By Jacob Stockinger
Last weekend brought a lot of conflicting classical music concerts to Madison.
The program featured the supremely gifted but much under-publicized pianist Shai Wosner (below, in a photo by Marco Borggreve). He performed two contrasting keyboard concertos by Joseph Haydn — No. 4 in G Major and the better known No. 11 in D Major.
It was simply a sublime use of a modern instrument to make older music that was originally composed for the harpsichord. Never was the witty music by Haydn overpedaled or overly percussive or distorted for virtuosity’s sake. In every way, Wosner served Haydn — not himself.
The concert was also noteworthy because it featured the longtime music director and conductor Andrew Sewell. He led the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below) to shine in an eclectic program that included the Samuel Barber-like neo-Romantic and neo-Baroque Prelude and Fugue by the 20th-century Italian-American composer Vittorio Giannini and especially the youthful Symphony No. 2 by Franz Schubert.
Plus, Sewell (below) proved a perfect accompanist in the Haydn concertos. Clearly, chemistry exists between Sewell and Wosner, who have also performed together concertos by Ludwig van Beethoven and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with the WCO.
It was, in short, a program that was beautifully planned and beautifully played – even down to Wosner playing an encore by Schubert (the late Hungarian Melody, a lovely bittersweet miniature) that set up the second half with the Schubert, whose musical attractions Wosner explains so insightfully in a YouTube video at the bottom.
For his part, Sewell brought out balance and voicing, along with the expressive, but not excessive, lyricism that befits the ever-songful Schubert. As he has proven many times with his readings of Haydn and Mozart symphonies and concertos, Sewell is a master of the Classical style.
Wosner’s subtle and suitably quiet playing — he always puts virtuosity at the service of musicality — was also a model of clarity and restraint, perfectly suited to Haydn. But it left me with only one question:
When will we in Madison get to hear Shai Wosner in a solo recital?
Three of Wosner’s four acclaimed recordings are solo recitals of difficult works. They feature the music of Johannes Brahms, Arnold Schoenberg, the contemporary American composer Missy Mazzoli and especially Franz Schubert, with whom Wosner obviously feels, and shows, a special affinity. The fourth CD is a violin and piano duo done with the gifted young violinist Jennifer Koh.
I don’t know what presenter, besides the Wisconsin Union Theater, would bring Wosner back — and benefit from the WCO audiences that already have heard him. Or maybe the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra could sponsor a solo recital as a sideline. But we could use more solo piano recitals in Madison — especially if they offer playing of the scale of Wosner’s.
I don’t know how it would happen, but I sure hope it does happen.
Shai Wosner is a great pianist who deserves a wider hearing in a wider repertoire.
By Jacob Stockinger
This Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Shannon Hall of the Wisconsin Union Theater, the famed and long-lived Takács Quartet performs a MUST-HEAR concert of music by Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert.
The program includes the Quartettsatz (Quartet Movement) in C Minor, D. 703, by Franz Schubert (1797-1828); the String Quartet No. 50 in B-flat Major, Op. 64, No. 3 by Joseph Haydn (1732-1809); and the “Razumovsky” String Quartet No. 7 in F Major, Op. 59, No. 1 — from his middle period — by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827) with its well-known “Russian Theme.” (You can hear the Russian Theme in a performance by the now disbanded Tokyo String Quartet in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
Tickets are: General Public: $45, 25; Wisconsin Union Members and Non UW-Madison Students: $40; UW-Madison Faculty and Staff: $42; UW-Madison Student (with ID): $10. Prices do not include fees. See more at:
The Takacs Quartet seems to The Ear a perfect choice for the annual Fan Taylor Memorial Concert — an event designed to honor the first and longtime director of the Wisconsin Union Theater.
For more about Fan Taylor (below), whose name is also used for the Wisconsin Union Theater’s endowment fund, or to donate to it, visit these links:
Here is some publicity material from the Wisconsin Union Theater:
Widely heralded as modern masters of classical music, the Takacs Quartet has delighted audiences in Europe, Asia, Australia and North America, bringing a vivid intensity to the works that built their genre. Known for their “supreme artistry manifest at every level,” (The Guardian) they are the only string quartet ever to be inducted into Gramophone’s Hall of Fame.
Such an honor is hardly unfamiliar to the group, however, having also taken home Disc of the Year and Chamber Award from BBC, as well as a Grammy for their Beethoven collection.
This talented quartet (below, in a photo by Hiroyuki Ito for The New York Times) continues to amaze while pushing the boundaries of chamber music.
Please note that there is a WIAA Individual Wrestling Tournament this evening, so allow enough time to find parking.
Because of a conflict at the UW-Madison School of Music, a master class will be held on this FRIDAY from 5 to 7 p.m. in Room 1341 Humanitites Building — NOT as previously stated on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. See more at:
Here is a link to the Wisconsin Union Theater, which also features audiovisual clips and reviews:
For the quartet’s website, go to:
By Jacob Stockinger
This Friday night at 8 p.m. in the Capitol Theater on the Overture Center, pianist Shai Wosner returns for a third time to perform with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra under its longtime music director and conductor Andrew Sewell.
The program is largely from the Classical era. Wosner will perform two piano concertos by Haydn – No. 4 in G Major and No. 11 in D major – and the orchestra will perform the Symphony No. 2 in B-flat Major by Franz Schubert. In addition, a 1955 Prelude and Fugue by the accessible, 20th-century neo-Romantic composer Vittorio Giannini (below) will be performed.
Tickets are $15-$75. Call the Overture Center box office at (608) 258-4141.
The critically acclaimed Wosner, an Israeli native who studied at the Juilliard School with Emanuel Ax and who is now based in New York City, has previously performed Classical-era concertos by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven with the WCO.
Wosner recently agreed to a Q&A about this new program.
The prize-winning American composer John Harbison has said that Haydn is the most underappreciated and most under-performed of the great composers. If you agree with that, why do you think that is and how do you feel about Haydn?
It is probably true. I can only guess what the reasons might be. Perhaps, over the centuries, his name has been eclipsed by that of Mozart (below), as the two are often lumped together in spite of the profound differences in their biographies and their music.
Where Mozart has irresistible melodies all over to disarm you at first hearing, with Haydn sometimes you have to get into the “groove” of the music first — perhaps a remnant from earlier music — and then once you do, you can find both great melodies as well as all kinds of twists and turns that can be just as gripping.
Humor, of course, is central to Haydn’s world and one can sometimes mistake that for lightheartedness. But the fact is that it is often just one layer of meaning and by all means not the only one.
If you open up to it, you quickly realize the depth and sincerity with which Haydn (below) speaks — just like spending time with a really great person who likes to tell jokes a lot, but whose immense life experience and understanding of the world soon comes through as well.
What are your plans for performances and recordings? Do your plans include performing or recording more Haydn, maybe concertos, sonatas and chamber music works?
Yes, I hope to record concertos along with a few other pieces as well in the near future.
What would you like the public to know about the two piano concertos by Haydn — who always composed at the keyboard — that you will perform here and their individual character? How do they compare to each other?
The G Major concerto is somehow the more “earthy” one — perhaps it’s the association of the key itself, which tends to relate to all things “rustic.” (For example, Mozart’s peasants and servants tend to sing in G Major). It seems to have a rough edge to it, a certain naughtiness.
The popular D Major concerto, on the other hand, is more patrician — even with the Hungarian finale. It shimmers with golden light like the interior of some idyllic palazzo in midday. (In a YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear the D Major concerto performed by famed pianist Paul Badura-Skoda, who was an artist-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music in the 1960s, and conductor Frans Bruggen.)
How does Schubert go with Haydn? On your program, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra will also perform Schubert’s early Symphony No. 2 and you have recorded two CDs for the Onyx label that feature the music of Schubert. Clearly you feel a strong affinity with Schubert and have a point of view about him.
Schubert and Haydn are an interesting combination because early Schubert was very much influenced by Viennese Classicism, before Beethoven’s influence became much more dominant in his music.
At the same time, while Schubert (below) was using the same forms as Mozart and Haydn, they tend to come out very different under his hands, as if he couldn’t help it.
Most noticeable, I think, is the difference in energy.
In Haydn, to go back to the “groove,” there is a lot of raw rhythmic energy in fast movements and it helps to give shape to those movements as well.
In Schubert, on the other hand, even in fast movements, the overall shape tends to be much more contemplative, no matter quickly the notes go by.
This is your third appearance with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, with whom you have performed concerts by Mozart and Beethoven. What would you like to say about Madison audiences and the WCO?
I have been fortunate to meet very interesting people in Madison, and clearly the audiences are very dedicated and comprised of real music-lovers.
It is a wonderful thing that the city supports not only a symphony orchestra but also a chamber orchestra (below is a photo of the WCO) as well, which is, of course, a very different animal and unfortunately not a very common one any more.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
I look forward to visiting Madison, of course!
By Jacob Stockinger
Today is Valentine’s Day, 2015.
Traditionally, a Valentine’s Day tribute is written out and comes in a greeting card or a love letter.
But The Ear has always found music a more suitable vehicle than words to express love.
So I using today’s holiday to post a link to a piece that celebrates love.
And I invite all readers of this blog to do the same.
Just use the Comments section to say what the piece is, who the composer is, and, if possible, what is the link to a YouTube video of the piece.
There are so many choices — with Johann Sebastian Bach, Franz Schubert, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Frederic Chopin, Giacomo Puccini, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Antonin Dvorak and Sergei Rachmaninoff ranking at the top — that I look forward to hearing what you choose. I am sure some of them will be new to me.
As for myself, an avid amateur pianist, I will include a link from five years ago in which I posted three short solo piano romances by Robert Schumann — who was the most romantic of the Romantics — Johannes Brahms and Gabriel Faure.
That is my choice to mark today.
Now tell me yours.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, to be held 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the Landmark Auditorium of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed First Unitarian Society of Madison at 900 University Bay Drive, features violinist Charlene Adzima and harpsichordists Christian Collins and Leo Van Asten playing music by George Frideric Handel, Domenico Scarlatti, Johann Pachelbel, Adzima and Collins.
By Jacob Stockinger
Here is another catch-up posting after an extremely busy week of concerts and previews.
A very large crowd turned out for the Jan. 30 “Schubertiade” (below) – the second annual one at the UW-Madison School of Music. And they were not disappointed with the music, all by Schubert and all wonderful.
It proved to be simply one of the best and most enjoyable concerts of the season.
However, there was something to leave one disappointed.
That is the reception that a lot of audience members received when they arrived at Mills Hall.
It was a very cold and snowy night, with some parking problems due to the weather and a hockey game. So understandably, many people left home early because of traffic and arrived at the hall early.
But they were left standing in the hallway, milling around as the doors opened and let in cold air.
“It’s like they’re cattle,” someone remarked.
And indeed it was. Just look at the photo below.
Now, the school advertises that the doors to the hall will be open one-half hour before concert time.
But that did NOT happen.
This time the excuse we were told was that the performers were still practicing up until maybe 15 minutes or so before the doors opened. Plus, The Ear is told, there were some unexpected problems with setting up the stage and opening the door.
Mistakes and accidents happen. Probably the wait was not intentional.
But this wasn’t the only time The Ear has experienced this kind of inconvenience. You can also see the literal crush of waiting people (below) in the vestibule at the last UW-Madison Choral Prism holiday concert at Luther Memorial Church.
I have also seen crowds standing in a snaking line at popular events like the UW Choral Union as they wait – and listen to the choral performers warming up.
That is just unacceptable.
Remember that, by and large, the audience for classical music is older. That means they have less strength. They may be taking medications. They often have balance problems. They are more sensitive to the cold. They may have had hip and knee replacements, so that standing in the hallway can be awkward and even painful.
Plus, there are damn few places to sit besides three or four benches.
So here is what The Ear proposes in the way of setting up some ground rules to ease the logistics and increase the audience’s comfort.
1) All performers must vacate the stage in Mills Hall 40 minutes before curtain time. That gives the performers 10 minutes to get out and the staff 10 minutes to get doors open and the hall prepared. No excuses and no procrastination. And maybe, we can hope, no audience frustration.
2) Put more benches or portable chairs in the foyer, especially in winter and during extremely cold or inclement weather.
3) Do what you promise to do and open the doors at least one-half hour before the concert.
