The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music education: The UW-Madison Pro Arte Quartet performs music by Edward Elgar with the Middleton High School Orchestra in a FREE concert this Thursday night

March 15, 2017
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ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale at the First Unitarian Society of Madison 900 University Bay Drive, features the ensemble New Muse with Danielle Breisach, flute; Peter Miliczky, violin; Joshua Dieringer, viola; Ben Bauer, cello; and Yana Avedyan, piano, in new music by Nathan Froebe, Benjamin Boyajian, and Jonathan Posthuma. The concert runs from 12:15 to 1 p.m.

By Jacob Stockinger

The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s acclaimed Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) will travel west on Thursday – all the way to the suburb of Middleton.

That where the Pro Arte will perform Sir Edward Elgar’s “Introduction and Allegro” with the Middleton High School Orchestra (below) under conductor Steve Kurr, who also conducts the Middleton Community Orchestra. (You can hear the Elgar piece in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

The FREE and UNTICKETED concert is this Thursday night from 7:30 to 9 p.m. in the Middleton Performing Arts Center that is attached to the high school, 2100 Bristol Street.

Conductor Steve Kurr says this about the program:

“The rest of the program includes Rossini’s Overture to “The Barber of Seville,” the “Colonel Bogey March” and the “Peer Gynt Suite No. 1” by Edvard Grieg.

“Also on the program are the three winners of this year’s Concerto-Aria competition: Marimbist Alex Warholic plays the first movement of the Violin Concerto in A Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach; soprano Chloe Cole sings “V’adoro pupille” from the opera “Julius Caesar:” by George Frideric Handel; and violinist Rachael Lee performs the “Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso” by Camille Saint-Saens.

“The concert begins with two works performed by the MHS Honors Wind Ensemble.

“The Elgar is such a great work, and underperformed. The Pro Arte musicians are such great inspirations to our high school musicians.”

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Classical music: Here are the classical music winners of the 2017 Grammy Awards

February 18, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

This posting is both a news story and a shopping guide for recordings you might like to give or get.

It features the classical music winners for the 59th annual Grammy Awards that were announced last Sunday night.

grammy award BIG

Music about the famed American writer Ernest “Papa” Hemingway (below), writing while on safari in Kenya in 1953), with cellist Zuill Bailey, turned out to be a four-time winner for Naxos Records. You can hear the opening movement — titled “Big Two-Hearted River” after the famous short story by Hemingway — in the YouTube video at the bottom.

EH3541P

For more information about the nominees and to see the record labels, as well as other categories of music, go to:

https://www.grammy.com/nominees

On the Internet website, the winners are indicated by a miniature Grammy icon. On this blog they are indicated with an asterisk and boldfacing.

As a point of local interest, veteran producer Judith Sherman – who has won several Grammys in the past but not this year – was cited this year for her recordings of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Pro Arte Quartet centennial commissions, Vol. 2. So at least there was a local Grammy nominee, a rare event.

Of regional interest, the non-profit label Cedille Records of Chicago won for its recording of percussion music by Steve Reich.

And to those Americans who complain about a British bias in the Gramophone awards, this list of Grammy winners shows a clear American bias. But then that is the nature of the “industry” – and the Grammys are no less subject to national pride and business concerns than similar awards in the United Kingdom, France and Germany. At least that is how it appears to The Ear.

Anyway, happy reading and happy listening.

BEST ENGINEERED ALBUM, CLASSICAL

*“Corigliano: The Ghosts of Versailles” — Mark Donahue & Fred Vogler, engineers (James Conlon, Guanqun Yu, Joshua Guerrero, Patricia Racette, Christopher Maltman, Lucy Schaufer, Lucas Meachem, LA Opera Chorus & Orchestra)

“Dutilleux: Sur Le Même Accord; Les Citations; Mystère De L’Instant & Timbres, Espace, Mouvement” — Alexander Lipay & Dmitriy Lipay, engineers (Ludovic Morlot, Augustin Hadelich & Seattle Symphony)

“Reflections” — Morten Lindberg, engineer (Øyvind Gimse, Geir Inge Lotsberg & Trondheimsolistene)

“Shadow of Sirius” — Silas Brown & David Frost, engineers; Silas Brown, mastering engineer (Jerry F. Junkin & the University Of Texas Wind Ensemble)

“Shostakovich: Under Stalin’s Shadow: Symphonies Nos. 5, 8 & 9” — Shawn Murphy & Nick Squire, engineers; Tim Martyn, mastering engineer (Andris Nelsons & Boston Symphony Orchestra)

PRODUCER OF THE YEAR, CLASSICAL

Blanton Alspaugh

*David Frost (below)

Marina A. Ledin, Victor Ledin

Judith Sherman (pictured below with a previous Grammy Award. She came to Madison to record the two volumes of new commissions for the centennial of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Pro Arte Quartet)

Robina G. Young

david-frost-grammy

BEST ORCHESTRAL PERFORMANCE

“Bates: Works for Orchestra” — Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor (San Francisco Symphony)

“Ibert: Orchestral Works” — Neeme Järvi, conductor (Orchestre De La Suisse Romande)

“Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5 In B-Flat Major, Op. 100” — Mariss Jansons, conductor (Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra)

“Rouse: Odna Zhizn; Symphonies 3 & 4; Prospero’s Rooms” — Alan Gilbert, conductor (New York Philharmonic)

*“Shostakovich: Under Stalin’s Shadow – Symphonies Nos. 5, 8 & 9” (below) — Andris Nelsons, conductor (Boston Symphony Orchestra)

nelsons-shostakovich-5-cd-cover

BEST OPERA RECORDING

*“Corigliano: The Ghosts of Versailles” (below) — James Conlon, conductor; Joshua Guerrero, Christopher Maltman, Lucas Meachem, Patricia Racette, Lucy Schaufer & Guanqun Yu; Blanton Alspaugh, producer (LA Opera Orchestra; LA Opera Chorus)

“Handel: Giulio Cesare” — Giovanni Antonini, conductor; Cecilia Bartoli, Philippe Jaroussky, Andreas Scholl & Anne-Sofie von Otter; Samuel Theis, producer (Il Giardino Armonico)

“Higdon: Cold Mountain” — Miguel Harth-Bedoya, conductor; Emily Fons, Nathan Gunn, Isabel Leonard & Jay Hunter Morris; Elizabeth Ostrow, producer (The Santa Fe Opera Orchestra; Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Program for Singers)

“Mozart: Le Nozze Di Figaro” — Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor; Thomas Hampson, Christiane Karg, Luca Pisaroni & Sonya Yoncheva; Daniel Zalay, producer (Chamber Orchestra of Europe; Vocalensemble Rastatt)

“Szymanowski: Król Roger” — Antonio Pappano, conductor; Georgia Jarman, Mariusz Kwiecień & Saimir Pirgu; Jonathan Allen, producer (Orchestra of the Royal Opera House; Royal Opera Chorus)

ghosts-of-versailles-cd-cover

BEST CHORAL PERFORMANCE

“Himmelrand” — Elisabeth Holte, conductor (Marianne Reidarsdatter Eriksen, Ragnfrid Lie & Matilda Sterby; Inger-Lise Ulsrud; Uranienborg Vokalensemble)

“Janáček: Glagolitic Mass” — Edward Gardner, conductor; Håkon Matti Skrede, chorus master (Susan Bickley, Gábor Bretz, Sara Jakubiak & Stuart Skelton; Thomas Trotter; Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra; Bergen Cathedral Choir, Bergen Philharmonic Choir, Choir of Collegium Musicum & Edvard Grieg Kor)

“Lloyd: Bonhoeffer” — Donald Nally, conductor (Malavika Godbole, John Grecia, Rebecca Harris & Thomas Mesa; the Crossing)

*“Penderecki Conducts Penderecki, Volume 1” — Krzysztof Penderecki, conductor; Henryk Wojnarowski, choir director (Nikolay Didenko, Agnieszka Rehlis & Johanna Rusanen; Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra; Warsaw Philharmonic Choir)

“Steinberg: Passion Week” — Steven Fox, conductor (The Clarion Choir)

penderecki-conducts-penderecki-vol-1-cd-cover

BEST CHAMBER MUSIC/SMALL ENSEMBLE PERFORMANCE

“Fitelberg: Chamber Works” — ARC Ensemble

“Reflections” — Øyvind Gimse, Geir Inge Lotsberg & Trondheimsolistene

“Serious Business” — Spektral Quartet

*“Steve Reich”— Third Coast Percussion

“Trios From Our Homelands” — Lincoln Trio

reich-third-coast-percussion-cd-cover

BEST CLASSICAL INSTRUMENTAL SOLO

“Adams, John.: Scheherazade.2” — Leila Josefowicz; David Robertson, conductor (Chester Englander; St. Louis Symphony)

