The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: During the COVID-19 pandemic, hosts at Wisconsin Public Radio suggest music that expresses gratitude and hope

May 13, 2020
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By Jacob Stockinger

The various hosts of Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) — an indispensable companion during self-isolation at home — listen to a lot of music and think a lot about it, especially about its meaning and appeal to the public.

So it comes as no surprise that they have once again suggested music to listen to during the coronavirus pandemic and the mounting toll of COVID-19.

Almost two months ago, the same radio hosts suggested music that they find calming and inspiring. They did so on the WPR home page in an ongoing blog where they also included YouTube audiovisual performances.

Here is a link to that earlier posting, which is well worth reading and following:

This time, the various hosts – mostly of classical shows but also of folk music and world music – suggest music that inspires or expresses hope and gratitude. (Below is Ruthanne Bessman, the host of “Classics by Request,” which airs at 10 a.m. on Saturdays.)

Here is the genesis of the list and public service project:

“At a recent WPR music staff meeting, we talked about the many ways music can unite us and about how music can express the gratitude we feel for people and things that are important to us, often much better than words.

“That discussion led to this collection of music, which we wanted to share with you. It’s eclectic and interesting, just like our music staff.”

The composers cited include some familiar names such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Benjamin Britten and John Williams.

But some new music, based on historical events and written by contemporary or modern composers, is also named. It includes works by the American composer Daniel Gawthrop (b. 1949, below top) and the Israeli composer David Zehavi (1910-1977, below bottom). Here are links to their biographies.

Sound-wise, it is quite an eclectic list that runs from solo harpsichord music to orchestral and choral music as well as chamber music.

Many of the performers have played in Madison at the Overture Center, with Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, at the Wisconsin Union Theater, at the UW-Madison and on the Salon Piano Series at Farley’s House of Pianos.

They include: the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and Chorus; cellist Amit Peled and pianist Eli Kalman, who received his doctorate from the UW-Madison and now teaches at the UW-Oshkosh; conductor-composer John Rutter and the Cambridge Singers;  and superstars violinist Itzhak Perlman, cellist Yo-Yo Ma along with Venezuelan pianist-improviser Gabriela Montero  in a quartet that played at the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Here is a link to the new WPR suggestions:

Happy listening!

If you read the blog or listen to the music, let us know what you think in the Comment section.

The Ear wants to hear.

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Classical music: Chamber music for horn, jazz music for saxophone, a master class for pianists plus concertos for various instruments and a new composition are featured this week at the UW-Madison

February 7, 2017

CORRECTION: In an early version of yesterday’s post, The Ear mistakenly said that performances by the Madison Opera of “Charlie Parker’s Yardbird” are on Saturday night at 8 as well as Sunday afternoon at 2:30. The first performance is FRIDAY NIGHT at 8 p.m. – NOT Saturday night. The Ear apologizes for the error.

Here are two links with more information about the opera and the production:

By Jacob Stockinger

This is a busy week with a wide diversity of music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

Here is a run-down by day:


At 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, UW hornist Daniel Grabois (below, in a photo by James Gill) will be joined by fellow UW-Madison professor pianist Christopher Taylor for a concert of brass music that is FREE and OPEN to the public.

The program features works by Franz Strauss (Empfindungen am Meere), Paul Hindemith (Alto Horn Sonata), Maurice Ravel (Horn Sonata, originally Violin Sonata) and Jean-Michel Damase (Sonata).

Daniel Grabois 2012 James Gill


At 7:30 p.m. (NOT 7, as mistakenly first stated in yesterday’s post)  in Morphy Recital Hall, saxophonist Daniel Schnyder will perform  music by American jazz titan Charlie Parker with the Blue Note Ensemble and also participate in a Q&A session. The event is FREE and open to the public.

Schnyder is the composer of the opera “Charlie Parker’s Yardbird” that the Madison Opera will perform in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center on Friday night at 8 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. See the above correction for links to more information about the opera.



From 4:30 to 6 p.m. in Mills Hall, Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero will offer a FREE and PUBLIC master class. The Ear has no details about what will be featured.

Montero (below, in a photo by Shelley Mosman), who specializes in spontaneous improvisations but also performs standard repertoire, will perform at 8 p.m. on this Saturday night at the Wisconsin Union Theater. (In the YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear her live improvisations in Cologne, Germany on the aria theme of Johann Sebastian Bach‘s well-known “Goldberg” Variations.)

Here is a link with more information, including ticket prices, concert and recording reviews and audio-video clips, about her recital in Shannon Hall at the Wisconsin Union Theater:

And here is a link to more information about Montero, who also has won awards for her playing, improvisations and her Piano Concerto No. 1:



At 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall is the annual Symphony Showcase with the winners of the UW concerto competition and the world premiere of a student composition. The concert will be conducted by Professor James Smith and graduate student Kyle Knox.

Admission to the event costs $10 for adults; students and children get in for free. There is also a FREE post-concert reception at the nearby University Club.

For more information about the program (violin works by Ravel and Shostakovich, vocal works by Ravel and Gounod, a trumpet work by Oskar Boehme) and biographies of the five student performers (below) plus student composer (Nathan Froebe), go to:


Classical music: The Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble performs music by J.S. Bach, Handel, Purcell, Telemann and others this Sunday afternoon at 3. In Sunday night Con Vivo performs music by Prokofiev, Mozart, Bruch, Gershwin and others at the Stoughton Opera House.

February 6, 2015
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REMINDER: The Con Vivo! (music with life) chamber music ensemble (below) invites the public to its debut performance at the Stoughton Opera House on this coming Sunday night. The concert has been rescheduled to this Sunday evening due to the snowstorm last weekend.

Here are the details: Sunday, February 8, 2015, at 7:30 p.m.
Stoughton Opera House
381 E. Main St. Stoughton, WI
(608) 877-4400
Tickets are $20, $10 for an obstructed view and are available at

Here is the program:
Sergei Prokofiev: “Overture on Hebrew Themes” for Piano, string quartet and clarinet, Op.34
Max Bruch: “Romance” for Viola and Piano op. 85
Jay Ungar: “Ashokan Farewell” for violin and piano
John Williams – “Air and Simple Gifts” for violin, cello, clarinet and piano (It was performed by violinist Itzhak Perlman, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, clarinetist Anthony McGill and piano Gabriela Montero and others at President Barack Obama’s first inauguration.)
George Gershwin – Preludes for solo piano
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet, KV 581

Here is a link to the original post about the concert:

Con Vivo core musicians

By Jacob Stockinger

The Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble will give a concert of baroque chamber music on this coming Sunday afternoon, February 8, at 3 p.m.

Madison Baroque Ensemble

The concert will take place in the historic Gates of Heaven synagogue located in downtown Madison, in James Madison Park at 300 East Gorham Street.

Gates of Heaven

Tickets are at the door only: $20, $10 for students.

For more information, call 238-5126 or, or you can visit

Participating members in the concert – the veteran ensemble uses period instruments and historically informed performance practices — are:

Mimmi Fulmer – soprano

Brett Lipshutz – traverso

Eric Miller – viola da gamba, baroque cello

Consuelo Sañudo – mezzo-soprano

Monica Steger – traverso, harpsichord

Anton TenWolde – baroque cello

Max Yount – harpsichord

Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble composite

Here is the program:

Gabriel Bataille – “Sortez soupirs”

Henry Purcell – “Sweeter than roses”

Gabriel Bataille – “Que douce est la violence”

Georg Philipp Telemann – “Die Landlust”

Louis de Caix d’Hervelois – sonata for traverso and continuo


Benoît Guillemant – Sonata in D Major, Op. 2 Nr. 6 for two traversos

Johann Sebastian Bach – “Betörte Welt”

Giuseppe Sammartini – Sonata 3 for violoncello and continuo

George Frideric Handel – “Tanti Strali”



Classical music: Pianist Gabriela Montero and the Madison Symphony Orchestra show that a gift for improvisation also serves the printed score of old masterpieces well.

January 22, 2013

A REQUEST: Apparently the Overture Center and the Madison Symphony Orchestra don’t recognize that we are currently in the middle of a serious flu epidemic as measured by cases, hospitalizations and deaths. At the concert I attended Sunday afternoon, there were NO dispensers of hand sanitizers, not even in the restroom, and an usher I asked didn’t recall seeing any all weekend long. I seem to recall that the Madison Opera used them. And it makes good sense when you are sitting so close and shaking hands, touching handrails, seat armrests etc. I hope that the situation can be remedied soon. Hand sanitizer is a good, well proven public health measure.

hand sanitizer stand

By Jacob Stockinger

Venezuelan-born pianist Gabriela Montero has a very special talent, even a extraordinary gift: She can improvise in a structured, classical manner and in a variety of styles. And she does so without appearing nervous or unsure of herself, so complete is her relaxation and command of herself on-stage. She simply does not stumble.

Montero (below) demonstrated her gift in abundance during her three performances with the Madison Symphony Orchestra last weekend.

Gabriela Montero

On Friday night, she improvised on the tune “On Wisconsin” and then played a free association that someone described as a Scriabin-like nocturne.

On Sunday afternoon I heard her improvise to “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” (“I never heard that one before,” she quipped, after someone in the audience shouted it out and before she sounded it out and then improvised) . She also played a kind of lyrical meditation that she said was inspired by the pleasures of her stay in Madison. To my ears, it possessed a Faure-like.

Some of her improvisations – many of which you can find on best-selling recordings (below) — I really like. Some others sound to me like just a cut or two above cocktail lounge or piano-bar fare. But improvising remains a skill that too many classical musicians lack today, one that used to be a prerequisite for classical musicians and composers in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

Montero CD

Ironically, however, I found that Montero’s gift for improvisation served her best not in the impressive solo improvisations that she played as popular encores -– they drew standing ovations and cheers from the sizable audiences – but rather in the way she took small but exciting liberties with the printed score to Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1, which dates back to 1798.

Montero brought the kind of zesty and improvisational life to the piano part that one imagines the young and rebellious Beethoven himself brought to his own impressive appearances in the usually staid city of Haydn and Mozart.

Her first movement was all high-energy. It emphasized counterpoint, dialogue with the orchestra and glittering and dramatic passage work, but also featured big contrasts and a particular attention to  soft-and-loud. The most glaring weakness to me was her own cadenza, which may have been intended to sound Beethoven-like but which can’t compare to the third and longest cadenza that Beethoven, himself a keyboard virtuoso, wrote for his concerto.

In Montero’s hands, the slow movement provided a beautiful foretaste of dreamy and lyrical Romanticism in its extreme slowness – almost a stasis that barely seemed to move or advance, said one keen and correct observer.

And the third and final movement, by contrast, turned into exactly the kind of fast and free-wheeling rondo that a young virtuoso like the young Beethoven (below) –- who was often known for his fast metronome markings as well as his ability to improvise –- would have appreciated. It was the fastest I ever heard that movement played, but it worked. And The Improviser also played right to the end along with the orchestra, even though the printed score calls for the orchestra to finish alone.

young beethoven etching in 1804

The concerto was bookended by two solid performances of contemporary and classical works.

The first was the opening 13-minute tone poem “blue cathedral” by Jennifer Higdon (below), an American composer who has won a Pulitzer Prize and a Grammy Award. She is accessible and popular, but also serious. This piece from 2000 — composed to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia and to memorialize the composer’s brother, who died of cancer – has already been played by over 400 orchestras. Not many new pieces or contemporary classical composers can make that claim.

Higdon-and-Beau-Candace DiCarlo

That is impressive for so-called new music. And the brother-clarinet, sister-flute dialogue in the piece was performed superbly by the MSO. The whole work has a kind of Copland-like harmonic spaciousness or mood to it, a Gothic-like grandeur of innerness that reminded me of Monet’s Impressionist paintings of the “blue cathedral” at Rouen (below):

monet rouen cathedral in blue

The concerto finished with perfect winter fare: the Symphony No. 6 in D Major by Antonin Dvorak (below. Music by Dvorak is invariably tuneful, melodic and toe-tapping. Conductor John DeMain proved especially adept at bringing out lines and at whipping the orchestra up to a controlled frenzy in the folk dance Scherzo-Furiant (at bottom) and the brassy finale.

