The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: This Friday night, the Wisconsin Union Theater presents a world-class Spanish string quartet and will also announce the special concerts to mark its centennial anniversary next season

February 28, 2019

IF YOU LIKE A CERTAIN BLOG POST, PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD. FORWARD A LINK TO IT OR, SHARE or TAG IT (not just “Like” it) ON FACEBOOK. Performers can use the extra exposure to draw potential audience members to an event.

By Jacob Stockinger

Think of it as a two-fer, and then some, at the Wisconsin Union Theater this Friday night, March 1.

The main event is the Madison debut of a world-class string quartet from Spain.

The other event is the announcement of the schedule for the Concert Series’ 2019-2020 season — the series’ 100th season.

The first event is the concert by Cuarteto Casals (below) at 7:30 p.m. in Shannon Hall.

Prices for the event are: the general public, $25-40; for Union members, $25-36; for UW faculty and staff members, $25-38; for young people, $20; and for UW-Madison students, $10. Tickets can be bought online, by phone at 608-265-ARTS (2787) or in person. See locations and hours here.

The program includes the String Quartet in C Major “The Bird,” Op. 33, No. 3, by Franz Joseph Haydn; the String Quartet No. 3 by Bela Bartok; selections from the Fantasies for String Quartet by Henry Purcell; and the String Quartet in G Minor, Op. 10, by Claude Debussy. (You can hear the Cuarteto Casals play a movement of a different Haydn string quartet in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Cuarteto Casals was founded in 1997 at the Escuela Reina Sofia in Madrid. They are named after great 20th-century Catalan cellist Pau (Pablo) Casals (below). Members of the quartet are Vera Martinez Mehner and Abel Tomas, violins; Jonathan Brown, viola; and Arnau Tomas, cello.

The group achieved international recognition after winning First Prizes at the London and Brahms-Hamburg competitions. After receiving the prestigious Burletti-Buitoni Trust award designed to assist young musicians, the quartet acquired a matching set of Baroque and Classical period bows, used to distinguish between musical styles.

The year 2017 marked the 20th anniversary of the quartet, and also the start of a commemorative project: a six-concert series of the complete Beethoven quartets, accompanied by six commissioned works from great composers since the 17th century.

The quartet was selected as ambassadors of Catalan culture by the Generalitat of Catalunya, and accompanies the King of Spain on diplomatic visits.

It is the quartet-in-residence at the Spanish Royal Palace through 2020 and the quartet-in-residence at the Escola Superior de Musica de Catalunya in Barcelona.

Carol Carlson (below) will offer a free pre-concert lecture at 6 p.m. Carol holds both Doctor of Musical Arts and Master of Music degrees in violin performance from the UW-Madison.

Carlson dedicates herself to music education as co-founder, co-director and teacher of Music con Brio, a non-profit organization that provides affordable violin lessons and equipment for students at Emerson Elementary School in Madison. Music con Brio (below, in a photo by Scott Maurer) will perform on the stage of Shannon Hall from 7 to 7:20 p.m.

This program was supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts. The media sponsor is WORT 89.9 FM.

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Classical music: Moscow and Paris meet through cello and piano music at the Wisconsin Union Theater this Saturday night at 7:30

December 4, 2018
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IF YOU LIKE A CERTAIN BLOG POST, PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD. FORWARD A LINK TO IT OR, SHARE or TAG IT (not just “Like” it) ON FACEBOOK. Performers can use the extra exposure to draw potential audience members to an event.

By Jacob Stockinger

What was the musical relationship between Paris and Moscow, especially after the Russian Revolution?

You can find out, and hear examples, this Saturday night, Dec. 8, at 7:30 p.m. in Shannon Hall (below) at the Wisconsin Union Theater.

Pianist Lise de la Salle and cellist Christian-Pierre La Marca (below right and left, respectively) will explore the musical relationship between Moscow and Paris through works by Gabriel Fauré (you can hear them play his Elegy in the YouTube video at the bottom), Camille Saint-Saëns, Jules Massenet, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Sergei Prokofiev, Igor Stravinsky and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. It is the subject of their latest recording from Sony Classical.

For the full program plus biographies and videos of the performers and information about obtaining tickets ($25-$42 for the general adult public, $20 for young people, $10 for UW students), go to:

Lise de la Salle made her debut at age 13 in a performance at the Louvre. According to Le Monde, she “possesses a youthful single-minded spirit and the courage of conviction seldom expected of such a young artist.”

Now 29, de la Salle has established a reputation as one of today’s most exciting young artists and as a musician of uncommon sensibility and maturity. Her playing inspired a Washington Post critic to write, “For much of the concert, the audience had to remember to breathe … the exhilaration didn’t let up for a second until her hands came off the keyboard.”

She specializes in Russian composers and has played with symphony orchestras in London, Paris, Munich, Tokyo, Baltimore, Detroit and Quebec. Says Bryce Morrison of Gramophone magazine,“Lise de la Salle is a talent in a million.”

In just a few years, through his international concert appearances, the young cellist Christian-Pierre La Marca already ranks among the masters of the cello. He has performed in concert halls such as the Louvre, the Philharmonie of Berlin, the 92nd Street Y in New York City, and Izumi Hall in Osaka, among others.

La Marca has appeared as a soloist with many leading orchestras and is also highly sought after in chamber music. He plays a unique golden period Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume cello (1856) and the Vocation Foundation has provided him a rare Jacob Eury cello bow (1825). An exclusive Sony Classical artist, La Marca has already released three albums unanimously praised by international press and international critics.

Before the performance, enjoy a lecture by Kyle Johnson (below) at 6 p.m. Check Today in the Union for room location. Johnson is a pianist who recently received his Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the UW-Madison.

His performing experience ranges from solo and festival appearances throughout the U.S. and U.K., co-founding the Madison-based contemporary ensemble Sound Out Loud, and as a performance fellow in the Longitude Contemporary Ensemble in Boston, Mass.

His research interests strongly correlate with his interest in 20th-century piano repertoire, of which he produces a podcast series around (Art Music Perspectives). For more information, visit

This performance is presented by the Wisconsin Union Theater’s Performing Arts Committee. This project was supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts. WORT-FM 89.9 is the media sponsor.

Posted in Classical music
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Classical music: Explore how modern and contemporary piano music uses bird songs

August 16, 2017

By Jacob Stockinger

Kyle Johnson (below, in a photo by Peter Jakubowski), a talented pianist who is studying at the UW-Madison and who has contributed reviews to this blog, sends the following information:

Hi all,

You’re receiving this email because you collaborated with me on my ongoing Messiaen podcast production, helped me in a small way, are on my doctoral committee, or are simply someone whom I’ve told about the project in recent weeks.

I’ve great news: Edge Effects, a magazine out of the Center for Culture, History and Environment (within UW’s Nelson Institute) picked up knowledge of the project and decided to feature it!

The feature is a full-length preview episode of the podcast series, specifically created for Edge Effects. That episode is currently available for streaming or download HERE.

I hope everyone can get a chance to listen to it and enter the world of birdsong (below), contemporary piano repertoire, composition, ornithology and performing. (You can hear Messiaen’s use of birdsong in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Podcasting, itself, is a great, relatively new medium for education, storytelling, and informing — all attributes I hope you’ll take away after hearing it.

Happy listening,


Kyle D. Johnson, Mead Witter School of Music

Dissertator, Doctor of Musical Arts

Classical music Q&A: Ukraine native and UW-Madison graduate student pianist Yana Groves talks about her upcoming FREE recital of Debussy, Rachmaninoff and Schubert at Grace Episcopal Church this Saturday at noon and offers advice to young piano students.

May 17, 2013
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A CORRECTiON AND AN APOLOGY: In yesterday’s post about the upcoming debut concert by the Madison Choral Project, I misspelled the name of the founder, conductor and Edgewood music professor Albert Pinssonneault. I regret the error.

By Jacob Stockinger

Ukraine-born pianist and University of Wisconsin graduate student Yana Groves (below) will wrap up the current season of “Grace Presents” tomorrow, Saturday, May 18,  at noon with a FREE recital of Debussy, Rachmaninov and Schubert.

Yana Groves 1

The concert starts at noon and will run until about 1 p.m. in the downtown Grace Episcopal Church (below top) on the Capitol Square.

grace episcopal church ext

The recital of Debussy, Rachmaninoff and Schubert features wonderful music – some of The Ear’s all-time favorites – and it will provide will be a welcome respite from the crowds and hectic activity of the downtown Dane County Farmers’ Market around the Capitol Square.

The church’s interior (below) is a fine setting with resonant acoustics, to say nothing of the beautiful dark wood and stained glass windows. Some members of the audience bring along cushions to soften the hard pews.

MBM Grace stained glass window

Groves (below) recently gave an email interview to The Ear:

Yana Groves 2

Would you please briefly introduce yourself to the readers with highlights of your personal life and professional life?

I was born and raised in Kharkiv, Ukraine in 1987. I came to the United States in 2007 and attended SUNY Plattsburgh, majoring in Accounting and Music. I started playing piano at the age of 7. My major teacher in Ukraine was Tatiana Glazyrina. In the United States I studied with Dr. Karen Becker (SUNY Plattsburgh), who encouraged me to pursue music as my career. I started studying with Christopher Taylor (below) last fall. I participated in and was one of the two winners of the Irving Shain Competition (woodwind-piano duo competition) in February 2013 in Madison.


What are your plans and projects currently and for the future? As a musician, what are your career plans?

I am currently working on receiving my Master’s degree and I am almost done with my first year. I just gave my solo recital and next year I am required to give my chamber recital, where I will get a chance to work with my new friends who play other instruments. I am also planning to apply for the Doctor of Musical Arts program at UW-Madison.

What would you like to say about the various works on your program at Grace Episcopal? What would you like the audience to listen for?

The pieces are all very different. Debussy’s “Estampes” are great examples of Impressionism, where the listeners can hear different color changes and images. Rachmaninov’s Prelude is a very beautiful and relaxing piece that has a beautiful singing melody and orchestral writing.

The A minor sonata (D. 845) by Schubert (below) consists of very diverse movements. The first one has a beautiful main melody that develops throughout the whole movement. The second movement takes the form of Theme and Variations, where Schubert (below) masterfully shows how to transfer a simple theme into completely different characters, while using the same thematic material. The third movement is a Scherzo and Trio and it is very playful in its nature. The last movement is in a form of rondo that drives the listener to the end of this piece with much intensity and determination.

Despite the fact that I have certain characters in mind when I play this sonata, I believe that listeners should find the characters that they would like to imagine when they listen to this piece.

Franz Schubert big

What do you think would draw more young people into making and listening to classical music, especially live concerts?

I think that certain educational aspect is necessary in order to young people to understand the value of classical concerts. I believe that lecture recitals are very efficient because the performer explains what he or she does, and once the audience gets familiar with it they appreciate it more.

What advice do you have for young pianists?

Young pianists should practice not only developing their technical abilities, but also the musical characteristics such experimenting with different characters and colors, listening to their own playing during practicing. Playing the piano well requires hard work, but it becomes very interesting if the pianist embodies his or her practicing with meaning. (below is a photo of Yana Groves practicing.)

Yana Groves playing

What else would you like to say or add?

I am very excited about this concert and I am looking forward to sharing with the audience the repertoire that I have learned during my first year at the UW-Madison.

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