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: Happy New Year to you from The Ear, from Beethoven and from Spain.

January 1, 2013
5 Comments

A REMINDER: The  annual “New Year’s Day Concert From Vienna” (below) with the Vienna Philharmonic under conductor Franz Welser-Most and with TV host Julie Andrews will air this morning on NPR (and Wisconsin Public Radio) at 10 a.m. this morning with the TV version airing tonight on PBS (and Wisconsin Public Television) at 7 p.m. For more information and links to a play list of Strauss family waltzes and polkas plus works by Verdi and Wagner and lots of background, visit:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2012/12/30/classical-music-lets-get-ready-for-new-years-day-from-vienna-concert-on-radio-ad-tv-what-is-the-allure-of-the-waltz-waltz-meister-andre-rieu-discusses-the-allure/

Vienna Golden Hall

By Jacob Stockinger

Today, Jan. 1, 2013, is New Year’s Day.

The past year was not an easy year in so many ways.

Especially disappointing is the increasing polarization or partisanship one sees not only in the US but also around the world. I myself fear for the rise of right-wing fanaticism (often signaled by hatred of immigrants, a callousness toward social welfare and the oppression of minorities) in Greece and elsewhere because of economic situations. Economic strife often leads to war or other forms of strife and suffering. (Below is a CNN photo of an austerity protest riot in Greece.)

riot protest in Greece 2012

One can only  hope for much better in 2013.

So that makes this “flash mob” performance of Beethoven (below) all the more appropriate and moving. It certainly was an emotional experience for and for the very old friend who sent it on to me — as well as for the more than 8 million viewers so far on YouTube.

Beethoven big

It is the perfect piece – or, to be precise, the perfect excerpt of the perfect piece – in words and music — performed in a perfect way that was commissioned by Banco Sabadell in Barcelona to mark its 130th anniversary, I believe.

It is the “Ode to Joy” and finale from Beethoven’s famous Symphony No. 9 “Choral.”

What a great gift to all of us! So  pass it on. Link to it. Forward it. Facebook or Twitter it. But see that other people you know and care about experience this flash mob video.

It gives one hope – especially at a time when Spain, like so many other countries, in undergoing the trials, tribulations and testing of austerity.

Judge for yourself – be sure to look at the facial expressions of the children and the ordinary people who just pass by and stop to take it all in. You can see that great music connects and bonds.

And let us know what you think by leaving something in the COMMENTS section.

Happy New Year to you! May Peace, Joy and Prosperity be in abundance in 2013.


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