The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Fortepianist Trevor Stephenson and baritone Joshua Copeland perform and record Franz Schubert’s epic song cycle “Winterreise” TONIGHT at 7 p.m. in Sauk City.

October 9, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Our good friend and fine musician Trevor Stephenson, the ever-busy founder and director of the Madison Bach Musicians, which twice performed cantatas and concertos this past weekend, writes:

“Bass-baritone Joshua Copeland and I have been recording Franz Schubert’s song-cycleWinterreise” (Winter Journey) this week at beautiful Park Hall in Sauk City.

“The acoustics are simply amazing and the ambiance is, well, take a look at these photos that Kent Sweitzer took there Tuesday morning.

Winterreise Hall

“The concert is TONIGHT, THURSDAY EVENING, OCT. 9, AT 7 P.M.

Joshua Copeland Winterreise CR Kent Sweitzer

Winterreise Trevor Stephenson recording Kent Sweitzer

“Sauk City is only 20 minutes from Madison’s west side—closer than American Players Theatre in Spring Green.

Here are directions: “To get to Park Hall at 307 Polk Street:  Just take Highway 12 west to Sauk City; cross the Wisconsin River; then turn right on John Adams Street, go two blocks and turn left on Polk Street, and you’re there. There is plenty of parking!

“All tickets are $25. You can purchase them in advance from MBM ticket outlets or at the door.”

Adds The Ear: At  bottom is a YouTube video of the legendary baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and pianist Murray Perahia performing “Gute Nacht” (Good Night), the opening song of the “Winterreise” cycle that in the first two lines announces the whole cycle’s motif: “A stranger I arrive, and a stranger I depart.”

No wonder the cycle was a favorite of the absurdist Irish playwright and writer Samuel Beckett.

 


Classical music: When the proverbial Fat Lady sings, is it rude and sexist to call her “fat”? The opera world continues to weigh in on critics who attacked a female mezzo for being too overweight.

June 8, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Perhaps you already know the simple facts of the controversy:

A number of critics lambasted a relatively unknown Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught (below top) when she recently sang the role of the young, handsome and androgynous Octavian (below bottom on the left) in Richard Strauss’ extraordinarily popular and moving operaDer Rosenkavalier.”

tara erraught

tara erraught (left) as octavian

All agreed that she sang gorgeously. But being overweight, she was also criticized for short-changing the believability of the theatrical side of the opera. One critic who lauded her singing also described her as a “chubby bundle of puppy fat.”

True, The Ear can recall when superstar tenor Luciano Pavarotti (below) was criticized for being way too heavy — indeed, obese and not just overweight — and lumberingly awkward to play certain romantic leads with any creditability. But, oh, that voice!

Luciano Pavarotti

But these new critical remarks seem to cross those boundaries and veer off into gratuitous meanness and rudeness that had more than a smack of sexism and bias about them. Unless you are a top female diva, maybe women do indeed remain second-rate citizens of the opera world.

PX*2527755

Anyway, here are links to three stories that provide good summaries of the conflict and the kerfuffle.

Be sure to read the many reader and listener comments that greeted them. They give you a feeling for the state of the art when it comes to the public’s changing standards of physical fitness for playing the dramatic or theatrical sides of opera roles.

The first is the story that NPR aired on its excellent classical music blogDeceptive Cadence”:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/05/20/314007632/in-2014-the-classical-world-still-cant-stop-fat-shaming-women

Then other voices in other media weighed in.

Here are responses from The New York Times chief critic Anthony Tommasini (below top) and his colleague Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim (below bottom):

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/23/arts/music/new-york-times-critics-respond-to-glyndebourne-fat-reviews.html?_r=0

tommasini-190

Corinna da Fonseco-Wollheim

And here is another piece done by NPR that provides a kind of post-mortem following the two weeks of scandal and reactions:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/06/03/318454668/what-weeks-of-debate-have-shown-us-about-women-in-classical-music

Plus in all fairness, you should also listen to the intelligence, charm and vivacious energy — to say nothing of her lovely voice in singing Rossini — that Tara Erraught projects in a Lincoln Center “spotlight” profile you will at the bottom in a YouTube video.

What do you think of the criticism of her size and weight?

Have TV and films made us more literal in what we expect in the way of realistic portrayals of characters in the theatrical side of opera versus the musical side?

If you find the critical remarks about physical weight inappropriate, how and why do you think so? Do you find them sexist or genuinely biased?

And am I the only person who thinks Tara Erraught — who I am sure felt hurt by the deeply personal nature of the criticism —  might well have the last laugh from all the publicity that has brought her to the world’s attention?

The Ear wants to hear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Classical music: On Saint Patrick’s Day, The Ear explores Irish classical music and classical music in Ireland -– who composed it, who played it and how important it has been.

March 17, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Today is Saint Patrick’s Day.

ST PATRICK'S DAY logo

There will be big, loud. colorful and music-filled parades (below top), complete with leprechauns, around the country and around the world wherever the Irish gather and celebrate their heritage. Even the Chicago River even turns green (below bottom).

And a lot of us who aren’t remotely Irish will nonetheless eat the traditional Saint Patrick’s Day dinner of corned beef and cabbage.

saint patrick's day parade albany 2010 leprechaun

Green Chicago River on Saint Patricks Day

So The Ear asks: What about Irish classical music? And what about classical music in Ireland?

After all, the Irish seems a deeply musical culture. But there must be more to Irish music than Riverdance (below top), Celtic Woman, The Irish Tenors and The Chieftains (below bottom), don’t you think?

riverdance

The Chieftains

For all the immense popularity of Celtic music these days, for all the justly famous Irish literature by William Yeats, James Joyce, John Millington Synge, Brendan Behan, Samuel Beckett, Edna O’Brien, Roddy Doyle, Maeve Binchy and many others –- especially fiction, poetry and plays -– one never hears very much about Ireland and classical music.

(To be fair: The Ear does recall a memorable and rare performance a couple of seasons ago of a John Field piano concerto by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra under its longtime music director and conductor Andrew Sewell, who also happens to be an adventurous programmer.)

So today seems a fitting occasion to take a look both those issues.

Oh, there are some well-known composers.

In the 19th century John Field (below), who spent much of his career in Russia, is said to have invented the nocturne form that Frederic Chopin turned to and mastered and made famous. He also wrote quite a few piano concertos and a piano quintet.

John Field

Of course Irish singing and fiddling are justly famous. But how did it affect the classical music tradition.

These days the early 20th-century composer E.J. Moeran (below) seems to be undergoing something of a revival. He had strong Irish roots, but is technically an English composer if you look at his biography.

e.j. moeran

So who are the Irish classical composers – and their masterpieces – that we should know about?

Sir Charles Villiers Stanford seems to be one candidate. 

Sir Charles Villiers Stanford

What about Irish classical music performers? Perhaps the most well-known candidate today is the prize-winning and award-winning pianist John O’Conor, who, concertizing and teaching at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, has championed Irish piano music as well as the piano music by Ludwig van Beethoven and other standard classical composers?

John O'Conor_1

And what about the role that some famous, non-Irish classical music composers and performers –- including George Frideric Handel, who premiered his oratorio “Messiah” in Dublin, the violinist Paganini and the pianist Franz Liszt -– played in the history of Irish culture?

Here are some links to help you explore the question of Irish classical music and classical music in Ireland.

http://classicalartsireland.com/archive-project/

http://basilwalsh.wordpress.com

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Irish_classical_musicians

And here are two sound samples to help celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day.

The first is the Irish Rhapsody No.1 by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford:

And the second sound sample is the lovely Nocturne No. 2 in C minor for solo piano by John Field as performed by John O’Conor:

HAPPY SAINT PATRICK’S DAY!

And the chances are good that some of you readers know more about Irish classical music and classical music in Ireland than The Ear does.

So be sure to leave what you know in the COMMENTS section along with links to websites, blogs and YouTube videos that will illuminate me and other readers.

The Ear wants to hear.

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Classical music: The populist group Classical Revolution Madison will perform chamber music and songs by Brahms, Shostakovich, Haydn, Schumann and Walter Piston, and then hold an open-mic classical jam session on this Thursday night at the Brocach Pub on the Capitol Square. Plus, the concert next Tuesday night by the Rhapsodie Quartet has been CANCELLED.

February 19, 2014
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ALERT: The concert of chamber music by Mozart, Verdi and Puccini  next Tuesday night, Feb. 25, by the Rhapsodie Quartet (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson) of the Madison Symphony Orchestra has been CANCELLED.

Rhapsodie Quartet MSO Greg Anderson

By Jacob Stockinger

Word reaches The Ear with an intriguing and appealing tavern concert with some outstanding music by the laudable local chapter of a national populist movement that brings classical music to non-traditional audiences in non-traditional venues such as bar, cafes and coffee houses. Many of the members and performers come from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music:

Classical Revolution Madison logo

“Classical Revolution Madison will be back with a jam-packed show of classical and contemporary favorites at Brocach Irish Pub (below) on the Capitol Square, 7 West Main Street) on Thursday, February 20th at 7 p.m. 

brocach inn

From 7-8 p.m., members of CRM (below) will present a dynamic program featuring works by Brahms, Shostakovich, Haydn, and more! (See below for more information on the pieces and performers)

Classical Revolution Madison

Then, from 8-9 p.m., we will open up the floor for anyone who wants to sight read or jam, so come with your fiddle or the sheet music of your favorite chamber work if you would like to join in on some casual music making!

We look forward to seeing you there!

Best wishes,

Zou Zou Robidoux and Emily O’Leary

Here is the program for the Brocach appearance:

Clarinet Quintet by Johannes Brahms

I. Allegro

Kai-Ju Ho, clarinet (below)

Thalia Coombs and Nathan Giglierano, violins

Mara Rogers, viola

Zou Zou Robidoux, cello

Kai-Ju Ho

String Quartet Op. 76, No. 3 by Joseph Haydn (below, and you can hear the beautiful namesake first movement played by the acclaimed Takacs Quartet, in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

II. Poco adagio; cantabile

Tony Oliva and Keisuke Yamamoto, violins

Marissa Reinholz, viola

Chris Peck, cello

Haydn

Excerpts from “Duo” by the 20th-century American composer Walter Piston (below)

Mara Rogers, viola

Tori Rogers, cello

Walter Piston

Excerpts from “Dichterliebe” (A Poet’s Loves) by Robert Schumann (below)

Tom Leighton, tenor

Emily O’Leary, piano

Schumann photo1850

String Quartet No. 3 by Dmitri Shostakovich

III. Allegro non troppo

Thalia Coombs and Teddy Wiggins, violins

Mikko Utevsky, viola (below)

Rachel Bottner, cello

MAYCO Mikko Utevsky by Steve Rankin

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