By Jacob Stockinger
Has March’s proverbial lion finally yielded to the lamb?
Here is Madison there is still some snow on the ground. But it should all be gone by the end of today, which, like yesterday, will reach into the 50s.
Just in time.
Today is the Vernal Equinox, bringing the first day of spring. It arrives at 5:29 a.m. this morning.
Spring has been an inspiration to many composers. So there is a lot of music to choose from when you want to celebrate season musically.
The Ear is fickle and his choice changes from year to year.
But lately, his favorite has been the “Spring” Sonata in F Major for violin and piano by Ludwig van Beethoven. (You can hear the opening of the famously tuneful and upbeat sonata, performed by violinist Itzhak Perlman and pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy, in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
Of course there are violin concertos by Antonio Vivaldi and Arcangelo Corelli; choral works by Johann Sebastian Bach and Franz Joseph Haydn; chamber music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; orchestral music by Robert Schumann, Peter Tchaikovsky and Igor Stravinsky; piano pieces by Felix Mendelssohn and Edvard Grieg; songs by Franz Schubert and Johannes Brahms. And there is more, so much more.
Yesterday, Wisconsin Public Radio programmed a lot of spring music, and The Ear expects the same for today’s programming.
But you can be your own DJ if you want. Here is a list of almost two hours of spring-related music:
And here is a springtime puzzler, or quiz, about flowers in opera from NPR or National Public Radio:
Plus, there are plenty of other guides and anthologies to music for spring that you can find online.
So here is what The Ear wants to know: What is your favorite piece of music to greet spring with?
Leave words in the COMMENT section along with a link to a YouTube performance if possible.
And a Happy Spring to you!
ALERT: Just a reminder that UW-Madison professor and Pro Arte Quartet cellist Parry Karp will repeat his recent program with pianist Eli Kalman this Sunday afternoon during “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen.” The FREE concert starts at 12:30 p.m. in the Brittingham Gallery 3. The program includes sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven and Cesar Franck plus preludes by Sulkan Tsintsadze. The recital can also be streamed LIVE.
Here is a link to more information about the performances and program:
And here is a link to the Chazen streaming site:
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has been sent the following information to post:
Madison Bach Musicians is excited to offer a Summer Chamber Music Workshop from July 25 to July 28, 2017, focusing on historically informed performances of baroque and classical music.
This workshop is open to intermediate and advanced players who are high school age and older. Participants will be assigned to an ensemble group, and music will be sent in advance to allow musicians to learn their parts beforehand. (Below is a group photo from last summer’s workshop that was taken by Mary Gordon.)
The workshop will include personalized ensemble coaching, master classes, a faculty concert, community lunches and a final closing concert for a supportive and appreciative audience.
Keyboard player Trevor Stephenson (below top), who founded and directs the Madison Bach Musicians, and violinist Kangwon Kim (below bottom) are the co-directors of the summer session.
Other faculty members include flutist Linda Pereksta (below top) and cellist Martha Vallon (below bottom).
All of this will take place in the beautiful and acoustically rich spaces of the First Unitarian Society of Madison.
Applications will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis beginning Jan. 15, 2017. (Early application discount will be given until March 20.)
Instruments covered include the violin, viola, cello, harpsichord, fortepiano, piano, flute, recorder, oboe and bassoon.
For more information and full details as well as a schedule of classes, faculty and performances – which will include the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 by Johann Sebastian Bach (see the YouTube video at bottom) as well as music by Antonio Vivaldi and Arcangelo Corelli — go to:
For information about being an auditor and a schedule of concerts, go to:
By Jacob Stockinger
Today is Christmas Day, 2016.
You may have your own collection of recorded holiday music.
But if you are looking for familiar or especially unfamiliar classical music to help you celebrate the holiday, The Ear has some suggestions as a sort of holiday gift.
There is always the reliable Wisconsin Public Radio and other affiliates of National Public Radio (NPR), which will feature holiday music throughout the day. And chances are pretty good that the local community-sponsored alternative radio station WORT-FM 89.9 will do the same.
