The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Flutist and activist Iva Ugrcic is Musician of the Year for 2018

December 31, 2018
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By Jacob Stockinger

The classical music scene in Madison is so rich that it is always a challenge to name a Musician of the Year.

There are just so many deserving candidates. One obvious example is conductor John DeMain, who is completing his 25th year of outstanding stewardship in directing the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Madison Opera.

But part of the intent behind such an honor is not just to recognize well-known figures. It is to encourage a broader awareness of those people who do a lot for local classical music but who often fly under the radar for many people.

That is why The Ear is naming flutist and activist Iva Ugrcic (below) as the Musician of the Year for 2018.

As both a performer and entrepreneur, Ugrcic is always very busy broadening her varied career. Being both a player and an activist, she is making a difference, musically and socially, that deserves to be recognized and supported.

Serbian by birth and educated in Belgrade and Paris, she came to Madison where she completed her doctorate in flute performance and also took business courses at the UW-Madison Business School.

She is a first-rate performer who has won a national prize for performing. While at the UW-Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music, she won both the concerto competition (below) and the Irving Shain competition for wind instruments in duets. (You can hear her amazing technique in the YouTube video at the bottom. In it Ugrcic performs “Voice” for solo flute by the Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu.)

She now plays with the Black Marigold Wind Quintet and Sound Out Loud, both of which are based in Madison and both of which devote themselves to contemporary composers and new music.

This year, Urgcic also soloed with the Middleton Community Orchestra (below, in a photo by John W. Barker), performing to critical acclaim a relatively unknown concerto by 19th-century composer Carl Reinecke.

This year, Urgcic also took over as artistic director of the Rural Musicians Forum, which brings classical music, jazz, world music and ethnic music, played by outstanding performers to the Spring Green area, often at the Taliesin compound of architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

But perhaps her most long-lasting contribution is her founding and now directing the LunART Festival that, in the same year of the Me Too movement, sought to present an all-women event that featured composers, performers, visual artists and writers.

Such was its inaugural success in 2018 that it won a national prize from the National Flute Association and a second festival will take place from June 9 through June 9, 2019.

2019 will also see the release of her second solo recording devoted to the music of the contemporary Romanian composer Doina Rotaru, even while she is working on a recording of “Beer Music” by contemporary American composer Brian DuFord.

And all that is just the beginning for such a promising talent. We will be hearing much more from her and about her in years to come.

To see her impressive biography, as well as updated activities, video and audio clips, photographs and other information, go to: https://www.ivaugrcic.com/bio

Here is one more thing that speaks to The Ear. It feels important, even necessary, to recognize the positive contributions of an immigrant at a time when the current “America First” administration under President Donald Trump seems so paranoid and negative, so xenophobic and afraid of foreigners.

The U.S government should be less intent on condemning or stigmatizing immigrants, whether legal or undocumented, and should put more emphasis on their contributions and on the long and distinguished history they have in the United States.

Iva Urgcic is yet another example of the talent we Americans stand to lose if we do not accept and encourage the gifts that immigrants bring in so many ways — from the arts, medicine, education and technology to everyday life and work.

Please join The Ear is expressing gratitude and congratulations to Iva Urgcic.


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Classical music: The third annual Madison New Music Festival features three world premieres and 25 composers, and takes place this weekend with three concerts

August 7, 2018
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By Jacob Stockinger

It has been a good year for new music in Madison, which has often seemed inhospitable to that music in the past.

Among major contributors have been the LunART Festival of contemporary women composers; programs by the UW Symphony Orchestra and other UW-Madison groups and individuals; the Madison Opera; the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society; the Willy Street Chamber Players; and the Oakwood Chamber Players. Plus, The Ear is sure there are many other contributors he is overlooking.

But the largest share of the credit has to go to a three-day annual festival of living composers that will take place for the third year this coming weekend. (Photos from last year’s well-attended festival are by Max Schmidt.)

Here is an announcement from the festival with the details:

The third annual Madison New Music Festival will take place this coming Friday, Aug. 10, Saturday, Aug. 11, and Sunday, Aug. 12.

The Madison New Music Festival is an annual weekend-long concert series dedicated to strengthening Madison’s cultural vitality through the celebration of fresh classical music from our lifetimes.

