The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music Q&A: Israeli pianist Inon Barnatan compares great music-making to great acting, and the concert hall to an exciting museum. He makes his MUST-HEAR Madison debut on this Friday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall in a solo recital program of works by Schubert, Barber, Franck, Ravel and Thomas Ades.

April 17, 2014

EDITOR’S NOTE: Please note that some reviews of productions last weekend are being delayed to make room for previews of the many upcoming concerts and musical events this week.

By Jacob Stockinger

The prize-winning and critically acclaimed young Israeli pianist Inon Barnatan will make his Madison debut this Friday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall for the Wisconsin Union Theater, which has been closed for two seasons while being renovated.

Inon Barnatan

Barnatan’s MUST-HEAR program is ambitious and appealing; Franz Schubert’ late Sonata in G Major, the one that the young critic Robert Schumann praised so effusively; Samuel Barber’s Piano Sonata, which was premiered by Vladimir Horowitz; the “Prelude, Chorale and Fugue” by the late French Romantic composer Cesar Franck that was a favorite of Arthur Rubinstein; and Maurice Ravel’s dazzling “La Valse” for solo piano.

Tickets are $25 for the general public; $10 for University of Wisconsin-Madison students. For more information about Inon Barnatan and his recital, including reviews, program notes, audio clips and ticket information, visit:

You might recall that Inon Barnatan won raves this past winter for his last-minute appearance with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra under Edo de Waart when he stepped in to substitute for an ailing Radu Lupu and played the titanic Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor by Johannes Brahms.

In 2009, he won a prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant, and he has been recognized by the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation.

The Ear has been listening to his recordings: from violin works (the last Sonata by Ludwig van Beethoven and a Fantasy by Schubert) and his impressive readings of the famous last three sonatas and final impromptus and sonatas by Schubert to his performances of “Darkness Visible” by the contemporary British composer Thomas Ades. They all demonstrate his virtuoso technique but also his abundant musicality, subtle interpretations and full tone. Most impressive is his ability to play softly and lyrically. It leaves no doubt: Inon Barnatan is a major poet of the piano.

Clearly, Inon Baranatan is someone to watch, as his career continues to be extremely promising. You can listen to his interview for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in a YouTube video at the bottom. And here is a link to his own website:

And here is the email Q&A that Inon Barnatan did for The Ear:

Inon Barnatan face

You were just named the first-ever Artist in Association at the New York Philharmonic for the 2014-15 season. What plans do you have for that position? How could it affect your career?

What is so special for me about this position with the New York Philharmonic is that it is stretched over several seasons, so I will be performing with the orchestra both in New York and on the road for three consecutive seasons — which enables me to build a real relationship with this great orchestra as well as the audience.  It removes a little of the pressure of the debut– since I know I will be coming back the following season and the one after that.

Of course there is pressure to live up to the expectations and the faith that the orchestra and Alan Gilbert (both below) have shown in me, but it feels wonderful to know that the organization is behind me from the get-go. This appointment has only recently been announced but has already had significant effect on my career. New York is the center of so many things and when the New York Philharmonic does something, people take notice!  I really couldn’t be more thrilled with it.

New York Philharmonic Alan Gilbert

How would you describe your approach to playing and interpreting music? Are there other musicians, and especially pianists, either historical or current, whom you admire and why?

I feel that we classical performers are like actors — we have a text that we try to internalize and bring to life, but ultimately it is not ourself that is being presented, but the character, or, in our case, the music, that is being communicated. A great actor like Meryl Streep becomes whichever role she is playing, embodying it in such a way that she herself disappears and becomes the role.

That is what I think my job as a performer is.  I don’t want an audience to listen to me playing a piece — I would love for them to feel like the piece is being created at that very moment, the same way I would want to believe an actor IS the person that they are playing, not merely reading the text convincingly.

There are great performers, as well as actors, that are compelling not because they disappear in a role, but because of the very force of their personality. There are phenomenal actors and musicians that don’t change much with different roles or pieces, but bring their particular magnetism and virtuosity to every role.

When the performer is great both types can be very compelling, but I tend to gravitate towards the former. (Below is Inon Barnatan performing at Carnegie Hall in a photo by The New York Times.)

Inon Barnatan playing at Carnegie Hall NY Times

Your terrific and critically acclaimed new recording for the Avie label is an all-Schubert recital. But here you will perform a different big work, the G Major Sonata. What do you want to say about that particular work and its place in Schubert’s overall body of works? Why does Schubert hold particular appeal for you, and will you do more recording of his works, perhaps even a Schubert cycle?

Thank you! Back in 2004 I participated in a Schubert workshop with the great Leon Fleisher (below) at Carnegie Hall, and in some ways that was the start of my love affair with Schubert. I was familiar with his pieces, of course, but delving into the late sonatas as we did, I became intoxicated with the beauty and depth of the music.

Leon Fleisher

The music of Schubert (below), and especially the music he wrote later in his short life, became a staple of my repertoire.  I even curated a project of solo, chamber and vocal music from the miraculous last year — and both the Schubert CDs I’ve recorded so far feature pieces from that year.

That said, the G Major sonata, even though it was not written in the last year but a couple of years before, stands proudly amongst the greatest. It is one of his most lyrical and poetic pieces. It is not played nearly as often as the last three, and I am excited at the prospect of some audience members discovering it for the first time.

As for a possible Schubert cycle, it has been a dream of mine for a long while — perhaps I will keep playing his works one by one until I discover that I have recorded the whole cycle!

Franz Schubert writing

What would you like the public to know about your Madison program, which includes Franck, Barber (below) and Ravel?

This is a very special program to me. The pieces are magical: They manage to be at once very emotional and very intellectual, without compromising one for the other. The pieces all have a sense of nostalgia about them, in different ways.

The composers of the pieces in the first half take Baroque and Classical forms, such as fugues, chorales, sonatas, etc. and imbue them with their own innovation and emotion. The second half has more of a sense of fantasy, a sense of light that by the end of the recital turns to dark. I guess the second half goes from the sublime to the grotesque.

Samuel Barber

How do you think classical music can reach new and young audiences? And what advice would you give to aspiring young musicians and especially pianists?

That’s the million-dollar question. I think there are many things we need to do. It starts with education — putting an instrument in a child’s hand teaches them a lot about communications, listening and a huge variety of other important skills. It also encourages future curiosity about music and culture.

We also need to be more inclusive in some ways, make the concert experience something that would appeal to a young person as well as an older one.  Nowadays, when there are so many ways to consume culture without leaving your home, the concert experience needs to have an energy and excitement to it that is unique to the live experience.

A great museum knows that in order to attract a variety of ages and stay relevant, they need to have not only great art, but great curating.

The Museum of Modern Art in New York, for example, is always teeming with people of all ages, newcomers, repeat visitors, young and old, experts and lay people. They have a collection of some of the great, established artists as well as new exciting art and they are always providing new and interesting ways to look at things. People who go there expect to be challenged as well as be entertained. You may come to see Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” (below) but it’s the new or unexpected stuff around it that keeps you coming back. It’s that combination of edge and quality that makes it cool.

We can learn a lot from that. As performers we need to strive for the highest possible quality of performance, and at the same time try to present it in a context that is interesting, and sometimes challenging or unexpected.



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Classical music: University of Wisconsin-Madison bassoonist Marc Vallon and saxophonist-clarinetist Les Thimmig will revive an homage to French composer and conductor Pierre Boulez in a FREE concert Friday evening that mixes Baroque and and new music.

March 31, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Bassoonist Marc Vallon and saxophonist-clarinetist Les Thimmig, who both teach and perform at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, are emerging as two of the most interesting, eclectic faculty members, who display a variety of gifts and talents, at the UW School of Music.

Vallon (below, in a photo by James Gill) not only performs bassoon music from the Baroque and Classical eras, he is also a conductor who will lead two performances later this month of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Mass in B Minor” for the Madison Bach Musicians.

Marc Vallon 2011 James Gill (baroque & modern)[2]

Thimmig plays jazz as well as classics, and recently finished his three-concert exploration of trios by the American composer Morton Feldman.

Les Thimmig color

Here are the details that were sent by Marc Vallon to The Ear:

“Hi Jake,

“I thought I would let you know about my next musical adventure.

“In the 1960s, French composer and conductor Pierre Boulez (below) had a group, called Le Domaine Musical, that played contemporary music mixed with early music by Bach, Dufay and Guillaume de Machaut — unusual music for the time.

Pierre Boulez

“As an homage, Les Thimmig and I are reviving the concept in a FREE concert on this coming Friday, April 4, at 6:30 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall.

“The program will feature music by Alban Berg, Luciano Berio, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Boulez, and includes Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 on period instruments.

The program includes Four Pieces for Clarinet and Piano, Op.5 (1920), by Alban Berg (below top); Twelve Notations (1945, in a piano version performed by Maurizio Pollini in a YouTube video at the bottom) by Pierre Boulez (born 1925); “D’un geste apprivoisé” for bassoon and tape (1997) by Jose-Luis Campana  (born 1949); and ) “Sequenza VII” for oboe (1969) by Luciano Berio (below bottom, 1925-2003).

alban berg

Luciano Berio

After intermission, we will perform “Kontra-punkte for 10 instruments” (1953) by Karlheinz Stockhausen (below top, 1928-2007); and the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 (dedicated in 1721) by Johann Sebastian Bach (below bottom, 1685-1750).

karlheinz stockhausen knobs


There will be a presentation of the pieces and an introduction to “Kontra-Punkte” by Lee Blasius (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot), who teaches music theory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

Lee Blasius Katrin Talbot

The performers include: Mi-Li Chang, flute; Kirstin Ihde, piano; Sung Yang Sara Giusti, piano; Kai-Ju Ho, clarinet; Les Thimmig, bass clarinet; Mary Perkinson, Baroque and modern violin; Eric Miller, baroque and modern cello; Joe Greer, trombone; Jessica Jensen, trumpet; Rosalie Gilbert, harp; Ross Duncan, bassoon; Kangwon Kim and Nate Giglierano, baroque violin; Sally Chisholm, Ilana Schroeder and Erin Brooks, baroque viola; Martha Vallon, Anton ten Wolde, Baroque cello; John Chappell Stowe; harpsichord; and Marc Vallon, bassoon.

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Classical music: Let’s celebrate Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach at 300 with NPR and with the local violin-harpsichord duo SGD next weekend.

March 15, 2014

By Jacob Stockinger

In case you missed it, March 8, 2014 – a week ago Saturday — was the 300th birthday of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (below in a painting from 1733 by a relative), one of the several famous musical sons of the illustrious Johann Sebastian Bach.

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach in 1733 painted by Gottfriend Friedrich Bach, a relative

What should you know about C.P.E. Bach? What is his importance in artistic and musicological terms? He was a seminal figure in crossing over from the Baroque era and style to the Classical era and style.

But the details about how he did that are fascinating — and make for good listening. And they make him seem under-appreciated and underperformed. (One important example you can hear in his important Double Concerto for Harpsichord and Fortepiano in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

I can’t think of a better introduction than the one provided by the “Deceptive Cadence: blog on NPR. It feature historical and biographical background. And it also included sound samples and recording recommendations.

