The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Malt House craft beer tavern is seeking classical musicians to perform chamber music. A guitarist performs this afternoon

January 23, 2016
3 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following message from Bill Rogers, the owner of The Malt House tavern on Madison’s near east side. It fits in with the national and international trend of performing classical music in non-traditional venues such as bars, cafes and coffee houses, much like what the Classical Revolution movement does here and Le Poisson Rouge does in New York City do. So The Ear thinks what Rogers says will interest both performers and listeners.

Hi Jake,

Thanks for calling and asking about classical music at The Malt House (below). I love the name of your blog!

Malt House exterior

malt house interior

I put up a flier in Metcalfe’s seeking musicians who’d like a place to perform. I’ve got three bookings from that flier, and I will try other locations soon.

Upcoming performances include:

Jeff Larsen (below) — Classical Guitar – TODAY, Saturday Jan. 23, 3-5 p.m.

Jeff Larsen 2 guitar

Yahara String Quartet (below) —  (classical and love songs, “pops-style”) – Saturday, Feb. 13, 3-5 p.m.

Yahara String Quartet

Jeff Larsen and Inna Larsen — Classical Guitar and Violin — Saturday March 12, 3-5 p.m.

Karl von Huene (below)– Solo Cello – Saturday, March 26, 3-5 p.m.

Karl von Huene cello

Unfortunately, there is no piano to use. And patrons seem to prefer instrumental music to vocal music.

The musicians play 2 hours, including a beer break. Alas, these are not paid gigs. They play for tips and beer. People DO tip.

I don’t play, but I’ve been a fan of classical music since high school (40 years ago). I subscribed a few years ago to the Madison Symphony Orchestra at the Overture Center, but I found the atmosphere stifling although the music was amazing. Nobody bobbed their heads, tapped their toes or fingers, nobody “air conducted.” Meh. There was no life in the room!

I’m also not likely to seek out concerts in churches either, because I like a drink while I listen.

I wanted a more vibrant and intimate experience and, as a bar owner, I happen to have a small performance space.

So … I’m looking for chamber music-style experiences for our customers, and lively feedback for performers.

Chamber music is party music. That’s what it was written for, yes? It belongs in parties, bars, etc.

Malt House party drinking

I think there’s an unmet need for intimate, relaxed, classical performances. I want my bar to be the place people come for weekend classics. A lot of University of Wisconsin faculty, staff, technicians and others who live near us come here, and they seem to respond well to these shows.

The Yahara String Quartet has played at The Malt House several times before. Attendance was decent, we sold a fair number of drinks, and everyone had a great afternoon. They’ve received a few wedding bookings because people heard them here.

I’m seeking other musicians because they’re often busy with other performances, and normal family life. I can’t book them as often as I’d like. Incidentally, I found them because one of the violinists also plays fiddle for the Oak Street Ramblers, a bluegrass band playing here monthly.

About the bar: We’ve been in business almost 8 years. Isthmus Readers voted us best craft beer bar five consecutive years, Madison Magazine named us 2nd best beer bar twice, and we’ve been named one of the 10 hottest places in America to drink whiskey by Zagat. Besides a great beer and whiskey selection, we have a full bar setup, so wine, cocktails, cider and other beverages are all available.

We’re at the corner of East Washington Avenue and Milwaukee Street. Red Letter News is kitty-corner from us, and that’s the landmark people recognize when asking “where are you on East Wash?”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cheers,

Bill Rogers, Owner,

The Malt House

2609 East Washington Avenue

Madison, WI 53704

MaltHouseTavern@gmail.com


Classical music: Should soloists perform using a score or not? Which is more liberating for the performer, for the audience and especially for the music?

January 6, 2013
10 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

As he often does, the New York Times’ senior music critic Anthony Tommasini recently raised an important question:

After 200 years or so, are we starting to see a trend developing whereby the stigma of performing solo music with a score is disappearing and the use of scores is increasing in legitimacy? Many conservatories or schools of music even require students to perform without a score for a degree recital. But that may be changing.

Tommasini’s column had the perfect headline: “Playing by heart – without or without the score.”

And Tommasini drew on three specific recent examples of pianists: Alexandre Tharaud, who played Scarlatti and Satie’s “Le Boeuf sur le Toit” at Le Poisson Rouge with a score; Andras Schiff, who played both books of J.S. Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier” without a score; and Emanuel Ax, who used a score for solo Bach but did not use a score for solo Schoenberg. I have also seen Christopher O’Riley and others use scores on an iPad with a foot switch to turn pages. (All of Tommasini’s examples are seen below. First is Alexandre Tharaud, below, in a photo by Ruby Washington of The New York Times. Tharaud’s playing is also heard at the bottom.)

Alexandre Tharaud at Poisson Rouge with score Ruby Washington NY Times

Is this a healthy or unhealthy development? Well it seems to depend on the individual performer and certain kinds of music (generally you find Chopin played without a score, but Elliott Carter and other new music with a score.)

Here is a link to Tommasini’s think piece:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/01/arts/music/memorizations-loosening-hold-on-concert-tradition.html?ref=anthonytommasini&_r=0

The Ear is of two minds.

On the one, hand I remember reading pianist veteran Murray Perahia (below) saying that although he loved playing chamber music and did so with a score, he felt most on top of the music when he memorized it and played it without a score. And the concerts I have heard by him all suggest he is right.

I’ll also bet that Murray Perahia has excellent nerves for performing, and a relative lack of stage fright of the incapacitating kind. He has the right temperament.

murray perahia at piano

On the other hand, even a master like Sviatoslav Richter (below) spent his last years using a score – and many critics said with great results. Of course, he said he turned to the score because age brought a decline in his perfect pitch, which used to help guide him through scoreless performances without wrong notes. Plus, the ability to memorize deteriorates with age.

richterwithcross1

And I can’t deny it: There is something so basic, so elemental and essential, about seeing a musician sit down at a piano or a cello and or stand with a violin, and start making music without any music in front of him or her.

It just all comes from within. Yes it is showy and impressive, but it also inner and poetic. I feel like I am hearing more directly and personally from the performers and that the lack of a score allows for certain liberties of subjective interpretation. (Below is a photo by Ruby Washington of The New York Times of Andras Schiff recently playing J.S. Bach by memory at the 92nd Street Y.)

Andras Schiff playing Bach's WTC by menory at 92nd St Y Ruby Washington NY Times

What do you think about playing with a score?

Should solo pianists, singers, cellists, violinists and others now feel that using a score is just fine?

I’ll bet that many of them don’t t really use the score They have already have the music memorized and simply find the score reassuring, as a kind of insurance against memory lapses and the like. (Below is a photo by Hiroyuki Ito of  The New York Times of Emanuel Ax using a score to play some solo Bach before he played with an ensemble.)

Emanuel Ax using a score with NY Phil Hiroyuki Ito for NY Tmes

But what about opera singers using a score?

What do you think?

If you are a performer, The Ear especially wants to hear from you.

And if are an audience member, I also want to hear from you about what you think of heating a performer play scoreless or with a score.


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