The MSO should play, and we should hear, more Dvorak. After all, this was the MSO’ premiere performance of a work composed back in 1880.


Of course, The Ear wasn’t alone in making sense of this infectious and ear-grabbing concert, which I found to be one of the best and most memorable of the season.

Here are links to other reviews and of course you have every right to your own your judgment or critique, which you can leave in the COMMENT section:

Here is a link to John W. Barker’s review in Isthmus:

Here is a link to Lindsay Christians review for 77 Square, The Capital Times and The Wisconsin State Journal:

Here is a link to Greg Hettmansberger’s review for the “Classically Speaking” blog he wrotes for Madison Magazine:

Classical music: On Martin Luther King Jr. Day and President Barack Obama’s second Inauguration Day, The Ear wonders: Why aren’t there more African-American players in and audiences for classical music? Check out this website devoted to black classical musicians.

January 21, 2013

By Jacob Stockinger

It happens every year around this time.

Only this year it is a two-fer, so the feelings or thoughts are more intense.

That’s because today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, complete with live radio and delayed TV broadcasts of ceremonies from the Wisconsin State Capitol (at noon on Wisconsin Public Radio and at 8 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Television)  and other places. (Below is the poster for Martin Luther King Jr. ceremonies with host Jonathan Overby.)

MLK Day at Capitol

But this year it is also President Barack Obama’s second Inauguration Day – well, at least the ceremonial one since the official one took place by law yesterday on Sunday. (In 2008, cellist Yo-Yo Ma (below bottom) played with violinist Itzhak Perlman and pianist Gabriela Montero at the first Inauguration.)


YoYoMaObama INaugurationGetty Images

Anyway, on this day I always think back to all the many concerts I go to in a year — professional, amateur and student concerts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO). And I always find myself asking:

Why don’t I see more African-American audiences at the concerts. And especially, Why don’t I see more African-American players in the various symphonic and chamber groups or as soloists? 

Sure, I see a lot of whites and a lot of Asians. I see some Hispanics, though also far too few. But I am especially struck at how few African Americans I see – although opera seems to outpace symphonies and chamber groups in this regard. (Sorry to say, I can’t think of any black conductors, violinists or cellists and only one pianist — at bottom, you will find a YouTube video of the African-American pianist Awadagin Pratt performing J.S. Bach at a concert in 2009 at the Obama White House — even though the sports world has at least some black managers, coaches and quarterbacks.)

I don’t see many African-Americans in the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below), whose music director and conductor John DeMain is world-famous for his Grammy-winning black production of Gershwin’s opera “Porgy and Bess”:


Or in the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below):

WCO lobby

Or in the University of Wisconsin Symphony or Chamber Orchestra and UW Choral Union (below):

UW Choral Union  12:2011

Or even in the middle school and high school groups sponsored by WYSO (below).

Thomas Buchhauser  conducting WYSO Philharmonia Cheng-Wei Wu

It is similar to the thoughts I have every New Year’s Day when I tune in the “Live From Vienna” concert with the Vienna Philharmonic and am once again disappointed to see how few women are in that august ensemble – even in the year 2013.

Vienna Philharmonic

That’s not to say that we won’t today see and hear a lot of blacks in music. But I suspect we will hear jazz, rhythm and blues, gospel, spirituals and pop.

And sure, some people may say: Well, after all, those are the traditional genres of music-making in the African-American culture and community.

And they are right in large part, and those are excellent forms of music.

But there is also a large number of blacks who have contributed to classical music. And more blacks – to say nothing of all whites and members of other ethnic groups – could stand to learn more about the contributions of African-Americans to classical music.

Does the cause of such ignorance have to do with racism and bias?

With faulty music education?

With family or community  values?

With a lack of role models?

With the lack of aggressive recruiting and hiring by local groups?

Now it just so happens that there are websites that offer visitors comprehensive histories and biographies of blacks in classical music – and even offers a quiz to see how much you know about who they were and the contributions they made.

