ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features Shannon Farley, viola, with Chris Allen, guitar; Leah King and Jason Kutz, piano; Elspeth Stalter Clouse and Ela Mowinski, violin; Leslie Damaso, mezzo-soprano; and Morgan Walsh, cello. They will perform the Piano Quintet in A Major, Op. 81, by Antonin Dvorak; Three Songs for Mezzo-soprano, viola and piano by Frank Bridge; “Beau Soir” (Beautiful Evening) for guitar and viola by Claude Debussy; and a Romance for violin by Amy Beach as arranged for viola and piano. The concert runs from 12:15 to 1 p.m.
By Jacob Stockinger
Can the past help us understand and weather the present time with its conflicts and chaos?
In fact her latest album, for the Erato-Warner label, of arias from Baroque operas from the 17th and 18th centuries is dedicated to that proposition. The album’s title is “In War and Peace: Harmony Through Music” (below).
It includes arias from opera by George Frideric Handel (one of which you can hear in the YouTube video at the bottom), Henry Purcell, Niccolo Jommelli, Leonardo Leo and Claudio Monteverdi, and it features two world premiere recordings as well as familiar works.
She boils much of her viewpoint down to one question: In the widest of chaos, how can you find peace?
Sure seems timely, given foreign wars and domestic political strife.
Here is a link with the interview and some fetching music:
Listen to it.
See what you think.
Then let the rest of us know what you think, and whether you agree or disagree, and whether you have other works that come to mind.
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Oakwood Chamber Players (below) will perform a concert titled Looking Back and Forward on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016 at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.
The performances will both be held at the Oakwood Village University Woods Center for Arts and Education, 6209 Mineral Point Road, on the far west side of Madison near West Towne Mall.
An innovative recipe for A Christmas Carol is a perfect addition to the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
Outstanding musical theater actor/singer baritone Bobby Goderich (below, seen on the right in Madison Opera‘s production of Stephen Sondheim‘s “Sweeney Todd”) will give a tour-de-force characterization of the entire cast of personalities for a rendition of Dickens’s tale in The Passion of Scrooge. A dozen musicians will give Goderich’s flair an abundant platform to show off his singing, humor, and dramatic effects.
The Passion of Scrooge by New York composer Jon Deak (below) is performed annually for holiday concerts at the Smithsonian, and the Oakwood Chamber Players are delighted to present the Wisconsin premiere of this memorable work.
Deak is known for weaving a variety of tales into “concert dramas,” turning words into music and giving instrumentalists the power to evoke speech through their sounds.
The Passion of Scrooge is laid out in two acts as the character struggles to come to grips with the past, present and future, to transform a life of avarice to one of human warmth.
Additionally, the Oakwood Chamber Players will perform music mentioned in the text of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.
When the Ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge a celebration hosted by his employer, Mr. Fezziwig, the fiddler plays the tune Sir Roger de Coverley. (You can hear a chamber orchestra version of the work, played by the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields under Sir Neville Marriner, in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
This traditional English country dance, set for string quartet by British composer Frank Bridge (below) in 1922, will provide an energetic introduction to The Passion of Scrooge. The musical pairing illustrates how creative expression can transform historic works to give fresh perspectives.
The Oakwood Chamber Players welcome guests Wes Luke, violin; Katrin Talbot, viola; Brad Townsend, bass; Mike Koszewski, percussion; Mary Ann Harr, harp; Bobby Goderich, baritone; and Kyle Knox, conductor (below).
This is the second of five concerts in the Oakwood Chamber Players 2016-2017 season series entitled Perspective. Remaining concerts will take place on Jan. 21 and 22, March 18 and 19, and May 13 and 14.
The Oakwood Chamber Players are a group of Madison-area professional musicians who have rehearsed and performed at Oakwood Village for over 30 years.
The program lasts about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Tickets can be purchased with cash or personal checks at the door: $20 for general admission, $15 for seniors and $5 for students.
