The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Art and politics continue to clash as Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro cancels the U.S. tour by that country’s youth orchestra with superstar maestro Gustavo Dudamel

August 26, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

In the Age of Trump, art and politics continue to increasingly mix and do battle.

One of the latest developments is the decision by President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump not to attend the Kennedy Center Honors – in order, they say, not to disrupt the awards ceremony with politics.

The move came after several recipients protested Trump and his policies.

But Trump’s America isn’t the only place such conflicts between art and politics are happening.

Take the case of superstar conductor Gustavo Dudamel (below, rehearsing the youth orchestra in a photo by Getty Images).

Dudamel was trained in the El Sistema program for youth music education and eventually led the Simon Bolivar National Youth Orchestra of his native country Venezuela before becoming the acclaimed music director and conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he still pioneers music education for poor youth.

For a while, Dudamel’s critics protested his unwillingness go speak out about serious problems in his native country. (Below, you can hear Dudamel and the orchestra opening last season at Carnegie Hall.)

But recently Dudamel spoke out against the abuses of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who, amid many crises, has taken steps to consolidate his power as a dictator.

As retaliation, Maduro (below) cancelled a four-city tour of the U.S. by Dudamel and the Simon Bolivar National Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, although some of Maduro’s defenders cite the country’s dire financial situation.

Here is the story that appeared on the Deceptive Cadence blog by National Public Radio (NPR):

http://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2017/08/21/545070643/venezuelan-president-cancels-gustavo-dudamel-s-american-tour


Classical music: Is it piano neglect? The University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music should take better care of the piano used for student concerts. Plus, Madison Symphony Orchestra maestro John DeMain gets raves for conducting an opera in Washington, D.C.

February 21, 2016
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ALERT: Did you wonder what Madison Symphony Orchestra maestro John DeMain was up to since the MSO concerts last weekend used a guest conductor?

Well, the hometown maestro was guest conducting a week-long production of Kurt Weill‘s opera “Lost in the Stars” for the Washington National Opera at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

A number of  critics didn’t particularly like the opera itself, which is based on the famous anti-apartheid novel “Cry, the Beloved County” by Alan Paton, and some criticized the theatrical aspects of the production.

But music director and conductor DeMain received praise for his part.

Here are links to various reviews:

http://dcmetrotheaterarts.com/2016/02/15/review-lost-in-the-stars-at-wno-2/

http://dctheatrescene.com/2016/02/15/lost-in-the-stars-from-washington-national-opera-review/

There is more praise in a mention on Page 2:

http://www.broadwayworld.com/bwwopera/article/BWW-Review-Washington-National-Opera-Takes-On-A-Bit-of-Broadway-With-LOST-IN-THE-STARS-20160215

https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/music/lost-stars-on-stage-for-washington-national-opera/2016/02/13/308dea84-d219-11e5-88cd-753e80cd29ad_story.html?tid=a_inl

By Jacob Stockinger

Calling it piano abuse it would be a stretch. That sounds too accusatory and too sensational.

But calling it piano neglect certainly seems justified and fair.

When The Ear attended some recent student recitals, he noticed the unfortunate treatment of a concert grand piano in Morphy Recital Hall, on which many students perform their degree recitals.

From a distance, and under the glare of stage lighting, the piano (below) seemed more or less OK.

Morphy piano 1

But when he went up close, The Ear saw just how chewed up the wood was in so many places.

Morphy piano 4

Now some wear-and-tear seems normal, especially for a piano that gets so much use for solo recitals and chamber music. And truth be told, it probably plays pretty well and is maintained in good shape internally.

But the outer condition of this piano nonetheless seemed as if it had indeed been neglected over the years — though maybe there are other reasons.

There were eye-catching scrapes and gouges that just look junky.

Now The Ear knows that the talented piano technician at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music is very busy. After all, there are a lot of pianos to tune and regulate.

And The Ear also knows that budget cuts are presenting challenges to the School of Music and its staff.

But that seems all the more reason to take care of the pianos the school has. The likelihood of replacing it with a new one seems little to none.

After all, these days a Steinway concert grand Model D sells for pretty close to $125,000.

If you had a car worth that much, you would surely not neglect its maintenance and upkeep. So why would you do it to a piano, especially one that gets so much use and is in the public eye so frequently?

So on the eve of more student degree recitals, which will only increase as the end of the spring semester draws closer, here is The Ear’s plea:

Please use the padded covering that can protect the piano when it gets moved, and try to be careful about bumping or scraping into things that can cause permanent damage.

Also, if there are times that the piano’s finish gets marred, please use that specially made piano dye to restore the ebony finish and please repair any chipped keys, which are plastic not ivory, by the way.

The Ear doubts other instruments — strings, brass, woodwinds — would be allowed by their owners to fall into such a state.

If you doubt all this or think it is overstating the case, here are some close-up photos that The Ear took.

It hurts The Ear to see such a fine instrument neglected and deteriorate. He assumes that the students who use it feel the same way – and he hopes the public does too. Owning such a fine musical instrument imposes a certain responsibility on the owner, and it should be repaired.

Morphy Piano 2

Morphy piano 3

Morphy piano 5

Morphy piano 6

Morphy piano 7

Is The Ear being too hard or fussy?

He would like to know what students who play the piano and what other audience members think.

Use the COMMENT section to let him know.

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: The Madison Symphony Orchestra celebrates Valentine’s Day this weekend with a varied program about love and the superb Russian violinist Alina Ibragimova playing Beethoven

February 8, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

ALERT: TUESDAY is the last day for the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s special sale — two tickets for the price of one — for its Valentine’s Day concerts coming up this weekend. Read more about the players and program below.

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following press release from the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below). To be honest, he cares less about the Valentine’s Day tie-ins – some of which seem tenuous – than about hearing the Russian violinist Alina Ibragimova in the Violin Concerto by Ludwig van Beethoven.

The Ear had heard all the of the Beethoven sonatas for violin and piano played by Ibragimova, with Belgian pianist Cedric Tiberghien, and thinks they rank right at the top of recorded versions. Plus, they are live!

She is clearly something very special, so The Ear says: Don’t miss her. (You can hear Alina Ibragimova and her forceful but subtle style — perfectly suited to Beethoven — in the first movement of Beethoven’s famous “Kreutzer” Sonata in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

John DeMain and MSO from the stage Greg Anderson

Now on to the overview, written under the headline:

“Music, the food of love” permeates Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Valentine’s Weekend Concerts on Feb. 12, 13 and 14

Cupid

Love’s attractions and dilemmas infuse the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Valentine’s weekend concerts Feb. 12, 13 and 14. They feature the Madison debut of Russian violinist Alina Ibragimova in Overture Hall.

Guest conductor Daniel Hege will lead the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) and substitute for music director John DeMain. (NOTE: John DeMain is in Washington, D.C., conducting a production of Kurt Weill‘s “Lost in the Stars” for the Washington National Opera at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. It opens next week.)

Shakespeare’s tale of star-crossed lovers takes musical form in Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s instantly recognizable Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture.

Next, Maurice Ravel’s lush Daphnis and Chloe Suite No. 2 depicts lovers Daphnis and Chloe reuniting at daybreak. That is followed by a Bacchanalian dance.

Ludwig van Beethoven’s hugely influential Romantic-era Violin Concerto brings the concert to a thrilling close with technical fireworks.

The concerts are in Overture Hall of the Overture Center, 201 State St., on this Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Born in Russia, the young violinist Alina Ibragimova (below) rapidly established herself as a first-rate soloist and chamber musician with the world’s foremost ensembles. Britain’s The Guardian newspaper called her “one of the most technically gifted and charismatic instrumentalists of the age.” A highly flexible and adaptable musician, Ibragimova is equally at home on modern and baroque period instruments, and frequently tours as both soloist and director. She was awarded the Royal Philharmonic Society Young Artist Award in 2010.

alina ibragimova

The concerts cover three different periods of music.

The program begins with the late Romantic period with the Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (below). The work taps into the great Shakespearean play, contrasting the rivalry between the Capulet and Montague families, with the passionate music of the second theme clearly expressing the feelings of the two young lovers.

Tchaikovsky 1

The Impressionistic period is represented the sensuous Daphnis and Chloe Suite No. 2 by Maurice Ravel (below). It recounts the stirring fifth-century BCE Greek story of Daphnis and Chloe, who were abandoned as children and brought up by shepherds. The two fall in love, but Chloe is abducted by pirates. After Daphnis rescues Chloe, the couple pantomimes the tale of Pan wooing the nymph Syrinx as the sun rises. Ravel’s score originally accompanied a ballet premiered by the Ballets Russes in Paris in 1912.

ravel

Finally, the early Romantic period is featured with the technically challenging Violin Concerto by Ludwig van Beethoven (below top) which premiered in 1806. A work of beauty, the concerto did not become popular until several decades later, thanks to the advocacy of the legendary violinist Joseph Joachim (below bottom). Beethoven’s only violin concerto, this work paved the way for the great 19th-century German violin concertos by Felix Mendelssohn, Max Bruch and Johannes Brahms.

Beethoven big

Joseph Joachim

Known for his novel interpretations of standard repertoire, Colorado native Daniel Hege (below) is Music Director and Conductor of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra and a frequent guest conductor of orchestras throughout the United States including the Houston, Detroit, Seattle and Indianapolis symphonies.

Syracuse Symphony Orchestra

One hour before each performance, Randal Swiggum (below), artistic director of the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra, will lead a FREE 30-minute Prelude Discussion in Overture Hall to enhance concertgoers’ understanding and listening experience.

Randal Swiggum conducting BW

More background on the music can also be found in the Program Notes by MSO trombonist Michael Allsen at: http://www.madisonsymphony.org/ibragimova

Single Tickets are $16 to $85 each, available at http://www.madisonsymphony.org/ibragimova and through the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street or call the Box Office at (608) 258-4141.

Groups of 15 or more can save 25% by calling the MSO office at (608) 257-3734.

For more information visit, www.madisonsymphony.org/groups

Student rush tickets can be purchased in person on the day of the concert at the Overture Box Office at 201 State Street. Students must show a valid student ID and can receive up to two $12 or $15 tickets. More information is at: www.madisonsymphony.org/studentrush. Students can receive 20% savings on seats in select areas of the hall on advance ticket purchases.

Seniors age 62 and up receive 20% savings on advance and day-of-concert ticket purchases in select areas of the hall.

Discounted seats are subject to availability, and discounts may not be combined.

Major funding for the February concerts is provided by Irving and Dorothy Levy Family Foundation, Inc., Johnson Bank, and Cyrena and Lee Pondrom. Additional funding is provided by John A. Johnson Foundation, a component fund of the Madison Community Foundation, Gary and Lynn Mecklenburg, and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).


Classical music: The Oakwood Chamber Players end their 30th anniversary retrospective this Saturday night and Sunday afternoon with Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” and other works.

May 20, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

A friend writes:

The Oakwood Chamber Players (below) have spent the 2014-2015 season – entitled “Reprise” — encoring performances of unique and much-loved musical works of art over their 30 years, as well as continuing their tradition of presenting memorable, neglected and newer chamber works to their audiences.

Their final concerts of the anniversary season – to be held this Saturday night and Sunday afternoon — highlight music from significant moments in the history of the ensemble.

Oakwood Chamber Players 2012 1

The concerts are this Saturday, May 23, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, May 24, at 1:30 p.m. Both concerts will be held at the Oakwood Village Center for Arts and Education, 6209 Mineral Point Road, on Madison’s far west side near West Towne.

The program includes works by American composer Aaron Copland, Danish composer Carl Nielsen, contemporary British composer Cecilia McDowall and contemporary Italian composer Corrado Maria Saglietti.

Tickets are available at the door and cost $20 for adult general admission, $15 for seniors and $5 for students. Visit www.oakwoodchamberplayers.com for more information.

Guests for the final concert are Laura Burns (below top), Geri Nolden, Wendy Buehl, violins; Katrin Talbot, viola; Mark Bridges, cello; Bradley Townsend, string bass; and Scott Teeple (below bottom), conductor.

- Laura Burns CR Brynn Bruijn

Scott Teeple

The original version of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring (1944), scored for 13 players, was first performed in concert by the Oakwood Chamber Players 25 years ago on stage at the Wisconsin Union Theater.

This enduring and popular chamber work will be conducted by director of University of Wisconsin-Madison Wind Ensemble, Scott Teeple. This chamber version of Appalachian Spring features 10 strings, flute, clarinet and bassoon. Originally commissioned by pioneering American modern dance choreographer Martha Graham (below top), this stunning compositional achievement earned Copland (below bottom) the Pulitzer Prize.

martha graham

aaron copland

In 2002, the Oakwood Chamber Players travelled to Washington D.C to represent the State of Wisconsin as artists for the 25th anniversary of the Kennedy Center.

Included in that concert by the group was Serenata Invano (1914), for clarinet, horn, bassoon, cello and string bass. The work was described by its composer Carl Nielsen (below top) as a “humorous trifle.” The Oakwood Chamber Players will be joined by guest bassist Bradley Townsend (below bottom) for this upbeat work.

Carl Nielsen at piano

Bradley Townsend

Two additional contemporary works of new music, performed for the first time by the Oakwood Chamber Players this season, will provide listeners with contrasting concepts on dance forms.

Italian composer and horn player Corrado Maria Saglietti (below) wrote his Suite for horn and string quartet (1992) in three movements. It features a sensual tango, a plaintive canzone and a jazz-influenced final movement with driving rhythms subtitled “Speedy,” which you can hear in a YouTube video at the bottom.

Corrado Maria Saglietti

Not Just a Place, by contemporary British composer Cecilia McDowall (below) – who did a residency this winter at the UW-Madison School of Music — is written for the sultry tones of viola, double bass and piano. Subtitled “dark memories from an old tango hall,” the piece is based on late night impressions of an Argentinian dance hall and creates a mesmerizing atmosphere.

Cecilia McDowall 2

The Oakwood Chamber Players is a group of Madison-area professional musicians who have rehearsed and performed at Oakwood Village for 30 years.

The Oakwood Chamber Players is a professional music ensemble proudly supported by Oakwood Lutheran Senior Ministries and the Oakwood Foundation.


Classical music education: Here is the latest news about the current concert season for the Madison Youth Choirs. It begins with a FREE preview at Hilldale Mall this Saturday.

November 14, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear’s friends over at the Madison Youth Choirs sent the following Fall 2014 edition of the email newsletter called “The Voice.”

I am including it in full because it is to the point and includes many details about concert dates for the new season, but adds other relevant and impressive information.

MYC is a terrific and well-established music education organization for young people in the Madison area.

mso youth choirs

MADISON YOUTH CHOIRS RETURNS FROM A TRIUMPHANT INTERNATIONAL TOUR

This past summer, 71 members of MYC’s boychoirs traveled to Scotland to take part in the invitation-only Aberdeen International Youth Festival (below), where they collaborated with hundreds of other young artists from all over the world, finding friendship and camaraderie that transcended cultural boundaries.

The boys delivered stunning performances in medieval cathedrals, public squares, local businesses, and Aberdeen‘s gorgeous Music Hall, making a great impression on the international arts community.

In addition to wildly supportive local crowds and fellow performers, the boys drew high praise from the Lord Provost of Aberdeen, George Adam, who serves as the Queen’s representative in the city, and declared MYC’s performance with the National Youth Choir of Scotland “magnificent.”

Throughout the entire trip, these young men demonstrated their thoughtfulness, patience, excellent work ethic, and outstanding musicianship. We could not be more proud of the way these boys and our wonderful parent chaperones represented the MYC family on the world stage.

Here is a link to a video (captured by MYC parent David Woods) of the boys singing Exultate Justi in Domino at Aberdeen’s St. Machar’s Cathedral: http://vimeo.com/109192022

Aberdeen International Youth Festival Opeing Ceremony

ANNOUNCING OUR WINTER CONCERT THEME

At a time when so many of us are fully immersed in a digital world surrounded by electronic gadgets, our singers are preparing to take on some musical time travel, exploring the creative accomplishments of an unplugged era.

Our first semester theme is “Musica Ficta: Imagining the Past.” We will dive into the intricate ornamentation of the Baroque period, the spare beauty of monastic chanting, and the colorful madrigals of the Renaissance, while illuminating the history and cultural context that brought these musical works into being.

