The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Ear offers a big shout-out and good luck to three girl choirs in the Madison Youth Choirs. They are headed this week to a major world youth festival in Aberdeen, Scotland and give a FREE send-off concert this Tuesday night

July 25, 2016
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

Two years ago, it was the boy choirs of the Madison Youth Choirs that were invited to sing at the prestigious international festival in Aberdeen, Scotland.

It is, after all, the oldest youth arts festival in the world, about 40 years old and features performers form around the world.

Aberdeen International Youth Festival Opeing Ceremony

This week, on Thursday, 68 members of three girl choirs in the Madison Youth Choirs – the Capriccio (below top, in a photo by MYC director Michael Ross), Cantilena and Cantabile (below bottom) choirs — along with three conductors, are headed to the same festival.

Madison Youth Choir Capriccio CR Mike Ross

Madison Youth Choirs Cantabile

NOTE: You can hear a FREE send-off sampler concert on this Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at the Covenant Presbyterian Church, 326 South Segoe Road.

It is a BIG DEAL.

The repertoire the girls will sing covers classical music (Franz Schubert); folk music from Canada, Serbia, Bulgaria and Peru; and more popular music. Plus, they will sing in several languages. They will also sing a song composed in the Terezin concentration camp, or death camp, in Hitler’s Nazi Germany during World War II.

They will also give the world premiere of a piece – based on two Scottish melodies including a traditional walking song and the beautiful “The Water Is Wide” — that they commissioned from composer Scott Gendel, who graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. (You can hear James Taylor sing a heart-breaking version of “The Water Is Wide” in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Scott Gendel color headshot

The Ear heard the girls sing live last week on the Midday program with Norman Gilliland on Wisconsin Public Radio. And they sounded great.

What an honor, especially in the wake of the concert tour to Italy two weeks ago by the Youth Orchestra of the Wisconsin Youth Chamber Orchestras.

Madison sure seems to be doing a fine job providing music education to its young people while many other areas of the state and country are cutting back on arts education and where many   politicians and businesspeople are mistakenly trying to turn public support to the so-called STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and math — at the expense of the arts. But the arts and the sciences really feed each other, and success in one field often helps to assure success in the other.

madison youth choirs logo

Here is a link so you can learn more about the tour and how to support or join the Madison Youth Choirs, which serves young people in grades 5-12:

http://www.madisonyouthchoirs.org

http://www.madisonyouthchoirs.org/aberdeen

And here is a link to the festival itself:

http://www.aiyf.org

And finally here is a link to the Facebook page for the Madison Youth Choirs, with face photos of participants:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/448022498728594/


Classical music: The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society will perform a FREE concert this Sunday afternoon to help bring neglected Jewish music “out of the shadows” of history. Part 2 of 2.

August 27, 2015
5 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear’s friends at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society write:

The U.S. component of a major international research project, “Performing the Jewish Archive,” led by the University of Leeds, in England, has attracted significant funding to shine new light on forgotten works by Jewish artists.

The University of Wisconsin–Madison and the City of Madison are uniquely situated as the sole hosts for the global project’s performance events within the United States; one of the premier public research-intensive universities in the world, located in a community that lives and breathes diverse arts, while striving for social change.

Out of shadows poster

Here, in Madison, under the leadership of Teryl Dobbs, Chair of Music Education at the UW-Madison, “Out of the Shadows: Rediscovering Jewish Music, Literature and Theater” will be a full-day event held on this Sunday, August 30, 2015.

Local partners include the UW-Madison School of Music, Mosse-Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies, the Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture, and the Arts Institute at UW-Madison; and the Bach Dancing andDynamite Society.

Yesterday The Ear posted the schedule of all FREE events.

