ALERT: Today at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall of the Overture Center is the final performance of the all-Beethoven concert by the Madison Symphony Orchestra under John DeMain. It features pianist Yefim Bronfman (below) in TWO piano concertos (Nos. 2 and 5 “The Emperor”) plus the Symphony No. 1 and “The Creatures of Prometheus” Overture. Here are links to two rave reviews of the concert by Madison Magazine critic and blogger Greg Hettmansberger and by Isthmus critic John W. Barker, who also guest blogs for The Ear. It sure sounds like a NOT-TO-BE-MISSED concert. See you there!
By Jacob Stockinger
It has been a very busy time musically in Madison, with a lot of previews to post, which often supplant reviews since The Ear thinks previews are more useful than reviews to most listeners and performers. And this coming week and weekend are even worse. So much music, and so little space!
But here are some “outdated” capsule reviews, impressions really, with accompanying afterthoughts that come to The Ear as he listened and later thought about what he had heard:
MADISON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA AND TRUMPETER TINE THING HELSETH
It seemed a curious, even odd theme for a Valentine’s Day program. But BRASS – not romantic love — marked the Valentine’s Day weekend performances by the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below), although ending with the “Rosenkavalier” suite by Richard Strauss did indeed prove an inspired choice to combine brass and love. Plus by all accounts, the concert sold very well. It sure got standing ovations. In short, it may have seemed odd, but it worked.
The “Doctor Atomic” Symphony by the contemporary American composer John Adams (below), who put the instrumental work together from his own opera score, was powerful, and also fit the brass bill, with great solos by MSO trumpeter John Aley, and was impressive to hear –- though also hardly romantic.
Given conductor John DeMain (below) and his stupendous taste and talent for choosing great singers who are also affordable, I kept thinking: How I would like to have heard some great singers perform familiar and unknown love arias from operas by Mozart, Rossini, Verdi, Puccini, Saint-Saens, even Wagner. Now those would be symphony tickets to throw in with a box of chocolates and a bouquet of roses. But The Ear has been informed that such concerts often do not sell well and might also be seen as competing with the local opera company.
All that said, I thought that the guest soloist, Norwegian trumpeter Tine Thing Helseth (below), proved an inspired, if unexpected, choice. She showed an uncanny power for playing softly. Brass instruments are not easy to control with little breath and with soft tone. But she did both beautifully in two concertos by Franz Joseph Haydn and Alexander Arutiunian. She clearly has the lung power to blow down the Walls of Jericho. But what impressed and seduced me was her quietness, which nonetheless possessed rich tone and unwavering pitch. That is a rare talent, and one to be cherished — and brought back to Madison!
Maestro Andrew Sewell (below) has a never-failing knack of finding terrific music that has been overlooked but is actually very good, if not revolutionary or pioneering.
Sure, at his last concert I too, like the rest of the audience, loved what he did with the Jupiter Symphony of Mozart –- not too hectic, clear voicing, propulsive energy even with all the repeats. And the talented and congenial soloist Joshua Roman proved an irresistible highlight in Haydn’s Cello Concerto in D major.
But the real surprise of the night was the 20th-century Concerto Grosso by Vittorio Giannini (below), who taught composition at the Juilliard School and the Manhattan School of Music and then established the North Carolina School of the Arts. What a discovery! I want to hear more by this guy.
And Sewell will soon unwrap another surprise this week –- and I expect, as usual, that it will be modern music that is accessible and tuneful, not R&D Music (that’s short research and development) that sounds like jet noise or broken plumbing. Could that help explain why he gets full houses?
Sewell and the WCO will probably do so again THIS COMING FRIDAY NIGHT at 8 p.m. in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center. That is when he and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra combine the famous famously listenable and lovely Violin Concerto (with guest soloist Karina Canellakis) by Felix Mendelssohn and Franz Joseph Haydn’s “Clock” Symphony (Symphony No. 101 of his 104 symphonies) with “Elements” by American composer Michael McLean (below, and with a sample of ”Elements” in a YouTube video at the bottom). Sounds like another MUST-HEAR concert to The Ear.
PRO ARTE QUARTET
Well, the headlines and chit-chat went rightfully to the world premiere of Belgian composer Benoit Mernier’s commissioned String Quartet No. 3, which sounded fiendishly difficult and seemed based largely on technical stuff like trills, tremolos and glissandos instead of themes and infectious rhythms. And the Pro Arte Quartet, artists-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music since 1940 and celebration its centennial, played it with impressive aplomb and apparent ease.
“Do you like the music?” someone asked me right after the performance.
I think the better question is: “Does the music like me?”
Think about it: What is the composer’s responsibility to you the listener, and what is your responsibility to the composer (Mernier, below), especially if he seems to ignore you?
I also loved the rarely heard and beautifully performed viola quintet by Anton Bruckner and particularly the contrasts between Sally Chisholm’s viola and Samuel Rhodes’ viola (the two are below side-by-side). If you liked the combination –- and what is not to like with the darker hued voice of the viola –- be sure to try the viola quintets by Mozart and Brahms, which I would also like to hear the Pro Arte do more of.
But for old-fashioned me, the star of the evening was the Haydn Quartet, Op. 20, No. 4. It just cleaned out your ears and was proof again that, at its best, the genre is indeed still as it was described by Haydn himself when pretty much invented in the 18th century: A conversation of equals. And did the Pro Arte ever play it with accuracy, clarity and texture. It sparkled like a diamond. The string quartet may have evolved, changed or morphed over the centuries, but it has simply not gotten any better than Haydn.
So: Is there any chance that we night get of a multi-year Haydn cycle by the Pro Arte, which decades ago in another avatar or configuration of players started to record the complete Haydn quartets in the famous Abbey Road studio in London for RCA. They have done Beethoven and Shostakovich cycles. What about Papa Haydn? And if not a complete cycle of the 68 or so quartets, how about a fairly comprehensive survey or at least a very large sampler of Haydn’s early, middle and late styles?
PIANIST CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR
What more can you say about the award-winning, audience-approved star talent pianist Christopher Taylor (below) who teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and concertizes around the world, and his stunning solo recital this year?
I loved the “War” Sonata No. 6 by Sergei Prokofiev, a great piece that he performed greatly with both riveting energy and heartbreaking lyricism. I also loved the encore — Scott Joplin’s “Pineapple Rag” –- as a contrast and change of pace.
But I have to be honest: I have heard enough of the Liszt piano transcriptions of Beethoven’s symphonies. Trust the genuine original! Accept no substitutes!
The next day I listened to a recording of the same work by a real orchestra — the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig under conductor Riccardo Chailly. What a difference when the “Eroica” is played with real brass countering, with jarring dissonance, real strings; when it is real tympani drumbeats rather than bass tremolos on the piano. Ludwig (below) simply had more of IT – whatever musical genius is — than Franz.
The real “Eroica” Symphony doesn’t — and shouldn’t — sound so much like a Hungarian Rhapsody or a Transcendental Etude. In their day, these transcriptions served a purpose and they stretched the resources of the piano, or at least, of pianists. Now, they strike The Ear as precious, more of a sideshow of amazing and ingenious pianism and not much little else aside from some strokes of minor genius here and there by the Paganini of the Piano.
From one of those transcriptions I learned something and I enjoyed it. But now that makes three down (symphonies numbers 3, 4 and 5) for Taylor. I, for one, sure hope we don’t have the other six to go. How much more I would have preferred to hear this supremely talented pianist and gifted musician in some serious and original piano repertoire –- maybe a late Schubert sonata, or a Bach partita, or a Chopin ballade, or a Schumann cycle. I want to hear Christopher Taylor in something that puts depth over display, substance over style.
Am I alone in that wish?
MIDDLETON COMMUNITY ORCHESTRA
Guest reviewer John W. Barker covered this recent concert of the mostly amateur Middleton Community Orchestra (below), which featured music by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Johannes Brahms and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, thoughtfully and thoroughly for this blog.
All I would add is a lesson that every teacher knows: Students with lesser abilities rise to meet high expectations. That is why symphony orchestras and chamber orchestras should book the best soloists they can get and afford: The Ear is convinced that the level of playing and performing usually rises to match the soloist and fosters cohesion.
With the MCO, it was two lifelong friends and award-winning, UW-Madison trained string players -– violinist Eleanor Bartsch and violist Daniel Kim (below) who soloed and who seemed in complete synch, down to the timing of their trills, during Mozart’s sublime Sinfonia Concertante.
Their playing was superb, and the amateur orchestra rose to meet them and give them the beautiful support they deserved. And with Mozart there is no place to hide, so flaws or mistakes are quickly revealed.
Well, now it is on to another busy week of concerts.
Where, I wonder, will the music lead The Ear this time?
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear is pretty sure that Deutsche Grammophon has some more recordings “in the can,” as they say, by the late and universally acclaimed Italian conductor Claudio Abbado (below, leading the Orchestra Mozart), who died last month at 80.
And the same make hold true for the legendary Argentinian pianist Martha Argerich -– often dubbed the female Vladimir Horowitz for her blazing technique, involving and individualistic interpretations and unpredictability -– who has been seriously ill and may be approaching the end of her career.
But it is curious, and reassuring, to see how so many aging musicians turn late in life to the music of Mozart. It happened with pianists Arthur Rubinstein and Vladimir Horowitz, both of whom generally focused on the Romantic repertoire. And I am sure there are many, many more examples.
But you would be hard put to find more convincing examples than the two Mozart piano concertos with Abbado and Argerich, plus the Orchestra Mozart, that was released this week by Deutsche Grammophon. You can hear some compelling samples in a YouTube video at the bottom.
That these two musicians were compatible we know from their long partnership — they are seen below together in the 1960s — and their early and frequent collaborations on Beethoven, Chopin Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Ravel and Rachmaninoff.
But who was waiting for Mozart to be next? Not The Ear.
But it works. Oh boy, does it work.
Argerich, who is known for impetuousness, here seems the model of restraint without being timid. She plays strongly and with assurance, but with the complete transparency and clarity that great Mozart playing demands. Mozart’s music offers no room to hide, but then Argerich doesn’t need any.
The same holds for Claudio Abbado, who was at home in grand opera and big symphonic scores by Mahler as well as Beethoven, Schubert and so many others. But his Mozart here is also a model of clarity, with the various orchestral parts emerging clearly to hold dialogues with the many piano parts that Argerich brings out.
It is an interesting match of repertoire.
The Concerto No. 25 in C Major, K. 503, is Mozart’s biggest symphonic effort in the genre of piano concertos – he composed 27 piano concertos — and it is perfectly suited to Argerich’s bigger-than-life playing.
But how she brings out Mozart’s lovely aria-like voices, melodies and harmonies. Her playing is all about poetic and natural sounding deconstruction through inflection and articulation, her accents paralleling and underscoring passages in the orchestra. Such heartbreaking simplicity combined with such effortless complexity -– that is the fusion Mozart we hear here.
Similarly, in the darker and more well-known Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466, Argerich is all color and drama as well as clarity. Interestingly, she uses different and atypical cadenzas -– two by Ludwig van Beethoven and one by Argerich’s teacher Friedrich Gulda.
Now there are a lot of wonderful Mozart piano concertos out there in Recording World, including those by Murray Perahia and Alfred Brendel. So there is no point arguing whether these readings are definitive.
Increasingly, in fact, the Ear thinks the whole idea of definitive performances is not only illusory, but also antithetical and even counterproductive to the whole point of the performing arts.
But I can say this: Judging by the pleasure that the readings continue to give me, these two recording are riveting and MUST-HEAR recordings for serious Mozart fans, for serious piano fans and for serious fans of Claudio Abbado and Martha Argerich — two of the 20th century’s titanic talents in classical music.
By Jacob Stockinger
He may not yet be a household name like Arthur Rubinstein, Vladimir Horowitz or Van Cliburn, but pianist Yefim Bronfman (below) — a prolific recitalist, concerto soloist and chamber music partner — commands great respect from critics and his fellow musicians.
And with good reason.
“Fima,” as he known to friends and even his loyal followers, possesses a technique that other pianists envy plus a total commands of style, ranging from early period works through Romanticism and Modernism to new music.
He also is renowned for his stamina and power, but, at the same time, for subtle playing without banging. Combining power and poetry seems to be his signature.
Here is a link to his website with his full biography — he emigrated to Israel from his native Tashkent — and critical reviews plus a discography, sound samples and other information:
People in the Madison area can hear Yefim Bronfman’s talents for themselves this weekend. That is when he joins the Madison Symphony Orchestra under its longtime music director and conductor John DeMain in a MUST-HEAR all-Beethoven program.
