The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Is American tenor Bryan Hymel the new King of the High C’s after the late Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti and the very active Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez?

March 1, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

For tenors, High C’s are the brass ring on the carousel of opera.

The late great Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti and the very busy Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez both earned fame and fortune with their singing of the astonishing nine high C’s in Gaetano Donizetti’s bel canto opera “La Fille du Regiment.”

In fact, Florez repeated the same nine high C’s as an encore and it brought down the house.

But it seems there may be another King of the High C’s in the making.

He is a native of New Orleans (isn’t that fitting?) and he is America tenor Bryan Hymel (below, in a photo by Dario Acosta for Warner Classics), who was recently featured on the terrific blog “Deceptive Cadence” for NPR (National Public Radio).

You will surely be hearing more about him. The 35-year-old Hymel has already made his debut at the famed Metropolitan Opera, where he has sung in “Les Troyens” by Hector Berlioz — a role he also sang at the Royal Opera House in London. And he will open the Met’s 2018 season in “Samson and Delilah” by Camille Saint-Saens.

Bryan Hymel CR Dario Acosta Warner Classics

Here is a link to that story by Tom Huizenga. It is complete with sound samples from Hymel’s debut album “Héroïque” — in particular the difficult aria “Asile héréditaire” from the opera “William Tell” by Giachino Rossini — and the CD features a total of 19 high C’s. That led Huizenga to proclaim: “This is why we listen to opera!”

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2015/02/25/388783314/bryan-hymels-hefty-high-cs

The Amazon.com reader reviews of the new all-French album (below, with an audiovisual clip of the behind-the-scenes recording process) not only praise Hymel for his high C’s – and C-sharps and even D’s — but single out the quality of his singing.

You can hear that strong, pitch-accurate and seemingly effortless quality in one of The Ear’s favorite tenor arias: “Nessun dorma” from “Turandot” by Giacomo Puccini, which Hymel signs with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra in a YouTube video at the bottom.


Classical music: The Middleton Community Orchestra, under conductor Kyle Knox, turns in its most impressive performance so far. The brass proves especially noteworthy.

February 28, 2015
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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 for 12 years hosted an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT FM 89.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.

John-Barker

By John W. Barker

The concert by the Middleton Community Orchestra (below) on last Wednesday night at the Middleton Performing Arts Center, at Middleton High School, drew an audience little deterred by snow and slow traffic, and greatly rewarded by the results.

Middleton Community Orchestra Margaret Barker

The orchestra appeared this time under a guest conductor, Kyle Knox, who has prior and future connections with it and who is currently both pursuing graduate studies and conducting at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

Knox (below) is a musician of very distinct talents: a knowing perspective on the works he conducts, a propensity for well-thought phrasing, and an ability to achieve definite rapport with his players.

Regular MCO conductor Steve Kerr was wise to give Knox an opportunity to hone the podium talents of this very promising conductor, and as a stimulus to this steadily maturing ensemble. (Kerr himself eventually turned up working the bass drum.)

Kyle Knox 2

The MCO delights in taking on compositions that are both challenging and quite familiar. In testing themselves thus, the orchestra invites its listeners to measure its progress against the orchestras that have set extremely high performing standards in concerts and recordings. So it is proper that we do just that, especially in the beloved music from the score for the Incidental Music to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by Felix Mendelssohn.

The conventional five movements were played. In the fabled Overture, the strings had some struggles with their extremely demanding parts, but generally Knox achieved a well-integrated balancing of the elfin and the eerie.

Perhaps to avoid straining the players too much, Knox set a slightly slow tempo in the fairyland Scherzo, which sagged just a bit, but the Intermezzo was beautifully shaped.

Best was the evocative Nocturne, in which the French horn section demonstrated greatly improved tone and ensemble over recent showings, in a truly beautiful rendition. (You can hear the Nocturne in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

The Wedding March was also marked by a bit of ragged playing, but Knox paced it nicely and integrated it successfully. Overall, they get good marks for showing distinct progress in some very satisfying Mendelssohn.

Kyle Knox conducts MCO

The novelty of the program was the rarely played Canzonetta for Oboe and Strings by the 20th-century American composer Samuel Barber (below). This was a late work, the only completed movement of what was to be a full-length oboe concerto, and was published posthumously.

barber 1

It displays the familiar qualities of Barber as the pre-eminent American neo-Romantic, in music that is gentle, gracious and lyrically flowing. But it also highlights another feature of Barber: the composer’s identification with the human voice. A fine singer himself (he was a baritone), Barber was a master of song and vocal music, and the solo oboe part is, to a considerable degree, a kind of song — as the title says, a “canzonetta” or small song.

The oboe soloist, Andy Olson (below), with his own long affiliations with the MCO, clearly recognized this characteristic, and realized it in his beautiful playing.

Andy Olson plays at MCO

Andy Olson oboe

For the finale, the other super-familiar score, was the dazzling — and very tricky — orchestration by Maurice Ravel of the solo piano suite Pictures at an Exhibition by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky (below).

Modeste Mussorgsky color

At the very outset, in the opening “Promenade,” the brass section displayed a new level of power and ensemble. The saxophone solo in “The Old Castle” was truly compelling. The heavy cartwheels of “Byddlo” were inexorable, and “The Hut on Fowl’s Legs” or “Baba-Yaga” (a sorceress) was truly ferocious.

The triumphant final movement, “The Great Gate of Kiev” was stunning. One feature of old Russian city portals was the inclusion of working chapels. I have never heard the hymn-like quality of the whole piece, with its interludes of liturgical chanting and tolling bells, so successfully evoked.

Overall, this performance was magnificent, and I have never heard this orchestra play so well.

It was a performance full of head and heart, with open-throttle devotion from the players. Knox obviously deserves much credit for this, but the players themselves made it clear that they owed no apologies for the results they could produce. (Below, conductor Kyle Knox singles out the brass for recognition by the audience.)

Kyle Knox applauds MCO brass

The MCO has proven itself to be, more than ever, a really extraordinary factor in the Madison area’s musical life. It is a non-, or semi-, or extra-professional ensemble whose music-making is truly inspirational. Its concerts should be supported and enjoyed by all our cultural community.


Classical music: The UW-Madison’s Wingra Woodwind Quintet performs a FREE concert this Friday night and will mark its 50th anniversary with a party and mini-concert on April 25. Plus, the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Rhapsodie String Quartet and soprano Nancy Vedder-Shults perform concerts on Friday.

February 26, 2015
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ALERTS:

1) The master class by the Takacs String Quartet on Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. has been moved from Room 1341 of the UW-Madison Humanities Building to MOPRHY RECITAL HALL. The string quartet is in town to perform a concert of works by Schubert, Haydn and Beethoven at 8 p.m. on Saturday at the Wisconsin Union Theater.

2) The free Friday Noon Musicale, to be held 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the Landmark Auditorium of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features soprano Nancy Vedder-Shults and pianist Dan Broner, who is also the FUS music director, in art songs by Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Mary Howe and Seymour Barab.

3) The Madison Symphony Orchestra‘s Rhapsodie String Quartet (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson) will perform a concert this Friday night at 7 p.m. in St. Andrew’s Church, 1833 Regent Street, near Randall Elementary school on Madison’s near west side. The program is the Quartet No. 22 in B-flat Major by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the Quartet No. 2 in A Minor by Felix Mendelssohn. Admission is open to the public, with a free-will donation requested.

Rhapsodie Quartet MSO Greg Anderson

By Jacob Stockinger

There are two reasons to pay attention to the Wingra Woodwind Quintet, one of the major performing artists ensembles at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

The first reason is that this Friday, Feb. 27, at 7:30 p.m. in Morphy Hall, the group will perform a FREE concert. The program is “Tradition and Innovation: Music from the Old Country — Austria, Hungary and Bohemia, 1892-1969.”

Then on Saturday, April 25, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the University Club, the Wingra (below, in a photo by Michael R. Anderson) will celebrate its 50th year as an ensemble. The public is asked to RSVP by April 20 by sending an email to news@music.wisc.edu

Wingra Woodwind Quintet 2013 Michael Anderson

Here is a link to an extensive biography, member list and history of the Wingra Woodwind Quintet, done by Sarah Schaffer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, along with more details about the 50th anniversary part.

http://www.music.wisc.edu/wingra-woodwind-quintet/

And here is the program for the concert on Friday:

Humoreske (1939) by Alexander Zemlinsky (1871-1942)

Woodwind Quintet No. 1 (1953) by Endre Szervánsky (1911-1977). You can hear this tuneful and dance-like work in a YouTube video at the bottom.

Nine Short Pieces for Children (1909) by Béla Bartók (1881–1945), arranged by UW-Madison bassoonist Marc Vallon (2014), who is a member of the Wingra Woodwind Quintet.

Intermission

Three Songs from “Das Knaben Wunderhorn” by Gustav Mahler ) (1860-1911), arranged by Trevor Cramer (1983)

Rheinlegendchen (1893)

Wer hat dies Liedl erdacht? (1892)

Lob des Hohes Vertandes (1896)

Wind Quintet No. 2 (1969) by Frigyes Hidas (1928–2007)

 


Classical music: After hearing pianist Shai Wosner play two Haydn concertos with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, The Ear asks: When will Wosner return for a solo recital?

February 25, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Last weekend brought a lot of conflicting classical music concerts to Madison.

But one of the best events proved to be the concert on Friday night in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.

The program featured the supremely gifted but much under-publicized pianist Shai Wosner (below, in a photo by Marco Borggreve). He performed two contrasting keyboard concertos by Joseph Haydn — No. 4 in G Major and the better known No. 11 in D Major.

It was simply a sublime use of a modern instrument to make older music that was originally composed for the harpsichord. Never was the witty music by Haydn overpedaled or overly percussive or distorted for virtuosity’s sake. In every way, Wosner served Haydn — not himself.

Shai Wosner Photo: Marco Borggreve

The concert was also noteworthy because it featured the longtime music director and conductor Andrew Sewell. He led the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below) to shine in an eclectic program that included the Samuel Barber-like neo-Romantic and neo-Baroque Prelude and Fugue by the 20th-century Italian-American composer Vittorio Giannini and especially the youthful Symphony No. 2 by Franz Schubert.

WCO lobby

Plus, Sewell (below) proved a perfect accompanist in the Haydn concertos. Clearly, chemistry exists between Sewell and Wosner, who have also performed together concertos by Ludwig van Beethoven and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with the WCO.

andrewsewell

It was, in short, a program that was beautifully planned and beautifully played – even down to Wosner playing an encore by Schubert (the late Hungarian Melody, a lovely bittersweet miniature) that set up the second half with the Schubert, whose musical attractions Wosner explains so insightfully in a YouTube video at the bottom.

For his part, Sewell brought out balance and voicing, along with the expressive, but not excessive, lyricism that befits the ever-songful Schubert. As he has proven many times with his readings of Haydn and Mozart symphonies and concertos, Sewell is a master of the Classical style.

Wosner’s subtle and suitably quiet playing — he always puts virtuosity at the service of musicality — was also a model of clarity and restraint, perfectly suited to Haydn. But it left me with only one question:

When will we in Madison get to hear Shai Wosner in a solo recital?

(Below, you can hear Shai Wosner perform the second and third movements of the “Appassionata” Sonata by Beethoven at the 92nd Street Y in New York City in a YouTube video.)

Three of Wosner’s four acclaimed recordings are solo recitals of difficult works. They feature the music of Johannes Brahms, Arnold Schoenberg, the contemporary American composer Missy Mazzoli and especially Franz Schubert, with whom Wosner obviously feels, and shows, a special affinity. The fourth CD is a violin and piano duo done with the gifted young violinist Jennifer Koh.

I don’t know what presenter, besides the Wisconsin Union Theater, would bring Wosner back — and benefit from the WCO audiences that already have heard him. Or maybe the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra could sponsor a solo recital as a sideline. But we could use more solo piano recitals in Madison — especially if they offer playing of the scale of Wosner’s.

I don’t know how it would happen, but I sure hope it does happen.

Shai Wosner is a great pianist who deserves a wider hearing in a wider repertoire.


Classical music: The famed Takacs Quartet performs a MUST-HEAR concert of chamber music by Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert this Saturday night at the Wisconsin Union Theater.

February 24, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

This Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Shannon Hall of the Wisconsin Union Theater, the famed and long-lived Takács Quartet performs a MUST-HEAR concert of music by Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert.

Members of the Takács Quartet (below) are Edward Dusinberre, violin; Károly Schrantz, violin; Geraldine Walther, viola; András Fejér, cello.

Takacs Quartet BIG and Square

The program includes the Quartettsatz (Quartet Movement) in C Minor, D. 703, by Franz Schubert (1797-1828); the String Quartet No. 50 in B-flat Major, Op. 64, No. 3 by Joseph Haydn (1732-1809); and the “Razumovsky” String Quartet No. 7 in F Major, Op. 59, No. 1 — from his middle period — by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827) with its well-known “Russian Theme.” (You can hear the Russian Theme in a performance by the now disbanded Tokyo String Quartet in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Tickets are: General Public: $45, 25; Wisconsin Union Members and Non UW-Madison Students: $40; UW-Madison Faculty and Staff: $42; UW-Madison Student (with ID): $10. Prices do not include fees. See more at:

http://www.uniontheater.wisc.edu/#sthash.8TViWP04.dpuf

The Takacs Quartet seems to The Ear a perfect choice for the annual Fan Taylor Memorial Concert — an event designed to honor the first and longtime director of the Wisconsin Union Theater.

Shannon Hall UW-Madison

For more about Fan Taylor (below), whose name is also used for the Wisconsin Union Theater’s endowment fund, or to donate to it, visit these links:

http://www.union.wisc.edu/waysofgiving-fantaylor.htm

https://www.myuwconnect.org/give?id=F97553A1-38F4-4550-9FE1-4E50C69BB7F5

Fan Taylor

Here is some publicity material from the Wisconsin Union Theater:

Widely heralded as modern masters of classical music, the Takacs Quartet has delighted audiences in Europe, Asia, Australia and North America, bringing a vivid intensity to the works that built their genre. Known for their “supreme artistry manifest at every level,” (The Guardian) they are the only string quartet ever to be inducted into Gramophone’s Hall of Fame.

Such an honor is hardly unfamiliar to the group, however, having also taken home Disc of the Year and Chamber Award from BBC, as well as a Grammy for their Beethoven collection.

This talented quartet (below, in a photo by Hiroyuki Ito for The New York Times) continues to amaze while pushing the boundaries of chamber music.

Takacs Quartet playing Hiroyuki Ito NYT

Please note that there is a WIAA Individual Wrestling Tournament this evening, so allow enough time to find parking.

Because of a conflict at the UW-Madison School of Music, a master class will be held on this FRIDAY from 5 to 7 p.m. in Room 1341 Humanitites Building — NOT as previously stated on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. See more at:

http://www.uniontheater.wisc.edu/#sthash.8TViWP04.dpuf

Here is a link to the Wisconsin Union Theater, which also features audiovisual clips and reviews:

http://www.uniontheater.wisc.edu/season14-15/takacs-quartet.html

For the quartet’s website, go to:

http://www.takacsquartet.com


Classical music: The Middleton Community Orchestra will perform music by Barber, Mendelssohn and Mussorgsky this Wednesday night.

February 23, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following invitation from his good friends over at the Middleton Community Orchestra:

Dear friends,

We invite you to step out of the cold to enjoy the winter concert of the Middleton Community Orchestra (below top) under the baton of guest conductor Kyle Knox (below), who is a graduate student in conducting at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

Middleton Community Orchestra Margaret Barker

Kyle Knox 2

The program includes the short but hauntingly beautiful Canzonetta for Oboe and Strings by the 20th-century neo-Romantic American composer Samuel Barber (below top), with oboe soloist Andy Olson (below bottom), who was educated at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin and who now works at Epic Systems digital health care records near Madison.

barber 1

Andy Olson oboe

Also included on the program are the popular, playful and tuneful “Incidental Music to a Midsummer Night’s Dream” by Felix Mendelssohn (below top); and the darkly dramatic “Pictures at an Exhibition” by Modest Mussorgsky (below bottom), a work famous for the familiar and regal “The Great Gate of Kiev” finale, which you can hear at the bottom in a YouTube video as performed by Sir George Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

mendelssohn_300

Modeste Mussorgsky color

The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. this coming Wednesday evening, Feb. 25, at the comfortable Middleton Performing Arts Center (below) that is attached to Middleton High School.

