The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Wisconsin Public Radio’s weekly chamber music and recital series “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen” Museum starts its next season this coming Sunday from 12:30 to 2 p.m. with the early music group Eliza’s Toyes. As always it will be broadcast statewide and on WERN FM 88.7 in the Madison area.

September 6, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

This coming Sunday, Sept. 7, Wisconsin Public Radio will once again do live broadcasts of a new season of weekly chamber music and recital series from the Elvehjem Building of the Chazen Museum of Art on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. The concert take place from 12:30 to 2 p.m. In the Madison area, tune into WERN 88.7 FM.You can also hear it live-streamed at www.wpr.org

SAL3

Because of technical difficulties in redesigning its web page, WPR has not yet listed a calendar for the year or even the first semester. But once it is posted, I will tell you and provide a link.

In the meantime, here is a notice I got from Jerry Hui, a UW-Madison graduate and a Madison-based composer, conductor and performer.

Jerry Hui

Hui writes:

“Just want to send you a reminder that our early music group Eliza’s Toyes (below) will be the first concert of the season on Sunday Live From the Chazen this Sunday, 12:30-2 p.m.

Eliza's Toyes 2012 2

“We are performing our comedy show “Casino Royale” as a radio story, narrated by WPR host Lori Skelton (below).

Lori Skelton

The featured music is all from Venice around early 17th century, including works by Rossi, Monteverdi (below), Gabrieli, Baccusi, Uccellini, and Rigatti.”

Monteverdi 2

Below is the description and text from the Chazen website – www.chazen.wisc.edu — with links that should work soon. It has details about reserving seats, performance times and places, intermission interviews and podcasts.

There is also usually a small and informal cookies and coffee or tea reception (below) after the concert, so audience members can get to meet the musicians.

SAL snacks

SAL, as the series is known, is one of The Ear’s favorite events. It is free, and it reaches the biggest classical music audience in the state. It allows you to become acquainted with performers and repertoire you might not otherwise get to know. And it gives you the chance to hear live music while you also view the terrific permanent collection and touring art shows.

SALmicrophone sign

In short, “Sunday Afternoon Live” embodies the very kind of high-quality populism and accessibility that makes Madison and its cultural life so attractive.

Sunday Afternoon Live from the Chazen

Sunday Afternoon Live from the Chazen is a weekly chamber music concert performed in the museum’s Brittingham Gallery III on Sunday afternoons from September through mid-May. Performances begin at 12:30. The gallery seats approximately 100 people; admission is free and first-come, first-served. Please note that Gallery III and the adjacent Gallery II are closed on Sunday before the performances for setup and rehearsal.

Members of the Chazen Museum or Wisconsin Public Radio may reserve seats ahead of time. The concert series, which is co-sponsored by Wisconsin Public Radio and the Chazen Museum of Art with the collaboration of UW–Madison School of Music, features Wisconsin artists and is broadcast live throughout the state on public radio stations.

See our calendar or the WPR program page for concert listings.

Listen to concert intermission interview podcasts led by museum director Russell Panczenko.

To reserve your seats please fill out our seat reservation form and a staff member will contact you.

Here’s to enjoyable listening whether at the museum, in your home, your car or elsewhere.

It is the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

SALProArteMay2010


Classical music: Critic John W. Barker reviews two rehearsals and gives a big thumbs up for the concert TONIGHT by the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO) featuring local soloists and music by Vivaldi, Haydn, Beethoven, Sibelius and a world premiere local composer Jerry Hui.

August 9, 2013
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ALERT: This Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, Madison marimbist Nathaniel Bartlett (below) will perform a FREE concert to celebrate the release of his fifth album “TimeSpacePlace.” Computer-generated music and the theramin will be used during the concert. For more information, visit www.nathanielbartlett.com.

Nathaniel Bartlett 2

By Jacob Stockinger 

Here is a special posting, a “preview” review written by a 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 every other Sunday morning on WORT 88.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.

John-Barker

By John W. Barker

The second of the two concerts offered this summer by the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO) will be given at 7:30 p.m. tonight, Friday evening, Aug. 9, at Music Hall (below), at the base of Bascom Hill on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. Admission is $5, for students by donation.

MusicHall2

As the life of eternal schedule conflicts goes, I am unable to attend the concert itself. This is frustrating, for I have really come to enjoy what founder-conductor Mikko Utevsky (below) and his assemblages of student talent are able to achieve. But Utevsky very graciously allowed me to be a fly on the wall for rehearsals. He and his players have seven of them scheduled, on successive days (including a “dress” before the concert itself). I was able to sit in on two, and on them is this report based.

MAYCO Mikko Utevsky by Steve Rankin

The program will be a substantial one, culminating in Ludwig van Beethoven’s First Symphony.  It will include two concertos, one of them the delightful Trumpet Concerto by Franz Joseph Haydn, with the bright and superbly skilled Ansel Norris (below right) as soloist.

But there will also be a concerto by Antonio Vivaldi, written originally for oboe, violin, strings, and continuo.  Following the dubious practices of trumpet egomaniac Maurice André, the oboe part has been hijacked and given to trumpet. That shift quite destroys the balance of solo matching, but has the positive effect of allowing Ansel to partner with his own brother, Alex Norris (below left), who is also the orchestra’s concertmaster.

Alex and Ansel Norris CR Kathy Esposito

That kind of familial closeness is almost a symbol for the larger connectiveness shared by all these players.

Two other works, quite contrasting, fill out the program.  One is the brief but suavely flowing “Andante festive for strings (with final timpani) by Jean Sibelius. The other is a completely new work, the world premiere of a composition, commissioned by Utevsky and the orchestra, by local composer and jack-of-all-musical trades, Jerry Hui (below).

Called “Glacies,” Hui’s composition was inspired by the imagery of ice, evoked in a score that combines both lyrical and polyphonic textures, blended in an expansive coloristic palette not without touches of Richard Strauss, but altogether a piece with a distinctive profile.

Jerry Hui

I have written before that rehearsals can be as enjoyable, in their own way, as the final performances, and many ways more illuminating. Rehearsals are where the real work is done by the performers and the conductor. Performances are essentially the topping on the cake, however inspired they may prove to be.  Among other things, attending rehearsals allows one to “get inside” a score, as its anatomy is laid bare and its details are worked out.

MAYCO Mikko conducting Steve Rankin

I have to say that, sitting next to the players, and following with a score, I learned more about the internal workings of the Beethoven First than a lifetime of listening to concert and recorded performances afforded me.

What most concerned me, however, was not my own intellectual improvement (however welcome that always is), but rather the chance to observe in its own element what a remarkable institution MAYCO is becoming.

Mikko Utevsky himself is an undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin’s School of Music, working in viola and in conducting.  Precocious from childhood, he is already a very mature musician, with a clear talent, and passion, for orchestral conducting.  The rehearsals demonstrated that.  Still genial and boyish, he is nevertheless musically astute, able to correct and instruct the players in issues of rhythmic articulation, dynamic subtleties, and part balancing.  He clearly works hard at knowing the scores inside out.

Mikko Utevsky conducts MAYCO Steve Rankin

Having already had experience at conducting in high school, he has gone so far as to try creating an orchestra of his own, catching players in slow summer seasons.  This is its third season.

Utevsky recruits the orchestra himself.  He has a wide personal acquaintanceship with budding young musicians, at both high school and college levels, on his own experience. The Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra (WYSO) is a particular source for players.  He regularly makes pitches at their rehearsals, and circulates printed information.

Utevsky also untiringly works the WYSO telephone listings to plead his case for participation. As a result, a majority of the players are WYSO veterans (as he is), mostly from the Youth ensemble of that organization. In some cases, players join after recommendations from friends.

Mikko Utevsky with baton

Fewer than half of this year’s players are college students, the remainder at high school level. But almost all have had experience at one level or another with orchestra or ensemble playing–if in a couple of cases, only in high school bands. That is an important point, for the group is not an introductory Orchestra 101 for the players, but rather a chance to move on in their experience. (Utevsky likes to rotate chairs for the wind players to widen that experience.)

There is, inevitably, considerable turnover in the membership, but Utevsky finds a growing amount of continuity as well. For his first concert this season he mustered 32 members, of whom 12 were returning players. This time, out of 37 players, 21 are repeaters.

MAYCO playing

Utevsky toys with the idea of taking his group into performance during the regular season, but there is a serious problem with this: many of his players are residents of Madison, here in summers, but away as schooling elsewhere during the academic year. Still, the prospects for summer continuity seem now quite well-founded.

What Utevsky is creating is, on however modest a scale, a training-orchestra tradition in Madison. It not only gives him the opportunity to hone his own podium talents, but to give young musicians valuable opportunities for ensemble experience.

These players are all so young: they would look like ordinary teenagers if you saw them on the street. Yet, they are talented musicians. It is simply wonderful to watch them dig into their parts and make fine music together.

MAYCO Mikko rehearsing score Steve Rankin

Yes, it is not possible for them to work together at length, and really to evolve into a finely blended ensemble. But they do a fully plausible job — this is no “amateur” orchestra. And most of these players will go on into professional careers as musicians. These are the players who will join their nationwide peers to continue and renew our classical orchestral tradition.

One other special feature of this program is that it unites two of what I consider Madison’s superlative musical products–conductor Utevsky and composer Hui. How can Madison music-lovers fail to recognize and celebrate the nurturing we are giving to such prodigiously promising talent?

So I regret that I have to miss the actual concert.  But you can enjoy it – TONIGHT.


Classical music: Founder and conductor Mikko Utevsky discusses the concert of music by Vivaldi, Haydn, Beethoven and Madison composer Jerry Hui this Friday evening by the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO) that also features the two Norris brothers, also from Madison, as soloists.

August 7, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

Loyal readers of this blog know well the name of Mikko Utevsky. The young violist this fall will be a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin School of Music, where he studies with Pro Area Quartet violist Sally Chisholm.

Utevsky, who has won awards and impressive reviews for his performances and his work in music education, is the founder and conductor of the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (below and at the bottom conducting MAYCO in the opening of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in a YouTube video), which will perform this Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in Music Hall on the UW-Madisob campus. (You can check out his many honors and projects by typing his name into the search engine on this blog site.)

MAYCO playing

Utevsky offered The Ear a short essay about the concert, and I immediately took him up on the offer. After all, he is a fine and perceptive writer who, you may recall, blogged for this post as he was on tour last summer with the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras‘ tour to Vienna, Prague and Budapest.

Here is the essay by Mikko Utevsky (below in a photo by Steve Rankin):

MAYCO Mikko Utevsky by Steve Rankin

By Mikko Utevsky

This Friday evening, the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO) will present an eclectic and, I hope, compelling program.

The concert will take place at 7:30 p.m. in Music Hall (below), on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison at the foot of Bascom Hill. Tickets are $5 at the door; student admission is by donation.

MusicHall2

The concert’s centerpieces are two masterworks of the Classical period, written only a few years apart: Beethoven‘s Symphony No. 1 in C major, Op. 21, and Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto in E flat. These two pieces, alongside a fantastic new work from Madison-based composer Jerry Hui that was commissioned for the orchestra, form the justification for the title “New Horizons.” Each work is a first in its own way.

The reasoning behind performing the work by the young Beethoven (below) is obvious: It is the composer’s first and strikingly mature essay into the symphonic form, which he would go on to revolutionize not once but three times in his career (his Third, Fifth and Ninth symphonies).

This relatively early work shows the depth of his debt to his teacher, Haydn, in its wit and formal clarity, though signs of the mature Beethoven are visible in the impetuous “sforzandi,” or sudden dynamic changes, and prominent wind writing.

young beethoven etching in 1804

The work by Haydn himself (below top) on the program is less obviously groundbreaking. It is one of his late works, composed when he was 64 for an old friend, trumpeter Anton Weidinger.

Its novelty lies in the instrument for which it was written: Weidinger (below middle) had developed a chromatically-capable trumpet (below bottom), intended to replace the natural trumpet that had been in common use up to this point. That instrument was incapable of chromatics, and even of stepwise melodies and scales in all but its highest register. Haydn exploits the new instrument to its fullest capacity in the most ingenious ways in this compact but brilliant concerto.

Haydn

anton weidinger

old trumpet anton weidinger haydn  hummel

I am delighted to welcome as our soloist Madison native, former “Final Forte” performer, “From The Top” guest, and two-time National Trumpet Competition winner Ansel Norris (below).

Ansel Norris

Finally, Madison composer Jerry Hui’s tone-poem “Glacies” will receive its world premiere on Friday.

The performance of new works is an important part of MAYCO’s educational mission, and whenever possible we seek out music from local composers for the ensemble. New music challenges us as performers in many ways, introducing us to new styles and daring us to find joy and excitement in the unfamiliar. Working with Jerry is always a pleasure, and I sincerely hope the orchestra and audience enjoy his music as much as I do.

“Glacies’” is a wonderfully colorful work that should be both exciting and accessible to all audiences.

Mikko Utevsky conducts MAYCO Steve Rankin

I’ll let him introduce it. Here are comments by composer Jerry Hui (below):

Mikko, founder of MAYCO, was a former composition student of mine, studying counterpoint and harmony with the support of the Wisconsin Center for Academically Talented Youth (WCATY), and I’m glad to compose a piece for his wonderful ensemble.

 “Glacies is a orchestral tone-poem commissioned by Mikko Utevsky for the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO). Mikko, the founder of MAYCO, was a former composition student of mine, studying counterpoint and harmony with the support of the Wisconsin Center for Academically Talented Youth (WCATY), and I’m glad to compose a piece for his wonderful ensemble. Glacies is the Latin word for ice, signifying my original inspiration for the work.

“As a Madisonian living near the lake for the past five years, I have become fascinated by the serene mystery of morning mist rising from the large frozen body of water, as well as the first spring day when the ice breaks–which sometimes can become an exciting and violent event known as an icequake.

“Glacies” does not attempt to tell a narrative; rather, I try to convey an impression of it through various sound and color of the orchestra.”

–Jerry Hui

Jerry Hui

Rounding out the program is a short double concerto in B-flat major by Antonio Vivaldi (below), originally for oboe, violin and string orchestra with basso continuo. The oboe part will be played on the trumpet, as recorded by the inimitable Maurice Andre, as an encore for our soloist from the Haydn concerto.

vivaldi

Ansel Norris will be joined by his brother, violnist and MAYCO’s concertmaster Alex Norris, himself a graduate of the UW-Madison School of Music. (Both brothers are pictured below, Alex on the left and Ansel on the right, in a photo by their mother Kathy Esposito.)

Alex and Ansel Norris CR Kathy Esposito

As for MAYCO’s future plans: While a lack of foreknowledge about instrumentation and the dates of competing summer offerings prevents me from providing concert dates or program details for next summer, I can give a few general hints about what is to come in the orchestra’s fourth season:

– Two varied concert programs featuring Classical masterworks and lesser-known gems.

– The world premiere performance of a work written for the orchestra by a local composer.

– The showcasing of local artists as soloists, including both younger performers and established older musicians.

Mikko Utevsky with baton

More specifically, I hope to program the orchestra’s first piano concerto, and have been eyeing the prospect of working with vocalists again since I heard UW-Madison graduate student Shannon Prickett’s marvelous singing of Verdi and Puccini last summer, perhaps in the context of a concert performance of some opera scenes. But neither of those are promises. Stay tuned! (Shannon Prickett is shown below.)

Shannon Prickett soprano

Finally, I am planning to extend some of MAYCO’s offerings into the school year. We will be holding at least one outreach and reading session on a Saturday afternoon, at which current WYSO members will be invited to read some of the Classical repertoire that the orchestra specializes in and learn about the program we offer.

(Editors note: For more background information, read the entry of the UW School of Music’s outstanding blog “Fanfare”:

http://uwmadisonschoolofmusic.wordpress.com/2013/08/06/mayco-four-seasons/


Classical music: Radio station WORT FM will air music and interviews by local composers Jerry Hui and John Harbison starting this Thursday morning. Plus, tonight at 7 the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra opens its 30th annual Concerts on the Square.

June 26, 2013
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ALERT: Tonight, at 7 p.m. on the King Street corner of the Capitol Square downtown, is the opening the 30th annual series of Concerts on the Square (below top) by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. Although most of the programs for the next  six Wednesdays (rain dates are Thursdays)  feature mostly pop, folk and rock music, tonight’s is an all-classical program with the student violinist David Cao (below bottom), who won this year’s WCO concerto competition for young people. He will solo in the tuneful and irresistible Mendelssohn Violin Concerto (the opening with Janine Jansen is in a YouTube video at the bottom). Also featured are works by Prokofiev (“Peter and the Wolf”), Tchaikovsky (excerpts from “Sleeping Beauty”)  and Respighi. For more information about tonight’s event and all six Concerts on the Square, use this link:

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

Concerts on Square WCO orchetsra

David Cao WCO

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear’s good friend Rich Samuels (below), who loves classical music and hosts his weekly radio show “Anything Goes” every Thursday morning from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. on the community-sponsored radio station WORT-FM (89.9) writes:

“I’ll be broadcasting Madison composer Jerry Hui’s Internet opera “Wired for Love” on my show in two segments: Acts I and II (beginning at 7:08 am) on June 27; the final act will begin at 7:08 on July 4. I’m airing the work in two segments on account of its length. I also want it to air during the 7 a.m. hour when more people are able to listen.

Rich Samuels

“Pre-recorded interviews with Jerry  – who wrote and staged the opera (below) as his Doctor of Musical Arts thesis at the UW-Madison School of Music — will be included on both dates.

Wired for Love 1 P1000703

“It will be interesting to see what Jerry Hui — below — comes up with for the next Madison Area Youth Chamber orchestra (MAYCO) concert on Aug. 9.

Jerry Hui

“On July 11, I’ll be airing a pre-recorded interview with the Pulitzer Prize-winning and MacArthur Fellow or “genius” grant-winning composer and Token Creek Chamber Music Festival co-director John Harbison (below).

“I will also play a recording of his “Remembering Gatsby,” a precursor of his opera based on the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald. A concert version of “The Great Gatsby,” which was commissioned and premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, will be performed at Tanglewood that same evening.”

“I’ll be programing lots more Harbison in weeks to come. He turns 75 at the end of the year.

JohnHarbisonatpiano


Classical music review: University of Wisconsin-Madison composer Jerry Hui’s new chamber opera “Wired for Love” is hardwired for success.

January 23, 2012
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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 every other Sunday morning on WORT 88.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.

By John W. Barker

I had to miss the official “world premiere” performance of the new comic opera “Wired for Love” by Jerry Hui (below) on Friday night, but I was able to catch the follow-up performance the next evening at Music Hall.

As readers of The Ear have already been informed, it is a one-act chamber opera, running about 70 minutes and is Hui’s dissertation project for his doctoral degree at the University of Wisconsin School of Music.  It calls for four singers, and a pit orchestra of nine players (a string quartet with flutes, oboe/English horn, clarinets, trombone, percussion and piano).

To recap previous information, it has a libretto written jointly by Hui with Lisa Kundrat (below). In rhymed verse, it traces the confrontation made to a Nigerian scammer, who uses a male alias on the Internet, by a British counter-scammer, who uses a female alias. The two electronic “dummies” begin to take on independent characters of their own, fall genuinely in love, betray their creators, and escape to independent existence.

It is, in a sense, a piece of sci-fi satire. But it did remind me just a little of Menotti’s little comic one-act opera, “The Telephone,” which spoofed the intrusion of a modern gadget into real life circumstances. Menotti (below) also captured a lot of American colloquial English, in the way Hui and Kundrat mocked the pseudo-pigeon-English of those Nigerian scam e-mails we all seem to receive.

I was also alert to possible influences on Hui’s musical style. As he promised, he composes in an eclectic mode, reflecting and synthesizing a number of idioms.

There was jazz, and Broadway, but also conventional opera–complete with a witty quotation of the “Tristan chord.” The instrumentation at times reminded me of the “Histoire du Soldat” by Stravinsky (below top) while the overture carried for me some of the episodic writing techniques of Virgil Thomson (below bottom, with his librettist Gertrude Stein).

But Hui is his own man. His handling of the instruments is thoroughly confident, and I even wonder if he might consider fleshing out the score for a fuller orchestra. Above all, while he certainly does not attempt traditional “bel canto” vocalism, he can write genuinely idiomatic vocal lines.

There are several full-scale arias, amid a lot of “parlando” writing. And the most brilliant touch is an ensemble epilogue, a kind of Baroque operatic “coro,” offering moralizing sentiments in an echoing the final ensemble to Mozart‘s “Don Giovanni,” but cast in the form of a kind of post-Renaissance madrigal.

Hui has admitted, after all, that he is very much influenced by early musical styles. And all the music in this work is sustained in a very accomplished contrapuntal texture.

Hui was fortunate in his performers, certainly so with the instrumentalists.

Of his four singers (below, all from the UW School of Music), undergraduate baritone James Held (below, far left) was solid as the British counter-scammer–bringing a fine touch of humor to his acting. The role of the Nigerian scammer was written for a countertenor, of all things, and the very promising  Peter Gruett (below,  far right) invested his part with an appropriately bizarre quality.

Particularly outstanding, however, were the two avatars. Daniel O’Dea as the imaginary Zimbabwean frontman offered a lovely tenor voice and some quite emotionally moving expressiveness. Soprano Jennifer Sams, a familiar singer to Madison audiences, not only brought off her role as the Britisher’s phony American avatar (can you forget a name like “Ethel Wormvarnish”?) with versatility and flair but also contributed the clever stage direction.

A further plaudit goes to to Chelsie Propst for contributing imaginative surtitles, set in different type-faces to fit different characters, notably helpful in duets and ensembles.

In sum, this is a witty and enjoyable stage piece, and the audience of which I was a member just loved it. It is worth experiencing again, I think, so it is good news that Hui plans to record it soon.

Above all, “Wired for Love” is a demonstration of the very impressive dimension of Jerry Hui as a composer, amid all his other enterprises. I have already compared him to the late Steve Jobs for his boundless energy and diversely imaginative productivity.

But dare we wonder if he is perhaps also another Leonard Bernstein in the making? Time will tell. But this production is certainly a tantalizing hint. Watch for future developments …


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