The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: What is your favorite Sousa march for the Fourth of July? What other classical music celebrates the holiday?

July 4, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

Today is the Fourth of July, Independence Day, when we mark the day and the Declaration of Independence when the U.S officially separated from Great Britain to become not a colony but its own country.

Over the past decade The Ear has chosen music from many American composers to mark the event – music by Edward MacDowell, Charles Ives, William Grant Still, George Gershwin, Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, William Schuman, Joan Tower, John Adams and so many others.

And of course also featured around the nation will be the “1812 Overture” by Peter Tchaikovsky.

You will probably hear a lot of that music today on Wisconsin Public Radio and other stations, including WFMT in Chicago and WQXR in New York City.

Here is a link to nine suggestions with audiovisual performances:

http://www.classical-music.com/article/nine-best-works-independence-day

But The Ear got to thinking.

It is certainly a major achievement when a composer’s name becomes synonymous with a genre of music. Like Strauss waltzes. Bach cantatas and Bach fugues. Chopin mazurkas and Chopin polonaises.

The Ear thinks that John Philip Sousa is to marches what Johann Strauss is to waltzes. Others have done them, but none as well.

So on Independence Day, he asks: Which of Sousa’s many marches is your favorite to mark the occasion?

The “Stars and Stripes Forever” — no officially our national march — seems the most appropriate one, judging by titles. “The Washington Post” March is not far behind.

But lately The Ear has taken to “The Liberty Bell” March.

Here it is a YouTube video with the same Marine Band that Sousa, The March King, once led and composed for:

And if you want music fireworks in the concert hall to match the real thing, you can’t beat the bravura pyrotechnical display concocted and executed by pianist Vladimir Horowitz, a Russian who became an American citizen and contributed mightily to the war effort during World War II.

Horowitz wowed the crowds – including fellow virtuoso pianists – with his transcription of “The Stars and Stripes Forever” in which it sounds like three or four hands are playing. Judge for yourself. Here it is:

Of course, you can also leave the names of other American composers and works to celebrate the Fourth. Just leave a word and a link in the COMMENT section.

The Ear wants to hear!

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Classical music: Madison Symphony Orchestra holds a FREE Farmers’ Market organ and piano concert this Saturday at 11 a.m.

July 7, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Art Fair on the Square, the annual summer fundraiser held by the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, will displace the usual Dane County Farmers’ Market this Saturday morning around the Capitol Square downtown,

But the second of this summer’s three monthly FREE Farmers’ Market organ concerts, sponsored by the Madison Symphony Orchestra, will take place this Saturday at 11a.m. in Overture Hall of the Overture Center for the Arts.

The MSO invites families and friends for a relaxing 45-minute concert.

No tickets or reservations are needed and all ages are welcome.

The concert features music for piano and organ and is billed as: “The Über Steinway Meets the Colossal Klais II” with pianist Stephen Nielson (below left) and organist Samuel Hutchison (below right).

Stephen Nielson with Samuel Hutchison

The program includes: A Mighty Fortress is Our God, arr. Nielson and Young; Water Music Suite by George Frideric Handel; Hungarian Etude, Op. 39, by Edward MacDowell; Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring from Cantata No. 147 by Johann Sebastian Bach, arr. Myra Hess; O Polichinelle from Prole do Bebe by Heitor Villa-Lobos; Simple Gifts, arr. Charles Callahan; Fugue in D Major, BWV 532, by Johann Sebastian Bach (heard in the YouTube video at the bottom); When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, arr. Nielson & Young; Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing, arr. Nielson and Young

Support for all Overture Concert Organ programs is provided by the Diane Endres Ballweg Fund.

ABOUT THE ARTISTS:

American pianist Stephen Nielson made his orchestral debut as a pianist at age 11. During a 30-year collaboration with his late colleague, Ovid Young, Nielson performed more than 3,500 concerts world-wide as part of the distinguished piano duo Nielson & Young.

Since 2001, Samuel Hutchison has served as Curator and Principal Organist for Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Overture Concert Organ. As an organ soloist, Hutchison has presented many recitals both in the United States and in Europe

For more information about the event and the performers, visit: http://www.madisonsymphony.org/farmer


Classical music education: Alumna violist Vicki Powell returns this weekend to perform with the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) and kick off WYSO’s 50th anniversary season. Plus, Madison Music Makers gives a free concert at noon on Saturday

November 10, 2015
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ALERT: This Saturday, from noon to 1 p.m. at Grace Episcopal Church, downtown on the Capitol Square, Madison Music Makers will give a FREE concert in the monthly Grace Presents series of music that includes works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Johann Pachelbel, Antonio Vivaldi and Ludwig van Beethoven  as well as popular music, country music and American, Bolivian, French, German, Jewish, English folksongs. Founded in 2007 by Bonnie Green and sponsored by many individuals and groups, including the Madison public schools, Madison Music Makers is dedicated to giving low-income students in the Madison area high-quality music lessons.

For more information about how to support or participate in the organization, visit: www.MadisonMusicMakers.org

Madison Music Makers

By Jacob Stockinger

The Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) will present its first concert series of its 50th anniversary season, the Evelyn Steenbock Fall Concerts, on Saturday, Nov. 14, and Sunday, Nov. 15.

WYSO Logo blue

Nearly 400 young musicians will display their talents to the community during the three concerts, which are dedicated to private and school music teachers.

The Evelyn Steenbock Fall Concerts will be held in Mills Concert Hall in the University of Wisconsin-Madison‘s George Mosse Humanities Building, 455 North Park Street, in Madison.

WYSO concerts are generally about an hour and a half in length, providing a great orchestral concert opportunity for families.

Tickets are available at the door, $10 for adults and $5 for youth 18 and under.

WYSO’s Percussion Ensemble (below), led by director Vicki Jenks will kick off the concert series at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.

WYSO percussion Ensemble 2013

Immediately following the Percussion Ensemble, the Philharmonia Orchestra (below) and its conductor Michelle Kaebisch will take the stage and perform the Masquerade Suite by Aram Khachaturian; Reigger’s Rhythmic Dances; the Light Calvary Overture by Franz Von Suppe; and the Berceuse (Lullaby) and Finale from the “Firebird Suite” by Igor Stravinsky.

WYSO violins of Philharmonia Orchestra

At 4 p.m. on Saturday, the Concert Orchestra (below) under the direction of conductor Christine Eckel will perform The Quest by Kerr, Romany Dances by DelBorgo and Slane by Douglas Wagner. The Concert Orchestra will also perform two works by John Williams in Star Wars: Episode 2 Attack of the Clones, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, which Williams co-composed with Alexandre Desplat.

wyso concert orchestra brass

Following the Concert Orchestra, WYSO’s string orchestra, Sinfonietta (below), will take the stage. Conductor Mark Leiser will lead the orchestra in seven works including the Adagio movement from the Symphony No. 2 by Sergei Rachmaninoff; Silva’s The Evil Eye and the Hideous Heart; Edward MacDowell’s Alla Tarantella; Shenandoah arranged by Erik Morales, Forever Joyful and Lullaby to the Moon by Balmages; and the Entrance of the Queen of Sheba by George Frideric Handel.

WYSO Sinfonietta

On Sunday, Nov. 15, WYSO’s Harp Ensemble (below), under the direction of Karen Atz, will open the 1:30 p.m. concert.

WYSO Harp Ensemble 2011

Following the Harp Ensemble, the Youth Orchestra (below), under the baton of WYSO music director Maestro James Smith, will perform three pieces.

WYSO Youth Orchestra

In honor of WYSO’s 50th Anniversary, WYSO welcomes back one of their illustrious alumni, violist Vicki Powell (below). Powell began her vibrant musical career studying with UW-Madison faculty members Eugene Purdue and Sally Chisholm, who plays with the Pro Arte Quartet.

From there, she graduated from the Julliard School and the Curtis Institute of Music. She has performed as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Milwaukee Symphony, and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. For her full bio, please visit our website at http://www.wysomusic.org/evelyn-steenbock-fall-concerts/vicki-powell.

Vicki Powell 2

Vicki Powell, along with the Youth Orchestra will perform the Concerto for Viola and Orchestra by Bela Bartok. (You can hear the rhapsodic slow first movement played by Yuri Bashmet and the Berlin Philharmonic in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Following that performance, the Youth Orchestra will continue the concert with Rainbow Body by Theofanidis and the Symphony No. 9 by Dmitri Shostakovich.