Middleton PAC2

Middleton PAC1

Tickets are $10, and are available at Willy St. Coop West and at the door on the night of the show. Students are admitted free of charge.

The box office opens at 6:30 p.m. and doors open at 7 p.m.

There will be a meet-and-greet reception for the musicians and the audience following the performance.

Middleton Community Orchestra reception

For more information, please call 608-212-8690. You can also visit www.middletoncommunityorchestra.org for information about upcoming concerts and how to join or support the ensemble.

Sincerely,

Mindy Taranto and Larry Bevic, Co-founders, Middleton Community Orchestra

Editor’s note: If you are not familiar with the Middleton Community Orchestra, you might want to read the post from this past December in which The Ear named the four-year-old Middleton group and other amateur musicians the Musician of the Year for 2014

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/01/21/classical-music-here-is-a-follow-up-story-from-the-middleton-times-tribune-newspaper-about-the-ears-musician-of-the-year-for-2014-the-middleton-community-orchest/


Classical music: BBC Music Magazine asks 10 concert pianists to name 10 unknown piano concertos that deserve more attention and performances.

February 22, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Maybe you were lucky enough to attend the gala showcase concert two weeks ago where winners (below) of the annual Concerto Competition at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music performed. (They are below in a photo by Michael R. Anderson. From left they are: Keisuke Yamamoto, Ivana Urgcic, Jason Kutz and Anna Whiteway.)

2014 Concerto Winners

Here is a link to a preview post:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/02/03/classical-music-four-uw-madison-concerto-competition-winners-and-a-student-composer-will-be-featured-in-a-special-concert-and-reception-this-coming-sunday-night-at-7/

If so you heard some relatively unknown works by Ernest Chausson (a Poem for Violin and Orchestra played by Yamamoto) and Francois Borne (a Fantasy on Themes from “Carmen” for flute and orchestra played by Urgcic) plus soprano Whiteway singing a famous aria from “Romeo and Juliet” by Charles Gounod.).

But the finale was Kutz (below) playing a somewhat truncated version – edited for time constraints of the competition — of the famous “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” by Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Jason Kutz playing Rachmaninoff Rhapsody 2015

Kurtz did a bang-up job of this great work, which for The Ear, may just be his best and most concise work for piano and orchestra.

You just can’t beat that work’s ultra-Romantic 18th Variation – at the bottom in a popular YouTube video with pianist Arthur Rubinstein and Fritz Reiner conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra – that is, a friend remarked, much like the “Nimrod” Variation of Sir Edward Elgar’s “Enigma” Variations. It is irresistible and never fails.

But the concerto repertoire is such a rich one! There is something just so appealing about seeing the dramatic cooperation bertween the soloist and the orchestra.

So I was pleased to see that the BBC Music Magazine recently asked 10 concert pianists to name 10 concertos that they think are neglected and should be better known and performed more often.

The story included enlightening statements as well as audio-video clips of excerpts.

So in the spirit on the concerto winners, here is a link to the story:

http://www.classical-music.com/article/10-piano-concertos-you-may-not-know

Read and listen and see what you think.

The Ear knows a fair number of piano concertos, but a lot of these were new to him.

What do you think of the list?

And do you have any names of concertos and composers to add to the list?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: Baltimore Symphony Orchestra music director and conductor Marin Alsop lends her late parents’ valuable violin and cello as living memorials to them and as a way to help musicians in her orchestra.

February 21, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Perhaps you have read about the rapidly escalating cost of great musical instruments.

That puts a lot of younger or less well-known, cash-strapped players in a difficult spot.

For quite a while, banks and other financial institutions as well as museums and historical institutions such as the Smithsonian Institution have been putting the investment-quality instruments on loan to younger players whose playing deserves the instrument.

But individuals can do so too.

