By Jacob Stockinger
Here is a special posting, a record 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 FM 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.
By John W. Barker
For reasons, astronomical and cultural, the Western and Eastern Orthodox celebrations of Easter are frequently held at separate dates. But this year they coincide (on this coming Sunday, April 16). That gives good reason to direct attention beyond familiar Western Easter music and instead to that of Eastern Orthodoxy.
A new recording of one of the landmarks of Russian Orthodox music provides further stimulus to this.
Russian Orthodox practice did not encourage extensive new compositions, but stressed elaborate liturgical rituals built around the heritage of medieval monophonic chant, while benefiting from the fabulous style of Russian choral singing—those low basses (“octavists”) in particular.
Most composers who worked to enrich the liturgical literature were professional church musicians, but a number of “secular” Russian composers also made contributions. Notable among them were Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Peter Tchaikovsky and Sergei Rachmaninoff (below).
It is the last of those three who has given us the music at hand, a truly memorable sacred creation. The work is his Op. 37, entitled “The Most Important Hymns of the ‘All-Night Vigil,” and commonly called “The All-Night Vigil” (Vsenoshchnogo Bdeniya) or else, more simplistically the “Vespers.”
It was composed during the early years of World War I, which was to bring about the collapse of the Russia that Rachmaninoff knew. It was performed in 1915, and two years later, amid the upheavals of the two Revolutions, the composer left his native land for good.
Rachmaninoff prized his Op. 37 above his other works; it was his proclamation of Russian identity, and after it he wrote no more sacred music. He even hoped that one section of it could be sung at his funeral. (A moving sample can be heard in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
The Orthodox Christian celebration of the Resurrection places emphasis on the Saturday night offices of Vespers and Matins, in a prolonged and elaborate ritual. (This Vigil array can also be used for other significant feasts beyond Easter.)
Given the lengths, Rachmaninoff chose to set his selection of “the most important hymns” for his Op. 37, for a total of 15 sections. He did follow working practice by building his settings on or around traditional chant melodies. He expected that individual sections might have liturgical usage; but he understood that the totality was a grand concert work.
The Rachmaninoff All-Night Vigil, or “Vespers,” has been recorded many times, often by Russian choirs, which have the musical and liturgical style in their blood. But non-Russian groups and directors have also come to recognize the transcendent beauty of this masterwork.
Noteworthy among those was Robert Shaw, the great American choral master whose recording (on the Telarc label) has been acclaimed by his admirers for its predictably superb choral sound. But Shaw and his singers lack Russian sound or spiritual sensitivity.
Other American performers have joined in: the broadly paced recording with Charles Bruffy and his Phoenix and Kansas City choirs (for Chandos) is notable. Paul Hillier’s recording (for Harmonia Mundi) with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir has earned great respect.
I have just been taken by the brand new release (below) from Paraclete Recordings of Massachusetts, with the Gloria Dei Cantores and members of three other choirs under the direction of Peter Jermihov.
They number 77 singers in all and, as recorded in a church setting, they make a sumptuous sound. Their emphasis is less on clarifying individual voice parts and more on relishing the rich blends that make up the total texture.
While treating the work as a grand concert piece, this performance goes beyond most others by including intonations by clerical celebrants, recalling the liturgical context that was always in the composer’s mind.
One of the striking features of this release is its thick album booklet. This is not only richly illustrated but contains an unusually penetrating background essay. Further, in presenting the Russian texts (in Cyrillic and transliteration) with English translations, it also gives useful comments section by section, for the fullest understanding of the liturgical contexts.
This is a noteworthy addition to the crowded recording picture for this sumptuous and deeply moving sacred music.
By Jacob Stockinger
Here is some news that The Ear is overjoyed to announce: An annual Bach Around the Clock celebration is being revived this year in Madison.
For three years, a similar event, inspired by celebrations in New Orleans, was sponsored by Wisconsin Public Radio and coordinated by its music director Cheryl Dring. But when she left in 2013, and so did WPR.
But now baroque and modern violist Marika Fischer Hoyt (below right), who plays with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Ancora String Quartet and the Madison Bach Musicians, has undertaken to revive it.
So let’s help resume the tradition and call it Bach Around the Clock 4.
The place has changed.
But the concept remains the same.
The event is now looking for musicians -– professional and amateurs, teachers and students – to sign up to participate.
Here are particulars:
Bach Around The Clock 2017
Saturday, March 18
12 Noon to 12 Midnight
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (below)
1833 Regent St., Madison, WI 53726
The event is FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.
Bach Around The Clock is a 12-hour celebration of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). Held on the Saturday closest to Bach’s birthday, it offers all members of the musical community, from young students to seasoned professionals, the opportunity to perform selections by this sublime composer.
This year’s BATC takes place in the sanctuary (below) of St. Andrew’s Church, and will be opened with an organ work and a performance by the St. Andrew’s Chancel Choir, under the leadership of music director and organist Ken Stancer.
NOTE: The entire event will be recorded, and audio/video live streaming will be available for those unable to attend.
Birthday cake will be served at midnight!
The month of March has been designated as the official ‘Early Music Month’ by the organization Early Music America <www.earlymusicamerica.org/endeavors/early-music-month>, and the Madison Bach Around The Clock is listed on their website as one of the many partners participating in this annual nationwide celebration.
The Ear — who himself played solo piano works and accompanied a famous Siciliano movement from a flute sonata — has such great memories of past ones.
Those memories include hearing whole studios of young piano students performing; duos and trios done by siblings and friends, by parents and children, by teachers and students; accomplished professional and amateur instrumentalists, including UW-Madison faculty members; church choirs in cantatas; lots of intriguing arrangements including the solo cello suites on the saxophone and a flute and bassoon duo performing some Two-Part Inventions (in the YouTube video at the bottom) as well as Bach on the accordion and bagpipes. And on and on.
And to give you the flavor of the event, here links to the events, complete with photos, to the past Bach Around the Clock celebrations when they were sponsored by Wisconsin Public Radio and held at the Pres House near the UW-Madison campus:
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received the following notice to post:
Tickets are $15 (for students, $10) in advance; $20 ($12) at the door. Advance tickets are available from www.wisconsinchamberchoir.org, via Brown Paper Tickets, or at Orange Tree Imports and Willy Street Coop (East, West and North locations).
Explore the magic and mystery of the holiday season with the Wisconsin Chamber Choir, whose program highlights the beloved Latin chant ”O magnum mysterium” in musical settings by Tomas Luís de Victoria and Francis Poulenc. (You can hear Poulenc’s setting, conducted by the legendary Robert Shaw, in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
Rounding out the performance are the remainder of Poulenc’s Four Christmas Motets along with seasonal works spanning five centuries by William Byrd, Heinrich Schütz, Johannes Brahms, Herbert Howells and Bob Chilcott, plus the world premiere of “Methinks I See a Heavenly Host” by Peter Bloesch (below).
The 50-voice choir will be joined by organist Mark Brampton Smith (below top) of Grace Episcopal Church, and Madison Symphony Orchestra trombonist and program annotator J. Michael Allsen (below bottom, in a photo by Katrin Talbot), who will accompany the Schütz selections on the sackbut, the Renaissance ancestor of the trombone.
Founded in 1998, the Madison-based Wisconsin Chamber Choir has established a reputation for excellence in the performance of oratorios by Bach, Mozart, and Brahms; a cappella masterworks from six centuries; and world premieres.
Robert Gehrenbeck (below), who heads the choral program at the UW-Whitewater, is the Wisconsin Chamber Choir’s artistic director.
ALERT: The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and its acclaimed music director Andrew Sewell are pretty busy these days playing the accompanying music for the Madison Ballet‘s multiple performances of Peter Tchaikovsky‘s holiday ballet “The Nutcracker.”