So on this day when all of the U.S. and, one hopes, the world celebrate the achievements of African-Americans, maybe people can take time to visit this site, educate themselves and get a renewed and greater appreciation for the role that African-Americans have played in classical music.

Here are is a link to one of those websites:

Do you have observations to offer in the COMMENTS section about causes of remedies of such a shortage?

Names of composers and performers to pass along?

Is it something we have to accept as a cultural given?

Are there other websites you can suggest where readers can learn about African Americans and classical music?


Classical music: This weekend the Madison Symphony Orchestra and pianist-improviser Gabriel Montero offer what could be a memorable, “Best of 2013” concert featuring music by Beethoven, Dvorak and Jennifer Higdon.

January 17, 2013

By Jacob Stockinger

This weekend, the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below), playing under its longtime music director and conductor John DeMain, is offering what could turn out to be a very memorable concert, one that might well go down as one of the “Best of 2013” classical music events in the Madison area.

mso from above

The concert has the theme of “Discovery” and features music of Beethoven, Dvorak and Jennifer Higdon with guest piano soloist Gabriela Montero.

Three performances will be given in Overture Hall: on Friday night at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday night at 8 p.m.; and Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m.

So many things recommend this concert that it is hard to know where to begin.

Let’s start with the fact that in the dark days of deep winter, compounded by concerns over a major flu outbreak and disheartening political news in D.C., DeMain (below) has programmed largely upbeat and sunny big works in major keys. We need this music right now.

John DeMain conducting 2

Then, there is Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 (which was published first but is actually the third, coming after an unpublished one in E-flat major and then his “No. 2” in B-flat major) composed in the bright key a C major. This gem has lively themes and rhythms, and provides a wonderful synthesis of what the young and virtuosic Beethoven (below, seen in an 1804 etching) had learned from Mozart and Haydn about writing concertos for the piano. In fact, he played it at his Vienna debut in 1800 to impress the audience and critics – and they were indeed duly impressed! It is hard to believe the MSO has played it only once before.

young beethoven etching in 1804

The soloist in the Beethoven is Gabriela Montero, born in 1970 in Venezuela.

Montero (below) was a traditional child prodigy and remains a virtuoso in her own right. She started lessons at 4, made her public debut at 5 and then played a concerto in public at 8. But she also a rarer and often astonishing skill: she can improvise in a classical way, as you can see at the bottom in a YouTube video, where she improvises on the opening theme of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3.  in a Baroque manner of the style of J.S. Bach. Maybe she will do the same with Beethoven here? And sometimes she calls out for suggestions form the audience. Now that takes confidence.

Improvisation is a skill that once was a prerequisite to a professional career for classical pianists and composers. Bach, Handel, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, Brahms and so many others had to master improvisation. You can often tell that from their concerto cadenzas, their sonatas, their impromptus, their concert paraphrases and especially their theme and variations. Improvisation among performers was once the norm in classical music, but is now a largely forgotten art except in jazz, though it has made something of a comeback in recent years.

Gabriela Montero

Then comes a long-awaited treat: Dvorak’s Sixth Symphony, the break-through work in which Antonin Dvorak (below) meshed his Czech nationalism (with folk dances and harmonies) with the formalism and structure of German Romanticism. Sharing an affinity with Brahms Symphony No. 2, this is a sunny work also in D major. And hard as it is to believe, it has NEVER before been performed by the MSO, even though it was written in 1880 and was premiered in 1881. It is a testament to the ethnic bias between Austrians and Czechs, and so had to be premiered in Prague — not in Vienna where it was commissioned. More importantly, it is just more proof of my belief that the tuneful and accessible Dvorak is one of the most underestimated and underplayed composers. I especially love his piano trios and piano quartets as well as his string quartets and quintets to say nothing of other works less famous than the “New World” Symph0ny. 


Born in 1962, Jennifer Higdon (below, with her cat Beau), who teaches at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, is one of American’s most honored composers. But more importantly, she is also one of its most popular contemporary composers. Her music is featured on some 30 CDs and “blue cathedral” has been performed by over 400 orchestras.

Jennifer Higdon and cat Beau

“blue cathedral” (2000) is a tone poem that runs about 12 or 13 minutes, and is very accessible and tonal. Commissioned by Curtis for its 75th anniversary, it pays homage to her brother, a clarinetist, who died of cancer. Higdon, who plays the the flute, use those two instruments in counterpoint. The moods and atmosphere are thick and I think of the work as one of the literal blue cathedrals – also done in other colors – that the French Impressionist Claude Monet painted at Rouen (below), works that are similar in their changing light and moods of his more famous haystacks.

monet rouen cathedral in blue

Anyway, add it all up and you can see where I think this will be an extremely well programmed, well staffed and deeply enjoyable concert.

For more information, visit:

For tickets, which run $16.50-$78.50, you can call the Overture Center box office at (608) 258-4141 or use this link to the MSO website:

And for program notes, by MSO trombonist and UW-Whitewater professor J. Michael Allsen, here is a link to his excellent and very accessible program notes:

Classical music news: For the next two weeks Madison will again become the summer capital of Cello World – and this time the public is invited to participate.

May 29, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

Attention, all cellists and cello lovers! Madison, Wisconsin is about to become the temporary Cello Capital of the world.

The cello (or violoncello, below) has been, is and will remain very popular, largely, The Ear suspects, because its beautiful sound so resembles the human voice and because it uses total body involvement and has a wonderful repertoire. Just go to Google Images and check out how many schools, colleges, universities and conservatories have a Cello Choir. You will be amazed at how many exist.

Starting this Friday, June 1, the biennial National Summer Cello Institute will take place at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It will run through June 16, when it cuminates with a FREE and PUBLIC concert at 8:30 p.m. in Mills Hall. It will feature music by Bach, Bloch, Bruch and Villas Lobos,

Once again, the sessions will be under the general guidance of UW-Madison cellist and institute founder  Uri Vardi (below top) and his wife Hagit Vardi (below bottom), who is a trained practitioner of the Feldenkrais Method and was a professional flutist in her native Israel. Another important figure is the institute site administrator, Cathy Spann, a UW alumna who is a cello teacher and performer and helped found the Wisconsin Cello Society with Uri Vardi.

And here are links to a two-part Q&A the Vardis did for The Ear last summer:

Famous cellists and teachers – including the well-known performer Ralph Kirshbaum, who now teaches at USC — will teach, many come from such prestigious music schools as Juilliard, Mannes and the University of Michigan among others. Students highly praise the results.

This year – for the first time – the public will be allowed to audit the clinics and master classes for $15. There will also be a FREE public concert by the Cello Choir on June 16 at 8:30 p.m. in Mills Hall. For a full schedule of events with times and places, visit:

In addition from June 1-6 there will be on-going sessions and workshops called “Your Body Is Your Strad” — great title, no? Make me wonder: Is My Body My Steinway? Anyway, the sessions teach the Feldenkrais Method to help cellists relax and use their bodies to play more efficiently and make them less prone to injury.

The NSCI is co-sponsored by the UW-Madison School of Music and The College Music Society (CMS), and this year received additional grants from the UW Chancellor’s office, the Evjue Foundation (the charitable branch of The Capital Times newspaper) and the UW Anonymous Fund.

For more details about the Feldenkrais sessions – which are NOT open to the public for auditing – and about the National Summer Cello Institute, visit:

And listen to the YouTube videos included in this posting:

Here is a schedule of highlights – where auditing fees apply:

June 3: Seminar with Dr. Mark Erickson: “Kinesiological Considerations for Musicians”

June 4: Seminar with Dr. Raymond Purdy: “Brain Plasticity and its Relevance to Musicians”

June 8: Seminar with Timothy Eddy (below):  “Natural Resources”

June 11, 12: Seminar with Richard Aaron: “Teaching Young Children”

Cello master classes include:

June 7 and 9: Timothy Eddy

June 3, 4 and 8: Uri Vardi

June 12 and 13: Richard Aaron (below)

June 14 and 15: Ralph Kirshbaum

All events are at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music Mills Hall or Morphy Hall.

