The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Does movie music qualify as classical music? Edgewood Chamber Orchestra concert this afternoon has been CANCELLED

February 25, 2017
4 Comments

ALERT: The concert by Edgewood Chamber Orchestra scheduled for 2:30 p.m. today — Sunday, Feb. 26  — has been CANCELLED. The cancellation was caused by a heating issue in the performance venue. The Chamber Orchestra’s season will continue with its next performance on Sunday, April 23, 2017.

By Jacob Stockinger

The Oscars (below) will be given out this Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. CST on ABC-TV.

Around the nation and the world, more and more symphony orchestras and chamber music groups are turning to performing movie music to attract new audiences — and to explore new repertoire.

And that includes the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

Two seasons ago, acclaimed British violinist Daniel Hope soloed with the MSO to explore movie scores by exiled European composers including Franz Waxman, Miklos Rozsa and Erich Wolfgang Korngold.

This past fall, the MSO put the Chaconne from the film “The Red Violin,” composer by John Corigliano, on the opening program of this season. And this summer, the MSO will perform music by John Williams used in the Harry Potter films.

This morning from 10 a.m. until noon, Wisconsin Public Radio will use the listener’s choice program “Classics By Request” to air its annual Salute to the Oscars that includes past film scores and those up for Academy Awards this year.

YL Oscar foods statue

So this seems a great time to raise the question: “Do film scores qualify as classical music”?

The question was recently debated for Gramophone magazine by the critic Jed Distler and two distinguished contemporary composers who have written for the concert hall and for Hollywood: Philip Glass (below top) and John Corigliano (below bottom).

Philip Glass

John Corigliano

It is a fascinating discussion that may surprise you. One great crossover example that The Ear loves is the String Quartet No. 3 by Philip Glass, which is based on the same composer’s full score for the film”Mishima.” (You can hear the last movement in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Here is a link to that discussion:

https://www.gramophone.co.uk/feature/debate-when-is-film-music-classical

Don’t forget to leave your favorite movie score and what you think about movie music and classical music in the COMMENTS section.

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: Heard enough about Prince? Read about violinist Yehudi Menuhin. Plus, a FREE voice recital commemorating the 400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare is at noon on Friday

April 28, 2016
6 Comments

ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, held from 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the Landmark Auditorium of the historic Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Meeting House of the First Unitarian Society of Madison, located at 900 University Bay Drive, features tenor Adam Shelton and pianist Vincent Fuh in the program “Assassinating Shakespeare.” The concert features music by Gerald Finzi, Roger Quilter, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Franz Schubert and Dominick Argento.

By Jacob Stockinger

It’s a week later but news about the premature death at 57 on April 21 of the influential superstar pop rocker Prince continues to preoccupy the media.

To flood the media, really.

Prince with guitar

The Ear doesn’t want to take away from Prince and his substantial artistic achievements. Nor does The Ear mean to belittle Prince’s premature death, which is sad and unfortunate but hardly unusual in the world of pop music — and not really tragic in the larger scheme of things, given how the world is filled today with terrorism and refugees.

But he does think maybe a little perspective about this celebrity or star is required.

Does anyone else share The Ear’s impatience with such saturation coverage and think that the media have gone overboard? There have been so many stories, so much repetition, such meaningless follow-up and continuing coverage that it almost belittles Prince’s death with endless trivialities and predictable banalities.

So take a break.

Here is a story – from the Deceptive Cadence blog for NPR or National Public Radio — about this past weekend’s 100th anniversary of the April 22, 1916 birth of the famed British violinist, teacher and polymath Sir Yehudi Menuhin (below top as a child, from the Underwood Archives, and below bottom as an older man in a photo by Erich Auerbach for Getty Images).

yehudi menuhin young underwood archives

Yehudi Menuhin Erich Auerbach Getty Images

It is filled with inspiring details that command your respect for this great artist and humanitarian, who was international in his interests and many of whose accomplishments The Ear didn’t know. You can hear him playing Bach in the YouTube video at the t bottom.

It is written by Tom Huizenga and features a lot of commentary and recollection by the gifted violinist Daniel Hope (below), who played music of European Jewish composers exiled in Hollywood during World War II by Hitler and the Nazis coming to power, with the Madison Symphony Orchestra two seasons ago.

Daniel Hope playing

Here is a link:

http://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2016/04/22/474824320/yehudi-menuhins-potent-blend-of-music-humanism-and-politics


Classical music education: WYSO honors James and Geri Grine with the Rabin Youth Arts Award for Youth Arts Supporters. Plus, the final performance of “Exiled in Hollywood” by the Madison Symphony Orchestra is TODAY at 2:30 p.m.

March 8, 2015
3 Comments

ALERT: This afternoon at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall is the last performance of “Exiled in Hollywood” with British violin soloist Daniel Hope (below) and John DeMain conducting the Madison Symphony Orchestra. The music, composed by refugees from Nazi Europe, is by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Miklos Rozsa and Franz Waxman.

Here is a link to my Q&A with Daniel Hope:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/03/02/classical-music-violinist-daniel-hope-explores-the-music-created-by-musicians-who-emigrated-from-the-nazi-europe-to-hollywood-and-composed-film-scores-he-performs-that-music-with-the-madison-symphon/

And here is a link to a rave review by Greg Hettmansberger for his Madison Magazine blog “Classically Speaking”:

http://www.channel3000.com/madison-magazine/arts-culture/Madison-Symphony-mixes-movies-with-more-musical-magic/31668436

Daniel Hope playing

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following news from the office of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO):

The Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) Board of Directors is pleased to announce the 2015 Rabin Youth Arts Award recipients.

They are James and Geri Grine, who will receive the award in the category of Artistic Achievement. The award is a glass sculpture (below) designed and made by artist Colleen Ott of Spring Green. It will be presented at state Arts Day on this Wednesday, March 11, 2015 at the downtown Central Branch of the Madison Public Library.

Colleen Ott Rabin award 2015

Deserving individuals and organizations from across the state were nominated for their support of youth arts across all disciplines.

Jim and Geri Grine have been fervent supporters of the arts in Oshkosh and throughout Wisconsin. Through their careers as musicians, conductors, teachers and arts administrators, the Grines have promoted and expanded performing arts opportunities for youth in Oshkosh and the state of Wisconsin.

Geri Grine (below) has been a long-time orchestra director and music teacher at both Oshkosh high schools. She has been the conductor and Musical Director of the Oshkosh Youth Symphony Orchestra for 28 years. Geri created the Oshkosh Youth Symphony’s Philharmonia Orchestra in 2008. She has sponsored several hands-on artist residencies for local high school students as a board member for Project SOAR.

Geri also founded the Suzuki program at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. From 1996 to 2006, Geri built a Suzuki string program in her native Hawaii. This would be become the first string program on the Hawaiian island of Maui.

Geri Grine

Since 2008, Jim Grine (below) has served as the Volunteer Executive Director of the Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra. He has been instrumental in raising funds to support the symphony’s Art and Music Synergy Programs, which has led to several collaborations between local arts organizations. Under Jim, the Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra devotes one-third of its annual income to supporting the Oshkosh Youth Symphony Orchestra.

Jim was also instrumental in the creation of the Water City Chamber Orchestra which performs an annual concert for third graders in the Oshkosh School District.

Jim Grine

The Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras, located in Madison, Wisconsin, presents the Rabin Youth Arts Awards in honor of their founding conductor, Marvin Rabin (below), as a means to honor those who follow in his footsteps. The awards are a forum for promoting quality youth arts programs and honoring those who work diligently to provide arts opportunities for children throughout Wisconsin. They also serve as a means to elevate awareness in our community about the importance of arts education for all children.

marvin rabin BW

Now celebrating its 49th season, WYSO membership has included more than 5,000 young musicians from more than 100 communities in southern Wisconsin. WYSO, currently under the artistic direction of James Smith, includes three full orchestras, a string orchestra, a chamber music program, a percussion ensemble, a harp ensemble and a brass choir program. For more information, visit www.wyso.music.wisc.edu


Classical music: Violinist Daniel Hope explores the music created by composers who emigrated from Nazi Europe to Hollywood and wrote film scores. He performs that music with the Madison Symphony Orchestra this weekend.

March 2, 2015
6 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

British violinist Daniel Hope (below) is a man on a mission.

Hope wants to foster the public’s appreciation of the composers who had to flee from Nazi Europe during World War II and who ended up exiled in Hollywood, where they composed film scores. They ended up creating the  “Hollywood sound” and often won Oscars or Academy Awards, but recognition as serious concert composers usually eluded them.

Daniel Hope playing

Until recently.

Lately, a rediscovery of their merits has been taking place, and Hope will explore that legacy with the Madison Symphony Orchestra and its longtime music director and conductor John DeMain.

John DeMain and MSO from the stage Greg Anderson

John DeMain full face by Prasad

Performances are in Overture Hall on Friday night at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 8 p.m.; and Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m.

The program for “Composers in Exile: Creating the Hollywood Sound” includes the Violin Concerto and Suite from “Captain Blood” by Erich Wolfgang Korngold; the Sinfonietta for Strings and Tympani, and the score to “Taras Bulba” by Franz Waxman, who also founded the Los Angeles Music Festival in 1947; and the “Theme, Variations and Finale” as well as “The Parade of the Charioteers” and the “Love Theme” from “Ben-Hur” and the “Love Theme” from Alfred Hitchcock’s “Spellbound” by Miklos Rozsa.

Tickets are $16-$84 plus fees for the Overture Center.

For program, information about tickets and links to audio samples, visit: http://madisonsymphony.org/hope

For more about the music, here are the program notes by MSO trombonist Michael Allsen who also teaches at the UW-Whitewater:

http://facstaff.uww.edu/allsenj/MSO/NOTES/1415/6.Mar15.html

The award-winning Daniel Hope, who is busy touring and recording, graciously took time to answer a Q&A for The Ear:

Daniel Hope full face

How would you compare in seriousness and quality these “exiled in Hollywood” composers and their music to other well-known 20th-century composers and mainstream modern classical music?

I don’t make comparisons in music. The composers who escaped the Nazis found themselves for the most part in a very different set of circumstances than those for which they were trained. They were incredibly talented and had to adapt quickly.

I think the more interesting question is what would have happened to 20th-century music if countless musicians and composers had not been forced to leave Europe. (Below is a photo of Igor Stravinsky, on the left, and Franz Waxman in Los Angeles, where Waxman founded a music festival in 1947.) The world of music would be a very different place indeed.

franz waxman with stravinsky

Why do you think these composers and this music were kept out of the concert hall for so long? What traits most mark each composer’s style?

In those days, even writing one number for a movie would almost certainly have ruined your reputation as a “serious composer.” It was seen as selling out. The fact that many of these composers were trying to survive, to support their families and to get their relatives out of Europe, was often forgotten — especially after World War II.

But they were also phenomenally talented at what they did. As the son of Miklos Rozsa (below) wrote to me recently, one day these composers may actually be forgiven for writing film music.

Miklos Rozsa BW

In the case of Korngold (below), he was one of the first to really introduce a leitmotif, a recurring theme that followed the character throughout the film. Essentially an operatic composer, Korngold described each film for which he scored as “an opera without singing,” his music no longer passively accompanying the images but actively engaging in dialogue, emotion and presentation. I believe both Korngold and Max Steiner totally changed American film music, also by adding a fin-de-siècle European symphonic grandeur.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold BW piano

How much of their current appeal is cultural interest, human interest or personal stories, or the quality of the music itself?

I think it’s all of the above. But if you look at the symphonic works of some of the composers, Korngold’s and Rosza’s Violin Concertos or Waxman’s oratorio “The Song of Terezin,” you will find music of the highest quality. And let’s not forget, it was Mahler and Richard Strauss who forecast a great future for the young Korngold. (You can hear the lovely second movement of Korngold’s Violin Concerto performed by Hilary Hahn in a popular YouTube video at the bottom.)

What factors explain their revival as concert music? How did you rediscover them and become interested in them? Has a loosening of formal definitions of classical genres helped their revival?

I think both the role and the appeal of film music have changed in today’s society. I had long been aware of this group of émigré musicians.

Next to music, I’ve always had a passion for film, most of all for the movies of “vintage Hollywood,” for me the period beginning with the epic cinematic storytelling of the 1930s. As a young violinist, I was struck as much by the sound of the violin in these movies of the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s. I especially took note of the violinists playing this glorious mood music. To a young boy in London, names like Toscha Seidel, Felix Slatkin, Eudice Shapiro and Louis Kaufman sounded as exotic as the films they embellished.

But then writing for the studio musicians of prewar and postwar Hollywood was a group of astonishing composers, many of whom had escaped the Nazis, and who helped shape what was to become the Hollywood Sound. (Below, y0u can hear excerpts from a sampler from the Deutsche Grammophon CD on which Daniel Hope explores the Hollywood Sound.)

Hollywood muisicians with reels of film

You have recorded this music and performed it many times elsewhere. How do audiences typically respond to it?

Audiences are generally extremely enthusiastic about the music. And many of them are moved or intrigued by the stories of these composers.

 

 

 

 

 


Classical music: Today brings the Winter Solstice – a perfect time to listen to Vivaldi’s original “Four Seasons” and Max Richter’s “Recomposed” version of Vivaldi’s popular violin concertos.

December 21, 2012
5 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is the winter solstice in the Western Hemisphere.

We turn the corner and the days start getting longer, and the night shorter.

The solstice arrives today — on Friday, Dec. 21. Specifically, it arrives this morning at 5:12 a.m. CST.

Could there be a better time to celebrate the famed “The Four Seasons,” a series of violin concertos, composed in 1725 by Antonio Vivaldi (below), and a work that is reputed to be the most recorded piece of classical music of all time?

vivaldi

Here is the original “Winter” section by Vivaldi, with its virtuosic rush of notes, slashing chords and chilly tremolos.

But the winter solstice is also a good time to take a listen to Max Richter’s reworking of Vivaldi’s famous, if overplayed, masterpiece.

It is called  “Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi’s Four Seasons” and is available on the Deutsche Grammophon label (below). And it would also be a make for a good holiday gift, especially if someone already has and likes the original “Four Seasons.” It isn’t often after all, that you can have Baroque music and contemporary music in the same work.

Max Richter Recomposed CD cover

Recently, NPR’s exceptional blog “Deceptive Cadence’ featured a fine review of the album, in which the well-known former Beaux Arts Trio violinist Daniel Hope stars, and an interview with the young German-born British composer Max Richter (below).

Max Richter

I find it a quintessentially postmodern project, but one which I find quite effective – and which I think Vivaldi himself might like and approve of. After all, most of the great Baroque composers — including J.S. Bach and G.F. Handel — transcribed their own works and freely borrowed from and elaborated on or altered the works of their colleagues.

Here is a link to the NPR story and interview:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2012/11/21/165659291/max-richter-recomposes-the-four-seasons

And here are links to some other reviews:

Blogcritics.org:

http://blogcritics.org/music/article/music-review-max-richter-recomposed-by/

The Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/oct/21/max-richter-vivaldi-four-seasons

See what you think and let me know.

The Ear wants to hear.


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