The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Hearing Bach and Haydn on a clavichord proves intimate and revelatory. Plus, a FREE trombone recital is tonight and an organ recital on Sunday afternoon

November 12, 2016
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ALERT 1: Tonight at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, UW-Madison trombonist Mark Hetzler will give a FREE recital with pianist Vincent Fuh. Hetzler will perform a retrospective of pieces he has recorded over the past 14 years, representing five different recordings. Music from the following recordings from his Summit catalogue will be represented in this recital: American Voices (2002); Serious Songs, Sad Faces (2003); 20th Century Architects (2004); Three Views (2012); and Blues, Ballads and Beyond (2015).

Hetzler will repeat this concert on Thursday, Nov. 17 in Fond du Lac, at St. Patrick’s Church, 41 E. Follett Street, as part of the Searl Pickett Chamber Music Series.

For more information go to: http://www.markhetzler.com/

ALERT 2: Tomorrow afternoon, Sunday, Nov. 13, at 4 p.m., Dan Broner, the music director at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, will give a FREE organ recital at the FUS Meeting House, 900 University Bay Drive. The program features the Trio Sonata No. 4 in E minor, “Sleepers Wake!” and the Prelude and Fugue in A major by Johann Sebastian Bach; Prelude, Fugue and Variations by Cesar Franck; and “Dorian Chorale” and “Litanies” by Jehan Alain. Donations will be accepted.

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 hosts an early music show once a month on Sunday morning on WORT-FM 89.9 FM. For years, he served on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison. He also took the performance photos.

John-Barker

By John W. Barker

The clavichord was an instrument of subtle importance in the 18th century. It was a kind of alternative to the harpsichord in several ways. For one, its strings were not plucked, as in a harpsichord, but hammered, as in its descendants, the fortepiano and the subsequent pianoforte or just plain piano.

The clavichord, moreover, was really an instrument for private use, for practice, study and composing work, rather than for concert use, beyond the most intimate of audiences. (You can hear a sample, using J.S. Bach’s Partita No. 2, in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Local builder and restorer, Tim Farley has made several clavichords before, but this one is a relatively large one. Notable is its incorporation of wood from a number of old pianos, and some rare maple wood that had been submerged in water for a long time. Out of these elements he has created an instrument of great beauty and elegance, as well as of distinctive artistic usefulness.

farley-clavichord-with-hands-tom-moss

To introduce this new instrument to Madison’s musical community, Tim and his wife Renee, the reigning royalty of the remarkable Farley’s House of Pianos on the city’s far west side, chose not to do so in their usual salon, as it is too commodious and not noise-free.

Instead, they brought it to the historic Gates of Heaven Synagogue on Sunday afternoon, Nov. 6. A program of four works was played on it by David Schrader (below), an early music specialist who teaches at Chicago’s Roosevelt University.

david-schrader-and-clavichord

An audience of about 45 attended. I suspect many were surprised by how tiny (not tinny!) was the instrument’s sound—much more pale than what they would have expected from a harpsichord. Modest as is the Gates of Heaven hall, it was still a bit larger than ideal. Nevertheless, the audience followed the performance intently, and I heard no complaints from anyone afterwards about inaudibility.

The music chosen was entirely from the 18th century. It began with the Partita No. 5 from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Clavierübung or Keyboard Works. On these terms, we heard it as Bach might have played it himself for his own pleasure—or as a student might do for study.

The two middle works were from the other end of the century. An extended Sonata, K. 330, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart would in its time have been played on the fortepiano, or even harpsichord, and sounded rather pallid this way.

But a two-movement Sonata in G minor by Franz Joseph Haydn, full of introspective feeling, worked well on the clavichord as highly personal expression.

Balancing the opening with J. S. Bach was the closing work, a three-movement Sonata in A minor (Wq49), a relatively early work by Carl Philip Emmanuel Bach, his most influential son. C.P.E. Bach was famous as an expressive player, and for music of inward probing.

I had hoped to hear Schrader demonstrate on this new instrument its feature of Bebung, a capacity for quasi-vibrato quivering on sustained notes that the clavichord’s action famously allowed the player to exploit. There was some of that, but Schrader explained that such an effect did not work on many pitches, limiting its possibilities.

Listeners for whom this type of instrument is unfamiliar surely found this program illuminating, while this instrument’s excellence was a further reminder of what craftsmanship Tim Farley (below, seated at the clavichord he built) has brought to Madison.

tim-farley-at-clavichord


Classical music: Minimalist pioneer Steve Reich turns 80 and now finds his music in the mainstream. Plus, here is the program for the clavichord concert on Sunday

November 5, 2016
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ALERT: The Ear has received late notice of the program for the clavichord concert on Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. in the Gates of Heaven Synagogue in James Madison Park.