Here is the program for the FREE concert at 8:30 p.m. on June 16 in Mills Hall by the NSCI CELLO CHOIR, conducted by German Marcano: the “Chaconne” from Violin Partita No. 2 in D minor BWV 1004 by J.S. Bach (1685-1750) as arranged by Laszlo Varga; “Pájaro Guaracha” for cello ensemble by Paul Desenne (1959); “Rochela” for cello ensemble by Ricardo Lorenz (1961); “Kol Nidrei,” Op. 47, by Max Bruch (1838-1920) with soloist Uri Vardi and arranged for cello ensemble by Gunther Rinke; the “Bachianas Brasileiras” No. by Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959).

If you wonder about the credentials of the participants, here are a couple of impressive biographies:

PAUL DESENNE: The 2009 Guggenheim Fellow Paul Desenne (below) began composition studies at the age of 14 under Greek composer Iannis Ioannidis, and as a cellist, he became a founding member of the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra in 1977. He moved to Paris and studied cello with Michel Strauss and Philippe Muller; composition with Marc-Olivier Dupin and Luc Ferrari. He won first prize in cello performance at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Paris – the dean of the jury was the great Pierre Fournier.

His works are performed around the world, with venues and festivals including Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center and Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York, Laeiszhalle in Hamburg, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Juilliard, MoMA‘s Summergarden series in New York, the Sonic Boom Festival, Focus! Festival, Caramoor, Faneuil Hall in Boston, among many others.

His works have been performed by the Simón Bolívar Symphonic Orchestra, Kremerata Baltica, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas, Boston Classical Orchestra, the Bogotá Philharmonic, I Musici de Montréal, the Miami Symphony, Nederlands Blasers Ensemble, the New Juilliard Ensemble, by various artist such as the Verdehr Trio, pianist Gabriela Montero, clarinetists Paquito d’Rivera and Jorge Montilla, flutists Luis Julio Toro, Marco Granados, Javier Montilla, and Jacques Zoon, violinists Alexis Cárdenas, Virginie Robilliard, and Jennifer Curtis, violinist/violist Nicholas Mann, and cellist Iseut Chuat, with conductors including Tania Léon, Olivier Grangean, Joel Sachs, Yuli Turovsky, among others

RICARDO LORENZ: Venezuelan-born Ricardo Lorenz has served as Composer-in-Residence in several programs and presenting organizations, such as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Armonía Musicians Residency Program (1998-2003), the Billings Symphony (1998-1999), and Music in the Loft chamber music series (1999-2000).

Lorenz has also been the recipient of several other distinctions and awards from American Bandmasters Association, National Flute Association, Civitella Ranieri Foundation, Organization of American States (OAS), Concert Artists Guild, Meet-the-Composer, Barlow Endowment for Music Composition, the Newhouse Foundation, Illinois Community College Trustees Association, and ASCAP.

Although Ricardo Lorenz has resided in the United States since 1982, he has always maintained close ties with Latin America.  Between 1987 and 1992, Ricardo Lorenz held the position of Interim Director of the Indiana University Latin American Music Center.

During this time he established a network of composers from the continent and compiled the sourcebook Scores and Recordings at Indiana University’s Latin American Music Center (Indiana University Press, 1995) nominated to receive the 1996 Best General Reference Source Award by the Association of Recorded Sound Collections.  Ricardo Lorenz holds a Ph.D. degree in composition from the University of Chicago and a Master of Music degree from Indiana University.  He studied composition under Juan Orrego Salas, Shulamit Ran and Donald Erb.

He has taught at Indiana University, The University of Chicago, City Colleges of Chicago, and he is currently Associate Professor of Composition at Michigan State University.

Lorenz’ compositions are published by Lauren Keiser Music and Boosey & Hawkes.  They can also be heard on the following record labels:  Arabesque Recordings, Albany Records, Indiana University LAMC Series, Doublemoon Records (Turkey), Urtex Digital Classics (Mexico), SOMM Recordings (UK), Cedille Records, and Navona Records.

Classical music news: The Madison Symphony Orchestra announces its 2012-13 season – which features no increase in tickets prices and many local debuts of works and performers.

March 22, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger 

Here is a special posting, a new report 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 88.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.

By John W. Barker

The Madison Symphony Orchestra announced its 2012-13 season — its 87th season — at a press conference on Monday, presided over by the new Marketing Director, Madison native Henry Peters, and featuring a relaxed and engaging talk by conductor John DeMain, who will be marking his 19th season as the music director and conductor of the MSO.

There will be eight concert programs in the new season – DeMain said he hopes to return to nine concerts in 2013-14 — including the popular Christmas event. All performances will be in Overture Hall on Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sunday afternoons at 2:30 p.m.

Next season, all the concerts will be conducted by maestro DeMain (below) and each program will contain his stimulating mix of old favorites with fascinating rarities.

The opening program (September 21-23) is a all-Russian feast, with Prokofiev’s witty “Classical Symphony” and Stravinsky’s dazzling “Firebird” Suite framing Tchaikovsky’s unfairly neglected Piano Concerto No 2, to be played, gloriously uncut, with the incomparable Garrick Ohlsson (below) soloing.

The October program (12-14) will open with the dazzling “Beatrice and Benedict” Overture of Berlioz, and close with Brahms’ richly autumnal Fourth Symphony. In between will be Bartók’s powerful Violin Concerto No. 2, with Canada’s rocketing star James Ehnes (below) as soloist.

For November (2-4), Schubert’s “Great” C-major Symphony will provide the monumental climax. Kodály’s coloful “Dances of Galanta” tribute to Hungarian folklore will be matched by Poulenc’s Two-Piano Concerto, featuring Madison’s own dazzling pianist twins, Christina and Michelle Naughton (below).

The Christmas concert in December will bring the usual local performers, including the Mt. Zion Gospel Chorus under Leotha Stanley, as well as new soloists soprano Emily Fons (below top) and Texas-Mexican tenor David Portillo (below bottom).

In January (18-20), the program will open with “Blue Cathedral,” a new work by the increasingly acclaimed contemporary American composer, Jennifer Higdon. Also included are Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1, and Dvorák’s Symphony No. 6, both of which are extraordinarily fine scores–the first mature effort by each composer in those forms, and neither heard nowhere near often enough. The soloist will the acclaimed Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero (below), famous also for her improvisational skills, which she will apparently demonstrate in some kind of encore.

Versatile German Cellist Alban Gerhardt  (below) will star in Prokofiev’s “Sinfonia Concertante“, a powerful combination of symphony and concerto, in February 8-10). Framing that will be Ravel’s moody “Rhapsodie Espagnole” and Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony.

A welcome return visitor to the MSO will be Norwegian violinst Henning Kraggerud, who will offer Mozart’s lovely Violin Concerto No. 4. It will be proceeded in the March program (8-10) by a Mozart overture (“The Impresario”) and Shostakovich’s mighty, impassioned post-Stalin Symphony No. 10.

The season finale in April (5-7) will feature the MSO’s new concertmaster, Naha Greenholtz (below, as the “cover girl” of Symphony magazine’s story on new concertmasters), as soloist in Mendelssohn’s beloved Violin Concerto in E minor.

Otherwise, the spotlight will be on the Madison Symphony Chorus. It will first be heard in choruses from Handel’s grand oratorio “Solomon”; then in Rachmaninoff’s choral symphony that sets Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, “The Bells”; and, for a blazing climax, in a Vaughan Williams rarity, his early “choral song” entitled “Toward the Unknown Region,” which is set to a text by Walt Whitman. Vocal soloists include soprano Alexandra LoBianco (below top), tenor Harold Meers (below middle) and baritone Hugh Russell (below bottom).

As a whole, the season ahead is a balanced and stimulating one. There are old favorites alongside welcome discoveries. Interesting and exciting international soloists will contribute musicality and fireworks in both familiar and deserve-to-be-familiar items.

Another plus is that the cost of season tickets will remain the same, with no increase, though various discounts are given for new subscribers and for several customized series packages.

The MSO is now taking subscription orders, both new and renewed, with various series formats available plus attractive discounts. May 14 is the deadline for reserving current seats. For information, write to the Madison Symphony Orchestra, 222 W. Washington Ave., Suite 460, Madison 53703; call (608) 257-3734; or go online to

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