By Jacob Stockinger
A friend and reviewer for this blog – his specialty is opera but he also is very experienced with the symphonic repertoire — sent in the following opinion piece.
It is being posted in the wake of the announcement by the Madison Symphony Orchestra of its 2017-18 season.
For reference, here is a link to the lineup of the next season’s concerts that was posted yesterday:
By Larry Wells
I received my subscription renewal package for the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson) a couple of weeks ago, and I was struck then by how conservative and prosaic most of the offerings are.
I’ve mentioned my feelings to acquaintances, and one of the prevailing arguments is that they have to fill the seats.
The assumption seems to be that the patrons will only tolerate music written before 1850.
I’m 70 and I grew up with Stravinsky. I can recall the world premieres of Shostakovich’s final three symphonies. I once eagerly awaited recordings of Britten’s latest works. And I heard the first performances of several works by John Adams (below) while living in San Francisco in the 1980s.
If the assumption is that most reliable patrons are in their 70s and 80s, this seems like a dead-end (pardon the pun). There will be no audience in 20 years.
I believe that audiences can tolerate music of the 20th century — look at the glowing reviews of and enthusiastic ovations for last week’s performances of Witold Lutoslawski’s “Concerto for Orchestra’’ — and attracting younger patrons with bolder musical choices seems an economic necessity.
How can the MSO not be commemorating the centenary of Leonard Bernstein (below, in a photo by Jack Mitchell)? The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra is performing several of his pieces in its upcoming season.
On a positive note, I was heartened to see that Benjamin Britten’s “Sinfonia da Requiem” is scheduled next season since that has been on my wish list for years. Likewise, Leos Janacek’s “Glagolitic Mass” is a nice surprise.
However, when will we hear Britten’s “War Requiem,” Bernstein’s “Mass” or “‘Songfest,” a symphony by Walter Piston (below top) or William Schuman (below middle) or Alan Hovhannes (below bottom)?
I’m really tired of going to concerts where only one of the works is of interest to me and the others are historic artifacts. I’d like to see a reversal wherein Brahms, Mozart and Beethoven are brought out occasionally, but the bulk of the music performed comes from the rich source of the 20th century.
What do you think?
Leave word in the COMMENT section.
By Jacob Stockinger
This posting is both a news story and a holiday gift guide of classical recordings you might like to give or get.
It features the classical music nominations for the 59th annual Grammy Awards that were just announced this past week.
As you can see, several years ago, the recording industry decided that the Grammys should put more emphasis on new music and contemporary composers as well as on less famous performers and smaller labels as well as less well-known artists and works. You don’t see any music by Bach, Beethoven or Brahms this year, although you will find music by Mozart, Handel, Schumann and Dvorak. And clearly this is not a Mahler year
The winners will be announced on a live TV broadcast on Sunday night, Feb. 12, on CBS.
“Corigliano: The Ghosts of Versailles” — Mark Donahue & Fred Vogler, engineers (James Conlon, Guanqun Yu, Joshua Guerrero, Patricia Racette, Christopher Maltman, Lucy Schaufer, Lucas Meachem, LA Opera Chorus & Orchestra)
“Dutilleux: Sur Le Même Accord; Les Citations; Mystère De L’Instant & Timbres, Espace, Mouvement” — Alexander Lipay & Dmitriy Lipay, engineers (Ludovic Morlot, Augustin Hadelich & Seattle Symphony)
“Reflections” — Morten Lindberg, engineer (Øyvind Gimse, Geir Inge Lotsberg & Trondheimsolistene)
“Shadow of Sirius” — Silas Brown & David Frost, engineers; Silas Brown, mastering engineer (Jerry F. Junkin & the University Of Texas Wind Ensemble)
“Shostakovich: Under Stalin’s Shadow: Symphonies Nos. 5, 8 & 9” — Shawn Murphy & Nick Squire, engineers; Tim Martyn, mastering engineer (Andris Nelsons & Boston Symphony Orchestra)
PRODUCER OF THE YEAR, CLASSICAL
Marina A. Ledin, Victor Ledin
Judith Sherman (pictured below with the Grammy Award she won last year. She came to Madison to record the double set of new commissions for the centennial of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Pro Arte Quartet)
Robina G. Young
BEST ORCHESTRAL PERFORMANCE
“Bates: Works for Orchestra” — Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor (San Francisco Symphony). You can hear excerpts in the YouTube video at the bottom.
