The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Free “Just Bach” concerts change the starting time to NOON and begin their second season this Wednesday at Luther Memorial Church. Here are programs for this semester

September 15, 2019
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The Ear has received the following announcement from the organizers and performers of Just Bach, which had a very successful inaugural run last season:

Join us on this coming Wednesday, Sept. 18, as we kick off our second season of “Just Bach” concerts. The concerts are FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC, with a goodwill offering collected.

The Just Bach concert series – which features Baroque period instruments and historically informed performance practices — resumes as part of the weekly free noontime “Music at Midday” concerts in the gorgeous sanctuary (below) of Luther Memorial Church, 1021 University Ave. For more information and a schedule of other performances and performers in the series,  go to: luthermem.org/music-at-midday

PLEASE NOTE: While the one-hour Just Bach concerts last season started at 1 p.m., this season they will start at NOON.

The photo (below, from left) shows three performers for this upcoming first concert: soprano Sarah Brailey, violist Marika Fischer Hoyt, and traverse flutist Linda Pereksta.

The season-opener is an instrumental program titled “Gamba Sonatas Without the Gambas.” (Gamba is the Italian word for leg and was used to describe what would evolve into the modern cello.)

Of the three sonatas written for viola da gamba (an early version of the modern cello) and harpsichord, BWV 1027-1029, we’ll hear the first and third, but in alternate versions.

First on the program is the hauntingly beautiful Sonata No. 3 in G Minor, BWV 1029, performed on viola da braccio (baroque viola) and harpsichord. (You can hear the opening movement of the original version, played on a modern cello and piano by Janos Starker and Gyorgy Sebok, respectively, in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Following that will be the jaunty Sonata in G Major BWV 1039, the Trio Sonata arrangement for cello, flute and harpsichord that Bach made of the Sonata No. 1, BWV 1027.

Just Bach regulars traverse flutists Linda Pereksta and Monica Steger and violist Marika Fischer Hoyt return to the stage. They will be joined by cellist Lindsey Crabb (below top) and UW-Madison harpsichordist John Chapell Stowe (below bottom on the right), who are making their debuts at Just Bach.

Just Bach organizer and regular performer, as well as UW graduate student and professional touring soprano, Sarah Brailey (below) leads the chorale sing-along, a beloved audience-participation feature of these programs. 

Bring your lunch, bring your ears and your voice, and bring a friend, but most of all bring yourself to enjoy the sublime music of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Here is a schedule of upcoming Just Bach concerts this fall, all taking place on Wednesdays at noon:

Oct. 16:  Cantata 158 Der Friede sei mit dir (Peace be with you)

Nov. 20:  Cantata 151 Süßer Trost, mein Jesus kommt (Sweet comfort, my Jesus comes)

Dec. 18:  Christmas Pastiche

For more information, including tips on parking, go to the website justbach.org


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Classical music: Can you think of performers and performances that help explain the music?

June 28, 2015
6 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

French writer Andre Gide (below, 1869-1951) won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

andre gide

He was also an avid amateur pianist.

He collected and published his “Notes on Chopin,” which The Ear was reading the other day.

The Ear came across this sentence: “Any good performance should be an explanation of the work.”

Makes a lot of sense as a way to explain memorable performances.

The comment brought to mind conductor (and educator as well as composer) Leonard Bernstein (below) and the Vienna Philharmonic performing the Symphony No. 4 by Johannes Brahms (at the bottom in a YouTube video) and the Symphony No. 3 “Eroica” by Ludwig van Beethoven as well as conductor Bruno Walter’s performance of the Symphony No. 1 by Gustav Mahler.

Leonard Bernstein CR Jack Mitchell

It also brought to mind pianist Arthur Rubinstein performing so much Chopin, but especially the Ballades.

It brought to mind the Belgian violinist Arthur Grumiaux performing the solo sonatas and suite for violin by Johann Sebastian Bach, and the Hungarian cellist Janos Starker performing the solo cello suites of Bach. Glenn Gould’s keyboard Bach probably also qualifies.

The Ear thinks maybe Gide is right.

What do you think?

And can you name performances and performers that explain the works they play?

Leave a message in the COMMENT section along with a link to a YouTube video, if possible.

 


Classical music: The annual National Summer Cello Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music will hold a FREE memorial concert for Janos Starker this Sunday, June 9, at 8 p.m.

June 5, 2013
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

Do you speak cello? A great way to start is by attending a FREE concert on Sunday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall on the UW-Madison campus.