The music, to be played by early music specialist David Schrader of Roosevelt University in Chicago, includes the Partita No. 5 in G Major, BWV 829, by Johann Sebastian Bach; the Sonata in C Major, K. 330, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; the Sonata No. 44 in G minor by Franz Joseph Haydn; and the Sonata in A minor by Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach.

For more information about the unusual concert, go to:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2016/11/04/classical-music-a-rare-early-music-recital-on-a-locally-built-clavichord-is-this-sunday-afternoon-at-the-gates-of-heaven-synagogue/

By Jacob Stockinger

Here is another better-late-than-never posting.

Composer Steve Reich, along with Philip Glass, was one of the pioneering giants of minimalism in classical music, which in turn influenced even pop music icons such as David Bowie and Brian Eno. (You can hear Part 1 of his influential and hypnotic work “Drumming” in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

steve-reich-2016

Last month Steve Reich turned 80.

Here is a story that traces the evolution of Reich’s career and art — including his reliance on rhythm, his use of percussion and words, and his exploration and rediscovery of Judaism — from the Deceptive Cadence blog for National Public Radio (NPR):

http://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2016/10/09/496552301/steve-reich-at-80-the-phases-of-a-lifetime-in-music

And here is another story from The New York Times that covers Reich past, present and future:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/02/arts/music/steve-reich-at-80-still-plugged-in-still-plugging-away.html?_r=0

Enjoy!


Classical music: A rare early music recital on a locally built clavichord is this Sunday afternoon at the Gates of Heaven Synagogue

November 4, 2016
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ALERT: The recital by violinist Joshua Bell and pianist Alessio Bax on this Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Shannon Hall of the Wisconsin Union Theater is SOLD OUT. But a few extra tickets will be released on Saturday at 6 p.m. at the WUT box office, where interested persons should go in person to buy them.

By Jacob Stockinger

On Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m., Farley’s House of Pianos owner Tim Farley will unveil his latest handmade clavichord (below) at the historic Gates of Heaven Synagogue, 302 East Gorham Street in James Madison Park. (Photos are by Tom Moss.)

F.clavichord p3

If you wonder about the difference between the clavichord and the harpsichord, fortepiano and piano, here is a link to a definition on Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clavichord

David Schrader (below), a professor at Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts Music Conservatory, will perform on the instrument. Details of the program have not been announced.

david-schrader

A $20 cash or check donation to Farley’s House of Pianos is suggested. The ticket donation goes towards Schrader’s fee and the venue rental.

Farley created the German clavichord using reclaimed Spanish cedar and redwood from Broadwood pianos dating back to 1880, and shipwrecked walnut wood that had been underwater for nearly 60 years. The clavichord was built over three years by Tim Farley and another worker.

F.clavichord p1

Farley chose Schrader to perform specifically for this concert. Schrader has a background in early keyboard and church music. He also performed on Farley’s 1976 Steinway Centennial Grand piano for the Madison Early Music Festival this year.

“In the times we live in today, we never truly experience absolute quiet,” Farley says. “We don’t have that white space background like performers had in the 19th century. Gates of Heaven Synagogue has a perfect acoustical ambience for a clavichord. No question, this is the most personal, sensitive, intimate keyboard instrument ever made.”

Adds builder Farley: “This clavichord is after the eminent clavichord builder, Friederici, who worked in the Silberman workshop. It has many of the attributes of the famous clavichord built by Silberman for Johann Sebastian Bach.

“Unlike Silberman’s clavichord that had 53 keys (C to E), the Friederici has five full octaves.  It is perfectly suited to much music by Franz Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and even some by Ludwig van Beethoven.

farley-clavichord-with-hands-tom-moss

“I am indebted to my colleague Dietrich Hein, the German instrument builder, who sent me his drawing of the instrument and that is what I used.

“All of the other wood on the inside of the instrument is wood that had a previous musical life from such pianos as Broadwood, Steinway, Mason and Hamlin, and Chickering.

farley-clavichord-inside

“The lid has new walnut veneers.  On the inside of the lid, the woods are bookmatched. The outside of the lid features individual pieces of figured walnut. The trim is fiddleback soft maple.

“It took about three years to complete the instrument including turning the legs for the case.  It is 72 inches long.  It has a deep, rich sound and a long sustain duration.”

Here is a YouTube video with much more information about the clavichord:


Classical music Q&A: The 13th annual Madison Early Music Festival starts this Saturday and will focus on Canadian and early American music from the Colonial period and Revolutionary War to the Civil War. Part 1 of 2.

July 5, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

The 13th annual Madison Early Music Festival (MEMF) will take place on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus from this Saturday, July 7, though next Saturday, July 14. (And this year, the public All-Festival concert on July 14 will NOT have to compete with the Madison Opera’s FREE Opera in the Park concert, slated for July 21.)