Then on this coming Friday night at 7 p.m. at the Blackhawk Church in Middleton, the WCO, the WCO Chorus, the Festival Choir of Madison and guest soloists, all under the baton of Sewell, also give their annual and usually sold-out performance of George Frideric Handel‘s oratorio “Messiah.” The Ear has been told that this year’s performance is also close to selling out to. For more information and tickets, go to:
By Jacob Stockinger
At 8 p.m. this Saturday night, Dec. 10, the Madison Bach Musicians (below top) will give their sixth annual Baroque Holiday Concert.
The event will once again be held in the beautiful and sonorous sanctuary (below) of the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Avenue.
There is a free pre-concert lecture by the always witty, informative and entertaining MBM founder, artistic director and harpsichordist Trevor Stephenson (below) at 7:15 p.m. NOTE: Trevor Stephenson will also discuss the upcoming holiday concert and play excerpts from past ones TODAY AT NOON on The Midday program aired by Wisconsin Public Radio.
The program will feature: a cappella (solo vocal) masterworks by Orlando di Lassus and Josquin des Prez performed by a vocal quartet; a Christmas Cantata for soprano and strings by Alessandro Scarlatti—featuring soprano soloist Chelsea Morris (below top); a trio sonata by Johann Joseph Fux; an intriguing Partita for two scordatura violins (scordatura means the open strings are re-tuned into a new interval configuration!) by Heinrich Biber; the Sonatina in A minor for baroque bassoon and continuo by Georg Philipp Telemann ― with soloist and UW-Madison professor Marc Vallon (below bottom, in a photo by James Gill); one of the Christmas Cantatas, BWV 122, Das neugeborne Kindelein (The Newborn Baby) by Johann Sebastian Bach (heard in the YouTube video at the bottom); and a bonus feature ― a preview of MBM’s upcoming April performance of Bach’s oratorio St. John Passion, the tenor aria Ach, mein Sinn.
Advance-sale discount tickets: $28 for general admission, $23 for students and seniors 65 and over. They are available at Orange Tree Imports, Farley’s House of Pianos, Room of One’s Own, and Willy Street Co-op (East and West) . You can also find online advance-sale tickets at madisonbachmusicians.org
Tickets at the door are: $30 for general admission; $25 for students and seniors 65 and over. Student Rush tickets are $10 at the door and go on sale 30 minutes before lecture (student ID is required)
Musicians will include: Chelsea Morris, soprano; Joseph Schlesinger, counter-tenor; Scott Brunscheen, tenor; Matthew Tintes, bass; Kangwon Kim and Brandi Berry, baroque violins; Marika Fischer Hoyt, baroque viola; Martha Vallon, baroque cello; Marc Vallon, baroque bassoon; and Trevor Stephenson, harpsichord
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-FM 89.9. For years, he served on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.
By John W. Barker
The Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble offered its latest specimen of intimate Baroque chamber music at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church on Regent Street last Sunday afternoon.
As always, each of the performers—six in this case—had one or two opportunities as soloist.
Mezzo-soprano Consuelo Sañudo (below), for instance, was featured in two solo cantatas.
One, by Giovanni Bononcini was on conventional emotional themes.
But the other was a real curiosity. By the French composer Louis-Nicolas Clérambault, it was written for the Nativity season, and has been given a French title as “Hymn of the Angels.” But its text was no more or less than the Latin words of the Gloria section of the Mass Ordinary.
A new member in the group, recorder player Sigrun Paust (below), delivered the Sonata No. 1 from a 1716 collection of works written by Francesco Veracini alternatively for violin or flute.
For flutist Monica Steger (below) the vehicle was a Sonata Op. 91, No. 2, for Flute and Harpsichord duo, by Joseph Bodin de Boismortier.
The spotlight was on viola da gambist Eric Miller (below) in another duo with harpsichord, no less than the Sonata in D Major, BWV 1028, by Johann Sebastian Bach, but Miller also participated in continuo functions elsewhere. (You can hear the Bach sonata in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
Likewise active in continuo work was viola da gambist Anton TenWolde (below), but he had one solo, a Capriccio for cello, by Joseph Ferdinand Dall’Abaco.
