The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: This Friday night, the Wisconsin Union Theater presents a world-class Spanish string quartet and will also announce the special concerts to mark its centennial anniversary next season

February 28, 2019

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By Jacob Stockinger

Think of it as a two-fer, and then some, at the Wisconsin Union Theater this Friday night, March 1.

The main event is the Madison debut of a world-class string quartet from Spain.

The other event is the announcement of the schedule for the Concert Series’ 2019-2020 season — the series’ 100th season.

The first event is the concert by Cuarteto Casals (below) at 7:30 p.m. in Shannon Hall.

Prices for the event are: the general public, $25-40; for Union members, $25-36; for UW faculty and staff members, $25-38; for young people, $20; and for UW-Madison students, $10. Tickets can be bought online, by phone at 608-265-ARTS (2787) or in person. See locations and hours here.

The program includes the String Quartet in C Major “The Bird,” Op. 33, No. 3, by Franz Joseph Haydn; the String Quartet No. 3 by Bela Bartok; selections from the Fantasies for String Quartet by Henry Purcell; and the String Quartet in G Minor, Op. 10, by Claude Debussy. (You can hear the Cuarteto Casals play a movement of a different Haydn string quartet in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Cuarteto Casals was founded in 1997 at the Escuela Reina Sofia in Madrid. They are named after great 20th-century Catalan cellist Pau (Pablo) Casals (below). Members of the quartet are Vera Martinez Mehner and Abel Tomas, violins; Jonathan Brown, viola; and Arnau Tomas, cello.

The group achieved international recognition after winning First Prizes at the London and Brahms-Hamburg competitions. After receiving the prestigious Burletti-Buitoni Trust award designed to assist young musicians, the quartet acquired a matching set of Baroque and Classical period bows, used to distinguish between musical styles.

The year 2017 marked the 20th anniversary of the quartet, and also the start of a commemorative project: a six-concert series of the complete Beethoven quartets, accompanied by six commissioned works from great composers since the 17th century.

The quartet was selected as ambassadors of Catalan culture by the Generalitat of Catalunya, and accompanies the King of Spain on diplomatic visits.

It is the quartet-in-residence at the Spanish Royal Palace through 2020 and the quartet-in-residence at the Escola Superior de Musica de Catalunya in Barcelona.

Carol Carlson (below) will offer a free pre-concert lecture at 6 p.m. Carol holds both Doctor of Musical Arts and Master of Music degrees in violin performance from the UW-Madison.

Carlson dedicates herself to music education as co-founder, co-director and teacher of Music con Brio, a non-profit organization that provides affordable violin lessons and equipment for students at Emerson Elementary School in Madison. Music con Brio (below, in a photo by Scott Maurer) will perform on the stage of Shannon Hall from 7 to 7:20 p.m.

This program was supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts. The media sponsor is WORT 89.9 FM.

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Classical Music: German town restores post-Holocaust citizenship to its Jewish native son, Beaux Arts Trio pianist extraordinaire Menahem Pressler.

September 17, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

Better late than never, as they say.

One of the news items in classical music is that a town in Germany, Magdeburg has restored  citizenship to its native son, pianist Menahem Pressler (below).

Pressler was a founding member and longtime pianist of the Beaux Arts Trio (below), which finally disbanded two years ago after several changes of personnel. Pressler, who is 87, stayed from beginning to end, and is still active as a performer and teacher.

Pressler, who is Jewish, had to flee Germany at 15 because of the Holocaust. He hid from the Nazis during Hitler’s war on the Jews after the infamous “Kristallnacht.” He ended up in Israel and then the United States where he toured extensively and taught at Indiana University.

Many consider the Beaux Arts Trio (below in an early photo) the best piano trio that ever existed, and also consider Pressler the finest chamber music pianist who ever played. He possessed an unsurpassed ability to both blend in and stand out whenever it was appropriate.

This week, the still active Pressler will perform twice as a soloist with the symphony orchestra in his native town of Magdeburg before serving on the jury of piano competition in Hamburg, Germany.

Here are two links;

The first link is to the story about Pressler’s citizenship, with Pressler gracious and forgiving reaction to the news:

The second link is to an oral interview that famed British critic Norman Lebrecht (below) did with Pressler, whose voice you can hear:

You can find out a lot more about Menahem Pressler as a chamber musician, a soloist and a teacher by Goggling his name and searching at YouTube.

And here — via one of The Ear’s all-time favorite pieces of chamber music, the slow movement from Schubert’s Piano Trio No. 1 in B-Flat Major — is a taste of Pressler’s great and subtle art:

To Menahem Pressler, The Ear toasts a hearty L’chaim! To life! To your life!

You can leave a congratulations of your own or a personal appreciation of the Beaux Arts Trio in the COMMENT section of this blog.

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