The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: ECM Records finally streams its entire catalogue of award-winning artists and recordings

November 18, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

The critically acclaimed and award-winning independent label ECM (Edition of Contemporary Music) was founded in Munich, Germany, in 1969 by the Grammy-winning producer Manfred Eicher (below).

Known for its penchant for the contemporary and even avant-garde, Eicher’s label was nonetheless a conservative hold-out when it came to the newer technology of digital streaming.

The old technology has its points besides superior sound quality. When you got an ECM CD, you usually also got one of their terrific black-and-white photographs, often a square-format landscape, as a cover. (ECM even published a book of its photographic covers.)

But as of this past Friday, ECM finally gave into the inevitable and streamed its entire catalogue. Its rationale was that it was more important for its music and musicians to be heard than to remain loyal to certain platforms.

ECM also cited the pressure from unauthorized uploads to YouTube and bootleg versions of its recordings as the reason for the decision.

So as of yesterday, ECM, which has won many awards for individual titles and artists, will be available on Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon, Deezer, Tidal and other streaming services.

ECM is known for its popular and critically acclaimed jazz artists including pianist Keith Jarrett (below, of “The Köln Concert” or The Cologne Concert) and saxophonist Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble (“Officium”). But it also included classical chamber music groups such as the Keller Quartet, the Trio Medieval, the Danish Quartet and others.

ECM is also known for championing contemporary classical composers (Arvo Pärt, below, who is the most performed contemporary composer, as well as Tigur Mansurian, Lera Auerbach, Gyorgy Kurtag and Valentin Silvestrov among others) and some outstanding crossover classical musicians, including Jarrett, a jazz great who has also recorded Bach, Handel and Shostakovich on both piano and harpsichord.

The Ear especially likes violist Kim Kashkashian and Harvard pianist Robert Levin (a frequent performer at the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival) in sonatas of Brahms. He is also fond of Alexei Lubimov in various piano recitals as well as the many recordings of Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, Janacek and Robert Schumann by the superb pianist Andras Schiff (below). In the YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear Schiff in a live performance of the Gigue from Bach’s Keyboard Partita No. 3.)

And there are many, many more artists and recordings worth your attention. Here is a link to an extensive sampler on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/user/ECMRecordsChannel

Who are your favorite ECM artists?

What are your favorite ECM recordings?

What ECM downloads do you recommend?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: YOU MUST HEAR THIS songful, lyrical and movingly bittersweet Cavatina movement from the Sonata for Cello and Piano by Francis Poulenc.

March 16, 2014
4 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Perhaps you missed the performance a week ago Saturday night by University of Wisconsin-Madison cellist Parry Karp (below left) and UW-Oshkosh pianist Eli Kalman (below right), who seem perfectly matched in their technical abilities and interpretive viewpoints.

Parry Karp and Eli Kalman

The longtime duo (below top) turned in terrific performances of demanding music by Ludwig van Beethoven (Violin Sonata in G Major, Op 30, No. 3, as arranged by Parry Karp), 24 Preludes for Piano by Dmitri Shostakovich (as arranged by the contemporary Russian composer Lera Auerbach) and the lovely Sonata for Cello and Piano by the 20th-century French composer Francis Poulenc (below bottom), which for The Ear centered around a lovely Cavatina slow movement that has that tuneful heartbreak so typical of Poulenc.

Parry Karp and Eli Kalman 2014

Francis Poulenc

If you missed the performance, you have another chance to hear much of the program, including the difficult to play but lovely to hear Poulenc sonata.

The Karp-Kalman duo will be again perform the Cello Sonata by Poulenc in Brittingham Gallery 3 of the Chazen Museum of Art a week from today, on Sunday, March 23. They will perform it for FREE on Wisconsin Public Radio’s weekly program “Sunday Live From the Chazen” that airs live statewide (88.7 FM in the Madison area) most Sundays from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Also on the program is a transcription of the song “O Tod, wie bitter bist du,” Op. 121, No. 3, by Johannes Brahms. The second half will be the 24 Preludes for solo piano of Dmitri Shostakovich in the cello-piano arrangement by Russian composer Lera Auerbach.

SAL3

But whether you hear the Cavatina – a word for a simple song, a genre made famous when used by Beethoven in his late String Quartet in B-Flat Major, Op. 130 — live or not, YOU MUST HEAR IT. It is sheer beauty that uses the kind of popular and accessible vernacular music from the music hall that characterizes so much of Poulenc’s music.

So here are the French cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras and the French pianist Alexandre Tharaud, in a recording for the Harmonia Mundi label, as posted in a YouTube video at the bottom.

Use the COMMENT section to let The Ear know what you think, if you like the music and if you know of other works that are similar to it, for they too will probably be must-hear’s.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfEsw38Ru24

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Classical music: Good-byes to UW composer and tuba master John Stevens and hellos to guest singers from the Sibelius Academy of Finland make this a busy week at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. Plus, there will also be a piano recital by UW alumus Ilia Radoslavov, a concert of new music by the UW Contemporary Chamber Ensemble and a cello recital by Parry Karp of the Pro Arte Quartet.

March 3, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

This is a very busy week to say good-byes and hellos at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music – as well as to hear a piano master class and recital by UW graduate Ilia Radoslavov; a concert of new music by the UW Contemporary Chamber Ensemble; and a recital by UW cellist Parry Karp. Plus, all the events are FREE and UNTICKETED.

GOOD-BYES

Let’s start with the good-byes, which are for the prolific and award-winning American composer John Stevens, a congenial man and musician who is also a longtime professor of tuba and euphonium at the UW-Madison, where he has twice served as director of the School of Music and where he has been a longtime member of the acclaimed Wisconsin Brass Quintet.

john stevens lon gprofile with tuba

Several events are scheduled to mark Stevens’ retirement, which will take place this May when the current semester ends.

Among the highlights are:

On this Saturday, March 8, at 4 p.m. in Music Hall, there is a chamber music concert featuring works composed by John Stevens and performed by his colleagues.

John Stevens writing with tuba and piano

On this Sunday, Match 9, at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, inhere is a FREE concert that is part of the Wisconsin Union Theater series. The UW Symphony Orchestra under conductor James Smith will perform Stevens’ concerto for Tuba and Orchestra called “Journey.” The soloist is Gene Pakorny (below), who premiered the work during his tenure as principal tuba with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Also on the program are the Symphony No. 2 in D Major and the “Academic Festival” Overture, both by Johannes Brahms.

Gene Pakorny

And there will be more. For a full listing of events plus some background, the School of Music calendar of events plus some background, the School of Music events calendar is a good place to start:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/calendar

There is also a terrific profile story about John Stevens and his retirement celebrations on Fanfare, the MUST-READ new blog at the UW School of Music:

Here is a link to Fanfare’s list of complete events with details of programs:

http://uwmadisonschoolofmusic.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/spring2014_stevens_concerts.pdf

And here is a link to Fanfare’s fine profile of Stevens written by Madison freelancer Paul Baker:

http://uwmadisonschoolofmusic.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/stevens/

And at the bottom is a YouTube video of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras giving the world premiere performance of “Fanfare for an Uncommon Man,” a piece playing off Aaron Copland’s famous “Fanfare for the Common Man” that John Stevens composed to honor the late Marvin Rabin, who founded and directed WYSO for such a long time and who recently died at 97.

John Stevens

HELLOS

Although the official hellos actually started Sunday afternoon, there are plenty of occasions during the rest of this week to say hello to three members (below) of the Sibelius Academy of Finland, who are in residence this week at the UW School of Music.

Finnish Singers from the Sibelius Academy

All events are Free and Unticketed

Here is a schedule:

Monday, March 3, 11-11:50 a.m.: Presentation on Finnish song repertoire (Room 2531 of the George L. Mosse Humanities Building)

On Tuesday, March 4, 11-11:50 a.m. — Presentation on Finnish diction (Room 2451 in the Mosse Humanities Building); then 1:10-2:25 p.m. — Presentation on Finnish music education system (in Room 2411 of the Mosse Humanities Building)

On
 Saturday, March 8, at 1 p.m. – a concert at Luther Memorial Church (below), 1021 University Avenue, that includes a world premiere of a work for two voices and organ
 followed by gathering in church basement to talk with audience.

luther memorial church madison

OTHER EVENTS

Three other events at the UW-Madison deserve mention:

UW doctoral graduate (who studied with Christopher Taylor) and prize-winning pianist Ilia Radoslavov, who ow techies at Truman State University, will give a FREE public master class on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall.

Then on Friday night at 8 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall, he perform a FREE recital. The program includes Piano Sonata in D Major, Op. 10, No. 3, by Ludwig van Beethoven; “
Improvisation” by Pancho Vladigerov; and
 “Pictures at an Exhibition” by Modeste Mussorgsky.

ilia Radoslavov

Also on Friday, at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Contemporary Chamber Ensemble (below top), under the direction of UW composer Laura Schwendinger (below bottom), will perform a FREE concert of new and recent music.

The program includes “In C” by Terry Riley; a 
Trio for clarinet, violin, and cello by Ben Johnston; 
”Cottage Flowers” for solo flute by UW student Jonathan Posthuma, and “Cummingsong” by Leo Kraft
; the Serenade for flute, viola, and piano by Andrew Imbrie; and a work by UW composer Adam Bertz. Performers include Jordan Wilson, baritone; Peter Miliczky and Lydia Balge, violins; Ju Dee Ang, viola; Philip Bergman, cello; Nicole Tuma, flute; Alissa Ladas, clarinet; and Yosuke Yamada, piano. 

Contemporary Chamber Ensemble

Laura_Schwendinger,_Composer

On Saturday at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, UW cellist Parry Karp (below left), who is a member of the Pro Arte String Quartet, will perform a FREE recital with pianist Eli Kalman (below right), a graduate of the UW-Madison who now teaches at the UW-Oshkosh.

Parry Karp and Eli Kalman

The program includes the Sonata for Piano and Violin in G Major, Op. 30 No. 3 (1801-2), by Ludwig van Beethoven as  transcribed for Cello by Parry Karp; the Sonata for Cello and Piano (1948) by Francis Poulenc; and 24 Preludes for Cello and Piano as transcribed for cello by the young and prodigious Russian composer Lera Auerbach from the original 24 Preludes for solo piano by Dmirtri Shostakovich.

Lera Auerbach

dmitri shostakovich

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Classical music: Listen to American violinist Hilary Hahn revive the old tradition of salon music by playing the 27 short encores she commissioned from today’s important composers.

November 23, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

A frequent critic and gifted guest reviewer on this web site recently referred to Chicago violinist Rachel Barton Pine as the most exciting violin talent to emerge on the American scene.

Well, Barton Pine is indeed special and very gifted, as she proved earlier this month when she opened the Wisconsin Union Theater season with the magnificent Violin Concerto by Johannes Brahms, performed with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Symphony Orchestra conducted under the baton of UW alumnus and Madison native Kenneth Woods.

Here is a link to that review:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/11/04/classical-music-the-wisconsin-union-theater-opens-its-new-season-with-a-winning-blockbuster-program-of-brahms-and-shostakovich-performed-by-native-son-conductor-kenneth-woods-chicago-violist-rachel/

But The Ear has to respectfully disagree.

For my money, or my taste, or my values — whatever you want to call it —  the most exciting violin talent on the American scene is Hilary Hahn (below).

hilary_hahn

Hahn performs the classics and the great masterworks terrifically, with a great sense of architectural shape and beautiful tone, plus exciting but not exaggerated or distorted interpretations.

She also plays modern works and commissions works, including a Pulitzer Prize-winning Violin Concerto by Jennifer Higdon (below) who teaches composition at the same Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia where Hahn trained.

And her two recitals with the then relatively unknown pianist Valentina Lisitsa at the Wisconsin Union Theater were among the best performed and most originally programmed recitals that I have ever heard.

Jennifer Higdon and cat Beau

Oh, and Hilary Hahn also blogs, by the way.

And she also did her own interviews, posted on YouTube, with the 27 composers — including Max Richter, Lera Auerbach and Avner Dorfman — who composed the encores.

Check out her website: http://hilaryhahn.com

Now the heirloom record label Deutsche Grammophon has released the “The Hilary Hahn Encores in 27 Pieces,” which features 27 recently composed pieces, all commissioned by Hahn for her use as concert encores. It is a welcome throwback, in a way, to salon music and to composers like virtuoso violinist Fritz Kreisler.

Hilary Hahn Encores CD cover

I don’t know how they did it – I suspect it was some kind of swap for advertising space – but NPR has terrific classical music blog “Deceptive Cadence” and a feature called “First Listen” that also allows you to hear some music before it is released commercially. (But, as I understand it, you can’t download it or recorded it from the NPR site.)

NPR did the same for Jeremy Denk’s acclaimed new recording for the Nonesuch label of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Goldberg” Variations.

Anyway, here is a link to the new Hilary Hahn CD of encores. Enjoy the music and listening to it.

http://www.npr.org/2013/11/03/242090716/first-listen-hilary-hahn-in-27-pieces-the-hilary-hahn-encores

And let us know your Top 5 picks of the 27, or even just your Top Pick.

It will be interesting to see if there is a consensus and what ones are liked the most.

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music news: How many living women composers can you name? Which ones have ties to the University of Wisconsin-Madison or will be performed there Wednesday night by The Lincoln Trio at a FREE concert?

April 7, 2012
6 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Forgive my tardiness: Several weeks ago we celebrated international Women’s Day.

And one curator, compiler and blogger – Rob Deemer — has compied a list of 202 contemporary women composers, assuming that someone might want direction in finding such composers.

I find this list useful also as a check list of the women composers I have heard performed and ones I should watch out for.

For example, I recently heard University of Wisconsin cellist Parry Karp, with UW grad and UW-Oshkosh pianist Eli Kalman, perform a terrify work of “Twenty-Four Preludes and a Postlude” by the young Russian composer and polymath  Lera Auerbach. It was a stunning piece of work, not only for its composition and sound, but also for its virtuosity. And her biography will tell you what a remarkable woman in so many ways.

Then, as I went down the list further, I noticed that one of the composers – Pauline Oliveros – served as a artist-in-residence at the UW-Madison, where she composer and premiered an opera, for semester (or maybe a year).

And then I noticed that current UW composer and professor Laura Schwendinger, who also directs the UW Contemporary Chamber Ensemble ,was listed.

So I will admit it: I personally know the work of only a very few of these women composers – and, yes, the number I know includes Joan Tower, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich and Jennifer Higdon – but there many, many more I do not know.

Some of the work of those women composers, many of whom are featured on Cedille Records‘ series “Notable Women,” will be performed in a FREE upcoming concert on this Wednesday, April 11, at 7:30 p.m. in Morphy Hall at the UW-Madison by the acclaimed guest artists, The Lincoln Trio (below).

Here is a link to the complete list:

http://www.newmusicbox.org/articles/a-helpful-list/

And here are some links to reviews of the “Notable Women” CD:

Notable Women is named a January Critics Choice: Naxoshttp://www.naxos.com/feature/Critics_Choice_January_2012.asp

Notable Women is also named one of “hidden gems” by The Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2011/dec/18/hidden-gems-classical-2011-maddocks

Notable Women lands on  Audiophile Audition’s Best of the Year Discs round-up for 2011:

http://audaud.com/2011/12/best-of-the-year-discs-for-2011/

So now I turn to you, readers of The Ear.

How many of these women composers do you personally know of or have heard?

Do you have favorite composers or works?

Which ones do you recommend the most and which pieces do you like the best?

And are there others who have been left out?


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