The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The new year starts out on a sour note — Chopin’s favorite piano maker, the venerable Paris-based Pleyel, has gone out of business even while Steinway seems to have a bright future. Plus, violinist Kangwon Kim performs music by Brahms and Rochberg this Friday at noon for FREE.

January 8, 2014

ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, to be held from 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the Landmark Auditorium of the historic Frank Lloyd Wright-designed First Unitarian Society, 900 University Bay Drive, features violinist Kangwon Kim (bel0w) with pianist and FUS music director Dan Broner in the Violin Sonata No. 1 in G Major, Op. 78, by Johannes Brahmas and music for solo violin by the American composer George Rochberg.

Kangwon Kim

By Jacob Stockinger

The past few days I have spent catching up with some leftovers from 2013. This is another one, though it could also be classified as opening the new year of 2014 with sad news.

The news is that Pleyel, the venerable Paris-based piano maker (below) that made the favorite pianos of composer Frederic Chopin (1810-1849) — and was the oldest piano maker in the world — has gone out of business. (You can hear Chopin’s famous Ballade No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 23, performed an 1836 Pleyel in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Pleyel logo

Was too much attention paid to marketing and promotion? Not enough to building pianos? Did too much effort and money go to surface and not enough to substance? Check out this YouTube video from several years ago about Pleyel trying to go upscale:

Perhaps the story with piano makers is not unlike the problem that some orchestras are facing because too much money has gone into new facilities, refurbishing concert halls and raising conductors’ salaries rather than to the musicians.

Whatever the answer is, the fate is certainly different that what has been promised to the famous Steinway and Sons company by its new owner, billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson.

Here a link to the Steinway story I posted earlier:

Steinway Grand Piano

And here is a link to the story about Pleyel, which Chopin (below) favored for its light touch and soft sound, as reported by Paris correspondent Eleanor Beardsley, one of my favorite NPR reporters.

It also features audio-visual clips with the superb Canadian pianist Janina Fialkowska (below, who has recovered from a debilitating injury) playing an 1848 Chopin-vintage piano.

Janina Fialkowska

Perhaps it is similar to the Erard piano that American pianist Emanuel Ax used some years ago to record with the late Charles Mackerras Chopin’s Piano Concertos Nos. 1 in E Minor and 2 in F minor (really his first concerto) on a period instrument:

Classical music: Sunday is packed at the UW-Madison with lots of vocal music, wind music and contemporary chamber music.

April 20, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

The frenetic pace of offering concerts before the spring semester is over in three weeks continues this weekend at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

Earlier this week, on Friday, I posted about the Perlman Piano Trio concert that takes place today at 3:30 p.m. in Morphy Hall; and the recital by the three winners of the 28th annual Beethoven Sonata Competition, which takes places on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. in Morphy Hall.

Here are some other appealing events that I just couldn’t fit into the regular postings this past week.

On this Sunday, April 21, at 1 p.m. in Music Hall at the foot of Bascom Hill is the FREE Paul Collins Fellowship Recital. It features guest artists and professional singers soprano Emily Birsan (below top), mezzo-soprano Jamie Van Eyck (below bottom), bass-baritone John Arnold and pianist Kirstin Ihde.

Emily Birsan less tarty 2 NoCredit

Jamie Van Eyck

The program will include Ravel’s “’Don Quichotte à Dulcinée”; two Spanish songs from Enrique Granados‘ “Tonadillas”; ‘Songs of Travel‘ by Ralph Vaughan Williams, including “Youth and Love,” “Whither Must I Wander?” and “Bright is the Ring of Words”; Three Russian Songs by Sergei Rachmaninoff (“Midsummer Nights,” “How Fair This Spot” and “Spring Waters”).

Also included are the following opera arias: “Madamina …” and “La ci darem la mano” from Mozart’s “Don Giovanni”; “Non so piu” from Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro”; “Soave sia il vento” from Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte”; “Ah! forse lui. .. Sempre libera” from Verdi’s “La Traviata”; “Sein wir wieder gut” from Richard Strauss’ “Ariadne auf Naxos”; “Belle Nuit” from Offenbach’s “Tales of Hoffman” and Richard Rodgers’ “People Will Say We’re in Love” from “Oklahoma.”

Here, from the UW School of Music, is a Note about Collins Fellowships: “The Collins fellowships have been established through the generosity of Paul J. Collins (below) in honor of his mother, Adele Stoppenbach Collins, a 1929 School of Music graduate. Student are nominated by faculty members. The fellowships are awarded to outstanding graduate performance majors and are determined by a committee of performance faculty.

“Collins Awards guarantee two years of support at the masters level and three years at the doctoral level, contingent upon full-time study and satisfactory progress in the degree program. These awards are sufficient to provide the financial support needed for a single international student to obtain a visa.”

Paul J. Collins

On Sunday, April 21, at 2 p.m. in Mills Hall is a FREE concert by the UW Wind Ensemble (below) under conductors Scott Teeple, Alex Gonzales and Scott Pierson.

The program will include “Cheers!” by Jack Stamp; “Hemispheres” by Joseph Turrin”; “Duels and Dances” by James Stephenson with UW oboist Marc Fink; and “Symphonic Metamorphosis” by Paul Hindemith, arr. Wilson.

UW Wind Ensemble performance

On Sunday, April 21, 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall in a FREE concert by the Contemporary Chamber Ensemble (below)  its director, UW composer Laura Schwendinger.

Contemporary Chamber Ensemble

The program includes “Pas de Quatre” by Eleanor Corey; “The Violinist in My Life” by UW composer Laura Schwendinger (below and at bottom in a YouTube video about a light installation that she did in New york City with her artist sister); a flute quartet by Peter Bacchus; Anton Webern’s Six Bagatelles; and “Sereneta d’ Estate” by George Rochberg.


Classical music: “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen” resumes on Wisconsin Public Radio this Sunday. Here is a listing of performers for January through May.

January 2, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

The winter intermission is coming to an end.

This Sunday, Jan. 6, the 34th season of the FREE chamber music series “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen” resumes in Brittingham Gallery III in the Elvehjem Building of the Chazen Museum of Art on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus at 850 University Avenue.


The broadcast are live from 12:30 to 2 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Radio (on WERN-FM 88.7 in the Madison area).

Here is a link to WPR’s page, though the latest concerts come later, not at the top:

Seating is free, but reservations can be made for friends of the Chazen Museum of Art and members of Wisconsin Public Radio. Here is a link to make a reservation:

At intermission, museum director Russell Panczenko and guest curator or experts usually talk with host Lori Skelton about a current art exhibit. (Right now there is a retrospective of prints from the UW Tandem Press and a collection of German and Austrian prints 1895-1920.) Those talks are also available as podcasts.

After the concert, coffee, tea and cookies are provided so that audience members can mingle with the musicians and with each other.

SALquiet sign

Here is the list to save or copy into your datebook:

 January 2013 
6 Nathan Wysock, guitarRochberg: American BouquetHarrison: Serenade for GuitarBeaser: ShenandoahYork: Emergence
13 Benjamin Whitcomb, cello; Myung-Hee Chung, pianist
20 Prometheus Trio
27 Wausau Conservatory of Music Faculty
 February 2013 
3 Ancia Saxophone Quartet
10 Madison Bach Musicians (below)
17 Pro Arte Quartet
24 UW-Whitewater Faculty
 March 2013 
3 Parry Karp, cello (below); Eli Kalman, piano
10 Lawrence Chamber Players
17 Rountree Ensemble
24 Namji Kim, piano
 April 2013 
7 Neale-Silva Young Artists Competition Winners’ Recital
14 Wisconsin Brass Quintet
21 Paul Kosower, cello; Paula Kosower, cello; Kuang-Hao Huang, piano
28 Pro Arte Quartet
 May 2013 
5 Mark Fink, oboe and Friends
12 Kangwon Kim, violin

Classical music: Do you know “The Three SCHs” of early music? During November, Eliza’s Toyes will give three concerts of rarely heard music by those German Baroque composers.

November 1, 2012
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TWO ALERTS: On Friday at the landmark First Unitarian Society Meeting House, 900 University Bay Drive, this week’s FREE Noon Musicale from noon to 1:15 p.m. features UW violinist Tyrone Greive and UW pianist Martha Fischer in music by Sibelius, Bacewicz, Szymanowski and others. Then on Friday night at 8 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall, guitarist Nathan Wysock (below) will perform a FREE recital on the University of Wisconsin School of Music’s Guest Artist Series. The program features  “American Bouquet’ by George Rochberg; “Serenade for Guitar’ by Lou Harrison, featuring percussionist Todd Hammes; “Shenandoah” by Robert Beaser; and “Machine 3” by Leo Kottke.

By Jacob Stockinger

Some important period instrument and early music vocal concerts of German Baroque composers are coming up in November. Here is the latest from Jerry Hui (below), a University of Wisconsin School of Music graduate who is an accomplished composer and an acclaimed performer who also directs and sings in Eliza’s Toyes and the contemporary music group NEW MUSE (New Music Everywhere).

Madison, Wis.–Eliza’s Toyes (below) and guest performers will be performing rarely heard music composed by Heinrich Schütz, Johann Hermann Schein, and Samuel Scheidt in a program titled “The Three Sch’s: Music By Schütz, Schein, and Scheidt.”

Madison area residents will have three chances in November to hear it live: this Saturday, Nov. 3, at 7 p.m. at Grace Episcopal Church; on Saturday, Nov. 17 a 4 p.m. at Luther Memorial Church; and on Sunday, Nov. 25 at 12:30 p.m. at the Chazen Museum of Art. The last performance will also be broadcast over Wisconsin Public Radio, on “Live from the Chazen,” (below) which is hosted by Lori Skelton.

All performances are free and open to the public; free-will donations will be accepted at the first two concerts.

Schütz (below), among the three featured composers, received the most household recognition because his career spanned across several countries. However, they all were regarded highly. Singled out by the 17th-century German composer/theorist Wolfgang Caspar Printz as the best German composers in his book “Historische Beschreibung” (1690), they were important in cultivating a distinctly German musical style, and their work would influence generations of composers to come —from J.S. Bach in later Baroque period, to Brahms in the Romantic period, and even to Hugo Distler of the 20th century.

Much of these composers’ music, driven strongly by modal counterpoint but also showing influence of Baroque harmonic progression, are not heard as frequently as they should. Perhaps this is because many other Baroque composers — such as J.S. Bach and Sweelinck — worked around similar time period wrote in a style that is more distinguishable from what is considered the Renaissance period.

Also, the vocal range demanded by these composers from the choir often differs from the standard setup of a four-part choir, especially in requiring more low altos or high tenors.

Eliza’s Toyes’ program will showcase some of their best works, both sacred and secular. Highlights include the most somber setting by Schiedt (below top) of “Miserere mei Deus” for soprano and 5 low voices, and his uplifting setting of Psalm No. 148 in German “Lobet, ihr Himmel den Herren”; the motet by Schein (below bottom) “Ach Herr, ach meiner schone” (a Pavan by Scheidt on YouTube at the bottom), and a very funny song from his 1626 collection “Studentenschmaus”; and selections of Schütz’s rarely heard Italian madrigals, particularly “Vasto Mar” for 8 voices.

Besides musicians from the regular ensemble, special guests Eric Miller (viol) and Lawrence University faculty Kathrine Handford (organ) will be joining in the music making. Also featured in these performances will be a beautiful wooden portative organ by David Moore, and wind instruments on loan from the James Smith Rudolph Collection at Lawrence University.

For more information about the program and Eliza’s Toyes, visit

Eliza’s Toyes is a Madison-based early music ensemble specialized in performing vocal and wind music from before 1700. Its creative concert programs often feature geographical or narrative themes, partnering with both music and non-music academic fields. Now in its fourth season, Toyes has been performing at least twice a year, in various venues including UW-Madison Memorial Library, the Chazen Museum of Art, and Gates of Heaven.

Musicians for the “The Three Sch’s” include Deb Heilert and Sarah Leuwerke, sopranos; Sandy Erickson, alto/recorder; Peter Gruett, alto/tenor; Jerry Hui, tenor/bass; Mark Werner, baritone; Andrew Aumann, bass; Melanie Kathan, recorder; Theresa Koenig, dulcian/recorder; Doug Towne, lute.

Special guests are Eric Miller, viol, and Kathrine Handford, organ.

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