The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: This weekend, soloist Alban Gerhardt will give the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s first performances of the Cello Concerto by William Walton. Also on the program are an overture by Rossini and the Symphony No. 1 by Brahms

February 12, 2018
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By Jacob Stockinger

This weekend, cellist Alban Gerhardt (below) returns to the Madison Symphony Orchestra to play the lyrically bittersweet Cello Concerto by William Walton for the first time in the history of the MSO.

Filling out the program are the lush and sweeping Symphony No. 1 by Johannes Brahms and the rousing Overture to the opera Semiramide” by Gioachino Rossini.

The concerts are in Overture Hall of the Overture Center, 201 State Street, on Friday, Feb. 16, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 17, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Feb. 18, at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets cost $18-$90, and discounts are available. See below for details.

MSO music director John DeMain (below, in a photo by Peter Rodgers), who will conduct the performance, previewed the “Richly Romantic” program:

“Opening the concert is a favorite overture of mine by the prolific Rossini, from the opera Semiramide.

“Next, we welcome back Alban Gerhardt. This charismatic cellist has a huge repertoire and impeccable technique, as well as consummate musicianship. (NOTE: Gerhardt will also give a FREE and PUBLIC master class at the UW-Madison Mead Witter School of Music on Friday afternoon from 2:30 to 5 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall.)

“In my search to program important works that have not been previously performed by the MSO, I realized that we have never performed the cello concerto by William Walton. It is a very beautiful and lyrical work, and I look forward to collaborating again with Alban on this project.

“I never like to let too much time pass without programming the Brahms symphonies. The first symphony was a huge success at its premiere, and has been proclaimed a masterpiece. It overtly pays tribute to the great master who gave us nine great symphonies. Indeed, many people have referred to the Brahms first as Beethoven’s 10th.”

Here is more background about the three works:

The Overture to Semiramide marks a departure from other operatic overtures of the early 1800s, in that the themes are drawn directly from the opera’s score.

Written by Rossini (below), one of the greatest opera composers in history, the piece also represents some of his best orchestral writing, starting from the rhythmic opening, to the entrance of the horn choir taken directly from the score of the opera, to the joyously frenetic ending.

Written in 1956 in Ischia, a volcanic island in the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Cello Concerto by William Walton (below) reflects the composer’s love of Italy and has been described as subdued, brittle, bittersweet, and introspective.

The composition is suffused with Italianate warmth and a lyrical, singing quality reflecting both bel canto opera as well as Italian popular song. (In the YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear the first movement played by Gregor Piatigorsky, for whom the concerto was written.)

Praised for the “warm songfulness of his playing” (The Telegraph) at the 2016 BBC Proms, Alban Gerhardt (below) has, for 25 years, made a unique impact on audiences worldwide with his intense musicality, compelling stage presence, and insatiable artistic curiosity.

His gift for shedding fresh light on familiar scores, along with his appetite for investigating new repertoire from centuries past and present, truly sets him apart from his peers.

Though he began writing sketches of the piece as early as 1854, the Symphony No. 1 by Brahms (below) was not completed for 21 years, premiering in Germany in 1876. The final movement contains melodies reminiscent of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, which has led some critics to dub the work “Beethoven’s Tenth Symphony” much to Brahms’ dismay.

One hour before each performance, Randal Swiggum (below), artistic director of the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra and interim artistic director of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO), will lead a 30-minute Prelude Discussion in Overture Hall to enhance concertgoers’ understanding and listening experience.

For more background on the music, please view the Program Notes by MSO trombonist and UW-Whitewater professor Michael Allsen (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) at: http://www.allsenmusic.com/NOTES/1718/6.Feb18.html

The Symphony recommends that concert attendees arrive early for each performance to make sure they have time to pass through Overture Center’s security stations, and so they can experience the pre-concert talk that is free for all ticket-holders.

Single Tickets are $18-$90 each and are on sale now at https://www.madisonsymphony.org/singletickets, through the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street, or by calling the Box Office at (608) 258-4141.

Groups of 15 or more can save 25% by calling the MSO office at (608) 257-3734. For more information, visit, https://www.madisonsymphony.org/groups.

Student rush tickets can be purchased in person on the day of the concert at the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street. Students must show a valid student ID and can receive up to two $12 or $18 tickets. More information is at: https://www.madisonsymphony.org/studentrush

Seniors age 62 and up receive 20% savings on advance and day-of-concert ticket purchases in select areas of the hall.

Discounted seats are subject to availability, and discounts may not be combined.

Major funding for the February concerts is provided by: The Madison Concourse Hotel & Governor’s Club, University Research Park, and National Guardian Life Insurance Company.

Additional funding was provided by Boardman & Clark LLP, Scott and Janet Cabot, Martha and Charles Casey, Gary and Lynn Mecklenburg, Rodney Schreiner and Mark Blank, and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.


Classical music: Guest blogger Sig Midelfort says the viola and violin shined in a recent Carnegie Hall recital, thanks to University of Wisconsin-Madison alumni Elias Goldstein and Roxana Pavel Goldstein

March 6, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Here is a review by guest blogger Sigurd “Sig” Midelfort, a good friend of the blog and of classical music in the Madison area.

Sig is a retired CPA who has spent a number of years with non-profits.  He adds: “Right now, that means I’m doing and have done volunteer work — with the Democratic Party of Dane County, Madison Music Makers Inc, a local environmental group and an orchestra in the western suburbs of Chicago.  (I also was a history major as an undergrad, have a masters in economic development, was in the Peace Corps in Tanzania for three years, and so on.)  All the time I have been interested in the local classical music scene, playing in amateur groups for decades.”

Sig recently attended a recital at Carnegie Hall in New York City, and asked if he could file this review of performers who have local ties and local interest.

It proved too good to resist. Enjoy!

By Sigurd Midelfort

Two recent University of Wisconsin-Madison doctoral graduates participated in a lustrous viola recital on February 19 at Carnegie Hall (below) in New York City.

carnegie-hall-address

Violist Elias Goldstein, now a professor at Louisiana State University who received his DMA from the UW-Madison in 2011 performed and received assistance on the violin from Roxana Pavel Goldstein, his wife (she received her DMA from the UW-Madison in 2012) and from Ieva Jokubaviciute, a Lithuanian pianist. (They are below, in a photo by Daniel Balan.)

Elias and Roxana Pavel Goldstein in Carnegie Hall CR Daniel Balan

Elias began the evening, playing an unaccompanied sonata for viola, Op. 25, No. 1, by Paul Hindemith.  Roxana (below) joined him in two duos for violin and viola: one, a three-movement duet in G Major, K. 423, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and the other, a “Passacaglia” by George Frideric Handel as arranged by the 19th-century Norwegian composer and conductor Johan Halvorsen.

Roxana Pavel Goldstein

After intermission, Elias and Ieva performed three works for viola and piano: a divertimento in three movements by Franz Joseph Haydn, as arranged by the famous cellist Gregor Piatigorsky and the famous violist William Primrose (below); a sonata (No. 6 in A major) in two movements by Luigi Boccherini, as arranged by Primrose; and the famous Caprice No. 24 by the legendary Nicolo Paganini –- it has been used for theme and variations by Franz Liszt, Johannes Brahms, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Witold Lutoslawski — also as transcribed for viola by Primrose. (The caprice, taken at a quasi presto tempo, is hard enough for violin, its original instrument. For viola?  Well, one can imagine the difficulties it presented.)

William Primrose  BYU (Submission date: 05/19/2005)

I was not an unbiased observer. Elias is a distant relative, and I have been a passionate amateur cellist my entire life.  Nonetheless, Elias’ tone was stunning. His playing was mellow and warm, round and resonant, displaying an ease and mastery of technique that is unusual for even the most accomplished performers.

Elias holds recent top prizes in the following international viola competitions: the Primrose, the Yuri Bashmet, the Lionel Tertis, the Watson Forbes and the Andrews University String Competition. In 2011, he made his Russian debut with the Moscow Soloists and the New Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra under Alexander Sladkovsky.

While at the UW-Madison School of Music, Elias was a student of Sally Chisholm of the Pro Arte Quartet.

elias goldstein 2

Although the viola (below) generally has a lower public profile, in the hands of such an artist as Elias it stands as an equal of, or is even superior to, the violin or cello in terms of its quality of sound.

viola

Roxana, too, is a superb artist, playing with considerable warmth and sensitivity on the violin. Originally from Romania, she worked at the UW-Madison with David Perry, first violinist of the Pro Arte Quartet, doing research on Romanian tunes and folk music as expressed on the violin.

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Are cellists the most friendly and sociable players in classical music?

March 28, 2012
6 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

I like festivals.

I also like cellists.

Combine the two, and you have a good thing.

A very good thing.

Just ask, if you could, that most famous cellist and festival founder  of all, Pablo Casals (below), the man who rediscovered and rehabilitated the solo cello suites of J.S. Bach.

But is the old story about cellists being the most friendly and sociable (or is it social?) of all instrument players in classical music true?

Singers might be even more social, especially given the collaborative nature of opera and choral singing.

But I have indeed found that it is very often the cellists who speak for string quartets. Locally, I have spoken with cellists Parry Karp (below), Karl Lavine, Janet Greive, Sarah Schaffer and Benjamin Whitcomb, among others. And the rule holds up.

All the cellists I have interviewed as individuals or orchestra players are also a pleasure to deal with. They often have hearty laughs and a whimsical sense of fun.

They also very often seem to preserve a sense of proportion and to act as the peacemakers in a group.

And in my experience even solo cellists like Alisa Weilerstein, David Finckel and Yo-Yo Ma (below) are gracious, outgoing and sociable.

What is it about the cello and cellists that make them that way?

Could it be because the cello’s tone is so close to the human voice?

Could it be that you learn to offer help to and accept help from others when you lug around a big instrument and pay for a second plane seat on the airplane?

Could it be you feel especially close and human as a musician when you wrap your legs around your instrument?

Could it be the kind of music, very songful and lyrical music, that cellists so often play?

Could it be all of the above, or many of the above in some combination?

Well, it turns out that my own personal impressions are not just mine.

Take a look at the following stories.

The first examines the inaugural First Piatigorsky Cello Festival in Los Angeles, overseen by cellist Ralph Kirschbaum (below), who performed a few seasons ago with the Madison Symphony Orchestra:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/17/arts/music/piatigorsky-international-cello-festival-at-walt-disney-concert-hall.html

More to the point, using the festival’s collaborative celebration of J.S. Bach’s 327th birthday last Wednesday, the second story takes a closer look at the reputation cellists have for being amiable.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/21/arts/music/piatigorsky-international-cello-festival-in-los-angeles.html


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