But YouTube also is offering some other sources that you can stream while you are opening gifts, eating, mingling, gathering with others for the holiday or just enjoying it by yourself.
Plus the audio sites have timings so you can skip or find specific pieces or event movement within the pieces.
Here are two:
And here is one of The Ear’s favorites, with over one million hits because it features more than three hours of music with a lot of music of the Italian Baroque, including works by Antonio Vivaldi, Arcangelo Corelli, Giuseppe Torelli, Francesco Manfrediini and Pietro Locatelli as well as music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Hector Berlioz, Peter Tchaikovsky, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel and Astor Piazzolla:
Feel free to make other suggestions by leaving a composer, title and links, if possible, in the COMMENT section.
And also feel free to tell us what is piece is your favorite classical music for Christmas and why.
The Ear wants to hear.
And MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!
By Jacob Stockinger
Here is a special posting, a review written by frequent guest critic and writer for this blog, John W. Barker. Barker (below) is an emeritus professor of Medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also is a well-known classical music critic who writes for Isthmus and the American Record Guide, and who for 12 years hosted an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT-FM 89.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.
By John W. Barker
The Willy Street Chamber Players (below) gave the second concert of their 2016 season on Friday night at Immanuel Lutheran Church, 1021 Spright Street, on Madison’s near east side.
The program might have been called the “three Sch-es” in view of the alphabetical incipits of the three composers involved.
The first item was titled The Violinists in My Life, composed in 2011 by Laura Schwendinger (below), the American composer currently on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.
The Belgian violin virtuoso and composer Eugène Ysaÿe set an example with his set of six Sonatas, Op. 27, for solo violin, each one a tribute to a great musician with whom he had worked. So Schwendinger composed five pieces for violin and piano, each one a kind of character piece about violinists with whom she has had fruitful contact.
The style can be sharp and abrupt, but there is a clear individuality to each piece, evoking the different personalities. The first of the five is dedicated to UW-Madison alumna Eleanor Bartsch (below), one of our Willys, and she played the whole set, deeply engaged in it, with pianist Thomas Kasdorf, also a graduate of the UW-Madison.
Kasdorf (below) joined another of the group’s violinists, Paran Amirinazari, who also graduated from the UW-Madison, in a rarely heard late work by Franz Schubert, the Fantasie in C Major (D.934).(You can hear it played by violinist Benjamin Beilman, who has performed with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
Schubert’s compositions for violin and piano are rarely heard in concerts these days, but this one has particular interest in that its latter portion is another of the composers set of variations on one of his own songs—in this case, the beautiful Sei mir gegrüsst. The total piece has a lot of lively passage work, which Amarinazari played with a mix of flair and affection.
The crowning work was that extraordinary string sextet by Arnold Schoenberg (below), Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night). Composed in 1899 at the beginning of the composer’s career, it catches him still emerging from Late Romantic sensibilities, a good way before his radical move into the 12-tone idiom he created.
The score is just a trifle longish for the musical content, but its gorgeous chromatic richness is irresistible. It was inspired by a poem of Richard Dehmel, and both the original German text and an English translation were supplied to the audience, an interesting touch.
Above all, however, the performance was glowing, avoiding too much sentimental lushness, but conveying the emotionally charged writing with beautiful balance.
A clever touch, too, was the sitting pattern chosen, with the two violas facing the two violins and the two cellos in the rear—allowing the recurrent interaction between the first violin and first viola to emerge more clearly.
In sum, this was another wonderful session of first-class music-making by this remarkable assemblage of young talent.
NOTE: A program of music by Ludwig vanBeethoven, Philip Glass and Dmitri Shostakovich will be given next Friday at Immanuel Lutheran, but at NOON; and then that evening (at 8:30 p.m.) the group will participate in a special performance of George Crumb’s “Black Angels” — with an accompanying video — at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art in the Overture Center.
The final Friday evening concert will be back at Immanuel Lutheran, at 6 p.m. on Friday, July 29, with music by Baroque composer Arcangelo Corelli (Concerto Grosso), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Clarinet Quintet), and George Enescu (Octet).
ALERT: The Ear reminds you that TODAY is the monthly “Sunday Live From the Chazen” chamber music concert. The program today features UW-Madison soprano Mimmi Fulmer, violinist Tyrone Greive (retired concertmaster of the Madison Symphony Orchestra) and pianist Michael Keller in music by Edvard Grieg and other Norwegian composers, including songs and sonatas. The live concert starts at 12:30 p.m. in Brittingham Gallery 3. Admission is FREE. You can also stream it live by using this link:
By Jacob Stockinger
Probably the premiere musical event of 2015 was the summer debut of the new group the Willy Street Chamber Players (below).
The critics and audiences agreed: The programs and performances were simply outstanding. Many of the players perform with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, there Middleton Community Orchestra, the Madison Bach Musicians and other acclaimed local groups.
Now the second season of five concerts – including one noontime lunch concert — will begin on this coming Friday night, July 8, at 6 p.m. at Immanuel Lutheran Church, 1021 Spaight Street, on Madison’s near east side.
The first program features regular members and guest violinist Suzanne Beia (below).
Beia plays second violin in the Pro Arte Quartet at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, and also serves at concertmaster of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and assistant concertmaster of the Madison Symphony Orchestra. In addition, she performs in the Rhapsodie Quartet of the Madison Symphony Orchestra.
The program includes the lovely “Souvenir of Florence” (1892) by Peter Tchaikovsky and the haunting Entr’acte for String Quartet (2011) by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw (below, in a photo by Dashon Burton). You can hear the Entr’acte in the YouTube video at the bottom. (The Ear hopes one day the group will do Shaw’s “By and By” with strings and a vocalist.)
It’s too bad that the fourth annual Handel Aria Competition is on the same night. You would hope that such conflicts could be avoided in the summer.
Theoretically you can make it to both concerts since the aria competition starts at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall. But it will probably be a hectic scurry from one to the other.
Here is a link to more information about the Handel Aria Competition:
In any case, here is the schedule of the entire second season of the Willy Street Chamber Players.
It is varied and impressive, especially in how it combines old masterpieces with modern and contemporary works. It features pieces by Philip Glass, Arnold Schoenberg, UW-Madison composer Laura Schwendinger, George Crumb, Dmitri Shostakovich, Franz Schubert, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Arcangelo Corelli and Georges Enescu :
A season subscription is $50. Individual concerts are $15 except for the Black Angels video art concert, which is $20.
ALERT: Tomorrow afternoon, Sunday, Feb. 28, at 3:30 pm. in Morphy Recital Hall, the winners of the Woodwind-Piano Competition sponsored by Irving Shain, emeritus chancellor of the UW-Madison and a distinguished chemist, will perform a FREE recital. The program includes music for oboe and bassoon by Francis Poulenc, Robert Schumann, Gabriel Pierne and others. For more information, visit:
By Jacob Stockinger
Friends of The Ear — who wishes that early music groups and others would provide English translations of German, French and Italian titles for the general public — have sent him the following note:
“The Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble invites you to a concert of baroque chamber music on this Sunday, Feb. 28, at 3 p.m. in Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church (below, exterior and interior), 1833 Regent Street, Madison.
Performers includes: UW-Madison professor Mimmi Fulmer – soprano; Nathan Giglierano – baroque violin; Eric Miller – viola da gamba, baroque cello; Consuelo Sañudo – mezzo-soprano; Monica Steger – traverso, harpsichord; Anton TenWolde – baroque cello; and Max Yount – harpsichord
Tickets at the door are $20, $10 for students.
The varied program is:
Georg Friedrich Handel – “Occhi miei, che faceste” HWV 146
Arcangelo Corelli – Sonata for Violin and Basso Continuo, Op. 5, No. 11 (heard at bottom in a YouTube video)
Antonio Vivaldi – “Di verde ulivo” from “Tito Manlio” (1719)
Francois Couperin – “Les Nations,” Quatrième Ordre
There will be a reception at our studio at 2422 Kendall Ave (second floor) immediately following the concert.
ALERT: This Sunday night’s concert of new music for woodwinds and piano composed by UW-Madison professor of saxophone Les Thimmig, with UW-Madison pianist Jessica Johnson, has been CANCELLED.
By Jacob Stockinger
Tonight is the last debate for the Republicans before the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday. It takes place at 7 p.m. CST in Manchester, and will be broadcast on ABC-TV.
This past week also saw both a town hall meeting and a debate between the Democrats – their last before the primary election (below, in a photo by Getty Images).
Here’s a question no one has asked them during the debates: What kind of classical music do you like?
I know, I know. The question has little relevance and little popularity.
The Ear notes a couple of trends.
No specific pieces were named.
No sonatas or concertos, no symphonies or operas.
All the names of composers were extremely mainstream except for Arcangelo Corelli by Dr. Ben Carson (below), who also named Johann Sebastian Bach and Antonio Vivaldi. Others mentioned Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven.
Bernie Sanders’ preferred composer echoes his own populist and defiantly anti-establishment, even rabble-rousing, sentiments. Can you guess which composer he favors?
Why is The Ear not surprised that Hillary Clinton remains vague about composers and pieces, but says YES of course she likes classical music and even has it on her iPod.
And former businesswoman Carly Fiorina (below, in a photo by Politifact) surprises one with her youthful plan to be a professional musician, a concert pianist. Does she still play? The Ear wants to ask.
The Ear also wonders:
Does Evangelical Ted Cruz consider classical music frivolous or even sinful?
The Ear bets that country music, rock and pop music draw many more voters and gets many more votes.
But doesn’t anyone else think that the irresistible opening thee of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony would be a great dramatic call to arms for a candidate?
But who knows for sure?
Anyway, here is a link tot he WQXR story:
Now, The Ear doesn’t expect that this survey will change anyone’s vote.
Still, it is interesting as a sidelight to the much bigger and much more important issues confronting the candidates and the electorate.
And perhaps more specifics about their taste in music will emerge during the rest of the primary campaign and the then the general election.
Their individual culture quotients must matter for something.
What are your reactions?
What do you think?
Let us know.
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson has been in the news this week as his campaign flounders with the loss of its manager, deputy manager and communications director, who all resigned.
A while back, The Ear complained about too little attention being paid to the arts by the candidates and questioners during the Republican and Democratic presidential debates.
Here is a link to the posting:
But now Dr. Ben Carson (below) – whose politics seem downright bizarre to The Ear – has indeed talked about classical music, including the music he listened to, and made others listen to, in the operating room.
True, in this interview he doesn’t talk about funding the arts. And one must assume that his conservative, small government policies would probably undermine any support for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Public Radio (NPR) and the Public Broadcasting System (PBS).
The Ear guesses, perhaps wrongly, that Dr. Ben Carson is or will be a defender of defunding.
But at least it is a start. And given his earlier comments and complaints, The Ear feels obliged to be honest and pass it along:
And in honor of Carson — who especially loves the Baroque composers Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonio Vivaldi and Arcangelo Corelli — here is a YouTube recording of one of his favorites: the Symphony No. 8 “Unfinished” by Franz Schubert as performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the baton of the late music director and conductor George Solti:
By Jacob Stockinger
Today is Christmas Day 2015.
The Ear has only a few words, but a lot of music, to offer.
First, he wants to thank all his readers for the ongoing gift of their eyes, ears and attention as well as their comments.
In return, The Ear is offering his readers his favorite Christmas music.
It is performed superbly below in a YouTube video by Sir John Eliot Gardiner with the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists in a superb performance that comes from their worldwide Bach Cantata Pilgrimage.
Listen to it for the energetic and brassy opening movement.
Listen to it for various other wonderful moments, including the lovely Sinfonia.
Listen to it for the gorgeous solo and choral singing.
Listen to it in its entirety or in parts.
Stream it on or around Christmas Day.
But listen to it, now or later, especially if you don’t already know it.
And be sure to let us know in the COMMENT section what your favorite piece of Christmas music is.
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!
ALERT: On Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. in Morphy Hall, the UW -Madison’s Wingra Wind Quintet will perform a FREE concert of 20th-century music by Henry Cowell, Irving Fine, Robert Muczynski, Alan Hovhaness and Elliott Carter. For more information, here is a link:
This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, held from 12:15 to 1 p.m. at the meeting house of the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features violinist Wendy Adams and pianist Ann Aschbacher in two sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven: Op. 30, No. 1, and Op. 96.
By Jacob Stockinger
This coming Saturday night, the Madison Bach Musicians and guest soloists will perform their annual Baroque Holiday concert. (Below is a photo by Kent Sweitzer of the 2014 concert in the same venue.)
Tickets are $23-$28 and can be purchased at the door, with discounts in advance at certain outlets or online.
For more information, visit the MBM website at:
Trevor Stephenson, who is a master explainer and who will give a pre-concert lecture at 7:15 p.m., recently spoke via email to The Ear:
This is the fifth annual Baroque Holiday Concert by the Madison Bach Musicians. Generally speaking, what is your goal when you program for it?
The idea of the Baroque Holiday Concert is to present an interesting and varied program of Baroque and Renaissance music, some of which pertains to the holiday season and to winter itself.
More importantly we try to program outstanding pieces that Madison audiences may not have had a chance to hear very often in live performance, particularly, played on period instruments and with historically informed performance practices.
Why is Baroque music so popular at the holidays? What is it about the music itself that makes it feel so appropriate to the occasion?
Baroque music, whether it is written specifically for the holidays or not, does indeed sound terrific this time of year. I think the baroque style really strikes the right balance between energy and form — a perfect marriage of theater and church.
The Bach cantatas, two of which we’ll be playing on this upcoming concert, are perhaps the strongest examples of this fusion. The bearing of these pieces is always devotional, while the compositional technique—the process of invention in them—is always searching, exploratory, even avant-garde.
Look at the opening of Cantata 61, Nun komm der Heiden Heiland (Now Come Savior of the Heavens) where Bach (below) begins by firing up a martial-sounding dotted-rhythm French overture and then layers in the voices, one at a time, in long moaning tonally-veering chant lines. And yet, this all seems to operate within a framework that can accommodate it.
Briefly and in non-specialist terms, what would you like the public to know about each of the works?
In addition to Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cantata 61, the more grand-scale Advent Cantata discussed above, we’ll also be presenting the more intimate Cantata 151, Süßer trost, mein Jesus kömmt (Sweet Comfort, My Jesus Comes) composed for the third day of Christmas), which opens with an elegant and extended aria for soprano and obbligato baroque flute. We’re thrilled that this will be performed by outstanding soprano Chelsea Morris and baroque flutist extraordinaire Linda Pereksta.
We’ll also perform the rightly beloved “Christmas” Concerto in G minor, Op. 6, No. 8, by Arcangelo Corelli. The melodic material, the sequential dance-movement structure and the unsurpassed beauty of the string writing in this concerto grosso are perfect in the extreme. MBM concertmaster Kangwon Kim will lead this from the first violin.
By the way, if you’re familiar with Peter Weir’s 2003 movie Master and Commander you’ll notice that the Corelli “Christmas” Concerto pops up a couple of times in the movie score. (You can hear the “Christmas” Concerto, conducted by Trevor Pinnock, in the Youtube video at the bottom.)
Also on the program is Telemann’s E minor quartet from Tafelmusik. Tafelmusik, literally “table music” refers to the domestic and unassuming everyday quality of the writing. Chelsea Morris (below) will also perform three movements from George Frideric Handel’s Gloria.
Other musicians featured on the program are alto Margaret Fox, tenor William Ottow, bass Luke MacMillan, violinists Brandi Berry, Nathan Giglierano, and Olivia Cottrell, violists Marika Fischer Hoyt and Micah Behr, cellists Martha Vallon and Andrew Briggs, and (yours truly) harpsichordist Trevor Stephenson.
I’ll also give a pre-concert lecture at 7:15 p.m. about the music, the composers and the period instruments.
Is there something else you would like to say about the works or the performers?
I’d also like to mention that the concert will be given in the wonderful sanctuary of Madison’s First Congregational United Church of Christ. The acoustics there are absolutely terrific. Wisconsin Public Radio will be recording the concert and will broadcast it later in the holiday season, date to be announced.