Here is a link:

carl philipp emanuel bach

I don’t recall hearing of much in the way of local celebrations, although works by C.P.E. Bach were aired on WORT FM 88.9 and Wisconsin Public Radio FM 88.7.

For live music, you might want to read the following announcement from blog friends and local music, baroque violinist Edith Hines and keyboardist (harpsichord and organ) UW-Madison professor John Chappell Stowe who together make up the Ensemble SDG (below).

Next Saturday and Sunday, March 22 and 23, they will perform a 300th birthday tribute.

ensemble sdg new USE

Here are details:

In the month of March 2014, Ensemble SDG celebrates the 300th anniversary of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (born March 8, 1714) with a recital of his music along with works by three of his close contacts: his famous father, Johann Sebastian Bach (below who also has a birthday this month); his godfather, Georg Philipp Telemann; and one of his colleagues, Johann Gottlieb Graun.


“We will present the program twice in Madison: on Saturday, March 22, at 7 p.m. at the Chocolaterian Cafe (2004 Atwood Avenue); and on Sunday, March 23, at 3 p.m. at the Madison Public Library (Central Library, Room 301, 201 West Mifflin Street).

“Both performances are free, although donations will be gratefully accepted at the Chocolaterian. Not to mention, of course, that the Chocolaterian would appreciate your patronage—and we can affirm that when you look at the menu or in the bakery case, you may find it difficult not to oblige!

“For more information, including program details, please visit our blog at

“We hope to see you there!”

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Classical music: It will be a busy week with many FREE concerts of many different kinds of music at the University of Wisconsin School of Music. Plus, the Miro Quartet of Austin, Texas, will perform Haydn, Schubert and Philip Glass on Friday night.

February 17, 2014

By Jacob Stockinger

The next two weeks will be especially busy ones at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

All save one of the concerts will be FREE, and they include orchestral music, percussion, strings, winds and even lectures linking science and music.

The one major non-free exception is a notable MUST-HEAR: The acclaimed Miro Quartet (below) as presented by the Wisconsin Union Theater, will perform on Friday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall. The Miro Quartet is in residence at the University of Texas-Austin. (You can hear it playing Beethoven in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

miro quartet informal

The program of Classical and contemporary masterpieces of features the “Lark” Quartet, Op. 64, No. 5, by Franz Joseph Haydn; Franz Schubert’s well-known and the String Quartet No. 14 “Death and the Maiden”; and Philip Glass’ Quartet No. 5 (1991).

Tickets are $25 for the general public; $21 for UW faculty and staff and for Memorial Union members; and $10 for UW students.

Here is a link to more information that includes tickets, sound samples and critical reviews:

miro quartet playing


At 7:30 Mills Hall, the accomplished UW Chamber Orchestra, under the baton of director James Smith, the Overture to “La scale di seta”  (The Silk Ladder) by Gioacchino Rossini;
 the Chamber Symphony by Franz Schreker; the
 “Classical” Symphony by Sergei Prokofiev; and the
 “Winter’s Tale” by Lars-Erik Larsson.

UW Chamber Orchestra entire


At 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, guest artist Todd Reynolds (below) will give a FREE recital. Reynolds is the violinist of choice for such well known individual and ensemble performers as composers as Steve Reich and Meredith Monk and the group Bang on a Can. He violinist, composer, educator and technologist is known as one of the founding fathers of the hybrid-musician movement.

Todd Reynolds will be performing compositions of his own from his critically acclaimed 2011 CD “Outerborough,” including music by Michael Gordon, David Little, Michael Lowenstern and Ingram Marshall, and a couple of pieces written and improvised  especially for the evening, right there, from the stage and in real time.

Todd Reynolds


At 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Western Percussion Ensemble (below) will perform a concert that features the monumental work “Strange and Sacred Noise” by the contemporary American composer John Luther Adams (below), whose work was also featured recently by Clocks in Motion. Directors of the Western Percussion Ensemble are Tom Ross and Anthony Di Sanza.

Western Percussion Ensemble


At 7 p.m. in the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery (below), at 330 North Orchard Street, across from the Union South, the ongoing SoundWaves program, curated by UW hornist Daniel Grabois, program will explore the science and art of wood. Here is a summary that, unfortunately, offers no information about the music and specific topics and speakers:

Wood You Could You? The Science and Music of Wood

“SoundWaves combines scientific lectures about the world with live classical music performances. Each event revolves around a theme, exploring it first from many scientific angles and then through the lens of music. The program concludes with a live performance of music related to the evening’s theme.

“The science lectures are delivered using language that the curious layman can understand, with a minimum of jargon and formulas. The music lectures, while demanding careful listening, are likewise designed for the layman and not the specialist.

“Every SoundWaves event brings UW-Madison scientists from several departments together with UW-Madison School of Music faculty performers to explore a topic that is relevant to our world and our lives. SoundWaves is free and open to the public. This series generally is held in the evening at the Town Center of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.’

8 p.m. in Mills Hall: The Miro Quartet. (See above.)



At 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Wind Ensemble (below) will give concert under director Scott Teeple that features the Wisconsin premiere of a work by composer Roger Zare

Works on the program include “Smetana Fanfare,” by Karol Husa; “Mar Tranquillitatis (Sea of Tranquility),” by Roger Zare (Wisconsin premiere); and “Ecstatic Waters for Wind Ensemble and Electronics,” by Steven Bryant.

UW School of Music


At 2 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Concert Band will perform under Mike Leckrone (below). Sorry, no details about the program are available yet.


Then at at 3:30 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall, the Hunt Quartet will perform a FREE concert. The program includes Franz Joseph Haydn’s “Sunrise” Quartet, Op. 76, No. 4, and Bela Bartok’s String Quartet No. 1.

The Hunt Quartet (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) is comprised of outstanding graduate students from the School of Music, and is sponsored by the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

This year’s members (from the left) include Ju Dee Ang, Elspeth Stalter-Clouse, Paran Amirinazari and Lindsey Crabb.

hunt quartet 2013-14


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Classical music: Oakwood Chamber Players embarks on its “round-the-world” tour this season on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

September 18, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

Season after season, the Madison-based Oakwood Chamber Players (below) continues to fly under the radar and receive a much lower public profile than the ensemble deserves.

Oakwood Chamber Players 2012 2

One major reason these chamber musicians deserve more recognition is simply the quality of their playing. These are terrific musicians who mesh seamlessly.

But perhaps even more important than that, especially in a city with so many talented musicians, is that unusual repertoire they program.

This season is no exception except to the degree that it pushes the envelope even further.

The four concerts will take listeners around the globe and into the minds and hearts of some relatively unknown composers. But then The Oakwood Chamber Players have a knack for making the neglected seem unjustly neglected.

Oakwood Chamber Players 2012 1

You can decide for yourself this weekend when the Oakwood Chamber Players (below) lead off its 2013-2014 Concert Season with two concerts that feature works originating from the sun-infused countries that border the Mediterranean Sea.

The performances are Saturday, Sept. 21, at 7 p.m. at the Oakwood Center for Arts and Education (formerly the Auditorium), 6201 Mineral Point Road, and on Sunday, Sept. 22, at 1:30 p.m. in the University of Wisconsin-Madison‘s Arboretum Visitor Center (below).

UW Arboretum Visitor Center

The program this coming weekend will include: Enrique Fernandez Arbos (below, from Spain, in a 1894 photo), “Three Original Pieces for Piano Trio,” Op. 1, and the Classical era composer Vincent Gambaro (Italy), Wind Quartet in E flat Major, Op. 4 No. 1 (at the bottom in a YouTube video).

Enrique Arbos photo in 1894

This is the first concert in the Season Series titled “Origination:  Exploring Musical Regions of the World.”  Upcoming concerts, with unusual repertoire by neglected composers, include:

  • Celebration! – November 29 and December 1
  • Nordic – February 1 and 2, 2014
  • Russian Radius – March 22 and 23, 2014
  • Down Under – May 17 and 18, 2014

The Oakwood Chamber Players is a group of Madison-area professional musicians who have rehearsed and performed at Oakwood Village for 30 years.

Tickets are available at the door: $20 general admission, $15 seniors and $5 students. Call (608) 230-4316. Or visit for more information about the complete season, other unusual programs and season subscriptions.

The Oakwood Chamber Players are a professional music ensemble proudly supported by Oakwood Lutheran Senior Ministries and the Oakwood Foundation, in collaboration with Friends of the Arboretum, Inc.

Classical music: Founder and conductor Mikko Utevsky discusses the concert of music by Vivaldi, Haydn, Beethoven and Madison composer Jerry Hui this Friday evening by the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO) that also features the two Norris brothers, also from Madison, as soloists.

August 7, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

Loyal readers of this blog know well the name of Mikko Utevsky. The young violist this fall will be a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin School of Music, where he studies with Pro Area Quartet violist Sally Chisholm.

Utevsky, who has won awards and impressive reviews for his performances and his work in music education, is the founder and conductor of the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (below and at the bottom conducting MAYCO in the opening of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in a YouTube video), which will perform this Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in Music Hall on the UW-Madisob campus. (You can check out his many honors and projects by typing his name into the search engine on this blog site.)

MAYCO playing

Utevsky offered The Ear a short essay about the concert, and I immediately took him up on the offer. After all, he is a fine and perceptive writer who, you may recall, blogged for this post as he was on tour last summer with the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras‘ tour to Vienna, Prague and Budapest.

Here is the essay by Mikko Utevsky (below in a photo by Steve Rankin):

MAYCO Mikko Utevsky by Steve Rankin

By Mikko Utevsky

This Friday evening, the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO) will present an eclectic and, I hope, compelling program.

The concert will take place at 7:30 p.m. in Music Hall (below), on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison at the foot of Bascom Hill. Tickets are $5 at the door; student admission is by donation.


The concert’s centerpieces are two masterworks of the Classical period, written only a few years apart: Beethoven‘s Symphony No. 1 in C major, Op. 21, and Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto in E flat. These two pieces, alongside a fantastic new work from Madison-based composer Jerry Hui that was commissioned for the orchestra, form the justification for the title “New Horizons.” Each work is a first in its own way.

The reasoning behind performing the work by the young Beethoven (below) is obvious: It is the composer’s first and strikingly mature essay into the symphonic form, which he would go on to revolutionize not once but three times in his career (his Third, Fifth and Ninth symphonies).

This relatively early work shows the depth of his debt to his teacher, Haydn, in its wit and formal clarity, though signs of the mature Beethoven are visible in the impetuous “sforzandi,” or sudden dynamic changes, and prominent wind writing.

young beethoven etching in 1804

The work by Haydn himself (below top) on the program is less obviously groundbreaking. It is one of his late works, composed when he was 64 for an old friend, trumpeter Anton Weidinger.

Its novelty lies in the instrument for which it was written: Weidinger (below middle) had developed a chromatically-capable trumpet (below bottom), intended to replace the natural trumpet that had been in common use up to this point. That instrument was incapable of chromatics, and even of stepwise melodies and scales in all but its highest register. Haydn exploits the new instrument to its fullest capacity in the most ingenious ways in this compact but brilliant concerto.


anton weidinger

old trumpet anton weidinger haydn  hummel

I am delighted to welcome as our soloist Madison native, former “Final Forte” performer, “From The Top” guest, and two-time National Trumpet Competition winner Ansel Norris (below).

Ansel Norris

Finally, Madison composer Jerry Hui’s tone-poem “Glacies” will receive its world premiere on Friday.

The performance of new works is an important part of MAYCO’s educational mission, and whenever possible we seek out music from local composers for the ensemble. New music challenges us as performers in many ways, introducing us to new styles and daring us to find joy and excitement in the unfamiliar. Working with Jerry is always a pleasure, and I sincerely hope the orchestra and audience enjoy his music as much as I do.

“Glacies’” is a wonderfully colorful work that should be both exciting and accessible to all audiences.

Mikko Utevsky conducts MAYCO Steve Rankin

I’ll let him introduce it. Here are comments by composer Jerry Hui (below):

Mikko, founder of MAYCO, was a former composition student of mine, studying counterpoint and harmony with the support of the Wisconsin Center for Academically Talented Youth (WCATY), and I’m glad to compose a piece for his wonderful ensemble.

 “Glacies is a orchestral tone-poem commissioned by Mikko Utevsky for the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO). Mikko, the founder of MAYCO, was a former composition student of mine, studying counterpoint and harmony with the support of the Wisconsin Center for Academically Talented Youth (WCATY), and I’m glad to compose a piece for his wonderful ensemble. Glacies is the Latin word for ice, signifying my original inspiration for the work.

“As a Madisonian living near the lake for the past five years, I have become fascinated by the serene mystery of morning mist rising from the large frozen body of water, as well as the first spring day when the ice breaks–which sometimes can become an exciting and violent event known as an icequake.

“Glacies” does not attempt to tell a narrative; rather, I try to convey an impression of it through various sound and color of the orchestra.”

–Jerry Hui

Jerry Hui

Rounding out the program is a short double concerto in B-flat major by Antonio Vivaldi (below), originally for oboe, violin and string orchestra with basso continuo. The oboe part will be played on the trumpet, as recorded by the inimitable Maurice Andre, as an encore for our soloist from the Haydn concerto.


Ansel Norris will be joined by his brother, violnist and MAYCO’s concertmaster Alex Norris, himself a graduate of the UW-Madison School of Music. (Both brothers are pictured below, Alex on the left and Ansel on the right, in a photo by their mother Kathy Esposito.)

Alex and Ansel Norris CR Kathy Esposito

As for MAYCO’s future plans: While a lack of foreknowledge about instrumentation and the dates of competing summer offerings prevents me from providing concert dates or program details for next summer, I can give a few general hints about what is to come in the orchestra’s fourth season:

- Two varied concert programs featuring Classical masterworks and lesser-known gems.

- The world premiere performance of a work written for the orchestra by a local composer.

- The showcasing of local artists as soloists, including both younger performers and established older musicians.

Mikko Utevsky with baton

More specifically, I hope to program the orchestra’s first piano concerto, and have been eyeing the prospect of working with vocalists again since I heard UW-Madison graduate student Shannon Prickett’s marvelous singing of Verdi and Puccini last summer, perhaps in the context of a concert performance of some opera scenes. But neither of those are promises. Stay tuned! (Shannon Prickett is shown below.)

Shannon Prickett soprano

Finally, I am planning to extend some of MAYCO’s offerings into the school year. We will be holding at least one outreach and reading session on a Saturday afternoon, at which current WYSO members will be invited to read some of the Classical repertoire that the orchestra specializes in and learn about the program we offer.

(Editors note: For more background information, read the entry of the UW School of Music’s outstanding blog “Fanfare”:

Classical music Q&A: Conductor-violist Mikko Utevsky discusses his first year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and the lessons he brings to the concert Friday night by the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra. Plus, please leave word if you are going to play the piano at Friday’s “Make Music Madison” festival.

June 20, 2013

REMINDER: This Friday is the Summer Solstice and the first-ever Make Music Madison citywide festival. If you plan to play on one of the four acoustic pianos being provided at fire stations around the city (no previous sign-up is required), or do other performances, please leave word in the COMMENT section with your name, the piece you will play, the place and the time. Here are links to previous posts about the event: Make Music Madison logo square By Jacob Stockinger

Friday is the Summer Solstice.

And that means there will be a lot of music performances in the Madison area since it is also the date of the inaugural Make Music Madison festival.

But once of the stand-out events is a performance by the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO), which was founded a couple of years ago by Mikko Utevsky (below), a violist who at that time was a student at Madison East High School and a violist in the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras.

The MAYCO concert is at 7:30 in Old Music Hall, at the foot of Bascom Hill on the UW-Madison campus. The program features Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola, with soloists violinist Eugene Purdue and violist Deidre Buckley; Aaron Copland’s “Our Town” and Serge Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” with narrator Lori Skelton.

Admission to the concert, called “A Tribute to Educators,” is at the door and costs $5 for adults and donations for students.

Conductor Mikko Utevsky, who wrote posts for this blog from the WYSO tour last summer to Vienna, Prague and Budapest, and who just completed his freshman year the UW-Madison School of Music, recently gave an email interview to The Ear.

Mikko Utevsky with baton

You just completed your first year at the UW-Madison School of Music. How did it go? What lessons do you bring to the upcoming concert by MAYCO?

