The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The 26th season of the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society chamber music festival opens this weekend with two programs in three locations

June 6, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society (BDDS) presents its 26th annual summer chamber music festival — Alphabet Soup — starting this weekend.

It will run from this Friday, June 9, through Sunday, June 25. The festival features 12 concerts over three weekends, and each weekend offers two different programs.

Concerts will be performed in The Playhouse at the Overture Center in Madison, the Stoughton Opera House in Stoughton and the Hillside Theater at Taliesin in Spring Green.

In the three-weekend festival, you can hear great classical masterpieces and fine contemporary works. A roster of musicians with national and international reputations will perform.

The venues are suitably intimate for chamber music: The Playhouse (below top) at the Overture Center at 201 State St.; the jewel box historic Stoughton Opera House (below middle) at 381 East Main St.; and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hillside Theater (below bottom) at Taliesin on County Highway 23 in Spring Green.

Added attractions include stories about the music, mystery guests and even door prizes. As BDDS puts it, “It’s chamber music with a bang!”

BDDS is led by co-artistic directors and performers flutist Stephanie Jutt (below right), who is principal flute with the Madison Symphony Orchestra and who just retired from the UW-Madison faculty; and pianist Jeffrey Sykes (below left), who graduated from the UW-Madison and teaches in Berkeley, California,  where he is a member of the San Francisco Trio. Nineteen guest artists will also perform in the festival.

This season’s theme is Alphabet Soup, because it’s the 26th year and there are 26 letters in the alphabet. Each program is named after a combination of letters used in everyday language. Sometimes the musical interpretation of those letters is literal and sometimes it’s quite loose.

Musicians for Week One include three veteran string players: Naumberg Award-winning violinist Carmit Zori (below top); Madison’s very own violist Sally Chisholm (below middle) of the Pro Arte Quartet; and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s principal cellist Joseph Johnson (below bottom).

They will be joined by young artists who are participants in the newly formed Dynamite Factory, a BDDS program for nurturing and furthering the talents of three exceptional young musicians — violist Jeremy Kienbaum, violinist Misha Vayman and cellist Trace Johnson.

In one of two “sandwich” programs this weekend, PB&J, Carmit Zori will play the haunting Violin Sonata in F minor by Sergei Prokofiev and the program includes the heavenly Piano Quartet in A Major of Johannes Brahms.

The Dynamite Factory artists are featured in the emotional String Trio by Gideon Klein (below), a work he wrote at the Auschwitz concentration camp shortly before his death. (You can hear the trio by Gideon Klein in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

PB&J will be performed at the Stoughton Opera House on Friday, June 9, at 7:30 p.m.; and in Spring Green at the Hillside Theater, Sunday, June 11, at 2:30 p.m.

A second “sandwich” program, BLT, features the emotionally complex Cello Sonata (featuring Joseph Johnson) by Benjamin Britten (below top); all of the artists working together in the great “London” Symphony by Franz Joseph Haydn as arranged by Haydn’s contemporary and impresario Johann Peter Salomon (below bottom); and the beautiful string sextet “Souvenir de Florence” by Peter Tchaikovsky.

BLT will be performed at The Playhouse, Overture Center for the Arts, on Saturday, June 10, at 7:30 p.m. and at the Hillside Theater, Taliesin, Spring Green, on Sunday, June 11, at 6:30 p.m. 

For the seventh year, BDDS will perform two FREE family concerts, interactive events intended for all ages.

One event takes place 11–11:45 AM, on Saturday, June 10, in The Playhouse of the Overture Center.  The other will be at the Central Library Bubbler on this Thursday afternoon, June 8, from 4 to 5 p.m.

This is a performance for families with children of all ages and seating will be first come, first served. CUNA Mutual Group, Pat Powers and Thomas Wolfe and the Overture Center underwrite these performances.

Photos by Dick Ainsworth of BDDS performances and behind-the-scenes are on exhibit in The Playhouse Gallery through July 9.

Single general admission tickets are $43. Student tickets are always $10.

Tickets can also be purchased at Overture Center for the Arts, (608) 258-4141, (additional fees apply). Tickets are available at the door at all locations.

For more information about the group, performers and programs, including audiovisual clips, go to:

Classical music: The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society’s superb concert of Couperin, Haydn and Schubert in the Stoughton Opera House will air in late July on Wisconsin Public Television.

July 2, 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

For one of the two programs played by the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society of Madison in their final weekend this summer season, a splendid menu of music for a rather special occasion was served up.

The performance, given at the charmingly restored and intimate Stoughton Opera House last Friday evening (June 29), was videotaped for Wisconsin Public Television, to be aired statewide as the last in the “Jewel Box Concerts” series of Monday evening showings in July. It will be well worth waiting for, and watching. This one is tentatively slated to air 9-10 p.m. on the fourth Monday, July 23.

This has been the second year, I believe, that the BDDS has introduced a harpsichordist into their ranks, and with him a strong and authentic taste of the Baroque.

Layton James (below), who was the principal harpsichordist with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra for 41 years, brought a particularly stylish elegance to a performance of the Fourth of François Couperin’s “Concerts Royaux,” a seven-movement dance suite in E minor, with flute, violin, and cello filling out the scoring.

James was also available for the keyboard part in one of the reductions of Haydn symphonies — in this case, of the Symphony No. 85 from the “Paris” series, nicknamed “La Reine” (“The Queen”) because of the French queen Marie Antoinette‘s particular delight in it.

These arrangements were made by Haydn’s sponsor during his London visits, the violinist and impresario Johann Peter Salomon, and were designed for an intimate chamber group who might thus enjoy this orchestral music as playable by a group of parlor friends. These reductions work very well, without serious sacrifice of the original larger texture. The six players this time (on flute, two violins, viola, cello, and keyboard) genially shared this engaging fun with the audience.

In between those two works, an addition was made to the program. The group’s pianist, as well as co-founder and co-director, Jeffrey Sykes, had not been scheduled to play; but the TV documentation prompted his first time as a soloist rather than a chamber player after all. And so he gave a vigorous performance of one of Haydn’s many piano sonatas (No. 49 in E-flat major).

The post-intermission door prize drawings were prefaced by a guest, the singer Henry Saposnik, who regaled the house with an amusing song in Yiddish and English.

The red meat of the program, constituting the entire second half, was one of the greatest chamber-music treats possible: Schubert‘s String Quintet in C, the one with added cello (at bottom).

It was composed just weeks before the syphilitic Schubert died. It is easy to think of it as his musical last will and testament, and impossible not to feel his mix of characteristically creative optimism with terror in the face of oncoming death. There is simply nothing like it in the musical literature for almost unbearable beauty and pathos, joining gorgeous lyricism with anguished restlessness.

The five string players marshalled for this were obviously quite caught up in this astounding music, and delivered a compelling rendition of it.

Particularly notable was first violinist Carmit Zori (below, second from left), who brought energetic virtuosity, song-like outpouring, deft lilt and bouncy body language to her playing, which gave tangible inspiration and leadership to the rest of the group.

You simply can’t get better chamber music than this!

Here is a link to another review by Greg Hettmansberger for Madison Magazine and his blog “Classically Speaking”:

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