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 for 12 years hosted 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. He also took the performance photos, some at the First Congregational United Church of Christ and some at the Capitol Lakes Retirement Center.
By John W. Barker
Last Friday night, the chamber music ensemble Con Vivo (Music With Life) gave its winter concert at the First Congregational United Church of Christ.
It was a large program of nine relatively short pieces, designed to allow eight members of the group to show off their skills in solos, in duets and in trio pairings.
Participants were: Robert Taylor, clarinet; Cynthia Cameron-Fix, bassoon; Olga Pomolova and Kathryn Taylor, violins; Janse Vincent, viola; Derek Handley, cello; Dan Lyons, piano; and Don DeBruin, organ.
The opening and closing items—Mikhail Glinka’s Trio pathétique and Felix Mendelssohn’s Konzertstück No. 2, combined clarinet and bassoon with piano (below).
A corresponding combination of clarinet, viola and piano (below) was mustered for two of Max Bruch’s Eight Pieces, Op. 83.
In string groupings, two violins (below) played one of Georg Philipp Telemann’s Canonic Sonatas (you can hear an example in a YouTube video at the bottom), and, with piano added, Three Duets by Dmitri Shostakovich.
Violin and viola rendered the Little Suite for Autumn by Peter Schickele (the real person behind “P.D.Q. Bach”).
Franz Danzi’s Duet, Op. 9., No. 1, called for viola and cello (below), while George Crumb’s Sonata was for solo cello.
And, for good measure, there was a duet by Clifford Demarest for piano and organ.
The program was certainly varied. It ranged from deeply diluted pseudo-Copland (Schickele) and unabashedly entertaining trivia (Shostakovich) through Telemann’s contrapuntal wit and Danzi’s artful string contrasts (though too deeply caught up in the viola’s upper register), to the varied colors of winds and piano.
Surely the most striking piece was Crumb’s sonata, a tough work that is not easy listening but provocatively interesting, and was dazzlingly played by Handley.
Rather a throwaway, though, was the Demarest duet, in which the powerful organ sound all but totally overwhelmed the piano.
As it happened, this group gave the same program (less the Demarest) at the Grand Hall of the Capitol Lakes Retirement Center the evening before.
I found it a good opportunity to compare the contributions of differing acoustics to chamber music listening. For such experience, I like to sit very close to the players, and I could do this at the Thursday performance, and in a modestly sized hall with fine acoustics for music.
But the First Congregational Church is a long, deep hall, and I sat about halfway back in it. Its reverberations can add a nice bloom to projected sound, but also some blur.
This was certainly the case where the two wind instruments tended to meld. And when the viola was at the piano, at the back of the chancel, it almost disappeared at times, while other two-string combinations were not always crystal clear.
I have had growing concerns about First Congo as a venue for chamber music, and I should think the Con Vivo folks must think about this. And listeners should, also. Clearly, where you sit for intimate music-making has its effects.
For all that, I enjoyed the group’s program in each setting, and renewed my admiration for their artistry and enterprise.
By Jacob Stockinger
Increasingly, the regular concert season is filled with what The Wise Critic calls “train wrecks”: Competing, compelling and appealing events you have to choose between.
But now it happens in summer too.
Take tonight, when two competing concerts will conflict. The Ear would like to hear both and wishes the organizers would arrange it so there is not a conflict.
Here they are:
BACH DANCING AND DYNAMITE SOCIETY
BDDS asks in a press release:
So, what does this year’s theme “Guilty As Charged” mean?
The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society is clearly a criminal enterprise. After all, we are named after the only major composer to ever spend a significant amount of time in jail, Johann Sebastian Bach.
Our crime at BDDS?
We’ve destroyed the stuffy, starched-collar atmosphere of traditional chamber music concerts and replaced it with a seriously fun vibe. We’ve broken down the barriers that separate audience and performer, making our concerts into riotously interactive events. Rather than leading audiences through a museum, we invite audiences to trespass into the creative and re-creative process right in the concert hall.
We own up to our crimes, and we proudly proclaim that we are GUILTY AS CHARGED.
GUILTY AS CHARGED features six programs, each performed multiple times and in multiple venues, and each named after some “crime.”
In the first program of six, tonight’s “Stolen Moments,” we feature music that has been stolen in some fashion: stolen from another composer, stolen from oneself, stolen from a completely different land and culture.