The purpose of the concert is to memorialize and honor the career of famed Hungarian-born cellist Janos Starker (below), who emigrated to the U.S. after World War II and taught at Indiana University. Starker, a survivor of the Holocaust renowned for his performing and teaching as well as his love of fine scotch and too many cigarettes, died last month at 88.

As you might expect there will be some solo Bach, duos by Bartok, trios by David Popper and lots of other solo and ensemble cello music including a cello choir of 12 cellists.

janos starker 1

The FREE concert, part of the yearly National Summer Cello Institute for professional cellists (below, in Mills Hall) at the UW-Madison, will take place in Mills Hall on this Sunday June 9, at 8 p.m. Guest artists, including the cellist of the Orion String Quartet, will also perform. (By contrast, the similarly named National Cello Institute is for young people, not professionals.)

national summer cello Institute 1

The concert has been organized by Uri Vardi (below), a professor of cello at the UW-Madison, who studied with Starker from 1972 to 1975.

Vardi

For more details, here is a link to the excellent and comprehensive story on “Fanfare,” the new blog at the UW School of Music:

http://uwmadisonschoolofmusic.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/remembering-janos-starker-memorial-concert-sunday-june-9-mills-hall/

And for more information about Janos Starker, here is a link to the obituary story, with links to other remembrances and obituaries, that The Ear posted on this blog:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/05/04/classical-music-cellist-janos-starker-master-teacher-and-master-performer-is-dead-at-88-listen-to-how-deep-and-moving-yet-also-austere-his-bach-is/

And here is a link to a YouTube video of Janos Starker himself playing Gabriel Faure‘s exquisite “Elegie,” which has been posted as a tribute to Starker:


Classical music: Famed cellist Janos Starker, master teacher and master performer, is dead at 88. Listen to how deep and moving, yet also austere, his Bach is.

May 4, 2013
8 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Over the years I saw cellist Janos Starker (below) perform live several times in concert, both recitals and concertos, and I have a few of his recordings. He died last week at 88 in a nursing home after a long illness.

Starker was quite the legendary character, an original who loved his Scotch and cigarettes. He was also one of the best cellists ever as well as one of the most demanding music teachers ever. He did not suffer fools gladly. His repertoire was enormous and covered everything from Bach and Beethoven to Schumann, Dvorak and Brahms to Elgar, Kodaly and Hindemith, 

janos starker 1

After I heard of his death, I played some of his Grammy-winning recording of J.S. Bach’s six solo cello suites (below). That is the music where I find the quintessential Starker.

How much I liked hearing Starker’s readings of solo Bach! They thoroughly absorbed me and held my attention. His playing of Bach simply would not let me go.

Janos Starker CD cover

I don’t care so much about the historical origins of the music. I like my Bach (below) to have more profundity and lyricism than many early music groups often give him, but I also like more lightness and dance-like qualities than many of the more heavy Romantic interpreters give him.

Starker, who was all business, always took a more austere approach characterized by less vibrato – something that anticipated one of the signatures of the historically informed period performances of Bach.Which is to say: Starker, like me, like his Bach deep.

To me that seems only fitting for someone who survived the Nazi death camps and who saw his two violinist brothers murdered in them.

Bach1

I like that after World War II, when he came to the U.S. and taught at Indiana University, Starker said he was put on Earth to teach.

janos starker teaching

I also like that once he left Europe, he went from being Schtarker (as in his native Hungary) to the starker Americanized pronunciation Starker.

I especially like his deep, dark Bach. It is deep and dark without being overly resonant to be point of becoming cloying, ponderous and gooey, which is how I sometimes find Yo-Yo Ma’s Bach. Nor was it superficial and court dancy as some early music is. Even in his secular music, there is so much more to Bach than the charm and the notes — and Starker got to it.

Starker’s Bach was somehow serious and even spiritual without being reverential. It was emotional without becoming sentimental.

Can you think of a better measure for making great music?

janos starker BW

Here are some of the best obituaries and histories about Janos Starker the man and the musician I found over the past several days. They have some wonderful stories and details to savor.

Here is an obituary from The New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/30/arts/music/janos-starker-master-cellist-dies-at-88.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

And here is a great column of NPR’s wonderful blog “Deceptive Cadence”:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/04/28/179666890/janos-starker-a-master-of-the-cello-dies-at-88

Here is another overview with los of details about his career:

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/culture/la-et-cm-janos-starker-world-famous-cellist-dies-at-88-20130428,0,6362393.story

Be sure to leave your own impressions, critiques, remembrances and tributes in the COMMENTS section.

And here is Starker playing the first movement from the Suite No.1 for solo cello by J.S. Bach in a YouTube video, showing once again how Starker spoke best for himself through his playing:


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