The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Harlem Renaissance opera “Voodoo” is rediscovered and resurrected in performance. Plus, “Music as Medicine” will be streamed LIVE today from the Chazen Museum of Art at 12:30 p.m.

July 5, 2015
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A REMINDER: Today at 12:30 p.m., the early music choral group Eliza‘s Toyes (below) will perform “Music as Medicine” at the Chazen Museum of Art. The concert is FREE to attend. It will also be streamed LIVE as a replacement (first Sunday of the month) for the weekly Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen that Wisconsin Public Radio cancelled last season after 36 years.

Here is a statement: “Music has been an integral part of our well-being. To this date, many listen to music for its power in relaxation, excitement, and even catharsis. The development of music therapy as a medical profession, as well as increasing research in the physiological and psychological effects of music, signifies our ongoing interest to understand and utilize music. As scientists continue to examine music in an utilitarian light, it is worthwhile for us to rediscover how human beings have historically viewed music and its connection with health.”

Here is a link for streaming the concert:

http://www.chazen.wisc.edu/about/news/in-the-news/elizas-toyes-sunday-afternoon-live-at-the-chazen-on-july-5

Chazen Toyes

By Jacob Stockinger

Over the Fourth of July weekend, we have heard a lot of American music, most of it pretty well-known.

But every once on a while, an important discovery is made. Here is one to read about. It is “Voodoo,” an opera from the Harlem Renaissance that was composed by Harry Lawrence Freeman (below, in a photo from Columbia University in New York City). It was recently rediscovered and revived for a couple of performances.

Henry Lawrence Freeman CR Columbia University

It was featured on NPR or National Public Radio:

http://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2015/06/24/417151864/unearthed-in-a-library-voodoo-opera-rises-again

And here is a trailer preview or sampler, with some great photos, on YouTube:


Classical music: Here are four for the Fourth.

July 4, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Yesterday The Ear asked readers for suggestions about classical music that would be appropriate to post and play today, which is Independence Day or the Fourth of July.

American Flag

TETRRF-00024113-001

I got some good answers.

Some of the suggestions were great music but seemed inappropriate like “On the Transmigration of Souls” by the contemporary American composer John Adams. It won the Pulitzer Prize. But it deals with the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and strikes The Ear as a bit grim for this holiday.

So, here are four others for The Fourth:

Ann Boyer suggested the Variations on “America” by Charles Ives, who was certainly an American and a Yankee original. The original scoring for organ was transcribed for orchestra by the well-known American composer William Schuman and it is performed below in a YouTube video by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the baton of the famous composer-arranger Morton Gould, who seems to specialize in Americana:

Tim Adrianson suggested Aaron Copland’s great Third Symphony. It is long but the most famous part of the symphony is “Fanfare for the Common Man,” played here by Metropolitan Opera artistic director James Levine and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. And that seems a perfectly fitting piece of music to celebrate the birth of American democracy:

Reader fflambeau suggested anything by Howard Hanson, but especially Syphony No. 2 “Romantic.” Here is the famous slow movement — performed by Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony Orchestra — that is also the appealing theme of the Interlochen Arts Academy and National Summer Music Camp:

Finally, The Ear recently heard something that seems especially welcome at a time when there is so much attention being paid to matters military.

It is also by Aaron Copland and is called “A Letter From Home.” It was dedicated to troops fighting World War II but it strikes me for its devotion to the home front and to peaceful domestic life, which is exactly what the Fourth of July should be about. Be sure to look at the black-and-white photographs that accompany the music:

And The Ear reminds you that you can hear a lot of American composers and American music today on Wisconsin Public Radio.

Have a Happy Fourth of July and Independence Day, everyone!

fireworks


Classical music: Tell The Ear what music he should post on the Fourth of July?

July 3, 2015
7 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Today, the stock markets, banks and many businesses are closed in observance of the Fourth of July.

American Flag

TETRRF-00024113-001

But Saturday is the real Independence Day for the United States of America.

Now, The Ear has some ideas about what classical music to celebrate the event -– and the choices do NOT include the “1812 Overture” by Peter Tchaikovsky or the “Marseillaise,” the French national anthem that started during the French Revolution. Maybe one of the overtures by Ludwig van Beethoven or an aria by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or Giuseppe Verdi would do. Try and see if you can convince me.

But the Ear thinks it would be much more patriotic to have something by an American composer – say Charles Ives (below top) or Aaron Copland (below bottom), William Schuman or Samuel Barber.

Charles Ives BIG

aaron copland

Or maybe Roy Harris or Leonard Bernstein, Joan Tower (below top) or Jennifer Higdon (below bottom) -– would be appropriate and a good choice.

Joan_Tower

Higdon-and-Beau-Candace DiCarlo

But here is your choice to play DJ.

Leave your choice -– with a YouTube link, if possible -– in the COMMENT section.

Then I will decide which choice is most appropriate and best, and post a YouTube video of the work on Saturday to mark the real Fourth of July, the real Independence Day.

Thanks for your help.

I know I have some very knowledgeable readers, so I am looking forward to the seeing and hearing their suggestions.

 

 


Classical music: Here are the winners of the 15th International Tchaikovsky Competition. You can stream the winners’ concerts LIVE tonight and Friday night for FREE with a link that is here.

July 2, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The  major event in the world of classical music for the past several weeks has been the 15th International Tchaikovsky Competition that was held in Moscow and St. Petersburg. (Below is American pianist Van Cliburn, who won the first competition and made history.)

Van Cliburn

The winners – in the categories of piano, violin, cello and voice — were announced yesterday.

Here they are, along with a link to a way for you to stream the winners’ concerts, under competition head and conductor Valery Gergiev (below), live TONIGHT and Friday and for FREE.

http://www.gramophone.co.uk/classical-music-news/tchaikovsky-competition-2015-winners-announced?pmtx=recommended&utm_expid=32540977-5.-DEFmKXoQdmXwfDwHzJRUQ.2&utm_referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F

Gergievin NY

 


Classical music: Lesson 1 from the 2015 season of the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society: Chamber music transcriptions, arrangements and reductions of large orchestral works deserve a wider hearing.

July 1, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Madison-based Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society finished up its three-week, 24th annual season this past weekend.

The populist chamber music group used local and imported artists to perform six programs over three weekends in three different venues -– all based around the theme of “Guilty as Charged,” which meant emphasizing borrowings and similar transgressionsTalk about a hard-working group of performing artists!

BDDS poster 2015

Over the next week or two, The Ear wants to share some of the lessons that he learned from attending several of the BDS concerts.

Today is Lesson 1: Chamber music transcriptions, arrangements and reductions of large orchestral works deserve a wider hearing so that more people can enjoy those works more often.

I cite two examples from the “Crooked Business” program that BDDS performed at the Stoughton Opera House (below, where I saw and heard it) and at the Hillside Theatre on the Taliesin compound of architect Frank Lloyd Wright in Spring Green.

StoughtonOperaHouse,JPG

First, there was the Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K. 491, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. BDDS co-founder, co-artist director and house pianist Jeffrey Sykes led the group of 11 players from the keyboard and played with his back to the audience.

(Believe it or not, if The Ear recalls music history correctly, that was the standard performance practice, as was playing with the score, until the legendary piano virtuoso Franz Liszt turned the piano to the side to highlight his dramatic profile and also memorized the music to astonish his audiences.)

The Mozart piano concerto is a great work — you can hear the whole work in its full orchestral version with pianist Mitsuko Uchida in a YouTube video at the bottom. And the arrangement or reduction they used made it seem even more remarkable. That is because the smaller size of the forces allowed one to hear more clearly the interplay of various parts.

BDDS 2015 Mozart C minor piano concerto

Then on the second half of the program came a second example: The Serenade No. 1 in D Major, Op 11 (1857) by Johannes Brahms. It was performed with nine players in a reduction by Christopher Nex.

The Ear found the work to be a bit too long and repetitive — the structure of its six movements lacked the tightness of a symphony. But then again, a tuneful serenade is by definition supposed to be lighter and have a looser structure, to spur more relaxed and informal listening and to demand less focused attention.

BDDS 2015 Brahms Serenade 1

Such reductions originated in the desire of amateurs to make house music at a time when professional orchestras and chamber music groups and commercial concerts did not exist in a widespread way.

It is an approach that can and should be revived. To be fair, the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival has also done a few of these transcriptions or arrangements, often with the Harvard University Mozart scholar and pianist Robert Levin.

But nonetheless it is largely thanks to the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society that listeners can make their way through the 27 piano concertos by Mozart and the 104 symphonies by Franz Joseph Haydn -– to say nothing of the many Baroque, Classical, Romantic and modern works that must already exist in similar arrangements or could be rearranged on demand.

To which The Ear simply says: Bravo! Do more of them!

What do you say?

The Ear -– along with BDDS organizers and performers – wants to hear.


Classical music: YOU MUST HEAR THIS: The “Air in F Major” from the Trumpet Suite by Baroque composer Domenico Zipoli.

June 30, 2015
14 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

I had never heard this work or even heard of the composer, the Baroque Italian composer Domenico Zipoli (1688-1726, below) who traveled to Paraguay to part in what amounts to genocide of the indigenous natives and ended up bringing  European music to South Americans. (See a reader comment for more information.)

domenico zipoli

But there it was, playing on Wisconsin Public Radio during the noontime Midday program.

Some movements featured the glorious playing of the late virtuoso and prolific French trumpeter Maurice Andre.

But the section that really caught my attention for its beauty –- its melodic lines, harmonies and rich string sound — is the Air.

It could be a great piece for the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra to perform. Or maybe the Edgewood College Chamber Orchestra. Or maybe the all-string orchestra that The Ear hears will be formed at the UW-Madison School of Music in the fall.

Anyway, at the bottom, in a YouTube video, it is performed by the famed Jean-Francois Paillard Chamber Orchestra, which first brought us the Canon in D Major by Johann Pachelbel.

The Ear hopes you enjoy it too:

 

 


Classical music education: The Green Lake Festival of Music opens the 17th year of its Chamber Music Camp, with FREE public concerts, this week.

June 29, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear’s friends at the Green Lake Festival of Music write to tell us about a program important to music education – which means a program important to the future of classical music:

Here is the press release:

On Sunday, July 5, at the Thrasher Opera House (below  bottom) in Green Lake, The Green Lake Chamber Players open the 17th annual Green Lake Music Festival Chamber Music Camp, as string and piano students (below top) from nine states, ages 11 to 20, convene at Ripon College for two weeks of stimulating music-making along with just plain fun.

chambermusicstudents

thrasher opera house

Part of the fun includes a trip to Larry Miller’s farm and a shopping scavenger hunt at K-Mart.

The daily schedule includes coaching sessions by Thomas Rosenberg (Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition Director, cellist and the Camp’s Artistic Director); Samantha George, Associate Professor of Violin at Lawrence Conservatory of Music; Karen Kim, Grammy Award winning violinist; David Perry, Professor of Violin at the UW-Madison and first violin of the Pro Arte String Quartet; Renee Skerik, Instructor of Viola at Interlochen Arts Academy; Andrew Armstrong from the Amelia Piano Trio; James Howsmon, Professor of Instrumental Accompanying at Oberlin College Conservatory; and guest artists, including Shen Lu, 2014 Hilton Head International Piano Competition Winner, the Jupiter Quartet (below top), and the Bergonzi String Quartet (below bottom).

Jupiter Quartet at Studio Theatre, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. From left: Liz Freivogel, Nelson Lee,  Daniel McDonough, and Meg Freivogel

Jupiter Quartet at Studio Theatre, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. From left: Liz Freivogel, Nelson Lee, Daniel McDonough, and Meg Freivogel

bergonzi string quartet

Join us for the first of several Green Lake Chamber Players concerts on Sunday, July 5, at 3 p.m. This concert is a “BUY ONE, GET ONE” ticket concert. The Green Lake Chamber Players includes the Green Lake Festival Chamber Music Camp faculty and guest artists who will perform music by Alexander Scriabin, Ludwig van Beethoven and Johannes Brahms. This is also the first concert in a series of matinees that offer a special package for bus pick up and ticket from Appleton, Oshkosh, and Beaver Dam. Call the Festival office for more details on this package.

The 2014 Hilton Head International Piano Competition Winner, Shen Lu (below) will perform Thursday, July 9, at 7:30 p.m. at the Thrasher Opera House, along with teaching a piano master class on Friday, July 10, at 10 a.m. John O’Conor, the Jury Chair from the 2014 Hilton Head International Piano Competition, says, “Shen Lu is a young Chinese pianist with an exciting future. His interpretations have great depth, his technique seems effortless and he communicates wonderfully with his audience.”

shen lu

Students will attend master classes and five Festival concerts, and perform a variety of community service engagements in such facilities as nursing homes, service clubs, and libraries.

The program includes three public concerts – a Chamber Camp Student Recital on Saturday, July 11, and the popular “Circle of Sound” string orchestra concert at the Boston Barn on Tuesday, July 14, as part of the Boston Barn Concert package that includes appetizers and music by the Bergonzi String Quartet, and the final Chamber Music Celebration at Rodman Center for the Arts, Ripon College, on Saturday, July 18.

Please visit www.greenlakefestival.org for information about these and other artists performing throughout July at the Festival or to purchase tickets.  Tickets are also available by calling the office at 920-748-9398.  You can also stop by one of the following ticket outlets:  Green Lake Bank (Green Lake) and Ripon Drug (Ripon).

Green Lake Festival of Music logo

The Green Lake Festival of Music is supported in part by the Arts Midwest Touring Arts Fund, a program of Arts Midwest, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional funding from the Wisconsin Arts Board, the Crane Group, and General Mills Foundation. Additional support comes from the Horicon Bank, Oshkosh Area Community Foundation, Agnesian Healthcare, Wisconsin Department of Tourism, Oshkosh Area Community Foundation, and private and corporate donations.

Chamber Workshop FREE Public Events

Get the inside story on the rehearsal process as you watch these artists work with talented students. All master classes will be held at the Rodman Center for the Arts at Ripon College.

  • Piano Master Class with Shen Lu. Friday, July 10, 10 a.m.
  • Cello Master Class with The Jupiter Quartet. Monday, July 13, 10 a.m.
  • Violin Master Class with The Bergonzi String Quartet. Thursday, July 16, 10 a.m.

 Chamber Workshop Concerts

  • Chamber Camp Recital. Join us for this FREE community concert at the Rodman Center for the Arts, Ripon, Wisconsin on Saturday, July 11, at 2 p.m. No tickets are need for this event; seating is first come, first served.
  • “A Circle of Sound” Tuesday, July 14, 6:30 p.m. at the Boston Farm, Green Lake, Wisconsin. Be in the center of the music as The Bergonzi String Quartet, faculty and students encircle the audience in a historic Wisconsin barn. This concert is preceded with cocktails and appetizers with an Italian flair. This concert is offered only as a package.
  • Chamber Music Celebration Showcase Performance. Saturday, July 18, 3 p.m., Rodman Center for the Arts (below), Ripon, Wisconsin. Hear the stars of tomorrow as the talented students perform in trios, quartets and quintets, concluding with their trademark Circle of Sound strings. A student-led preconcert conversation begins at 2:30 p.m.

Ripon College Rodman Hall

 


Classical music: Can you think of performers and performances that help explain the music?

June 28, 2015
6 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

French writer Andre Gide (below, 1869-1951) won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

andre gide

He was also an avid amateur pianist.

He collected and published his “Notes on Chopin,” which The Ear was reading the other day.

The Ear came across this sentence: “Any good performance should be an explanation of the work.”

Makes a lot of sense as a way to explain memorable performances.

The comment brought to mind conductor (and educator as well as composer) Leonard Bernstein (below) and the Vienna Philharmonic performing the Symphony No. 4 by Johannes Brahms (at the bottom in a YouTube video) and the Symphony No. 3 “Eroica” by Ludwig van Beethoven as well as conductor Bruno Walter’s performance of the Symphony No. 1 by Gustav Mahler.

Leonard Bernstein CR Jack Mitchell

It also brought to mind pianist Arthur Rubinstein performing so much Chopin, but especially the Ballades.

It brought to mind the Belgian violinist Arthur Grumiaux performing the solo sonatas and suite for violin by Johann Sebastian Bach, and the Hungarian cellist Janos Starker performing the solo cello suites of Bach. Glenn Gould’s keyboard Bach probably also qualifies.

The Ear thinks maybe Gide is right.

What do you think?

And can you name performances and performers that explain the works they play?

Leave a message in the COMMENT section along with a link to a YouTube video, if possible.

 


Classical music: The Ear celebrates marriage equality or same-sex marriage with a piece by Francis Poulenc and a list of LGBT composers. What music would you play to celebrate the occasion? And how many composers can you name?

June 27, 2015
5 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Less than 50 years ago, you could go to prison or jail for being gay.

But now, given Friday’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that same-sex marriage is legal across the country — IS indeed The Law of the Land under the U.S. Constitution — the same people can now be heading to the chapel (or city hall) where they’re gonna get married!

And have it recognized in all 50 states.

Rainbow flag

So how can one celebrate this long-awaited occasion, which so many gay composers would have wished for and benefitted from?

One way is to feature a piece by a gay composer.

The Ear chose the lovely slow movement from the Concerto for Two Pianos by Francis Poulenc (below), that tuneful and forthright 20th century French composer who said, “If I were not homosexual, I could not compose my music.”

You can hear the music, performed by the composer at one of the keyboards, at the bottom in a YouTube video.

Francis Poulenc

What piece would you choose to mark the occasion? Leave your answer and, if possible, a YouTube link to a performance of the work in the COMMENT section. The Ear wants to hear!!

Now, how many LGBT composers and songwriters can you name?

Here is one pretty impressive list with a lot of names that even The Ear didn’t know.

https://musescore.com/groups/lgbt-composers-and-songwriters/discuss/83075

 


Classical music: Get reacquainted with the harpsichord as a modern instrument through a story on National Public Radio (NPR).

June 26, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Harpsichord (below) or piano?

Historical or modern music?

Well, you don’t really have to choose.

Certainly one young performer sees the benefits in both. (Below is a photo of Trevor Stephenson of the Madison Bach Musicians working at his modern replica of a two-manual harpsichord that Johann Sebastian Bach used.)

Trevor Stephenson marking scores

But he also favors the harpsichord for various reasons, including a curious one: Annoying somebody special! 

Read the interview on National Public Radio (NPR) for yourself.

Here is a link:

http://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2015/06/12/413693373/how-to-annoy-your-dad-play-the-harpsichord

And at the bottom, in a YouTube video, listen to a trailer he did about the modernity of the harpsichord and his new recording that uses both old and new works, both Baroque and Minimalist music.


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