Also, conductor Kyle Knox will discuss the music on Norman Gilliland’s show, The Midday, on Wisconsin Public Radio, 88.7 FM WERN, on this Friday, Nov. 25, from noon to 1 p.m.
Visit www.oakwoodchamberplayers.com for more information.
The Oakwood Chamber Players are a professional music ensemble proudly supported by Oakwood Lutheran Senior Ministries and the Oakwood Foundation.
ALERT: The week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, from 12:15 to 1 p.m. at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features pianist Jess Salek (below).
The program includes: the “Italian” Concerto, BWV 971, by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750); the Sonata No. 30 in E Major, Op. 109, by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827); the Scherzo No. 3 in C-sharp Minor, Op. 39, by Frederic Chopin (1810-1849); and “Reflets dans l’eau” (Reflections in Water) by Claude Debussy (1862-1918).
By Jacob Stockinger
At 8 p.m. this coming Friday in Mills Hall, cello professor Parry Karp (below), who has performed for more than four decades with the Pro Arte Quartet, will play an ambitious recital, featuring one of his own many transcriptions.
He will be joined by two pianists: his mother Frances Karp and his faculty colleague Martha Fischer, who teaches collaborative piano.
Here is the decidedly varied and international program:
Sonata in D Minor for Cello and Piano (1913-7) by English composer Frank Bridge (below, 1879-1941), the teacher of Benjamin Britten. With Martha Fischer. (In the YouTube video at the bottom you can hear the first movement of the Bridge sonata performed by cello Mstislav Rostropovich and pianistBenjamin Britten.)
Sonata No. 1 in A Minor for Violin and Piano (1897) by French composer Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), as transcribed for Cello and Piano by Christian Proske (1875-1937). With Martha Fischer.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Oakwood Chamber Players (below) have long been known for programming new music as well as neglected old music or neglected composers that they perform with top-quality music-making – often with a unifying theme to the programs.
Just look at the details of the following announcement of the new season:
The Oakwood Chamber Players are excited to announce their 2016-2017 concert series, “Perspective.”
Full of interesting viewpoints on life and relationships, the blended use of diverse musical styles with film and theater will help concertgoers see things from another’s point of view.
All concerts will be held in the auditorium (below) at Oakwood’s Center for Arts and Education, 6002 Mineral Point Road, on the far west side of Madison.
Tickets can be purchased at the door: $20 for general admission, $15 for seniors, and $5 for students. More information can be found at www.oakwoodchamberplayers.com
LOOKING ACROSS THE TABLE: CAN WE FIND COMMON GROUND?
Saturday, September 10, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, September 11, at 2 p.m.
Paul Schoenfield (below) – Café Music for piano trio
Michael Colina – Stairway to Midnight Café for mixed instruments
Jean Françaix – Dixtuor for woodwind quintet and string quintet
Edward Elgar – Elegy for string quintet
LOOKING BACK AND FORWARD: CAN THE PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE CHANGE US?
Sunday, November 27, 2016 at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.
Frank Bridge (below) – Sir Roger de Coverly Christmas Dance for strings
Jon Deak – “Passion of Scrooge” for large mixed ensemble with baritone voice
LOOKING WITHIN: CAN WE SEE WITHIN OURSELVES THOSE WHO HAVE GONE BEFORE?
Saturday, January 21, 2017 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, January 22, 2017 at 2 p.m.
Byron Adams (below) – Serenade (Homage de Husa) for large mixed ensemble
Arnold Schoenberg – Notturno (Nocturne) for strings and harp (in the YouTube video at the bottom)
Francis Poulenc – Sextet for woodwind quintet and piano
Maurice Ravel/David Bruce – Kaddish for large mixed ensemble
LOOKING THROUGH THE LENS: CAN WE SPEAK WHEN THERE ARE NO WORDS?
Saturday, March 18, 2017 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, March 19, 2017 at 2 p.m.