Continuing the theme it started last year of Early Music in the Americas, the festival will turn its attention  from the south to the north. Specifically, it will change its focus from South America and Latin America to the United States and Canada. “Welcome Home! An American Celebration’’ will focus on music from the Colonial and the Revolutionary War periods through the Civil War.

For complete information about the many lectures, master classes and public concerts, visit the festival’s homepage: http://continuingstudies.wisc.edu/lsa/memf/

Co-director and soprano Cheryl Bensman Rowe (below) recently gave The Ear an extended interview about the festival, its events and its participants, which includes the acclaimed singing group Anonymous 4. Her interview will appear in two parts, today and tomorrow:

How successful is this year’s festival compared to others in terms of enrollment, budgets, performers, etc.? Is MEMF clearly established now nationally and internationally?

MEMF’s enrollment is a bit larger in participant numbers, although we are seeing more singers enrolled this year because of the tradition of singing in early America. We do have national recognition due to many factors, including ads and articles in the publication Early Music America: earlymusic.org/ and the ensembles and artists we bring in to perform on the MEMF Concert Series.

For the first time this year we were the only festival from Wisconsin listed in the New York Times Summer Festivals for Classical Music and Opera: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/20/arts/music/summer-festivals-for-classical-music-and-opera.html?_r=1&_

Internationally speaking, we are contacted regularly by ensembles in Europe, Canada and the United States, who would like to perform at MEMF.  We have had several international students at our workshops, from Germany, France, Canada, several South American countries, and Puerto Rico. Like every arts organization, we have had to be careful about our budget, to write grants, to cultivate our donor base and to get the word out that we are here and have interesting and unique programming to offer the public.

What is new and what is the same in terms of format, students, faculty members and performers?

Our format is basically the same as it has been for the past 10 years.  It seems to be working, so we don’t feel the need to tweak things at the point.  The workshop runs in conjunction with the concert series, and the teaching faculty is drawn from the ensembles performing on the concert series. We have brought in several new ensembles this year, including the rock stars of early music, Anonymous 4, the opening performers of the festival on Saturday, July 7. For background, see, www.anonymous4.com/

The baroque and wooden flute player Chris Norman (below top), who is a true crossover artist in both the early music and folk worlds: chrisnorman.com/ will be performing with Chatham Baroque (below bottom) on Sunday, July 8.

We also added another special event this summer, which will be free and open to the public.  On Wednesday, July 11, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. there will be “A Singing Introduction to Four-Shape Music.” It is an evening of shape note singing taught by specialist Jim Page, which is an early American a cappella choral folk music form that emphasizes participation, not performance. There is a great DVD documentary on this tradition that I’ve pasted in below if people would like more information:

On Friday night, audiences will hear Michael Miles (below top), the first banjo player to perform at MEMF, on the program by the  Newberry Consort (below bottom) “Beautiful Dreamer: The Music of Lincoln’s America,” with a pre-concert lecture by Madison filmmaker Jim Carrier, on his documentary “The Librarian and the Banjo Player.”

Another first, which pianists in the community will be happy to know, is the Chicago keyboard phenom, David Schrader (below top), will be playing works of Louis Gottschalk on the newly rebuilt 1879 Steinway Centennial Grand Piano (below bottom), lent to us by Farley’s House of Pianos for this concert.

Why was the topic of the New World chosen for an early music festival last summer and this summer? How will this year’s sequel pick up from last year’s topic and further the exploration?

We chose the New World theme because we had spent so much time over the past 10 years in Europe.  I have a great love for American music due to the five years I was a member of the Western Wind Vocal Ensemble, where we performed works of early American composers, such as William Billings (below). See www.westernwind.org.  (Another former member of that ensemble, Lawrence Bennett, will present the opening night lecture at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday night.)

So, when were in the planning stages for 2011, we decided to group the two years together, beginning with the New World in South America, then traveling North to the United States and Canada. Three years ago the group Piffaro, who have been part of the festival almost from the beginning, had recently taken part in Bolivia’s most prestigious cultural event, the 22-town festival, Bolivia International Renaissance and Baroque Festival, so we had a wealth of ideas and repertoire to plan MEMF 2011. http://piffaroipower.ipower.com/index.html

All of the music presented for these two festivals has shown or will show the influence that immigrants brought to their new countries and how it mixed with indigenous cultures, especially the music from religious groups, which include the Catholic church in South America and Mexico, and the Moravians, Shakers, Harmonists and the great Singing Schools all over the United States that were created to help the congregation sing better in their churches.

Tomorrow: More specifics about the Madison Early Music Festival’s focus on early American and Canadian music.


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