The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Women composers and performers are featured in FREE choral and guitar music this Sunday afternoon at Edgewood College and in a FREE noontime concert of vocal and instrumental chamber music this Friday

October 19, 2017
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ALERT: The week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features “Kassia” with sopranos Rebekah Demaree and Susan Savage plus Sharon Jensen, piano, and Hsing-I Ho, flute, as well as “Aspects of Women” with music by composers Chaminade, Hairston, Laitman, Moore, Rodgers, Saint-Saens and Walker. The concert runs 12:15 to 1 p.m.

By Jacob Stockinger

This Sunday at 2:30 p.m. in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive, the Edgewood College Choirs and Guitar Ensemble will perform a FREE concert.

The concert features performances by the Women’s Choir (below top), with conductor Kathleen Otterson (below top); the Guitar Ensemble with director Nathan Wysock (below middle); and the Edgewood Chorale and Chamber Singers, both conducted by Sergei Pavlov (below bottom).

The program features a performance of the Gloria in D major, RV 589, by baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi.  This performance features all choirs and student soloists Brandon Glock, baritone, and Summer Wluestenberg, soprano, as well as faculty soloist Kathleen Otterson, mezzo-soprano (below). (You can hear Vivaldi’s “Gloria” in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Edgewood College’s Music Department has been recognized by the readers of Madison Magazine with the Best of Madison 2017 Silver Award.

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Classical music: The Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble excels again in a varied program of rarely heard Baroque vocal and instrumental music

November 30, 2016
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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.  For years, he served on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.

John-Barker

By John W. Barker

The Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble offered its latest specimen of intimate Baroque chamber music at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church on Regent Street last Sunday afternoon.

As always, each of the performers—six in this case—had one or two opportunities as soloist.

wbe-st-andrews-11-27-16

Mezzo-soprano Consuelo Sañudo (below), for instance, was featured in two solo cantatas.

One, by Giovanni Bononcini was on conventional emotional themes.

But the other was a real curiosity. By the French composer Louis-Nicolas Clérambault, it was written for the Nativity season, and has been given a French title as “Hymn of the Angels.” But its text was no more or less than the Latin words of the Gloria section of the Mass Ordinary.

wbe-mezzo-consuelo-sanudo

A new member in the group, recorder player Sigrun Paust (below), delivered the Sonata No. 1 from a 1716 collection of works written by Francesco Veracini alternatively for violin or flute.

wbe-sigrun-paust

For flutist Monica Steger (below) the vehicle was a Sonata Op. 91, No. 2, for Flute and Harpsichord duo, by Joseph Bodin de Boismortier.

wbe-monica-steger

The spotlight was on viola da gambist Eric Miller (below) in another duo with harpsichord, no less than the Sonata in D Major, BWV 1028, by Johann Sebastian Bach, but Miller also participated in continuo functions elsewhere. (You can hear the Bach sonata in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

wbe-eric-miller

Likewise active in continuo work was viola da gambist Anton TenWolde (below), but he had one solo, a Capriccio for cello, by Joseph Ferdinand Dall’Abaco.

wbe-anton-tenwolde

And the harpsichordist Max Yount (below), also involved in continuo roles, presented two contrasting keyboard pieces, a Toccata by Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck and a Fantasie by Johann Jakob Froberger.

wbe-max-yount

For a colorful finale, Paust and Miller joined TenWolde and Steger (on harpsichord) in a Trio Sonata in F by Georg Philipp Telemann.

The artistry of these performers (below) was fully up to their own high standards, and their delight in trading off assignments to play together is palpable.

wbe-telemann-trio-sonata

St. Andrew’s Church (below) on Regent Street may have been a bit bigger than a Baroque salon or parlor, but still served well as a setting for this kind of amiable gentility in musical substance.

St. Andrew's Episcopal Madison Front

The group’s next Madison concert is at St. Andrew’s on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017. No program has been announced.


Classical music: New York Polyphony opens the 17th annual Madison Early Music Festival with a perfectly rendered composite portrait of Elizabethan sacred music. Plus, the winners of the fourth annual Handel Aria Competition are announced

July 11, 2016
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ALERT: In case you haven’t yet heard, the winners (below) of the fourth annual Handel Aria Competition, held on Friday night in Mills Hall and accompanied by the Madison Bach Musicians, have been announced.

Eric Jurenas (center), countertenor, won First Prize; Christina Kay (right), soprano, won Second Prize; and Nola Richardson (left), soprano, won Third Prize and Audience Favorite.

Handel Aria winners 2016

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear left the concert hall thinking: Well, this will be an easy review to write.

Just give it an A-plus.

An easy A-plus.

On Saturday night, the acclaimed a cappella quartet New York Polyphony (below) opened the 17th annual Madison Early Music Festival (MEMF) with a flawless performance.

new york polyphony

This year, the MEMF is celebrating the 400th anniversary of the death of poet and playwright William Shakespeare (below top) and the 45-year reign of Queen Elizabeth I (below bottom), who oversaw the English Renaissance.

shakespeare BW

Queen Elizabeth I

And the program – performed before a large house of perhaps 450 or 500 enthusiastic listeners — was perfectly in keeping with the festival’s theme. It used sacred music rather than stage music or secular music, which will be featured later in this week of concerts, workshops and pre-concert lectures.