*“Daugherty: Tales of Hemingway” — Zuill Bailey (below); Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor (Nashville Symphony)

“Dvořák: Violin Concerto & Romance; Suk: Fantasy” — Christian Tetzlaff; John Storgårds, conductor (Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra)

“Mozart: Keyboard Music, Vols. 8 & 9” – Kristian Bezuidenhout

“1930’s Violin Concertos, Vol. 2” – Gil Shaham; Stéphane Denève, conductor (The Knights & Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra)

Deluxe Photography / Diane Sierra

BEST CLASSICAL SOLO VOCAL ALBUM

“Monteverdi” — Magdalena Kožená; Andrea Marcon, conductor (David Feldman, Michael Feyfar, Jakob Pilgram & Luca Tittoto; La Cetra Barockorchester Basel)

“Mozart: The Weber Sisters” — Sabine Devieilhe; Raphaël Pichon, conductor (Pygmalion)

*“Schumann & Berg” (below top) — Dorothea Röschmann; Mitsuko Uchida, accompanist (tied)

*“Shakespeare Songs” (below bottom) — Ian Bostridge; Antonio Pappano, accompanist (Michael Collins, Elizabeth Kenny, Lawrence Power & Adam Walker) (tied)

“Verismo” — Anna Netrebko; Antonio Pappano, conductor (Yusif Eyvazov; Coro Dell’Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia; Orchestra Dell’Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia)

uchida-and-roschmann-schumann-and-berg-cd-cover

bostridge-shakespeare-songs-cd-cover

BEST CLASSICAL COMPENDIUM

*“Daugherty: Tales of Hemingway; American Gothic; Once Upon A Castle” — Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor; Tim Handley, producer

“Gesualdo” — Tõnu Kaljuste, conductor; Manfred Eicher, producer

“Vaughan Williams: Discoveries” — Martyn Brabbins, conductor; Andrew Walton, producer

“Wolfgang: Passing Through” — Judith Farmer & Gernot Wolfgang, producers; (Various Artists)

“Zappa: 200 Motels – The Suites” — Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor; Frank Filipetti & Gail Zappa, producers

tales-of-hemingway-cd-cover

BEST CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL COMPOSITION

“Bates: Anthology of Fantastic Zoology” — Mason Bates, composer (Riccardo Muti & Chicago Symphony Orchestra)

*“Daugherty: Tales of Hemingway” — Michael Daugherty (below), composer (Zuill Bailey, Giancarlo Guerrero & Nashville Symphony)

“Higdon: Cold Mountain” — Jennifer Higdon, composer; Gene Scheer, librettist (Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Jay Hunter Morris, Emily Fons, Isabel Leonard, Nathan Gunn & the Santa Fe Opera)

“Theofanidis: Bassoon Concerto” — Christopher Theofanidis, composer (Martin Kuuskmann, Barry Jekowsky & Northwest Sinfonia)

“Winger: Conversations With Nijinsky” — C. F. Kip Winger, composer (Martin West & San Francisco Ballet Orchestra)

michael-daugherty-composer


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Classical music: Con Vivo performs two masterpieces of German Romantic music to mark its recent cultural exchange tour of Germany.

October 28, 2015
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ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, from 12:15 to 1 p.m. at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features pianist and organist Theodore Reinke in music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Edvard Grieg, Richard Wagner and Franz Liszt.

By Jacob Stockinger

“Con Vivo – Music With Life” (below) presents a chamber music concert entitled “German Romance” on this Friday, October 30, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Avenue, across from Camp Randall.

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

To celebrate the group’s recent cultural exchange tour to our sister county of Kassel, Germany, the concert program includes two masterpiece pillars of 19th-century German Romantic chamber music: the Trio for clarinet, cello and piano by Johannes Brahms and Franz Schubert’s String Quintet with two cellos, regarded as one of the greatest compositions in all chamber music. (You can hear the Schubert Quintet with the Juilliard String Quartet in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Audience members are invited to join the musicians after the concert for a free reception to discuss this chamber music literature and to hear about their experiences on their concert tour in Germany.

Con Vivo 2015

Artistic Director Robert Taylor, in remarking about the concert said, “Our tour to Germany was a wonderful honor and great success. We return very excited to begin our 14th season with two of the great masterpieces for chamber ensemble. Our Madison audience will be able to welcome us home as we present some of our favorite repertoire in this concert.”

