ALERT: The FREE Friday Noon Musicales at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, resume this week after a break for Christmas, New Year’s and other holidays. This Friday, from 12:15 to 1 p.m., pianist Olivia Musat will perform music by Olivier Messiaen, Isaac Albeniz and Paul Constantinesco.
By Jacob Stockinger
It seems a tradition throughout the media to offer a roundup of the Year’s Best with a local slant.
The Ear already offered a national and international roundup. Here is a link to that, especially to the surprisingly rich roundup that he unexpectedly found on Wikipedia:
For a more local perspective, The Ear trusts and generally agrees with critic John W. Barker (below), who writes frequently for this blog and more often for Isthmus.
Here is a link to Barker’s list of memorable concerts in the Madison area, Because Isthmus mixes classical with other genres like pop, folk and jazz, you have to scroll down to “Classical cornucopia”:
Although I agree with all the concerts that Barker mentions, he left out some that The Ear really loved. One was the absolutely riveting and moving performance in November by the Madison Symphony Orchestra under John DeMain of the momentous Fifth Symphony by Dmitri Shostakovich.
For example just about everything that the Pro Arte Quartet does at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music is first-rate and memorable, whether they play in Mills Hall or on “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen Museum of Art.”
But this past fall, a free noontime concert by the Pro Arte with legendary pianist Leon Fleisher especially stood out. Together (below), they performed the Piano Quintet in F Minor by Johannes Brahms – an unquestionable masterpiece in an unforgettable performance.
The Ear would also add two events, both violin recitals, at the Wisconsin Union Theater.
Last spring Hilary Hahn (below top, in a photo by Peter Miller) turned in a stunningly superb recital. Then this fall, superstar Joshua Bell (below bottom) did the same. Both artists displayed terrific musicality combined with terrific virtuosity in generous and first-rate, ambitious programs.
He would add several summer concerts by the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, especially the sizzling dueling violin concert (below) where the BDDS interspersed “The Four Seasons” buy Antonio Vivaldi with “The Four Seasons in Buenos Aires” by Astor Piazzolla.
The Ear would also add an experimental concert at which UW-Madison pianist Christopher Taylor (below) unveiled his reworked two-keyboard “Hyperpiano.” While the concert, which featured the “Goldberg” Variations by Johann Sebastian Bach, wasn’t successful musically, it certainly was intriguing, unusual and highly memorable, even with imperfect digital technology.
And The Ear also recalls a fine concert by the Rhapsodie Quartet (below) of the Madison Symphony Orchestra at the Overture Center.
And let’s not forget the University Opera’s production of “Falstaff” by Giuseppe Verdi that was impressively and successfully updated to Hollywood by director David Ronis.
The Ear is sure there are more memorable concerts that escape him right now. Madison just features so much wonderful music-making in the course of a year.
Moreover, The Ear is also sure you have your favorites – whether they are individual plays; small chamber music groups such as duos, string quartets and piano trios; larger ensembles like the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Union Theater; or entire events like the UW Brass Festival.
I am sure that fans of the innovative percussion group Clocks in Motion and the acclaimed Madison Choral Project have a concert or two to nominate.
So please use the COMMENT section to tell us what were your most memorable classical concerts in Madison during 2016.
The Ear wants to hear.
ALERT: The week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features cellist Morgan Walsh, violist Shannon Farley and pianist Kyle Johnson in music by Tchaikovsky, Schumann and Rebecca Clarke. The concert runs from 12:15 to 1 p.m.
By Jacob Stockinger
At 8 p.m. on Friday night in Mills Hall, the UW-Madison Chamber Choir (below top), under the direction of Beverly Taylor (below bottom), who heads the choral program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, will give a FREE concert.
Guest dancers will join the singers.
Here is the program:
Laudibus in sanctis (Paraphrase of Psalm 150) by William Byrd
“Totentanz” (Dance of Death) by Hugo Distler (original dialogue by Johannes Klockig after the Lübeck Totentanz)
“Dance to My Daddy,” English folksong, arranged by Goff Richards
“Begin the Beguine” by Cole Porter, arranged by Andrew Carter
“Der Tanz” (The Dance) by Franz Schubert
“Verano Porteño” by Astor Piazzolla, arranged by Oscar Escalada
“Fa una canzone” by Orazzio Vecchi
By Jacob Stockinger
In the past, the music that political campaigns used was often jingles that reminded one of Madison Avenue advertising, even when they were composed by Broadway song master Irving Berlin.
These days, it seems to The Ear that most political campaigns use rock, pop or country music.
Sometimes folk music.
And, one supposes, you will never hear the blues since that would be a pretty downbeat message for politicians.
Fittingly, in the opera the moving and beautiful aria is sung by a prince to woo a Chinese tyrant or despot.
The Ear especially loved the way it was used so appropriately during the carpet bombing of Cambodia by the U.S. in the movie “The Killing Fields.”
But the Pavarotti estate refused to grant him permission to use it and asked him to cease and desist. Good for them.
Anyway, here is a link to the story:
By Jacob Stockinger
Research shows that your taste in music and your personality are linked.
In a way, that’s no surprise.
But what does it mean if you like: Classical? Rock? Blues? Pop? Folk? Country?
Here is a link:
Read it and listen to it, and see what your taste in music says about you.
You can also listen to the YouTube video at the bottom.
And just in case you were wondering, the same person can like many kinds of music.
But that too says something about you.
Do you find the research accurate, at least as it applies to you?
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
Today at 5:34 p.m. the Summer Solstice will happen. Summer officially arrives, and the days will start getting shorter while the nights will get longer.
Can that really be happening already?
Locally, the Summer Solstice will be marked TOMORROW, Tuesday, June 21, by the third annual Make Music Madison celebration.
The city-wide event features more than 400 FREE performances in over 100 venues. It relies on volunteers and costs about $55,000 – a lot less than the cost of one new traffic light, according to the website.
Both amateurs and professionals, both adults and young students, will perform.
And all different kinds of music will be played: classical, swing, pop, rock, bluegrass, country, folk, jazz, soul, blues, reggae, world – you name it.
Want to know more?
For general background, including how to support the events, who are its major sponsors and to see photos of past events, go to:
For a map and a listing of events and artists taking place tomorrow:
To find out by location, go to:
The web site also has search engines that allow you to find specific artists and venues.
ALERT: The University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music has announced the winners of the 31st annual Beethoven piano competition. The FREE winners’ concert is this Sunday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall. Oxana Khramova will play the Polonaise in C Major, Op. 89, and Two Rondos, Op. 51; Kyle Johnson will play the Sonata in F minor, Op. 57, “Appassionata“; and Shuk-Ki Wong will play the late Sonata in E Major, Op. 109. There will be a reception after the concert. The judge for the competition was Dan Lyons, a UW-Madison graduate and the pianist of the Madison Symphony Orchestra. Here is a link to more information about the winners and their teachers:
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received the following message:
The “Three for Free” program, features three wonderful contemporary works that have something delightful for everyone.
We’ll begin with “The Hope of Loving” by Jake Runestad – for chorus with a string quartet — a warm, and Romantically phrased work that was premiered by the ensemble Seraphic Fire last year.
It will feature three fine Concert Choir soloists: Kenny Lyons, Talia Engstrom and Eliav Goldman.
Runestad recently received the ASCAP award for composers.
The second work on our program is the 2016 edition of “Llorona,” written for the Concert Choir and guitar by UW-Madison composition Professor Laura Schwendinger (below), who has won numerous awards for her works.
It’s based on a famous Mexican song and tale of a woman who dies with her children; her voice can be heard on the wind.
Our final work is “The World Beloved” by Minnesota composer Carol Barnett (below). It is a “Bluegrass Mass,” which features many Concert Choir soloists and blue grass instruments. (You can hear it in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
The program will be approximately 75 minutes long, including a short intermission.
CORRECTION: Yesterday’s post about the University Opera’s production of “Transformations” this weekend and early next week contained an error in the performance times. The correct times for performances in Music Hall are Friday night at 7:30 p.m., Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. (NOT 3:30) and Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The Ear apologizes and regrets the error.
By Jacob Stockinger
Talk about great performers making great music! This weekend’s concerts by the Madison Symphony Orchestra are a MUST-HEAR program of all masterpieces.
A Madison favorite — world-renowned pianist Emanuel Ax (below) — reunites for the third time with the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) and its music director and conductor John DeMain for three concerts this weekend in Overture Hall.
The concerts will feature music by Ludwig van Beethoven, beginning with his Coriolan Overture. Ax will then perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 with the orchestra. The concert will end with Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 4.
The program will begin with Ludwig Van Beethoven’s brief but stormy Coriolan Overture. The concert will continue with Beethoven’s lyrical and impressive Piano Concerto No. 4.
Gustav Mahler’s light and sunny Symphony No. 4, with its famous finale featuring a soprano singing folk poetry, will bring the program to an elegant conclusion with the help of soprano Alisa Jordheim (below).
The concerts are in Overture Hall on Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall of the Overture Center for the Arts, 201 State Street.
Born in Lvov, Poland, and raised in Winnipeg, Canada, pianist Emanuel Ax (below) first came to the public’s attention in 1974 when he won the first Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Competition in Tel Aviv. Ax concertizes extensively with the world’s top orchestras, and has been awarded seven Grammy Awards. He also teaches at the Juilliard School in New York City, where he himself studied.
A devoted chamber musician, Ax has worked regularly with artists such as cellist Yo-Yo Ma, pianist Peter Serkin, violinist Jaime Laredo, and the late violinist Isaac Stern. He has often performed solo recitals, chamber music and concertos in Madison with the MSO and at the Wisconsin Union Theater.
Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture reflects the struggle of Roman general Coriolanus as he debates whether or not to invade Rome, a story told in William Shakespeare’s tragedy Coriolanus. The first part is introduced by explosive chords and almost violent strings representing the fires of war, while the second theme is much more graceful, inspired by the voice of his mother.
Piano Concerto No. 4 written by Beethoven in 1806 was one of the first piano concertos where the piano begins alone. Beethoven’s innovation of this concept was noted by scholars as was the rapidly developing technology behind pianos at the time. (You can hear Emanuel Ax discuss Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
The Symphony No. 4 by Mahler (below) represents a kind of peaceful interlude in his series of works as it is almost completely upbeat and joyful. Scored for a fairly small orchestra by Mahler’s standards, the work is built around the song, “Das himmlische Leben” (The Heavenly Life), which is finally sung in its entirety by a solo soprano in the fourth movement.
One hour before each performance, Anders Yocom (below), Wisconsin Public Radio host, will lead a 30-minute Prelude Discussion in Overture Hall to enhance concertgoers’ understanding and listening experience.
More background on the music can also be found in the Program Notes at: http://www.madisonsymphony.org/ax
Single Tickets are $16 to $85 each, available at www.madisonsymphony.org/ax and through the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street or call the Box Office at (608) 258-4141.
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
Student rush tickets can be purchased in person on the day of the concert at the Overture Box Office at 201 State Street. Students must show a valid student ID and can receive up to two $12 or $15 tickets. More information is at: www.madisonsymphony.org/studentrush. Students can receive 20% savings on seats in select areas of the hall on advance ticket purchases.
Seniors age 62 and up receive 20% savings on advance and day-of-concert ticket purchases in select areas of the hall. Discounted seats are subject to availability, and discounts may not be combined.
There will also be a Club 201 event for this concert on Saturday night. For $35, young professionals between 21 and 39 get a ticket and are invited to a post-concert party. Reservations must be made by TOMORROW, Thursday, March 10. For information, visit:
Find more information at www.madisonsymphony.org.
Major funding for the March concerts is provided by The Madison Concourse Hotel & Governor’s Club, Stephen Morton, University Research Park, UW Health & Unity Health Insurance, and Marvin J. Levy. Additional funding is provided by James Gallegos and George Anglin, JP Cullen, and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.
By Jacob Stockinger
But during its Madison debut appearance, the group will not be playing music by Vivaldi. The focus will shift to Handel, with some Bach and Telemann thrown in.
Red Priest (below) performs this Saturday at 8 p.m. in Shannon Hall of the Wisconsin Union Theater. Tickets are $27.50 to $42.50.
Compared to various rock groups such as the Rolling Stones and the Cirque de Soleil for its flamboyant presentation of centuries-old classics, the group’s program is called “Handel in the Wind” – recalling the famous song “Candle in the Wind” by chart-topping rocker Elton John.
But that seemingly unorthodox approach, according to Red Priest, fits right in with the true underlying aesthetic of Baroque music, which is too often treated as rigid and codified, predictable and boring.
For more information and background, including the full program, critics’ reviews and how to get tickets, visit:
Red Priest member and recorder player Piers Adams (below) — whom you can also hear talking about “Handel in the Wind” in a YouTube video at the bottom — recently took time from his very busy schedule to give a Q&A to The Ear:
What makes your approach to Baroque music unique and different from standard playing or from the early music approach that features the period instruments and historically informed performance practices?
Actually we do use period instruments and historically informed performance practices, albeit mixed in with some more modern aesthetics. The instruments are a mixture of originals (the cello dates from 1725, in original baroque set-up), close copies (violin and harpsichord) and modern instruments (most of my recorders, which are heavily “souped up” versions of baroque originals).
We differ from the mainstream baroque groups by doing everything we can to bring the music to life — not just in a “Here’s how they used to do it” sense, but rather by “This is how we’re going to do it!”
As musicians who like to live (or at least, to play) on the edge, that means we’re naturally drawn to some of the more extreme and colorful characters and performance practices from the Baroque era, mixed in with our own ideas drawn from interest in other musical genres, such as folk, world and rock music.
How and why did you come up with that approach? Why do you focus on Baroque music? Is there something special to say about Baroque music?
After years of bowing down to the authority of the early music movement — which has a habit of policing anyone who disagrees with its creed or who wants to show a bit of individuality — it was a wonderful realization that in fact it’s OK to do one’s own thing!
As soon as we made that break, we found ourselves on the edges of that rather safe (but dull) world of historically accurate re-creation and in a genre of our own, where anything goes as long as it’s musically satisfying to us and to the audience.
In fact, much of the most satisfying playing does come from “following the rules,” where the rules tell us to perform with wild abandon and heartfelt expression in every note!
Baroque music is a wonderful place for experimentation and co-creation -– perhaps more so than any other area of classical music, because so much is already left to the performer to decide, and because arrangement and transcription were such important aspects too.
Baroque music also has a harmonic and rhythmic structure that many people can relate to, perhaps closer to modern-day pop and rock than the more harmonically complex music of the later Classical and Romantic periods.
Why are you emphasizing George Frideric Handel in your Madison program? In your view, is his music underrated or underperformed? How important or great is Handel?
We have toured the US close to 40 times, and try to bring something new with us where possible. The latest creation is a transcription of music from Handel’s “Messiah,” which we’ve converted into a colorful instrumental journey, bringing out the drama in a very different way from the normal choral performance.
Handel is regarded as one of the greatest Baroque composers, but this is the first time we have created a project around his music. I don’t know why we waited so long, as he wrote some amazing tunes!
Handel’s music is in some ways simpler than Bach’s, which tends to be very dense and complex, but both can produce moments of high drama and great beauty.
Telemann was above all a great craftsman, and in his day was considered the greatest composer of all, but now is held in rather lower esteem than Bach and Handel – maybe partly because of his frequent reliance upon gypsy folk melodies in his works.
The pieces we have chosen bring out the characters of these three great Baroque masters.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
We’re greatly looking forward to this, our first visit to Madison!
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:
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.
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.
Gendel has set to music a beautiful poem titled “In Summer” by late 19th-century African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar (below).
There is still time to join the Massed Choir!
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!