Paul Bowles (below) – Music for a Farce (Movie – The Fireman) for clarinet, trumpet, piano and percussion
Dan Visconti – Low Country Haze with film for large mixed ensemble
Gaetano Donizetti – Trio for flute, bassoon and piano
LOOKING CLOSELY AT THE SCORE: CAN WE GET INSIDE THE MINDS OF THE COMPOSERS?
Saturday, May 13, 2017 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, May 14, 2017 at 2 p.m.
Joan Trimble (below) – Phantasy Trio for piano trio
Vincent d’Indy – Chanson et Danses (Song and Dances) for winds
Joachim Raff – Sinfonietta for double woodwind quintet
The Oakwood Chamber Players is a professional music ensemble proudly supported by Oakwood Lutheran Senior Ministries and the Oakwood Foundation.
1) In case you don’t already know them, here are the results of last night’s Final Forte: First Prize went to violinist Julian Rhee; Second Prize went to pianist Vivian Wilhelms; and Honorable Mentions went to harpist Maya Pierick and pianist Isabella Wu.
Here is a link to a complete story about the high school concerto competition:
2) This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, to be held from 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the Landmark Auditorium of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Meeting House of the First Unitarian Society of Madison at 900 University Bay Drive, will feature soprano Consuelo Sanudo (below) and pianist Jeff Gibbens who will perform music by Henri Duparc, Claude Debussy, Arnold Schoenberg and Franz Schubert.
By Jacob Stockinger
It has really been a busy past couple of weeks, with so many concerts that The Ear couldn’t even preview all of them. So it’s time to catch up and offer some critical appraisals of what I heard.
Let me begin with some background.
The supremely gifted, articulate and critically acclaimed American pianist Jeremy Denk, who has performed two solo recitals in Madison for the Wisconsin Union Theater, is fond of saying the he strives to make music sound as radical today as it was when it was first composed and first heard.
There is wisdom in that approach, which balances out the other great movement of the 20th-century that opened up our ears to another kind of difference. I am referring to the use of period instruments and historically informed performance practices to recapture how the music originally sounded.
But lately I had two examples that showed me just how exciting such an established “museum” composer as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (below) can be if made to sound and look contemporary and radical to our modern ears without going backwards.
The two examples I have in mind are from recent performances of late works, when Mozart was in full command of his art: The opera “The Magic Flute” as presented by University Opera under the guest stage director David Ronis, who hails from New York City and teaches at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College and the City University of New York as well as at Hofstra University; and the well-known penultimate Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, K. 550, as performed by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra under Andrew Sewell.
THE MAGIC FLUTE
The award-winning David Ronis did several things to The Magic Flute that The Ear really liked and found effective.
He made some judicious cuts in an otherwise overlong work.
He used surtitles for the German text.
He used spoken contemporary vernacular English for the dialogue. That not only made the opera understandable, but also lent drive to push it along and give it momentum as well as contemporaneity.
Most of all, Ronis also used cinematic Bollywood-like dance gestures and choreography (below, in photos by Michael R. Anderson) – along with the bright fusion of East-West hybrid costumes and sets that added such movement and energy, color and humor, to the score.
I mean, don’t we see enough of opera singers just standing still, arms outstretched, with only their mouths moving?
Of course, some people and critics did not like the changes, and found them downright treasonous and disrespectful or just plain wrong.
Silly them. The Ear says the updating worked just fine. Great art is there to experiment with, not just depict. Art lives in time. It is why director Peter Sellars is such a forceful and creative influence in the world of classical music. If only classical music could be less classical and more musical! Entertainment is nothing to be ashamed of. It is, after all, why the performing arts exist.
I also think the changes are one reason why there were four sold-out performances -– not just the usual three -– and why I saw so many young people in the audience. It was, in short, a fun production.
To my eyes and ears, this production — coupled with his production of Benjamin Britten‘s “Albert Herring” in the fall — showed what a smart move it would be to hire David Ronis (below, in a photo by Luke DeLalio) full-time to lead the University Opera. He clearly knows how to get the best out of students, has a very personal artistic vision and is willing to shake things up – which both we and The Great Artists such as Mozart can use.
