The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Personal experience, artistic excellence and historical importance drew pianist Wu Han and cellist David Finckel into planning next year’s centennial season at the Wisconsin Union Theater

March 30, 2019
3 Comments

IF YOU LIKE A CERTAIN BLOG POST, PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD. FORWARD A LINK TO IT OR, SHARE or TAG IT (not just “Like” it) ON FACEBOOK. Performers can use the extra exposure to draw potential audience members to an event.

By Jacob Stockinger

Now that Spring Break is over and subscription tickets are available for the Wisconsin Union Theater’s special centennial celebration next season – which includes superstar soprano Renée Fleming and pianist Emanuel Ax — here is an email interview that pianist Wu Han and cellist David Finckel (below, in a photo by Lisa-Marie Mazzucco), the wife-and-husband consultants and planners of that season, granted to The Ear.

For more about the season and tickets, go to two websites:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2019/03/04/classical-music-superstar-soprano-renee-fleming-and-pianist-emanuel-ax-headline-the-100th-anniversary-of-the-wisconsin-union-theaters-concert-series-next-season/

https://union.wisc.edu/visit/wisconsin-union-theater/seasonevents/concert-series/

Could you briefly introduce yourselves to readers and tell them both your past and current activities?

We have been performing on the world’s many concert stages for almost our entire lives. In addition to our careers as concert performers, we serve as the founding Artistic Directors of Music@Menlo, the premier chamber music festival in Silicon Valley, as well as the Artistic Directors of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (CMS) in New York City.

Our main responsibility as concert performers is to give the best concerts we possibly can, and we are constantly striving to achieve the highest possible level of artistry in our performances.

In our roles as artistic directors, our responsibilities lie in the programming, casting and designing of concert series and chamber music projects for our organizations. At CMS, this includes designing the programming for our seven different satellite series around the country, plus international partnerships in Taiwan, Korea and Europe.

We are also involved in chamber music programming endeavors beyond Music@Menlo and CMS, having just completed a first-ever chamber music residency at the Society of the Four Arts in Palm Beach, Florida. Furthermore, Wu Han is serving as Artistic Advisor to Wolf Trap Chamber Music at the Barns, which entails thematically programming eight concerts per season for the 2018–19 and 2019–20 seasons.

As artistic directors, we spend much of our time putting ourselves in the shoes of our listeners, measuring their experience and receptivity to chamber music of all periods and styles, and putting together the best programs and artists who will move our audiences forward into ever-increasing engagement with and love of the art.

David was the cellist of the Emerson String Quartet for 34 seasons, and we have been performing together as a duo for about 35 years, and continue to do so as one of our main performance activities.

What are your personal relationships to the Wisconsin Union Theater, and what do you think of it as a concert venue?

Our engagement with the Wisconsin Union Theater goes back quite a few years, but certainly not even close to the beginning of the Theater’s distinguished history. For any performer setting foot on its stage, there’s a sense of slipping into an ongoing tradition of artistic excellence that makes us feel both privileged and obligated to do our best.

The Wisconsin Union Theater and its story in American cultural life is larger than any of us; only the music we play rises above and beyond it all, and as performers, our lucky moment is to represent that incredible literature in a venue as significant and storied as the Wisconsin Union Theater. (Below is the theater’s main venue, the renovated and restored Shannon Hall.)

Why did you agree to be artistic advisors and artists-in-residence for the centennial season? Did your personal experiences in Madison play a role in that decision?

As seasoned artists, we deeply admire and respect the very special place in the classical music tradition and history that the Wisconsin Union Theater (below) inhabits, and the invitation to participate in the Theater’s 100th anniversary was an honor for us to receive. Our experiences playing on this distinguished stage and forming a relationship with the local audience have made our pursuit of the common goal of artistic excellence in the centennial season incredibly fulfilling.

Of course, having performed there in the past gave us a hint of confidence through our familiarity with the place, but we must say we have learned perhaps double what we knew originally through this planning process. Without interfering, but at the same time sharing our uncompromised commitment to artistic excellence, we hope that our presence during the process has been useful, and we know that we look so much forward to seeing the careful thought and hard work of all involved come to fruition.

Is there a unifying or guiding principle to the season you have put together?

The guiding principle behind our work on this historic season is artistic excellence, which in our opinion is what most inspires audiences and best serves the art form of classical music.

Our area of expertise is chamber music, and, as we wanted to share the best of what we can do with the Theater, our focus has been on ensuring that the chamber music offerings during this historic season, and hopefully beyond, reflect the best of the world of chamber music.

In our suggestions, we looked for variety of instrumentations, of composers and periods—in other words, giving as much of an overview of the art as we could within a season.

What would you like the public to know about the Wisconsin Union Theater and the upcoming centennial season?

In the Theater’s centennial season, the audience will have the opportunity to savor a variety of different genres of chamber music, from solo piano to vocal music, as well as a sampling of the very best works of the chamber music canon. Between these various genres, the great composers left a wealth of chamber music that could sustain the art form on its own, but that’s still only the tip of the iceberg.