And the harpsichordist Max Yount (below), also involved in continuo roles, presented two contrasting keyboard pieces, a Toccata by Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck and a Fantasie by Johann Jakob Froberger.
For a colorful finale, Paust and Miller joined TenWolde and Steger (on harpsichord) in a Trio Sonata in F by Georg Philipp Telemann.
The artistry of these performers (below) was fully up to their own high standards, and their delight in trading off assignments to play together is palpable.
St. Andrew’s Church (below) on Regent Street may have been a bit bigger than a Baroque salon or parlor, but still served well as a setting for this kind of amiable gentility in musical substance.
The group’s next Madison concert is at St. Andrew’s on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017. No program has been announced.
By Jacob Stockinger
Grace Presents, now entering its seventh year offering FREE public concerts at Grace Episcopal Church (below), located at 116 West Washington Avenue on the Capitol Square, will host resident organist Mark Brampton Smith with violinist Maureen McCarty on this Saturday, Nov. 19.
The concert begins at noon and ends at 1 p.m. Audience members are invited to bring their lunch.
The program — an asterisk indicates that both the violin and organ will play — includes:
Psalm 19: “The Heavens Declare the Glory of God” by Benedetto Marcello (1686-1739)
Partita on “Werde munter, mein Gemüte” (Sing not yet, my soul, to slumber) by Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706)
*”Ornament of Grace” by Bernard Wayne Sanders (b. 1957)
Variations on ‘Cwm Rhondda’ by Mark Brampton Smith (b. 1954) Introduction – Allegro – Duo – Reflection – Finale
*Meditation from “Thaïs” by Jules Massenet (1842-1912)
Concerto in a minor, after Vivaldi (BWV 593) – Johann Sebastian Bach Allegro
Toccata and Fugue in d minor (BWV 565) – Johann Sebastian Bach
The final concert of 2016 will feature the widely renowned Russian Folk Orchestra on Dec. 10.
Mark Brampton Smith Biography:
Mark Brampton Smith (below) serves as the current organist at Grace Episcopal Church. Mark began his church music career as a boy soprano at St. Paul’s Parish on K Street in Washington, D.C., eventually serving on the music staff of churches in seven states. He holds degrees in organ performance from the Eastman School of Music and the University of Michigan.
As an organist, Mark won prizes in the Fort Wayne, Ann Arbor, and American Guild of Organists National Competitions, and he’s performed solo recitals at venues such as Overture Hall. As a collaborative pianist, Mark has worked with numerous singers, instrumentalists, and ensembles, including the Ann Arbor Cantata Singers, University of Michigan choirs, Colgate University Chorus, and currently the Wisconsin Chamber Choir.
Maureen McCarty Biography:
Maureen McCarty (below) began the violin in the Madison public schools, and played in the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras for many years. She received a BA in violin performance from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
While working on her degree, she performed as a musician with American Players Theatre for five seasons. She has extensive orchestral experience playing in such local ensembles as the Madison Symphony Orchestra and Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, as well as various orchestras in five Midwestern states, the Barcelona City Orchestra and the Orquesta Filarmónica de Gran Canaria in Spain.
Maureen returned to UW-Madison for a teaching certificate in music education in 1999, and taught strings and general music for students in grades 3-12 in Monona Grove during her fifteen years in the district. Recently retired from public school teaching, she now teaches privately, performs with the Camerata String Quartet, tutors Spanish, and takes photographs for her local newspaper. Formative violin teachers include Eva Szekely, Sharan Leventhal, Thomas Moore and Vartan Manoogian.
For more information, visit www.GracePresents.org
ALERT: The recital by violinist Joshua Bell and pianist Alessio Bax on this Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Shannon Hall of the Wisconsin Union Theater is SOLD OUT. But a few extra tickets will be released on Saturday at 6 p.m. at the WUT box office, where interested persons should go in person to buy them.
