The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Is Prokofiev more Romantic than modernist? Hear for yourself at the concert Friday night by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and violinist Giora Schmidt. Plus, the UW Symphony Orchestra performs a FREE concert Thursday night

February 21, 2018
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ALERTS: This Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW-Madison Symphony Orchestra will perform a FREE concert under the baton of alumnus and guest conductor Mikko Rankin Utevsky, the founder and director of the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO).  The program features the Symphony No. 5 by Franz Schubert; “Entr’acte” by Caroline Shaw; and the “Holberg Suite” by Edvard Grieg.

The week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features guitarist Steve Waugh and flutist Sridhar Bagavathula playing music by Frederic Chopin, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Astor Piazzolla, Francisco Tarrega, Francois Morel and Jerome Kern. The concert runs from 12:15 to 1 p.m.

By Jacob Stockinger

Sometimes the frame helps to define the picture, to reveal or at least reinforce the picture’s meaning.

Such is the case with this Friday night’s appealing and stand-out concert by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra with conductor Andrew Sewell and Israeli violin soloist Giora Schmidt (below, in a photo by David Getzschman).

The concert is at 7:30 p.m. in The Capitol Theater of the Overture Center, 201 State Street.

Tickets are $15-$80 with student tickets available for $10. For more information about the performers and the program, as well as how to obtain tickets, go to: https://wisconsinchamberorchestra.org/performances/masterworks-ii-3/

The program features the “Petite Symphonie” (Small Symphony) for winds by the Romantic French composer Charles Gounod (below), who is much better known for and more often performed for his operas “Faust” and “Romeo and Juliet.”

Then there is the melodic, popular and often performed Serenade for Strings by the Russian arch-Romantic Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (below). Like so much Tchaikovsky – both his Piano Concerto No. 1 and his Violin Concerto, now staples of the repertoire, were deemed unplayable when first composed – the Serenade can  sound less challenging than it really is.

In between comes a modern masterpiece that The Ear is especially fond of: The Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor by the Soviet composer Sergei Prokofiev (below).

And that is where it gets especially interesting.

Prokofiev is often lumped together with his Russian contemporary Dmitri Shostakovich (below). Both were virtuoso pianists. Both faced hardships from the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. And while it is true that some of Prokofiev’s music shares a certain spikiness as well as harmonic darkness and dissonance with that of his contemporary, the pairing can be misleading.

To The Ear, much more — maybe even most — of Prokofiev’s music shares a lot more with the late Russian Romantics, including Tchaikovsky and Sergei Rachmaninoff. Roughly and with some exceptions, he sees Prokofiev as modern Russia’s Mozart for his melodic clarity, and Shostakovich as modern Russia’s Beethoven for his harmonic thickness.

The Ear doesn’t know if that same point is intended and was in mind when maestro Andrew Sewell (below) set up the concert, but he suspects it was because Sewell is a canny and intelligent programmer.

But intentional or not, no matter: the point stands.

If a single moment offers proof, The Ear would single out the opening of the slow movement of the Prokofiev concerto.

It has a beautiful melodic line, moving harmonies and a hypnotic clock-like rhythm to a theme-and-variation development that sounds unmistakably modern but accessibly modern in the same way that the never-fail Violin Concerto by the American composer Samuel Barber does.

You can hear the second movement in a YouTube video at the bottom and make up your own mind. It is performed by the way by the great David Oistrakh for whom Prokofiev composed the concerto.

Suffice it to say that The Ear has never heard that movement without the little hairs on the back of his neck standing up, much like happens with the famous 18th Variation in Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” or the opening of the first and second movements of the Barber Violin Concerto.

If you know that music by Prokofiev, you will be happy you hear it again. And if you don’t already know it, you will be forever grateful to have made its acquaintance.

Anyway, The Ear will assume that the programming was deliberate and establishes for the audience a context for the Prokofiev, which is the most important and substantial work on the program.

And Giora Schmidt (below),k who is making his Madison debut, certainly sounds like the kind of virtuoso who will do justice to the work. Just read the critics’ raves on his website:

https://www.gioraschmidt.com


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Classical music: Two percussion concerts — by Clocks in Motion and Madison native Nathaniel Bartlett — take place on Sunday afternoon. This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale features vocal music by many composers.

October 23, 2014
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ALERT: This Friday’s FREE Noon Musicale, from 12:15 to 1 p.m. at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features Rachel Eve Holmes (below), soprano; Christopher Apfelbach, baritone and Michael Keller, piano, in the music of Carlisle Floyd, Reynaldo Hahn, Amy Beach, Richard Strauss, Benjamin Britten, Gabriel Faure, Paul Bowles and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Rachel Eve Holmes big

By Jacob Stockinger

As I wrote and posted on Monday and Tuesday, Friday night is a major “train wreck” of competing concerts.

