The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: This weekend, the Madison Symphony Orchestra spotlights three of its principal players in music by Prokofiev, Debussy and Vaughan Williams along with works by Schubert and Gershwin

March 7, 2019
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By Jacob Stockinger

This coming weekend, the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO, below in a photo by Peter Rodgers) will once again perform a program that highlights its principal artists as soloists.

 The program for “Orchestral Brilliance: Three Virtuosi” begins with Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 8, “Unfinished.

Then the featured artists appear: concertmaster Naha Greenholtz performs Sergei Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 2 for Violin; principal clarinetist JJ Koh follows with Claude Debussy’s Rhapsody for Clarinet and Orchestra; and principal tubist Joshua Biere concludes with Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra. For more biographical information about the soloists, see below.

The program finishes with George Gershwin’s “An American in Paris.”

Performances will be held in Overture Hall, 201 State Street, on Friday, March 8, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, March 9, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, March 10, at 2:30 p.m.

Details about tickets ($18-$93) are below.

“Our March concerts shine the spotlight on our own brilliant musicians that make up the Madison Symphony Orchestra,” says music director and conductor John DeMain (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson). “It is important to me on the occasion of my 25th anniversary with the symphony to share this celebration in a special way with these artists, who make my musical life such a pleasure.”

Franz Schubert (below) began composing his “Unfinished Symphony” in 1822, but left the piece with only two movements despite living for six more years. For reasons that remain unclear, the score was shelved until 1860 when the owner finally realized he possessed a gem. He approached conductor Johann von Herbeck with assurances of a “treasure” on par “with any of Beethoven’s,” and Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony had its premiere in 1865.

The Violin Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 63, by Sergei Prokofiev (below) is more conventional than the composer’s early bold compositions. It starts off with a simple violin melody and recalls traditional Russian folk music. The graceful violin melody flows throughout the entire second movement, and the third movement’s theme has a taste of Spain, complete with the clacking of castanets. (You can hear David Oistrakh play the gorgeous and entrancing slow second movement in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Composed between December 1909 and January 1910, the Rhapsody for Clarinet and Orchestra by Claude Debussy (below) was written as one of two test pieces for the clarinet examinations at the Paris Conservatory. The piece is described as dreamily slow at the start, followed by a duple meter section that moves the music along until the joyous final section.

The Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra by Ralph Vaughan Williams (below)
was written in 1953-54 to mark the 50th anniversary of the London Symphony Orchestra.

“An American in Paris” by George Gershwin (below) is one of the popular composer’s most well-known and most beloved compositions. Written in 1928, it evokes the sights and energy of the French capital in the 1920s. As Gershwin explains, the work’s purpose is to “portray the impressions of an American visitor in Paris as he strolls about the city, listens to the various street noises, and absorbs the French atmosphere.”

ABOUT THE SOLOISTS

Naha Greenholtz (below, in a photo by Chris Hynes) is concertmaster of both the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Quad City Symphony Orchestra. Additional performance highlights include guest concertmaster appearances with the Oregon Symphony, Calgary Philharmonic, National Ballet of Canada, Omaha Symphony and Memphis Symphony, among many others. Additionally, she performs frequently with the Cleveland Orchestra both domestically and abroad. Greenholtz has also held positions with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, joining the latter as Associate Concertmaster at age 21.

JJ Koh (below) joined the Madison Symphony Orchestra as principal clarinetist in 2016. In addition, he holds a position with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, and Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. Prior to joining the MSO, Koh was a member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. He is a founding member of the Arundo Donax Reed Quintet, and a winner of the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition. As principal clarinetist of KammerMahler, Koh participated in a world premiere recording project, which featured chamber versions of Gustav Mahler’s Fourth and Ninth Symphonies.

Joshua Biere (below, in a photo by Peter Rodgers) joined the Madison Symphony Orchestra as principal tubist in 2013. He also holds the principal tuba chair with the Kenosha Symphony and regularly performs with the new Chicago Composers Orchestra. Biere has also performed at the Grant Park Music Festival (Chicago), and with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. An established chamber musician, Biere is also a highly sought-after clinician and teacher, maintaining a studio of well over 35 tuba and euphonium students.

CONCERT AND TICKET DETAILS

The lobby opens 90 minutes prior to each concert. One hour before each performance, maestro John DeMain will lead a 30-minute Prelude Discussion in Overture Hall to enhance concertgoers’ understanding and listening experience. It is free to ticketholders.

The MSO recommends concert attendees arrive early for each performance to make sure they have time to pass through Overture Center’s security stations, and so they can experience the Prelude Discussion.

Program notes for the concerts are available online: http://bit.ly/mar2019programnotes

  • Single Tickets are $18-$93 each and are on sale now at: http://madisonsymphony.org/orchestral
through the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street, or by calling the Box Office at (608) 258-4141. Fees apply to online/phone sales.
  • Groups of 10 or more can save 25% by calling the MSO office at (608) 257-3734. For more information, visit, https://www.madisonsymphony.org/groups.
  • Student rush tickets can be purchased in person on the day of the concert at the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street. Students must show a valid student ID and can receive up to two $15 or $20 tickets. More information is at: https://www.madisonsymphony.org/studentrush
  • Seniors age 62 and up receive 20% savings on advance and day-of-concert ticket purchases in select areas of the hall.
  • Flex-ticket booklets of 10 vouchers for 18-19 symphony subscription concerts are available. Learn more at: https://madisonsymphony.org/flex

Discounted seats are subject to availability, and discounts may not be combined.

Presenting sponsorship provided by the Kelly Family Foundation. Major funding provided by Madison Magazine, Louise and Ernest Borden, Scott and Janet Cabot, and Elaine and Nicholas Mischler. Additional funding provided by von Briesen & Roper, S.C., and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).


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Classical music: This weekend the Madison Symphony Orchestra and Grammy-winning guitarist Sharon Isbin will perform Spanish music and a new concerto by Chris Brubeck

November 13, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

This weekend, the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO), with music director John DeMain conducting, will present the third concert of its 92nd season.

“Troubadour: Two Faces of the Classical Guitar” features Grammy-winning guitar virtuoso Sharon Isbin (below) playing two works: one written for Isbin by American composer Chris Brubeck; and the other by the Spaniard Joaquin Rodrigo. (Isbin will also give a FREE and PUBLIC master class on Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon in Morphy Recital Hall on the UW-Madison campus in the Humanities Building on North Park Street.)

In addition the MSO will perform two 20th-century ballet suites — The Three-Cornered Hat by Spanish composer Manuel De Falla and Billy the Kid by American composer Aaron Copland.

The concerts (below, in a photo by Peter Rodgers) are in Overture Hall at the Overture Center, 201 State Street on Friday, Nov. 17, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 18, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Nov. 19, at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets are $18-$90. Details are below.

Invoking a sense of the American heartland, Billy the Kid was written by Copland (below) as a ballet following the life of the infamous outlaw. This piece is most well-known for the memorable “cowboy” tunes and American folk songs that paint a vivid picture of the Wild West.

The virtuosity and versatility of multiple Grammy Award-winner Sharon Isbin is on display in this program of contrasts: the jazz idioms of the American composer Chris Brubeck’s “Affinity: Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra,” written for Sharon Isbin, alongside the lush romanticism of the Spaniard Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez.” (You can hear Sharon Isbin play the beautiful slow movement of the Rodrigo concerto in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

The piece by Brubeck (below) contains strong hints of the jazz influence of his father, noted pianist and composer Dave Brubeck. Inspired by the gardens at Palacio Real de Aranjuez, Rodrigo’s composition attempts to transport the listener to another place and time through the evocation of the sounds of nature.

Isbin’s performances of Chris Brubeck’s “Affinity: Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra” have received wide acclaim: “The concerto takes off with Isbin delivering rapid-fire virtuosity with infectious themes. The slow middle is a tender jazz-based tribute to Dave Brubeck, and Isbin played with heartfelt warmth and tenderness. The finale was an infectious rhythmically driven journey through myriad styles. It was as intriguing as it was moving … Isbin is much more than a virtuoso; she is an artist of depth.”

The Three-Cornered Hat by De Falla (below) is based on a story written by Pedro de Alarcón about a Corregidor (magistrate) who tries, without success, to seduce the pretty wife of the local miller.

One hour before each performance, Michael Allsen (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot), professor at UW-Whitewater, MSO trombonist and writer of MSO’s program notes, will lead a 30-minute Prelude Discussion in Overture Hall to enhance concertgoers’ understanding and listening experience.

For more background on the music, please read Allsen’s Program Notes at: http://www.allsenmusic.com/NOTES/1718/3.Nov17.html.

The Symphony recommends concert attendees arrive early for each performance to make sure they have time to pass through Overture Center’s security stations, and so they can experience the pre-concert talk (free for all ticket-holders).

Single Tickets are $18-$90 each and are on sale now at https://www.madisonsymphony.org/singletickets, through the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street, or by calling the Box Office at (608) 258-4141.

Groups of 15 or more can save 25% by calling the MSO office at (608) 257-3734. For more information, go to: https://www.madisonsymphony.org/groups

Student rush tickets can be purchased in person on the day of the concert at the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street. Students must show a valid student ID and can receive up to two $12 or $18 tickets. More information is at: https://www.madisonsymphony.org/studentrush

Seniors age 62 and up receive 20% savings on advance and day-of-concert ticket purchases in select areas of the hall.

Discounted seats are subject to availability, and discounts may not be combined.

ABOUT SHARON ISBIN

Acclaimed for her extraordinary lyricism, technique, and versatility, Sharon Isbin has been hailed as “the pre-eminent guitarist of our time.” Recipient of numerous prestigious awards, her debut concert with the MSO comes after over 170 solo performances with orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, National Symphony, London Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Orchestre National de France, and the Tokyo Symphony.

Isbin is the subject of a one-hour documentary presented by American Public Television. Seen by millions on over 200 PBS stations throughout the US, it is also available on DVD/Blu-ray and won the 2015 ASCAP Television Broadcast Award. “Sharon Isbin: Troubadour” paints the portrait of a trailblazing performer and teacher who over the course of her career has broken through numerous barriers to rise to the top of a traditionally male-dominated field.

The following is a dedicated website where you can view the trailer, read rave reviews, and see detailed broadcast dates: www.SharonIsbinTroubadour.com

Major funding for the September concerts is provided by: NBC-15, the Madison Symphony Orchestra League, and Elaine and Nicholas Mischler. Additional funding provided by Scott and Janet Cabot, John DeLamater and Janet Hyde, Steven Weber, and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.


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Classical music: NPR discusses famous composers and well-known works that were inspired by real birds.

July 18, 2015
18 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Recently, NPR or National Public Radio featured a story that The Ear found very interesting and engaging.

Reporter Wade Goodwin spoke to a bird expert  — Roy Brown, the host of “Talkin’ Birds” — who also possesses a fine knowledge of classical music.

The subject was how certain composers took inspirations from bird songs and even tried to imitate specific bird songs — such as that of the Ceti’s warbler (below) — in certain compositions including Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2.

Ceti's warbler

And when the connection wasn’t specific, the composers still tried to evoke the bird sonically.

The composers cited in the four-minute story were Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van BeethovenRalph Vaughan Williams (listen to the YouTube video at the bottom with Hillary Hahn and Sir Colin Davis conducting the London Symphony Orchestra) and Ottorino Respighi.

The Ear is sure there are many other examples of composers, works and specific bird species that are all linked. Antonin Dvorak comes to mind immediately.

If you know of any, please leave the names in the COMMENT section.

http://www.npr.org/2015/07/11/422008465/classical-composers-feathered-influences


Classical music: Meet Kirill Petrenko, the unknown name who has just been appointed conductor of the famed Berlin Philharmonic.

July 11, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

His name is Kirill Petrenko -– not to be confused with conductor Vasily Petrenko in Liverpool, to whom he is no relation.

Chances are you have never heard his name.

Yet the Russian native Kirill Petrenko (below) has just been appointed to succeed Sir Simon Rattle as the music director and conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, which is often seen as the finest and most prestigious orchestra in the world.

kirill petrenko

Petrenko sounds like a maestro who is worth getting to know.

And Tom Huizenga allows you to do just that in a terrific interview he did with a musician of the Berlin Philharmonic (below) about the new maestro who, it turns out, is publicity shy.

It appeared on “Deceptive Cadence,” the classical music blog that he writes and edits for NPR or National Public Radio.

It will be interesting to see what his initial concert programs and recordings are.

DV177039

But while you wait, here is a link to the interview, which also includes some audio-video clips as samples of Kirill Petrenko’s music-making:

http://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2015/07/07/419160254/why-conductor-kirill-petrenko-fits-the-berlin-philharmonic

 

 


Classical music: Pianists Peter Serkin and Julia Hsu will play works for piano-four hands by Mozart, Schubert, Schumann and Brahms this Saturday night at Farley’s House of Pianos.

March 31, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Our friends at Farley’s House of Pianos write to the blog with news of a noteworthy piano concert this Saturday night:

Renowned American pianist Peter Serkin (below top) and Julia Hsu (below bottom) will perform piano, four-hand pieces by Schumann, Bizet, Mozart and more, as part of the Salon Piano Series concerts held at Farley’s House of Pianos at 6522 Seybold Road on Madison’s far west side near West Towne.

Peter Serkin

Julia Hsu

The concert is at 7:30 p.m. this Saturday night, April 4 and will include an introduction by Karlos Moser (below), a retired University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of music and former longtime director of the University Opera at the UW-Madison School of Music.

Karlos Moser

The program includes: Six Etudes in the Form of Canons for Pedal-Piano, Op. 56, by Robert Schumann; Three Pieces from “Jeux d’Enfants” (Children’s Games) by Georges Bizet; the Sonata in B flat Major, K. 358, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; the Allegro ma non troppo in A minor (the dramatic and lyrical “Lebenssturme” or “Lifestorms” that you can hear in a live performance in a YouTube video at the bottom), D.947, and the Rondo in A Major, D.951, by Franz Schubert; and Four Hungarian Dances by Johannes Brahms.

Tickets are $45 and are expected to sell quickly. They are available online at www.salonpianoseries.org and http://www.brownpapertickets.com/profile/706809 or at Farley’s House of Pianos, (608) 271-2626.

For more information about the Salon Piano Series, visit: http://salonpianoseries.org

The distinguished American pianist Peter Serkin has performed with the world’s major symphony orchestras with such conductors as Seiji Ozawa, Daniel Barenboim, George Szell, Claudio Abbado, Eugene Ormandy and James Levine. A dedicated chamber musician, Serkin has collaborated with artists including violinist Pamela Frank and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

An avid exponent of the music of many contemporary composers, Serkin has brought to life the music of Arnold Schoenberg, Igor Stravinsky, Michael Wolpe, and others for audiences around the world. He has performed many world premieres written specifically for him, in particular, works by Toru Takemitsu, Oliver Knussen and Peter Lieberson. Serkin currently teaches at Bard College Conservatory of Music and the Longy School of Music. Serkin became friends with the Farleys in 1994 when he was in town for a concert and visited the Farley’s showroom (below).

Farley Daub plays

Originally from Taiwan, Julia Hsu received scholarships to study at The Purcell School for young musicians at the age of 14. She has also studied at the Royal Academy of Music, London and at the Hannover Hochschule für Musik und Theater, Germany. Julia has collaborated with conductors Fabio Panisello, Lutz Koeler and cellist Ivan Moniguetti. She was a Festival Fellow at Bowdoin Music Festival, and a scholar at the Banff Centre, Canada before she became a Piano Fellow at Bard College Conservatory of Music in 2013.

The Salon Piano Series is a non-profit founded by Tim and Renée Farley to continue the tradition of intimate salon concerts at Farley’s House of Pianos.

Upcoming concerts include the internationally acclaimed Czech pianist Martin Kasík (below top), who will play the “Moonlight” and “Les Adieux” Sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven and Sonata No. 3 by Sergei Prokofiev, on Saturday, April 18, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. Jazz pianist Dick Hyman (below bottom) will perform on May 30 and 31, 2015, at 4 p.m. both days.

Martin Kasik w piano

dick hyman

For ticket information and concert details see www.salonpianoseries.org.

All events will be held at Farley’s House of Pianos, 6522 Seybold Road, Madison, on Madison’s west side near the Beltline, and plenty of free parking is available. It is also easy to reach by bicycle or Madison Metro.


Classical music: Are big changes ahead for British classical music? Conductor Simon Rattle heads back from Berlin to England to lead the London Symphony Orchestra.

March 7, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The big non-local news item this week was the announcement that the famed conductor Simon Rattle (below) will leave the prestigious Berlin Philharmonic and return to his native England to lead the London Symphony Orchestra starting in 2017.

On weekdays, The Ear generally puts the priority on local events – with previews taking precedence over reviews.

So the weekend provides a chance to catch up.

Simon Rattle close up

The 60-year-old Rattle, whose international career started in Birmingham, England, seems a musician for all seasons. He is known for championing contemporary composers. (You can listen to Simon Rattle talking about his new appointment at the bottom in a new YouTube video.)

But his prolific and eclectic discography also includes CD and DVD recordings of the great standards, the symphonies and concertos and other works by Franz Joseph Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert and Johannes Brahms, Antonin Dvorak, Gustav Mahler, Jean Sibelius, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Arnold Schoenberg, Maurice Ravel, Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Benjamin Britten, Sergei Prokofiev, Benjamin Britten and John Adams among many others.

And by all accounts, he is a generous mentor and masterful teacher — even though I have never heard anyone name Simon Rattle as their favorite conductor. Among his students are Andrew Sewell (below), the longtime music director and conductor of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. The Ear thinks it would be interesting to know what Sewell has to say about Rattle.

Andrew Sewell BW

Here then, are some links to various aspects of the Simon Rattle story. Read one or a few or all of them. There is a lot to think and speculate about – a new concert hall, more contemporary programming and a higher status or respect for the London Symphony Orchestra are chief among them — as we wait and see what develops:

From the BBC news magazine:

http://www.classical-music.com

From the website of the famed Gramophone magazine:

http://www.gramophone.co.uk/classical-music-news/sir-simon-rattle-appointed-principal-conductor-of-the-london-symphony-orchestra

berlin philharmonic rattle

From The Guardian newspaper:

http://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/mar/03/simon-rattle-appointed-music-director-london-symphony-orchestra

From The New York Times, with an analysis:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/04/arts/music/simon-rattle-to-return-to-his-roots-taking-over-the-london-symphony.html?_r=0

Here is an opinion piece from The Guardian about how the move could be good for the British music scene:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/03/simon-rattle-is-the-seismic-creative-shock-uk-classical-music-needs

And could Rattle’s move spark a rejuvenation of British classical music? That is the question in this post:

http://www.thelondoneconomic.com/2015/03/03/simon-rattle-prompt-rejuvenation-british-classical-music/

Simon Rattle conducting

And finally, despite all the hoopla and cheerleading, a note of skepticism has been sounded by The Arts Desk with some specific criticisms:

http://www.theartsdesk.com/classical-music/rattle-lso-great-or-just-good-news

 

 


Classical music: Pianist Ingrid Fliter talks about sexism in the concert world and discusses the difficulty of playing the music of Chopin, which she specializes in and will perform this coming weekend with the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

February 9, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

It is hard to imagine a more fitting program for Valentine’s Day weekend than the one that the Madison Symphony Orchestra will perform.

The program, to be performed under the baton of MSO music director John DeMain, includes the Piano Concerto No. 2 by Frederic Chopin with the prestigious Gilmore Prize-winning pianist Ingrid Fliter (below); the Symphony No. 4 by Robert Schumann, an arch-Romantic; and the Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge by British composer Benjamin Britten, who was a student of Bridge.

ingrid fliter with keyboard

John DeMain and MSO from the stage Greg Anderson

Performances are in Overture Hall in the Overture Center. Times are Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets are $12-$84.

But until midnight this Tuesday, there is a special Valentine’s Day deal of two tickets for the price of one going on. For details, got to http://www.overturecenter.org/events/fliter-plays-chopin or call the Overture Center Box Office at (608) 258-4141.

Fliter recently agreed to an email Q&A with The Ear:

Ingrid Fliter close up

Can you briefly introduce yourself to readers who may not know you? What are your current and future plans and projects?

I’m an Argentinian pianist. I live in Italy in Lake Como for many years now. I consider myself an art lover. I do believe art can be life-changing to people. And that’s what I concentrate on doing when I perform: To bring happiness and inspiration to audiences.

Do you think the professional concert world treats women differently? Or has the sexism of past eras improved in your experience?

I do believe sexism in art still exists among presenters, conductors, agents, people in general, etc. The phrase “She plays like a man!” is heard more often than wanted. And it is amazing to see that even women can be sexists towards other women as well by accepting certain prejudices imposed by obsolete cultural traditions.

However I do believe women have the power to keep changing that mentality by showing the world and, more importantly themselves that they can do as well (or better) as anyone else.

You known especially as a specialist in Chopin (below), whose music you will play here. What makes Chopin so unique and so popular?

Chopin is a composer who speaks directly to the heart of people. Like a dear friend who shares with us his deepest secrets of life, his music is intimate and personal. He doesn’t describe landscapes or tell stories. He speaks about human feelings and people feel represented and touched by the beauty he creates. He enhances harmony and enriches people’s life.

Recently, Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes said Chopin is more difficult to play successfully than Beethoven. What are the elements of great Chopin playing that make his music so challenging to the performer?

I can agree with this. Chopin is one of the most difficult composers to play. His Romanticism is not obvious and it is very important  — and hard — to find a right balance between his Romantic soul and his Classical expression.

Also, the importance of making the piano sing as a singer would do is deeply challenging because it means fighting against the nature of the piano, which is a percussive instrument.

But more importantly, Chopin (below) requires from us all our senses completely in balance and in harmony with nature. We cannot allow our body to be tensed or our heart to be arid when we play Chopin. His music will always be a mirror of our soul and will reflect our inner world, totally naked.

Chopinphoto

You will perform Piano Concerto No. 2 over Valentine’s Day weekend. It seems a perfect choice for the occasion. What would you like the audience to know about the Piano Concerto No. 2, especially as compared to No. 1, which was composed later?

This concerto is one of the most beautiful pieces ever written. The poetry, the beauty, the perfection of form and level of maturity reached by this 18-year-old teenager are simply astonishing and revealing.

This music is irresistible and seductive. Let yourself be embraced by the perfumes and textures he creates and you’ll be taken into a wonderful world, a world you would never want to come back from. Special attention goes to the marvelous second movement with its beautiful melodic lines, which might bring a little tear to your eyes. (You can hear the second movement, performed by pianist Arthur Rubinstein with the London Philharmonic under conductor-composer Andre Previn in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

You have performed in Madison before in a recital at the Wisconsin Union Theater. Do you have an opinion about Madison and its audiences?

I have the best memories from Madison and its public, and I’m looking forward to our next encounter!

Was there an Aha Moment! – a piece or performance or performer – when you knew you wanted to be a professional concert pianist?

I was 16 years old and playing the Piano Concerto No. 3 by Ludwig van Beethoven for the first time with the orchestra at the Teatro Colon (below) in Buenos Aires. The hall was packed and the atmosphere was febrile. I remember my feeling of total joy knowing I was about to perform that concerto for all those people. I felt in the right moment in the right place.

Teatro Colon interior

How do you think can we get more young people interested in classical music?

Education, education, education. We must show young people classical music is theirs as well, not something old that belongs to museums.

Music is a vehicle of human expression and this is what we, as educators, parents, need to inculcate since the very beginning. So, parents have to be educated as well.

Music in school shouldn’t be the “free time” classroom, but should be taken as a moment of spiritual joy and recreation. Parents should listen to classical music at home, and share their feelings that music brings with their children.

Also, we should bring classical music into more deconstructed environments outside concert halls, in houses, bars, airports, parks. (Below is the Madison chapter of Classical Revolution performing chamber music in a bar.)

Classical Revolution Madison

 


Classical music: Today is Thanksgiving. What piece of classical music or composer do you most give thanks for?

November 27, 2014
10 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is Thanksgiving Day – Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014.

thanksgiving dinner

And today’s post is simple:

Just tell The Ear what piece of music or composer you most give thanks for and why.

It doesn’t have to be big (an opera, symphony or concerto) or a recognized masterwork. It could be a small work (a prelude or song) that you are perhaps learning to play or sing that you heard most recently.

The music or the composer could be very well-known or obscure.

Your choice could be old or it could be new.

But whatever your choice is, it should hold special meaning for you. The piece of music should speak to you deeply and directly and make you feel that your life is enriched by it –- at least right now, if not in the past or the future, even though such choices tend to have staying power even from childhood into old age.

If The Ear gets enough reader comments and responses, maybe even with links to a YouTube video, it might serve as a list of suggested listening for other readers.

To celebrate all your choices, and all the possibilities of the musical arts, here is the original version with orchestra and 16 singers done by the London Symphony under conductor Sir Adrian Boult, of the lovely “Serenade to Music” by the English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams.

 


Classical music: What has the UK’s Scotland contributed to classical music -– besides bagpipes? Plus, this afternoon is the last performance of the season-opening program by the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

September 21, 2014
3 Comments

ALERT: The final performance of the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s season-opening program of Richard Strauss “Also Sprach Zarathustra” (with the organ theme from “2001: A Space Odyssey”), Frank Martin’s Concerto for Seven Wind Instruments and Camille Saint-Saens (Symphony No. 3 “Organ”) will be given today at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall of the Overture Center. Here is a link to a previous post about the concert as well as links to several very positive reviews:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/09/15/classical-music-qa-maestro-john-demain-discusses-this-weekends-opening-concerts-of-the-madison-symphony-orchestras-89th-season-music-by-richard-strauss-frank-martin-and-camil/

Here is a link to a review by John W. Barker (below) for Isthmus: 

http://www.isthmus.com/daily/article.php?article=43634

John Barker

Here is a link to the review by Gregg Hettmansberger (below) for Madison Magazine’s blog “Classically Speaking”:

http://www.madisonmagazine.com/Blogs/Classically-Speaking/September-2014/New-Season-New-Decades/

greg hettmansberger mug

And here is a link to Lindsay Christians’ review for The Capital Times and 77 Square:

http://host.madison.com/ct/entertainment/arts_and_theatre/review-madison-symphony-packs-the-stage-to-celebrate-years-in/article_7599b67a-407b-11e4-ad07-33fa1206b9d0.html

John DeMain and MSO from the stage Greg Anderson

By Jacob Stockinger

All right, then.

The Big Vote is over.

By a wider-than-predicted margin of 55 to 45 percent, Scotland has chosen to remain a member of the United Kingdom.

The outcome surprised The Ear since so many of the arguments offered by Great Britain seemed similar to the ones that were probably made about why the United States should remain a colony of England.

But now the question is answered for at least another generation.

So, in the traditional of newsy arts coverage, the Deceptive Cadence blog of National Public Radio (NPR) asked: What has Scottish culture contributed to classical music?

You’d be surprised. I was.

One obvious, and, for many, noisily unpleasant, answer is the bagpipes. We’re not talking about Scotland-inspired music such as Felix Mendelssohn‘s justly famous “Hebrides” Overture (at bottom in a popular YouTube video featuring Claudio Abbado conducting the London Symphony Orchestra, though it sure does seem to capture the dark North Sea atmosphere of Scotland.)

scotland bagpipes

But there are other answers too, and some of them may surprise you.

Be sure to listen to some of the sound samples provided on the NPR website posting. Here is a link:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/09/19/349564530/if-its-not-scottish-classical-contributions-of-the-scots

Also be sure to check out the readers’ comments. They are a hoot, or whatever the equivalent saying is in Scotland.

And the reader comments contain one of the all-time best puns, based on The Rolling Stones song “Hey You, Get Off of My Cloud.” Of course, someone says it isn’t funny! Which makes it only funnier to The Ear.

 


Classical music: Critic John W. Barker says Eliza’s Toyes impressively surveyed early British music while exploring the religious shift from Latin Catholicism to English Anglicanism. Plus, acclaimed Italian conductor Claudio Abbado dies at 80.

January 21, 2014
3 Comments

NEWS: As you have probably heard by now, the acclaimed Italian conductor Claudio Abbado (below) has died at 80. Here are links to some stories about this maestro who had such a varied and prolific career:

The New York Times

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/21/arts/music/claudio-abbado-italian-conductor-dies-at-80.html?_r=0

The Washington Post:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/claudio-abbado-age-italian-conductor-who-led-european-orchestras-into-modern-era/2014/01/20/d23c267c-30f7-11e3-8627-c5d7de0a046b_story.html

Claudio Abbado

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 FM 89.9 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

It was a great pity that no more than 25 people turned out at the Gates of Heaven on Sunday afternoon for the latest program offered by Jerry Hui’s early-music group, Eliza’s Toyes (below, inside Gates of Heaven).

His program this time was a post-Christmas survey of English sacred music. The range of material ran from late-Medieval three-voice pieces through composers of the early 17th century, adding up to 13 selections in all.

Toyes in Gates - 2

This is the kind of music most regularly performed by a choir of some or another size, sometimes of mixed voices, sometimes in the British-cathedral style of all-male voices, with boys on the upper parts.

Hui (below) fielded a consort of six singers (three female, three male), so that each item was sung one singer per part — with a couple cases of a little doubling, I believe. While the result favored clarity against sonority, it must be said that, in certain full-textured items, some very lovely sonority was achieved.

Jerry Hui

My principal reservation was that the ordering of the program seemed aimed at a smooth variety of sounds, rather than at a demonstration of the momentous changes in English sacred composition. The key to those changes was the liturgical shift in the Anglican Reformation from motets setting traditional Latin texts to the new anthems with English texts.

The shift could be noted in the dominant composer of the program, the great William Byrd (1540-1623, below), represented by two Latin motets, and then an English anthem. “Sing joyfully”, which served as the dazzling finale (see the YouTube video at the bottom).

William Byrd

Byrd’s teacher, and then partner, Thomas Tallis (below), likewise spanned the reforming shifts, but was heard in one Latin motet, “O scrum convivium”, and a gorgeously harmonized Latin hymn, “O nata lux de lumina”. Earliest in the pre-Reformation lineup was Robert Fayrfax (1464-1521), whose five-voice setting of the Magnificat was in the traditional alternatim setting (odd-numbered verses of the canticle sung in chant, the even-numbered ones set polyphonically).

Thomas Tallis

On the other hand, a poignant victim of the Reformation was Peter Philips (1560-1628, below), a staunch Roman Catholic who fled his homeland for a successful career in Catholic music on the Continent. His five-voice “O beatum et sacrosanctum Deum” made a noble closer to the first part of the program.

Peter Philips

As for the Anglican, English-language composers, besides the case of Byrd, and besides the 15th-century para-liturgal songs, we had a rousing anthem by Christopher Tye (1505-1573, below top), “A sound of angels,” and, finally, a six-voice secular piece, “Music divine”, by the last survivor of the great era of Tudor music, Thomas Tomkins (1572-1656, below bottom).

christopher tye bw small

Thomas Tompkins

The six singers who have been making up Eliza’s Toyes have settled into a beautifully balanced and smooth ensemble. They listen to, and sing in sync with, each other. There is nothing else like them, as a continuing performing group for early sacred ensemble music in Madison. Although he is a UW-Madison graduate who now teaches at University of Wisconsin- Stout, Hui has kept up his association with the group, convinced of its need for continuity.

It is one more of those blessings that make Madison’s musical life so wonderfully rich!

 

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