Founded by Madison native composer Zachary Green (below bottom), the festival presents new works by some of the world’s leading living composers, shines a spotlight on new music created in Wisconsin, and shares underplayed music of the 20th and 21st centuries with the Madison community.

Every concert will also have a world premiere of music that has never been heard before. On the opening night, Conduit is performing a new piece by Kyle Tieman-Strauss called Abject. The next day, organist Tyler Jameson Pimm premieres his new piece Psalm 22. Then on Sunday, listeners get to hear the premiere of They’re Still Here by BC Grimm, featuring music for nine different instruments (all of which will be played by Grimm himself).

Over the course of three concerts around town, we are featuring a total of 17 musicians playing the works of 25 composers, all of which were written in the last 50 years.

Though each concert has a different theme, every performance features music by Wisconsin composers, composers of color, and both men and women.

Fifteen of our musicians were born, raised or currently reside in Wisconsin, but we’re bringing several back to town just for the festival. They include members of the Madison, Milwaukee and Quad City symphonies; and graduates of Juilliard, the Manhattan School of Music, Mannes Conservatory, Northwestern University, and, of course, the UW-Madison.

We invite you to join us for the following three concerts:

CONCERT 1: Sounds of the ‘60s and Beyond – Friday, Aug. 10, at 7:30 p.m.

Hear sounds born out of the ’60s counterculture with works exploring minimalism, social and political engagement, and electronic experimentation, as well as the music they inspired for decades to come. There will be a cash bar, as well as opportunities to explore the exhibits.

Where: Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMOCA), 227 State Street

Who: Caitlin Mead, soprano; Heather Zinninger Yarmel, flute; Kristina Teuschler, clarinet; Jeremy Kienbaum, viola; Alex Norris, violin, and Zou Zou Robidoux, cello; and Conduit (below, Zach Manzi, clarinet and Evan Sadler, percussion).

Program: Music by Melissa Dunphy, Angelica Negron, Evan Williams, Steve Reich, Gilda Lyons, Anna Meadors, Kyle T. Strauss, David Lang and Andy Akiho

CONCERT 2: Sounds of Reflection – Saturday, Aug. 11, at 2 p.m.

The festival continues with an afternoon program invoking spirituality, morality and reflection. Organ interludes will be interspersed throughout the program of vocal and instrumental music.

Where: Bethel Lutheran Church, 312 Wisconsin Ave.

Who: Greg Zelek, Madison Symphony Orchestra organist (below); Jeremy Kienbaum, viola; Satoko Hayami, piano; Tyler Pimm; organ; Kristina Teuschler, clarinet; Alex Norris, violin; Micah Cheng, cello; Caitlin Mead, soprano; and Scott Gendel, piano.

Program: Music by Toru Takemitsu, Trevor Weston, Morton Feldman, Daniel Ficarri, John Weaver, Tyler Pimm, Tania Leon, John Musto and Scott Gendel

CONCERT 3: Festival Closing Party 2018 – Sunday, Aug. 12, at 7:30 p.m.

Kick back a drink as local musician BC Grimm plays his original works for instruments from cello to Chinese Guqin zither, followed by a set of music for solo strings. Then, the musicians from all three concerts come together for a performance of the 1973 piece “Stay On It” — heard in the YouTube video the bottom — by Julius Eastman (below).

Where: Robinia Courtyard, 829 East Washington Avenue

Who: BC Grimm, Jeremy Keinbaum, Aaron Yarmel, and All Festival Performers

Program: BC Grimm, Philip Glass, Ursula Mamlok, Aaron Yarmel, and Julius Eastman

All individual concerts are $15 for general admission, $5 for students. You can also subscribe to all three concerts for $35.

For more information, please visit our website http://madisonnewmusic.org or find us on Facebook (@Madison New Music Festival) or Instagram (@madisonnewmusic).


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Classical music: The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, with guest singer Emily Birsan, closes its 27th annual summer chamber music season on the highest note

June 28, 2018
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By Jacob Stockinger

Here is a special posting, a review written by frequent guest critic and writer for this blog, John W. Barker. Barker (below) is an emeritus professor of Medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also is a well-known classical music critic who writes for Isthmus and the American Record Guide, and who hosts an early music show once a month on Sunday morning on WORT FM 89.9 FM. For years, he served on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison. Performance photos are by Dick Ainsworth for the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society.