Take the case of the pioneering conductor Marin Alsop (below), a protégée of Leonard Bernstein who now heads the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Sao Paulo State Symphony in Brazil, and who is being mentioned as a prominent candidate to follow Alan Gilbert when he steps downs from the podium of the New York Philharmonic in 2017.

Marin Alsop

When both her parents, who were distinguished professional musicians, died last year, they left behind valuable string instruments — a violin and a cello.

stradivari-solomon-ex-lambert

Cello and bow

Alsop didn’t want to sell the instruments.

But she also didn’t want them to lie unused and defeat their original purpose.

So Alsop (below, in a photo by Gabriella Dumczek of The New York Times) decided to turn the violin and cello into living memorials by placing them on loan with players in her Baltimore orchestra -– a move that has benefitted everyone and the instruments as well.

Here is a story from The New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/14/arts/music/at-baltimore-symphony-a-cello-and-a-violin-make-more-than-music.html?_r=0

It gives you ideas about what might be done on the local level, where some very fine instruments – including pianos — could benefit some very young but very fine local players who otherwise couldn’t afford to have them.

Marin Alsop  2015 CR Gabriella Demczuk NYT


Classical music education: Here is a shout-out for Susan Cook, director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, who defended music education and music performance as part of the Wisconsin Idea that is now under attack by state Republicans.

February 20, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

If you attended the recent concert by the winners of the UW-Madison School of Music Concerto Competition, you heard something extraordinary besides terrific music by Johann Strauss, Francois Borne, Ernest Chausson, Charles Gounod, Sergei Rachmaninoff and UW-Madison graduate student in composition Adam Betz from the four soloists, two conductors and the UW Symphony Orchestra.

At the beginning of the concert Susan Cook (below), who is a respected musicologist and the relatively new director of the School of Music, stood before the large house and defended music education and music performance as part of the Wisconsin Idea.

Susan Cook 1  at Concerto 2015

That long-celebrated idea that was formulated in the Progressive Era – that the publicly funded university exists to serve all the citizens of the state –- is under attack from anti-intellectual, budget-cutting Republicans who are being led by presidential wannabe Gov. Scott Walker.

Clearly, Walker and the conservative Republicans are once again picking on public workers — this time university professors — as overpaid and underworked scapegoats.

In addition, they are insisting that the university has to do more to foster economic development with the implication that the arts and humanities are not doing their fair share compared to the sciences, the professions and engineering. Why not turn the UW-Madison into a trade school or vocational school?

So they seem determined to dismantle the great University of Wisconsin or reduce it to a second-rate institution. And they are annoyed and disapproving that UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank is playing politics right back at them by marshalling alumni and faculty, staff and students, to fight back against the record $300 million budget cut.

Too bad the state legislators don’t rank as high among state legislatures as the UW-Madison does among public universities. They should be taking lessons – not giving them.

Anyway, Susan Cook (below) eloquently defended music education and music performance. She pointed out the diversity of the students in the School of Music. She pointed out the national distinctions that the school and its faculty have earned. And she pointed out how many of the school’s teachers and performers tour the state, and even the country and world, to share their art and knowledge. Surely all of that fulfills the ideals of the Wisconsin Idea.

DSusan Cook 2 at Concerto 2015

In addition, the growing body of research studies show that music education plays a vital role in all education and in successful careers in other fields. But one doubts whether the Republicans will consider that as central to economic development -– even though businesses lament the lack of a prepared workforce.

Cook got loud and sustained applause for her remarks.

She deserved it.

Cook stood up and, as the Quakers say, spoke truth to power.

So The Ear sends a big shout-out to Susan Cook and hopes that all music fans will second her views and protest and resist what the governor and state legislature want to do to gut the UW-Madison.

Brava, Susan Cook!

The Ear says leave a Comment and show both the politicians and the School of Music that you stand with Cook and want to preserve the quality of the UW-Madison, in the arts and humanities as well as in the sciences and technology, to be maintained.

 


Classical music: Pianist Shai Wosner explains why we don’t hear more Haydn and like his music more. This Friday night at 8, Wosner performs two piano concertos by Haydn with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.

February 19, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

This Friday night at 8 p.m. in the Capitol Theater on the Overture Center, pianist Shai Wosner returns for a third time to perform with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra under its longtime music director and conductor Andrew Sewell.

Shai Wosner Photo: Marco Borggreve

The program is largely from the Classical era. Wosner will perform two piano concertos by Haydn – No. 4 in G Major and No. 11 in D major – and the orchestra will perform the Symphony No. 2 in B-flat Major by Franz Schubert. In addition, a 1955 Prelude and Fugue by the accessible, 20th-century neo-Romantic composer Vittorio Giannini (below) will be performed.

Vittorio Giannini

Tickets are $15-$75. Call the Overture Center box office at (608) 258-4141.

The critically acclaimed Wosner, an Israeli native who studied at the Juilliard School with Emanuel Ax and who is now based in New York City, has previously performed Classical-era concertos by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven with the WCO.

Wosner recently agreed to a Q&A about this new program.

Shai Wosner color

The prize-winning American composer John Harbison has said that Haydn is the most underappreciated and most under-performed of the great composers. If you agree with that, why do you think that is and how do you feel about Haydn?

It is probably true. I can only guess what the reasons might be. Perhaps, over the centuries, his name has been eclipsed by that of Mozart (below), as the two are often lumped together in spite of the profound differences in their biographies and their music.

Where Mozart has irresistible melodies all over to disarm you at first hearing, with Haydn sometimes you have to get into the “groove” of the music first — perhaps a remnant from earlier music — and then once you do, you can find both great melodies as well as all kinds of twists and turns that can be just as gripping.

Mozart c 1780 detail of portrait by Johann Nepomuk della Croce

Humor, of course, is central to Haydn’s world and one can sometimes mistake that for lightheartedness. But the fact is that it is often just one layer of meaning and by all means not the only one.

If you open up to it, you quickly realize the depth and sincerity with which Haydn (below) speaks — just like spending time with a really great person who likes to tell jokes a lot, but whose immense life experience and understanding of the world soon comes through as well.

Haydn

What are your plans for performances and recordings? Do your plans include performing or recording more Haydn, maybe concertos, sonatas and chamber music works?

Yes, I hope to record concertos along with a few other pieces as well in the near future.

What would you like the public to know about the two piano concertos by Haydn — who always composed at the keyboard — that you will perform here and their individual character? How do they compare to each other?

The G Major concerto is somehow the more “earthy” one — perhaps it’s the association of the key itself, which tends to relate to all things “rustic.” (For example, Mozart’s peasants and servants tend to sing in G Major). It seems to have a rough edge to it, a certain naughtiness.

The popular D Major concerto, on the other hand, is more patrician — even with the Hungarian finale. It shimmers with golden light like the interior of some idyllic palazzo in midday. (In a YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear the D Major concerto performed by famed pianist Paul Badura-Skoda, who was an artist-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music in the 1960s, and conductor Frans Bruggen.)

Haydn_3

How does Schubert go with Haydn? On your program, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra will also perform Schubert’s early Symphony No. 2 and you have recorded two CDs for the Onyx label that feature the music of Schubert. Clearly you feel a strong affinity with Schubert and have a point of view about him.

Schubert and Haydn are an interesting combination because early Schubert was very much influenced by Viennese Classicism, before Beethoven’s influence became much more dominant in his music.

At the same time, while Schubert (below) was using the same forms as Mozart and Haydn, they tend to come out very different under his hands, as if he couldn’t help it.

Most noticeable, I think, is the difference in energy.

In Haydn, to go back to the “groove,” there is a lot of raw rhythmic energy in fast movements and it helps to give shape to those movements as well.

In Schubert, on the other hand, even in fast movements, the overall shape tends to be much more contemplative, no matter quickly the notes go by.

Franz Schubert writing

This is your third appearance with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, with whom you have performed concerts by Mozart and Beethoven. What would you like to say about Madison audiences and the WCO?

I have been fortunate to meet very interesting people in Madison, and clearly the audiences are very dedicated and comprised of real music-lovers.

It is a wonderful thing that the city supports not only a symphony orchestra but also a chamber orchestra (below is a photo of the WCO) as well, which is, of course, a very different animal and unfortunately not a very common one any more.

WCO lobby

Is there anything else you would like to say?

I look forward to visiting Madison, of course!


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