The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Today is Memorial Day – a good time to remember the civilian dead as well as the military dead. The Ear likes Ravel’s “Le Tombeau de Couperin.” What music would you listen to to mark the holiday?

May 27, 2019
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By Jacob Stockinger

Today is Memorial Day, 2019, when the nation honors the men and women who died in military service. The Ear would like to see much more attention and remembrance paid to the huge number of civilians — much higher than military personnel and soldiers — who have died in wars and military service, whose lives weren’t given but taken.

In fact, why not establish and celebrate a separate holiday to honor civilian deaths in war? Perhaps it would help to know the detailed history and background of the holiday, since it is not as straightforward or modern as you might expect:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memorial_Day

What piece of classical music would you listen to in order to mark the holiday?

There is a lot to choose from.

The Ear especially likes “Le Tombeau de Couperin” by the early 20th-century French composer Maurice Ravel. It is a “tombeau” – a metaphorical “tomb” or “grave” used by the French to mean paying homage to the dead – in two senses.

Its neo-Classical or neo-Baroque style recalls the 18th-century world of French composers and harpsichordists including Jean-Philippe Rameau and Francois Couperin. But in a second sense, Ravel (below, in 1910) dedicated each of the six movements to a friend – in one case, two brothers — who had died during World War I. So part of its appeal is that it is a very personal statement of grief.

Here is more detailed background about the piece:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_tombeau_de_Couperin

The work was orchestrated later, which added sonic color but cut out two movements. The Ear prefers the original piano version, which seems a little more percussive, austere and straightforward — less pretty but more beautiful, and more in keeping with the holiday by evoking sentiment without sentimentality.

In the YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear it in a live performance by Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt.

But there are lots of other works to choose from by many composers: John Adams (“The Wound Dresser” after poetry of Walt Whitman); Samuel Barber (Adagio for Strings); Ludwig van Beethoven (slow movements of Symphonies 3 and 7, and of the Piano Sonata Op. 26); Johannes Brahms (“A German Requiem”); Benjamin Britten (War Requiem);  Frederic Chopin (Funeral March from Sonata No. 2, polonaises, preludes and the “Revolutionary” Etude); Aaron Copland (“Fanfare for the Common Man” and “Letter From Home”); Edward Elgar (“Nimrod” from “Enigma Variations”); Gabriel Faure (Requiem and Elegy for cello); Franz Joseph Haydn (“Mass in Time of War”); Paul Hindemith (“When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d – A Requiem for Those We Love”);  Charles Ives (Variations on “America” and “Decoration Day”); Henry Purcell (“When I Am Laid in Earth”); John Philip Sousa (“Honored Dead” March); Ralph Vaughan Williams (Symphony No. 3 “Pastoral”); and many others, including Johann Sebastian Bach and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Here is a list from the British radio station Classical FM:

https://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/occasions/memorial/remembrance-day-music/war-requiem-britten/

Here is a list of patriotic music from Nashville Public Radio:

https://www.nashvillepublicradio.org/post/classical-music-remembrance-and-loss-memorial-day-playlist#stream/0

Here is another list from an American source:

http://midamerica-music.com/blog/five-classical-works-memorial-day/

Here are more sound samples from NPR:

https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=104341851

And here is another one from Northwest Public Radio:

https://www.nwpb.org/2015/05/22/memorial-day-music-commemorate-celebrate/

What do you think of a holiday commemorating civilian deaths in war?

What favorite piece of classical music would you play and listen to as you mark Memorial Day?

Let us know, with a YouTube link if possible, in the COMMENT section.

The Ear wants to hear.


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Classical music: The 150th anniversary of architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s birth will be celebrated with two concerts on this coming Sunday afternoon and Monday night in Spring Green. They feature the world premiere of a work commissioned from Madison-based composer Scott Gendel.

August 2, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

Effi Casey, the director of music at Taliesin, the Frank Lloyd Wright compound in Spring Green, writes:

“I am writing to you to let you know about special concerts at Taliesin on Sunday, Aug. 6, at 2:30 p.m. and Monday, Aug. 7, at 7:30 p.m., which I will direct in the Hillside Theater at Taliesin.

“The concerts are a collaboration of Taliesin Preservation and Rural Musicians Forum as part of the year-long celebration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of architect Frank Lloyd Wright (below).

“I commissioned UW-Madison prize-winning graduate Scott Gendel to write “That Which Is Near,” a piece for choir, string quartet and piano, and we have enjoyed working on it. (NOTE: Gendel will discuss his work in more detail in tomorrow’s posting on this blog.) It will receive its world premiere at these two concerts.

“Other works to be performed include: “Fanfare for the Common Man” by Aaron Copland; “Past Life Melodies” by Sarah Hopkins; the spiritual “Ev’ry Time I Feel de Spirit”; “Hymn to Nature” (from the Wright-inspired opera “Shining Brow,” which is the English translation of the Welsh word “Taliesin” and stands for the hillside location) by UW-Madison graduate Daron Hagen; “Song of Peace” by Jean Sibelius”; and the “Sanctus” and “Dona Nobis Pacem” from the Mass in B Minor) by Johann Sebastian Bach and spoken words.

“The participation and enthusiasm of the singers of the greater Spring Green community are most rewarding already.

TICKETS

“Tickets are available on-line at RuralMusiciansForum.org. Please see the “Purchase Tickets Here” link to Brown Paper Tickets on the right-hand side of the RMF home page.

“Alternatively, tickets can be purchased at the Arcadia Bookstore in downtown Spring Green.

“Ticket prices range from $15 to $30. The $30 tickets for the Sunday Aug. 6 concert include concert admission and a festive champagne post-concert reception with composer Scott Gendel, the musicians and the chorus.

“Tickets for the concert only on Aug. 6 or 7 are $20 or $15 for seniors and students. Children 12 and under are free, but please pick up a free ticket for them to be sure they get a seat at the concert.” (Below is the Hillside Theater.)

WRIGHT AND MUSIC

To The Ear, a special concert seems the perfect way to mark the Wright sesquicentennial.

Just take a look, thanks to research by Effi Casey (below), at what Wright himself said and thought about music:

“… Never miss the idea that architecture and music belong together. They are practically one.” (FLW)

“While Wright claimed architecture as the “mother art,” his experience in music was early, visceral, and eternal. Of his childhood he wrote: “…father taught him (the boy) to play (the piano). His knuckles were rapped by the lead pencil in the impatient hand that would sometimes force his hand into position at practice time on the Steinway Square in the sitting room. But he felt proud of his father too. Everybody listened and seemed happy when father talked on Sundays when he preached, the small son dressed in his home-made Sunday best, looked up at him, absorbed in something of his own making that would have surprised the father and the mother more than a little if they could have known.”(FLW’s Autobiography).

“In his later years, Wright himself preached musical integration in his own Sunday talks to the Fellowship:

“Of all the fine arts, (Wright exclaimed in a Sunday morning talk to his apprentices) music it was that I could not live without – as taught by my father. (I) found in it (a) sympathetic parallel to architecture. Beethoven and Bach were princely architects in my spiritual realm…”

“But more than words, it was in practice where he conveyed music to those in his sphere, from a piano designed into a client’s home (for someone who may or may not have been able to play it!), to his own score of concert grand pianos at the two Taliesins (he claimed “the piano plays me!”).

“In a gesture of delight and exuberance, as it is told by those who experienced it, Wright had a gramophone player installed at the top of his Romeo and Juliet tower (below is the rebuilt tower) at Taliesin to have Bach’s Mass in B Minor resound over the verdant hills and valleys.

Adds Casey: “Architecture is indeed a musical parallel of composition, rhythm, pattern, texture, and color. As Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is an “edifice of sound” (FLW) built upon the famous first eight notes, so Wright’s overture of verse expresses a singular IDEA, played in stone, wood, and concrete, from superstructure to matching porcelain cup.”

video


Classical music: Good-byes to UW composer and tuba master John Stevens and hellos to guest singers from the Sibelius Academy of Finland make this a busy week at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. Plus, there will also be a piano recital by UW alumus Ilia Radoslavov, a concert of new music by the UW Contemporary Chamber Ensemble and a cello recital by Parry Karp of the Pro Arte Quartet.

March 3, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

This is a very busy week to say good-byes and hellos at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music – as well as to hear a piano master class and recital by UW graduate Ilia Radoslavov; a concert of new music by the UW Contemporary Chamber Ensemble; and a recital by UW cellist Parry Karp. Plus, all the events are FREE and UNTICKETED.

GOOD-BYES

Let’s start with the good-byes, which are for the prolific and award-winning American composer John Stevens, a congenial man and musician who is also a longtime professor of tuba and euphonium at the UW-Madison, where he has twice served as director of the School of Music and where he has been a longtime member of the acclaimed Wisconsin Brass Quintet.

john stevens lon gprofile with tuba

Several events are scheduled to mark Stevens’ retirement, which will take place this May when the current semester ends.

Among the highlights are:

On this Saturday, March 8, at 4 p.m. in Music Hall, there is a chamber music concert featuring works composed by John Stevens and performed by his colleagues.

John Stevens writing with tuba and piano

On this Sunday, Match 9, at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, inhere is a FREE concert that is part of the Wisconsin Union Theater series. The UW Symphony Orchestra under conductor James Smith will perform Stevens’ concerto for Tuba and Orchestra called “Journey.” The soloist is Gene Pakorny (below), who premiered the work during his tenure as principal tuba with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Also on the program are the Symphony No. 2 in D Major and the “Academic Festival” Overture, both by Johannes Brahms.

Gene Pakorny

And there will be more. For a full listing of events plus some background, the School of Music calendar of events plus some background, the School of Music events calendar is a good place to start:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/calendar

There is also a terrific profile story about John Stevens and his retirement celebrations on Fanfare, the MUST-READ new blog at the UW School of Music:

Here is a link to Fanfare’s list of complete events with details of programs:

http://uwmadisonschoolofmusic.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/spring2014_stevens_concerts.pdf

And here is a link to Fanfare’s fine profile of Stevens written by Madison freelancer Paul Baker:

http://uwmadisonschoolofmusic.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/stevens/

And at the bottom is a YouTube video of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras giving the world premiere performance of “Fanfare for an Uncommon Man,” a piece playing off Aaron Copland’s famous “Fanfare for the Common Man” that John Stevens composed to honor the late Marvin Rabin, who founded and directed WYSO for such a long time and who recently died at 97.

John Stevens

HELLOS

Although the official hellos actually started Sunday afternoon, there are plenty of occasions during the rest of this week to say hello to three members (below) of the Sibelius Academy of Finland, who are in residence this week at the UW School of Music.

Finnish Singers from the Sibelius Academy

All events are Free and Unticketed

Here is a schedule:

Monday, March 3, 11-11:50 a.m.: Presentation on Finnish song repertoire (Room 2531 of the George L. Mosse Humanities Building)

On Tuesday, March 4, 11-11:50 a.m. — Presentation on Finnish diction (Room 2451 in the Mosse Humanities Building); then 1:10-2:25 p.m. — Presentation on Finnish music education system (in Room 2411 of the Mosse Humanities Building)

On
 Saturday, March 8, at 1 p.m. – a concert at Luther Memorial Church (below), 1021 University Avenue, that includes a world premiere of a work for two voices and organ
 followed by gathering in church basement to talk with audience.

luther memorial church madison

OTHER EVENTS

Three other events at the UW-Madison deserve mention:

UW doctoral graduate (who studied with Christopher Taylor) and prize-winning pianist Ilia Radoslavov, who ow techies at Truman State University, will give a FREE public master class on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall.

Then on Friday night at 8 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall, he perform a FREE recital. The program includes Piano Sonata in D Major, Op. 10, No. 3, by Ludwig van Beethoven; “
Improvisation” by Pancho Vladigerov; and
 “Pictures at an Exhibition” by Modeste Mussorgsky.

ilia Radoslavov

Also on Friday, at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Contemporary Chamber Ensemble (below top), under the direction of UW composer Laura Schwendinger (below bottom), will perform a FREE concert of new and recent music.

The program includes “In C” by Terry Riley; a 
Trio for clarinet, violin, and cello by Ben Johnston; 
”Cottage Flowers” for solo flute by UW student Jonathan Posthuma, and “Cummingsong” by Leo Kraft
; the Serenade for flute, viola, and piano by Andrew Imbrie; and a work by UW composer Adam Bertz. Performers include Jordan Wilson, baritone; Peter Miliczky and Lydia Balge, violins; Ju Dee Ang, viola; Philip Bergman, cello; Nicole Tuma, flute; Alissa Ladas, clarinet; and Yosuke Yamada, piano. 

Contemporary Chamber Ensemble

Laura_Schwendinger,_Composer

On Saturday at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, UW cellist Parry Karp (below left), who is a member of the Pro Arte String Quartet, will perform a FREE recital with pianist Eli Kalman (below right), a graduate of the UW-Madison who now teaches at the UW-Oshkosh.

Parry Karp and Eli Kalman

The program includes the Sonata for Piano and Violin in G Major, Op. 30 No. 3 (1801-2), by Ludwig van Beethoven as  transcribed for Cello by Parry Karp; the Sonata for Cello and Piano (1948) by Francis Poulenc; and 24 Preludes for Cello and Piano as transcribed for cello by the young and prodigious Russian composer Lera Auerbach from the original 24 Preludes for solo piano by Dmirtri Shostakovich.

Lera Auerbach

dmitri shostakovich

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