Bronfman will play the Piano Concerto No. 2 in B Flat Major, Op. 19, AND the famous Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73, also known as “The Emperor.” Also on the program are the Symphony No. 1 in C Major, and “The Creatures of Prometheus” Overture that Beethoven incorporated into his epic Symphony No. 3 “Eroica.”
Performances are in Overture Hall on Friday at 7:30 p.m; Saturday at 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets are $16.50-$82.50. Call the Overture Center box office at (608) 258-4141.
For more information, including audio samples of the various pieces and of playing by Bronfman, visit:
For program notes by MSO trombonist and UW-Whitewater professor J. Michael Allman, visit:
Yefim Bronfman recently agreed to an email Q&A with The Ear:
You are known for your stamina and power, as your cycle of the complete sonatas and concertos by Sergei Prokofiev and this Madison Symphony Orchestra concert with two Beethoven concertos prove. Are there special tricks or secrets you have to cultivate that kind of “marathon” playing and also avoid injury? Or is it just a natural gift?
It certainly helps to be in good physical shape, but recitals require the same kind of stamina and no one really questions that. Playing two concertos is actually less effort than playing a full solo recital.
What are your current plans and future projects, both for live concerts and recordings, especially of works by living composers?
I just played a lot of new music in a chamber program with members of the New York Philharmonic, including the world premiere of a solo piano piece written for me by Marc Neikrug and a trio commissioned by Carnegie Hall several years ago by Marc-Andre Dalbavie. In Asia, on tour with the New York Philharmonic, we performed the Piano Concerto No. 2 by Magnus Lindberg (below, in a photo by Saara Vuorkjoki), which is a co-commission with the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam and Gothenburg Symphony of Sweden. (Editor’s note: Bronfman’s recording of it was nominated for a Grammy Award.)
I’m always on the lookout for talented composers. My natural curiosity makes me wonder about the language of composers of today who often give me ideas that contribute to playing the music of composers who are no longer alive.
You frequently perform Beethoven concertos and have made outstanding recordings of them with David Zinman and the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra on the Arte Nova budget label. What would you like to say to the general public about Beethoven (below), about his Piano Concertos No. 2 and No. 5, the “Emperor”?
These two pieces belong to very different worlds. The first one belongs to the Mozartean period of Beethoven, very classical in structure and texture. But a lot happened between concertos No. 2 and No. 5.
They come from a composer with a great deal of desire to experiment, so those two concertos are like works of two different composers. Yet we never stop to wonder at the genius of someone able to do that. (At bottom is a YouTube video in which Yefim Bronfman, as Artist-in-Residence at the New York Philharmonic, and conductor Alan Gilbert discuss the complete cycle of Beethoven’s piano concertos they performed together.)
I first heard you here years ago at the Wisconsin Union Theater in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1. Do you have any special memories of or thoughts about Madison?
Madison and this particular theater have some wonderful memories from my youth because I played here some of the earliest concerts of my career. Playing Beethoven 1 with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra in Madison could have been one of the first Beethoven 1’s I ever performed.
What advice would you give today to young pianists and young musicians in general about pursuing a career in music? And how can classical music reach more young people and new audiences?
Arts and culture in general enrich our lives, and we have to give that understanding to the young generation. Without it our lives diminish greatly, and we have to learn to cherish what past artists have left to us.
By Jacob Stockinger
This is a very busy week to say good-byes and hellos at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music – as well as to hear a piano master class and recital by UW graduate Ilia Radoslavov; a concert of new music by the UW Contemporary Chamber Ensemble; and a recital by UW cellist Parry Karp. Plus, all the events are FREE and UNTICKETED.
Let’s start with the good-byes, which are for the prolific and award-winning American composer John Stevens, a congenial man and musician who is also a longtime professor of tuba and euphonium at the UW-Madison, where he has twice served as director of the School of Music and where he has been a longtime member of the acclaimed Wisconsin Brass Quintet.
Several events are scheduled to mark Stevens’ retirement, which will take place this May when the current semester ends.
Among the highlights are:
On this Saturday, March 8, at 4 p.m. in Music Hall, there is a chamber music concert featuring works composed by John Stevens and performed by his colleagues.
On this Sunday, Match 9, at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, inhere is a FREE concert that is part of the Wisconsin Union Theater series. The UW Symphony Orchestra under conductor James Smith will perform Stevens’ concerto for Tuba and Orchestra called “Journey.” The soloist is Gene Pakorny (below), who premiered the work during his tenure as principal tuba with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Also on the program are the Symphony No. 2 in D Major and the “Academic Festival” Overture, both by Johannes Brahms.
And there will be more. For a full listing of events plus some background, the School of Music calendar of events plus some background, the School of Music events calendar is a good place to start:
There is also a terrific profile story about John Stevens and his retirement celebrations on Fanfare, the MUST-READ new blog at the UW School of Music:
Here is a link to Fanfare’s list of complete events with details of programs:
And here is a link to Fanfare’s fine profile of Stevens written by Madison freelancer Paul Baker:
And at the bottom is a YouTube video of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras giving the world premiere performance of “Fanfare for an Uncommon Man,” a piece playing off Aaron Copland’s famous “Fanfare for the Common Man” that John Stevens composed to honor the late Marvin Rabin, who founded and directed WYSO for such a long time and who recently died at 97.
Although the official hellos actually started Sunday afternoon, there are plenty of occasions during the rest of this week to say hello to three members (below) of the Sibelius Academy of Finland, who are in residence this week at the UW School of Music.
All events are Free and Unticketed
Here is a schedule:
Monday, March 3, 11-11:50 a.m.: Presentation on Finnish song repertoire (Room 2531 of the George L. Mosse Humanities Building)
On Tuesday, March 4, 11-11:50 a.m. — Presentation on Finnish diction (Room 2451 in the Mosse Humanities Building); then 1:10-2:25 p.m. — Presentation on Finnish music education system (in Room 2411 of the Mosse Humanities Building)
On Saturday, March 8, at 1 p.m. – a concert at Luther Memorial Church (below), 1021 University Avenue, that includes a world premiere of a work for two voices and organ followed by gathering in church basement to talk with audience.
Three other events at the UW-Madison deserve mention:
UW doctoral graduate (who studied with Christopher Taylor) and prize-winning pianist Ilia Radoslavov, who ow techies at Truman State University, will give a FREE public master class on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall.
Then on Friday night at 8 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall, he perform a FREE recital. The program includes Piano Sonata in D Major, Op. 10, No. 3, by Ludwig van Beethoven; “ Improvisation” by Pancho Vladigerov; and “Pictures at an Exhibition” by Modeste Mussorgsky.
Also on Friday, at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Contemporary Chamber Ensemble (below top), under the direction of UW composer Laura Schwendinger (below bottom), will perform a FREE concert of new and recent music.
The program includes “In C” by Terry Riley; a Trio for clarinet, violin, and cello by Ben Johnston; ”Cottage Flowers” for solo flute by UW student Jonathan Posthuma, and “Cummingsong” by Leo Kraft ; the Serenade for flute, viola, and piano by Andrew Imbrie; and a work by UW composer Adam Bertz. Performers include Jordan Wilson, baritone; Peter Miliczky and Lydia Balge, violins; Ju Dee Ang, viola; Philip Bergman, cello; Nicole Tuma, flute; Alissa Ladas, clarinet; and Yosuke Yamada, piano.
On Saturday at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, UW cellist Parry Karp (below left), who is a member of the Pro Arte String Quartet, will perform a FREE recital with pianist Eli Kalman (below right), a graduate of the UW-Madison who now teaches at the UW-Oshkosh.
The program includes the Sonata for Piano and Violin in G Major, Op. 30 No. 3 (1801-2), by Ludwig van Beethoven as transcribed for Cello by Parry Karp; the Sonata for Cello and Piano (1948) by Francis Poulenc; and 24 Preludes for Cello and Piano as transcribed for cello by the young and prodigious Russian composer Lera Auerbach from the original 24 Preludes for solo piano by Dmirtri Shostakovich.
ALERT: On Saturday at 1 p.m. in Mills Hall, the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras’ (WYSO) Percussion Ensemble will perform the 13th annual Percussion ‘EXTRAVAGANZA’ in the UW Humanities Building. Directed by Vicki Peterson Jenks, the WYSO Percussion Ensemble is comprised of 12 talented young percussionists and one bassist from Madison, Middleton, Verona, Viroqua, Mount Horeb, DeForest, and Barneveld. (See the impressive individual profiles in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
WYSO will donate part of proceeds to support the American Red Cross Badger Chapter.
The concert features special guest artist Steve Houghton. A Kenosha, Wis., native, Houghton is an internationally renowned jazz drummer, percussionist, clinician, author and educator who is currently a professor at Indiana University’s prestigious Jacobs School of Music. Also joining the WYSO Percussion Ensemble in guest appearances will be two WYSO alumni, composer and pianist Jon D. Nelson and bassist Sam Olson – both Sun Prairie natives – the UW World Percussion Ensemble, UW-Madison Professor of Saxophone Les Thimming, and WYSO student flugelhorn player Noah Mennenga.
Tickets for the 2014 WYSO Percussion EXTRAVGANZA! are $10 for adults, $5 for youth (18 and under) and can be purchased at the door beginning one hour prior to the start of the concert. For more information, contact the WYSO office at (608) 263-3320. Parking is available at State Street Campus Ramp, Helen C. White Hall, and Grainger Hall parking facilities. You can also visit:
By Jacob Stockinger
What a close friend and colleague calls “train wrecks” — that is, competing or conflicting events and concerts – just keep on happening.
It is true that choices become more difficult, and more mutually exclusive, as the classical music scene continues to expand in the Madison area.
Take this Sunday, which is normally a pretty quiet day — but NOT this week.
Of course, from 12:30 to 2 p.m., the Pro Arte Quartet (below) will give the second premiere performance of Belgian composer Benoit Mernier’s String Quartet No. 3 on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen.” It will air live from the FREE concert in Brittingham Gallery No. 3 of the Chazen Museum of Art on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.
But check out these other events:
At 2:30 p.m., the ensemble Con Vivo (“Music with Life) continues its 12th season of chamber music with a concert entitled “Germanic Gems” at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Avenue, across from Camp Randall.
Tickets can be purchased at the door for $18 for adults, $15 for seniors and students.
The program includes the First Suite for Solo Cello by Johann Sebastian Bach; a duet for violin and viola by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; and the “Fairy Tales” Trio for clarinet, viola and piano by Robert Schumann. The program will also feature the outstanding church organ with duets for violin and organ by Joseph Rheinberger, a solo work for organ by 17th-century composer Johann Reincken, and “Ein Alterblatt” (An Old Page), a romantic piece for violin, viola, cello and organ by Ferdinand Manns.
To round out the afternoon’s offering, Con Vivo will perform a quintet for clarinet, two violas, cello and piano by a mystery composer who will be reveled at the concert!
Audience members are invited to join 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 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.
EDGEWOOD CHAMBER ORCHESTRA
Also at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, the Edgewood Chamber Orchestra will perform in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive, on Madison’s near west side.
Admission is $5 for the public; free with Edgewood College ID.
The orchestra will perform under the direction of music conductor Blake Walter (below). The program of masterworks includes the Symphony No. 7 by Ludwig van Beethoven; the Orchestral Suite No. 3 by Johann Sebastian Bach; and the Overture to “Abduction from the Seraglio” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Included in the program is a special performance of the Piano Concerto in D Major by Franz Joseph Haydn. It will be performed by the recent Madison Memorial High School alumna Johanna Novich-Leonard (below), winner of the Edgewood College Student Concerto Competition.
SOUND ENSEMBLE WISCONSIN
At 6 p.m., Sound Ensemble Wisconsin (SEW) will be collaborating with Chef Dan Bonanno and poet Katrin Talbot (below in a photo with violinist Mary Theodore on the far right holding a violin bow) for a “delicious” event at A Pig in a Fur Coat restaurant, located at 940 Williamson Street, Madison, WI, 53703. Phone is (608) 316-3300.
Tickets are currently on sale at www.sewmusic.org and are $105 per person or $100 by check (with guests’ names) to: Sound Ensemble Wisconsin, 716 Edgewood Avenue, Madison, WI 53711. Performing musicians (below) are SEW members and incude violinists Mary Theodore and Mary Perkinson, violist Chris Dozoryst, and cellist Maggie Townsend.
More information and tickets are available at www.sewmusic.org.
Here is an excellent story written by Gayle Worland of The Wisconsin State Journal:
And here is the SEW press release:
“What does food sound like? What does music taste like?
“Participants enjoy a lovely evening out as they explore their senses as the pathway to their souls through the performing arts of food and music, accompanied by poetry. “SEWing Taste and Sound, Bite by Byte” is a collaboration between Sound Ensemble Wisconsin, Chef Dan Bonanno of Madison’s celebrated Pig in a Fur Coat, and SEW’s 2013-14 Artist-in-Residence, who is Madison poet and violist Katrin Talbot.
