The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: This Saturday, “Live From the Met in HD” offers a controversial and innovative production of Verdi’s “Otello.” Here are some background stories plus a positive review from The New York Times.

October 15, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

This Saturday, “Live From The Met in HD” will present a live performance by the Metropolitan Opera of Giuseppe Verdi’s “Otello,” which is based on William Shakespeare’s tragedy “Othello.”

This is the production that has made news because it is the first one in the history of The Met not to use blackface. (Below, in a photo by Ken Howard for The Metropolitan Opera, are the Latvian tenor Aleksandrs Antonenko, right, as Otello and baritone Zjelko Lucic as Iago.)

otello (left) Aleksandrs Antonenko CR Ken Howard:Metropolitan Opera

This year marks the 10th season of the popular and innovative series of high-definition broadcasts that are beamed via satellite to 2,000 screens in 70 countries.

In Madison, the opera can be seen at the Point Cinemas on the city’s far west side and at Eastgate cinemas on the far east side.

Admission is $24 for adults and $22 for seniors 60 and over; and $18 for children 3 to 11. Tickets to the encore productions are $18.

The performance starts at 11:55 a.m. and will last about 2 hours and 45 minutes including an intermission. (Below center is the acclaimed Bulgarian soprano Sonja Yoncheva as Desdemona.)

Otello Met Sonja Yoncheva as Desdemona

The handsome new and ingenious Romantic-era production (below top) in a photo by Sarah Krulwich for The New York Times) has been praised for its stage direction by Bartlett Sher.

Otello (Aleksandrs Antonenko) and Iago (Zeljko Lucic, right) CR Sara Krulwich NYT

Also drawing praise is the production’s firebrand conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin (below bottom), the acclaimed French-Canadian music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra who reportedly is a likely candidate to succeed the legendary James Levine as music director of The Met.

Yannick Nezet-Seguin in aciton

For information about the cast and a synopsis:

https://www.metopera.org/Season/In-Cinemas/SynopsisCast/Otello/

https://www.metopera.org/Season/2015-16-Season/otello-verdi-tickets/

From NPR or National Public Radio, here is a story about The Met foregoing blackface in this production. It is especially interesting because the reporter talks to an African American tenor who does not object to the use of such makeup:

http://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2015/09/21/442279816/farewell-to-blackfaced-otellos-at-the-met

And here is a debate about the blackface issue in which the central question is: If you didn’t know the plot of the play or opera, would you realize the pivotal role that race plays in the story without blackface? Read it and decide for yourself. (In a YouTube video at bottom is part of the love duet between Otello and Desdemona.)

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/01/arts/music/debating-otello-blackface-and-casting-trends.html?_r=0

Finally, here is a positive review by Anthony Tommasini for The New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/23/arts/music/review-metropolitan-operas-new-otello-bold-and-tentative.html


Classical music: The early music group Ensemble SDG will perform psalms by Heinrich Schütz and other composers as well as sonatas and a canticle this Saturday night at Luther Memorial Church.

November 20, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Madison-based duo Ensemble SDG will perform a concert of early music on this Saturday night, November 22, 2014, at 7 p.m. in the Luther Memorial Church (below), 1021 University Avenue, in Madison, Wisconsin.

luther memorial church madison

The concert will feature special guests William Hudson, tenor, and Katherine Shuldiner, viola da gamba.

The program includes settings of Psalm texts by Heinrich Schütz (below with his psalms at bottom in a YouTube video), Johann Hermann Schein, and Jacques de Bournonville, with a setting by Johann Philipp Krieger of the anonymous canticle Laetare anima mea, as well as sonatas by Giovanni Battista Fontana, Dieterich Buxtehude and Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre.

Heinrich Schutz

Ensemble SDG (below) features Madison musicians Edith Hines, baroque violin, and John Chappell Stowe, professor of harpsichord and organ at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. The duo has performed across the United States, and their recording of the complete works of J. S. Bach for violin and keyboard is soon to be released by Arabesque Records.

William Hudson is a founding member and director of LIBER: Ensemble for Early Music and was recently appointed Assistant Professor of voice and diction at Illinois Wesleyan University (Bloomington, Ill.).

Katherine Shuldiner recently graduated from Oberlin Conservatory of Music, specializing in viola da gamba performance. She lives and works in Chicago, Illinois.

ensemble sdg new USE

Admission to the concert on November 22 is $15; admission is free for students with a valid ID.

Ensemble SDG, a baroque violin and keyboard duo formed in 2009, performs music spanning the entire Baroque period, with a particular focus on the works of Johann Sebastian Bach. The duo has presented works by German, French and Italian composers of the 17th and 18th centuries in recitals from the Midwest to the East Coast. Venues include Fringe Concerts at the 2009, 2011, and 2013 Boston Early Music Festivals; a recital featuring the Brombaugh organ at First Presbyterian Church in Springfield, Illinois; the biennial meeting of the American Bach Society and the annual joint conclave of the Midwest and Southeastern Historical Keyboard Societies; the Michigan Festival of Sacred Music; Wisconsin Public Radio’s Sunday Afternoon Live from the Chazen; and multiple appearances at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, one being a performance of J.S. Bach’s six sonatas for violin and obbligato keyboard. This fall the duo will release a recording of Bach’s complete works for violin and keyboard.

Ensemble SDG takes its name from the epigraph (below top) used by Johann Sebastian Bach (below bottom) to sign many of his works. Soli Deo Gloria (“to God alone the glory”) represents the members’ common approach to music and to life, and it is with this grounding that they approach their technique, choice of repertoire, and interpretative decisions.

sdg

Bach1

Highly sought after as a specialist in historical performance, tenor William Hudson has been described as “positively hypnotic” by Gramophone magazine.  An accomplished ensemble singer, Mr. Hudson has performed with many of the nation’s leading early music ensembles including the Boston Early Music Festival Opera, The New York Collegium, The Waverly Consort, The Rose Ensemble, Boston Bach Ensemble, and Ensemble Project Ars Nova (PAN).

As a founding member and director of LIBER: Ensemble for Early Music (formerly Liber unUsualis), he has performed extensively throughout North America and abroad at international music festivals in England, Wales, Ireland, Belgium, Germany, France, Latvia, Estonia, and Spain. Mr. Hudson also enjoys an active solo career, singing the Evangelist in Johann Sebastian Bach’s St. John Passion, Apollo in Claudio Monteverdi’s Orfeo, the title role in Giacomo Carissimi’s Jephte, Lucano in Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea, Mercury in Eccles’ Judgment of Paris, and Alessandro Stradella’s oratorio San Giovanni Battista with the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra.

An active scholar and clinician, Mr. Hudson (below, in a photo by Tall & Small Photography) was the winner of the 2009 Noah Greenberg award and has presented at the International Congress of Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo. He has led master-classes and given lecture-demonstrations in medieval performance practice at universities throughout North America. He has recorded with Naxos, Passacaille, Arsis, Titanic and Dorian. Mr. Hudson holds a Master’s degree in Historical Performance from the Longy School of Music and a Doctor of Music in Early Music from Indiana University. He is a Visiting Assistant Professor of voice and diction at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Illinois.

William Hudson Tall & Small Photography

Katherine Shuldiner graduated from Oberlin Conservatory in viola da gamba performance under the tutelage of Catharina Meints. She has performed with Chicago based ensembles such as The Newberry Consort, BBE: Bach and Beethoven Ensemble, and The OC (The Opera Company).

She has also performed with Washington Bach Consort and La Follia Austin Baroque. Katherine recently finished her two-year term on the board of the Viola da Gamba Society of America and was chosen to perform in the first Early Music America’s Young Performers Festival during Boston Early Music Festival. This past summer, Katherine taught at the Madison Early Music Festival as well as the VdGSA Conclave.

katherine shuldiner USE

 


Classical music: The Wisconsin Chamber Choir will perform a concert of Russian and Baltic music this Saturday night — in the shadow of political events and turmoil in Ukraine. Plus, the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Wisconsin Brass Quintet also performs a FREE concert of Bach, Gershwin and others on Saturday night.

March 28, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Two fine and FREE concerts are on tap this Saturday night:

WISCONSIN CHAMBER CHOIR

On this Saturday night, March 29, in the critically acclaimed Wisconsin Chamber Choir (below) will perform its spring concert.

Wisconsin Chamber Choir 1

The concert takes place at 7:30 p.m. at Grace Episcopal Church (below top is the exterior, below bottom the acoustically terrific beautiful interior), located at the corner of West Washington Avenue at Carroll Street, on the Capitol Square in downtown Madison.

grace episcopal church ext

grace episcopal church inter

The concert features Russian music. But it worth noting that even an event this small and this local shows the ripples of the political situation in Ukraine where Russia has illegally annexed Crimea. Tickets are $15 for general admission; $10 for students. “Because of the situation in Ukraine (below), the choir made a decision to change the title of the concert from “Back to the U.S.S.R.” to just “Spring Concert,” the choir says. “We are confident the change will help our audience focus on the beautiful music and not current politics.”

Venezuela protest 2014

The riches of Russian choral music will be represented by selections from the Vespers by Sergei Rachmaninoff (below top) along with ravishingly beautiful works by  Alexander Grechaninov (below middle in 1912) and Pavel Grigorievich Chesnokov (below bottom and at bottom in a YouTube video).

rachmaninoffyoung

Alexander Grechaninov in 1912

Chesnokov mug

The scope widens to include sacred and secular music from various former Soviet Republics. Works by Veljo Tormis (below top) of Estonia), Pēteris Vasks of Latvia (below middle) and Vytautas Miškinis of Lithuania (below n bottom) exemplify the vibrant choral traditions of the Baltic states.

Tormis

Vasks

Miskinis portrait

Sacred and secular works from Armenia, Georgia, Ukraine, and Belarus round out this fascinating and varied program. There is also the possibility of something by the Beatles John Lennon and Paul McCartney (blew left and right, respectively) to bring things to a rousing close.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney

Advance tickets are available for $15 from www.wisconsinchamberchoir.org, via Brown Paper Tickets, or at Willy Street Coop (East and West locations) and Orange Tree Imports. Student tickets are $10. Founded in 1999, the Madison-based Wisconsin Chamber Choir has established a reputation for excellence in the performance of oratorios by Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Franz Joseph Haydn; a cappella masterworks from various centuries; and world-premieres. Robert Gehrenbeck (below) is the Wisconsin Chamber Choir’s artistic director.

Robert Gehrenbeck

WISCONSIN BRASS QUINTET

The Wisconsin Brass Quintet (below, in a 2013 performance photo by Jon Harlow) in residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, will perform a FREE concert on Saturday night, March 29,  8 p.m. in Mills Hall on the University of Wisconsin-Maidson campus.

WBQ members include John Aley, trumpet; Jessica Jensen, trumpet; Daniel Grabois, horn; Mark Hetzler, trombone; John Stevens, tuba; and special guest Abby Stevens, soprano, who is the daughter of John Stevens, who is retiring this May.

The program offers “Distant Voices” by David Sampson; “Brass Calendar” by Peter Schickele, aka P.D.Q. Bach); “Contrapunctus” by Johann Sebastian Bach; and a selection of songs by George Gershwin sung by Abby Stevens.

Wisconsin Brass Quintet 2013 CR Jon Harlow

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