By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear recently came across an opinion column about how to improve concerts and maybe generate bigger and younger audiences.
That is not such an unusual topic, especially these days when critics and professional musicians worry about the aging and diminishing audiences for classical music.
But what made this column particularly interesting and relevant is that it comes from an orchestra conductor: Baldur Bronniman (below).
MAKE CONCERTS CHEAPER. (Ticket prices too often reflect the income gap or wealth gap, and seem less and less middle class.)
MAKE CONCERTS SHORTER. (About 90 minutes with no intermission is what The Ear hears a lot of people say, and he often agrees. Of course this is difficult to do with some things like longer symphonies by Gustav Mahler or Anton Bruckner or operas.)
The first is a function of the current economic circumstances that go back almost a decade.
The second is a function of technology, which encourages a shorter attention span and multi-tasking, and hectic personal schedules, for both work and personal activities, with too many things to do and too little time to do them in.
Now, here are the other 10 ways to improve concerts and some reactions. Read them and see what you think.
And here are reactions to the original list:
Then let us know what you think of those suggestions and whether you have suggestions or recommendations of your town.
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
Editor’s note: The Well-Tempered Ear has asked people on the one-week tour of Belgium by the UW Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) to file whatever dispatches and photos they can to keep the fans at home current with what is happening on the concert stage and off.
Here is a link to the first installment:
And here is the second installment:
After troubles at customs and catching up from jet lag, the Pro Arte Quartet got down to the business of rehearsing and performing.
The quartet members -– violinists David Perry and Suzanne Beia, violist Sally Chisholm, cellist Parry Karp and manager Sarah Schaffer — and their entourage of “groupies” also spent time meeting and greeting the descendants of the original quartet members who started the ensemble over a century ago at the Royal Belgian Conservatory of Music in Brussels before World War II stranded them in Madison.
That’s when they became artists-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of music, where they have remained ever since.
Here are some updates on Day 3:
Sarah Schaffer (below), who also took the photos, writes:
Day 3 — FRIDAY:
The “coats and cases” space was the room that houses the Bela Bartok archives at the Royal Library!
Here is the exterior with its name in the two official languages of Belgium: Flemish and French.
The Bartok Room (below) has many rare and unique items – letters, photos, etc. It all rather takes one’s breath away. We each received a copy of a recent publication by the collection’s archivist, Denijs Dille.
FYI, the fifth person, on the right in the photo (below) taken after the bows that followed the concert on the Arthur De Greef Auditorium — named for the early 20th-century Belgian composer — is Hubert Roisin, Counselor to the King.
Mr. Roisin (below, in a close-up by violist Sally Chisholm) seemed very honored to be in attendance. We were certainly honored by his presence at the concert.
Here are the gifts we gave Monsieur Roisin for King Philippe: A framed photo (below top) of the original members and the current members of the Pro Arte Quartet plus an honorary letter (below bottom) from University of Wisconsin-Madison Rebecca M. Blank.
PAQ played to a mostly full house and was very warmly received. Many accolades filled the air at the private reception afterwards.
Afterwards, I pressed the willing-but-exhausted quartet into a “photo shoot” taking advantage of the spectacular architecture and gardens surrounding the library.
Then they all went off to rest.
It has been a very strenuous few days, and tomorrow is especially long, beginning with an 11 a.m. train trip to original quartet member Alphonse Onnou’s town of Dolhain, arriving in time for a 1 p.m. lunch. (Below is a photo of the Pro Arte Quartet in 1928. Alphonse Onnou is on the far left.)
Then it gets jam-packed with a full day of commemorations — including the municipal band offering “American” tunes in our honor — all BEFORE the 8 p.m. concert.
We will all be very glad to have Sunday “off.”
Not only is the SCHEDULE strenuous, but so also is the REPERTOIRE — with very few repeats over all these concerts.
The norm on tour is to recycle a handful of pieces.
Not so the Pro Arte Quartet, not on this trip.
They are holding up well but are, understandably, fatigués. (Below is the dual-language program notes from the concert of music by Bela Bartok and Franz Joseph Haydn — two composers the early Pro Arte Quartet was celebrated for and identified with — at the Royal Library.)
By Jacob Stockinger
Editor’s note: The Well-Tempered Ear has asked people and participants on the one-week tour in Belgium with the UW Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) to file whatever dispatches and photos they can to keep the fans at home current with what is happening on the concert stage and off.
