The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: You Must Hear This -– the Romance for Viola and Orchestra by Max Bruch.

October 26, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

I saw and heard Madison-born and Madison-raised violist Vicki Powell (below) last Wednesday night. That was when the alumna of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO), the UW-Madison School of Music, the Juilliard School and the Curtis Institute  who now plays with the New York Philharmonic and other prestigious groups and who has participated in the Marlboro and Aspen festivals, returned from New York City to solo with the Middleton Community Orchestra.

Vicki Powell at MCO

It was a wonderful and thoroughly enjoyable performance as well as very affordable event, as you can read in the review by John W. Barker that was posted yesterday.

Here is a link:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/10/25/classical-music-the-middleton-community-orchestra-opens-its-season-with-polished-viola-playing-from-vicki-powell-and-infectious-enthusiasm-from-the-entire-orchestra-in-a-dvorak-symphony/

After the concert done in the terrific 90-minute, no intermission format that I think attracts many people, there was a meet-and-greet, with cookies and punch, where the public and the musicians could mingle – and did.

MCO June 2014 reception

That’s when I went up to the lovely, gifted and poised Vicki Powell and remarked on how beautiful her playing had been with the MCO under conductor Steve Kurr (below top). I was quite taken with her reading of the rarely heard Fantasy on Themes by Mozart for Viola and Orchestra by Johann Nepomuk Hummel (below bottom).

Hummel remains a much underappeciated composer who was invited by none other than Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart himself to live in his house and take free lessons.

Vicki Powell and Steve Kurr MCO finale

Hummelcolor

But what really swept me away was the Romance for Viola and Orchestra by the 19th-century Romantic German composer Max Bruch (below).

max bruch

I have heard Max Bruch’s popular violin concertos – especially No. 1  in G minor — and his Kol Nidre for cello and piano as well as his Scottish Fantasy for violin and orchestra.

But this work was completely new and unknown to me, but captivated me from the first notes. No 10 listenings or more needed to like and appreciate this work!

“I am amazed it hasn’t yet been used for a movie soundtrack,” I said to Powell.

“Really?” she said. “So am I.”

That is how beautiful and tuneful, how accessible and emotional, it is.

And maybe you will be surprised too.

So here is a YouTube video of the work performed by violist Miles Hoffman, who also comments frequently on classical music for NPR (National Public Radio). It lasts about 9-1/2 minutes and is pure loveliness.

Miles Hoffman NPR

And maybe it has indeed been used in the movies.

If so and you know, please let us know.

And let us know what you think of the piece, which The Ear thinks deserves to be programmed much more often, even though the viola is not often featured as a solo instrument with orchestra. (All the more reason to admire the Middleton Community Orchestra and its mission.)

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: Here is an update with more details about the memorial celebration for the late UW-Madison pianist Howard Karp on Sunday, Aug. 31, at 3 p.m.

August 15, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Members of the Karp family have asked The Ear to fill you in about some more details concerning the memorial celebration for the late Howard Karp (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot).

Howard Karp ca. 2000 by Katrin Talbot

As you may recall, Howard Karp, who taught for decades at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as well as at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and the University of Kentucky, died unexpectedly this summer on June 30. He was 84. Here is a link to an announcement that was posted on this blog about Karp’s death.

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

Howard Karp's hands by Katrin Talbot

A FREE memorial celebration of his life and career is planned for Sunday, Aug. 31, at 3 p.m. in Mills Hall.

And here is a link to a previous post, with link to other sources, about the reception:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/07/21/classical-music-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-jou/

Although some official announcements and this blog have said the memorial will run from 3 to 6 p.m., The Ear has been told that the celebration will probably last from 3 p.m. to about 5 p.m. with a reception to follow.

That reception will be held either in the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music courtyard, if the weather permits, or in the lounge outside Mills Hall.

The master of ceremonies for the event will be Bill Lutes (below right, with his wife, UW-Madison pianist Martha Fischer. Lutes studied with Howard Karp and still teaches piano in Madison. You may also recall his name from his days at Wisconsin Public Radio and as a coach with the University Opera.

martha fischer and bill lutes

Most of the music will be recordings made by Howard Karp himself, including a new 6-CD set of live performances from Albany Records. (On a CD from the UW-Madison School of Music, at the bottom in SoundCloud, you can hear Howard Karp playing the well-known “Heroic” Polonaise in A-flat, Op. 53  by Frederic Chopin.)

There will also be some live performances.

Cellist son Parry Karp will be joined by his violinist-pianist brother Christopher Karp, who is a medical doctor specializing in infectious diseases and who works with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,  to perform “Kol Nidre” by Max Bruch.

Then the Karp Family, which usually gave a FREE Labor Day concert for more than 30 years, will perform the slow movement from the Piano Quartet by Robert Schumann. The players will be violinist son Christopher Karp, pianist wife Frances Karp, cellist Parry Karp and his violist wife Katrin Talbot.

Karp Family in color

Acclaimed keyboard artist Malcolm Bilson (below), who has retired from teaching at Cornell University is slated to play the piano – rather than his specialty, which is the early music fortepiano — in music by Franz Schubert.

Malcom Bilson 2

As more details develop, they will get posted here.

Here is Howard Karp’s stirring and daring reading of Chopin’s “Heroic” Polonaise.

https://soundcloud.com/uw-madisonsom

Howard Karp ca. 1955


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