The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Mendota Consort gives a FREE performance of motets by Johann Schein in Madison this Saturday night. Performances in Eau Claire and Milwaukee are tonight and Friday night

July 19, 2018
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ALERT: The superb Willy Street Chamber Players are back from a week of free and Community Connect concerts. They resume their regular summer series this Friday at 6 p.m. in Immanuel Lutheran Church, 1021 Spaight Street. The guest artist is UW-Madison saxophonist Les Thimmig who will play six arias from the opera “Porgy and Bess” by George Gershwin. A rarely heard String Quintet by Alexander Glazunov ends the program. Tickets are $15.

The last concert is next Friday, July 27, and features flute, clarinet and piano soloists in music by Luigi Boccherini, Sergei Prokofiev, Andrew Norman and Johann Strauss/Arnold Schoenberg. For more information, go to:

http://www.willystreetchamberplayers.org

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2018/07/05/classical-music-you-know-brahms-but-who-are-caroline-shaw-colin-jacobsen-and-michael-kelley-the-willy-street-chamber-players-will-show-you-this-friday-night/

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has been asked to post the following announcement:

The early music vocal ensemble The Mendota Consort (below) invites you to an evening of madrigals from Israelsbrünnlein, a collection by the 17th-century composer Johann Schein. (Editor’s note: You can hear an excerpt in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Vocalists who are dedicated to Renaissance polyphony, The Mendota Consort will present a story of ancient Israel though dramatic 1623 treatments by Schein (below) of sacred texts.

Admission is free with donations kindly accepted.

The Madison performance is this Saturday night, July 21, at 7:30 p.m. in Luther Memorial Church (below), 1021 University Ave.

Other performances are:

Tonight, Thursday, July 19, at 7:30 p.m. in Saint Edward’s Montessori School, 1129 Bellevue Ave., in Eau Claire.

Friday night, July 20, at 6:30 p.m. in the Cathedral Church of All Saints, 818 East Juneau Ave., in Milwaukee.

You can learn more and follow the group on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/TheMendotaConsort/


Classical music: The legendary St. Thomas Boys Choir of Leipzig will perform Reformation music at Luther Memorial Church this Sunday night

November 14, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

In celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Luther Memorial Church will host the historic and legendary St. Thomas Boys Choir (Thomanerchor) of Leipzig, Germany.

The famed boychoir will perform this coming Sunday night at 7 p.m. at Luther Memorial Church (below), 1021 University Ave.

The program will present music of Johann Sebastian Bach (the motets “Fürchte dich nicht,” “Komm, Jesu, komm” and “Der Geist hilft”) and unspecified choral music of Heinrich Schütz, Johann Schein and Felix Mendelssohn.

Tickets are available at www.luthermem.org/st-thomas at $20, $30 and $50. Student rush tickets will be available day of concert.

The St. Thomas Boys Choir (Thomanerchor) of Leipzig, Germany, was founded in 1212. Johann Sebastian Bach (below) served as Thomaskantor, director of the choir, from 1723 to 1750. (For more background about the group, its pedigree and the music of Bach, see the YouTube video at the bottom.)


Classical music: A busy week at the UW spotlights choral and vocal music with some wind, brass and guitar music included

November 12, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

It’s going to be a busy week at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music.

And especially if you are a fan of choral music, there is much to attract you.

Here is run-down by the day:

TODAY

At 3 p.m. in Mills Hall is a FREE concert of Combined Choirs that features the Women’s Chorus (below), the University Chorus and the Masters Singers.

Sorry, no word about the program, but the groups’ past record suggests excellent programs are in store.

TUESDAY

From noon to 1:30 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall, William Buchman (below), who is assistant principal bassoon of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and a faculty member at DePaul University in Chicago, will give a master class that is FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.

At 7:30 p.m. in Music Hall on Bascom Hill, University Opera a FREE Fall Opera Scenes program with UW student singers (below form last year).

Featured are excerpts from four operas and one Broadway musical: “The Marriage of Figaro” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; “Orpheus in the Underworld” by Jacques Offenbach; “Der Freischuetz” (The Marksman or Freeshooter) by Carl Maria von Weber; and “Carousel” by Rodgers and Hammerstein,

WEDNESDAY

At 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the Wisconsin Brass Quintet (below, in a photo by Michael R. Anderson) will give a FREE concert.

Members of the faculty ensemble are Alex Noppe and Matthew Onstad, trumpets; Mark Hetzler, trombone; Tom Curry, tuba; and Daniel Grabois, horn.

The program includes: Johann Schein: Three Psalm Settings; Peter Maxwell Davies, arr. Matthew Onstad: “Farewell to Stromness” (1980), from The Yellow Cake Review; Jan Radzynski: Take Five (1984); Gunther Schuller’s Music for Brass Quintet (1961); and Alvin Etler’s Quintet for Brass Instruments (1966).

For more information, go to http://www.wisconsinbrassquintet.com

THURSDAY

From 10 a.m. until noon in Morphy Recital Hall, the acclaimed Grammy Award-winning guitarist Sharon Isbin (below), who will perform with the Madison Symphony Orchestra this coming weekend, will give a FREE master class that is OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.

FRIDAY

At 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, the Madrigal Singers (below top), under conductor Bruce Gladstone (below bottom, in a photo by Katrin Talbot), will present Part 2 of “Israelsbrünnlein” (Fountains of Israel) by the Baroque composer Johann Hermann Schein.

According to program notes, “Johann Hermann Schein’s collection of 26 motets from 1623 has long been considered the most important set of motets in the early 17th century. Schein (below), frustrated that there wasn’t a true counterpart of the Italian madrigal to be found in German music, set out to marry the expressiveness of the madrigal to German texts.

“In this case, he chose to set sacred and mostly biblical texts, rather than the secular poetry found in most madrigals. His set of spiritual madrigals display both moments of pure joy and exultation as well as heartbreaking sadness and longing.

“Last fall, the Madrigal Singers presented the first 13 of these motets, and this fall, we finish out the collection with motets 14-26.

“This music is incredibly moving and remarkably fresh, revealing a marked sensitivity to the texts and a mastery of musical expression.” (You can hear a sample in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

SATURDAY

At 8 p.m., in Luther Memorial Church (below), 1021 University Avenue, the Low Brass Ensemble will give a FREE recital. No word on composers or pieces on the program.

At 8 p.m. in Mils Hall, the group Chorale, under conductor Bruce Gladstone will present “Songs to Live By.”

Programs notes read: “Music has always had a way to touch our souls the way other things cannot. When paired with poetry that speaks honestly to the human condition, it can lift us out of the merely abstract, touching our souls and offering insight on how we can be better at being human and humane.

“The Chorale offers a choral song-cycle by composer Gwyneth Walker (below) on autobiographical poems by Virginia Hamilton Adair, as well as three works by Elizabeth Alexander:  “How to Sing Like a Planet”; “If You Can Walk You Can Dance”; and “Finally On My Way To Yes.”

“Also on the program is Joshua Shank’s “Rules To Live By,” a heartfelt and moving piece whose text was written by the commissioning ensemble.

SUNDAY

At 5 p.m., in Mills Hall, the UW-Madison Wind Ensemble (below top) and Winds of Wisconsin will give a FREE joint concert.

Scott Teeple will conduct with guest violinist, Professor Soh-Hyun Altino (below bottom, in a photo by Caroline Bittencourt) soloing.

Here is the program:

UW-Madison Wind Ensemble:

“Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman, #2,” by Joan Tower

Concerto for Violin and Wind Ensemble, by Robert Hutchinson with the violinist Park Altino

Winds of Wisconsin:

“Chester Overture for Band,” by William Schuman

“A Child’s Embrace” by Charles Rochester Young

“Vesuvius,” by Frank Ticheli

Combined UW Wind Ensemble and Winds of Wisconsin:

“Folk Dances,” by Dmitri Shostakovich


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Classical music: Band and choral music is on tap this Sunday at the UW-Madison and Edgewood College

October 15, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

It has been a busy weekend for music, and tomorrow, Sunday, Oct. 16, it continues.

For fans of band and choral music, a lot of choices are on tap at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and Edgewood College.

Here is the lineup:

At 1 p.m. in Mills Hall, the University Bands (below top) at the UW-Madison will perform under conductors Darin Olson (below bottom), Nathan Froebe, Justin Lindgre. Sorry, no word on the program.

UW concert band

Darin Olson

At 2:30 p.m. St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive, the Edgewood College Concert Band presents its Fall concert.

Admission is FREE with a free will offering to benefit the Luke House Community Meal Program.

The program, under the direction of Walter Rich (below, in a photo by Edgewood College) will perform music by John Williams, Leonard Bernstein and Richard Strauss.

The program combines those three legendary names with a selection of new music by three young composers: Brian Balmages, Sean O’Loughlin and the emerging American star Daniel Elder.

The Edgewood College Concert Band provides students and Madison-area community musicians with the opportunity to perform outstanding wind literature. The band has performed a variety of works, ranging from classic British band literature of the early 20th century to transcriptions, marches, and modern compositions.

The group charges no admission for concerts, but often collects a freewill offering for Luke House, a local community meal program. The group rehearses on Wednesday evenings from 7-9 p.m.

Walter Rich

At 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music will host the FREE Choral Collage Concert (its logo is below).

choral-collage-logo

The concert features many groups: the Concert Choir (below top), Chorale, Madrigal Singers, Women’s Choir (below bottom), University Chorus and Master Singers.

Concert Choir

uw women's choir

The program, drawn from the Baroque, Classical and Modern eras, includes music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (the beautiful “Ave Verum Corpus,” which you can hear with Leonard Bernstein conducting, in the YouTube video at the bottom), Benjamin Britten, Johann Schein, Arvo Part (below), Orlando di Lasso and others.

Arvo Part

For more information and a link to the complete program, go to:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/uw-choral-collage/


Classical music: The Madison Choral Project celebrates the holidays and the Winter Solstice on this Saturday with reading, carols and music.

December 17, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Madison Choral Project’s founder and music director Albert Pinsonneault (below) writes:

Albert Pinsonneault 2

Hi Jake!

Here is information about the Madison Choral Project’s upcoming concert: “O Day Full of Grace” on this coming Saturday, Dec. 20, 7:30 p.m., First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Avenue, Madison.

The concert will feature the 22-voice professional chamber choir the Madison Choral Project (below to), and readings from Noah Ovshinsky (below bottom) of Wisconsin Public Radio, as well as audience sing-along carols.

Madison Choral Project color

Noah Ovshinsky

Tickets are $20 online or $25 at the door.

Here is a link for tickets: http://themcp.org/tickets/

Here is a link to the Madison Choral Project general website: http://themcp.org

And here is the complete program:

– Reading from Ovid’s “Amores”

– Carol with Audience: “Once in Royal David’s City

SET 1: THERE WILL BE LIGHT

– “Benedictus Dominus” by Ludwig Daser (1525-1589)

– “Die mit Tränen Säen” by Johann Schein (1586-1630)

– “Helig” from “Die Deutche Liturgie” by Felix Mendelssohn (below, 1809-1847)

mendelssohn_300

SET 2: UNDERSTANDING THROUGH LOVE

– “Mary Speaks” by Nathaniel Gawthrop (b. 1949)

– Reading from Victor Frankl’s “Man’s Search For Meaning”

– “The Gallant Weaver” by James MacMillan (b. 1959)

– “Entreat Me Not To Leave You” by Dan Forrest (b. 1978)

– Carol with Audience: “Silent Night”

INTERMISSION

SET 3: HAVE JOY NOW

– Reading from Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese”

– “Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day,” arr. Dale Grotenhuis (1932-2012)

– “Away in a Manger,” arr. Bradley Ellingboe (b. 1958)

– “Ding Dong! Merrily on High,” arr. Carolyn Jennings (b. 1929)

SET 4: AT THE END OF DAYS, GRACE

– Reading, e.e.cummings’ “i thank you”

– “O Day Full of Grace” by F. Melius Christiansen (1871-1945)

– Reading Ranier Maria Rilke‘s “Sunset”

– Carol with Audience: “Day Is Done”

– “The Long Day Closes” by Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900), which can be heard in a YouTube video at the bottom.

ENCORE

– “My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord” by Moses Hogan (1957-2003)

 


Classical music: How do various venues or performing spaces affect the music? Consider three examples of the same early vocal music sung by Eliza’s Toyes.

November 28, 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 MadisonEarly Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.

By John W. Barker

Through the month of November, I have been tracking the efforts of the same group in the same program, but in three different presentation spaces and situations. I have always found much illumination in attending rehearsals as against performances, but comparative performance study can also be quite stimulating.

First, let’s consider the performers and their program. The musicians (below and at bottom) call themselves Eliza’s Toyes (after an image in an Elizabethan madrigal text), as founded and lead by the formidably versatile Jerry Hui. Their program is a collection of sacred and secular works from the first half of the 17th century, by three composers who were pioneers in the transition from Renaissance to early Baroque styles in Germany — from the old vocal polyphonic style to the new idiom of singers with instruments, over the new basso continuo.

These three are Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672, below top), Johann Schein (1586-1630, below middle), and Samuel Scheidt (1587-1672, below bottom), good friends and comrades in a common enterprise. We’ve all heard of “the Three B’s” (Bach, Beethoven, Brahms), and it has become frequent to describe our early German masters as “the Three S’s”–or, as Jerry and his crew would have it, “the Three Sch’s”.

Their program took shape as far back as last spring, when they first performed it on May 12, at The Gates of Heaven (below). I reviewed that for Isthmus (May 18). At that time, the program consisted of a first part containing sacred works: three by Scheidt (one in Latin, otherwise German) and two by Schein. Two of these were in eight vocal parts, and varied in textures to very simplified motet style to the newer and more complex concertato idiom of combining voices with instruments; two of these even for eight parts.

The second half offered secular music, partly by Schein: two five-voice vocal works, an Italian love-madrigal and a comic German song about monks making whoopee while the abbot was away, plus a suite of four dances from his instrumental collection, Banchetto musicale. But Schütz was predominant, with two five-voice Italian madrigals from his Venetian publication in 1611, and a splendid eight-voice dedicatory piece for double choir from the same collection. As an encore, a late neo-polyphonic German motet of 1648 was added. The performers consisted then of seven singers (two of whom also played instruments) and five instrumentalists.

This was the program that was used, in revised form, for three performances this November.

To begin with, the group was diminished by one singer, so that his vacated vocal parts had to be filled in by instrumental substitution–a not unusual practice at that period. Also in the second half, one of the Schütz madrigals from the 1611 publication was replaced by a longer, two-part example from that source.

The first of the November performances was held at the downtown Grace Episcopal Church (below, the exterior) on Saturday evening, Nov. 3, with reduced forces, eliminating instrumentalists, and specifically the Schein dance suite. Also eliminated was one Scheidt sacred piece, Schein’s merry-monks song, and Schütz’s eight-voice double-choir madrigal of 1611; and there was no intermission. Full forces (less the departed tenor) were on display at the second concert, at Luther Memorial Church at 4 p.m. on the afternoon of Nov. 17, in the full revised program. And this same revised program was then presented at 12:30 p.m. last Sunday as one of the “Live from the Chazen” concerts broadcast live statewide by Wisconsin Public Radio.

Through these three performances, circumstances dictated certain obvious adjustments in the program and performer placements. But what particularly interested me is how the music, and the performers’ responses to it, varied through no less than four different venues.

All of the music in the program represented moves away from the old, grandly architectural styles of vocal polyphony that had been the glory of the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and into the newer, more intimately textured complexities of writing for essentially modest (not to say, greatly enclosed) spaces, where clarity of part writing was crucial.

The setting last spring at Gates of Heaven, a small and tight public space (below, interior at the Gates of Heaven), was quite ideal for this newer German idiom, and close audience involvement was guaranteed. The first two locations in November were, however, quite different: spacious churches with the problems of projection and reverberation. Grace Episcopal on the Square is large, but not overwhelming, whereas Luther Memorial on University Avenue is comparatively huge, a large space of echoes and extended sonic decay. Finally, Brittingham Gallery III at the Chazen, though a generously sized room, suggests a rather tight and confined ambience, especially when full of audience.

I had my own reactions to the differing results of these differing settings, but it was instructive to compare notes with some of the performers. The two church locations (below, the interior of Grace Episcopal) added a wondrous glow to their singing, in which they could luxuriate. But such spacious conditions are more sympathetic to sonically expansive polyphony, whereas the smaller, closer forms of their program are less at home, and the singers found problems in hearing each other as they sang.

On the other hand, they surprised me by their enthusiasm for the Chazen situation. It had less tightness and more warmth than they expected: they could hear each other clearly, and they plainly took particular pleasure in doing their work. I, too, found unexpected advantages in this room—madrigal-like pieces worked especially well, and the climactic eight-voice Schütz madrigal came off with particular lucidity and beauty, it seemed to me.

The greater confidence in their repertoire that the performers seemed (to me) to display may partly have resulted from the value of repeated presentations.  But I think that also a factor was the extent of rehearsal opportunities at each site.  At the churches, there were preliminary warm-up opportunities, but not much chance to work fully into the differing acoustical situations. At the Chazen, apparently there were a few hours in the morning allowed for rehearsal, so that a little fuller adjustment to acoustics there gave the performers a greater sense of comfort with them.

Obviously, the Chazen folks can take pride in this further endorsement of their concert setting. It might be added that the performance/broadcast format, with gracious commentary interspersed by Wisconsin Public Radio announcer Lori Skelton, added a more leisurely and less formal quality to the event.

For me, this adventure also brought home how very important performance setting is to performance results–the more so when the same music and same performers shift among different places. This is a point of concern not only for musicians themselves, but also for the public, which would benefit from developing sensitivity to the effects of venue and acoustics — especially when varied — upon musical achievements as one listens, experiences and enjoys.


Classical music: Do you know “The Three SCHs” of early music? During November, Eliza’s Toyes will give three concerts of rarely heard music by those German Baroque composers.

November 1, 2012
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TWO ALERTS: On Friday at the landmark First Unitarian Society Meeting House, 900 University Bay Drive, this week’s FREE Noon Musicale from noon to 1:15 p.m. features UW violinist Tyrone Greive and UW pianist Martha Fischer in music by Sibelius, Bacewicz, Szymanowski and others. Then on Friday night at 8 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall, guitarist Nathan Wysock (below) will perform a FREE recital on the University of Wisconsin School of Music’s Guest Artist Series. The program features  “American Bouquet’ by George Rochberg; “Serenade for Guitar’ by Lou Harrison, featuring percussionist Todd Hammes; “Shenandoah” by Robert Beaser; and “Machine 3” by Leo Kottke.

By Jacob Stockinger

Some important period instrument and early music vocal concerts of German Baroque composers are coming up in November. Here is the latest from Jerry Hui (below), a University of Wisconsin School of Music graduate who is an accomplished composer and an acclaimed performer who also directs and sings in Eliza’s Toyes and the contemporary music group NEW MUSE (New Music Everywhere).

Madison, Wis.–Eliza’s Toyes (below) and guest performers will be performing rarely heard music composed by Heinrich Schütz, Johann Hermann Schein, and Samuel Scheidt in a program titled “The Three Sch’s: Music By Schütz, Schein, and Scheidt.”

Madison area residents will have three chances in November to hear it live: this Saturday, Nov. 3, at 7 p.m. at Grace Episcopal Church; on Saturday, Nov. 17 a 4 p.m. at Luther Memorial Church; and on Sunday, Nov. 25 at 12:30 p.m. at the Chazen Museum of Art. The last performance will also be broadcast over Wisconsin Public Radio, on “Live from the Chazen,” (below) which is hosted by Lori Skelton.

All performances are free and open to the public; free-will donations will be accepted at the first two concerts.

Schütz (below), among the three featured composers, received the most household recognition because his career spanned across several countries. However, they all were regarded highly. Singled out by the 17th-century German composer/theorist Wolfgang Caspar Printz as the best German composers in his book “Historische Beschreibung” (1690), they were important in cultivating a distinctly German musical style, and their work would influence generations of composers to come —from J.S. Bach in later Baroque period, to Brahms in the Romantic period, and even to Hugo Distler of the 20th century.

Much of these composers’ music, driven strongly by modal counterpoint but also showing influence of Baroque harmonic progression, are not heard as frequently as they should. Perhaps this is because many other Baroque composers — such as J.S. Bach and Sweelinck — worked around similar time period wrote in a style that is more distinguishable from what is considered the Renaissance period.

Also, the vocal range demanded by these composers from the choir often differs from the standard setup of a four-part choir, especially in requiring more low altos or high tenors.

Eliza’s Toyes’ program will showcase some of their best works, both sacred and secular. Highlights include the most somber setting by Schiedt (below top) of “Miserere mei Deus” for soprano and 5 low voices, and his uplifting setting of Psalm No. 148 in German “Lobet, ihr Himmel den Herren”; the motet by Schein (below bottom) “Ach Herr, ach meiner schone” (a Pavan by Scheidt on YouTube at the bottom), and a very funny song from his 1626 collection “Studentenschmaus”; and selections of Schütz’s rarely heard Italian madrigals, particularly “Vasto Mar” for 8 voices.

Besides musicians from the regular ensemble, special guests Eric Miller (viol) and Lawrence University faculty Kathrine Handford (organ) will be joining in the music making. Also featured in these performances will be a beautiful wooden portative organ by David Moore, and wind instruments on loan from the James Smith Rudolph Collection at Lawrence University.

For more information about the program and Eliza’s Toyes, visit http://toyes.info

Eliza’s Toyes is a Madison-based early music ensemble specialized in performing vocal and wind music from before 1700. Its creative concert programs often feature geographical or narrative themes, partnering with both music and non-music academic fields. Now in its fourth season, Toyes has been performing at least twice a year, in various venues including UW-Madison Memorial Library, the Chazen Museum of Art, and Gates of Heaven.

Musicians for the “The Three Sch’s” include Deb Heilert and Sarah Leuwerke, sopranos; Sandy Erickson, alto/recorder; Peter Gruett, alto/tenor; Jerry Hui, tenor/bass; Mark Werner, baritone; Andrew Aumann, bass; Melanie Kathan, recorder; Theresa Koenig, dulcian/recorder; Doug Towne, lute.

Special guests are Eric Miller, viol, and Kathrine Handford, organ.


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