The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: This coming week at the UW-Madison brings a FREE concert of flute and piano music by guest artists on Monday night and a FREE performance by the Wisconsin Brass Quintet on Wednesday night

October 12, 2019
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By Jacob Stockinger

This coming week at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Mead Witter School of Music brings two FREE chamber music concerts of flute music and brass music.

On Monday night, Oct. 14, at 7 p.m. in the Collins Recital Hall in the new Hamel Music Center, 740 University Ave., located next to the new wing of the Chazen Museum of Art, guest artists flutist Elise Blatchford (below top) from the University of Memphis and pianist Jacob Coleman (below bottom) from the University of Kentucky will perform a FREE recital.

No program is listed.

For more biographical information, go to: https://www.music.wisc.edu/event/guest-artists-elise-blatchford-flute-with-jacob-coleman-piano/

On Wednesday night, Oct. 16, at 7:30 p.m. in the Mead Witter Foundation Concert Hall of the new Hamel Music Center, the Wisconsin Brass Quintet (below) will give a FREE performance.

The quintet is a critically acclaimed, longtime faculty group at the UW-Madison. For background about the ensemble, go to: https://www.music.wisc.edu/wisconsin-brass-quintet/

Members of the 2019-20 Wisconsin Brass Quintet are Jean Laurenz and Gilson Silva, trumpets; Daniel Grabois, horn; Mark Hetzler, trombone; and Tom Curry, tuba.

Please note: In fall 2019, Daniel Grabois will be on sabbatical. His replacement will be Jeff Scott (below), hornist with the Grammy-nominated Imani Winds. Read about Jeff here.

The program of modern classics includes:

“Mini Overture” by Witold Lutoslawski (heard in the YouTube video at the bottom)

“Celestial Suite” by James Stephenson 

“Reflecting Light” by Adam Schoenberg

“Adam’s Rib” by James MacMillan

Quintet No. 2 by Victor Ewald

For more information, go to: https://www.music.wisc.edu/event/wisconsin-brass-quintet-faculty-ensemble/


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Classical music: Starting Wednesday, the second LunART Festival will again spotlight women in the performing and creative arts. Here is the first of a two-part preview

June 2, 2019
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received a long and detailed announcement about the upcoming second LunART Festival. Here is Part 1 with background and participants. Tomorrow will be Part 2 with more information about new music and a schedule of events.

The LunART Festival is back for its second season from this Wednesday, June 5, through Sunday, June 9, and will continue its mission of supporting, inspiring, promoting and celebrating women in the arts.

The 2019 season brings 10 events to eight venues in the Madison area, providing accessible, high-quality, engaging concerts and events with diverse programming from various arts fields.

The festival will showcase over 100 artists this season, including many familiar local artists and performers as well as guest artists hailing from Missouri to Texas, Minnesota to Florida and as far away as Peru.

LunART’s inaugural 2018 season was a success on numerous fronts. From showcasing a wide variety of artists and arts disciplines to building lasting relationships and collaborations, LunART has distinguished itself from other arts events in Madison.

Both artists and audiences have commented that the LunART atmosphere is one of camaraderie, love and acceptance. Festival directors Iva Ugrcic and Laura Medisky (below right and left, respectively) have set this season to come back even stronger, with expanded dates and more diverse programming.

Like last year, the three ticketed evening gala concerts are centered on classical chamber music. Other art forms — including contemporary and aerial dance, poetry, spoken word and visual arts — are interwoven throughout the programs to create a unique atmosphere for performers, artists and audiences.

This year’s Grammy-nominated composer-in-residence is flutist Valerie Coleman (below), a former member of Imani Winds, who was described as one of the “Top 35 Female Composers in Classical Music” by The Washington Post.

Coleman embodies LunART’s vision by challenging norms and being a strong advocate for diversity in the arts. Her rich compositional output infuses elements of jazz and African secular music into the Western classical tradition, creating a soundscape that honors both worlds. (In the YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear Valerie Coleman playing her own composition “Fanmi Imen” at the 2018 convention of the National Flute Association.)

Coleman’s music will be featured throughout the festival among the works of other remarkable women who shaped music history, from Baroque composer Barbara Strozzi to Romantic composer Clara Schumann to living composer Missy Mazzoli.

Drawing from Madison’s rich arts scene and community, LunART 2019 features local artists including: former Madison poet laureate Andrea Musher (below); actor and theater artist Deborah Hearst; choreographers and dancers Liz Sexe and Kimi Evelyn; and aerial dancer Linda DiRaimondo.

Also featured are musicians from arts organizations such as Madison Symphony Orchestra, Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, Fresco Opera Theatre, Arbor Ensemble, Madison New Music Ensemble and Sound Out Loud Contemporary Music Collective. Under the direction of Edgewood College professor Kathleen Otterson, Madison’s only women’s choir ARTemis Ensemble returns in greater numbers and will present a work by LunART 2018 “From Page to Stage” alum Meg Huskin among others.

Visual art will have a stronger presence in the 2019 Festival. From May 11-July 7, Overture’s Playhouse Gallery will house “Women Against Hate United by Love,” a collaborative, traveling art exhibition and multi-step “anti-hate” campaign united against bigotry, intolerance and racism, created by J. Leigh Garcia (below), Rachael Griffin and Kelly Parks Snider.

A gallery reception on Wednesday, June 5, serves as LunART’s opening event, in which Snider will give a talk about the exhibit and her use of art to educate communities about targeted issues in the hopes of shaking up the status quo. This engaging and thought-provoking exhibit is meant to provide a meaningful and hopeful community experience for all who attend.

In collaboration with Studio 84 and ArtWorking, two nonprofit art studios specializing in the creative development of people with disabilities, the final Gala concert at First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, on Saturday, June 8, will showcase 40 artworks. This exhibit will feature 20 women artists whose works will be displayed, flanking the Atrium Auditorium stage as well as in the lobby.

Tomorrow: New music to be premiered, comedy and the full schedule of events


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Classical music: Prize-winning composer John Harbison has turned 80. In February, Madison will see many celebrations of his birthday, starting this Friday night with the Imani Winds

January 30, 2019
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By Jacob Stockinger

This Friday night, Feb. 1, a month-long celebration in Madison of the 80th birthday of critically acclaimed and prize-winning composer John Harbison (below) gets underway.

The festivities start with a concert by the Grammy-nominated Imani Winds (below), which will perform this Friday night at 7:30 p.m. – with a pre-concert lecture at 6 p.m. — in Shannon Hall at the Wisconsin Union Theater. The program includes Harbison’s popular Wind Quintet.

Here is a link with more information about the group, the program and tickets: https://union.wisc.edu/events-and-activities/event-calendar/event/imani-winds/

Among America’s most distinguished artistic figures, Harbison is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, among them a MacArthur ”genius grant’ and a Pulitzer Prize. His work encompasses all genres, from chamber music to opera, sacred to secular. (You can hear Harbison discuss his approach to composing in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

He has composed for most of America’s premiere musical institutions, including the Metropolitan Opera, the symphony orchestras of Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle and New York; and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival.

Institute Professor at MIT, Harbison serves as composer, conductor, performer, teacher and scholar. He divides his time between Cambridge, Mass., and Token Creek, Wis., where he co-founded and co-directs a summer chamber music festival with his violinist wife Rose Mary Harbison.

Other local birthday events include a performance by the Madison Symphony Orchestra; several chamber music and choral concerts at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, including one by the Mosaic Chamber Players; an exhibition of books and manuscripts at the Mills Music Library at UW-Madison’s Memorial Library.

There are also several concerts, including the world premiere of a new Sonata for Viola, and a composer residency at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music; and the world premiere of a new motet by the Madison Choral Project.

Harbison will also be featured in radio interviews and broadcast retrospectives by both Wisconsin Public Radio and WORT community radio.

National and international celebrations include other world premieres of commissions, many new recordings and the publication of Harbison’s autobiographical book about Johann Sebastian Bach, “What Do We Make of Bach?”

For more details about the many local celebrations, you can go to the following two links. Schedules, programs and updates – events are subject to change — will be posted at www.tokencreekfestival.org and www.johnharbison.com.

To receive “Harbison Occasions,” an intermittent e-newsletter, write to arsnova.artsmanagement@gmail.com


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Classical music: A ticket to the concert here by the Imani Winds is an ideal gift to mark the African-American holiday Kwanzaa

December 27, 2018
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By Jacob Stockinger

The African-American and Pan-African harvest and heritage holiday of Kwanzaa started Wednesday and runs through Jan. 1.

Many people know the name of the events that mark the African Diaspora.

But do you know more about the holiday itself?

Do you know the seven principles of Kwanzaa?

Do you know the history and person behind the celebration, which started the United States in 1966?

Here is a link to a comprehensive view of Kwanzaa in Wikipedia:

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

If you are looking for a suitable gift to give during Kwanzaa, it would be hard to beat tickets to the concert by the Imani Winds (below) on Friday, Feb. 1, at 7:30 p.m. in Shannon Hall at the Wisconsin Union Theater.

The Imani Winds have been nominated for a Grammy Award, and have established a reputation for world music and commissioning new works.

For more information about the group, the performers, ticket prices and how to buy tickets, go to: https://union.wisc.edu/events-and-activities/event-calendar/event/imani-winds/

The group’s name comes from a principle of Kwanzaa — namely, faith. And one member, Valerie Coleman, composed a signature piece based on the first principle of Kwanzaa – Umoji, or Unity. You can hear that work in the YouTube video at the bottom.

Then in June, from June 6 to June 9, Valerie Coleman (below) returns to Madison as the Composer-in-Residence for the second annual LunArt Festival — a cultural and all-women festival devoted to performers, composers, writers and artists.


Classical music: The City of Tomorrow wind quintet will perform contemporary music during its Madison debut concert this Thursday night at the Brink Lounge.

October 23, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

The City of Tomorrow wind quintet (below top) is coming to Madison for is local debut concert this Thursday night at 8 p.m. at the Brink Lounge (below bottom), 701 East Washington Avenue.

The concert is sponsored by the Madison chapter of Classical Revolution, the growing national and international movement to present classical music in non-traditional venues.

The City of Tomorrow — which specializes in  contemporary music, especially contemporary classical music,  and offers many world premieres (at bottom) — is the only wind quintet to have won the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition in the last 10 years. The Madison concert will include yet-unrecorded works by David Lang and Esa-Pekka Salonen (below), former music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

The program features “Memoria” by Esa-Pekka Salonen; the 1948 wind quintet by Elliott Carter; “Breathless” by David Lang; and the Wind Quintet No. 3 by David Maslanka.

Admission is $11 for adults; $6 for students with ID; and $5 for members of Classical Revolution. For information, call (608) 661-8599.

The City of Tomorrow wind quintet (below) is a long-distance ensemble. Members live in four different cities (New York, Chicago, Portland, Oregon and San Antonio) and have intensive rehearsal residencies throughout the year. The quintet will perform in 17 cities in nine states this season as well as make its Canadian debut with New Music Edmonton and record its first CD while at the Banff Centre.

Madison has had rich season of wind quintets, as the Imani Winds were just in town for the Wisconsin Union Theater, and the University of Wisconsin’s Wingra Woodwind Quintet performs regularly. So this will be a memorable season for wind fans and students.

A complete calendar and bio of the quintet can be found at www.thecityoftomorrow.org.


Classical Music Q&A: Here is what’s happening with the Grammy-nominated Imani Winds ensemble, which opens the new Wisconsin Union Theater series in Mills Hall this Friday night.