I had an excellent first year – the faculty is superb, and it’s an exciting, collaborative environment. During the school year, I try to focus as much as possible on the viola. I am, after all, a performance major, and while I hope to make a career of conducting, right now I am first and foremost a violist. MAYCO Mikko Utevsky by Steve Rankin

When I first spoke with Professor Smith about studying conducting, his advice was to become the best violist I could. That’s what I’m doing. Prof. Sally Chisholm (below) is a wonderful teacher, and I am learning a great deal from her. The viola studio at the UW is great.

Sally Chisholm

Over the summer, I have some more time to work on my conducting: I have been taking lessons with Prof. Smith (below), and spending more time with my scores, library work and much, much more time on the phone finding players.


I think out of the whole year, the greatest influence on my work with MAYCO didn’t come from lessons. In the past, I’ve been wary of the Classical repertoire; it poses particular stylistic problems that can be difficult to address with a youth orchestra. I am coming to it with a new appreciation and understanding founded in my music history class with Professor Charles Dill and Charles Rosen’s book “The Classical Style” (below).

Charless Rosen The Classical Style

I had the fortune to end up reading it during the class, and together it and Prof. Dill (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) opened my ears to a new way of hearing this music, a way that leaves much more room for growth than the way I was used to listening. That’s a large part of why we’re doing three Classical works this summer (one each by the Big Three — Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven).

Charles Dill

Which direction do you want to pursue as a career — violist or conductor– and why?

My hope is to become a conductor, hopefully working with a university orchestra or youth symphony program. I love to teach, and want that to be a part of my work some day. I do not plan to give up the viola, of course; at the very least I will continue to play chamber music for as long as I can still hold my bow.

Mikko Utevsky conducts MAYCO Steve Rankin

What would you like to say about the soloists and narrator?

Diedre Buckley (below top, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) was my first viola teacher, all through middle and high school. She and Gene Purdue (below bottom) both have thriving private teaching studios in Madison, and have several students in the orchestra — about half of the violins and violas are current or former students of theirs. They are both fantastic players and teachers, and bring a lot to the stage in terms of both experience and musicality. It’s been a real pleasure working with them this week, for me and the orchestra.

Deidre Buckley Katrin Talbot

Eugene Purdue 1 Thomas C. Stringfellow

Lori Skelton (below) does a lot of the classical programming on Wisconsin Public Radio. I’ve been listening to her “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen” since it was “Live From the The Elvehjem,” and frequently tune in for her Afternoon Classics when I’m not in school. She is a wonderful storyteller with a wonderful voice, and working with her on Peter and the Wolf has been a lot of fun. Lori Skelton

What would you like the audience to know about the pieces on the program?

This isn’t quite your typical Overture/Concerto/Symphony program. For starters, the symphony and the concerto are the same piece: Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola, and Orchestra, K. 364. This is probably the greatest piece in its genre, conceived on a more symphonic scale than most of Mozart’s middle concertos, and runs more than half an hour in length. (You can hear the opening in a YouTube video with Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman at bottom.) It has wonderful orchestral writing, more substantial than one would expect from a simple concerto, and it uses double viola sections to match the soloist.

We’re opening the program with music by Aaron Copland (below) to the 1939 film adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” — both the movie and the score got Oscar nominations, though they both lost. It’s a beautiful piece with a very characteristic Copland sound, depicting life in a fictional New England town.

aaron copland

Finally, we are playing the famous orchestral fairy tale, “Peter and the Wolf,” by Serge Prokofiev (below). This work usually gets programmed on children’s concerts, and is seldom appreciated for its musical value, which is considerable (despite the rather silly — if charming — story). Lori Skelton will narrate the work.

Serge Prokofiev

Can you tell us any news about MAYCO and its plans, and about the same for yourself?

We have another concert coming up on August 9, also at 7:30 in Music Hall, for which we are still accepting players. The program is “New Horizons,” and includes Beethoven’s First Symphony; Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto with Madison native and two-time National Trumpet Competition winner Ansel Norris (below top); and a new work by the local composer, singer and conductor Jerry Hui (below bottom).

Ansel Norris

Jerry Hui

We will be back next summer, of course. And while I have a pretty good idea of what we’ll be playing, I don’t want to spoil the surprise. As usual, I can promise variety of programming, some solid Classical works, and a spotlight on local artists.

As for me, I’ll be performing some solo Bach at the Madison Area Music Awards this weekend, taking a bike trip in July, camping, and preparing for our August concert.

Classical music: The great British conductor Sir Colin Davis is dead at 85. Here is a round-up of stories and remembrances, appreciations and obituaries.

April 21, 2013
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

In case you haven’t already heard, the great British conductor and longtime music director of the London Symphony Orchestra  Sir Colin Davis (below) died last Sunday at 85 after a brief illness.

Sir Colin Davis conducting

The news came unexpected to The Ear as Davis seemed actively involved in conducting almost up to the end. He seemed to have the stamina that would take him well into his 90s – especially since the aerobic act of conducting seems conducive to conductors have long careers and lives.

But then again, the obituaries make it clear that he suffered deeply from the death of his wife.

I never heard him live. But I loved his recorded performances –- and he recorded prolifically with some 250 albums to his credit. In the works of Sibelius and Berlioz he was a stalwart champion and acclaimed master. He also championed British composers such as Edward Elgar, William Walton and Benjamin Britten.

But I also liked his complete command of the Classical era-style in Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven – symphonies, concertos, operas, oratories and other choral works. (Below is the cover of his recording on the London Symphony Orchestra‘s own in-house label LSO Live of the Berlioz Requiem.)

Sir Colin Davis LSO Berlioz

Sir Colin earned fame and a fine living early on (below) in the 1950s and 1960s. But I especially liked that his career seemed to peak late in his life –- a good riposte to the cultural tendency today to worship prodigies and young achievers. He was never better than when his hair turned white.

