ALERT: The Ear likes to see cooperation and collegiality, especially as the classical music scene in Madison gets busier and more competitive. And cooperation is exactly what he heard this week on Wisconsin Public Radio‘s noon-time show “The Midday” with Norman Gilliland.
Members of the Willy Street Chamber Players and the Handel Aria Competition, which both take place tonight, appeared back-to-back on the show and behaved as true colleagues.
The Willy Street Chamber Players said their program of Tchaikovsky s “Souvenir of Florence” and “Entr’acte” by Caroline Shaw should run about an hour — from 6 to 7 p.m. — and that they would do everything possible (less talking perhaps?) to make sure audience members could also attend the fourth annual Handel Aria Competition, which starts at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, and is held in conjunction with the Madison Early Music Festival, which takes place this week.
Here is a link with more details about the Willy Street Chamber Players:
And here is a link to the Handel Aria Competition.
By Jacob Stockinger
Get out your datebooks.
Most of the major classical music organizations and presenters in town – the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Madison Opera, the Wisconsin Union Theater to name a few — have already announced their new seasons for 2016-27.
And now the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music has posted its calendar of concerts for the new season, most of which take place in Mills Hall (below) on its website.
To be clear, there are few specific programs listed with composers and works. Sometimes that happens because the programs just aren’t decided yet. And sometimes they aren’t decided because the makeup of some groups – like the UW Symphony Orchestra and the UW Chamber Orchestra – aren’t known until school begins in September.
Nonetheless, it is an impressive list that runs into the hundreds when you include student recitals.
Some of the higher profile concerts are ticketed, but most remain FREE to the public.
And you can find out a lot from the calendar, even if it is incomplete and subject to change.
You can see the operas that will be staged by the University Opera – namely Giuseppe Verdi’s “Falstaff” and Benjamin Britten’s “The Turn of the Screw.”
You can find out about the UW Choral Union (below), which will perform works by Johannes Brahms, Ludwig van Beethoven and Leonard Bernstein as well as a rarely performed worked based on Walt Whitman by Paul Hindemith.
You can see the groups that will participate in the third annual Brass Fest, including the Stockholm Chamber Brass on its first tour of the U.S.
You can see when virtuoso pianist Christopher Taylor (below) will perform as well as when his fellow faculty members will play recitals.
And same goes for the 38th annual Karp Family Labor Day concert on Sept. 5, which officially opens the news season.
There is just so much to choose from!
Here is a link:
By Jacob Stockinger
The Wisconsin Chamber Choir (below) will present “Songs In a New Land” on this Friday, April 15, at 7:30 p.m. in Bethel Lutheran Church, 312 Wisconsin Ave., in Madison and on Sunday, April 17 at 3 p.m. at Cargill United Methodist Church, 2000 Wesley Ave., in Janesville.
Admission is $15 for adults and $10 for students.
Advance tickets are available from www.wisconsinchamberchoir.org. They are also available at the door.
The WCC’s concert will celebrate composers who were immigrants from the 15th century to the present, including emigres to the United States from China, Russia, Syria, Germany, Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.
At a time when immigration has become a burning issue in national politics, the WCC’s program highlights composers who emigrated from the country of their birth to make new homes elsewhere. They imported traditions from their homelands and enriched the cultural life of their adopted countries in innumerable ways.
Their reasons for leaving home were varied-some moved voluntarily but many were forced to emigrate for political, economic or religious reasons or, often, a combination of all of these.
While the experience of leaving behind all that is familiar and making a new life in a foreign country was rarely easy, the interaction of old and new influences resulted in some of the most lasting and unique artistic creations in history.
Most of the featured composers were or are immigrants to the United States, but the program opens with a set of Renaissance motets—“Stabat Mater” by Josquin des Prez (below top) and “Domine, Convertere” by Orlando di Lasso (below bottom) — demonstrating that migrant composers have played a major role throughout history.
Some of the more recent composers represented are: Kurt Weill, whose Kiddush was composed for Park Avenue Synagogue in New York City; Chen Yi (below top), represented by “A Set of Chinese Folksongs”; Osvaldo Golijov (below bottom), with an excerpt from his “Pasion segun San Marcos” (Passion According to St. Mark); and 20th-century giants Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky.
Although Schoenberg and Stravinsky were known for their dissonant, modernist works, much of the music they composed in the U.S. was tempered by an effort to communicate with audiences here. During the 1940s, both men ended up settling in Hollywood, along with countless other exiled European artists fleeing totalitarian regimes and persecution at home.
In the case of Schoenberg (below), even though he is known as “the father of atonality,” and the originator of “12-tone” music, he continued to compose tonal music throughout his life, and often wrote in a more accessible style for amateur musicians. The WCC will present two such tonal works by Schoenberg: “Verbundenheit” (Solidarity) for male chorus, and the folksong arrangement, “Mein Herz in steten treuen” (My Heart, Forever Faithful).
In the American works of Stravinsky (below), the Credo movement of his 1947 Mass was subtly influenced by American Jazz.
Joining the WCC will be Madison organist Mark Brampton Smith, who will accompany several pieces at the organ as well as perform solo organ works by Paul Hindemith and Joaquin Nin-Culmell (two additional mid-century immigrants to the U.S.).
The movements from Stravinsky’s Mass will be performed with Brampton Smith at organ and guest trombonist Michael Dugan (below), who will also enhance Josquin des Prez’s “Stabat Mater” by playing sackbut, the Renaissance ancestor of the trombone.
Guest percussionist Stephen Cherek will enliven several of the Latin American selections, playing a variety of instruments.
Here are some YouTube links to sample performances:
Josquin des Prez, “Stabat Mater”
Orlando di Lasso, “Domine Convertere”
Kurt Weill, “Kiddush”
Chen Yi, “Mo Li Hwa” (“Jasmine Flower” from A Set of Chinese Folksongs)
Osvaldo Golijov, “Demos Gracias” (from La Pasion segun San Marcos)
Arnold Schoenberg, “Verbundenheit” (from Six Pieces for Male Chorus)
Arnold Schoenberg, “Mein Herz in steten Treuen”
Igor Stravinsky, Credo (from Mass)
ALERT: The UW Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of music director UW-Madison Professor James Smith, will perform a FREE concert on this Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall. The program features “Mathis der Mahler” by Paul Hindemith and the Symphony No. 1 by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius.
By Jacob Stockinger
The pioneering conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt (below) died this past week.
He was 86. He had been ill, and died only three months after his last public appearance on the concert stage.
He leaves behind a huge recorded legacy, some 560 entries — including many multiple-disc boxes — according to a search at Amazon.com.
Harnoncourt started as a concert-level cellist who was especially well-known for who conducting early music. But he also worked with more modern orchestra groups and soloists in a lot of big mainstream music. (Below, in photo from Getty Images, he is seen conducting in 2012.)
True, it for his Johann Sebastian Bach, his Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his Ludwig van Beethoven — done with the group he and his wife Alice founded, the Concentus Musicus Wien — that The Ear will most remember him for. They were strong and forceful. No music box Mozart for Harnoncourt!
But Harnoncourt refused to be pigeonholed into smaller Baroque ensembles.
The Ear also likes him with much larger modern groups in mainstream Romantic fare such as the symphonies and concertos by Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Anton Bruckner and Antonin Dvorak with the Royal Concertgebouw of Amsterdam, the Berlin Philharmonic and the Vienna Philharmonic. He even conducted Johann Strauss waltzes for the New Year’s Concerto from Vienna.
Harnoncourt often found beauty in unexpected places, in music that we thought had nothing new to say after so many performances and such a long history. But he loved vibrancy and modernity. He did what Ezra Pound advised poets to do: Make it new.
And boy, did Harnoncourt — a thoughtful and passionate advocate — ever make music new, whether it was Baroque, Classical or Romantic! Although he was not a pioneer of new music per se, he always seemed to turn early music or whatever else he touched into new music.
The Ear recalls with relish some of the ways he put percussion and brass forward in early music, giving incredible rhythm and impulse or momentum to it. The same goes for using boy sopranos instead of women in the cantatas, oratorios and passions by Johann Sebastian Bach.
Harnoncourt always seemed less interested in authenticity as a justification than in the results he got from such changes or such different interpretations.
Often Harnoncourt had certain differences he wanted to emphasize. They were not always convincing, but they were usually convincing. And they were always interesting and illuminating, even if you disagreed with them.
In the special memorial YouTube video at the bottom is the Sinfonia from J.S. Bach’s Cantata BWV 156 in a performance by Nikolaus Harnoncourt and the Concentus Musicus of Vienna:
Here are some illuminating obituaries:
From The New York Times:
From the Deceptive Cadence blog on NPR (National Public Radio) by Anastasia Tsioulcas:
From The Guardian in the United Kingdom:
From The Washington Post:
And finally, here is a story from MTV, which called Harnoncourt the “punk genius of classical music,” a description The Ear likes and which he suspects Harnoncourt himself would have liked:
Do you have an observation about Nikolaus Harnoncourt to share?
Is there a specific composer, work or recording of his that you hold special?
Leave word in the COMMENT section.
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
Yesterday — Friday, March 20, 2015 – brought us the first day of spring.
It also marked the centennial of the birth of the great Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter (below).
Richter was such a complex and towering figure that it would take a book to really do justice to him and to his career.
With one exception that gets no mention.
Somehow that information seems particularly pertinent to The Ear, given the growing acceptance of LGBT people and of marriage equality.
Still, Wigler’s essay is an excellent read and includes a YouTube video – there are many, many YouTube videos of Richter, who had an immense repertoire, playing. This video is of a live performance by Richter in which he plays the last movement of the first piano sonata by Ludwig van Beethoven in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory.
You can hear the power and energy, the subtleties and excitement, to say nothing of the originality of interpretation, that Richter brought to music.
Enjoy it -– and tell us if you ever heard Richter live and what is your favorite performance by Sviatoslav Richter with a link to a YouTube video is possible.
By Jacob Stockinger
The 2015 Grammy winners were announced Sunday night in a live three-hour broadcast.
The list of winners and nominees can be a good guide to new listening.
Of course most of the Grammy attention went to pop, rock, rap, country and the big selling music genres.
But here are the winners for classical music, along with the nominees and competition.
One thing to note: Producer of the Year again went to freelancer Judith Sherman (below).
Sherman will be in Madison again inn May to record the last two centennial commissions for the University of Wisconsin-Madison‘s Pro Arte Quartet. (Below, she is seen recording the first four commissions with the Pro Arte in Mills Hall.) The new recording includes the terrific Clarinet Quintet based on Allen Ginsberg’s landmark Beat poem “Howl” by American composer Pierre Jalbert and Belgian composer Benoît Mernier’s String Quartet No. 3.
WINNER: Vaughan Williams (below): Dona Nobis Pacem; Symphony No. 4; The Lark Ascending. Michael Bishop, engineer; Michael Bishop, mastering engineer (Robert Spano, Norman Mackenzie, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra & Chorus). Label: ASO Media
Adams, John: City Noir. Richard King, engineer; Wolfgang Schiefermair, mastering engineer (David Robertson & St. Louis Symphony); Label: Nonesuch
Dutilleux: Symphony No. 1; Tout Un Monde Lointain; The Shadows Of Time. Dmitriy Lipay, engineer; Dmitriy Lipay, mastering engineer (Ludovic Morlot & Seattle Symphony). Label: Seattle Symphony Media
Riccardo Muti Conducts Mason Bates & Anna Clyne. David Frost & Christopher Willis, engineers; Tim Martyn, mastering engineer (Riccardo Muti & Chicago Symphony Orchestra). Label: CSO Resound
PRODUCER OF THE YEAR, CLASSICAL
WINNER: Judith Sherman (below)
BEST ORCHESTRAL PERFORMANCE
WINNER: Adams, John (below): City Noir. David Robertson, conductor (St. Louis Symphony). Label: Nonesuch
Dutilleux: Symphony No. 1; Tout Un Monde Lointain; The Shadows Of Time. Ludovic Morlot, conductor (Seattle Symphony). Label: Seattle Symphony Media
Dvořák: Symphony No. 8; Janáček: Symphonic Suite From Jenůfa. Manfred Honeck, conductor (Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra). Label: Reference Recordings
Schumann: Symphonien 1-4. Simon Rattle, conductor (Berliner Philharmoniker). Label: Berliner Philharmoniker Recordings.
