The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society announces its upcoming summer season of “Alphabet Soup” this June

March 18, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

The time for announcing new seasons has arrived.

Pretty soon, over the next several weeks and months, The Ear will hear from larger and smaller presenters and ensembles in the Madison area, and post their new seasons.

First out of the gate is the critically acclaimed and popular summer group, the Madison-based Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society. (You can see a short promo video about BDDS on the YouTube video at the bottom.)

It has just announced its upcoming summer season this June, and sent out brochures with the season’s details.

This will be the 26th annual summer season and it has the theme of “Alphabet Soup.”

The concept is explained online and in a brochure newsletter (also online) in an editorial essay by BDDS co-founder and co-artistic director flutist Stephanie Jutt (seen below with co-founder and co-director pianist Jeffrey Sykes).

By the way, Jutt is retiring from the UW-Madison this spring but will continue to play principal flute with the Madison Symphony Orchestra and to work and perform with BDDS.

In many ways it will be a typical season of the eclectic group. It will feature local and imported artists. Many of both are favorites of The Ear.

His local favorites include UW-Madison pianist Christopher Taylor; violist Sally Chisholm of the UW-Madison’s Pro Arte Quartet; UW violinist Soh-Hyun Park Altino (below top, in a photo by Caroline Bittencourt); and Pro Arte cellist Parry Karp (below bottom).

Among The Ear’s favorite guest artists are violinist Carmit Zori, clarinetist Alan Kay, the San Francisco Piano Trio (below top); UW alumna soprano Emily Birsan; pianist Randall Hodgkinson; and baritone Timothy Jones (below bottom).

As usual, the season features 12 concerts of six programs over three weeks (June 9-25) in three venues – the Playhouse in the Overture Center (below top), the Hillside Theater (below middle) at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin compound in Spring Green and the Stoughton Opera House (below bottom).

In addition, there is a FREE family concert in the Overture Playhouse on June 10.

What does seem somewhat new is the number of unknown composers and an edgier, more adventurous choice of pieces, including more new music and more neglected composers.

Oh, there will be classics by such composers as Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Luigi Boccherini, Franz Schubert, Johannes Brahms, Peter Tchaikovsky, Sergei Prokofiev, Maurice Ravel, Bela Bartok, Arnold Schoenberg, Benjamin Britten and others. These are the ABC’s of the alphabet soup, according to BDDS.

But also represented are composers such as Philippe Gaubert, Czech Holocaust victim Gideon Klein (below), Guillaume Conneson, Carl Czerny, Paul Moravec and Franz Doppler. These are the XYZ’s of the alphabet soup.

In between come others. Contemporary American composer, and Pulitzer Prize winner, Kevin Puts (below) is a BDDS favorite and is well represented. You will also find less performed works by Ned Rorem, Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Gerald Finzi.

For the complete programs and schedules as well as the list of performers, some YouTube videos and ticket prices, both for season tickets ($109.50, $146, $182 and $219) and for individual concerts ($43), and other information, go to:

http://bachdancinganddynamite.org/concerts/festival-concerts/


Classical music: “Out of the Shadows: Playing the Jewish Archive” runs from Sunday through Thursday at the UW-Madison, one of only five venues around the world for this ambitious project to rescue Jewish music endangered by World War II and the rise of the Nazis.

April 30, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

Talk about world-class honors.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is one of only five venues worldwide — and the only one in the United States —  selected to host, perform and participate in “Playing the Jewish Archive: Rediscovering Jewish Music, Literature and Theater.”

The ambitious project, launched by the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, is designed to rediscover and revive Jewish and Yiddish music, and culture in general, that were threatened with extinction by World War II and the rise of Hitler and the anti-Semitism of the Nazis in Europe during the Holocaust.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A preview of the project happened last fall. Here is a link to a previous two-part posting about that event:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/08/26/classical-music-the-uw-madison-and-the-bach-dancing-and-dynamite-society-will-hold-free-events-this-coming-sunday-to-help-bring-neglected-jewish-music-and-culture-out-of-the-shadows/

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/08/27/classical-music-the-bach-dancing-and-dynamite-society-will-perform-a-free-concert-this-sunday-afternoon-to-help-bring-neglected-jewish-music-out-of-the-shadows-of-history-part-2-of/

Out of shadows poster

But this time the ticketed events (usually $10, $5 for students) – which start this Sunday, May 1, and run through Thursday, May 5 — are longer and more ambitious.

