The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: This afternoon is your last chance to hear rave-winning performances by pianist Joyce Yang and the Madison Symphony Orchestra. Here’s a review to read

November 10, 2019
5 Comments

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By Jacob Stockinger

This afternoon — Sunday, Nov. 10 — at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall is your last chance to hear South Korean pianist Joyce Yang and the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below, in a photo by Peter Rodgers) under the baton of music director John DeMain.

The program features the exciting, popular and beautiful Piano Concerto No. 3 by the Russian modernist composer Sergei Prokofiev as well as “Newly Drawn Sky” by contemporary American composer and Yale School of Music professor Aaron Jay Kernis (below) and the Symphony No. 2 by the German Romantic master Robert Schumann.

For more information about the performers, the program and tickets, go to: https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2019/11/04/classical-music-this-weekend-prize-winning-pianist-joyce-yang-solos-in-prokofievs-most-popular-piano-concerto-with-the-madison-symphony-orchestra-works-by-schumann-and-aaron-jay-kernis-are/

The prize-winning Yang (below), who  at 19 won the silver medal at the 2005 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, rewarded a standing ovation with the late Earl Wild’s virtuosic arrangement of George Gershwin’s song “The Man I Love,” which you can hear Yang play in the YouTube video at the bottom.

The reviews that have appeared so far agreed: It is a rave-winning concert with special attention going to Yang, who is making her MSO debut after performing a solo recital several years ago at the Wisconsin Union Theater.

The Ear cannot find a link to the rave review by Bill Wineke for Channel 3000.

But here is the rapturous review that Michael Muckian wrote for Isthmus:

https://isthmus.com/music/joyce-yang-triumphs-with-prokofiev/

But you be the critic.

What did you think of Joyce Yang and the MSO?

The Ear wants to hear.

 


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Classical music: The Ear hears the impressive young pianist Joyce Yang and thinks Madison needs more piano recitals. Plus, a FREE concert of female vocal duets is at noon on Friday.

October 22, 2015
9 Comments

ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, held 12:15-1 p.m. at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, will feature sopranos Susan Savage Day and Rebekah Demaree with pianist Sharon Jensen in duets by Gabriel Faure, Jacques Aubert, Jules Massenet, Claudio Monteverdi, UW-Madison alumnus Lee Hoiby and more.

By Jacob Stockinger

There he was last Thursday, sitting in the lower balcony in Shannon Hall at the Wisconsin Union Theater.

The Ear was in Piano Himmel, listening to a masterful performance.

The occasion was a solo piano recital by Joyce Yang (below), an up-and-coming, prize-winning Korea-born and America-trained pianist, still in her late 20s, who was making her Madison debut.

Joyce Yang

And the same thought haunted The Ear, himself an avid amateur pianist, that also came to him during a fine student piano recital this summer.

That thought was simply this: Madison needs to have many more solo piano recitals.

The piano is perhaps the one most commonly studied musical instrument and is a staple of music education, so the potential audience should be there. The repertoire is vast and wonderful. And the piano just hasn’t been receiving its due compared to the many new choral groups and chamber music ensembles that always seem to be proliferating in the area.

The Wise Teacher recalls years ago when almost a dozen solo piano recitals happened during a single season. This season there are only three -– and two have already taken place.

One was the recital of Mendelssohn, Franck and Chopin by Spanish pianist Daniel del Pino (below top)  on Oct. 4 at Farley’s House of Pianos on its Salon Piano Series. (The Ear couldn’t go because he is was in Chicago that afternoon hearing a piano recital by Maurizio Pollini.) The second was by Joyce Yang. The third one will be the performance by UW-Madison virtuoso professor Christopher Taylor (below bottom) on Friday, Feb 26. (No program has yet been announced.)

Daniel del PIno square

Christopher Taylor new profile

Here is an afterthought: Maybe the Madison Symphony Orchestra could start a piano series like the Chicago Symphony Orchestra offers on Sunday afternoons?

Let’s be clear: This is a matter more of pleasure and education than of justice.

Take Yang’s performance, which drew an unfortunately small house of only 300-400.

The first half was remarkable for both the clarity and color she possessed. Ethnic themes, folk songs and folk dances, especially Latin American and Spanish in nature, united the first half of her program.

She opened with two sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti, the three “Estampes” or Prints by Claude Debussy and two pieces from “Iberia” by Isaac Albeniz and three virtuosic “cowboy” dances by the Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera.

In all those works, Yang proved a complete and mature keyboard artist. Her technique is rock solid, but it is her musicality that most impresses the listener. The Ear was particularly struck by Yang’s command of dynamics, her ability to play softly and still project, and to delineate and balance various voices.

The second half, all works by Sergei Rachmaninoff, proved less satisfying to The Ear, if not to the audience. It featured two transcriptions of vocal works or songs — “Dreams” and  “Vocalise”  — by the late American virtuoso pianist Earl Wild (below).

earl wild

Unfortunately, Wild himself possessed a Lisztean (or Horowitzean) command of keyboard technique. And like Franz Liszt (or Vladimir Horowitz), Wild just couldn’t resist adding Liberace-like flourishes, flash and trash to his transcriptions in places where simplicity rather than Big Chords would have more than sufficed.

At certain points in a Wild transcription, the work inevitably sounds louche or decadent and over-the-top, like something you might hear at a piano bar or in a cocktail lounge. In short, they are more piano than music. (You can listen to Earl Wild himself performing his own transcription of Rachmaninoff’s “Vocalise” in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Then came  the Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor by Rachmaninoff (below) in its revised 1931 edition. To be honest, this is a Big Piece that is full of sound and fury signifying not very much that The Ear can discern. (The Ear much prefers Rachmaninoff’s piano concertos, preludes and Etudes Tableaux.)

To be sure, the bombastic sonata requires impressive and powerful piano playing, which must explain the muscular work’s popularity among professional pianists and certain segments of the public. It is a Wower and wow us it does, although many of us would rather be seduced than wowed.

Rachmaninoff

The sonata surely is effective in live performance and brought an immediate standing ovation. That, in turn, was rewarded with another Earl Wild transcription this time of George Gershwin’s “The Man I Love.” Too bad the love once again seemed overpowered by difficult but flawlessly executed scales and runs.

But putting those shortcomings aside, the sound of an amazingly played piano recital was such a welcome experience.

The Ear hopes that many more of them are somehow in store.

 


Classical Music Education: A Piano Vortex will descend this Friday and Saturday on the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music — all FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. On Friday night, classical virtuoso Christopher Taylor will perform a FREE recital of Prokofiev and Liszt-Beethoven; on Saturday morning jazz master Johannes Wallmann will hold a workshop. Plus the UW’s inaugural high school piano competition will take place Friday and Saturday in Morphy Recital Hall with the public invited to preliminary rounds and a final concert. Plus, UW-Madison music students will play blues and jazz-inspired classical music.

February 26, 2014
3 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

This weekend will find us not only in the fading grip of the Polar Vortex but also in the full force of The Piano Vortex.

Steinway Grand Piano

Here is an overview, with a complete schedule and list of names and repertoire, from Fanfare, the terrific new music blog at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music written and compiled by concert and publicity manager Kathy Esposito:

“Piano Extravaganza! will feature well-known pianists as well as rising stars”

“Hear the UW’s best collegiate pianists, faculty and high school talents at an all-day festival this Saturday at UW-Madison. Masterclasses, workshops and performances hosted by UW-Madison faculty and students. This year’s Piano Extravaganza will feature piano works influenced by jazz and blues.”

Here is the schedule of events, all of which are FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC:

FRIDAY, FEB. 28

8 p.m. in Mills Concert Hall: A FREE recital by Christopher Taylor, Faculty Concert Series. Here is what Taylor said about his program to the UW’s Fanfare blog about his program of the Sonata No. 6, Op. 82 (1939) by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) and the Symphony No. 3 in E-Flat Major (“Eroica”), Op. 55, by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), as transcribed by Franz Liszt (1811-1886).

Taylor writes: “I find altogether exhilarating the opportunity to re-experience works that inspired me even before taking my first piano lesson.

“Although, needless to say, a pianist cannot hope to duplicate the precise effect of Beethoven’s orchestrations, the attempt to simulate a few of them gives rise to endlessly fascinating pianistic possibilities.

“Virtually every technical resource of fingering, voicing, articulation, and pedaling (even the middle pedal, a device that Liszt himself lacked till late in his career) proves useful in these mighty transcriptions.

“While tonight’s version of the Eroica can obviously never displace the original form, I do hope that the pairing of a single musician with one versatile instrument can produce a fresh view of this immortal work, whose turbulent historical genesis and juxtaposition of heroism, tragedy, and redemption complement the Prokofiev so aptly.”

And here is a profile of Christopher Taylor that local critic Greg Hettmansberger wrote for Madison Magazine:

http://www.madisonmagazine.com/Madison-Magazine/February-2014/A-Q-A-with-Pianist-Christopher-Taylor/

Christopher Taylor at Miller Theater in NYC CR Richard Termine of the NYT

And here is a link to the complete Fanfare blog entry:

http://uwmadisonschoolofmusic.wordpress.com/2014/02/24/brailey-wbq-tour-pianofest/

And here is a previous post with some background:

http://uwmadisonschoolofmusic.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/high-school-piano-competition/

AND BECAUSE THE EAR FEELS THAT STUDENT MUSICIANS DESERVE TO GET AT LEAST AS MUCH MEDIA COVERAGE AND PUBLIC ATTENTION AS STUDENT ATHLETES, I HAVE INCLUDED A LENGTHY AND MUCH LONGER THAN USUAL LIST OF THE PIANO CONTESTANTS, REPERTOIRE, PARTICIPANTS AND JUDGES.

PIANO EXTRAVAGANZA! of Concerts, a Masterclass, a Young Pianists Competition (For High School Students) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music on Friday, February 28—Saturday, March 1, 2014. (1st Prize: $1,500; 2nd Prize: $1,000; 3rd Prize: $500)

SATURDAY, MARCH 1

8:30-11 a.m.: Piano Extravaganza Competition

11 a.m.-noon: Professor Johannes Wallmann, Jazz Improvisation Workshop

1:30-3:30 p.m. Masterclass and Q&A with UW-Faculty

3:45-6:30 p.m.: Jazz and Blues in Classical Music Extravaganza (Performed by UW-Madison Piano Majors)

ALL EVENTS ON SATURDAY TAKE PLACE IN MORPHY RECITAL HALL (below) ARE FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Morphy Hall 2

SATURDAY, MARCH 1, 2014

8:30-11 a.m.: Piano Extravaganza Competition

FINALISTS WERE SELECTED FROM PRELIMINARY RECORDING ROUND.

8:30 a.m.: Anthony Cardella (17, from Porterfield, WI): Sonata Op. 2, No. 3, I. Allegro con brio –by Ludwig van Beethoven; Toccata, Op. 11, by Sergei Prokofiev

8:45 a.m.: Ethan Nethery (17, from Hartland, WI); “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder and “How Little We Know” by Phillip Springer

9 a.m.: Olivia Montgomery (18, from Fitchburg, WI): Prelude No. 1 Allegro ben ritmato e deciso George Gershwin; Sonata in C minor, Op. 10, No. 1, I. Allegro molto e con brio –Ludwig van Beethoven

9:15 a.m.: Vivian Wilhelms (15, from Waunakee, WI); French Suite No. 6, BWV 817- Johann Sebastian Bach; Sonatine, I. Modéré – Maurice Ravel

9:30 a.m.: Michelle Xie (16, from Verona, WI): Sarcasm, Op. 17, No. 1 Tempestoso – Sergei Prokofiev; Sonata Op. 31, No. 1, I. Allegro – Ludwig van Beethoven

9:45 a.m.: Garrick Olson (17, from Madison, WI): Fantasy in C Major, II. Mäßig. Durchaus energisch – Robert Schumann; Etude No. 6, Omaggio a Domenico Scarlatti – Marc-Andre Hamelin

10 a.m.: Theodore Liu (15, from Waunakee, WI): Sonata in D Major, Op. 10, No. 3, I. Presto- Ludwig van Beethoven; Nocturne in D-flat Major, Op. 27, No. 2– Frederic Chopin

10:15 a.m. Quentin Nennig (15, from Sherwood, WI): Waldesrauschen”- Franz Liszt; Concerto in E-flat Major, KV 449 – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

10:30 a.m. Kaitlin Lalmond (17, from Germantown, WI): Prelude and Fugue in C-sharp Major, BWV 848 – Johann Sebastian Bach; Sonata in E-flat Major, Op. 7, I. Allegro molto e con brio – Ludwig van Beethoven

11 a.m.-Noon: Jazz Improvisation Workshop with Professor Johannes Wallmann (below): “Milestones,” John Lewis (1920-2001) of The Modern Jazz Quartet; “Night and Day,” Cole Porter (1891-1964); “Sonnymoon For Two,” Sonny Rollins (b. 1930). All selections performed by Johannes Wallmann (below) and local guest artist Dave Stoler

johannes wallmann playing

Noon-1:30 p.m.: Lunch

1:30-3:30 p.m.: Masterclass and Q&A with UW-Faculty

3:45-6:30 p.m.: Jazz and Blues in Classical Music Extravaganza, Performed by UW-Madison Piano Majors

Opening Remarks by Susan C. Cook, Professor of Musicology and Director of the School of Music

“Alla Turca Jazz,” (1993) Fazil Say, Jason Kutz (b. 1970)

“Nightmare Fantasy,” (1979) William Albright, Oxana Khramova (1944-1998)

“Prelude No. 1,” (1926) George Gershwin, Yana Groves (1898-1937)

From “Preludes, Book 2” (1912-1913) Claude Debussy, “General Lavine Eccentric” (1862-1918); Emili Earhart

“Fantasy on Bill Evans’ “Turn Out the Stars,” Jonathan Thornton (b. 1985), Jonathan Thornton

“Lonely House” from Street Scene (1947) Kurt Weill (1900-1950), Thomas Leighton, Tenor, & Emily O’Leary

Impromptu, Op. 66, No. 2 (2004) Nikolai Kapustin (b. 1937) ; Haley O’Neal

“The Serpent’s Kiss” (Rag Fantasy) (1969), William Bolcom, Sara Giusti (b. 1938)

Sonata for One Piano, Four Hands (1919), Francis Poulenc (1899-1963), Prelude Rustique

Ian Tomaz and Jason Kutz

“Milonga del Angel” (1965), Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992), Cody Goetz

From Gershwin Songbook (1932) George Gershwin (189801937): “My One and Only,”  “Fascinatin’ Rhythm” and “I Got Rhythm,” Dino Mulic 

“Etudes on Gershwin Songs,” (1973) Earl Wild (1915-2010), “Embraceable You,”  Yusuke Komura

INTERMISSION

Excursions,” Op. 20, No. 1 (1942), Samuel Barber, Andrew Mlynczak (1910-1981)

“Carnaval Noir,” (1997) Derek Bermel, Ying Wang (b. 1967)

“Bamboula,” (1844-45) Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Duangkamon Wattanasak (1829-1869)

“A Little Jazz Exercise,” (1970) Oscar Peterson (1925-2007), Evan Engelstad

“Jazz Waltz” from Suite Impressions (1996) by Judith Lang Zaimont, Shengyin Chen (b. 1945)

“Magnetic Rag” (1914) Scott Joplin, Zach Campbell

“Deuces Wild” (1944) and “The Duke and the Count” (1944), Mary Lou Williams (1910-1981), Henry Misa

“Dreadful Memories” (1978), “Down by the Riverside” (1979)  Frederic Rzewski (b. 1938) Sungho Yang

From Preludes, Book 1 (1909-1910) Claude Debussy (1862-1918)  “Minstrels,” Jace Rockman

Sonata No. 2 in G Major for Violin and Piano (1927), II. Blues, Maurice Ravel  (1875-1937) Elspeth Stalter-Clouse, violin, and Tiffany Yeh

From “Carnival Music” (1976), George Rochberg (1918-2005), Emily O’Leary

Three Preludes (2000), Shuai Zhang  (b. 1979), I. Rubato: appassionato abandano, II. mesto misterioso, III. estemporale impetuoso, Zijin Yao

piano keys

MEET THE UW-MADISON KEYBOARD FACULTY

Martha Fischer (below) is Professor of Piano and heads the Collaborative Piano Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. American Record Guide recently wrote: “…she is a marvelous pianist, profound interpreter, and expert collaborator.” She has recorded extensively and will soon release the complete works for two pianists at one keyboard by Robert Schumann with her frequent duet partner and husband, Bill Lutes. The Washington Post described their performance of Schubert’s F minor Fantasie as “bursting with heartfelt intensity.” A singer as well as pianist, Fischer is an expert on the works of Gilbert and Sullivan and has also presented unique recitals of art song in which she accompanies herself. A dedicated teacher, she has participated in international festivals, symposia, and competitions.

Martha Fischer color Katrin Talbot

Jessica Johnson (below left, with UW percussionist Anthony Di Sanza) serves as Professor of Piano and Director of Graduate Studies in Piano Pedagogy at UW-Madison, where she was the 2006 recipient of the prestigious Emil Steiger Distinguished Teaching Award. She frequently commissions and programs contemporary solo and chamber works, regularly performing with Sole Nero, duo for piano and percussion. Johnson has been featured in workshops and recitals throughout North America, Europe and China. A two-time winner of AMT’s Article of the Year Award, Johnson has articles published in American Music Teacher, Piano Journal of EPTA, Klavier Companion and Piano Pedagogy Forum. Passionate about community engagement and arts outreach, she serves as Director of Piano Pioneers, a program that brings high quality piano instruction to low-income community members and high-risk youth in Wisconsin.

sole nero Jessica Johnson piano and Anthony Di Sanza percussion

John Chappell Stowe (below) is Professor of Organ and Harpsichord at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. He graduated from Southern Methodist University and Eastman School of Music, studying organ with Robert Anderson and Russell Saunders. Stowe holds the Doctor of Musical Arts degree and Performer’s Certificate from the Eastman School and was the first-place winner in 1978 of the National Open Organ Playing Competition of the American Guild of Organists. In his appearances throughout the United States as a solo organist, Stowe’s recital repertoire includes a wide variety of literature extending from 1550 to the present day. His programming reflects both strong commitment to contemporary music and dedication to great repertoire of past generations.

BATC2 John Chappelle Stowe and Edith Hines

Christopher Taylor (below) has performed extensively around the world, having appeared in recent years not only throughout the U.S. but in Russia, China, Korea, the Balkans, and elsewhere. Critics hail him as “frighteningly talented” (The New York Times) and “a great pianist” (The Los Angeles Times), and nu-merous awards have confirmed his high standing in the musical world (a Van Cliburn Competition Bronze Medal, an Avery Fisher Career Grant, an American Pianists’ Association Fellowship). Apart from concertizing, he has taught at UW-Madison since 2000 and pursues a wide variety of additional interests — most recently using his mathematical and computer skills in the design and construction of a new double-manual keyboard instrument.

ChristopherTaylorNoCredit

Johannes Wallmann (below) joined UW Madison as Director of Jazz Studies in 2012. He previously taught at California State University East Bay, New York University, and at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. As a pianist, composer, and bandleader, Wallmann has released four critically acclaimed CDs, The Johannes Wallmann Quartet (1997), Alphabeticity (2003), Minor Prophets (2007), and The Coasts (2012). Over twelve years in New York City and five years in the San Francisco Bay Area, Wall Coasts (2012). Over 12 years in New York City and five years in the San Francisco Bay Area, Wallmann also established himself as a prolific sideman in styles as diverse as mainstream jazz and electric fusion, American spirituals, Cantonese pop music, and 20th century classical music. He has toured throughout North America and in Europe and Asia.

johannes wallmann mug

Todd Welbourne (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) is a pianist and chamber musician with appearances in this country as well as in Europe and South America. He has performed and given presentations on new music at national conferences of the Society of Electro/Acoustic Music (1995, 1997, 2009), the International Society for Electronic Arts, (1993, 1997, 2010), College Music Society (2001, 2003, 2006), and Music Teachers National Convention (1999, 2004) and has lectured and performed at new music festivals around the country. Welbourne uses the Yamaha Disklavier in his teaching providing students with the latest in teaching techniques and he has been an innovator in the area of interactive music performance systems using the Yamaha Disklavier and Max/MSP. He currently serves as Director of Graduate Studies at the School of Music.

Todd Welbourne by Katrin Talbot

GUEST ARTIST AND ALUMNUS

Madison native Dave Stoler (below) is one of the busier professional musicians in the Midwest, and was named 2009 Isthmus Jazz Personality of the Year. His current projects include the Tony Castaneda Latin Jazz Sextet and his own group, which has performed at Smalls Jazz Club in New York City. His CD “Urban Legends” features drummer Billy Hart, bassist Ron McClure and tenor saxophonists Rich Perry and Rick Margitza. He received a Master of Music degree from the University of Miami-Coral Gables in Jazz Performance, and a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Composition from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was a semi-finalist in the Thelonious Monk Piano Competition and the American Jazz Piano Competition, and a finalist in the Jacksonville Jazz Piano Competition. 

Dave Stoler

Sponsors of The Piano Extravaganza are The Evjue Foundation, the charitable arm of The Capital Times, and UW-Madison Chancellor Emeritus Irving Shain.

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