Our chamber music offerings will include the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, which has a long history of performing for the Madison audience. Their December program will include celebrated cornerstones of the piano trio repertoire, including Mendelssohn’s D minor Trio and Beethoven’s “Archduke” Trio. (You can hear the opening of the Archduke Trio in the YouTube video at the bottom.) Both pieces have achieved monumental historical significance through their influence in propelling the art form forward from the Classical period to the Romantic period.

The Escher String Quartet performance in January represents the best of the next generation of young string quartets. Their program includes a quartet by Franz Joseph Haydn—the father of the string quartet genre—and the sole quartet of none other than revered violin virtuoso Fritz Kreisler, who performed in the Wisconsin Union Theater nearly a century ago. Kreisler set foot on the Theater’s stage numerous times, and his rarely heard string quartet nods to the Theater’s long, distinguished history. David will join the Escher Quartet for the beloved Schubert Cello Quintet, which is the “desert island” must-have piece for many music lovers.

Furthermore, in March, we will bring two of the most fantastic musicians in the world to join us for a program of Antonin Dvorak, Josef Suk and Johannes Brahms. This multigenerational cast of musicians includes the incredible young French violinist Arnaud Sussmann (below top, in a photo by Matt Dine) as well as the most important violist of our generation, Paul Neubauer (below bottom). This program is all about the passing down of the baton and the continuous investment in the next generations of artists: Brahms was the one who discovered Dvorak, and Dvorak in turn discovered Suk.


Posted in Classical music
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Classical music: This year’s Token Creek Chamber Music Festival will explore “Necessary Music” by Bach, Schubert, Schumann, Ravel, Harbison and other composers from Aug. 26 through Sept 3

August 17, 2017
1 Comment

 By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following announcement to post about an annual event that puts on a lot of MUST-HEAR programs:

TOKEN CREEK, WIS. –    In what way, and for whom, is a certain kind of music necessary?

Certainly the presenters of a chamber music festival would be presumptuous to offer a program as a sort of prescription for listeners. And at Token Creek we won’t.

So often the music we need arrives by chance, and we did not even know we needed it until it appears. And other times we know exactly what we are missing. And so we offer this year’s programs of pieces that feed the soul.

Saturday, Aug. 26, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 27, at 4 p.m., Program I: Continuo

Some works of art are so rich that they sustain a lifetime of inquiry and encounters, each time revealing fresh new insights only possible through sustained engagement, pieces so resilient they admit multiple interpretations, approaches, nuances, shadings.

We open the season with music of Johann Sebastian Bach (below), pieces we’ve played before and some we have not, music that continues to compel for the very reason that it can never be fully plumbed, music that rewards over and over again. In a concert dominated by Bach, the requirement of the other pieces is really only that they offer sufficient originality and integrity not to be dwarfed or rendered ephemeral by his authority.

Flutist Dawn Lawler (below top), cellist Sara Sitzer (below second) and pianist Jeffrey Stanek (below third join the artistic directors composer-pianist John and violinist Rose Mary Harbison (below bottom) for this opening program.

Works:
BACH Sonata in E minor for violin and continuo, BWV 1023

HAYDN    Trio in F major for flute, cello and piano XV:17

BACH   Two Fugues, from The Art of Fugue, BWV 1080

HARBISON    Mark the Date, for flute and piano (pre-premiere)

BACH Sonata in G major for violin and continuo, BWV 1021

BACH Three-Voice Ricercar, from The Musical Offering, BWV 1079

BACH Sonata in C minor, from The Musical Offering, BWV 1079

Wednesday, Aug. 30, at 7:30 p.m. Program II: Schubert

A sequel to last year’s all-Schubert program, which offered Die Schöne Müllerin and the “Trout” Quintet, this season we offer two late masterworks by  Schubert (below): the song cycle Schwanengesang (Swan Song) and the solo piano set of six Moments Musicaux (Musical Moments).

In structure, ingenuity and invention these two large works offer an eloquent counterpoint and complement to one another. We are pleased to welcome back pianist Ya-Fei Chuang (below top), and to introduce tenor Charles Blandy (below middle) with pianist Linda Osborn (below bottom).

Works:

SCHUBERT      Andante, from Sonata in C for Piano Four Hands (“Grand Duo”),  D.812

SCHUBERT     Moments Musicaux, D.780

SCHUBERT      Schwanengesang, D.957

Saturday, Sept. 2, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 3, at 4 p.m. Program III: Waltz

This program explores the familiar form of the waltz as an unexpectedly flexible and diverse musical type, with uncommon approaches from a wide variety of composers from Schubert through Sur.

We conclude the season with Schumann’s splendid Piano Quartet, whose third movement offers one of the greatest of slow waltzes of all time. (You can hear it performed by the Faure Quartet in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

We are pleased to introduce violist Becky Menghini (below top) and cellist Kyle Price (below bottom).