Sir Colin Davis

There is also something endearing and Britty eccentric about Davis who liked to sit in a chair and think about musical interpretations while he was puffing on his pipe and knitting.

Yes, knitting.

And in his stage performances and touring, and it sounds to The Ear as if Sir Colin led a very good and very full life. Which may help explain why Sir Colin’s music-making sounded so healthy and robust and natural rather than neurotic or forced. (Below is a photo of Sir Colin at his home.)

Sir Colin Davis at home

Anyway, here are links to some of the best stories, remembrances and obituaries I found along with a fitting YouTube video of Sir Colin conducting Mozart’s Requiem at the bottom):

Here is a comprehensive and compassionate overview of Sir Colin’s life and career from NPR’s always outstanding blog “Delayed Cadence”:

And here is a story from Sir Colin’s native UK:

Here is a column, with some details of Sir Colin’s personal life and turmoil, by Anne Midgette of The Washington Post:

Here is a link to BBC report:

Here is a link to report from The New York Times:

And here is a story from another UK source, The Guardian:

Here is a report from the UK wire service Reuters:

And here are two more from the Los Angeles Times and The Huffington Post:,0,5286281.story

Did you hear Sir Colin live? What did you think?

Do you have a favorite recording?

A word of tribute about Sir Colin to leave in the COMMENTS section?

The Ear wants to hear.

Classical music Q&A: Trevor Stephenson discusses the similarities and differences of Mozart and Haydn, whose symphonies and concertos are featured in concerts by the Madison Bach Musicians this Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. Plus, violist Mikko Utevsky performs Bach and Shostakovich in a free recital on SATURDAY night.

April 18, 2013

CORRECTION: Early viewers of yesterday’s post read a mistake. I said that conductor-violist Mikko Utevsky’s FREE recital of J.S. Bach and Shostakovich at Capitol Lakes Retirement Home, 333 West Main Street, was tonight, Thursday night, at 7 p.m. — which is WRONG. The recital is on Saturday night at 7 p.m. I apologize for the error and fixed it as soon as I found out.

By Jacob Stockinger

This is exactly the kind of contrast programming that the Ear loves to hear and think there should be much more of.

Mozart and Haydn often get lumped together -– like Bach and Handel, Beethoven and Schubert, Chopin and Schumann, Brahms and Dvorak, Mahler and Bruckner, Ravel and Debussy, Prokofiev and Shostakovich and, in literature, like Camus and Sartre.

But for all the parallels and affinities they share, Haydn and Mozart are in reality very different composers and proponents of Classicism. Personally, I would sum it up by saying: “Haydn is more interesting but Mozart is more beautiful.”

Anyway, I was thrilled to hear that the founder, director and conductor Trevor Stephenson and the Madison Bach Musicians  (below is a core membership) will perform a Mozart-Haydn concert this weekend.

Kangwon KIm with Madison Bach Musicians

Performances will be held in the crisp and acoustically lively Atrium Auditorium of the First Unitarian Society, 900 University Bay Drive, on Saturday night at 8 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. Free pre-concert talks by Stephenson, who is a Master Explainer, will take place 45 minutes before the concerts.

The alternating symphony and concerto program includes Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto with UW bassoonist Marc Vallon, and the Symphony No. 29 in A; and Haydn’s “Symphony No. 45 “Farewell” and his Keyboard Concerto in D major with Stephenson as soloist. For more information, visit:

Admission is $25 at the door, $20 for students and seniors over 65; or $29 and $15, respectively, if bought in advance at Orange Tree imports, Will Street Coop East and West, Farley’s House of Pianos. Ward-Brodt Music Mall and A Room of One’s Own. For ticket information, visit: Cash and checks only are accepted; no credit cards.

Stephenson (below) recently discussed Mozart and Haydn in an email Q&A with The Ear:

Prairie Rhapsody 2011 Trevor Stephenson

Why did you decide on a Mozart-Haydn program for the Madison Bach Musicians’ spring concert?

First off, I really love their music! I think my earliest musical memories of childhood involve listening to LPs of Mozart’s symphonies (particularly the No. 38 in D major, the “Prague” Symphony) and dancing about the room for joy during favorite passages. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in experiencing almost unbounded joy when listening to or playing Mozart (below top).

I always liked Haydn’s music immensely as well, and I find that as the years roll by I seek it out more and more. Particularly as I have become more experienced as a fortepianist and a harpsichordist, Haydn’s music takes on greater depth for me.

So, for MBM, I thought we’d try a concert featuring these two Classical period masters, and see what our baroque period training brings to the table for the music that comes right after the Baroque — the Classical. In a way, we’re trying to see what it feels like to walk into the Classical style through the front door, historically speaking. Instead of trying to approach it as old, what if it is seen as new?

mozart big
Mozart and Haydn are often mentioned together. Can you briefly describe their similarities with examples from your program? What are the major differences between the two Classical era composers, with references to your program? What is the historical or musicological importance of each?

Mozart and Haydn are the two great creative music forces in Europe during the second part of the 18th century. Interestingly enough, though, they both gave C.P.E. Bach a LOT of credit for forging the path to the new style of Classicism). CPE, of course, studied with his famous father, Johann Sebastian, but his writing is so strikingly different from his father’s.

Most notably, CPE is unabashed in using irregular phrase lengths (music that would turn most dancers into pretzels) and highly contrasting, even jarring, affective changes. He is very modern and avant-garde and his music is really Art with a capital A; the plumbing, as it were, is on the outside of the building—and there is no apology. But, it works! carl philipp emanuel bach

Haydn and Mozart both understood that CPE was the declaration of independence for the new style. Both Haydn and Mozart refined the CPE approach; that is, they employed but masked irregular phrase lengths, and, for contrasting emotions, Haydn and Mozart generally are more careful in making preparations, or they simply give the emotional shift more breathing room in the form.

Haydn (below) and Mozart differ from each other in that Haydn is generally more motivic (a technique which will really take off when Beethoven comes along), experimental, wry and folksy; while Mozart is more florid, expansive and just drop-dead gorgeous.


In many ways, Mozart reaches back to Handel (below) in his consummate sense for the theatrically cathartic moment—whether tragic or joyous. Mozart and Handel both know exactly how to make everyone in the hall cry with tragic empathy or leap for joy–as much as you can while staying in your seat. handel big 3

I think that Haydn’s blood brother really appears in the 20th century as Bela Bartok (below). With a rare combination of staggering intelligence and joyous honesty, both Haydn and Bartok assimilated and then morphed the folk music of their region (Austria-Hungary) into irresistible musical tableaux.


What would you like to say about the specific works and performers on your program? About the use of period instruments, especially the fortepiano, in the concerto?

On this program, we’ll playing two symphonies and two concertos — one of each from Mozart and Haydn. The orchestral core of all four works is strings, two oboes, and two horns.

The violins, violas, and cellos will be strung with gut and the players will use what are called transitional (or classical) bows. The gut strings are very supple — giving them a naturally sweet sound. Gut strings also speak quite quickly; that is, the moment the bow begins to move a very distinct pitch leaps (as it were) into the room.

The transitional bow is something of a hybrid between the baroque bow (which emphasizes clarity of articulation) and the later modern tourte bow (which emphasizes the strength and evenness of the sustaining style). For the Classical period music there is a premium on articulation (just as in the Baroque) but there is also a hint of the beginning of the chocolaty tone that would later begin to dominate string playing in the 20th century.

The 18th-century fortepiano (below) — which I’ll play in the Haydn Concerto in D Major — weighs in at around 150 pounds, has an entirely wooden frame, narrow gauge wire, and tiny leather-covered hammers. Like the 18th-century string instruments, it speaks very quickly and has tremendous contrast or changes in tonal character between its high and low registers. It is a little bi-polar in its remarkable ability to convey giddy effervescence at one moment and consuming darkness (particularly in the bass) the next. I always think of it as the musical equivalent of a Ferrari — incredible speed and (affective) maneuverability.

Schubert fortepiano Trevor

The internationally recognized bassoonist–and University of Wisconsin School of Music faculty member Marc Vallon (below, holding a modern and a Baroque bassoon in a photo by James Gill) will play the Mozart Bassoon Concerto on this concert; and we are thrilled that he has also agreed to conduct the entire program.

The classical bassoon he’ll be playing actually has a somewhat darker sound than its modern descendent, but like all 18th-century instruments the classical bassoon has a very quick and transparent attack, which facilitates articulations and intricate note groupings which are so important to the classical sensibility.

The classical bassoon also has a much richer low register than its modern counterpart, and correspondingly, the classical bassoon in its high register is more transparent (like a baritone singer in head voice) and less powerful than the modern. All of this in the hands of a master player like Marc will show new musical riches in this masterwork by Mozart.

Marc Vallon 2011 James Gill (baroque & modern)[2]

Finally, I want to say a little bit about Haydn’s Symphony No. 45 in F-sharp minor, known as the “Farewell.” For most of his professional career, Haydn was music director at the Esterhazy court. He and the orchestra performed and lived (away from their families) at the Esterhazy palace (below is a photo by Bridget Fraser of the impressive estate’s facade) for long periods each musical season.

WYSO Tour Esterhazy Palace FRASER

The story goes that in the fall of 1772, Prince Esterhazy had required the musicians to stay at court far longer than anyone had anticipated. To give the prince a subtle musical nudge that the players were very ready for the season to end, so that they could return to their families, Haydn structured the Finale (at bottom in a YouTube video) of this symphony so that the fiery presto suddenly gives way to a sweet, though other-worldly sounding adagio, at first in A major but then moving to the no-man’s-land of F-sharp major (a VERY odd key for the 18th century). The texture gradually thin outs, as one by one, each player finishes their line, blows out their candle, and quietly departs the stage— leaving only two violins in the final measures.

It is an amazing effect—a perfect exit strategy!

And for the concerts this weekend –in the wonderful acoustics of the Atrium auditorium (below, in a photo by Zane Williams) at First Unitarian Society — I think we’ll use Haydn’s petition just to ask for intermission.

FUS Atrium, Auditorium Zane Williams

How do you compare Haydn and Mozart?

Do you have favorite symphonies and concertos by each? What are they?

The Ear wants to hear.

Classical music quiz: Which classical composer “flies” on Air France? Can you tell. Here’s another short chapter in “Can Advertising Help Save Classical Music.”

November 25, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

Just a quickie today.

I was watching TV the other night and saw this eye-catching and ear-catching commercial for Air France.

It features a male and a female ballet dancer doing some, shall we say, airborne swings and moves that are so graceful, as lovely and balanced as the music. Plus, it is very understated with no pushy words. Very classy — both elegant and sensual. So also very French.

And the music sounded so familiar.

It took me a couple of seconds to pin it down. But I finally did.

Can you?

First listen to the ad. Here it is:

Did you get it?

It is the middle movement to Mozart’s sublime Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488.

And here is a link to another posting I did about classical music that is used in advertising, including Ravel‘s String Quartet in an ad for

I have also seen some similar classic music-theme ads for cars (a Mozart piano sonata)  and others.

Can you name some ads and classical music excerpts that I haven’t seen or listed?

The Ear wants to hear.

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