The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Maestro Andrew Sewell has been named the new music director of the San Luis Obispo Symphony in California while retaining his longtime post as music director of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra

June 16, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra‘s longtime music director Andrew Sewell (below) has been named the new music director of the San Luis Obispo Symphony in California.

The news comes in between the end of a critically acclaimed and very successful Masterworks season in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center and the start of the upcoming and always popular summer Concerts on the Square on Wednesday evenings from June 29 through Aug. 2.

Sewell, who was born and trained in New Zealand, has been an American citizen for the past 10 years. He led the Wichita Symphony Orchestra for 10 years and the Mansfield Symphony Orchestra in Ohio, and he also guest conducts in Hong Kong and many other cities in the U.S. and abroad.

Asked if the move means there will be guest conductors for the WCO, Sewell told The Ear:

“I will be conducting all concerts this year. The schedules for both orchestras work surprisingly well together.

“The situation is not unlike the first 10 years of my tenure in Madison when I was music director of the Wichita Symphony concurrently with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. I’ll share my time between both communities.” 

For more about Sewell’s impressive and extensive background, go to:

https://wisconsinchamberorchestra.org/about/andrew-sewell/

Here is a statement from the WCO:

“When Maestro Sewell raises his baton at Concerts on the Square this month, he will also be embarking on a new position as music director of the San Luis Obispo Symphony. (At bottom, he seen conducting the San Luis Obispo Symphony.)

“Fans of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra need not worry, though, as he will retain his position and residence here in Madison. 

“We’re very proud of Andrew and what he has accomplished here in Madison, around the nation and abroad” said Mark Cantrell, CEO of the WCO. “This appointment reinforces what we already know about Andrew, that he is an exciting and impressive director and musician.

“We’re fortunate to retain him here as music director, and we look forward to many more years of him behind the baton with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. We wish him the best of luck in San Luis Obispo.”

For more about this story, use the following links:

Here is a WCO posting about the news:

Global Search Yields Symphony’s Ninth Conductor

And here is a newspaper story with many details about Sewell and his plans for the new position, including where he will live, as well as his plans for sharing repertoire and guest soloists:

SLO Symphony has a new director

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Classical music: Globe-trotting conductor Edo de Waart bids farewell to Madison and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra this Sunday afternoon at the Wisconsin Union Theater with music by Mozart, Bloch and Elgar

May 17, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

Music director and conductor Edo de Waart is coming to the end of his widely praised eight-year tenure at the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, after which he will become a conductor laureate of the MSO.

The busy and energetic 75-year-old de Waart (below, in a photo by Jesse Willems) started  his career as a assistant principal oboist of the Concertgebouw and rose to become an acclaimed symphony and opera conductor. Currently, he is also the music director of the Royal Flemish Philharmonic and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. In the past, he held major posts in Hong Kong, San Francisco, St. Paul, Minneapolis, Santa Fe, New York, Houston, Sydney, Rotterdam and Amsterdam among many others.

For more on de Waart, go to his Wikipedia entry:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edo_de_Waart

Unless they go to Milwaukee on the following weekend — Friday, Saturday and Sunday, May 26-28 — to hear de Waart conduct Gustav Mahler’s mammoth Symphony No. 3 as his final farewell, listeners in the Madison area will likely have their last chance to hear the formidable de Waart and the accomplished Milwaukee players (below, with concertmaster Frank Almond on the left) this coming Sunday afternoon.

At 2:30 p.m. in Shannon Hall at the Wisconsin Union Theater, de Waart and the MSO will perform the Overture to the opera “Don Giovanni,” K. 527, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; Ernest Bloch’s “Schlomo: A Hebraic Rhapsody” with MSO principal cellist Susan Babini (below); and Sir Edward Elgar’s Symphony No. 1, Op. 55.

There will also be a free pre-concert lecture at 1:30 p.m. by Randal Swiggum.

