The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The UW Pro Arte Quartet and Wingra Wind Quintet prove exceptional partners in a joint all-Schubert concert

October 30, 2017
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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 once a month on Sunday morning on WORT FM 89.9 FM. For years, he served on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison. Barker also took the performance photos.

By John W. Barker

On Saturday night, in Mills Hall on the campus, two ensembles from the Mead Witter School of Music at the UW-Madison joined forces in an all-Schubert program.

The two groups were the Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) and the Wingra Wind Quintet (no group photo is available).

The music of Schubert (below) will, of course, guarantee a delightful evening, and that was certainly the case this time.

As a prologue, there was the set of variations for flute and piano, D. 802, on Schubert’s own song, Trockne Blumen from his Die schöne Müllerin song cycle. This was played with real flair by Timothy Hagen  with pianist Daniel Fung (both are below). Hagen preceded the performance by explaining the relationship of the variations to the whole cycle. (You can hear the original song sung by the legendary Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

That choice of an opener had its point because the variations were composed just weeks before the major work on the program, Schubert’s Octet in F, D. 803.

There is much individuality in this Octet, scored for a combination of strings and winds. It is true that Schubert’s elder contemporary, Louis Spohr, had written such an octet, if with slightly different scoring, in 1817, while Schubert’s was composed in 1824. Still, Schubert’s hour-long score is more expansive, a work remarkable at its time and hardly equaled since.

In this broad, symphonically scaled six-movement work, Schubert just poured out one feast of melodic invention after another. One does not often have a chance to hear this work in concert, but this performance was a particularly memorable one.

The performers (below) were clarinetist Alicia Lee, bassoonist Mark Vallon, and hornist Joanna Schulz, along with bassist David Scholl, plus the usual four members of the Pro Arte Quartet.

Ah, but that last element gave the evening special meaning, for it involved the return to performing by cellist Parry Karp (below). A recent accident had damaged two fingers on his left hand; but here he was, all fingers flying with the spirited efficiency.

It proved a welcome moment in the quartet’s current life, and itself added a significant dimension to this concert.


Classical music: Con Vivo concludes its 15th season with an outstanding concert of music by Spohr, Martinu and Dvorak with guest conductor John DeMain

May 28, 2017
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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 once a month on Sunday morning on WORT FM 89.9 FM. For years, he served on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison. Barker also took the performance photographs.

By John W. Barker

For the conclusion of its 15th season, the Con Vivo chamber music ensemble (below, in a photo by Don Sylvester) called out an unusual plethora of players.

And, as it did back in 2013, it brought back conductor John DeMain (below), music director of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and artistic director of the Madison Opera, to whip them into shape.

The program consisted of three very ample works.

The first was the Nonet, Op. 31, composed in 1813 by Louis Spohr (below, 1784-1859) — the first of its kind for this combination of strings and winds.

It’s in that no-longer-Classical-but-not-quite-Romantic idiom in which Beethoven was the big troublemaker. It is music of charm and imagination, altogether enjoyable as one appreciates the composer’s experimentation.

Following this was a contrasting work in the same form, the Nonet No. 2 (1959) by Bohuslav Martinu (below, 1890-1959). It dates from the last months of the composer’s life — note that, by coincidence, he died exactly a century after Spohr.

Using Spohr’s same combination of the nine instruments (below), it is a perky affair, in which Czech song and dance meet Igor Stravinsky, as it were. The second of its three movements is a particularly beautiful piece of coloristic writing. It can be heard in the YouTube video at the bottom.

The pièce-de-resistance was the final work, the Serenade, Op. 44 (1878), by Antonin Dvorak (below, 1841-1904).

I have to admit that this is one of my favorite works by one of my favorite composers. Composed for 11 players, it is really the composer’s tribute to Mozart, via a Romantic rethinking of the kind of wind serenades that Mozart wrote so wonderfully.

Thus, it is really a wind octet, with the addition of a third horn plus two string players (cello and double bass). Adding those two stringed instruments was a wonderful idea, allowing a significant enrichment of textures in the bass role.

The pool of 14 players involved in the program drew upon a lot of superlative talent active in the Madison area. Highly accomplished players individually, they join in full-bodied ensembles, given the added spirit brought by DeMain’s leadership.

While it would be unfair to single out individuals too much, I must say that I was greatly impressed by Olga Pomolova’s command of the fiendishly difficult violin parts in the two nonets, while I was also struck by the strong leadership of Laura Medisky, who played oboe in the nonets and first oboe in the serenade. (Valree Casey played second oboe in the serenade.)

The audience at First Congregational Church responded justly with an enthusiastic ovation at the end. Truly an outstanding concert!


Classical music: Edgewood College features a musical collaboration by faculty members to mark Valentine’s Day this Sunday afternoon. Plus a FREE guitar recital of Bach, Scarlatti and Villa-Lobos is at noon on Friday.

February 11, 2016
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ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, to take place from 12:15 to 1 p.m. at the First Unitarian Society of Madison Meeting House, 900 University Bay Drive, features classical guitarist Naeim Rahmani (below) who will perform music by Domenico Scarlatti, Johann Sebastian Bach, Heitor Villa-Lobos and more.

Naeim Rahmani

By Jacob Stockinger

You can celebrate Valentine’s Day this coming Sunday afternoon with “five musical conversations,” a collaborative faculty recital presented by six faculty members from the Music Department at Edgewood College.

The concert is at 2:30 p.m. in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive.

Performers include mezzo-soprano Kathleen Otterson, guitarist Nathan Wysock, violinist Laura Burns, percussionist Todd Hammes, and pianists Susan Gaeddert and Jennifer Hedstrom.

Below in the Edgewood College photo are (from left): music department faculty and staff Jennifer Hedstrom (piano), Todd Hammes (percussion), Laura Burns (violin), Nathan Wysock (guitar), Susan Gaeddert, (piano) and Kathleen Otterson (mezzo-soprano).

Edgewood College Five Musical Conversations - media

The six performers will present five musical sets featuring a variety of styles and chamber combinations.

Included on the program are a set of lute songs by John Dowland, performed by Otterson and Wysock; three works by Santiago de Murcia, performed by Wysock and Hammes, a set of modern works by Chick Corea and Todd Hammes, performed by Hammes on vibraphone with Jennifer Hedstrom on piano; Maurice Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite (heard at the bottom in a popular YouTube video that features Argentinean Martha Argerich and Chinese Lang Lang in a subtle and colorful performance) for piano, four hands, performed by Hedstrom and Susan Gaeddert; a set of Lieder or art songs by Louis Spohr, sung by Kathleen Otterson with Susan Gaeddert on piano and Laura Burns on violin.

Tickets are available at the door.

Admission is $7, or free with Edgewood College ID.


Classical music: This Thursday night, Con Vivo performs the chamber music program it will take on tour in June to Dane County’s Sister County of Kassel, Germany.

May 26, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Our friends at the Madison-based chamber music group Con Vivo! (Music With Life) write:

SAVE THE DATE! 

The latest concert by Con Vivo’s (below) is this Thursday night, May 28, at 7:30 p.m. at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Avenue, near the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Camp Randall Stadium.

Con Vivo core musicians

con vivo!…music with life invites you to join us for our chamber music concert, “Bon Voyage: Dane to Kassel!”

Come help send us off as we represent you on our cultural exchange tour June 5-12 to Kassel, Germany, Dane County’s Sister County. Don’t miss the Madison presentation of some favorite pieces from our concerts that we will perform in Germany this June. 

Our program includes diverse chamber music by Lukas Foss, Louis Spohr, Reinhold Gliere, Alan Hovhaness and others. So come join us for truly exciting chamber music!

Con Vivo Octet

Convenient FREE parking is only 2 blocks west at the University Foundation at 1848 University Ave.

Tickets at the door are $20 for adults; $15 for seniors and students.

Listen to con vivo! live on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Midday” show with Norman Gilliland on Wednesday, May 27, at noon, 88.7 FM or at www.wpr.org.

Like con vivo! on Facebook to follow us on our tour to Dane County’s Sister County of Kassel, Germany, June 5-12.

For information, call (6708) 277-8087 or visit our website:

www.convivomusicwithlife.org 

convivo_mwl@convivomusicwithlife.org

Con Vivo is a professional chamber music ensemble comprised of Madison area musicians assembled from the ranks of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and various other performing groups familiar to Madison audiences.

This concert is sponsored in part by First Congregational Church and is supported by Dane Arts.

 


Classical music: The chamber music group Con Vivo opens its new season this Saturday night with a program that spotlights the harp and the organ.

October 30, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

con vivo!…music with life (below) opens its 13th season of chamber music with a concert entitled “63 Strings and 2008 Pipes” on this coming Saturday night, November 1, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Avenue, across from Camp Randall.

Con Vivo core musicians

Joining con vivo! for this concert is guest musician Karen Beth Atz on harp. Atz is principal harp with the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

Karen Beth Atz with harp

The program includes the Sonata in C Minor for violin and harp by Louis Spohr (below top); the Suite from The Victorian Kitchen Garden for clarinet and harp by Paul Reade; and Ganagobie for solo harp by Bernard Andres (below bottom), featuring Atz as soloist.

Louis Spohr

Bernard Andres

The performance will also feature the outstanding church organ in the Concerto in G Minor for organ and strings, opus 4, no. 1, HMV 298, by George Frideric Handel (below). (You can hear this popular work performed by Richard Egarr and The Academy of Ancient Music in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

handel big 3

Audience members are invited to join con vivo! musicians after the concert for a free reception to discuss this chamber music literature and to hear about their Carnegie Hall debut this past December.

Con Vivo at Carnegie Hall

Tickets can be purchased at the door for $18 for adults, $15 for seniors and students.

Artistic Director Robert Taylor, in remarking about the concert said, “con vivo! is excited to have Karen Beth Atz join us for this concert. We are looking forward to presenting chamber music that includes harp, the most angelic of all instruments, and organ, the ‘King of Instruments!’ It will be a night of new works and wonderful sounds for all.”

con vivo! is a professional chamber music ensemble comprised of Madison area musicians assembled from the ranks of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, and various other performing groups familiar to Madison audiences.

For more information visit, http://www.convivomusicwithlife.org

 

 

 

 

 


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