Here is a link to that post:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/08/26/classical-music-the-uw-madison-and-the-bach-dancing-and-dynamite-society-will-hold-free-events-this-coming-sunday-to-help-bring-neglected-jewish-music-and-culture-out-of-the-shadows/

Today’s post focuses on the classical music in the event:

The Ear’s friend Jeffrey Sykes of the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society writes:

The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society is proud to partner with Performing the Jewish Archive’s “Out of the Shadows” event by performing neglected and suppressed Jewish music from the early 20th Century.

The FREE concert will be held this Sunday 2:30-4:30 p.m. in the Atrium Auditorium of the First Unitarian Society, 900 University Bay Drive.

The program includes music from two composers who died at Auschwitz. Erwin Schulhoff’s flute sonata is a passionate mix of impressionism and jazz. Dick Kattenburg’s quartet for flute, violin, cello and piano is an irrepressible romp full of Gershwin-esque melodies and harmonies.

Robert Kahn (below) is a composer from an earlier generation whose work was suppressed by the Nazis. We perform his gorgeous song cycle “Jungbrunnen” (The Fountain of Youth) for soprano, violin, cello and piano.

Robert Kahn

The program concludes with two works by the Viennese wunderkind Erich Wolfgang Korngold (below). Already well-known in Austria, Korngold had begun to compose music for Hollywood movies. He was working California in 1938 when the Anschluss took place, and he never returned to his homeland.

We begin with three beautiful songs he composed for his mother and continue with his Suite for piano left-hand, two violins and cello based on those songs. A thrilling and important composition, the Suite was written for the Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who had lost his right arm in World War I.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold BW piano

Adds BDDS flutist Stephanie Jutt:

Dutch composer Dick Kattenburg (1919-1944, below) barely got started before his career and his life ended at Auschwitz at age 24. A supremely gifted young composer, bursting with originality and ingenuity, his love of jazz and the popular idioms of the day make his music irresistible – by turns a bit of Stravinsky, a bit of Wizard of Oz, a bit of Duke Ellington. His two dozen complete works were hidden in the attic where his mother had kept them, and were discovered by his sister, Daisy.

Dick Kattenburg

The music of Czech composer Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942, below) has become widely known over the last 20 years. Denounced as “Entartete Musik” (degenerate music) by the Nazis, he died in Wülzburg concentration camp. During the 30 years of his active career he wrote sonatas, quartets, sextets, jazz piano pieces, stage music, an opera, eight symphonies, and at least one oratorio.

Schulhoff, like Kattenburg, also fell in love with American jazz, and his flute sonata of 1927 reflects the infectious American rhythmic vitality with his great interest in the traditional music of Czechoslovakia.

Erwin Schulhoff

Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society performers are: Emily Birsan, soprano; Stephanie Jutt, flute; Parry Karp, cello; Leanne League, violin; Axel Strauss, violin; and Jeffrey Sykes, piano.

PROGRAM

Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942): Flute Sonata (1928). Jutt, Sykes

Robert Kahn (1865-1951): Seven Songs from Jungbrunnen, op. 46, for soprano and piano trio (1906). Birsan, League, Karp, Sykes

Dick Kattenburg: Quartet for flute, violin, cello and piano. Jutt, Strauss, Karp, Sykes.

Intermission

Erich Wolfgang Korngold 
(1897-1957): Three Songs, op. 22, for soprano and piano (1930). Birsan, Sykes

Erich Wolfgang Korngold 
(1897-1957): Suite, op. 23, for piano left hand, two violins, and cello (1930). Strauss, League, Karp, Sykes

For more about the performers, visit bachdancinganddynamite.org.

Here are biographies of the performers:

Founding Artistic Director STEPHANIE JUTT (below) is professor of flute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and principal flute of the Madison Symphony Orchestra. She is a winner of the International Pro Musicis Competition.

Stephanie Jutt in Gustavino at Taliesin BDDS 2014

Founding Artistic Director and pianist JEFFREY SYKES (below) is a faculty member of the University of California-Berkeley. He is a member of the San Francisco Piano Trio.

jeffrey sykes

Soprano EMILY BIRSAN (below) has completed her third year as a member of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, she is appearing with the Boston Lyric Opera this year.

Emily Birsan MSO 2014

Cellist PARRY KARP (bel0w) is artist-in-residence and professor of chamber music and cello at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has been cellist of the Pro Arte Quartet for the past 37 years.

Parry Karp

Violinist LEANNE KELSO LEAGUE (below) is assistant concertmaster of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, and associate concertmaster of the Madison Symphony Orchestra. She also teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and is a member of the Ancora String Quartet.

Leanne League profile

Violinist AXEL STRAUSS (below), winner of the International Naumburg Award, is professor of violin at the Schulich School of Music of McGill University in Montreal. He is also a member of the San Francisco Piano Trio.

Axel Strauss


Classical music: Is Beethoven still relevant and our political contemporary with his opera “Fidelio”?

August 10, 2014
3 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

You might recall that Ludwig van Beethoven (below) composed only one opera.

It is “Fidelio,” and it reflected his Enlightenment-era political ideas about equality and democracy –- despite the composer’s own financial reliance on patronage by aristocrats and royals.

Beethoven big

And you may recall that the Madison Opera has slated “Fidelio” for a production this coming season in Overture Hall on Friday night, Nov. 21, and Sunday afternoon, Nov. 23.

The production comes during a time of great political unrest and perhaps upheaval at home, with crucial national and state elections, and especially overseas and in foreign affairs with Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Africa’s Ebola strife and many other hot spots showing no sign of letting up.

So will the local production of “Fidelio” be more or less a traditional one? Or will the Madison Opera’s general director Kathryn Smith and its artistic director, John DeMain, who is also the music director of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, have other ideas about how to tweak the opera and recast it for modern or contemporary relevance?

It will be interesting to see, although The Ear understands that the production will be traditional.

Here is a link to the Madison Opera’s website:

http://madisonopera.org/performances-2014-2015/

Currently, the acclaimed Santa Fe Opera is staging a controversial new version of “Fidelio”(below), created by director Stephen Wadsworth, that takes place in the Nazi death camp Bergen-Belsen. Sounds very Peter Sellars-like. (You can hear the moving music from the Prisoners’ Chorus at the bottom in a YouTube video.)

FIDELIO in Bergen-Belsen at Santa Fe

Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, of The New York Times, did not like it and, in fact, said it offended her because it belittled the Holocaust. She also complained that the roles in the actual text did not match the roles that the new staging created. She saw the production as too inconsistent.

Her larger complaint seems to reflect the notion that after the Holocaust, writing poetry and creating art is impossible, that beauty has been ruined.

It is an ambitious, lofty and tempting thought, but one that is clearly not true. In fact, it is downright wrong. Great suffering and art are old pals. Sometimes art takes you away from suffering; sometimes it takes you deeper into it. It depends on the work and on the performers. But we need both.

Anyway, here is the review from the Times as well as another one with a different take. Read them for yourself. Then decide and make up your own mind. It sure sounds like a concept worth pursuing, even if flawed, to The Ear.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/04/arts/music/santa-fe-opera-sets-fidelio-in-a-concentration-camp.html?_r=0

Critic Heidi Waleson, of The Wall Street Journal, on the other hand, praised the production:

http://online.wsj.com/articles/opera-review-santa-fe-opera-1407191039

Be sure to tell The Ear, and other readers, including members of the Madison Opera, if you have ever seen an updated version of “Fidelio” and what you thought of it.

Where do you think “Fidelio could be recast to best advantage The Holocaust? The Spanish Inquisition? The Soviet Gulag and Great Terror? The Killing Fields of Cambodia? The Rwandan genocide? Abu Graib prison in Iraq? A CIA black site torture prison in Egypt? The Chinese Cultural Revolution?

Or, given the fact that the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, how about a Supermax prison in Wisconsin?

You get the idea.

Go wild with your imagination, and then write in.

The Ear wants to hear.

 


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