THE BIG G-MINOR SYMPHONY
As for the Mozart symphony – the big late one in G minor not the little early one — it was just part of an outstanding concert turned in by Sewell and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra with the impressive guest cellist Amit Peled (below) and his unbelievably resonant cello that belonged to and was played by Pablo Casals. Together, man and instrument justifiably brought down the house.
But other parts of the program, which included works by Frank Bridge and David Popper, should not be overlooked or underestimated.
Conductor Andrew Sewell (below) has long demonstrated his ability to work with such Classical-era composers as Franz Joseph Haydn and Mozart as well as Franz Schubert and Ludwig van Beethoven. And here, in a very familiar work, you could hear why.
While Mozart was one of music’s great melodists, Sewell’s interpretation emphasized tempo, rhythm and repetitive motifs even as he brought out the various voices, counterpoint and melodic lines.
This Mozart had drive and pep. (You can hear the familiar first movement, with an interesting abstract graph profile, in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
In fact, the third Minuet movement sounded downright modern – a kind of percussive precursor to minimalism.
This was exciting Mozart, far from the genteel and primly elegant and blandly pleasant Mozart that The Ear refers to as Music-Box Mozart.
This playing by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below) was precise and dramatic. It made you sit up and take notice. It engaged you.
It also showed why Mozart was such an exception to his age –- why his contemporaries and those who followed him so revered his talent and music. He was a radical in his day but we often overlook how he pushed the boundaries of music closer to modernism.
So The Ear offers shout-outs and hearty thanks to both David Ronis and Andrew Sewell for helping us to hear Mozart once again as a contemporary — not just a statically beautiful blast from the past.
Both cases proved to be an exciting and unforgettable experience. The Ear hopes we are in for more of them, particularly in Mozart’s symphonies and piano concertos.
Did you hear the opera and/or the symphony?
What did you think of the approaches to Mozart?
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
There is much to look forward to during this Friday night’s MUST-HEAR “Masterworks” concert by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra under the baton of its longtime music director Andrew Sewell.
But clearly the big draw is the Israeli-born cellist Amit Peled (below), who is a now a very successful teacher at the Peabody Conservatory that is attached to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and who also tours the globe performing.
The concert is at 8 p.m. in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center.
Tickets cost $15, $37, $62 and $65. Call the Overture Center box office at (608) 258-4141.
Amit Peled has played here with the WCO before, and he showed then that his talent is as big as he is, a 6’5” man who projects a big presence physically and musically.
But Peled is also a congenial, humorous and curious musician who knows how to find an unusual angle, a new take on old music.
As an homage, Peled recently recreated a century later a concert by Pablo Casals, who remains perhaps the most famous and influential cellist in history, by performing the same program.
The program included a solo suite by Johann Sebastian Bach since it was Casals who first discovered them and then who convinced the experts and the public that they were not exercises but genuine gorgeous music.
It also included a Catalan folk song, “The Song of the Birds,” which Casals himself arranged and frequently performed as an anthem to the need for freedom from Nazism and Fascism for his homeland. In fact it became a signature of Casals, and Peled will perform the same piece here.
Moreover, Peled performed this concert on Casal’s own cello, a superb 1733 Goffriller instrument, which Peled got on loan from Casals’ widow and which he had restored. (You can hear Amit Peled talk about and play the famed Casals cello in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
And that is the same cello he will bring to his date in Madison.
Here is a link to a story – two conjoined stories really — that NPR (National Public Radio) did about Peled and the Casals cello.
On the same cello, Peled will also perform the “Tarantella” by David Popper – another favorite of Casals — and the rarely played Cello Concerto by Robert Schumann (below), a late work written as the composer was descending into the mental illness that would eventually claim his life.
Adding to the concert’s appeal are two other works.
One is the penultimate symphony by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (below), the dark, dramatic and appealing Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, K. 550.
The performance by the WCO (below top) should be a lively treat, given the complete mastery of the Classical-era style that conductor Andrew Sewell (below bottom) continues to demonstrate.
Another attraction is the Suite for String Orchestra by Frank Bridge (below), who was the teacher of famed 20th-century British composer Benjamin Britten. And if you have heard Sewell, who originally hails from New Zealand, you know he has a way for finding neglected repertoire and possesses a special fondness of and talent for performing British works.
For more information about the WCO and this concert, visit:
And here is a link to Amit Peled’s website, where you can find more information including reviews, recordings, biographical facts and more:
By Jacob Stockinger
The program, to be performed under the baton of MSO music director John DeMain, includes the Piano Concerto No. 2 by Frederic Chopin with the prestigious Gilmore Prize-winning pianist Ingrid Fliter (below); the Symphony No. 4 by Robert Schumann, an arch-Romantic; and the Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge by British composer Benjamin Britten, who was a student of Bridge.
Performances are in Overture Hall in the Overture Center. Times are Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets are $12-$84.
But until midnight this Tuesday, there is a special Valentine’s Day deal of two tickets for the price of one going on. For details, got to http://www.overturecenter.org/events/fliter-plays-chopin or call the Overture Center Box Office at (608) 258-4141.
Fliter recently agreed to an email Q&A with The Ear:
Can you briefly introduce yourself to readers who may not know you? What are your current and future plans and projects?
I’m an Argentinian pianist. I live in Italy in Lake Como for many years now. I consider myself an art lover. I do believe art can be life-changing to people. And that’s what I concentrate on doing when I perform: To bring happiness and inspiration to audiences.
Do you think the professional concert world treats women differently? Or has the sexism of past eras improved in your experience?
I do believe sexism in art still exists among presenters, conductors, agents, people in general, etc. The phrase “She plays like a man!” is heard more often than wanted. And it is amazing to see that even women can be sexists towards other women as well by accepting certain prejudices imposed by obsolete cultural traditions.
However I do believe women have the power to keep changing that mentality by showing the world and, more importantly themselves that they can do as well (or better) as anyone else.
You known especially as a specialist in Chopin (below), whose music you will play here. What makes Chopin so unique and so popular?
Chopin is a composer who speaks directly to the heart of people. Like a dear friend who shares with us his deepest secrets of life, his music is intimate and personal. He doesn’t describe landscapes or tell stories. He speaks about human feelings and people feel represented and touched by the beauty he creates. He enhances harmony and enriches people’s life.
Recently, Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes said Chopin is more difficult to play successfully than Beethoven. What are the elements of great Chopin playing that make his music so challenging to the performer?
I can agree with this. Chopin is one of the most difficult composers to play. His Romanticism is not obvious and it is very important — and hard — to find a right balance between his Romantic soul and his Classical expression.
Also, the importance of making the piano sing as a singer would do is deeply challenging because it means fighting against the nature of the piano, which is a percussive instrument.
But more importantly, Chopin (below) requires from us all our senses completely in balance and in harmony with nature. We cannot allow our body to be tensed or our heart to be arid when we play Chopin. His music will always be a mirror of our soul and will reflect our inner world, totally naked.
You will perform Piano Concerto No. 2 over Valentine’s Day weekend. It seems a perfect choice for the occasion. What would you like the audience to know about the Piano Concerto No. 2, especially as compared to No. 1, which was composed later?
This concerto is one of the most beautiful pieces ever written. The poetry, the beauty, the perfection of form and level of maturity reached by this 18-year-old teenager are simply astonishing and revealing.
This music is irresistible and seductive. Let yourself be embraced by the perfumes and textures he creates and you’ll be taken into a wonderful world, a world you would never want to come back from. Special attention goes to the marvelous second movement with its beautiful melodic lines, which might bring a little tear to your eyes. (You can hear the second movement, performed by pianist Arthur Rubinstein with the London Philharmonic under conductor-composer Andre Previn in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
You have performed in Madison before in a recital at the Wisconsin Union Theater. Do you have an opinion about Madison and its audiences?
