The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society closes its 28th season this weekend by honoring three guest artists. Plus, here are all the winners of the 16th International Tchaikovsky Competition

June 28, 2019
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ALERT: The Ear has been following two competitors in the 16th International Tchaikovsky Competition in Russia who have local ties. (The only American to win Gold was cellist Zlatomir Fung.) The final results are in: trumpet player Ansel Norris took fifth place and received an artist’s diploma; pianist Kenneth Broberg shared the third prize with two other winners. For a complete list of winners in all the categories — piano, violin, cello, voice, brass and woodwinds — go to this page: https://tch16.com/en/news/

You can also watch and listen to, via live streaming, the two Gala Concerts for the winners today at 11 a.m. and on Saturday at 1 a.m. Valery Gergiev will conduct both. Go to https://tch16.medici.tv

By Jacob Stockinger

This Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society will close out its 28th annual summer chamber music season with concerts in Madison, Stoughton and Spring Green.

Judging by the first two weekends of concerts, The Ear expects it to be a memorable conclusion of the season with the punning theme of “Name Dropping.”

Here is the announcement he received.

“Our third week of concerts celebrates three great musicians, all of whom are audience favorites: cellist couple Anthony (“Tony”) Ross and Beth Rapier; and firebrand violinist Carmit Zori.

“And the Tony Award for Rapier Wit goes to…” is a program centered around cello duets. Rapier and Ross (below), principal and co-principal cellists with the Minnesota Orchestra, start the program with George Frideric Handel’s gorgeous Sonata in G minor for two cellos and piano. (You can hear the Handel sonata, payed by Amit Peled in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

They both display crazy virtuosity in Luigi Boccherini’s Quintet in B-flat Major for flute, violin, viola and two cellos.

The first half ends with Gian Carlo Menotti’s Suite for two cellos and piano, a work that they have performed to acclaim around the world.

The second half of the program is given over to one of Brahms’ greatest works, the Sextet in G Major, Op. 36, for two violins, two violas and two cellos.

Ross and Rapier are joined by violinists Carmit Zori and Leanne League (assistant concertmaster of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra) and violists Toby Appel (below, a faculty member at the Juilliard School who plays in the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center) and Katrin Talbot (a Madisonian who performs with the Madison Symphony Orchestra and Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra) in this spectacular piece.

“And the Tony Award for Rapier Wit goes to…” will be performed at the Stoughton Opera House on Friday, June 28, at 7:30 p.m.; and in Spring Green at the Hillside Theater at Taliesin on Sunday, June 30, at 2:30 p.m.

Firebrand violinist Carmit Zori (below), founder and artistic director of the Brooklyn Chamber Music Society in New York City, will sizzle her way through the second program, entitled “The Legend of Zori.”

The program will open with Johannes Brahms’ Sonata in G Major for violin and piano. Viaje, by living Chinese composer Zhou Tian, is a fun and exciting new piece featuring flute and string quartet.

Zori will bring the program home with the torridly passionate Piano Quintet in F minor by Cesar Franck (below), a work written while Franck was in the throes of a love affair with one of his young students.

“The Legend of Zori” will be performed at The Playhouse at the Overture Center for the Arts on Saturday, June 29, at 7:30 p.m.; and in Spring Green at the Hillside Theater at Taliesin, on Sunday, June 30, at 6:30 p.m.

Venue Locations: the Stoughton Opera House is at 381 East Main Street; the Overture Center in Madison is at 201 State Street; Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin Hillside Theater in on County Highway 23 in Spring Green.

Single admission tickets start are $43 and $49. Student tickets are always $10. All single tickets must now be purchased from Overture Center for the Arts, www.overturecenter.org or (608) 258-4141 (additional fees apply) or at the box office. Tickets are available at the door at all locations.

You can also enjoy a pre-ordered picnic at the Hillside Theater made with love from Pasture and Plenty, using ingredients from local farmers and producers. They are available for pick up at the Hillside Theater after the 2:30 p.m. concert or before the 6:30 p.m. concert, for $18.

Spread a blanket on the beautiful Hillside Theater grounds or eat in the Taliesin Architecture School Dining Room, which will be open exclusively to BDDS concert-goers.

Choose from Green Goddess Chicken Salad, Market Veggie Quiche with Greens, or Hearty Greens and Grains with Seasonal Veggie Bowl (gluten-free/vegan). Seasonal sweet treat and beverage included. See the BDDS order form or call BDDS at 608 255-9866.


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Classical music: Two FREE chamber music concerts on Thursday and Friday nights at the UW-Madison feature quartets and quintets by Mozart, Boccherini, Schubert, Dvorak and Weinberg

March 26, 2019
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By Jacob Stockinger

Chamber music fans have something special to look forward to this week with back-to-back evening concerts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music that mix famous and well-known works with less familiar ones.

THURSDAY NIGHT

On Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the Pro Arte Quartet will perform.

