The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The 37th annual Karp Family Labor Day Concert is this Monday night and includes works by Bach, Beethoven and Britten as well as Shakespeare.

September 4, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

If there is a better embodiment of the saying “The show must go on,” I don’t know who it would be.

I am speaking of the Karp Family (seen below in an old photo), long considered Madison’s First Family of Music. (Members, from left, are Christopher Karp, Katrin Talbot, Howard Karp, Parry Karp and Frances Karp.)

karps 2008 - 13

For 37 years – and without repeating a piece — the Karps have given a Labor Day concert at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, where the event traditionally marks the opening of the new concert season.

This year, the FREE concert is at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall.

It is quite the achievement that a Labor Day concert will even take place this year.

Last summer, patriarch pianist Howard Karp – a longtime professor at the UW-Madison – died at 84 while on vacation in Colorado.

Then this summer, the matriarch pianist Frances Karp had an accidental fall that put her out of commission. (She has recovered well, but had to to give up performing temporarily.)

Yet the rest of the family came together and changed the program to carry on the tradition. (The original program for this year is now scheduled to be performed next year with Frances Karp back at the piano.)

The performers this year are Isabel Karp (seen below top left with her sister Natasha Karp), narrator; Katrin Talbot, the wife of Parry Karp, viola; son Parry Karp, cello; and son Christopher Karp, piano.

Karp Memorial Isabel, Natasha smiling better

The program includes: “Elegy and Vision for Solo Cello” (1993) by Laurence Sherr; Two Chassidic Dances for Viola and Cello (1941-2) by Zigmund Schul; “Thoughts Tending to Ambition” (2015) by Katrin Talbot and Isabel Karp — a setting of the final soliloquy of William Shakespeare’sRichard II” for narrator, viola and cello; and the Second Suite for Solo Cello, Op. 80 (1967) by Benjamin Britten.

After intermission comes the Suite No. 2 in D Minor for Solo Cello (ca. 1720) by Johann Sebastian Bach. And the well-known Sonata in A Major for Piano and Cello, Op. 69 (1808) by  Ludwig van Beethoven. (You can hear the Beethoven sonata performed by cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Emanuel Ax in the YouTube video at the bottom.)


Classical music: Music for piano-four hands played a vital historical role in disseminating classical music and also in encouraging amateur musicians and a socially acceptable form of erotic intimacy.

April 1, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

First things first — a full disclosure because today is April 1 or April Fool’s Day.

april fools day

But this is no April Fool’s post. The Ear detests using the media, old or new, for April Fool’s stories and pranks. The Ear finds them stupid and reprehensible. They undercut credibility and insult readers or consumers by taking advantage of their gullibility.

So …

Yesterday, you may recall, I posted a preview of the upcoming recital this Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. by pianists Peter Serkin and Julie Hsu at Farley’s House of Pianos.

Here is a link:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/03/31/classical-music-pianists-peter-serkin-and-julia-hsu-will-play-works-for-piano-four-hands-by-mozart-schubert-schumann-and-brahms-this-saturday-night-at-farleys-house-of-pianos/

But as background, or perhaps an appetizer or teaser, I thought you might like to see a link sent to me by a professor friend at Stanford University. It covers a book by his colleague in German that offers not only history but also the role of four-hand playing in encouraging intimacy, a kind of erotic sensuality and sexuality that was socially acceptable. Then, too, music playing also bridged the worlds of professional and amateur musicians.

Whether or not you attend the concert at Farley’s, it is good to read the overview of the vital role that music for piano-four hands (below is the team of Varshavsky and Shapiro who perform quite often in the area) played in the history of Western classical music. They helped to disseminate into ordinary homes versions of the symphonies by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven at a time when hearing a real symphony was a rare occasion.

And of course they also encouraged Hausmusik — the playing of music in private homes before commercial concerts became established. A piano was like the CD player or radio or television of its day.

Stanislava Varshavski-Diana Shapiro

Madison hears its fair share of such music. It is always featured at the Schubertiades, held by wife-and-husband pianists Martha Fischer and Bill Lutes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music in late January.

Schubertiade 2014 stage in MIlls Hall

Such music has also appeared regularly at the free Friday Noon Musicales at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, Sunday Afternoon Live at the Chazen Museum of Art, the annual Karp Family Labor Day Concerts, the summer Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, Farley’s House of Pianos, and other important series.

The Ear has enjoyed such music – in addition to the many social works by Franz Schubert, I have heard Hungarian Dances by Johannes Brahms, Slavonic Dances by Antonin Dvorak and Polonaises by Franz Schubert, for example — but was never fully aware of what, historically, he was listening to.

So The Ear found the historical essay fascinating and thought you might also appreciate it.

Here is a link to the essay:

http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/december/piano-monster-daub-120814.html

And here is a link to a YouTube video of the piece that is perhaps the crown jewel of piano-four hand literature — Franz Schubert’s late Fantasy in F Minor, D. 940 — performed by two of my favorite British pianists, Imogen Cooper and Paul Lewis:


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