I have the best memories from Madison and its public, and I’m looking forward to our next encounter!
Was there an Aha Moment! – a piece or performance or performer – when you knew you wanted to be a professional concert pianist?
I was 16 years old and playing the Piano Concerto No. 3 by Ludwig van Beethoven for the first time with the orchestra at the Teatro Colon (below) in Buenos Aires. The hall was packed and the atmosphere was febrile. I remember my feeling of total joy knowing I was about to perform that concerto for all those people. I felt in the right moment in the right place.
How do you think can we get more young people interested in classical music?
Education, education, education. We must show young people classical music is theirs as well, not something old that belongs to museums.
Music is a vehicle of human expression and this is what we, as educators, parents, need to inculcate since the very beginning. So, parents have to be educated as well.
Music in school shouldn’t be the “free time” classroom, but should be taken as a moment of spiritual joy and recreation. Parents should listen to classical music at home, and share their feelings that music brings with their children.
Also, we should bring classical music into more deconstructed environments outside concert halls, in houses, bars, airports, parks. (Below is the Madison chapter of Classical Revolution performing chamber music in a bar.)
By Jacob Stockinger
For piano fans, the first semester in Madison proved a bit underwhelming, even disappointing when compared to many past falls.
But that is about to change this semester, starting this weekend.
Of course this piano-rich week comes complete with the inevitable piano “train wreck,” as The Wise Critic terms such scheduling conflicts and competition.
CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR OR ILYA YAKUSHEV
For many area listeners, the big annual piano event is on this Friday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall. That is when the UW-Madison School of Music virtuoso Christopher Taylor (below) — whom The Ear hears other schools are trying to lure away from the UW — performs his annual solo faculty recital.
Taylor, famed for his prodigious technique and fantastic memory, has won praise nationwide and even internationally for his performances of all kinds of difficult music, from Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven to Olivier Messiaen and Gyorgi Ligeti as well as contemporary musicians like Derek Bermel.
Taylor’s program this time is an unusual one that mixes old and new.
It features another of the dazzling two-hand transcriptions by Franz Liszt of the symphonies by Ludwig van Beethoven, which Taylor has been performing elsewhere in a cycle. This time he will perform the famous Symphony No. 6 in F Major, “Pastoral.”
Also on the program are seven of the 12 etudes by the contemporary American composer William Bolcom, who taught at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, and the Sonata No. 3 in F minor, Op. 5, by Johannes Brahms — a wondrously dramatic and beautiful work that you can hear performed by Van Cliburn International Piano Competition winner Radu Lupu in a YouTube video at the bottom.
Tickets are $10 and benefit the UW-Madison School of Music Scholarship Fund.
For more information, including some national reviews of Taylor, here is a link to the UW website:
But, as I said, there is a problem.
At exactly the same time on Friday night, in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center, is a terrific concert by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra with Russian pianist Ilya Yakushev (below), who last performed Prokofiev and Gershwin concertos with the WCO.
This Friday night’s program includes Yakushev in two well-known concertos: the keyboard concerto in D Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach and the Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor by Felix Mendelssohn.
Also on the program – typically eclectic in the style that conductor Andrew Sewell (below) favors — is the English Suite for Strings by British composer Paul Lewis and the Chamber Symphony No. 2 by Arnold Schoenberg.
For information, go to: http://wcoconcerts.org/performances/masterworks/77/event-info/
But this piano weekend doesn’t stop there.
On Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m., Ilya Yakushev will open the new season of the Salon Piano Series when he plays a solo recital in the concert room (below) at Farley’s House of Pianos, on Madison’s far west side.
The program includes the famous Sonata in C minor “Pathétique,” Op. 13, by Ludwig van Beethoven; the Sonata No. 2 by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev and “Carnival” by Robert Schumann. A reception will follow the recital.