But Sunday is busy also and brings potential conflicts, particularly for percussion fans, though there is time to get from one concert to the other.

CLOCKS IN MOTION

On Sunday at NOON — NOT 1 p.m. as previously stated — in Mills Hall on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, the percussion group Clocks in Motion (below), will give a FREE concert. The program features world premieres as well as music by Frank Zappa, Edgard Varèse and John Cage. (Free parking is available on Sundays in nearby Grainger Hall in the basement of the UW-Madison Business School.)

Clocks collage 2014

Here is a press release from the group, which includes Dave Alcorn, Jennifer Hedstrom, Sean Kleve, Michael Koszewski and James McKenzie:

“Contemporary chamber ensemble Clocks in Motion blends the classical concert hall with the rock n’ roll venue in a bold performance on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 26, at 1 p.m. in Mills Hall.

The program will pair one of the first pieces written for percussion ensemble with music by iconoclast Frank Zappa.

Zappa listed Edgard Varèse’s groundbreaking work, Ionisation, as one of his fundamental inspirations in becoming a composer.

Clocks will juxtapose this influential piece with Zappa’s Black Page, a drum solo that was later expanded to a full-band tune.  Black Page’s uniquely virtuosic sound blends rock, contemporary, and experimental avant-garde music.

Guitarist Anthony Lanman joins the program as a guest performer on the world premiere of his 8-string electric guitar concerto, Automaton.

A lush quartet for mallet percussion, piano, and cello by Joseph Diedrich will also receive its world premiere.

Rounding out the program is John Cage’s Second Construction, a grooving classic in the percussion literature.

Here are more specifics about the program:

Ionisation: Although it is only 5 minutes long, Edgard Varèse’s seminal percussion piece laid the groundwork for 90-plus years of composition for the genre (and beyond, as displayed by Frank Zappa). Varèse (below) explores the coloristic possibilities of percussion with unique instruments including drums, woodblocks, sirens, cymbals, chimes, maracas, slapsticks, and more.

edgard varese

Black Page: Originally constructed as a drum solo in a style unique to Frank Zappa (below), Black Page is known for its impressive rhythmic complexity and polyrhythms. This meticulous, thrilling piece is in two parts: No. 1, a full-ensemble percussion unison featuring a “statistical density”; and No. 2, the “Easy Teenage New York Version,” which grooves through the same material with a full band.

Frank Zappa

Automaton: Says Anthony Lanman (below): “When Clocks in Motion asked me to write a piece for them, immediately their name set off a series of images in my head. I saw a lonely watchmaker — an unappreciated genius — who had a vision in his mind of a great automaton. I saw him slaving away in his workshop, creating the massive creature, and then, finally, releasing it (with the best of intentions) upon the world. Unfortunately, the automaton didn’t function as planned…

“This all broke down into a concerto for electric guitar and percussion, and was organized into three movements: I. Watchmaker’s Daydream – II. Workshop/Steam – III. …In Motion.”

anthony lanman headshot 1

Saturation: Writes Joseph Diedrich: Composed in 2013, Saturation combines the distinct timbral subtleties of mallet percussion, strings, and piano. Using UW-Madison composer Stephen Dembski’s constellation protocol, the piece embarks on an evolutionary journey, culminating in the discovery of tonality. Starting with distant, sparse reverberations, Saturation quickly becomes a wild musical adventure.

Joseph Diedrich

Second Construction: The 1940 work by John Cage (below) is scored for four players, and features piano prepared with cardboard, screws, and a metal cylinder carefully placed inside the instrument. The instrumentation is fascinating — water gong, temple bowls, almglocken, maracas and tam-tam are heard.

John Cage and cat

New music, new instruments and new sounds define Clocks in Motion’s fresh and innovative approach to contemporary classical performance. Hailed as “nothing short of remarkable” (ClevelandClassical.com), Clocks in Motion is a group that performs new music, builds its own instruments and breaks down the boundaries of the traditional concert program. Clocks in Motion consistently performs groundbreaking concerts involving performance art, theater, and computer technology.

Featuring world premieres alongside rarely performed classic works, this ensemble strives to create a new canon of percussion repertoire. You can hear how they make music on found objects in a YouTube video at the bottom.

Clocks in Motion works passionately to educate young audiences through master classes, residencies, presentations and school assemblies.

The ensemble’s unique skill sets and specialties contain an impressive mix of rock, jazz, contemporary classical, orchestral, marching and world styles.