By John W. Barker

Last Saturday night, I was able to attend the second program on the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society’s third and final weekend this season.

The opening work was American Haiku, a duo for viola and cello, by the American Paul Wiancko. Obviously inspired by Japanese musical traditions, it is a longish piece, notably lacking in the brevity of its poetic model. It was diligently played by two of the budding young musicians the society has been fostering, violist Jeremy Kienbaum (below left) and cellist Trace Johnson (below right).

Further on in the first half came the Flute Concerto in D minor (H. 484:1), by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, dated to 1747, three years before papa Johann Sebastian died. It presents the composer as a transitional figure, anchored in the Late Baroque but tugging toward the Empfindsamkeit (sensitivity of feeling or expression) of the Early Classical period.

As the reduced orchestra, we had local violinists Leanne Kelso League and Suzanne Beia, with Kienbaum and Johnson, and, on the harpsichord continuo there was the deferential pianist Satoko Hayami.

The flute soloist (below) was, of course, BDDS co-founder and co-artistic director Stephanie Jutt, who played her role with obvious relish but with splendid precision, and (notably in the lively finale) real panache. The other players joined in with fine spirit.

For me, one of the two prime features of this program, however, was the participation of soprano Emily Birsan (below), a past product of the UW-Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music and now an international star. Every time she returns to Madison is welcome, and provides us with a progress report on herself and her career. Her voice has continued to fill out with strength and beauty.

Accompanied by pianist Jeffrey Sykes (below), she sang in the first half of the program a set of four songs, Op. 27 (once again, the number of the BDDS’s anniversary) by Richard Strauss. This set includes some particular gems by the composer, ending with the sublime Morgen! (In the Morning!). Birsan magically made each song a contrasting vignette of character and mood.

Birsan was back after the intermission, again with Sykes.

They performed Samuel Barber’s set of 10 Hermit Songs, using marginal manuscript scribblings by Medieval monks as texts. With the strong support of Sykes, Birsan was superlative in conveying the simple irony and naivety of these affectionately lyrical miniatures. This performance leaves a surely enduring memory.

The other high point, for me, was the Quintet in E-flat, Op. 44 for piano and strings by Robert Schumann. This is a fundamental work in the chamber music literature, a piece to wonder at.

I had forgotten how much rich prominence is given to the viola, within ensemble context, in the greatly varied second movement. Kienbaum projected it with eloquent strength, and the other players heard in the C.P.E. Bach work were utterly involved. (You can hear and see the prominent role of the viola in the opening movement of the quintet in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

This is the kind of first-class chamber playing that we have come to expect from the BDDS, and why we cherish it so.


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Classical music: Four UW concerto competition winners and the student composer winner are featured in the annual Symphony Showcase concert this Sunday night. Plus, the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s “Final Forte” high school concerto competition airs tonight at 7 on Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television

March 14, 2018
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REMINDER: The final round of the Madison Symphony Orchestra‘s teenage concerto competition, “The Final Forte,” will be broadcast live TONIGHT at 7 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television.

ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Ave., features a “Triple Play” of trumpeter David Miller, cellist Amy Harr and pianist Jane Peckham in music by Pärt, Piazzolla, Scarlatti, Levy and Verdi. The concert runs from 12:15 to 1 p.m.

By Jacob Stockinger

This sure is the week for concerto competitions.

The Big Event this week at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is the annual Symphony Showcase concert devoted to student performances of concertos and the world premiere of new music by a student composer.

The concert takes place on Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall.

Tickets are $10, free to students and children.

The concert features the UW Symphony Orchestra (below top) under the baton of its new conductor, Chad Hutchinson (below bottom).

The four winners of the concerto competition will perform and the work by the UW composition winner will receive its first public performance.

There will be reception in the lobby following the concert.

The four concerto winners, who study at the UW’s Mead Witter School of Music, are:

Violinist Kaleigh Acord (below, in a photo by Michael R. Anderson), who will perform the first movement from the Violin Concerto in D Major by Ludwig van Beethoven.

Percussionist Aaron Gochberg (below), who will perform the “Prism Rhapsody” by Japanese composer Keiko Abe.

Bassoonist Eleni Katz (below), who will perform the Bassoon Concerto in B-Flat Major, K. 191, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Pianist Eric Tran (below), who will play the Keyboard Concerto No. 4 in A Major, BWV 1055, by Johann Sebastian Bach.

“Blooming” is by UW composition student Mengmeng Wang (below), who is from China.

The concert will open with the Overture to “Candide” by Leonard Bernstein. This year is the centennial of Bernstein’s birth.

For more information about the contestants and their photos, as well as how to get tickets, go to:

https://www.music.wisc.edu/event/symphony-showcase-concerto-winners-solo-recital-reception/

You can also hear interviews with the winners, who discuss the pieces and their teachers, in the terrific YouTube video below:


Classical music: Madison Youth Choirs will perform music of Madison’s nine sister cities this Sunday afternoon and evening

December 8, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following announcement to post:

“This semester, Madison Youth Choirs singers (below) are embarking on a musical journey across the globe as they explore and perform compositions connected to the diverse cultures inhabiting Madison’s nine sister cities: Ainaro, East Timor; Arcatao, El Salvador; Camaguey, Cuba; Freiburg, Germany; Kanifing, The Gambia; Mantua, Italy; Obihiro, Japan; Tepatitlán, Mexico; and Vilnius, Lithuania.

“As we study the wide variety of musical forms that emerged from these nine regions and think about the reasons we’re drawn to establish sister city relationships, we’re examining both the common forces that drive the creative expression of artists from all cultures and the unique contributions that artists from our sister cities have made to the worldwide musical canon.

“We invite you to join us for a culminating winter concert series celebrating these international choral connections.

WHERE

Madison Youth Choirs Winter Concerts, “Sister Cities

First Congregational United Church of Christ

1609 University Ave., Madison

WHEN

Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017

1:30 p.m. Girlchoirs

4:00 p.m. Boychoirs

7:00 p.m. High School Ensembles

Tickets available at the door: $10 for general admission, $5 for students 7-18, and free for children under 7. A separate ticket is required for each performance. 

This concert is generously endowed by the Diane Ballweg Performance Fund with additional support from American Girl’s Fund for Children, BMO Harris Bank, and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the state of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.

About the Madison Youth Choirs (MYC):

Recognized as an innovator in youth choral music education, Madison Youth Choirs (MYC) welcomes singers of all ability levels, annually serving more than 1,000 young people, ages 7-18, through a wide variety of choral programs in our community. Cultivating a comprehensive music education philosophy that inspires self-confidence, personal responsibility, and a spirit of inquiry leading students to become “expert noticers,” MYC creates accessible, meaningful opportunities for youth to thrive in the arts and beyond.

“SISTER CITIES” PROGRAMS

Sunday, December 10, 2017, First Congregational Church, Madison

1:30 p.m. Concert (Featuring MYC Girlchoirs)

Choraliers

“Now We Are Met” by Samuel Webbe

“Sakura” Traditional Japanese folk song

“Tecolote” Spanish lullaby, arr. Victoria Ebel-Sabo

“S’Vivon” Traditional Jewish folk song, arr. Valerie Shields

Con Gioia

“Peace Round” Traditional round, text by Jean Ritchie

“Shepherd’s Pipe Carol by John Rutter

“Murasame” by Victor C. Johnson, text: 11th-century Japanese poem

“Guantanamera” Cuban folk song, text by José Marti

Capriccio (below)

“A Circle is Cast” by Anna Dembska

“Ich will den Herrn loben alle Zeit” by Georg Philipp Telemann, arr. Wallace Depue

“Ma come bali bene bela bimba” Traditional Italian, arr. Mark Sirett

“Soran Bushi” Japanese folk song, arr. Wendy Stuart

“Yo Le Canto Todo El Dia” by David L. Brunner

4:00 p.m. Concert (Featuring MYC Boychoirs)

Combined Boychoirs

“Dance for the Nations” by John Krumm, arr. Randal Swiggum

Purcell (below)

“La Nanita Nana” by José Ramon Gomis, arr. David Eddlemann

“Es is Ein Ros entsprungen” by Melchior Vulpius

“Sakura” Traditional Japanese folksong, arranged by Purcell choir members

Britten  (below)

