The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The gala opening this weekend of the UW-Madison’s new Hamel Music Center is SOLD OUT. What do you think of the building, the music and the event? Plus, veteran music critic John W. Barker has died

October 25, 2019

PLEASE HELP THE EAR. IF YOU LIKE A CERTAIN BLOG POST, PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD. FORWARD A LINK TO IT OR, SHARE IT or TAG IT (not just “Like” it) ON FACEBOOK. Performers can use the extra exposure to draw potential audience members to an event. And you might even attract new readers and subscribers to the blog.

ALERT: Word arrived late last night that the respected longtime music critic John W. Barker, a retired UW-Madison professor of medieval history, died Thursday morning. He wrote locally for Isthmus, The Capital Times and this blog. Details will be shared when they are known. 

By Jacob Stockinger

This weekend, Oct. 25-27, marks the official gala opening of the new Hamel Music Center (below, in a photo by Bryce Richter for University Communications) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Mead Witter School of Music. It is located at 740 University Ave., next to the new wing of the Chazen Museum of Art, which has a special exhibit relating to the new music center.

The impressive $58-million structure, which has taken many years to fund  (completely privately) and then to build, will celebrate its opening tonight, Saturday night (while the 14th annual Halloween FreakFest on State Street is happening) and Sunday afternoon.

The performers will include distinguished alumni, faculty members and students.

Here is a link to an overall schedule as published on the School of Music’s home website:

Thanks to an astute reader who found what The Ear couldn’t find, here is a complete schedule — long, varied and impressive — of works and performers:

And here is a link to the official UW-Madison press release with more background and details about the building:

UW-Madison composer Laura Schwendinger (below) has been commissioned to write a Fanfare that will receive its world premiere tonight.

The opening promises to be a success, complete with receptions at the end of each performance.

In fact, the public has signed on enough that the FREE tickets to all events are SOLD OUT, according to the School of Music’s home website.

Taste is personal and varies, and The Ear has heard mixed reviews of the new building. (For the special occasion, you can hear “The Consecration of the House” Overture by Beethoven, performed by the La Scala opera house orchestra in Milan under Riccardo Muti, in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Basically, people seem to agree that the acoustics are much improved over Mills Hall and Morphy Recital Hall in the old Humanities Building.

But public opinion seems more divided over other aspects, from the overall external architecture and interior design to the smaller size of the big hall, the seats and seating layout, and the restrooms.

So if you go – or have already gone – let the rest of us know what you think about those various aspects of the new building and about the various performers and programs.

As a warm-up preview, here are photos of the main halls or spaces, all taken by Bryce Richter for University Communications:

Here is the 660-seat Mead Witter Concert Hall:

Here is the 300-seat Collins Recital Hall:

And here is the Lee/Kaufman Rehearsal Hall:

But what do you say? You be the critic.

The Ear and others hope to see COMMENTS from listeners and especially performers. What is it like to perform there? Or to sit and listen?

What does the public think of the new building and concert halls? Are you satisfied? What do you like and what don’t you like?

Should some things have been done – or not done – in your opinion?

Does the building and do the concert halls live up to the expectations and hype?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music
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Classical music: The Wisconsin Chamber Choir performs Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio” this Friday night in Madison and Sunday afternoon in Whitewater

December 10, 2018
1 Comment

IF YOU LIKE A CERTAIN BLOG POST, PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD. FORWARD A LINK TO IT OR, SHARE or TAG IT (not just “Like” it) ON FACEBOOK. Performers can use the extra exposure to draw potential audience members to an event.

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following announcement about performances this coming weekend by the Wisconsin Chamber Choir (below) and the professional orchestra Sinfonia Sacra of what is, unfortunately and undeservedly, often considered, when compared to Handel’s “Messiah,”  “The Other Oratorio” for the holiday season:

There will be two performances of four parts of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio” (1734). On Friday night, Dec. 14, 7:30 p.m. at the Luther Memorial Church (below), 1021 University Ave., in Madison; and on Sunday, Dec. 16, at 2 p.m. in the Young Auditorium at the UW-Whitewater, 930 Main Street, in Whitewater.

Advance tickets for the Friday night performance at Luther Memorial Church in Madison are available for $20 ($10 for students) from, via Brown Paper Tickets, or at Orange Tree Imports (Madison) and Willy Street Coop (all three locations in Madison and Middleton).

Advance tickets for the Sunday afternoon performance at Young Auditorium in Whitewater are available from

Of the six cantatas that make up the “Christmas Oratorio,” Part, 1, 2, 3 and 5 will be performed. (In the YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear the brisk and energetic opening, performed by Nikolaus Harnoncourt and the Concentus Musicus of Vienna with the Arnold Schoenberg Choir.)

Parts 1 to 3 tell the Christmas story: Mary and Joseph, the birth of Jesus, the shepherds and the angels. Part 5 introduces the magi from the East, traditionally known as the Three Kings.

The music offers a sampling of every style of music in the repertoire of Johann Sebastian Bach (below) as a composer.

Massive, concerto-like movements crowned by brilliant trumpet fanfares, booming timpani and virtuosic fugues highlight the full chorus.

Solo arias, duets and trios and even one instrumental movement provide a contemplative contrast with constantly changing instrumental colors—from lush strings to playful flutes and the pastoral sounds of oboes and bassoons.

Featured vocal soloists include mezzo-soprano Rachel Wood (below top) and tenor J. Adam Shelton (below middle), both on the faculty of UW-Whitewater. Highly accomplished members of the choir, including baritone Bill Rosholt (below bottom, and a Madison Savoyards regular), will share the solo parts with these professionals.

The members of Sinfonia Sacra, under concertmaster Leanne League (below), are drawn from the rosters of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble and the music faculties of UW-Madison, UW-Whitewater and UW-Oshkosh.

Trumpet virtuoso John Aley (below top) and oboist Marc Fink (below bottom) will also perform.

Founded in 1998, the Wisconsin Chamber Choir has established a reputation for excellence in the performance of oratorios, a cappella choral works from various centuries, and world premieres.

Bach’s music has always occupied a special place in the choir’s repertory, with performances of the Christmas Oratorio (2002 and 2003), the Mass in B minor (2005), the St. John Passion (2010) and the Magnificat (2017).

Artistic Director Robert Gehrenbeck (below) has been hailed by critics for his vibrant and emotionally compelling interpretations of a wide variety of choral masterworks.

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Classical music: UW oboist Aaron Hill performs world premieres and little known composers in a FREE recital Sunday afternoon

October 20, 2017
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

This is Homecoming weekend at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and it is busy on many counts, including several classical music concerts in the city on Sunday afternoon.

But one of the more intriguing is a FREE recital at 3 p.m. in Mills Hall by UW-Madison Professor Aaron Hill (below), who teaches oboe and also performs in the Wingra Woodwind Quintet.

Hill will be joined by collaborative pianist Daniel Fung (below), who is also a vocal coach at the Mead Witter School of Music at the UW-Madison.

Particularly noteworthy is the number of world premieres and relatively unknown contemporary composers on the program.

Here is the program:

“Poem,” for oboe and piano (1953) by Marina Dranishnikova (1929-1994, below). (You can hear it in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Oboe Sonata (1947) by Jean Coulthard (1908-2000)

  1. Gently Flowing
  2. Sicilienne
  3. Allegro


* Soliloquies (2013) by Andre Myers (b. 1973)

  1. To be or not to be
  2. There’s Rosemary, that’s for remembrance
  3. In the Month of May
  4. Spring Discourse

   * world premiere performance

* After Manchester (2017) Aaron Hill and Michael Slon (b. 1982 and 1970, respectively) * world premiere performance

Four Personalities (2007) Alyssa Morris (b. 1984)

  1. Yellow
  2. White
  3. Blue
  4. Red

Here are some program notes by Aaron Hill:

“This program highlights five different ways to program previously unfamiliar music, as explained below.

“Poem” by Marina Dranishnikova came to me through our local community. Oliver Cardona, currently a junior music major at UW-Madison, initially brought it to my attention. The work was discovered and edited by my predecessor, Professor Marc Fink (below), during his travels in Russia.

I first heard the Oboe Sonata by Jean Coulthard (below) at the 2017 International Double Reed Society conference at Lawrence University  in Appleton, Wis.

Charles Hamann, the principal oboist of the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, edited and recorded it as part of a large project to bring international attention to masterpieces by Canadian composers.

Andre Myers (below) attended the University of Michigan with me and we first became acquainted when I performed one of his orchestral works. His beautiful writing for English horn started our friendship and 15 years later, he wrote his Soliloquies for me.

The first two are based on famous scenes from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” The third is based on a poem by Minnesota’s first poet laureate, Robert Bly, which will be read aloud from the stage. The final movement is inspired by a dream vision he had of centaurs playing in a meadow.

“After Manchester” was originally a free improvisation I recorded and posted to social media in the wake of the terror attack at Ariana Grande’s concert on June 4, 2017.

Later in the summer, Professor Michael Slon (below), the Director of Choral Activities at the University of Virginia, transcribed my improvisation and wrote a piano part to transform it into a piece of chamber music. The work was completed just days before the violent events in Charlottesville.

Professor Alyssa Morris (below) currently teaches oboe at Kansas State University and her compositions have become widely performed as standard literature for oboists in recent years.

She wrote “Four Personalities” to perform in her own undergraduate recital at Brigham Young University and I first heard it while searching for oboe music on YouTube. The piece is based on the Hartmann Personality Test.

In her words, the colors correspond to the following types:

Yellow: Yellow is fun-loving. The joy that comes from doing something just for the sake of doing it is what motivates and drives yellow.

White: White is a peacekeeper. White is kind, adaptable, and a good listener. Though motivated by peace, white struggles with indecisiveness. 

Blue: Blue brings great gifts of service, loyalty, sincerity, and thoughtfulness. Intimacy, creating relationships, and having purpose is what motivates and drives blue.

Red: Motivated by power. Red is aggressive and assertive. Red is visionary, confident, and proactive. 

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Classical music: Let us now praise UW-Madison oboist Marc Fink – and show up to say good-bye and thank you to him by attending a terrifically varied FREE concert by him and his colleague friends on Sunday afternoon.

April 11, 2013
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

It would be hard to name a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music who has served his students and his art better than oboist Marc Fink (below).

marc fink big

Fink has been on the faculty for 40 years. His students sit in principal chairs of orchestras and chamber music groups, in studios and classrooms, all around the country and the world. And talk about melding clarity with beautiful tone: Just listen to the recent YouTube video at the bottom of Fink rehearsing Mozart’s gorgeous Oboe Concerto with the UW Chamber Orchestra under James Smith.

Marc Fink, who is also a member of the Wingra Woodwind Quintet and the principal oboist of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, has had an international career, and has the CDs of Russian music he discovered to show it.

Wingra Woodwind Quintet 2012

All the more reason, then, to celebrate Marc Fink’s retirement. He has surely earned it.

On this coming Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. in Mills Hall, Fink will give his last faculty recital – admission is, as always, FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC — with friends and colleagues. We should all show up en masse and pack Mills Hall.

After the concert – called “A Few of My Favorite Things” — there is a special retirement dinner in Marc Fink’s honor. What a terrific combination to go out on, no?

Here is a link to an earlier post I did about Fink’s retirement and post-retirement plans, and his local “farewell” tour that included a chemistry lab (below) to show his support for linking the arts and sciences:

Bassam Shakhashiri use

Here is the appealing program for Sunday’s concert: “Pan” (from Six Metamorphoses after Ovid, Op. 49) by Benjamin Britten (1913-1976); arias by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) including “Ich Habe Genug (from Cantata 82) and “Sich üben im Lieben” (from Cantata  202) with baritone Paul Rowe; soprano Mimmi Fulmer; Suzanne Beia, violin; Alice Bartsch, violin; Katrin Talbot, viola; Parry Karp, violoncello; and Bruce Bengtson, organ.

Also included on the program are the Quartet in F, KV 370 (368b) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) with Suzanne Beia, violin; Katrin Talbot, viola; and Parry Karp, violoncello; “Variations on the theme ‘Là ci darem la mano’ by  Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)  from Mozart’s opera “Don Giovanni”) with Andrea Gross Hixon, oboe; Kostas Tiliakos, English horn.