Tickets run from $15 to $49. For more information, including ticket prices and purchasing outlets, audiovisual links and links to reviews and background stories, go to:

https://union.wisc.edu/events-and-activities/event-calendar/event/milwaukee-symphony-orchestra/

The Ear has always been impressed not only with the quality of de Waart’s conducting, but also with his choice of soloists and his creative approach to programming. He has fond memories of other performances in Madison by the MSO, which used to tour here regularly.

The distinguished de Waart, a native of the Netherlands, has enjoyed critical acclaim in his international career across Europe, Asia and North America. For a while, this acclaimed world-class musician who has made so many award-winning recordings and performed so many guest stints around the world, was even a neighbor who lived in Middleton, a suburb of Madison, where his wife is from.

Plus, de Waart has a fine philosophy of making music and leading an orchestra, as you can hear in the YouTube video below that was made when he first took over the reins of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra:


Classical music education: Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras performs “Sounds of the Season” with area high school choirs on TV once again on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Plus, WYSO names Randal Swiggum as its new interim music director

December 23, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras has two pieces of news to report:

As in past years, WYSO will perform its popular one-hour, commercial-free “Sounds of the Season” concerts on TV on NBC 15 this weekend. 

Three WYSO groups will be featured: the Youth Orchestra (below top), the Youth Brass Choir (below middle) and the Percussion Ensemble (below bottom).

WYSO Youth Orchestra James Smith conducting 2015

WYSO Brass Choir

WYSO Percussion Ensemble 2012

There will be one performance on Christmas Eve at 10 p.m., and then two performances on Christmas Day at 8 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

The orchestra and ensembles will also be joined by choirs from area high schools. Sorry, but The Ear can’t find word of which ones.

You can hear part of Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride” as performed by WYSO on “Sounds of the Season” in the YouTube video at the bottom.

For more information, photos and audiovisual clips from a last year’s “Sounds of the Season,” go to:

http://www.nbc15.com/content/misc/NBC15-Sounds-Of-The-Season-2016-406076915.html

wyso-sounds-of-the-season-logo

In addition WYSO has named an interim replacement for outgoing music director James Smith (below), who is retiring from WYSO as well as from the University of Wisconsin-Madison at the end of this season.

james smith Jack Burns

Here are details from WYSO’s executive director Bridget Fraser:

“WYSO is very pleased to announce that Randal Swiggum (below) has been appointed WYSO Interim Artistic Director and Youth Orchestra Conductor for the 2017-2018 season.

“Randy is well-known to many WYSO students already, whether through Summer Music Clinic, the recent Wisconsin Middle Level Honors orchestra, or Suzuki Strings of Madison. He prepared the WYSO Youth Orchestra for its 2012 Overture Center performance of “To Be Certain of the Dawn,” and has subbed in with Philharmonia Orchestra and chamber music rehearsals.

Randall Swiggum

“Randy is in his 19th season as Artistic Director of the award-winning Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra, a large program similar to WYSO, which draws students from 70 different communities in suburban Chicago.

“Under his direction, the EYSO has collaborated with renowned artists like Midori, Yo-Yo Ma and Rachel Barton Pine, as well as Grammy-winning chamber ensemble eighth blackbird. The EYSO has appeared on NPR’s “From the Top” and at the Ravinia Festival, where they will return to perform again in 2018.

“The Illinois Council of Orchestras has twice named him Conductor of the Year and awarded its prestigious Programming of the Year Award to the EYSO.

“A frequent guest conductor of orchestral and choral festivals, Randy recently conducted the Scottish National Youth Symphony in Glasgow, All-State Orchestras in Georgia and Illinois, the American Mennonite Schools Orchestra Festival, Northern Arizona Honors Orchestra, the APAC Orchestra Festival in Seoul, and both the Wisconsin Middle Level Honors Choir and Orchestra, among many others.

“Randy also works with a number of professional orchestras, designing and conducting concerts for young people. Last year, he led the Madison Symphony in his original “Symphony Safari: What Nature Teaches Us About the Orchestra,” attended by several thousand middle school students in Overture Hall.

“Next February, he returns for a fourth season with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in its acclaimed “Teen Partner” series, conducting the Gloria by Francis Poulenc.

“He also appears next spring with the Chippewa Valley Symphony, conducting his “Beethoven Superhero” concert, which has been popular with teachers, students and parents alike, with the Elgin Symphony and The Florida Orchestra (Tampa).

“As an author and lecturer, Randy works with teachers around the country and internationally, most recently with international school teachers in Hong Kong and at Carnegie Hall, where last summer he returned for a fourth season teaching its Music Educator Workshops, and leading members of the National Youth Orchestra of the USA.

“Randy is a proud UW-Madison graduate and lives in Madison, where you can find him on Monday nights working with the Madison Boychoir (in the Madison Youth Choirs) alongside colleague Margaret Jenks.

“WYSO is truly fortunate to have such a dedicated and tireless educator guiding its artistic vision next season.”


Classical music education: Here are 10 tips from China for productive practicing. Also, this afternoon is your last chance to hear the Madison Symphony Orchestra and violinist-composer Henning Kraggerud

October 23, 2016
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ALERT: This afternoon at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall is your last chance to hear the Madison Symphony Orchestra with violinist-composer Henning Kraggerud (below). The popular “Pastorale” Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven is also on the program. Here are some reviews, all positive:

Here is the review that John W. Barker wrote for Isthmus:

http://isthmus.com/music/something-old-something-new/

Here is Jessica Courtier’s review for The Capital Times and The Wisconsin State Journal:

http://host.madison.com/ct/entertainment/music/concert-review-madison-symphony-orchestra-takes-listeners-on-a-trip/article_6ccb102f-2f5a-5f81-8df0-84323c05ca44.html

And here is the review written by Greg Hettmansberger for his blog “What Greg Says”:

https://whatgregsays.wordpress.com/2016/10/22/no-place-like-a-second-home/

henning-kraggerud-2016

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear, who is an avid amateur pianist, ran across these 10 tips for productive practicing – something he can always use.

He knew some of them before. But it never hurts to review the basics. That’s why they are called the basics.

And some tips — included on a website based in Hong Kong, China, where music education is booming — were new.

Steinway Grand Piano

string trio violin, viola and cello

He thought that you too – no matter what instrument you play or if you sing – would find them helpful too.

And if you don’t play or sing, maybe these tips will still enhance your appreciation of the hard work that goes into playing and practicing.

So here they are:

http://www.interlude.hk/front/ten-tips-productive-practice/

If you have some practice tips of your own to add, just leave them in the COMMENT section.

The Ear wants to hear.

And to play better.


Classical music: The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra will perform its second-to-last concert with maestro Edo de Waart at the Wisconsin Union Theater next May

June 22, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Wisconsin Union Theater has announced some news:

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra with conductor Edo de Waart and Principal Cello Susan Babini will perform in Shannon Hall on Sunday afternoon, May 21, 2017 at 2:30 p.m.

edodewaart1

The program includes the Overture to the opera “Don Giovanni,” K. 527, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; “Schelomo, A Hebraic Rhapsody for Cello and Orchestra” by Ernest Bloch; and the Symphony No. 1 in A-flat major, Opus 55, by Sir Edward Elgar.

Ticket prices are as follows: General public tickets are $49, $45 and $25, Union Member and non-UW students tickets are $44, $40 and $25, UW Faculty and Staff tickets cost $46, $42 and $25, UW-Madison student tickets cost $15, and youth tickets (age 6-18) cost $20, limit 2 with the purchase of a full-priced ticket.

Tickets can be bought online, by phone at 608-265-ARTS (2787) or in person, see locations and hours here

This performance will be conductor and former music director Edo de Wart’s the second-t0-last concert as MSO’s chief conductor. (His final ones are performances of the Symphony No. 3 by Gustav Mahler on the following weekend in Milwaukee ) He has served as conductor also for the Netherlands Wind Ensemble, the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.

De Waart was awarded the Australian Centenary Medal, and was appointed an Honorary Officer of the Order of Australia. He is also a knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion. De Waart also has vast experience in opera conducting, from the Santa Fe Opera House and the Metropolitan Opera to the Royal Opera House.

The performance is presented by the Wisconsin Union Theater’s Performing Arts Committee.


Classical music: Why couldn’t the New York Philharmonic find an American conductor? Meet Dutchman Jaap van Sweden, its next music director. Plus, Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen, is NEXT SUNDAY — NOT TODAY — and tonight’s concert of new music by UW-Madison professor Les Thimmig has been CANCELLED

January 31, 2016
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ALERT 1: The Sunday Afternoon Live performance by the Wisconsin Brass Quintet at the Chazen Museum of Art is NEXT SUNDAY, NOT TODAY. The Ear apologizes for the mistake.

 ALERT 2: Tonight’s concert of new music for woodwinds and piano by UW-Madison professor Les Thimmig and pianist Jessica Johnson has been CANCELLED.

By Jacob Stockinger

This week the New York Philharmonic announced its next music director and conductor who will succeed Alan Gilbert, starting in 2018.

He is Jaap van Sweden (below, in a photo by Todd Heiser for The New York Times , a 55-year-old Dutchman, acclaimed for his technical prowess, who now is the music director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and the Hong Kong Philharmonic.

Jaap van Sweden CR Todd Heisler NYT

There are a lot of stories The Ear could link to.

Here is a short summary from NPR (National Public Radio) with audio clips of his conducting:

http://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2016/01/27/464563264/jaap-van-zweden-named-new-music-director-of-the-new-york-philharmonic

But he found the coverage by the New York Times quite comprehensive and, on balance, fair.

It featured a main news story with some important feature elements, including the critical acclaim van Sweden received for conducting music by Gustav Mahler and Ludwig van Beethoven. (Below, you can see van Sweden conducting the New York Philharmonic in 2014 in a photo by Hiroyuki Ito for The New York Times).

Jaap van Sweden conducting the NY PHIL cr Horiyuki Ito NYT

And it also featured a column or commentary by senior classical music critic Anthony Tommasini, who spoke in Madison on the occasion of the centennial of the Pro Arte Quartet that was held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

Overall, Tommasini’s notebook entry is a fine and insightful piece, even if it gets tiring to hear Tommasini climb up on his high horse and whine yet again about the neglect of new music and contemporary composers – which does not seem fully justified based on the record of this particular conductor.

Tommasini – who himself was trained as a composer — clearly would have preferred former Los Angeles Philharmonic conductor and composer Esa-Pekka Salonen (below) as the new music director and conductor. Hmmm – could they be friends?

Esa Pekka Salonen

For his part, it may sound provincial but The Ear is more concerned that the very same symphony orchestra that made history in American culture for hiring the first American-born and American-trained maestro – Leonard Bernstein (below), who also just happened to put Jaap van Sweden on the path to a conducting career – is once again turning to Europe rather to the many fine conducting talents in this country.

Leonard Bernstein CR Jack Mitchell

Why was no American conductor chosen. One who comes to mind is Marin Alsop of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (below top) and the Sao Paulo State Symphony Orchestra in Brazil who is also a Bernstein protege. And then there is David Robertson of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and chief conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in Australia(below bottom).

Seems odd that Marin Alsop is good enough for Brazil and David Robertson is good enough for Australia — but not for New York?

The Ear wants to ask the Philharmonic’s board of directors: Do you really find all American conductors to be that inferior to Jaap van Sweden?

Maybe there were practical considerations — salary, contracts, availability, refusals — that made hiring an American conductor impossible. But the stories suggest that the choice of van Sweden was made early on and the fix seemed in. Too bad. It still seems like a great opportunity that was lost.

Marin Alsop big

David Robertson

You can decide for yourself.

Here is the news story by Michael Cooper:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/28/arts/music/new-york-philharmonic-taps-jaap-van-zweden-as-its-next-maestro.html?_r=0

And here is Tommasini’s column:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/28/arts/jaap-van-zweden-and-the-future-of-the-new-york-philharmonic.html

Do you know the work of Jaap van Sweden?

Have you heard him in live or recorded performances?

What do you think?

Here is a sample of Jaap van Sweden conducting Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in a YouTube video at the bottom.

Leave your opinion in the COMMENT section.

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: Streaming gains even more momentum. Korean carmaker Hyundai will abandon in-dash CD players and titan CD seller Naxos will launch a high-definition streaming service.

January 24, 2015
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No doubt about it.

Streaming seems the sound wave of the future.

That’s what the news about sales and trends points to, anyway.

Streaming through such services at Spotify or various app stores and retailers like Amazon.com looks to be the inevitable next step from CDs, just as CDs followed tapes and tapes followed LPs and vinyl (78, 45 and 33-1/3 RPM)-– even though vinyl is making something of a comeback among audiophiles because of its superior, less harsh sound quality.

But consider some new developments coming out of Asia, which seems to be setting the trend for the dissemination of Western classical music more than Western culture or Western industry is doing in Europe and the United States.

Korean carmaker Hyundai will get rid of CD payers in its next year’s models. Instead the music connections will run through Bluetooth electronics that link up solely to MP3 players and iPods. (Below is a photo of the new dashboard taken at a recent industry show.)

Hyundai new car audio system

Here is a link to a story that has more technical details plus a defense of KEEPING in-dash CD players – below is Japanese carmaker Honda’s more traditional in-dash CD player and changer — and the virtue of listening to one entire CD:

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/music/posts/la-et-ms-who-still-listens-to-cds-in-the-car-20150114-story.html

Honda in-dash CD player and changer

Then consider the fact that Naxos – the Hong Kong-based budget CD label that now dominates the CD industry – is about to launch a high-definition streaming service.

http://www.classicalmusicmagazine.org/2015/01/naxos-launches-hd-streaming-service/

Naxos Records logo

Penderecki Wit Naxos

Here is some background about the company, based in Singapore, that will service Naxos’ streaming site:

http://www.digitaljournal.com/pr/2422084

The Ear has very mixed feelings about this news. He listens to all sorts of formats in the car — radio, CDs and iPods.

What about you?

Would you buy a new car without an in-dash CD player, a car that relies only on wireless and streaming technology?

And how dissatisfied are you with the sound quality of CDs versus streaming or other formats?

The Ear wants to hear.

 


Classical music: The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra will perform music by Rossini, Wieniawski and Tchaikovsky this Tuesday night in Edgerton.

November 15, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

It has been a few years since the acclaimed and impressive Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (MSO, below) –- still in the news (a link to a story on NPR, or National Public Radio, is below) because of the attempted theft of concertmaster Frank Almond’s $3-million Stradivarius violin — played an annual concert at the Wisconsin Union Theater. The Ear always looked forward to the top-flight playing and fine programs that the Milwaukee group brought to Madison.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/10/12/355623871/the-case-of-the-stolen-stradivarius

Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra 2

But this week, the MSO, playing under an assistant conductor, will perform in nearby Edgerton at the Edgerton Performing Arts Center.

Edgerton PAC

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra – without its music director Edo de Waart — will perform at the Edgerton Performing Arts Center on this coming Tuesday, November 18, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $30 in advance, $35 at the door.

Here is some information from a press release: “The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, under the dynamic leadership of Music Director Edo de Waart, has embarked upon a new era of artistic excellence and critical acclaim. Now in his fifth season with the MSO, Maestro de Waart has led sold-out concerts, elicited rave reviews, and conducted an acclaimed performance at Carnegie Hall. The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra has four purposes: to comfort, educate, entertain and exhilarate the human soul.” For more information, visit www.mso.org

The concert will feature conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong and violin soloist Jeanyi Kim.

The program will include the Overture to the opera “Semiramide” by the Italian composer Gioachino Rossini (below top); the Concerto for Violin No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 22, by the well-traveled Polish violin virtuoso and composer Henryk Wieniawski (below middle); and the popular Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Opus 64, by the Russian composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (below bottom). You can hear the tuneful and melancholy Tchaikovsky symphony, played by the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Leonard Bernstein,  in a popular YouTube video at the bottom.

Rossini photo

Henryk Wieniawski

young tchaikovsky

Jeanyi Kim (below) is the associate concertmaster (third chair) of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and the concertmaster of the Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra. In 2007, she served as a guest assistant concertmaster of the London Symphony Orchestra under Sir Colin Davis and Valery Gergiev.

As an orchestral musician, the Toronto native has performed in illustrious venues around the world, including Carnegie Hall, the Barbican Centre, Salle Pleyel, and the Concertgebouw.  In addition to maintaining a private studio, she has served on the faculties at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, University of New Haven, and Neighborhood Music School, to name a few.

She holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Yale University, from which she also earned her BA, MM, and MMA degrees.

Jeanyi Kim

Francesco Lecce-Chong (below), currently associate conductor of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, has worked with the Atlanta, Indianapolis, and St. Louis Symphony Orchestras, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Hong Kong, Pitesti (Romania), and Ruse (Bulgaria) philharmonic orchestras. Equally at ease in the opera house, Maestro Lecce-Chong has served as principal conductor for the Brooklyn Repertory Opera and as staff conductor for the Santa Fe Opera.

He has earned national distinction, including the Solti Foundation Career Assistance Award and The Presser Foundation Music Award. In summer 2014, he served as the associate conductor at the Grand Tetons Music Festival and had guest appearances with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Las Vegas Philharmonic and the Breckenridge Music Festival.

He is a graduate of the Mannes College of Music, where he received his Bachelor of Music degree with honors in piano and orchestral conducting.  Lecce-Chong also holds a diploma from the Curtis Institute of Music.

Francesco Lecce-Chong

Tickets are $30 in advance, $35 at the door. They are available at the Edgerton Pharmacy and Edgerton Piggly Wiggly; and in Janesville at Knapton Musik Knotes and Voigt Music Center, and by calling (608) 561-6093.  Online, go to at iTickets.com

All performances funded by the William and Joyce Wartmann Endowment for the Performing Arts. An additional sponsor is the Edgerton Piggly Wiggly.

 

 


Classical music: Madison likes it maestros. The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra renews music director and conductor Andrew Sewell for another five years.

June 18, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

Just two weeks away from the start of the 30th annual Concerts on the Square concerts, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra has renewed the contract of its longtime music director and conductor Andrew Sewell (below) for another five years.

andrewsewell

(The FREE and outdoors Concerts on the Square — below — will  run this summer on six consecutive Wednesdays at 7 p.m. from June 26 through July 31 on the King Street corner of the Capitol Square. Here is a link with more information, including specific artists and programs: http://wcoconcerts.org/performances/concerts-on-the-square/)

Concerts on Square WCO orchetsra

Madison sure likes its maestros. And with good reason.

This fall, the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s music director John DeMain (below) marks his 20th season with the MSO. During his tenure he has reshaped and refined the orchestra, and led it to “triple” performances.

John DeMain full face by Prasad

Sewell arrived on the local scene in 2000. That is a long and solid tenure for the New Zealand-born Sewell, who is now a naturalized American citizen.

Little wonder that the WCO wants to retain him. Sewell revitalized his organization and helped bring the WCO back from the brink of ruin after the unexpected and premature death of David Lewis Crosby. He helped it secure a permanent home in the Overture Center’s Capitol Theater.

Sewell (below) is a friendly, informal and congenial man plus an excellent conductor, especially in the Classical-era repertoire of Mozart and Haydn, who especially excels at eclectic programming. Under Sewell, the WCO is taken much more seriously for its winter “Masterworks” season than it ever has been. He finds and books outstanding yet affordable soloists, and he has recorded several noteworthy CDs with the WCO. Plus, he is in demand as a guest conductor around the world.

Madison is very lucky to have him and to hold him.

So, The Ear says “Congratulations, Maestro Sewell” and offers a shout-out with wishes for many more seasons with the WCO in Madison.

Andrew Sewell very casual Diane Seldick

Here is the official press release from the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra:

MADISON, WI  – The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below, in the hallway to the Overture Center’s Capitol Theater) is pleased to announce the renewal of Maestro Andrew Sewell’s contract for another five-year term.

“Maestro Sewell was appointed music director on February 1, 2000, and since then has grown the orchestra’s repertoire, profile and stature in the Madison community and around the state.

WCO lobby

“I am delighted to continue my work here in Madison, my home, and am excited for what the next five years will bring” says Sewell.  “I feel privileged to live in a community that embraces the arts, and the opportunity to work with such extraordinary musicians.  I am pleased with what we’ve been able to accomplish, with exciting guest artists and expanding repertoire, and look forward to performing many more seasons of beautiful music.” (At bottom, is the first of a two-part YouTube video in which Andrew Sewell reflects on music.)

“Doug Gerhart, executive director of the orchestra, remarks: “Andrew’s impressive artistic leadership has placed the WCO solidly among the top chamber orchestras in the United States.  He has an uncanny ability to create widely popular programs that link timeless masterpieces with contemporary, fresh compositions.”

“Gordon Ridley, chair of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra board of directors, adds: “Maestro Sewell has a knack of finding and bringing in extraordinary talent that we then see rise to new heights in the orchestral world.  We are very lucky to have him in Madison, Wisconsin.”

“Sewell is a sought after guest conductor, with recent guest engagements including the Illinois Symphony, the Eugene Symphony, the Green Bay Symphony, the Salem Chamber Orchestra, the OK Mozart Festival and the Peninsula Music Festival.  In June 2012 he made his opera debut with Hong Kong City Opera, and last November conducted the University of Wisconsin-Madison opera production of “Medea” by Luigi Cherubini. (Below, Sewell is seen with Robert Bracey in the Overture Center’s Capitol Theater, which is the WCO’s winter home.)

WCO Sewel Bracey B-9

“Entering its 54th year, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, led by Maestro Andrew Sewell, is a vibrant and thriving professional orchestra dedicated to connecting its audiences to the power of music.

“Annually, the WCO performs a five-concert Masterworks series in its permanent home at the Overture Center for the Arts magnificent Capitol Theater, two Holiday Pops, “Messiah” and Youth Concerts, and Madison’s premier six-concert outdoor summer event, Concerts on the Square®, celebrating its 30th year this summer.

“With a core orchestra of 34 musicians and an established endowment, WCO is one of the finest chamber orchestras in the country.  For more information, visit www.wcoconcerts.org.”


Classical music: Meet new guest blogger Greg Hettmansberger, who reviews and praises “The Story of Naxos” because it compellingly documents the rise of the budget record label Naxos as it grew from ‘David vs. Goliath’ to ‘David Becomes Goliath.’

February 24, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger 

Today’s posting marks the debut of guest blogger Greg Hettmansberger. Since August, 2011 he has authored the blog “Classically Speaking” for Madison Magazine, and added a print column of the same name nearly a year ago. He was first published as a critic by the Los Angeles Times in 1988, and free-lanced as a critic and features contributor for a number of newspapers and other publications in Southern California. He began writing program notes in 1996, and is currently completing his 18th season as an annotator for the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. Moving to the Madison area in 2001, Hettmansberger (below) was the director of bands for Abundant Life Christian School until 2008.

greg hettmansberger mug

By Greg Hettmansberger

Rarely do I hear anything (a celebrity birthday, etc.) that evokes the response “that makes me feel old.” But it happened last fall, when it was announced that Naxos — the one-time “little classical label that could” — was turning 25 years old. It seemed like almost yesterday that I had interviewed the founder of Naxos, Klaus Heymann, on the occasion of Naxos’ fifth anniversary.

That was in Los Angeles, and Heymann (below bottom, in Hong Kong) was making a North American tour to do everything he could to turn his foothold of credibility as the all-digital budget label into a foundation of respectability as a significant force in the classical recording industry. Late 1992 was still the time of the Naxos “white wall,” the point-of-purchase displays of their distinctively plain white covers that featured not the glossy pose of the latest Tchaikovsky Competition winner but (gasp!) simply the composer and work in the largest type, against a mostly white background.

In the U.S. the CDs sold for about $5, but a number of leading critics and periodicals — if they deigned to review them at all — rarely exceeded the left-handed compliment “excellent quality for a budget cd.”

But what was a story of “David vs. Goliath” morphed into “David becomes Goliath”: over the next two decades, Naxos not only became competitive with the former giants of the classical industry, it overtook them all.

We get the whole story in the new book “The Story of Naxos: The Extraordinary Story of the Independent Record Label that Changed Classical Recording Forever” (below).

Naxos book

In a detailed, and often fascinating, 450 pages, author Nicolas Soames chronicles the story of Klaus Heymann (below), the “German businessman from Hong Kong,” as he almost by accident moved from new kid on the classical block, to producer and distributor of not only affordable, high-quality classical CDs, but branched out into audiobooks, jazz, world music, DVDs — and, oh yes, they have quite the digital/web presence today as well.

Heymann’s personal story is told at once, a fleshing-out of his great quote that is given on p. 423: “When I am asked the secret of my success, I reply: 1. I didn’t read music. 2. I didn’t play an instrument. 3. I hadn’t worked for a record label.” What he did do is combine a lifelong passion for classical music with great business skills, and a personal radar for rare opportunities that never seems to be turned off.

Klaus Heymann with CDs and awards

Soames opens with a fabulous overview of the state of the classical recording industry from the mid-1960’s through the mid-1980’s, overlapping the layers of business, technological and artistic factors that led to the Naxos “revolution.” Then we meet the man who made it all happen — and quite unexpectedly. It really started with Heymann’s marriage to the Japanese violinist, Takako Nishizaki — who also became his leading artist on his first label, Marco Polo.

But what makes this book worthwhile are the chapters that give dozens of snapshot sketches of soloists and conductors who, in most cases, went from obscurity to solid careers and occasionally, international fame beyond the walls of Naxos’ recording studios.

Naxos Records logo

But there was a catch, and one that Heymann had in place from the beginning. He paid a flat fee per recording, and no royalties; the artist also had to agree not to record for any other budget label. But back in 1992 I asked him, what happens if an artist comes to Heymann and says they have been offered a large contract by one of the “big” labels? He replied: “I say to them, ‘My friend, I understand. Take it; I’ll never pay you that kind of money, and if your new label spends $2 million promoting you, I will sell lots more of your recordings.’ There are no hard feelings.”

But what dozens of artists did get was a chance to record that they might never have gotten, and often recorded repertoire that no mainstream label would ever touch. And over the last quarter-century, Heymann can be said to have nurtured in varying degrees the careers of such artists as pianists Jeno Jando and Idil Beret, the Kodaly Quartet, and the conductor Marin Alsop (below), among others.

Marin Alsop

There is no questioning the qualifications of Nicolas Soames for writing this history: he was involved at the beginning of Naxos Audiobooks about 15 years ago, and has seen the growth of Naxos from the inside. (Originally Naxos was a distributor of Soames’ small label, Clarinet Classics).

Nicolas Soames Naxos book BIG

I was surprised to learn how much I didn’t know about how Naxos grew, and as both a music lover and writer about music, the book has pointed me in a handful of exciting new directions. Want a place to start? Go to the appendix, which contains a partial list of Naxos’ award-winning discs in its seven and a half pages.

For everyone from hard-core classical fan to someone who just likes a story about a business phenomenon no one saw coming via a model that likely will remain unique, “The Story of Naxos” is a great read.


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