The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The 35th annual summer Concerts on the Square start this Wednesday night and will feature a lot of classical music

June 25, 2018
3 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Maestro Andrew Sewell usually makes sure the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra programs a fair amount of classical music for its annual summer Concerts on the Square (below).

The FREE popular outdoor concerts — billed as “The Biggest Picnic of  Summer” — usually draw up to at least 20,000 people for each performance on the King Street corner of the State Capitol.

They start this Wednesday night at 7 p.m. – blankets can go down at 3 p.m. — and run for six consecutive Wednesday nights through Aug. 1.

But this year Sewell (below) seems especially generous with the classical fare he is serving up. In fact, four of the six concerts are all classical – a much higher percentage than in most past years, if The Ear recalls correctly.

For the complete lineup of the concerts – and to compare this year’s offerings with those of past years — go to the website: https://wisconsinchamberorchestra.org/performance-listing/category/concerts-on-the-square

Then you can click on “More Info” for each individual concert date to get the full program and information about the performers.You can also find what you need to know about following rules, parking, reserving tables, listening etiquette, volunteering, donating and support, and finding menus for food providers.

For this opening concert “Carnival” on Wednesday, the WCO will showcase 18-year-old Kenosha high school senior Matthew Udry (below), a cellist who won this year’s Young Artist Concerto Competition. Udry will perform the Cello Concerto No. 1 by Dmitri Shostakovich.

Also on the all-Slavic program are two Czech compositions:  the “Carnival” Overture by Antonin Dvorak (heard in the YouTube video at the bottom); and “Three Dances” from the opera “The Bartered Bride” by Bedrich Smetana.

An all-Russian concert is slated for July 11 with another student cellist, Miriam K. Smith (below top), and the Middleton High School Choir (below bottom). The program includes the Concert Waltz No. 2 by Alexander Glazunov, the “Rococo” Variations by Peter Tchaikovsky and the Intermezzo and Women’s Dance by Sergei Rachmaninoff.

The July 25 concert features the up-and-coming guitarist Colin Davin (below) in a programs of Spanish and Hispanic music including Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez,” Alberto Ginastera’s “Estancia: Four Dances,” and Roberto Sierra’s “Fandango.”

Finally, on Aug. 1, baritone Jubilant Sykes (below) is featured in a program that includes: the “Norwegian Rhapsody No. 1” by Johan Halvorsen; Aaron Copland’s “Old American Songs,” including “Simple Gifts” and “I Bought Me a Cat” as well as two spirituals, “Were You There?” and “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child”;  the Interlude from the symphonic ode, “La Nuit et l’Amour” (Night and Love), from the cantata “Ludus pro Patria,” by the French composer Augusta Holmes; and the Symphony No. 9 “From the New World” by Antonin Dvorak.

Of course other programs include pops and rock music, plus patriotic music for the Fourth of July concert — only fitting for the occasion.

But The Ear still thinks the classical fare is generous and noteworthy.

Of course, loud chitchat, eating and other neighborly noise could interfere with your ability to listen closely to the music.

But Andrew Sewell and the WCO still deserve a big shout out!

Bravo, all!


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Classical music: The Ear hears the impressive young pianist Joyce Yang and thinks Madison needs more piano recitals. Plus, a FREE concert of female vocal duets is at noon on Friday.

October 22, 2015
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ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, held 12:15-1 p.m. at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, will feature sopranos Susan Savage Day and Rebekah Demaree with pianist Sharon Jensen in duets by Gabriel Faure, Jacques Aubert, Jules Massenet, Claudio Monteverdi, UW-Madison alumnus Lee Hoiby and more.

By Jacob Stockinger

There he was last Thursday, sitting in the lower balcony in Shannon Hall at the Wisconsin Union Theater.

The Ear was in Piano Himmel, listening to a masterful performance.

The occasion was a solo piano recital by Joyce Yang (below), an up-and-coming, prize-winning Korea-born and America-trained pianist, still in her late 20s, who was making her Madison debut.