But the concert still isn’t over: Add in “Three Folksongs from the County of Csík” by Bela Bartok (1881-1945), arranged by Tibor Szeszler; Sonata for Oboe and Piano (1962) by Francis Poulenc (1899-1963); and the “Romance” from the “Snowstorm Suite” Gyorgy Sviridov (1915-1998), arranged for oboe and piano by Victor Gorodinsky, with Todd Welbourne, piano.

The Ear loves it all, but especially the Bach, the Mozart, the Bartok and the Poulenc.

Gee, do you think this is a man and a musician who loves to perform and to share his art?

The audience is invited to a reception honoring Marc Fink in his retirement immediately following the recital in the Mills Hall lobby.

And don’t forget to leave your tributes to Marc Fink in the COMMENTS section of this blog.

The Ear suspects there are a lot of stories and a lot of affection for this world-class musician as performer and teacher.

And The Ear wants to hear about all of it.

Classical music: Oboist Marc Fink retires after 40 years of teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and announces his local “Farewell Tour” this spring.

February 18, 2013

By Jacob Stockinger

Starting this Tuesday, with a FREE 45-minute concert at 12:15 p.m. in Seminar Room 1315 at the Chemistry Building, University of Wisconsin-Madison retiring oboist Professor Marc Fink (below) will be playing a series of local “farewell” concerts that includes performances with double reed students and faculty colleagues.

marc fink big

Specifically, Fink is being honored by UW-Madison  chemistry professor Bassam Shakashiri for their collaborations over the years. Shakashiri has been a champion on the UW campus for integrating the sciences with the arts, and Fink says he has “very much enjoyed working with him.”

Possessing a beautiful tone, consummate technique and a congenial personality, Fink, who is much loved by his students, colleagues and the public, has taught at the UW-Madison School of Music for 40 years. He is a member of the Wingra Woodwind Quintet (below) and is principal oboe of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, which is a post he says he will continue after his retirement.

Wingra Woodwind Quintet 2012

For a biography of Fink, visit the UW School of Music website. Here is a link:

Take out your calendar or datebook.  Here are Marc Fink’s other  stops on his local “farewell tour” this semester:

Wednesday, March 20, 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, Mozart’s Oboe Concerto with the UW Chamber Orchestra.

Sunday, April 14, 2 p.m. in Mills Hall. Faculty Recital (these are a few of my favorite things) with music of J.S. Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Francis Poulenc, Ludwig van Beethoven, Bela Bartok and Benjamin Britten.

Sunday, April 21, 2 p.m. Mills Hall, with UW Wind Ensemble in James Stephenson’s “Duels and Dances” a concerto for oboe and wind ensemble)

Sunday May 5, 12:30 p.m., Chazen Museum of Art, Recital (Fink and Friends), to be broadcast live over Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen” (below) from 12:30 to 2 p.m.


In addition to Fink, the players for Tuesday’s concert include: Marc Vallon, Professor of Music (bassoon), Wingra Quintet; Richard Lottridge, Professor Emeritus (bassoon); 
Linda Bartley, Professor of Music (clarinet), Wingra Quintet, MSO; James Smith, Professor of Music (clarinet), 
WYSO and University Orchestras Music Director; 
Daniel Grabois, Professor of Music (horn), Wisconsin Brass Quintet; Douglas Hill, Professor Emeritus (horn). 
And members of the UW-Madison oboe and bassoon studios.

The program includes “Ole Guapa” by Arie Malando (1908-1980), as arranged for double reed band by Jan Joris Nieuwenhuis; the Marche Militaire No. 1 by Franz Schubert (1797-1828) as arranged for double reed band by Marc Vallon; the Serenade No 11 in E-flat Majorm KV 375 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) for 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, and 2 horns: Allegro maestoso, 
Menuetto (Tempo moderato)
, Adagio
, Menuetto (Allegro) 
Allegro; “Etudes for Oboe” by Gilles Silvstrini (b. 1961) 
III. Boulevard des Capucines (Monet, 1873): Allegro tragico IV. Sentier dan les Bois (Renoir, 1874): Très doux, calme VI. Le Ballet Espagnol  (Manet, 1862): Prelude/seguedille; and the  “Stars and Stripes Forever” by John Philip Sousa (1854-1932) arranged by Marc Vallon (below, with baroque and modern bassoons in a photo by James Gill).

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

Fink has had a close association with Professor Bassam Shakhashiri and the Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literary, and was appointed a WISL Fellow in 2005. Fink’s career has taken him around the world, including tours of the North Slope of Alaska with the Arctic Chamber Orchestra; the South Bohemian Music Festival in Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic; the Colon Theatre in Buenos Aires; and the Kremlin Kazan International Festival in Kazan, Russia.

He has recorded with the Pro Arte Quartet, the University of Wisconsin Russian Folk Orchestra, and with the Wingra Quartet.

His former students are active in the professional world, in both orchestral and teaching positions, and he served as former president of the International Double Reed Society, an organization of more than 4,000 double reed enthusiasts all over the world.

Marc Fink (below in a photo by Katrin Talbot) and his wife Marcia have three daughters, Leah, Anna and Eleanor, and two pugs, Yoda and Jimi. After retiring from the UW, Marc Fink will continue to reside n Madison where he enjoys tennis, golf, rooting for the Chicago Cubs and international cuisine.

Marc Fink Talbot

Here is a statement by Fink about his collaboration with the sciences:

“I am deeply honored to be featured in the Concert at Chemistry. My association with Bassam Shakhashiri and Rodney Schreiner goes back many years to Professor Shakhashiri’s “Science is Fun” presentation to our high school students at our Summer Music Clinic, and it has continued with many collaborations in his Christmas lectures and many other outreach projects.

“I am very proud to be a Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy Fellow, which has brought together the science and arts communities on this campus in projects that demonstrate the close relationship between our disciplines. In one such memorable example, the Madison Children’s Choir performed a beautiful arrangement of the periodic table, arranged for young voices.

Bassam Shakhashiri use

“Many great composers and performers have distinguished backgrounds in science, and some of our most outstanding music students have also been outstanding double majors in chemistry, physics, and many other disciplines. If I have, in any small way, contributed to this collaboration, I am especially proud of this.

“I have also enjoyed teaching a Music in Performance class which has been very popular with non-music majors and allows them to experience the great joy of hearing and learning about music through live performance. I would like to thank all of my faculty colleagues and students for participating in today’s performance. I have been so fortunate for the past 40 years to be surrounded by wonderful colleagues and students at this university.”

For more information about the science literacy program, visit:

Here is a YouTube video with a performance by Marc Fink:

Classical music news: Calling all oboists and bassoonists. The University of Wisconsin School of Music will host Double Reed Day next Saturday, Jan. 14.

January 10, 2012
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

If you love the distinctive, mellow and lyrical sounds of the oboe, the bassoon, the oboe d’amore and the English horn the way I do, this announcement is sure to interest you.

Each year, the University of Wisconsin School of Music to launches the new year when oboists and bassoonists from miles around gather to enjoy an afternoon and evening devoted to the practice and performance of their instruments.

This year’s “Double Reed Day” takes place on Saturday, January 14, slightly more than a week before the beginning of the spring semester at UW-Madison.

Under the leadership of Marc Fink, professor of oboe, and Marc Vallon, associate professor of bassoon (both are below, Fink on the left and Vallon on the right, in a photo by Jim Gill), Double Reed Day welcomes students of all levels to hear and play music, learn about technique and make new friends.

This year, distinguished guest artist Richard Killmer (below) of the Eastman School of Music will join Fink and Vallon performing on the opening recital and teaching master classes.  Throughout the day, pre-college students can sit at adjacent music stands with undergraduates and graduates, and have the opportunity to learn about life at the School of Music in an informal setting.

Here is a link to Killmer’s biography and career:

Midwest Musical Imports, a corporate partner, will be on hand with instruments and related merchandise.

Following a dinner break for pizza, the day concludes with a FREE and PUBLIC festival concert for all participants in Mills Concert Hall.

The complete schedule and registration details can be found on a flyer available from the School of Music’s home page at and at

The registration fee is $20 including dinner, and can be paid in advance or at the door beginning at 1 p.m. in the lobby of the Humanities Building, 455 N. Park St.

For further information, contact Marc Vallon at or (608) 263-1915.

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