Clocks in Motion has served as resident performers and educators at the Interlochen Arts Academy, Casper College, the University of Michigan, Baldwin-Wallace University, VIBES Fine and Performing Arts, Traverse City West High School, Traverse City East Middle School, Rhapsody Arts Center, and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Formed in 2011, Clocks in Motion began as an extension of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Graduate Percussion Group, and now serves as the affiliate ensemble of the UW-Madison percussion studio.

NATHANIEL BARTLETT

At 6:30 p.m. in Promenade Hall of Overture Hall, the Madison-born percussionist and marimba-player Nathaniel Bartlett (below), who uses complex computer technology in his music, will perform an unusual concert.

Nathaniel Bartlett 2

Tickets are $16.

Here is a link to the full description of the artist and the concert:

http://www.overturecenter.org/events/nathaniel-bartlett

 

 

 

 

 


“Grace Presents” opens its new season this Saturday at noon with a FREE one-hour concert by the local percussion group Clocks in Motion, which has just released its first recording.

September 16, 2014
3 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

“Grace Presents,” which just got a new program director Andrea Mauch (below), continues to develop as one of the most innovating and welcome FREE music events in Madison.

Andrea Mauch - long scarf color

The once-a-month series, which is sponsored by and hosted at Grace Episcopal Church (below), 116 West Washington Ave., in downtown Madison on the Capitol Square, offers classical music but also folk, bluegrass, roots and jazz. The quaint historic church has great acoustics and decorating inside.

grace episcopal church ext

MBM Grace cantatas ensemble

For the opening concert the performers at the unusual percussion group “Clocks in Motion,” which grew out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, where the group is now an “affiliate ensemble in residence” for the percussion program. (You can hear them perform in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Clocks collage 2014

Clocks in Motion has also just released its first recording,  “Escape Velocity,” which is an impressive CD that includes a work by Madison composer John Jeffrey Gibbons (below, in a photo by Milt Leidman).

clocks in motion percussion CD

Clocks in Motion John Jefffey Gibbens cr MiltLeidman

The hour-long concert on Saturday -– to run from noon to about 1 p.m. –- will feature rarely heard instruments and unusual compositions that will use contemporary music to highlight the power and diversity of percussion music.

Clocks in Motion’s fresh and innovative approach to contemporary classical performance will provide an exciting concert experience for the Madison community.

The program this Saturday includes:

The new mallet quintet, “Gravity, by Marc Mellits, was commissioned in part by Clocks in Motion in 2013. This piece features Mellits’ pop-minimalistic style with driving rhythms and lush harmonies.  The sectional work builds in intensity, resulting in a climactic and satisfying ending.

marc mellits 1

In “Music for Pieces of Wood” minimalist pioneer Steve Reich liberates the listener from the downbeat with interlocking rhythm and shifting musical gestures. Five performers using warm-toned paduk instruments become one mesmerizing voice.

“Drumming Part 1”, also by Reich, is a driving minimalist piece in which four musicians play four pairs of tuned bongos. The work was highly influenced by the rhythms found in western Africa, but Reich (below) also employs original compositional techniques, such as rhythmic phasing and pattern construction.

Steve Reich

“Four Miniatures” is an original composition by Clocks in Motion member Dave Alcorn (below). It explores the sonic possibilities of handheld percussion. Comprised of four mini-quartets for triangles, tambourines, Uchiwa Daiko and woodblocks/reco-reco, this attractive piece proves that even the smallest instruments can make one move in their seat.

Dave Alcorn

Third Construction”, by John Cage (below), features a wildly diverse instrumentation. Clocks in Motion will use tin cans, maracas, claves, cowbells, Indo-Chinese rattles, quijadas, cricket callers, a conch shell, ratchets, and various drums in this singular and innovative 1941 work.

John Cage and cat

Here is more form a press release:

“Hailed as “nothing short of remarkable” by ClevelandClassical.com, Clocks in Motion is a group that performs new music, builds its own instruments, and breaks down the boundaries of the traditional concert program.

“With a fearless and uncompromising ear to programming challenging and adventurous contemporary percussion ensemble repertoire, Clocks in Motion consistently performs groundbreaking concerts involving performance art, theater, and computer technology.

“Featuring world premieres alongside rarely performed classic works, this ensemble strives to create a new canon of percussion repertoire.

“Clocks in Motion works passionately to educate the young audiences of the future through master classes, residencies, presentations and school assemblies.

“The individual members of Clocks in Motion’s unique skill sets and specialties contain an impressive mix of musical styles including, rock, jazz, contemporary classical music, orchestral percussion, marching percussion, and world music styles.

Clocks in Motion overture

“Clocks in Motion has served as resident performers and educators at the Interlochen Arts Academy, Casper College, the University of Michigan, Baldwin-Wallace University, VIBES Fine and Performing Arts, Traverse City West High School, Traverse City East Middle School, Rhapsody Arts Center, and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.

“Formed in 2011, Clocks in Motion began as an extension of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Graduate Percussion Group, and now serves as the ensemble-in-residence with the UW-Madison percussion studio.

Members of Clocks in Motion are Dave Alcorn, Jennifer Hedstrom, Sean Kleve, Michael Koszewski and James McKenzie.


Classical music: On Saturday night, the University of Wisconsin-Madison percussion group Clocks in Motion will celebrate its inaugural recording with a concert of highlights from the current season.

April 3, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

On this coming Saturday night, the acclaimed and recently formed local percussion group, Clocks In Motion, will celebrate a landmark that area fans and all classical musicians can be proud of.

Here is the press release:

“Clocks in Motion, a cutting-edge new music ensemble from Madison, Wisconsin, will present an expansive program featuring highlights from the 2013-14 concert season, as well as selections from their upcoming debut CD album, “Escape Velocity.”

“Clocks in Motion (below in performance in 2013) consists of percussionists Dave Alcorn, Sean Kleve, Michael Koszewki, James McKenzie and Joseph Murfin plus Jennifer Hedstrom, pianist and percussionist, and conductor Matthew Schlomer.

clocks in motion in concert

“The concert is this coming Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. at Bright Red Studios (below), located at 9 Ingersoll Street in Madison. Admission is $10 for the general public; free with a valid student ID.

Bright Red Studios

“The program will feature captivating performances of works by innovative composers: John Luther Adams, John Cage, John Jeffrey Gibbens, Paul Lansky, and Marc Mellits.

Drums of Winter” is a movement from the breathtaking multimedia composition, “Earth and the Great Weather” by John Luther Adams (below). This genre-defying piece depicts the Arctic landscapes of Northern Alaska, and Clocks in Motion will perform a shattering and powerful drum selection.

John Luther Adams

“Paul Lansky has said that the aim of his percussion quartet, “Threads,” is to “highlight the wide range of qualities that percussion instruments are capable of, from lyrical and tender to forceful and aggressive, and weave them into one continuous ‘thread.’”

paul lansky

Third Construction” by John Cage (below) features a wildly diverse instrumentation. Clocks in Motion will use tin cans, maracas, claves, cowbells, Indo-Chinese rattles, quijadas, cricket callers, a conch shell, ratchets, and various drums in this singular and innovative 1941 work.

John Cage and cat

“John Jeffrey Gibbens (below) is a living composer in Madison whose marimba solo, “Travelling Music,” was only just premiered on March 13.  The vast complexities of this 12-tone work result in some entertaining choreography for the performer and a rich experience for the listener.

Clocks in Motion John Jefffey Gibbens cr MiltLeidman

“The new mallet quintet, “Gravity,” by Marc Mellits (below) was commissioned in part by Clocks in Motion in 2013.  This piece features Mellits’ pop-minimalistic style with driving rhythms and lush harmonies.  The sectional work builds in intensity, resulting in a climactic and satisfying ending.  

marc mellits 1

“Hailed as “nothing short of remarkable” (ClevelandClassical.com), Clocks in Motion is a group that performs new music, builds its own instruments, and breaks down the boundaries of the traditional concert program.

With a fearless and uncompromising ear to programming challenging and adventurous contemporary percussion ensemble repertoire, Clocks in Motion (below in a photo by Megan Alley) consistently performs groundbreaking concerts involving performance art, theater and computer technology.

Clocks in Motion Group Photo 2 cr Megan Alley

“Featuring world premieres alongside rarely performed classic works, the ensemble strives to create a new canon of percussion repertoire.

“Clocks in Motion works passionately to educate the young audiences of the future through master classes, residencies, presentations, and school assemblies. The individual members of Clocks in Motion’s unique skill sets and specialties contain an impressive mix of musical styles including, rock, jazz, contemporary classical music, orchestral percussion, marching percussion, and world music styles. (Listen for yourself to the YouTube posting at the bottom.)

“Clocks in Motion has served as resident performers and educators at the Interlochen Arts Academy, Casper College, the University of Michigan, Baldwin-Wallace University, VIBES Fine and Performing Arts, Traverse City West High School, Traverse City East Middle School, Rhapsody Arts Center, and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.

“Formed in 2011, Clocks in Motion began as an extension of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Graduate Percussion Group, and now serves as the ensemble in residence with the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music percussion studio.

“For more information, including boomings, recordings, videos, concert/residency schedule, and repertoire, please visit www.clocksinmotionpercussion.com.”

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