“The event centers around the aesthetic similarities of food and music, both of which Mary Theodore, SEW’s director and violinist, considers performing arts. SEW has based the evening on a movement from a Beethoven String Quartet, Op. 18 No. 5, Andante Cantabile, that is a theme and variations.
“Each variation, or byte of music, will inspire Chef Bonnano and be paired with one course, or bite, of food — and performed and served as such to create a seven-course meal, including a beverage pairing for each course.
“For example, the third variation, which might remind one of a bubbling brook with a contrast of smooth, running water and sunlight glistening through the trees as well as a touch of sweetness, has inspired Chef Bonanno to create a smooth, creamy risotto with fresh blueberries and sweetbreads.
“Katrin Talbot will also read poems composed for each variation.
“At the end of the meal, SEW musicians will perform the quartet movement from beginning to end with the aim of offering participants a new experience of the music, a new journey of taste and sound.
“As a large part of SEW’s mission is to bring more people to classical music, SEW makes an effort to demonstrate that music can be found in many things that we experience every day.
“SEW achieves this by collaborating with other artists, institutions, etc. through innovative programming and authentic events. Also, as SEW’s founding principle is that music is a vital part of humanity and should serve everyone, the ensemble strives to both offer engaging and unique programming to regular participants (their term for “audience”), as well as to offer music to those who might not have access to it otherwise.
“As part of the March 2 program, SEW will be performing during dinner hour at a food pantry and offering two free tickets to the Sunday event. As a side note, SEW also played at a correctional facility as a precursor to their last event.”
By Jacob Stockinger
This weekend will find us not only in the fading grip of the Polar Vortex but also in the full force of The Piano Vortex.
Here is an overview, with a complete schedule and list of names and repertoire, from Fanfare, the terrific new music blog at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music written and compiled by concert and publicity manager Kathy Esposito:
“Piano Extravaganza! will feature well-known pianists as well as rising stars”
“Hear the UW’s best collegiate pianists, faculty and high school talents at an all-day festival this Saturday at UW-Madison. Masterclasses, workshops and performances hosted by UW-Madison faculty and students. This year’s Piano Extravaganza will feature piano works influenced by jazz and blues.”
Here is the schedule of events, all of which are FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC:
FRIDAY, FEB. 28
8 p.m. in Mills Concert Hall: A FREE recital by Christopher Taylor, Faculty Concert Series. Here is what Taylor said about his program to the UW’s Fanfare blog about his program of the Sonata No. 6, Op. 82 (1939) by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) and the Symphony No. 3 in E-Flat Major (“Eroica”), Op. 55, by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), as transcribed by Franz Liszt (1811-1886).
Taylor writes: “I find altogether exhilarating the opportunity to re-experience works that inspired me even before taking my first piano lesson.
“Although, needless to say, a pianist cannot hope to duplicate the precise effect of Beethoven’s orchestrations, the attempt to simulate a few of them gives rise to endlessly fascinating pianistic possibilities.
“Virtually every technical resource of fingering, voicing, articulation, and pedaling (even the middle pedal, a device that Liszt himself lacked till late in his career) proves useful in these mighty transcriptions.
“While tonight’s version of the Eroica can obviously never displace the original form, I do hope that the pairing of a single musician with one versatile instrument can produce a fresh view of this immortal work, whose turbulent historical genesis and juxtaposition of heroism, tragedy, and redemption complement the Prokofiev so aptly.”
And here is a profile of Christopher Taylor that local critic Greg Hettmansberger wrote for Madison Magazine:
And here is a link to the complete Fanfare blog entry:
And here is a previous post with some background:
AND BECAUSE THE EAR FEELS THAT STUDENT MUSICIANS DESERVE TO GET AT LEAST AS MUCH MEDIA COVERAGE AND PUBLIC ATTENTION AS STUDENT ATHLETES, I HAVE INCLUDED A LENGTHY AND MUCH LONGER THAN USUAL LIST OF THE PIANO CONTESTANTS, REPERTOIRE, PARTICIPANTS AND JUDGES.
PIANO EXTRAVAGANZA! of Concerts, a Masterclass, a Young Pianists Competition (For High School Students) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music on Friday, February 28—Saturday, March 1, 2014. (1st Prize: $1,500; 2nd Prize: $1,000; 3rd Prize: $500)
SATURDAY, MARCH 1
8:30-11 a.m.: Piano Extravaganza Competition
11 a.m.-noon: Professor Johannes Wallmann, Jazz Improvisation Workshop
1:30-3:30 p.m. Masterclass and Q&A with UW-Faculty
3:45-6:30 p.m.: Jazz and Blues in Classical Music Extravaganza (Performed by UW-Madison Piano Majors)
ALL EVENTS ON SATURDAY TAKE PLACE IN MORPHY RECITAL HALL (below) ARE FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
SATURDAY, MARCH 1, 2014
8:30-11 a.m.: Piano Extravaganza Competition
FINALISTS WERE SELECTED FROM PRELIMINARY RECORDING ROUND.
8:30 a.m.: Anthony Cardella (17, from Porterfield, WI): Sonata Op. 2, No. 3, I. Allegro con brio –by Ludwig van Beethoven; Toccata, Op. 11, by Sergei Prokofiev
9:15 a.m.: Vivian Wilhelms (15, from Waunakee, WI); French Suite No. 6, BWV 817- Johann Sebastian Bach; Sonatine, I. Modéré – Maurice Ravel
9:30 a.m.: Michelle Xie (16, from Verona, WI): Sarcasm, Op. 17, No. 1 Tempestoso – Sergei Prokofiev; Sonata Op. 31, No. 1, I. Allegro – Ludwig van Beethoven
9:45 a.m.: Garrick Olson (17, from Madison, WI): Fantasy in C Major, II. Mäßig. Durchaus energisch – Robert Schumann; Etude No. 6, Omaggio a Domenico Scarlatti – Marc-Andre Hamelin
10 a.m.: Theodore Liu (15, from Waunakee, WI): Sonata in D Major, Op. 10, No. 3, I. Presto- Ludwig van Beethoven; Nocturne in D-flat Major, Op. 27, No. 2- Frederic Chopin
10:15 a.m. Quentin Nennig (15, from Sherwood, WI): Waldesrauschen”- Franz Liszt; Concerto in E-flat Major, KV 449 – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
10:30 a.m. Kaitlin Lalmond (17, from Germantown, WI): Prelude and Fugue in C-sharp Major, BWV 848 – Johann Sebastian Bach; Sonata in E-flat Major, Op. 7, I. Allegro molto e con brio – Ludwig van Beethoven
11 a.m.-Noon: Jazz Improvisation Workshop with Professor Johannes Wallmann (below): “Milestones,” John Lewis (1920-2001) of The Modern Jazz Quartet; “Night and Day,” Cole Porter (1891-1964); “Sonnymoon For Two,” Sonny Rollins (b. 1930). All selections performed by Johannes Wallmann (below) and local guest artist Dave Stoler
Noon-1:30 p.m.: Lunch
1:30-3:30 p.m.: Masterclass and Q&A with UW-Faculty
3:45-6:30 p.m.: Jazz and Blues in Classical Music Extravaganza, Performed by UW-Madison Piano Majors
Opening Remarks by Susan C. Cook, Professor of Musicology and Director of the School of Music
“Alla Turca Jazz,” (1993) Fazil Say, Jason Kutz (b. 1970)
“Nightmare Fantasy,” (1979) William Albright, Oxana Khramova (1944-1998)
“Prelude No. 1,” (1926) George Gershwin, Yana Groves (1898-1937)
From “Preludes, Book 2” (1912-1913) Claude Debussy, “General Lavine Eccentric” (1862-1918); Emili Earhart
“Fantasy on Bill Evans’ “Turn Out the Stars,” Jonathan Thornton (b. 1985), Jonathan Thornton
“Lonely House” from Street Scene (1947) Kurt Weill (1900-1950), Thomas Leighton, Tenor, & Emily O’Leary
Impromptu, Op. 66, No. 2 (2004) Nikolai Kapustin (b. 1937) ; Haley O’Neal
“The Serpent’s Kiss” (Rag Fantasy) (1969), William Bolcom, Sara Giusti (b. 1938)
Sonata for One Piano, Four Hands (1919), Francis Poulenc (1899-1963), Prelude Rustique
Ian Tomaz and Jason Kutz
“Milonga del Angel” (1965), Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992), Cody Goetz
From Gershwin Songbook (1932) George Gershwin (189801937): “My One and Only,” “Fascinatin’ Rhythm” and “I Got Rhythm,” Dino Mulic
“Etudes on Gershwin Songs,” (1973) Earl Wild (1915-2010), “Embraceable You,” Yusuke Komura
Excursions,” Op. 20, No. 1 (1942), Samuel Barber, Andrew Mlynczak (1910-1981)
“Carnaval Noir,” (1997) Derek Bermel, Ying Wang (b. 1967)
“Bamboula,” (1844-45) Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Duangkamon Wattanasak (1829-1869)
“A Little Jazz Exercise,” (1970) Oscar Peterson (1925-2007), Evan Engelstad
“Jazz Waltz” from Suite Impressions (1996) by Judith Lang Zaimont, Shengyin Chen (b. 1945)
“Magnetic Rag” (1914) Scott Joplin, Zach Campbell
“Deuces Wild” (1944) and “The Duke and the Count” (1944), Mary Lou Williams (1910-1981), Henry Misa
“Dreadful Memories” (1978), “Down by the Riverside” (1979) Frederic Rzewski (b. 1938) Sungho Yang
From Preludes, Book 1 (1909-1910) Claude Debussy (1862-1918) ”Minstrels,” Jace Rockman
Sonata No. 2 in G Major for Violin and Piano (1927), II. Blues, Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) Elspeth Stalter-Clouse, violin, and Tiffany Yeh
From “Carnival Music” (1976), George Rochberg (1918-2005), Emily O’Leary
Three Preludes (2000), Shuai Zhang (b. 1979), I. Rubato: appassionato abandano, II. mesto misterioso, III. estemporale impetuoso, Zijin Yao
MEET THE UW-MADISON KEYBOARD FACULTY
Martha Fischer (below) is Professor of Piano and heads the Collaborative Piano Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. American Record Guide recently wrote: “…she is a marvelous pianist, profound interpreter, and expert collaborator.” She has recorded extensively and will soon release the complete works for two pianists at one keyboard by Robert Schumann with her frequent duet partner and husband, Bill Lutes. The Washington Post described their performance of Schubert’s F minor Fantasie as “bursting with heartfelt intensity.” A singer as well as pianist, Fischer is an expert on the works of Gilbert and Sullivan and has also presented unique recitals of art song in which she accompanies herself. A dedicated teacher, she has participated in international festivals, symposia, and competitions.
Jessica Johnson (below left, with UW percussionist Anthony Di Sanza) serves as Professor of Piano and Director of Graduate Studies in Piano Pedagogy at UW-Madison, where she was the 2006 recipient of the prestigious Emil Steiger Distinguished Teaching Award. She frequently commissions and programs contemporary solo and chamber works, regularly performing with Sole Nero, duo for piano and percussion. Johnson has been featured in workshops and recitals throughout North America, Europe and China. A two-time winner of AMT’s Article of the Year Award, Johnson has articles published in American Music Teacher, Piano Journal of EPTA, Klavier Companion and Piano Pedagogy Forum. Passionate about community engagement and arts outreach, she serves as Director of Piano Pioneers, a program that brings high quality piano instruction to low-income community members and high-risk youth in Wisconsin.
John Chappell Stowe (below) is Professor of Organ and Harpsichord at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. He graduated from Southern Methodist University and Eastman School of Music, studying organ with Robert Anderson and Russell Saunders. Stowe holds the Doctor of Musical Arts degree and Performer’s Certificate from the Eastman School and was the first-place winner in 1978 of the National Open Organ Playing Competition of the American Guild of Organists. In his appearances throughout the United States as a solo organist, Stowe’s recital repertoire includes a wide variety of literature extending from 1550 to the present day. His programming reflects both strong commitment to contemporary music and dedication to great repertoire of past generations.
Christopher Taylor (below) has performed extensively around the world, having appeared in recent years not only throughout the U.S. but in Russia, China, Korea, the Balkans, and elsewhere. Critics hail him as “frighteningly talented” (The New York Times) and “a great pianist” (The Los Angeles Times), and nu-merous awards have confirmed his high standing in the musical world (a Van Cliburn Competition Bronze Medal, an Avery Fisher Career Grant, an American Pianists’ Association Fellowship). Apart from concertizing, he has taught at UW-Madison since 2000 and pursues a wide variety of additional interests — most recently using his mathematical and computer skills in the design and construction of a new double-manual keyboard instrument.
Johannes Wallmann (below) joined UW Madison as Director of Jazz Studies in 2012. He previously taught at California State University East Bay, New York University, and at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. As a pianist, composer, and bandleader, Wallmann has released four critically acclaimed CDs, The Johannes Wallmann Quartet (1997), Alphabeticity (2003), Minor Prophets (2007), and The Coasts (2012). Over twelve years in New York City and five years in the San Francisco Bay Area, Wall Coasts (2012). Over 12 years in New York City and five years in the San Francisco Bay Area, Wallmann also established himself as a prolific sideman in styles as diverse as mainstream jazz and electric fusion, American spirituals, Cantonese pop music, and 20th century classical music. He has toured throughout North America and in Europe and Asia.
Todd Welbourne (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) is a pianist and chamber musician with appearances in this country as well as in Europe and South America. He has performed and given presentations on new music at national conferences of the Society of Electro/Acoustic Music (1995, 1997, 2009), the International Society for Electronic Arts, (1993, 1997, 2010), College Music Society (2001, 2003, 2006), and Music Teachers National Convention (1999, 2004) and has lectured and performed at new music festivals around the country. Welbourne uses the Yamaha Disklavier in his teaching providing students with the latest in teaching techniques and he has been an innovator in the area of interactive music performance systems using the Yamaha Disklavier and Max/MSP. He currently serves as Director of Graduate Studies at the School of Music.
GUEST ARTIST AND ALUMNUS
Madison native Dave Stoler (below) is one of the busier professional musicians in the Midwest, and was named 2009 Isthmus Jazz Personality of the Year. His current projects include the Tony Castaneda Latin Jazz Sextet and his own group, which has performed at Smalls Jazz Club in New York City. His CD “Urban Legends” features drummer Billy Hart, bassist Ron McClure and tenor saxophonists Rich Perry and Rick Margitza. He received a Master of Music degree from the University of Miami-Coral Gables in Jazz Performance, and a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Composition from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was a semi-finalist in the Thelonious Monk Piano Competition and the American Jazz Piano Competition, and a finalist in the Jacksonville Jazz Piano Competition.
Sponsors of The Piano Extravaganza are The Evjue Foundation, the charitable arm of The Capital Times, and UW-Madison Chancellor Emeritus Irving Shain.
By Jacob Stockinger
Is that an early Spring The Ear hears coming to Middleton, Wisconsin?
The very appealing and very accessible all-masterpiece Winter Concert by the Middleton Community Orchestra (below) is this Wednesday night, Feb. 26, at 7:30 p.m. at the Middleton Performing Arts Center that is attached to Middleton High School.
Tickets are $10 and are available at the door and at the Willy St. Coop West. Students are free. You can get tickets at the door on the night of the show. The box office opens at 6:30 p.m,; doors open at 7 p.m.
The concert – which is guaranteed to increase your respect for and love of amateur music-making — features three professional guest artists: guest conductor Kevin McMahon (below top), maestro of the Sheboygan Symphony Orchestra; violinist Eleanor Bartsch (below middle); and violist Daniel Kim (below bottom). All three are distinguished graduates of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, where they received various scholarships, and won awards, prizes and honors.
The MCO program of “great classical hits” includes: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s fetchingly lovely and dramatic Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola; the high-spirited “Capriccio Espagnol” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov; and the lyrical, pastoral-like Symphony No. 2 in D Major by Johannes Brahms, which is often compared to Ludwig van Beethoven’s famous and popular Symphony No. 6, the famous “Pastoral Symphony. (You can check out the opening movement of the Brahms, as performed by Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, in a popular YouTube video at the bottom).
Plus, the atmosphere is casual and informal, and the seats are quite comfortable.
Usually there is no intermission to the 90-minute or so MCO concert, but this time there WILL indeed be an intermission in the program, which runs Mozart, Rimsky-Korsakov, Intermission and then Brahms. (I prefer no intermission. Once I get in The Zone, I like to stay there and not emerge and then try to re-enter it.) But there will be snacks, and time to meet and greet other audience members as well as the musicians.
In some ways, The Ear thinks such a community orchestra and its concert practices provide a model that professional organizations ought to consider adopting if they want to attract newer, younger audiences and cut down on the ticket prices by reducing rehearsal costs and rentals fees.
If you still need some motivation here is a link of a review I did in 2012 of one of the MCO concerts. You can also find very positive review by guest blogger John W. Barker by using the search engine on this blog.
I asked MCO co-founder and orchestra player Mindy Taranto why the usual conductor Steve Kurr (below) was not conducting: “MCO enjoyed guest conductors maestros John DeMain (of the Madison Symphony Orchestra) and David Becker (from UW-Madison and Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin) for one week readings last year, and we decided that it was a good artistic opportunity for the players to experience playing under different conductors,” she told The Ear. “Kevin has been wonderful to work with and the orchestra has been very enthusiastic and inspired by his musical ideas and with the way he has engaged all of us during rehearsals for the last two months. This will be a fantastic concert! The orchestra sounds very good!
Sounds terrific. So, The Ear says let’s check it out.
And here is a link to the Middleton Community Orchestra’s website with more information about this and other upcoming concerts (the one on June 4, with Edward Elgar’s “Enigma” Variations and Edvard Grieg’s beloved Piano Concerto in A Minor featuring soloist Thomas Kasdorf, sounds like a MUST-HEAR) as well as information about how to support it and even join it.
By Jacob Stockinger
For quite some time now, NPR has featured “Tiny Desk Concerts” — classical, jazz, folk, roots music — during which major performers play live in the crowded NPR studio. They are easy to link to and stream over your computer or maybe even your TV set these days. (NPR books great guests, including, below bottom, superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma.)
You can also find NPR links to and archives of other live performances -– often through radios stations such as WQXR-FM in New York City and WGBH in Boston –- and include a recital of live music in major halls and venues, including one of Franz Joseph Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven, Claude Debussy and Frederic Chopin by the acclaimed Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes at Carnegie Hall (below). And there are many, many others.
And now Deceptive Cadence seems to be acting like musical anthropologist. The time they went out “into the field” – that is, not in the usual venues and concert halls.
That’s not unheard of, of course. That is how the great composer Bela Bartok (below) started out as a musical anthropologist or ethnologist of Hungarian and Romanian folk music, and then used his research to morph into one of the pioneers of musical modernism. Chopin used Polish music like the mazurka to create a new Romanticism. And in American folk music, the musical anthropology of Alan Lomax is legendary.
Specifically, NPR went to the piano factory of Steinway and Sons in New York City and recorded the red-hot glam pianist Yuja Wang playing the fiercely difficult Toccata in D Minor, Op. 11, with all its hypnotic repetition of a single note, by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev on a brand new Steinway concert grand. (You can see and hear it in a YouTube video at the bottom. Don’t forget to click on the icon that is second from the right to enlarge the video image to fill your computer screen.)
The music and the physical virtuosity or dexterity is amazing to behold.
It is also kind of cute and informal to watch the diminutive figure of the glamorous Wang playing difficult cert music in a cold, wood-strewn and equipment-strewn warehouse in fingerless wool hobo gloves that go up her forearm –- but only after she uses the reflective fallboard above the keys to put on glossy lipstick and so complete her outfit of black fur-like boa, black stiletto heels and geometrically high fashion black-and-white dress.
Ah! Those tribal ceremonies and native attire!
Anyway, here is a link to the performance by Yuja Wang at the Steinway and Sons factory in the borough of Queens, not the usual Steinway showroom in Manhattan where most pianists test and choose pianos for their performances.
The Tiny Desk Concerts archive has lots of kinds of live performances.
For example, here is the famed Kronos Quartet (below) doing a recent Tiny Desk Concert featuring its latest recordings. Many other such concerts by other artists have been archived and are readily accessible:
And here is a link to the archive, with links to other older archives, of music Live in Performance housed at NPR. It includes chamber music, orchestral music (below is the Mideast peace-promoting Palestinian-Israeli West-Eastern Divan Orchestra under co-founder and director Daniel Barenboim in Carnegie Hall), operas and recitals:
By Jacob Stockinger
Call it Brass Week in Madison.
Concerts this week will feature three different brass instruments: the tuba, the French horn and the trumpet.
The Ear guesses it is all due more to happenstance than planning.
But whatever the origin, Brass Week begins Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music with a FREE recital by tuba professor and composer John Stevens, who will retire at the end of this semester.
It continues on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall with a FREE recital by French horn professor, who also is the latest addition to the Wisconsin Brass Quintet, Daniel Grabois.
And then on Thursday, Norwegian trumpeter Tine Thing Helseth will start her three performances as soloist in concertos by Haydn and Alexander Arutiunian with the Madison Symphony Orchestra under John DeMain.
Helseth will be featured in a separate Q&A on this blog tomorrow.
But here are details, drawn from the UW School of Music calendar of events, about the first two concerts.
UW tuba professor John Stevens (below) will perform three well-known masterpieces – the Horn Quintet by Mozart, the “Songs of a Wayfarer” by Gustav Mahler and the Horn Trio by Johannes Brahms– all adapted for the tuba.
Guest artists include violinist David Perry, violist Sally Chisholm, cellist Parry Karp, all of the UW Pro Arte Quartet, and UW pianist Martha Fischer.
John Stevens (below with his instrument) has enjoyed a distinguished career as a teacher, orchestral, chamber music, solo and jazz performer and recording artist, composer/arranger, conductor and administrator. He has performed with every major orchestra in New York and was a member of the New York Tuba Quartet and many other chamber groups. He was principal tubist in the Aspen Festival Orchestra; toured and recorded with a wide variety of groups including Chuck Mangione, the American Brass Quintet and the San Francisco Ballet; and was the tuba soloist in the original Broadway production of BARNUM.
Stevens has released two solo recordings; an LP of his own compositions titled POWER (Mark Records, 1985) and a CD titled REVERIE (Summit Records, 2006). He joined the UW-Madison faculty in 1985 and, in addition to his other duties, was the Director of the School of Music from 1991 to 1996 and 2011 to 2013.
As a composer and arranger with over 50 original compositions and almost as many arrangements to his credit, Stevens is internationally renowned for his works for brass, particularly for solo tuba, euphonium and trombone, tuba/euphonium ensemble, brass quintet and other brass chamber combinations. He is the winner of numerous ASCAP awards and has received many composition grants and commissions.
In 1997 Stevens (below, composing at his Madison home and at bottom in an interview in a YouTube video) was commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to compose a tuba concerto. This work, entitled JOURNEY, was premiered by the CSO, with tubist Gene Pokorny as soloist. Recent compositions include the CONCERTO FOR EUPHONIUM AND ORCHESTRA, SYMPHONY IN THREE MOVEMENTS, a composition for wind band commissioned by a consortium of 14 American universities, and MONUMENT for Solo Tuba and String.
And here is a link to a long story by local writer Paul Baker about Stevens, his career and the activities surrounding his retirement this semester. It appeared on the outstanding blog “Fanfare” at the UW-Madison School of Music:
The program by horn professor Daniel Grabois (below, in a photo by James Gill), who also curates the SoundWaves program at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, and pianist Jessica Johnson will perform a program of “All in the Family: 21st Century Music by UW-Madison Composers.”
The works include “Gossamer Snowfall, Crystalline Pond” (2000), by UW saxophone professor Les Thimmig (below); the world premiere of “War Suite” (2014) by Alex Charland (1. War Song, 2. Dirge, 3. Ballad); “Indigo Quiescence” (2000) by Les Thimmig; “Soliloquy in June” (2000) by Les Thimmig; the world premiere “Antilogy” (2014) by Daniel Grabois; Sonata for Horn and Piano (2008) by John Stevens; and “Song at Dusk” (2000) by Les Thimmig .
Daniel Grabois is Assistant Professor of Horn at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. The former Chair of the Department of Contemporary Performance at the Manhattan School of Music, he is the hornist in the Meridian Arts Ensemble, a sextet of brass and percussion soon to celebrate its 25th anniversary. With Meridian, he has performed over 50 world premieres, released 10 CDs, received two ASCAP/CMA Adventuresome Programming Awards, and toured worldwide, in addition to recording or performing with rock legends Duran Duran and Natalie Merchant and performing the music of Frank Zappa for the composer himself.
The author/composer of two etude books for horn, Grabois has appeared as a frequent guest with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and has performed in New York and on tour with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and many other ensembles. He also appears on over 30 CD recordings, and has recorded a concerto written for him by composer David Rakowski. Grabois taught horn for 14 years at The Hartt School, and has taught courses on the business of music at both the Hartt and the Manhattan School of Music.