Works:

FRITZ KREISLER   Three Old Viennese Melodies for Violin and  Piano

DONALD SUR        Berceuse for Violin and Piano

SCHUBERT      Waltz Sequence

RAVEL     Valses nobles et sentimentales

GEORGE CRUMB    Sonata for Solo Cello

SCHUMANN     Quartet in E-flat for Piano and Strings, Op.   47

The Token Creek Festival has been called a gem, a treasure nestled in the heart of Wisconsin cornfields, a late-summer fixture just outside of Madison.

Now in its 28th season, the Festival has become known for its artistic excellence, diverse and imaginative programming, a deep engagement with the audience, and a surprising, enchanting and intimate performance venue in a comfortable refurbished barn.

The 2017 festival offers five events to close the summer concert season, Aug. 26–Sept. 3.

Performances take place at the Festival Barn (below), on Highway 19 near the hamlet of Token Creek (10 minutes north of Madison, near Sun Prairie) with ample parking available.

The charmingly rustic venue—indoors and air-conditioned with modern comforts—is invitingly small, and early reservations are recommended.

Concert tickets are $32 (students $12). Reservations can be secured in several ways:

More information about the Token Creek Festival and all events and artists can be found at the website, www.tokencreekfestival.org or by calling 608-241-2525.


Classical music: The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra opens its new season at 7:30 p.m. – NOT 8 — this coming Friday night. The program includes symphonies by William Boyce and Franz Schubert along with the Violin Concerto by Tchaikovsky

October 10, 2016
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

One by one, the major groups in town are getting their new concert season under way.

The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below) will take its turn this coming Friday night in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center.

PLEASE NOTE: The traditional starting time for the WCO Masterworks concerts has been changed from 8 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The Ear isn’t sure whether it is for the convenience of audiences or because of the new security measures at the Overture Center. But he likes the earlier starting time since WCO programs are usually very generous.

WCO lobby

True to his programming philosophy, WCO music director and conductor Andrew Sewell is mixing the very popular with the rarely heard and the almost completely unknown.

andrewsewell

The most popular and well-known work, the Violin Concerto in D major by Peter Ilych Tchaikovsky features Russian violinist Ilya Kaler (below) at the soloist in the surefire work.

Kaler sounds very promising, since he is the only violinist ever to won gold medals at three prestigious competitions — the Tchaikovsky, Sibelius and Paganini competitions. In the YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear him perform a work by Fritz Kreisler at the Heifetz Festival.

ilya-kaler

The Symphony No. 4 in C minor by Franz Schubert (below) is a youthful work, but it possesses a surprisingly mature power deriving from its mood and mystery — perhaps because he composed it in the favorite key of his mentor and idol Ludwig van Beethoven. Hence its nickname, “Tragic.”

It should also be an outstanding performance because Schubert’s music is one of conductor Sewell’s many strengths.

Franz Schubert big

William Boyce (1711-1779) was a Baroque-era English composer, a contemporary of George Frideric Handel, who was more popular in his own day. But who has been making something of a comeback, thanks to the early music movement.

Boyce (below) wrote six symphonies, and No. 5 in D Major on this program promises some pleasant surprises. The Ear doesn’t recall ever hearing Boyce performed live in Madison, though that is hardly the definitive word. Maybe he just missed it.

william-boyce

Single tickets are $10 to $80. For tickets, a sample of Ilya Kaler’s playing and background information, visit:

http://www.wisconsinchamberorchestra.org/performances/masterworks-i-2/


Classical music: Grace Presents offers a FREE violin and piano concert of music by Mozart, Schumann and Fritz Kreisler this Saturday from noon to 1 p.m.

February 18, 2016
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

A FREE concert this weekend by Grace Presents features violin and piano music played by local musicians.

The concert takes place from noon to 1 p.m. this Saturday at Grace Episcopal Church, where West Washington Avenue runs into the Capitol Square.

grace episcopal church ext

Grace Episcopal harpsichord

The performers are violinist Kangwon Kim and pianist Seungwha Baek.

The program is: Sonata for Piano and Violin in A major, K. 526, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791); Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano in A minor, Op. 105, by Robert Schumann (1810-1856); and “Liebesleid” (Love’s Sorrow, performed by Anne Akiko Meyers in a YouTube video at the bottom) and “Liebesfreud” (Love’s Joy) by Fritz Kreisler (1875–1962).

Kangwon Lee Kim (below) is a versatile violinist with repertoire ranging from baroque to 21st century using both Baroque and modern violins. She performs with the Madison Bach Musicians.

Kangwon Kim earned her Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and also holds degrees from the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, the Manhattan School of Music and Temple University.

Kangwon Kim close up

A native of Seoul, Korea, pianist Seungwha Baek (below) is currently working towards the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in collaborative piano at the University of Wisconsin-­Madison under Professor Martha Fischer.

Seungwha Baek

For more information about upcoming concerts in a variety of genres and style, plus a chance to let Grace Presents know what you think of a specific concert or performers, go to:

http://gracepresents.org


Classical music: Listen to American violinist Hilary Hahn revive the old tradition of salon music by playing the 27 short encores she commissioned from today’s important composers.

November 23, 2013
Leave a Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

A frequent critic and gifted guest reviewer on this web site recently referred to Chicago violinist Rachel Barton Pine as the most exciting violin talent to emerge on the American scene.

Well, Barton Pine is indeed special and very gifted, as she proved earlier this month when she opened the Wisconsin Union Theater season with the magnificent Violin Concerto by Johannes Brahms, performed with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Symphony Orchestra conducted under the baton of UW alumnus and Madison native Kenneth Woods.

Here is a link to that review:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/11/04/classical-music-the-wisconsin-union-theater-opens-its-new-season-with-a-winning-blockbuster-program-of-brahms-and-shostakovich-performed-by-native-son-conductor-kenneth-woods-chicago-violist-rachel/

But The Ear has to respectfully disagree.

For my money, or my taste, or my values — whatever you want to call it —  the most exciting violin talent on the American scene is Hilary Hahn (below).

hilary_hahn

Hahn performs the classics and the great masterworks terrifically, with a great sense of architectural shape and beautiful tone, plus exciting but not exaggerated or distorted interpretations.

She also plays modern works and commissions works, including a Pulitzer Prize-winning Violin Concerto by Jennifer Higdon (below) who teaches composition at the same Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia where Hahn trained.

And her two recitals with the then relatively unknown pianist Valentina Lisitsa at the Wisconsin Union Theater were among the best performed and most originally programmed recitals that I have ever heard.

Jennifer Higdon and cat Beau

Oh, and Hilary Hahn also blogs, by the way.

And she also did her own interviews, posted on YouTube, with the 27 composers — including Max Richter, Lera Auerbach and Avner Dorfman — who composed the encores.

Check out her website: http://hilaryhahn.com

Now the heirloom record label Deutsche Grammophon has released the “The Hilary Hahn Encores in 27 Pieces,” which features 27 recently composed pieces, all commissioned by Hahn for her use as concert encores. It is a welcome throwback, in a way, to salon music and to composers like virtuoso violinist Fritz Kreisler.

Hilary Hahn Encores CD cover

I don’t know how they did it – I suspect it was some kind of swap for advertising space – but NPR has terrific classical music blog “Deceptive Cadence” and a feature called “First Listen” that also allows you to hear some music before it is released commercially. (But, as I understand it, you can’t download it or recorded it from the NPR site.)

NPR did the same for Jeremy Denk’s acclaimed new recording for the Nonesuch label of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Goldberg” Variations.

Anyway, here is a link to the new Hilary Hahn CD of encores. Enjoy the music and listening to it.

http://www.npr.org/2013/11/03/242090716/first-listen-hilary-hahn-in-27-pieces-the-hilary-hahn-encores

And let us know your Top 5 picks of the 27, or even just your Top Pick.

It will be interesting to see if there is a consensus and what ones are liked the most.

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: Chamber music group Con Vivo lives up to its lively name as guest conductor John DeMain opens the season with an ambitious and gloriously performed program of Wagner and Mozart.

November 11, 2013
3 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Here is a special posting, a review written by frequent guest critic and writer for this blog, John W. Barker. Barker (below) is an emeritus professor of Medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also is a well-known classical music critic who writes for Isthmus and the American Record Guide, and who hosts an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT FM 89.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.

John-Barker

By John W. Barker

Con Vivo!, the plucky band of chamber musicians (below) based at the First Congregational Church, launched its season with perhaps its most ambitious offerings yet.

Con Vivo core musicians

Augmenting its ranks appropriately, it set a program titled “Baker’s Dozen,” the point being that each of the two major works offered called for 13 musicians (if not always the same ones).

Each work is too large to fit into the usual “chamber” boundaries, and yet is too small to belong in the orchestral realm. Accordingly, they are rarities, and the Con Vivo! opportunity to hear them was particularly welcome.

It was the more welcome because, indeed, there were two performances of the program. After only two full rehearsals, as a kind of “dress rehearsal”, the ensembles presented the program on Thursday evening, November 8, at the auditorium of Capital Lakes Retirement Center, followed by the official performance the next evening at First Congregational (below).  (That the Capital Lakes performance was something of a dress rehearsal was testified to by one stop for a corrected replay.)  I took advantage of the circumstance to attend both performances, a fascinating experience.

Con Vivo Octet

The two major works are quite contrasted.

Richard Wagner’s so-called “Siegfried Idyll was a chamber piece written as a birthday present for his wife Cosima after the birth of their son, Siegfried.  Wagner (below) was at work on his opera Siegfried at the time, and quotations or references in the piece were filled with personal meanings for the composer and his family.  Often this score is played by orchestra, with the five string parts spread out for a full string section, but the intimacy of the original is much more appropriate.

Richard Wagner

The other major work was Mozart’s Gran Partita, K. 361. (You can hear it in its entirety at bottom in a popular YouTube video with the late conductor and acclaimed Mozart interpreter Sir Charles Mackerras.) Despite its length of about 45 minutes, it is never too much, but rather a feast of Mozart’s astounding facility and imagination in his varied combinations of the reed instruments against solid chordal foundations by the four horns.

No other composer has been able to match Mozart (below) in his wonderful writing for wind ensemble, and this is his crowning achievement by far in this medium.  This score is pure bliss.  For me, the chance to hear it two evenings in succession was as if I had been able to visit heaven not once but twice!

mozart big

That double exposure proved particularly fascinating to me, and I had my own reactions to the differences between the two performances.  I was able, too, to discuss with a number of the players, and compare notes on how they responded to both the performances and the two venues, and both pro and con.

First off, it must be mentioned that Con Vivo! made the wise decision to invite a conductor to preside, and in this case no less than John DeMain (below in a photo by Prasad), the lignite music director of the Madison Symphony Orchestra.  I had the feeling that the Wagner went a bit too slowly the first evening, but achieved more coherent ensemble and a more flowing, even caressing quality the second evening.  In the Mozart, I found one tempo choice questionable, but this was resolved handsomely the second time around.

John DeMain full face by Prasad

Obviously, the difference between the drier acoustics of the Capital Lakes hall (below) and the richer ones at First Congregational had some effects on these judgments, as did also the fact that the players felt more confidence in the final performance.  And, without question, DeMain’s subtle and supple leadership contributed greatly to the sum total.

Capitol Lakes Hall

Here I confess to a secret hankering. The Mozart work has long been identified as a “Serenade for Thirteen Wind Instruments.”  That was taken to mean that the bass line should be played by a contrabassoon.

On the other hand, in recent years notice has been made of the fact that the part has directions to play pizzicato in three passages in the work: in the second Trio of the second Minuet, in the sixth variation in the penultimate movement, and in one episode in the rondo finale.

Now, it is rather difficult for reed instruments, of any size, to play pizzicati, so a string bass has been the working solution nowadays.  But the string bass has a light and somehow incompatible sound against the winds. The contrabassoon would provide greater strength, as well as better congruity with the other reeds.

Well, maybe the solution is to divide the part between contrabassoon and string bass as appropriate.

It should not be forgotten that the program had its bonus features.  Between the two major works, violinist Olga Pomolova (below left) of the Madison Symphony Orchestra joined with DeMain, now acting as pianist, in an arrangement for violin and piano of a highly romantic early (and quite un-Wagnerian) piano piece by Wagner, an “Albumblatt” (Album Page).  And, at the Friday performance, Pomolova also played a brief and beloved tidbit by Fritz Kreisler that represented deeply personal inspiration to her.

Con Vivo Olga Pomolova and Kathryn Taylor

The final results of all this constituted a magnificent treat of truly rare and absolutely glorious chamber music. And really done con vivo, “with life”!


UW-Madison sister violinists Alice and Eleanor Bartsch join Madison Symphony Orchestra organist Samuel Hutchison for a concert on Friday night. Plus, on Saturday night, UW cellist Parry Karp gives FREE recital that includes Schumann and Brahms.

November 7, 2013
Leave a Comment

ALERT:  UW-Madison cellist Parry Karp (below), who heads the UW School of Music’s chamber music program and who perform with the Pro Arte Quartet, will give a FREE and PUBLIC recital on Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Mills  Hall. He will perform with his father and mother, Howard and Frances Karp, as piano accompanists. The program includes: “Poem for Cello and Piano” by Charles Tournemire; “Eight Pieces” by Theordor Kirchner; “Pieces in the folk Style for Cello and Piano” by Robert Schumann; and the late Sonata for Clarinet (or viola) and Piano in E-flat Major, Op. 120, No. 2, by Johannes Brahms as transcribed by Parry Karp.

Parry Karp

By Jacob Stockinger

Word has reached The Ear:

Sister violinists Alice and Eleanor Bartsch (below respectively, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) will join the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s organist, Samuel Hutchison, in a recital of music for organ and violin on this Friday, Nov. 8, at 7:30 p.m. in Overture Hall at the Overture Center.

Alice  and Eleanor Bartsch (c) Katrin Talbot

The generous program includes Johann Sebastian Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins; the Double Concerto in D Minor by Antonio Vivaldi; the Finale from Sonata No. 6 by Felix Mendelssohn; the Suite for Violin and Organ by Josef Rheinberger; the Prelude and Fugue in B Major by Marcel Dupre; the Coronation March from “Le Prophete” by Giacomo Meyerbeer; and the “Preludium and Allegro in the Style of Pugnani” by Fritz Kreisler (heard at the bottom in a very popular YouTube by superstar violinist Itzhak Perlman.)

Adds Teri Venker, the marketing director, in a press release for the Madison Symphony Orchestra:

“Sisters Alice and Eleanor Bartsch are a dynamic pairing: both are members of the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s first violin section with impressive performance credits.

“Each sister has also won prestigious competitions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) School of Music, where they are students.

“Currently, Eleanor is a first-year master’s student at UW and a Paul Collins Distinguished Graduate Fellow, and Alice is a senior at UW working toward a bachelor of music degree in performance.

The Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Samuel Hutchison (below, in a photo by Joe DeMaio) is a seasoned recitalist and will round out the powerful trio.

Sam Hutchison with organ (c) JoeDeMaio

“When asked about playing on Overture Stage, Eleanor Bartsch (below) said, it “still takes our breath away! There’s actually a ‘sweet spot’ on stage: If you stand exactly right, the sound seems to ‘jump’ out of the violin and soar all the way to the balcony. I wish I could practice in Overture Hall every day!”

Eleanor Bartsch

“Alice Bartsch said, “The Bach Double Violin Concerto is a piece we have been performing since we were little girls. The concert has a little bit of everything from the romanticism of Kreisler and Rheinberger to the powerful “Chaconne” by Tomaso Vitali. For baroque music lovers, we will play the lively Double Concerto by Vivaldi.”

Alice Bartsch

Both Alice and Eleanor agree that they have a “sister vibe” about timing and musical phrasing that makes playing together easy, fun, and rewarding.

For more information about the Bartsch sisters and their major funders including retired Citibank executive Paul Collins, retired UW chemistry professor Kato Perlman and retired UW-Madison Chancellor Irving Shain, read the fine posting by Public Relations Director and Concert Manager Kathy Esposito on the UW School of Music’s new blog “Fanfare” :

http://uwmadisonschoolofmusic.wordpress.com/2013/11/04/bartsch-sisters/

In addition to accompanying the Bartsch sisters, Hutchison will also perform solo works for organ by Marcel Dupré, Herbert Howells, Josef Rheinberger, and Tomaso Vitali.

Hutchison said, “It is a great privilege to be joined by Alice and Eleanor Bartsch in this program for organ and violins.  Each brings a great joy and freshness to this music, which will be infectious for the audience.  We look forward to sharing some audience favorites as well as some new pieces with our listeners in Overture Hall.”

Overture Concert Organ overview

General admission for the concert is $20, and tickets can be purchased at http://www.madisonsymphony.org/bartsch, the Overture Center Box Office or (608) 258-4141. Student rush tickets are $10 the day of the show with a valid student ID. (See http://www.madisonsymphony.org/studentrush).

The performance is sponsored by Kato L. Perlman, and by Alfred P. and Ann M. Moore, with additional funding from Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation and the Diane Endres Ballweg Fund. With a gift from Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation, the Madison Symphony Orchestra commissioned the Overture Concert Organ, which is the dramatic backdrop of all MSO concerts.

For more Overture Concert Organ information, visit http://www.madisonsymphony.org/organseason


Classical music: The University of Wisconsin’s Pro Arte String Quartet opens its new and very busy season this week with two FREE concerts of music by Mozart, Milhaud, Fritz Kreisler and Brahms plus a taping for Wisconsin Public Television.

September 27, 2013
Leave a Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

The Pro Arte String Quartet (below in a photo by Rick Langer) – which became the world’s first artists-in-residence in the world when they agreed to stay at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1940 — kicks off its new season with two FREE concerts this week and much more this fall.

Pro Arte Quartet new 2 Rick Langer

On Sunday, the Pro Arte Quartet returns to “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen” from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in a live broadcast over Wisconsin Public Radio.

The Pro Arte – which celebrated its historically unprecedented centennial two seasons ago — will perform Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Prussia” String Quartet in D Major, K 575, Darius Milhaud’s Quartet No. 7 and the rarely heard Quartet in A Minor by the Viennese violinist and composer Fritz Kreisler who is best known for his miniature works, transcriptions and pastiches.

fritz kreisler

Then at 7:30 p.m. on next Thursday, Oct. 3 in Mills Hall, the Pro Arte will perform a FREE and MUST-HEAR concert in Mills Hall. It will perform the same Mozart and Kreisler quartets as above, but the Milhaud will be replaced by the String Quartet No. 1, Op. 51, No. 1, by Johannes Brahms.

brahms3

Also, stay tuned for word about an airing date for the program that the Pro Arte is recording this coming Monday night for Wisconsin Public Television.

The by-invitation-only TV concert has a program that features a prelude by Ernest Bloch (at bottom in a YouTube video) and the famous “Adagio for Strings” quartet movement – later transcribed for string orchestra at the request of famed conductor Arturo Toscanini (below top)  — by Samuel Barber (below bottom).

Many people forget that the Pro Arte Quartet gave the world premiere of the famous “Adagio for Strings” — the slow movement of Barber’s String Quartet in B Minor, Op. 11 —  in Rome in 1936.

Toscanini Conducts

barber 1

Also watch for news this fall of an Albany Records CD release — with a local release party — of the four commissions (two string quartets and two piano quintets)– that the Pro Arte Quartet commissioned for its centennial two seasons ago. The CD was engineered by the multiple Grammy Award-winner Judith Sherman (below).