Here is a link to the dramatic first installment:
And here, below, is the second installment:
After troubles at customs and catching up from jet lag, the Pro Arte Quartet got down to the business of eating and sleeping, rehearsing and performing, of meeting its public and catching up with its history.
The quartet members and their entourage of groupies -– the quartet consists of violinists David Perry and Suzanne Beia, violist Sally Chisholm, cellist Parry Karp plus manager Sarah Schaffer — spent time meeting and greeting the descendants of the original quartet members who started the ensemble over a century ago at the Royal Belgian Conservatory of Music in Brussels before it became a Court quartet and then World War II stranded the quartet in Madison.
That’s when, in 1941, the quartet became artists-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, where they have remained ever since.
Here are some updates on Day 2 of the Belgium tour:
Sarah Schaffer writes:
Day 2 — Thursday:
Today’s “crisis” is small compared to yesterday’s:
The quartet needed a place to rehearse.
We’d assumed, incorrectly it turned out, that the hotel would have something like a meeting room that might be used.
They offered instead the BAR! It is not open mornings.
And that is where Michel Arthur Prevost (below left in my photo), the grandnephew of founding violist Germaine Prevost and the impresario of the opening concert at Flagey Hall, first encountered the quartet when he unexpectedly arrived at the hotel this morning. On the right is his brother Jean Marie Prevost.
Acoustics at Flagey were fantastic, as they quartet found out when rehearsing.
The opening concert was much enjoyed by a small but extremely appreciative audience.
Tomorrow we meet King Philippe’s counselor, Herbert Roisin, and offer him our gift of the photos of the old and current quartet members and a letter from our new University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank that we carried with us to Belgium.
Plus, the Pro Arte Quartet has received media attention, the local newspaper running a story (below) in French under a headline in English:
Adds violist Sally Chisholm, who always has an eye for the feature and the fun:
What a fine way to travel!
Here is a very professional taxi driver taking us to Flagey Hall.
Much acceleration, good humor and the local title of Place des Morts (Square of the Dead) for the number of pedestrians crossing the street.
We are now in Studio 1, safe and greeting the grandnephews of Germain Prevost and many Pro Arte friends.
Here is the grandson of cellist Robert Maas, speaking with Anne Van Malderen who is writing a documentary history of the Pro Arte. He speaks no English, but is very easy to understand!
And here is the great-granddaughter of Robert Maas:
What a wonderful hall and appreciative audience.
Here is the stage before I played the Elegy for solo viola that was composed by Igor Stravinsky for one Pro Arte member and dedicated to the passing of another, Germaine Prevost. I performed it after remarks, in French, by Dr. Prevost, grand-nephew of Germain Prevost.
And here is the brief review by Dr. Robert Graebner, a UW-Madison alumnus and retired Madison neurologist who, with his wife Linda Graebner, is following the Pro Arte on its one-week tour and who commissioned for the quartet’s centennial the String Quartet No. 6 by American composer John Harbison — who teaches at MIT and co-directs the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival near Madison each August, and who has won both the Pulitzer Prize and a coveted MacArthur “genius” grant:
We just returned from a private concert at the historic Art Deco Flagey Studio 1. (Below is a photo of the concert posters taken by Sarah Schaffer.)
The Pro Arte was in top form, and attendees included two relatives of Germaine Prevost and two relatives of Robert Maas.
Tomorrow brings a concert at the Royal Library.
So stayed tuned as the Pro Arte performs again (below is the printed program from Sarah Schaffer) and meets The Royals – or at least their reps.
NEWS: A good friend of this blog who works at Naxos Records writes: “Monday marked the release of our Advent Calendar app for iOS and Android platforms. The app is FREE and will supply you with 1 complete musical track for each day of Advent starting on this Sunday, December 1, up to Christmas Day. The Naxos Advent Calendar App can be downloaded to any iPhone, iPad, or Android device. Go to iTunes or Google Play.
By Jacob Stockinger
This coming Friday afternoon and Sunday afternoon, the Oakwood Chamber Players (below) will weave together heart-warming folk tales from around the world along with a feast of holiday music. The concert will feature musical performances from the familiar to folk, from classical to jazz, and from duos to nonets.
The family-friendly stories, interspersed throughout the concert, drawn from the wealth of global storytelling, are both cheering and poignant, expressing the cultures from which they are drawn.
