The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Con Vivo concludes its 15th season with an outstanding concert of music by Spohr, Martinu and Dvorak with guest conductor John DeMain

May 28, 2017
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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. Barker also took the performance photographs.

By John W. Barker

For the conclusion of its 15th season, the Con Vivo chamber music ensemble (below, in a photo by Don Sylvester) called out an unusual plethora of players.

And, as it did back in 2013, it brought back conductor John DeMain (below), music director of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and artistic director of the Madison Opera, to whip them into shape.

The program consisted of three very ample works.

The first was the Nonet, Op. 31, composed in 1813 by Louis Spohr (below, 1784-1859) — the first of its kind for this combination of strings and winds.

It’s in that no-longer-Classical-but-not-quite-Romantic idiom in which Beethoven was the big troublemaker. It is music of charm and imagination, altogether enjoyable as one appreciates the composer’s experimentation.

Following this was a contrasting work in the same form, the Nonet No. 2 (1959) by Bohuslav Martinu (below, 1890-1959). It dates from the last months of the composer’s life — note that, by coincidence, he died exactly a century after Spohr.

Using Spohr’s same combination of the nine instruments (below), it is a perky affair, in which Czech song and dance meet Igor Stravinsky, as it were. The second of its three movements is a particularly beautiful piece of coloristic writing. It can be heard in the YouTube video at the bottom.

The pièce-de-resistance was the final work, the Serenade, Op. 44 (1878), by Antonin Dvorak (below, 1841-1904).

I have to admit that this is one of my favorite works by one of my favorite composers. Composed for 11 players, it is really the composer’s tribute to Mozart, via a Romantic rethinking of the kind of wind serenades that Mozart wrote so wonderfully.

Thus, it is really a wind octet, with the addition of a third horn plus two string players (cello and double bass). Adding those two stringed instruments was a wonderful idea, allowing a significant enrichment of textures in the bass role.

The pool of 14 players involved in the program drew upon a lot of superlative talent active in the Madison area. Highly accomplished players individually, they join in full-bodied ensembles, given the added spirit brought by DeMain’s leadership.

While it would be unfair to single out individuals too much, I must say that I was greatly impressed by Olga Pomolova’s command of the fiendishly difficult violin parts in the two nonets, while I was also struck by the strong leadership of Laura Medisky, who played oboe in the nonets and first oboe in the serenade. (Valree Casey played second oboe in the serenade.)

The audience at First Congregational Church responded justly with an enthusiastic ovation at the end. Truly an outstanding concert!


Classical music: Saturday night brings the Grammy Award-winning Los Angeles Guitar Quartet to the Wisconsin Union Theater and a concert of chamber works by the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble. Plus tonight’s concert by the Madison Choral Project is at 8:30 p.m. — NOT 7:30 as originally announced.

April 21, 2017
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URGENT  CORRECTION: The time for tonight’s performance of “Privilege” by the Madison Choral Project has been moved from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. due to noise from a nearby football game in Camp Randall Stadium. For more about the concert, go to:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2017/04/20/classical-music-madison-choral-project-gives-concert-of-new-music-focusing-on-the-social-and-political-theme-of-privilege-this-friday-night-and-sunday-afternoon/

THIS JUST IN: Hi Jake: We’ve got cellist Karl von Huene and bassist John Dowling at the Malt House, at 2609 East Washington Avenue on the corner of Milwaukee Street,  again this Saturday, from 3-5 p.m. Karl says the pieces they’ll play are by J.S. Bach, W. A. Mozart, Arcangelo Corelli, S. Lee, F. J. Haydn, G.F. HandelDmitri Kabalevsky, and Francesco Durante. It should be fun! Cheers, Bill Rogers

BIG ALERT: This is a reminder that, in this busy week of music, one stand-out concert is by the Grammy Award-winning Los Angeles Guitar Quartet. It will perform the annual Fan Taylor Memorial Concert this Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Shannon Hall of the Wisconsin Union Theater. (You can hear a sample of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 they will play in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

The acclaimed quartet will perform music by Bach, Bizet, Debussy, and Villa-Lobos as well as 17th-century Spanish music from the age of the novelist Cervantes  For more information about the group, the program and tickets ($10-$48), go to: https://union.wisc.edu/events-and-activities/event-calendar/event/los-angeles-guitar-quartet/

By Jacob Stockinger

The Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble will give a concert of baroque chamber music on Saturday night, April 22, at 7:30 p.m.

It will take place in Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 1833 Regent Street.

Members of the WBE are: Mimmi Fulmer, soprano; Nathan Giglierano, baroque violin; Brett Lipshutz, traverse flute; Eric Miller, viola da gamba; Sigrun Paust, recorder; Monica Steger, traverse flute and harpsichord; Anton TenWolde, baroque cello; and Max Yount, harpsichord.

The program includes:

Georg Philipp Telemann – Quartet for two traversi, recorder and basso continuo, TWV 43:d1

Mr. De Machy – Pièces de Violle, Suite No. 3 (Pieces for Viol)

Francesca Caccini – “Lasciatemi qui solo” (Leave me here alone)

Quentin – Trio Sonata for two traversi and basso continuo, Op. 13, No. 3

INTERMISSION

Johannes Hieronymus Kapsberger – “Interrotte Speranze” (Vain Hope)

Johann Christoph Pepusch – Trio Sonata for recorder, violin and basso continuo

Georg Philipp Telemann (below) – Nouveaux Quatuors (Paris Quartets), No. 6 in E minor

Giulio Caccini – “Odi, Euterpe” (Hear, Euterpe)

Tickets at the door are $20, $10 for students.

A post-concert reception will be held after the concert at 2422 Kendall Ave, second floor.

For more information, go to: www.wisconsinbaroque.org


Classical music: Con Vivo opens its 15th season this Saturday night with chamber music and a jazz trio from Germany

October 5, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received a the following announcement to post:

Con Vivo!…music with life (below), opens its 15th season with a chamber music concert entitled “All That Jazz” on this Saturday, Oct. 8, at 7:30 p.m. in the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Ave., across from Camp Randall.

con-vivo-2016

Tickets can be purchased at the door for $18 for adults and $15 for seniors and students.

Con Vivo!’s fall concert, “All That Jazz” features pieces from our standard repertoire as well as jazz music performed by the Edgar Knecht Jazz Trio visiting from our Sister County in Kassel, Germany.

The trio’s appearance is in conjunction with their Dane County visit as a cultural exchange reciprocating con vivo!’s Germany tour in 2015.

Here is the program: “Man Nozipo” for string quartet and percussion by Dumisani Maraire; Selected movements from “Benny’s Gig” for clarinet and double bass by Morton Gould; Rhapsody in Blue arranged for solo organ, by George Gershwin; “Overture on Hebrew Themes” by Sergei Prokofiev; Divertimento in F Major, K. 138, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; and various selections of original music for jazz trio by Edgar Knecht.

Audience members are invited to join the musicians after the concert for a free reception to discuss the concert.

In remarking about the concert, artistic director Robert Taylor said: “With this Con Vivo! concert, we are hosting the Edgar Knecht Trio as well as doing some collaborative pieces with members from both of our groups. (You can hear a sample in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

“I think this a great way to begin our 15th season with exceptional music that combines the wonderful sounds of winds, strings and organ along with jazz. Our Madison audience will be able to hear our musicians up close and personal playing music of extreme delight and depth.”

For more information, visit: http://www.convivomusicwithlife.org/home.html

Con Vivo! is a professional chamber music ensemble comprised of Madison area musicians assembled from the ranks of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and various other performing groups familiar to Madison audiences.


Classical music: Are American violins equal to or even superior to European ones? The Library of Congress thinks so and will buy 263 of them

August 11, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

Whether it is conductors or orchestras, singers or instrumentalists, Americans have often been viewed as inferior to Europeans.

And that goes for modern instruments, not just those that are centuries old.

But one collector felt otherwise. He is David Bromberg, a guitarist who played with Bob Dylan and Beatle George Harrison, and he ended up collecting some 263 American-made violins.

The violins are modern but some go back to the 19th century.

American Violins NPR

Now the American government – specifically, the Library of Congress – will raise $1.5 million to purchase the collection.

NPR, or National Public Radio, recently featured a terrific story about the phenomenon, which should help overcome any sense of cultural inferiority.

Here is a link:

http://www.npr.org/2016/08/07/488561838/these-250-plus-violins-are-about-to-be-owned-by-the-u-s-government

Read it and see what you think.

Then let us know in the COMMENT section.

Does anyone else wonder about the quality of violins and string instruments made in Asia, in China and especially in Japan, which is the home of the Suzuki method that has trained so many string players?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: Check out The Violin Channel. Read about the International Competition for violin and cello in Harbin, China plus news, videos, celebrity interviews and playing tips

July 31, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear loves the string family of the violin, viola, cello and double bass – as solo instruments, in duets with the piano, in piano trios, in string trios and string quartets, and of course in orchestras.

cello strings

The various string instruments can be so songful and sound so like a human voice – plus without the words!

There are so many things The Ear, as a string fan, just learned from The Violin Channel:

That Deutsche Grammophon has an office in China. Which should come as no surprise, really, since so much of the classical music world – especially in strings and piano – now seems increasingly located in China.

That prize winners in violin and cello were just announced at the International Competition in Harbin, China. (The city of Harbin is, by the way, the capital of Heilongjiang province, the sister state of Wisconsin in China.) Frenchman Christoph Croise, below, took the top prize for cello. 

Christoph Croise Cellist

That the website also has several blogs, including some that offer practical advice on playing, specifically about bow strokes for example.

That the website tells you about new recordings, including some news by Benjamin Beilman, who soloed impressively here with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra in the Violin Concerto by Ludwig van Beethoven.

Benjamin Beilman close up playing

And it keeps you up to date on new YouTube videos, including one by the late Henryk Szeryng playing the Violin Concerto by Robert Schumann.

henryk szeryng BW

The Ear especially likes the master classes and the 20-question interviews called Meet the Pros. (You can hear one with Sarah Chang in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Here is a link:

https://www.theviolinchannel.com

The Ear hopes you enjoy it enough to bookmark it or subscribe to it.

Let us all know what you think.

The Ear wants to hear.


The Middleton Community Orchestra needs string players and will hold auditions in August

July 21, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following notice from one of his favorite classical musical groups in the area:

String players: This is your chance to join the largely amateur Middleton Community Orchestra (below, in photos by Brian Ruppert).

Middleton Community Orchestra CR Brian Ruppert

We need string players for our upcoming season, and we’ll hold short, informal auditions in August.

There are no openings in the other sections right now, but please spread the word to your string-playing friends.

Middleton Community Orchestra strings CR Brian Ruppert

For more information, contact us through our website at http://middletoncommunityorchestra.org/contact_us.

 

 

 


Classical music: Longtime musical partners singer Kathleen Otterson and pianist Jamie Schmidt close out the season of FREE Noon Musicales this Friday.

May 11, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear received the following note from Edgewood College faculty singer Kathleen Otterson and thought it worth passing along because of its timeliness and local interest:

I’d like to share a little information about the final Noon Musicale at the First Unitarian Society of Madison on this Friday, May 13.

I’m sorry that I don’t have a photo of pianist Jamie Schmidt and me together, but I’ve included a photo of myself and a collage of some of our printed programs (below) from over the years.

Kathleen Otterson Jamie Schmidt programs

Here is our background:

Mezzo-soprano Kathleen Otterson and pianist Jamie Schmidt met while students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, and gave their first collaborative concert in 1996 at UW-Oshkosh, where Otterson was a member of the voice faculty.

Over the next 13 years, there were many more concerts for the duo around Wisconsin and in the Chicago area after Schmidt moved there to serve as Music Director at the American Girl Place Theater.

Kathleen Otterson (below) has been a member of the Edgewood College faculty since 1999, and Music Director at Christ Presbyterian Church since 2001.

Kathleen Otterson color

Jamie Schmidt (below) has been touring all over the country, along with his wife and two young children, with “The Lion King,” which arrived in Madison on May 9 for a lengthy run at the Overture Center.

jamie schmidt

The two musicians will reunite to present the final Noon Musicale at the First Unitarian Society, 900 University Bay Drive, on Friday, May 13.

The program includes favorites from the years of their concertizing together:  German Lieder, or art songs, by Franz Schubert, Johannes Brahms and Gustav Mahler; and American songs by Ned Rorem, Samuel Barber, Chris DeBlasio, Dominick Argento and others.

A very special part of the program is an excerpt from the song cycle “No Place, No Time,” composed by University Opera founder and UW-Madison Professor Emeritus Karlos Moser (below left, with his wife Melinda Moser), to texts of the Persian poet Rumi. Otterson and Schmidt commissioned this work from their teacher and mentor, which also features bassist, Ben Ferris.

Karlos and Melinda Moser

The Friday Noon Musicales run from 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the Landmark Auditorium, 900 University Bay Drive, and are open to the public, FREE of charge.

 


Classical music: Noteworthy personnel news involves principal players of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music

April 10, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

Here is some news of personnel changes of local interest:

MADISON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA LOSES TWO OF ITS PRINCIPAL PLAYERS:

Principal Bass Fredrick Schrank and Principal Clarinet Joseph Morris will not be returning to the Madison Symphony Orchestra next season.

Schrank (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) is retiring after 39 years of service to the orchestra, joining the bass section in 1977 and becoming Principal in 1982.

For a biography and more about Schrank, visit:

http://www.madisonsymphony.org/basses?printable

Fredrick Schrank big USE

Joe Morris (below in a photo by Katrin Talbot) is a more recent addition, but has certainly made a positive impact in his three years as Principal and he has chosen to not return. He married last summer and has been based out of Salt Lake City since that time. He also performed with the Middleton Community Orchestra.

For more about Morris, visit:

http://www.madisonsymphony.org/woodwinds

Jennifer Morgan MSO oboe by Joe Morris

Principal Clarinet auditions will be held May 31 and June 1. More details will be posted on our website soon at: http://www.madisonsymphony.org/employment

Principal Bass and other string auditions will be held Sept. 6-11, exact schedule to be announced in mid-April.

UW-MADISON GRADUATE JOINS THE BOSTON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

Daniel Kim (below), a prize-winning UW-Madison graduate, has been named among four new string players (one violinist and three violists) for the prestigious Boston Symphony Orchestra, which just won a Grammy Award for a recording of a Shostakovich symphony.

Daniel Kim big face shot

Here is his impressive bio:

Violist Danny Kim, a native of Saint Paul, Minnesota, earned his master of music degree in viola performance from The Juilliard School under the tutelage of Samuel Rhodes, longtime violist of the Juilliard String Quartet and a frequent quest artist with the UW-Madison’s Pro Arte Quartet.

He began his musical studies at a young age on the violin with his mother, Ellen Kim, and then transitioned to the viola in high school under Sabina Thatcher.

Kim completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin–Madison where he studied with professor and Pro Arte Quartet violist Sally Chisholm (below), and received a BA in viola performance and a certificate in East Asian Studies. He also won several prizes and performed on Wisconsin Public Radio.

Sally Chisholm

Kim was a Fellow of the Tanglewood Music Center, where he won the Maurice Schwartz Prize, and has participated in such festivals as Marlboro, Pacific Music Festival, and Aspen, and as a teacher was in residence with El Sistema in Caracas and Northern Lights Chamber Music Institute in Ely, Minn.

neal-silva Daniel Kim

Kim has performed with distinguished ensembles and artists including the Metropolis Ensemble in collaboration with Questlove and The Roots, New York Classical Players, Camerata Virtuosi New Jersey, and Symphony in C and appeared on Sesame Street with conductor Alan Gilbert.

As a chamber musician, Kim has performed with the Chamber Music Society of Minnesota, members of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Pro Arte Quartet, and collaborated with artists including Joseph Silverstein, Peter Wiley, Marcy Rosen, Richard O’Neill, Charles Neidich, Anthony McGill, Nathan Hughes and others.

Kim toured South Korea in 2014 with his string quartet, Quartet Senza Misura, and violist Richard O’Neill. He also was a tenured member of Madison Symphony Orchestra.

See more at:

http://slippedisc.com/2016/04/boston-symphonys-new-strings-3-women-1-man/#sthash.bFnwUmXm.3NZuCIKv.dpuf


Classical music: The third annual Schubertiade at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music was so popular and so successful, it should serve as a model for other collaborative concerts featuring other composers. Plus, a FREE concert at noon on Friday offers music of Philip Glass, Zoltan Kodaly and others

February 4, 2016
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ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, held from 12:15 to 1 p.m. at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features Danielle Breisach, flute; Jeff Breisach, horn; Peter Miliczky and Clare Bresnahan, violins; Josh Dieringer, viola; Andrew Briggs, cello; and Jana Avedyahn, piano in music by Philip Glass, Jonathan Russ, Robert Ward and Zoltan Kodaly.

By Jacob Stockinger

Last Saturday night, The Ear attended the third annual Schubertiade in Mills Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

In case you aren’t acquainted with what a Schubertiade is, you should know that it is patterned after the kind of informal soirees, held in private homes and salons, where the early Romantic composer Franz Schubert (below, 1797-1828) often premiered to friends his latest songs, piano works and chamber music. The UW-Madison Schubertiades celebrate the composer’s Jan. 31 birthday and usually kick off the second semester of concerts.

Franz Schubert big

Below is a link to a previous posting — with the complete program and list of performers — about this year’s Schubertiade.

It featured an informative interview with pianist and singer Bill Lutes (below right). Lutes, along his wife Martha Fischer (below left) – a professor of collaborative piano at the UW-Madison who also sings – co-founded and co-directs the event. Both of them also performed throughout the event:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2016/01/27/classical-music-why-schubert-just-ask-pianist-singer-bill-lutes-and-go-to-the-uw-madisons-third-annual-schubertiade-this-saturday-night-at-8-p-m/

martha fischer and bill lutes

And you can use the search engine on this blog to check out the Schubertiades in 2014 and 2015.

Kudos and bravos are in order. There were so many things to like about the Schubertiade.

Here are a few:

  1. It remained an informal and very listener-friendly event with great pacing. The idea of sitting people on the stage (below top) to recreate a salon gathering is inspired. What’s more, it works and puts the audience in exactly the right mood. Plus, there was exactly the right amount of commentary — not too little or too much.
  2. The program, organized this year around the theme of nature, cohered. It also proved convincing as a vehicle for so many different kinds of Schubert’s music, mostly shorter works – solo songs, larger choral works, piano duets and chamber music.
  3. The quality of the performances was amazingly even and amazingly engaging. The audience was so quiet, you could tell that it was wholly absorbed and not distracted.
  4. The musical works were extremely well matched to the performers, and played to their strengths and temperaments.
  5. The imported guest artist – soprano Jamie-Rose Guarrine (below bottom, in a photo by Peter Konerko), a graduate of the UW-Madison who sings opera and is now a professor at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst – proved a complete success in both her charming presentation and her first-class performances.

Schubertiade 2016 stage

Jamie-Rose Guarrine Peter Konerko

  1. Despite the overall evenness and consistency, there were some standout moments. Judging from the applause, the audience clearly loved the song ”The Trout” followed by the theme-and-variations movement, based on the song, from the famous “Trout” Piano Quintet (below):

Scubertiade 2016 Trout Quintet

Another show-stopper was the superb rendition, both highly dramatic and subtly lyrical, of “Lebensstürme” (Life’s Storms) for piano, four hands, played by Lutes and Fisher.

And the closing number, the famous “Shepherd on the Rock” for soprano, clarinet and piano, brought the house to a standing ovation. (The Ear hopes that this and other moments were recorded and get posted for streaming from the UW School of Music’s website or SoundCloud.) In the YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear this sublime late work in a performance by soprano Barbara Bonney, clarinetist David Shifrin and pianist Andre Watts for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

Schubertiade 2016 Shepherd on the Rock

In short, the third annual Schubertiade proved a completely enjoyable and thoroughly persuasive evening of performances that attested to the quality, empathy and variety of the music that Franz Schubert created in his short life of 31 years.

But perhaps the best, most memorable part of the event was to see the collaboration and cooperation that was so evident.

The Schubertiade featured an impressive lineup of faculty members, students and alumni. The many performers came from various departments: piano, voice, strings, brass, winds and opera.

Scubertiade 2016 performers

We see and hear far too little of that cooperation, it seems to The Ear.

And when he talked to another loyal fan of UW music and of the Schubertiade, that fan agreed that such single-composer events are popular with the public and should take place more often. They serve as samplers with both familiar and unfamiliar works.

So maybe the Schubertiade could serve as a model for similar events with other composers whose body of work is, like Schubert’s, both first-rate and very varied.

Some composers who come immediately to mind are Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms. And there are no doubt others who could be featured.

Such collaborative events would also prove popular with the public, The Ear surmises. After all, this third Schubertiade seemed to draw the biggest audience yet – a two-thirds house of about 500 – even on the night when a UW-Madison hockey game was competing for attention.

If you didn’t go, it was your loss. But there will be another Schubertiade next January, one presumes. Don’t miss it!

And if you did go to this year’s Schubertiade, leave whatever you care to say in the COMMENTS section.

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: Why Schubert? Ask pianist-singer Bill Lutes and go to the UW-Madison’s third annual Schubertiade this Saturday night at 8 p.m.

January 27, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

The third time is the charm.

By then you know a tradition has been born.

For the third year in a row, the University of Wisconsin-Madison is holding a Schubertiade at the end of January, near the birthday of Austrian composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828, below). Can there be a better way to kick off the second semester of concerts and music-making?

Franz Schubert writing

The event, which was founded by and now is organized by and performed by the wife-and-husband team of UW-Madison collaborative piano professor Martha Fischer and piano teacher and former music director for Wisconsin Public Radio Bill Lutes, takes place this Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall.

Admission is $15 for adults, free for students of all ages. A post-concert reception is included.

martha fischer and bill lutes

ALSO, BE ADVISED THAT THERE IS A UW HOCKEY GAME THAT NIGHT, SO FINDNG PARKING WILL BE MORE CHALLENGING THAN USUAL. ALLOW FOR EXTRA TIME TO GET TO THE CONCERT. THE HALL WILL OPEN AT 7:30 P.M., IF YOU WANT TO COME EARLY AND GET TO YOUR FAVORITE SEATS.

What is it about Schubert that makes him special to the many performers and listeners who will take part?

One answer can be found in a press release from the UW-Madison:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/2015/12/17/third-schubertiade/

More can be found in a story written by Sandy Tabachnick for Isthmus:

http://isthmus.com/music/third-annual-schubertiade-franz-schubert/

But Bill Lutes also agreed to talk about Schubert (below) and the Schubertiade in an email Q&A with The Ear:

Franz Schubert big

This is the third consecutive year of the UW-Madison Schubertiades that you have presented in honor of his birthday on Jan. 31, this year being the 219th. What is it about Schubert that draws audiences and performers to his music?

Probably the most obvious thing we love about Schubert is the endless stream of glorious, memorable melody – melodies that we can only call “Schubertian.” Who can forget a tune like “The Trout” or “Ave Maria” or the famous “Serenade”? These are part of our cultural DNA.

Then there is Schubert’s rich harmonic vocabulary, and his expansiveness and generosity of form. Although he fashioned innumerable miniatures of exquisite perfection – short songs and piano pieces – he also wrote some of the biggest works of the time, including some of the songs we are performing.

They are big in every way, the “heavenly length” that Robert Schumann wrote about and loved, the sense of adventure and the unexpected and the sheer spaciousness of his musical paragraphs — and the long passages of rhythmic obsession that seem to anticipate today’s Minimalist composers.

Above all, his music is unique in the ways it explores the most joyful and the most tragic aspects of our experience, often interwoven, and ambiguously overlapping.

Those of us who are attracted to Schubert feel that he is our friend, our consoler, our guru and our guide to something that shines beyond the travails of our earthly life. He left us such a rich and varied body of music. The amount he composed in his 31 years is absolutely incredible. But also the level of inspiration is so high throughout so much of it.

Schubert etching

Your program has a lot of variety. Is there some overarching “theme” that ties the program together?

This year, the pieces we are doing are all inspired by Schubert’s exploration of the sounds and imagery of nature. We’re calling it Schubertian “Naturescapes: Water, Winds and Woodlands.” Schubert came along at a time when the Romantic poets, painters and musicians began to think of nature in a new way.

Like Frank Lloyd Wright, Schubert and his poets spelled Nature with a capital N. The poetry he set to music often evokes the grandeur and sublimity of Nature, and the ways that we humans experience transcendence by observing mountains, forests, lakes and seas, and rushing winds or gentle breezes. All of the lieder that we have selected for this program reflect this almost religious attitude toward Nature (depicted below in the painting “Summer,” with a couple embracing amorously under a tree, by the Romantic German artist Casper David Friedrich.)

Caspar David Friedrich Summer and love couple BIG

What are some of the challenges that Schubert’s music poses to pianists in particular?

Schubert’s piano style is unique, and calls for an ability to sing on the instrument, and to play with an array of orchestral colors.

Playing his songs of course means that you understand something about what it takes to sing them, and you have to completely get into the poetry and the ideas being explored.

He was a very social and sociable composer, and so a lot of playing Schubert involves playing nicely with others. That includes of course playing duets by two pianists at one keyboard.

Schubert was probably the greatest composer for this medium and wrote some of this greatest works for piano duet.

The two pianists must play the same instrument, and sound as one. It is harder than you might think! The issue of playing in such close proximity to your partner invites a level of physical intimacy that can be quite pleasant or quite awkward, depending on the music in question.

The great pianist Artur Schnabel (below) spoke of “music that is better than it can be played.” He included most of Schubert in this category.

Artur Schnabel BIG

The idea for the Schubertiades originated in Schubert’s lifetime — social gatherings devoted to hearing Schubert’s music, but also to having a good time with friends. How do modern performers recreate this informal atmosphere?

Part of it is the variety of the music, and the large number of performers who will be joining us, most of whom will be seated around the piano on stage during the concert (below top). We will also have seating on stage for audience members who want to have a bit of the intimate feeling of those first legendary Schubertiades (below bottom) held in salons in Vienna.

Schubertiade 2014 stage in MIlls Hall

Schubertiade in color by Julius Schmid

We aim for an atmosphere of spontaneity and informality, as we have in the past two Schubertiades. We are thrilled this year that our concert is underwritten by a generous donor, Ann Boyer, whose gift has allowed us to include opera singer Jamie-Rose Guarrine (below, in a photo by Peter Konerko) as our featured guest artist and alumna.

We both worked a lot with Jamie-Rose when she was a student here and she’s a wonderful singer who will be travelling to us from New England where she is a new voice faculty member at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

And of course we are delighted to be making music with so many of our UW-Madison School of Music faculty, other alumni and friends.

Jamie-Rose Guarrine Peter Konerko

Anything else you want to add?

We will be performing all the songs in their original German. However, you’ll find full German texts and translations at the door. We encourage people to come early and read the poetry before the concert begins. It’s a nice way to familiarize yourself with the gist of the poems without having to be glued to your program while the songs are being sung.

Here is the impressive and appealing complete list of works and performers:

Schubertian Naturescapes – Water, Winds and Woodlands

Jamie-Rose Guarrine (JRG), Mimmi Fulmer (MF), Sara Guttenberg (SG), Marie McManama (MM), Daniel O’Dea (DO), David Ronis (DR), Paul Rowe (PF), Benjamin Schultz, (BS), singers

Soh-hyun Park Altino (SP), violin

Sally Chisholm (SC), viola

Parry Karp (PK), cello

Ben Ferris, (BF), double bass

Daniel Grabois (DG), horn

Wesley Warnhoff (WW), clarinet

Bill Lutes (BL) and Martha Fischer (MF), piano

Program

Wanderers Nachtlied (II), D. 768   Wayfarer’s Night Song (MF, BL) Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Der Fluss D. 693   The River   (JRG, BL) Friedrich von Schlegel

Widerspruch, D. 865, Contrariness (DO, DR, BS, PR, MF) Johann Gabriel Seidl

Auf dem Wasser zu Singen, D. 774, To Be Sung on the Water (SG, MF) Friedrich Leopold, Graf zu Stolberg-Stolberg

Fischerweise D. 881, Fisherman’s Ditty, (BS, MF) Franz Xaver von Schlechta

Die Forelle, D. 550, The Trout (MM, BL) Christian Friedrich Schubart

Piano Quintet in A major “Trout,” D. 667 (SP, SC, PK, BF, MF) Movement IV: Theme and Variations (heard in a YouTube video at the bottom)

Suleika I, D. 720 (JRG, BL); Suleika II, D. 717 (JRG,MF) Marianne von Willemer, rev. Goethe

Auf dem Strom, D. 943, On the River (DO, DG, MF) Ludwig Rellstab

INTERMISSION

Frühlingsglaube, D. 686, Faith in Spring (DR, BL) Ludwig Uhland

Im Walde “Waldesnacht,” D. 707, In the Forest “Forest Night” (PR, BL) Friedrich Schlegel

Dass sie hier gewesen, D. 775, That She has Been Here (MF, BL) Friedrich Rückert

Allegro in a minor ”Lebensstürme,” D. 947, Life’s Storms (MF, BL)

Der 23 Psalm, D. 706, (MM, SG, MF, MF, BL) The Bible, trans. Moses Mendelssohn

Der Hirt auf dem Felsen D. 965, The Shepherd on the Rock (JRG, WW, MF) Wilhelm Müller/Karl August Varnhagen von Ense

An die Musik, D. 547 To Music. Franz von Schober. Everyone is invited to sing along. You can find the words in your texts and translations.

 


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