“Ibert: Orchestral Works” — Neeme Järvi, conductor (Orchestre De La Suisse Romande)
“Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5 In B-Flat Major, Op. 100” — Mariss Jansons, conductor (Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra)
“Rouse: Odna Zhizn; Symphonies 3 & 4; Prospero’s Rooms” — Alan Gilbert, conductor (New York Philharmonic)
“Shostakovich: Under Stalin’s Shadow – Symphonies Nos. 5, 8 & 9” (below) — Andris Nelsons, conductor (Boston Symphony Orchestra)
BEST OPERA RECORDING
“Corigliano: The Ghosts of Versailles” (below) — James Conlon, conductor; Joshua Guerrero, Christopher Maltman, Lucas Meachem, Patricia Racette, Lucy Schaufer & Guanqun Yu; Blanton Alspaugh, producer (LA Opera Orchestra; LA Opera Chorus)
“Handel: Giulio Cesare” — Giovanni Antonini, conductor; Cecilia Bartoli, Philippe Jaroussky, Andreas Scholl & Anne-Sofie von Otter; Samuel Theis, producer (Il Giardino Armonico)
“Higdon: Cold Mountain” — Miguel Harth-Bedoya, conductor; Emily Fons, Nathan Gunn, Isabel Leonard & Jay Hunter Morris; Elizabeth Ostrow, producer (The Santa Fe Opera Orchestra; Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Program for Singers)
“Mozart: Le Nozze Di Figaro” — Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor; Thomas Hampson, Christiane Karg, Luca Pisaroni & Sonya Yoncheva; Daniel Zalay, producer (Chamber Orchestra of Europe; Vocalensemble Rastatt)
BEST CHORAL PERFORMANCE
“Himmelrand” — Elisabeth Holte, conductor (Marianne Reidarsdatter Eriksen, Ragnfrid Lie & Matilda Sterby; Inger-Lise Ulsrud; Uranienborg Vokalensemble)
“Janáček: Glagolitic Mass” — Edward Gardner, conductor; Håkon Matti Skrede, chorus master (Susan Bickley, Gábor Bretz, Sara Jakubiak & Stuart Skelton; Thomas Trotter; Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra; Bergen Cathedral Choir, Bergen Philharmonic Choir, Choir of Collegium Musicum & Edvard Grieg Kor)
“Lloyd: Bonhoeffer” — Donald Nally, conductor (Malavika Godbole, John Grecia, Rebecca Harris & Thomas Mesa; the Crossing; below)
“Penderecki Conducts Penderecki, Volume 1” — Krzysztof Penderecki, conductor; Henryk Wojnarowski, choir director (Nikolay Didenko, Agnieszka Rehlis & Johanna Rusanen; Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra; Warsaw Philharmonic Choir)
“Steinberg: Passion Week” — Steven Fox, conductor (The Clarion Choir)
BEST CHAMBER MUSIC/SMALL ENSEMBLE PERFORMANCE
“Fitelberg: Chamber Works” — ARC Ensemble
“Reflections” — Øyvind Gimse, Geir Inge Lotsberg & Trondheimsolistene
“Serious Business” — Spektral Quartet
“Steve Reich” — Third Coast Percussion (below)
“Trios From Our Homelands” — Lincoln Trio
BEST CLASSICAL INSTRUMENTAL SOLO
“Adams, J.: Scheherazade.2” — Leila Josefowicz; David Robertson, conductor (Chester Englander; St. Louis Symphony)
“Daugherty: Tales of Hemingway” — Zuill Bailey; Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor (Nashville Symphony)
“Dvořák: Violin Concerto & Romance; Suk: Fantasy” — Christian Tetzlaff; John Storgårds, conductor (Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra)
“Mozart: Keyboard Music, Vols. 8 & 9” – Kristian Bezuidenhout
“1930’s Violin Concertos, Vol. 2” – Gil Shaham; Stéphane Denève, conductor (The Knights & Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra)
BEST CLASSICAL SOLO VOCAL ALBUM
“Monteverdi” — Magdalena Kožená; Andrea Marcon, conductor (David Feldman, Michael Feyfar, Jakob Pilgram & Luca Tittoto; La Cetra Barockorchester Basel)
“Mozart: The Weber Sisters” — Sabine Devieilhe; Raphaël Pichon, conductor (Pygmalion)
“Schumann & Berg” — Dorothea Röschmann; Mitsuko Uchida, accompanist
“Shakespeare Songs” — Ian Bostridge; Antonio Pappano, accompanist (Michael Collins, Elizabeth Kenny, Lawrence Power & Adam Walker)
“Verismo” — Anna Netrebko; Antonio Pappano, conductor (Yusif Eyvazov; Coro Dell’Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia; Orchestra Dell’Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia)
BEST CLASSICAL COMPENDIUM
“Daugherty: Tales of Hemingway; American Gothic; Once Upon A Castle” — Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor; Tim Handley, producer
“Gesualdo” — Tõnu Kaljuste, conductor; Manfred Eicher, producer
“Vaughan Williams: Discoveries” — Martyn Brabbins, conductor; Andrew Walton, producer
“Wolfgang: Passing Through” — Judith Farmer & Gernot Wolfgang, producers; (Various Artists)
“Zappa: 200 Motels – The Suites” — Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor; Frank Filipetti & Gail Zappa, producers
BEST CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL COMPOSITION
“Bates: Anthology of Fantastic Zoology” — Mason Bates, composer (Riccardo Muti & Chicago Symphony Orchestra)
“Daugherty: Tales of Hemingway” — Michael Daugherty, composer (Zuill Bailey, Giancarlo Guerrero & Nashville Symphony)
“Higdon: Cold Mountain” — Jennifer Higdon, composer; Gene Scheer, librettist (Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Jay Hunter Morris, Emily Fons, Isabel Leonard, Nathan Gunn & the Santa Fe Opera)
“Theofanidis: Bassoon Concerto” — Christopher Theofanidis, composer (Martin Kuuskmann, Barry Jekowsky & Northwest Sinfonia)
“Winger: Conversations With Nijinsky” — C. F. Kip Winger, composer (Martin West & San Francisco Ballet Orchestra)
The program features works by Igor Stravinsky, the Symphony No. 4 by Ludwig van Beethoven and the Concerto for Two Pianos by Francis Poulenc, with the Madison-born twin sisters Christina and Michelle Naughton as soloists.
By Jacob Stockinger
With less than a month left in the first semester’s concert schedule, the performances are really starting to pile up.
Tomorrow, on Sunday, Nov. 20, five groups will perform two FREE concerts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music:
For more information and the complete program, go to:
For more information and the full program, go to:
By Jacob Stockinger
Today is the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
A lot of classical music – requiems, symphonies, chamber music, solo works – could be used to commemorate the event. You can leave your own suggestions in the COMMENT section.
But The Ear wants to post something specific to the anniversary – something well known and something relatively unknown.
First the well known work:
Here is a slide show with the music “On the Transmigration of Souls,” by the American composer John Adams (below), who was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic to compose a work related to 9/11.
The composition mixes sounds from actual events with music, and it won the Pulitzer Prize.
When the Madison Symphony Orchestra performed it many seasons ago, it proved a deeply moving experience.
Here it is:
The events inspired other works too, including two by Kevin Puts (below), who was in Madison this summer for the premiere of a new song cycle and performances of his other instrumental works by the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society.
The Ear sure wishes there was a YouTube performance of the 16-minute work “Falling Dream.”
Here is a description by the composer:
“The piece was written in the months immediately after 9/11. Its composition was initially inspired by news footage I saw in which a couple leaped from one of the burning towers (below) holding hands.
“For months I was incapable of getting the image out of my head. It was so poetic in both its horror and beauty that I almost couldn’t justify a musical reaction to it.
“However I eventually found a way to illustrate the experience in extreme slow motion by creating a counterpoint of two slowly descending melodies, heard first at the beginning of the work. Episodes fade in and out of this slow descent like memories, but the illusion I wanted to create is that the falling never really ceases.
“The last section of the piece is, by contrast, a slowly building ascent that has no programmatic relevance but whose majestic quality functions as a message of hope.”
And here is a performance of Kevin Puts’ Symphony No. 2, which The Ear first heard on Wisconsin Public Radio. It too was informed by the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
Here is what Puts, who was educated at Yale and the Eastman School of Music and who now teaches at the Peabody Institute of Music at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, says about it:
“In the September 24, 2001 issue of The New Yorker writer Jonathan Franzen wrote, “In the space of two hours we left behind a happy era of Game Boy economics and trophy houses and entered a world of fear and vengeance.”
“My second symphony, while by no means a memorial, makes reference to this sudden paradigmatic shift. During the first eight minutes of the work, a slow orchestral build describes the unsuspecting climate pre 9/11, a naïve world aptly described by my mother as a metaphorical island.
“After a brief passage for solo violin, an upheaval of sorts effectively obliterates this opening sentiment and initiates another gradual crescendo which makes use of the same material as the opening, cast this time in darker and more ambiguous harmonic colors.
“Once the entire orchestra reaches the climax of the work, the solo violin returns in a more extended passage than before and subdues the turbulent orchestra. This leads to a reflective epilogue in which a clock-like pulse creates a mood of expectancy and uncertainty, interlaced with hope.”
By Jacob Stockinger
Sequels are not just for books, movies and Broadway shows any more.
Classical music is also starting to generate them — centuries after the originals.
It may be hard to imagine writing sequels to masterpiece sonatas, chamber music, symphonies and concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Igor Stravinsky and others.
But in a kind of musical postmodernism, that’s what is being done with more and more frequency.
The composer Timo Andres (below top, in a photo by Tawny Bannister for The New York Times) wrote a piano concerto based on Beethoven for the great young American pianist Jonathan Biss (below bottom), who has performed with the Madison Symphony Orchestra. Biss, along with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, has commissioned five piano concertos in the spirit of Beethoven’s five piano concertos.
And the great young American violinist Jennifer Koh (below top, in a photo by Loren Wohl for The New York Times) and her equally terrific recording partner, pianist Shai Wosner (below bottom) – who has performed several times in Madison with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra — have commissioned three sonatas based on the work of older composers from three modern composers.
But musicians and especially modern composers, including the important composer John Adams (below), have mixed feelings about such derivative projects.
Here is a fine story about the phenomenon of sequels that appeared in The New York Times:
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received the following timely and important announcement:
The Festival Choir of Madison (below) and its new artistic director Sergei Pavlov – who teaches at Edgewood College — will close the current season with a special concert this Saturday night, May 7, at 7:30 p.m. at the Christ Presbyterian Church, located at 944 East Gorham Street in downtown Madison.
The performance features one of the legendary American choral conductors, Maestro Joseph Flummerfelt (below right, with Sergei Pavlov). You can hear a long Q&A interview with Joseph Flummerfelt in the YouTube video at the bottom.
The program with the Festival Choir includes music by German composers Felix Mendelssohn and Johannes Brahms, British composer Herbert Howells, Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, Polish composer Henryk Gorecki and Scottish composer James MacMillan. Sorry, no word on individual works to be performed.
Tickets for the evening concert are available at the door and cost between $9 and $15.
Since 1971, Joseph Flummerfelt (below) has been responsible for most of the choral work of the New York Philharmonic, working closely with its music directors Leonard Bernstein, Zubin Mehta, Pierre Boulez, Kurt Masur, Lorin Maazel and Alan Gilbert. Until 2004 he was Director of Choral Activities in the Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey.
Joseph Flummerfelt (below) with the Westminster Symphonic Choir and New York Choral Artists has been featured in 45 recordings, including a Grammy Award-winning CD of the Symphony No. 3 by Gustav Mahler with Leonard Bernstein. His collaboration with the great American composer Samuel Barber includes the Grammy Award-winning recording of Barber’s opera “Anthony and Cleopatra.”
In 2004 Flummerfelt was awarded a Grammy for the New York Choral Artists’ recording of “On the Transmigration of Souls,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning composition written by John Adams in memory of the victims of the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
A master teacher, Flummerfelt’s many former students occupy a number of major choral positions throughout the world. Yannick Nezet-Seguin (below) — the current music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra and guest conductor of the Metropolitan Opera, who, as a teenager, studied with Dr. Flummerfelt in two advanced conducting summer workshops — cites him as one of the two major influences in his life as a conductor. A 2009 New York Times article said, “Mr. Nezet-Seguin called those sessions with Flummerfelt the only significant conducting lessons he ever had.”
Flummerfelt has a special connection with Madison as well. As an undergraduate student in De Pauw University in Indiana, he was deeply inspired by a performance of a visiting choir, and the conductor of this group was Robert Fountain, the legendary Director of Choral Programs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.
Also on Saturday, May 7 at 11 a.m. there will be a question/answer session for all who would like to meet the Maestro Flummerfelt. The host is Edgewood College, and the session will be at the Washburn Heritage Room in the Regina Building. This is a FREE event.
By Jacob Stockinger
A musician in the Madison Symphony Orchestra, whom The Ear holds in very high regard, says that the four-section, continuous movement Symphony No. 1 by contemporary American composer Steven Stuckey (below) is “beautiful.”
This is a discerning man and musician, and The Ear – who has never heard works by Stucky — trusts his judgment.
Even so, the work will be The Big Unknown on the MSO program this weekend. It also features pianist Garrick Ohlsson in the Piano Concerto No. 1 by Johannes Brahms and the tone poem “Don Juan” by Richard Strauss. Both works are major standards of the Romantic and Late Romantic repertoire.
Here is a link with more information about the performances, which will be held tonight, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.
John DeMain, the longtime music director and conductor of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, recently told The Ear about how he had wanted to program a work by a living composer. After all, DeMain has championed other new music, including the world premiere of John Adams’ famous opera “Nixon in China.”
But a very aggressive form of brain cancer took away that chance when Stucky, who composed chamber music and choral music as well as symphonic music, taught at Cornell University and the Juilliard School, died just two months ago at 66.
So The Ear thought that it might be good to have more background about Stucky.
Here is Stucky himself talking about his 2012 Symphony that will be performed by the MSO and its emotional journey. It includes a performance by superstar conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which commissioned the work:
And here is a lengthy and detailed obituary about Stucky that appeared in The New York Times. It also includes excerpts of reviews of his works and gives readers a context by which to judge Stucky’s achievement.
The Ear is looking forward to hearing the work. (Another sample, in a YouTube video at the bottom, is his 2011 work “Silent Spring,” composed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the publication of Rachel Carson’s landmark book about DDT and pollution in the environment and nature.
He is also looking forward to hearing from others about the work.
So if you go to the MSO concert and hear Steven Stucky’s Symphony No. 1, why not leave your opinion or assessment in the COMMENTS section?
The Ear wants to hear.
ALERT: The Ear has received the following note from University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music viola professor Sally Chisholm, who also plays with the Pro Arte Quartet: “Elias Goldstein, who has a doctorate from UW-Madison (2011) and was a Collins Fellow, is playing a concert of all 24 Caprices, originally composed for solo violin by Niccolo Paganini, on VIOLA this Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. in Morphy Hall. Admission is FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.
“On March 9, he will perform this program at Carnegie Hall in New York City, as the first violist ever to perform all 24 Caprices in one concert. This is such a feat that it is difficult to believe one of our own is accomplishing it. I was with him in Krakow, Poland when he performed 6 of them. He got standing ovations. He is professor of viola at Louisiana State University, won top prizes at the Primrose International Viola Competition and the Yuri Bashmet Viola Competition in Moscow in 2011.”
By Jacob Stockinger
Today is the 50th Super Bowl of the NFL, and will be played by the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos in the Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, near San Francisco.
It starts at 5:30 p.m. CST.
Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem. Coldplay, Beyoncé and Bruno Mars will perform in the half-time show. The Super Bowl will be broadcast live on CBS-TV.
So, one might ask in a society that loves competition, what constitutes The Super Bowl of classical music?
It is a source of endless discussion and often disagreement.
What classical music is the most mainstream, if not best?
Who are the big winners and champions in the concert hall?
A survey, compiled by a student at the UW-Milwaukee, of the most popular or frequently performed composers, works and soloists was recently conducted by the League of American Orchestras. The rest are for the 2010-11 season.
The No. 1 work is a YouTube video at the bottom. It is the Symphony No. 1 in C Minor by Johannes Brahms and is performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under its late music director and conductor Sir George Solti.
And on March 11, 12 and 13 the Madison Symphony Orchestra hosts TWO of the Top 10 winners: Pianist Emanuel Ax performing the Piano Concerto No. 4 by Ludwig van Beethoven. (The Symphony No. 4 by Gustav Mahler completes the program.)
Here is a link to the complete results along with the method used to gather data:
See what you think and leave a COMMENT.
Do they match up with your preferences and your choices of favorites?
In your opinion, what makes them so popular?
The Ear wants to hear.