September 25, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

While the historic Wisconsin Union Theater is being renovated for the next two seasons, the WUT’s concert series will be taking place at Mills Hall at the University of Wisconsin School of Music. For more information, visit:

http://www.uniontheater.wisc.edu

The WUT classical season, cut back this year to four less expensive and often mixed genre crossover or fusion concerts  designed to help draw younger audiences, opens this Friday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall with a concert by the Grammy-nominated group the Imani Winds quintet (below, in a photo by Eddie Collins).

In addition to the concert, the Imani Winds will offer a free master class. The class, open to the public, is in Mills Hall in the Mosse Humanities, 455 N. Park St., on Thursday night at 7 p.m. The ensemble will also be interviewed on Thursday at noon on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “The Midday” on WERN, 88.7 FM.

The program for the performance on Friday night consists of both classical and original pieces, including works commissioned by the high-energy group.

They will play Jeff Scott’s “Startin’ Sumthing”; Jason Moran’s “Cane,” about the Cane River which runs through Natchitoches Parish where the composer’s ancestor, ex-slave Marie Coincoin, is fabled to have established a colony of creoles in the 1700s; and works from the group’s flutist, Valerie Coleman (below and at bottom on YouTube), “Suite: Portraits of Josephine Baker,” commemorating the remarkable life story of the African-American dancer, chanteuse, humanitarian and WW II resistance fighter, and “Tzigane.”  Then, in line with the night’s theme of “West Meets East,” the group will also perform Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” and Gene Kavadlo’s arrangement of Romanian folk “Klezmer Dances.”

Tickets for the concert are $25 for the general public, $21 for Memorial Union members, faculty and staff, and $14 for young people under 18.  As always, tickets for UW Madison students are only $10 with a valid ID.  Call the Box Office at 608-265-ARTS (2787), buy online, or purchase in person at the Campus Arts Ticketing box office in Vilas Hall, 821 University Ave.

This performance is sponsored by the Wisconsin Union Directorate Performing Arts Committee and is supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin. Other sponsors include the Union Theater Endowment Fund, Wisconsin Public Radio and WORT, 89.9 FM.

Clarinetist Miriam Adams (below) recently answered an email Q&A for The Ear:

Can you briefly describe the history of the Imani Winds: How it came into being? What is its mission or purpose, its special point of view or approach?

Imani Winds was just a name in the mind of Valerie Coleman, flutist, back in 1996 before she had the players. She wanted to create a group that would perhaps approach classical music from the similar ethnic and cultural background she had. The group was indeed formed without anyone but her or I knowing each other previously.

The mission also involved championing composers that were underrepresented from the non-European side of contemporary music which continues to be a platform for us. Now our mission has broadened to include collaborations, expanding the idea of what a wind quintet can sound like and bridge the gap between traditional classical audiences and pop culture audience.

What would attract audiences to hear the group (below)?

Imani Winds performances are right away noted for the synergy and chemistry between the players. Being together for almost 15 seasons helps this and it allows the music we play to come off the page more. The repertoire is definitely not your average classical standard and we play lots of music that is written for our unique personalities. There’s usually a little something for everyone on our programs.

Could you briefly comment on the pieces on the Madison program?

The Madison program is “West Meets East” in a back-and-forth of works that were created in the West (the States) and pieces that are inspired by the sounds of the East. Jeff Scott’s “Startin Sumthin'” is a down home almost tribute to Henry Mancini’s “Pink Panther” style of cool jazz.

Jason Moran’s “Cane” is a result of our Legacy Commissioning Project that presents a journey of a famed ancestor of his from Louisiana that had quite a story of perseverance. “Tzigane” by Valerie Coleman is a wild gypsy ride that was inspired by the collaborations we have had with great world musicians of the east; her suite “Portraits of Josephine” is inspired by the great ex-pat, Josephine Baker. The arrangement of “The Rite of Spring” by Stravinsky (below) has been an amazing feat that changed the way people hear the piece. Look for it and the Klezmer Dances on our next album!

What are your future plans for touring, recording, TV and radio appearances, etc.?

We are on tour almost full-time and are having quite a bit of success with our international touring in Europe and Asia. We are in residence at Sirius-XM and find a moment at least once a year to be on an NPR program, either locally or nationally.

The biggest projects for us right now are the collaborations with pianists that will take us to a commission from Chick Corea (below)  in a couple of years as well as the festival that we started in New York City during the summer, the Imani Winds Chamber Music Festival.

We have a new album coming out this season that is self-produced and a great selection of repertoire including original pieces by our own Valerie Coleman, Jeff Scott, the “Rite of Spring,” Astor Piazzolla and the Klezmer Dances.

There’s never enough time to get in all our projects at once, so it’s nice to be in a place that we can schedule things one at a time and really have a chance to dive in to each one, knowing there’s always an exciting one around the corner.

Could you comment on the state of wind music today in terms of both composition and performance? Do you commission works and arrangements?

We started the Imani Winds Legacy Commissioning Project for our 10th year anniversary, and it has been an ongoing love affair of working with living composers. It’s extremely important for the wind quintet repertoire to have a pump of fresh energy from composers that wouldn’t normally write for our instrumentation. So we have had great experiences approaching a wide variety of musicians.

We also do arrangements, many by our own composers. But in general are very picky because we always want to make sure our repertoire highlights the diversity and virtuosity of each instrument and player.


Classical music news: Is this “au revoir” or “adieu” for classical music at the Wisconsin Union Theater, The Ear asks after pianist Peter Serkin performs Beethoven and new music to bring down to the curtain?

May 11, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

Last Saturday night’s piano recital by Peter Serkin (below) at the Wisconsin Union Theater was certainly timely.

It was a perfect event for bringing down the curtain for the next two seasons at the Union Theater as the Memorial Union undergoes a major renovation in time to reopen for the theater’s 75th anniversary season in September of 2014.

The question is: Does this mean “au revoir” or “adieu” – that is, “until next time” or “farewell” – to classical music at the Wisconsin Union Theater after 73 seasons?

(NOTE: A Curtain Down Party and Open House will be held — free and open to the public — from 2 to 6 p.m. this Saturday. For details, see http://www.uniontheater.wisc.edu/curtaindown/

I speak as someone who sincerely hopes the answer is “Au revoir.” After all, I have often referred to the Wisconsin Union Theater as “The Carnegie Hall of Madison.” It is where The Great Ones have played – and continue to play — as you will see shortly in my review of Peter Serkin’s Beethoven, which was done on the same legendary stage where I heard his famous father Rudolf Serkin (below) also perform Beethoven 40 years ago. Now that is tradition and legacy! History and longevity!

But I also know that classical music has been a tough sell for the past several seasons at the Wisconsin Union Theater. The audiences are dwindling, due, I am sure, to competing events, to tough economic times and to shifting priorities in how young people – or older people, for that matter – choose to spend their discretionary money and leisure time.

While the jazz festival and world music series continue to draw large crowds or even sold-out houses, the classical concerts usually sell under half a house.

How long, one has to ask, can that go on?

True, next season, the Union Theater’s four classical concerts will largely take place in Mills Hall, the same hall in the UW School of Music where pianist Jeffrey Siegel (who will mark his 25th anniversary performing “Keyboard Conversations” in Madison) and the UW faculty and the school’s guest artists now perform. It has about 750 seats compared to the Union Theater’s 1,200 seats.

In addition, the classical series is holding down ticket prices and is trying out scheduling mini-concerts at non-traditional times in non-traditional venues — at lunchtime at the Wisconsin Institutes of Discovery, for example — to generate interest and audience.

Plus, there is clearly a decision to mix in some of the appeal of world music by booking groups like the Grammy-winning Imani Winds (below, below in a photo by Jeff Fisano) and The Knights chamber orchestra (below middle) with the pippa player Wu Man (below bottom) in a Silk Road Ensemble-type event .

More traditional classical bookings include cellist Joshua Roman (below top, in a photo by Tina Su), who will do a solo recital and also play a concerto with the UW Symphony Orchestra; and up-and-coming pianist Jeremy Denk (below bottom), who first appeared there as an accompanist for violinist Joshua Bell and last season played a fabulous and monumental recital of J.S. Bach and Ives and who offered a master class and blogging workshop as well as a lecture on Chopin at the UW School of Music.

For details, visit: http://uniontheater.wisc.edu/materials/theater_b_T503_SeasonSeries_12_1046_OF.pdf

You have to believe that cultural arts director Ralph Russo (below, in a photo by Jeff Miller of UW-Madison) and the student directors whom he works with are doing their very best to make the classical concert series succeed. But I already have heard several veteran subscribers who say they will pass on subscription tickets next season and wait to see what else is happening that week or day.

That doesn’t bode well –- though I could be, and hope that I am, wrong.

Time will tell, as they say. Maybe larger new audiences will indeed replace lost audiences. Something has to happen, that is for sure.

Whatever it takes for the Wisconsin Union Theater’s classical series to succeed and become popular again, I hope that is what happens. But I do fear for the worst – which is that it will continue to wind down to the point of disappearing. That would be a shame. We just can’t let that happen.

AS FOR PETER SERKIN (below): It was a memorable concert that featured Serkin’s specialties.

The first half was devoted to contemporary music by British composer Oliver Knussen, Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu and American composer Charles Wourinen.

Of them all, I preferred the “Adagio” by Wuorinen (below), which had a great sense of spaciousness and placidness while so much contemporary music seems abusively aggressive.

But I also have to confess that largely atonal new music is not my thing and that I find the music just can’t get traction, as they say, on my being.

I think I need more melody or tunes in the music, more obvious sense-making or structure and emotional directness with less cerebral puzzle-solving, for new music to reach me and seem like something other than R&D – or research and development. I seek emotional resonance.

I think you could play a sampling from any one of the pieces and almost no one could tell you which composer or which piece it was.

I also think it says something that even someone as experienced with those works as Peter Serkin – who commissioned the Wuorinen and Knussen and continues to champion them in performance – had to use scores to play them. On the other hand, the hour-long, late-life magnum opus “Diabelli” Variations by Beethoven (below) proved no challenge technically, musically or memory-wise. For players or listener, the Diabellis stick, so to speak, while the other works do not.

Playing without a score, Serkin turned it a fabulous interpretation that treated each of the 33 virtuosic and encyclopedic variations on an insipid  simple waltz by Beethoven’s publisher Anton Diabelli (below) as a discreet composition unto itself.

Even for someone like me – who finds any number of Beethoven’s piano sonatas to be much more rewarding music than these often pedantic as well as inspired variations – found many memorable moments, like the subtle fugue, where the music and the performer (who has recorded the Diabellis twice) all came together. 

But it is the kind of program where opinion can vary widely. So here are some others.

Here is a link to Greg Hettmansberger’s review for Madison Magazine and its blog Classically Speaking:

http://www.madisonmagazine.com/Blogs/Classically-Speaking/May-2012/Serkin-Gives-Union-Theater-Its-Last-for-now-Curtain-Call/index.php

And here is a review for 77 Square, The Capital Times and the Wisconsin State Journal by Lindsay Christians:

http://host.madison.com/entertainment/arts_and_theatre/reviews/serkin-brings-exceptional-performance-to-union-theater/article_4a230040-9787-11e1-9e91-001a4bcf887a.html

What did you think of Peter Serkin’s recital?

And what do you think about the future of the Wisconsin Union Theater and about its next season?


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