Programs and concerts will take place at the UW’s Mills Hall, the Wisconsin Union Theater, the First Unitarian Society of Madison Meeting House and the Overture Center among other places.

Local performers include the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society; the Madison Youth Choirs; the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) the UW Concert Choir; the Pro Arte Quartet; and others.

Performing the Jewish Archive images

Here is a link to the preview and complete day-by-day programs of composers, works and performers that is on the website of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. It also has information about obtaining tickets and a lot of background and context:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/performing-the-jewish-archive-may-2016-events/

And here are two links to other stories in Isthmus and the Wisconsin State Journal, which also highlight the pivotal role that Teryl Dobbs, a professor of music education and the department chair of music education at the UW, played in securing this prestigious as well as historically and artistically important event for Madison and the UW-Madison:

http://isthmus.com/music/jewish-culture-in-spotlight-yiddish-music/

http://host.madison.com/wsj/entertainment/music/global-jewish-music-project-comes-to-madison/article_2db64114-21c1-55ba-b639-c35bc43c2ce8.html

Finally, here is a link to a list of the many programs and performers with times and venues:

http://isthmus.com/events/performing-the-jewish-archive-may/

 


Classical music: Performers should announce encores

March 25, 2016
5 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

All around The Ear, even very knowledgeable people were asking:

“What is that piece?”

“Who’s the composer?”

After a recent and superb performance of the Piano Concerto No. 4 by Ludwig van Beethoven with the Madison Symphony Orchestra under its longtime music director John DeMain, the renowned American pianist Emanuel Ax (below), who received a well-deserved standing ovation, played an encore.

And he played it beautifully.

Emanuel Ax portrait 2016

But he was negligent in one way.

He didn’t announce what the encore was.

So most of the audience was left wondering and guessing.

Now, The Ear knew the composer and piece because The Ear is an avid amateur pianist and knows the piano repertoire pretty well.

The encore in question was the Valse Oubliée No. 1 in F-sharp Major by Franz Liszt, which used to be more popular and more frequently heard than it is now. (You can hear it below played by Arthur Rubinstein in a YouTube video.)

On previous nights, Ax – who is a friendly, informed, articulate and talkative guy — also had apparently not announced the encores. But on Friday night it was the Waltz No. 2 in A minor by Frederic Chopin and on Saturday night is was the Nocturne in F-sharp major, Op. 15, No. 2, also by Chopin. Chopin is a composer who is a specialty of Ax, as you can hear in the YouTube video at the bottom, which features his encore in an unusual setting pertaining to the Holocaust.

It’s a relatively small annoyance, but The Ear really thinks that performers ought to announce encores. Audiences have a right to know what they are about to hear or have just heard. It is just a matter of politeness and concert etiquette, of being audience-friendly.

Plus it is fun to hear the ordinary speaking voice of the artist, even if it is only just briefly to announce a piece of music, as you can hear below with Ax discussing the three concerts in Carnegie Hall that he did to celebrate the bicentennials of Chopin and Robert Schumann.

And it isn’t just a matter of big names or small names.

Emanuel Ax is hardly alone.

A partial list this season of performers who did NOT announce encores include violinist Benjamin Beilman, who played with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra; violist Nobuko Imai, who performed with the Pro Arte Quartet; pianist Maurizio Pollini in a solo recital in Chicago; and a UW professor who played a work by Robert Schumann that even The Ear didn’t know.

Performing artists who DID announce encores — many of then by Johann Sebastian Bach — included pianist Joyce Yang at the Wisconsin Union Theater; violinist James Ehnes and cellist Sara Sant’Ambrogio, both with the Madison Symphony Orchestra; UW-Madison pianist Christopher Taylor, who played sick but nonetheless announced and commented humorously on his encore by Scott Joplin, “The Wall Street Rag”; and violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky, who played recently with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.

So it seems like there is no consistent standard that concert artists learn or adopt about handling encores. The Ear’s best guess is that it is just a personal habit the performers get used to over time.

But the Ear sure wishes that all performing artists would announce encores, program changes or additions.

It just makes the concert experience more fun and informative as well as less frustrating.

Is The Ear alone?

Do you prefer that artists announce or not announce their encores?

Or doesn’t it matter to you?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society will perform a FREE concert this Sunday afternoon to help bring neglected Jewish music “out of the shadows” of history. Part 2 of 2.

August 27, 2015
5 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear’s friends at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society write:

The U.S. component of a major international research project, “Performing the Jewish Archive,” led by the University of Leeds, in England, has attracted significant funding to shine new light on forgotten works by Jewish artists.

The University of Wisconsin–Madison and the City of Madison are uniquely situated as the sole hosts for the global project’s performance events within the United States; one of the premier public research-intensive universities in the world, located in a community that lives and breathes diverse arts, while striving for social change.

Out of shadows poster

Here, in Madison, under the leadership of Teryl Dobbs, Chair of Music Education at the UW-Madison, “Out of the Shadows: Rediscovering Jewish Music, Literature and Theater” will be a full-day event held on this Sunday, August 30, 2015.

Local partners include the UW-Madison School of Music, Mosse-Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies, the Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture, and the Arts Institute at UW-Madison; and the Bach Dancing andDynamite Society.

Yesterday The Ear posted the schedule of all FREE events.

Here is a link to that post:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/08/26/classical-music-the-uw-madison-and-the-bach-dancing-and-dynamite-society-will-hold-free-events-this-coming-sunday-to-help-bring-neglected-jewish-music-and-culture-out-of-the-shadows/

Today’s post focuses on the classical music in the event:

The Ear’s friend Jeffrey Sykes of the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society writes:

The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society is proud to partner with Performing the Jewish Archive’s “Out of the Shadows” event by performing neglected and suppressed Jewish music from the early 20th Century.

The FREE concert will be held this Sunday 2:30-4:30 p.m. in the Atrium Auditorium of the First Unitarian Society, 900 University Bay Drive.

The program includes music from two composers who died at Auschwitz. Erwin Schulhoff’s flute sonata is a passionate mix of impressionism and jazz. Dick Kattenburg’s quartet for flute, violin, cello and piano is an irrepressible romp full of Gershwin-esque melodies and harmonies.

Robert Kahn (below) is a composer from an earlier generation whose work was suppressed by the Nazis. We perform his gorgeous song cycle “Jungbrunnen” (The Fountain of Youth) for soprano, violin, cello and piano.

Robert Kahn

The program concludes with two works by the Viennese wunderkind Erich Wolfgang Korngold (below). Already well-known in Austria, Korngold had begun to compose music for Hollywood movies. He was working California in 1938 when the Anschluss took place, and he never returned to his homeland.

We begin with three beautiful songs he composed for his mother and continue with his Suite for piano left-hand, two violins and cello based on those songs. A thrilling and important composition, the Suite was written for the Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who had lost his right arm in World War I.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold BW piano

Adds BDDS flutist Stephanie Jutt:

Dutch composer Dick Kattenburg (1919-1944, below) barely got started before his career and his life ended at Auschwitz at age 24. A supremely gifted young composer, bursting with originality and ingenuity, his love of jazz and the popular idioms of the day make his music irresistible – by turns a bit of Stravinsky, a bit of Wizard of Oz, a bit of Duke Ellington. His two dozen complete works were hidden in the attic where his mother had kept them, and were discovered by his sister, Daisy.

Dick Kattenburg

The music of Czech composer Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942, below) has become widely known over the last 20 years. Denounced as “Entartete Musik” (degenerate music) by the Nazis, he died in Wülzburg concentration camp. During the 30 years of his active career he wrote sonatas, quartets, sextets, jazz piano pieces, stage music, an opera, eight symphonies, and at least one oratorio.

Schulhoff, like Kattenburg, also fell in love with American jazz, and his flute sonata of 1927 reflects the infectious American rhythmic vitality with his great interest in the traditional music of Czechoslovakia.

Erwin Schulhoff

Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society performers are: Emily Birsan, soprano; Stephanie Jutt, flute; Parry Karp, cello; Leanne League, violin; Axel Strauss, violin; and Jeffrey Sykes, piano.

PROGRAM

Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942): Flute Sonata (1928). Jutt, Sykes

Robert Kahn (1865-1951): Seven Songs from Jungbrunnen, op. 46, for soprano and piano trio (1906). Birsan, League, Karp, Sykes

Dick Kattenburg: Quartet for flute, violin, cello and piano. Jutt, Strauss, Karp, Sykes.

Intermission

Erich Wolfgang Korngold 
(1897-1957): Three Songs, op. 22, for soprano and piano (1930). Birsan, Sykes

Erich Wolfgang Korngold 
(1897-1957): Suite, op. 23, for piano left hand, two violins, and cello (1930). Strauss, League, Karp, Sykes

For more about the performers, visit bachdancinganddynamite.org.

Here are biographies of the performers:

Founding Artistic Director STEPHANIE JUTT (below) is professor of flute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and principal flute of the Madison Symphony Orchestra. She is a winner of the International Pro Musicis Competition.

Stephanie Jutt in Gustavino at Taliesin BDDS 2014

Founding Artistic Director and pianist JEFFREY SYKES (below) is a faculty member of the University of California-Berkeley. He is a member of the San Francisco Piano Trio.

jeffrey sykes

Soprano EMILY BIRSAN (below) has completed her third year as a member of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, she is appearing with the Boston Lyric Opera this year.

Emily Birsan MSO 2014

Cellist PARRY KARP (bel0w) is artist-in-residence and professor of chamber music and cello at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has been cellist of the Pro Arte Quartet for the past 37 years.

Parry Karp

Violinist LEANNE KELSO LEAGUE (below) is assistant concertmaster of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, and associate concertmaster of the Madison Symphony Orchestra. She also teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and is a member of the Ancora String Quartet.

Leanne League profile

Violinist AXEL STRAUSS (below), winner of the International Naumburg Award, is professor of violin at the Schulich School of Music of McGill University in Montreal. He is also a member of the San Francisco Piano Trio.

Axel Strauss


Classical music: The UW-Madison and the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society will hold FREE events this coming Sunday to help bring neglected Jewish music and culture “out of the shadows” of history. Part 1 of 2.

August 26, 2015
3 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear’s friends at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and with the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society write:

The U.S. component of a major international research project, “Performing the Jewish Archive,” led by the University of Leeds, in England, has attracted significant funding to shine new light on forgotten works by Jewish artists.

The University of Wisconsin–Madison and the City of Madison are uniquely situated as the sole hosts for the project’s performance events within the United States; one of the premier public research-intensive universities in the world, located in a community that lives and breathes diverse arts, while striving for social change.

Here, in Madison, under the leadership of Teryl Dobbs (below top), Chair of Music Education at the UW-Madison, “Out of the Shadows: Rediscovering Jewish Music, Literature and Theater” will be a full-day event held on this Sunday, August 30, 2015. Local partners include the UW-Madison School of Music, Mosse-Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies, the Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture, and the Arts Institute at UW-Madison; and the Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society.

Teryl Dobbs

Out of shadows poster

Here is a schedule:

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Events that are free and open to the public in Madison include:

  • 12:20-2 p.m. | Sound Salon, Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture

Explore sound archives with Sherry Mayrent (clarinet) and Henry Sapoznik (tenor guitar, below) – both in a lecture and concert format. The Mayrent Institute holds over 9,000 Yiddish recordings from the first half of the 20th century.

BDDS Henry Saposnik

UW-Madison School of Music – Mills Hall; 3561 Mosse Humanities Building, 455 N. Park St.

  • 2:30-4:30 p.m. | Concert, Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society

Six members of Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society will perform neglected and suppressed Jewish music from the early 20th century. (Details will be posted tomorrow.)

First Unitarian Meeting House, Atrium Auditorium (below, in a photo by Zane Williams), 900 University Bay Dr.

FUS Atrium, Auditorium Zane Williams

  • 7-10 p.m. | Two-act Cabaret Evening“Laugh With Us” and “I’m a Stranger Here Myself.”  “Laugh With Us” is based on an original cabaret written by four young Czech Jews in the Terezin ghetto (below), staged by Minneapolis performers Sara Richardson, Ryan Lindberg, and Craig Harris, from research and with commentary by project co-investigator Dr. Lisa Peschel. “I’m a Stranger Here Myself” by New York actor Mark Nadler who will perform music written by French and German Jewish or gay (or both) songwriters during the age of the Weimar Republic.

Overture Center for the Arts, Promenade Hall, 201 State Street

terezin

Registration is required for the free events by visiting: http://eepurl.com/bttx_9

The Sunday, August 30 event will be the precursor to a longer event, which will run May 1–5, 2016, in Madison. This event will include the partners mentioned above as well as the UW-Madison Department of Theatre and Drama, Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra, and Madison Youth Choir.

ABOUT PERFORMING THE JEWISH ARCHIVE

The global project, Performing the Jewish Archive has been awarded $2.5 million by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), in England, under its Care for the Future: Thinking Forward Through the Past theme.

Led by Dr. Stephen Muir (below) of the University’s School of Music in Leeds, Performing the Jewish Archive will bring recently rediscovered musical, theatrical and literary works by Jewish artists back to the attention of scholars and the public, and stimulate the creation of new works.

Stephen Muir Leeds

A multidisciplinary team across four continents are focusing on the years 1880-1950 –– an intense period of Jewish displacement –– to explore the role of art in such upheaval.

The three-year “Performing the Jewish Archive” project involves a large number of partners, exploring archives, delivering community and educational projects, holding at least two international conferences and a series of symposia at the British National Library, as well as mounting five international performance festivals––in the United States (Madison, Wisconsin), the Czech Republic, South Africa, Australia and the United Kingdom.

Says Muir: “We are a unique combination of scholars from a diverse range of subjects, crossing traditional disciplinary boundaries––even integrating scientific research methodologies at the heart of an arts-led investigation. We seem to have caught the imagination of a huge range of organizations––both Jewish and non-Jewish––all interested in the Jewish artistic past and how it impinges on all of our futures.”

Dr. Muir is joined by Co-Investigators Dr. Helen Finch, School of Languages, Cultures and Societies, University of Leeds; Dr. Lisa Peschel, Film, Theatre and Television, University of York; Dr. Nick Barraclough, Psychology, University of York; Dr. Teryl Dobbs, Chair of Music Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Dr. Joseph Toltz, Sydney Conservatorium, University of Sydney; and Dr. David Fligg, Leeds College of Music.

More information can be found here:

http://ptja.leeds.ac.uk

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

TOMORROW: Members of the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society discuss the music they will perform.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Classical music: Is Beethoven still relevant and our political contemporary with his opera “Fidelio”?

August 10, 2014
3 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

You might recall that Ludwig van Beethoven (below) composed only one opera.

It is “Fidelio,” and it reflected his Enlightenment-era political ideas about equality and democracy –- despite the composer’s own financial reliance on patronage by aristocrats and royals.

Beethoven big

And you may recall that the Madison Opera has slated “Fidelio” for a production this coming season in Overture Hall on Friday night, Nov. 21, and Sunday afternoon, Nov. 23.

The production comes during a time of great political unrest and perhaps upheaval at home, with crucial national and state elections, and especially overseas and in foreign affairs with Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Africa’s Ebola strife and many other hot spots showing no sign of letting up.

So will the local production of “Fidelio” be more or less a traditional one? Or will the Madison Opera’s general director Kathryn Smith and its artistic director, John DeMain, who is also the music director of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, have other ideas about how to tweak the opera and recast it for modern or contemporary relevance?

It will be interesting to see, although The Ear understands that the production will be traditional.

Here is a link to the Madison Opera’s website:

http://madisonopera.org/performances-2014-2015/

Currently, the acclaimed Santa Fe Opera is staging a controversial new version of “Fidelio”(below), created by director Stephen Wadsworth, that takes place in the Nazi death camp Bergen-Belsen. Sounds very Peter Sellars-like. (You can hear the moving music from the Prisoners’ Chorus at the bottom in a YouTube video.)

FIDELIO in Bergen-Belsen at Santa Fe

Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, of The New York Times, did not like it and, in fact, said it offended her because it belittled the Holocaust. She also complained that the roles in the actual text did not match the roles that the new staging created. She saw the production as too inconsistent.

Her larger complaint seems to reflect the notion that after the Holocaust, writing poetry and creating art is impossible, that beauty has been ruined.

It is an ambitious, lofty and tempting thought, but one that is clearly not true. In fact, it is downright wrong. Great suffering and art are old pals. Sometimes art takes you away from suffering; sometimes it takes you deeper into it. It depends on the work and on the performers. But we need both.

Anyway, here is the review from the Times as well as another one with a different take. Read them for yourself. Then decide and make up your own mind. It sure sounds like a concept worth pursuing, even if flawed, to The Ear.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/04/arts/music/santa-fe-opera-sets-fidelio-in-a-concentration-camp.html?_r=0

Critic Heidi Waleson, of The Wall Street Journal, on the other hand, praised the production:

http://online.wsj.com/articles/opera-review-santa-fe-opera-1407191039

Be sure to tell The Ear, and other readers, including members of the Madison Opera, if you have ever seen an updated version of “Fidelio” and what you thought of it.

Where do you think “Fidelio could be recast to best advantage The Holocaust? The Spanish Inquisition? The Soviet Gulag and Great Terror? The Killing Fields of Cambodia? The Rwandan genocide? Abu Graib prison in Iraq? A CIA black site torture prison in Egypt? The Chinese Cultural Revolution?

Or, given the fact that the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, how about a Supermax prison in Wisconsin?

You get the idea.

Go wild with your imagination, and then write in.

The Ear wants to hear.

 


Classical music: NPR explores the music soundtracks for movies that nominated for Academy Awards and could receive an Oscar at tonight’s ceremonies airing on ABC-TV.

March 2, 2014
4 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Oscar would no doubt say that movie soundtracks deserve special attention and serious consideration as art music.

YL Oscar foods statue

Of course purists will probably argue that movie soundtracks are not really classical music – except in certain cases like Roman Polanski’s “The Pianist,” “Shine,” “Amadeus” and such obvious fare.

And it would be hard to disagree with them.

Perhaps some would say that movies are the real operas of our day, except that the music plays a secondary or tertiary role.

Besides, more and more symphony orchestras are turning to concert programs that feature movie soundtracks, perhaps to attract new and younger audiences.

And radio stations seem to be mixing in and playing more and more movie music on their classical programs.

And more and more composers who aspired to be classical composers but who were forced earn a living in Hollywood –- Erich Wolfgang Korngold (below) comes immediately to mind –- are being increasingly programmed for their classical fare as well as their commercial Hollywood work.

erich wolfgang korngold at piano

Besides, “crossover” and “fusion” are the key words of the day in the classical music scene, as you can see with the success of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project (below top) and the “new tangos” by Astor Piazzolla (below bottom), to name but two examples.

Silk Road Ensemble

astor piazzolla

So perhaps it is only natural that, in the run-up to the Academy Awards tonight, NPR and its terrific blog “Deceptive Cadence’ have featured several posts about the music that is featured in nominated movies, especially the story of Alice Herz-Sommer, the late 110-year-old pianist (below, in photo by Yuri Dojc) who survived Auschwitz by playing music, especially the etudes of Frederic Chopin -– and who just died last week. (You can hear her speak and play the piano at the bottom in a popular YouTube video that has almost a million hits.) 

The Ear suspects her story, “The Lady in Number 6,” will win the Oscar for short documentary because she was the oldest survivor of the Holocaust and was a testament to the power of music, and therefore of all art and beauty, over evil and adversity. She embodied hope — a cherished value.

Here is a link to her fascinating and detailed obituary in The New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/28/world/europe/alice-herz-sommer-pianist-who-survived-holocaust-dies-at-110.html

Alice Herz Sommer CR Yuri Dojc

So as you prepare to watch the live broadcast on ABC-TV tonight starting at 6 p.m. CST (it will also be streamed live), here are links to consider when you think about music and films.

Here is the link to a story about music and documentaries:

http://www.npr.org/2014/02/28/283072030/music-takes-center-stage-in-oscar-nominated-documentaries

Here is an overview of several nominees, including William Butler (below) of Arcade Fire, for Best Score:

http://www.npr.org/2014/02/26/283026146/and-the-oscar-goes-to-mr-star-wars-or-arcade-fire

william butler of arcade fire

And here is a link to another story about quiet music — specifically, composer Alexandre Desplat and his score for “Philomena” starring Judi Dench (below) — and how hard it is to compose and perform:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/02/08/273151282/philomena-and-the-power-of-a-quiet-film-score

Judi Dench in %22Philomena%22

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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:

http://www.artsjournal.com/slippeddisc/2012/09/exclusive-german-town-restores-citizenship-to-its-most-famous-musician.html

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

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/player/b01l0ly9

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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