by German composer Bernhard Sekles (below). The final movement from his Capriccio for violin, cello and piano is titled Yankee-Doodle with variations and a delightful way to conclude the concert. Based in Frankfurt, Sekles was an innovative composer and teacher, and in 1928 became the first European teacher of jazz.

Oakwood Chamber Players members are Marilyn Chohaney, flute; Amanda Szczys, bassoon; Anne Aley, horn; Leyla Sanyer, violin; and Maggie Darby Townsend, cello. They will be joined by guests Martha Fischer, piano; Elspeth Stalter-Clouse, violin; Shannon Farley, viola; Aaron Hill, oboe; and Bernard Parish, clarinet.

The Oakwood Chamber Players are a group of Madison-area professional musicians who play in other professional organizations such as the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, and who have rehearsed and performed at Oakwood Village for over 30 years.

# # #

The Oakwood Chamber Players are a professional music ensemble proudly supported by Oakwood Lutheran Senior Ministries and the Oakwood Foundation.


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Classical music: “Grace Presents” offers a FREE concert this Saturday at noon by three UW-Madison graduate students: flutist Danielle Breisach; pianist Yana Avedyan; and percussionist Andrew Baldwin.

May 13, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Our friends at the community-based “Grace Presents” write:

This Saturday from noon to 1 p.m., at Grace Episcopal Church (below are photos of the exterior and interior), 116 West Washington Avenue on the Capitol Square downtown, “Grace Presents” will offer a FREE concert.

grace episcopal church ext

MBM Grace altar

The program features three University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music graduate students: flutist Danielle Breisach, pianist Yana Avedyan and percussionist Andrew Baldwin.

Grace Presents is a free monthly concert series that takes place in the historic Grace Episcopal Church on Madison’s Capitol Square. The series features a diverse range of music, everything from classical and folk to jazz and bluegrass.

The weekend’s classical program includes: the “Undine” Sonata for Flute and Piano, Op. 167, by Carl Reinecke (you can hear the lovely slow movement played by Emmanuel Pahud in a YouTube video at the bottom); Sonata da Camera, Op. 67 for Flute and Piano by Nicolas Bacri; Reflections Nos. 1 (Crystalline) and V (Profound) “On The Nature of Water” by Jacob Druckman (1928-1996); Meditation for Solo Vibraphone by Takayoshi Yoshioka (b. 1955); “Toucher” by Vinko Globokar (b. 1934); “Torse III” by Akira Miyoshi  (1933-2013); and “Arabesque” for Solo Vibraphone by Claude Debussy as arranged by Karen Ervin Pershing (1943-2004).

Here are biographies of the three young but very accomplished musicians:

Danielle Breisach’s exuberance and compassion permeate her performing and teaching. In demand as a collaborative musician and teacher, Danielle has performed with several organizations in Michigan and Wisconsin and maintains a private studio of over 30 highly successful students. As an adjudicator and clinician, Breisach (below) has been invited to adjudicate auditions for Winds of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Flute Festival, teach the flute master class at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Summer Music Clinic, and appear as a guest clinician for middle school and high school flutists in Michigan and Wisconsin.

Currently, Danielle Breisach is a doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Flute Performance studying with Stephanie Jutt. In addition to modern flute, she is a baroque flute specialist (studied with Jeanne Swack), and has participated in baroque master classes with Kim Pineda and Barthold Kuijken
As Artistic Director of the Madison Flute Club since 2012, Danielle has extended the reach of the organization through founding the Chamber Ensemble, which gave its debut performance at the National Flute Association’s annual convention in 2014. Additionally, Danielle founded the Middle School and High School Flute Ensembles in 2013, giving young, Madison-area flutists the opportunity to collaborate with one another and gain experience on auxiliary instruments.

Previously, Danielle has taught at Western Michigan University, where she received a BM in Music Education (’07) and MM in Music Performance (’09). She also held the position of Director of the High School Flute Ensembles for the West Michigan Flute Association from 2010-2012.

Danielle Breisach lives in Madison with her husband Jeff and their two dogs and three cats. In addition to teaching privately, Danielle is working towards completing her DMA at UW-Madison, working with the Madison Flute Club, and participating on the planning committee for the Wisconsin Flute Festival. In her free time, she enjoys traveling to Bay View, Michigan, kayaking, hiking and reading.

Danielle Breisach 2

Yana Avedyan, pianist, is originally from Kharkiv, Ukraine, where she attended Music School No. 9 and studied with Tatiana Glazirina majoring in piano performance. She began her studies with Karen Becker at SUNY Plattsburgh in 2007 and has participated in master classes with Evgenia Tzarov and Helen Huang. In the spring of 2011 Avedyan made her debut as soloist with the Manhattan Chamber Orchestra, playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488.

She completed her Bachelor’s degree with a double major in Music and Accounting in May 2012, when she graduated summa cum laude. In the spring of 2013 Yana Avedyan and Danielle Breisach (flute) were the winners of the Annual Shain Woodwind­ Piano Duo Competition. In the Spring of 2014, Avedyan was one of the winners of the Annual Beethoven Competition. Avedyan is currently in the DMA program at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she is a student of Van Cliburn Competition medal-winning pianist Christopher Taylor.

Yana Avedyan-low res

Andrew Baldwin is currently pursuing a master of music in percussion performance at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  He has had the opportunity to perform for master classes and festivals including artists such as Carl Allen, She-e Wu, Greg Beyer, Jack Van Geem, Nancy Zeltsman and Mike Truesdell.  Alongside the UW Whitewater Symphonic Wind Ensemble, he has performed at Carnegie Hall in New York and Symphony Center in Chicago.  He will again play in Carnegie Hall with the UW-Madison Symphonic Wind Ensemble.  With his jazz playing, he has shared the stage with Christian Howes (jazz violinist) and Roy “Futureman” Wooten.

An advocate of chamber and new music, he composes music and plays in various chamber groups both on and off campus.  During his undergraduate studies, he formed the saxophone/percussion duo, “Wood/Wind”, which made a recording of a chronology of pieces showcasing the development of pieces written for the pairing.  Andrew Baldwin also frequently engages in free improvisation with many of the UW-Madison studio members.

Andrew Baldwin-low res


Classical music: University of Wisconsin music graduates start a concert series on Sunday to spotlight alumni talent.

September 13, 2012
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ALERT: PLEASE NOTE that the art song recital of Faure, Schubert and others scheduled for this Sunday, Sept. 16, at 4 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall featuring baritone Paul Rowe (below in a photo by Katrin Talbot) has been CANCELLED. The School of Music apologizes for any inconvenience this may cause.  The Ear has not yet received word about when or if the recital will be rescheduled. 

 By Jacob Stockinger

I have already written about the many chamber music concerts coming up this weekend, including two string quartets and the Oakwood Chamber Players, that are  competing for audiences.

Add another one.

On Sunday afternoon, there will be inaugurated a new series of concerts designed to show off the talent that comes to — and graduates from — the University of Wisconsin School of Music.

And that talent just seems to be getting bigger and better, more and more impressive.

This Sunday afternoon, the School of Music Alumni Association hosts its first annual fall concert. Performers have been chosen based on nominations from UW faculty and fellow alumni.

The FREE concert is at 1:30 p.m. in Mills Hall. A reception will follow the concert.

Here are the performers and the program:

Pianist Ilia Radoslavov (below, DMA, assistant professor at Truman State University in Missouri) will perform Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13 (“Pathétique”) by Ludwig von Beethoven (1770-1827)

Flute player Morgann Davis (below, MM, teaches privately in Madison) will perform Sonata for Flute (Sonata Undine), Op. 167, by Carl Reinecke (1824-1910).

 

Mezzo-soprano Jennifer Sams (below, DMA, teaches privately in Madison and at Beloit College) will perform “Try Me, Good King,” based on the last words of five of Henry VIII’s wives, by Libby Larsen (b. 1950).

Percussionist Will Kemperman (below, MM, teaches in the Twin Cities area at the University of St. Thomas and Hamline University) will perform “Seven Brazilian Children’s Songs” for marimba, by Ney Rosauro (b. 1952).

 

Tuba player Mike Forbes (below, MM plus a DMA from the University of Maryland, teaches at UW-Platteville) will perform his own Capriccio.

 

Pianist Kirsten Ihde  (below, DMA, accompanying Jennifer Sams) will accompany several of the performers.

Here is a statement from Susannah Brooks (below), who sits on the board of directors of the School of Music Alumni Association.

“We’re holding this concert for a few different reasons. First, it’s simply a great way to raise the profile of SOMAA and recognize the excellence of the music program. Most of these performers are within 10 years or so of graduation with either a DMA or MM degree; all are private teachers or university professors. We’re excited to show the variety of music that comes out of the SoM.

“But we’re also excited to provide a somewhat unusual “collage” performance opportunity. Most concerts contain music from within a specific era, composer or instrumentation group. This program contains music spanning the globe and hundreds of years, including rarely heard pieces by living composers. It’ll be a fun experience for the audience, but it’ll also be a great networking opportunity for the performers themselves.

“We’re hoping that this concert, and those that we plan in the future, will help raise the profile of the School of Music Alumni Association (SOMAA) and spotlight the many alumni who make the Madison music scene so vital.”


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