The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music education: The Ear takes the “Cello Cure” at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and now can’t wait for another “treatment” next summer.

June 19, 2014
3 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Last Saturday night, for the first time ever, I went to the free public concert put on every June by the National Summer Cello Institute, which takes place each summer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

Cello Choir 2014 with Uri Vardi

The NSCI is under the direction of University of Wisocnsin-Madison cello professor Uri Vardi (below top) and his wife Hagit Vardi (below body), who works with the UW-Madison Institute of Integrative Medicine and emphasizes the use of the Feldenkrais Method to help performers in workshops called, fittingly, “You Body is Your Strad.”

Uri Vardi with cello COLOR

hagitvardistretching artm

Here is a link to a previous post about the cello institute, with still other links to even earlier stories:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/06/11/classical-music-a-free-cello-choir-concert-will-take-place-this-saturday-night-at-the-university-of-wisconsin-madison-it-features-new-music-and-works-by-villa-lobos-poulenc-j-s-bach-cesar-frank/

The event proved so thoroughly enjoyable and so deeply pleasurable, and put me in such a great mood and frame of mind, that a close friend referred to the experience as the “Cello Cure.”

I won’t argue because it sure did feel curative.

But then I find that experiencing great beauty often feels that way.

One came away from the concert -– which included a cello choir of 16 undergraduate, graduate and professional cellists, selected by audition, from around the nation and perhaps even the world –- completely understanding why the cello, with its human voice-like singing tone, is the favorite instrument of so many listeners. (For The Ear, the cello ranks right up there, just below the piano and alongside the violin and the oboe.)

Cello and bow

One thing The Ear liked was the lack of purism. Enjoyment was the goal of the evening, and so the program featured some simply gorgeous isolated single movements from sonatas and concertos, and NOT the entire pieces. The Great Hits format worked exceptionally well. And so was featuring soloists, and not just ensembles, for the first time.

And on top of all the cellos, The Ear also had two special and bonus experiences: He heard Anna Whiteway, a fabulously talented undergraduate soprano at the UW-Madison, and he heard what sounds like an eminently listenable contemporary composer, Kyle Price, who will be attending the UW-Madison for a graduate degree.

So here are the highlights with photos and not a lot of commentary except to say I found excellence from everyone and disappointment from no one.

The concert opened up with UW-Madison conductor James Smith (below right) leading the famous “Bachianas Brasileiras” No. 5, with its soaring and lyrical soprano aria or wordless vocalise, by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos. In it and the other similar suites, the composer attempted to adapt and update the musical style of Johann Sebastian Bach to his native country’s indigenous folk melodies and dance rhythms.

Cello Choir 2014 Jim Smith

Here are members of the cello choir, which wouldn’t fit well in a single photo.

Cello Choir 20144 left

Cello Choir 2014 right

And here is Anna Whiteway, who got enthusiastic applause from the cellists and the woefully small audience of several dozen listeners. No wonder. She is The Real Deal. She possesses beautiful tone, big volume, pleasant and modest vibrato, excellent diction and a thoroughly confident stage presence:

Cello Choir 2014 Anna Whiteway

Here is Brian Klickman and pianist Claire Mallory in the poignantly moving Cavatina movement from the Cello Sonata by Francis Poulenc.

Cello Choir 2014 Brian Klickman, Claire Mallory piano

Here is that wonderfully tuneful last movement from Cesar Franck‘s Violin Sonata transcribed for cello and played by Cordula Aeschbacher with pianist Claire Mallory:

Cello Choir 2014 Cordula Aeschbacher

Then Aleks Tengesdal played the impressively turbulent first movement of the Cello Concerto No. 1 by Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara, with piano accompaniment.

Cello Choir 2014 Aleks Tengesdal, Claire Mallory piano

Julian Mueller closed out the first half with the gorgeous Andante Cantabile by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, who, it seems, was never at a loss for a beautiful, bittersweet melody. (You can hear it played by superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma in a YouTube video at the bottom):

Cello Choir 2014 Julian Mueller

The second half opened with seven cellists playing the Recitative and Meditation movements from the young contemporary American composer Kyle Price’s “Requiem in Memory of Connie Barrett.” The Ear found it a very promising and appetizing foretaste of what sounds like a listener-friendly composing style, something too often missing from new music:

Cello Choir 2014 Kyle Price Requiem cellos

Then came back-to-back performances by father and son cellists.

Son Andrew Laven played three movements –- the Bourees 1 and 2 and the Gigue -– from the Suite No. 4 for Solo Cello by Johann Sebastian Bach:

Cello Choir 2014 Andrew Laven

Father Steven Laven, with pianist Christina Lalog, played “The Tears of Jacqueline” by Jacques Offfenbach, a work he said he first heard when it was dedicated to the late great British cellist Jacqueline du Pre. You understand the dedication because the piece is appropriately lyrical in its lament:

Cello Choir 2014 Steven Laven, Christina Lalog piano

And then the concert closed as it opened, with the music of Villa-Lobos. But this was a work The Ear didn’t know, the “Bachianas Brasileiras” No. 1, which has a lovely and soulful slow movement and catchy fugal finale:

Cello Choir 2014 Bachianas Brasileiras No. 1

As an encore, the cello choir demonstrated an improvisational exercise that it used during the two-week workshop. It involves a conductor using unusual and unpredictable hands movements that are unrelated to a particular score or piece of music, and to which the cellists must each respond as they desire or hear is necessary. To The Ear, it sounded a bit like the famous simultaneous, full-orchestra crescendo in the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” song from “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album.

Cello Choir 2014 Improvisation exercise

Uri Vardi graciously thanked the small but very appreciative audience that rose to its feet and added: “See you next year.”

Indeed, he will.

He will almost certainly see The Ear, although I hope the NSCI can find a way to avoid a conflict with a concert on the same night by the popular Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society. Audiences shouldn’t have to choose between two such deserving groups.

And Vardi should also see a full house in Mills Hall.

The Cello Choir concert is that good and that lovely, that beautiful and, yes, that curative.


Classical music: A FREE Cello Choir concert will take place this Saturday night at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It features new music and works by Villa-Lobos, Francis Poulenc, J.S. Bach, Cesar Franck, Tchaikovsky and others. Plus, hear a clip of the Fusions Continuum art music concert with cello and oud to promote understanding and peace between Israelis and Arabs.

June 11, 2014
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

Concerts of chamber music by the Madison-based Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society aren’t the only classical music events happening this weekend.

This week has also seen the annual National Summer Cello Institute (NSCI), which features master classes and performances plus sessions about using Feldenkrais Method and relaxation techniques to best employ one’s physical body to make music through the cello.

cello choir 2

national summer cello Institute 1

For more information about the Institute, here is a link to its home website:

http://www.yourbodyisyourstrad.com/main/2014_National_Summer_Cello_Institute.html

Here is a link to a previous post about the Institute on this blog:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/classical-music-news-for-the-next-two-weeks-madison-will-again-become-the-summer-capital-of-cello-world-and-this-time-the-public-is-invited-to-participate/

A fine musician and good friend of the blog, Professor Uri Vardi (below) teaches cello at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. Along with his wife Hagit Vardi and some others, Uri Vardi runs the NSCI and sent this message:

Uri Vardi with cello COLOR

Dear Jake,

The 2014 National Summer Cello Institute is ending on this Saturday, June 14, with a public FREE concert in Mills Hall at 8 p.m.

The concert will include “Bachianas Brasileiras” No. 5 (with soprano Anna Whiteway, below top) and No. 1 by Heitor Villa-Lobos. Both pieces will be played by the NSCI Cello Choir, conducted by Professor James Smith (below bottom) of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

Béatrice et Bénédict Rehearsal

Smith_Jim_conduct07_3130

The program will also include new music: two movements of a “Requiem for 6 Cellos and Double Bass” by former NSCI participant (and future UW-Madison Master’s of Music student) Kyle B. Price in memory of his aunt Connie Barrett (a 2010 NSCI participant).

Other solo pieces are by the following composers:  Francis Poulenc, Cesar Franck, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Peter Tchaikovsky, Johann Sebastian Bach and Jacques Offenbach.

I hope you will be willing to let your blog audience know about this.”

Vardi also took part this past season in a Fusions Continuum Concert that mixed the Western cello and the lute-derived Arabic oud (below) with the purpose of using different kinds of art music to promote peace and understanding between Israelis and Palestinians.

oud

Adds Vardi: “Also, I thought you might be interested in a 17-minute YouTube clip of Fusions Continuum:”


Classical music news: For the next two weeks Madison will again become the summer capital of Cello World – and this time the public is invited to participate.

May 29, 2012
7 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Attention, all cellists and cello lovers! Madison, Wisconsin is about to become the temporary Cello Capital of the world.

The cello (or violoncello, below) has been, is and will remain very popular, largely, The Ear suspects, because its beautiful sound so resembles the human voice and because it uses total body involvement and has a wonderful repertoire. Just go to Google Images and check out how many schools, colleges, universities and conservatories have a Cello Choir. You will be amazed at how many exist.

Starting this Friday, June 1, the biennial National Summer Cello Institute will take place at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It will run through June 16, when it cuminates with a FREE and PUBLIC concert at 8:30 p.m. in Mills Hall. It will feature music by Bach, Bloch, Bruch and Villas Lobos,

Once again, the sessions will be under the general guidance of UW-Madison cellist and institute founder  Uri Vardi (below top) and his wife Hagit Vardi (below bottom), who is a trained practitioner of the Feldenkrais Method and was a professional flutist in her native Israel. Another important figure is the institute site administrator, Cathy Spann, a UW alumna who is a cello teacher and performer and helped found the Wisconsin Cello Society with Uri Vardi.

And here are links to a two-part Q&A the Vardis did for The Ear last summer:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2010/06/03/classical-music-interview-how-the-feldenkrais-method-helps-both-the-physical-and-artistic-side-of-making-music-part-1-of-2/

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2010/06/04/classical-music-interview-how-the-feldenkrais-method-improves-the-physical-and-artistic-sides-of-making-music-part-2-of-2/

Famous cellists and teachers – including the well-known performer Ralph Kirshbaum, who now teaches at USC — will teach, many come from such prestigious music schools as Juilliard, Mannes and the University of Michigan among others. Students highly praise the results.

This year – for the first time – the public will be allowed to audit the clinics and master classes for $15. There will also be a FREE public concert by the Cello Choir on June 16 at 8:30 p.m. in Mills Hall. For a full schedule of events with times and places, visit:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/calendar?eventcategory_id=0&ensemble_id=0&faculty_id=0&month=6&year=2012

In addition from June 1-6 there will be on-going sessions and workshops called “Your Body Is Your Strad” — great title, no? Make me wonder: Is My Body My Steinway? Anyway, the sessions teach the Feldenkrais Method to help cellists relax and use their bodies to play more efficiently and make them less prone to injury.

The NSCI is co-sponsored by the UW-Madison School of Music and The College Music Society (CMS), and this year received additional grants from the UW Chancellor’s office, the Evjue Foundation (the charitable branch of The Capital Times newspaper) and the UW Anonymous Fund.

For more details about the Feldenkrais sessions – which are NOT open to the public for auditing – and about the National Summer Cello Institute, visit:

http://www.yourbodyisyourstrad.com/main/Home.html

And listen to the YouTube videos included in this posting:

Here is a schedule of highlights – where auditing fees apply:

June 3: Seminar with Dr. Mark Erickson: “Kinesiological Considerations for Musicians”

June 4: Seminar with Dr. Raymond Purdy: “Brain Plasticity and its Relevance to Musicians”

June 8: Seminar with Timothy Eddy (below):  “Natural Resources”

June 11, 12: Seminar with Richard Aaron: “Teaching Young Children”

Cello master classes include:

June 7 and 9: Timothy Eddy

June 3, 4 and 8: Uri Vardi

June 12 and 13: Richard Aaron (below)

June 14 and 15: Ralph Kirshbaum

All events are at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music Mills Hall or Morphy Hall.

Here is the program for the FREE concert at 8:30 p.m. on June 16 in Mills Hall by the NSCI CELLO CHOIR, conducted by German Marcano: the “Chaconne” from Violin Partita No. 2 in D minor BWV 1004 by J.S. Bach (1685-1750) as arranged by Laszlo Varga; “Pájaro Guaracha” for cello ensemble by Paul Desenne (1959); “Rochela” for cello ensemble by Ricardo Lorenz (1961); “Kol Nidrei,” Op. 47, by Max Bruch (1838-1920) with soloist Uri Vardi and arranged for cello ensemble by Gunther Rinke; the “Bachianas Brasileiras” No. by Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959).

If you wonder about the credentials of the participants, here are a couple of impressive biographies:

PAUL DESENNE: The 2009 Guggenheim Fellow Paul Desenne (below) began composition studies at the age of 14 under Greek composer Iannis Ioannidis, and as a cellist, he became a founding member of the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra in 1977. He moved to Paris and studied cello with Michel Strauss and Philippe Muller; composition with Marc-Olivier Dupin and Luc Ferrari. He won first prize in cello performance at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Paris – the dean of the jury was the great Pierre Fournier.

His works are performed around the world, with venues and festivals including Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center and Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York, Laeiszhalle in Hamburg, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Juilliard, MoMA‘s Summergarden series in New York, the Sonic Boom Festival, Focus! Festival, Caramoor, Faneuil Hall in Boston, among many others.

His works have been performed by the Simón Bolívar Symphonic Orchestra, Kremerata Baltica, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas, Boston Classical Orchestra, the Bogotá Philharmonic, I Musici de Montréal, the Miami Symphony, Nederlands Blasers Ensemble, the New Juilliard Ensemble, by various artist such as the Verdehr Trio, pianist Gabriela Montero, clarinetists Paquito d’Rivera and Jorge Montilla, flutists Luis Julio Toro, Marco Granados, Javier Montilla, and Jacques Zoon, violinists Alexis Cárdenas, Virginie Robilliard, and Jennifer Curtis, violinist/violist Nicholas Mann, and cellist Iseut Chuat, with conductors including Tania Léon, Olivier Grangean, Joel Sachs, Yuli Turovsky, among others

RICARDO LORENZ: Venezuelan-born Ricardo Lorenz has served as Composer-in-Residence in several programs and presenting organizations, such as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Armonía Musicians Residency Program (1998-2003), the Billings Symphony (1998-1999), and Music in the Loft chamber music series (1999-2000).

Lorenz has also been the recipient of several other distinctions and awards from American Bandmasters Association, National Flute Association, Civitella Ranieri Foundation, Organization of American States (OAS), Concert Artists Guild, Meet-the-Composer, Barlow Endowment for Music Composition, the Newhouse Foundation, Illinois Community College Trustees Association, and ASCAP.

Although Ricardo Lorenz has resided in the United States since 1982, he has always maintained close ties with Latin America.  Between 1987 and 1992, Ricardo Lorenz held the position of Interim Director of the Indiana University Latin American Music Center.

During this time he established a network of composers from the continent and compiled the sourcebook Scores and Recordings at Indiana University’s Latin American Music Center (Indiana University Press, 1995) nominated to receive the 1996 Best General Reference Source Award by the Association of Recorded Sound Collections.  Ricardo Lorenz holds a Ph.D. degree in composition from the University of Chicago and a Master of Music degree from Indiana University.  He studied composition under Juan Orrego Salas, Shulamit Ran and Donald Erb.

He has taught at Indiana University, The University of Chicago, City Colleges of Chicago, and he is currently Associate Professor of Composition at Michigan State University.

Lorenz’ compositions are published by Lauren Keiser Music and Boosey & Hawkes.  They can also be heard on the following record labels:  Arabesque Recordings, Albany Records, Indiana University LAMC Series, Doublemoon Records (Turkey), Urtex Digital Classics (Mexico), SOMM Recordings (UK), Cedille Records, and Navona Records.


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