Here is a link with more information:
And as background, here is a Q&A that The Ear did in 2011 with Ilya Yakushev:
MORE TO COME
Of course this is just the beginning of Piano Heaven.
There is still the concerto competition for the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) to come, along with the UW-Madison concerto competition, the Bolz “Final Forte” Concerto Competition of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and others.
Later this semester, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra will also feature two other returning pianists –- Shai Wosner (below top) and Bryan Wallick (below bottom). They will perform, respectively, two concertos by Franz Joseph Haydn and the Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major “Emperor” by Ludwig van Beethoven.
Here is a link to the WCO website:
And let’s not forget the Madison Symphony Orchestra.
In addition to the above piano events and others, the Madison Symphony Orchestra will feature the Irving S. Gilmore Competition winner Ingrid Fliter (below), a native of Argentina, in the lusciously Romantic Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor by Frederic Chopin on Feb. 13-15 – perfect fare for Valentine’s Day weekend.
That program which also includes the Symphony No. 4 by Robert Schumann and British composer Benjamin Britten’s “Variations on a Theme by Frank Bridge” -– Bridge was Britten’s teacher — promises to be a memorable performance by a renowned Chopin specialist who last played a solo recital here ay the Wisconsin Union Theater.
And if you know of more. just add them in a Reader’s Comment for others to see,
ALERT: We are in the run-up to the always impressive Spring Concerts by members of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO). And Good Friend of The Ear radio host Rich Samuels is helping to publicize the WYSO chamber music concerts on this Saturday, May 10, and the other instrumental groups and orchestras, with soloists, that will perform on Saturday, May 17, and Sunday May 18. The radio segment with violinist Isabelle Krier and pianist Charlie Collar will air on WORT 89.9 FM, starting at 7:08 a.m. on this Thursday morning, May 8. Following that segment, Samuels will be airing a concert featuring conductor Ken Woods (a WYSO and UW-Madison alumnus, who leads the English Symphony Orchestra in Wales in the United Kingdom). Here is a link to the WYSO website for more details about the two weekends of WYSO concerts:
By Jacob Stockinger
This Friday night at 7:30 p.m., three members of the Madison-based and critically acclaimed Ancora String Quartet (below) will close out its 13th season with a program that features a relative rarity in chamber music: piano quartets — by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Frank Bridge and Joaquin Turina. (Below are, from left, Ancora members violinist Robin Ryan, violist Marika Fischer Hoyt and cellist Benjamin Whitcomb.)
The program includes the lyrical Piano Quartet No. 2 in E-Flat Major, K. 493, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; the one-movement Piano Phantasy in F-Sharp Minor by 20th-century British composer Frank Bridge, who was also the teacher of Benjamin Britten; and the impassioned Piano Quartet in A minor, Op 67, by the lesser known 20th-century Spanish composer Joaquin Turina.
The guest artist is University of Wisconsin-Whitewater pianist MyungHee Chung (below), who joined the Ancora in 2010 in a memorable performance of the iconic Piano Quintet in F Minor, Op. 34, by Johannes Brahms.
The concert will take place in the historic Landmark Auditorium, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive.
Tickets are available at the door, and are general seating. They cost $15 for the general public; $12 for students and seniors; and $6 for children under 12.
A free post-concert champagne reception is included in the ticket.
This year the quartet is a strong trio made up of violist Robin Ryan, violist Marika Fischer Hoyt and cellist Benjamin Whitcomb, who also teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. First violinist Leanne League is on a one-year leave.
Violist Marika Fisher Hoyt, who also hosts a Saturday afternoon program on Wisconsin Public Radio and plays in the Madison Symphony Orchestra and other local groups, including period-instrument, early music ensembles, recently gave The Ear an email interview:
How does the Ancora Quartet choose repertoire and programs? How do you balance the well-known and the neglected? Highlight various instruments? Is any one of your members more active in selecting programs than the others?