By Jacob Stockinger
On Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m., Farley’s House of Pianos owner Tim Farley will unveil his latest handmade clavichord (below) at the historic Gates of Heaven Synagogue, 302 East Gorham Street in James Madison Park. (Photos are by Tom Moss.)
If you wonder about the difference between the clavichord and the harpsichord, fortepiano and piano, here is a link to a definition on Wikipedia:
David Schrader (below), a professor at Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts Music Conservatory, will perform on the instrument. Details of the program have not been announced.
A $20 cash or check donation to Farley’s House of Pianos is suggested. The ticket donation goes towards Schrader’s fee and the venue rental.
Farley created the German clavichord using reclaimed Spanish cedar and redwood from Broadwood pianos dating back to 1880, and shipwrecked walnut wood that had been underwater for nearly 60 years. The clavichord was built over three years by Tim Farley and another worker.
Farley chose Schrader to perform specifically for this concert. Schrader has a background in early keyboard and church music. He also performed on Farley’s 1976 Steinway Centennial Grand piano for the Madison Early Music Festival this year.
“In the times we live in today, we never truly experience absolute quiet,” Farley says. “We don’t have that white space background like performers had in the 19th century. Gates of Heaven Synagogue has a perfect acoustical ambience for a clavichord. No question, this is the most personal, sensitive, intimate keyboard instrument ever made.”
Adds builder Farley: “This clavichord is after the eminent clavichord builder, Friederici, who worked in the Silberman workshop. It has many of the attributes of the famous clavichord built by Silberman for Johann Sebastian Bach.
“Unlike Silberman’s clavichord that had 53 keys (C to E), the Friederici has five full octaves. It is perfectly suited to much music by Franz Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and even some by Ludwig van Beethoven.
“I am indebted to my colleague Dietrich Hein, the German instrument builder, who sent me his drawing of the instrument and that is what I used.
“All of the other wood on the inside of the instrument is wood that had a previous musical life from such pianos as Broadwood, Steinway, Mason and Hamlin, and Chickering.
“The lid has new walnut veneers. On the inside of the lid, the woods are bookmatched. The outside of the lid features individual pieces of figured walnut. The trim is fiddleback soft maple.
“It took about three years to complete the instrument including turning the legs for the case. It is 72 inches long. It has a deep, rich sound and a long sustain duration.”
Here is a YouTube video with much more information about the clavichord:
By Jacob Stockinger
Beer-inspired classical music may seem a stretch at first.
But then you haven’t heard the Madison-based wind quintet Black Marigold.
And there is a historical precedent or two, including the “Coffee Cantata” by Johann Sebastian Bach and Classical Revolution Madison, which performs classic music in unusual venues such as cafes, coffee houses and bars.
In any case, Black Marigold (below) performed some of Beer Music in brew pubs and a church at the end of August.
The concert, which used to be carried live by Wisconsin Public Radio but was discontinued, is FREE at 12:30 p.m. in Brittingham Gallery No. 3 (below).
It will also be streamed live at this site:
Here are more details about the dates, venues and programs:
Music on Tap: 2016 Summer Concert Series
Upcoming Black Marigold Concerts:
All performances offer FREE admission, with free will donations accepted.
As many Madisonians geared up for this past week’s Great Taste of the Midwest, the region’s largest craft beer festival, Black Marigold logged time in the rehearsal hall instead of the beer hall, fermenting new music for the group’s end-of-summer concert series.
All September programs will feature selections from Beer Music, an epic collection of short pieces inspired by 18 local craft beers, composed by Brian DuFord for Black Marigold.
Here are details of individual programs:
Summer Concert Series
Sunday, September 4, 12:30 p.m., Sunday Afternoon Live at the Chazen (live stream link)
Thursday, September 15, 7 p.m., Stoughton Public Library
Pub Concerts: relax and enjoy a pint with your performance!
Saturday, September 10, 3 pm, The Malt House (below bottom)
Beer Music was made possible by a grant from Dane Arts and individual donations from many friends.
For more information, visit: www.blackmarigold.com
To contact the group, use this email address: