The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: This afternoon is your last chance to hear rave-winning performances by pianist Joyce Yang and the Madison Symphony Orchestra. Here’s a review to read

November 10, 2019
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By Jacob Stockinger

This afternoon — Sunday, Nov. 10 — at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall is your last chance to hear South Korean pianist Joyce Yang and the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below, in a photo by Peter Rodgers) under the baton of music director John DeMain.

The program features the exciting, popular and beautiful Piano Concerto No. 3 by the Russian modernist composer Sergei Prokofiev as well as “Newly Drawn Sky” by contemporary American composer and Yale School of Music professor Aaron Jay Kernis (below) and the Symphony No. 2 by the German Romantic master Robert Schumann.

For more information about the performers, the program and tickets, go to: https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2019/11/04/classical-music-this-weekend-prize-winning-pianist-joyce-yang-solos-in-prokofievs-most-popular-piano-concerto-with-the-madison-symphony-orchestra-works-by-schumann-and-aaron-jay-kernis-are/

The prize-winning Yang (below), who  at 19 won the silver medal at the 2005 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, rewarded a standing ovation with the late Earl Wild’s virtuosic arrangement of George Gershwin’s song “The Man I Love,” which you can hear Yang play in the YouTube video at the bottom.

The reviews that have appeared so far agreed: It is a rave-winning concert with special attention going to Yang, who is making her MSO debut after performing a solo recital several years ago at the Wisconsin Union Theater.

The Ear cannot find a link to the rave review by Bill Wineke for Channel 3000.

But here is the rapturous review that Michael Muckian wrote for Isthmus:

https://isthmus.com/music/joyce-yang-triumphs-with-prokofiev/

But you be the critic.

What did you think of Joyce Yang and the MSO?

The Ear wants to hear.

 


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Classical music: Next week, the Ancora String Quartet closes its 16th season with three concerts that contrast the German Romanticism of Beethoven and the French Impressionism of Saint-Saëns. This Saturday night, the Festival Choir of Madison sings about astrology and signs of the Zodiac

May 5, 2017
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ALERT: On this Saturday night, May 6, at 7:30 p.m. at the First Unitarian Society of Madison 900 University Bay Drive, the Festival Choir of Madison will perform a spring program of choral music linked to signs of the Zodiac and astrology, Sorry, no word on the specific program. Tickets are $15, $12 for seniors and $6 for students. For more information go to: http://festivalchoirmadison.org/concerts/a-musical-zodiac

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear received the following note to post from the Ancorans, who are  among his favorite musicians:

You are invited to join the Ancora String Quartet (ASQ), below in a photo by Barry Lewis) for the closing concert program of our 16th season.

The performance takes place next Saturday night,  May 13, at 7:30 p.m., at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (below), 1833 regent Street. A champagne reception will follow.

French Impressionism and German Romanticism – Vive la difference! Whether you prefer Bordeaux or Riesling wine, you’ll enjoy our spring program.

On the program are the Quartet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 153, by Camille Saint-Saëns (below top) and the Quartet No. 12 in E-flat Major, Op. 127, by Ludwig van Beethoven (below bottom).

Saint-Saëns’ second quartet reveals the lyricism and witty invention that earned him the nickname “the French Mendelssohn.” (You can hear the quartet’s beautiful slow movement in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

We follow this up with the first of Beethoven’s late quartets, written shortly after he finished his Ninth Symphony. From its wistfully dreamy first movement to the ethereally mysterious coda in the last, Beethoven charts a new course.

Tickets will be available at the door, and are for general seating. Ticket prices are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and students, and $6 for children under 12.

Other performances of this program will take place earlier.:

The first is on Monday, May 8, at 3 p.m. at the Stoughton Opera House (below) in Stoughton. Admission is a free-will donation.

The other performance is on Friday, May 12, at 7:30 p.m. in the MacDowell Music Club in Janesville. The concert is FREE and open to the public.

Members of the quartet (below, from left, in a photo by Barry Lewis) are Wes Luke and Robin Ryan, violins; Marika Fischer Hoyt, viola; and Benjamin Whitcomb, cello. They represent professional experience playing with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, Madison Bach Musicians and many other groups plus teaching privately and in the University of Wisconsin System.

For more information, including individual biographies and concert schedules, go to:

http://ancoraquartet.com


Classical music: Con Vivo performs two masterpieces of German Romantic music to mark its recent cultural exchange tour of Germany.

October 28, 2015
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ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, from 12:15 to 1 p.m. at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features pianist and organist Theodore Reinke in music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Edvard Grieg, Richard Wagner and Franz Liszt.

By Jacob Stockinger

“Con Vivo – Music With Life” (below) presents a chamber music concert entitled “German Romance” on this Friday, October 30, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Avenue, across from Camp Randall.

Tickets can be purchased at the door for $18 for adults and $15 for seniors and students.

To celebrate the group’s recent cultural exchange tour to our sister county of Kassel, Germany, the concert program includes two masterpiece pillars of 19th-century German Romantic chamber music: the Trio for clarinet, cello and piano by Johannes Brahms and Franz Schubert’s String Quintet with two cellos, regarded as one of the greatest compositions in all chamber music. (You can hear the Schubert Quintet with the Juilliard String Quartet in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Audience members are invited to join the musicians after the concert for a free reception to discuss this chamber music literature and to hear about their experiences on their concert tour in Germany.

Con Vivo 2015

Artistic Director Robert Taylor, in remarking about the concert said, “Our tour to Germany was a wonderful honor and great success. We return very excited to begin our 14th season with two of the great masterpieces for chamber ensemble. Our Madison audience will be able to welcome us home as we present some of our favorite repertoire in this concert.”

Con Vivo! is a professional chamber music ensemble composed of Madison area musicians assembled from the ranks of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, and various other performing groups familiar to Madison audiences.


Classical music: The Madison Summer Choir will perform works by late German and English Romantic composers, including Brahms, Parry and Vaughan Williams, on this coming Saturday night.

June 22, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Our friends at the Madison Summer Choir write:

The Madison Summer Choir (below) is an auditioned choir of more than 70 voices performing a cappella, piano-accompanied and choral-orchestral works.

Madison Summer Choir

When the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music eliminated UW Summer Choir from its budget after 2008, Ben Luedcke (below) “picked up the baton” to ensure that this student and community singing opportunity and tradition were not lost.

Ben Luedcke conducts voces aestratis

Now in its seventh summer, Luedcke continues to conduct the group, open to college students and community members, for just 14 rehearsals over six weeks, culminating in a full concert.

Existing just for this short season, the choir is supported by the singers, friends and businesses in the community, and the audience, as well as the UW-Madison School of Music rehearsal and concert facilities.

For this summer, the concert program features “The Searching Soul: German and Late-English Romanticism.” (Below is the famous Romantic painting used on the poster for the Madison Summer Choir this year.)

Madison Summer Choir 2015 theme

The concert will be presented on this coming Saturday evening, June 27 at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Concert Hall of the Mosse Humanities Building on the UW-Madison campus at 455 North Park Street.

Tickets are $15 for the public; $10 for students. They can be purchased in advance (for delivery or will-call) from any choir member, or bought at the door.

The concert will open with two works by Johannes Brahms (below), “Nächtens” (At Night) and “Sehnsucht” (Longing).

brahms3

Those are followed by three movements by Sir Hubert Parry (below) in “Songs of Farewell (1916–1918)”: “My Soul There Is a Country,” “I Know My Soul Hath Power” and “Never Weather Beaten Sail.”

hubert parry

The second half features two choral works with orchestra. The Madison Summer Choir is the only ensemble performing full-scale choral and orchestral works in the summer in Madison.

Psalm 42” (1837-38) by Felix Mendelssohn is a cantata consisting of seven movements which include full choir, soprano solo, women’s choir, and a quintet of soprano solo with men’s chorus. Soprano soloist will be Chelsie Propst (below), who has performed with the choir twice before.

Chelsie Propst USE

The concert will conclude with “Toward the Unknown Region” (1907) by Ralph Vaughan Williams (below top), a setting of the text by Walt Whitman (below bottom). You can hear a massive performance of the work at the BBC Proms in a YouTube video at the bottom.

Ralph Vaughan Williamsjpg

Walt Whitman 2

Information on past concerts by the Madison Summer Choir and photos of the choir are on the website: www.madisonsummerchoir.org


Classical music: Behold Bruckner! Conductor John DeMain explains the monumental beauty and major technical and interpretative challenges of Anton Bruckner, whose mammoth Seventh Symphony he will perform this weekend with the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

April 8, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

This weekend brings what, for The Ear, is the most interesting program of the season from the Madison Symphony Orchestra. The combination of Baroque, Romantic and Late Romantic music includes the long-awaited performance of a major symphony—the Seventh—by Anton Bruckner (below).

Anton Bruckner 2

The program, to be performed under the baton of longtime MSO music director John DeMain, includes the Keyboard Concerto No. 4 by Johann Sebastian Bach and the Piano Concerto No. 1 by Franz Liszt. The soloist for both works is the dynamic and versatile Christopher Taylor (below), the resident virtuoso at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. Here is a link to an interview with him that appeared here earlier this week:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/04/06/classical-music-uw-madison-pianist-christopher-taylor-says-bach-wouldnt-mind-being-played-on-the-piano-and-the-public-should-get-to-know-the-less-virtuosic-side-of-liszt-he-plays-concertos/

Christopher Taylor new profile

Performances are in Overture Hall in the Overture Center. Times are Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets are $12-$84.

For details, go to https://www.madisonsymphony.org or call the Overture Center Box Office at (608) 258-4141.

Maestro DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad) recently agreed to do an email Q&A about Bruckner with The Ear:

John DeMain full face by Prasad

Why has the MSO gone so long without playing a Bruckner symphony? Why did you choose the Symphony No. 7 as the first Bruckner symphony to be performed by the MSO during your tenure?

When I first came to Madison, I was so focused on Mahler that I didn’t think much about Bruckner. Doing so much Mahler in a short season of seven classical concerts, I felt that adding Bruckner to the mix was too much for our audiences from this period.

Now I can focus on other composers from the late Romantic period, most notably Anton Bruckner. The MSO performed Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony (“Romantic”) in the mid-1980s. So I felt the Seventh would be the right symphony to perform after such a long hiatus, and one the audience would have enormous pleasure listening to.

Do you plan to program other Bruckner symphonies in future seasons? What is the next one you would like to conduct?

I’m certainly interested in a reload at the Fourth Symphony as well as the Eighth and Ninth in some future year.

What makes Bruckner great and how does his music differ from that of his contemporaries such as Gustav Mahler? What are his musical signatures?

Bruckner’s music is monumental in structure. The music basks in tonal beauty. His melodic lines are long, and he loves sequences, modulating as he goes along, building to temporary climaxes, until the big ones come along. The slow movement of the Seventh Symphony is achingly beautiful and moving.

At times, he sounds like Mahler (below), and why not? They were both writing at the same time, so musical trends are going to creep into the composers’ writing in any given era. The lilting waltz in the middle of the slow movement and the scherzo are two such examples that call to mind the music of Mahler.

For me, Mahler’s music struggles more, from the depths of human misery to the glories of newfound salvation. Bruckner doesn’t do that. His music is more architectural in its dramatic unfolding, relying on sequential melodic and harmonic tension, and powerful eruptions from the brass sections of the orchestra.

Gustav Mahler big

What are the major challenges, technical and interpretive, for you and the MSO players in doing Bruckner?

Bruckner is not as explicit as Mahler or Richard Strauss in his directions to the interpreter. Often a movement will have one, or, at the most, two or three general tempo indications. This leaves enormous leeway for the conductor to interpret Bruckner’s intentions. Listening to a variety of past performances by some of our greatest German and Austrian conductors of the past reveals enormous differences regarding tempo, consistency of tempo and general shaping. My influences will be more recent to reflect the scholarship and musical sensibilities of our time.

The challenge for the orchestra will primarily be endurance, particularly for the brass, as Bruckner the loves repetition during his big climaxes, literally embracing the audience with rapturous sound. Also, the strings are asked to play tremolo a lot, and that can be fatiguing. The effect, however, is wonderful. (Note: You can hear that for yourself in a YouTube video at the bottom that features an excerpt from the Scherzo movement of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 as performed by Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic.)

The biggest challenge for me will be the shaping of the symphony. Finding the right tempo, and knowing when to depart from it, so the music can breathe, are additional challenges, as well as paying strict attention to the long crescendos, diminuendos and sudden dynamic changes.

I can’t wait to get to work on it. Other aspects of orchestral playing are always present, like the intonation of the Wagner tubas that we will be using and strict adherence to dynamic changes that are bold, frequent and often extreme.

MSO-HALL

John DeMain conducting 2

What would you like the audience to pay special attention to in the symphony and your performance of it?

I think the audience should let the power and beauty of this symphony take them on their own personal journey. The Wagnerian and Mahlerian influences, as well as the Germanic nature of the music, should be immediately apparent to the listener and put them on familiar territory.

Is there anything else you would like to say about Bruckner?

I would just like to say to the audience, that if they haven’t had a chance to hear Bruckner live, or much at all, this is the perfect choice and chance to get closer to this major composer of 19th-century German Romanticism.


Classical music: Pianist Ingrid Fliter talks about sexism in the concert world and discusses the difficulty of playing the music of Chopin, which she specializes in and will perform this coming weekend with the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

February 9, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

It is hard to imagine a more fitting program for Valentine’s Day weekend than the one that the Madison Symphony Orchestra will perform.

The program, to be performed under the baton of MSO music director John DeMain, includes the Piano Concerto No. 2 by Frederic Chopin with the prestigious Gilmore Prize-winning pianist Ingrid Fliter (below); the Symphony No. 4 by Robert Schumann, an arch-Romantic; and the Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge by British composer Benjamin Britten, who was a student of Bridge.

ingrid fliter with keyboard

John DeMain and MSO from the stage Greg Anderson

Performances are in Overture Hall in the Overture Center. Times are Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets are $12-$84.

But until midnight this Tuesday, there is a special Valentine’s Day deal of two tickets for the price of one going on. For details, got to http://www.overturecenter.org/events/fliter-plays-chopin or call the Overture Center Box Office at (608) 258-4141.

Fliter recently agreed to an email Q&A with The Ear:

Ingrid Fliter close up

Can you briefly introduce yourself to readers who may not know you? What are your current and future plans and projects?

I’m an Argentinian pianist. I live in Italy in Lake Como for many years now. I consider myself an art lover. I do believe art can be life-changing to people. And that’s what I concentrate on doing when I perform: To bring happiness and inspiration to audiences.

Do you think the professional concert world treats women differently? Or has the sexism of past eras improved in your experience?

I do believe sexism in art still exists among presenters, conductors, agents, people in general, etc. The phrase “She plays like a man!” is heard more often than wanted. And it is amazing to see that even women can be sexists towards other women as well by accepting certain prejudices imposed by obsolete cultural traditions.

However I do believe women have the power to keep changing that mentality by showing the world and, more importantly themselves that they can do as well (or better) as anyone else.

You known especially as a specialist in Chopin (below), whose music you will play here. What makes Chopin so unique and so popular?

Chopin is a composer who speaks directly to the heart of people. Like a dear friend who shares with us his deepest secrets of life, his music is intimate and personal. He doesn’t describe landscapes or tell stories. He speaks about human feelings and people feel represented and touched by the beauty he creates. He enhances harmony and enriches people’s life.

Recently, Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes said Chopin is more difficult to play successfully than Beethoven. What are the elements of great Chopin playing that make his music so challenging to the performer?

I can agree with this. Chopin is one of the most difficult composers to play. His Romanticism is not obvious and it is very important  — and hard — to find a right balance between his Romantic soul and his Classical expression.

Also, the importance of making the piano sing as a singer would do is deeply challenging because it means fighting against the nature of the piano, which is a percussive instrument.

But more importantly, Chopin (below) requires from us all our senses completely in balance and in harmony with nature. We cannot allow our body to be tensed or our heart to be arid when we play Chopin. His music will always be a mirror of our soul and will reflect our inner world, totally naked.

Chopinphoto

You will perform Piano Concerto No. 2 over Valentine’s Day weekend. It seems a perfect choice for the occasion. What would you like the audience to know about the Piano Concerto No. 2, especially as compared to No. 1, which was composed later?

This concerto is one of the most beautiful pieces ever written. The poetry, the beauty, the perfection of form and level of maturity reached by this 18-year-old teenager are simply astonishing and revealing.

This music is irresistible and seductive. Let yourself be embraced by the perfumes and textures he creates and you’ll be taken into a wonderful world, a world you would never want to come back from. Special attention goes to the marvelous second movement with its beautiful melodic lines, which might bring a little tear to your eyes. (You can hear the second movement, performed by pianist Arthur Rubinstein with the London Philharmonic under conductor-composer Andre Previn in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

You have performed in Madison before in a recital at the Wisconsin Union Theater. Do you have an opinion about Madison and its audiences?

I have the best memories from Madison and its public, and I’m looking forward to our next encounter!

Was there an Aha Moment! – a piece or performance or performer – when you knew you wanted to be a professional concert pianist?

I was 16 years old and playing the Piano Concerto No. 3 by Ludwig van Beethoven for the first time with the orchestra at the Teatro Colon (below) in Buenos Aires. The hall was packed and the atmosphere was febrile. I remember my feeling of total joy knowing I was about to perform that concerto for all those people. I felt in the right moment in the right place.

Teatro Colon interior

How do you think can we get more young people interested in classical music?

Education, education, education. We must show young people classical music is theirs as well, not something old that belongs to museums.

Music is a vehicle of human expression and this is what we, as educators, parents, need to inculcate since the very beginning. So, parents have to be educated as well.

Music in school shouldn’t be the “free time” classroom, but should be taken as a moment of spiritual joy and recreation. Parents should listen to classical music at home, and share their feelings that music brings with their children.

Also, we should bring classical music into more deconstructed environments outside concert halls, in houses, bars, airports, parks. (Below is the Madison chapter of Classical Revolution performing chamber music in a bar.)

Classical Revolution Madison

 


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