Felix Mendelssohn stole a chorale tune from Johann Sebastian Bach as the basis of the slow movement of his second cello sonata; Franz Joseph Haydn stole from himself to create his flute divertimentos; Ludwig van Beethoven stole Irish and Scottish folksong texts and tunes as the basis for his songs with piano trio accompaniment.
“Stolen Moments” will be performed at The Playhouse (below) in the Overture Center for the Arts, TONIGHT — Friday, June 12, at 7:30 p.m., and at the Hillside Theater at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin compound in Spring Green, on Sunday, June 14 at 2:30 p.m.
Single general admission tickets are $40. Student tickets are always $5.
Various ticket packages are also available starting at a series of three for $114. First time subscriptions are half off.
For tickets and more information, including the specific pieces on the programs, visit www.bachdancinganddynamite.org or call (608) 255-9866.
Single tickets for Overture Center concerts can also be purchased at the Overture Center for the Arts box office, (608) 258-4141, or at overturecenter.com additional fees apply).
Tickets for the Hillside Theater (below) can be purchased from the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor’s Center on County Highway C, (608) 588-7900. Tickets are available at the door at all locations.
NATIONAL SUMMER CELLO INSTITUTE
Writes NSCI director UW-Madison cellist Professor Uri Vardi (below):
It would be great if you could remind your blog readers about the FREE NSCI cello concert tonight — Friday, June 12 — at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall.
The program will include solo pieces in the first half by:
After intermission, we will play ensemble pieces:
And the NSCI Cello Choir will perform the following pieces with UW-Madison graduate conducting student Kyle Knox (below):
Adagio from Violin Sonata No. 3 by Johann Sebastian Bach as arranged by Ohashi Akira
“Oblivion” (at bottom in a YouTube video) by Astor Piazzolla, arranged by P. Villarejo
Requiem by David Popper
Requiem “In Memory of Connie Barrett” by UW-Madison School of Music student composer Kyle Price
And “Hymnus for Twelve Cellos” by J. Klengel
Here is a link to the previous post on this blog about the cello institute this summer:
By Jacob Stockinger
Pulitzer Prize-winner George Crumb (below, b. 1929) is one of America’s foremost composers and one of the most influential and innovative composers of the latter half of the 20th Century.
UW-Madison composer and professor Laura Schwendinger, who is the Artistic Director of the UW-Madison Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, designed the 2015 CRUMB FESTIVAL – to take place from this Friday, March 20, through Monday, March 23, at the UW-Madison School of Music — to celebrate his 85th birthday.
“We wish to celebrate this unique and singular voice,” says Schwendinger. She describes Crumb’s influence in this way: “He is one of the most important, and influential composers of our time. He simply makes us listen to sound in a new way, and there are very few composers who can do that.”
The Festival will feature four concerts and nine works by Crumb.
Here is a schedule of events by each day.
On Friday, March 20, at 8 p.m. in Music Hall, “Lakeshore Rush,” which features three all-star UW alumni, will be performing Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale).
On Saturday, March 21, at 7:30 p.m. and also in the Music Hall, the UW Contemporary Chamber Ensemble (below top) will be presenting a concert featuring the Pro Arte String Quartet’s Parry Karp (below bottom) in Crumb’s Solo Cello Sonata and saxophonist Steve Carmichaelin’s Quest.
UW graduate student, conductor Kyle Knox will be conducting University of Southern California professor Donald Crockett’s “Whistling in the Dark” and Les Thimmig will be leading his saxophone quartet in a work by University of California-Davis professor Laurie San Martin, in her Miniatures for Saxophone quartet; a work by University of California-Berkeley Music Department Chair Cindy Cox will round out the program.
Schwendinger adds “none of these works could have been composed without Crumb’s influence, yet are distinctive examples of their composers’ individual styles.”
On Sunday, March 22, at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, Nunc (below top, Latin for “now”), a New York-based music ensemble will perform, headed by the star violinist Miranda Cuckson (below middle), called “superb,” “deeply satisfying,” and “prodigiously talented” by the New York Times.
The program includes Eleven Echoes of Autumn, and the Four Nocturnes for violin and piano as well as works by Augusta Read-Thomas, Sebastian Currier, and Laura Schwendinger’s The Violinists in My Life, a work for which the third movement is dedicated to Cuckson. Schwendinger (below bottom) adds that “this work of hers, is much influenced by the drama of the Crumb’s Solo Cello Sonata.”
Finally, on Monday, March 23, at 8 p.m. in Morphy Hall, Due East (below), the flute and percussion duo of Erin Lesser and Greg Byer, lauded as “superb” (New York Times) and “brilliant” (New York Concert Review), will be joined by NYC-based harpist, Jacqui Kerrod, vocalist Amanda deBoer and bassist Mark Buchner, will be performing George Crumb’s colorful and enticing Madrigals (1-4) in a stunning multi-media presentation, which presents a “triptych video montage” that becomes a “magical and powerful environment,” along with works written for them by the Chicago Composers Consortium and also inspired by the works of Crumb.
The consortium has been a staple of Chicago’s New Music scene for 25 years now and has counted as part of its membership some of Chicago’s best-known composers.
In addition to the four concert offerings, Miranda Cuckson, Blair McMillen, Erin Lesser and Greg Beyer will all be offering master classes, and Nunc will be reading works by student composers as part of a composer workshop.
Schwendinger says “the festival is a fantastic opportunity for the next generation of composers to be exposed to Crumb and learn from the performers who play his music.”
Susan C. Cook (below), music historian and director of the UW-Madison School of Music, is currently teaching a course focusing on George Crumb. An expert in contemporary and American music of all kinds, Cook singles out Crumb as central to her own desire to study modern music.
“As an undergraduate at Beloit College, I first heard Crumb’s ‘Ancient Voices of Children,’ then less than a decade old, in a music theory course,” Cook says. “It simply grabbed hold of me, and I knew I wanted to understand how it came to be and share it with others.”
All events are open to the public.
Nunc and Due East are ticketed events. Visit the Events Calendar at www.music.wisc.edu for more information.
Here are some online resources, including YouTube videos:
Crumb: Vox Balanae
Crumb: Eleven Echoes of Autumn
Links to other works on the concerts:
Donald Crockett Whistling in the Dark
“Violinists in My Life” with violinist Eleanor Bartsch and pianist Thomas Kasdorf performing with the UW Contemporary Chamber Ensemble in Mills Hall in 2014
Sebastian Currier, Verge:
Featured performers in other works:
ALERT: Tonight’s recital by pianist Marco Grieco at Farley’s House of Pianos has been CANCELLED due to visa problems.
By Jacob Stockinger
What else can you do except admire the quiet courage and persistence to keep going?
It is exactly what the 20th-century French poet Paul Eduard described as “Le dur désir de durer,” or the hard desire to endure.
Perhaps that is one of the enduring appeals and rewards of great art – to help all of us, artists and audiences alike, get through difficult times, to bear the unbearable.
Last summer, you may recall, the Karp family lost pianist patriarch Howard Karp, a wonderful talent and personality who died suddenly of heart failure at 84 while on vacation in Colorado.
Karp (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) had been a longtime piano teacher and beloved performer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. He also was a devoted first-rate chamber music partner who performed frequently with the other members of his family.
Here is a link to the blog post about that death that drew so many readers and reader comments:
You can also use the blog’s search engine to see several posts about the memorial held for Howard Karp.
Now the remaining family members – apart from the three granddaughters who have participated in previous concerts – will take to the stage of Mills Hall this Saturday night at 8 p.m. to continue the longtime Karp tradition of performing.
He will be joined by his pianist mother Frances, and his brother Christopher, a gifted pianist and violinist (one-time concertmaster of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra) who is also a medical officer with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Here is the program:
Second Suite for Solo Cello, Op. 80 (1967) by Benjamin Britten (below)
Scherzo: Allegro molto
Sonata in F Major for Piano and Violin, Op. 24 “Spring” (1801-2) by Ludwig van Beethoven; transcribed for Piano and Cello by Parry Karp
Adagio molto expressivo
Scherzo: Allegro molto
Rondo: Allegro ma non troppo
With pianist Frances Karp (below bottom, on left beside the late Howard Karp, and below bottom playing with Parry Karp, Pro Arte violinist and Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra concertmaster Suzanne Beia, and daughter-in-law violist Katrin Talbot, who also plays with the Madison Symphony Orchestra)
Sonata for Solo Cello (1955) by George Crumb (below)
Fantasia: Andante espressivo e con molto rubato
Tema pastorale con variazioni
Toccata: Largo e drammatico-Allegro vivace
Sonata in G Major for Piano and Violin, Op. 96 (1812) by Ludwig van Beethoven; transcribed for Piano and Cello by Parry Karp. (At bottom in a YouTube video with a performance by violinist Isabelle Faust and pianist Alexander Melnikov of the appealing first moment of the original version of Beethoven’s Violin Sonata, Op. 96. The work is one of The Ear’s all-time favorites.)
with pianist Christopher Karp (below top and bottom, playing with his brother Parry)
This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale – which takes places from 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the Landmark Auditorium of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed First Unitarian Society of Madison at 900 University Bay Drive – features tenor J. Adam Shelton (below) and pianist Rayna Slavova in music by George Bizet, Benjamin Britten, Joaquin Turina and Richard Strauss.
Plus, the Friday night recital by pianist Marco Grieco at Farley’s House of Pianos has been CANCELLED due to visa problems.
By Jacob Stockinger
This is another “train wreck” weekend for classical music, as the Wise Critic likes to say.
Saturday night especially has a lot of competing events. They include:
And a FREE cello recital in Mills Hall at 8 p.m. by UW-Madison professor Parry Karp – with pianist mother Frances and pianist brother Christopher — that features music by Benjamin Britten, George Crumb and Ludwig van Beethoven (two violin sonatas as transcribed for cello by Parry Karp.)
But one non-local event stands out.
The San Francisco-based, Grammy-winning Kronos Quartet (below top) — which since 1973 has pioneered crossover genres and in so doing popularized chamber music — performs on Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Shannon Hall (below bottom) at the Wisconsin Union Theater.
The program features the typical eclectic mix of the Kronos Quartet, which plays string quartet versions of jazz, rock and blues music as well as contemporary classical music. (At bottom, in a historic YouTube video, is the classic Kronos performance of “Purple Haze” by rocker Jimi Hendrix.)
Here is a link with the program, ticket prices, biographies of the players, critical reviews and videos.
MASTER CLASS: Violist Hank Dutt of the Kronos Quartet will be giving a master class in Mills Hall, on Friday, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. It is open to the public. The menu includes J.S. Bach’s Suite No. 6 and Chaconne for four violas, Elliott Carter’s “Figment IV” and the String Quartet by Maurice Ravel.
REMINDER: The 2012-13 season of the Overture Concert Organ opens Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in Overture Hall with the Saint Thomas Choir (below) from New York City. at 7:30 p.m. in Overture Hall. The Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys is considered to be the premiere choral ensemble of the Anglican music tradition in the United States and among the finest in the world. The program will include a variety of styles from the 16th century to the present day by composers including Thomas Tallis, J.S. Bach, William Byrd, James MacMillan, Benjamin Britten, Charles Parry, among others. Two organ solos by J.S. Bach and Dan Locklair complete the program.
Tickets are $19.50 at http://www.madisonsymphony.org and the Overture Center box office at (608) 258-4141. For more information, visit www.madisonsymphony.org/thomas or the the choir’s website, http://www.saintthomaschurch.org/music/choir where you can listen to performance videos.
This season the Overture Concert Organ Series also includes The Westminster Choir on Sat., Jan. 12, at 7:30 p.m.; Felix Hell, organist and Madison native and Baltimore Symphony principal trumpet Andrew Balio on Feb. 23 at 7:30 p.m.; and David Briggs on Sat., Mar. 23, at 7:30 p.m.
By Jacob Stockinger
Madison’s new contemporary percussion ensemble, Clocks in Motion (below, rehearing a work by Steve Reich in a photo by James McKenzie, is kicking off its 2012-13 season this Saturday night, Sept. 29, at 8 p.m. in Mills Music Hall on the UW-Madison campus.
Consisting of current music students and recent graduates of UW-Madison, Clocks in Motion is dedicated to the performance of modern repertoire and the commissioning of new works for percussion ensemble. Members (below, from left, in a photo by Megan Aley) are: Joseph Murfin, Brett Walter, Neil Sisauyhoat, Dave Alcorn, Elena Wittneben, Michael Koszewski and Sean Kleve. James McKenzie is also a member.
Not only a group of exclusively percussionists, Clocks in Motion also includes pianist Jennifer Hedstrom (below top, in a photo by Dean Santarinala and conductor Matt Schlomer (below bottom, in a photo by Laura Zastrow). Scholmer, now at the Interlochen Academy, has previously worked at the UW-Madison and Edgewood College.