Con Vivo! is a professional chamber music ensemble composed 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: This week the UW School of Music offers two free classical concerts: two symphonies by Beethoven and a cello recital by Parry Karp.

October 26, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

This coming Friday night — Halloween Eve — will be a busy one.

So far, three fine classical music concerts compete for your attendance. They including a UW faculty cello recital, a program of Johannes Brahms and Franz Schubert by Con Vivo and a concert of violin and piano sonatas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Edvard Grieg and Karol Szymanowski by the Mosaic Chamber Players.

All will receive preview attention here.

But first things first.

The Ear tends to favor FREE and PUBLIC concerts. So he is starting with the two very appealing events at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

WEDNESDAY

On Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the strings (below) of the UW Symphony Orchestra will perform the Symphonies Nos. 1 and 4 by Ludwig van Beethoven. Graduate student Kyle Knox (center right) will conduct.

Kyle Knox and UW Symphony Orchestra

For more information about the program and about clarinetist-turned-conductor Kyle Knox, here is a link:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/uw-symphony-strings/

FRIDAY

On Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, UW-Madison cello professor Parry Karp (below left), who is also a member of the Pro Arte Quartet, will perform with pianist Eli Kalman (below right), who received his doctorate from the UW-Madison and now teaches at the UW-Oshkosh.

Parry Karp and Eli Kalman

The exotic program mixes the known and the unusual. It includes:

The “Ruralia Hungarica” for Cello and Piano, Op. 34/d (1923) by Hungarian composer Ernst Dohnanyi; the Violin Sonata in E-flat Major for Piano and Violin, Op. 12 No. 3 (1798) by Ludwig van Beethoven, as transcribed for piano and cello by Parry Karp; the Capriccio for Violoncello and Piano (1985) American composer William Bolcom; the First Rhapsody for Cello and Piano (1928) by Hungarian composer Bela Bartok (you can hear the work in a YouTube video at the bottom); and the Sonata in B-flat Major for Cello and Piano, Op. 8 (1899) by Ernst Dohnanyi.

PLEASE NOTE: Parry Karp and Eli  Kalman will also repeat their Friday night recital program this Sunday, Nov. 1,  for “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen.” The FREE and PUBLIC performance will start at 12:30 p.m. for the audience in Brittingham Gallery 3. The recital will be streamed LIVE on the website for the Chazen Museum of Art.

Here is a link:

http://www.chazen.wisc.edu/about/news/in-the-news/sunday-afternoon-live-at-the-chazen-november-1-with-parry-karp-and-eli-kalm

 


Classical music: The Oakwood Chamber Players open its new season with “Weekend Stroll” this Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

September 16, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Oakwood Chamber Players (below) will give the kickoff of their 2015-2016 concert series when they present their first concert of the season: Weekend Stroll on this Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

Oakwood Chamber Players 2015-16

The program will include a two-movement trio from early 20th-century American composer Amy Beach (below), Pastorale and Caprice, for flute, clarinet and piano, subtitled “Watersprites.”

Amy Beach BW 1

Also on the program is the jazz-influenced Suite for horn, clarinet and piano by American composer Alec Wilder (below top). You can hear the work in a YouTube video at the bottom.

Norwegian composer and famed violinist Ole Bull’s best known work, Dairy Maid’s Sunday, arranged by Edvard Grieg, will be performed on violin, viola and cello.

Sonata en Trio for flute, clarinet and piano by French composer Maurice Emmanuel (below bottom, in 1930) takes listeners from a movement of folk-like melodies to a contemplative theme to a dazzling scherzo close.

Alec Wilder

Maurice Emmanuel in1930

Chicago-based composer James Stephenson (below) wrote five short movements for his chamber piece Thinking in 2007. He gives the performers clever and creative musical lines that link to his whimsical movement titles such as: “Outside the Box,” “Twice” and “It’s Over.” The music is vital and virtuosic and at times a bit jazzy. It showcases violin, cello, clarinet, bassoon, piano and trumpet.

James Stephenson composer

The concerts are this weekend: Saturday, Sept. 19 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 20 at 1:30 p.m. Both concerts will be held at the Oakwood Center for Arts and Education, 6209 Mineral Point Road, on Madison’s far west side.

This is the first of five concerts in the Oakwood Chamber Players 2015-2016 season series titled “Play.” Remaining concerts include Holiday Fun on Nov. 29 (two performances), Fairy Tales and Other Stories on Jan. 16 and 17 (2016), Children’s Games on March 5 and 6 (2016) and Summer Splash on May 14 and 15 (2016).

For a previous post abut the Oakwood Chamber Players’ new season, see:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/08/11/classical-music-the-oakwood-chamber-players-announces-its-new-season-for-2015-16/

The Oakwood Chamber Players is a group of Madison-area professional musicians who have rehearsed and performed at Oakwood Village for over 30 years.

Tickets are available at the door and $20 general admission, $15 seniors and $5 students. Visit www.oakwoodchamberplayers.com for more information.

The Oakwood Chamber Players is a professional music ensemble proudly supported by Oakwood Lutheran Senior Ministries and the Oakwood Foundation.


Classical music: You can hear Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” on 5,000 kazoos at this year’s Burning Man Festival.

August 31, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Talk about counter-cultural!

This year’s famed Burning Man festival started yesterday and runs through Sept. 7.

The unusual event, held in the north Nevada desert, features many noteworthy things including nudity, drugs and lot of talk about peace and love — kind of like an updated Woodstock festival but on a much grander and more ambitious scale. (See the YouTube video at the bottom.)

One remarkable thing is the sheer size of the event (below, in an aerial photo by Kenny Reff), a temporary city estimated to be more than 60,000 strong this year:

Burning Man aerial CR Kenny Reff

Another is the impressive and dramatic sculpture that is set aflame (below is last year’s) at the festival’s end:

Burning Man 2014

But there is also classical music included at the iconic pop event.

In fact this year, the “Ode to Joy,” from Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, will be played 5,000 kazoos.

In addition, there will be strings (below top in a photo by Jaki Levy) and a certain conductor named Dr. FireTuba (below bottom in a photo of Eric Yttri by Jaki Levy) as part of the 63-piece pickup symphony orchestra that also includes winds such as flute and clarinets. The group will perform music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonio Vivaldi and Edvard Grieg and other composers on the playlist.

Burning Man music cellist 2014 Jaki Levy

Burning Man Dr FireTuba (Erio Ittry) CR Jaki Levy

Here is an illuminating and entertaining story about classical music at Burning Man that was reported in NPR or National Public Radio:

http://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2015/08/29/435244975/beethoven-flaming-tubas-and-5-000-kazoos-classical-music-at-burning-man

 


Classical music: The Oakwood Chamber Players announces its new season of serious “Play” for 2015-16.

August 11, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Oakwood Chamber Players (below) has announced its new season for 2015-16. It has the theme of serious “Play.”

Oakwood Chamber Players 2015-16

As usual, the eclectic programs feature well-known masterpieces but also neglected repertoire and new music. Notice that you don’t see anything by Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johannes Brahms, Antonin Dvorak, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel and many other standard composers on this season. That is unusual — and most welcome!

All concerts take place on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons in the Oakwood Village West auditorium (below) – now known as the Oakwood Center for Arts and Education — at 6201 Mineral Point Road, on Madison’s far west side.

For more information about the players, the programs, the group’s history and individual or season tickets, visit: http://www.oakwoodchamberplayers.com

Oakwood Village Auditorium and Stage

Here is the press release:

“The Oakwood Chamber Players welcomes you to our 2015-16 season, which promised to be FUN! We often refer to our work in music as “play,” and this season we look forward to sharing the fun with you.

“Our concerts will stir memories of fun and games in the outdoors! Join us for musical performances that contemplate the beauty and pleasure of nature. This season will lift your spirits and please your ears. We love to play for you … now come play with us!

Oakwood Village Players on playground

WEEKEND STROLL

Saturday, Sept. 19, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 20, at 1:30 p.m.

Amy Beach (below) – Pastorale and Caprice for flute, cello and piano

Ole Bull/Edvard Grieg – Dairy Maid’s Sunday for violin, viola and cello

Alec WilderSuite for clarinet, horn and piano

Amy Beach BW 1

HOLIDAY FUN

Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015 at 1 and 3:30 p.m.

Annual Christmas Lights Concert

ChristmasTreeBranch.j

FAIRY TALES AND OTHER STORIES

Saturday, Jan. 16, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 17, at 1:30 p.m.

Malcolm Arnold (below) – Quintet for violin, viola, flute, horn and bassoon

Elisenda Fábregas – Voces de mi Tierra (Voices of My Land) for flute, cello and piano

Robert Schumann — Fairy Tales, Op. 132 for clarinet, viola and piano

malcolm arnold

CHILDREN’S GAMES

Saturday, March 5, at 7 p.m. and Sunday March 7, at 1:30 p.m.

Irving Fine (below, at Tanglewood in 1956) – One Two Buckle My Shoe for oboe, clarinet, violin and cello

Georges BizetJeux d’Enfants for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn

Jack GallagherAncient Evenings & Distant Music for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn

Irving Fine at Tanglewood 1956

SUMMER SPLASH

Saturday, May 14, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, May 15, at 1:30 p.m.

Franz SchubertTrout Quintet for violin, viola cello, bass and piano

Samuel BarberSummer Music for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn (heard at bottom in a YouTube video)

Craig Bohmler – Six Pieces After Shakespeare for flute, oboe, clarinet, horn and bass


Classical music: “The Willies” –- the Willy Street Chamber Players -– excel in fabulous Bach and Mendelssohn at the last concert of the new group’s inaugural season. Don’t miss the second season next summer.

August 3, 2015
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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 for 12 years hosted an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT FM 89.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.

John Barker

By John W. Barker

Surely the greatest and happiest surprise of this summer’s music season is the sudden emergence of the Willy Street Chamber Players (below), a group of mostly string players that almost seems to have popped up out of the ground spontaneously.

Willy Street Chamber Players logo

They have introduced themselves in four concerts on successive Fridays this month—experimenting with shorter-length, one-hour programs, and giving three of them at 6 in the evening, and one family concert at Friday noon.

Each concert has drawn progressively larger audiences at Immanuel Lutheran Church (below top) on Spaight Street, on the city’s near East Side.

immanuel lutheran church ext

Willy Street audience

Most important, the group involves a bevy of former University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music students who play with the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, and who are simply brimming over with talent and with the joy of making music together.

Their final concert this season, on last Friday night, officially offered two works. As a “thank you” to the increasing number of sponsors and a swelling public, however, the group also gave a glowing performance of the Gavotte movement from the “Holberg” Suite by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg (below). (You can hear the tuneful Grieg played by a much larger and far less intimate chamber orchestra in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

edvard grieg

The Grieg prefaced their playing the first full-length work, Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3.

As now properly recognized, the Bach concerto is a work for nine solo string players (three each of violins, violas, cellos — below top, second and third in that order respectively) with basso continuo from the harpsichord (below bottom).

The intricacy of the part writing, especially involving constant interaction of the six upper parts, is particularly well appreciated when one can actually watch the players, who presented the music with a splendid combination of dash and discipline. (And they solved the notorious problem of what to do with the two-chord middle “movement” by adding only the tiniest violin cadenza on the first chord—very sensible and responsible.)

Willy Street Bach violins

Wiily Street Bach violas

Willy Street Bach cellos

Willy Street Bach harpsichord Jason Kutz

The final, and larger, work on the program was the Octet in E-flat by Felix Mendelssohn. This is the creation of an astoundingly precocious 17-year-old genius, and by general agreement it is a virtual miracle of composition.

Mendelssohn

Mendelssohn’s recourse to such a demanding scoring was not without precedent. He composed this in 1825. At about the same time, in the years 1823-47, the violinist-composer Louis Spohr (below) wrote four “Double Quartets” opposing two discrete string quartets against each other.

Louis Spohr

And, quite frequently, in his writing Mendelssohn does adopt the same strategy, pitting two distinct groups against each other. But he also explores the possibilities of eight-part texture, rich in contrasting colors and contrapuntal invention. It both is, and is more than, a simplistic double quartet.

Our eight Willy Street players did position themselves (below) as two opposing string quartets — with the cellists out in front, for a novel emphasis on the bass line.

Wily Street Mendelssohn Octet

Once again, it was such a benefit to watch these players engage each other in so many different ways. And with what spirit! Here was the music of a teenage genius, played by eight young players who threw their youthful élan into their work with unbounded passion. Yet there was also discipline, and the most careful nuancing of each player’s lines.

I would say that this is possibly the best performance I have ever heard of this work, certainly in live concert—something up to the highest professional and artistic standards.

I find it difficult to express fully my excitement over the sudden creation of this marvelous pool of young musicians. They have made it clear that this was just their first season: they are planning to return next summer, with some possible activities in between.

For member biographies, news and other information, here is a link to the group’s website:

http://www.willystreetchamberplayers.org

With minimal promotion so far, based on simple word-of-mouth publicity, The Willies — as I call them — have already found a swelling and enthusiastic audience.

Madison’s lovers of highest-class chamber music should take note, support and attend. How can I say it better? They are simply fabulous! It is an enormous blessing to any community that is lucky enough to generate such players!


Classical music: Three new releases highlight familiar and unfamiliar Danish music. Here are reviews from NPR (National Public Radio.) Plus, this afternoon is your last chance to hear the Madison Symphony Orchestra and violinist Sarah Chang in an all-Scandinavian program that gets rave reviews.

November 9, 2014
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ALERT: Today at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall is your last chance to catch the all-Scandinavian program by the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below top)  and guest violinist Sarah Chang (below bottom) under John DeMain.

The Ear didn’t go on Friday or Saturday night.

But here are two reviews by reliable critics who did.

Here is a review by John W. Barker for Isthmus:

http://www.isthmus.com/daily/article.php?article=43955&sid=b882e66c32e729bead598e9a3a6fdfbb

Here is a review by Greg Hettmansberger, who writes the Classically Speaking blog for Madison Magazine:

http://www.madisonmagazine.com/Blogs/Classically-Speaking/November-2014/Sarah-Chang-Sizzles-and-the-Madison-Symphony-Proves-Inextinguishable/

Here is a link to Jess Courtier’s review for The Capital Times:

http://host.madison.com/news/madison-symphony-orchestra-explores-scandinavia-in-sublime-concert/article_fac39f53-24a9-51b4-a326-0cb99b316881.html?comment_form=true

And here is a link to a previous posting on this blog that served as a preview and included a Q&A with violinist Sarah Chang:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/11/04/classical-music-qa-violinist-sarah-chang-explains-the-popularity-of-scandinavian-music-as-a-blend-of-ice-and-fire-she-performs-the-violin-concerto-by-jean-sibelius-this-weekend-with-the-madison/

MSO-HALL

Sarah Chang playing

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear was very pleased to see that music director John DeMain and the Madison Symphony Orchestra had programmed an all-Scandinavian program this weekend.

It featured the accessible a d folk-like Lyric Suite by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg; the famous Violin Concerto in D minor by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius with violinist Sarah Chang as guest soloist; and the powerful Symphony No. 4 (“The Inextinguishable”), done in the aftermath of World War I — which also makes it timely choice for Veterans Day on this Tuesday — by Danish composer Carl Nielsen.

That got The Ear to thinking: Which Nordic country is least well represented in classical music performances?

I think Norway is pretty popular precisely because of Edvard Grieg (below), especially his Piano Concerto in A Minor and his “Peer Gynt” Suite and his Lyric Piece for solo piano.

edvard grieg

And Jean Sibelius (below) is a in a kind of one-man band for Finland, plus he seems to be rediscovered, especially thanks to the new Grammy-winning Sibelius symphony cycle on the BIS label by the Finnish award-winning conductor Osmo Vanska and the Minnesota Orchestra.

sibelius

The Swedes seem pretty underrepresented to me and probably take the prize. But I really need to do some research and know more about Swedish composers .

But Denmark is also not especially well-known, although may be changing, The current revival of Carl Nielsen (below), who was championed by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, the same superstar conductor and composer who did so much to bring Gustav Mahler into the mainstream, has been renewed by Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic.

Carl Nielsen at piano

Anyway, just by coincidence it turns out that the outstanding Deceptive Cadence blog on the website of NPR (National Public Radio) feature reviews of recent recordings of music by three Danish composers.

The three Danish composers featured are: the experimental Per Nørgård (below top); the more mainstream Poul Ruders (below bottom, in a  photo by Kirsten Bille), whose Violin Concerto is at the bottom in a YouTube video; and of course Carl Nielsen, who represented by the “Inextinguishable” Symphony as interpreted by Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic.

contemporary music guide Per Norgard

Poul Ruders CR Kirsten Bille

Here is a link that also has sound samples as well as background and critical comments.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/10/23/358308335/great-danes-three-symphonic-albums-by-danish-composers

 

 

 


Classical music: The Ear does some more catching up. This time he takes in the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO). Plus, here is more news from Day 4 of WYSO’s tour in Argentina.

July 28, 2014
6 Comments

Here is the daily alert for the tour though Aug. 3 by Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) in Argentina. Here is a link to the latest news from Day 4: www.wysotour2014.blogspot.com

WYSO Youth  Orchestra

By Jacob Stockinger

As I said yesterday, The Ear is finally getting a chance to catch up on some old business, now that live concerts have quieted down a bit for a while.

Here is an overdue review.

MADISON AREA YOUTH CHAMBER ORCHESTRA (MAYCO) EXCELS IN OLD MUSIC AND NEW MUSIC

On Friday, July 11, the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO) performed “Triumph and Delight,” the first of its two concerts this summer. This one was at the handsome new Atrium auditorium, with its bright acoustics, of the First Unitarian Society of Madison 900 University Bay Drive.

Founder and conductor Mikko Utevsky (below), who is currently a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, led the group through an intriguing program that include the Piano Concerto No. 11 in D Major, by Franz Joseph Haydn; the “Reformation” Symphony by Felix Mendelssohn; and the world premiere of a “Experiment No. 1” by his fellow student, composer Olivia Zeuske.

Mikko Utevsky with baton

The soloist in the Haydn Piano Concerto was UW-Madison graduate Thomas Kasdorf (below). The Ear recently heard him in the Romantic and evergreen Piano Concerto In A Minor by Edvard Grieg, played with the Middleton Community Orchestra. And the performance was impressive, so expectations were high.

And those expectations were both met and surpassed in the Haydn.

thomas kasdorf 2:jpg

This was not, thank goodness, period Haydn. From what The Ear heard, Kasdorf made no attempt to scale back his part and treat the piano like some Classical-era fortepiano. Instead this was robust and rich Haydn, an interpretation that made Papa Haydn sound more alive than dead. The humor and tunefulness plus the effective, if sparing, use of dissonance, all came through convincingly and in a contemporary way.

Add in the orchestra’s careful attention to part-playing and to dialogue with the piano, and you had a performance that The Ear loved.

Thomas Kasdorf at FUS MAYCO Haydn

The work by Olivia Zeuske (below) proved highly atmospheric –- not exactly 12-tone or atonal, but not exactly not, either. For the most part, The Ear found it appealing, engaging and attractive.

But for The Ear, who admits to being a “tunes” guy, it could have used some kind of melody or motif that was recognizable and repeated. In addition the piece could use more distinctiveness among the three sections, so the structure guides your listening.

True, the very end did seem to build to some kind of climax, and you knew something was about to happen. But a lot of the rest of the piece seemed to have a tad too much lateral drift. A good statement or speech is not made by a series of “um”’s and “you know”’s and similar filler. And it takes more than sound to make music.

Still, The Ear thinks that she has a future and looks forward to hearing more from Olivia Zeuske.

olivia zeuske 2014

The famous and familiar “Reformation” Symphony by Felix Mendelssohn was not weak except by comparison to the other performances. Some of it seemed a bit muddled, and The Ear wondered if it couldn’t have used more rehearsal time, which more likely went to working with the soloist and the world premiere. Still, the music carries itself in a great way.

Plus, it was set off and spotlighted by a stroke of genius and inspiration in programming. Utevsky opened the entire program with the chorale prelude-type arrangement by Johann Sebastian Bach for orchestra of the hymn by Martin Luther “Ein Feste Burg” (A Mighty Fortress is Our God”). (At bottom, you can hear an arrangement by Leopold Stokowski that sounds a bit Wagnerian and even “Parsifal”-like at the end because of the horns.)

That is the same Lutheran hymn that Mendelssohn, a Jew who converted to Christianity but was nonetheless banned from being performed under the Nazis and Adolf Hitler, used in the finale to his irresistible symphony.

Kudos, then, to this fine group of young up-and-coming musicians, who were warmly applauded by a good size audience of more than friends and family members.

Mikko Utevsky and MAYCO at FUS

MAYCO audience at FUS July 2014

It makes one look forward to MAYCO’s next concert at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 22. That’s when soprano Caitlin Ruby Miller (below) will join then in Samuel Barber’s “Knoxville, Summer 1915” with words by James Agee and music by Samuel Barber; the Symphony No. 9 in E-Flat Major, Op. 90, by Dmitri Shostakovich; and the Overture to “The Magic Flute” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

caitlin ruby miller

The advertised venue is Music Hall, though the Atrium auditorium and other venues are still being considered, so stay tuned. Tickets are an affordable $7 with students being asked to donate what they can.

The Ear says: Don’t miss it.

 

 


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