Sibelius: Symphonies Nos. 6 & 7; Tapiola. Robert Spano, conductor (Atlanta Symphony Orchestra). Label: ASO Media
BEST OPERA RECORDING
WINNER: Charpentier (below): La Descente D’Orphée Aux Enfers. Paul O’Dette & Stephen Stubbs, conductors; Aaron Sheehan; Renate Wolter-Seevers, producer (Boston Early Music Festival Chamber Ensemble; Boston Early Music Festival Vocal Ensemble). Label: CPO
Milhaud: L’Orestie D’Eschyle. Kenneth Kiesler, conductor; Dan Kempson, Jennifer Lane, Tamara Mumford, Sidney Outlaw, Lori Phillips & Brenda Rae; Tim Handley, producer (University Of Michigan Percussion Ensemble & University Of Michigan Symphony Orchestra; University Of Michigan Chamber Choir, University Of Michigan Orpheus Singers, University Of Michigan University Choir & UMS Choral Union). Label: Naxos
Rameau: Hippolyte Et Aricie. William Christie, conductor; Sarah Connolly, Stéphane Degout, Christiane Karg, Ed Lyon & Katherine Watson; Sébastien Chonion, producer (Orchestra Of The Age Of Enlightenment; The Glyndebourne Chorus). Label: Opus Arte
Schönberg: Moses Und Aron. Sylvain Cambreling, conductor; Andreas Conrad & Franz Grundheber; Reinhard Oechsler, producer (SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden Und Freiburg; EuropaChorAkademie). Label: Hänssler Classic
Strauss: Elektra. Christian Thielemann, conductor; Evelyn Herlitzius, Waltraud Meier, René Pape & Anne Schwanewilms; Arend Prohmann, producer (Staatskapelle Dresden; Sächsischer Staatsopernchor Dresden). Label: Deutsche Grammophon
BEST CHORAL PERFORMANCE
WINNER: The Sacred Spirit Of Russia. Craig Hella Johnson, conductor (Conspirare). Label: Harmonia Mundi
Bach: Matthäus-Passion. René Jacobs, conductor (Werner Güra & Johannes Weisser; Akademie Für Alte Musik Berlin; Rias Kammerchor & Staats-Und Domchor Berlin). Label: Harmonia Mundi
Dyrud: Out Of Darkness. Vivianne Sydnes, conductor (Erlend Aagaard Nilsen & Geir Morten Øien; Sarah Head & Lars Sitter; Nidaros Cathedral Choir). Label: 2L (Lindberg Lyd).
Holst: First Choral Symphony; The Mystic Trumpeter. Andrew Davis, conductor; Stephen Jackson, chorus master (Susan Gritton; BBC Symphony Orchestra; BBC Symphony Chorus). Label: Chandos Records
Mozart: Requiem. John Butt, conductor (Matthew Brook, Rowan Hellier, Thomas Hobbs & Joanne Lunn; Dunedin Consort). Label: Linn Records
WINNER: In 27 Pieces – The Hilary Hahn Encores (below). Hilary Hahn & Cory Smythe. Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Dreams & Prayers. David Krakauer & A Far Cry. Label: Crier Records
Martinů: Cello Sonatas Nos. 1-3. Steven Isserlis & Olli Mustonen. Label: BIS
Partch: Castor & Pollux. Partch. Track from: Partch: Plectra & Percussion Dances. Label: Bridge Records, Inc.
Sing Thee Nowell. New York Polyphony. Label: BIS
BEST CLASSICAL INSTRUMENTAL SOLO
WINNER: Play. Jason Vieaux. Label: Azica Records
All The Things You Are. Leon Fleisher. Label: Bridge Records, Inc.
The Carnegie Recital. Daniil Trifonov. Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Dutilleux: Tout Un Monde Lointain. Xavier Phillips; Ludovic Morlot, conductor (Seattle Symphony). Track from: Dutilleux: Symphony No. 1; Tout Un Monde Lointain; The Shadows Of Time. Label: Seattle Symphony Media
Toccatas. Jory Vinikour. Label: Sono Luminus
BEST CLASSICAL SOLO VOCAL ALBUM
WINNER: Douce France. Anne Sofie Von Otter; Bengt Forsberg, accompanist (Carl Bagge, Margareta Bengston, Mats Bergström, Per Ekdahl, Bengan Janson, Olle Linder & Antoine Tamestit). Label: Naïve
Porpora: Arias. Philippe Jaroussky; Andrea Marcon, conductor (Cecilia Bartoli; Venice Baroque Orchestra) Label: Erato
Schubert: Die Schöne Müllerin. Florian Boesch; Malcolm Martineau, accompanist. Label: Onyx
Stella Di Napoli. Joyce DiDonato; Riccardo Minasi, conductor (Chœur De L’Opéra National De Lyon; Orchestre De L’Opéra National De Lyon). Label: Erato/Warner Classics
Virtuoso Rossini Arias. Lawrence Brownlee; Constantine Orbelian, conductor (Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra). Label: Delos
BEST CLASSICAL COMPENDIUM
WINNER: Partch (below): Plectra & Percussion Dances. Partch; John Schneider, producer. Label: Bridge Records, Inc.
Britten To America. Jeffrey Skidmore, conductor; Colin Matthews, producer. Label: NMC Recordings
Mieczysław Weinberg. Giedrė Dirvanauskaitė, Daniil Grishin, Gidon Kremer, & Daniil Trifonov & Kremerata Baltica; Manfred Eicher, producer. Label: ECM New Series
Mike Marshall & The Turtle Island Quartet. Mike Marshall & Turtle Island Quartet; Mike Marshall, producer. Label: Adventure Music
The Solent – Fifty Years Of Music By Ralph Vaughan Williams. Paul Daniel, conductor; Andrew Walton, producer. Label: Albion Records
BEST CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL COMPOSITION
WINNER: Adams, John Luther (below): Become Ocean. John Luther Adams, composer (Ludovic Morlot & Seattle Symphony). Label: Cantaloupe Music
Clyne, Anna: Prince Of Clouds. Anna Clyne, composer (Jaime Laredo, Jennifer Koh, Vinay Parameswaran & Curtis 20/21 Ensemble). Track from: Two X Four. Label: Cedille Records
Crumb, George: Voices From The Heartland. George Crumb, composer (Ann Crumb, Patrick Mason, James Freeman & Orchestra 2001). Track from: Complete Crumb Edition, Vol. 16. Label: Bridge Records, Inc.
Paulus, Stephen: Concerto For Two Trumpets & Band. Stephen Paulus, composer (Eric Berlin, Richard Kelley, James Patrick Miller & UMASS Wind Ensemble). Track from: Fantastique – Premieres For Trumpet & Wind Ensemble. Label: MSR Classics
Sierra, Roberto: Sinfonía No. 4. Roberto Sierra, composer (Giancarlo Guerrero & Nashville Symphony). Track from: Sierra: Sinfonía No. 4; Fandangos; Carnaval. Label: Naxos
ALERT: This Friday’s FREE Noon Musicale, from 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Landmark Auditorium at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, will feature flutist Peiyi Guan and pianist Zijin Yao playing music by Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, Henri Dutilleux and Chen Yi.
By Jacob Stockinger
There are two really notable MUST-HEAR concerts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music this coming weekend.
And they come in a way that you can think of them as preludes to Sunday evening’s Super Bowl XLIX — that is 49 to us non-Latins — because they don’t interfere with the overhyped sports event.
On Friday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall is the second annual “Schubertiade” (below, a photo from 2014). It is a joyous evening of mixed musical genres that celebrates the birthday of Franz Schubert (below, 1797-1829), who used to unveil his new music at friendly social gatherings (below top). It all takes place on the informally set-up stage of Mills Hall (below bottom).
There will be many songs, of course, an art form pioneered by the most empathetic and human of composers. The songs will be performed by UW baritone Paul Rowe, soprano Cheryl Rowe and also many UW voice students. There will be chamber music (the famous “Arpeggione” Sonata) with guest cellist Norman Fischer (Martha’s brother, who will be performing with his sister in public for the first time and who teaches at Rice University in Texas) and with violinist Leslie Shank. Martha Fischer and Bill Lutes will also perform two pieces for piano-four hands.
Admission is $10 for the public; students get in for free. Tickets are available at the door and at the box office of the Wisconsin Union Theater.
Here is a link to the School of Music official announcement:
And here is a terrific story by arts reporter and features writer Gayle Worland for The Wisconsin State Journal. Particularly notable are the interviews with the event organizers and main performers — wife-and-husband team of UW professor and collaborative pianist Martha Fischer and local piano teacher and former Wisconsin Public Radio host and music director Bill Lutes.
And here is a review of last year’s Schubertiade that The Ear posted on this blog:
The special guest of honor is soprano Emily Birsan (below), a UW-Madison graduate who recently sang at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and whose first CD is about to be released on the Chandos label. (The recording is of the “Scenes from the Saga of King Olaf” by Sir Edward Elgar.)
The program includes the Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 71, No. 3, by Franz Joseph Haydn; the String Quartet in C Major, Op. 60, by Antonin Dvorak; and String Quartet No. 2 by Arnold Schoenberg that will also feature Emily Birsan. (The fourth movement of the Schoenberg quartet can be heard in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
Here is a link to the UW School of Music announcement that has a lot of impressive background for the up-and-coming Emily Birsan and the Pro Arte Quartet, which has its own dramatic story of exile from Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany and its invasion of Belgium, the Pro Arte homeland:
And here is a link to a profile of Emily Birsan, who was born in Neenah and attended Lawrence University in Appleton for her undergraduate degree as well as the UW-Madison for graduate work. Birsan is the cover story on the latest issue of the magazine “Classical Singer”:
PLEASE NOTE: The Pro Arte Quartet program will be REPEATED on Sunday afternoon at 12:30 pm.. this SUNDAY at the Chazen Museum of Art, which has started its own concert program. But the concert will NO LONGER be broadcast by Wisconsin Public Radio. However, you can stream it live by going to the Chazen website (www.chazen.wisc.edu) at 12:30 p.m.
By Jacob Stockinger
In 1842, five years before his death at 38, the early Romantic composer Felix Mendelssohn (below, in an etching from the Hulton Archive/Getty Images), who lived from 1809 to 1847 and is known for his charming and accessible works, wrote a short song of just 29 measures for a friend in Berlin.
Twice the unpublished song manuscript changed hands, being auctioned off in 1862 and 1872.
And then it went missing for a long time.
Until it mysteriously resurfaced in the U.S. this year.
The title is suggestive and intriguing. The song is called “The Heart is Like a Mine” and takes it text from a poem by Friedrich Rückert (below, 1788-1866), a master of 30 languages whose own prolific poetry was used by other major composers including Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Bela Bartok, Paul Hindemith, Richard Strauss, Hugo Wolf and Gustav Mahler.
Sounds as if the song could be pretty bleak and dire, if you are thinking coal mine.
Or bright and hopeful, if you are thinking about a diamond or gold mine.
You can decide for yourself.
After the manuscript of the song resurfaced, the BBC had it recorded by a singer and a pianist, who do a fine job with it.
You can use the link below to the feature on NPR and its outstanding classical music blog — “Deceptive Cadence” — to listen to the song, plus get the background about its history and its upcoming auction at Christie’s. And you can find the recording of the lovely 1-1/2 minute song at the bottom in YouTube video.)
The Ear hopes the autographed manuscript ends up in a public museum and not again in a private collection, which is how it went missing for so long. But we will soon see.