By Jacob Stockinger
Has March’s proverbial lion finally yielded to the lamb?
Here is Madison there is still some snow on the ground. But it should all be gone by the end of today, which, like yesterday, will reach into the 50s.
Just in time.
Today is the Vernal Equinox, bringing the first day of spring. It arrives at 5:29 a.m. this morning.
Spring has been an inspiration to many composers. So there is a lot of music to choose from when you want to celebrate season musically.
The Ear is fickle and his choice changes from year to year.
But lately, his favorite has been the “Spring” Sonata in F Major for violin and piano by Ludwig van Beethoven. (You can hear the opening of the famously tuneful and upbeat sonata, performed by violinist Itzhak Perlman and pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy, in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
Of course there are violin concertos by Antonio Vivaldi and Arcangelo Corelli; choral works by Johann Sebastian Bach and Franz Joseph Haydn; chamber music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; orchestral music by Robert Schumann, Peter Tchaikovsky and Igor Stravinsky; piano pieces by Felix Mendelssohn and Edvard Grieg; songs by Franz Schubert and Johannes Brahms. And there is more, so much more.
Yesterday, Wisconsin Public Radio programmed a lot of spring music, and The Ear expects the same for today’s programming.
But you can be your own DJ if you want. Here is a list of almost two hours of spring-related music:
And here is a springtime puzzler, or quiz, about flowers in opera from NPR or National Public Radio:
Plus, there are plenty of other guides and anthologies to music for spring that you can find online.
So here is what The Ear wants to know: What is your favorite piece of music to greet spring with?
Leave words in the COMMENT section along with a link to a YouTube performance if possible.
And a Happy Spring to you!
By Jacob Stockinger
Pianist Gabriela Montero (below, in a photo by Shelley Mosman) will perform in Shannon Hall at the Wisconsin Union Theater on this Saturday night, Feb. 11, at 8 p.m. Montero last performed in Madison with the Madison Symphony Orchestra and wowed the house at the Overture Center.
On this Friday, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. in Mills Hall, Montero will also hold a master class, FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.
Here are ticket prices for her recital: UW-Madison students are $10; Union members and non-UW students are $42, $38 and $25; UW-Madison faculty and staff are $44, $40 and $25; the general public is $46, $42 and $25; and young people 18 and under are $20.
The first half of Montero’s program features the first set of Four Impromptus, Op. 99, D. 899, by Franz Schubert and the playfully Romantic “Carnival” by Robert Schumann.
After intermission, the former prodigy will perform the spontaneous improvisations – usually on themes suggested by the audience – that she is acclaimed for.
According to The New York Times, “[Gabriela] Montero’s playing has everything: crackling rhythmic brio, subtle shadings, steely power in climactic moments, soulful lyricism in the ruminative passages and, best of all, unsentimental expressivity.”
Here she is performing the third Schubert impromptu, in G-flat major, in the set of four that she will play here:
Montero was born in Venezuela and gave her first performance to a public audience at the age of five. When she was eight, she made her concerto debut in Caracas, which led to a scholarship for private study in the United States.
She has been invited to perform with the world’s most respected orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Liverpool Philharmonic, Vienna Symphony and more, performing in the Kennedy Center, Avery Fisher Hall and Wigmore Hall, among others.
Celebrated for her ability to brilliantly improvise, compose and play new works, Montero is an award-winning and best-selling recording artist.
She has received the Bronze Medal at the Chopin Competition, two Echo Klassik Awards in 2006 and 2007, and a Grammy nomination for her Bach and Beyond follow-up Baroque work in 2008.
She participated in the 2013 Women of the World Festival in London and spoke at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. She has also been recognized as a composer for her Piano Concerto No. 1.
This performance is presented by the Wisconsin Union Directorate’s Performing Arts Committee and was supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts. Media sponsors are WORT 89.9 FM and the UW-Madison student station WSUM 91.7 FM.
By Jacob Stockinger
This is a post about a very appealing FREE concert by Juilliard violinist Laurie Smukler (below) on this Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall.
But for The Ear, some context seems fitting.
Some seasons are memorable for great singing or great piano playing or great orchestral playing. And there certainly has been, and will continue to be, lots more of all three this autumn and winter.
But what has really stood out to The Ear this Fall is the string playing, especially the violin.
Actually it started in the summer with a sizzling, white-hot performance by the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society. The BDDS interspersed Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” with Astor Piazzolla’s “Four Seasons in Buenos Aires.”
Violinist Suzanne Beia (below top) played the Vivaldi seasons and McGill University violinist Axel Strauss from Montreal (below bottom) played the Piazzolla seasons. The dueling violins were something to behold and to hear! And the alternation kept listeners from tiring of one particular composer or style. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and thoroughly memorable concert.