This FREE concert entitled “New Beginnings” features some early pieces of Steve Reich, a look towards the future with the world premiere performance of a new composition by Madison composer John Jeffrey Gibbens entitled “Allhallows” (Prelude), and the unveiling of a new instrument, the quarimba.
Composer Gibbens (below, in a photo by Milt Leidman) wrote the following program notes:
“Allhallows (Prelude) for three Percussion is scored for Marimba supplemented by a second Marimba tuned a quarter-step flat, or Quarimba, Vibraphone, and seven tuned Gongs. It was composed in July and August 2012 at the request of Clocks in Motion for performance in the fall of 2012.
“The title is an archaic synonym for the feast of All Saints on November 1, and for me evokes associations with the onset of winter in Wisconsin, including the commercial holiday of Halloween, the beginning of the new year in the Celtic calendar, the liturgical function of All Saints, elections, and Armistice, now Veterans’ Day. These occasions address our sense of the closeness of uncanny events to everyday life.
“Each section of the Prelude is like a number in the program of an imaginary ceremony. Each player gets an opportunity to address the crowd in a solo, before joining together and filing out. I invented a nonsymmetrical pitch shape which in combination with the scoring goes beyond the limitations of both the equal tempered scale and its quarter-tone double.”
This program also features a unique composition written by Herbert Brun called “At Loose Ends.” Written in 1974, this piece uses a large orchestra of percussion instruments including timpani, tuned cowbells, quarimba, xylophone, 12 snare drums, tam-tams, cymbals, piano, celesta, and chimes.
With a passion for instrument building, the ensemble has constructed micro-tonal aluminium keyboards called sixxen for Xenakis’ “Pleiades” and continues to look for more opportunities to discover new expressive sounds within the percussion world.
Future concerts this season – all FREE – by Clocks in Motion include (posters are by Dave Alcorn):
Sunday, Oct. 21, 2 p.m. in Mills Music Hall: George Crumb‘s “American Songbook VI: Voices from the Morning of the Earth.” FEATURING vocal soloists Jamie Van Eyck (below top) and Paul Rowe (below bottom, in a photo by Katrin Talbot).
For a complete list of upcoming concerts, events, media, and detailed performer biographies, please visit clocksinmotionpercussion.com.
Here is a video previewing the upcoming season of Clocks in Motion:
ALERT: Word has reached The Ear of a FREE student concert, with faculty participants, worth attending today. At 2 p.m. in Mills Hall, mezzo-soprano Jamie Van Eyck (below) and friends will present a full performance of George Crumb‘s “American Songbook 5: Voices From a Forgotten World.” This is the 5th installment of Crumb’s American Songbook Series, which is a seven-volume collection of American folk songs, set to Crumb’s unique and colorful orchestration. The ensemble features two vocalists, a pianist and four percussionists, together playing over 100 instruments.
By Jacob Stockinger
Remember the so-called Mozart Effect on babies’ intelligence? Well, that pseudo-science or pop psychology seems recently to have been pretty well debunked and discredited.
But what about animals and music?
For many years, I have sworn that my cat Rosie (below) loves music, just as I do, especially piano music.
Rosie is a sweet and pretty tabby cat, and she seems to come over by the piano and sit down or lie down and roll over, or even jump onto my lap while I am playing or whenever I start practicing.
So I wondered: Is it me and the fact she identifies the piano sound with my presence, the same way Pavlov’s dogs responded to bells? Or is it the music?
Well, it is probably some of each, says Charles T. Snowden, a University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher and animal psychologist.
Among his findings are that animals show some breed specificity in the music they prefer. That is, they follow their own species’ taste or preference rather than their owner’s taste or preference. That has led one entrepreneurial person even to market songs for cats, downloadable for $1.99 each (Meow-w-w-!).
Well is that the music or the oppressive sound? After all, I too — like most humans, I bet — become more agitated when listening to heavy metal, which seems intended deliberately to agitate the listener.
Here are some links to stories about research on pets and music:
Some of the findings also seem to support my theory that Rosie is bothered by string instruments—especially high-pitched Baroque violins with GUT strings. I always thinks she objects to other animals, maybe even her ancestors, being used that way for human amusement and entertainment.
But maybe that is anthropomorphizing too much.
Based on his research, I suspect Snowden would probably say it is the high pitch and the fast tempo of early string music that really get to her.
Oh well, more enlightenment and obfuscation are sure to follow.
How do you pets react to music and what kid of music?
Do you have pet and music story to share?
The Ear wants to hear.