Two Elegies by Benjamin Britten

  1. Old Abram Brown
  2. Tom Bowling

“No che non morira” (from Tito Manlio) by Antonio Vivaldi

Holst

“O Rosetta” by Claudio Monteverdi

“O là, o che bon echo” by Orlando di Lasso

“We Are” by Ysaye Barnwell

Combined Boychoirs

Chorus of Street Boys from Carmen by Georges Bizet

“Kimigayao” (The National Anthem of Japan) Melody by Hiromori Hayashi

7:00 p.m. Concert (Featuring High School Ensembles)

Cantilena

“How Can I Keep From Singing?” by Gwyneth Walker

Liebeslieder Walzer by Johannes Brahms, text by Georg Friedrich Daumer

  1. Wie des Abends (from Opus 52) (You can hear it in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
  2. Vogelein durchrauscht die Luft (from Opus 52)
  3. Nein, geliebter, setze dich (from Opus 65)

Ragazzi

“Bar’chu” by Salamon Rossi

“The Pasture” (from Frostiana) by Randall Thompson

“Mogami Gawa Funa Uta” by Watanabe/Goto, based on folk materials, arr. Osamu

Shimizu

Cantabile

“Angelus ad pastores ait” (from Sacrae Cantiunculae, 1582) by Claudio Monteverdi

“Gamelan” by R. Murray Schafer

“Mata del Anima Sola” by Antonio Estévez

Cantabile and Ragazzi (below)

“The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy” Traditional carol from Trinidad, arr. Stephen

Hatfield

Combined Choirs

“Dance for the Nations” by John Krumm


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Classical music: Director Melanie Cain explains why she staged Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado” as “anime” for the Madison Savoyards. It opens this FRIDAY (NOT Thursday) night.

July 15, 2015
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ALERT: A reminder that tonight’s Concert on the Square, at 7 p.m., will feature cellist Karl Lavine (below), the principal cello of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. The classical program includes “Espana” (Spain) by Emmanuel Chabrier; the “Rococo Suite” by Andre Gretry; and the famous “Bolero” by Maurice Ravel.

Here is a link to more information about the concert, the food and the event:

http://www.wcoconcerts.org/performances/concerts-on-the-square-4/

Karl Lavine, principal cello of WCO

By Jacob Stockinger

This Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in Music Hall on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, at the foot of Bascom Hill, the Madison Savoyards will open its seven performances of the latest annual summer production of Gilbert and Sullivan.

The selection this year is one of the most popular of the G&S works: “The Mikado.”

Print

But it has a twist.

Director Melanie Cain, more familiar from Fresco Opera Theatre, has chosen to do the production in an anime (or animation) aesthetic.

The music director is Blake Walter (below), who teaches at Edgewood College.

blake walter john maniaci

Here are notes from the Madison Savoyards website:

The 2015 summer production is The Mikado in Music Hall. Tickets are now on sale. Performance dates: Friday and Saturday, July 17 and 18 at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, July 19, at 3 p.m.; Thursday,  Friday, and Saturday, July 23, 24 and 25 at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, July 26 at 3 p.m.

Melanie Cain is the Stage Director, Blake Walter is Music Director, Steven Nibbe is the Production Coordinator, and Christina Kay is the Publicity Coordinator. Details about the cast at this link …

Blake Walter, Music Director for “The Mikado” and Melanie Cain, Stage Director for “The Mikado,” introduce themselves and and their approach to the production.

NEW: There will be a Children’s Pre-show on July 19 at 1 p.m. This year’s production of “The Mikado” with an Anime aesthetic is the perfect way to introduce your little ones to the brilliance and whimsy of Gilbert and Sullivan.

The event will include a craft, tea and snacks, a mini-show explaining the plot through select dialogue and musical highlights, and a backstage tour. After being a part of the pre-show, children will be prepared to see the full production at 3 p.m. with excitement and engagement!

There will be a break between the pre-show and the performance from 2-3 p.m. This show is wonderful for children, grandchildren or friends who are ages 6-12. Advance reservations required. One child gets in free with a child and adult ticket for “The Mikado” matinee. Reserve via email to: krys.lonsdale@gmail.com

For more information, go to:

http://www.madisonsavoyards.org

Stage Director Melanie Cain recently agreed to an email Q&A with The Ear:

Melanie Cain full face

Can you briefly introduce yourself to the readers and explain your musical and theatrical qualifications to direct The Mikado?

Here is a link to my bio: http://www.mavenvocalarts.com/about.html

What draws you to Gilbert and Sullivan (below)? Have you staged their works before or worked on G&S productions?

Although I have sung in G&S productions, this is the first Gilbert and Sullivan show I have staged.

Gilbert and Sullivan (left)

Why does “The Mikado” endure as one of the most popular and most performed G&S operettas? Is it the music? The exotic setting? The story and its moral lesson?

I think “The Mikado” has endured because it’s strong in all the elements G&S are known for; comedy, fantastic characters and very catchy music.

Savoyards Mikado anime one maid

Why are you recasting the production from traditional Japanese to contemporary “anime”?

Japanese culture, at the time The Mikado was written, was all the rage in England. Depictions of Japan were seen through the art coming out of the region. Vases, fans and jars illustrated elements such as beautiful gardens and traditionally dressed figures.

These traditional images have become stereotypes of the culture. In some cases, creating a feeling that the images are disrespecting the culture instead of revering it.

It was not Gilbert and Sullivan’s intention to take a jab at Japan, but rather to depict a fanciful view of the culture in order to satirize British politics and institutions.

The Mikado has seen some backlash in recent years for using the traditional staging. For this “Mikado,” I decided to use a current art form rising out of Japan — Anime or Manga. (Below are two versions of the famous “Three Little Maids Are We” characters in the operetta. You can hear the song they sing in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Savoyards Mikado 3 maids cartoon

Celebrating Japan’s current popular artistic export while retaining the musical integrity of the work was a way for me to praise the culture much the way Gilbert and Sullivan were trying to do in 1885.

I revere the traditional staging of opera, but I do love to change things around and offer both the seasoned opera fan and new fans a modern take on the classics.

Savoyards Mikado 3 maids real

What kind of unusual details can the public expect to see in an “Anime” concept production of “The Mikado”?

As I was investigating Anime, I realized there are many traditional Japanese elements interwoven with modern or even futuristic looking styles.  The set and props for this production will be quite traditional, while the costumes will have that very stylized anime look — wild colored hair and bright costumes.


Classical music: Japanese writer Haruki Murakami and composer Franz Liszt work well together. Both are haunting creators. Here is a chance to hear how as you read.

September 7, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

As longtime readers of this blog know, The Ear is a loyal fan of the Japanese writer and novelist Haruki Murakami (below).

haruki murakami

I have had a longstanding bet with friends that the prolific Murakami will win the Nobel Prize “this” year. But so far, a decade or more later, I am still waiting — as, I suspect, he is since he has won other major prizes.

So The Ear says: Let’s get on it, members of the Nobel Prize committee in Oslo. What are you waiting for?

Longtime fans also know that I am NOT a big fan of Franz Liszt (below). He wrote some great music that I like a lot. But he also wrote a lot of second-rate music that I don’t like a lot. What is good, I find, is very good; and the rest too often strikes me as melodramatic pieces full of self-exhibitionistic pyrotechnical keyboard tricks and gimmicks.

Liszt photo portrait by Pierre Petit 1870

But recently the contemporary Japanese novelist got me to appreciate one piece by the 19th-century Romantic Hungarian composer and piano virtuoso.

The work is called “Le mal du pays,” or, roughly translated, “Homesickness,” and comes from the first of three books, and the first year of three, of Liszt’s generally subdued “Years of Pilgrimage: Book I — Switzerland.”

Not surprisingly it is featured, referred to and analyzed repeatedly in Murakami’s new novel the “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (below, published by Knopf), in which the meanings of home and belonging are explored in many different ways. The piano music is a kind of thematic summary of the plot, the setting and the characters.

Murakami Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki book cover

The Liszt work, which runs about six or so minutes, is a curious piece, less showy than many and full of the kind of strangeness, disjointedness and mysteriousness that Murakami treasures and so effectively conveys in his writings.

The piano piece perfectly matches the novel, its plot and characters and tones, in the music’s eerie chromaticism, in its insistent repetition, in its austerity and lack of sensuality, even in its identification with what is empty or missing and its plain old weirdness.

