The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Beethoven Year in Madison will include complete cycles of string quartets and piano trios as well as many other early, middle and late pieces. Here is a partial preview

September 21, 2019
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By Jacob Stockinger

As you may have already heard, 2020 is a Beethoven Year. It will mark the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth. (He lived from mid-December of 1770 to March 26, 1827.  Dec. 17 is sometimes given as his birthday but it is really the date of his baptism. No one knows for sure the actual date of his birth.)

Beethoven, who this year overtook Mozart as the most popular composer in a British radio poll, clearly speaks to people — as you can see at the bottom in the YouTube video of a flash mob performance of the “Ode to Joy.” It has had more than 16 million views.

Locally, not all Beethoven events have been announced yet. But some that promise to be memorable are already taking shape. Many programs include early, middle and late works. And you can be sure that, although nothing formal has been announced yet, there will be special programs on Wisconsin Public Television and especially Wisconsin Public Radio.

Here is a partial round-up:

The UW’s famed Pro Arte String Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer), for example, will perform a FREE and complete cycle of Beethoven’s 16 string quartets in six concerts. It will start later this fall.

This is not the first time that the Pro Arte has done a Beethoven cycle. But it is especially fitting since that is the same Beethoven cycle that the Pro Arte was performing in Madison at the Wisconsin Union Theater in May of 1940 when World War II broke out and the quartet was stranded on tour in the U.S. after its homeland of Belgium was invaded and occupied by the Nazis.

That is when the ensemble was invited to become musical artists-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and accepted – thereby establishing the first such association in the world that became a model for many other string quartets.

The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society with the San Francisco Trio (below) plans on performing a cycle of piano trios next summer. No specific dates or programs have been announced yet.

The 20th anniversary of the Ancora String Quartet (below, in a photo by Barry Lewis) will coincide with the Beethoven Year. That is when the Ancorans will complete the cycle of 16 string quartets that they have been gradually programming over the years. Three quartets remain to be performed: Op. 59, No. 2 “Rasumovsky”, Op. 130 and Op. 131.

Adds violist Marika Fischer Hoyt: “We’ll perform Op. 130 in February (with the original final movement, NOT the “Grosse Fuge”), and we plan to do the remaining two quartets in the summer and fall of 2020.”

Here are some other Beethoven dates to keep in mind:

On Nov. 2 in Shannon Hall at the Wisconsin Union Theater, and as part of the WUT’s centennial celebration of its Concert Series, pianist Emanuel Ax (below, in a photo by Lisa-Marie Mazzucco), who since 1974 has played many solo recitals, chamber music recitals and piano concertos in Madison, will play Beethoven’s first three solo piano sonatas, Op. 2.

On Dec. 6 at the Wisconsin Union Theater, the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Piano Trio will perform the famous “Archduke” Trio, Op. 97. Also on the program are works by Felix Mendelssohn and Robert Schumann.

On Feb. 1, UW-Madison pianist Christopher Taylor, who has performed all 32 piano sonatas in Madison, will continue his cycle of Beethoven symphonies as transcribed for solo piano by Franz Liszt. He will perform Symphony No. 1 and the famed Symphony No. 9, the ground-breaking “Choral” Symphony with its “Ode to Joy.” No chorus will be involved, but there will be four solo singers. Taylor said he will then complete the cycle with Symphony No. 2 at some future time.

The Mosaic Chamber Players (below, in a photo by John W. Barker) will perform two all-Beethoven programs: on Feb. 21, a FREE program offers two sonatas for violin and piano (Op. 12, No. 3 and Op. 30, No. 2, and one sonata for cello and piano (Op. 5, No. 1); on June 13, a ticketed program features three piano trios (Op. 1, No. 1; Op. 70, No. 2; and Op. 121a “Kakadu” Variations).

On May 8, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below top, in a photo by Mike Gorski), under conductor Andrew Sewell (below bottom, in a photo by Alex Cruz), will perform the popular Symphony No. 6 “Pastoral” – a pioneering piece of program music — to commemorate the Beethoven Year.

There is one very conspicuous absence.

You will notice that there is nothing by Beethoven programmed for the new season of the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below, in a photo by Peter Rodgers).

But The Ear hears rumors that music director John DeMain (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson) is planning something special for the following season that might involve both symphonies and concertos, both original Beethoven works and perhaps “reimagined” ones.

(For example, pianist Jonathan Biss, who has just completed recording the piano sonata cycle and who performed with the MSO several years ago, has commissioned and will premiere five piano concertos related to or inspired by Beethoven’s five piano concertos.) Sorry, but as of now only rumors and not details are available for the MSO. Stay tuned!

The Ear would like to hear complete cycles of the violin sonatas and cello sonatas performed, and a couple of the piano concertos as well as the early symphonies and the famed Ninth Symphony with its “Ode to Joy” finale. He fondly remembers when DeMain and the MSO performed Symphonies Nos. 1 and 9 on the same program. Talk about bookending a career!