Joyce Yang

And the same thought haunted The Ear, himself an avid amateur pianist, that also came to him during a fine student piano recital this summer.

That thought was simply this: Madison needs to have many more solo piano recitals.

The piano is perhaps the one most commonly studied musical instrument and is a staple of music education, so the potential audience should be there. The repertoire is vast and wonderful. And the piano just hasn’t been receiving its due compared to the many new choral groups and chamber music ensembles that always seem to be proliferating in the area.

The Wise Teacher recalls years ago when almost a dozen solo piano recitals happened during a single season. This season there are only three -– and two have already taken place.

One was the recital of Mendelssohn, Franck and Chopin by Spanish pianist Daniel del Pino (below top)  on Oct. 4 at Farley’s House of Pianos on its Salon Piano Series. (The Ear couldn’t go because he is was in Chicago that afternoon hearing a piano recital by Maurizio Pollini.) The second was by Joyce Yang. The third one will be the performance by UW-Madison virtuoso professor Christopher Taylor (below bottom) on Friday, Feb 26. (No program has yet been announced.)

Daniel del PIno square

Christopher Taylor new profile

Here is an afterthought: Maybe the Madison Symphony Orchestra could start a piano series like the Chicago Symphony Orchestra offers on Sunday afternoons?

Let’s be clear: This is a matter more of pleasure and education than of justice.

Take Yang’s performance, which drew an unfortunately small house of only 300-400.

The first half was remarkable for both the clarity and color she possessed. Ethnic themes, folk songs and folk dances, especially Latin American and Spanish in nature, united the first half of her program.

She opened with two sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti, the three “Estampes” or Prints by Claude Debussy and two pieces from “Iberia” by Isaac Albeniz and three virtuosic “cowboy” dances by the Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera.

In all those works, Yang proved a complete and mature keyboard artist. Her technique is rock solid, but it is her musicality that most impresses the listener. The Ear was particularly struck by Yang’s command of dynamics, her ability to play softly and still project, and to delineate and balance various voices.

The second half, all works by Sergei Rachmaninoff, proved less satisfying to The Ear, if not to the audience. It featured two transcriptions of vocal works or songs — “Dreams” and  “Vocalise”  — by the late American virtuoso pianist Earl Wild (below).

earl wild

Unfortunately, Wild himself possessed a Lisztean (or Horowitzean) command of keyboard technique. And like Franz Liszt (or Vladimir Horowitz), Wild just couldn’t resist adding Liberace-like flourishes, flash and trash to his transcriptions in places where simplicity rather than Big Chords would have more than sufficed.

At certain points in a Wild transcription, the work inevitably sounds louche or decadent and over-the-top, like something you might hear at a piano bar or in a cocktail lounge. In short, they are more piano than music. (You can listen to Earl Wild himself performing his own transcription of Rachmaninoff’s “Vocalise” in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Then came  the Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor by Rachmaninoff (below) in its revised 1931 edition. To be honest, this is a Big Piece that is full of sound and fury signifying not very much that The Ear can discern. (The Ear much prefers Rachmaninoff’s piano concertos, preludes and Etudes Tableaux.)

To be sure, the bombastic sonata requires impressive and powerful piano playing, which must explain the muscular work’s popularity among professional pianists and certain segments of the public. It is a Wower and wow us it does, although many of us would rather be seduced than wowed.

Rachmaninoff

The sonata surely is effective in live performance and brought an immediate standing ovation. That, in turn, was rewarded with another Earl Wild transcription this time of George Gershwin’s “The Man I Love.” Too bad the love once again seemed overpowered by difficult but flawlessly executed scales and runs.

But putting those shortcomings aside, the sound of an amazingly played piano recital was such a welcome experience.

The Ear hopes that many more of them are somehow in store.

 


Classical music education: WYSO’s Youth Orchestra will perform a FREE concert of music by Antonin Dvorak, Peter Tchaikovsky, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Manuel DeFalla and more from 7 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday night at Old Sauk Trails Park, thanks to the Gialamas Company.

August 8, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

All reports say that the 10-day tour to Argentina, completed just last weekend, was a rousing success for both members of the Youth Orchestra (below) of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) and for their many South American hosts and audiences.

WYSO Youth  Orchestra

Here is a link to the live real-time blog with the complete set of postings done for the tour:

www.wysotour2014.blogspot.com

But why take someone else’s word for it?

You can hear the musicians for yourself in some of the same music that the young performers played in several different locations in Argentina.

They will once again perform, under the baton of UW-Madison School of Music conductor James Smith, on this coming Wednesday night from 7 to 9 p.m. in Old Sauk Trails Park on Madison’s far west side at 1200 John Q. Hammons Drive..

WYSO Concert in the Park, playing under Jim Smith 3

The event actually starts at 5 p.m. when the park opens to audiences for picnicking and eating, kind of like a smaller Concert on the Square for the far west side and to greet the approaching end of summer and to reach lots of young people.

The concert typically attracts thousands. Just look at the parking!

WYSO Concert in the Park Photo aeriel view

Here is a link to the official site:

http://wyso.music.wisc.edu/events/concerts-recitals/

And here is a link to the major sponsor and underwriter, the real estate development firm The Gialamas Company, with more information:

http://www.gialamas.com/Events/tabid/164/vw/3/itemid/26/sm/615/d/20140813/Default.aspx

If you want to know about food, you will probably want at least to check out the two providers  — Benvenuto’s and Sprecher’s — with whom you can reserve food and beverages if you don’t want to bring your own.

http://www.gialamas.com/Portals/0/CITP2014/Benvenuto’s%20Menu.pdf

http://www.gialamas.com/Portals/0/CITP2014/Sprecher’s.pdf

WYSO Concert  the Park Tent 4

Finally, courtesy of WYSO, here is the complete program with approximate timings:

CONCERT IN THE PARK, AUGUST 13, 2014

Overture to Candide. By Leonard Bernstein. (6 minutes)

Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op.36, Fourth movement: Finale: Allegro con fuoco. By Pyotr I. Tchaikovsky. (10 minutes)

El sombrero de tres picos Three-Cornered Hat) Suite No. 2        By Manuel de Falla     (12 minutes)

  1. Los vecinos
  2. Danza del molinero (Farruca)
  3. Danza final

Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28. By Camille Saint-Saëns (12 minutes) with WYSO concerto contest winner violinist Savannah Albrecht (bel0w)

Savannah Albrecht

INTERMISSION

Symphony No. 8, in G major, Op. 88, Movement 4: Allegro ma non troppo. By Antonin Dvořák   (10 minutes)

“Billy the Kid” Suite. By Aaron Copland (22 minutes)

  1. The Open Prairie
  2. Street in a Frontier Town
  3. Card Game at Night (Prairie Night)
  4. Gun Battle
  5. Celebration Dance (after Billy’s Capture)
  6. Billy’s Death
  7. The Open Prairie Again

“Over the Rainbow.” By Harold Arlen (4 minutes) with the acclaimed local jazz singer Gerri DiMaggio (below top). The performance is dedicated to the memory of Candy Gialamas (below bottom on the right, with her husband George Gialiamas).

“Malambo” from Estancia Suite, Op. 8a. By Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera (4 minutes). It is an audience favorite, a participation piece in South America. You can hear the high-octane and colorful orchestral music performed to an uproar of approval at the BBC Proms by Gustavo Dudamel and the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestsra of Venezuela in a YouTube video at the bottom.)                                                      

Gerri DiMaggio

George and Candy Gialamas

Have some fun, hear some fine music and learn how good music education is in WYSO and in this part of Wisconsin.

See you there.

Come say hi to The Ear.

 

 


Classical music education: One of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras will embark on an international tour to Argentina that runs July 24 to Aug. 3. So WYSO says “Bon Voyage” with a FREE send-off preview concert on this coming Tuesday night, July 22, at 7 p.m. in Olbrich Gardens.

July 18, 2014
4 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger 

The young musicians of Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) and its premier performing ensemble, the Youth Orchestra, are preparing for a fantastic opportunity this month when they will tour to Argentina.

WYSO Youth  Orchestra

Youth Orchestra members will have a chance to visit the three cities of Buenos Aires, Rosario and Mar del Plata. While in these cities they will visit some of the most beautiful places in South America and perform in world class venues.

The tour will be led by WYSO Music Director James Smith (below). He has served as conductor of the Youth Orchestra for 29 years and also serves as the Director of Orchestras for the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, where WYSO is housed.

Smith_Jim_conduct07_3130

The 67 WYSO musicians who will participate in the tour range in age from 14 t0 18 years old and hail from 19 different communities across southern Wisconsin. (You can hear a great sample of the Youth Orchestra under James Smith in the “Carmen” Suite by Georges Bizet in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

The tour will run from July 24 to August 3. It will include performances at Facultad de Derecho, the famed Teatro Colon (below) in Buenos Aires, Escuela 23 Distrito Escolar, La Usina de Musica, and Teatro el Circulo.

Teatro Colon interior

Repertoire for the tour will include the Overture to “Candide” by Leonard Bernstein, “Billy the Kid” Suite by Aaron Copland;  Liturgical Scenes by Dwane S. Milburn, the Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 36, by Peter Tchaikovsky; and “Malambo” from “Estancia” Suite, Op. 8a by Argentinean composer Alberto Ginastera (below).

Alberto Ginastera with cat

The Youth Orchestra will be posting a live blog before and during their trip to keep friends, family, and supporters of WYSO up to date with how the tour is going.

The writers will mainly be students, but a handful of chaperones will also be offering their perspectives.

You can visit the blog, and bookmark it, at http://wysotour2014.blogspot.com.

FREE PREVIEW CONCERT ON TUESDAY

Prior to departing on their international tour, the Youth Orchestra members will give a bon voyage send-off concert at Olbrich Botanical Gardens this coming Tuesday night, July 22, at 7 p.m. The concert is FREE and outdoors (weather permitting; otherwise it will be held indoors), and is open to the public, with a $1 suggested admission donation to support the gardens.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Olbrichsummermusic

The Ear thinks it would be great if local media – especially television – paid as much attention and gave as much coverage (even an audiovisual sample or clip with a voiceover) to these distinguished cultural ambassadors and exceptional products of music and arts education as they do to, say, student athletes.

Since 1966, WYSO has been providing excellence in musical opportunities for more than 5,000 young people in southern Wisconsin.

WYSO includes three full orchestras and a string orchestra, a chamber music program, a harp program, a percussion ensemble, and a brass choir program. The orchestras rehearse on Saturday mornings during the academic year, perform three to four public concerts per season, and tour regionally, nationally and internationally.

For more information, contact WYSO, Room 1625, Mosse Humanities Building, 455 North Park Street, Madison, WI 53706. You can also call (608) 263-3320 or visit www.wyso.music.wisc.edu

 


Classical music education: The Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras showcase both soloists and ensembles on this Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Plus, a FREE collaborative concert-arts event takes place tonight at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.

May 13, 2014
2 Comments

ALERT: University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music viola student Sharon Tenhundfeld (below) is the director of the Artist Collective Concert Series. She writes: “You are invited to the FREE DEBUT concert tonight, Tuesday, May 13, at 8 p.m. in DeLuca Forum at  the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, located at 330 North Orchard Street. This concert series is an opportunity for UW-Madison musicians, dancers, visual artists, and actors to freely explore collaboration across art disciplines and present their collaborative works of art to the public. The concert includes three performance pieces as well as an audience art piece. The three works involve a total of 15 collaborating artists. The concert is free of charge and should be a ton of fun! The program includes: Distance – video art and musicians; Tomato Magic – actress, comics, and musicians; and Mobile – dancers and a string quartet. We look forward to seeing you.”

Sharon Tenhundfeld

By Jacob Stockinger

On this Saturday, May 17, and Sunday, May 18, 2014, the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) will present the annual Eugenie Mayer Bolz Family Spring Concerts, the last major event of the current regular concert season. (There are summer events.)

The Bolz Family Spring Concerts will be held in Mills Concert Hall, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the George Mosse Humanities Building, 455 North Park Street, in Madison.

There is not much The Ear can add except that he is almost sure you will be impressed by the skills of these many young people – hundreds of middle school and high school student from dozens of communities around south-central Wisconsin –- especially if you have never heard them before. Just listen to them tackle the massive and iconic Fifth Symphony by modern Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich in the YouTube video at the bottom.

WYSO Youth  Orchestra

I suspect you, like me, will also be impressed with the size, young age and enthusiasm of the audiences, who cheer when the musicians first come on the stage and never stop. It is as if you are at some kind of sporting event – an atmosphere that the performing arts and various academic events could use a lot more of.

WYSO young audience

I say: Try it, you’ll like it! And you will be supporting a great cause. Music skills last a lifetime and translate into other careers and endless appreciation and ageless enjoyment.

Tickets are available at the door, $10 for adults and $5 for children under 18 years of age. The family-friendly concerts, informal in atmosphere, generally last about 90 minutes.

Here are programs and performers:

On Saturday, May 17 at 1:30 p.m., WYSO will kick off the concerts with Sinfonietta (below) performing “Oblivion” by Argentinean composer Astor Piazzolla; a traditional Chinese tune entitled “The Brilliant Red Shandadan Flowers: and American composer Aaron Copland’s “Grovers Corners.”

Sinfonietta strings

The Concert Orchestra (below) will perform “Song of Jupiter” by Baroque master George Frideric Handel; the “Triumphant March from Symphony No. 6 “Pathetique” by Russian composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky; “Vignettes”by Kirk; “Song without Words” by Gustav Holst; and Gavotte in D minor by the Baroque French composer Jean-Baptiste Lully.

wyso concert orchestra brass

At 4 p.m., WYSO’s Philharmonia Orchestra will feature its two concerto competition winners. Davis Wu will play Piano Concerto No. 2 in D Minor by the American composer Edward MacDowell; and violinist Isabelle Krier will perform Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs), Op. 20, for solo violin and orchestra by the Spanish composer Pablo de Sarasate. The Philharmonia Orchestra will then play the fourth movement of the Symphony No. 6, Op. 74, B Minor and the Danse Bacchanale by French composer Camille Saint Saens, and the Caucasian Sketches No. 2, fourth movement by the Russian composer Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov.

Davis Wu

Isabelle Krier

On Sunday, May 18, at 1:30 p.m., WYSO will display three of their smaller ensembles: Percussion Ensemble (below top) under the direction of Vicki Jenks; the Brass Choirs under the direction of Dan Brice; and the Harp Ensemble (below bottom) under the direction of Karen Beth Atz.

WYSO percussion Ensemble 2013

WYSO Harp Ensemble 2011

At 4 p.m., WYSO will welcome its Youth Orchestra, which will feature the four winners of the concerto competition. Violinist Savannah Albrecht (below top) will perform Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso by Camille Saint-Saens; marimbist Ephraim Sutherland will perform Concerto for Marimba and Strings by Sejourne.

Savannah Albrecht

Ephraim Sutherland mallets

Pianist Isabella Wu will perform the Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 1, by Sergei Rachmaninoff; and pianist Charlie Collar will perform the Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 16, by the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg.

Isabella Wu2

Charlie Collar

The Youth Orchestra will also perform two additional works it will play on its concert tour to Argentina this summer: Overture to “Candide” by Leonard Bernstein and the Danza final (Malombo) from “Estancia” by the Argentinean composer Alberto Ginastera.

For more information about those concerts and about WYSO, including its history, how to support it and how to audition to join it, visit:

http://wyso.music.wisc.edu

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