The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Is the Toronto Symphony censoring freedom of speech? Read about the Twitter Wars in Toronto that involve two pianists who have played in Madison.

April 18, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Tweets — those messages that comes via Twitter — may be short, containing a maximum of only 140 characters.

Sample Tweet from space

But they can sure pack a wallop and get people riled up.

Consider what is happening in Toronto with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra  (below top, in a photo by John Loper) that canceled an appearance – with full payment of a concert fee  — by the Ukrainian-born pianist Valentina Lisitsa (below bottom).

Toronto Symphony Orchestra USE CR John Loper

Valentina Lisitsa

Lisitsa tweeted about the political situation in her native Ukraine and that apparently caused quite the stir among symphony sponsors. So the symphony canceled her performances of the Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor by Sergei Rachmaninoff – and paid her concert fee anyway. (Rachmaninoff and this concerto are specialties of Lisitsa, as you can hear on the YouTube video at the bottom)

Locally, Lisitsa — known for her power, endurance and phenomenal technique as well as her savvy use of YouTube to establish a career — has played several times at the Wisconsin Union Theater and at Farley’s House of Pianos.

Then the Toronto Symphony tried to engage pianist-composer Stewart Goodyear (below), who is famous for doing marathons in which he plays all 32 piano sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven in one day. He has performed several times with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.

Goodyear

Anyway, here is a terrific account of the story — with great reporting and writing from Anastasia Tsioulcas — that was posted on Deceptive Cadence, the outstanding classical music blog that is on NPR (National Public Radio).

Here is the link:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2015/04/09/398571112/twitter-outrage-takes-toronto-canceling-two-pianists

What do you think of this dust-up?

Was Lisitsa treated fairly?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: Violinist Katie Lansdale performs a solo recital sponsored by Suzuki Strings this Saturday afternoon. Plus, a FREE recital of art songs is at noon on Friday. And pianist Martin Kasik plays Beethoven, Ravel and Prokofiev on Saturday night at Farley’s House of Pianos.

April 16, 2015
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ALERTS:

This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, to be held from 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the Landmark Auditorium of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Meeting House of the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, will feature contralto Allissane Apple and pianist Jane Peckham in music of Leonard Bernstein, Hugo Wolf, Francis Poulenc, William Bolcom, Aaron Copland and Peter Warlock.

FUS1jake

Czech pianist Martin Kasik (below) will perform a recital on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. at Farley’s House of Pianos, located at 6522 Seybold Road on Madison far west side near West Towne. The program includes works by Ludwig van Beethoven (the “Les Adieux” and “Moonlight” Sonatas), Maurice Ravel and Sergei Prokofiev. For more information, go to: http://salonpianoseries.org/concerts.html

Martin Kasik w piano

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following announcement: 

Violinist Katie Lansdale (below), assistant professor of violin at the Hartt School at the University of Hartford, will present a recital of works for solo violin on this Saturday afternoon, April 18 at 1:30 pm in the sanctuary of Covenant Presbyterian Church, 326 South Segoe Road in Madison.

Katie Lansdale B&W

The recital is sponsored by Suzuki Strings of Madison and a $5 donation is suggested for attendees.

The program will include a selection of Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin by Johann Sebastian Bach, Etudes Caracteristiques by Edward Elgar and Cleopatra by Fazil Say.

Lansdale is an active recitalist and chamber musician in Europe and the United States. Lauded for her wide interests and repertoire, she has a particular passion for solo Bach, often performing the complete works in concert.

A champion of new music, she has collaborated with a number of leading composers internationally, as a member of both the Lions Gate Trio, and as a member of the Locrian Ensemble.  She has recorded for the Triton and Centaur labels — most recently a double CD of duos and trios by Robert Schumann (below).

Katie Lansdale Schumann CD cover

Lansdale’s awards have included the Schlosspreis for the performance of solo Bach at the Salzburg Mozarteum, the grand prize winner at both the Yellow Springs and Fischoff National Chamber Music competitions, and awards for both Outstanding Violinist and Outstanding Participant at Tanglewood’s Fellowship Program.

Lansdale received her B.A. cum laude in humanities from Yale University, a Master of Music degree and an Artist Diploma from the Cleveland Institute of Music, and a D.M.A. from Manhattan School of Music.  She has studied with Josef Gingold, Felix Galimir, Ronda Cole, Donald Weilerstein and Mitchell Stern.

In 2001, Lansdale (seen below with two students) initiated a school outreach program called Music for 1,000 Children. She challenged her studio to play for 1,000 children, promising to play for another 1,000 herself. Her studio then joined with the Hartt student chapter of the American String Teachers’ Association to challenge other groups in North America to play for 1,000 school children. Responses were highly enthusiastic, and in the end, musical performances were brought to 13,000 children from Quebec to Texas.

katie lansdale with students

 

 


Classical music: The Wisconsin Chamber Choir will perform the “German” Requiem by Brahms plus two world premieres this coming Saturday night in Madison and Sunday afternoon in Whitewater. Also, here are the winners and sonatas you can hear in the FREE Beethoven piano sonata recital this Sunday afternoon at the UW-Madison.

April 15, 2015
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ALERT: The Ear has been informed of the winners of the annual UW-Madison Beethoven Sonata Competition. The FREE winners’ recital is this Sunday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall. Three major late sonatas will be featured on the program: the Sonata in A Major Op. 101, played by Kangwoo Jin (below right in a photo by Katherine Esposito); the last Sonata in C minor, Op. 111, played by  SeungWha Baek (middle); and the titanic “Hammerklavier” Sonata, Op. 106, played by Luis Alberto Peña (left).

For more information about the student performers and their teachers, go to:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/beethoven-competition-recital/

Beethoven 2015

By Jacob Stockinger

Our friends at the Wisconsin Chamber Choir write:

This coming weekend, the Wisconsin Chamber Choir (below) performs the “German” Requiem by Johannes Brahms plus world premieres by Giles Swayne and Christian Ellenwood.

wisconsin-chamber choir 2012

The two performances are:

This Saturday, April 18, at 7:30 p.m. in Luther Memorial Church (below), 1021 University Avenue, Madison. Tickets are $25 in advance ($30 at the door); students pay $10 ($15). Visit: www.WisconsinChamberChoir.org

luther memorial church madison

This Sunday, April 19 at 3 p.m. in the Young Auditorium, 930 West Main Street, Whitewater. Tickets are $20.50, $18.50, $15.50; UW-Whitewater students pay $10.50. Visit http://www.uww.edu/youngauditorium

One of the most beloved and popular of all choral works, the German Requiem by Johannes Brahms (below), is a masterpiece of musical Romanticism. (You can hear the opening movement on a YouTube video at the bottom.)

brahms-1

Brahms began the work as a memorial to his mentor, Robert Schumann (below), but the death of Brahms’ own mother spurred him to complete it several years later.

Schumann photo1850

The score embraces a wide variety of emotions, from the lush sounds of the choir and orchestra that envelope the audience in a message of consolation, to lively fugues, worthy of Bach or Handel, that promise the hope of salvation. This music will thrill audiences as well as comfort all who have ever lost a loved one.

Sharing billing with the Brahms are two world premieres, one commissioned by each choir.

The Wisconsin Chamber Choir will present Our Orphan Souls by British composer Giles Swayne (below top) on a transcendental text from Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick.

The UW-Whitewater Chamber Singers will present Prairie Spring by UW-Whitewater professor of music, Christian Ellenwood (below bottom), a setting of the poem by American author Willa Cather.

Giles Swayne

Christian Ellenwood copy

Joining the WCC in this performance are soprano soloist Tanya Kruse Ruck, baritone Brian Leeper, and bass Gregory Berg; the UW-Whitewater Chamber Singers; and Sinfonia Sacra, the WCC’s own fully professional orchestra made up of members of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, and the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble.

Founded in 1998, the Madison-based Wisconsin Chamber Choir has established a reputation for excellence in the performance of oratorios by Bach, Mozart and Haydn; a cappella masterworks from various centuries; and world-premieres. Robert Gehrenbeck (below) who directs the Choral Program at the UW-Whitewater, is the Wisconsin Chamber Choir’s Artistic Director.

Robert Gehrenbeck new headshot 2013 USE

 


Classical music: It’s a very busy week at the UW-Madison School of Music. Here is a roundup of the mostly FREE concerts, master classes and other events.

April 13, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

You always know when we are coming down to the end of a semester or the end of the school year. The music events start stacking up over the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music likes planes stacked up over O’Hare.

Talk about Train Wreck Weekends! And this is just the UW. There is plenty more to come, as you will see here over the course of this week.

In a way, it is a testament to the vitality of the music scene here in the Madison area.

But it is also too bad to the degree that so many events almost guarantee that some audiences will be smaller than they might otherwise be because people just can’t keep up with so many things that are so closely scheduled that they compete with each other for listeners’ free time. And we are not even talking about big draws like the three performances of the annual concert and show by the UW-Madison Varsity Band.

TUESDAY

Guest artists the Elaris Duo (below) will give master classes Tuesday night, April 14. The violin class with Larisa Elisha will be from 6-7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, and the cello class will be with Steven Elisha from 8-9:30 p.m. They perform a concert Wednesday night at 8 in Mills Hall. See below.

elaris duo

WEDNESDAY

A FREE concert will be given by the UW-Madison Guitar Ensemble at 7:30 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall under the direction of Javier Calderon (below top). Sorry, The Ear has received no word about the program. For more information, go to: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/uw-guitar-ensemble-2/

$2 Broom, a FREE concert of electro-acoustic improvised music by students will be held in Music Hall, under the direction of UW-Madison horn professor Daniel Grabois (below bottom, in a photo by James Gill). For more information when it is posted, go to: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/2-dollar-broom-2015/

A FREE concert by guest artists the Elaris Duo — husband-and-wife cellist and violinist — in Mills Hall at 8 p.m. The program includes works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Zoltan Kodaly and Erwin Schulhoff. For more information, visit: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/elaris-duo-guest-artists/

Javier Calderon color

Daniel Grabois 2012  James Gill

THURSDAY

The Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) will perform a FREE concert at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall. The program includes the String Quartet in A Major, K. 464, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; the String Quartet No. 4 by Leon Kirchner; and the early String Quartet in C Minor by Ludwig van Beethoven, Op. 18, No. 4. For more information about the concert and the Pro Arte Quartet, go to: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/pro-arte-quartet_4_16/

Pro Arte Quartet new 2 Rick Langer

FRIDAY

At 2 p.m. in Room 1629 of the Humanities Building, Brazilian percussionist Ney Rosauro (below) will give a master class that is open to the public. For information about the artist, go to: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/master-class-with-brazilian-percussionist-ney-rosauro/

ney rosauro

At 7:30 p.m. in Music Hall, the Mad City Brass Quintet, made up of UW-Madison students, will perform a FREE concert of music by UW-Madison professor emeritus of tuba and euphonium John Stevens (below) as well as by Billy Joel, Michael Kamen and Andre Lafosse. For more information, visit: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/mad-city-brass-quintet/

john stevens lon gprofile with tuba

At 7:30 p.m. in Luther Memorial Church, 1021 University Avenue, the UW-Madison Concert Choir, Chorale, and Madrigal Singers will perform. Bruce Gladstone will conduct. The joint concert of the three choirs is themed “O Beauty” but each ensemble will have its own section. (Below is the Concert Choir performing.)

The choirs will perform together on the following large works: Blest Pair of Sirens by C.H.H. Parry and Missa “O Pulchritudo” by Gian-Carlo Menotti.

These will be performed with UW-Madison Professor John Chappell Stowe on organ.

For information, visit: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/uw-concert-choir-chorale-and-madrigal-singers/

Concert Choir 2

SATURDAY

At 3:30 in Morphy Recital Hall, the Perlman Trio (funded by local philanthropist Kato Perlman) and two guest artists (below in a photo by Tori Rogers) will perform a FREE concert. The piano trio members (three in the front) are SeungWha Baek, piano; Valerie Sanders, violin; and Daniel Ma, cello. Guests are Keisuke Yamamoto, violin, and Jeremy Kienbaum, viola.

The program includes: Piano Trio in E-flat Major, Hoboken XV: 29, by Franz Joseph Haydn; the Piano Quintet in D Major, Op. 51, by Anton Arensky; and the Piano Trio in B Major, Op. 8 (original version) by Johannes Brahms. For information, go to: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/perlman-trio-recital/

Perlman Trio (left three) and guests CR Tori _Rogers

At 4 p.m. in Mills Hall, the Low Brass Ensemble will offer a FREE concert. Sorry, no other details are available. When they are, go to: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/low-brass-ensemble/

At 6 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall. UW-Madison bassoonist-conductor Marc Vallon (below top, in a photo by James Gill) and Madison Bach Musicians founder, director and keyboard player Trevor Stephenson (below bottom) will host a demonstration of early music practices and period instruments, featuring performers from the Madison Bach Musicians. The event is part of the year-long “Rediscovering Rameau” music festival.

Later this week there will be two semi-staged performances of Rameau’s 1748 ballet-opera “Pygmalion” that Stephenson and the Madison Bach Musicians will give at the First Unitarian Society of Madison this Friday night at 6:45 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 2:45 p.m. Go to: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/pygmalion-madison-bach-musicians/

Marc Vallon 2011 James Gill (baroque & modern)[2]

Prairie Rhapsody 2011 Trevor Stephenson

At 6:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the gala concert of the 12th annual Madison Flute Festival, “Flutes Down Under,” will take place. Admission is $5 for those not taking part in the day-long festival. It is held by the Wisconsin Flute Club and the flute studio of UW Professor Stephanie Jutt, who is Principal Flute of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and also a co-founder and co-director of the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society.

The Madison Flute Club is winding up a fund-raising drive — nearly $15,000 — for the purchase of a contra bass flute. This instrument was made by Eva Kingma in the Netherlands, and is in transit now. This instrument will be the first contra bass flute in Wisconsin.

The Madison Flute Club also recently sponsored a composition contest for the contra bass flute, and the winning piece will be performed at the Flute Club’s Spring Recital May 9 at Midvale Lutheran Church.

At the conclusion of the Flute Festival this week, the public is invited to hear a performance featuring the family of low flutes. This concert will present pieces by Gary Shocker, Vaughan McAlley and many other composers writing for the low flutes. Attendees will hear performances on alto, bass, contra bass and subcontrabass flute –an extremely rare instrument.

Other festival events take place at the UW-Madison Pyle Center. The festival features guest artist Peter Sheridan (below), low flutes specialist visiting from Australia.  Activities include flute choir reading sessions, master class, performances, presentations, vendors and competitions featuring monetary prizes. For more information, go to: http://www.madisonfluteclub.org/FluteFestival.html

and

http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/gala-concert-wisconsin-flute-festival/

British Flute Society Convention 2010

SUNDAY

At 3:30 p.m., the winners of UW-Madison’s annual Beethoven Piano Sonata Competition will perform. A reception will follow. The event is made possible by the generosity of former UW-Madison Chancellor Irving Shain (below bottom). For word on the winners and the sonatas to be performed, go to: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/beethoven-competition-recital/

Beethoven big

Irving Shain

 


Classical music: African pianist William Nyaho gives FREE lectures, master classes and concert during his residency later this week at the UW-Madison School of Music.

April 7, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Ethnic diversity certainly matters to the current generation of music students who are helping to expand the field of classical music. Consider this letter sent to The Ear by a UW-Madison student:

My name is Ian Tomaz and I am a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. I am writing on behalf of our collegiate chapter of Music Teachers National Association which is hosting pianist William Chapman Nyaho on the week and weekend April 9-12 at the School of Music for a series of concerts, master classes and lectures. (In a YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear Nyaho discuss what he does on campuses, this time at the University of Arizona.)

We are hoping to get the word out about the event. He is an excellent pianist and teacher, and he is presenting a program of traditional classical repertoire as well as African classical music plus lectures on African music and the music business. In addition to being a great pianist, he is a wonderful human being. I really think that the public would enjoy these events and the man behind them.

Nyaho at piano 1 Raised Hand

Here is the official blurb we’ve been using in other advertisements:

The University of Wisconsin-Madison MTNA Collegiate Chapter is planning a great event in April. We are bringing in the pianist and teacher William Chapman Nyaho for a three-day residency on April 9-11.

Here is the schedule of events:

Lecture: African Piano Music: Thursday, April 9, 2015 at 7 p.m. in Humanities Building, Room 2531

Lecture: Business Aspects of Music: Friday, April 10, 2015 at 4 p.m. in Humanities Building, Room 1351

Masterclass for Pianists: Friday, April 10, 2015 at 8 p.m. in Morphy Hall

Piano Recital: Saturday, April 11, 2015 at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall

Thursday night, April 9, at 7 p.m. in Room 2531: Nyaho will give a presentation and question-answer session about African piano music. He will discuss the melding of African and Western cultures found in classical piano music by composers of African descent.

William Nyaho portrait

On Friday, April 10, at 4 p.m. in Room 1351: Nyaho will give a presentation focused on several business aspects of music. He will draw from his own experience editing and compiling an anthology entitled “Piano Music of Africa and the African Diaspora.” He will also discuss the logistics of running his own private piano studio in Seattle.

Friday night at 8 p.m. in Morphy Hall, Nyaho will give a two-hour master class to four UW-Madison piano students.

On Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, Nyaho will give a solo piano recital of a mixture of Western and African classical music.

William Nyaho at piano 2

All events will be FREE and OPEN to the entire Madison community.

Here is more about Dr. Nyaho:

William Chapman Nyaho grew up in Ghana and studied music at Oxford University in England and in the United States. He is known around the world for his engaging piano performances of both Western classical music and piano music of Africa and the African Diaspora.

Nyaho compiled and edited a five-volume graded anthology of piano sheet music by composers of African descent published by Oxford University Press. This anthology represents a wide variety of newly published material and has become quite influential in the classical music realm by expanding the repertoire available to both students and concert pianists.

Nyaho has also released two critically-acclaimed CDs of his performances of solo piano music by composers from Africa and the African Diaspora.

William Chapman Nyaho

In addition to his performing and recording career, Nyaho is known for his sensitive and empowering teaching. Having served as Visiting Professor at many university campuses around the United Sates, he is universally praised for his authenticity, enthusiasm and artistry as a clinician and teacher.

You can read more reviews about Nyaho at his website http://nyaho.com/reviews.cfm, including one by Maya Angelou, who had this to say about him: “A talented young man with a rare mixture of youthful enthusiasm and mature reliability… intelligent, sensitive and possesses remarkable character….”

For his recital, he will be playing a mixture of Western and African piano repertoire, including the Piano Sonata Op. 31, No. 3, by Ludwig van Beethoven. His specific program will be posted soon on the UW-Madison School of Music website at http://www.music.wisc.edu


Classical music: UW-Madison pianist Christopher Taylor says Bach wouldn’t mind being played on the piano and the public should get to know the less virtuosic side of Liszt. He plays concertos by both composers this weekend with the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

April 6, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Today’s guest Q&A is the acclaimed UW-Madison pianist Christopher Taylor (below), who won a bronze medal in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition and who has been praised by critics around the world.

Christopher Taylor new profile

Taylor will play a big role this weekend in what, for The Ear, is the most interesting program of the season from the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below).

John DeMain and MSO from the stage Greg Anderson

The program, to be performed under the baton of longtime MSO music director John DeMain, includes the Piano Concerto No. 4 by Johann Sebastian Bach and the Piano Concerto No. 1 by Franz Liszt. The soloist for both is the dynamic and versatile Taylor (below), the resident virtuoso at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

Christopher Taylor playing USE

The second half of the program is the Symphony No. 7 by the Late Romantic Austrian composer Anton Bruckner – the first time the MSO has tackled one of Bruckner’s mammoth symphonies.

Anton Bruckner 2

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.

For details, go to https://www.madisonsymphony.org or call the Overture Center Box Office at (608) 258-4141.

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

ChristopherTaylorNoCredit

What do you say to early music and period instrument advocates about performing Bach on a modern keyboard versus a harpsichord? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

In matters musical I hope to foster a generally tolerant attitude. I think our art form is a broad and diverse enough domain to allow for the peaceful coexistence of interpretations that pursue varied goals.

Some may seek to recreate, in as precise a way as possible, the experiences of listeners living back in Bach’s day, a perspective that can undoubtedly prove illuminating and satisfying for contemporary audiences.

Others may pursue interpretations that employ more recent, or even completely novel, musical resources, with results that Bach himself might well find startling were he suddenly to return.

Still, given Bach’s documented flexibility regarding instrumentation — the Keyboard Concerto No. 4 was probably originally composed for oboe — I like to think he would be open-minded both towards the piano’s sonority and the interpretive possibilities it suggests.

The piano’s rich and varied sound undoubtedly fits naturally into the modern concert hall setting, and for me personally its character is what I understand and appreciate best.  But again, I am always eager to learn about alternative approaches, and hope that others will listen to me with a similar mindset. (Below, Taylor is seen with the unusual two-keyboard Steinway piano he uses to play Bach’s “Goldberg” Variations.)

Christopher Taylor with double keyboard Steinway

How would you compare the Keyboard Concerto No. 4 to Bach’s other ones?

Like all the Bach concertos this work possesses irresistible energy and momentum, paired with lyricism and ingenious construction.  It strikes me as a particularly cheerful specimen — not so imposing or stern as the D minor or F minor concertos, for instance, but more modest in scale and upbeat in mood.

Right from the opening the first movement features an interesting back-and-forth relationship between the soloist and orchestra, with the keyboard seeming suitably soloistic on some occasions, more accompanimental at other moments, and completely united with the strings yet elsewhere.

The slow middle movement has particularly long phrases and sinuous lines, while the finale displays remarkable rhythmic variety, with relatively staid eighth notes taking turns with bustling sixteenth-notes and downright scrambling thirty-second-notes. (You can hear the Bach concerto for yourself in the YouTube video below that features the British pianist Nick Van Bloss who, curiously, suffers from Tourette’s Syndrome except when he is playing.)

A lot of listeners know you especially for your interpretations of modern and contemporary composers such as William Bolcom, Gyorgy Ligeti, Derek Bermel and especially Olivier Messiaen. But you are also known for your performances of the “Goldberg” Variations. What are the attractions of Bach’s music for you?

I find in Bach (below) the supreme balance of heart and brain. It is music whose intricacy provides endless material for intellectual stimulation and study, but which nonetheless, in its restrained and elegant way, evokes every imaginable shade of human feeling.

It is hardly surprising that composers as diverse as Ludwig van Beethoven, Frederic Chopin and Arnold Schoenberg found inspiration in his immortal creations.

Playing his music is a foundational skill for me, providing essential training and background when I approach, for instance, the more recent composers whose challenging works you mention.

Bach1

Liszt is known as probably the greatest piano virtuoso in history who reinvented keyboard technique. How do you see the first concerto in terms of both deeper musicality and sheer spectacle and technical virtuosity?

While Bach may sometimes be stereotyped as hyper-academic and dry, the stereotype associated with Liszt is quite the opposite:  flashy and intellectually shallow.

Neither caricature captures the reality, and I hope that this week’s pair of concertos helps to illustrate the unexpected facets and depths of both composers.

While I have been familiar with the Liszt from a very early age, I only performed it for the first time fairly recently. While learning it I found myself continually surprised by its formal sophistication and intriguing quirkiness.

Certainly it has its moments of raw virtuoso display, but these only constitute one ingredient in a varied dramatic structure. Just as important are the lyrical characters (sometimes cut off short), the playful elements, the eccentric, the grand, the angelic. I have thus come to appreciate how experimental, individualistic, and sophisticated this work really is.

andsnes

How do you view Liszt as a composer compared to his reputation as a performer and teacher? What should the public pay attention to in the Liszt Concerto and is there anything special or usual you try to do with the score?

As I suggested above, I think there’s often a tendency to underestimate Liszt’s compositional import — although admittedly he did produce certain works that feed into the stereotypes distressingly well.

Liszt photo by Pierre Petit

I will hope to bring out this concerto’s interplay of characters and its individualism as vividly as possible. The virtuoso elements will play their part, but I do not wish for them to be the sole focus. (You can hear the concerto played by Martha Argerich in the YouTube video that is below.)

 


Classical music: Music for piano-four hands played a vital historical role in disseminating classical music and also in encouraging amateur musicians and a socially acceptable form of erotic intimacy.

April 1, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

First things first — a full disclosure because today is April 1 or April Fool’s Day.

april fools day

But this is no April Fool’s post. The Ear detests using the media, old or new, for April Fool’s stories and pranks. The Ear finds them stupid and reprehensible. They undercut credibility and insult readers or consumers by taking advantage of their gullibility.

So …

Yesterday, you may recall, I posted a preview of the upcoming recital this Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. by pianists Peter Serkin and Julie Hsu at Farley’s House of Pianos.

Here is a link:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/03/31/classical-music-pianists-peter-serkin-and-julia-hsu-will-play-works-for-piano-four-hands-by-mozart-schubert-schumann-and-brahms-this-saturday-night-at-farleys-house-of-pianos/

But as background, or perhaps an appetizer or teaser, I thought you might like to see a link sent to me by a professor friend at Stanford University. It covers a book by his colleague in German that offers not only history but also the role of four-hand playing in encouraging intimacy, a kind of erotic sensuality and sexuality that was socially acceptable. Then, too, music playing also bridged the worlds of professional and amateur musicians.

Whether or not you attend the concert at Farley’s, it is good to read the overview of the vital role that music for piano-four hands (below is the team of Varshavsky and Shapiro who perform quite often in the area) played in the history of Western classical music. They helped to disseminate into ordinary homes versions of the symphonies by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven at a time when hearing a real symphony was a rare occasion.

And of course they also encouraged Hausmusik — the playing of music in private homes before commercial concerts became established. A piano was like the CD player or radio or television of its day.

Stanislava Varshavski-Diana Shapiro

Madison hears its fair share of such music. It is always featured at the Schubertiades, held by wife-and-husband pianists Martha Fischer and Bill Lutes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music in late January.

Schubertiade 2014 stage in MIlls Hall

Such music has also appeared regularly at the free Friday Noon Musicales at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, Sunday Afternoon Live at the Chazen Museum of Art, the annual Karp Family Labor Day Concerts, the summer Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, Farley’s House of Pianos, and other important series.

The Ear has enjoyed such music – in addition to the many social works by Franz Schubert, I have heard Hungarian Dances by Johannes Brahms, Slavonic Dances by Antonin Dvorak and Polonaises by Franz Schubert, for example — but was never fully aware of what, historically, he was listening to.

So The Ear found the historical essay fascinating and thought you might also appreciate it.

Here is a link to the essay:

http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/december/piano-monster-daub-120814.html

And here is a link to a YouTube video of the piece that is perhaps the crown jewel of piano-four hand literature — Franz Schubert’s late Fantasy in F Minor, D. 940 — performed by two of my favorite British pianists, Imogen Cooper and Paul Lewis:


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

March 31, 2015
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

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

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

Peter Serkin

Julia Hsu

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

Karlos Moser

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

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

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

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

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

Farley Daub plays

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

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

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

Martin Kasik w piano

dick hyman

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

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


Classical music education: The University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Music ranks in the nation’s Top 30 overall and in the Top 10 for music education. Plus, WYSO’s Youth Orchestra and Concerto Competition winners perform Beethoven, Schubert, Walter Piston and Alexander Arutiunian on this Saturday afternoon.

March 27, 2015
5 Comments

ALERT: Just a reminder that this Saturday afternoon, the top-ranked Youth Orchestra (below) of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) will perform under conductor James Smith at 1:30 p.m. in Mills Hall on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus in the Mosse Humanities Building, 455 North Park Street.

The program includes: The Suite from “The Incredible Flutist” by Walter Piston; and the first and second movements of the Symphony No. 8  “Unfinished” by Franz Schubert.

Also included are the winners of the WYSO Concerto Competition. Trumpeter Noah Mennenga will perform the Trumpet Concert by  Alexander Arutiunian. Pianist Theodore Lau will play the third movement of the Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, O;. 37, by Ludwig van Beethoven.

Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for young people 3-18. For more information, call (608) 263-3320 or visit http://wyso.music.wisc.edu/dianne-endres-ballweg-winterfest-concert-series/

WYSO Youth  Orchestra

By Jacob Stockinger

Spring Break starts tomorrow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

So The Ear wants students and faculty to leave on a positive note and then return with renewed energy and dedication, knowing that the UW-Madison School of Music  still ranks relatively high (No. 24) among the nation’s top 30 public and private schools for overall programs and even higher (No. 10) for music education in an informal blog survey.

UW logos

To be sure, the UW-Madison School of Music is facing a lot of complex challenges.

Those challenges range from finding enough scholarship money to compete in recruiting outstanding students to finding enough money to recruit and retain outstanding faculty.

And some of the challenges look to be made worse through budget cuts and policy changes proposed by the Republican-dominated legislature and Republican Gov. Scott Walker (below), though we will have to wait to see the final outcomes.

Scott Walker 1

But the politicians sure are sending out signals that they want to treat the world-class university more like a trade school than a star player in the liberal arts, the arts and the humanities. They just don’t see those fields as adding much to economic development.

As if economic development is the bottom line for everything of personal and social value.

And as if the so-called STEM subjects -– science, technology, engineering and math – are the only relevant academic fields for the public to support.

Besides, study after study shows the relevance of music education to success in other fields. (Below are the UW Symphony Orchestra and UW Choral Union.)

Missa Choral Union and UW Symphony Orchestra

So before anyone starts fooling around and making major changes and cuts, it is good to be reminded of what a precious educational, cultural and economic resource the UW-Madison remains, as a world-class learning institution.

But it won’t take much negligence or wrong-headed tinkering for the UW to drop out of the ranking.

So here they are to read and then think about how to best protect the great university that the state of Wisconsin has.

First comes the overall ranking (No. 24) among private and public Schools of Music, which, if The Ear recalls correctly, has dropped over the past decade:

http://www.uscollegeranking.org/music/2014-best-americas-top-music-schools-and-colleges-ranking.html#axzz3UH2L2vW3

And then comes the ranking (No. 10) in the specific area of music education in a less prestigious blog poll done by an individual:

http://musicschoolcentral.com/top-10-colleges-music-education-majors-us/

Thoughts, anyone?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: The Ear gives shout-outs to guest University Opera director David Ronis – who should be hired permanent full-time by the UW-Madison — and longtime Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra conductor Andrew Sewell because they both know how to make Mozart our contemporary. Plus, here are the results of The Final Forte.

March 26, 2015
7 Comments

ALERTS:

1) In case you don’t already know them, here are the results of last night’s Final Forte: First Prize went to violinist Julian Rhee; Second Prize went to pianist Vivian Wilhelms; and Honorable Mentions went to harpist Maya Pierick and pianist Isabella Wu.

Here is a link to a complete story about the high school concerto competition:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/03/23/classical-music-education-this-wednesday-night-the-annual-the-final-round-of-the-bolz-young-artist-concerto-competition-with-the-madison-symphony-orchestra-will-be-broadcast-live-on-wisconsin-public/

Final Forte 2015 4 finalists

2) This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, to be held from 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the Landmark Auditorium of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Meeting House of the First Unitarian Society of Madison at 900 University Bay Drive, will feature soprano Consuelo Sanudo (below) and pianist Jeff Gibbens who will perform music by Henri Duparc, Claude Debussy, Arnold Schoenberg and Franz Schubert.

Consuela Sanudo

By Jacob Stockinger

It has really  been a busy past couple of weeks, with so many concerts that The Ear couldn’t even preview all of them. So it’s time to catch up and offer some critical appraisals of what I heard.

Let me begin with some background.

The supremely gifted, articulate and critically acclaimed American pianist Jeremy Denk, who has performed two solo recitals in Madison for the Wisconsin Union Theater, is fond of saying the he strives to make music sound as radical today as it was when it was first composed and first heard.

There is wisdom in that approach, which balances out the other great movement of the 20th-century that opened up our ears to another kind of difference. I am referring to the use of period instruments and historically informed performance practices to recapture how the music originally sounded.

But lately I had two examples that showed me just how exciting such an established “museum” composer as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (below)  can be if made to sound and look contemporary and radical to our modern ears without going backwards.

Mozart old 1782

The two examples I have in mind are from recent performances of late works, when Mozart was in full command of his art: The opera “The Magic Flute” as presented by University Opera under the guest stage director David Ronis, who hails from New York City and teaches at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College and the City University of New York as well as at Hofstra University; and the well-known penultimate Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, K. 550, as performed by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra under Andrew Sewell.

THE MAGIC FLUTE

The award-winning David Ronis did several things to The Magic Flute that The Ear  really liked and found effective.

He made some judicious cuts in an otherwise overlong work.

He used surtitles for the German text.

He used spoken contemporary vernacular English for the dialogue. That not only made the opera understandable, but also lent drive to push it along and give it momentum as well as contemporaneity.

Most of all, Ronis also used cinematic Bollywood-like dance gestures and choreography (below, in photos by Michael R. Anderson) – along with the bright fusion of East-West hybrid costumes and sets that added such movement and energy,  color and humor, to the score.

I mean, don’t we see enough of opera singers just standing still, arms outstretched, with only their mouths moving?

Dress rehearsal for The Magic Flute

Of course, some people and critics did not like the changes, and found them downright treasonous and disrespectful or just plain wrong.

Dress rehearsal for The Magic Flute

Dress rehearsal for The Magic Flute

Silly them. The Ear says the updating worked just fine. Great art is there to experiment with, not just depict. Art lives in time. It is why director Peter Sellars is such a forceful and creative influence in the world of classical music. If only classical music could be less classical and more musical! Entertainment is nothing to be ashamed of. It is, after all, why the performing arts exist.

I also think the changes are one reason why there were four sold-out performances -– not just the usual three -– and why I saw so many young people in the audience. It was, in short, a fun production.

To my eyes and ears, this production — coupled with his production of Benjamin Britten‘s “Albert Herring” in the fall — showed what a smart move it would be to hire David Ronis (below, in a photo by Luke DeLalio) full-time to lead the University Opera. He clearly knows how to get the best out of students, has a very personal artistic vision and is willing to shake things up – which both we and The Great Artists such as Mozart can use.

David Ronis color CR  Luke DeLalio

THE BIG G-MINOR SYMPHONY

As for the Mozart symphony – the big late one in G minor not the little  early one — it was just part of an outstanding concert turned in by Sewell and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra with the impressive guest cellist Amit Peled (below) and his unbelievably resonant cello that belonged to and was played by Pablo Casals. Together, man and instrument justifiably brought down the house.

Amit Peled playing

But other parts of the program, which included works by Frank Bridge and David Popper, should not be overlooked or underestimated.

Conductor Andrew Sewell (below) has long demonstrated his ability to work with such Classical-era composers as Franz Joseph Haydn and Mozart as well as Franz Schubert and Ludwig van Beethoven. And here, in a very familiar work, you could hear why.

andrewsewell

While Mozart was one of music’s great melodists, Sewell’s interpretation emphasized tempo, rhythm and repetitive motifs even as he brought out the various voices, counterpoint and melodic lines.

This Mozart had drive and pep. (You can hear the familiar first movement, with an interesting abstract graph profile, in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

In fact, the third Minuet movement sounded downright modern – a kind of percussive precursor to minimalism.

This was exciting Mozart, far from the genteel and primly elegant and blandly pleasant Mozart that The Ear refers to as Music-Box Mozart.

Andrew Sewell BW

This playing by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below) was precise and dramatic. It made you sit up and take notice. It engaged you.

It also showed why Mozart was such an exception to his age –- why his contemporaries and those who followed him so revered his talent and music. He was a radical in his day but we often overlook how he pushed the boundaries of music closer to modernism.

WCO lobby

So The Ear offers shout-outs and hearty thanks to both David Ronis and Andrew Sewell for helping us to hear Mozart once again as a contemporary — not just a statically beautiful blast from the past.

Both cases proved to be an exciting and unforgettable experience. The Ear hopes we are in for more of them, particularly in Mozart’s symphonies and piano concertos.

Did you hear the opera and/or the symphony?

What did you think of the approaches to Mozart?

The Ear wants to hear.


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