In fact, the program of New York Polyphony was based on two of the group’s best-selling CDs for BIS Records and AVIE Records: “Tudor City” and “Times Goes by Turns.” It was roughly divided into two masses, one on each half. (You can hear a sample in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Adding to the variety was that each Anglican or Roman Catholic-based mass was a composite, with various sections made up like movements written by different composers. Thrown in for good measure were two separate short pieces, the “Ave Maria Mater Dei” by William Cornysh and the “Ave verum corpus” of William Byrd.

The Mass on the first half featured music by Byrd, John Dunstable, Walter Lambe and Thomas Tallis. The second half featured works music by Tallis, John Pyamour, John Plummer and excerpts from the Worcester Fragments. The section were typical: the Kyrie, Gloria in Excelsis, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei.

There was nothing fancy about this concert, which marked the Wisconsin debut of New York Polyphony and which spotlighted superbly quiet virtuosity. The four dark-suited men, who occasionally split up, just stood on stage and opened their mouths and sang flawlessly with unerring pitch and superb diction.

New York Polyphony MEMF 2016

A cappella or unaccompanied singing is hard work, but the four men made it seem easy. The countertenor, tenor, baritone and bass each showed confidence and talent plus the ability to project clarity while not overshadowing each other. This was first-class singing.

The beautiful polyphony of the lines was wondrous to behold even, if like The Ear, sacred music from this era – with its chant-like rather than melodic qualities – is not your favorite fare.

New York Polyphony provided a good harbinger of the treats that will come this week at the MEMF from groups like the Newberry Consort of Chicago with soprano Ellen Hargis (below top) and the Baltimore Consort (below bottom) as well as from the faculty and workshop participants. On Friday night is an appealing program that focuses on Shakespeare’s sonnets and music.

MEMF newberry consort

Baltimore Consort

And on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m., with a pre-concert lecture at 6:30 p.m., will be the All-Festival concert. That is always a must-hear great sampler of what you perhaps couldn’t get to earlier in the week. This year, it will feature the music as used in a typical Elizabethan day.

Here is a link to the MEMF website:

https://artsinstitute.wisc.edu/memf/

And here is a link the website of New York Polyphony if you want to hear more:

http://www.newyorkpolyphony.com


Classical music: Playing softly is the mark of great music-making

April 5, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

Like so many young pianists, when The Ear was young he wanted to project strength. He wanted to play BIG virtuosic pieces and play them FAST and LOUD — even though they were usually way beyond his ability.

Pieces such as the “Appassionata” Sonata and “Emperor” Concerto by Ludwig van Beethoven.

The Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18, and Prelude in C-sharp minor (“Bells of Moscow”) by Sergei Rachmaninoff.

The Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor by Peter Tchaikovsky.

The “Great Gate at Kiev,” from “Pictures at an Exhibition,” by Modest Mussorgsky.

The ”Military” Polonaise and the “Revolutionary” Etude by Frederic Chopin.

You know, the kind of piece that can easily descend into pounding and banging, but that makes an impression on listeners and people who don’t play — and on the player too!

Back then, doing that kind of muscular music-making seemed the task of a real virtuoso.

But no longer.

Maturity brings an appreciation of subtlety and softness, which are much better hallmarks of musicality. Softness is definitely NOT weakness. In fact for The Ear, softness has become a kind of test of mature musicianship.

The past year or so has been a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate that the mark of a really great and mature virtuoso artist is the ability to play softly.

The most recent example came this past Sunday afternoon when The Ear heard pianist Garrick Ohlsson (below) play the Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15, by Johannes Brahms with the Madison Symphony Orchestra under the baton of MSO’s longtime music director and conductor John DeMain.

Garrick Ohlsson

To be sure, the MSO performed absolutely superbly on its own in the 2011 Symphony by Steven Stucky and the tone poem “Don Juan” by Richard Strauss.

But the second half of the concert, devoted to the concerto, was both ear-opening and heart-rending.

The first concerto is a product of Brahms’ youth and is dramatic. Ohlsson, who possess both power and great technique, has no problem getting a huge sound out of the piano when he wants to or playing the most virtuosic passages with absolute fluidness and complete command.

But here is what really mattered: Ohlsson took away the bombast and bluster you so often hear in this early work. You felt as if you were hearing the concerto for the first time or at least hearing it anew.

What emerged was a uniquely convincing and beautifully poetic reading of this famous work – and not just in the slow movement but also in various interludes during the first and third movements. Plus, Ohlsson was joined by DeMain and the MSO whose accompaniment bought into his interpretation and also emphasized subtlety. It was complemented perfectly by the quietly songful encore, which was the lyrical Nocturne in D-flat major by Chopin.

There have been other occasions like that over the past year or so.

Here are just a few.

The duo-pianists Alessio Bax and Lucille Chung (below) at Farley’s House of Pianos played an all-Schubert recital and proved how seductive quiet and restrained playing can be.

Lucille Chung and Alessio Bax 2015

UW-Madison pianist Christopher Taylor (below, in a photo by Michael R. Anderson) can compete with the best when it comes to forceful playing. But what lingers in The Ear’s mind is hearing Taylor’s seductive playing of the slow movement from the Piano Sonata No. 3 in F minor, Op. 5, by Johannes Brahms as a great example in how playing softly draws in listeners but requires great virtuosity and control.

Christopher Taylor Recital

Christopher Taylor Recital

Pianist Emanuel Ax (below), who played the Piano Concerto No. 4 by Beethoven with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, also demonstrated an uncanny ability to play softly with deep tone.

Emanuel Ax portrait 2016

There were other examples in various kinds of music. The Ear recalls beautifully soft singing in some songs by Franz Schubert during the Schubertiade (below) at the UW-Madison in late January.

Schubertiade 2016 Shepherd on the Rock

He also remembers some fantastic quiet playing of Johann Sebastian Bach and Brahms in the debut recital by UW violinist Soh-Hyun Park Altino (below, in a photo by Caroline Bittencourt).

Soh-Hyun Park Altino CR caroline bittencourt

There are many other examples from other individuals and groups, including the violinist Benjamin Beilman with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra; the UW Choral Union in the Gloria by Francis Poulenc; the Madison Opera’s productions of Puccini’s “La Boheme” and Mark Adamo’s “Little Women”; pianist Joyce Yang at the Wisconsin Union Theater; and the Pro Arte Quartet among others.

But you get the point.

It isn’t easy to play softly. In fact, it can be downright hard.

But it makes music so beautiful.

So moving.

So unforgettable.

As listener or player, try it and see for yourself.


Classical music: The Ear offers some semester-end shout-outs to UW student musicians.

December 20, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The semester at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music is just about over. Winter Break starts next week and lasts until mid-January.

Performances are just about over as students focus on final papers, final exams and degree recitals.

But The Ear went to a couple of performances by several groups that he thinks deserve shout-outs.

UW CHAMBER ORCHESTRA

On Sunday night, Dec. 6, The Ear went to a sparsely attended performance by the UW-Madison Chamber Orchestra under the director of conductor Jim Smith (both are below).

Too bad the audience wasn’t larger. The program was such a welcome relief from the hectic nature of the holidays. It proved to be a parenthesis of calm amid so much loudness and busyness.

The program featured Igor Stravinsky’s Neo-Classical ballet suite “Apollo” (Apollon, Musagete or Master of the Muses) on the first half. The second half was the “String Suite” by Czech composer Josef Suk, who was the student and eventual son-in-law of Antonin Dvorak. Historically, it may be a second-tier work, but it certainly has its lovely moments. And the overall pastoral mood was perfect for the occasion.

These are both deceptive scores that sound easy and transparent but are difficult to play and are loaded with many subtleties. The UW Chamber Orchestra played extraordinarily well and thoroughly convincingly.

One last thing to praise: Each piece lasted about 30 minutes. Add in the intermission and the whole program clocked in at about 90 minutes. It started at 7:30 p.m. and The Ear was home by just after 9.

That shorter concert time was refreshing and welcome, and allowed me to do things after the performance. In some important ways, shorter does not mean less!

UW Chamber Orchestra Stravinsky

UW CHORAL UNION and UW SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA with TYANA O’CONNOR

A week ago Saturday night, on Dec. 11, The Ear went to the all-20th century program performed by the campus and community UW Choral Union and the UW Symphony Orchestra with graduate student and guest soprano soloist Tyana O’Connor, all under the baton of Beverly Taylor.

The program featured the Overture to “The Wasps” by Ralph Vaughan Williams; the Symphony of Psalms by Igor Stravinsky; and the eminently listenable Gloria by Francis Poulenc, which you can hear in a YouTube video at the bottom.

It was an original and engaging program, one that possessed a certain joy that wasn’t ruined even by the ticketing fiasco and by the long wait to get into the hall.

That meant it worked well with the holidays, but not in the obvious way that certain oratorios like “Messiah” by George Frideric Handel or cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach do. And all parties performed very well.

Here is what choral director Beverly Taylor had to say about the program in an interview with The Ear:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/12/08/classical-music-the-uw-choral-union-and-uw-symphony-orchestra-will-perform-an-all-20th-century-program-of-works-by-vaughan-williams-stravinsky-and-poulenc-this-coming-saturday-night-plus-conductor/

Special notice goes to the winds and brass (below) of the UW Symphony Orchestra, which replace the upper string (violins and violas) in the Stravinsky’s score. They performed outstandingly, often with the mastery of professionals, in a score that is thorny with polyrhythms and dissonances.

UW Symphony Orchestra winds and brass Stravinsky

And even though I had heard soprano soloist Tyana O’Connor in this semester’s Opera Scenes, I was unprepared for the power of her voice in the Poulenc. Perhaps she was sick earlier, or under-rehearsed; or maybe she didn’t want to overwhelm her duet partner; or maybe her strong and beautiful voice was simply swallowed up by the acoustics of Music Hall. Whatever the case, she was terrific in this performance and easily sang over the tight orchestra and the well prepared chorus without straining.

Tyana O'Connor soprano

So thanks you to all these musicians, and to so many other student performers, both singers and instrumentalists, who gave The Ear so many memorable and moving moments during the past semester and will do so again this coming semester.

Have a fine Winter Break, all of you!

You have earned it.


Classical music: This Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m., Wisconsin Public Radio — the biggest friend of classical music in the state — will broadcast the fifth annual holiday concert by the Madison Bach Musicians that took place last Saturday night.

December 19, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Last Saturday night saw one of those unfortunate train wrecks.

And making it even more unfortunate was that it came at holiday time, when music takes on special meaning and seems more festive or celebratory.

The conflict centered on two very worthwhile concerts by two very reliable groups.

The first was the fifth annual Holiday Concert by the Madison Bach Musicians at the First Congregational Church of Christ, seen below in a photo by Kent Sweitzer.

The program featured two cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach, a recently discovered “Gloria” Cantata by George Frideric Handel; and the Christmas Concerto in G minor by Arcangelo Corelli plus chamber music by Georg Philipp Telemann. (You can hear the lovely Corelli concerto performed by the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Here is a link with much more information as well as an interview with MBM founder, director and harpsichordist Trevor Stephenson:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/12/09/classical-music-trevor-stephenson-explains-why-baroque-music-sounds-so-good-at-holiday-time-his-madison-bach-musicians-will-perform-their-annual-baroque-holiday-concert-of-bach-corelli-and-telemann/

Madison Bach Musician -Baroque Holiday 2015 cr Kent Sweitzer

The second concert was a single performance – there used to be two – by the UW-Madison Choral Union and UW Symphony Orchestra with graduate student and guest soprano Tyana O‘Connor, all under the baton of Beverly Taylor, in Mills Hall on the UW-Madison campus.

That program was all 20th-century and featured the Overture to “The Wasps” by Ralph Vaughan Williams; the Symphony of Psalms by Igor Stravinsky; and the Gloria by Francis Poulenc.

Here is an interview about the program with Beverly Taylor who is the choral director at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/12/08/classical-music-the-uw-choral-union-and-uw-symphony-orchestra-will-perform-an-all-20th-century-program-of-works-by-vaughan-williams-stravinsky-and-poulenc-this-coming-saturday-night-plus-conductor/

The Ear couldn’t go to both and went to the memorable Choral Union concert, which I will comment on tomorrow.

But veteran critic John W. Barker (below), who writes for Isthmus and often for this blog, did go to the Madison Bach Musicians and filed this rave review:

http://isthmus.com/music/baroque-holiday-madison-bach-musicians/

John-Barker

Thanks to Wisconsin Public Radio – the biggest friend of classical music in the state – you can hear most of the Madison Bach Musicians’ concert (the Bach, Handel and Corelli) this Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.

The broadcast may be delayed and not live. But it is NOT too late for the holidays!

The Ear will be tuning in.

If you also missed it, perhaps you will too.


Classical music: Trevor Stephenson explains why Baroque music sounds so good at holiday time. His Madison Bach Musicians will perform their annual Baroque Holiday Concert of Bach, Corelli and Telemann this coming Saturday night. Plus, the Wingra Woodwind Quintet performs a FTREE concert Thursday night at 7:0 p.m. and at noon on Friday you can hear a FREE performance of two sonatas for violin and piano by Beethoven.

December 9, 2015
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ALERT: On Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. in Morphy Hall, the UW -Madison’s Wingra Wind Quintet will perform a FREE concert of 20th-century music by Henry Cowell, Irving Fine, Robert Muczynski, Alan Hovhaness and Elliott Carter. For more information, here is a link:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/wingra-woodwind-quintet/

This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, held from 12:15 to 1 p.m. at the meeting house of the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features violinist Wendy Adams and pianist Ann Aschbacher in two sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven: Op. 30, No. 1, and Op. 96.

By Jacob Stockinger

This coming Saturday night, the Madison Bach Musicians and guest soloists will perform their annual Baroque Holiday concert. (Below is a photo by Kent Sweitzer of the 2014 concert in the same venue.)

MBM Baroque Holiday Concert 2014 CR Kent Sweitzer

The concert is at 8 p.m. at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Ave., near Camp Randall.

Tickets are $23-$28 and can be purchased at the door, with discounts in advance at certain outlets or online.

For more information, visit the MBM website at:

http://madisonbachmusicians.org/december-12-2015/

Trevor Stephenson, who is a master explainer and who will give a pre-concert lecture at 7:15 p.m., recently spoke via email to The Ear:

Prairie Rhapsody 2011 Trevor Stephenson

This is the fifth annual Baroque Holiday Concert by the Madison Bach Musicians. Generally speaking, what is your goal when you program for it?

The idea of the Baroque Holiday Concert is to present an interesting and varied program of Baroque and Renaissance music, some of which pertains to the holiday season and to winter itself.

More importantly we try to program outstanding pieces that Madison audiences may not have had a chance to hear very often in live performance, particularly, played on period instruments and with historically informed performance practices.

MBM Baroque Holiday Concert 2012

Why is Baroque music so popular at the holidays? What is it about the music itself that makes it feel so appropriate to the occasion?

Baroque music, whether it is written specifically for the holidays or not, does indeed sound terrific this time of year. I think the baroque style really strikes the right balance between energy and form — a perfect marriage of theater and church.

The Bach cantatas, two of which we’ll be playing on this upcoming concert, are perhaps the strongest examples of this fusion. The bearing of these pieces is always devotional, while the compositional technique—the process of invention in them—is always searching, exploratory, even avant-garde.

Look at the opening of Cantata 61, Nun komm der Heiden Heiland (Now Come Savior of the Heavens) where Bach (below) begins by firing up a martial-sounding dotted-rhythm French overture and then layers in the voices, one at a time, in long moaning tonally-veering chant lines. And yet, this all seems to operate within a framework that can accommodate it.

Bach1

Briefly and in non-specialist terms, what would you like the public to know about each of the works?

In addition to Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cantata 61, the more grand-scale Advent Cantata discussed above, we’ll also be presenting the more intimate Cantata 151, Süßer trost, mein Jesus kömmt (Sweet Comfort, My Jesus Comes) composed for the third day of Christmas), which opens with an elegant and extended aria for soprano and obbligato baroque flute. We’re thrilled that this will be performed by outstanding soprano Chelsea Morris and baroque flutist extraordinaire Linda Pereksta.

We’ll also perform the rightly beloved “Christmas” Concerto in G minor, Op. 6, No. 8, by Arcangelo Corelli. The melodic material, the sequential dance-movement structure and the unsurpassed beauty of the string writing in this concerto grosso are perfect in the extreme. MBM concertmaster Kangwon Kim will lead this from the first violin.

By the way, if you’re familiar with Peter Weir’s 2003 movie Master and Commander you’ll notice that the Corelli “Christmas” Concerto pops up a couple of times in the movie score. (You can hear the “Christmas” Concerto, conducted by Trevor Pinnock, in the Youtube video at the bottom.)

Also on the program is Telemann’s E minor quartet from Tafelmusik. Tafelmusik, literally “table music” refers to the domestic and unassuming everyday quality of the writing. Chelsea Morris (below) will also perform three movements from George Frideric Handel’s Gloria.

Chelsea Morris soprano

Other musicians featured on the program are alto Margaret Fox, tenor William Ottow, bass Luke MacMillan, violinists Brandi Berry, Nathan Giglierano, and Olivia Cottrell, violists Marika Fischer Hoyt and Micah Behr, cellists Martha Vallon and Andrew Briggs, and (yours truly) harpsichordist Trevor Stephenson.

I’ll also give a pre-concert lecture at 7:15 p.m. about the music, the composers and the period instruments.

Is there something else you would like to say about the works or the performers?

I’d also like to mention that the concert will be given in the wonderful sanctuary of Madison’s First Congregational United Church of Christ. The acoustics there are absolutely terrific. Wisconsin Public Radio will be recording the concert and will broadcast it later in the holiday season, date to be announced.


Classical music: The UW Choral Union and UW Symphony Orchestra will perform an all-20th century program of works by Vaughan Williams, Stravinsky and Poulenc this coming Saturday night. Plus, conductor Beverly Taylor talks about how severe budget cuts are hurting the choral program at the UW-Madison.

December 8, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

This coming Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Choral Union, a campus and community chorus, and the UW Symphony Orchestra will perform an all 20th-century program. (Both are below.)

UW Choral Union and UW Symphony 11-2013

Featured are the “Symphony of Psalms” by Russian composer Igor Stravinsky; the “Gloria” by French composer Francis Poulenc; and the Overture to “The Wasps” by the British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Tickets are $15, $8 for seniors and students.

Here is a link to more information, including how to buy tickets:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/uw-choral-union1/

Beverly Taylor, who heads up the choral program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and who is assistant music director at the Madison Symphony Orchestra, will conduct.

Taylor agreed to a recent email interview with The Ear:

Beverly Taylor MSO portrait COLOR USE

This year, you are giving only one performance, both now and in the spring for “The Creation” by Franz Joseph Haydn. For many years, you have generally given two performances. Why the change? Is it an experiment or trial, or is it permanent?

Three things combined:  Really, the main reason was that the hall and players were only available one night.  As more groups emerge and the hall is booked, and string players may be playing with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra or several new chamber groups, it’s hard to get everyone together on the same night.

Also, we thought we’d pack them in for one night, although with all that goes on in town, we may leave some people out.

Third, because we did not have a full chamber ensemble yet available at the time we planned “The Creation,” and knowing I’d have to hire some additional players, we planned on one night for budget reasons.

Next year?  Who knows?  Check back in February …

UW Choral singers

It is a great program of very different 20th-century works. What was your idea or reason for linking them by putting them on the same program?

Great question, and yes I’ve given it a fair amount of thought.

Before I answer that, I should say that I’ve added a bonus piece to the program in the form of the orchestra-only Overture to “The Wasps” by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Because the program is a bit on the short side, I had an overture in mind, but hadn’t confirmed it till I saw how quickly the orchestra took on the challenges of the Poulenc and Stravinsky.

One of the great things about programming 20th century music — and I expect will be the same as we add more 21st century music — is the astounding variety of styles available to us. And many of the 20th-century composers lived long enough to provide differing styles within their own work.

UW Symphony violins 2015

UW Symphony Strings cellos

What can you tell us about the work by Stravinsky (below)?

Stravinsky’s earliest works were late Romantic, then, with pulsing rhythms, sometimes called primitive; later there was neo-Classicism, and 12-tone, etc.  If forced to choose a title, I would call “Symphony of Psalms” a mixture of the primitive and the Romantic.

What makes it Romantic is the writing for the choir, which entails long lines, some stunning dynamic changes from loud to soft, and a pure, almost disembodied gentle melody at the end.

What makes it Primitive is the pulsing rhythms in the orchestra in movement III and the unexpected chord interpolations in the first.

What makes it clever intellectually is the difficult, jagged but fascinating double fugue in the second movement; and what makes it a wonderful sonic treat is the elimination of Violin I, II and Viola in favor of FIVE flutes, FIVE oboes, FOUR bassoons, FOUR horns, FIVE trumpets, THREE trombones TWO pianos, ONE harp and ONE tuba, some cellos, double basses and a partridge in a pear tree.

When you get four flutes and a piccolo, playing sometimes a half-step apart, you set up weird shimmering overtones.  It’s fascinating to hear, although I may be deaf after the concert from being so close to them.

Igor Stravinsky young with score 2

What about the work by Poulenc (below top)?

I wanted to contrast the modern instrumentation of the pulsing rhythms of Stravinsky with an equally interesting 20th-century work with a different flavor.

What makes Poulenc’s “Gloria” (heard in a YouTube video at the bottom) hard to sing is what we hear all the time in popular music — the major seventh chord — think C, E, G and B natural.  For performers, singing C’s against B’s can be hard to tune, but the chords are closely allied with jazz and the piano bar!  And the piano was Poulenc’s composing instrument.

With long lines in the strings, we are treated to the lushest of lines in the third, fifth and sixth movements. The first movement is regally strong; the second and fourth are playful.

Our wonderful soprano soloist, Tyana O’Connor, sings gorgeously in three of the movements, both powerfully direct, and then in soft floating sounds.

Francis Poulenc

And the work by Vaughan Williams?

I chose the Vaughan Williams for its length, its instrumentation (lots for the upper strings, which weren’t playing in the Stravinsky, and nice parts for the harps that we have already playing in the Poulenc and Stravinsky) and its buoyant, positive nature as an opening to our concert.

Vaughan Williams (below) wrote it while he was fairly young, as occasional music to a production of Aristophanes’ play “The Wasps.” He makes a nod to “The Wasps” in the form of a string buzz in the opening and toward the end. But for the most part the overture is formed of two tunes — a perky, angular march and a warm, lush tune aligned with English folksong.  These tunes are presented separately and then combined.

By choosing three different flavors of 20th-century music, I hope to present a balanced evening with appeal to everyone.

Ralph Vaughan Williamsjpg

Have steep budget cuts to the UW-Madison hurt the Choral Union? Do such cuts affect your ability to hire guest soloists? Do they account for the reduction in performances? Do they alter the repertoire that you can do?

Yes, they have hurt the Choral Union in certain ways, although I don’t think our excellence will be any the less.

Without the availability of some discretionary concert funds, we have had to increase some fees for members, and we have had to postpone some special works that might include high rentals of materials or special instruments or another venue to perform in.

We sometimes program using the great soloists available to us from our faculty and graduate students, and save funds for when we need to hire a professional voice that we don’t have. With more money we might do that more often, but we are lucky to have gifted people within our reach.

Good classical music has costs that the public often doesn’t know about — high costs for copyrighted parts and scores (below) for recent works, and specialty instruments such as viols or oboes d’amore and portative organs for early music.

Beethoven Symphony 5 score

What else would you like to say?

I’m so glad you asked me to write.  Although this concert by the Choral Union and UW Symphony Orchestra is a ticketed event, the great majority of our concerts are FREE.

We encourage listeners of all types and generations to TRY to listen to something new and LIVE, and perhaps in a different genre than they’ve ever tried before.

 


Classical music education: The University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music has lined up its schedule of events for the 2015-16 season. Here it is in two parts. Today is Semester 1.

August 13, 2015
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

Get out your datebooks.

The final schedules for the upcoming season by most major classical music groups in the area are now available.

Last but not least is the biggest of them all: The University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, which offers some 300 events in a season, most of them FREE to the public.

UW logos

Some things are new. For example, you will note that the UW Choral Union has gone to just ONE performance instead of two, as in the past for many years.

Concert manager and public relations director Kathy Esposito (below) writes:

Katherine Esposito

The UW-Madison School of Music is jazzed about its upcoming season and we’d like the world to know. Please make plans to attend!

Here is a link to the online calendar, which is now complete except for specific pieces on programs and last-minute changes: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/

Our events of 2015-2016 range from performances by a vocal dynamo (soprano Brenda Rae, Sept. 27) to a in-demand LA jazz woodwind musician (Bob Sheppard in April) plus an enterprising young brass quintet (Axiom Brass, October) and a dollop of world music in March (duoJalal). In addition, we offer ever-popular opera productions, faculty concerts and student ensembles ranging from classical to jazz to percussion.

Full concert calendar link: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/

Other social media connections include:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/

https://www.facebook.com/UWMadisonSchoolOfMusic

https://twitter.com/UWSOM

Our Newsletter, A Tempo!

https://uwmadisonschoolofmusic.wordpress.com/

Hear our sound: https://soundcloud.com/uw-madisonsom

Here’s a partial list with highlights (Semester 1 is posted today; Semester 2 will be posted tomorrow):

SEMESTER 1 

August 30: “Performing the Jewish Archive”: Shining a Spotlight on Forgotten Jewish Performance Works. Various venues and times; click link for details.

The U.S. component of an international research project led by the University of Leeds, England, with UW-Madison leadership provided by Teryl Dobbs, chair of music education. Featuring a Sound Salon with Sherry Mayrent and Henry Sapoznik (below) of the Mayrent Institute; Chamber Music with the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society; and a Cabaret Performance with Mark Nadler. Events continue in May, 2016. All events are free.

Link to event: http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/performing-the-jewish-archive/

BDDS Henry Saposnik

September 7: 37th Annual Karp Family Concert. Mills Hall, 7:30 PM.

Chamber music of the 19th and 20th centuries for piano and strings. Pianist and patriarch Howard Karp (below center) passed away last summer, but the family continues with a long-standing tradition. With Suzanne Beia, Violin; Katrin Talbot, Viola; Parry Karp, Violoncello; Frances Karp, Piano; Christopher Karp, Piano. Free.

http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/37th-annual-karp-family-concert/

karps 2008 - 13

September 26: Soprano Brenda Rae with the UW-Madison Symphony Orchestra. Mills Hall, 7:30 PM.

On the program: Reinhold Gliere’s Concerto for Coloratura Soprano. A benefit for University Opera.

Brenda Rae (below) is a 2004 graduate of the School of Music, and has been impressing audiences and critics all over Europe for many years. Her 2013 U.S. debut as Violetta in Verdi’s “La Traviata” won her praise from James R. Oestreich of The New York Times: “Ms. Rae soared beautifully in the early going, but it was in her pianissimo singing that she really shone.”

Tickets $25.

Master class: Friday, September 25, Music Hall, 5-7 PM.

http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/soprano-brenda-rae-with-the-uw-symphony-orchestra/

Soprano Brenda Rae

October 7: Pro Arte Quartet (below top, in a photo by Rick Langer) with Violist Nobuko Imai (below bottom, in a photo by Marco Borggreve). Mills Hall, 7:30 PM.

Nobuko Imai is considered to be one of the most outstanding viola players of our time. After finishing her studies at the Toho School of Music, Yale University and the Juilliard School, she won the highest prizes at both the Munich and the Geneva international competitions.

http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/pro-arte-quartet-with-violist-nobuko-imai/

Master class: October 6, 7:30 PM, Mills Hall. Both events are free.

Pro Arte 3 Rick Langer copy

Imai Nobuko 018.jpg

October 9-10-11:  BRASS FEST II!

Last year’s Celebrate Brass festival was so much fun, we decided to program another. Three days of exhilarating music from leading brass players and ensembles, including the award-winning Axiom Brass Quintet (below, now in residence at the Tanglewood Music Festival) and trumpeter Adam Rapa. With the Wisconsin Brass Quintet and students from the UW-Madison School of Music. 

October 9: Axiom Brass, Mills Hall, 8 PM. Tickets $15.

October 10: Festival Brass Choir with Axiom Brass, the Wisconsin Brass Quintet and trumpeter Adam Rapa. Tickets $15.

October 11: Trumpeter Adam Rapa and vocalist Elizabeth Vik. Classical and jazz. Free concert.

http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/brass-fest-2/

Buy tickets for both concerts for $25.

Axiom Brass Quintet

October 23-24-25-27: University Opera presents Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro.” Mozart and da Ponte’s masterpiece of comedy and intrigue, shows the two geniuses at the height of their powers. Directed by David Ronis (below, in a photo by Luke De Lalio); music conducted by James Smith.

Music Hall. Tickets $25/$20/$10.

http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/university-opera-the-marriage-of-figaro/

David Ronis color CR Luke DeLalio

November 5-6: Celebrating Alumni Composers. UW-Madison prize-winning alumni composers of new music Andrew Rindfleisch (below), Paula Matthusen, Jeffrey Stadelman, Bill Rhoads and Kevin Ernste return for a two-day event featuring their acoustic and electronic music.

November 5, Mills Hall, 7:30 PM: Performances by the Wisconsin Brass Quintet, the Wingra Woodwind Quintet, and smaller ensembles of faculty and students.

November 6, 7:30 PM: Performance with the UW Wind Ensemble, Scott Teeple, conductor.

Both concerts are free.

http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/celebrating-alumni-composers-two-free-concerts/

Andrew Rindfleisch portrait

November 13: Debut Faculty Concert with Violinist Soh-Hyun Park Altino (below in a photo by Caroline Bittencourt). Altino takes the stage as the newest member of the school’s string faculty. With pianist Martha Fischer.

Mills Hall, 8 PM.

Tickets $12. Students free

http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/debut-faculty-concert-soh-hyun-park-altino-violin/

Soh-Hyun Park Altino Carroline Bittencourt

December 10: Wingra Woodwind Quintet (below, in a photo by Michael Anderson). With Stephanie Jutt, flute; Marc Vallon, bassoon; Kostas Tiliakos, oboe; and welcoming new members Wesley Warnhoff, clarinet; and Joanna Schulz, horn. 

Morphy Hall, 7:30 PM. Free.

http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/wingra-woodwind-quintet/

Wingra Woodwind Quintet 2013 Michael Anderson

December 12: UW Choral Union & UW Symphony Orchestra with Beverly Taylor, conductor. Presenting “Gloria” of Francis Poulenc and “Symphony of Psalms” by Igor Stravinsky.

Mills Hall, 8 PM.

Tickets $15/$8.

http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/uw-choral-union1/

UW Choral Union and Symphony Nov. 2014

Tomorrow: Highlights of Semester 2

 


Classical music: Choral music, wind music and brass music add to the season-ending events this super-busy weekend.

April 30, 2014
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

This weekend brings more season-closers. The groups concluding their concert seasons include the First Unitarian Society of Madison’s FREE Friday Noon Musicales; the Festival Choir of Madison; the UW Chamber Orchestra; and Edgewood College.

Here is a round-up of yet another busy weekend.

FRIDAY

On Friday afternoon, from 12:15 to 1 p.m., the last FREE Friday Noon Musicale of the season at the first Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, will feature Driftless Winds, a University of Wisconsin-Platteville Faculty Reed Trio.

Members are Laura Medisky, oboe; Corey Mackey, clarinet; and Jacqueline Wilson, bassoon.

The program, performed in the historic Landmark Auditorium designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, includes music by Wolfgang Amadeus, Jacques Ibert, Erwin Schulhoff and Ludwig van Beethoven.

Bring your lunch; coffee and tea are provided.

FUS1jake

On Friday night, the Madison Chamber Choir will perform at 7:30 p.m. at Christ Presbyterian Church (http://www.madisonchamberchoir.com) . It will be directed by Adam Kluck.

On Friday night, May 2, at 7:30 p.m. in the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Avenue, the University of Wisconsin-Stout Choirs come to Madison on a mini-tour, with a program titled “An Ode To The Bard: Shakespeare in Music.”

The concert will feature musical settings of Shakespeare’s words, popular music of his time (including tunes that are referenced in his plays), and works inspired by the legacy of William Shakespeare (below).

shakespeare BW

Performers include the Stout Symphonic Singers (an open-seat choir of about 30 singers) and the Stout Chamber Choir (an auditioned choir of 20 singers), both directed by composer-conductor Jerry Hui (below), with pianist Michaela Gifford.

Admission is free with a free-will donation welcomed.

Jerry Hui

 

SATURDAY

On Saturday at 11 a.m. at Oakwood Village West, 6209 Mineral Road, on Madison’s far west side, the UW-Stout Choirs will give a second performance of their Friday night program. See directly above.

On Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. in Mills Hall, the All-University String Orchestra will perform a FREE concert under conductor Janet Jensen (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot). Sorry, no word on a specific program.

Janet Jensen Katrin Talbot

On Saturday, May 3, at 7 p.m. in the St. Joseph Chapel at 1000 Edgewood College Drive, the Edgewood Concert Band and Jazz Ensemble will perform under the direction of Walter Rich and Daniel Wallach.  Included will be works by Paul Dukas, Jenkins, Williams, Van der Roost and Franz von Suppe.

Admission is $7 to benefit music scholarships at the college.

Walter Rich  Edgewood Concert Band 2013-3-22-Band

On Saturday night at 7:30 p.m., the FESTIVAL CHOIR OF MADISON (below) will conclude its 40th season in the 
First Baptist Church, 
518 North Franklin Avenue, in Madison. It will perform with the Pecatonica String Quartet and winds, and under the baton of artistic director Bryson Mortensen, who is the Director of Choral Activities at the University of Wisconsin-Rock County.

The program is entitled “Gloria” and features two Glorias: the well-known one by Antonio Vivaldi and a rarely heard one by Luigi Boccherini. A pre-concert lecture, begins at 6:30 p.m. The Ear hears there will also be an encore performance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart‘s “Ave Verum Corpus.”

Tickets are $18 general public, $14 for seniors and $8 for students if bought in advance – call (608) 274-7089; the day of the concert, tickets are $20, $15 and $10, respectively.

For more information, visit the link: http://festivalchoirmadison.org/index.htm

festivalchoir

On Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Women’s Chorus and the University Chorus will perform a FREE concert under the direction of Anna Volodarskaya and Adam Kluck (below), respectively. Sorry, no word yet on a specific program.

Adam Kluck conducting

SUNDAY

On “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen” Museum of Art on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, from 12:30 to 2 p.m., members of the music faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will perform the second-to–last concert of that series this season. As always it will be broadcast live on Wisconsin Public Radio. The concert itself is FREE in the Brittingham Gallery No. 3. Sorry, no word on a program.

SALProArteMay2010

On Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m., in Mills Hall, the UW Concert Band will perform a FREE concert under director Mike Leckrone (below). Sorry, no word on the program.

leckrone

On Sunday, May 4, at 2:30 p.m. in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive, the Chamber Singers, Men’s Choir, Women’s Choir and Campus-Community Choir.

Kathleen Otterson (below) will conduct the Women’s Choir, while Albert Pinsonneault will lead the Chamber Singers, Campus-Community Choir, and Men’s Choir.

Kathleen Otterson 2

Pinsonneault (below) will also conduct the combined choirs and the Edgewood Chamber Orchestra in a performance of Franz Joseph Haydn’s “Te Deum.”

Admission is $7 to benefit music scholarships at Edgewood.

Albert Pinsonneault 2

On Sunday evening at 6:30 p.m. in Music Hall, at the foot of Bascom Hill, the Lincoln Chamber Brass of Chicago will perform a FREE concert, just a week before they compete at the prestigious Fischoff Chamber Music Competition.

All of them are members of Civic Orchestra of Chicago; at 21, the horn player already substitutes for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Four are students at Northwestern University, the fifth at DePaul. Four of the five, including Ansel Norris, who was born in Madison and in high school studied with UW-Madison trumpeter John Aley, will attend the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Tanglewood Festival this summer.

Musicians of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. 
The program includes Victor Ewald’s Brass Quintet No. 3; David Sampson’s “Morning Music”; Franz Biebl’s “Ave Maria” (arranged by Barker); and Giles Farnaby’s Suite of Dances.

Members (below, from left) are Ansel Norris and William Cooper, trumpets;
 Kevin Haseltine, horn; 
Joseph Peterson, trombone; and Scott Hartman, bass trombone.

For more information, visit: http://lincolnchamberbrass.wordpress.com/home/

lincoln chamber brass  madison shot

At 7:30 in Mills Hall, the UW Chamber Orchestra (below) will perform its last concert of the season and its last concert before being either mothballed or terminated.

The performance is FREE and will be under the baton of director James Smith.

The program includes: Jacques Ibert’s “Hommage to Mozart”; Richard Strauss’ “Dance Suite After Francois Couperin”; and Mozart’s Symphony No. 39 in E Fat Major. (In a YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear the first movement performed by the legendary conductor Karl Bohm and the Vienna Philharmonic.)

For more about the news significance of the event, here is a link to yesterday’s blog post:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/classical-music-the-uw-chamber-orchestra-will-play-this-sunday-night-but-then-will-be-axed-and-fall-silent-next-season-is-this-au-revoir-or-adieu/

uw chamber orchestra USE

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