The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Madison Symphony Orchestra presents two organ concerts this week – this season’s final organ recital TONIGHT at 7:30 p.m. and this season’s final FREE community hymn sing on Saturday at 11 a.m.

March 7, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following information to post about two performances, put on by the Madison Symphony Orchestra, in Overture Hall this week. The first is the season’s final organ recital and the second is the  season’s final hymn sing:

ORGAN RECITAL

The Madison Symphony Orchestra welcomes acclaimed organist Erik Wm. Suter in recital, TONIGHT, March 7, at 7:30 p.m. in Overture Hall, 201 State Street.

Suter will perform works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Maurice Duruflé and William Bolcom, among others. For the specific works on the program, go to: http://madisonsymphony.org/suter

A native of Chicago, Suter (below) enjoys an international career from Tokyo to Toronto and from Massachusetts to Madison. For 10 years he served as organist at the Washington National Cathedral.

Additionally, he has won five first place awards in numerous organ competitions around the world.

His performances of the complete organ works of Maurice Duruflé have garnered high praise: “Suter’s impeccable organ playing and musicianship were certainly the highlight of the evening.” (You can sample Suter’s Duruflé project, performed at the National Cathedral, in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

HYMN SING

On Saturday, March 11, at 11 a.m., the MSO invites the entire community to sing together with the Overture Concert Organ at a free Hymn Sing in Overture Hall, 201 State Street.

All ages are welcome and no registration or tickets are required.

The Hymn Sing will feature classic hymns and spirituals such as Rock of Ages, Were You There, and I Know That My Redeemer Lives as well as solo organ works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Douglas Bristol and Louis Vierne.

Gary Lewis (below), organist at Bethel Lutheran Church in Madison, will lead the hymn singing, which will last approximately one hour.

TICKETS

General Admission for each Overture Concert Organ performance is $20. Tickets can be purchased at madisonsymphony.org/suter, (608) 258-4141 or the Overture Center Box Office.

Student Rush tickets can be purchased in person on the day of the concert at the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street. Students must show a valid student ID and can receive up to two $10 tickets.

The Erik Wm. Suter performance is sponsored by Mike and Beth Hamerlik.

Support for all Overture Concert Organ programs is provided by the Diane Endres Ballweg Fund. With a gift from Pleasant T. Rowland, the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) commissioned the Overture Concert Organ, which is the backdrop of all MSO concerts.


Classical music: Middleton Community Orchestra and cellist Andrew Briggs succeeded beautifully in music by Rossini, Dvorak and Mendelssohn but a public reading of short essays by Matt Geiger seemed out of place

March 3, 2017
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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. He also took the performance photos for this review.

John-Barker

By John W. Barker

Despite nasty weather and icy conditions, a quite substantial audience turned out for the concert Wednesday night by the Middleton Community Orchestra  (below).

steve-kurr-and-mco-marc-2017-jwb

There was an unusual element to the program.

The mostly amateur orchestra opened with an exuberant performance of Rossini’s overture to his opera Il turco in Italia (The Turk in Italy).

Then the normal procedures were interrupted by a local writer, Matt Geiger (below), reading two of his short essays from a recently published collection, which was sold in the lobby.

This appearance was based on his long and valiant boosting of the orchestra in his journalism, but it would have been more appropriate at some community festival than in the midst of an orchestra concert. His essays were not without wit, but had absolutely nothing to do with music.

matt-geiger-at-mco-march-2017-jwb

Back to business with guest soloist Andrew Briggs (below), a young cellist who played two miniatures for his instrument, with orchestra, by Antonin Dvorak.

Silent Woods, Op. 68, No. 5, is sometimes heard as a foil or filler for the composer’s great cello concerto, especially in recordings. Still less familiar is a Rondo in G minor for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 94. It is a work of charm and imagination.

Briggs played both of these with affectionate sensitivity. Currently finishing his doctoral studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, he is an artist with an already expanding reputation and a great future.

andrew-briggs-mco-march-2017-jwb

The second half of the concert was devoted to Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 5, the “Reformation.” Composed to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession, it was offered here as a gesture to this year’s 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s launching of his Reformation movement with the posting of his 95 Theses. This is a score full of Lutheran symbolism, particularly with the prominent use of Luther’s chorale, Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott (“A Mighty Fortress is our God”). 

NOTE: You can hear how Mendelssohn uses the Luther hymn in the symphony’s final movement by listening to the YouTube video at the bottom.

Commentators have sometimes shrugged off this work, and it has been overshadowed in audience favor by the composer’s popular third and fourth symphonies. But it is a well-wrought score, full of fine musical interest. Conductor Steve Kurr (below) led the orchestra through a sturdy and solidly played performance, ending the concert on a triumphant note.

Steve Kurr conducting


Classical music: The Oakwood Chamber Players perform an unusual holiday program with a Wisconsin premiere twice this coming Sunday afternoon

November 22, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Oakwood Chamber Players (below) will perform a concert titled Looking Back and Forward on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016 at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Oakwood Chamber Players 2015-16

The performances will both be held at the Oakwood Village University Woods Center for Arts and Education, 6209 Mineral Point Road, on the far west side of Madison near West Towne Mall.

An innovative recipe for A Christmas Carol is a perfect addition to the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Outstanding musical theater actor/singer baritone Bobby Goderich (below, seen on the right in Madison Opera‘s production of Stephen Sondheim‘s “Sweeney Todd”) will give a tour-de-force characterization of the entire cast of personalities for a rendition of Dickens’s tale in The Passion of Scrooge. A dozen musicians will give Goderich’s flair an abundant platform to show off his singing, humor, and dramatic effects.

bobby-goderich-in-madison-operas-sweeney-todd

The Passion of Scrooge by New York composer Jon Deak (below) is performed annually for holiday concerts at the Smithsonian, and the Oakwood Chamber Players are delighted to present the Wisconsin premiere of this memorable work.

Deak is known for weaving a variety of tales into “concert dramas,” turning words into music and giving instrumentalists the power to evoke speech through their sounds.

The Passion of Scrooge is laid out in two acts as the character struggles to come to grips with the past, present and future, to transform a life of avarice to one of human warmth.

jon-deak

Additionally, the Oakwood Chamber Players will perform music mentioned in the text of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.

When the Ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge a celebration hosted by his employer, Mr. Fezziwig, the fiddler plays the tune Sir Roger de Coverley. (You can hear a chamber orchestra version of the work, played by the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields under Sir Neville Marriner, in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

This traditional English country dance, set for string quartet by British composer Frank Bridge (below) in 1922, will provide an energetic introduction to The Passion of Scrooge. The musical pairing illustrates how creative expression can transform historic works to give fresh perspectives.

Frank Bridge

The Oakwood Chamber Players welcome guests Wes Luke, violin; Katrin Talbot, viola; Brad Townsend, bass; Mike Koszewski, percussion; Mary Ann Harr, harp; Bobby Goderich, baritone; and Kyle Knox, conductor (below).

kyle-knox-2016

This is the second of five concerts in the Oakwood Chamber Players 2016-2017 season series entitled Perspective. Remaining concerts will take place on Jan. 21 and 22, March 18 and 19, and May 13 and 14.

The Oakwood Chamber Players are a group of Madison-area professional musicians who have rehearsed and performed at Oakwood Village for over 30 years.

The program lasts about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Tickets can be purchased with cash or personal checks at the door: $20 for general admission, $15 for seniors and $5 for students.

Also, conductor Kyle Knox will discuss the music on Norman Gilliland’s show, The Midday, on Wisconsin Public Radio, 88.7 FM WERN, on this Friday, Nov. 25, from noon to 1 p.m.

Visit www.oakwoodchamberplayers.com for more information.

The Oakwood Chamber Players are a professional music ensemble proudly supported by Oakwood Lutheran Senior Ministries and the Oakwood Foundation.


Classical music: The acclaimed Isthmus Vocal Ensemble performs its annual summer concerts this Friday night and Sunday afternoon.

July 28, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear’s friends at the critically acclaimed Isthmus Vocal Ensemble write:

When conductor Scott MacPherson convened some of Madison’s top singers in 2002, he had no way of knowing that the newly formed Isthmus Vocal Ensemble (below) would begin one of Madison’s most anticipated summer musical traditions.

Known as “Madison’s most temporary choir,” the ensemble – a semi-professional choir of approximately 60 singers – brings new life to over 500 years of choral music within a brief two-week rehearsal period.

Isthmus Vocal Ensemble group concert dress

This intense spirit of camaraderie produces a singular remarkable experience, year after year. (You can hear the Isthmus Vocal Ensemble sing the “Abendlied” (Evening Song) by Josef Rheinberger in 2012 in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

This summer, Madison-area audiences have two opportunities to hear the 2015 program.

The traditional Friday night concert takes place on at 7:30 p.m. on this Friday, July 31, at Christ Presbyterian Church (below), located at 944 East Gorham Street in downtown Madison.

Christ Presbyterian Church

The program will be repeated at 3 p.m. on Sunday, August 2, at Lutheran Church of the Living Christ (below), located at 110 North Gammon Road, on Madison’s far west side.

Lutheran Church of the Living Christ

General admission tickets are available online at isthmusvocalensemble.org or at the door. Admission is $15 for adults; $10 for students and seniors. 

The program, “Unconventional Images” is a tapestry of unexpected beauty, including works spanning from the 1500s up to brand new compositions, featuring a world premiere from composer Corey Rubin (below) entitled “The Snow Man.”

Corey Rubin

Director Scott MacPherson writes: “For these concerts, prepare your ears and mind to be led down an unconventional path, where you will ponder such images as the nativity, snow in the summer, sensual beauty, the desert, glory, mortality and divine renewal.”

Other featured works include “Three Nativity Carols” by the late Minnesota composer Stephen Paulus (below top); “Beati quorum via” and “Coelos ascendit hodie” by Charles Villiers Stanford; “Du bist aller Dinge schön” and “Fahet uns die Füchse” by Melchoir Franck; “Schaffe in mir Gott” by Johannes Brahms; the Gloria by Dominick Argento; and several newly composed pieces, including “Desert Rose” by Frank Wiley, as well as “I Sing to Use the Waiting” and “An Irish Blessing” by University of Wisconsin-Madison alumnus, Andrew Rindfleisch (below bottom).

stephen paulus

Andrew Rindfleisch portrait

The Isthmus Vocal Ensemble is led by Scott MacPherson (below), director of choral activities at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. Its members include professional singers, choral directors, professors, lawyers, students and passionate advocates for the arts. The choir has performed by invitation at the North Central Conference of the American Choral Directors Association, commissioned several world premieres and released two professional CDs.

Isthmus Vocal Ensemble rehearsing with Scott MacPherson


Classical music: The Oakwood Chamber Players will perform rarely heard Russian chamber music on this Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

March 20, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Oakwood Chamber Players have a well-deserved reputation not only for quality performances but also for innovative and inventive programming.

This season the group (below) has been exploring the chamber music of diverse cultures around the globe.

Oakwood Chamber Players 2012 3

This weekend will see the ensemble turning to Russian culture, which is suffering these days from black eye over the Anschluss engineered by Russian President Vladimir Putin to take away the province of Crimea away from the sovereign post-Soviet state of Ukraine.

But politics is politics and music is music.

Here are the details in an official press release.

Oakwood Chamber Players 2012 2

OAKWOOD CHAMBER PLAYERS PRESENT “RUSSIAN RADIUS”

Join the Oakwood Chamber Players of Madison as they continue their season’s exploration of musical cultures with “Russian Radius,” a concert featuring the characteristic sounds of Russian music.

The ensemble will demonstrate an array of pieces from many Russian composers who interpreted the grandeur and breadth of Russian culture through their music.

Performances will include the spirited “Trio Pathetique” for clarinet, bassoon and piano by Mikhail Glinka (below), who is recognized as the founder of Russian classical music. (You can listen to Glinka’s “Trio Pathetique” in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Mikhail Glinka

The group will also perform the energetic Quintet for flute, clarinet, horn, bassoon and piano by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov; the melodically compelling “Elegy” for viola and piano by Alexander Glazunov (below top); an arrangement for piano quartet the captivating “Polovtsian Dance” by Alexander Borodin (below middle); a Trio for flute, violin and cello by Alexander Tcherepnin (below bottom); and Waltzes for flute, clarinet and piano by Dmitri Shostakovich.

glazunov

Alexander Borodin

Alexander Tcherepnin at piano

The Oakwood Chamber Players will present Russian Radius on Saturday night, March 22, at 7 p.m. in the Oakwood Center for Arts and Education (below top), 6205 Mineral Point Road, on Madison far west side; and on Sunday afternoon, March 23, at 1:30 p.m. at the Arboretum Visitor Center (below bottom) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum, on the city’s near south side.

Tickets are available at the door. They are $20 for general admission, $15 for seniors and $5 for students.

Oakwood wheelchair

UW Arboretum Visitor Center

This is the fourth concert in the Season Series titled “Origination:  Exploring Musical Regions of the World.”  The final remaining concert is titled Down Under, and will be held May 17 and 18.

The Oakwood Chamber Players is a group of Madison-area professional musicians who perform with other well-known local groups and who have rehearsed and performed at Oakwood Village for 30 years.

Visit www.oakwoodchamberplayers.com for more information.

The Oakwood Chamber Players are a professional music ensemble proudly supported by Oakwood Lutheran Senior Ministries and the Oakwood Foundation, in collaboration with Friends of the Arboretum, Inc.

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Classical music Q&A: Edgewood College conductor Albert Pinssonneault discusses The Madison Choral Project, a new professional vocal group, makes its debut this Saturday night with a program celebrating Spring.

May 16, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Madison Choral Project (below) – a new vocal group on the Isthmus -– will give its inaugural concert this Saturday night, May 18, at 7 p.m. in the Luther Memorial Church, 1021 University Avenue, in Madison.

Madison Choral Project color

The debut concert, entitled “Celestial Spring,” will celebrate the season- with sets on the return of color, nature and love. For details about specific works and composers, see below.

Tickets are free. Those who are able are encouraged to leave a suggested donation of $15 each.

For more information including how to audition for the vocal group, contact The Madison Choral Project, 901 High Street, Madison, Wisconsin, 53715 or visit www.themcp.org, Albert Pinssonneault, the founder and director of the choir, who teaches choral conducting at Edgewood College in Madison, recently gave an email Q&A to The Ear:

Albert Pissonneault 2

Can you briefly describe how and why the Madison Choral Project came about?

Many pieces came together to make the Madison Choral Project happen, like spokes on a wheel.

First were the incredible voices in Madison, interested in ensemble singing.

Additionally, there was the huge support for choral music in town, dating from the era of Robert Fountain (below, in 1979) at the UW-Madison to today with many extremely fine choruses and UW ensembles performing.

I had a passion to bring together a core of the finest singers for a single “project,” and with a lot of help I was able to raise and secure funding, find venues, audition singers, and a new entity was born: The Madison Choral Project.

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

Why is another choral group needed or wanted in Madison? Briefly, how do you expect it to be different from other local groups?

The Madison Choral Project is unique in Madison, in that it is a fully professional chamber choir of 16 voices.  We hope to offer a highly refined and expressive chamber choral sound, singing both new unique repertoire, and treasured favorites.

As this very talented group comes together to present one project at a time, we feel we can tailor our concerts to the needs and tastes of our musical community.  We are so excited to contribute our small part to the outstanding musical landscape of Dane County.

Can you briefly introduce us to your career in choral singing and directing, to your professional and personal commitment to it?

I’ve always loved making music with others, and I love people, and I love text, and expression.  I grew up in Minnesota and wanted to move away to a conservatory for college, yet some inexplicable gut feeling drew me to attend St. Olaf College (in Northfield, Minnesota), where I found a choral music experience that was the nexus of all the things I loved.

In the years following St. Olaf I lived in St. Paul and completed a Master’s degree in choral conducting at the University of Minnesota, where under the excellent tutelage of Kathy Saltzman Romey I had the opportunity to work closely with the German conductor Helmuth Rilling (below top) and the American vocal conductor Dale Warland (below bottom).

helmut rilling

Dale Warland

Applying broadly to doctoral programs, I was extremely fortunate to receive a kind offer from the College Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati, where I was able to work with several wonderful professional conductors, including Earl Rivers, Richard Westenburg, Richard Sparks and Donald Nally.  I completed my doctorate in choral conducting and music theory from CCM in 2009, and got a dream job: Full-time employment at a wonderful liberal arts college in Madison — Edgewood College (below, he is conducting the Chamber Singers at Edgewood College).

Edgewood Chamber Singers

Can you comment on the upcoming premiere program and specific works on it?

The idea behind “A Celestial Spring” came not only from the title work by F. Melius Christiansen (below), but also from the season of spring and its promise of rebirth and newness, fitting for the inaugural concert of a new ensemble.

F. Melius Christiansen

Our first set of German Romantic composers seeks to capture the comforting return of lush green in nature, echoed in wondrous rich harmonies.

The very first work, “Abendlied” (Evening Song) by Joseph Rheinberger (below bottom) invites the audience to “Bide with us,” an entreaty both to for the duration of the concert and for our life as a new ensemble.

Josef Rheinberger bw

The second set, “The Celestial Season,” focuses on the season of spring itself, beginning with rays of sunshine (“I Am the Great Sun” by Jussi Chydenius) and ending in sunset (“The Sun Has Gone Down” by Leland Sateren).  In between are two movements of F. Melius Christiansen’s “Celestial Spring” (at bottom in a YouTube video), a work composed completely without text.  Christiansen (below) sought to capture the sounds of the season with an orchestra of voices, and later gave the finished score to his colleague Oscar Overby to “fill in” with text.

The third set of music, “The Call of Summer,” explores transitions into a wondrous hereafter, in settings by the great English composers Charles Hubert Parry (below top) and Ralph Vaughan Williams (below bottom). This set addresses the end of spring, and alludes as well to the idea of death as a gateway into an everlasting summer.

hubert parry

Ralph Vaughan Williamsjpg

Our fourth set traces the evolution of romantic love through texts depicting five tableau scenes.  In “O Mistress Mine” by Matthew Harris (below top), the protagonist is struck with attraction from a distance.  “The Devon Maid” by Dominick Argento (below bottom) represents first contact and flirtation, in this case by an aggressive suitor. “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day” by Nils Lindberg represents the honeymoon of intense passion, while “It Was a Lover and His Lass” (Parry) recounts many merry days of coupled frolicking.  “Rest” (Vaughan Williams) is a tender goodbye, to that loved one now deceased.

Matthew Harris Color

dominick argento 1

Is there more you would like to add or say?

Thank you so much, Jake, for the opportunity to share our efforts on The Well-Tempered Ear!


Classical music: Easter is a great time to hear new versions of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ as well as the old favorites. Listen to some Bach, Mahler and Osvaldo Golijov to mark the religious holiday. Plus, on Monday night, the Gustavus Adolphus College Orchestra performs Mozart and Rimsky-Korsakov at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Middleton.

March 31, 2013
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ALERTS: Tomorrow, on Monday, April 1,at 8:30 p.m. and also on Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. in short concerts in Morphy Hall, the works of student composers at the UW-Madison will be performed. The concert is free and open to the public.  Also, on Monday night at 7 p.m., the student orchestra (below) from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn., will perform at St. Luke’s (NOT Mark’s as I mistakenly wrote at first) Lutheran Church in Middleton. The group, which has toured four continents and played on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” will perform the Overture to Mozart‘s opera “Cosi Fan Tutte,” the first movement of Mozart’s “Sinfonia Concertante” for violin and viola; and Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade.” Admission is a free-will offering.

Gustavus Adolphus symphony

By Jacob Stockinger

Today, Sunday, March 31, is Easter, the day that marks the resurrection of Jesus from death after his Crucifixion on Good Friday. (Below is a 1635 depiction of the Crucifixion by Rembrandt)

passion

As always, it is a great time to acknowledge and listen to the great music that has been written with the highest Christian holiday as inspiration.

That can mean of course Johann Sebastian Bach and his Cantatas and Passions (below is the Passion Chorale from Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion”) as well as the B Minor Mass.

Appropriate music for Easter can also mean other composers from other periods from Mozart and Haydn in the Classical era to Liszt and Dvorak, Wagner and Mahler (below in a YouTube video is the final movement from Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection”), in the Romantic era to an early modernist like Francis Poulenc. And of course there is much more in all eras, especially the pre-Baroque.

Or course most, if not all, the religiously themed works were done by composers who were Christian or who converted to Christianity.

But when it comes to more contemporary works, especially by non-Christian composers, one can get stuck or baffled.

So some recent postings on National Public Radio (NPR) about the Jewish Argentinian composer Osvaldo Golijov (below) and his “Passion According to St. Mark”  (at bottom) is all the more timely and informative.

Osvaldo Golijov

Here is an interview NPR did with the celebrated and popular contemporary composer:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/03/17/173179261/how-does-a-jewish-artist-tell-the-ultimate-christian-story

And here is a link to 5 excerpts from other memorable Passion music that NPR’s blog “Deceptive Cadence” featured on Good Friday:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/03/27/175496458/the-good-friday-5-musical-passion-stories-you-must-hear

And finally here is a link a short interview with Golijov about the work plus a complete performance of Golijov’s work that was performed in Carnegie Hall and can be heard by streaming through the famed radio station WQXR-FM in New York City:

http://www.npr.org/event/music/173635212/carnegie-hall-live-golijovs-st-mark-passion

Happening listening.

I wish a Happy and Joyous Easter to all of you who celebrate it.

What is your preferred classical music to listen to on this important religious holiday?


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