The Oakwood Chamber Players will present Celebration! on this Friday November 29, at 1:30 p.m. and on Sunday, December 1, at 1:30 p.m. at the Oakwood Center for Arts and Education, 6205 Mineral Point Road. (In past year, the concert was called “Holiday Lights,” I believe, and was performed twice on the same day.)
Guest artists flutist Elizabeth Marshall(below) and oboist Jennifer Morgan (below bottom) will join the core musicians of the ensemble for the concerts.
Tickets are available at the door: $20 for general admission, $15 for seniors and $5 for students.
There is holiday-related music covering quite a range from popular to traditional to folk in a variety of genres from trios to nonets. The music will be interspersed with stories and poems.
The program includes: the Motet from “Cantate Domino” by Orlando di Lasso (below top); Six Christmas Pieces, Op. 72 by Felix Mendelssohn; “Christmas Time is Here” by Vince Guaraldi with Vince’s jazz interpretation; “Shepherd’s Hey” by Percy Grainger (below bottom); and “Troika” by Sergei Prokofiev.
In keeping with the ensemble’s global theme for the year, some sets are grouped by geographic region. For example, “Where Are You, Little Star” by Modeste Mussorgsky (below); the Slovak folk music of “Pastorela” as arranged by Tomacek; and Trepak” (at bottom in a popular YouTube video) from the ballet suite for “The Nutcracker” by Piotr Tchaikovsky; and also “Dormi, Dormi, O Bel Bambino,” a traditional Italian song; and “A La Nanita Nana” and “Riu Riu Chiu,” both traditional Spanish music.
This is the second concert in the Season Series titled “Origination: Exploring Musical Regions of the World.” Upcoming concerts by the Oakwood Chamber Players Concerts, performed at Oakwood Village and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum Visitors Center, include:
The Oakwood Chamber Players is a group of Madison-area professional musicians who have rehearsed and performed at Oakwood Village for 30 years.
For more information about the group, concerts, tickets and performers, visit www.oakwoodchamberplayers.com
By Jacob Stockinger
It seems that these days just about everybody has an iPhone or some other small, convenient and easily concealed smart phone that can take and email photos and videos.
And those photos and videos can change the world. They certainly fostered the Arab Spring (below) and other populist uprisings and protests, including those that led to the democratization of Burma/Myanmar and to the current civil war in Syria.
But it can also have downside, especially where the performing arts are involved and where questions of intellectual property are centrally involved.
Witness the recent episode in which the acclaimed and award-winning Polish pianist Krystian Zimerman (below), known for his playing of Chopin and his championing of Polish music, who was angry and annoyed when he stormed off the stage at a festival in Germany after someone in the audience refused to stop filming the recital on his iPhone.
It is food for thought, and it raises a lot of issues, including intellectual copyright as well as mass media and citizen reporting and blogging, to say nothing of private use.
It seems to The Ear that all of this is the logical outcome, change or consequence of the rise of social media like Facebook and Twitter and our changing notions of privacy. And it seems hard to allow it and praise it in one sphere of life yet try to contain its influence in another.
And of course it goes way beyond the rudeness of people who don’t turn off their cell phone that then ring during a performance. (The New York PHilhatmonic’s music director and conductor Alan Gilbert had to stop a performance of a slow movement of a Mahler symphony –- No. 9, I think it was — because of that kind of interruption.)
Now I myself don’t take unauthorized photos for this blog or authorized videos that I then put on YouTube.
But the issue is certainly close to me and relevant to the current performing arts scene.
But what do you think? The Ear wants to hear.
Did Krystian Zimerman do the right thing and sound an appropriate warning?
Or did he overreact as someone who is used to performing before thousands of audience members and even cameras and microphones? Is he trying to resist an inevitable social and technological change?
Read about it and leave your take in the COMMENT section.
Here are some links to stories about the incident:
Krystian Zimerman is not alone in his point of view. Here is a link to a BBC story about musical artists in all genres protesting YouTube:
If I recall correctly, it was the 19th-century French novelist Stendhal who remarked that mixing politics in literature is like firing a pistol during a concert — rude but something one ignores at one’s own peril.
Pianist Zimerman has a history of being outspoken about various political and social issues — including the presence of American missiles in his native country — during his performances.
Here is a good background piece from the British newspaper The Guardian:
And here is a video of a YouTube recording of the piece by 20th century composer Karol Szymanowski — appropriately his Variations of a Polish Folk Theme, Op. 10 — that has sparked some of Zimerman’s outbursts or comments, or at least provided a context for them.
ALERT: This Friday from 12:15 to 1 p.m., the weekly FREE Friday Noon Musicale at the First Unitarian Society, 900 University Drive, Alexis Carreon (below top, the personnel manager of the Madison Symphony Orchestra who also plays viola with the MSO) and Marie Pauls (below bottom), with pianist Stacy Fehr Regehr, play duets for viola by J.S. Bach (Brandenburg Concerto No. 6), Bela Bartok and Carl Stamitz.
By Jacob Stockinger
Increasingly Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) is one of the few remaining public radio stations in the U.S that still highly values classical music and devotes many, many hours per day to it.
And now if you have smart phone or an iPod Touch, you can take WPR with you.
True, you need wi-fi -– not just regular FM or AM radio reception. But wi-fi is increasingly prevalent and popular in both public and private places.
This app (below) helps solve the problem that I have always had with Apple and its FM radio capability, which for some odd reason, Apple includes only on the iPod Nano right now, not on the more expensive and fancier iPhone or iPod Touch, even though the hardware and software required for FM reception can’t be that big or difficult to include. (And how about getting a photo card slot on the smaller Airbook? Seems to The Ear like a bad and short-sighted decision on Apple’s part.)
Anyway, now if you have to interrupt a broadcast to go grocery shopping or do some other task, you can take WPR with you.
I have spent some time experimenting with the app.
It is generally clear and easy to use, although the “program” screen didn’t list titles at one point, and then did.
The “Live” screen is, I find the most useful. It features the regular channel for classical music and news; the Ideas channel for talk and call-ins; and the 24-hours a day digital music channel. It has a pause, store and catch-up function. And the app also allows you to explore WPR schedules, state news stories and archives.
I used it while waiting in a dentist’s office. Also, recently I used it on a bus to Chicago and then once I was in Chicago when I couldn’t find something else I wanted. It worked great for not only music but also for “The Midday” stories, quizzes and guests with Norman Gilliland as well as “To the Best of Our Knowledge” and Michael Feldman. It also worked for bringing me syndicated programs from National Public Radio: “Morning Edition,” “Weekend Edition” and “All Things Considered,” to say nothing of ‘The Writer’s Almanac” with Garrison Keillor; “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross; “Exploring Music” with Bill McGlaughlin (below); and “From the Top” with Christopher O’Riley.
You can download the WPR app for FREE at the iTunes stores for MAC-based devices and at Google Play for Android-based smart phones.
Go ahead, give it a try. You can always delete it you don’t like or it doesn’t meet your expectations.
But I am betting that you will like it and that it will surpass your expectations. The Ear gives the app five stars out of five. If you use it, let me know what you think of the results.
Oh, and there are other radio apps I have that I used to stream classical music over the Internet.
One is the famed WQXR station in New York City. It features live broadcasts from Carnegie Hall that you can also access visa NPR’s blog “Deceptive Cadence.”
Closer to home, you can also try the app for WFMT in Chicago, the home base of Bill McGlaughlin.
Other public radio stations have specialized programs for vocal music, opera, piano music, music history and so on. You can check them out at the various app stores.
Are there radio apps you especially recommend?
The Ear wants to hear – and so, I suspect, do many of his readers.
Let all of us know in the Comments section.
By Jacob Stockinger
Do you like Beethoven (below)?
Do you like the 9 symphonies? The Ear does.
Do you like the 32 piano sonatas? The Ear likes many of them, although I prefer all five of the piano concertos to most of the symphonies and most of the sonatas.
But a deal’s a deal.
Would you like to buy Beethoven for a Buck?
Try the digital download of the complete 32 piano sonatas by HJ Lim and the compete 9 symphonies by Daniel Barenboim.
Barenboim (below), the child prodigy pianist and former artistic director and conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, is a well-known name.
Pianist HJ Lim (below), however, is a new name and has chosen an ambitious way to become known to the public.
She has recorded and released on EMI all 32 of Beethoven’s sonatas. It is a monumental feat that was rare once, but is becoming more and more common.
Here is a link to an excellent story about the new Beethoven releases that appeared on NPR’s “Deceptive Cadence” blog. By chance, it seems perfectly timed for the just announced new generation of Apple’s iPods and iPhone as well as the update on iTunes that is coming in October.
Be sure to read the reader comments at the bottom of the blog posting.
By Jacob Stockinger
Wisconsin Public Radio, which has historically been deeply devoted to building a broad audience for classical music, has a special mixed media treat in store for listeners this weekend.
The public radio network will broadcast the “Open Goldberg Variations” project this Sunday afternoon from 12:30 to 2 p.m. (WERN 88.7 FM in the Madison area). It features a piano performance plus a “public domain” score so you can follow along on the Internet as the music is played.
The performance is by Kimiko Ishizaka (below), and has been turned into an app.
It is ironic the mammoth theme-and-variations work by Johann Sebastian Bach (below) has become so popular and iconic. And there is something deeply moving about the aria that opens and closes the work.
Back in 1955, when the legendary and eccentric Canadian pianist Glenn Gould (below top) was 25, he used the Goldbergs for his Columbia Records debut. But many company executives and critics doubted that he would succeed with such an inaccessible and difficult work.
Yet his energetic and ear-opening version of the Goldbergs, with its dizzying finger work and infectious rhythmic drive, became a big bestselling landmark that launched an unforgettable career. Gould went on to record just about all keyboard works of Bach; and later in life (below bottom) he started a re-recording project of the same works that began in 1981 with, but never got beyond, a second and completely different version of the Goldbergs. Then he died of a stroke at 50 in 1982.
And since then, many pianists have chosen the Goldbergs to make their mark, including Simone Dinnerstein who made a bestselling version of them to launch how now burgeoning concert and recording career.
Here is a link to a Wisconsin Public Radio website with details of the Sunday afternoon broadcast:
And here is a link to more background about the project:
And if you still aren’t convinced, here is a link to a composer’s very positive review of the Open Goldberg project:
By Jacob Stockinger
I stopped by the nearby Apple store of Friday. It’s always a fun place to go. I love the gadgets and I love the service.
This time I just wanted to check out some slick laptop bags for an upcoming trip – which it turns out, they don’t carry anymore. Just my luck.
But even early in the day the place was packed with people lined up and even sitting down outside and waiting.
“Are you looking for an iPad,” I was asked as I entered the store.
“Not yet,” I said, and went about my business.
But clearly Apple – which took such a ribbing, a real drubbing, about the name when the first iPad was announced – is having the last laugh
And it is a big, hearty and very profitable last laugh — now that it is already on there third model of the device, iPad 3 (below), which is supposed to have super-sharp screen resolution as well as many more features.
Everybody wants in on the fun, it seems.
So, just how does GRAND opera look and sound on a SMALL screen and SMALL sound system?
You can check out a convincing an detailed test run by the perceptive and creative blogger extraordinaire Anastasia Tsioulcas (below), of NPR’s “Delayed Cadence” blog, via this link:
But I would like to know and hear your thoughts on the matter.
Have any Well-Tempered Ears – and Eyes — out there tried the new Met app on an iPad?
How did it work?
What do you think?
Does the model of the iPad matter?
The Ear wants to hear.
And so, I suspect, do the Met and Apple.
By Jacob Stockinger
If you want to know why so many people respect The New York Times – despite the all the pietistic carping on the right about how liberal and biased it is – just check out the fairness, accuracy and thoroughness the newspaper brought to one small story.
This past Tuesday night, conductor Alan Gilbert (below) halted a performance of Mahler’s moving Symphony No. 9, Mahler’s last completed symphony, with the New York Philharmonic in Avery Fisher Hall, because a loud cellphone went off during a particularly quiet and moving section of the music. He put down his baton and announced he would wait to resume until the phone was turned off.
Many news outlets, including NBC TV’s nightly newscast, reported on the incident, which had the other audience members cheering Gilbert and his admonishment to turn off the annoying and persistent marimba ring-tone of the phone before continuing .
But the Times went a step further.
It found out who was the person with the ringing cellphone, how the whole incident happened, and then reported on the reaction of the user of the offending iPhone (below) to the incident and what the follow-up story was. Knowing all the facts actually makes you at least somewhat sympathetic to the offender.
And then it published the story in the news section, rather than the arts section.
The coverage makes you respect both Gilbert and the offending cellphone owner, as well as the editors and reporters at the Times. It should also make you wary of alarms and other pre-set features of sophisticated smart phones.
Here is a link to the story:
Here is the clever video that mixes Mahler’s Ninth (under Leonard Bernstein) and the marimba ring-tone: