The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: This week brings three period-instrument concerts — two of them FREE — of early music from the Baroque and Classical eras including works by Bach, Telemann and Haydn

April 23, 2019
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CORRECTION: The concert listed below by Sonata à Quattro on Thursday night at Oakwood Village West, near West Towne Mall, is at 7 p.m. — NOT at 8 as erroneously first listed here. The Ear regrets the error.

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By Jacob Stockinger

This week features three concerts of music from the Baroque and early Classical eras that should attract the attention of early music enthusiasts.

WEDNESDAY

This Wednesday, April 24, is the penultimate FREE Just Bach concert of the semester. It takes place at 1 p.m. in Luther Memorial Church, 1021 University Avenue.

This month’s program, featuring the baroque flute, presents the program that was canceled because of the blizzard in January.

First on the program is the Trio Sonata in G Major, BWV 1038, for flute, violin and continuo, a gorgeous example of baroque chamber music.

Following that comes the Orchestral Suite No. 2, BWV 1067, for flute, strings and harpsichord, really a mini flute concerto.

The program ends with Cantata 173 “Erhoehtes Fleisch und Blut” (Exalted Flesh and Blood), scored for two flutes, strings and continuo, joined by a quartet of vocal soloists: UW-Madison soprano Julia Rottmayer; mezzo-soprano Cheryl Bensman-Rowe; tenor Wesley Dunnagan; and UW-Madison bass-baritone Paul Rowe.

The orchestra of baroque period-instrument specialists, led by concertmaster Kangwon Kim, will include traverse flutists Linda Pereksta and Monica Steger.

The last Just Bach concert of this semester is May 29. For more information, go to: https://justbach.org

THURSDAY

On Thursday night, April 25, at 7 p.m. — NOT 8 as mistakenly listed here at first –at Oakwood Village West, 6209 Mineral Point Road, the Madison group Sonata à Quattro (below) will repeat the Good Friday program it performed last week at a church in Waukesha.

The one-hour concert – featuring “The Seven Last Words of Christ” by Franz Joseph Haydn — is FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. (You can sample the first part of the Haydn work in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Commissioned by the southern Spanish episcopal city of Cadiz, this piece was originally scored for orchestra, but it enjoyed such an immediate, widespread acclaim, that the publication in 1787 also included arrangements for string quartet, and for piano. In nine movements beginning with an Introduction, Haydn sets the phrases, from “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” to “Into Thy hands I commend my spirit,” concluding with one final movement depicting an earthquake.

Performers for this program are:  Kangwon Kim, Nathan Giglierano, Marika Fischer Hoyt and Charlie Rasmussen. Modern string instruments will be used, but played with period bows.

The period-instrument ensemble Sonata à Quattro was formed in 2017 as Ensemble-In-Residence for Bach Around The Clock, the annual music festival in Madison.

The ensemble’s name refers to baroque chamber music scored for three melody lines plus continuo. The more-familiar trio sonata format, which enjoyed great popularity in the 17th and 18th centuries, employs a continuo with only two melody instruments, typically treble instruments like violins or flutes. 

In contrast, a typical sonata à quattro piece includes a middle voice, frequently a viola, in addition to the two treble instruments and continuo; this scoring has a fuller, richer sonority, and can be seen as a precursor to the string quartet. For more information, go to: https://www.facebook.com/sonataaquattro/

SATURDAY

On Saturday, April 27, at 7:30 p.m. at Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 1833 Regent Street, the veteran Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble (below) will perform a concert of baroque chamber music.

Tickets are at the door only: $20 for the public, $10 students.

Performers are: Brett Lipshutz, traverse flute; Sigrun Paust, recorder; Monica Steger, traverse; Anton TenWolde, baroque cello; and Max Yount, harpsichord.

The program is:

Johann Baptist Wendling – Trio for two flutes and bass

Johann Pachelbel – Variations on “Werde Munter, mein Gemuethe” (Be Happy, My Soul)

Friedrich Haftmann Graf – Sonata or Trio in D major for two German flutes and basso continuo

Daniel Purcell – Sonata in F Major for recorder

INTERMISSION

Georg Philipp Telemann – Trio for recorder, flute,and basso continuo TWV 42:e6

Franz Anton Hoffmeister – Duo for two flutes, Opus 20, No. 1

Joseph Bodin de Boismortier – Trio Sonata, Op. 37, No. 5

Telemann – Trietto Methodicho (Methodical Sonata) No 1. TWV 42: G2

After the concert, a reception will be held at 2422 Kendall Avenue, second floor.

For more information, go to: https://wisconsinbaroque.weebly.com


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Classical music: It’s Christmas Eve — a good time to revisit how the Wisconsin Chamber Choir imaginatively and successfully used many versions of the “Magnificat” to combine the holiday seasonal and the musically substantial  

December 24, 2015
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger 

Here is a special posting that is perfect for Christmas Eve. It is 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 for 12 years hosted an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT FM 89.9 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

On last Saturday night, at the fully filled Grace Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, director Robert Gehrenbeck led the Wisconsin Chamber Choir (below) through a program that managed blessedly to combine the seasonal with the musically substantial.

Wisconsin Chamber Choir Magnificats 1

Wisconsin Chamber Choir Magnificat audience

The program was constructed with very great insight and imagination, around the Magnificat, the hymn in the Gospel of St. Luke that the Virgin Mary and St. Elizabeth are supposed to have improvised during their Visitation.

Marys magnificat

The Latin version is probably, with the exception of passages from the Mass Ordinary,, the most frequently set of all liturgical texts, given its varied utilities — not only for Advent celebrations but as the culminating part of the Office of Vespers.

Of the absolutely innumerable settings made of this text and its counterparts through the ages, Gehrenbeck (below) – who directs the choral program at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater — selected six versions, mingling them among related musical works. The program was organized in six segments, three given before intermission, three after.

Robert Gehrenbeck new headshot 2013 USE

An initial German segment was dominated by the Deutsches Magnificat, which uses Martin Luther’s translation, a late and very great Baroque masterpiece for double choir by Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672).

That was supplemented with a five-voice motet by Johannes Eccard (1553-1611) that absorbs some of the Magnificat imagery, and a textually unrelated double-choir German motet by the post-Baroque Gottfried Homilius (1714-1785) — a piece that reminded me strikingly of the neo-polyphonic style that Johannes Brahms would develop a century later for his own motets.

Johann Sebastian Bach found his place with three of the four Advent texts that the composer inserted in the original E-flat version of his Latin Magnificat setting. One of those adapts the chorale Vom Himmel hoch (From Heaven High), so the three were prefaced by a chorale-prelude for organ by Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706) that elaborates on that hymn. (NOTE: Bach’s lovely full choral version of the Magnificat can be heard in a YouTube video at the bottom. It features conductor John Eliot Gardiner, the Monteverdi Choir and period instruments played in historically informed performances.)

Then we had settings of the Latin text.

First, one that alternates plainchant on the odd-numbered verses with organ elaborations by Johann Erasmus Kindermann (1616-1655) on the even ones.

Second, we had a full setting by the late-Baroque Czech composer, Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745), with a skeletal “orchestra” reduced to oboe, violin and cello played beautifully by, respectively, Andy Olson, a graduate of Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin,  who works at Epic and who has performed with the Middleton Community Orchestra; Laura Burns of the Madison Symphony Orchestra; and Eric Miller of the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble.

Andy Olson oboe

- Laura Burns CR Brynn Bruijn

Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble Eric Miller USE THIS by Katrin Talbot

A clever venture was made into Orthodox Christian treatments of the text in Church Slavonic. The full text in that form was given not in one of the more standard Russian Orthodox settings, but in a highly romanticized treatment by César Cui (1835-1918), a member of the “Mighty Five” group.

This was supplemented with beautiful settings of the Bogoróditse devo and the Dostóyno yest hymns of the Orthodox Divine Liturgy, both of which paraphrase parts of Luke’s text: the former composed by the Estonian modernist Arvo Pärt (below, b.1935), the latter by the Russian Georgy Sviridov (1915-1998).

Arvo Part

English-language treatments finally came with one of the settings by Herbert Howells (1892-1983) of the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis pairing that is standard in the Anglican church. This was prefaced by a simple organ elaboration by John Ireland (1879-1962) of an unrelated English Christmas song.

The final group drew back from the Magnificat motif by presenting two works each of two contemporary American composers who, for their time, are able to write with lovely and idiomatic results for chorus: Peter Bloesch (below top, b. 1963) and Stephen Paulus (below bottom, 1949-2014).

Peter Bloesch

stephen paulus

Each was represented by an arrangement and an original piece. Paulus’ treatment of the traditional “We Three Kings” carol went with his setting of a charming poem by Christina Rosetti (slightly suggestive of what Gian-Carlo Menotti portrayed in his opera Amahl and the Night Visitors).

Bloetsch’s elaboration of an old French Christmas song was balanced with his lovely setting of a 15th-century poem that does vaguely hint at some verbiage of the Magnificat after all. Both works by Bloetsch, who was in the audience, received their world premieres.

The 53-voice choir sounded superb: beautifully balanced, precise, sonorous and often simply thrilling. Along the way, four women from the ranks delivered solo parts handsomely. Mark Brampton Smith (below) was organist and pianist as needed.

Mark Brampton Smith

It proved a superlative seasonal offering, in all, organized with a rationale that was both ingenious and illuminating.

For more information about the Wisconsin Chamber Choir and its future concerts, go to:

http://www.wisconsinchamberchoir.org

 


Classical music: The Wisconsin Chamber Choir will perform an unusual holiday program of several settings of the “Magnificat” as well as two world premieres this Saturday night. Plus, today is the 245th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven.

December 16, 2015
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ALERT: Today is the 245th birthday of composer Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827). You’re sure to hear a lot of Beethoven on the radio. And maybe you will play some Beethoven. Why not let The Ear and other readers know what is your favorite symphony, piano sonata, concerto and string quartet or other chamber music work? Leave your choice in the COMMENT section with a link to a YouTube video, if that is possible.

By Jacob Stockinger

The acclaimed Wisconsin Chamber Choir (below) is known delivering first-rate music in first-rate performance, often with some original twist or take or concept.

Wisconsin Chamber Choir RVW mixed up

This weekend of this holiday season is no different.

On this Saturday night, the critically acclaimed Wisconsin Chamber Choir will perform an ambitious and unusual holiday concert called “Magnificat.”

The performance is Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. in Grace Episcopal Church (below), at 116 West Washington Avenue, where it joins Carroll Street on the Capitol Square, in downtown Madison.

grace episcopal church ext

MBM Grace altar

Tickets are $15 (students $10) in advance; $20 ($12) at the door. Advance tickets are available from www.wisconsinchamberchoir.org, via Brown Paper Tickets, or at Willy Street Coop (East and West locations) and Orange Tree Imports.

Featured performers include Andy Olson, oboe; Laura Burns, violin; Eric Miller, cello; and Mark Brampton Smith, organ

BACKGROUND AND PROGRAM NOTES

Here is more information from the Wisconsin Chamber Choir:

“My soul magnifies the Lord…”

Marys magnificat

It is how Mary’s song of praise, from the Gospel of Luke, begins. And it is one of the oldest Christian hymns, known as the Magnificat. (The hymn’s title comes from first word of the Latin version, Magnificat anima mea Dominum.

The Wisconsin Chamber Choir will offer Mary’s song in English, Latin, German and Church Slavonic, with music by Heinrich Schütz, Johann Sebastian Bach, Jan Dismas Zelenka, Arvo Pärt, Herbert Howells and two world premieres by the Iowa-based composer, Peter Bloesch.

Widely regarded as the greatest German composer before Bach, Heinrich Schütz’s double-choir “German Magnificat” was his very last composition. In this piece, Schütz (below) brings the vivid imagery of the Magnificat text to life in some of his most inventive and compelling music.

Heinrich Schutz

Czech composer Jan Dismas Zelenka, known as “the Catholic Bach,” was the official church composer to the Catholic court in Dresden. A master of counterpoint like Bach, Zelenka frequently utilized energetic, syncopated rhythms and daring harmonic progressions in his music, qualities on display in his Magnificat in D-major for soloists, choir, and instruments.

jan dismas zelenka BIG use

From Bach himself, the WCC presents three charming, rarely heard movements that Bach inserted into his own “Magnificat” setting for performances during the Christmas season. (NOTE: You can  hear Bach’s complete “Magnificat” with conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Bach1

Complimenting these choral works by Bach, Zelenka and Schütz, organist Mark Brampton Smith performs solo organ works by Baroque composers Johann Pachelbel and Johann Kindermann.

Mark Brampton Smith

The spritely Bogoroditse Devo (the Russian equivalent of the Latin Ave Maria) by Arvo Part (below top) opens the second half of the program, followed by a glorious, Romantic version of the “Magnificat” sung in Church Slavonic. The musical setting is composed by César Cui (below bottom), a close associate of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Modest Mussorgsky and Alexander Borodin.

Arvo Part

Cesar Cui

Representing the Magnificat text in English is the setting for Gloucester Cathedral, composed in 1946 by Herbert Howells (below).

herbert howells autograph

The WCC’s program concludes with a set of seasonal carols by the late Grammy-nominated Stephen Paulus (below top) and Peter Bloesch, a multifaceted composer from Iowa City with extensive experience in choral music, holiday pops arrangements, and film and television scores, including collaborations with Mike Post on TV hits “LA Law” and “Law and Order.”

stephen paulus

The WCC will present two world premieres by Peter Bloesch (below): an original version of the medieval carol, Out of Your Sleep Arise and Wake, and a virtuoso, eight-part setting of the beloved French melody, Ding Dong, Merrily on High.

Peter Bloesch

Founded in 1998, the Madison-based Wisconsin Chamber Choir has established a reputation for excellence in the performance of oratorios by Bach, Mozart, and Haydn; a cappella masterworks from various centuries; and world-premieres. Robert Gehrenbeck (below), who directs the choral program at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, is the artistic director and conductor of the Wisconsin Chamber Choir.

Robert Gehrenbeck new headshot 2013 USE

 


Classical music education: Alumna violist Vicki Powell returns this weekend to perform with the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) and kick off WYSO’s 50th anniversary season. Plus, Madison Music Makers gives a free concert at noon on Saturday

November 10, 2015
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ALERT: This Saturday, from noon to 1 p.m. at Grace Episcopal Church, downtown on the Capitol Square, Madison Music Makers will give a FREE concert in the monthly Grace Presents series of music that includes works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Johann Pachelbel, Antonio Vivaldi and Ludwig van Beethoven  as well as popular music, country music and American, Bolivian, French, German, Jewish, English folksongs. Founded in 2007 by Bonnie Green and sponsored by many individuals and groups, including the Madison public schools, Madison Music Makers is dedicated to giving low-income students in the Madison area high-quality music lessons.

For more information about how to support or participate in the organization, visit: www.MadisonMusicMakers.org

Madison Music Makers

By Jacob Stockinger

The Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) will present its first concert series of its 50th anniversary season, the Evelyn Steenbock Fall Concerts, on Saturday, Nov. 14, and Sunday, Nov. 15.

WYSO Logo blue

Nearly 400 young musicians will display their talents to the community during the three concerts, which are dedicated to private and school music teachers.

The Evelyn Steenbock Fall Concerts will be held in Mills Concert Hall in the University of Wisconsin-Madison‘s George Mosse Humanities Building, 455 North Park Street, in Madison.

WYSO concerts are generally about an hour and a half in length, providing a great orchestral concert opportunity for families.

Tickets are available at the door, $10 for adults and $5 for youth 18 and under.

WYSO’s Percussion Ensemble (below), led by director Vicki Jenks will kick off the concert series at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.

WYSO percussion Ensemble 2013

Immediately following the Percussion Ensemble, the Philharmonia Orchestra (below) and its conductor Michelle Kaebisch will take the stage and perform the Masquerade Suite by Aram Khachaturian; Reigger’s Rhythmic Dances; the Light Calvary Overture by Franz Von Suppe; and the Berceuse (Lullaby) and Finale from the “Firebird Suite” by Igor Stravinsky.

WYSO violins of Philharmonia Orchestra

At 4 p.m. on Saturday, the Concert Orchestra (below) under the direction of conductor Christine Eckel will perform The Quest by Kerr, Romany Dances by DelBorgo and Slane by Douglas Wagner. The Concert Orchestra will also perform two works by John Williams in Star Wars: Episode 2 Attack of the Clones, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, which Williams co-composed with Alexandre Desplat.

wyso concert orchestra brass

Following the Concert Orchestra, WYSO’s string orchestra, Sinfonietta (below), will take the stage. Conductor Mark Leiser will lead the orchestra in seven works including the Adagio movement from the Symphony No. 2 by Sergei Rachmaninoff; Silva’s The Evil Eye and the Hideous Heart; Edward MacDowell’s Alla Tarantella; Shenandoah arranged by Erik Morales, Forever Joyful and Lullaby to the Moon by Balmages; and the Entrance of the Queen of Sheba by George Frideric Handel.

WYSO Sinfonietta

On Sunday, Nov. 15, WYSO’s Harp Ensemble (below), under the direction of Karen Atz, will open the 1:30 p.m. concert.

WYSO Harp Ensemble 2011

Following the Harp Ensemble, the Youth Orchestra (below), under the baton of WYSO music director Maestro James Smith, will perform three pieces.

WYSO Youth Orchestra

In honor of WYSO’s 50th Anniversary, WYSO welcomes back one of their illustrious alumni, violist Vicki Powell (below). Powell began her vibrant musical career studying with UW-Madison faculty members Eugene Purdue and Sally Chisholm, who plays with the Pro Arte Quartet.

From there, she graduated from the Julliard School and the Curtis Institute of Music. She has performed as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Milwaukee Symphony, and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. For her full bio, please visit our website at http://www.wysomusic.org/evelyn-steenbock-fall-concerts/vicki-powell.

Vicki Powell 2

Vicki Powell, along with the Youth Orchestra will perform the Concerto for Viola and Orchestra by Bela Bartok. (You can hear the rhapsodic slow first movement played by Yuri Bashmet and the Berlin Philharmonic in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Following that performance, the Youth Orchestra will continue the concert with Rainbow Body by Theofanidis and the Symphony No. 9 by Dmitri Shostakovich.

This project is supported by Dane Arts with additional funds from the Evjue Foundation, Inc. charitable arm of The Capital Times. 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.

For more information about WYSO, visit:

https://www.wysomusic.org


Classical music: YOU MUST HEAR THIS: The “Air in F Major” from the Trumpet Suite by Baroque composer Domenico Zipoli.

June 30, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

I had never heard this work or even heard of the composer, the Baroque Italian composer Domenico Zipoli (1688-1726, below) who traveled to Paraguay to part in what amounts to genocide of the indigenous natives and ended up bringing  European music to South Americans. (See a reader comment for more information.)

domenico zipoli

But there it was, playing on Wisconsin Public Radio during the noontime Midday program.

Some movements featured the glorious playing of the late virtuoso and prolific French trumpeter Maurice Andre.

But the section that really caught my attention for its beauty –- its melodic lines, harmonies and rich string sound — is the Air.

It could be a great piece for the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra to perform. Or maybe the Edgewood College Chamber Orchestra. Or maybe the all-string orchestra that The Ear hears will be formed at the UW-Madison School of Music in the fall.

Anyway, at the bottom, in a YouTube video, it is performed by the famed Jean-Francois Paillard Chamber Orchestra, which first brought us the Canon in D Major by Johann Pachelbel.

The Ear hopes you enjoy it too:

 

 


Classical music: Virtuoso trumpeter and Empire Brass founder Rolf Smedvig dies suddenly at 62. The Empire Brass plays with the Overture Center Concert Organ on Tuesday, May 12.

May 2, 2015
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

Rolf Smedvig, the Norwegian-Icelandic trumpeter extraordinaire, died suddenly this past week at age 62, apparently of a heart attack.

Once the young principal trumpet of the Boston Symphony and renowned soloist, he also cofounded and played with the Empire Brass.

rolf smedvig

Passing along the news seems especially timely and appropriate since the Empire Brass will perform in Overture Hall at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 12.

Tickets are $20. Call the Overture Center box office at (608) 258-4141.

Empire Brass

The brass ensemble will perform with organist Douglas Major (below top), former organist at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.,  at the console of the Overture Center Concert Organ (below bottom).

Douglas Major

Overture Concert Organ overview

The program is a delightfully and largely Baroque one, which should highlight the brass sound. It features music by Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, Tomaso Albinoni, Georg Philipp Telemann, Johann Pachelbel and Dietrich Buxtehude and Henry Purcell. (You can hear the Empire Brass, with Rolf Smedvig, performing Handel’s “Water Music” in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

But one wonders: Is there a substitute for Rolf Smedvig? Or has the brass group changed its membership since the publicity photo? It sounds like the latter is the case, but The Ear doesn’t know for sure. Do you?

Here is a link for more information about the Madison concert:

http://www.madisonsymphony.org/empire

Here is a link to a terrific obituary and feature profile done by Tm Huizenga for the Deceptive Cadence blog on National Public Radio (NPR).

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2015/04/28/402836867/dazzling-trumpeter-rolf-smedvig-dies-suddenly

 

 


Classical music: Can UW-Madison concert managers please do a better job of being audience-friendly?

February 12, 2015
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ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, to be held 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the Landmark Auditorium of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed First Unitarian Society of Madison at 900 University Bay Drive, features violinist Charlene Adzima and harpsichordists Christian Collins and Leo Van Asten playing music by George Frideric Handel, Domenico Scarlatti, Johann Pachelbel, Adzima and Collins.

FUS1jake

By Jacob Stockinger

Here is another catch-up posting after an extremely busy week of concerts and previews.

A very large crowd turned out for the Jan. 30 “Schubertiade” (below) – the second annual one at the UW-Madison School of Music. And they were not disappointed with the music, all by Schubert and all wonderful.

Schubertiade 2014 stage in MIlls Hall

It proved to be simply one of the best and most enjoyable concerts of the season.

However, there was something to leave one disappointed.

That is the reception that a lot of audience members received when they arrived at Mills Hall.

It was a very cold and snowy night, with some parking problems due to the weather and a hockey game. So understandably, many people left home early because of traffic and arrived at the hall early.

But they were left standing in the hallway, milling around as the doors opened and let in cold air.

“It’s like they’re cattle,” someone remarked.

And indeed it was. Just look at the photo below.

Crowd at 2015 Schubertiade

Now, the school advertises that the doors to the hall will be open one-half hour before concert time.

But that did NOT happen.

This time the excuse we were told was that the performers were still practicing up until maybe 15 minutes or so before the doors opened. Plus, The Ear is told, there were some unexpected problems with setting up the stage and opening the door.

Mistakes and accidents happen. Probably the wait was not intentional.

But this wasn’t the only time The Ear has experienced this kind of inconvenience. You can also see the literal crush of waiting people (below) in the vestibule at the last UW-Madison Choral Prism holiday concert at Luther Memorial Church.

Crowd at 2015 Prism concert Luther Memorial

I have also seen crowds standing in a snaking line at popular events like the UW Choral Union as they wait – and listen to the choral performers warming up.

That is just unacceptable.

Remember that, by and large, the audience for classical music is older. That means they have less strength. They may be taking medications. They often have balance problems. They are more sensitive to the cold. They may have had hip and knee replacements, so that standing in the hallway can be awkward and even painful.

Plus, there are damn few places to sit besides three or four benches.

So here is what The Ear proposes in the way of setting up some ground rules to ease the logistics and increase the audience’s comfort.

1) All performers must vacate the stage in Mills Hall 40 minutes before curtain time. That gives the performers 10 minutes to get out and the staff 10 minutes to get doors open and the hall prepared. No excuses and no procrastination. And maybe, we can hope, no audience frustration.

2) Put more benches or portable chairs in the foyer, especially in winter and during extremely cold or inclement weather.

3) Do what you promise to do and open the doors at least one-half hour before the concert.

4) Maybe open up a waiting classroom or area, away from drafts and with more places to sit while waiting to get into the hall.

5) Have another room available for performers who have to practice close to concert time.

What do you think of the problem?

And what solution would you like to see or have to suggest?

The Ear wants to hear.

 


Classical music: Merry Christmas from The Ear! Here is a rescued compilation of Baroque holiday music to remind us how technology brings us the gift of the past as well as the future.

December 25, 2013
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READER SURVEY: What piece of classical music do you most look forward to hearing — or most dread hearing — when Christmas arrives each year? Leave a comment. The Ear wants to hear.

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is Christmas!

ChristmasTreeBranch.j

A lot of people, both young and old, will be opening hi-tech gifts like smart phones, desk-top and laptop computers, and tablet computers and iPads, to say nothing of digital cameras, video recorders and games.

hi tech items

But even though we think of technology as pointing us toward the future, it is also good to realize that it can return us to the past.

After all, CDs, which are relatively cheap to make, have brought back many performers and composers whose work had disappeared off the radar screen and fallen into neglect.

Take today’s example.

It is an old and acclaimed apparently out-of-print compilation album of Baroque Christmas music that was originally a vinyl LP.

And hearing the unfamiliar can be fun and informative, as I recently learned again at the third annual Holiday Baroque Concert (below) given by Trevor Stephenson and the Madison Bach Musicians.

MBM Chelsea Morris Vivaldi Gloria Holiday 2013

Not everything has to be George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah” or Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio” or Arcangelo Corelli’s “Christmas” Concerto Grosso – as critic John W. Barker pointed out in his recent review for this blog (a link is below):

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/12/17/classical-music-the-madison-bach-musicians-serve-up-a-superb-concert-of-holiday-baroque-music-that-goes-beyond-the-holidays-and-show-the-group-has-a-new-local-tradition-in-the-makin/

Anyway, someone has posted this old recording of a Baroque Christmas music album on YouTube, and the comments show that readers appreciate it.

You could stream it or run it through the computer as background music for gift-giving, or do even more focused listening.

I hope you enjoy it, especially since it features some rarely heard repertoire by Michael Praetorius, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Dietrich Buxtehude, Michael Haydn,  Charles Theodore Pachelbel (NOT the more familiar Johann Pachelbel of “Canon in D” fame, Johann Hermann Schein and Andreas Hammerschmidt. Here it is, at the bottom:

Merry Christmas, all!

And thank you for your gift to me of your readership of The Well-Tempered Ear.


Classical music: Early music is now mainstream here, thanks in large part to the Madison Bach Musicians, which opened its 10th anniversary season with a first-rate Baroque string program that drew a big and enthusiastic audience, and demonstrated the importance of live performance.

October 7, 2013
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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  FM 89.9. 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

Trevor Stephenson’s Madison Bach Musicians (below, in a photo by John W. Barker) opened their 2013-14 season — which marks the 10th anniversary of the local early music group — with a splendid concert of Baroque string music at the First Unitarian Society’s Atrium Auditorium on Saturday night and then repeated it again on Sunday afternoon at the Madison Christian Community Church on Old Sauk Road.

MBM 10th

I went to the Saturday night performance. As always, the proceedings were prefaced by a talk from founder, director and keyboardist Stephenson (below, in a photo by John W. Barker) in his usual witty and informative style.

MBM 10th pre-concert talk

The rich program proved to be a study in string sounds.  Joining harpsichordist Stephenson, along with cellist Anton TenWolde, were five guest players.

Marilyn McDonald (below) is something of the matriarch of Baroque violin playing and teaching, and two of the other players here have been her students: violinist Kangwon Kim and violist Nathan Giglierano. Two others were Brandi Berry and Mary Perkinson, both skilled players known here.

Marilyn McDonald baroque violin

The program was, to a considerable extent a constant switching of these talented violinists.  A Concerto for Four Violins without Bass was one of those endlessly fascinating experiments by Georg Philipp Telemann, complete with a finale of fanfares.

Two chamber works by George Frideric Handel (below top) graced separate parts of the program.  A Sonata for Violin and Continuo featured the amazingly deft McDonald, with the continuo pair.  And a Trio Sonata, Op. 2, No. 9, joined her with the spirited Kim.  A Sonata for Two Violins by Jean-Marie Leclair (below, bottom) brought together Berry and Kim.

Handel etching

Jean-Marie Leclair

The first half concluded with a revitalized warhorse: the notorious Canon in D by Johann Pachelbel, reclaimed from all its stupid arrangements, and restored as a contrapuntal delight for three violins with continuo, as well as reunited with its brief concluding Gigue.  Perkinson joined McDonald and Berry for this.

johann pachelbel

Here, I must say, I found another example of how attending a live performance makes all the difference.  Watching the players in person, I could follow how leading lines were transferred in turn, canonically, from one violin to another, with a clarity that no recorded performance could allow.

MBM 10th 3 before Handel

In the second half, after Handel’s Trio Sonata, Stephenson himself played on the harpsichord the final Contrapunctus or fugue from Johann Sebastian Bach’s “The Art of Fugue.”  Along the way in this, Bach (below) introduced the motto of his own name, made up of the German musical notes of B, A, C, B-flat (“H” in German notation).  And then the piece trails off abruptly where, story has it, Bach dropped his pen forever.

Bach1

The grand finale was a truly exhilarating performance of the Concerto in A minor for Two Violins, Strings, and Continuo, No. 8 by Antonio Vivaldi (below and in a popular YouTube video with over 3 million hits at the bottom) and included in his Op. 3 publication.  (Bach himself so admired this work that he made a keyboard concerto transcription of it.)

vivaldi

Here again, too, I had one of those moments of insight that live performances alone can give.

The players were arrayed, one to a part, with the cello by its harpsichord continuo partner on the far left, the strings then spread out towards the right. The violist Giglierano, in his only appearance, was furthest on the edge.

That isolation from the cello–which really belongs to the continuo, not to the string band–was telling, for it enabled me to appreciate how Vivaldi used the viola as the lowest voice in what is really three-part string writing.  This was notably obvious in the middle movement, which was written almost entirely senza basso (without bass).  Again, such awareness can come only from a live performance, rather than a recorded one.

It goes without saying that all the performers played with the highest level of skill and stylistic sense, joined with infectious enthusiasm.

MBM concerts used to be held in the lovely intimacy of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (below top) on Regent Street.  Now, they can virtually fill the First Unitarian Society’s Atrium (below bottom), in a photo by Zane Williams) with an audience close to 200 –and a very enthusiastic bunch, at that.

St. Andrew's Episcopal Madison Front

FUS Atrium, Auditorium Zane Williams

Thirty years ago a concert like this would have been inconceivable.  The Madison public was just not as aware and as prepared and as receptive as it has come to be by now.  Stephenson and his colleagues in the Madison Bach Musicians are one of the major forces that have brought about that process.  How much we owe them!


Classical music: It is “Early Music Weekend” as the Madison Bach Musicians open their 10th anniversary season with concerts on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon of music by J.S. Bach, Telemann, Handel, Leclair, Pachelbel and Vivaldi. Plus, Ensemble SDG performs Bach, Corelli, Pisendel and Handel on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen.”

October 3, 2013
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ALERT: Two early music friends who perform together as the Ensemble SDG, baroque violinist Edith Hines and UW harpsichordist and organist John Chappell Stowe, write to The Ear: “Ensemble SDG (below) is pleased to invite the public to our FREE upcoming performance on Wisconsin Public Radio‘s “Sunday Afternoon Live from the Chazen.” The recital will be this Sunday, October 6, from 12:30-2 p.m. in Brittingham Gallery III at the Chazen Museum of Art (750 University Avenue, Madison). It will be broadcast live on WPR’s News and Classical Music network (in the Madison area, 88.7 WERN) and streamed online here.

The program will include sonatas for violin and continuo by Arcangelo Corelli, Johann Georg Pisendel, and George Frideric Handel, as well as two sonatas for violin and obbligato harpsichord by J. S. Bach, whose contrasting characters–deeply melancholy and brilliantly effervescent–exemplify the program’s theme of “darkness and light.”  Admission is free, but seating is limited. Nevertheless, we hope to see you there! For more information, visit jsb1685.blogspot.com

Ensemble SDG Stowe, Hines 2

By Jacob Stockinger

This weekend will witness a landmark: It marks the opening of the 10th anniversary season of the Madison Bach Musicians.

In only a decade, the accomplished baroque ensemble (below) has risen to the fore of the many early music group in the area.

Kangwon KIm with Madison Bach Musicians

The MBM, under director and founder Trevor Stephenson will give two performances – on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon of a concert that features the acclaimed guest baroque violinist Marilyn McDonald (below), who tours widely and also teaches at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.

Marilyn McDonald baroque violin

Stephenson is a masterful and humorous explainer and will also give a pre-concert lecture at each performance. Other MBM musicians include: Marilyn McDonald, Kangwon Kim, Brandi Berry, Mary Perkinson on baroque violins; 
Nathan Giglierano on baroque viola; 
Anton TenWolde on baroque cello’ and
Trevor Stephenson on harpsichord. (You can hear MBM musicians play and talk in a News 3/Channel 3000  YouTube video from 2011 at the bottom.)

Prairie Rhapsody 2011 Trevor Stephenson

The program features: Georg Philipp Telemann’s Concerto in G major for Four Violins; George Frideric 
Handel’s Violin Sonata in G minor, HWV 364, and Trio Sonata in E major, Op. 2, No. 9, HWV 394; Jean-Marie 
Leclair’s Violin Duo in G minor; 
Johann Pachelbel Canon and Gigue in D major; J.S. 
Bach’s Contrapunctus 19 from The Art of Fugue (with B-A-C-H Fugue);
 and Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto in A minor for Two Violins, RV 522.

Performances are on Saturday, October 5, with a
 7:15 p.m. lecture and 8 p.m. concert at the 
First Unitarian Society’s crisp Atrium Auditorium
 (below, in a photo by Zane Williams) at 900 University Bay Drive on Madison’s near west side; and on
 
Sunday, October 6, with 
2:45 p.m. lecture and 3:30 p.m. concert
in Blessing Room of Madison’s Christian Community Church, 7118 Old Sauk Road on the far west side of Madison.

FUS Atrium, Auditorium Zane Williams

Advance tickets, cash or check only, are discounted and run $20 for general admission, $15 for students and seniors 65 and over; and are available at A Room of One’s Own; Farley’s House of Pianos; the east and west locations of the Willy Street Co-op; Orange Tree Imports; and Ward-Brodt Music Mall.

At the door, tickets are $25 for general admission and $20 for students and seniors.

For more information, call (608) 238-6092 or visit  www.madisonbachmusicians.org

MORE ABOUT THE GUEST SOLOIST

Marilyn McDonald, a founding member of the Smithson Quartet and the Castle Trio, currently plays in the Axelrod Quartet in residence at the Smithsonian Institution; the Axelrod Quartet is named in honor of the donor of the decorated Stradivarius instruments on which the quartet performs.

She has toured world-wide as a chamber musician playing repertoire ranging from baroque to contemporary, appearing at Alice Tully Hall, the Metropolitan Museum, the Frick Gallery, the Caramoor, Utrecht and Mostly Mozart Festivals, Wigmore Hall, Disney Hall, Ravinia and the Concertgebouw, as well as appearing as soloist with the Milwaukee and Omaha Symphonies. Concertmaster positions include Boston Baroque and the Peninsula Music Festival.

She has been artist in residence at Boston University and has held visiting professorships at the Eastman School of Music and at Indiana University. She teaches each summer at the Oberlin Baroque Performance Institute and has been honored with the “Excellence in Teaching” award at Oberlin, where she is professor of violin.  McDonald’s recordings are heard on the Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, Virgin Classics, Decca, Gasparo, Smithsonian and Telarc labels.

REST OF THE ANNIVERSARY SEASON

The Madison Bach Musicians’ 10th anniversary season also includes:

On December 14, the third annual Baroque Holiday Music program at the First Congregational Church.

On April 18 and 19, the season will conclude with Johann Sebastian Bach’s Mass in B minor, conducted by University of Wisconsin-Madison bassoonist Marc Vallon (below). The MBM will collaborate on this venture with the Madison Choral Project under Edgewood College choral director Albert Pinsonneault.


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