The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Organist and composer Chelsea Chen debuts at Overture Hall on Tuesday night

February 18, 2019
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By Jacob Stockinger

Organist Chelsea Chen (below) makes her Madison debut on this Tuesday night, Feb. 19, at 7:30 p.m. in Overture Hall as part of the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Concert Organ series.

Ticket information is below.

Chen brings to her Overture Hall premiere an array of widely known classical pieces plus her own original composition.

Chen’s performance begins with Ola Gjeilo’s Sinfonietta and Edvard Grieg’s First Peer Gynt Suite, Op. 46— continuing with Chen’s original work, the Taiwanese Suite, Camille Saint-Saens’ Finale from “Organ” Symphony No. 3, Ad Wammes’ Miroir, and finally, selections from Gustav Holst’s The Planets.

Composer Gjeilo (below) has praised Chen’s interpretation of Sinfonietta, which the organist has performed at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia.

The First Peer Gynt Suite, Op. 46, by Grieg is one of the most easily recognizable compositions within the musical art form. Subtitled “Morning,” it is the first of two suites that Grieg (below) transcribed from Henrik Ibsen’s 1867 Norwegian play Peer Gynt.

The opus, albeit a short first movement from the suite, intends to instill imagery of the sunrise over the North African desert. Despite this, it is more commonly associated with the sweeping mountains, fjords and lakes that mark Norway’s landscape.

Chen’s own Taiwanese Suite combines the dynamic range of the organ with inflections of traditional Asian folksongs. It is composed of three movements: “Hills in the Springtime,” “Moonlight Blue” and “Mountain of Youth.”

Inspired by the works of Richard Wagner, Franz Liszt and others, Saint-Saens (below) composed a variety of arrangements and selections for numerous occasions. By age 10, the French composer and child prodigy had given his first concert. His Finale from “Organ” Symphony No. 3 is, as some consider, the pinnacle of his body of compositions. (You can hear Chen’s playing of the Finale from the “Organ” Symphony by Saint-Saens in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Miroir was composed by Dutch composer Ad Wammes (below) for Stephen Taylor to celebrate the organist’s appointment to the Nicolaïkerk, a church in the Netherlands. In an unconventional mirroring — hence the title — the right hand repeats the higher voices in the same pattern throughout the song, whereas the left hand varies texture, voice and tone in the lower registers. The result is a calming, low hum that is lifted by the glistening echoes of the upper registers.

To Holst, The Planets suite could be framed as “a series of mood pictures,” with its seven movements. Ironically, Holst (below) seemed to heavily dislike his explosive popularity resulting from the suite’s compositional structure. Despite his supposed negativity towards the piece, its inherent superb qualities of each movement — no two are alike — became a staple of evocative composition.

Following an academic career at the Juilliard School and Yale University, Chelsea Chen has practiced under the tutelage of known names in the musical world, such as Paul Jacobs and John Weaver. For more information about her, go to: https://madisonsymphony.org/event/chelsea-chen/

Single Tickets are available for $20 each and can be purchased online at http://madisonsymphony.org/chen, through the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street, or by calling the Box Office at (608) 258-4141.

Groups of 10 or more can save 25% by calling the MSO office at (608) 257-3734. For more information, visit, https://madisonsymphony.org/groups

Student rush tickets can be purchased in person on the day of the concert at the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street. Students must show a valid student ID and can receive up to two tickets for $10 each. More information is at: https://madisonsymphony.org/studentrush

Discounted seats are subject to availability, and discounts may not be combined.

This performance is sponsored by Friends of the Overture Concert Organ (below) that was custom-built by Klais Orgelbau of Germany. Support for all Overture Concert Organ programs is provided by the Diane Endres Ballweg Fund. With a gift from Pleasant T. Rowland, the Madison Symphony Orchestra commissioned the Overture Concert Organ.


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Classical music: Rising star Isabelle Demers opens the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Overture Concert Organ season this coming Tuesday.

October 2, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The acclaimed Canadian organist Isabelle Demers (below) will open the 11th Overture Concert Organ series for the Madison Symphony Orchestra with an unusual recital this coming Tuesday night, Oct. 6.

The concert, which includes her own transcriptions of orchestral works, is at 7:30 p.m. in Overture Hall of the Overture Center for the Arts, 201 State Street.

Music Department – Isabelle Demers, Organ – Horace Maxile, Theory – Jones Concert Hall – 08/21/2012

In addition to performing works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Sergei Prokofiev, Henry Martin, Max Reger, George Thalben-Ball and Louis Vierne, Demers in her Madison debut will also perform sections of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s famous orchestral work Scheherazade, which she has transcribed for the organ.

For the specific works on the program, go to: http://www.madisonsymphony.org/demers

Demers (below), who was recently appointed Professor of Organ and head of the Organ Department at Baylor University, has established herself as one of North America’s most virtuosic organists, and is also renowned worldwide as a brilliant performer who consistently enraptures audiences.

She has released recordings including works by Max Reger and Rachel Laurin, which have been praised as “profound and searching” and “superbly produced.” (You can hear Isabelle Demers perform a dramatic work by Rachel Laurin in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Isabelle Demers 2

General admission for the concert is $20 and tickets can be purchased at www.madisonsymphony.org/demers, the Overture Box Office or (608) 258-4141.

Student rush tickets are $10 day of show with a valid student ID (see http://www.madisonsymphony.org/studentrush.

This performance is sponsored by the Skofronick Family Charitable Trust. Support for all Overture Concert Organ programs is provided by the Diane Endres Ballweg Fund. With a gift from Pleasant T. Rowland, the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) commissioned the Klais custom-built Overture Concert Organ (below), which is the stunning backdrop of all MSO concerts.

Overture Concert Organ overview

To see the Overture Concert Organ series of concerts for 2015-16 or to subscribe at a 25 percent savings, visit: www.madisonsymphony.org/organseason15-16 or call (608) 257-3734.


Classical music: British razzle-dazzle concert organist Thomas Trotter returns for a fifth appearance in Overture Hall on this coming Tuesday night.

February 13, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

On this coming Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. in Overture Hall, the virtuoso British concert organist Thomas Trotter (below) will return for a fifth recital to mark the 10th anniversary of his unforgettable inaugural recital on the colossal custom-made Klais organ.

Trotter’s performance that night drew a sold-out crowd and he extraordinarily performed “Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov — with his feet! (At the bottom, you can hear him play in “The Ride of the Valkyries” by Richard Wagner in a YouTube video.)

Thomas Trotter

Admission is $20.

Buy $20 Tickets Now

Student Rush Tickets: $10 day of concert at Overture Box Office.

Adds the magazine The American Organist: “… Thomas Trotter completely deserves his high repute in the organ world…”

For more information and background about Trotter and the remaining organ concerts on the overture Concert Organ (below) this season, visit:

http://www.madisonsymphony.org/trotter

Overture Concert Organ overview

Here is the program, a mix of old and contemporary music, for Tuesday night:

Charles Villiers Stanford (below, 1852-1924)

Fantasia and Toccata in D minor

Sir Charles Villiers Stanford

John Stanley (1712-1786)

Voluntary in F, Op. 7 no. 6

Andante-Vivace

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Trio Sonata No. 1 BWV 525

Allegro-Adagio-Allegro

Jonathan Dove (below)

The Dancing Pipes (2014)

Jonathan Dove

INTERMISSION

Marcel Dupré (1886-1971)

The World Awaiting the Saviour

(1st movement from Passion Symphony)

William Bolcom (below, b. 1938)

Two Gospel Preludes: Sweet Hour of Prayer; Free Fantasia on “O Zion, Haste” and “How Firm a Foundation”

William Bolcom gesturing.

Paul Dukas (1865-1935)

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

arranged by Thomas Trotter

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

Overture to St. Paul

arranged by W.T. Best


Classical music Q&A: Maestro John DeMain discusses this weekend’s opening concerts of the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s 89th season. Music by Richard Strauss, Frank Martin and Camille Saint-Saens will be played with MSO principal players spotlighted.

September 15, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

This coming weekend will bring the opening of the 89th season of the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below), which was founded in 1925 and how has 91 players.

John DeMain and MSO from the stage Greg Anderson

By design, there will be no special guest soloist and no standard masterpiece –- say, a symphony or concerto by Haydn or Mozart, Beethoven or Brahms.

The works, chosen to highlight to Overture Concert Organ, will feature German composer Richard Strauss’ late Romantic tone poem “Thus Spake Zarathustra,” best known for its opening which served as the fanfare for Stanley Kubrick’s film “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Also featured are Swiss composer Frank Martin’s Concerto for Seven Winds, which was last performed by the MSO about 30 years ago); and French composer Camille Saint-Saens’ Symphony No. 3 “Organ.”

Wisconsin Public Radio host Anders Yocom (below) will provide a free 30-minutes prelude discussion that starts one hour before the performance.

anders yocom studio  head shot cr Jim Gill

Season tickets are still on sale with a 50 percent discount for new subscribers. And single tickets are now on sale, while rush tickets will also be available.

Tickets price run $16-$84.

Here is a link to the MSO site about the opening concert, with links to other information and ticket reservations:

http://www.madisonsymphony.org/orchestra

You can also call the Overture Center box office at (608) 258-4141 or visit www.overturecenter.com

Here is a link to program notes by MSO trombonist J. Michael Allsen (below), who also teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater:

http://facstaff.uww.edu/allsenj/MSO/NOTES/1415/1.Sep14.html

J. Michael Allsen Katrin Talbot

The performances, under the baton of longtime music director and conductor John DeMain, will take place in Overture Hall on Friday night at 7:30 p.m; Saturday night at 8 p.m.; and Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m.

The Juilliard School-trained John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad), who came to Madison from heading the Houston Grand Opera and is starting his 21st season in Madison, recently granted an interview about the opening concert to The Ear:

John DeMain full face by Prasad

What makes this season and especially this first concert special to you?

This 2014-15 season is especially important because it marks the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s 10th anniversary in Overture Hall. Being able to perform in this specially designed hall has been a game changer for the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

I can never adequately thank Jerry Frautschi for his incredible gift of the Overture Center for the Arts, and his spouse, Pleasant Rowland, for her additional endowment support and the gift of the Overture Concert Organ.

I have purposefully chosen a program for our first concert, on Sept. 19, 20 and 21, that is designed to explore the sonic power, as well as the subtlety, of Overture Hall (below).

Overture Hall

What would you like to say about the pieces on the program?

I purposefully do not have a guest artist on this first concert program because I like to focus attention on our wonderful orchestra and its principal players.

In Richard Strauss’ magnificent tone poem, Also sprach Zarathustra (used as the iconic music of Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey), special focus will go to the violin solos by our Concertmaster Naha Greenholtz (below), who never fails to move us with her gorgeous playing. (You can hear the irresistible opening fanfare by Richard Strauss at bottom in a popular YouTube video that has almost 3 million hits.)

Naha Greenholtz [playing

Frank Martin’s Concerto for Seven Wind Instruments will shine a spotlight on soloists, many of whom have also taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music:  Stephanie Jutt, flute; Marc Fink, oboe; Joseph Morris, clarinet; Cynthia Cameron-Fix, bassoon; Linda Kimball, horn; John Aley, trumpet; and Joyce Messer, trombone.

And last but certainly not least on the program is Camille Saint-Saëns’ magnificent Symphony No. 3, the “Organ Symphony”. Personally, I will never forget the first time we played it at Overture Center’s opening weekend, and we had to encore that incredible last movement! The Overture Concert Organ and its curator and organist, Samuel Hutchison (below, in a photo by Joe DeMaio), have earned a special place in the musical life of our community.

Sam Hutchison with organ (c) JoeDeMaio

Have you decided on any short-term or long-term plans for your next decade in Madison with the Madison Symphony Orchestra?

Long-term, I hope to revisit the symphonies by Gustav Mahler (below) and continue to expand the overall repertoire of the orchestra and continue to present the best of our living American composers to our audiences.

Gustav Mahler big

Working together with the wonderful MSO staff and particularly our violinist and Education Director Michelle Kaebisch (below), I’m hoping we can grow our very unique and broad-based outreach programs to the community.

Michelle Kaebisch WYSO cr Katrin Talbot

I’d also love to see us expand the Beyond the Score initiative. That January 2014 multi-media concert of Antonin Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony (below) with actors and videos, and the Symphony met with great success.

Bottom line: I always want, and can envision, the Madison Symphony Orchestra becoming an even more vital presence for ALL the citizens of Madison and the surrounding region as we contribute to our city and the arts.

MSO Dvorak

What out-of-town guest stints will you do this season? Other major plans?

In October 2014, I’m opening the Long Beach (California) Symphony Orchestra season, and then conducting a concert of American composers with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra in Feb 2015. In the 2015-16 season, I’ll return to the Kennedy Center.

 

 

 


Classical music: The Madison Youth Choirs and the Overture Concert Organ will join forces in a varied concert Saturday night in Overture Hall.

May 6, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

On this Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. in Overture Hall in the Overture Center, the Madison Youth Choirs (below top) will join forces with Samuel Hutchison (below bottom), the organist and curator for the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

mso youth choirs

Madison Youth Choirs Ragazzi cr Karen Holland

Sam Hutchison with organ (c) JoeDeMaio

The vocal talents of the choirs will blend with the beautiful custom-built Klais Organ (below).

Overture Concert Organ overview

Hutchison will perform both solo and collaborative works, displaying the diverse repertoire at the hands of the modern organist.

Early pieces from the Baroque period will share the program with works by living composers.  In all, the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, Louis Vierne, Herbert Howells (below and at the bottom where you will find a YouTube video of his “Sarabande” for Easter Morning), Francis Poulenc, Jean Langlais and John Rutter will be performed.

Single tickets are $20, and a $10 student rush will be offered on the day of the performance.

herbert howells autograph

Here is a link to more information, including the specific works on the extensive program and how to join the choirs:

http://www.madisonsymphony.org/youthchoirs

The Madison Youth Choirs, under the direction of Michael Ross (below), are no strangers to Overture Hall. In December, the ensemble performed in the three sold-out Madison Symphony Christmas concerts.

 

Michael Ross

Conductor John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad) said he is excited about the upcoming performance: “I can never say enough about the good work that Michael Ross is doing with the Madison Youth Choirs. They are an essential and beloved part of our Christmas concerts.”

John DeMain full face by Prasad

Here is a link to the Madison Youth Choirs, which are celebrating their 10th anniversary and many members of which will travel -– by invitation only — to the Aberdeen International Youth Festival, in Scotland, this summer. (Below is a  photo of the Opening Ceremony of the festival.)

http://www.madisonyouthchoirs.org

Aberdeen International Youth Festival Opeing Ceremony

This organ and choir concert is sponsored by the Friends of the Overture Concert Organ and the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation.

 

 

 

 

 

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