Then came an unforgettable performance of the Violin Concerto by Tchaikovsky, played with intimacy and clarity as well as stunning virtuosity by the prize-winning Russian-born Ilya Kaler with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra under Andrew Sewell.
Then came wonderful performances by Norwegian violinist Henning Kraggerud of the Violin Concerto No. 1 by Max Bruch and some works by Kraggerud himself, accompanied by the Madison Symphony Orchestra under John DeMain.
Over at the Wisconsin Union Theater, superstar Joshua Bell didn’t disappoint. Appearing in a recital with pianist Alessio Bax, Bell played music by Ludwig van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms, Claude Debussy, Eugene Ysaye, Pablo de Sarrasate and Manuel Ponce. Violin recitals just don’t get better.
In between came several performances by the four always reliable and always outstanding string players of the UW-Madison’s Pro Arte Quartet (below top, in a photo by Rick Langer) as well as the newly reformed Ancora String Quartet (below bottom).
And there were many other events.
But The Season of Strings isn’t over yet.
This Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, there is a FREE recital by Laurie Smukler, a violin professor at the Juilliard School who is also doing a guest residency here that features master classes in the violin and chamber music.
Smukler was invited by and will be joined by Soh-Hyun Park Altino (below, in a photo by Caroline Bittencourt), who teaches violin at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and whose debut recital last year still lingers in The Ear’s ear.
Both women, who are personal friends, are terrific musicians and highly accomplished violinists.
The intriguing program, with the distinguished pianist Victor Asuncion, features the popular work “The Lark Ascending” by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams; the Sonata for Two Violins by Soviet composer Sergei Prokofiev; and the Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor by Brahms. (You can hear the heart-rending slow movement of the Brahms, played by violinist Itzhak Perlman and pianist Daniel Barenboim, in a popular YouTube video at the bottom.)
For more information about all events related to the Smukler residency, go to:
ALERT: The week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, to take place from 12:15 to 1 p.m. at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, will feature the local woodwind quintet Black Marigold. It will perform music by August Klughardt, Darius Milhaud and Brian DuFord.
Here is a link about Black Marigold’s winter concerts and the program:
By Jacob Stockinger
The Mosaic Chamber Players — recently hailed as “among the finest purveyors of chamber music in Madison” by critic John W. Barker on The Well-Tempered Ear blog — will be performing an all-Beethoven program this Saturday night, Jan. 30, at 7:30 p.m.
The concert will take place in the beautiful and historic Landmark Hall of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, on Madison’s near west side.
This will be the third program of a 5-concert cycle of all the string sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven (below).
The impressive list of performers (below, from left), most of whom were educated at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and Lawrence University in Appleton, includes pianist Jess Salek; violinist Laura Burns; cellist Michael Allen; and violinist Wes Luke.
They play with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Oakwood Chamber Players, the Ancora String Quartet, the Rhapsodie String Quartet, the Madison Youth Choirs, Sound Ensemble Wisconsin, Fresco Opera Theatre, Opera for the Young, and other ensembles here and in Dubuque and LaCrosse.
On the program are: the Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major Op. 30, No. 1; the Sonata for Cello and Piano in C Major, Op. 102, No. 1; and the Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major, Op. 47 “Kreutzer.” (You can hear the first movement of the famous and riveting Kreutzer Sonata performed by superstar violinist Itzhak Perlman and pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
There will be a reception following the program.
Tickets are $15 for the public; $10 for seniors; and $5 for students – by cash or check only. NO CREDIT CARDS WILL BE ACCEPTED.
Adds founder and pianist Jess Salek:
“This concert is perfect for an adult or caregiver night-out, and also for students at the middle school-and-above age.
“Please come hear some beautiful music performed by talented, expressive, and professional local artists.
“Thanks for considering. Hope to see you there!”
By Jacob Stockinger
This past week, superstar violinist Itzhak Perlman (below) and 16 other major figures from the arts, entertainment, sports and politics received the National Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.
This year, Perlman also turned 70.
And in a second NPR interview Perlman, who had polio as a child and walks with braces or crutches and uses a scooter, talked about his championing by example the cause of people with disabilities.
The piece also has some interesting personal background about Perlman (below, in a photo from Getty Images) that you may not know. And it has some wise advice about getting older and appreciating one’s own accomplishments.
It is hard to name a major composer whose works, sonatas and concertos alike, he has not performed and recorded: Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonio Vivaldi, Franz Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Hector Berlioz, Felix Mendelssohn, Johannes Brahms, Niccolo Paganini,Peter Ilych Tchaikovsky, Edward Elgar, Richard Strauss, Alban Berg and so many more — some 77 CDs in all, done for several labels.
Here is a link:
The Ear hopes you enjoy it and learn from it, as he did on both scores.
By Jacob Stockinger
After Sound Ensemble Wisconsin’s 2014-2015 hiatus, which allowed director Mary Theodore to care for her new baby, SEW is pleased to announce its return for the 2015-16 season. Please stay tuned for news on the rest of the season.
What does food sound like? What does music taste like? This coning Sunday night, participants can enjoy a lovely evening out as they explore their senses as the pathway to their souls through the performing arts of food and music, accompanied by poetry.
The 2015 realization of 2014’s highly successful “SEWing Taste and Sound, Bite by Byte” is a collaboration between Sound Ensemble Wisconsin’s Mary Theodore (below left in a photo by Katrin Talbot); Chef Dan Bonanno (below right) of Madison’s celebrated restaurant Pig in a Fur Coat; and poet-violist Katrin Talbot (center).
The event centers around the aesthetic similarities of food and music, both of which Mary Theodore, SEW’s director and violinist, considers performing arts.
This year, SEW has based the evening on a set of six Duos for Two Violins by Bela Bartok. (You can hear many of them performed by Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
Each duo, or byte of music, will inspire Chef Bonnano and be paired with one course, or bite, of food — and performed/served as such to create a six-course meal, including a beverage pairing for each course. Talbot will also read her original poems, composed for each variation.
At the end of the meal, SEW musicians will perform the music from beginning to end with the aim of offering participants a new experience of the music, a new journey of taste and sound.
Please see the Wisconsin State Journal interview and the Madison Magazine review based on the highly successful 2014 “SEWing Taste and Sound, Bite by Byte” at SEW’s website: http://soundensemblewisconsin.org/press/
This performance will take place on Sunday, Sept. 13, at 6 p.m. at Pig in a Fur Coat, 940 Williamson Street. Tickets are currently on sale at www.soundensemblewisconsin.org and are $105 per person or $100 per person by check (with guests’ names) to: Sound Ensemble Wisconsin, 716 Edgewood Avenue, Madison, WI 53711.
Performing musicians are Mary Theodore and Eleanor Bartsch (below), a prize-winning graduate of the UW-Madison School of Music.
“SEW will certainly bring a new dimension to Madison’s cultural scene,” veteran music critic John W. Barker has written.
ALERT: The Ear’s friend Rich Samuels of WORT 89.9 FM writes: At 7:21 a.m. today, Thursday, Sept. 3, I’ll be broadcasting the Willy Street Chamber Players’ performance of the Beethoven String Quartet No. 11 in F Minor. It was recorded live on July 11 at Madison’s Immanuel Lutheran Church. Featured are Eleanor Bartsch and Paran Amirinazari (violins), Micah Behr (viola) and Mark Bridges (cello).
By Jacob Stockinger
This past Monday, superstar violinist Itzhak Perlman (below, in a photo by Lisa Marie Mazzucco) turned 70.
Perlman, who possesses a sharp sense of humor, likes to call himself a fiddler.
But he is so much more.
Perlman – who once made the cover of Time magazine and who used to fly in his private jet — has played a lot in Madison since the beginning of his concert career, at the Wisconsin Union Theater, the Madison Civic Center and the Overture Center.
The Ear thinks that his most memorable appearance in Madison was before his stratospheric concert fees made him either unaffordable or affordable only to the very well-heeled.
That was way back when WUT director Ralph Sandler booked the young Perlman to perform the complete solo violin sonatas and partitas by Johann Sebastian Bach. Perlman performed them over two back-to-back nights at the Wisconsin Union Theater.
The event proved to be one of the highlights of all the music that The Ear has ever heard in Madison. It was pretty incredible, watching Perlman sit there by himself on stage as he poured forth these fabulous works.
The Ear likes Perlman’s playing a lot, especially from the early days when he won his share of Grammy Awards.
A great example are his recordings of the sonatas for violin and piano by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart that he did with Daniel Barenboim and the sonatas for violin and piano by Ludwig van Beethoven and Johannes Brahms that he did with Vladimir Ashkenazy. His recordings of the Beethoven and Brahms concertos with conductor Carlo Maria Giulini are also outstanding classics.
But to be honest, the later Perlman often disappointed me.
The Ear heard one performance in Madison where Perlman seemed bored by the music, as if he were phoning it in or going through the motions without much emotional engagement. (Below is Perlman in the 1960s.)
Then there was the time when he relied too much on his post-intermission shtick of pretending to choose and call out impromptu virtuosic encore-like pieces for the second half of his program while he also related to the audience the baseball scores from the World Series with his beloved home town team, the New York Yankees.
Then there was the time when many people went to hear him play the deeply emotional theme from “Schindler’s List” by John Willliams as an encore. He didn’t. (Listen to the YouTube video of it, with over 6 million hits, at the bottom.)
Nonetheless, Perlman remains a charismatic major talent who sure knows how to fill seats and please high-end audiences.
By some accounts, Perlman’s playing has declined in recent years. The Ear wonders if post-polio syndrome has anything to do with it, but can’t recall reading anything about that.
But whatever you think of his own playing, Perlman continues to devote himself to teaching young students with the program established by him and his wife Toby (below left) and to conduct as well as to perform solo recitals and concertos.
This past week NPR or National Public Radio featured a look back at the many facets of Perlman’s long career. It included some great photos as well as some terrific audio samples.
Here is a link:
What do you think of Itzhak Perlman and the various phases of his career?
The Ear wants to hear.
ALERT: This afternoon at 2:30 in Overture Hall is your last chance to hear the season finale by the Madison Symphony Orchestra: a program of the “Serenade” after Plato’s “Symposium” by Leonard Bernstein, with concertmaster Naha Greenholtz (below) as soloist, and the famous Ninth Symphony — the “Ode to Joy” or “Choral” symphony — by Ludwig van Beethoven.
The reviews are unanimous in their enthusiastic praise.
Here is a link to the one that John W. Barker wrote for Isthmus:
And here is one written by Lindsay Christians for The Capital Times:
And here is a review written by Bill Wineke for WISC-TV‘s Channel 3000.com:
By Jacob Stockinger
Today is Mother’s Day 2015.
And nothing says love like music.
So what music would you like to play for your mother?
And what music would she like to hear?
They aren’t necessarily the same.
So here are The Ear’s choices.
The second is the movement of the “German” Requiem by Brahms in which he evokes his recently deceased mother. Here it is performed in a classic rendition by soprano Elizabeth Schwarzkopf with Otto Klemperer conducting:
And the piece my mother would love to hear? She loved it when I practiced the piano – and to think I wondered how anyone could enjoy listening to someone practicing? And she especially loved it when I practiced Chopin.
And her favorite piece by Chopin that I played was the bittersweet and elegant Waltz in C-sharp minor, Op. 64, No. 2, heard below in a YouTube video played by Arthur Rubinstein, whom she took me to hear when he played an all-Chopin concert in Carnegie Hall in 1961 – and we sat on stage.
What are your choices in each category?
Leave word plus, if possible, a YouTube link in the COMMENTS section.
The Ear wants to hear.
And wishes you a Happy Mother’s Day.
REMINDER: The Con Vivo! (music with life) chamber music ensemble (below) invites the public to its debut performance at the Stoughton Opera House on this coming Sunday night. The concert has been rescheduled to this Sunday evening due to the snowstorm last weekend.
Here are the details: Sunday, February 8, 2015, at 7:30 p.m.
Stoughton Opera House
381 E. Main St. Stoughton, WI
Tickets are $20, $10 for an obstructed view and are available at www.stoughtonoperahouse.com
Here is the program:
Sergei Prokofiev: “Overture on Hebrew Themes” for Piano, string quartet and clarinet, Op.34
Max Bruch: “Romance” for Viola and Piano op. 85
Jay Ungar: “Ashokan Farewell” for violin and piano
John Williams – “Air and Simple Gifts” for violin, cello, clarinet and piano (It was performed by violinist Itzhak Perlman, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, clarinetist Anthony McGill and piano Gabriela Montero and others at President Barack Obama’s first inauguration.)
George Gershwin – Preludes for solo piano
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet, KV 581
Here is a link to the original post about the concert:
By Jacob Stockinger
The Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble will give a concert of baroque chamber music on this coming Sunday afternoon, February 8, at 3 p.m.
Tickets are at the door only: $20, $10 for students.
Participating members in the concert – the veteran ensemble uses period instruments and historically informed performance practices — are:
Mimmi Fulmer – soprano
Brett Lipshutz – traverso
Eric Miller – viola da gamba, baroque cello
Consuelo Sañudo – mezzo-soprano
Monica Steger – traverso, harpsichord
Anton TenWolde – baroque cello
Max Yount – harpsichord
Here is the program:
Gabriel Bataille – “Sortez soupirs”
Henry Purcell – “Sweeter than roses”
Gabriel Bataille – “Que douce est la violence”
Georg Philipp Telemann – “Die Landlust”
Louis de Caix d’Hervelois – sonata for traverso and continuo
Benoît Guillemant – Sonata in D Major, Op. 2 Nr. 6 for two traversos
Johann Sebastian Bach – “Betörte Welt”
Giuseppe Sammartini – Sonata 3 for violoncello and continuo
George Frideric Handel – “Tanti Strali”
By Jacob Stockinger
Are artist concert fees — like those charged by tenor Placido Domingo (below top), soprano Renee Fleming (below middle) and violinist Itzhak Perlman (below bottom) — too high these days and too unaffordable for most American concert-goers?
What would Janet say?
Maybe that refrain could become the economic equivalent of What Would Jesus Say?
I am speaking of Janet Yellen (below), the chairwoman of the Federal Reserve who last week made headlines when she spoke out publicly against the widening wealth gap as being contrary to America’s historic democratic ideals.
But let’s localize the issue.
The Ear didn’t go, but here is a rave review from the student newspaper The Badger Herald, which agrees with the word-of-mouth reviews I have heard:
And for those who couldn’t or wouldn’t buy tickets, the Wisconsin Union Theater even webcast the concert live and for free.
Still, with seats that sold for well over $100, The Ear got to wondering: Are really high artist fees morally right or wrong?
We all hear about the widening wealth gap, and especially about the astronomical pay given to CEOs versus their workers as compared to the same ratio several decades ago.
Well, what about well-known and in-demand concert artists?
If The Ear heard correctly, Yo-Yo Ma’s fee for that one-night performance was either $90,000 or $95,000 -– or about $42,500 or $45,000 an hour.
Can Yo-Yo Ma demand and get that extravagant fee in the so-called “free market” society with its corporate welfare and tax loopholes for the wealthy? Of course, he can — and he does. That is why he sold out the Wisconsin Union Theater.
But should he?
It makes one wonder.
Is Yo-Yo Ma really that much better as a cellist and musician -– and not just as a celebrity — than many other cellists, including MacArthur “genius grant” winner Alisa Weilerstein, Alban Gerhardt, Jean-Guihen Queyras, Steven Isserlis, Carter Brey, Joshua Roman and others? (You can hear Yo-Yo Ma’s interpretation of a movement from a solo cello suite by Johann Sebastian Bach in a YouTube video — with over 11 million hits — at the bottom and decide if it is that much better than other cellists play it.)
Now I don’t mean to pick just on Yo-Yo Ma. I have gone to a half-dozen of his other performances here and I have met him and talked with him. He is without doubt a great musician, a fine human being and an exemplary humanitarian.
The problem that I am talking about transcends any single performer and applies to the whole profession.
Maybe at least part of the problem of attracting young audiences to classical music concerts can be placed right in the laps of the performing artists themselves.
When The Ear was young, he got to hear all sorts of great musical artists—including Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Rubinstein (below), Vladimir Horowitz, Van Cliburn, Itzhak Perlman, Rudolf Serkin, Isaac Stern, Emanuel Ax and others for quite affordable prices. Not that those artists didn’t live well -– but I doubt that they were paid the equivalent of $45,000 an hour.
Maybe it is time for economic populism in the performing arts.
Fees like that exclude a lot of families from participating. Some fans might find it better and cheaper to hear a CD or download than go to a live concert.
Too many performing artists – opera stars come immediately to mind as a class — seem to have taken the same path toward justifying greed as movie stars, sports figures, rock stars and CEO’s who make out like bandits.
In short, can it be that classical musicians are helping to kill off classical music?
Smaller theaters like the Wisconsin Union Theater and even the Overture Center simply cannot book such well-known artists without charging a ridiculous amount of money for a seat – and at a time when many people of all ages just can’t afford it. It just adds to the Wealth Gap and the One Percent problem.
SO THE EAR WOULD LIKE TO ASK CONCERT ARTISTS: PLEASE ADJUST YOUR CONCERT FEES TO HELP SUSTAIN THE FUTURE OF YOUR ART.
Well, these are just some brain droppings.
The Ear wonders what you think of stratospheric artist fees?
Do they contribute to the wealth gap?
Do they hurt the popularity of the art form, especially younger generations?
Are they contributing to the decline of cultural literacy?
In short, are such high artist fees morally right or wrong?
And if wrong, what can we arts consumers do about it? Boycott certain artists until they become more reasonable in their fees?
Ask artist and management agencies to adjust the fees to make them more affordable?
Go to alternative concerts that are perfectly acceptable without star power and cost less or, like those at the University of Wisconsin School of Music, free?
Tell us what you think in a COMMENT.
The Ear wants to hear.