4) Maybe open up a waiting classroom or area, away from drafts and with more places to sit while waiting to get into the hall.
5) Have another room available for performers who have to practice close to concert time.
What do you think of the problem?
And what solution would you like to see or have to suggest?
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
The 2015 Grammy winners were announced Sunday night in a live three-hour broadcast.
The list of winners and nominees can be a good guide to new listening.
Of course most of the Grammy attention went to pop, rock, rap, country and the big selling music genres.
But here are the winners for classical music, along with the nominees and competition.
One thing to note: Producer of the Year again went to freelancer Judith Sherman (below).
Sherman will be in Madison again inn May to record the last two centennial commissions for the University of Wisconsin-Madison‘s Pro Arte Quartet. (Below, she is seen recording the first four commissions with the Pro Arte in Mills Hall.) The new recording includes the terrific Clarinet Quintet based on Allen Ginsberg’s landmark Beat poem “Howl” by American composer Pierre Jalbert and Belgian composer Benoît Mernier’s String Quartet No. 3.
WINNER: Vaughan Williams (below): Dona Nobis Pacem; Symphony No. 4; The Lark Ascending. Michael Bishop, engineer; Michael Bishop, mastering engineer (Robert Spano, Norman Mackenzie, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra & Chorus). Label: ASO Media
Adams, John: City Noir. Richard King, engineer; Wolfgang Schiefermair, mastering engineer (David Robertson & St. Louis Symphony); Label: Nonesuch
Dutilleux: Symphony No. 1; Tout Un Monde Lointain; The Shadows Of Time. Dmitriy Lipay, engineer; Dmitriy Lipay, mastering engineer (Ludovic Morlot & Seattle Symphony). Label: Seattle Symphony Media
Riccardo Muti Conducts Mason Bates & Anna Clyne. David Frost & Christopher Willis, engineers; Tim Martyn, mastering engineer (Riccardo Muti & Chicago Symphony Orchestra). Label: CSO Resound
PRODUCER OF THE YEAR, CLASSICAL
WINNER: Judith Sherman (below)
BEST ORCHESTRAL PERFORMANCE
WINNER: Adams, John (below): City Noir. David Robertson, conductor (St. Louis Symphony). Label: Nonesuch
Dutilleux: Symphony No. 1; Tout Un Monde Lointain; The Shadows Of Time. Ludovic Morlot, conductor (Seattle Symphony). Label: Seattle Symphony Media
Dvořák: Symphony No. 8; Janáček: Symphonic Suite From Jenůfa. Manfred Honeck, conductor (Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra). Label: Reference Recordings
Schumann: Symphonien 1-4. Simon Rattle, conductor (Berliner Philharmoniker). Label: Berliner Philharmoniker Recordings.
Sibelius: Symphonies Nos. 6 & 7; Tapiola. Robert Spano, conductor (Atlanta Symphony Orchestra). Label: ASO Media
BEST OPERA RECORDING
WINNER: Charpentier (below): La Descente D’Orphée Aux Enfers. Paul O’Dette & Stephen Stubbs, conductors; Aaron Sheehan; Renate Wolter-Seevers, producer (Boston Early Music Festival Chamber Ensemble; Boston Early Music Festival Vocal Ensemble). Label: CPO
Milhaud: L’Orestie D’Eschyle. Kenneth Kiesler, conductor; Dan Kempson, Jennifer Lane, Tamara Mumford, Sidney Outlaw, Lori Phillips & Brenda Rae; Tim Handley, producer (University Of Michigan Percussion Ensemble & University Of Michigan Symphony Orchestra; University Of Michigan Chamber Choir, University Of Michigan Orpheus Singers, University Of Michigan University Choir & UMS Choral Union). Label: Naxos
Rameau: Hippolyte Et Aricie. William Christie, conductor; Sarah Connolly, Stéphane Degout, Christiane Karg, Ed Lyon & Katherine Watson; Sébastien Chonion, producer (Orchestra Of The Age Of Enlightenment; The Glyndebourne Chorus). Label: Opus Arte
Schönberg: Moses Und Aron. Sylvain Cambreling, conductor; Andreas Conrad & Franz Grundheber; Reinhard Oechsler, producer (SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden Und Freiburg; EuropaChorAkademie). Label: Hänssler Classic
Strauss: Elektra. Christian Thielemann, conductor; Evelyn Herlitzius, Waltraud Meier, René Pape & Anne Schwanewilms; Arend Prohmann, producer (Staatskapelle Dresden; Sächsischer Staatsopernchor Dresden). Label: Deutsche Grammophon
BEST CHORAL PERFORMANCE
WINNER: The Sacred Spirit Of Russia. Craig Hella Johnson, conductor (Conspirare). Label: Harmonia Mundi
Bach: Matthäus-Passion. René Jacobs, conductor (Werner Güra & Johannes Weisser; Akademie Für Alte Musik Berlin; Rias Kammerchor & Staats-Und Domchor Berlin). Label: Harmonia Mundi
Dyrud: Out Of Darkness. Vivianne Sydnes, conductor (Erlend Aagaard Nilsen & Geir Morten Øien; Sarah Head & Lars Sitter; Nidaros Cathedral Choir). Label: 2L (Lindberg Lyd).
Holst: First Choral Symphony; The Mystic Trumpeter. Andrew Davis, conductor; Stephen Jackson, chorus master (Susan Gritton; BBC Symphony Orchestra; BBC Symphony Chorus). Label: Chandos Records
Mozart: Requiem. John Butt, conductor (Matthew Brook, Rowan Hellier, Thomas Hobbs & Joanne Lunn; Dunedin Consort). Label: Linn Records
WINNER: In 27 Pieces – The Hilary Hahn Encores (below). Hilary Hahn & Cory Smythe. Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Dreams & Prayers. David Krakauer & A Far Cry. Label: Crier Records
Martinů: Cello Sonatas Nos. 1-3. Steven Isserlis & Olli Mustonen. Label: BIS
Partch: Castor & Pollux. Partch. Track from: Partch: Plectra & Percussion Dances. Label: Bridge Records, Inc.
Sing Thee Nowell. New York Polyphony. Label: BIS
BEST CLASSICAL INSTRUMENTAL SOLO
WINNER: Play. Jason Vieaux. Label: Azica Records
All The Things You Are. Leon Fleisher. Label: Bridge Records, Inc.
The Carnegie Recital. Daniil Trifonov. Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Dutilleux: Tout Un Monde Lointain. Xavier Phillips; Ludovic Morlot, conductor (Seattle Symphony). Track from: Dutilleux: Symphony No. 1; Tout Un Monde Lointain; The Shadows Of Time. Label: Seattle Symphony Media
Toccatas. Jory Vinikour. Label: Sono Luminus
BEST CLASSICAL SOLO VOCAL ALBUM
WINNER: Douce France. Anne Sofie Von Otter; Bengt Forsberg, accompanist (Carl Bagge, Margareta Bengston, Mats Bergström, Per Ekdahl, Bengan Janson, Olle Linder & Antoine Tamestit). Label: Naïve
Porpora: Arias. Philippe Jaroussky; Andrea Marcon, conductor (Cecilia Bartoli; Venice Baroque Orchestra) Label: Erato
Schubert: Die Schöne Müllerin. Florian Boesch; Malcolm Martineau, accompanist. Label: Onyx
Stella Di Napoli. Joyce DiDonato; Riccardo Minasi, conductor (Chœur De L’Opéra National De Lyon; Orchestre De L’Opéra National De Lyon). Label: Erato/Warner Classics
Virtuoso Rossini Arias. Lawrence Brownlee; Constantine Orbelian, conductor (Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra). Label: Delos
BEST CLASSICAL COMPENDIUM
WINNER: Partch (below): Plectra & Percussion Dances. Partch; John Schneider, producer. Label: Bridge Records, Inc.
Britten To America. Jeffrey Skidmore, conductor; Colin Matthews, producer. Label: NMC Recordings
Mieczysław Weinberg. Giedrė Dirvanauskaitė, Daniil Grishin, Gidon Kremer, & Daniil Trifonov & Kremerata Baltica; Manfred Eicher, producer. Label: ECM New Series
Mike Marshall & The Turtle Island Quartet. Mike Marshall & Turtle Island Quartet; Mike Marshall, producer. Label: Adventure Music
The Solent – Fifty Years Of Music By Ralph Vaughan Williams. Paul Daniel, conductor; Andrew Walton, producer. Label: Albion Records
BEST CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL COMPOSITION
WINNER: Adams, John Luther (below): Become Ocean. John Luther Adams, composer (Ludovic Morlot & Seattle Symphony). Label: Cantaloupe Music
Clyne, Anna: Prince Of Clouds. Anna Clyne, composer (Jaime Laredo, Jennifer Koh, Vinay Parameswaran & Curtis 20/21 Ensemble). Track from: Two X Four. Label: Cedille Records
Crumb, George: Voices From The Heartland. George Crumb, composer (Ann Crumb, Patrick Mason, James Freeman & Orchestra 2001). Track from: Complete Crumb Edition, Vol. 16. Label: Bridge Records, Inc.
Paulus, Stephen: Concerto For Two Trumpets & Band. Stephen Paulus, composer (Eric Berlin, Richard Kelley, James Patrick Miller & UMASS Wind Ensemble). Track from: Fantastique – Premieres For Trumpet & Wind Ensemble. Label: MSR Classics
Sierra, Roberto: Sinfonía No. 4. Roberto Sierra, composer (Giancarlo Guerrero & Nashville Symphony). Track from: Sierra: Sinfonía No. 4; Fandangos; Carnaval. Label: Naxos
By Jacob Stockinger
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.)
REMINDER: The Con Vivo! (music with life) chamber music ensemble (below) invites the public to its debut performance at the Stoughton Opera House on this coming Sunday night. The concert has been rescheduled to this Sunday evening due to the snowstorm last weekend.
Here are the details: Sunday, February 8, 2015, at 7:30 p.m.
Stoughton Opera House
381 E. Main St. Stoughton, WI
Tickets are $20, $10 for an obstructed view and are available at www.stoughtonoperahouse.com
Here is the program:
Sergei Prokofiev: “Overture on Hebrew Themes” for Piano, string quartet and clarinet, Op.34
Max Bruch: “Romance” for Viola and Piano op. 85
Jay Ungar: “Ashokan Farewell” for violin and piano
John Williams – “Air and Simple Gifts” for violin, cello, clarinet and piano (It was performed by violinist Itzhak Perlman, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, clarinetist Anthony McGill and piano Gabriela Montero and others at President Barack Obama’s first inauguration.)
George Gershwin – Preludes for solo piano
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet, KV 581
Here is a link to the original post about the concert:
By Jacob Stockinger
The Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble will give a concert of baroque chamber music on this coming Sunday afternoon, February 8, at 3 p.m.
Tickets are at the door only: $20, $10 for students.
Participating members in the concert – the veteran ensemble uses period instruments and historically informed performance practices — are:
Mimmi Fulmer – soprano
Brett Lipshutz – traverso
Eric Miller – viola da gamba, baroque cello
Consuelo Sañudo – mezzo-soprano
Monica Steger – traverso, harpsichord
Anton TenWolde – baroque cello
Max Yount – harpsichord
Here is the program:
Gabriel Bataille – “Sortez soupirs”
Henry Purcell – “Sweeter than roses”
Gabriel Bataille – “Que douce est la violence”
Georg Philipp Telemann – “Die Landlust”
Louis de Caix d’Hervelois – sonata for traverso and continuo
Benoît Guillemant – Sonata in D Major, Op. 2 Nr. 6 for two traversos
Johann Sebastian Bach – “Betörte Welt”
Giuseppe Sammartini – Sonata 3 for violoncello and continuo
George Frideric Handel – “Tanti Strali”
By Jacob Stockinger
This past week -– on Tuesday to be exact -– we celebrated the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who was born in 1756 and died in 1791.
It was his 259th birthday.
For all his fame, familiarity and popularity, Mozart is a curiously underestimated composer. His best work is so sublimely beautiful that it is easy to overlook how different and revolutionary it was in its day. Mozart changed music, and we don’t always appreciate that fact.
But one of the most interesting celebrations that The Ear saw came from BBC Music Magazine. It asked 10 celebrated Mozart performers — including pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim, conductor Sir Neville Marriner, pianist Dame Mitsuko Uchida, conductor Sir Roger Norrington and singer Barbara Bonney — to name their favorite work.
It covered the range of Mozart’s enormous output: piano music, string quartets, operas, symphonies, violin works, operas and of course choral works. And the website provided generous sound samples of the works.
Here is a link:
At the bottom is a YouTube video of one of my favorite Mozart works — the Piano Sonata in C minor, played by Daniel Barenboim. It was also a favorite of Ludwig van Beethoven who seemed to use some of it in the slow movement of the familiar “Pathetique” Sonata.
What is your favorite Mozart work?
What else do you want to say about Mozart?
The Ear wants to hear.
ALERT: Sad news has reached The Ear. Samuel M. Jones, a bass-baritone who was an exceptional performer and teacher at the UW-Madison School of Music for 37 years and who also served as the cantor at Temple Beth El and the Choral Director at Grace Episcopal Church, has died at 87. Here is a link to the obituary in the Wisconsin State Journal:
By Jacob Stockinger
On Friday night, The Ear couldn’t be in two places at once.
Being in the mood for some solo piano playing – because The Ear himself is an avid amateur pianist – he attended the solo recital of works by Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Liszt, William Bolcom and Johannes Brahms performed by UW-Madison School of Music professor Christopher Taylor. But more about that will come in another post this week.
However, Larry Wells — a college classmate and good friend who is a longtime and very knowledgeable classical music follower and who has worked, lived and attended concerts in Rochester, San Francisco, Moscow, Tokyo and Seoul — went to the concert Friday night by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below) in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center.
He filed this review:
By Larry Wells
The program opened with a short introduction by Maestro Andrew Sewell, the longtime music director and conductor of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, to the “English Suite” for string orchestra by the contemporary British composer Paul Lewis. (Sewell himself is a New Zealand native who also trained in England.)
Although the work was termed by Sewell as an obligatory form for British composers in the manner of Ralph Vaughan Williams, Edward Elgar and the like, I found the rhapsodic opening and closing of the second section, “Meditation,” reminiscent of VW’s “Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis.” But the remainder of the piece seemed trite and forgettable.
Following was the Concerto No. 1 in D Minor for keyboard by Johann Sebastian Bach. In this case, a concert grand piano was used featuring soloist Ilya Yakushev, a Russian native who now lives in the U.S., who was making his second appearance with the WCO.
This familiar piece was played bouncily in the first movement, sweetly in the second, and really fast in the third. I enjoyed Yakushev’s playing, although from my seat the piano seemed slightly muffled and occasionally unheard over the orchestra.
The second half of the evening opened with the Chamber Symphony No. 2 by Arnold Schoenberg, which Maestro Sewell claimed to be in the manner of Richard Strauss. If so, Strauss was much more expressive and engaging.
The evening ended with the Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor by Felix Mendelssohn, again featuring Yakushev. I was unfamiliar with the piece, and found it immediately engaging and enjoyable throughout. (You can hear Ilya Yakushev perform the Mendelssohn piano concerto in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
Altogether, it was a good evening of music.
But it was unfortunately marred early in the aforementioned “Meditation” movement when a woman two seats down from me decided to answer a text. The bright light from her cell phone was distracting, so I pointedly stared at her until her seat mate nudged her, and she put away the phone. The seat mate clearly felt that I was in the wrong and glared at me.
I noticed that there is no caution in the program about turning off cell phones, so I believe it would be a good idea for a brief announcement to be made at the beginning of the concert and at the end of the intermission for people to turn off their phones. That simple courtesy has still not become a part of all concertgoers’ routines.
And what is with the Madison tradition of giving everything a standing ovation? (Below is a standing ovation at a concert on the Playhouse by the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society.)
There have been perhaps a dozen times in my long concert-going life when I have been so moved by the moment that I’ve leapt to my feet. I think of a standing ovation as recognition of something extraordinary — not as a routine gesture that cheapens to the point of meaninglessness.
For purposes of comparison, here is a link to the review of the same concert by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and pianist Ilya Yakushev that veteran local music critic and retired UW-Madison medieval history professor John W. Barker wrote for Isthmus: