The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The new concert season features many world premieres in opera, orchestral music and chamber music. So, why not here in Madison?

September 20, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

Who says classical music is dying?

You wouldn’t know it from some of the many world premieres of new music that will take place across the U.S. this season. Such events add a lot of excitement to the new concert season. And many critics and observers think they draw in new and younger audiences.

Quite a few of the premieres feature performers and composers familiar to Madison audiences. They include cellist Alisa Weilerstein (below top, in a photo by Harold Hoffmann for Decca Records), pianist Emanuel Ax (below second), composer Kevin Puts (below third) and composer Jake Heggie (below bottom).

alisa-weilerstein-cr-harold-hoffmann-for-decca

Emanuel Ax portrait 2016

Kevin Puts pulitzer

Jake Heggie

Here is a round-up of the national scene by Tom Huizenga, who writes the Deceptive Cadence blog for National Public Radio or NPR.

http://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2016/08/31/491833898/first-impressions-a-guide-to-new-music-in-the-new-season

It makes one wonder: What about the local scene here in Madison?

True, several seasons ago, the Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison commissioned and premiered six new works to mark its centennial. They included four string quartets, one piano quintet and one clarinet quintet, all of which are now available in terrific recordings from Albany Records.

Pro Arte Quartet new 2 Rick Langer

This summer the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society featured bass-baritone Timothy Jones (below) in the world premiere of a song cycle it commissioned from American composer Kevin Puts, who is mentioned in the NPR story, to mark its 25th anniversary.

Timothy Jones posed portrait

And this fall, at its annual Labor Day concert the Karp family premiered a new work by Joel Hoffman for piano and cello, based on the life of the late pianist and former UW professor Howard Karp and performed by his sons pianist Christopher Karp and cellist Parry Karp (below).

karp-hoffman-pic

This winter the Madison Opera will stage the new jazz-inspired opera “Charlie Parker’s Yardbird,” although Milwaukee’s Florentine Opera will do a world premiere of a work it commissioned. Could the Madison Opera commission again its own new work, such as it did years ago with Daron Hagen‘s opera “Shining Brow” about Frank Lloyd Wright?

And there are other commissions and premieres by smaller groups, such as the percussion ensemble Clocks in Motion.

But what is the problem with getting new commissions and world premieres at bigger ensembles such as the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and the UW Symphony Orchestra, which does perform a student work each year? Lack of money? Lack of will? Lack of audience interest?

What do you think?

The Ear wants to hear.

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Classical music: We said goodbye to the late University of Wisconsin-Madison pianist Howard Karp by speaking love to loss. Here in photos is how it went.

September 2, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

On Sunday afternoon we gathered to say goodbye to the late University of Wisconsin-Madison pianist Howard Karp, who died suddenly in June of cardiac arrest at 84 while he was on summer vacation in Colorado.

I don’t think you can have a better send-off.

The day started out sunny and then looked like it would cloud over.

But the sunlight stayed.

Howard Karp (below, in a 2000 photo by Katrin Talbot) would have liked that. There never seemed anything morose about Howard, even when he played music that was introspective and melancholic. And he was such a natural: The piano just seemed to grow out of his long arms and fingers.

Howard Karp ca. 2000 by Katrin Talbot

Sure, like all people he had his share of sorrows and worries. But on his own scale, the joys always outweighed the sorrows.

I found myself thinking of Howard and recalling philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s dictum that “Without music, life would be a mistake.” And I found myself adding: “Without Howard Karp, music in Madison might not have been a mistake, but it certainly would have been severely diminished.”

But I do not want to use this post for me to talk about Howard Karp and what a wonderful man and musician, family member and teacher, he was.

His own family and friends did that so well — and so eloquently — that all I can do today is to use photos and quick descriptions to tell you what you missed if you weren’t there.

The welcome speaker and comforting guide through the celebration was Bill Lutes (below), a longtime friend and former student of Howard Karp. Bill did an outstanding and dry-eyed job of speaking love to loss, as did the entire family.

Karp Memorial Bill Lutes

The event opened with Howard Karp playing the opening movement of the heroic, life-affirming “Hammerklavier” Sonata by Ludwig van Beethoven, from a newly released 6-CD recording on Albany Records of Howard’s concert recordings.

That was repeated through the event with music of Robert Schumann, Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Frédéric Chopin. And it was moving to hear the audience of maybe a two-thirds house in Mills Hall applaud loudly, as if Howard were playing right there, on stage and in person in front of us.

One of the most moving moments came when Howard’s wife, Frances Karp – whose diminutive and even fragile look hides a tremendous strength of character and forceful pianism — was joined by cellist son Parry Karp, violist daughter-in-law Katrin Talbot and guest violinist Leanne League, who plays with the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, in the slow movement from the Piano Quartet in E-flat major, Op. 47, by Robert Schumann. A photo is below.

It is a heart-wrenching piece by the composer who, more than any other, captures love and longing in sound, as you can hear from the opening cello melody in a YouTube video of the Beaux Arts Trio at the bottom.

Karp Memorial Schumann PIano Quartet

Granddaughters Isabel Karp (below left) and Natasha Karp (below right), both accomplished actresses, then read passages from William Shakespeare, beautifully appropriate lines from the tragedy “King Lear,” from the Sonnets, from the romance “The Tempest,” from the comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Karp Memorial Isabel, Natasha smiling better

More recorded Schumann followed, the first movement of the fabulous Fantasy in C Major.

Then came words of friendship and admiration from the renowned keyboard artist Malcolm Bilson (below), who taught with Howard at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. Now a semi-retired professor at Cornell University, Bilson also played a superbly rendered version of his own reconstruction of the first movement of the Sonata in F-sharp minor by Franz Schubert. (Bilson didn’t announce his reconstruction because, as he later told The Ear, “It bothers and distracts audiences. They keep listening for where Schubert ends and Bilson begins.”)

Karp Memorial Malcolm Bilson plays Schubert

Fellow Chicagoan and piano student-turned-businessman, Ira Goodkin (below) spoke impressively and engagingly about the lasting effect of having Howard Karp as a lifelong friend and as a personal and professional role model.

Karp Memorial Ira Goodkin

Then came more recordings: impressive duo-piano performances by Frances and Howard Karp of music by Igor Stravinsky and Sergei Rachmaninoff.

During the Rachmaninoff “Barcarolle,” from his Suite No. 1 for Two Pianos, there was also an extended slide show that featured photos of Howard at various stages of his life, from infancy and childhood (below) through marriage and maturity, many images with his wife, children and grandchildren.

Karp Memorial slideshow Young Howard

Granddaughter and actress Ariana Karp (below) appeared via video from London and also read Shakespeare and offered moving personal recollections of “grand-père.”

Karp memorial Ariana

Sons Christopher Karp on piano and Parry Karp on cello (below) teamed up to play Max Bruch’s “Kol Nidre,” in a moving and brotherly demonstration of the family music-making that marked the Karps’ family life, and brought beauty to the rest of us, making us all feel like extended family.

Karp Memorial Christopher and Parry

Then came a miraculously humorous and moving eulogy for Howard by cellist son Parry (below), who offered a stirring summing up of his dad’s gifts as a pianist and chamber music partner, as a husband and father, as a baseball fan and an avid amateur expert on trees and plants.

Karp Memorial Parry Karp speaks

After Parry remark’s about the richness of his father’s life and career, I found myself recalling a saying by the great composer-pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff: “Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music.” Still, I think Howard Karp came closer to that impossible goal than anyone I know.

Then, with a stirring performance by Howard Karp of the ferocious and relentless finale from Chopin’s Sonata in B minor, it was over — and we moved outdoors to a packed reception in the courtyard of the UW-Madison’s George Mosse Humanities Building.

Karp Memorial Reception

The food was ideal and the audience was in the mood to greet each other and reminisce with the kind of good-natured enthusiasm that would have pleased Howard Karp because it made all of us feel like we belonged to one immense family that will long miss a central and irreplaceable figure.


Classical music: A memorial for the late University of Wisconsin-Madison pianist Howard Karp is set for Sunday, Aug. 31, at 3 p.m. in Mills Hall. Here is a link to an obituary in The Wisconsin State Journal and to two other stories about Karp from Isthmus and the UW-Madison News Service.

July 21, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

The word is in: There will be NO annual Labor Day Concert by the Karp family this year.

Instead, on the day before Labor Day, friends, students and family members will gather to celebrate the life of professor, pianist and musical patriarch Howard Karp (below, playing with his son, fellow UW-Madison School of Music professor and Pro Arte Quartet cellist Parry Karp), who taught and performed for many decades at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, in a memorial event.

Karp family 2011 Brahms Parry and Howard Karp

The memorial is set for Sunday, August 31, at 3 p.m. in Mills Hall. Initial plans call for playing recorded live performances by Howard Karp; for selected speakers; and perhaps for some live music performances. As details develop, this blog will pass them along.

Howard Karp ca. 2000 by Katrin Talbot

On June 30, in Colorado. Howard Karp died at 84 of cardiac arrest. He was so loved and so respected that news of his death brought this blog a record number of comments and remarks (more than 70 so far), and close to a record number of “hits” or views:

Here is a link to the post, which has a lot of photos provided by the family, that broke the news:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/classical-music-pianist-howard-karp-who-taught-at-the-university-of-wisconsin-madison-has-died-at-84/

Frances and Howard Karp June 22, 2014

Here is a link to the obituary that appeared two Sundays ago in The Wisconsin State Journal (below, Howard Karp is seen performing at a recent Labor Day Concert with his wife Frances Karp and his two of his four grandchildren, actors Isabel and Ariana Karp):

http://host.madison.com/news/local/obituaries/karp-howard/article_fbbd171c-96da-5166-93e6-66b05ca2239a.html

Howard, Frances, Isabel and Ariana Karp 2013

Two stories have also celebrated Howard Karp as the patriarch of Madison’s First Family of Music (below in a past photo by Mike DeVries of The Capital Times, are, from left, violinist-pianist and doctor son Christopher Karp, who works for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; daughter-in-law biologist and violist Katrin Talbot; Howard Karp; cellist son Parry Karp; and pianist wife Frances Karp):

Karp Family in color

One is from Isthmus by Sandy Tabachnick, who got statements from fellow pianists and teachers Christopher Taylor, Bill Lutes, Martha Fischer and Jessica Johnson:

http://www.isthmus.com/daily/article.php?article=43120

Howard Karp ca. 1955

Another memorable story about Howard Karp (below with his wife of 63 years Frances, who survives him) was filed by Susannah Brooks, who also spoke with UW-Madison School of Music head Susan Cook (below bottom), for the University of Wisconsin-Madison News Service:

howard and frances karp

Susan C. Cook UW SOM BW CR Michael Forster Rothbart

And here is a wonderful appreciation of Howard Karp and the new 6-CD set of Karp’s live recordings by UW-Madison and WYSO alumnus Kenneth Woods (below). Woods is a composer, professional cellist and now the conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, who is also an acclaimed blogger (“A View From the Podium”) and an honored recording artist whose releases include world premiere recordings of music by Hans Gal.

http://kennethwoods.net/blog1/2014/07/07/6162/

Kenneth_Woods

And, finally, here is a small excerpt from that new 6-CD set on Albany Records. It is a triumphant recording of the first movement of the epic Fantasy in C Major, Op 17, by the Romantic composer Robert Schumann, which was written to raise money for a memorial statue to Ludwig van Beethoven.

In mood and meaning, the masterpiece is a fitting tribute to Howard Karp and to the art, generosity and devotion to both beauty and love with which he lived his life. As a teacher, a friend, a family man and a performer, Howard Karp lived his long, rich life in the service of bringing and sharing whatever beauty he could to other people.

 

 

 


Classical music: The delightful and impressive 36th annual Karp Family Labor Day Concert offers a glimpse into music history in the home and a wondrously talented family. Plus, duo-pianists Varshavski and Shapiro perform Saturday night at Farley’s.

September 4, 2013
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REMINDER: Duo-pianists Stanislava Varshavski and Diana Shapiro (below) will perform a program of Mozart, Schubert, Rachmaninoff and Stravinsky this Saturday night at 7:30 p.m at Farley’s House of Pianos with a pre-concert lecture at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 the day of the performance. For more information visit:

http://farleyspianos.com/concerts.html

Stanislava Varshavski-Diana Shapiro

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.

John-Barker

By John W. Barker

For 36 years, pianists Howard and Frances Karp (below)  have been opening the autumn season at the UW School of Music with a concert on the night of Labor Day.  Over the course of time, the Karp’s family circle has grown, and has been incorporated into these annual events.

howard and frances karp

I am ashamed to say that, for whatever reasons (forgivable or otherwise), this year’s has been the first one I have managed to catch up with.  That I have been missing a lot of remarkable music-making was made clear with the Karps’ program at Mills Hall on the evening of September 2.

What I recognized, too, was that these Karp concerts have come to be a window into a long-lost practice — that of music-making as a central activity of family life.  For past generations, long before the proverbial distractions of phonograph, radio, television, the Internet and Facebook, families would find satisfying entertainment together by gathering around the piano for evenings of music, both vocal and instrumental, and literature readings.  In effect, the Karps were inviting me, and the several hundred others of the audience, into their parlor for a feast of familial cultural fun.  To be sure, by a family of gifted musicians –mostly, but by no means exclusively, professional ones.

The program opened with music by Handel.  It began life as one of his Op. 2 Trio Sonatas for Two Violins and Continuo, here given as a Sonata for Two Cellos and Piano.  But any puristic protest would be irrelevant in this case, for what the Karps offered was what generations of players might do with music published for a consuming public that was bound to play it with whatever resources were around at the moment.  And so we heard three generations of Karps – – pianist Howard, his son, the brilliant cellist Parry, and the latter’s daughter Ariana (all below) — enjoy making this music their own.

Parry and Ariana with Howard Karp 2013

Parry Karp joined his brother, Christopher, a most effective pianist (also a violinist, but a doctor by profession and a distinguished medical scientist), in Beethoven’s Sonata No 5  in D Major for Cello and Piano, Op. 102, No. 2, one of the portal works into the composer’s Late Period, music of probing power.

Christopher and Parry Karp 2013

Perhaps the most fascinating material on the program was embodied in two other undertakings.  One was a work of 1988 by John Harbison, entitled “Novermber 19, 1828”.  The title is the date of Franz Schubert’s death, and the work, for piano quartet, is  a vision of that composer’s mind at the moment of his passing.

In its four movements, Harbison (below) has created snatches of could-be-by-Schubert music, including one actual fragment, to re-imagine the earlier master’s style in latter-day terms.  It culminates in Harbison’s fulfilment of the contrapuntal exercise, a projected fugue based on the letter-to-note coding of Schubert’s name, that the latter never carried out himself.  Music, in all, of clever but very moving homage from one master to another.

JohnHarbisonatpiano

For that work Frances and Parry were joined by Parry’s wife, violist Katrin Talbot, and the family friend Suzanne Beia (all below), who is Parry’s colleague in the Pro Arte Quartet.

Suzanne Beia, Katrin Talbot, Frances and Parry Karp 2013

The first half was noteworthy also for the variety of styles that composers used to compose fugues — from the transparency of Handel to the thorniness of Beethoven.

After the Harbison, the other fascinating novelty occupied the second half of the program.  Howard and Francis merged in playing the four-hand piano arrangements, made by Mendelssohn himself, of nine of the 12 orchestral pieces of incidental music (Op. 61) that he wrote for Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Interspersed among these movements were passages from the play itself, read by the granddaughters Ariana (below right) and Isabel Karp (below left) —  Parry’s and Katrin’s daughters —  both of whom are budding young actresses.  They even sang the parts for two choral numbers, the Fairies’ lullaby to Titania (omitted in the printed program listing) and the finale.

It was just what a talented family might put together for an evening’s romp, generations back, and delightful fun for the audience.

Howard, Frances, Isabel and Ariana Karp 2013

The artistic durability of Howard and Frances Karp is remarkable, but so also is the family tree of talent they have been generating.

All we can say is: Keep those Karps Koming!


Classical music: The 2012-13 concert season in Madison will open this Labor Day with the 36th annual FREE Karp Family Concert of chamber music by Handel, Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Harbison as well as drama by Shakespeare at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

September 1, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

Just a reminder that this Monday night – Sept. 3 or Labor Day – at 7:30 p.m., the University of Wisconsin will host the 36th annual Karp Family Concert in Mills Hall.

As always, this concert marks the beginning of the school year and the concert season.

And as always, it is FREE.

This year will feature dramatic reading as well as chamber music.

The participants will include grandparents, parents and grand children – truly a family affair.

And this year, medical doctor son Christopher Karp (below) will play the piano instead of the violin. Talk about talent!

The musical and dramatically gifted Karps (below) are proud that they have NEVER repeated a work in the 36 years.

And in all the years I have gone, I have never been disappointed.

No wonder that this is traditionally one of the best attended concerts of the year at the UW School of Music, and often packs Mills Hall. It deserves to.

For The Ear it is a MUST-HEAR.

Here are particulars in an official press release:

36th Karp Family Opening Concert of the Faculty Concert Series

The Karp Family presents its 36th concert to launch the new season at the School of Music.

Three generations comprise this year’s ensemble, augmented by guest artists from the community and the school’s faculty. Participants include narrator Isabel Karp; Pro Arte Quartet second violinist Suzanne Beia; violist Katrin Talbot; cellists Parry Karp and Ariana Karp (below, in a photo by her violist mother Katrin Talbot, playing a cello duet with her father Parry Karp); and husband-and-wife pianists Howard and Frances Karp.

The program consists of: Sonata in G minor, Op. 2 No. 8 for Two Celli and Piano (1719) by G.F. Handel (at bottom); the piano quartet “November 19, 1828” that memorializes the death of composer Franz Schubert written in 1988 by John Harbison (below), who summers in Madison and co-directs the nearby Token Creek Chamber Music Festival; Sonata in D Major for Piano and Cello, Op. 102 No. 2 (1815) by Ludwig van Beethoven; and excerpts from Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” with incidental music by Felix Mendelssohn, Op. 61 (1843).


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