The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Mosaic Chamber Players continues with its all-Beethoven concerts of sonatas for strings and piano this Saturday night. Plus, the woodwind quintet Black Marigold performs a FREE concert Friday at noon.

January 28, 2016
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ALERT: The week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, to take place from 12:15 to 1 p.m. at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, will feature the local woodwind quintet Black Marigold. It will perform music by August Klughardt, Darius Milhaud and Brian DuFord.

Here is a link about Black Marigold’s winter concerts and the program:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2016/01/21/classical-music-the-wind-quintet-black-marigold-announces-its-four-upcoming-free-winter-concerts/

By Jacob Stockinger

The Mosaic Chamber Players — recently hailed as “among the finest purveyors of chamber music in Madison” by critic John W. Barker on The Well-Tempered Ear blog — will be performing an all-Beethoven program this Saturday night, Jan. 30, at 7:30 p.m.

The concert will take place in the beautiful and historic Landmark Hall of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, on Madison’s near west side.

This will be the third program of a 5-concert cycle of all the string sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven (below).

Beethoven big

The impressive list of performers (below, from left), most of whom were educated at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and Lawrence University in Appleton, includes pianist Jess Salek; violinist Laura Burns; cellist Michael Allen; and violinist Wes Luke.

They play with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Oakwood Chamber Players, the Ancora String Quartet, the Rhapsodie String Quartet, the Madison Youth Choirs, Sound Ensemble Wisconsin, Fresco Opera Theatre, Opera for the Young, and other ensembles here and in Dubuque and LaCrosse.

Mosaic Chamber Players 2016. Jess Salek piano. Laura Burns violn, Michael Allen cello. Wes Luke violin

On the program are: the Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major Op. 30, No. 1; the Sonata for Cello and Piano in C Major, Op. 102, No. 1; and the Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major, Op. 47 “Kreutzer.” (You can hear the first movement of the famous and riveting Kreutzer Sonata performed by superstar violinist Itzhak Perlman and pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

There will be a reception following the program.

Tickets are $15 for the public; $10 for seniors; and $5 for students – by cash or check only. NO CREDIT CARDS WILL BE ACCEPTED.

Adds founder and pianist Jess Salek:

“This concert is perfect for an adult or caregiver night-out, and also for students at the middle school-and-above age.

“Please come hear some beautiful music performed by talented, expressive, and professional local artists.

“Thanks for considering. Hope to see you there!”


Classical music: The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society opens with a Big Bang and makes The Ear look forward to Weekend 2 this coming weekend. You should too.

June 17, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Every year, the Madison-based Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society chooses a theme to unify their three-weekend season.

This year’s theme is “Guilty as Charged” and you can read about its rationale in a previous post:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/06/09/classical-music-the-madison-based-bach-dancing-and-dynamite-society-gets-its-24th-three-week-summer-season-called-guilty-as-charged-underway-this-coming-weekend-here-i/

BDDS poster 2015

But of course the theme is really just a pretext.

What really matters is the fine and eclectic repertoire that the BDDS chooses to perform and the undeniably first-rate performances they consistently turn in by using outstanding local and guest performers.

And boy, did the BDDS ever deliver the goods!

So here, in a series of mini-reviews — one-liners or maybe two-liners — are five reasons why The Ear loved the opening concert and is looking forward to the second series of concerts in Madison, Stoughton and Spring Green this coming weekend, which you can check out at the following link:

http://www.bachdancinganddynamite.org

WHAT THE EAR LOVED

  1. The inventive and unobtrusive backdrop by artists Dianne Soffa and Thomas Kovacich, with broken rearview mirrors and luminous colors in abstract shapes, adds visual beauty to sonic beauty. It greets you and enlivens the performance stage by adding a certain entertainment and class to the otherwise bare stage:

BDDS 2015 backdrop

  1. UW-Madison School of Music graduate soprano Emily Birsan (below) who, after completing further training at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, came to sing a wonderfully poignant and moving aria “Steal Me, Sweet Thief” by Gian Carlo Menotti (you can hear Dawn Upshaw singing the Menotti aria in a YouTube video at the bottom) as well as wonderful solo arias and duets by Johann Sebastian Bach plus Irish and Scottish folk songs arranged by – YES — Ludwig van Beethoven:

BDDS 2015 Emily Birsan

  1. Bass-baritone Timothy Jones, who is superb and who returned to BDDS to sing solo and with Birsan in music by Bach and Beethoven:

BDDS 2015 Timothy Jones

  1. The breezy chamber music by Franz Joseph Haydn, a divertimento for flute (BDDS co-founder and co-artistic director Stephanie Jutt), violin (Katarzyna Bryla) and cello (Parry Karp), substituting the cello for the outdated baryton that Haydn’s longtime patron Prince Esterhazy played and favored:

BDDS 2015 Haydn divertimento

  1. UW-Madison and Pro Arte Quartet cellist Parry Karp and BDDS co-founder and co-artistic director Jeffrey Sykes in an impressively virtuosic, vivacious and sensitive performance of the Cello Sonata No. 2 by Felix Mendelssohn. Loved that slow movement based on a Bach chorale!!

BDDS 2015 Mendelsson Cello Sonata

I was not alone in my enthusiasm.

The audience in The Playhouse at the Overture Center jumped to its feet as soon as the Mendelssohn cello sonata ended.

BDDS 2015 audience

And here is the rave review that veteran critic John W. Barker wrote for Isthmus:

http://www.isthmus.com/arts/stage/bach-dancing-opener-is-smashingly-diverse/

 


Classical music: The Madison-based Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society gets its 24th three-week summer season underway this coming weekend. This year’s theme is “Guilty as Charged.” Here is part 1 of 2 with background and Week 1.

June 8, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Our friends at the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society – which The Ear named Musicians of the Year two years ago – will begin its new summer season this coming weekend.

The season features six concert programs performed over three weekends in three different venues and cities.

Here is the first part of two postings based on the BDDS press release. Part 2 will  run tomorrow:

BACH DANCING AND DYNAMITE SOCIETY (BDDS) PRESENTS ITS 24TH ANNUAL SUMMER CHAMBER MUSIC FESTIVAL — GUILTY AS CHARGED — JUNE 12–28, 2015.

This festival features 12 concerts over three weekends. Each weekend offers two different programs. Concerts will be performed in The Playhouse at Overture Center in Madison, the Stoughton Opera House, and the Hillside Theater at Taliesin in Spring Green.

Combining the best local musicians and top-notch artists from around the country, a varied repertoire and delightful surprises, BDDS presents chamber music as “serious fun” infused with high energy and lots of audience appeal, and makes this art form accessible to diverse audiences. Led by artistic directors and performers (below) Stephanie Jutt, flute, and Jeffrey Sykes, piano, 20 guest artists will perform in the festival.

Stephanie jutt and Jeffrey Sykes  CR C&N photographers

So, what is the meaning of this year’s theme?

BDDS poster 2015

Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society is clearly a criminal enterprise. After all, we are named after the only major composer to ever spend a significant amount of time in jail, Johann Sebastian Bach.

Our crime at BDDS?

We’ve destroyed the stuffy, starched-collar atmosphere of traditional chamber music concerts and replaced it with a seriously fun vibe. We’ve broken down the barriers that separate audience and performer, making our concerts into riotously interactive events. Rather than leading audiences through a museum, we invite audiences to trespass into the creative and re-creative process right in the concert hall.

We own up to our crimes, and we proudly proclaim that we are GUILTY AS CHARGED.

GUILTY AS CHARGED features six programs, each performed multiple times and in multiple venues, and each named after some “crime.”

In “Stolen Moments” we feature music that has been stolen in some fashion: stolen from another composer, stolen from oneself, stolen from a completely different land and culture.

Felix Mendelssohn stole a chorale tune from Johann Sebastian Bach as the basis of the slow movement of his second cello sonata (heard at bottom in a YouTube video with cellist Lynn Harrell and pianist James Levine).

Franz Joseph Haydn stole from himself to create his flute divertimentos; Ludwig van Beethoven stole Irish and Scottish folksong texts and tunes as the basis for his songs with piano trio accompaniment.

“Stolen Moments” will be performed at The Playhouse in the Overture Center for the Arts, on Friday, June 12, at 7:30 p.m., and in the Hillside Theater at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin compound in Spring Green, on Sunday, June 14, at 2:30 p.m.

BDDS Playhouse audience

“Rob the Cradle” features the music or poetry of artists who died tragically young, robbing the world of their creative talents.

The Flute Sonata by Dick Kattenburg, a light-hearted and joyous work, was written at the age of 18 shortly before he died in a Nazi concentration camp.

The powerful “Romances on Poems of Alexander Blok” by Dmitri Shostakovich feature the luminous poetry of the man many considered Russia’s finest poet, a man whose life was cut short by the conditions of early Soviet years.

Both programs feature the talents of two great singers—bass-baritone Timothy Jones (below top) and soprano Emily Birsan (below bottom) — familiar to BDDS audiences as the voices of Robert and Clara Schumann from our 2013 season.

“Rob the Cradle” will be performed in The Playhouse of the Overture Center for the Arts, on Saturday, June 13, at 7:30 p.m., and at the Hillside Theater at Taliesin in Spring Green, on Sunday, June 14, at 6:30 p.m.

Timothy Jones posed portrait

Emily Birsan MSO 2014

For the fourth year, BDDS will also perform one free family concert, “What’s So Great About Bach?” an interactive event that will be great for all ages. Together with the audience, BDDS will explore interwoven layers of melody. Everyone will be up on their feet helping to compose for the musicians on stage.

This event takes place 11–11:45 a.m. on this Saturday, June 13, in The Playhouse of the Overture Center. This is a performance for families with children of all ages and seating will be first come first served.

CUNA Mutual Group, Pat Powers and Thomas Wolfe, and Overture Center generously underwrite this performance.

BDDS Locations are: the Stoughton Opera House (381 E. Main Street, below top); the Overture Center in Madison (201 State Street); and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin Hillside Theater (below bottom, County Highway 23 in Spring Green).

StoughtonOperaHouse,JPG

 

taliesin_hillside2

Single general admission tickets are $40. Student tickets are always $5.

Various ticket packages are also available, starting at a series of three for $114. First-time subscriptions are half off.

For tickets and information visit www.bachdancinganddynamite.org or call (608) 255-9866.

Single tickets for Overture Center concerts can also be purchased at the Overture Center for the Arts box office, (608) 258-4141, or at overturecenter.com additional fees apply).

Hillside Theater tickets can be purchased from the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center on County Highway C, (608) 588-7900.  Tickets are available at the door at all locations.

TOMORROW: PART 2 WITH WEEKS 2 AND 3

 


Classical music: The Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble performs baroque chamber music this Saturday night in Madison. Plus, harpist Linda Warren performs a FREE concert at noon on Friday.

April 9, 2015
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ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, which runs from 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the Landmark Auditoriun of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, will feature harpist Linda Warren (below) playing music by Benjamin Britten, Pearl Chertok and Astor Piazzolla.

linda warren

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following note:

The Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble invites the public to a concert of baroque chamber music.

The concert is this Saturday night, April 11, at 8 p.m. in Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church (the exterior is below top, the interior is below bottom), 1833 Regent Street, Madison, on the near west side.

St. Andrew's Episcopal Madison Front

St. Andrew's Church interior

Members of the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble include: Brett Lipshutz – traverso; Eric Miller – viola da gamba, baroque cello; Consuelo Sañudo – mezzo-soprano; Monica Steger – traverso, harpsichord; Martha Vallon – viola da gamba; and Max Yount – harpsichord.

Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble composite

Tickets at the door only: $20 for the public, $10 for students.

For more information call (608) 238-5126 or visit www.wisconsinbaroque.org.

The program includes:

  1. Jean-Marie Leclair – Première Récréation de Musique (You can hear it in a YouTube video at the bottom)
  2. Louis MarchandPièces de Clavecin, Suite No. 1 in D minor (1702) (selected movements)
  3. George Frideric Handel – “Nice, che fa? Che pensa?”
  4. Johan Helmich Roman – Sonata No. 3 for flauto traverso in C minor

Intermission

  1. Michel Pignolet de Montéclair – Ariana et Bachus
  2. Marin Marais – Pièces de Viole, Book 3 (selected movements)
  3. Jacques Hotteterre – Trio Sonatas, Op. 3, No. 1


Classical music Q&A: The Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra performs tonight even as founder and conductor Mikko Utevsky forges ties to several other local groups to ensure MAYCO’s future after he departs.

July 11, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear doesn’t normally run two posts on the same event in the same week or close to each other.

But it is a slow week in summer.

More to the point, I got a very intriguing response to my Q&A request from Mikko Utevsky, the founder and conductor of the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra.

You may recall the MAYCO performs tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the new Atrium auditorium of the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive.

The program includes the “Reformation” Symphony by Felix Mendelssohn; the Piano Concerto No. 11 in D Major by Franz Joseph Haydn; and the world premiere of UW-Madison graduate and local composer Olivia Zeuske’s “Experiment No. 1.”

Admission is $7 with donations asked from students.

For more information, here is a link to the other previous post:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/07/09/classical-music-the-madison-area-chamber-music-orchestra-mayco-performs-music-of-haydn-and-mendelssohn-plus-a-world-premiere-of-a-work-by-olivia-zeuske-this-friday-night-at-the-first-unitarian-soci/

But in his answers, Utevsky revealed some things that The Ear didn’t know, including the many links he is forging with other local music organizations so that MAYCO can continue when he has graduated and moved on.

Talk about being forward-thinking!

Here is the Q&A from violist-conductor Mikko Utevsky (below) about the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra, which he founded when he was still a student at Madison East High School, before he started attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

MAYCO Mikko Utevsky by Steve Rankin

Can you briefly introduce yourself and the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO), including its history and makeup?

I am a violist and conductor studying at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. I founded MAYCO while a student at Madison East High School to provide a free summer opportunity for high school and college students to explore the chamber orchestra repertoire.

Members range in age from 13 to 30, and the specific composition of the ensemble varies from concert to concert based on the demands of the repertoire and individual students’ schedules. We focus on music of the Classical period, chamber works of the 20th century, and new music. We present a premiere each season.

Mikko Utevsky conducts MAYCO Steve Rankin

What are MAYCO’s plans for the near future and further out, including partnerships with other music organizations and concerts, recordings and the like?

MAYCO is in a transitional period right now as we pursue institutional stability. For four years, it has existed more or less as a personal project of mine. But I believe strongly in its value as an educational opportunity, and I want to ensure its continued viability in the future, even after I finish my degree and leave for graduate school.

Luckily for us, Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) feels the same way. We have entered into a partnership starting this season to make MAYCO available as an official extension of WYSO, allowing us to preserve the institution that we have cultivated for Madison’s music community into the indefinite future.

We are also looking at relationships with programs for younger players (Music Makers and Music Con Brio). We try to introduce them to the world of orchestral playing and give them a taste of what they can accomplish as young musicians here or elsewhere.

We are very fortunate to have the support also of conductor Andrew Sewell and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below), the city’s professional chamber orchestra that is helping its younger counterpart.

As far as program offerings go, the season of two concerts seems to be working for us very well, although a third would not be out of the question. I am particularly excited for a program in the works for next summer about which I can’t say much yet (but when I can, you’ll hear it here first!).

We have been granted a degree of flexibility by the receipt of the UW Arts Enterprise Association’s 2014 New Arts Venture Challenge Grant this spring to support our programming, which will allow us to perform a wider range of music, including more 20th-century works that must be rented.

Our relationship with WYSO is now such that we can receive tax-deductible donations, so if you want to support our work, visit the Support Us page on our website to make a contribution:

http://www.madisonareayouthchamberorchestra.org

WCO lobby

What can you tell us about the program for tonight, Friday, July 11? Does it have a theme or something to tie it together?

This week’s program is somewhat eclectic. The title, “Triumph and Delight,” is a bit nonspecific. Triumph refers to the “Reformation” Symphony by Mendelssohn, which ends with a victorious affirmation of faith and strength, and Delight to the Piano Concerto by Haydn, which is a nimble, playful and joyfully fun piece of music. (You can hear how Mendelssohn uses the Lutheran hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” in the symphony’s finale at the bottom in a YouTube video.)

MAYCO playing

What should listeners know about Olivia Zeuske and her “Experiment No. 1,” of which you will be giving the world premiere?


Olivia (below) is a gifted composer whose work caught my ear some time ago because of its characteristic, piquant sonorities and subtle rhythmic complexities. Her “Experiment No. 1” is a three-movement composition lasting about 20 minutes. This work was begun about a year and a half ago, and will represent her first large-ensemble composition. I am very excited to be presenting its premiere, having watched it take shape over many months.

olivia zeuske 2014

How did you decide to choose Thomas Kasdorf (below) as a piano soloist and the Piano Concerto in D Major by Franz Joseph Haydn?

Thomas was an easy decision. I have heard him on countless recitals and in studios across campus, and most recently worked with him as a vocal coach and accompanist. He is a consummate musician — a sensitive accompanist and assertive soloist in one, with beautiful lyricism and technique to burn (with no need to prove it).

As a collaborative player, he is one of the few who will tackle a segment of the major repertoire renowned for the difficulty of its piano parts; pieces like Sergei Rachmaninov’s Cello Sonata demand a technique like his, and he plays them brilliantly.

The Haydn was Thomas’ choice as much as mine. I originally asked him to play something by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with an eye towards the operatic lines in many of those concertos, but we couldn’t pick one! There are 27, after all, and all of them are wonderful.

I mentioned the Haydn offhandedly, having heard Emmanuel Ax’s recording recently, and he told me it was a favorite of his. I had already decided to do some Haydn this season, whether a concerto or one of the symphonies, which I love so dearly, so it seemed a natural choice. The piece is delightful — playful, with a touch of the deliberately unrefined “country” sound one often finds in Haydn’s music and a lovely, singing slow movement in between.

thomas kasdorf 2:jpg

The “Reformation” Symphony by Felix Mendelssohn is pretty well-known. But is there something special you would like the public to know about it or about your approach to it?

Mendelssohn’s own relationship with the symphony was somewhat complicated — I actually have a rather substantial historical note on it that will be made available on the orchestra’s website, though not in the printed program.

Mendelssohn (below) poured a lot of energy into it, holding high hopes for a performance at the grand tricentennial celebrations in Berlin of the Augsburg Confession (an important early Lutheran document). But it was not finished in time, and was not well-received when he sought other performances in the years following.

He eventually cooled to the piece, but kept the score around, perhaps moved by a lingering attachment to a work that, later in life, he described as deeply flawed. In any case, it was discovered after his death, and received its second performance and first publication about 20 years later.

In it, Mendelssohn tackles the programmatic ideas of A.B. Marx while also attempting to compose his own 20-year-old’s response to Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony on a historical subject.

It’s a tall order, and one can understand why he felt it fell short (as anything aspiring to three massive demands must inevitably), but the piece is tremendously successful on its own.

The first movement is Beethovenian in scope and power, the scherzo delightful, the slow movement a tragic “Song Without Words,” and the Finale is a pillar of victory and might (again imagined on a Beethovenian level — think of the relationship between the outer movements of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and their journey from tragedy to triumph). I think it holds up well against any of his other popular works, and can be a tremendously powerful piece.

mendelssohn_300

What else would you like to say or add?

Of course, there is another concert this summer – “Summer Magic,” featuring Spring Green soprano Caitlin Ruby Miller — below — who is a 2014 Metropolitan Opera National Council Audition finalist. She will sing one of my favorite pieces, Samuel Barber’s nostalgic deeply moving “Knoxville: Summer of 1915” on texts by James Agee.

That concert will also include the Overture to “The Magic Flute” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the Ninth Symphony of Dmitri Shostakovich, and will take place in UW-Madison Music Hall, at the foot of Bascom Hill, on Friday, August 22, at 7:30 p.m.

caitlin ruby miller

 

 


Classical music education: The Ear takes the “Cello Cure” at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and now can’t wait for another “treatment” next summer.

June 19, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Last Saturday night, for the first time ever, I went to the free public concert put on every June by the National Summer Cello Institute, which takes place each summer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

Cello Choir 2014 with Uri Vardi

The NSCI is under the direction of University of Wisocnsin-Madison cello professor Uri Vardi (below top) and his wife Hagit Vardi (below body), who works with the UW-Madison Institute of Integrative Medicine and emphasizes the use of the Feldenkrais Method to help performers in workshops called, fittingly, “You Body is Your Strad.”

Uri Vardi with cello COLOR

hagitvardistretching artm

Here is a link to a previous post about the cello institute, with still other links to even earlier stories:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/06/11/classical-music-a-free-cello-choir-concert-will-take-place-this-saturday-night-at-the-university-of-wisconsin-madison-it-features-new-music-and-works-by-villa-lobos-poulenc-j-s-bach-cesar-frank/

The event proved so thoroughly enjoyable and so deeply pleasurable, and put me in such a great mood and frame of mind, that a close friend referred to the experience as the “Cello Cure.”

I won’t argue because it sure did feel curative.

But then I find that experiencing great beauty often feels that way.

One came away from the concert -– which included a cello choir of 16 undergraduate, graduate and professional cellists, selected by audition, from around the nation and perhaps even the world –- completely understanding why the cello, with its human voice-like singing tone, is the favorite instrument of so many listeners. (For The Ear, the cello ranks right up there, just below the piano and alongside the violin and the oboe.)

Cello and bow

One thing The Ear liked was the lack of purism. Enjoyment was the goal of the evening, and so the program featured some simply gorgeous isolated single movements from sonatas and concertos, and NOT the entire pieces. The Great Hits format worked exceptionally well. And so was featuring soloists, and not just ensembles, for the first time.

And on top of all the cellos, The Ear also had two special and bonus experiences: He heard Anna Whiteway, a fabulously talented undergraduate soprano at the UW-Madison, and he heard what sounds like an eminently listenable contemporary composer, Kyle Price, who will be attending the UW-Madison for a graduate degree.

So here are the highlights with photos and not a lot of commentary except to say I found excellence from everyone and disappointment from no one.

The concert opened up with UW-Madison conductor James Smith (below right) leading the famous “Bachianas Brasileiras” No. 5, with its soaring and lyrical soprano aria or wordless vocalise, by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos. In it and the other similar suites, the composer attempted to adapt and update the musical style of Johann Sebastian Bach to his native country’s indigenous folk melodies and dance rhythms.

Cello Choir 2014 Jim Smith

Here are members of the cello choir, which wouldn’t fit well in a single photo.

Cello Choir 20144 left

Cello Choir 2014 right

And here is Anna Whiteway, who got enthusiastic applause from the cellists and the woefully small audience of several dozen listeners. No wonder. She is The Real Deal. She possesses beautiful tone, big volume, pleasant and modest vibrato, excellent diction and a thoroughly confident stage presence:

Cello Choir 2014 Anna Whiteway

Here is Brian Klickman and pianist Claire Mallory in the poignantly moving Cavatina movement from the Cello Sonata by Francis Poulenc.

Cello Choir 2014 Brian Klickman, Claire Mallory piano

Here is that wonderfully tuneful last movement from Cesar Franck‘s Violin Sonata transcribed for cello and played by Cordula Aeschbacher with pianist Claire Mallory:

Cello Choir 2014 Cordula Aeschbacher

Then Aleks Tengesdal played the impressively turbulent first movement of the Cello Concerto No. 1 by Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara, with piano accompaniment.

Cello Choir 2014 Aleks Tengesdal, Claire Mallory piano

Julian Mueller closed out the first half with the gorgeous Andante Cantabile by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, who, it seems, was never at a loss for a beautiful, bittersweet melody. (You can hear it played by superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma in a YouTube video at the bottom):

Cello Choir 2014 Julian Mueller

The second half opened with seven cellists playing the Recitative and Meditation movements from the young contemporary American composer Kyle Price’s “Requiem in Memory of Connie Barrett.” The Ear found it a very promising and appetizing foretaste of what sounds like a listener-friendly composing style, something too often missing from new music:

Cello Choir 2014 Kyle Price Requiem cellos

Then came back-to-back performances by father and son cellists.

Son Andrew Laven played three movements –- the Bourees 1 and 2 and the Gigue -– from the Suite No. 4 for Solo Cello by Johann Sebastian Bach:

Cello Choir 2014 Andrew Laven

Father Steven Laven, with pianist Christina Lalog, played “The Tears of Jacqueline” by Jacques Offfenbach, a work he said he first heard when it was dedicated to the late great British cellist Jacqueline du Pre. You understand the dedication because the piece is appropriately lyrical in its lament:

Cello Choir 2014 Steven Laven, Christina Lalog piano

And then the concert closed as it opened, with the music of Villa-Lobos. But this was a work The Ear didn’t know, the “Bachianas Brasileiras” No. 1, which has a lovely and soulful slow movement and catchy fugal finale:

Cello Choir 2014 Bachianas Brasileiras No. 1

As an encore, the cello choir demonstrated an improvisational exercise that it used during the two-week workshop. It involves a conductor using unusual and unpredictable hands movements that are unrelated to a particular score or piece of music, and to which the cellists must each respond as they desire or hear is necessary. To The Ear, it sounded a bit like the famous simultaneous, full-orchestra crescendo in the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” song from “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album.

Cello Choir 2014 Improvisation exercise

Uri Vardi graciously thanked the small but very appreciative audience that rose to its feet and added: “See you next year.”

Indeed, he will.

He will almost certainly see The Ear, although I hope the NSCI can find a way to avoid a conflict with a concert on the same night by the popular Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society. Audiences shouldn’t have to choose between two such deserving groups.

And Vardi should also see a full house in Mills Hall.

The Cello Choir concert is that good and that lovely, that beautiful and, yes, that curative.


Classical music: YOU MUST HEAR THIS songful, lyrical and movingly bittersweet Cavatina movement from the Sonata for Cello and Piano by Francis Poulenc.

March 16, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Perhaps you missed the performance a week ago Saturday night by University of Wisconsin-Madison cellist Parry Karp (below left) and UW-Oshkosh pianist Eli Kalman (below right), who seem perfectly matched in their technical abilities and interpretive viewpoints.

Parry Karp and Eli Kalman

The longtime duo (below top) turned in terrific performances of demanding music by Ludwig van Beethoven (Violin Sonata in G Major, Op 30, No. 3, as arranged by Parry Karp), 24 Preludes for Piano by Dmitri Shostakovich (as arranged by the contemporary Russian composer Lera Auerbach) and the lovely Sonata for Cello and Piano by the 20th-century French composer Francis Poulenc (below bottom), which for The Ear centered around a lovely Cavatina slow movement that has that tuneful heartbreak so typical of Poulenc.

Parry Karp and Eli Kalman 2014

Francis Poulenc

If you missed the performance, you have another chance to hear much of the program, including the difficult to play but lovely to hear Poulenc sonata.

The Karp-Kalman duo will be again perform the Cello Sonata by Poulenc in Brittingham Gallery 3 of the Chazen Museum of Art a week from today, on Sunday, March 23. They will perform it for FREE on Wisconsin Public Radio’s weekly program “Sunday Live From the Chazen” that airs live statewide (88.7 FM in the Madison area) most Sundays from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Also on the program is a transcription of the song “O Tod, wie bitter bist du,” Op. 121, No. 3, by Johannes Brahms. The second half will be the 24 Preludes for solo piano of Dmitri Shostakovich in the cello-piano arrangement by Russian composer Lera Auerbach.

SAL3

But whether you hear the Cavatina – a word for a simple song, a genre made famous when used by Beethoven in his late String Quartet in B-Flat Major, Op. 130 — live or not, YOU MUST HEAR IT. It is sheer beauty that uses the kind of popular and accessible vernacular music from the music hall that characterizes so much of Poulenc’s music.

So here are the French cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras and the French pianist Alexandre Tharaud, in a recording for the Harmonia Mundi label, as posted in a YouTube video at the bottom.

Use the COMMENT section to let The Ear know what you think, if you like the music and if you know of other works that are similar to it, for they too will probably be must-hear’s.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfEsw38Ru24

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Classical music Q&A: Cellist Benjamin Whitcomb hopes to build classical music fans with his FREE concert of three cello masterpieces by Beethoven, Debussy and Rachmaninoff this Friday night at the Wisconsin Center for Music Education in Waunakee and on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen.”

September 17, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

This Friday night, Sept. 20, at 7 p.m. adults and students have a chance to hear a FREE concert of three unqualified masterpieces for cello and piano.

The concert is by cellist Benjamin Whitcomb, who teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and is a member of the acclaimed Madison-based Ancora String Quartet. The pianist is Whitcomb’s longtime collaborator Vincent de Vries, who teaches at Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea.

The concert is at the Wisconsin Center for Music Education (below)
, located at 1005 Quinn Drive in 
Waunakee, Wisconsin, 53597.

Wisconsin School Music sign

Wisconsin School Music Association building

The program includes: Cello Sonata No. 5 in D Major, Op. 102 No. 2 by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-0827), a late work especially known for its final fugue movement; the Cello Sonata by Claude Debussy (1862-1918); and the Cello Sonata in G Minor by Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943, heard at the bottom in a YouTube video with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Emanuel Ax ). 

Benjamin Whitcomb is an accomplished teacher and performer who does both solo recitals (more than a dozen recitals of the complete six Solo Cello Suites by Johann Sebastian Bach, some at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, below) and chamber music.

Benjamin Whitcomb playing Bach 1

Whitcomb recently explained his reasons for doing the free concert to The Ear:

benjamin whitcomb3

“Vincent and I get together a once or twice a year to do a series of performances, despite the distance between us — he is based in Seoul, Korea. We have been doing this since 2002.

“Every time we get together, we talk about how some concerts pay very well but are poorly attended whereas others are just the opposite, and we both agree that we prefer performing for more people (not surprisingly). So, for any given series of concerts, once we have lined up enough to “pay the bills,” we start looking for other venues that might reach more people and/or different audiences.

“Sometimes we end up performing for groups that don’t hear much live classical music, and it is very rewarding to have some of the audience members come up afterwards and express just how much our performance moved them and affected them.

“Vincent (below) and I are both of the opinion that there are many people who would be fans of live classical music if they but were exposed to it.

Vincent de Vries

“The idea of playing at the Wisconsin Center for Music Education springs primarily from the fact that part of their mission, too, is to spread and encourage the appreciation for music (including live classical music) in the region.”

A SECOND CHANCE

You should also know that if you miss this Friday night concert, the same performers and program will be featured in concert and in the live broadcast on this Sunday’s edition of Wisconsin Public Radio‘s “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen” Museum in Madison (below). It runs from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in Brittingham Gallery 3.

SALProArteMay2010


Classical music Q&A: Do cellist Parry Karp and pianist Eli Kalman have favorite cello sonatas by Beethoven? What should audiences listen for this Friday night and Sunday afternoon? How did the two performers meet and develop their collaboration? Part 2 of 2. Plus, violist Mikko Utevsky gives a FREE recital of J.S. Bach and Shostakovich on Saturday night.

April 17, 2013
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ALERT: Mikko Utevsky — a prize-winning UW student violist as well as sometimes Madison Symphony Orchestra player and the founder-conductor of the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO) — will give a viola recital at Capitol Lakes Retirement Home, 333 West Main Street, off the Capitol Square, at 7 P.M. this SATURDAY (NOT Thursday) night, April 20, and would love for a big audience to attend the FREE concert. The ambitious program includes playing J.S. Bach‘s Cello Suite No. 5, transcribed for viola; Dmitri Shostakovich’s late Viola Sonata; and a Kaddish by Tzvi Avni. Utevsky (below) will be accompanied by pianist John Jeffrey Gibbens. A reception will follow the concert.

MAYCO Mikko Utevsky by Steve Rankin

By Jacob Stockinger

This weekend brings one of the major and memorable events of the current season: Performances in two parts of the complete original works for cello and piano by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827).

The performances will take place this Friday night at 7:30 p.m. and this Sunday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. (NOT 3:30 p.m. as mistakenly first listed) in the concert hall at Farley’s House of Pianos, 6522 Seybold Road, on Madison’s far west side, near West Towne Mall.

The performers are longtime collaborators: University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of cello and Pro Arte Quartet cellist Parry Karp and UW-Oshkosh professor of piano Eli Kalman, who received his doctoral degree from the UW-Madison School of Music.

Tickets are $25 for each individual concert or $40 for the package of two. For more information call (608) 271-2626, go to Farley’s website. Here is a link:

http://www.farleyspianos.com/pages/events_main.html

Here are the programs for the two concerts:

Friday at 7:30 p.m.: Sonata In C Major, Op. 102 No. 1 (1815); Sonata in F Major, Op. 5 No. 1 (1796); Seven Variations on a theme “Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen” from Mozart’s opera, The Magic Flute, WoO 46 (1801); Sonata In D Major, Op. 102 No. 2 (1815)

Sunday at 4:30 p.m.: Twelve Variations on a Theme from Handel’s Oratorio “Judas Maccabeus,” WoO 45 (1796); Sonata In G Minor, Op. 5 No. 2 (1796); Twelve Variations on a theme “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from Mozart’s opera, The Magic Flute, Op. 66 (1798); Sonata in A Major, Op. 69 (1807-8)

Both Parry Karp (below left) and pianist Eli Kalman (below right) agreed to answer a wide-ranging email Q&A. This is the second of two parts. The first part was posted yesterday and covered the evolution and development of Beethoven writing for the cello and piano throughout his career.

Parry Karp and Eli Kalman

Do you both have favorite works among Beethoven’s sonatas for cello and piano? Which ones and why?

Parry Karp: It sounds like a cliché, but whatever work I am playing at the moment is my favorite. A week and a half ago Eli and I played three of the works for the Music in Performance class at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

We played an early sonata, a sets of variations and a late sonata. We were both struck by how completely different each work was and how magnificent they all were. The range is extraordinary. As my father (retired UW pianist Howard Karp) is fond of saying about Beethoven (below is a print of the young Beethoven): “He was great from the beginning, he just kept changing.” Probably the first Cello Sonata is the least performed, but when you are performing it, it is an overwhelming experience.

Eli Kalman: The one you are playing has always to sound like your favorite -– that is so true. But personally, I have a very strong connection to the fourth sonata, Op. 102, No. 1 (at bottom, in a YouTube video), and I am happy to overlook the words for the reasoning.  I could advocate for any sonata as for the first favorite in a rational manner, but I choose to go with my strongest emotional reaction regarding the fourth sonata.

young beethoven etching in 1804

What would you like audiences to listen for or hear in your performances of these works? Are there neglected works you would especially like people to pay attention to?

Parry Karp: In general, I don’t like to tell audiences what to listen for in performances. I think these works can be enjoyed and understood in many different ways and on many different levels. In fact every time I play, listen or study them I find new things.

However the works do demand intense concentration from the listener as well as the performer! This music doesn’t work as background music.

In addition to the sonatas, we are performing the three sets of variations that Beethoven wrote for piano and cello. The variation form is one that also held interest for Beethoven from early in his compositional career right through to the huge “33 Variations on a Theme of Diabelli” at the end. He was a master at writing variations and these three sets show that well. (Below is a manuscript sketch of Beethoven’s most popular Cello Sonata, Op. 69.)

Eli Kalman: It is fascinating to follow the composer’s mind at work along with the musically beautiful of many sorts. Instrumental musical treatment is usually of abstract nature but can turn also operatic at times. The singing and the interplay are worth listening to and the passion and the dedication with which the potential of the duo unfolds.

The collaboration is complex, exciting and never really predictable.  It is like a mountain of piano sound and one happy hiker — the cello climbing towards the highest peak.

Beethoven Ms. Cello Sonata Op. 69

You have played together a lot. Can you recall first getting together and tell us what makes your partnership – or any partnership — so successful?

Parry Karp: I first met Eli Kalman through a door! I walked by a studio and heard a pianist practicing Schumann’s Piano Sonata in F-sharp minor, a work rarely heard. I knocked on the door to find out who this excellent pianist was, and it was Eli.

It turned out he was in Madison auditioning for the graduate program in Collaborative Piano. He arrived in Madison the following fall in the graduate program and had an immediate impact on our string program.

He was very generously making it possibly for all of our advanced string students to perform the great piano-string duo repertoire of Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms, Respighi, Bartok, Rachmaninoff, etc.

After a year Eli asked if we could do some playing together. I was only too happy to oblige. We have been performing together since that time, some 11 years. We have explored both much of the well-known repertoire as well as many works that we consider unjustly neglected works. It is always a great treat to have Eli as a duo partner.

Eli Kalman: Parry was the most inspiring musical figure of my last musical decade starting from his own recitals in which he was never letting go easily of any note and all the way to the his insatiable appetite for music. I never met somebody hanging on with so much passion to every measure — quite a model to follow!

How did we start? As a student, I told him once about my dream of including Rachmaninoff’s cello sonata and Ravel piano trio in my repertoire and he commented warmly: “You had a dream, let’s make this happen” – and this is how it started. Ten years later, we have shared so many wonderful and often challenging stage experiences in which we stay together serving music the best we can and continue to marvel about its powers.

Is there anything else you would like to say or add?

Parry Karp: We are very excited to be performing these seminal works at Farley’s House of Pianos, a beautiful intimate space, and a perfect environment for hearing these pieces. Eli and I rehearsed there yesterday and it was a wonderful treat.

There was a plethora of great pianos to chose from, “an embarrassment of riches” as it were. We picked an 1877 “Centennial” Steinway Concert Grand (below), lovingly and magnificently rebuilt by Farley’s. It seemed perfect for these two upcoming recitals.

Eli Kalman: One is fortunate if the repertoire, the partner and the concert series are special. In this case, Farley’s unique restoration of this piano is a significant addition to other aspects. Performing Beethoven’s complete cycle of piano and cello works is one of the most exciting moments of my musical life. We are looking forward to it very much!

Steinway Centennial


Classical music Q&A: Do Beethoven’s sonatas for cello and piano evolve, and how important are they in the overall cello repertoire? Cellist Parry Karp and pianist Eli Kalman discuss their upcoming performances on Friday night and Sunday afternoon at Farley’s House of Pianos of Beethoven’s complete music for piano and cello. Part 1 of 2.

April 16, 2013
4 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

This weekend brings one of the major and memorable events of the current season: Performances in two parts of the complete original works for cello and piano by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827).

The performances will take place this Friday night at 7:30 p.m. and this Sunday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. (NOT 3:30 as mistakenly first announced) in the concert hall (below) at Farley’s House of Pianos, 6522 Seybold Road, on Madison’s far west side, near West Towne Mall.

The performers are longtime collaborators: University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of cello and Pro Arte Quartet cellist Parry Karp and UW-Oshkosh professor of piano Eli Kalman, who received his doctoral degree from the UW-Madison School of Music.

Tickets are $25 for each individual concert or $40 for the package of two. For more information call (608) 271-2626, go to Farley’s website. Here is a link:

http://www.farleyspianos.com/pages/events_main.html

Here are the programs for the two concerts:

Friday at 7:30 p.m.: Sonata In C Major, Op. 102 No. 1 (1815); Sonata in F Major, Op. 5 No. 1 (1796); Seven Variations on a theme “Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen” from Mozart‘s opera, The Magic Flute, WoO 46 (1801); Sonata In D Major, Op. 102 No. 2 (1815)

 Sunday at 4:30 p.m.: Twelve Variations on a Theme from Handel’s Oratorio “Judas Maccabeus,” WoO 45 (1796); Sonata In G Minor, Op. 5 No. 2 (1796); Twelve Variations on a theme “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from Mozart’s opera, The Magic Flute, Op. 66 (1798); Sonata in A Major, Op. 69 (1807-8)

Both Parry Karp (below left) and pianist Eli Kalman (below right) agreed to answer a wide-ranging email Q&A. Their responses will run in two parts today and tomorrow. Today is Part 1:

Parry Karp and Eli Kalman

Where would you place the Beethoven cello sonatas and his other works in the overall cello repertoire? What makes them challenging individually and as a whole?

Parry Karp: The Beethoven Cello Sonatas are amongst the most important works in the cello-piano duo repertoire. These are seminal works, in that up until the time that Beethoven wrote the first two Sonatas, Op. 5, there had really never been works written for this combination of instruments in which both instruments had important music to play and were equal partners.

Before that, the duos for cello and keyboard had the cello performing the important music and the keyboard part was basically accompanying. However, Beethoven changed that for good with his generous duo compositions for piano and cello. While there was a wonderful precedence for duo repertoire by Mozart for keyboard and violin (well over 30 compositions) Mozart managed only 11 measures of a Sonata for piano and cello and then stopped!

Because there wasn’t a history of duo sonatas for piano and cello, I think Beethoven (below) felt freer to experiment when he wrote the Cello Sonatas. He wrote them throughout his entire career and with the exception of the great A Major Sonata, Op. 69, they are revolutionary works.

Beethoven big

The first two Sonatas of Op. 5 were written in 1796 when Beethoven was a brilliant young performing pianist and composer. These two Sonatas were written for the only “concert tour” Beethoven ever took. They are dedicated to King Frederick of Prussia who gave Beethoven a gold snuff box for his efforts.  The form of these early Sonatas is very unusual. Both of them are in two movements, and the first movements have very lengthy slow introductions.

As far as I know, no sonata allegro movement written up until these two Op. 5 Sonatas had a slow introduction that approaches the size and emotional scope of the ones found in these works. Also, the first movements of these two Sonatas are a bigger canvas than the first movement of any Haydn or Mozart Symphony, or previous work written by Beethoven up to this time.

The late Op. 102 Cello Sonatas are virtually the only works that he wrote in 1815 and are basically the first works completely in his  “late style.” If you know and love the five late Beethoven Piano Sonatas and haven’t heard these late Cello Sonatas, you are in for a treat getting to know them. The Op. 102 Cello Sonatas were actually written just before the Op. 101 Piano Sonata.

Most striking for me is how the relatively smaller Op. 102, No. 2, Cello Sonata seems to lead to the great and grand-scale “Hammerklavier” Piano Sonata, Op 106. Both works have incredibly profound and personal slow movements that lead into wild and thrilling last movement fugues; and there are even motivic similarities between the two works. It is as if Beethoven experimented with these new ideas initially with his new ensemble (the piano-cello duo) and then went to town with these ideas and expanded them in the Op. 106 Piano Sonata.

These works, as a whole, inspired composers from this time forward to the possibilities of writing outstanding works for this duo combination and the influence was immediate; both Mendelssohn and Hummel wrote Cello Sonatas that are strongly influenced by Beethoven’s Op. 69 Sonata. This influence has continued to the present day.

Eli Kalman: It is in some way confusing that although the cello and piano repertoire starts with Beethoven, the complete cycle of these works makes it sound more like the genre starts and ends at the same time. Playing all the works grants a sense of totality and the gratification of a complete journey.

The confusion is only enhanced by the unusual shapes and ideas of the early sonatas because of the formal eccentricity and the variety of what Beethoven deliberately planned to sound fresh and “unpredictable.

cello choir 2

How does the writing for the two parts – cello and piano – evolve separately and together from the first works to the last? Do the cello works show the same kind of musical and spiritual development as, say, the piano sonatas and string quartets?

Parry Karp: The works do evolve in a similar way to the piano sonatas and string quartets, but I am not sure they get better. The early works are amazing and compelling on an ultimate scale.

Eli Kalman: If the fugue of the last sonata would not contradict my statement, I would be comfortable saying that the composer moves each sonata towards the idea of “less is more” in the way he treats the piano writing. The later works prefer lesser notes and more transparency serving a very different affect.

Moving away from great classical principles of Op. 69 (the first movement is performed by pianist Glenn Gould and cellist Leonard Rose in a popular YouTube video), which is the ultimate expression of duo-sonata “perfection,” must have felt like a compositional necessity. Beethoven defines an unmatched and new type of musical sophistication.

Tomorrow: Do the performers have favorite cello sonatas by Beethoven? What should audiences listen for? How did the performers first get together?


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