All Ancora String Quartet players (below) participate equally in proposing pieces and crafting the final programs. We keep a list of pieces that one or more of us would like to perform. In the spring of each year, we look at the list, and select pieces to form programs of roughly 70 minutes of music.
We aim for programs that offer a nice balance of familiar and unfamiliar, of Classical, Romantic and Modern style, and of varying lengths and degrees of emotional intensity.
For the first 10 years we presented pieces that were new to us as a quartet, but at this point we’ll sometimes include a piece we’ve performed before. That’s usually a piece we really love, like the Beethoven Op. 74 “Harp” Quartet.
How much does the audience figure in setting up a program?
We don’t really consider the audience’s hypothetical preferences, other than to try to present programs with enough variety that there’s something for all tastes. The constant factor is our love for the music and our commitment to working together.
What are current projects and future plans for the Ancora?
Our current project is preparing for and presenting this week’s program!
We’re still in the process of planning next season’s programs. Our first violinist, Leanne League (below), will be on leave next season, and two wonderful violinists will be joining us, both of them players in the Madison Symphony Orchestra.
Violinist Wes Luke (below) will join us for our fall programs, which will almost certainly include one of his favorites, the Mendelssohn Quartet, Op. 80, in F Minor, a powerfully moving work written at the very end of that composer’s life.
Violinist Eleanor Bartsch (below), a prize-winning student from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, will join us for our spring programs, and she’s hoping to perform one of the gorgeous Brahms quartets with us. We look forward to working with these talented colleagues.
Another project is that of increasing our quartet’s presence online. A few years ago we redid our quartet website www.ancoraquartet.com, which now features a blog. While we don’t aspire to publish new postings every day (like The Well-Tempered Ear), every couple of weeks I’ll publish an interview with a guest artist, a report of our first rehearsal on a new program, or links to reviews.
We also have a Facebook fan page at facebook.com/ancoraquartet. We only give 8-10 concerts per year, and these online sites are a nice way to stay in touch with the concert-going public. They give our fans an easy way to contact us with any questions or comments.
Is it different playing a PIANO quartet or quintet than an all-string quartet? Pianists often have the reputation of being soloists at core and not easy chamber music partners. Is that your experience?
Yes, the sound of a piano is qualitatively different from that of the violin family of instruments, and so in a piano quartet or quintet we must all work a little harder to achieve a unified effect, through phrasing and careful balancing of dynamics.
Pianists may have the reputation of being divas, but we have worked with MyungHee Chung (below) before, and that has certainly not been our experience with her. It’s true that a powerful pianist can overwhelm the sound of three or four string instruments. But, while MyungHee spins out her solo passages with effortless ease and grace, she is also an extremely sensitive collaborator and accompanist, and we are so pleased to be able to work with her again.
What would you like to say about each of the pieces on this weekend’s program?
The Piano Quartet by Mozart (below) demonstrates a perfect fusion of elegance, charm and sensuality. Benjamin often reminds us of the vocal quality in much of Mozart’s music, and we will imagine that we’re singing an aria tune from a Mozart opera. And, on a personal note, I can tell from his writing that Mozart was a violist; I appreciate the melodies I get to play, and how well they lie on viola!
The “Phantasy” by Frank Bridge (below is a wonderful example of late Romantic British style, by turns voluptuously lush and singing, or fiercely dramatic.
The work by Joaquin Turina (below) gives us three movements of smoldering Spanish melodrama, spiced with playful cross-rhythms. We’ll be ready for the champagne reception, after that!
Is there anything else you would like to add or say?
We Ancora players are now in our 13th recital season, and our joy in making music together has only deepened over the years. Chamber music is so much more intimate than orchestral playing, and we are extremely grateful for the chance to share this music with our audiences.
The Madison community’s deep appreciation of the arts supports so many wonderful musical ensembles. We feel lucky to be a part of it all, to inspire, and be inspired, in our turn.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Madison Symphony Orchestra (below) has just announced its next season for 2014-15.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.)
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:
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.