The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Concerts on the Square begin this Wednesday night – and half of the six concerts feature classical music

June 25, 2019
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By Jacob Stockinger

The 36th annual FREE summer series of six Concerts on the Square, performed by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below) and guest soloists, will begin this Wednesday night, June 26, at 7 p.m. on the King Street Corner of the Capitol Square in downtown Madison.

Each concert draws an average of 30,000 people.

But if you think it is largely a pops concert event, think again.

One of the many outstanding achievements that WCO music director Andrew Sewell (below) has brought to the event – billed as “the Biggest Picnic of Summer” — over the past 20 years is an increased emphasis on classical music, perhaps to help build new audiences for the WCO’s winter Masterworks concerts.

The opening concert, for example, has become a tradition, a chance to introduce to the public the latest winner of the WCO’s young people’s concerto competition – and this year is no different.

Three of the six concerts will be also all-classical – and that’s not counting Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” that will be featured on the Fourth of July program on July 3.

There will also be pops music of course, including a tribute to the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ iconic album “Abbey Road”; patriotic fare for Independence Day; and an evening of movie scores, most composed by John Williams, with concertmaster Suzanne Beia as violin soloist in the theme from “Schindler’s List.”

All concerts are on six consecutive Wednesday nights from June 28 through July 31. Performances begin at 7 p.m. on the King Street corner of the Capitol Square. They usually last about two hours.

To find out more, including the programs and biographies of performers for each program, go to: https://wisconsinchamberorchestra.org/performance-listing/category/concerts-on-the-square

Once there, if you click on a specific date, on the right hand side you will also find information about concert etiquette, seating on the Capitol lawn, weather cancellations, catering menus, food vendor sales and other information, including details about volunteering and donating. Here is a link to general guidelines:

https://wisconsinchamberorchestra.org/performances/concerts-on-the-square/attending-the-concert/ 

Here are the three classical concerts:

JUNE 26

“East Meets West” features the WCO’s concerto competition winner pianist Sakurako Eriksen (below) – a Madison native now living in Milwaukee — in the popular and virtuosic Piano Concerto No. 3 by Sergei Prokofiev.

Also on the program are “Francesca da Rimini” by Russian composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky; “Noble and Sentimental Waltzes” by French composer by Maurice Ravel; and an unnamed work by Spanish composer Isaac Albeniz.

JULY 10

“Finlandia” features the Russian-born and Moscow Conservatory-trained accordion virtuoso Sergei Belkin (below).

On the program are unnamed works by Czech composer Antonin Dvorak and Alexander Glazunov; “Oblivion” by Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla; the “Sabre Dance” by Russian composer Aram Khachaturian; and “Finlandia” by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius.

JULY 31

“Rockin’ Rachmaninov” features Russian pianist Ilya Yakushev (below), a frequent WCO guest artist who teaches at the Mannes College of Music in New York City.

The program includes the Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18, by Sergei Rachmaninov; the Overture to the opera “The Magic Flute” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; the 1944 “Cornish Rhapsody” piano concerto score, composed by English composer Hubert Bath for the World War II film “Love Story”; and a Suite from “The Firebird” by Igor Stravinsky.


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Classical music: Autumn arrives today. What composers, works and instruments do you like to listen to in fall? The Ear favors late Brahms – specially the strings, the piano and the clarinet

September 22, 2018
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By Jacob Stockinger

Fall arrives today.

The autumn equinox will occur at 8:54 p.m. Central Daylight Time.

As the days get markedly shorter and the night longer, one’s mood often changes as do one’s listening preferences.

Many composers have written pieces about autumn, and you are sure to hear many of them on Wisconsin Public Radio or other media outlets.

But The Ear has his favorites.

Not for nothing is the late music of Johannes Brahms described as autumnal, both because it happens late in the composer’s life and because of its bittersweet sounds, its poignant harmonies and its melancholy melodies.

For The Ear, you will find it in most of late Brahms, especially in the slow movements. He loves the string music – the violin, the cello and especially the viola sonatas – as well as the clarinet sonatas and piano intermezzi.

Below are three samples.

Here is the slow movement from the Violin Sonata No. 3 in D Minor, played by violinist Itzhak Perlman and pianist Daniel Barenboim:

Here is the slow movement of the Sonata in F Minor, Op. 120, No. 1, for, in this case, clarinet or viola:

And here is a particularly moving piano intermezzo, Op. 117, No. 2, in B-flat minor, played by Arthur Rubinstein:

And should you still be unsure what music you like for the fall, here is a link to two hours of music for fall  — vocal and instrumental music by Antonio Vivaldi, Franz Joseph Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Felix Mendelssohn  Alexander Glazunov, Peter Tchaikovsky, Giuseppe Verdi, Edvard Grieg, Gustav Mahler and others — put together by Minnesota Public Radio:

Is there a special composer who evokes autumn for you?

What instruments most speak to you of fall?

Are there special works you like to listen to in autumn?

Leave your thoughts in the COMMENT section, along with a link to a YouTube performance if possible.

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: Why are the Willy Street Chamber Players so successful at presenting neglected and new music?

July 12, 2018
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By Jacob Stockinger

Many individuals and groups, large and small, like to program neglected works and new music.

But no one does it better than the Willy Street Chamber Players, who are now in the middle of their fourth annual summer season.

So what is the secret of the Willys?

Some clues were given at the outstanding and thoroughly successful opening concert last Friday night, when the Willys, with guest mezzo-soprano Jazimina MacNeil (below), played new music by Caroline Shaw, Colin Jacobsen and Michael Kelley – all to a very enthusiastic reception from the large audience.

More chances to experience such success and figure out the reasons behind it are coming up.

Tonight from 4 to 7 p.m. – and again on next Thursday, July 19, at the same time and place — at the Art and Literature Laboratory, 2021 Winnebago Street, the Willys will hold an open rehearsal. Admission is FREE, and you can bring something to eat and have a drink, including beer ($5 donation), as you listen and wander around to explore the space.

Then on Friday from noon to 1:30 p.m., during the Community Connect Concert for the whole family at the Goodman Community Center (below top) at 149 Waubesa Street, the Willys will perform “Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout” by the contemporary American composer Gabriela Lena Frank (below bottom) and  the rarely performed “Procession of the Military Night Watch in Madrid” by the Classical-era composer Luigi Boccherini. (Starting at 11 a.m. there is also an instrument “petting zoo.”)

(You can hear an excerpt from the work by Gabriela Lena Frank in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

On this Sunday from 5 to 6 p.m., the Willys will perform the same program — which also features some string quartet selections by Romantic composer Robert Schumann — for FREE on the Union Terrace (below).

Other regular series concerts include the rarely heard String Quintet in A Major by Alexander Glazunov on July 20 and “Light Screens” (2002) by Andrew Norman (below) on July 27.

For times, place and details about series and special concerts, and for other information, go to: http://www.willystreetchamberplayers.org/calendar.html

Anyway, the way The Ear sees it there are several reasons to explain the Willys’ success with new and neglected music.

One can start with the basics: The impressive musicianship of all the Willys, who are remarkable for both technique and interpretation.

Another reason is the players’ unflagging ability to project energy and enthusiasm, suggested by upbeat and exciting tempi and by even such a small gesture as the two violinists and two violists playing while standing up, as was the custom in the Baroque era, rather than seated.

The Willys also introduce the pieces, providing not only information but also some humor, often self-deprecating. They prepare you for liking the music, not just for listening to it.

They often choose shorter and easily digestible pieces, so it is never an ordeal that overwhelms you. Sometimes you want a musical short story, not a musical novel.

But most of all the Willys do what more proponents of new music should do: They seem to keep their listeners in mind when they choose the pieces they will play.

Never do you get the feeling that listening to new or neglected music is some sort of aesthetic obligation imposed on you. It is there to be enjoyed, and you are there to be pleased, not just instructed or preached to.

Too often new music seems chosen as a gesture of R&D – research and development – that feels more important to the performers rather than to the audiences.

Maybe there is more to say? What do others think? The Ear looks forward to hearing what you think.

In the meantime, The Ear suggests you take in as much as you can of the superlative music-making of both classics and new music by the Willy Street Chamber Players.

He doubts you will be disappointed and is pretty sure you will be as pleased and impressed as he is.


Classical music: Tonight’s Concert on the Square features an 11-year-old cello prodigy and the Middleton High School Choir in an all-Russian program. It will be repeated on Wisconsin Public Television this Saturday night at 6 p.m.

July 11, 2018
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By Jacob Stockinger

Tonight’s Concert on the Square promises to be a special event on several scores.

The “Slavic Dances” concert starts at 7 p.m. on the King Street corner of the Capitol Square.

The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, under the baton of music director Andrew Sewell, will perform an appealing all-Russian program.

It features a Concert Waltz by Alexander Glazunov; the beautifully melodic and very accessible “Variations on a Rococo Theme” for cello and orchestra by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (heard with Yo-Yo Ma in the YouTube video at the bottom); and the Intermezzo and Women’s Dance by Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Adding to the appeal is the appearance of Miriam K. Smith (below) in the Tchaikovsky. Smith, who played and was interviewed on Tuesday’s edition of “The Midday” on Wisconsin Public Radio, is an 11-year-old prodigy on the cello who already has an impressive history of concert appearances.

As a kind of preface or program note to read if you are at the concert, here is a link to Smith’s interview and appearance on “The Midday”: https://www.wpr.org/programs/midday

For more biographical information about Smith and about the concert, in general including rules (blankets can go down starting at 3 p.m.), etiquette and food vendors, go to: https://wisconsinchamberorchestra.org/performances/concerts-on-the-square-3-3/

Also joining the WCO is the Middleton High School Choir (below).

NOTE: If you can’t make the concert tonight in person, you can take consolation in the fact that the concert will be videotaped and then broadcast on Wisconsin Public Television on this coming Saturday night at from 6 to 7 p.m. on Channel 21 (Cable Channel 600).


Classical music: You probably know Brahms, but who are Caroline Shaw, Colin Jacobsen and Michael Kelley? The Willy Street Chamber Players will show you this Friday night

July 5, 2018
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By Jacob Stockinger

The fourth annual concert series by the Willy Street Chamber Players (below) promises to be one of the high points of the summer season.

For more background about the Willys, go to:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2018/06/15/classical-music-the-willy-street-chamber-players-announce-their-five-impressive-july-concerts-three-with-admission-and-two-for-free-as-both-subscription-and-single-tickets-go-on-sale/

Three concerts in July – at 6 p.m. on July 6, 20 and 27 in the Immanuel Lutheran Church (below) at 1021 Spaight Street on the near east side – are all inviting. (A subscription to all three is $40, while admission is $15 for each one separately.)

Each concert lasts about 60 to 90 minutes with no intermission.

That’s something The Ear really likes and would like to see copied by other groups and presenters. Such a format leaves you plenty of time to do other things to start the weekend – including enjoying the post-concert reception (below) with snacks the Willys obtain from east-side providers.

The opening concert seems especially promising to The Ear.

That is because so far the Willys have had a knack for programming new music that The Ear really likes.

This time is no different.

Along with the regular members, who rotate in and out, a guest singer, mezzo-soprano Jazimina MacNeil (below), who sang a new work by John Harbison with the UW-Madison’s Pro Arte String Quartet this past winter, will team up to present new works.

The three contemporary composers and their works are: “Cant voi l’aube (composed in 2015 and heard in the YouTube video at the bottom) by Caroline Shaw (below top), a composer whose work the Willys have performed before with great success; “For Sixty Cents” (2015) by Colin Jacobsen (below middle, in a photo by Erin Baiano); and “Five Animal Stories” for string sextet and “Ashug” (2018) by Michael Kelley (below bottom).

Then to leaven newness with something more classic and familiar, the concert will close with the String Quintet No. 2, Op. 111, by Johannes Brahms. (The Willys have been working their way through the string quintets and sextets of Brahms with terrific performances.)

Other concerts will include:

On July 20, six arias from the opera “Porgy and Bess” by George Gershwin as transcribed and played by UW-Madison soprano saxophonist Les Thimmig (below) and the rarely performed String Quintet in A Major, Op. 39, by the Russian composer Alexander Glazunov ;

And on July 27, a program featuring wind music that includes “Night Music in the Streets of Madrid,” Op. 30, No. 6, by Luigi Boccherini; the Overture on Hebrew Themes by Sergei Prokofiev “Light Screens” (2002) by Andrew Norman (below); and the Kaiser Waltzes of Johann Strauss II, as arranged by Arnold Schoenberg.

The three local soloists for the final concert are: flutist Timothy Hagen (below top) and clarinetist Alicia Lee (below middle), who both teach at the UW-Madison and are members of the Wingra Wind Quintet, and pianist Thomas Kasdorf, who is finishing his doctorate at the UW-Madison and has often soloed with the Middleton Community Orchestra.

For more information about the Willy Street Chamber players—including a FREE community concert at the Goodman Community Center on Friday, July 13, at noon (with an instrument “petting zoo” for children at 11 a.m.) and at the Wisconsin Union Terrace — go to:

http://www.willystreetchamberplayers.org


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Classical music: What classical music best celebrates the solstice and the arrival of summer?

June 21, 2017
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REMINDER: Today is the fifth annual citywide Make Music Madison that celebrates the coming of summer with FREE, PUBLIC and LOCAL performances. For more information, go to: https://welltempered.wordpress.com

By Jacob Stockinger

Summer arrived late last night – at 11:24 p.m. — in the Midwest.

To mark and celebrate the welcome event, here are three pieces of well-known summer-related music:

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Eine kleine Nachtmusik” or a “A Short Night Music” (or “A Little Night Music”:

Summer from Astor Piazzolla’s “Four Seasons in Buenos Aires”:

And Samuel Barber’s “Knoxville, Summer of 1914” with soprano Dawn Upshaw.

But there is so much more to choose from.

Here is a link to five other pieces by different composers –- Antonio Vivaldi, Felix Mendelssohn, Frank Bridge, Alexander Glazunov, Frederick Delius and George Gershwin.

http://www.classical-music.com/article/six-best-pieces-classical-music-summer

Which music would you choose to mark the summer solstice and the coming of summer?

Leave word and a YouTube link, if possible, in the COMMENT section.

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: The Middleton Community Orchestra, with solo violinist Paran Amirinazari, closes its seventh season with rousing and intense performances of Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky

June 9, 2017
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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 hosts an early music show once a month on Sunday morning on WORT FM 89.9 FM. For years, he served on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.

By John W. Barker

On Wednesday night, the Middleton Community Orchestra (below) closed its seventh season with a rousing program offering three contrasting Russian works.

The opener was the Overture to Alexander Borodin’s Prince Igor, as realized by Alexander Glazunov. It served to show off the orchestra’s ever-developing string band, solid in tone, if still lacking a little in warmth.

A real gem was the second work, the Violin Concerto No. 2 by Sergei Prokofiev. By contrast with the composer’s first venture in that form — a taut, aggressive affair — this one is more relaxed and jovial, if no less demanding technically.

The soloist was Paran Amirinazari (below), stepping out of her usual concertmaster’s slot into the full spotlight. She handled admirably the great technical demands of her solo role, full of quirky and tricky writing.

But, amid all the spikiness she pointed up handsomely the real and almost neo-Romantic lyrical sweetness that Prokofiev infused into the showiness. (Just listen to the gorgeous second movement in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

This is one of the truly great violin concertos, and Amirinazari — the brilliant artistic director of the fabulous Willy Street Chamber Players — demonstrated that adroitly.

The final work was a grand effort: Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5. This is, of course, one of those “warhorses” about which The Ear has been debating lately. It is thereby the more challenging for an orchestra to present to an audience likely to be familiar with it.

Its calculated lavishness has made it a masterpiece beloved by the public, but it is still fascinating to encounter with close listening. The composer pulled out all his tricks of dazzling orchestration and melodic invention, but in the service of a grand-scaled structure that skillfully manipulates cyclical and cross-referential transformation of themes through the score’s totality.

Maestro Steve Kurr (below) by now has nurtured remarkably solid resources for an orchestra of this kind. The potent brass choir is really well consolidated, backing fine-sounding woodwinds. Kurr made the most of these resources, in a well-rehearsed performance in which the stress on intensity of playing resulted in highly dramatic results, culminating in a truly noble ending.

This was a richly satisfying program, showcasing an ensemble of which Middleton should be button-burstingly proud.


Classical music: Here is an outline of this summer’s Token Creek Chamber Music Festival. More details will follow soon. Plus, Wednesday night is the opening classical program of the FREE Concerts on the Square.

June 23, 2015
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REMINDER: Wednesday night at 7 p.m. is the opening concert of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra‘s six FREE Concerts on the Square this summer. The program is classical and features Julian Rhee (below), the amazing 14-year-old violinist who has won several major concerto competitions, including those with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and the Madison Symphony Orchestra. The program includes music by Alexander Glazunov, Piotor Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Johannes Brahms. Members of the Madison Ballet will also be featured.

Here is a link to general information about Concerts on the Square:

http://www.wcoconcerts.org/performance-listing/category/concerts-on-the-square

And here is a link to more information about Wednesday night’s program and soloist:

http://www.wcoconcerts.org/performances/concerts-on-the-square-1/

Julian Rhee with violin

By Jacob Stockinger

A reader recently wrote in and asked if the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival will take place this year.

TokenCreekentrance

TokenCreekbarn interior

The question is understandable. So far, there has been no news.

But the Token Creek Festival will indeed take place this summer.

The Ear just received information about some of the basic events that will happen. More details will follow and fill in the programs.

Here is the official press release:

“With its 2015 season somewhat uncertain after a difficult winter, the Token Creek Festival is pleased to announce this summer’s programs, running August 22-30 this year.

August 22 and 23: “Founders’ Recital — Beginnings Revisited.” 
The concert centers on works by Franz Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, performed by festival co-founders and co-artistic directors John and Rose Mary Harbison (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot).

John and Rose Mary Harbison Katrin Talbot

August 25: “Paean to Place: Music and Nature and the Poetry of Wisconsin poet Lorine Niedecker.” The concert will feature
 pianist Ryan McCullough (below top) and soprano Lucy FitzGibbons. The program is done in collaboration with the Friends of Lorine Niedecker, below bottom)

Ryan McCullough with piano

lorine niedecker

August 27: The Lydian String Quartet (below top) in works of Felix Mendelssohn, Lee Hyla (below bottom) and John Harbison.

Lydian String Quartet

Lee Hyla

August 29 and 30: Grand Finale featuring 
orchestral highlights of the high Baroque, including the Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 by Johann Sebastian Bach (below). (You can hear the Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Bach1

More information about the festival will be forthcoming soon.

 


Classical music: The Pro Arte Quartet in Belgium –- Day 4, Part 2. The quartet performs in the town of Dolhain-Limbourg.

May 29, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Editor’s note: The Well-Tempered Ear has asked people on tour with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) to file whatever dispatches. updates and photos are possible — from iPads, computers, cameras and smart phones — so that they can to keep the fans back here at home current with what is happening on the concert stage and off.

By now it has become apparent that the Pro Arte Quartet’s tour of Belgium is as big an event to the Belgians and to local residents there as it is to Madisonians, Wisconsinites and alumni of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Pro Arte Quartet new 2 Rick Langer

Just before taking a day’s rest, Sarah Schaffer, who manages the University of Wisconsin-Madison Pro Arte String Quartet, sent this text and this photo essay. They cover the trip from Brussels to Dolhain Limbourg, the hometown of founding violinist Alphonse Onnou, and the official greetings and events that awaited the quartet. (Current members are violinists David Perry and Suzanne Beia; violist Sally Chisholm; and cellist Parry Karp.)

Today’s Part 2 covers the concert at Dolhain-Limbourg.

Here are links to Day 1:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/classical-music-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-lands-in-belgium-gets-detained-at-customs-and-is-rescued-in-time-for-practicing-and-playing-concerts/

To Day 2:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/24/classical-music-on-day-2-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-is-offered-rehearsal-time-in-a-bar-meets-descendants-of-the-original-members-of-the-quartet-and-performs-its-first-concert-to/

To Day 3:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/25/classical-music-on-day-3-in-belgium-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-plays-at-the-royal-library-gives-a-gift-to-king-philippe-and-keeps-performing-a-lot-of-hard-and-varied-music/

And to Day 4, Part 1:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/classical-music-here-is-a-photo-essay-of-the-pro-arte-quartets-day-long-homage-stop-at-the-belgian-hometown-of-dolhain-linburg-of-the-groups-founding-violinist-alphonse-onnou/

Schaffer’s latest installment once again shows the hard work of undertaking such a concert tour, which involves a lot more than playing and performing music. In this case, it also involves being cultural ambassadors.

Sarah Schaffer mug

After such an already full day, there is still the evening concert!

By evening the Kursaal (below) has warmed up and is now much more welcoming.

PAQ essay 5 Le Kursaal exterior Sarah Schaffer

We learn, as we wait through the sound check/rehearsal that the local television crew is on hand! They hope to interview a quartet member, but are so busy down the street at the Onnou house that they barely make it in time to film the concert.

PAQ essay 6 chekcing our stage at Le Kursaal David, Sally Parry Sarah Schaffer

Anne van Malderen opens the evening with a touching tribute to Onnou, and them outlines the concert program because there are, surprisingly, no printed versions on hand this evening:

Franz Joseph Haydn: Quartet in D Major, Op. 20, N. 4

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Adagio & Fugue, K. 546

Alexander Glazunov: Five Novelettes

Intermission

Igor Stravinsky: Elegy for Solo Viola

Cesar Franck: Quartet

It’s hard to imagine a program more strongly evocative of the original Quatuor Pro Arte (below, in 1928)!

Pro Arte Quartet in 1928 Onnou far left

Haydn represents their recorded legacy. Mozart is included because, well, it’s Mozart. The Glazunov was one of original violinist Alphonse Onnou’s favorite pieces, here in Onnou’s hometown, in the Kursaal, which he likely performed in himself.

Mozart old 1782

The Stravinsky Elegy for Solo Viola (below, Sally Chisholm playing the Stravinsky Elegy at the Wisconsin Union Theater in 2012) was commissioned by founding violist Germaine Prevost as a memorial to Onnou, who died in Madison just months after the quartet was stranded there, before ever playing a first concert with the newly artists-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

Sally Chisholm solo

And of course the tour-de-force quartet by Cesar Franck (below) is by one of Belgium’s most celebrated composers.

Cesar Franck photo

It’s very touching, this entire program, this small town.

And such an audience — rapt, attentive, knowledgeable, appreciative with the applause long and sustained, much whistling, many “bravos!” shouted out. An incredibly warm reception.

Those of us who have been with David and Suzanne and Sally and Parry this whole long day, coming after the past few days so full and dramatic, can hardly believe the intensity and concentration they’ve brought to this performance.

Once again, we hear a ravishing performance by this amazing quartet. (below, playing the same Haydn String Quartet at the concert on March 2, 2012.)

Pro Arte Quartet in Haydn at Mernier

Sunday is Election Day in Belgium -– and will bring a well-deserved day off for everyone.

Then on Monday, we go to the Conservatoire Royale, where the Quatuor Pro Arte originated — just students who, like music students everywhere, formed a pick-up group.

Sometimes they last a semester or two, sometimes they make a real go of it during and beyond school, and in one extraordinary case they made it to . . . 100! (Below is the Pro Arte Quartet in 1940.)

Pro Arte Quartet 1940 Brosa-Halleux-Prevost-Evans 1940

AN INTERMEZZO AND A PRELUDE

Pro Arte Quartet violist Sally Chisholm (below) writes of her latest adventure that occurred when there group arrived back in Brussels. It has no pictures but, trust me, it is well worth the read:

Sally Chisholm

“Last night a few steps from our hotel, in the center of the square, or rather Place, is the area normally occupied by touring jazz/rock groups during the multi-week jazz festival here in Brussels.

It was 8:30 p.m., and I was strolling for the last time of the day.

Mozart. “Eine Kleine Nacht Musik.” (The familiar opening movement is at the bottom in a popular YouTube video that has over 8 million hits.)

Hmm … and there they were: 3 young musicians, 2 violinists and a cellist, playing beautifully in front of a rapt audience of locals and tourists from many countries.

The open violin case was filling up with euros as listeners quickly tiptoed up to lay in their offering, then tiptoe away all smiles.

One violinist saw me, and the “fiddlers rose” (that red discoloration that comes from years of gripping the instrument) on my neck, immediately elbowing her partner.

When they finished, and started packing up, I went over to congratulate them.  

You play?

Yes, I said. Alto.

(That’s French for the viola.)

Are you students here?

Yes, at the Conservatoire.

Oh, I will be there tomorrow!

Pro Arte, Pro Arte! Yes, we are coming to hear you!

So I will see my new friends again tomorrow.

Mozart is very alive here in Brussels, with beautifully trained young musicians representing him well to an enthusiastic and grateful audience.

 

 

 

 

 

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Classical music: Day 4 — the UW Pro Arte Quartet goes to Dolhain-Limbourg, Part 1 of 2: Prelude to the concert. Here is a photo essay of the Pro Arte Quartet’s day-long homage stop at the Belgian hometown of the group’s founding violinist Alphonse Onnou.

May 27, 2014
9 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Editor’s note: The Well-Tempered Ear has asked people on tour with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) to file whatever dispatches. updates and photos are possible — from iPads, computers, cameras and smart phones — so that they can to keep the fans back here at home current with what is happening on the concert stage and off.

By now it has become apparent that the Pro Arte Quartet’s tour of Belgium is as big an event to the Belgians and to local residents there as it is to Madisonians, Wisconsinites and alumni of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Just before taking a day’s rest, Sarah Schaffer, who manages the University of Wisconsin-Madison Pro Arte String Quartet, sent this text and this photo essay. They cover the trip from Brussels to Dolhain Limbourg, the hometown of founding violinist Alphonse Onnou, and the official greetings and events that awaited the quartet. (Current members are violinists David Perry and Suzanne Beia; violist Sally Chisholm; and cellist Parry Karp.) Part 2 will cover the concert at Dolhain-Limbourg.

Here are links to Day 1:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/classical-music-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-lands-in-belgium-gets-detained-at-customs-and-is-rescued-in-time-for-practicing-and-playing-concerts/

To Day 2:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/24/classical-music-on-day-2-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-is-offered-rehearsal-time-in-a-bar-meets-descendants-of-the-original-members-of-the-quartet-and-performs-its-first-concert-to/

And to Day 3:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/25/classical-music-on-day-3-in-belgium-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-plays-at-the-royal-library-gives-a-gift-to-king-philippe-and-keeps-performing-a-lot-of-hard-and-varied-music/

Schaffer’s latest installment also shows the hard work of undertaking such a concert tour, which involves a lot more than playing and performing music. In this case, it also involves being cultural ambassadors.

PAQ-8BIT03

 SATURDAY, MAY 24

We have to catch to train to Verviers to get to Dolhain Limbourg, the hometown of the quartet’s original founding violinist Alphonse Onnou. (Below, from left, are Parry Karp, John Schaffer, Sally Chisholm and David Perry. Below, hometown fans Linda and Bob Graebner of Madison come along.) 

So the day began with a peaceful, dozy train trip through verdant farm country southwest out of Brussels, gradually giving way to steep lush hillsides crisscrossed by many streams.

Trains passed more and more frequently, passing through the long tunnels the closer we got to Verviers, where we were advised not to take the connection to Dolhain but were instead met by a large and eager delegation, jabbering excitedly in, to us, yet another dialect of specifically Belgian French.

PAQ essay 1 Train to Vervier Parry, John Schaffer, Sally David CR Sarah Schaffer

PAQ essay 2 Linda and Bob Graebner on train platform Sarah Schaffer

PAQ essay 3 train platform Sally, David, Parry.

PAQ essay 4 train ticket to Verviers Sarah SchafferJPG

As we find out, the town is charming and the residents go out of their way to host and honor the quartet, which they clearly welcome with open arms.

They divvied us up into waiting cars and off we sped the 10K or so to Dolhain, birthplace of the quartet’s founding violinist Alphonse Onnou. Our hosts, it turned out, were all members of a local historical society club and were very excited about our visit.

First stop: Le Kursaal, the concert hall, which on initial glimpse appeared somewhat disheartening and unpromising. Much negotiating over the placement — high stage off flat floor, or on the floor, and lighting. A poster announces our appearance.

No notes were tried. We hoped on this cool damp day that it might be warmer when we returned, and that lighting and seating questions would be solved then.

PAQ essay 5 Le Kursaal exterior Sarah Schaffer

PAQ essay 6 chekcing our stage at Le Kursaal David, Sally Parry Sarah Schaffer

PAQ essay 7 audience seats at Le Kursaal Sarah Schaffer

PAQ essay 8 poster for Le Kursssal concert

Next stop: Old Dolhain Limbourg (not the cheese!), the ancient town with castle and military lookouts on top of the hill. Very charming!

PAQ essay 9 old dolhain 1 SS

PAQ essay 10 old Dolhain 2 SS

PAQ essay 11 old Dolhain 3 SS

PAQ essay 12 Old Dolhain 4 SS

PAQ essay 13 Old Dolhain 5 SS

PAQ essay 14 Old Dolhain 6 SS

Here we were joined by more club members and treated to a  “typical” lunch at the cafe. About 18 of us in all by now. (From left are Sally Chisholm, Parry Karp, Linda Graebner, David Perry and Suzanne Beia.)

PAQ essay 15 Lunch in Dolhain 1 SS

PAQ essay 16 Lunch in Dolhain 2 SS

We take part in a municipal ceremony at 4 p.m.

Genealogical charts of the Onnou family were shared, as well as a thick sheaf of papers describing — mostly in French, a few things translated to English — the historical sites of the village, which we experienced in person on the guided walking your after the meal.

The Mayor of Dolhain Limbourg is the woman on the left dressed in white. The interpreter-translator Alain Boucart is in red. The bald head belongs to the head of the Historical Society of Dolhain Limbourg. Then comes the head of the Alphonse Onnou celebration and exhibit, with tour organizer and quartet documentarian Anne van Malderen dressed in the turquoise sleeveless top and wearing eyeglasses.

PAQ essay 17 Municipal Ceremony 1 SS

PAQ essay 18 Municipal ceremony 2 SS

PAQ essay 19 Municipal essay 3 SS

Elections being on everyone’s minds — political posters everywhere, no concerts scheduled for Sunday because of elections in Belgium, the same reason the royals are sequestered — perhaps this explains Bob Graebner’s enthusiastic comment on meeting the Mayor of Dolhain: “I’d vote for her!”

Many speeches followed: the mayor, president of the historical society, and Onnou and Quatuor Pro Arte expert Anne Von Malderen (below left), all presented in French and then in translation (for our sakes) by an increasingly fatigued interpretor Alain Boucart (below right), who gave briefer and briefer summaries as the proceedings wore on, finally promising a written translation by email after the event.

Pro Arte in Belgium Anne vcan Malderen, translator Alain Boucart

At the reception that followed we were treated to excellent performances by the municipal band, made all the more enjoyable accompanied by chocolates and local cognac! (Below top and, below bottom in photo by Sally Chisholm of the band’s youngest member.) They sounded terrific and in our honor played “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

PAQ in Belgium Dolhain city band 1 SS

PAQ Belgium city band 2 youngest member Sally

And after another glass of wine, the grandniece of Alphonse Onnou autographed the first violin part of the score to composer Alexander Glazunov’s “Five Novelettes,” a favorite of Onnou that the quartet is to perform there, for violinist David Perry.

PAQ essay 20 Onnou grandniece with David SS

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