Join us on this journey through the centuries as we present the MYC Winter Concert Series, generously endowed by Diane Ballweg, on Sunday, December 14, 2014 at First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Avenue, in Madison.

Madison Youth Choirs Ragazzi by Dan Sinclair

MYC RECEIVES A GRANT FROM THE MADISON COMMUNITY FOUNDATION

We are thrilled to announce that the Madison Community Foundation has awarded a $30,000 capacity-building and community-building grant to Madison Youth Choirs, which will focus on our continued efforts to break down barriers to arts participation.

This significant gift will provide additional support for several MYC outreach programs, including the Adopt-a-School choirs at Lincoln, Chavez and Nuestro Mundo elementary schools, musical enrichment at the Lussier Community Education Center, a new intergenerational choir program at Capitol Lakes Retirement Community and the development of an Outreach and Education Coordinator position.

MYC IN THE NEWS

In the past four years, MYC’s Adopt-a-School choral outreach program (a collaboration with Madison Metropolitan School District) has grown from serving 30 students at Lincoln Elementary School to serving over 250 students at Lincoln, Chavez and Nuestro Mundo schools, with potential for even greater expansion in the years to come.

This month, the program reached a new milestone as the Lincoln choir members made their television debut on the NBC-15 news. The choir performed at the press conference for Any Given Child, an initiative designed by the Kennedy Center to provide equitable in-school arts education opportunities for all K-8 students. The young singers performed before numerous local arts leaders, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, MMSD Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, Overture Center President Ted DeDee and the Kennedy Center’s Darrell Ayres. See the video here: http://www.nbc15.com/video?videoid=2955538

JOIN US FOR OUR UPCOMING PERFORMANCES!

MYC Free Preview Concert at Hilldale Mall

Hilldale Mall Atrium, Saturday, November 15; Performances throughout the day, 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m.; FREE

Madison Youth Choirs Con Gioia Karen Holland

Jitro Concert (below, a world-renowned girls’ choir from  the Czech Republic) featuring Cantabile; St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, 7337 Hubbard Ave., Middleton; Friday, November 21, 7:30 p.m.; FREE (Donations gladly accepted at the door)

jitro 2

45th anniversary presentation of University of Wisconsin-Madison Chemistry Professor Bassam Shakhashiri‘s Christmas Lectures, featuring members of Con Gioia and Capriccio; Wisconsin Union Theater, 800 Langdon St., Madison; Sunday, November 30, 2 p.m. Tickets are free but must be requested here. THIS PROGRAM WILL BE RECORDED FOR PBS AND BROADCAST NATIONALLY.

A Madison Symphony Christmas, featuring the Purcell, Britten, Holst, Ragazzi and Cantabile choirs. Overture Hall, Overture Center for the Arts. Friday, December 5, 2014, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, December 6, 2014, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, December 7, at 2:30 p.m.

Click here for ticketing information

MYC Winter Concerts. First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Avenue, Madison. Sunday, December 14, 2014. 1:30 p.m. – High School Ensembles. 4 p.m. – Boychoirs. 7 p.m. – Girlchoirs. Tickets at the door, $10 general admission, free for children under 7. (You can hear a video from last year’s Winter Concert in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Madison Youth Choirs Scotland Tour CR Jon Harlow

Madison Boychoir Festival. Madison West High School. Saturday, February 7, 2015. Half-day workshop and FREE concert for the community.

Madison Choral Project Concert featuring the Cantabile and Ragazzi choirs. First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Avenue. Saturday, February 28, 7:30 p.m. Click here for ticketing information

MYC Spring Concerts. Capitol Theater of the Overture Center. Saturday, May 2, 2015. 7 p.m. – Boychoirs. Sunday, May 3, 2015: 3 p.m. – Girlchoirs; 7:30 p.m. – High School Ensembles. Ticketing information coming soon

KNOW A YOUNG SINGER WHO MIGHT LIKE TO JOIN THE CHOIRS? Singers ages 11-18 are invited to audition on Wednesday, November 19, 2014 to join an ensemble in January.

YOUNGER SINGERS (AGES 7-10) ARE INVITED TO ENROLL IN A SPRING INTRODUCTORY CHOIR CLASS.

Click here for more information


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