The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Is this the minority report of a dissenter? The Ear offers some thoughts and after-thoughts from recent concerts by the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Pro Arte String Quartet, the Middleton Community Orchestra and pianist Christopher Taylor. Plus, here are links to rave reviews of this afternoon’s final all-Beethoven concert by pianist Yefim Bronfman and the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

March 9, 2014
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ALERT: Today at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall of the Overture Center is the final performance of the all-Beethoven concert by the Madison Symphony Orchestra under John DeMain. It features pianist Yefim Bronfman (below) in TWO piano concertos (Nos. 2 and 5 “The Emperor”) plus the Symphony No. 1 and “The Creatures of Prometheus” Overture. Here are links to two rave reviews of the concert by Madison Magazine critic and blogger Greg Hettmansberger and by Isthmus critic John W. Barker, who also guest blogs for The Ear. It sure sounds like a NOT-TO-BE-MISSED concert. See you there!

http://www.madisonmagazine.com/Blogs/Classically-Speaking/March-2014/A-Piano-Concerto-Doubleheader-and-Beethoven-to-the-Max/

http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=42237

Yefim Bronfman portrait

By Jacob Stockinger

It has been a very busy time musically in Madison, with a lot of previews to post, which often supplant reviews since The Ear thinks previews are more useful than reviews to most listeners and performers. And this coming week and weekend are even worse. So much music, and so little space!

But here are some “outdated” capsule reviews, impressions really, with accompanying afterthoughts that come to The Ear as he listened and later thought about what he had heard:

MADISON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA AND TRUMPETER TINE THING HELSETH

It seemed a curious, even odd theme for a Valentine’s Day program. But BRASS – not romantic love — marked the Valentine’s Day weekend performances by the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below), although ending with the “Rosenkavalier” suite by Richard Strauss did indeed prove an inspired choice to combine brass and love. Plus by all accounts, the concert sold very well. It sure got standing ovations. In short, it may have seemed odd, but it worked.

MSO playing

The “Doctor Atomic” Symphony by the contemporary American composer John Adams (below), who put the instrumental work together from his own opera score, was powerful, and also fit the brass bill, with great solos by MSO trumpeter John Aley, and was impressive to hear –- though also hardly romantic.

John Adams

Given conductor John DeMain (below) and his stupendous taste and talent for choosing great singers who are also affordable, I kept thinking: How I would like to have heard some great singers perform familiar and unknown love arias from operas by Mozart, Rossini, Verdi, Puccini, Saint-Saens, even Wagner. Now those would be symphony tickets to throw in with a box of chocolates and a bouquet of roses. But The Ear has been informed that such concerts often do not sell well and might also be seen as competing with the local opera company.

John DeMain full face by Prasad

All that said, I thought that the guest soloist, Norwegian trumpeter Tine Thing Helseth (below), proved an inspired, if unexpected, choice. She showed an uncanny power for playing softly. Brass instruments are not easy to control with little breath and with soft tone. But she did both beautifully in two concertos by Franz Joseph Haydn and Alexander Arutiunian. She clearly has the lung power to blow down the Walls of Jericho. But what impressed and seduced me was her quietness, which nonetheless possessed rich tone and unwavering pitch. That is a rare talent, and one to be cherished — and brought back to Madison!

Tine Thing Helseth big profile

WISCONSIN CHAMBER ORCHESTRA

Maestro Andrew Sewell (below) has a never-failing knack of finding terrific music that has been overlooked but is actually very good, if not revolutionary or pioneering.

Sure, at his last concert I too, like the rest of the audience, loved what he did with the Jupiter Symphony of Mozart –- not too hectic, clear voicing, propulsive energy even with all the repeats. And the talented and congenial soloist Joshua Roman proved an irresistible highlight in Haydn’s Cello Concerto in D major.

Andrew Sewell BW

But the real surprise of the night was the 20th-century Concerto Grosso by Vittorio Giannini (below), who taught composition at the Juilliard School and the Manhattan School of Music and then established the North Carolina School of the Arts. What a discovery! I want to hear more by this guy.

Vittorio Giannini

And Sewell will soon unwrap another surprise this week –- and I expect, as usual, that it will be modern music that is accessible and tuneful, not R&D Music (that’s short research and development) that sounds like jet noise or broken plumbing.  Could that help explain why he gets full houses?

Sewell and the WCO will probably do so again THIS COMING FRIDAY NIGHT at 8 p.m. in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center. That is when he and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra combine the famous famously listenable and lovely Violin Concerto (with guest soloist Karina Canellakis) by Felix Mendelssohn and Franz Joseph Haydn’s “Clock” Symphony (Symphony No. 101 of his 104 symphonies) with “Elements” by American composer Michael McLean (below, and with a sample of  “Elements” in a YouTube video at the bottom). Sounds like another MUST-HEAR concert  to The Ear.

Michael McLean 1 REAL not mormon

PRO ARTE QUARTET

Well, the headlines and chit-chat went rightfully to the world premiere of Belgian composer Benoit Mernier’s commissioned String Quartet No. 3, which sounded fiendishly difficult and seemed based largely on technical stuff like trills, tremolos and glissandos instead of themes and infectious rhythms. And the Pro Arte Quartet, artists-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music since 1940 and celebration its centennial, played it with impressive aplomb and apparent ease.

Pro Arte Quartet in Haydn at Mernier

“Do you like the music?” someone asked me right after the performance.

I think the better question is: “Does the music like me?”

Think about it: What is the composer’s responsibility to you the listener, and what is your responsibility to the composer (Mernier, below), especially if he seems to ignore you?

Benoit Mernier 1

I also loved the rarely heard and beautifully performed viola quintet by Anton Bruckner and particularly the contrasts between Sally Chisholm’s viola and Samuel Rhodes’ viola (the two are below side-by-side). If you liked the combination –- and what is not to like with the darker hued voice of the viola –- be sure to try the viola quintets by Mozart and Brahms, which I would also like to hear the Pro Arte do more of.

Sally Chisholm and Samuel Rhodes in Bruckner Quintet

But for old-fashioned me, the star of the evening was the Haydn Quartet, Op. 20, No. 4. It just cleaned out your ears and was proof again that, at its best, the genre is indeed still as it was described by Haydn himself when pretty much invented in the 18th century: A conversation of equals. And did the Pro Arte ever play it with accuracy, clarity and texture. It sparkled like a diamond. The string quartet may have evolved, changed or morphed over the centuries, but it has simply not gotten any better than Haydn.

So: Is there any chance that we night get of a multi-year Haydn cycle by the Pro Arte, which decades ago in another avatar or configuration of players started to record the complete Haydn quartets in the famous Abbey Road studio in London for RCA. They have done Beethoven and Shostakovich cycles. What about Papa Haydn? And if not a complete cycle of the 68 or so quartets, how about a fairly comprehensive survey or at least a very large sampler of Haydn’s early, middle and late styles?

Haydn

PIANIST CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR

What more can you say about the award-winning, audience-approved star talent pianist Christopher Taylor (below) who teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and concertizes around the world, and his stunning solo recital this year?

ChristopherTaylorNoCredit

I loved the “War” Sonata No. 6 by Sergei Prokofiev, a great piece that he performed greatly with both riveting energy and heartbreaking lyricism. I also loved the encore — Scott Joplin’s “Pineapple Rag” –- as a contrast and change of pace.

But I have to be honest: I have heard enough of the Liszt piano transcriptions of Beethoven’s symphonies. Trust the genuine original! Accept no substitutes!

The next day I listened to a recording of the same work by a real orchestra — the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig under conductor Riccardo Chailly. What a difference when the “Eroica” is played with real brass countering, with jarring dissonance, real strings; when it is real tympani drumbeats rather than bass tremolos on the piano. Ludwig (below) simply had more of IT – whatever musical genius is — than Franz.

Beethoven big

The real “Eroica” Symphony doesn’t — and shouldn’t — sound so much like a Hungarian Rhapsody or a Transcendental Etude. In their day, these transcriptions served a purpose and they stretched the resources of the piano, or at least, of pianists. Now, they strike The Ear as precious, more of a sideshow of amazing and ingenious pianism and not much little else aside from some strokes of minor genius here and there by the Paganini of the Piano.

Liszt photo by Pierre Petit

From one of those transcriptions I learned something and I enjoyed it. But now that makes three down (symphonies numbers 3, 4 and 5) for Taylor. I, for one, sure hope we don’t have the other six to go. How much more I would have preferred to hear this supremely talented pianist and gifted musician in some serious and original piano repertoire –- maybe a late Schubert sonata, or a Bach partita, or a Chopin ballade, or a Schumann cycle. I want to hear Christopher Taylor in something that puts depth over display, substance over style.

Am I alone in that wish?

MIDDLETON COMMUNITY ORCHESTRA

Guest reviewer John W. Barker covered this recent concert of the mostly amateur Middleton Community Orchestra (below), which featured music by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Johannes Brahms and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, thoughtfully and thoroughly for this blog.

Middleton Community Orchestra Margaret Barker

All I would add is a lesson that every teacher knows: Students with lesser abilities rise to meet high expectations. That is why symphony orchestras and chamber orchestras should book the best soloists they can get and afford: The Ear is convinced that the level of playing and performing usually rises to match the soloist and fosters cohesion.

With the MCO, it was two lifelong friends and award-winning, UW-Madison trained string players -– violinist Eleanor Bartsch and violist Daniel Kim (below) who soloed and who seemed in complete synch, down to the timing of their trills, during Mozart’s sublime Sinfonia Concertante.

Their playing was superb, and the amateur orchestra rose to meet them and give them the beautiful support they deserved. And with Mozart there is no place to hide, so flaws or mistakes are quickly revealed.

Eleanor Bartsch and Daniel Kim MCO Mozart

Well, now it is on to another busy week of concerts.

Where, I wonder, will the music lead The Ear this time?

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Classical music Q&A: What makes Haydn, Haydn and Mozart, Mozart? Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra maestro Andrew Sewell, discusses the composers and music he will perform this Friday night at the Overture Center. Plus, at noon on Saturday the Madison Bach Musicians will perform a FREE concert of Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, Scarlatti and Corelli at Grace Episcopal Church.

February 20, 2014
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ALERT: This Saturday from noon to 1 p.m., Grace Episcopal Church (below), downtown on the Capitol Square at 116 West Washington Avenue, will present a FREE early music concert of  works by J.S. Bach, Vivaldi, Corelli, Scarlatti and Handel by the Madison Bach Musicians under the direction of keyboardist Trevor Stephenson.

Grace Episcopal harpsichord

By Jacob Stockinger

This Friday night at 8 p.m. in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below) will perform a concert of Haydn, Mozart and Vittorio Giannini.

WCO lobby

The concert will open with a modern Concerto Grosso by the 20th-century Italian composer Vittorio Giannini, another of the WCO discoveries of neglected or unknown composers. Then the young and critically acclaimed cellist Joshua Roman will join the WCO (below) in Franz Joseph Haydn’s Cello Concerto in D Major. The concert will close with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s masterful Symphony No. 41 “Jupiter.”

Tickets are $15-$67 and can be obtained from the Overture Center box office 212 State Street or by calling (608_ 258-4141. You can also visit http://wcoconcerts.org/performances/masterworks/70/event-info/ http://ev12.evenue.net/cgi-bin/ncommerce3/SEGetEventList?groupCode=WCO_E&linkID=overture&shopperContext=&caller=&appCode=

Haydn and Mozart (below, left is Haydn and right is Mozart) are often mentioned in the same breath and the same sentences if they were identical or fraternal twins — much like Beethoven and Schubert, or Ravel and Debussy.

Haydn (left) and Mozart (right)

So The Ear really likes this kind of contrast-and-compare program that helps to underline the similarities and especially the differences between two composers who were contemporaries and sometimes even colleagues who learned from each other and played in the same string quartet. In that spirit, I recently asked WCO’s longtime music director Andrew Sewell (below) to discuss the program and especially the Classical-era composers whom he is so convincing at interpreting:

andrewsewell

Haydn and Mozart are often lumped in together as Classical-era contemporaries. What makes each composer so distinctive? What makes Mozart, Mozart and Haydn, Haydn?

It’s a question of style. They both used classical conventions and were each experimenting constantly, seeing what worked for their audiences. Haydn (below top) was for the longest time confined to writing for a specific audience, at the Esterhazy Palace in Eisenstadt as opposed to Mozart (below bottom), who moved from Salzburg to Vienna, and spent time in Paris as well.

The geographical demands of each musical center framed, I think, the level of sophistication being determined by their audience and who they were writing for. Mozart’s symphonies written for the Parisian orchestra and audience had more virtuosity factored in. They had clarinets, and a slightly bigger wind section. They used “flash and sparkle.”

Haydn’s 12 symphonies commissioned by Salomon for the London Salon Concerts were more refined and experimental than before. Again the orchestra was larger, and he had top quality musicians at his disposal, achieving a greater level of virtuosity.

Haydn

mozart big

What can you tell us about the Concerto Grosso by Vittorio Giannini (below)? How did you find out about it and why are you attracted to him and to that work? Why do you think it is so little known and rarely performed?

I first conducted a work by Giannini with a high school orchestra in Salem, Oregon in 2012 while guest conducting the Salem Chamber Orchestra. It included several school visits as part of a week-long residency. The work was Prelude and Fugue for String Orchestra. I kept a copy of the score, and was both enchanted and curious about other works by this composer.

He was born in Philadelphia, was a prodigy on the violin and spent time studying at the Milan Conservatory and the Juilliard School. He founded the North Carolina School of the Arts, as a “Juilliard of the South,” in 1965.  His music is both Romantic and Expressionist. He wrote five symphonies and five concertos and several radio operas in the 1930s. His father was an opera singer as were two of his sisters, who sang at the Metropolitan Opera.

After conducting the Prelude and Fugue, I was curious about his Concerto Grosso. It is Baroque in form as the title suggests but stylistically would remind one of Hindemith.  Written in 1955, it reflects the current trends at the time that took music to more strident, poignant and angular sonorities.

I hope performing his music will rekindle interest in his music, and I may program his Prelude and Fugue at a later date. Why did I choose this piece? Because in contrast to the very familiar names of Haydn and Mozart, this presents the other extreme.  In fact, with a name like Vittorio Giannini, one is apt to mistake him as a period equivalent to say, Handel or Vivaldi, and the composition is entitled Concerto Grosso!

Vittorio Giannini

What would you like to say about the young cello soloist Joshua Roman and how he came to your attention to book for the WCO?

I first heard Joshua Roman perform with the University of Wisconsin Symphony Orchestra in November of 2012, and was very impressed by him. He played the Dvorak Cello Concerto, and afterwards I asked him what he would like to play if he were to return to perform with the WCO? He chose Haydn. His pedigree is such that at the age of 22, he won the Principal Cello position with the Seattle Symphony. He did this for two years before embarking on a successful solo career.  He is a very engaging performer who makes the cello literally “sing” when he plays.

Joshua Roman 3

Do you have any other programming plans in the works like this Haydn-Mozart program to “compare and contrast” major composers -– say with, perhaps, Beethoven and Schubert, Schumann and Brahms, Debussy and Ravel?

I think one is always putting together programs that compare and contrast each other. Whether consciously or otherwise, it’s what fits together in a balanced program. This Haydn-Mozart program wasn’t a conscious “compare and contrast” decision.  It really stems from a more fundamental question of programming. Once you establish the soloist’s repertoire, it’s a matter of putting a program together within the context of the five-concert Masterworks season.

But you do raise a good point. I chose Mozart’s Symphony No. 41, as it is his last and, in my opinion, greatest symphony. The last movement (below in a popular YouTube video with more than 1 million hits) is incredible, particularly as it contains a fugue, the subject of which is introduced in a very subliminal way at end of the trio of the previous movement. It is pure genius and so joyful. In contrast, the genteel nature of the last movement of the Haydn Cello Concerto makes that piece seem jaunty in comparison. Yet they are both highly sophisticated pieces.

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Classical music: Let us now praise American composer Elliott Carter, who has died at 103. Here are obituaries, remembrances and sound samples.

November 10, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

It got largely lost in all the hullabaloo coverage of the Presidential Election, but there was other news that happened this past week.

A major piece of culture news is that the dean on American classical music composers, Elliott Carter, died last Monday at 103. Carter had won two Pulitzer Prizes and a host of other honors and awards.

Carter (below top, in his younger years) was a devout modernist who early on was known for the thorny difficulty and cerebral quality of his music – his string quartets (below bottom is the opening page of the score to String Quartet No. 2) were often said to be the most difficult ones ever written. But he apparently loosened up in his later years.

Makes up you wonder what Bach, Handel, Haydn , Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Dvorak, Brahms and many other great composers would have written, had they lived past 100.

To be honest, The Ear was never a big Elliott Carter fan. His music has its moments — some of them in the “Night Fantasies” for solo piano and the Cello Sonata — but is generally too serial and unlyrical for my taste. I’m more of a tunes guy, and for me his music generally lacks my kind of beauty – that moving quality that I look for in all art. Nonetheless, you can hear the masterful craft and original art that went into Carter’s music, whether it speaks deeply to you or not. (Below is Carter in 1989.)

There are some local ties to mention. For one, Sally Chisholm (below top, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) who teaches viola at the University of Wisconsin School of Music and plays with the Pro Arte String Quartet, performed one of this string quartets before Carter to help mark his 100th birthday back in 2008 (below bottom is a New York Times photo with James Levine and Carter at a concert in Carnegie Hall celebrating his centennial.)

Some old media took notice of Carter’s death this past week. But I was particularly pleased to see how the new media, especially blogs and websites, offered information PLUS audio clips of musical performances and interviews given by Carter.

Here are the complete and comprehensive obituaries that ran in The New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/06/arts/music/elliott-carter-avant-garde-composer-dies-at-103.html?pagewanted=all

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/07/arts/music/elliott-carter-composer-and-master-of-gear-shifting.html?_r=0

Here is a terrific account from NPR’s outstanding classical music blog Deceptive Cadence:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2012/11/06/164364953/elliott-carter-giant-of-american-music-dies-at-103

Here is the story from the British Gramophone Magazine, along with the last interview Carter gave, conducted by cellist Alisa Weilerstein (below). Weilerstein, who has played in Madison at the Wisconsin Union Theater and with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, is also a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” who just released her performance, with conductor Daniel Barenboim, of Carter’s Cello Concerto paired with the popular Elgar Cello Concerto, on Decca Records:

http://www.gramophone.co.uk/classical-music-news/the-composer-elliott-carter-has-died

Here is the obituary and story of the famed BBC Music Magazine:

http://www.classical-music.com/news/american-composer-elliott-carter-dies-aged-103

And of course there are many more appreciations to be found on Google if you go and simply type in “Elliott Carter.”

While you do, here is some of Elliott Carter’s more popular and accessible music to listen to: the haunting “Symphony for Three Orchestras” from 1976 performed by Pierre Boulez and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra (you can find lots more Carter on YouTube):


Classical music Q&A: “Rock star” cellist Joshua Roman talks about performing and composing affect each other, and discusses the popular Dvorak Cello Concerto, which he performs Saturday night with the University of Wisconsin Symphony Orchestra.

November 5, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

“Classical rock star” cellist Joshua Roman, will perform with the UW Symphony Orchestra this Saturday night, Nov. 10, at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall as part of the Wisconsin Union Theater concert series, which is being held in Mills Hall while the Union Theater is undergoing renovation.

Roman will also hold a FREE public master class on Thursday, Nov. 8, from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall in the UW’s Mosse Humanities Building. 

The program on Saturday night includes “Menuet Antique” by Maurice Ravel; Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 4, by Antonin Dvorak; and Symphony No. 4, H. 305, by Bohuslav Martinu.

Tickets are $15 for the general public; $12 for Memorial Union Members, UW Madison Faculty and Staff, and Non-UW Students; and FREE for UW Students with valid ID.  To order tickets, call the Box Office at (608) 265-ARTS (2787), buy online, or purchase in person at the Campus Arts Ticketing box office in Vilas Hall, 821 University Ave.

Last season, Roman was guest artist for the Seattle Symphony’s opening night gala; made his Toronto Symphony debut; performed at the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament; and was presented on the Dame Myra Hess series in Chicago, among other performances. He also performed duos with Yo-Yo Ma at a State Department event hosted by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Vice-President Joe Biden for the President of China, and played at the Oslo Freedom Forum in Norway.

Before embarking on a solo career, Roman was principal cellist of the Seattle Symphony for two seasons, a position he won in 2006 at the age of 22.

Since that time he has appeared as soloist with numerous orchestras. He performed Britten’s Third Cello Suite during New York’s Mostly Mozart Festival in a pre-concert recital at Avery Fisher Hall, and was the only guest artist invited to play an unaccompanied solo (at bottom, performing the Sarabande movement from J.S. Bach‘s Suite No. 1 for Solo Cello) during the YouTube Symphony Orchestra’s 2009 debut concert at Carnegie Hall.

Since 2007, Roman has been Artistic Director of TownMusic in Seattle, where he creates programs that feature new works and reflect his eclectic musical influences and inspirations.

Roman’s outreach endeavors have taken him to Uganda with his violin-playing siblings, where they played chamber music in schools, HIV/AIDS centers and displacement camps, communicating a message of hope through music.

Committed to making music accessible to a wider audience, Roman may be found anywhere from a club to a classroom, performing jazz, rock, chamber music, or a solo sonata by Bach or Kodály. His versatility as a performer and his ongoing exploration of new concertos, chamber music, and solo cello works have spawned projects with composers such as Aaron Jay Kernis, Mason Bates, Derek Bermel, Gabriela Lena Frank and Dan Visconti.

Roman (below) recently gave an email interview to The Ear:

Could you briefly tell us about your current and future career plans for touring, recording, doing other projects? Are there any interesting, but little known facts about yourself?

Over the last couple of years, I have been fascinated more and more by the relationship between the genesis of a piece by the composer and its subsequent interpretations by artists. I often get the chance to work with composers, and this has always informed the way that I look at an older piece.

At a certain point, though, I got the bug to know more. What is it like to write a piece? What is important in the eyes of a composer? Intonation? Character? Dynamics? All of the above? So I started writing music, and recently even began taking composition lessons.

I now approach new (and familiar) pieces with a fresh outlook, and different things come to the fore. It has really been eye-opening, and I would encourage all budding musicians to take some time to learn how to write music. It doesn’t take much knowledge to make a significant and positive impact on the way we approach interpretation. (Below is the first page of autograph manuscript of Dvorak’s famous Symphony No. 9 “From the New World.”)

What would you like to say about Dvorak’s status as a composer and about his beautiful Cello Concerto that you will play? Do you have a special view of his work? What should we listen for in the concerto and your interpretation?

Dvorak is a very special composer. I’ve always felt that he is someone who wore his heart on his musical sleeve. I’ve read old quotes knocking his sense of style (even the well-known musicologist Donald Tovey had it out for poor Antonin) and deriding him as a composer of the past.

While there may have been certain things that he was less successful at than others, I think that it’s unfair to judge someone by their worst works, and when Dvorak was at his best he was truly great.

The Cello Concerto in B minor is absolutely my favorite work of Dvorak, and one of my favorite classical works, period. I can’t get enough of this piece, for me it is the ideal setting for the glorious characters the cello can produce. With its giant orchestral role, the colors and nuances become very powerful, and to me the emotional connection with the mind’s storytelling nature is immediate.

This particular performance is exciting to me because I am exploring the concerto again after months away from it. As I prepare, I have forgone the usual route of practicing with the cello part, and instead I am relying only on the orchestral score.

This is a concerto that many people already love, and that presents a unique challenge: performing in a way that not only shows my own personal interpretation, but also connects to the myriad pre-existing ideas the audience may have.

My approach is to go as deep as possible into the characters, based on the indications in the score and the sounds as I imagine them before the orchestra brings them to life. In this way, hopefully the performance becomes about more than just “style” and takes us on an organic journey with Dvorak’s spirit.

This is your Madison debut. Do you have anything to say about Madison and the University of Wisconsin or the UW Symphony Orchestra?

This will be my first trip to Madison, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the city as well as getting to know the music school. I was also surprised to find that one of my first chamber music coaches, Felicia Moye (below), is teaching in Madison at the University of Wisconsin School of Music. She gave me such wonderful insight when I worked with her in Oklahoma as a student, and one of the great things about a small music world is the opportunity to see the people who influenced you and thank them in person.

Was there an Aha! Moment — some composer, piece or performance — when you knew you wanted to be a professional cellist?

I’ve known pretty much as long as I can remember that this is the life for me. I started playing when I was three, and by the age of six or so I was already telling my parents and everyone I knew that I wanted to travel the world with the cello. There have been many wonderful lessons along the way, and I will forever be grateful that I’ve been given the opportunity follow my dream.


Classical music Q&A: Meet Kartik Papatla, the 16-year-old cellist and concerto competition winner who will open tonight’s first Concert on the Square by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.

June 27, 2012
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ALERT: The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society will perform on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. as part of the Green Lake Music Festival in the Thrasher Opera House (below) near the campus of Ripon College. Here is a link for details: http://www.greenlakefestival.org/

By Jacob Stockinger

Tonight – June 27, 2012  — marks the opening of what for 29 years has been billed, without exaggeration, as The Biggest Picnic of the Summer: The annual Concerts on the Square held by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. They will be held on the next six consecutive Wednesday evenings from 7 to about 9 p.m. (The rain date is Thursday.)

As always, the FREE concerts– complete with food and beverages you bring or buy — are held on the King Street corner of the Capitol Square in downtown Madison. Each concert is expected to draw an average 10,000 or more listeners who picnic as they listen, with the biggest crowd usually coming to the Fourth of July concert.

The format includes classical music, pops music, all kinds of music, performed under the baton of WCO artistic director Andrew Sewell with guest soloists.

For more information about Concerts on the Square, including dates and times, music program, vendor menus and guidelines, visit:

http://wcoconcerts.org/performances/concerts-on-the-square/

Tonight’s opening concert will include Kartik Papatla, a 16–year-old cellist who won the WCO concerto competition for young artists. He will perform the first movement from the popular and beautiful  Cello Concerto in B Minor by Antonin Dvorak (at bottom, with Yo-Yo Ma and the New York Philhamronic Orchestra under conductor Kurt Masur).  Also on the program are Edward Elgar’s “Three Bavarian Dances,” Johann Strauss’ waltz “Tales From the Vienna Woods” and Hardiman’s “Lord of the Dance” with the Trinity Irish Dancers (below).

Papatla (below) — whose name reflects his Indian heritage — recently granted The Ear an e-mail interview in which he introduced himself and discussed the role of music in his life:

What is your name? How old are you and when did you start studying music?

My name is Kartik Papatla and I am 16 years old.  I started studying the cello when I was six years old.

What grade are you in now and what school do you go to? 

I will be a junior at Homestead High School (below) in Mequon starting this fall.

What are your favorite subjects? Do you have other areas of interest?

I enjoy all subjects in school, but my favorites are mathematics and chemistry.  I am also part of the forensics team at my school and I love to travel.

What are your plans for higher education and a career? 

I plan to attend a university to study engineering. However, I will continue to pursue music throughout my lifetime.

Who is your music teacher? 

I study with Scott Cook at the String Academy of Wisconsin.

Do you have a favorite composer and favorite pieces to listen to or to play? 

If I had to choose one composer as my favorite, I would choose Tchaikovsky (below).  What I enjoy about his music is that there is so much organization to it, yet it has a great deal of musicality and emotion.  However, I cannot say that I have certain favorite pieces to listen to and play because it is impossible for me to narrow all classical music down to a select few.

Why is playing music important to you and what does playing music teach you? 

Playing music has been an integral part of my life for close to 10 years.  I immensely enjoy the process of understanding the nuances of a piece, working on incorporating them into my hours practice, and performing the piece. I feel that the many years of researching and understanding the finer points of different compositions and trying to master them has taught me patience, diligence and the rewards of perseverance.

What different kinds of music do you listen to and like? 

Although I mostly listen to classical music, I do enjoy other types of music.  For example, I listen to popular music on the radio and to instrumental and world music.

Was there an Aha! Moment or turning point – perhaps a certain performer or piece — when you knew you wanted to be very serious about pursuing classical music?   

Let me begin by saying that I am very fortunate to have had many great musical opportunities over the last couple of years.  Perhaps the closest thing to a turning point in my music education was when I had the opportunity to perform at the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s Holiday Pops Concerts at the age of 12.

I played a duet with another young violinist, accompanied by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (below) under guest conductor Jeff Tyzik (below).  This was the first time that I played with a professional orchestra and in front of a full concert hall.  It was an exhilarating and rewarding experience.

What advice would you give others, young students and adults, about studying music?  

Practice with the intention of improving your playing and not with the intention of just getting something done. This will make all of the difference in the long run. Also, listen to as many recordings as you can of the piece you are working on, and from each one extract certain things that you would like to incorporate into your own interpretation of the piece.

How important do you think music education is in relation to other areas of education? 

I believe that music education is extremely important to other areas of education because it teaches valuable skills that, when applied to other non-music education, will allow one to excel. For instance, it teaches discipline and concentration, and encourages one to strive for perfection.

What does getting the chance to perform a concerto with an orchestra mean to you and why? 

To perform a concerto with a professional orchestra is every classical musician’s dream.  Having this opportunity is not only a great honor but evidence to me that all of the hard work over the last 10 years has gone toward something that I can be proud of.


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