Judith Sherman Grammy 2012

The two string quartets were composed from Walter Mays (below top) and John Harbison (below bottom), who is also the co-director of the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival.

Walter Mays mug

JohnHarbisonatpiano

The two piano quintets were composed by Paul Schoenfield (below top) and William Bolcom (below middle) and featured the celebrated UW-Madison pianist Christopher Taylor (below bottom).

Paul Schoenfield BW klezmerish

William Bolcom gesturing.

ChristopherTaylorNoCredit

Then at its FREE concert in Mills Hall at 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 22, 2013, the Pro Arte will give the world premiere of its fifth centennial commission: a String Quartet by the contemporary Belgian composer Benoit Mernier (below). The Pro Arte originally started, you may recall, at the conservatory in Brussels.

Benoit Mernier 1

And finally, next May, the Pro Arte Quartet travels to Europe – to its home city of Brussels, Belgium, as well as London and maybe Paris – to perform works from its centennial commissions.

And there is still more to come, including a book about the Pro Arte Quartet by the retired UW-Madison historian turned music critic and guest writer for Isthmus and for this blog John W. Barker (below).

John-Barker

 


Classical music: The Kat Trio starts its new season on this Saturday in Fitchburg with music by Milhaud, Brahms, Dvorak, Kreisler, Shostakovich and others.

August 20, 2013
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ekaterinburg Classical Trio -– also known as more colloquially as The Kat Trio -– will start its new season of concerts on this coming Saturday night at 7 p.m. in the Memorial United Church of Christ (below) at 5705 Lacy Road in Fitchburg, Wisconsin.

Memorial United Church of Christ Fitchburg

Admission is a suggested donation of $10 for adults and $5 for students.

The program includes Darius Milhaud’s “Suite,” Op. 157b; Frederic Chopin’s Nocturne, Op. 27, No. 2; Johannes Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 5; Antonin Dvorak’s “Humoresque”; the Polka from Ballet Suite No. 1 by Dmitri Shostakovich; Fritz Kreisler‘s “Miniature Viennese Waltz”;  Scott Joplin’s rag “The Entertainer”; and other works.

According to the trio, the church’s sanctuary has wonderfully warm acoustics and a beautiful grand piano.  Artists will do an audience Q&A prior to their performances. There’s plenty of convenient free parking

Members of the very listener-friendly Kat Trio (below, in the the order named from the left) are the wife-and-husband team of violinist Victoria Gorbich, clarinetist Vladislav Gorbich with guest pianist Heidi Wiskur.

In addition to the August 24 and November 2 concerts that are confirmed, the trio will be scheduling concerts in February and April.  Depending upon response to the first four concerts, they may move from four to six concerts per year.

the kat trio 2013 with heidi

BACKGROUND

The ensemble from Ekaterinburg, Russia, formed in May of 1998 in Ekaterinburg by three friends: Victoria Gorbich (violin), Vladislav Gorbich (clarinet) and Vasil Galiulin (piano). They had just graduated from the Ural State Music Conservatory. (Pianists have changed over the years.)

Today The Kat Trio is Victoria, Vladislav and pianist Heidi Wiskur. Victoria and Vlad are doctoral graduates of Arizona State University. Heidi is a graduate of Indiana University.

Their concerts showcase unique Russian arrangements and transpositions of timeless melodies and feature classical works, well-known inspirational songs, and even American pop standards, including Scott Joplin’s rags (At bottom is a YouTube video of a 2006 performance in Madison, Wisconsin, with the Kat Trio performing a tuneful movement from a trio by Aram Khachaturian.)

According to a press release, “ ‘Joyful’ is the word that audiences often use to describe the Ekaterinburg Classical Trio’s presentation of classical, inspirational, and pop standards. The Kat Trio loves performing live. The Kat Trio has done multiple U.S. tours, starting in 2000. It has played more than 600 concerts in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Chicago, Dallas, Little Rock, Shreveport, Branson, Denver, Lincoln, Des Moines, Milwaukee, St. Louis, and hundreds of small communities. When not found in concert venues, college or high school auditoriums, or in classrooms doing Master Classes, the Trio is performing for Sunday services or presenting concerts in churches.”

The Ekaterinburg Trio’s website, www.thekattrio.net, features a Music page where fans can hear music files from all 10 CD’s. The Video link features dozens of Kat Trio videos on YouTube.

The Kat Trio recordings are:

“20th Century Masters(2000) (Classical)
 “The Kat Trio in America”  (2000) (American standards)
 “On Eagles’ Wings” (2001) (Inspirational)
 “Serenade for Three” (2002) (Classical)
 “The Kat Trio – Live” (2003) (All genres)
 “A Kat Trio Christmas” (2004) (Traditional Christmas favorites)
 “The Space Between” (2004) (Classical & American pop standards)
 “Romantic Expressions” (2006) (Classical)
 “Kat Trio Classics” (2009) (Classical)
 “What Wondrous Love is This” (2011) (Inspirational)

 


Classical music Q&A: Beethoven’s Violin Concerto is the “godfather” of popular Romantic violin concertos, says violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky, who will perform it Friday night with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.

February 21, 2012
Leave a Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

This Friday night at 8 p.m., in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below) will perform under music director and conductor Andrew Sewell with violin soloist Alexander Sitkovetsky, who will be making his Madison debut.

The concert will begin with a shot piece by Benjamin Britten, the “End Sequence” of “Night Mail.” American Players Theatre actor James Ridgeway with speak the narration by famed poet W.H. Auden.

But after that it becomes all-Beethoven.

Big Beethoven.

Specifically, the WCO will be joined by Sitkovetsky in Beethoven’s famous Violin Concerto.

Then comes the equally famous and beloved Symphony No. 6 or “Pastoral” with its peasant dances and storm sequence.

For more information about the concert and tickets, visit:

http://www.wcoconcerts.org/performances/masterworks/27/event-info/

On tour in Italy, Sitkovetsky (below) gave an email Q&A to the Ear:

Could briefly introduce yourself to readers and mention highlights of your personal and professional life?

I am Alexander Sitkovetsky and I am a concert violinist. I was born in Moscow, Russia, but moved to England at the age of 7 to study at the Yehudi Menuhin School. I was invited by Lord Menuhin himself (below), so this was an incredible honor and an amazing opportunity for me.

A definite early highlight was having the chance to perform Bach’s Double Violin Concerto with Menuhin at the age of 8. Although I was very young, I will never forget the amazing experience of having the opportunity to share the stage with one of the greatest musicians and people of the 20th century.

Other career highlights include recording my first CD for the Angel-EMI label; performing in some of the world’s most beautiful concert halls like the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Konzerthaus in Berlin, the Wigmore Hall and many others. Earlier this year, in January, I made my recital debut at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Hall in New York. I also got married last summer to a fantastic pianist from Shanghai, Wu Qian. We have a fantastic piano trio together with a German Cellist, Leonard Elschenbroich

What are your current and upcoming projects – tours, recordings, special events, whatever?

This is a busy time, after my trip to Madison, which I am greatly looking forward to. I will perform with different orchestras in the UK in March, culminating in a performance of the Mendelssohn Concerto with the Brussels Philharmonic at London’s Cadogan Hall. Later this year, I will have a tour of Switzerland performing the Glazunov Violin Concerto and appear at the Gstaad Festival.

In September, I will be a member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. I will be doing two programs at Lincoln Center in New York so I am looking forward to coming to the US more often and performing with this fantastic organization. With my trio (below), we will be performing at the Wigmore Hall in May and then Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with the Konzerthaus Orchestra of Berlin in the summer.

In Madison you will be performing the Beethoven Violin Concerto. How do you place that work in the context of and compared to other major concertos in the violin repertoire?

I think that in many ways, the Beethoven Violin Concerto is the “godfather” of the big violin concertos that we all know so well, and who knows if Brahms, Tchaikovsky and the others would have written their concertos if it wasn’t for Beethoven (below).

I believe that it is the biggest and most expansive concerto written up to that point. It has beautiful, sweeping melodic lines, and though the violin is the solo instrument, it is constantly in dialogue with the orchestra. There is a very symphonic feel to the work.

What attracts other people but especially you to the music of Beethoven? Are there favorite Beethoven works – for violin or other instruments – that you repeatedly turn to?

Are there violinists in the past whom you especially admire and think of as role models in terms of tone, interpretation, technique, etc.?

I admire all great violinists, both from the past and the present. I grew up with the recordings of Heifetz (below top) and for me he is the greatest violinist that we have ever heard with our own ears. (Paganini we just know about and can imagine). Also, I am a huge admirer of Fritz Kreisler (below bottom), mostly because of his tone and also because it never seemed that he was in a hurry. He always took his time to sing all the notes and I think that this is an amazing quality. His recording of the Beethoven Concerto is actually my favorite of the piece.

What qualities do you look for in the best or finest performances by yourself or others?

It is a difficult question to answer because when you are working on yourself, you are looking for so many things and are never fully satisfied. But I would say that I think that the most important thing is to try and create an interpretation that is wholly convincing and one that will connect with the audience and maybe touch them in some way — whether this is through your sound, through your virtuosity or through the depth of your interpretation. Usually a really successful performance will have all three!

I believe this is your second performance in Madison. In the fall of 2010 you performed Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. What would you like to say about the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and conductor Andrew Sewell or about Madison and its audiences? 

Unfortunately, I was ill and had to cancel my appearance! So this will be my debut in Madison! But I have worked with Andrew Sewell (below) once before in Monterrey with the Paganini Concerto and that was a lot of fun! I am very excited about seeing and working with him again!


    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,202 other followers

    Blog Stats

    • 2,079,386 hits
%d bloggers like this: