The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: BBC Music Magazine asks 10 concert pianists to name 10 unknown piano concertos that deserve more attention and performances.

February 22, 2015
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Maybe you were lucky enough to attend the gala showcase concert two weeks ago where winners (below) of the annual Concerto Competition at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music performed. (They are below in a photo by Michael R. Anderson. From left they are: Keisuke Yamamoto, Ivana Urgcic, Jason Kutz and Anna Whiteway.)

2014 Concerto Winners

Here is a link to a preview post:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/02/03/classical-music-four-uw-madison-concerto-competition-winners-and-a-student-composer-will-be-featured-in-a-special-concert-and-reception-this-coming-sunday-night-at-7/

If so you heard some relatively unknown works by Ernest Chausson (a Poem for Violin and Orchestra played by Yamamoto) and Francois Borne (a Fantasy on Themes from “Carmen” for flute and orchestra played by Urgcic) plus soprano Whiteway singing a famous aria from “Romeo and Juliet” by Charles Gounod.).

But the finale was Kutz (below) playing a somewhat truncated version – edited for time constraints of the competition — of the famous “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” by Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Jason Kutz playing Rachmaninoff Rhapsody 2015

Kurtz did a bang-up job of this great work, which for The Ear, may just be his best and most concise work for piano and orchestra.

You just can’t beat that work’s ultra-Romantic 18th Variation – at the bottom in a popular YouTube video with pianist Arthur Rubinstein and Fritz Reiner conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra – that is, a friend remarked, much like the “Nimrod” Variation of Sir Edward Elgar’s “Enigma” Variations. It is irresistible and never fails.

But the concerto repertoire is such a rich one! There is something just so appealing about seeing the dramatic cooperation bertween the soloist and the orchestra.

So I was pleased to see that the BBC Music Magazine recently asked 10 concert pianists to name 10 concertos that they think are neglected and should be better known and performed more often.

The story included enlightening statements as well as audio-video clips of excerpts.

So in the spirit on the concerto winners, here is a link to the story:

http://www.classical-music.com/article/10-piano-concertos-you-may-not-know

Read and listen and see what you think.

The Ear knows a fair number of piano concertos, but a lot of these were new to him.

What do you think of the list?

And do you have any names of concertos and composers to add to the list?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music education: Here is a shout-out for Susan Cook, director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, who defended music education and music performance as part of the Wisconsin Idea that is now under attack by state Republicans.

February 20, 2015
17 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

If you attended the recent concert by the winners of the UW-Madison School of Music Concerto Competition, you heard something extraordinary besides terrific music by Johann Strauss, Francois Borne, Ernest Chausson, Charles Gounod, Sergei Rachmaninoff and UW-Madison graduate student in composition Adam Betz from the four soloists, two conductors and the UW Symphony Orchestra.

At the beginning of the concert Susan Cook (below), who is a respected musicologist and the relatively new director of the School of Music, stood before the large house and defended music education and music performance as part of the Wisconsin Idea.

Susan Cook 1  at Concerto 2015

That long-celebrated idea that was formulated in the Progressive Era – that the publicly funded university exists to serve all the citizens of the state –- is under attack from anti-intellectual, budget-cutting Republicans who are being led by presidential wannabe Gov. Scott Walker.

Clearly, Walker and the conservative Republicans are once again picking on public workers — this time university professors — as overpaid and underworked scapegoats.

In addition, they are insisting that the university has to do more to foster economic development with the implication that the arts and humanities are not doing their fair share compared to the sciences, the professions and engineering. Why not turn the UW-Madison into a trade school or vocational school?

So they seem determined to dismantle the great University of Wisconsin or reduce it to a second-rate institution. And they are annoyed and disapproving that UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank is playing politics right back at them by marshalling alumni and faculty, staff and students, to fight back against the record $300 million budget cut.

Too bad the state legislators don’t rank as high among state legislatures as the UW-Madison does among public universities. They should be taking lessons – not giving them.

Anyway, Susan Cook (below) eloquently defended music education and music performance. She pointed out the diversity of the students in the School of Music. She pointed out the national distinctions that the school and its faculty have earned. And she pointed out how many of the school’s teachers and performers tour the state, and even the country and world, to share their art and knowledge. Surely all of that fulfills the ideals of the Wisconsin Idea.

DSusan Cook 2 at Concerto 2015

In addition, the growing body of research studies show that music education plays a vital role in all education and in successful careers in other fields. But one doubts whether the Republicans will consider that as central to economic development -– even though businesses lament the lack of a prepared workforce.

Cook got loud and sustained applause for her remarks.

She deserved it.

Cook stood up and, as the Quakers say, spoke truth to power.

So The Ear sends a big shout-out to Susan Cook and hopes that all music fans will second her views and protest and resist what the governor and state legislature want to do to gut the UW-Madison.

Brava, Susan Cook!

The Ear says leave a Comment and show both the politicians and the School of Music that you stand with Cook and want to preserve the quality of the UW-Madison, in the arts and humanities as well as in the sciences and technology, to be maintained.

 


Classical music: Four UW-Madison concerto competition winners and a student composer will be featured in a special concert and reception this coming Sunday night at 7.

February 3, 2015
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

The big event at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music this week, is the “Symphony Showcase” concert on Sunday evening at 7 p.m. in Mills Hall.

The concert will spotlight the annual concerto competition winners plus a new work by a student composer.

It is a special ticketed event that includes a post-concert reception in the lobby outside Mills Hall. Tickets cost $10; students get in for free.

The competition winners (below from left to right, in a photo by Michael R. Anderson) are: Keisuke Yamamoto; Ivana Ugrcic; Jason Kutz; and Anna Whiteway.

2014 Concerto Winners

Here are brief profiles including the works they will perform and the teachers they study with:

Jason Kutz, piano, a master’s candidate studying with collaborative pianist Martha Fischer. Kutz, who also performs and composes jazz music, is a native of Kiel, Wisconsin, and studied recording technology and piano at UW-Oshkosh. He will perform “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini,” Op. 43, by Sergei Rachmaninoff, which contains the famous 18th Variation (which you can hear at the bottom in a popular YouTube video as performed by Arthur Rubinstein and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Fritz Reiner.)

Ivana Ugrcic, flute, a doctoral student and Collins Fellow studying with flutist Stephanie Jutt. A native of Serbia, Ugrcic has performed as a soloist and chamber musician all over Europe, and received her undergraduate and master’s degrees from University of Belgrade School of Music. She will perform “Fantaisie Brillante” (on Themes from Bizet’s Carmen) by Francois Borne.

Keisuke Yamamoto, violin, an undergraduate student of Pro Arte violinist David Perry, earning a double degree in music performance and microbiology. Keisuke, born in Japan but raised in Madison, received a tuition remission scholarship through UW-Madison’s Summer Music Clinic, and also won honors in Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Bolz Competition, among others. He will perform “Poème,” Op. 25 by Ernest Chausson.

Anna Whiteway, an undergraduate voice student, studying with Elizabeth Hagedorn, visiting professor of voice. Whiteway is a recipient of a Stamps Family Charitable Foundation scholarship as well as the Harker Scholarship for opera. Whiteway, who was praised in 2013 for her singing in University Opera’s production of “Ariodante” by George Frideric Handel, will star in the The Magic Flute by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart this spring. For this night’s performance, she will sing Je veux vivre (Juliette’s Aria) by Charles Gounod.

The composition winner this year is graduate student Adam Betz (below), a Two Rivers native who wrote a work titled Obscuration. Betz received his undergraduate degree from UW-Oshkosh, where he was named Outstanding Senior Composer. He also holds a master’s degree from Butler University in Indianapolis.

Here is a link to Betz’s website:

http://adambetz.webstarts.com/about.html

adam betz

The opening work, the curtain-raiser so to speak, is advertised to be Capriccio Italienne by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. But an orchestra player says it will be the Overture to the operetta “Die Fledermaus” by Johann Strauss, Jr.

The concert will also feature the UW Symphony Orchestra under chief conductor James Smith (below top) and graduate student conductor Kyle Knox (below bottom).

Smith_Jim_conduct07_3130

Kyle Knox 2

 


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