This project is supported by Dane Arts with additional funds from the Evjue Foundation, Inc. charitable arm of The Capital Times. This project is also supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.

For more information about WYSO, visit:

https://www.wysomusic.org


Classical music education: The Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras showcase both soloists and ensembles on this Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Plus, a FREE collaborative concert-arts event takes place tonight at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.

May 13, 2014
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ALERT: University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music viola student Sharon Tenhundfeld (below) is the director of the Artist Collective Concert Series. She writes: “You are invited to the FREE DEBUT concert tonight, Tuesday, May 13, at 8 p.m. in DeLuca Forum at  the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, located at 330 North Orchard Street. This concert series is an opportunity for UW-Madison musicians, dancers, visual artists, and actors to freely explore collaboration across art disciplines and present their collaborative works of art to the public. The concert includes three performance pieces as well as an audience art piece. The three works involve a total of 15 collaborating artists. The concert is free of charge and should be a ton of fun! The program includes: Distance – video art and musicians; Tomato Magic – actress, comics, and musicians; and Mobile – dancers and a string quartet. We look forward to seeing you.”

Sharon Tenhundfeld

By Jacob Stockinger

On this Saturday, May 17, and Sunday, May 18, 2014, the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) will present the annual Eugenie Mayer Bolz Family Spring Concerts, the last major event of the current regular concert season. (There are summer events.)

The Bolz Family Spring Concerts will be held in Mills Concert Hall, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the George Mosse Humanities Building, 455 North Park Street, in Madison.

There is not much The Ear can add except that he is almost sure you will be impressed by the skills of these many young people – hundreds of middle school and high school student from dozens of communities around south-central Wisconsin –- especially if you have never heard them before. Just listen to them tackle the massive and iconic Fifth Symphony by modern Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich in the YouTube video at the bottom.

WYSO Youth  Orchestra

I suspect you, like me, will also be impressed with the size, young age and enthusiasm of the audiences, who cheer when the musicians first come on the stage and never stop. It is as if you are at some kind of sporting event – an atmosphere that the performing arts and various academic events could use a lot more of.

WYSO young audience

I say: Try it, you’ll like it! And you will be supporting a great cause. Music skills last a lifetime and translate into other careers and endless appreciation and ageless enjoyment.

Tickets are available at the door, $10 for adults and $5 for children under 18 years of age. The family-friendly concerts, informal in atmosphere, generally last about 90 minutes.

Here are programs and performers:

On Saturday, May 17 at 1:30 p.m., WYSO will kick off the concerts with Sinfonietta (below) performing “Oblivion” by Argentinean composer Astor Piazzolla; a traditional Chinese tune entitled “The Brilliant Red Shandadan Flowers: and American composer Aaron Copland’s “Grovers Corners.”

Sinfonietta strings

The Concert Orchestra (below) will perform “Song of Jupiter” by Baroque master George Frideric Handel; the “Triumphant March from Symphony No. 6 “Pathetique” by Russian composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky; “Vignettes”by Kirk; “Song without Words” by Gustav Holst; and Gavotte in D minor by the Baroque French composer Jean-Baptiste Lully.

wyso concert orchestra brass

At 4 p.m., WYSO’s Philharmonia Orchestra will feature its two concerto competition winners. Davis Wu will play Piano Concerto No. 2 in D Minor by the American composer Edward MacDowell; and violinist Isabelle Krier will perform Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs), Op. 20, for solo violin and orchestra by the Spanish composer Pablo de Sarasate. The Philharmonia Orchestra will then play the fourth movement of the Symphony No. 6, Op. 74, B Minor and the Danse Bacchanale by French composer Camille Saint Saens, and the Caucasian Sketches No. 2, fourth movement by the Russian composer Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov.

Davis Wu

Isabelle Krier

On Sunday, May 18, at 1:30 p.m., WYSO will display three of their smaller ensembles: Percussion Ensemble (below top) under the direction of Vicki Jenks; the Brass Choirs under the direction of Dan Brice; and the Harp Ensemble (below bottom) under the direction of Karen Beth Atz.

WYSO percussion Ensemble 2013

WYSO Harp Ensemble 2011

At 4 p.m., WYSO will welcome its Youth Orchestra, which will feature the four winners of the concerto competition. Violinist Savannah Albrecht (below top) will perform Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso by Camille Saint-Saens; marimbist Ephraim Sutherland will perform Concerto for Marimba and Strings by Sejourne.

Savannah Albrecht

Ephraim Sutherland mallets

Pianist Isabella Wu will perform the Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 1, by Sergei Rachmaninoff; and pianist Charlie Collar will perform the Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 16, by the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg.

Isabella Wu2

Charlie Collar

The Youth Orchestra will also perform two additional works it will play on its concert tour to Argentina this summer: Overture to “Candide” by Leonard Bernstein and the Danza final (Malombo) from “Estancia” by the Argentinean composer Alberto Ginastera.

For more information about those concerts and about WYSO, including its history, how to support it and how to audition to join it, visit:

http://wyso.music.wisc.edu

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Classical music: Pianist Van Cliburn, an icon of American classical music, died today at 78.

February 27, 2013
8 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

These days, “icon” is an overused word.

But it certainly applies in the case of American pianist Van Cliburn (below). For five decade, he was ever-present in the mind of classical music fans ever since he won, against all odds, the first Tchaikovsky International Competition in 1958, held in Moscow during the height of The Cold War.

Cliburn's hands

I have written before about Cliburn, who died today at 78 after a long battle with bone cancer.

Here is one posting about the controversy that surrounded his playing:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/classical-music-how-good-was-pianist-van-cliburn/

Here is the most important blog posting, and be sure to reader the many intelligent and deeply felt comments by readers:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/classical-music-american-pianist-van-cliburn-is-diagnosed-with-advanced-cancer-the-ear-returns-cliburns-playing-of-the-beautiful-and-touching-liszt-schubert-song-dedication-to-honor-him/

There are many reasons to like him and his playing. Not for nothing was he the first classical musician to ask and get a concert fee of $10,000 for one night;s performance.

But if you asked me to sum it up, I would say: Van Cliburn made every note come from some place and go to another place, and he always developed a logic – melodic, harmonic or rhythmic — to a particular phrase or passage.

van cliburn playing

His Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No.1 (below, the first classical recording to sell 1 million copies) and his Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3 remain for me the best, the absolute best, versions ever recorded.

Cliburn Tchaikovsky LP

I didn’t like his Brahms or Schumann so much, but I liked much of his Chopin — hear the Nocturne he plays at the bottom in a YouTube video — and I adored his playing of Edward MacDowell‘s Piano Concerto No. 2, which also remains definitive for me.

His personal and professional story proved fascinating and courageous as well as inspiring to many young musicians, including myself. (Below is the 23-year-old Van Cliburn in the ticker tape parade he received in New York City after his win in Moscow.) 

Van Cliburn ticker tape parade in 1958

Here are links to some important obituaries and stories. You’ll find many memorable quotes and many unforgettable facts as well as some wonderful photos from all stages of his life and career:

From The New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/28/arts/music/van-cliburn-pianist-dies-at-78.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

van cliburn ill

From the Associated Press:

http://entertainment.time.com/2013/02/27/van-cliburn-american-classical-pianist-dies/

From The Dallas Morning News:

http://www.dallasnews.com/entertainment/arts/headlines/20130227-pianist-van-cliburn-dies-at-age-78.ece

From the Houston Star-Telegram, the first a story and the second, a life in photos:

http://www.star-telegram.com/2013/02/27/4647640/van-cliburn-dies.html

http://www.star-telegram.com/2013/02/27/4647679/van-cliburn-dead-at-78.html

From National Public Radio:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/02/27/173061668/remembering-van-cliburn-a-giant-among-pianists-and-a-cold-war-idol

From The Los Angeles Times:

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/culture/la-et-cm-van-cliburn-obit-20130227,0,6919189.story

From The Washington Post:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/music/american-pianist-van-cliburn-whose-1958-triumph-at-a-moscow-competition-impressed-world-dies/2013/02/27/8d8a1dec-8100-11e2-a671-0307392de8de_story.html

From CNN:

http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/27/showbiz/van-cliburn-obit/?hpt=en_c2

From USA TODAY:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/music/2013/02/27/van-cliburn-american-classical-pianist-dies/1951217/

What would you like to say on Van Cliburn’s passing? Leave a COMMENT.

What is your favorite recording of Cliburn’s?


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