The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: On the eve of Opera in the Park, Madison Opera’s general director Kathryn Smith recaps the last season and previews the next.

July 23, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Madison Opera’s Opera in the Park marks its 14th anniversary this Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Garner Park on Madison’s far west side.

The annual FREE concert of opera and Broadway favorites closes the company’s extraordinary 2014-15 season and provides an appetizing preview of the 2015-16 season that celebrates writers and their inspirations.

Typically, Opera in the Park attracts over 14,000 people every year.

Opera in Park 2012 crowd 1 James Gill

This year, Opera in the Park stars soprano Eleni Calenos, contralto Meredith Arwady, tenor Harold Meers and local bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen, and features former Madison Opera Studio Artist Anna Laurenzo.

Here is a link to Kyle Ketelsen’s Q&A with The Ear:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/07/21/classical-music-local-opera-star-kyle-ketelsen-talks-about-returning-to-madison-operas-free-opera-in-the-park-this-saturday-night-and-why-he-continues-to-live-here/

Artistic Director John DeMain conducts the Madison Opera Chorus and Madison Symphony Orchestra. The evening will be hosted by Madison Opera’s General Director Kathryn Smith and by WKOW TV’s 27 News “Wake-Up Wisconsin” anchor Brandon Taylor.

Opera in Park 2012 stage

“I love Opera in the Park,” says Smith, in a prepared statement. “It is by far the most important performance Madison Opera gives. The magic combination of thousands of people sitting under the summer night sky and our singers and orchestra performing beautiful music on stage creates something truly inspiring. It is a testament to Madison’s love of music – and love of being outdoors – that we have the highest per capita attendance of any such concert in the country.”

The program for Opera in the Park 2015 includes arias and ensembles from Giacomo Puccini’s “La Bohème,” which opens the 2015-16 season in November; Mark Adamo’s “Little Women,” which will be performed in February; and Jacques Offenbach’s “The Tales of Hoffmann,” which will be performed in April.

The concert will also offer arias and ensembles from such classic operas as Antonin Dvorak‘s “Rusalka,” Charles Gounod’s “Faust,” Arrigo Boito‘s “Mefistofele” and Georg Frideric Handel‘s “Semele.” Broadway hits from “The Music Man,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Kiss Me, Kate” and “Wonderful Town” will round out the evening of music, which always includes one number conducted by the audience with light sticks.

Garner Park is located at 333 South Rosa Road, at the intersection of Mineral Point Road, west of Whitney Way. Parking is available in the CUNA Mutual Group and University Research Park lots. Attendees are encouraged to bring picnics, blankets and chairs. Alcohol is permitted, but not sold in the park.

On the day of the concert, Garner Park will open at 7 a.m. Audience members are not allowed to leave items in the park prior to this time. The rain date for Opera in the Park is Sunday, July 26, at 8 p.m.

Here are two links to help you find information about Opera in the Park.

For general information, go to:

http://www.madisonopera.org/performances-2014-2015/park/

And for more information about the cast, go to:

http://www.madisonopera.org/performances-2014-2015/park/cast/

For information about the next season, go to:

http://www.madisonopera.org/performances-2015-2016/

On the eve of the outdoor event, Kathryn Smith (below, in a photo by James Gill) – who is the general director of the Madison Opera – agreed to revisit the past season and talk about the upcoming season with The Ear.

Kathryn Smith Fly Rail Vertical Madison Opera

What kind of artistic and financial shape did the Madison Opera emerge from for the past season?

Our fiscal year doesn’t end until the end of August, but overall it has been a great year on all fronts. From the triumphant music of our first staged Fidelio (below, the prisoners’ chorus in a photo by James Gill) to the sold-out Sweeney Todd and the joyous The Barber of Seville, it was an immensely satisfying season.

Audience and critical response to each opera was strong, and often included some surprise that the individual enjoyed that particular show more than he or she had expected. It feels like we have proved in the past few seasons that we can produce consistently great opera across the spectrum. I am also encouraged by the new audiences we attract and the diversity of age range I see in our lobbies.

Fidelio prisoners' chorus James Gill

Can you rank each show in terms of popularity? Did you learn anything special from the season?

It’s difficult to rank this season’s shows, because we know they drew very different audiences. For example, the audience at Sweeney Todd was definitely younger than the audience at Fidelio — the non-subscription performance in particular seemed to have an average age of 30 — and a number of people brought their young children to The Barber of Seville for their first opera.

In absolute numbers, the order would be Barber (below, in a photo by James Gill), Sweeney Todd and Fidelio, but there was not a wide gap between them.

The main thing I’ve learned with each successive season is that we are doing the right thing by having such a mix of operas. Some of our patrons love Beethoven, some only like comedy, and some were only interested (or very much un-interested) in Sweeney Todd.

By doing such a range, we serve a much wider audience than if we focused on only one segment of our audience. Hopefully this adds to the growing understanding that opera is not a monolithic art form.

Madison Opera barber of seville cast action

How and why did you choose the operas for next season? Why Puccini’s “La Boheme”? Why Offenbach’s “Tales of Hoffmann”? Does “Little Women” represent something of a departure for Madison Opera? Is there an umbrella concept or unifying theme to the season?

Choosing a season’s operas is a question of balancing the classic, the rare and the new; picking a range of composers and languages; and in general coming up with the “mix” that defines us.

We have not performed La Bohème in eight years, so it was time to bring back the greatest love story in opera. While some long-time opera-goers may have seen it many times, we also have many in our audience who have only come to opera recently, so this will be their first Bohème.

la boeme banner

Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann is a brilliant piece that is both scarily large and immensely exciting to produce, packed with beautiful music and special effects. It happens to be a personal favorite opera not only for me, but also for John DeMain and Kristine McIntyre, our stage director. We look forward to sharing this literally fantastic work on the Overture Hall stage, as we have not performed it in 20 years.

tales of hoffmann banner

Little Women came out of Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking, to some extent. After the success of Dead Man Walking, many people — particularly those who were surprised by how much they enjoyed a 21st-century opera — asked me what we were doing next. I did not want another nine years to go by before we did another major American opera, but I also wanted a completely different story, so that it would not be a literal comparison.

Mark Adamo’s Little Women has been one of the most-performed American operas since its 1998 premiere; its basis in a story that has been beloved for generations makes it the perfect way to keep growing our American repertoire.

As is often the case, the season theme emerges after I’ve picked the operas. Next season turned out to be a season of writers: Rodolfo is a poet; so is Hoffmann. Jo March writes stories for magazines and is in fact the only writer we see succeeding in her craft during the opera.

That said, the unifying theme is the same one I strive for every season: Great operas that tell wonderful stories with enthralling music.

little women banner

What role did the new Madison Opera Center play in the past season’s productions? Has it lived up to expectations?

Over the past two years, the Margaret C. Winston Madison Opera Center (below) has played a major role in defining who we are. On a basic level, it is where we rehearse, fit costumes and have our offices. It is also where the singers hang out, give press interviews, do their laundry, cook the occasional meal, work on music for their next gig and bump into our trustees in the common areas.

Having our own space has enabled us to add programs like the free Opera Novice series and hold more workshops with our high school apprentices.

On a financial level, revenue from the parking ramp in particular is an increasingly important part of our budget, as it is not dependent on donors or ticket sales. On a community level, having our rehearsal hall regularly used by groups such as CTM, Theatre Lila, and Capital City Theatre shows that we truly are part of the larger artistic fabric of Madison. The Center was designed to be a home on many levels, and we are well on the way to achieving that dream.

Madison Opera Center interior

What else would you like to say or add about the past season, the next season and perhaps also the Opera in the Park?

I am always grateful for the enormous number of people who make Madison Opera possible. Opera has never been cost-effective, and our patrons, volunteers, artists, production teams, and staff are all committed to sharing this glorious art form with everyone from the 2,000 teenagers at our student matinees to the 15,000 people at Opera in the Park.

Our season ends with this summer’s Opera in the Park this Saturday, which is always the perfect way to finish the year. This summer is the concert’s 14th year – which means that 2016 will be the 15th year, a milestone that was perhaps unthinkable when we started in Garner Park in 2002.

We have the highest per capita attendance for such an event in the U.S., which is a strong testament to the greater Madison community’s love for what we do. I won’t reveal the repertoire for this summer’s concert yet, but we have four amazing soloists and plenty of light sticks (below), so I hope everyone has the date on their calendars.

Opera in the Park 2014 light sticks


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

July 18, 2015
17 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: Founder Bruce Croushore explains how the “Grace Presents” series of FREE concerts came about and what it offers for the future.

July 17, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Bruce Croushore is leaving Madison this month.

Croushore founded Grace Presents, a monthly FREE concert series that features performances of eclectic music. He agreed to answers questions about his role as a local music entrepreneur or amateur impresario.

Croushore, a retired corporate attorney, and his wife Michele Hilmes, who retired last month from her position as Professor in the Communication Arts Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, are moving to New York, where they met and married 38 years ago and where their daughter, her husband and their infant grandson live.

Bruce Croushore

What motivated you to start Grace Presents?

It occurred to me for years that Grace Church’s historic and beautiful nave or sanctuary (below top) is the right size and has pleasant acoustical properties for music performed by soloists and small ensembles.

Having attended concerts in churches in cities in the US and in Europe, I figured Grace -– a lovely and peaceful space ideally situated (below bottom) on Madison’s Capital Square and on the music venue axis from Monona Terrace to Overture Hall and on to Mills Hall -– is perfectly suited for a concert series.

MBM Grace altar

grace episcopal church ext

How did you piece together Grace Presents?

To put it together, I figured the series first needed the support of Grace’s clergy, staff and lay leadership, which came quickly and unanimously in March of 2011, with some caution about staff time demands.

Next, I held a meeting of several folks I knew in Madison’s music community to seek their input on feasibility, frequency, format, timing and programming. Their questions and comments helped launch the series, which in a fit of rare creativity I dubbed, “Grace Presents.”

How is Grace Presents managed and operated?

Out of the planning meetings arose a task force without whose support and hard work the Grace Presents series would not have advanced. Members of the task force worked diligently, not only at the concerts but also in start-up efforts to negotiate a mission statement and work out processes and procedures.

More goes on behind the scenes in organizing and presenting a concert series than one might imagine. I feel the scheme we devised suits our purpose well.

In a stroke of fortune, Laura Weiner (below) came on board as our first program coordinator. Laura is a gifted horn player who was working at the time on a Master’s degree at the UW-Madison School of Music and who was a leader in the “Classical Revolution” movement in Madison.

Laura Weiner

She brought the energy, organizational skills and musical connections Grace Presents needed in its inaugural season. (Below are violinist Laura Burns, of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, and pianist Jess Salek playing the complete violin sonatas of Johannes Brahms, whose “Liebeslieder” Waltzes can be heard in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Laura Burns Jess Salek Brahms Grace Epis

Did the series take off as you had hoped?

That first experimental season began in June 2011 and met with success. We tried different days of the week and different times of the day. We also experimented with varied programs, from a UW-Madison student brass quartet to Caravan, a local gypsy swing band.

Very importantly, we stuck to the guiding principles of charging no admission but paying an honorarium to all performers and keeping the music secular and eclectic. The quality of the performances was outstanding and attendance was gratifying.

Over the years, the task force realized that noon on Saturdays, especially when the Dane County Farmers’ Market is open, works best, as does keeping the concerts between 45 and 60 minutes long.

Scheduling was and remains a challenge because of conflicts such as events at the Overture Center and around the Capitol Square, as well as Badger football games. We surveyed the first concertgoers – and we have surveyed all that followed – and found that diverse programming has wide appeal.

Grace Presents sign

What did you learn over Grace Presents’ seasons?

Despite satisfying turnouts and positive comments on the surveys, we learned quickly that Grace Presents could not be sustained by free-will donations tossed into a basket at the concerts.

With Laura Weiner’s diligence in researching and writing a proposal, we had the good fortune to obtain a grant from Dane Arts near the end of the first season. That grant, along with a few generous individual donations and gifts from Grace Church, allowed us to meet our obligations. Funding for the following seasons came from the same sources. (Below are the Madison Bach Musicians performing a cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach.)

MBM Grace cantatas ensemble

What does the future look like for Grace Presents?

The 2015 season line-up features many gifted musicians who perform a wide variety of music genres. Some members of Grace Presents’ voluntary task force attend Grace Church and others do not.

This is in keeping with the series’ mission of offering quality yet informal performances of secular music to the broader Madison and Dane County community, at no charge.

It also provides an attractive, historic and acoustically pleasing space to artists who perform a wide range of music and who are paid a decent honorarium.

The current program coordinator, Andrea Mauch (below), has the drive, charm and savvy required to move the series to the next level. She is talented in using the Internet and social media to promote Grace Presents. I am especially grateful to Andrea and to task force members Lynn Morgan (the current chair), Tino Balio, Bill Foote, Kia Karlen and Ginny Shannon for all they do to keep the Grace Presents concert series going strong.

They’ll do a great job maintaining the series on a sound footing. I pray it remains for years to come “a masterpiece of eclecticism,” as John McPhee once described Bill Bradley’s graceful hook shot.

Andrea Mauch - long scarf color

For more information, you can go to this link:

http://gracepresents.org

 

 

 


Classical music: The Ear recommends hearing the July performances by the new east-side group, The Willy Street Chamber Players. The next concert is tomorrow at noon.

July 16, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Consider it the musical equivalent of being a “locavore.”

Last Friday evening -– at the early concert time of 6 p.m. – the new ensemble The Willy Street Chamber Players (below is its great logo) made its debut.

Willy Street Chamber Players logo

Its home venue is the Immanuel Lutheran Church at 1021 Spaight Street.

immanuel lutheran church ext

Immanuel Lutheran interior

The Ear went to see how the eastsiders, who drew a large and enthusiastic inaugural crowd, would perform.

He is happy to report that it is well worth the trip and the admission fee is low ($12 for adults, $8 for seniors and students.)

The hour-long program last weekend was: an instrumental version of the sublime “Ave Verum Corpus” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; the Passacaglia of Georg Frideric Handel as arranged for violin and viola by Johan Halvorsen; and the String Sextet in B-flat Major, Op. 18, by Johannes Brahms, with guest violinist Suzanne Beia of the Pro Arte Quartet.

It proved to be a memorable and impressive concert. True, one missed the heavenly singing in the Mozart (below). But the all-string version was nonetheless a brief but terrific curtain-raiser.

Willy Street Mozart Ave

In the Handel-Halvorsen “Passacaglia,” it was engaging to follow the theme as it moved virtuosically back and forth between the violin (below right) and viola (below left).

Willy Street Passacaglia

The Brahms sextet (below) especially felt driven and well-rehearsed, carefully worked out and controlled to sound more transparent in its lines and structure, less muddy or thick in its texture.

Willy Street Brahms Sextet

Here is a link to the website with members of the group and news of the remaining concerts in July. (There will NOT be any concerts in August.)

http://www.willystreetchamberplayers.org/index.html

And here is a link to the initial post by The Ear with the group’s background:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/07/08/classical-music-the-new-group-willy-street-chambers-players-makes-it-debut-this-friday-evening-in-a-brahms-sextet-and-has-concert-every-friday-in-july/

PLEASE NOTE: The concert this Friday – tomorrow — is at NOON and it’s designed to be a family event for children with parents. It will feature music by Antonin Dvorak, Eugene Ysaye and Ludwig van Beethoven. (Sorry, no word on specific pieces to be performed.)

The concert the following Fridays return to the 6 p.m. time.

Parking can seem hard to find, but the church (below, exterior and interior) has generous parking lot space. It also has terrific acoustics.

And there is a reception after the concert with some light snacks to carry to you into the rest of the evening.

The new group — made up of graduates of the UW-Madison School of Music who also play professionally in the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and other ensembles — offers yet more proof of the vitality and ingenuity of the classical music scene in Madison.

You would be wise not to miss its concerts.


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

July 11, 2015
1 Comment

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: The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society wants to hear from the public about repertoire to mark its 25th anniversary next summer. The Ear has some suggestions. Do you?

July 10, 2015
7 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

It happened on the last night of the successful three-weekend, six program, three-venue summer season –- the 24th such season for the Madison-based Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society -– that just ended.

BDDS poster 2015

The founders, artistic directors and performers were all milling around in the hallway of the Overture Center and were already talking about what a big event next summer will be because it will be the 25th season.

Clearly, planning the next season starts right away.

That night is when The Ear asked them if they wanted to get ideas from the public.

Yes, they said heartily, the more, the better!

So I said I would post about it, including my own suggestions and soliciting suggestions from the public.

Here they are. They include music from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Modern eras.

As you’ll see, I like the idea of using the number 25 as a symbol of the silver anniversary.

As in No. 25.

As in Opus 25.

If I had more patience and time, I might also do what a close friend suggested: Look for pieces of music that were written when the composer was 25. Maybe some of you know of such works and can suggest them!

Anyway, here are The Ear’s suggestions:

  1. The Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor -– Op. 25 -– by Johannes Brahms. It has a wonderful gypsy Rondo final movement (below) and is the most popular of the three piano quartets. I can already hear Jeffrey Sykes and the great BDDS string players performing it.

Here is a link to a YouTube recording and video:

  1. How about one of those great chamber music reductions of orchestral music that BDDS does so wonderfully.

Specifically, I think of the Piano Concerto in C major, K. 503 – and No. 25 of 27 -– by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. If you heard BDDS perform the reduction of the Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K. 491, this summer, you know how beautiful it can be, especially with the transparency of the different parts. And No. 25 is both majestic and sublime.

Find a transcription or make one.

Other orchestral candidates include: Mozart’s great Symphony No. 25 in G Minor (the Little G Minor to distinguish it from the Big G minor, No. 40) and Haydn’s Symphony No. 25 in C Major.

  1. The String Quartet in G Major, Op. 17, No. 5 – or No. 25 by my count, though I defer to specialists and musicologists — by Franz Joseph Haydn
  2. The graceful and tuneful Piano Trio No. 25 in G major (below) by Franz Joseph Haydn.

5. The second set of 12 Etudes – Op. 25 – by Frederic Chopin. I’ll bet pianist Jeffrey Sykes could work up a little bouquet of them from the ones he uses to teach piano in Berkeley and San Francisco.

But I have also heard some wonderful transcriptions of the etudes for other instruments. Op. 25, No. 7 in C-sharp minor, for example, is meant to sound like a cello. (You can hear it below played soulfully by Daniil Trifonov.)

The cello was Chopin’s second favorite instrument. It might be impressive fun to see what BDDS comes up with if they do their own transcriptions of some etudes. The solo piano version is still the best, but a transcription might emphasize color and show the musicality in the pioneering keyboard studies!

6. Antonio Vivaldi, Cello Concerto in A minor, RV 422, No. 25

7. Antonio Vivaldi, Bassoon Concerto in F major, RV 491, No. 25

8. Johann Sebastian Bach, Cantata No. 25, “Wir danken dir, Herr Jesu Christ” BWV 623. One could do the entire original version or perhaps use excerpts, like the Bach arias and duets that BDDS performed this summer.

9. Sergei Prokofiev, Symphony No. 1 “Classical,” Op. 25, in another reduction. It would go especially well with something by Haydn, who was the model for this Neo-Classical work.

10. Ludwig van Beethoven, Piano Sonata No. 25, Op. 79. Maybe with Jeffrey Sykes or UW-Madison guest pianist Christopher Taylor who performed all 32 Beethoven piano sonatas several years ago.

You can hear all these works on YouTube.

And The Ear is sure there are a lot more works to name.

So send in your suggestions in the COMMENT section.

The Ear wants to hear.

And so does the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society.

 


Classical music: The new group The Willy Street Chamber Players makes its debut this Friday evening in a Brahms sextet and gives a concert every Friday in July.

July 8, 2015
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Late word has reached The Ear about a promising new chamber music group that has been formed on Madison’s near east side. It will make its debut in a concert this Friday evening at 6 p.m. Admission is $12 for the general public; $8 for seniors and students.

It is called the Willy Street Chamber Players and a has a great logo (below) that combines the isthmus and a violin.

For complete information, here is a link to the group’s website:

http://www.willystreetchamberplayers.org/index.html

Willy Street Chamber Players logo

And here are excerpts from their website:

“The Willy Street Chamber Players are the new faces of chamber music in Madison, Wisconsin. In residency at Immanuel Lutheran Church in the Williamson/Marquette neighborhood, our group features musicians who live on the East Side of Madison and also perform with the city’s major arts organizations.

“Our performances are of the highest quality and are sure to leave a lasting impression on all who attend. Concerts begin at the unique time of 6 p.m., allowing audiences to leave for the evening with enough time left over to enjoy summertime dinners and venture off to the next great event happening around town.

“A special lunch-time family concert will also be held at noon on Friday, July 17, for those who are looking for an enriching and creative way to spend their lunch hour.

“Chamber music revolves around the concepts of collaboration and building relationships, and we believe those activities affect everyone in the room, not just the musicians on stage. Post-concert social activities are an integral part of our programming and we encourage everyone to stay after each performance to meet our musicians.

“We founded this festival as a way to strengthen ties with the neighborhoods that we call home. By sharing diverse programs of the music we love most we hope to share a bit of ourselves with our community in a welcoming and inclusive environment.

“We are the musicians that you hear practicing in the windows on Spaight Street or biking down the Capitol City trail on Atwood Avenue.

“We play your weddings, teach your kids and play impromptu concerts on your street corners.

“We play as members of Madison’s leading ensembles including the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Madison Bach Musicians, the Ancora String Quartet and have all gone through the graduate studies program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

“Some of us — Eleanor Bartsch — have even gone viral on YouTube serenading elephants with the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. But most importantly we shop local, eat local, bike local and live local.

“Come join us for these exciting concerts. We would love to meet you!

Here is the 2015 Core Roster of Performers

Eleanor Bartsch, Violin (below)

Eleanor Bartsch BW

Lindsey Crabb, Cello (below)

Lindsey Crabb

Beth Larson, Violin (below)

Beth Larson

Rachel Hauser, Violin/Viola (below)

Rachel Hauser

Mark Bridges, Cello (below)

Mark Bridges

Paran Amirinazari, Violin (below)

Paran Amirinazari

Jason Kutz, Piano (below)

jason kutz at piano

Here is the JULY 2015 CONCERT SCHEDULE:

ALL CONCERTS WILL BE HELD AT IMMANUEL LUTHERAN CHURCH (below), 1021 SPAIGHT STREET, MADISON

immanuel lutheran church ext

Friday, July 10 at 6 p.m.: WSCP Welcomes You!!  Our inaugural season will take off with the epic Brahms Sextet in B-flat major, Op. 18– you can hear it in a YouTube video at the bottom — with special guest violinist Suzanne Beia (below) of the Pro Arte Quartet, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

suzanne beia

Friday, July 17 at noon: Lunchtime Intermezzo — A Family Concert! Please bring family and friends to enjoy a lunch-time concert with music by Antonin Dvorak, Ludwig van Beethoven and Eugene Ysaye.

Friday, July 24, at 6 p.m.: Hear and Now — A special concert of music written by living composers; many of whom have ties to the Midwest. Come partake in a fun evening of living, breathing music!

Friday, July 31, at 6 p.m.: Timeless Masterpieces. Our inaugural season will conclude with: the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 by Johann Sebastian Bach and the Octet in E flat major by Felix Mendelssohn.


Classical music: Tell The Ear what music he should post on the Fourth of July?

July 3, 2015
7 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Today, the stock markets, banks and many businesses are closed in observance of the Fourth of July.

American Flag

TETRRF-00024113-001

But Saturday is the real Independence Day for the United States of America.

Now, The Ear has some ideas about what classical music to celebrate the event -– and the choices do NOT include the “1812 Overture” by Peter Tchaikovsky or the “Marseillaise,” the French national anthem that started during the French Revolution. Maybe one of the overtures by Ludwig van Beethoven or an aria by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or Giuseppe Verdi would do. Try and see if you can convince me.

But the Ear thinks it would be much more patriotic to have something by an American composer – say Charles Ives (below top) or Aaron Copland (below bottom), William Schuman or Samuel Barber.

Charles Ives BIG

aaron copland

Or maybe Roy Harris or Leonard Bernstein, Joan Tower (below top) or Jennifer Higdon (below bottom) -– would be appropriate and a good choice.

Joan_Tower

Higdon-and-Beau-Candace DiCarlo

But here is your choice to play DJ.

Leave your choice -– with a YouTube link, if possible -– in the COMMENT section.

Then I will decide which choice is most appropriate and best, and post a YouTube video of the work on Saturday to mark the real Fourth of July, the real Independence Day.

Thanks for your help.

I know I have some very knowledgeable readers, so I am looking forward to the seeing and hearing their suggestions.

 

 


Classical music: Lesson 1 from the 2015 season of the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society: Chamber music transcriptions, arrangements and reductions of large orchestral works deserve a wider hearing.

July 1, 2015
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

The Madison-based Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society finished up its three-week, 24th annual season this past weekend.

The populist chamber music group used local and imported artists to perform six programs over three weekends in three different venues -– all based around the theme of “Guilty as Charged,” which meant emphasizing borrowings and similar transgressionsTalk about a hard-working group of performing artists!

BDDS poster 2015

Over the next week or two, The Ear wants to share some of the lessons that he learned from attending several of the BDS concerts.

Today is Lesson 1: Chamber music transcriptions, arrangements and reductions of large orchestral works deserve a wider hearing so that more people can enjoy those works more often.

I cite two examples from the “Crooked Business” program that BDDS performed at the Stoughton Opera House (below, where I saw and heard it) and at the Hillside Theatre on the Taliesin compound of architect Frank Lloyd Wright in Spring Green.

StoughtonOperaHouse,JPG

First, there was the Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K. 491, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. BDDS co-founder, co-artist director and house pianist Jeffrey Sykes led the group of 11 players from the keyboard and played with his back to the audience.

(Believe it or not, if The Ear recalls music history correctly, that was the standard performance practice, as was playing with the score, until the legendary piano virtuoso Franz Liszt turned the piano to the side to highlight his dramatic profile and also memorized the music to astonish his audiences.)

The Mozart piano concerto is a great work — you can hear the whole work in its full orchestral version with pianist Mitsuko Uchida in a YouTube video at the bottom. And the arrangement or reduction they used made it seem even more remarkable. That is because the smaller size of the forces allowed one to hear more clearly the interplay of various parts.

BDDS 2015 Mozart C minor piano concerto

Then on the second half of the program came a second example: The Serenade No. 1 in D Major, Op 11 (1857) by Johannes Brahms. It was performed with nine players in a reduction by Christopher Nex.

The Ear found the work to be a bit too long and repetitive — the structure of its six movements lacked the tightness of a symphony. But then again, a tuneful serenade is by definition supposed to be lighter and have a looser structure, to spur more relaxed and informal listening and to demand less focused attention.

BDDS 2015 Brahms Serenade 1

Such reductions originated in the desire of amateurs to make house music at a time when professional orchestras and chamber music groups and commercial concerts did not exist in a widespread way.

It is an approach that can and should be revived. To be fair, the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival has also done a few of these transcriptions or arrangements, often with the Harvard University Mozart scholar and pianist Robert Levin.

But nonetheless it is largely thanks to the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society that listeners can make their way through the 27 piano concertos by Mozart and the 104 symphonies by Franz Joseph Haydn -– to say nothing of the many Baroque, Classical, Romantic and modern works that must already exist in similar arrangements or could be rearranged on demand.

To which The Ear simply says: Bravo! Do more of them!

What do you say?

The Ear -– along with BDDS organizers and performers – wants to hear.


Classical music education: The Green Lake Festival of Music opens the 17th year of its Chamber Music Camp, with FREE public concerts, this week.

June 29, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear’s friends at the Green Lake Festival of Music write to tell us about a program important to music education – which means a program important to the future of classical music:

Here is the press release:

On Sunday, July 5, at the Thrasher Opera House (below  bottom) in Green Lake, The Green Lake Chamber Players open the 17th annual Green Lake Music Festival Chamber Music Camp, as string and piano students (below top) from nine states, ages 11 to 20, convene at Ripon College for two weeks of stimulating music-making along with just plain fun.

chambermusicstudents

thrasher opera house

Part of the fun includes a trip to Larry Miller’s farm and a shopping scavenger hunt at K-Mart.

The daily schedule includes coaching sessions by Thomas Rosenberg (Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition Director, cellist and the Camp’s Artistic Director); Samantha George, Associate Professor of Violin at Lawrence Conservatory of Music; Karen Kim, Grammy Award winning violinist; David Perry, Professor of Violin at the UW-Madison and first violin of the Pro Arte String Quartet; Renee Skerik, Instructor of Viola at Interlochen Arts Academy; Andrew Armstrong from the Amelia Piano Trio; James Howsmon, Professor of Instrumental Accompanying at Oberlin College Conservatory; and guest artists, including Shen Lu, 2014 Hilton Head International Piano Competition Winner, the Jupiter Quartet (below top), and the Bergonzi String Quartet (below bottom).

Jupiter Quartet at Studio Theatre, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. From left: Liz Freivogel, Nelson Lee,  Daniel McDonough, and Meg Freivogel

Jupiter Quartet at Studio Theatre, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. From left: Liz Freivogel, Nelson Lee, Daniel McDonough, and Meg Freivogel

bergonzi string quartet

Join us for the first of several Green Lake Chamber Players concerts on Sunday, July 5, at 3 p.m. This concert is a “BUY ONE, GET ONE” ticket concert. The Green Lake Chamber Players includes the Green Lake Festival Chamber Music Camp faculty and guest artists who will perform music by Alexander Scriabin, Ludwig van Beethoven and Johannes Brahms. This is also the first concert in a series of matinees that offer a special package for bus pick up and ticket from Appleton, Oshkosh, and Beaver Dam. Call the Festival office for more details on this package.

The 2014 Hilton Head International Piano Competition Winner, Shen Lu (below) will perform Thursday, July 9, at 7:30 p.m. at the Thrasher Opera House, along with teaching a piano master class on Friday, July 10, at 10 a.m. John O’Conor, the Jury Chair from the 2014 Hilton Head International Piano Competition, says, “Shen Lu is a young Chinese pianist with an exciting future. His interpretations have great depth, his technique seems effortless and he communicates wonderfully with his audience.”

shen lu

Students will attend master classes and five Festival concerts, and perform a variety of community service engagements in such facilities as nursing homes, service clubs, and libraries.

The program includes three public concerts – a Chamber Camp Student Recital on Saturday, July 11, and the popular “Circle of Sound” string orchestra concert at the Boston Barn on Tuesday, July 14, as part of the Boston Barn Concert package that includes appetizers and music by the Bergonzi String Quartet, and the final Chamber Music Celebration at Rodman Center for the Arts, Ripon College, on Saturday, July 18.

Please visit www.greenlakefestival.org for information about these and other artists performing throughout July at the Festival or to purchase tickets.  Tickets are also available by calling the office at 920-748-9398.  You can also stop by one of the following ticket outlets:  Green Lake Bank (Green Lake) and Ripon Drug (Ripon).

Green Lake Festival of Music logo

The Green Lake Festival of Music is supported in part by the Arts Midwest Touring Arts Fund, a program of Arts Midwest, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional funding from the Wisconsin Arts Board, the Crane Group, and General Mills Foundation. Additional support comes from the Horicon Bank, Oshkosh Area Community Foundation, Agnesian Healthcare, Wisconsin Department of Tourism, Oshkosh Area Community Foundation, and private and corporate donations.

Chamber Workshop FREE Public Events

Get the inside story on the rehearsal process as you watch these artists work with talented students. All master classes will be held at the Rodman Center for the Arts at Ripon College.

  • Piano Master Class with Shen Lu. Friday, July 10, 10 a.m.
  • Cello Master Class with The Jupiter Quartet. Monday, July 13, 10 a.m.
  • Violin Master Class with The Bergonzi String Quartet. Thursday, July 16, 10 a.m.

 Chamber Workshop Concerts

  • Chamber Camp Recital. Join us for this FREE community concert at the Rodman Center for the Arts, Ripon, Wisconsin on Saturday, July 11, at 2 p.m. No tickets are need for this event; seating is first come, first served.
  • “A Circle of Sound” Tuesday, July 14, 6:30 p.m. at the Boston Farm, Green Lake, Wisconsin. Be in the center of the music as The Bergonzi String Quartet, faculty and students encircle the audience in a historic Wisconsin barn. This concert is preceded with cocktails and appetizers with an Italian flair. This concert is offered only as a package.
  • Chamber Music Celebration Showcase Performance. Saturday, July 18, 3 p.m., Rodman Center for the Arts (below), Ripon, Wisconsin. Hear the stars of tomorrow as the talented students perform in trios, quartets and quintets, concluding with their trademark Circle of Sound strings. A student-led preconcert conversation begins at 2:30 p.m.

Ripon College Rodman Hall

 


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