The haunting music embodies the book and may have been inspired it in part. Not for nothing is Murakami known as The Japanese Kafka, and the Liszt music is worthy of that equivalency.

The two works of art deserve each other, as I am increasingly finding out, and work well together.

I am now about fourth-fifths of the way through the novel, which has been No. 1 on The New York Times bestseller list for hardback fiction for several weeks. It certainly has me enchanted and under its spell.

Murakami often refers to Western culture, classical and pop, and especially to classical music and jazz. (He once ran a jazz bar in Tokyo.)

In other works such as “Kafka on the Shore,” Murakami even seems something of a connoisseur of Western classical music who has compared works and various recordings of them, by Franz Schubert, Johann Sebastian Bach and others. In fact, Murakami himself could be said to have spent his own years of pilgrimage journeying through Western culture as well as fiction writing.

This time Murakami, who has excellent taste and deep knowledge or familiarity, favors a performance by the late Russian pianist Lazar Berman (below).

File written by Adobe Photoshop? 4.0

Other fans of both Murakami and Liszt have set up a website where you can listen to a YouTube recording of Berman’s playing ‘Le mal du pays.” (You can also find quite a few other recordings of it, including one by Alfred Brendel (below), on YouTube, which is also featured in a secondary role in Murakami’s new novel.)

Brendel playing BIG

And I have also found a Hyperion recording by British pianist and MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant-winner Stephen Hough that I like a lot:

Hough_Stephen_color16

Here is a link to the Lazar Berman version, a second one that was set up by a Murakami fan:

Have fun listening and happy reading.

And please let us know what you think of the Liszt piece, Murakami’s newest novel and your favorite Murakami novel.

The Ear wants to hear.

 


Classical music education: The Madison Youth Choirs perform the 11th Annual Spring Concert Series this Sunday afternoon and night. They will premiere a new work about Shakespeare’s “Macbeth by UW-Madison alumnus Scott Gendel.

May 14, 2014
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

On this Sunday afternoon and evening, May 18, 2014, the Madison Youth Choirs (MYC, below) will ends the celebration of their 10th anniversary and celebrate the return of spring with a lively concert series featuring several groups whose membership total over 300 talented young singers.

madison youth choirs

All concerts will take place in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center for the Arts in downtown Madison.

Tickets are $10-$20, and can be purchased in three ways:

1. online at www.overturecenter.com

2. By phone at (608) 258-4141

3. In person at the Overture Center box office, 201 State St., Madison, Wisconsin.

Throughout this season, focused on the theme “Arts & Minds,” MYC’s singers have discovered connections between visual and vocal expressions of human creativity, using both mediums as a lens to explore the world.

Concert selections will include works from a wide variety of musical eras and cultures, including classical pieces by Bach and Vivaldi, traditional folk songs in Hebrew and Japanese, and contemporary pieces by Cindy Lauper and Eric Whitacre (below), creator of the “Virtual Choir,” which has become a global phenomenon on YouTube.

Composer conductor Eric Whitacre, in rehearsal and concert at Union Chapel, Islington, London

MYC’s boychoirs will make history with the world premiere of University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music alumnus Scott Gendel’s “Sound and Fury,” featuring text from Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.”

This ambitious new work by Gendel  will be a fitting prelude to the boychoirs’ upcoming summer tour to Scotland, where they will perform in the invitation-only Aberdeen International Youth Festival (below).

Aberdeen International Youth Festival Opeing Ceremony

For more information about Scott Gendel, visit:

http://scottgendel.com

Scott Gendel color headshot

Continuing its commitment to celebrating the work of outstanding local music teachers, MYC will also present the Music Educator of the Year Award to Jan Vidruk. Ms. Vidruk (below center ) is a nationally recognized leader in early childhood education who has inspired young people in music and movement classes for over 40 years.

Jan Vidruk (center)

Here is the Concert Information, Schedules and Programs for Sunday, May 18, 2014

1 p.m. – Choraliers (below in a photo by Cynthia McEahern

Hashivenu…Traditional Hebrew

Bee! I’m Expecting You… Emma Lou Diemer

Ae Fond Kiss… Traditional Scottish, arr. Kesselman

The Duel… Paul Bouman

Kojo no Tsuki… Traditional Japanese, arr. Snyder

Madison Youth Choirs Choraliers CR Cynthia McEahern

Con Gioia (below in a photo by Karen Holland)

For the Beauty of the Earth… John Rutter

The Jabberwocky… Jennings

Tres Cantos Nativos dos Indios Krao… Leite

Annie Laurie… arr. Rentz

Madison Youth Choirs Con Gioia Karen Holland

Capriccio (below in a photo by Mike Ross)

Hark! The Echoing Air… Henry Purcell

Hotaru Koi… Ro Ogura

The Seal Lullaby… Eric Whitacre

Niska Banja… Traditional Serbian, arr. Nick Page

Madison Youth Choir Capriccio CR Mike Ross

4 p.m.: Purcell

Gloria Tibi (from Mass)… Leonard Bernstein

Simple Gifts… Traditional

Orpheus with his Lute… Ralph Vaughan Williams

Laudamus Te (from Gloria in D Major)… Antonio Vivaldi

Britten

The Lord Bless You and Keep You … John Rutter

Er Kennt die rechten Freudenstuden … Johann Sebastian Bach

Holst

The Bird…William Billings

The Cowboy Medley…arr. R. Swiggum

Anthem (from Chess)…Anderson/Ulveas, arr. R. Swiggum

Ragazzi  (below in a photo by Dan Sinclair)

dominic has a doll… Vincent Persichetti

Si, Tra i Ceppi… George Frideric Handel

Fair Phyllis… John Farmer

Madison Youth Choirs Ragazzi HS CR Dan Sinclair

Madison Boychoir (Purcell, Britten, Holst — below in a photo by Karen Holland — and Ragazzi combined)

Sound and Fury (world premiere)… Scott Gendel, text from Macbeth

Will the Circle Be Unbroken?… Traditional, arr. R. Swiggum

Madison Youth Choirs boychoirs Purcell, Britten and Holst CR Karen Holland

7:30 p.m. High School Ensembles

Cantilena

How Merrily We Live… Michael Este

Salut Printemps… Claude Debussy

Hope… Andrew Lippa

Hope is the Thing… Emma Lou Diemer

Ragazzi

dominic has a doll… Vincent Persichetti

Si Tra i Ceppi… George Frideric Handel

Fair Phyllis I Saw Sitting…John Farmer

Cantabile

Cruel, You Pull Away Too Soon… Thomas Morley

Chiome d’Oro… Claudio Monteverdi

Mountain Nights… Zoltan Kodaly

Las Amarillas…Stephen Hatfield

Time After Time… Cyndi Lauper, arr. Michael Ross

Cantabile and Ragazzi

Come Thou Fount of Ever Blessing…arr. Mack Wilberg

A Hymn for St. Cecilia…Herbert Howells (heard at bottom in a YouTube video)

This project is supported by American Girl’s Fund for Children, the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation, the Kenneth A. Lattman Foundation, American Family Insurance, Dane Arts with additional funds from the Evjue Foundation, charitable arm of The Capital Times, and BMO Harris Bank. This project is also 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.

ABOUT THE MADISON YOUTH CHOIRS (MYC)

Recognized as an innovator in youth choral education, MYC inspires enjoyment, learning, and social development through the study and performance of high-quality and diverse choral literature. The oldest youth choir organization in Wisconsin, MYC welcomes singers of all ability levels, challenging them to learn more than just notes
and rhythms. Singers explore the history, context, and heart of the music, becoming “expert noticers,” using music as a lens to discover the world. MYC serves more than 500 young people, ages 7-18, in 11 single-gender choirs.

In addition to a public concert series, MYC conducts an annual spring tour of schools and retirement centers, performing for more than 7,000 students and senior citizens annually. MYC also collaborates with professional arts organizations including the Madison Symphony Orchestra, Madison Ballet, and Madison Opera, while continually supporting and recognizing the work of public schools and music educators throughout the area.

In summer 2014, MYC boychoirs will travel to Scotland for their first appearance at the invitation-only Aberdeen International Youth Festival.

For further information about attending or joining, visit  http://www.madisonyouthchoirs.org       contact the 
Madison Youth Choirs at info@madisonyouthchoirs.org, or call (608) 238-7464

 

 

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