The program features six miniature “Evening Songs”  (1865) – also called “Cypresses” — by Antonin Dvorak; the String Quartet No. 5 in B-Flat Major (1945) by Mieczyslaw Weinberg; and the String Quartet in B-Flat Major “Hunt,” K. 458 (1784), by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. (You can hear one of Dvorak’s “Cypresses” in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Members of the Pro Arte Quartet (below, from left, in a photo by Rick Langer) are: violinists David Perry and Suzanne Beia; violist Sally Chisholm; and cellist Parry Karp.

For more information about the unique and dramatic history of the critically acclaimed Pro Arte Quartet, the longest active string quartet in the history of music, go to:

https://www.music.wisc.edu/event/pro-arte-quartet/

FRIDAY NIGHT

On Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, UW-Madison cellist Uri Vardi (below) will be joined by several faculty colleagues, one of his students and his son for an evening of three quintets.

In addition to Uri Vardi, the performers include: clarinetist Amitai Vardi (below); pianist Christopher Taylor; violinists David Perry and Soh-Hyun Park Altino; violist Sally Chisholm; cellist James Waldo; and double bassist David Scholl.

The program includes: the Quintet in C major, assembled from other quintets by Johann Lauterbach, by Luigi Boccherini, a contemporary of Mozart; the famous Clarinet Quintet in A Major, K. 581, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the well-known “Trout” Quintet by Franz Schubert.

For more background, go to: https://www.music.wisc.edu/event/uri-vardi-quintets-students-friends-and-family/


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Classical music: The Willy Street Chamber Players conclude this summer season on such a high note that one already hungers for next summer

July 30, 2018
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By Jacob Stockinger

Here is a special posting, a review written by frequent guest critic and writer for this blog, John W. Barker. Barker (below) is an emeritus professor of Medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also is a well-known classical music critic who writes for Isthmus and the American Record Guide, and who hosts an early music show once a month on Sunday morning on WORT-FM 89.9 FM. For years, he served on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.

By John W. Barker

At Immanuel Lutheran Church last Friday night, the Willy Street Chamber Players ended the 2018 summer season – their fourth — with a concert full of fascinating variety.

Four works were performed, each introduced by one of the players. Personnel shifted according to the scorings.

To begin, a core group of the organization (below, from left) — violinists Eleanor Bartsch and Paran Amirinazari, cellists Lindsay Crabb and Mark Bridges, and violist Beth Larson — played Luigi Boccherini’s Cello Quintet in C major (G. 324), which has the Italian title translatable as “Night Music of the Streets of Madrid.” (The piece, which has military or martial aspects to it, was featured in the soundtrack to the popular film “Master and Commander,” which you can hear in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Typical of the composer’s prolific writing for string quintets, it is unique in offering in its seven movements a dusk-to-dawn evocation of Madrid’s street life in Boccherini’s day. This delightful work was performed with relish.

Next came a contemporary work by American composer Andrew Norman (below top). Written in his 20s, Night Screens (2002),for flute and string quartet, is a playful work inspired by the asymmetrical stained glass windows designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

The music is quite tonal, but very episodic in its succession of tempos and rhythms. For this work, Amirinazari, Larson and Crabb were joined by a friend of the composer, flutist Timothy Hagen (below), now a faculty member of the UW-Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music.

Rarely heard in concert, but a really fascinating novelty is Sergei Prokofiev’s Overture on Hebrew Themes, Op. 34. This was composed in 1919, during the composer’s stay in the U.S. It is based on two melodies whose actual Jewish origins are in doubt, but their juxtaposition and elaboration are fascinating to follow.

The colorful scoring is for clarinet, piano, and string quartet, so this drew other guest artists, Alicia Lee (below top) also of the UW faculty, and pianist Thomas Kasdorf (below bottom) to join Bartsch, Amirinazari, Larson and Bridges.

Finally came a rare opportunity to encounter Johann Strauss II collaborating with Arnold Schoenberg, or rather vice-versa. For a fund-raising concert on behalf of his radical atonal ensemble in Vienna in 1925, Schoenberg made a chamber arrangement of the great waltz master’s Kaiser-Walzer or “Emperor Waltz.”

He scored it for flute, clarinet, piano and string quartet — perfectly allowing seven of the eight performers (less Crabb) to offer a triumphant grand finale. Even in such a lean and reduced format, Schoenberg faithfully conveyed Strauss’s melodic genius, and brought the large audience enthusiastically to its feet.

The Willys continue to match great enterprise in programming with superb artistry in playing, all in a summer season that leaves us hungering for the next one.


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Classical music: An outstanding concert by two harpsichordists explores the rich Baroque repertoire of arrangements and transcriptions. Let’s hear more!

November 25, 2015
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ALERT: The will be NO free Friday Noon Musicale this week at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive. The musicales will resume on Dec. 4.

By Jacob Stockinger

Here is a special posting, a review written by frequent guest critic and writer for this blog, John W. Barker. Barker (below) is an emeritus professor of Medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also is a well-known classical music critic who writes for Isthmus and the American Record Guide, and who for 12 years hosted an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT-FM 89.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.

John-Barker

By John W. Barker

Trevor Stephenson (below left), the versatile founder, director and keyboard player of the Madison Bach Musicians, ventured another early music novelty last Saturday evening at the Madison Christian Community Hall on Old Sauk Road. (All performance photos are by John W. Barker.)

He and a colleague, Stephen Alltop (below right) from Northwestern University, braved our football traffic and our first snowstorm to bring their respective harpsichords for a joint program.

It was called “Music for Two Harpsichords,” but a better title would have been “Music for Two Harpsichordists.”

Stephenson and Alltop two harpsichords

The fact is, only one item on the program was actually written for two harpsichords playing together. This was the Concerto for Two Harpsichords  in C Major (BWV 1061), for which the string-ensemble parts are purely optional — and which were dispensed with in this case. (For the harpsichord-only version, see the YouTube video at the bottom.)

The two artists did play otherwise together, but in transcriptions.

They took several selections from Pièces de clavecin en concert by Jean-Philippe Rameau, which Rameau (below) himself adapted from purely harpsichord pieces into trios for harpsichord and two other instruments. But these were played in adaptations that turned the other instrument parts into a second harpsichord.

Jean-Philippe Rameau

And there was a transcription for two harpsichords of the Fandango finale from the Quintet No. 4 in D Major by Luigi Boccherini (below) for guitar and string quartet.

Boccherini with cello 1

In between these works there were solo keyboard segments.   Alltop played three of the Preludes and Fugues from Book I of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier” and Stephenson played three of Domenico Scarlatti’s 555 harpsichord sonatas.

For some extra spice, Tania Tandias (below), of local Flamenco dance activities, contributed some tambourine rhythms to a pair of the Rameau pieces, and she worked up a lot of castanet excitement in the Boccherini.

Tania Tandias

The two keyboard artists are each wonderful musicians, and obviously are compatible partners as well as gifted individual soloists. Alltop (below) matches Stephenson’s witty commentaries with wonderfully articulate and informed discussion.

Stephen Alltop speaks

Their two harpsichords are, inevitably, quite distinct in tone, so that it is possible to discern each player’s role. Fortunately, too, the Christian Community’s hall is moderate in size and intimate, a perfect acoustical setting for such keyboard playing.

The Stephenson-Alltop partnership deserves to continue. There is a lot of actual two-harpsichord literature out there. Francois Couperin wrote a good deal of music for the combination, as did a number of Elizabethan composers. It would be wonderful if such material could be explored in further ventures like this one, and by these two splendid artists.

Do remember the Madison Bach Musicians’ annual Baroque Holiday Concert, which features cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach and music by Georg Philipp Telemann and Arcangelo Corelli. It will take place at 8 p.n. on Saturday, Dec. 12, at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, near Camp Randall. For more information, visit:

http://madisonbachmusicians.org/december-12-2015/


Classical music: Choral music, wind music and brass music add to the season-ending events this super-busy weekend.

April 30, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

This weekend brings more season-closers. The groups concluding their concert seasons include the First Unitarian Society of Madison’s FREE Friday Noon Musicales; the Festival Choir of Madison; the UW Chamber Orchestra; and Edgewood College.

Here is a round-up of yet another busy weekend.

FRIDAY

On Friday afternoon, from 12:15 to 1 p.m., the last FREE Friday Noon Musicale of the season at the first Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, will feature Driftless Winds, a University of Wisconsin-Platteville Faculty Reed Trio.

Members are Laura Medisky, oboe; Corey Mackey, clarinet; and Jacqueline Wilson, bassoon.

The program, performed in the historic Landmark Auditorium designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, includes music by Wolfgang Amadeus, Jacques Ibert, Erwin Schulhoff and Ludwig van Beethoven.

Bring your lunch; coffee and tea are provided.

FUS1jake

On Friday night, the Madison Chamber Choir will perform at 7:30 p.m. at Christ Presbyterian Church (http://www.madisonchamberchoir.com) . It will be directed by Adam Kluck.

On Friday night, May 2, at 7:30 p.m. in the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Avenue, the University of Wisconsin-Stout Choirs come to Madison on a mini-tour, with a program titled “An Ode To The Bard: Shakespeare in Music.”

The concert will feature musical settings of Shakespeare’s words, popular music of his time (including tunes that are referenced in his plays), and works inspired by the legacy of William Shakespeare (below).

shakespeare BW

Performers include the Stout Symphonic Singers (an open-seat choir of about 30 singers) and the Stout Chamber Choir (an auditioned choir of 20 singers), both directed by composer-conductor Jerry Hui (below), with pianist Michaela Gifford.

Admission is free with a free-will donation welcomed.

Jerry Hui

 

SATURDAY

On Saturday at 11 a.m. at Oakwood Village West, 6209 Mineral Road, on Madison’s far west side, the UW-Stout Choirs will give a second performance of their Friday night program. See directly above.

On Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. in Mills Hall, the All-University String Orchestra will perform a FREE concert under conductor Janet Jensen (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot). Sorry, no word on a specific program.

Janet Jensen Katrin Talbot

On Saturday, May 3, at 7 p.m. in the St. Joseph Chapel at 1000 Edgewood College Drive, the Edgewood Concert Band and Jazz Ensemble will perform under the direction of Walter Rich and Daniel Wallach.  Included will be works by Paul Dukas, Jenkins, Williams, Van der Roost and Franz von Suppe.

Admission is $7 to benefit music scholarships at the college.

Walter Rich  Edgewood Concert Band 2013-3-22-Band

On Saturday night at 7:30 p.m., the FESTIVAL CHOIR OF MADISON (below) will conclude its 40th season in the 
First Baptist Church, 
518 North Franklin Avenue, in Madison. It will perform with the Pecatonica String Quartet and winds, and under the baton of artistic director Bryson Mortensen, who is the Director of Choral Activities at the University of Wisconsin-Rock County.

The program is entitled “Gloria” and features two Glorias: the well-known one by Antonio Vivaldi and a rarely heard one by Luigi Boccherini. A pre-concert lecture, begins at 6:30 p.m. The Ear hears there will also be an encore performance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart‘s “Ave Verum Corpus.”

Tickets are $18 general public, $14 for seniors and $8 for students if bought in advance – call (608) 274-7089; the day of the concert, tickets are $20, $15 and $10, respectively.

For more information, visit the link: http://festivalchoirmadison.org/index.htm

festivalchoir

On Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Women’s Chorus and the University Chorus will perform a FREE concert under the direction of Anna Volodarskaya and Adam Kluck (below), respectively. Sorry, no word yet on a specific program.

Adam Kluck conducting

SUNDAY

On “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen” Museum of Art on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, from 12:30 to 2 p.m., members of the music faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will perform the second-to–last concert of that series this season. As always it will be broadcast live on Wisconsin Public Radio. The concert itself is FREE in the Brittingham Gallery No. 3. Sorry, no word on a program.

SALProArteMay2010

On Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m., in Mills Hall, the UW Concert Band will perform a FREE concert under director Mike Leckrone (below). Sorry, no word on the program.

leckrone

On Sunday, May 4, at 2:30 p.m. in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive, the Chamber Singers, Men’s Choir, Women’s Choir and Campus-Community Choir.

Kathleen Otterson (below) will conduct the Women’s Choir, while Albert Pinsonneault will lead the Chamber Singers, Campus-Community Choir, and Men’s Choir.

Kathleen Otterson 2

Pinsonneault (below) will also conduct the combined choirs and the Edgewood Chamber Orchestra in a performance of Franz Joseph Haydn’s “Te Deum.”

Admission is $7 to benefit music scholarships at Edgewood.

Albert Pinsonneault 2

On Sunday evening at 6:30 p.m. in Music Hall, at the foot of Bascom Hill, the Lincoln Chamber Brass of Chicago will perform a FREE concert, just a week before they compete at the prestigious Fischoff Chamber Music Competition.

All of them are members of Civic Orchestra of Chicago; at 21, the horn player already substitutes for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Four are students at Northwestern University, the fifth at DePaul. Four of the five, including Ansel Norris, who was born in Madison and in high school studied with UW-Madison trumpeter John Aley, will attend the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Tanglewood Festival this summer.

Musicians of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. 
The program includes Victor Ewald’s Brass Quintet No. 3; David Sampson’s “Morning Music”; Franz Biebl’s “Ave Maria” (arranged by Barker); and Giles Farnaby’s Suite of Dances.

Members (below, from left) are Ansel Norris and William Cooper, trumpets;
 Kevin Haseltine, horn; 
Joseph Peterson, trombone; and Scott Hartman, bass trombone.

For more information, visit: http://lincolnchamberbrass.wordpress.com/home/

lincoln chamber brass  madison shot

At 7:30 in Mills Hall, the UW Chamber Orchestra (below) will perform its last concert of the season and its last concert before being either mothballed or terminated.

The performance is FREE and will be under the baton of director James Smith.

The program includes: Jacques Ibert’s “Hommage to Mozart”; Richard Strauss’ “Dance Suite After Francois Couperin”; and Mozart’s Symphony No. 39 in E Fat Major. (In a YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear the first movement performed by the legendary conductor Karl Bohm and the Vienna Philharmonic.)

For more about the news significance of the event, here is a link to yesterday’s blog post:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/classical-music-the-uw-chamber-orchestra-will-play-this-sunday-night-but-then-will-be-axed-and-fall-silent-next-season-is-this-au-revoir-or-adieu/

uw chamber orchestra USE

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Classical music: Guest blogger Sig Midelfort says the viola and violin shined in a recent Carnegie Hall recital, thanks to University of Wisconsin-Madison alumni Elias Goldstein and Roxana Pavel Goldstein

March 6, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Here is a review by guest blogger Sigurd “Sig” Midelfort, a good friend of the blog and of classical music in the Madison area.

Sig is a retired CPA who has spent a number of years with non-profits.  He adds: “Right now, that means I’m doing and have done volunteer work — with the Democratic Party of Dane County, Madison Music Makers Inc, a local environmental group and an orchestra in the western suburbs of Chicago.  (I also was a history major as an undergrad, have a masters in economic development, was in the Peace Corps in Tanzania for three years, and so on.)  All the time I have been interested in the local classical music scene, playing in amateur groups for decades.”

Sig recently attended a recital at Carnegie Hall in New York City, and asked if he could file this review of performers who have local ties and local interest.

It proved too good to resist. Enjoy!

By Sigurd Midelfort

Two recent University of Wisconsin-Madison doctoral graduates participated in a lustrous viola recital on February 19 at Carnegie Hall (below) in New York City.

carnegie-hall-address

Violist Elias Goldstein, now a professor at Louisiana State University who received his DMA from the UW-Madison in 2011 performed and received assistance on the violin from Roxana Pavel Goldstein, his wife (she received her DMA from the UW-Madison in 2012) and from Ieva Jokubaviciute, a Lithuanian pianist. (They are below, in a photo by Daniel Balan.)

Elias and Roxana Pavel Goldstein in Carnegie Hall CR Daniel Balan

Elias began the evening, playing an unaccompanied sonata for viola, Op. 25, No. 1, by Paul Hindemith.  Roxana (below) joined him in two duos for violin and viola: one, a three-movement duet in G Major, K. 423, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and the other, a “Passacaglia” by George Frideric Handel as arranged by the 19th-century Norwegian composer and conductor Johan Halvorsen.

Roxana Pavel Goldstein

After intermission, Elias and Ieva performed three works for viola and piano: a divertimento in three movements by Franz Joseph Haydn, as arranged by the famous cellist Gregor Piatigorsky and the famous violist William Primrose (below); a sonata (No. 6 in A major) in two movements by Luigi Boccherini, as arranged by Primrose; and the famous Caprice No. 24 by the legendary Nicolo Paganini –- it has been used for theme and variations by Franz Liszt, Johannes Brahms, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Witold Lutoslawski — also as transcribed for viola by Primrose. (The caprice, taken at a quasi presto tempo, is hard enough for violin, its original instrument. For viola?  Well, one can imagine the difficulties it presented.)

William Primrose  BYU (Submission date: 05/19/2005)

I was not an unbiased observer. Elias is a distant relative, and I have been a passionate amateur cellist my entire life.  Nonetheless, Elias’ tone was stunning. His playing was mellow and warm, round and resonant, displaying an ease and mastery of technique that is unusual for even the most accomplished performers.

Elias holds recent top prizes in the following international viola competitions: the Primrose, the Yuri Bashmet, the Lionel Tertis, the Watson Forbes and the Andrews University String Competition. In 2011, he made his Russian debut with the Moscow Soloists and the New Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra under Alexander Sladkovsky.

While at the UW-Madison School of Music, Elias was a student of Sally Chisholm of the Pro Arte Quartet.

elias goldstein 2

Although the viola (below) generally has a lower public profile, in the hands of such an artist as Elias it stands as an equal of, or is even superior to, the violin or cello in terms of its quality of sound.

viola

Roxana, too, is a superb artist, playing with considerable warmth and sensitivity on the violin. Originally from Romania, she worked at the UW-Madison with David Perry, first violinist of the Pro Arte Quartet, doing research on Romanian tunes and folk music as expressed on the violin.

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Classical music: Famed Japanese violist Nobuko Imai joins the UW-Madison’s Pro Arte String Quartet this Wednesday night in a MUST-HEAR and FREE concert of Mozart, Brahms and Britten. Plus, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra ends its winter “Masterworks” season Friday night with Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Canteloube. And pianist Jeremy Denk gives a public master class on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. (NOT 7) in Morphy Hall.

April 9, 2013
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AN ALERT and  A REMINDER: Pianist Jeremy Denk’s masterclass is Wednesday night at 8 p.m. (NOT 7 p.m., as erroneously stated yesterday in a reader comment, in Morphy Hall. Also, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra closes out its current Masterworks season this Friday night at 8 p.m. in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center. The conductor is WCO music director Andrew Sewell, and the emphasis in on the Classical era composers — Haydn (Symphony No. 83, “The Hen”), Mozart (love songs from the opera “Don Giovanni” with Metropolitan Opera soprano Susanna Phillips, below) and Beethoven (Symphony No. 2) — that Sewell performs so brilliantly and so convincingly. Joseph Canteloube’s popular and more Romantic “Songs of the Auvergne” are also featured. For more information and tickets, here is a link: http://wcoconcerts.org/performances/masterworks/51/event-info/

susanna phillips

By Jacob Stockinger

The music schedule for April is crazy busy, and it just keeps getting crazier and busier.

Take the University of Wisconsin’s Pro Arte String Quartet (below in a photo by Rick Langer), which has a fine reputation when it plays by itself.

PAQ-8BIT03

But it also brings in some respected guests fairly often, especially guests cellist, violists and pianists. That is what makes the PAQ’s FREE concert this Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall so special.

The guest this time will be the acclaimed Japanese violist Nobuko Imai (below), who once played with the esteemed Vermeer String Quartet and who rarely plays in America.

Nobuko Imai CR Marco Borggreve

The program includes: the masterful Viola Quintet in C major, K. 515, by Mozart (substituted for the Quintet, Op. 11, No. 5 by Luigi Boccherini); Benjamin Britten’s Solo Cello Suite No. 2 transcribed for solo viola; and the great String Quintet No. 2 in G major, Op. 111, by Johannes Brahms.

Violist Elias Goldstein (below) – who did his doctorate here at UW-Madison and now teaches at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge –will also perform with members of the Pro Arte Quartet.

elias goldstein 2

Here is some background about Noboku Imai, provided by the UW-Madison School of Music: s

“With her exceptional talent, musical integrity and charisma, Nobuko Imai is considered to be one of the most outstanding violists of our time. She has excelled as a soloist, recitalist, chamber musician, and pedagogue, and performs often with world-renowned artists.

“In 2003, Nobuko Imai, Mihaela Martin, Stephan Picard and Frans Helmerson formed the Michelangelo Quartet (below), which gained an international reputation has become one of the finest quartets in the world.

michelangelo quartet

“Imai currently teaches at the Geneva and Amsterdam Conservatories, Kronberg International Academy and Ueno Gakuen University in Tokyo.”

Here are words of tribute from the regular Pro Arte Quartet violist Sally Chisholm (below) about Imai and about the role of the viola, which often goes understated in the shadow on violins and cellos:

Sally Chisholm

“Nobuko Imai is coming to Madison from Curtis where she is giving a master class just before arriving here, and will also appear in the Chamber Music Society of Minnesota on April 14. We are very lucky to bring her to Madison, both because she is so renowned a musician and violist, but also because she makes very few appearances in the US. Nobuko teaches in Geneva, Switzerland, and in Germany and Japan. Busy lady. She will be in residence at the Marlboro Festival this summer.

“We are honored and thrilled to have Nobuko Imai, one of the world’s most famed violists, include Madison for a rare U.S. appearance. She is a star in the solo world of string playing, and a person of humility and vision. Though she is one of the most influential performers and teachers in Europe and Asia, she seldom performs in the United States.

Nobuko Imai

“On this coming trip she will be performing only at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, St. Paul, Minn., and in Madison. Her master classes are renowned for her ability to show a student how to transform from good to superb, all in a public setting.”

As for the role of the viola (below), Chisholm adds: “Brahms loved the sound of contralto, which is one reason he is so generous to the viola in his chamber music. With so many roles to fulfill, as an inner voice, a leader of harmonic motion, a primary texture, and a solo voice, the sound of the viola is often turned to as the soul of the quartet.

viola

Whether contralto or mezzo-soprano, the voice of the viola is used when a composer has something very important to say. For performers, the luxury of living inside the quartet sound, yet having many occasions to soar above, is so rewarding that it lasts a lifetime.”


Classical music review: The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and cellist Amit Peled triumph with Mark Kopytman’s rarely heard “Kaddish” and Haydn’s “Military” Symphony.

January 16, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

When my mom made sandwiches for us, she would always say, “You take the bigger half.”

The same Law of Unequal Halves was at work at Friday night’s concert in the Overture Center‘s Capitol Theater by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below) with the Israeli-born cellist Amit Peled.

Overall, it was a terrific concert, one more event to cement the WCO’s reputation as a music-maker not to be missed. But yes, I’ll take the bigger half. And for me that was the second half.

It opened with an absolutely riveting performance concerto-like “Kaddish” of the late Russian-Israeli composer Mark Kopytman (below):

In this little known and rarely performed 20th century work, Peled (below) excelled. His solo cello played the part of the eldest son reciting the Jewish prayer for the dead while the orchestra played the part of the father.

The two dialogued back and forth, complete with agreement and disagreement, consonance and dissonance. Towards the end comes a stunning contrapuntal cadenza – reminiscent of Bach’s solo cello suites – in which the solo cello took on both parts, one high and the other low.

It was an emotionally wrenching journey for both performers and listeners – and already I think of it as a highlight of the current season and the new year. Not often to we get to hear new music – or music new to us – that is so compelling in a performance that is so convincing.

Then came the concert’s closer: Haydn’s Symphony No. 100, “Military.”

It is one of the last London symphonies of Papa Haydn and the WCO showed its stuff — its fine, big, precise sound.

All sections performed under the baton of WCO music director Andrew Sewell (below) with an accuracy and briskness that lived up to the martial nickname of the symphony. But special mention has to be made of the percussion, brass and wind sections that added that special seasoning and zest to the piece.

The WCO’s last recording was an outstanding 2-CD set of Mozart’s piano concertos and symphonies. I think the WCO’s Haydn is at such a high level where it should be the ensemble’s next project: Perhaps a 2-CD set of Haydn, a symphony sampler if you will, with perhaps an early or middle-period Storm-and-Stress symphony (perhaps the popular “Farewell” Symphony No. 45) , then maybe one of the Paris symphonies (the “Bear” or “Queen”; and finally one or two of the final London symphonies (the ”Miracle” or “Drumroll” or “Surprise”).

Anyway, with 104 symphonies to choose from, Haydn’s music offers riches galore that play to the strength of the WCO for many a season to come.

The concert started with another piece of relatively “new” music – the “Diversions for String Orchestra” – by Douglas Lilburn (below), who, like Sewell, hailed from New Zealand and went to Great Britain to study under Ralph Vaughan Williams.  (By the way, Sewell pronounced it Ralph, not the trendy Raiph. Thank you, maestro.)

“Diversions” is not great or unforgettable music, but it is a perfect curtain-raiser. It is, by turns, perky, jaunty and lyrical; and it goes down easy. The Brits do pastoral and landscape the way the Russians do soul and suffering and the French do elegance and sensuality.

The major disappointment for me was unexpected: the Cello Concerto in B-flat by the virtuoso cellist and composer Luigi Boccherini (below). Boccherini lives on forever in the shadows of other Classical-era giants Mozart and Haydn. But his works unquestionably deserve a major rediscovery.

It is just too bad that Peled chose the most famous and most played of Boccherini’s 13 cello concertos, the one reworked by the 19th-century Romantic cello virtuoso Friedrich Gruetzmacher (below).

The playing by the both the orchestra and the soloist was first-rate, and the work has both beautiful and dramatic movements. But I found the revised orchestration too thick, too rich, too heavy, too muddy – a little like the way Mahler re-scored Beethoven’s symphonies.

Of course it is a matter of personal taste, and local critics remain divided. One critic, John W. Barker, shares my preference for the original. Here is a link to Barker’s review in Isthmus:

http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=35701&sid=3744f7c14aa4a059da80a3502e6cfd4b

Other critics, like Lindsay Christians of The Capital Times and 77 Square, and William R. Wineke of WISC TV’s Channel 3000, disagree. Here is a link to Christians’ review:

http://host.madison.com/entertainment/arts_and_theatre/reviews/wisconsin-chamber-orchestra-review-a-contemporary-sound-for-an-ancient/article_e948bcce-3ebc-11e1-b751-0019bb2963f4.html?mode=story

And here is a link to Wineke’s review for Channel 3000:

http://www.channel3000.com/entertainment/30213725/detail.html

Two critics who spoke in person to me were also divided: Greg Hettmansberger of Madison Magazine liked the revised Boccherini; Michael Muckian of Brava magazine didn’t.

Here is a link to Greg Hettmansberger’s review:

http://www.madisonmagazine.com/Blogs/Classically-Speaking/January-2012/Sewell-and-WCO-Offer-a-Lesson-in-Programming/

Nonetheless, I wanted the yellow waxy build-up of Romanticism to disappear so I could hear the true Boccherini and his Classical-era clarity and transparency, without misdirected and so-called help, even on modern versus period instruments. I would love Peled (below) to return to Madison and to the WCO with another Boccherini concerto, but this time with the genuine article.

My other minor disappointment is that neither Sewell not Peled seemed to milk the audience enough, despite standing ovations. Lights came up too quickly; applause was cut off prematurely. Too bad. Great performing artists also play the audience. We want to tell them how much we like them – and hear how much they like us.

True, the program was long, and there were CD’s to be sold and signed after the concert. And true, it was a cold and snowy night.

But Peled, a soloist who cuts an impressive figure – the tall, big-handed man performed in a blue Russian Cossack shirt — missed a perfect opportunity by not offering an encore.

It could have come just before intermission, right after the Boccherini.

But honestly, a short and bright movement – say a dance movement from one of Bach’s solo cello suites – would have been perfect after the Shostakovich-like darkness and heaviness of Kopytman’s “Kaddish” and great transition or set-up for Haydn’s symphony.

Why be stingy with your gifts? Plus, it is good public relations for both the soloist and the ensemble. I think audiences feel treated special when they are given more than they bargained or paid for, when the soloist or even the ensemble tips a hat to them by offering a little something extra, a bonus.

Maybe next time.

And in Peled’s case, I do hope there is a next time.

Soon.


Classical music Q&A: It is time to rediscover composer Luigi Boccherini, says acclaimed cellist Amit Peled, who on Friday night will perform with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, which he calls “one of the best chamber orchestras in the U.S.”

January 11, 2012
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UPDATE: The FREE astronomy program this Saturday at the UW Space Place about the Madison Opera‘s production of Philip Glass’ “Galileo” has now been filled. I posted about the program on Monday, if you want to read about it.

By Jacob Stockinger

 The first big concert to kick off the second half of the current concert season in Madison is this Friday at 8 p.m. in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center.

That is when the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra will perform a program of Classical and modern music under the baton of WCO music director Andrew Sewell.

Tickets are $15-$62. Call the Overture Center box office at 608 258-4141. For more information about the program and tickets, visit:

http://www.wcoconcerts.org/performances/masterworks/26/event-info/

The program is classic Sewell (below), who likes to mix it up and introduce the audience to new works they probably don’t know as well give them a chance to hear a familiar work or composer they love.

This program features a well-known masterpiece, the Symphony No. 100 (“Military”) by Hadyn, one of Sewell’s specialties for which he has been praised. There will also be a work, “Diversions for Sttring Orchestra,” by the 20th century composer Douglas Lilburn (below, 1915-2001) who, like Sewell, hailed from New Zealand.

The program also features an unknown work,  “Kaddish,” based on the Hebrew service for the dead – a kind of Jewish requiem – for cello and strings by the little known contemporary Russian-Israeli composer Mark Kopytman (1929-2011).

And there will be a Cello Concerto by Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805), an unjustly neglected composer of the Classical era.

The guest soloist, returning to the WCO for a second time, is the acclaimed cellist Amit Peled (below), who concertizes widely but also teaches at the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

His website, which has his biography, reviews of his concerts, his statement about his teaching philosophy, a list of recordings and more, can be found at:

http://www.amitpeled.com/

And here is a long interview with Peled on a website devoted to the cello:

http://www.cello.org/newsletter/articles/peled/peled.htm

Peled, a busy performer and pedagogue, kindly agreed to an interview about his upcoming concert in Madison:

You have played here before. How do you like Madison?

I love Madison. I have been there several times. I have played at the University of Wisconsin and performed with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. It is a little too cold, but I love the town and the people and the restaurants. It is a really nice place.

The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below) is one of the best chamber orchestras in the U.S. Playing with them is literally like playing chamber music. There’s no feeling of accompanying or the group being superior to the soloist.

It has a lot to do with Andrew being in charge. I am looking forward to this concert. I love performing with them. And we will do the same combination of Baroque and Jewish music that we did last time, except that last time the Jewish piece was an encore.

Speaking of Jewish music, what can you tell us about the “Kaddish” by Mark Kopytman?

The piece is not well-known in the U.S. although I have recorded it. I knew the composer (below), who just passed away last month. I worked with him on the piece. There is a direct story line in it that I might be allowed to tell the audience before I play it.

He grew up in Russia and was a big admirer of Shostakovich. it has a lot of Shostakovich. It is a very exciting piece of the orchestra as well. I would think it is probably a Midwest premiere as well as a Madison premiere. I thin the combination of this and Boccherini will be wonderful.

The language is very tonal and accessible. The whole piece is a dialogue between the cello, which is the surviving son, and the orchestra, which is the dead father.

What do you want to say about Boccherini and the concerto?

For cellists, Boccherini (below) is like the Bible. He was a great cellist and wrote 13 concertos for the cello as well as quintets with two cellos that are really gorgeous. But Gruetzmacher, who was a 19th-century cellist, reworked this one in a more Romantic way. For us cellists, it is fun to play because it is even more lyrical and singing, and more demanding technically, than what Boccherini originally wrote. So it has become the most famous of all the Boccherini cello concertos.

Boccherini was an Italian composer who lived in Spain, but his music has the quality of an Italian opera aria all through the piece. It is just gorgeous.

It in the 1950s, everybody played this concerto. (See the Jacqueline du Pre at bottom.) Now it mostly a student piece, though students often find it too difficult technically. So I am happy that Andrew was open to doing it.

It is an exciting piece. Boccherini has been overshadowed by more famous contemporaries such as Haydn and Mozart. But the concerto is a fine piece and it is a pity it is neglected today.

There are wonderful pieces that unfortunately we cellists don’t get to play. Orchestras always want to give audiences the safe cello pieces — the Elgar, Dvorak and Schumann concertos — and not take a chance. In that sense Andrew is very brave to program two pieces that are not played very often. More people should know Boccherini and I hope people will like it.

I hope Boccherini receives a major revival or rediscovery. The best thing I can do is to promote him and play his music. The rest is left to the public and music organizations around the country to give it a chance. I am excited about it.

This week you will also teach students at Middleton High School. How well do performing and teaching go together?

I love the combination of teaching and performing. (Below is Peled with students at the Peabody Institute.) It is great to try to verbalize everything I try to do with the cello to students. But when I teach too much, I miss the playing and when I play too much, I miss the teaching. So it is a good combination for me.


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