The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Guest blogger Sig Midelfort says the viola and violin shined in a recent Carnegie Hall recital, thanks to University of Wisconsin-Madison alumni Elias Goldstein and Roxana Pavel Goldstein

March 6, 2014

By Jacob Stockinger

Here is a review by guest blogger Sigurd “Sig” Midelfort, a good friend of the blog and of classical music in the Madison area.

Sig is a retired CPA who has spent a number of years with non-profits.  He adds: “Right now, that means I’m doing and have done volunteer work — with the Democratic Party of Dane County, Madison Music Makers Inc, a local environmental group and an orchestra in the western suburbs of Chicago.  (I also was a history major as an undergrad, have a masters in economic development, was in the Peace Corps in Tanzania for three years, and so on.)  All the time I have been interested in the local classical music scene, playing in amateur groups for decades.”

Sig recently attended a recital at Carnegie Hall in New York City, and asked if he could file this review of performers who have local ties and local interest.

It proved too good to resist. Enjoy!

By Sigurd Midelfort

Two recent University of Wisconsin-Madison doctoral graduates participated in a lustrous viola recital on February 19 at Carnegie Hall (below) in New York City.


Violist Elias Goldstein, now a professor at Louisiana State University who received his DMA from the UW-Madison in 2011 performed and received assistance on the violin from Roxana Pavel Goldstein, his wife (she received her DMA from the UW-Madison in 2012) and from Ieva Jokubaviciute, a Lithuanian pianist. (They are below, in a photo by Daniel Balan.)

Elias and Roxana Pavel Goldstein in Carnegie Hall CR Daniel Balan

Elias began the evening, playing an unaccompanied sonata for viola, Op. 25, No. 1, by Paul Hindemith.  Roxana (below) joined him in two duos for violin and viola: one, a three-movement duet in G Major, K. 423, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and the other, a “Passacaglia” by George Frideric Handel as arranged by the 19th-century Norwegian composer and conductor Johan Halvorsen.

Roxana Pavel Goldstein

After intermission, Elias and Ieva performed three works for viola and piano: a divertimento in three movements by Franz Joseph Haydn, as arranged by the famous cellist Gregor Piatigorsky and the famous violist William Primrose (below); a sonata (No. 6 in A major) in two movements by Luigi Boccherini, as arranged by Primrose; and the famous Caprice No. 24 by the legendary Nicolo Paganini –- it has been used for theme and variations by Franz Liszt, Johannes Brahms, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Witold Lutoslawski — also as transcribed for viola by Primrose. (The caprice, taken at a quasi presto tempo, is hard enough for violin, its original instrument. For viola?  Well, one can imagine the difficulties it presented.)

William Primrose  BYU (Submission date: 05/19/2005)

I was not an unbiased observer. Elias is a distant relative, and I have been a passionate amateur cellist my entire life.  Nonetheless, Elias’ tone was stunning. His playing was mellow and warm, round and resonant, displaying an ease and mastery of technique that is unusual for even the most accomplished performers.

Elias holds recent top prizes in the following international viola competitions: the Primrose, the Yuri Bashmet, the Lionel Tertis, the Watson Forbes and the Andrews University String Competition. In 2011, he made his Russian debut with the Moscow Soloists and the New Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra under Alexander Sladkovsky.

While at the UW-Madison School of Music, Elias was a student of Sally Chisholm of the Pro Arte Quartet.

elias goldstein 2

Although the viola (below) generally has a lower public profile, in the hands of such an artist as Elias it stands as an equal of, or is even superior to, the violin or cello in terms of its quality of sound.


Roxana, too, is a superb artist, playing with considerable warmth and sensitivity on the violin. Originally from Romania, she worked at the UW-Madison with David Perry, first violinist of the Pro Arte Quartet, doing research on Romanian tunes and folk music as expressed on the violin.

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Classical music: Fresco Opera Theatre of Madison brings Reality TV to the Dane County opera world tonight, Saturday and Sunday at the Overture Center. Plus, British concert organist performs on the Overture Concert Organ this Saturday night.

March 22, 2013

ALERT: Tomorrow, Saturday March 23, at 7:30 p.m. in Overture Hall, the Madison Symphony Orchestra will present English concert organist David Briggs (below) playing the Overture Concert Organ. Briggs specializes in orchestral transcriptions and improvising on themes submitted by the audience. His Madison program includes J.S. Bach‘s Prelude and Fugue in G Major; Haydn’s “Three Clock Pieces”; Franz Liszt’s “Prelude and Fugue on B-A-C-H“; Briggs, Variations on “Greensleeves: and Briggs, Three Transcriptions — Tchaikovsky’s “The Waltz of the Flowers,” Elgar’s ” Nimrod” from the “Enigma” Variations and Rimsky-Korsakov’s “The Flight of the Bumble-Bee.” Tickets are $19. Call the Overture Center box office at (608) 258-4141 or for more information, including tickets, visit: http://www.

David Briggs

By Jacob Stockinger

Where do Reality TV and traditional opera meet?

This weekend, the encounter will take place in the Playhouse at the Overture Center in the new production by the Madison-based Fresco Opera Theatre.

Real Divas logo

The production is called “The Real Divas of Dane County” and is the group’s version of a reality television show, but with opera singers in place of the usual misfits.

real divas 2 tattoo man

Adds a press release: “In true Fresco fashion, we present traditional opera in a non traditional way — with classic operatic arias woven into an original story line. We are really excited about this production and think it will resonate with the public.”

And here is a link to the specific arias and music – by Handel, Mozart, Rossini, Verdi, Puccini, Bizet, Johann Strauss, Wagner, Copland, Menotti and others – that will be featured:

The two-hour performances of Fresco’s Opera Theatre production of “The Real Divas of Dane County” are tonight, Friday, March 22, at 8 p.m.; Saturday night, March 23, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday afternoon, March 24, at 2 p.m. Tickets are reserved seating and are $25 with a 10% discount for groups of 10 and more. Call the Overture Center Box Office at (608) 258-4141.

For more information about this production or about Fresco Opera Theatre, here is a link to the group’s home website:

real divas- trio 1

Here is a description or blurb – ingeniously put in the form one of those annoying TV teasers that mixed in with commercials  – about the show provided by Fresco Opera Theatre:

“This is the true story of opera singers … picked to live in a house … to have their lives taped … to find out what happens … when they exit the stage and get real.”

real divas 4 woman singing with water bottle

Adds the press release: “Fresco Opera Theatre continues to present classical opera in new and fresh ways. This time around, we dive into the “reality television” genre, with an original storyline set to classical operatic repertoire.

real divas 1 gothy woman  

“Fresco Opera has all the tradition, majesty, and prestige of your traditional opera while making it fun, engaging and snarky. Rookies to the genre will be introduced to opera through this fast and approachable performance. Seasoned opera fans will see a refreshing take on the art form.

This project is made possible with support from the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission, Madison Arts Commission, SOS, and its generous donors.

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