The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: This weekend the Madison Symphony Orchestra and Grammy-winning guitarist Sharon Isbin will perform Spanish music and a new concerto by Chris Brubeck

November 13, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

This weekend, the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO), with music director John DeMain conducting, will present the third concert of its 92nd season.

“Troubadour: Two Faces of the Classical Guitar” features Grammy-winning guitar virtuoso Sharon Isbin (below) playing two works: one written for Isbin by American composer Chris Brubeck; and the other by the Spaniard Joaquin Rodrigo. (Isbin will also give a FREE and PUBLIC master class on Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon in Morphy Recital Hall on the UW-Madison campus in the Humanities Building on North Park Street.)

In addition the MSO will perform two 20th-century ballet suites — The Three-Cornered Hat by Spanish composer Manuel De Falla and Billy the Kid by American composer Aaron Copland.

The concerts (below, in a photo by Peter Rodgers) are in Overture Hall at the Overture Center, 201 State Street on Friday, Nov. 17, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 18, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Nov. 19, at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets are $18-$90. Details are below.

Invoking a sense of the American heartland, Billy the Kid was written by Copland (below) as a ballet following the life of the infamous outlaw. This piece is most well-known for the memorable “cowboy” tunes and American folk songs that paint a vivid picture of the Wild West.

The virtuosity and versatility of multiple Grammy Award-winner Sharon Isbin is on display in this program of contrasts: the jazz idioms of the American composer Chris Brubeck’s “Affinity: Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra,” written for Sharon Isbin, alongside the lush romanticism of the Spaniard Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez.” (You can hear Sharon Isbin play the beautiful slow movement of the Rodrigo concerto in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

The piece by Brubeck (below) contains strong hints of the jazz influence of his father, noted pianist and composer Dave Brubeck. Inspired by the gardens at Palacio Real de Aranjuez, Rodrigo’s composition attempts to transport the listener to another place and time through the evocation of the sounds of nature.

Isbin’s performances of Chris Brubeck’s “Affinity: Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra” have received wide acclaim: “The concerto takes off with Isbin delivering rapid-fire virtuosity with infectious themes. The slow middle is a tender jazz-based tribute to Dave Brubeck, and Isbin played with heartfelt warmth and tenderness. The finale was an infectious rhythmically driven journey through myriad styles. It was as intriguing as it was moving … Isbin is much more than a virtuoso; she is an artist of depth.”

The Three-Cornered Hat by De Falla (below) is based on a story written by Pedro de Alarcón about a Corregidor (magistrate) who tries, without success, to seduce the pretty wife of the local miller.

One hour before each performance, Michael Allsen (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot), professor at UW-Whitewater, MSO trombonist and writer of MSO’s program notes, will lead a 30-minute Prelude Discussion in Overture Hall to enhance concertgoers’ understanding and listening experience.

For more background on the music, please read Allsen’s Program Notes at: http://www.allsenmusic.com/NOTES/1718/3.Nov17.html.

The Symphony recommends concert attendees arrive early for each performance to make sure they have time to pass through Overture Center’s security stations, and so they can experience the pre-concert talk (free for all ticket-holders).

Single Tickets are $18-$90 each and are on sale now at https://www.madisonsymphony.org/singletickets, through the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street, or by calling the Box Office at (608) 258-4141.

Groups of 15 or more can save 25% by calling the MSO office at (608) 257-3734. For more information, go to: https://www.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 $12 or $18 tickets. More information is at: https://www.madisonsymphony.org/studentrush

Seniors age 62 and up receive 20% savings on advance and day-of-concert ticket purchases in select areas of the hall.

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

ABOUT SHARON ISBIN

Acclaimed for her extraordinary lyricism, technique, and versatility, Sharon Isbin has been hailed as “the pre-eminent guitarist of our time.” Recipient of numerous prestigious awards, her debut concert with the MSO comes after over 170 solo performances with orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, National Symphony, London Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Orchestre National de France, and the Tokyo Symphony.

Isbin is the subject of a one-hour documentary presented by American Public Television. Seen by millions on over 200 PBS stations throughout the US, it is also available on DVD/Blu-ray and won the 2015 ASCAP Television Broadcast Award. “Sharon Isbin: Troubadour” paints the portrait of a trailblazing performer and teacher who over the course of her career has broken through numerous barriers to rise to the top of a traditionally male-dominated field.

The following is a dedicated website where you can view the trailer, read rave reviews, and see detailed broadcast dates: www.SharonIsbinTroubadour.com

Major funding for the September concerts is provided by: NBC-15, the Madison Symphony Orchestra League, and Elaine and Nicholas Mischler. Additional funding provided by Scott and Janet Cabot, John DeLamater and Janet Hyde, Steven Weber, and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.


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Classical music: Unitarian Society’s FREE Friday Noon Musicales start a new season this week. And the Edgewood Chamber Orchestra opens its new season with music by Handel, Haydn, Beethoven and Saint-Saens, this coming Sunday afternoon.

September 24, 2015
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ALERT: The weekly FREE Friday Noon Musicales at the historic  First Unitarian Society of Madison, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and located at 900 University Bay Drive, begin the new season this week. This coming Friday at 12:15-1 p.m. in the Landmark Auditorium, mezzo-soprano Consuelo Sanuda and pianist Jeff Gibbens will perform songs by Gustav Mahler, Gabriel Faure, Manuel de Falla and Jeff Gibbens.

By Jacob Stockinger

The Edgewood Chamber Orchestra (below, in a poster from 2012) will open its new season this coming Sunday afternoon.

Edgewood Chamber Orchestra poster Sept 12

Under the direction of conductor Blake Walter (below), the orchestra will perform works by Beethoven, Haydn, Handel and Saint-Saens on Sunday, Sept. 27, at 2:30 p.m. in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive.

blake walter john maniaci

Included on the program are the Overture to The Ruins of Athens, Op. 113, by Ludwig van Beethoven; the Concerto a Due Cori, H. 332, in B-flat Major by George Frideric Handel; the Suite for Orchestra, Op. 49, by Camille Saint-Saens; and Symphony No. 69 in C major, “Laudon,” by Franz Joseph Haydn (heard at bottom in a YouTube video featuring the Grammy-winning performance by conductor Antal Dorati and the Philharmonia Hungarica.)

Admission is $5 to benefit music scholarships, or free with an Edgewood College ID.

 


Classical music Q&A: Native son pianist Thomas Kasdorf talks about playing solo recitals, chamber music and the Grieg Piano Concerto with the Middleton Community Orchestra, which also closes out its fourth season on Wednesday night with Elgar’s “Enigma” Variations, a Romance for violin and orchestra by Dvorak, and a suite by de Falla.

June 2, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

This coming Wednesday night, June 4, at 7:30 p.m. the Middleton Community Orchestra (below) will close out its fourth season.

Middleton Community Orchestra press photo1

The concert will take place in the comfortable Middleton Performing Arts Center (below), located at 2100 Bristol Street and attached to Middleton High School.

Middleton PAC1

The program is very appealing and ambitious. It features some popular works that are also first-rate music: the Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16, by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg; a Romance for violin and orchestra by Czech composer Antonin Dvorak; the enthralling “Enigma” Variations by the British composer Sir Edward Elgar; and a suite of dances from “The Three-Cornered Hat” by Spanish composer Manuel de Falla.

The conductor is Steve Kurr. The soloists are both graduates of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music: pianist Thomas Kasdorf, who hails from Middleton and who is returning to perform with the MCO; and concertmaster Alice Bartsch.

Tickets are $10 general admission. All students get in free.

Tickets are available at Willy St. Co-op West three weeks prior to each concert and at the door on the night of the concert.

Student tickets are available at the door only on the night of the show. The box office opens at 6:30 p.m. Doors open at 7 p.m.

A free informal reception, where you can meet and greet the performers, follows the performance.

Middleton Community Orchestra reception

Here is a link to the website with information about the MCO, how to support it, how to join it and what its next season will offer:

http://middletoncommunityorchestra.org/home

And here is a link to a previous review by me -– guest critic John W. Barker has done many other reviews for this blog and you can use the blog’s search engine to find them. My review will help to explain why The Ear so looks forward to the upcoming concert:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2012/06/04/classical-music-review-let-us-now-praise-amateur-music-makers-and-restoring-sociability-to-art-here-are-9-reasons-why-i-liked-and-you-should-attend-the-middleton-community-orchestra/

Pianist Thomas Kasdorf recently answered an email Q&A for The Ear:

thomas kasdorf 2:jpg

Can you briefly introduce yourself, your achievements and current or future plans, and your personal history including how and when you started playing the piano and the Aha Moment (artist, piece) when you knew you wanted to do it professionally?

I am 27 years old. I grew up in Middleton and completed my Bachelor’s of Music in Piano Performance at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music where I studied with Professor Christopher Taylor.

I was an inaugural member of the Perlman Piano Trio (below), which gives scholarships to musicians at the UW-Madison with a particular interest in chamber music.

Currently, I am working as co-Artistic Director and Musical Director for Middleton Players Theatre on their summer 2014 season productions of “Rent,” which plays June 27–July 5, and “A Chorus Line,” which runs August 8-16.

In the fall I will begin my graduate studies with Professor Martha Fischer at the UW-Madison studying Collaborative Piano as a Paul Collins Fellow.

I started playing piano in the first grade. My grandmother was a choir director at our church and so I was constantly hearing music. One day, I decided that I wanted to play and sat down at the piano to try to fake my way into it alongside her.

Regarding an Aha! moment, I had several. The first time I played in recital, I was so at ease with the whole process and enjoyed the fact that people were listening to everything I was doing, the control and the demonstrative ability to express myself for an audience. It was something I knew I would never be able to give up.

Perlman-Trio Thomas Kasdorf piano, Eleanor Bartsch violin and Maureen Kelly cello

How does playing the piano differ for solo repertoire, chamber music and concertos, all of which you have done? Do you have a favorite genre and advice to other pianists about each kind of playing?

That’s an interesting question.

I’m not sure how to express what is different when I approach these genres, or if I even do think of them differently. I think the scale of audience expectations changes between them.

If you are playing a full-length solo recital, there is less room for hiding. It is you, the music and an audience.

But in chamber music and concertos, which I find to be very linked, there is direct communication between you and the other musicians, or between you and a conductor and the other musicians, and that communication is linked to the audience’s perception.

I think that when I approach any piece of music, I think about the soundscape of it, the soundscape for me at the keyboard, the soundscape for the audience in whatever seat in whatever venue.

My advice to other pianists is to listen intently to what you are producing, and to what is being produced around you, and not to settle for a single sound that you do not feel fully expresses what you want — in any genre. (Below, Thomas Kasdorf is seen playing Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488, with the Middleton Community Orchestra.)

Middletopn Community Orchestra Thomas Kasdorf playing

What would you like the public to know about the Piano Concerto by Edvard Grieg (below)? Why is it so popular?

I fell in love with the Grieg a long time ago. One of my first teachers and I played this old piano, four-hands version of the themes from the first movement, eased off in technical difficulty but retaining the grandeur and emotion.

The first movement of Grieg (Editor’s Note: Readers can hear it played by Arthur Rubinstein in a YouTube video at the bottom) was the first piece that I performed with an orchestra, when I won the Madison Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition, and that experience has a lingering memory of pride; performing in the then Oscar Mayer Theater  in the then Madison Civic Center (where I was constantly hearing and seeing events all through my childhood), with the orchestra so dear to my heart, the MSO.

I think that there exists a public familiarity with the Grieg, and its popularity is probably due to the fact that it really does possess such a wide array of colors and textures. There are so many different mood shifts over the course of the piece, and juxtapositions between repose and struggle, lyricism and percussiveness, between the soloist and the orchestra. Plus, it seems so accessible and consistently intense for the audience.

edvard grieg

Is there anything else you would like to add or say?

I urge people to come and listen to the Middleton Community Orchestra. This is my third time as a soloist with them, and I can honestly say that there is something unique happening in Middleton with this organization.

The orchestra is made up not only of a fabulous bunch of musicians, but also of people who really do their all to express their passion for the music for their audience.

Also on this program is the phenomenal violinist Alice Bartsch (below), their concertmaster, soloing on an incredible “Romance” by Anton Dvorak that I just heard in rehearsal for the first time last night and was blown away by.

Hearing the two soloists is well worth the admission. But the two orchestral works in this concert –- British composer Sir Edward Elgar’s “Enigma” Variations” and the dance suite from “The Three-Cornered Hat” by Spanish Manuel De Falla — are also amazing and challenging, and a lot of fun for both players and audience.

Alice Bartsch

 

 

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