What Beethoven would you like to hear live?

What are your most favorite or least favorite Beethoven works?

Do you know of other Beethoven programs during the Beethoven Year? If so, please leave word in the Comment section.

And, of course, there is the inevitable question: Can you have too much Beethoven?


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Classical music: Make Music Madison 2015 takes place this Sunday and features some impressive classical music projects. And there is still time to participate.

June 18, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Sunday is the summer solstice, which arrives at 11:39 a.m. CDT.

That means it is also time for the Make Music Madison festival – a day-long, citywide FREE event with live music taking place mostly outdoors.

Here is a link to the event’s website:

http://makemusicmadison.org

Make Music Madison logo square

The map of events is impressive, which is why Madison’s Make Music event is second in size only to New York City’s.

One thing is the sheer number of events and the number of artists, which is close to 400.

But the website is good too, although it is hard to see programs and specific pieces to be performed.

Use the filter map to see the genre -– classical, pop, folk, jazz, choral, Celtic, whatever – and the location.

For classical fans, I single out a couple of events, although there are many more.

One noteworthy event is that Farley’s House of Pianos will place an upright piano in the Hilldale Mall outside Metcalf’s grocery store from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., with chairs available for seating. A full schedule of individuals and groups will perform all kinds of music.

And here is an another unusual event planned and directed by the talented Jerry Hui (below), a UW-Madison graduate who is now a music professor at UW-Stout and who has come up with a project that involves singing choral music on the shore of Lake Mendota.

Jerry Hui

I will let Jerry Hui describe it:

“The official name of the event is called the Massed Choir, part of Make Music Madison 2015. Make Music Madison is modeled after a similar event in New York City called Make Music New York, which for the last few years have featured flash mob-style music-making — including a choir. Since Madison has a vibrant choral community, I think it’s about time that we come together and have fun making music as one big choir.

“We’ll be performing three pieces on Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Edgewater Hotel Plaza. Two of the pieces were voted by the participants: “Dona Nobis Pacem” (in a Youtube video at the bottom) from the Mass in B minor by Johann Sebastian Bach; and the hymn “Joyful, Joyful.”

“The third piece is freshly composed by Scott Gendel (below). Gendel is an award-winning composer and pianist, who has strong ties with Madison and is a graduate of the UW-Madison School of Music.

Scott Gendel color headshot

Gendel has set to music a beautiful poem titled “In Summer” by late 19th-century African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar (below).

Paul Laurence Dunbar

There is still time to join the Massed Choir!

The scores are available as PDFs on Make Music Madison’s website http://makemusicmadison.org/mass-appeal/#choir; just print a copy and show up on Sunday!

There’ll be two optional rehearsals, both at Christ Presbyterian Church: Friday, June 19, 7-8:15 p.m.; and Saturday, June 20, noon-1:30 p.m. To help with logistics planning, singers are encouraged to register at http://tinyurl.com/MadisonMassedChoir2015.

NOTE: Back to The Ear, who encourages other classical performers to list their event, time, program and place in the COMMENTS section and who says enjoy whatever you play or listen to!


Classical music: Will Madison help celebrate the 330th birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach on Saturday, March 21, 2015 when “Bach in the Subways” Day takes place nationwide and around the world?

November 8, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear recently came across this news item — reprinted below.

He remembers when Wisconsin Public Radio, under the direction of its former music program director Cheryl Dring, marked the annual birthday of Baroque master composer Johann Sebastian Bach (below). At bottom you can hear almost two hours of Bach’s best and most popular music — from solo piano to orchestra —  in YouTube video that has almost 10 million hits.

Bach1

The noon-to-midnight event was called “Bach Around the Clock” (below) and was based on an event that Dring used to go to in New Orleans, Louisiana. It featured singers and choral music, instrumental music of all kinds and at all levels, and audiences who wandered in and out as well as a special birthday cake for The Birthday Boy.

BATC2ColorCollage

The FREE and PUBLIC event took place in the Pres House, 731 State St., near the UW-Madison School of Music. It featured lots of classical amateur musicians – including The Ear who played solo piano works and also collaborated with a flutist – but also professional musicians, including members of the UW-Madison School of Music,UW-Whitewater, Edgewood College, the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber orchestra  the Madison Bach Musicians and its keyboardist founder and director Trevor Stephenson, church organists and various choral groups. It was also webcast live by WPR.

BATC1Dring

I wrote about it every year, and was also surprised and pleased by the quality of the music-making I heard from young students through adult amateurs and of course professional musicians. I loved it, both as a participant and as an audience member.

Here are some links with lots of photos:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/classical-music-review-the-marathon-“bach-around-the-clock”-concert-is-now-officially-a-tradition-in-madison-wisconsin/

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2012/03/23/classical-music-here-are-8-lessons-i-learned-from-my-day-of-berlitz-bach-at-wisconsin-public-radios-bach-around-the-clock-3-last-saturday/

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/?s=bach+around+the+clock

But Wisconsin Public Radio backed out of the celebration after four years, citing weekend staff time and expense. No one stepped in to pick it up, though I suppose you could make the case that the “Make Music Madison” citywide event of the past two summers took up the baton. But that event includes all kinds of music — not just classical and not mainly classical and not just Bach.

BATC1Michael Xie

Now there is a similar populist movement nationwide and even worldwide, but based in New York City, to mark Bach’s birthday. It is called “Bach in the Subways” and started several years ago. Since then it has been growing.

My question now is: Who, if anybody, will host the Madison event in this movement in 2015 and in coming years?

The UW-Madison has the School of Music, including Morphy Hall (below) and Music Hall as well as Mills Hall.

Morphy Hall 2

The centrally located Pres House, which also features an organ, a piano, a low-profile stage, many chairs and good acoustics as well as a dining room for snacks and socializing, is an excellent candidate.

Farley’s House of Pianos seems the kind of customer-friendly and community-helping business that might be open to the event.

Maybe there are other churches or community centers or organizations that would be willing to set this up.

Anyway, your reactions and suggestions are welcome.

And here is the original announcement I found:

CALLING ALL  MUSICIANS

Bach in the Subways Day

Saturday, March 21, 2015

On J.S. Bach’s 330th birthday, musicians around the world will unite to perform Bach for free in subways and public spaces, throughout the day and night, to celebrate our art and to sow the seeds for future generations of classical music lovers.

Musicians, organizers and everyone else who wish to spread the joy of Bach are invited to join us! Solos, ensembles, flash mobs and Bach marathons are all encouraged.

Join us as we fill the world with Bach!

For more information visit http://bachinthesubways.com, facebook.com/bachinthesubways, or twitter.com/bachinthesubway. (The list of participants on the main website says that Madison, Wisconsin, is taking part, along with many cities around the country and world. But I don’t see any specifics. Does anyone know the details of the local celebration?)

For more information, write to info@bachinthesubways.com.

Need inspiration? Free Bach scores (in the public domain), as well as transcriptions for many solo instruments and a wide variety of ensembles, are available at www.imslp.org

Meanwhile, here are almost two hours of popular music by J.S. Bach to listen to:


Classical music: The Madison Symphony Orchestra announces its new 2014-15 season. It includes programs from Bach to Hollywood exiles from Hitler and the Nazis, acclaimed soloists and ticket prices with only modest increases.

March 19, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Madison Symphony Orchestra (below) has just announced its next season for 2014-15.

MSO-HALL

It strikes The Ear as both deeply interesting and tightly cohesive, a good blend of sure-fire hits and unknown or rarely heard repertoire. It also features some fine local talent and some unusual repertoire, though, unlike the past several seasons, no new or contemporary music is included. After all, this is a business with seats to fill, not some theoretical exercise in programming.

“You can’t have everything, especially when you are playing only eight concerts,” lamented MSO maestro John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad) when he discussed the new season with me.

But, DeMain added, the MSO is exploring doing another Chicago Symphony Orchestra “Beyond the Score” format concert — like this season’s presentation of Antonin Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony, which sold out — probably in January and probably with more than one performance, if they can find a sponsor to front the $50,000 cost. Then he will decide on what work out of more than 20 possibilities would be right.

John DeMain full face by Prasad

Concerts take place in Overture Hall in the Overture Center on Friday nights at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday nights at 8 p.m.; and Sunday afternoons at 2:30 p.m.

The deadline for subscriptions renewals and keeping your current seat is May 8.

Here is the official press release that unveils the new season. The Ear also talked at length one-on-one with MSO music director and conductor John DeMain. Since the announcement is long enough for one post, DeMain’s insightful comments will appear a bit later in another post.

mso from above

MADISON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA ANNOUNCES 2014-15 SEASON

Maestro John DeMain and the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) will deliver a diverse and exciting season of composers and guest artists for 2014-2015.

Beginning with a September program that focuses on the highly-talented musicians in the orchestra, DeMain will lead the audience through an exhilarating variety of themes and cultures throughout the season.  Russia, Scandinavia, and Golden-Age Hollywood are just a few of the sound worlds the MSO will explore, while monumental works central to the orchestra, such as Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, will anchor the year.

A world-class roster of guest artists has been invited to Madison for the season’s performances, including violinist Sarah Chang, pianist Olga Kern, violinist Daniel Hope, pianist Ingrid Fliter and University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music pianist Christopher Taylor.

SEPTEMBER 19, 20 and 21, 2014

“Orchestral Splendor,” John DeMain, Conductor

RICHARD STRAUSS, “Also sprach Zarathustra”

FRANK MARTIN, Concerto for Seven Winds

CAMILLE SAINT-SAËNS, Symphony No. 3 (“Organ” Symphony)

German composer Richard Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra was once among his least performed works, but it is now firmly established as standard orchestral repertoire.  The trumpet theme and thunderous timpani entrance (heard in Stanley Kubrick’s epic film “2001: A Space Odyssey”) are unmistakable.

Swiss composer Frank Martin’s Concerto for Seven Winds was written in 1949.  It features seven solo instruments, exploring differences in sonority and expression.  The virtuosic and conversational writing in these piece results in a playful, sportive character.

French composer Camille Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3, known also as the “Organ” Symphony, draws on elements of both the conventional symphony and the tone poem. Formally unusual in its own time, yet popular from its conception, the work features virtuosic piano and organ passages and a masterful display of the vast colors possible in the symphony orchestra.

John DeMain and MSO from the stage Greg Anderson

OCTOBER 17, 18 and 19, 2014

“The Russian Spirit” with John DeMain, conductor, and Olga Kern (below), piano

PETER ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY, Suite from “Swan Lake”

SERGEI RACHMANINOFF, Concerto No. 1 for Piano

DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH, Symphony No. 6

The Suite from “Swan Lake” tells the magical tale of a young prince enchanted by a swan maiden under the moonlight.  Peter Tchaikovsky’s charming work utilizes haunting melodies, captivating waltzes, Russian and Hungarian folk themes, and a Spanish dance.

Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 1 for Piano displays a youthful freshness and an assertive, extroverted personality.  Indeed, the composer began this work when he was 17!  For audience members who delight in keyboard fireworks, this piece will thrill.

Symphony No. 6 by Dmitri Shostakovich, written as war clouds were gathering in Russia, was quite a contrast to Symphony No. 5.  Lopsided movement lengths, a lack of obvious theme, and characters of anxiety and desolation reflect the intriguing political situation of the time, as well as Shostakovich’s own remarkably wide emotional compass.

Olga Kern, Mogens Dahl Konsertsal 26.1.2009

NOVEMBER 7, 8 and 9, 2014

“Scandinavian Wonders” with John DeMain, conductor, and Sarah Chang (below), violin

EDVARD GRIEG, Lyric Suite

JEAN SIBELIUS, Concerto for Violin

CARL NIELSEN, Symphony No. 4 (“The Inextinguishable”)

Over the course of his long career, Edvard Grieg composed 66 Lyric pieces for piano, strongly rooted in the songs, dances, mythology, and spirit of Norway.  He selected four of these fragrant and diverse miniatures for an orchestral suite, premiered in 1906.

 “…For…10 years it was my dearest wish to become a great virtuoso.” wrote Finnish composer Jean Sibelius in his diary.  Unfortunately the composer never reached great proficiency on the instrument, and his Concerto for Violin, awash in Nordic textures, expresses a melancholic farewell to that childhood dream.

As a philosophical guideline to his often raging Symphony No. 4, Danish composer Carl Nielsen said, “Music is life, and, like life, inextinguishable”.  Four interlinked movements of frequently agitated energy lead to a climax of ultimate triumph and grand 19th century symphonic tradition.

Sarah Chang playing

DECEMBER 5, 6 and 7, 2014

A Madison Symphony Christmas

With John DeMain, conductor; Alyson Cambridge (below), soprano; Harold Meers, tenor; the Madison Symphony Chorus, Beverly Taylor, director; the Madison Youth Choirs, Michael Ross, artistic director; and the Mt. Zion Gospel Choir, Leotha Stanley, director.

John DeMain and the Madison Symphony don their Santa hats for this signature Christmas celebration. This concert is filled with traditions, from caroling in the lobby with the Madison Symphony Chorus to vocal performances by hundreds of members of Madison’s musical community. Christmas classics are interwoven with enchanting new holiday music. The culminating sing-along is Madison’s unofficial start of the holiday season!

Alyson Cambridge

DeMain Santa Bob Rashid

FEBRUARY 13, 14 and 15, 2015

“Fliter Plays Chopin” with John DeMain, conductor, and Ingrid Fliter (below), piano

BENJAMIN BRITTEN, Variations on a Theme by Frank Bridge

FREDERIC CHOPIN, Concerto No. 2 for Piano

ROBERT SCHUMANN, Symphony No. 4

Frank Bridge, one of Benjamin Britten’s earliest composition teachers, was certainly responsible for the surpassing clarity, individuality, and discipline in Britten’s most cherished works.  Britten’s “Variations” on Bridge’s theme range from passionate to playful, capturing the heartfelt musical admiration of a pupil for his teacher.

From the moment he arrived in Paris at age 21, Frederic Chopin drew the admiration of both the public and esteemed critics, alike.  Concerto No. 2 was in fact his first concerto, displaying the composer’s prolific improvisatory and imaginative style.  

In composing Symphony No. 4, Robert Schumann departed significantly from the standard Classical form he previously employed, connecting all four movements with recurring musical ideas–a novel proposition at the time.

Ingrid Fliter playing

MARCH 6, 7 and 8, 2015

“Composers in Exile: Creating the Hollywood Sound” with John DeMain, conductor, and  Daniel Hope (below), violin

FRANZ WAXMAN, Sinfonietta for Strings and Timpani Ride of the Cossacks from “Taras Bulba”

MIKLÓS RÓZSA, Theme, Variations and Finale;  Parade of the Charioteers from “Ben Hur”;                          Love Theme from “Ben Hur”; Love Theme from “Spellbound”

ERICH KORNGOLD, Concerto for Violin and the  Suite from “Captain Blood”

This unique concert features the works of great classical composers before they fled Nazi persecution and also showcases their later brilliant contributions to Hollywood film scores.

Franz Waxman (below) is responsible for a long list of memorable Hollywood scores, including “The Bride of Frankenstein,” “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and “Rebecca.”  His Sinfonietta, written for only strings and timpani, is comprised of three wildly different movements. Waxman also composed the soundtrack for the 1962 epic, “Taras Bulba.”  “Ride of the Cossacks” is the exhilarating theme to which Taras and his army gallop to Dubno.

Franz Waxman

According to Miklos Rózsa (below), his “Theme” was conceived in the manner of a Hungarian folk song, then treated in variations of contrasting feeling, and summarized in a wild and swift finale.  The 1934 work earned him his first international success. By the late 1940’s Rózsa was an Oscar-winning, film score composer, and joined the staff of Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer.  His thrilling score for the 1959 film “Ben Hur” is one of his lasting achievements, earning him his third and final Oscar.

Miklos Rozsa

The Concerto for Violin, written by Erich Wolfgang Korngold (bel0w top) in 1945, perfectly blends the two musical lives of the composer, unapologetic in both its rigorous craftsmanship and its Hollywood charm. “Captain Blood” was a milestone for Korngold, as it was his first fully symphonic movie score.  Produced in only three weeks, the music evidences his most professional and imaginative effort.

erich wolfgang korngold at piano

savannah_french

APRIL 10, 11 and 12, 2015

“Piano Genius” with John DeMain, conductor, and Christopher Taylor (below), piano

JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH, Concerto No. 4 for Clavier

FRANZ LISZT, Concerto No. 1 for Piano

ANTON BRUCKNER, Symphony No. 7

Concerto No. 4 by Johann Sebastian Bach is part of a set of six concertos, dated to 1738.  The piece was originally written for harpsichord and is ripe with movement and ornamentation. Bach’s concertos laid a crucial formal and harmonic groundwork for centuries of composition to follow.

Franz Liszt’s Concerto No. 1 for Piano is more than a century-long leap forward in time. Liszt’s Romantic genius is unabashedly on display, with thick orchestration, cadenzas that range from delicate to thundering, and lush harmonies.

Anton Bruckner was a country man, transplanted into bustling cosmopolitan Vienna, and he and his music were unlikely successes with audiences and critics. His music was said to “compel the element of the divine into our human world”.

ChristopherTaylorNoCredit

MAY 8, 9 and 10, 2015

“Ode to Joy” with John DeMain, conductor; concertmaster Naha Greenholtz (below top), violin; Melody Moore, soprano; Gwendolyn Brown, contralto; Eric Barry, tenor; Morris Robinson (below bottom), bass; and the Madison Symphony Chorus, Beverly Taylor, director.

LEONARD BERNSTEIN, “Serenade” (after Plato’s “Symposium”)

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN, Symphony No. 9 (“Choral”)

Leonard Bernstein’s “Serenade” for violin and orchestra, resulted from a rereading of Plato’s charming dialogue, “The Symposium.”  The music dances through a series of inter-related “speakers” at a banquet (Phaedrus, Aristophanes, Erixymachus, Agathon, and Socrates), praising love.

Naha Greenholtz [playing

Ludwig van Beethoven’s last and monumental Symphony No. 9 stands apart from his other symphonies by virtue of its humanistic message, enormous scale and organic unity of design.  The mammoth fourth movement, operating like a symphony in miniature, is like nothing else in symphonic music.  Four soloists, full chorus, the entire orchestra, and the famous “Ode to Joy” theme will conclude the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s season. (You can hear a populist flash mob version of the “Ode to Joy” at the bottom in a popular YouTube video that had almost 4-1/2 million hits.)

Morris Robinson

MSO Chorus CR Greg Anderson

Single tickets for individual concerts have increased slightly and are $16 to $84 each, and go on sale Aug. 16. They are available at www.madisonsymphony.org/singletickets and through the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street or call the Box Office at (608) 258-4141.

New subscribers can receive savings up to 50%.  For more information and to subscribe, visit www.madisonsymphony.org/newsub or call (608) 257-3734.

Groups of 15 or more can save 25% by calling the MSO office at (608) 257-3734. For more information visit, www.madisonsymphony.org/groups

Discounted seats are subject to availability, and discounts may not be combined.

You can also check out the official MSO website announcement of the new season by visiting:

http://www.madisonsymphony.org/14-15

The Madison Symphony Orchestra engages audiences of all ages and backgrounds in live classical music through a full season of concerts with established and emerging soloists of international renown, an organ series that includes free concerts, and widely respected education and community engagement programs. Find more information at www.madisonsymphony.org.

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Classical music: Hallelujah! Two performances of a “Sing-along ‘Messiah’ are slated next Friday night in Dodgeville and next Sunday afternoon in Spring Green.

December 1, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

Our friends in the Rural Musicians Forum (below is a press release with a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired logo) write to say:

Rural Messiah 2013 poster 2

Around the world and across the country, the performance of the oratorio “Messiah” by George Friderich Handel (below) at Christmas time is a tradition almost as deeply entrenched as decorating trees and hanging stockings.

This year, for the first time in this area, the Rural Musicians Forum is hosting a “Sing-Out Messiah” with two community “sing-along” performances of “Messiah.”

One will be in Dodgeville on this coming Friday, December 6, at 7 p.m. at the United Methodist Church; the other will be in Spring Green on Sunday, December 8,  at 3 p.m.) at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church. 

handel big 3

“Sing-along” concerts have been a popular tradition throughout the United States, Europe and Asia since the mid-20th Century.

Many people have grown up hearing “Messiah” in their homes, churches and communities, and whether they’re accomplished musicians or just shower singers, many love to reconnect to those memories by singing the piece with others.

In a “Sing-along Messiah,” trained and accomplished singers perform side by side with friends and neighbors who could be singing — or even hearing — “Messiah”: for the first time. Families, church groups and even adherents to different religious traditions all take part. (For proof, see the very popular YouTube video with note than 42 million hits at the bottom of a flash mob performance of “The Hallelujah Chorus.)

The audience serves as the unrehearsed chorus, supported by a more carefully prepared core group. Instrumentalists and soloists are of professional quality. 

In Dodgeville and Spring Green, performers will include a chorus drawn from the community, the Pecatonica String Quartet (below), and five soloists, led by Greg Dennis, longtime director of the Mt. Horeb Chorale and UW-Platteville choral department.

Pecatonica String Quartet

Soloists for “Sing Out Messiah” include sopranos Madeline Ehlinger (Spring Green) and Leslie Damaso (Mineral Point), alto Janna Johnson (Arena), bass Carl Leaf (Spring Green) and Matt Roble (Dodgeville/Wisconsin Dells).  Retired UW-Stevens Point piano professor, Michael Keller will accompany.

In the audience will be more than a hundred singers waiting for their turns to sing, and listeners who have the opportunity to sit among the singers. 

In announcing “Sing Out Messiah,” RMF’s Artistic Director Kent Mayfield (below) said, “I love Messiah, and there is something about a full-house doing it that is remarkable.  The joy of singing with a mass of people transcends any kind of choral or vocal ability.  It gives the piece an energy you wouldn’t experience otherwise.  Everyone is welcome to join the singing and everyone is welcome to the performance. As an audience member, no one is required to sing but everyone is certainly invited to sing!”

Kent Mayfield  Rural Musicians Forum

The selections to be sung are listed on the RMF website: www.ruralmusiciansforum.org

Scores for “Messiah” are available at Arcadia Books in Spring Green and from online vendors.  A limited number of copies will be available at each of the performances on a first-come/first-serve basis.

Tickets are $10 (children under 12 are admitted free) for “Sing Out Messiah” and are available now at the Cook’s Room in Dodgeville, Arcadia Books in Spring Green and online at www.ruralmusiciansforum.org. Tickets will be available at the door in advance of each performance.

Rural messiah 2013 poster 1


Classical music: The Rural Musicians Forum in Spring Green is planning two performances of a “Sing-Out Messiah,” and is recruiting singers as well as listeners. Plus, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra will give two full professional performances of “Messiah.”

November 18, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

Store windows aren’t the only sign that the holidays are fast approaching, especially with Thanksgiving falling so late this year.

Performances, partial or complete, of the Baroque masterpiece oratorio “Messiah” by George Frideric Handel (below) are another sure sign. It brings joy, as you can see and hear  in the food court flash mob video of the “Hallelujah Chorus” from YouTube at the bottom, which has over 42 MILLION hits.

handel big 2

If you want to hear a complete concert performance, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below top) and soloists, all under the baton of WCO music director and conductor Andrew Sewell (below bottom) – the WCO itself used to do annual Sing-Out Messiahs at holiday time — is offering one in Middleton on Dec. 13 and another in Stoughton, at the gloriously restored Stoughton Opera House (below), on Dec. 14.

StoughtonOperaHouse,JPG

Here are links for details:

http://wcoconcerts.org/performances/messiah/

http://wcoconcerts.org/performances/messiahinstoughton/th

WisconsinChamberOrchestrainCapitolTHeaterlobby

Andrew Sewell BW

But if you want to sing “Messiah” yourself, you might consider attending a rural one of two Sing-Out Messiahs to be given by the Rural Musicians Forum in Dodgeville on Dec. 6 and in Spring Green on Dec. 8.

In fact, you might consider becoming part of the community chorus.

Below are two posters that tell the story. You can enlarge them to zoom in on whatever information you want or need.

And here are details:

Handel’s Messiah is a world-wide event that awes singers and listeners with its thrilling emotional impact and an uplifting message.  This year the Rural Musicians Forum is sponsoring SING OUT MESSIAH – an opportunity for the community to join in singing beloved choruses of the MESSIAH with soloists, instrumentalists and a rehearsed choir.  The public concerts will be held on December 6 at the Dodgeville United Methodist Church and on December 8 at Spring Green’s St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church.

In preparation for the concerts, singers in the community are invited to join the community-based choir directed by the noted teacher and conductor Greg Dennis, to rehearse on three occasions  prior to the public events.  Rehearsals are scheduled for November 24, December 1, December 5.  There are no auditions, and the choir is open to singers in all parts and with any level of experience.  A full listing of the selections to be sung can be found on the RMF website. 

Rehearsals will be held at Christ Lutheran Church (below) in Spring Green. Singers should provide their own scores. A limited number of copies will be available for  purchase at Arcadia Books in Spring Green, and Cook’s Room in Dodgeville. All rehearsals will begin at 7 p.m.

christ Lutheran Church in Spring Green

For more information, contact Kent Mayfield, Artistic Director, ruralmusiciansforum@yahoo.com or check the RMF website www.ruralmusiciansforum.org.

You can visit the Rural Musicians Forum at: http://ruralmusiciansforum.org

Rural Messiah 2013 poster 2

Rural messiah 2013 poster 1


Classical music: In manuscript, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony sparks new respect and joy.

November 9, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

It is easy to take even the greatest of music and the most original of compositions for granted if you hear it often and it becomes popular enough. (Hear the flash mob performance at the bottom, which has almost 3 million hits on YouTube.)

So how do you get a new and renewed respect for Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony? How do you rediscover the joy in the famous “Ode to Joy” choral ending? (Below in a popular YouTube video.)

By going to a museum – in this case, the Pierpont Morgan Library and Museum in New York City — where the original manuscript in a copyist’s form is on display and then realizing the genius and originality that went into the iconic work. (Below is an especially important section in the last movement. It is courtesy of the Royal Philharmonic Society, which is celebrating its bicentennial, and the British Museum.)

beethoven's ninth ms Royal Philharmonic Society and British Museum

Edward Rothstein, one of the most insightful and original culture critics writing for The New York Times or for any publication, recently published just such an account.

It is a long piece with a terrific side bar. But it is well worth reading. And be sure to enlarge the photos so you can see what the performance manuscript – NOT the notebook sketches – looked like. Here is a link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/01/arts/music/beethovens-ninth-a-masterpiece-reunited-at-the-morgan.html?_r=0

And here is a link to the sidebar in which Rothstein punningly links Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony to heavy mettle (heavy medal):

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/19/arts/connections-the-ninth-heavy-mettle.html

And here is a link to the museum’s site, including background information about the exhibition:

http://www.themorgan.org

http://www.themorgan.org/exhibitions/exhibition.asp?id=79


Classical music: Hallelujah for Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.” So, what makes it great? Why and how does it work its magic? NPR answers those questions and more. Plus, you can listen to two versions — both Andre Rieu and a flash mob — of the great chorus.

December 24, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

HAPPY  CHRISTMAS EVE!!!!!!

It is just about impossible to imagine the holiday season without the “Hallelujah Chorus” by Handel (below), which has been a powerful and popular hit since it was first composed and performed.

handel big 2

This year will be no different.

The ‘Hallelujah Chorus” will be sung and listened to countless times in the coming day in private  homes, in houses of worship, in social institutions, even as a joyous food court flash mob proves (below), a video that has had over 40 million hits — so pass it on as a holiday gift!

But what is its hold on us and where does the hold come from?

NPR’s excellent classical music blog “Deceptive Cadence” re-posts a “Performance Today” talk from 2008 in which Rob Kapilow answers those questions as part of an ongoing occasional series, “What Makes It Great?”

Now, some families observe the tradition of opening presents on Christmas Eve, and other open the presents on Christmas Day.

The Ear will do both for you.

So here is my Christmas Eve present – a close look at and listen to Georg Frideric Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus,” perhaps the most popular piece of classical music ever written for the holidays. (There will be another present to open on Christmas Day.)

Here it is:

http://www.npr.org/2008/12/23/98517850/the-pure-power-of-handels-hallelujah-chorus

What do you think makes the “Hallelujah Chorus” so great to sing and to listen to?

Happy singing! Happy listening (to the up tempo version below led by Andre Rieu that has had over 2 million hits)! And Merry Christmas!


Classical music news: Three FREE Farmers Market organ concerts plus a bonus August mid-week concert, featuring the organ, singers and brass, start this Saturday morning in Overture Hall.

June 13, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Dane County Farmer’s Market has developed a national reputation as one of the biggest and oldest and finest such markets in the entire country. Over more than 25 years, it has become a focal point for the city’s and area’s community life in summer.

But you can get a lot more than food there.

Of course, you can see politicians and judges running for election and all sorts of other groups and community organizations on the Capitol Square recruiting members during the market on summer Saturday mornings.

But classical music fans have also started in recent years to bring their own “wares” to the Farmer’s Market.

Grace Episcopal Presents offered a free noontime concert last week.

Classical Revolution and New Muse (New Music Everywhere) also do events centered on the Farmer’s Market, sometimes with individual recitals or chamber concerts, sometimes even with a mass “flash mob” including a moving performance of Samuel Barber‘s “Adagio for Strings” (below).

And this summer, once again the Madison Symphony Orchestra is again presenting its FREE organ concert series in Overture Hall, in the nearby Overture Center, at 11 p.m. on the third Saturdays on June, July and August during the summer.

This summer will also feature a midweek FREE bonus concert in early August, a girls choir from Freiburg, Madison’s sister city in Germany, and a brass group.

One of the purposes, of course, is to showcase the colossal and impressive custom-built Klais concert organ (below) in Overture Hall:

Here is a schedule – so far no individual programs have been provided — for this summer’s Farmer’s Market organ concerts by the MSO. They are at 11 a.m.-noon in Overture Hall, if it is not stated otherwise:

THIS SATURDAY, JUNE 16: Mark Brampton Smith (below) is the organist at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, in Middleton.

SATURDAY, JULY 21: JARED STELLMACHER (below top) and the GARGOYLE BRASS QUINTET (below bottom). The Director of Music and Organist at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Hinsdale, Illinois, returns to Madison with a finalist group at the Chicago Brass Festival.

SATURDAY, AUGUST 18: KATHRINE HANFORD. Hear the organist and Director of Music at Central Presbyterian Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, and a faculty member at the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music in Appleton, Wisconsin.

You can also hear a FREE bonus concert by the FREIBURG CATHEDRAL GIRLS CHOIR on WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 8, AT 7:30 P.M. Madison’s sister city of Freiburg, Germany, sends its Cathedral Girls Choir to perform accompanied by the Colossal Klais Organ.

The Free Farmers Market Concerts are generously sponsored by Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation. Additional support for all Overture Concert Organ performances is provided by the Diane Endres Ballweg Fund.


Classical music news: Copenhagen, Denmark sure likes Flash Mobs. Just listen to members of the Copenhagen Philharmonic performing Grieg’s “Peer Gynt” and Ravel’s “Bolero.”

May 15, 2012
5 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

I remember a “60 Minutes” story about how the so-called “melancholy Danes” are actually the most satisfied citizens in the world.

True, they pay a lot of taxes. But in the interviews, it quickly became apparent that people like that just fine since such taxation also brings them excellent health care, state-paid higher education, generous maternity and paternity leave, public transportation, and many other social and personal benefits. (And so far, I don’t hear Denmark included in discussions of Europe’s debt problems.)

Maybe that level of public satisfaction also helps to explain why members of the Copenhagen Philharmonic like to stage “flash mob” versions of symphonic music in subway cars and railroad stations

To remind people: Flash mobs are populist in nature;  and though apparently spontaneous and spur-of-the-moment, they are in reality very well planned and synchronized events where music just starts happening outside concert halls or the usual and traditional venues. Some flash mobs are instrumental, but most seem to use group singing, especially for the “Hallelujah Chorus” by Handel.

Do you like the good life? Not for nothing is Copenhagen known as the “Paris of the North.”

Here, for example, are two videos of the flash mob events that have gone viral.

The first one, from last year, is Ravel‘s “Bolero” played in the city’s main railroad station. It has brought over 5 MILLION hits to YouTube. It is also a perfect piece for a gathering flash mob as the repetitive melody and rhythm hop around from one instrument or section to another.

The most recent one, just a week ago, is a version the soaring and stirring “Dawn” movement  of Grieg’s popular “Peer Gynt,” which the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra played in Madison at the Wisconsin Union Theater a couple of season ago. The Danes play it in a subway car full of commuters. So far, that video has brought in over 2 MILLION hits — and brought me to tears. To have such beauty in the amid the hubbub of our daily life and at the beginning of the work day is truly inspired! I expect many more millions of hits to come.

Take a look and listen:

And just to remind you: Flash mobs also happen in Madison at the Farmers Market, the state Capitol and the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. Here is a link to several:

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=flash+mob+Madison&oq=flash+mob+Madison&aq=f&aqi=g3&aql=&gs_l=youtube-psuggest.3..0l3.1596.2088.0.2753.2.2.0.0.0.0.200.270.1j0j1.2.0…0.0.yo3I5hOWatA

What do you think of the flash mob phenomenon in general?

What did you think of these Copenhagen flash mobs?

What make Copenhagen special as a place for flash mobs.

The Ear wants to hear.


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