ALERT: The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and its acclaimed music director Andrew Sewell are pretty busy these days playing the accompanying music for the Madison Ballet‘s multiple performances of Peter Tchaikovsky‘s holiday ballet “The Nutcracker.”
Then on this coming Friday night at 7 p.m. at the Blackhawk Church in Middleton, the WCO, the WCO Chorus, the Festival Choir of Madison and guest soloists, all under the baton of Sewell, also give their annual and usually sold-out performance of George Frideric Handel‘s oratorio “Messiah.” The Ear has been told that this year’s performance is also close to selling out to. For more information and tickets, go to:
By Jacob Stockinger
At 8 p.m. this Saturday night, Dec. 10, the Madison Bach Musicians (below top) will give their sixth annual Baroque Holiday Concert.
The event will once again be held in the beautiful and sonorous sanctuary (below) of the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Avenue.
There is a free pre-concert lecture by the always witty, informative and entertaining MBM founder, artistic director and harpsichordist Trevor Stephenson (below) at 7:15 p.m. NOTE: Trevor Stephenson will also discuss the upcoming holiday concert and play excerpts from past ones TODAY AT NOON on The Midday program aired by Wisconsin Public Radio.
The program will feature: a cappella (solo vocal) masterworks by Orlando di Lassus and Josquin des Prez performed by a vocal quartet; a Christmas Cantata for soprano and strings by Alessandro Scarlatti—featuring soprano soloist Chelsea Morris (below top); a trio sonata by Johann Joseph Fux; an intriguing Partita for two scordatura violins (scordatura means the open strings are re-tuned into a new interval configuration!) by Heinrich Biber; the Sonatina in A minor for baroque bassoon and continuo by Georg Philipp Telemann ― with soloist and UW-Madison professor Marc Vallon (below bottom, in a photo by James Gill); one of the Christmas Cantatas, BWV 122, Das neugeborne Kindelein (The Newborn Baby) by Johann Sebastian Bach (heard in the YouTube video at the bottom); and a bonus feature ― a preview of MBM’s upcoming April performance of Bach’s oratorio St. John Passion, the tenor aria Ach, mein Sinn.
Advance-sale discount tickets: $28 for general admission, $23 for students and seniors 65 and over. They are available at Orange Tree Imports, Farley’s House of Pianos, Room of One’s Own, and Willy Street Co-op (East and West) . You can also find online advance-sale tickets at madisonbachmusicians.org
Tickets at the door are: $30 for general admission; $25 for students and seniors 65 and over. Student Rush tickets are $10 at the door and go on sale 30 minutes before lecture (student ID is required)
Musicians will include: Chelsea Morris, soprano; Joseph Schlesinger, counter-tenor; Scott Brunscheen, tenor; Matthew Tintes, bass; Kangwon Kim and Brandi Berry, baroque violins; Marika Fischer Hoyt, baroque viola; Martha Vallon, baroque cello; Marc Vallon, baroque bassoon; and Trevor Stephenson, harpsichord
ALERT: Tomorrow on Tuesday, April 5, there will be two on-air events about the Madison Bach Musicians’ performances of Handel’s “Messiah”: On Wisconsin Public Radio’s Midday program on WERN (88.7 FM) noon-12:30 p.m., MBM director Trevor Stephenson will be Norman Gilliland’s guest. They’ll play and discuss selections from “Messiah.” Then MBM will perform two arias from “Messiah” live on the CBS affiliate WISC-TV Channel 3 “Live at 4” program 4-5 p.m.
By Jacob Stockinger
This coming Friday night and Sunday afternoon, the Madison Bach Musicians will perform the well-known oratorio “Messiah” by George Frideric Handel (below). The performances feature period instruments and historically authentic performances practices.
Here are the details:
FRIDAY: 6:45 p.m. lecture followed by a 7:30 p.m. concert
SUNDAY: 2:45 p.m. lecture followed by a 3:30 p.m. concert
The forces and period instruments MBM has assembled for this event are similar in many respects to those used by Handel in the world premiere of “Messiah” in Dublin in April of 1742.
For more information, including a complete list of performers, visit:
The concerts feature an all-baroque orchestra ─ with gut strings, baroque oboes, natural trumpets and calf-skin timpani ─ plus eight internationally-acclaimed soloists, and the Madison Boychoir (part of Madison Youth Choirs), which will collaborate in the “Hallelujah” Chorus and Amen, under the direction of early-music specialist Marc Vallon (below, in a photo by James Gill), professor of bassoon at the University of Wisocnsin-Maidson School of Music.
Pre-concert lectures at both events will be given by MBM founder and artistic director Trevor Stephenson (below), who is as entertaining as he is enlightening.
Advance-sale discount tickets are: $33 general, $28 students and seniors (65+). They are available at Orange Tree Imports, Farley’s House of Pianos, Room of One’s Own, and Willy Street Co-op (East and West)
You can also buy advance sale tickets online at www.madisonbachmusicians.org
Tickets at the door are $35 general, $30 students and seniors (65+), Student Rush: $10 on sale 30 minutes before lecture (student ID required) Visit or call www.madisonbachmusicians.org at 608 238-6092.
To prepare you to appreciate the oratorio, here is Trevor Stephenson’s Top 10 list of things – a la David Letterman — that you should know about it:
TOP 10 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT HANDEL’S ‘MESSIAH‘
#10. Its title is “Messiah” not “The Messiah”
#9. Handel, at 56 years of age, wrote Messiah in just 24 days in the late summer of 1741.
#8. Some of the pieces ─ like “For unto us a child is born” and “All we like sheep” ─ Handel borrowed or adapted from pieces he had composed earlier, usually by laying the new text over the existing musical material. This technique, known as “parody,” was employed by most composers as a way of recycling good musical material.
#7. The original words to the tune we know as “For unto us a child is born” were (Italian) “No, di voi non vo’ fidarmi, cieco Amor, crudel Beltà” — meaning roughly “No, I won’t trust you, blind Love, cruel Beauty” (Hear the YouTube video at bottom.)
#6. Messiah premiered in 1742 in Dublin, Ireland two weeks after Easter (March 25 that year) on April 13. By uncanny dumb luck, this 2016 period-performance of Messiah by MBM will also take place two weeks after Easter (March 27) on April 8 and 10.
#5. Handel divided this oratorio into three parts. Part I: a world in need of salvation; the promise that salvation is on the way; arrival of the savior in the world; Part II: Christ’s passion and crucifixion, descent to hell and resurrection, beginnings of the church, triumph of truth over death (Hallelujah); Part III: Faith and the world to come; the awakening of all souls (The Trumpet Shall Sound), paean to the Lamb of God; closing, majestic meditation on Amen.
#4. In a baroque orchestra the string instruments use gut strings—made from dried and carefully processed sheep intestine. Gut strings assist in the performance of baroque music in two important ways: 1) because gut as a material is very supple, the tone it produces is naturally “warm” in an acoustic/aesthetic sense; therefore, vibrato is not necessary in order to produce a pleasing sound and the player’s attention can focus more on pitch. 2) Gut strings, because they are very textured, produce a natural friction with the hair of the baroque bow which ensures that the instant the player’s bow hand moves the pitch is in the air. This optimizes the sense of directness in performance.
#3. The harpsichord and organ were used as continuo instruments in baroque music. MBM will be using both instruments in the upcoming Messiah performances. 18th-century keyboard tunings were generally of the un-equal/circulating variety known as Well Temperaments, as in “The Well-Tempered Clavier” of Johann Sebastian Bach. In these tunings, every tonality has a unique acoustic color, ranging from the transparently clear and harmonious keys (C major, A minor and other keys near the top of the circle of fifth, unencumbered by accidentals), then shading all the way down to the lugubriously opaque and gnarled keys in the basement of the circle of fifths, like G-flat major and E-flat minor. Notice in Messiah the contrast between the acoustical openness of the initial Sinfonia in E minor (one sharp) and the rigid density of the passion-of-Christ choruses near the beginning of Part II, “Surely, He hath borne our griefs” and “And with His stripes we are healed” both in F minor (four flats). 18th-century temperament will bring such differences into keen relief.
#2. Messiah was very successful and greatly admired in Dublin at its premiere. When Handel led performances of it in London several months later, the reception was much cooler. Nevertheless, from there on the popularity of Messiah grew steadily and it was performed often in Handel’s lifetime under his direction. Though much of Handel’s music was widely published in his lifetime, Messiah was not published until a few years after Handel’s death in 1759.
#1. In Messiah, the balance between the sense of play and sense of purpose is unrivalled (though a different animal in many ways, a blood brother of Messiah in the movie domain might be The Wizard of Oz). Indeed, it is almost as if in Handel’s world, these two elements — play and purpose — do not oppose, but rather fuel each other. Handel’s descendent in this regard is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, whose also could consistently fuse melodic joy with harmonic and theatrical pacing, pushing scene after scene ever-higher until it seems the roof opens to the realms of limitless joy.
ALERT: This Sunday at 2 p.m., Wisconsin Public Radio (WERN-FM 88.7 in the Madison area) will start a new weekly two-hour broadcast series. It features 13 weeks of live recorded concerts given by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. This Sunday’s music, conducted by MSO music director Edo de Waart, includes three outstanding works: the Four Sea Interludes from the opera “Peter Grimes” by Benjamin Britten; the beautiful Cello Concerto by Sir Edward Elgar with soloist Alisa Weilerstein; and the lyrical Symphony No. 8 in G Major by Antonin Dvorak.
For more information about the series and performers, visit:
By Jacob Stockinger
Just last year saw celebrations of Boulez, on the occasion of his 90th birthday, around the world.
That included one here at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music by bassoonist and Professor Marc Vallon (below, in a photo by James Gill) who studied and worked with Boulez and the famous Ensemble Intercontemporain in Paris.
Professor Vallon generously agreed to write a personal reminiscence and appreciation of Pierre Boulez for The Ear.
Here it is:
By Marc Vallon
I had the privilege to work with Pierre Boulez in the early 1980s, a couple of years after he founded the Ensemble Intercontemporain (below) in Paris, the first-ever fully salaried ensemble devoted to contemporary music.
Boulez was a very demanding conductor (below) and everyone would come to the rehearsals very prepared. If you were not, you would likely take the sting of his sarcastic humor.
I remember a situation when the flutist kept fumbling on a tricky passage in Igor Stravinsky’s Symphony for Wind Instruments. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts, he made the mistake of saying, “I don’t understand, it worked perfectly at home,” to which Boulez replied, “Well then, perhaps we should play the concert in your living room.”
I was involved in the first performance of the work often considered as Boulez’s masterpiece, Répons for orchestra and live electronics (heard at bottom in a YouTube video). It was a fascinating window into Boulez’s compositional process.
During the two-week rehearsal period, the parts would be collected after each session and would come back on our music stands the next day with numerous additions of grace notes and changed rhythms and dynamics. The longer we worked, the more intricate and multi-layered the piece became.
This is not surprising if one remembers Boulez’s definition of good music: It is complex and can be looked at from so many different angles that it ultimately resists full analysis.
Another important contribution that Boulez brought to the French musical scene, and the artistic world in general, was the often explosive radicalism of his ideas.
From “Schoenberg is dead” to “We have to blow up the opera houses,” who else would proclaim the end of serialism or attack the conservatism of established opera houses in such provocative terms?
Boulez’s public aversion to any artistic conservatism was, in the 1970s, a much-needed antidote to an international musical scene that was often too easily tempted to fill concert halls by programming symphonies by Tchaikovsky again and again.
It is still needed today. “Boulez est mort,” but his fight for the endless renewing of musical creation should go on.
For more obituaries and appreciations of Pierre Boulez, who served as music director of the New York Philharmonic and was a major guest conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, here are four sources:
National Public Radio or NPR:
And here is a terrific and insightful personal appreciation of Pierre Boulez, with a link to current issues and events in classical music, by Anthony Tommasini, the senior classical music critic for The New York Times:
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear’s multi-talented friend Mikko Rankin Utevsky (below) -– who is a singer, violist and conductor -– writes:
The Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO, below) closes its fifth season with works by Franz Joseph Haydn, Ernest Bloch and George Frideric Handel in a program titled “Concerto Grosso II: Surprise!”
The concert is this Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the Old Music Hall on Bascom Hill. Tickets are $7 at the door (students are admitted by donation). The program is presented with the support of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO), and co-sponsored by the UW-Madison School of Music.
This concert will also feature the most returning players in five seasons — fully 20 of the 30-odd members of the orchestra have performed with the group before, some throughout all five years.
The program opens with a Concerto Grosso by Handel — Op. 6, No. 5 in D major — whose contributions to the form (which has been our theme for the season) were many and varied. This one opens with a majestic French Overture, followed by a light-footed Presto, a weeping Largo, a graceful Minuet, and a spirited Allegro to close.
Trevor Stephenson (below top), of the Madison Bach Musicians, joined the orchestra this past weekend for a wonderful workshop on the music of Handel as part of our new historical performance program, which also included coaching on Haydn with UW-Madison bassoon professor Marc Vallon (below bottom, in a photo by James Gill).
Next up is another Concerto Grosso, the first by Swiss-American composer Ernest Bloch (below top). Written in 1925 for piano obbligato and string orchestra, it is an exciting and powerful work encompassing a broad emotional range. Our piano soloist is Jason Kutz (below bottom), currently finishing his master’s degree at the UW-Madison School of Music with Professor Martha Fischer.
Our second Haydn symphony of the summer closes the concert, the famous “Surprise” Symphony, No. 94. I’m excited to explore both ends of his career this season.
Our last program opened with his Symphony No. 6 (“Le Matin” or Morning), written for the Esterhazy family; the “Surprise” belongs to his final series of 12 “London” symphonies. Everyone is well acquainted with the slow movement — heard at the bottom in a YouTube video — but how many people remember the fantastic Finale?
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 20 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 (MEMF) and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison. And he also provided the performance photos for this review.
By John W. Barker
Trevor Stephenson (below top) and his Madison Bach Musicians (below bottom) have established a solid tradition of offering a December “holiday” concert as a triumphant antidote to the debasement of musical life that the Christmas season seems to bring inevitably with it.
It was further testimony, also, of Stephenson’s thriving collaboration with Marc Vallon of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music faculty. Vallon chose a good many of the selections, organized the program, conducted (below top) some of it, and played the dulcian (Baroque bassoon, below bottom on the right).
In that last, Vallon was joined by his wife, Martha Vallon, on viola da gamba as well as by Anna Steinhoff on the same instrument, violinists Kangwon Kim and Brandi Berry, plus Linda Pereksta on recorder.
There was also a fine vocal quartet of soprano Chelsea Morris (below, far left), alto Sarah Leuwerke (far right), tenor Kyle Bielfeld (center left) and bass Davonne Tines.
Stephenson himself, held much of it together playing on a dandy “orgel positif” or chamber organ, made all of wood.
The program was a nicely varied mix of vocal and instrumental music, and going back further than the usually featured 18th century.
Of the vocal works, all but one were sacred in character and function, though few were specifically related to the Christmas season.
The 16th century was represented by Orlando di Lasso (1532-1594) in four Latin pieces for the vocal group alone. (One was an extraordinary chromatic study, typical of the composer’s experimentation with tonic bypassing of the old modal system.) The rest of the material was effectively from the 17th century, a time of wide explorations of the new Baroque idiom.
After an organ fugue by Giovanni Gabrieli, the explicitly instrumental pieces came from the pens of Johann Schenck (1660-1716), and Antonio Bertali (1605-1669), with varying instrumentations—the one by Schenck for two gambas (below, with Martha Vallon on the left and Anna Steinhoff) was particularly delicious.
Again in varying combinations, singers and players joined in selections by Heinrich Schütz (1585-1682), Johann Froberger (1616-1692), and Johann Schelle (1648-1701), as well as by two members of the musically prolific Bach family, of generations before Johann Sebastian Bach: Heinrich Bach (1615-1692), and Johann Michael Bach (1648-1694). The latter’s double-choir German motet provided a chance for all 11 performers to come together for a grand finale (singers in one choir, instruments in the other).
German was the predominant language of these vocal works. But an interesting curiosity was an adaptation that Heinrich Schütz made (his SWV 440), fitting a German translation to Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi’s Italian madrigal, “Chiome d’oro” (the Monteverdi version is in a YouTube video at the bottom).
All the performers were expert in their work, though the two gamba players were particularly appealing among the instrumentalists, while — with no disrespect to the others — Morris and Leuwerke were truly wonderful in their singing assignments.
What matters most is that Stephenson and his colleagues have once again demonstrated that the realms of early music have endless treasures to offer — ones most particularly welcome on the parched December scene.
A large and enthusiastic audience testified to public recognition of that fact.
By Jacob Stockinger
For some musicologists and audiences, the French Baroque composer Jean-Philippe Rameau (below) is wholly misunderstood, under-performed and underappreciated. Some even see him as the French counterpart to Johann Sebastian Bach.
But a year-long project by the University of Wisconsin School of Music aims to correct that lack of knowledge and appreciation.
That effort starts with two FREE concerts this week.
Here is a link to a Q&A about Rameau done with UW-Madison musicologist Charles Dill for the UW-Madison School of Music blog:
On Thursday night, Nov. 13, at 7:30 p.m. in Room 180 of Science Hall, at the intersection of Langdon Streets and North Park Street, the FREE program “Rameau and Musical Expression” will take place. The subject is the French composer Jean-Philippe Rameau. The 250th anniversary of his death is being marked this year around the world.
Music of the mid-18th century can strike modern audiences as stilted or dispassionate, but composers of the time, like society at large, thought about the passions a great deal — how to describe them, what their physical properties were, and how to depict them on stage for the benefit of audiences.
David Ronis (below top, in a photo by Luke Delalio), a stage director who has specialized in Baroque staging practices, and Anne Vila (below bottom), a scholar specializing in 18th-century theories of the emotions, will discuss passion in the thought of Rameau’s contemporaries, suggesting cues for listening to Rameau’s music. The evening will include a performance of cantata Les Amants trahis by Paul Rowe, Chelsie Propst, John Chappell Stowe and Eric Miller.
Then on this Friday might, Nov. 14, at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, UW-Madison bassoonist and native Frenchman Marc Vallon (below, in a photo by James Gill) will present a FREE all-French program that highlights his own works and arrangements as well as the music of Jean-Phillippe Rameau in one of his most well-known works, “Les Indes Galantes.”
Vallon will be joined by other performers and period instruments will be used in historically informed performances.
Here is the program:
Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) Pièce en forme de Habanera for bassoon and piano
Marc Vallon (b.1955) Serbian Songs for viola and bassoon – Tuzbalica-Harvest Song-Trezkavica
Marc Vallon Ami for Baroque flute
Jules Massenet (1842-1912) (arr. M. Vallon) La Lettre
Georges Bizet (1838-1875) (arr. M. Vallon)
Emmanuel Chabrier (1841-1894) L’Invitation au Voyage
Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764), Les Indes Galantes, a 45-minute version. Ouverture; Menuets 1 & 2; Musette en Rondeau; Air; L’Amour “Ranimez vos Flambeaux”; Ritournelle, “Le Turc Généreux,”; Air, “Osman Il faut que l’amour s’envole”; Récit et Orage; Choeur des Matelots; Emilie; Rigaudons; Air pour les esclaves Africains; Tambourins; “Les Incas du Pérou,” Scène 1; Air “Le calumet de la Paix”; Air et Choeur “Traversez les plus vastes mers.”
Marc Vallon has split his impressive performing career between the modern and baroque bassoons. In addition to appearances with many of Paris’ orchestras and celebrated contemporary ensembles, Vallon has played baroque bassoon with leading early music ensembles such as La Chapelle Royale, Les Arts Florissants, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and Tafelmusik. In this recital, Marc Vallon will bring his skill on both instruments and thorough knowledge of and feeling for baroque music to works by Jean-Philippe Rameau and J.S. Bach, two great masters of the late baroque period.
Other participants include: Thomas Kasdorf, piano; Sally Chisholm, viola; Nathan Giglierano, Ilana Schroeder, Gene Purdue, baroque violins; Micah Behr, baroque viola; Martha Vallon, Andrew Briggs, baroque cellos; Jeanne Swack and Mili Chang, baroque flute; Konstantinos Tiliakos, baroque oboe; Brian Ellingboe, baroque bassoon; John Chappell Stowe, harpsichord.
Mesdames singers: Elizabeth Hagedorn, Chelsie Propst, Christina Kay.
Messieurs singers: Paul Rowe, Dennis Gotkowski, Antonio De Souza.
There will also be an Introduction to the second half by UW-Madison School of Music musicologist Charles Dill (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot), who has been speaking about Rameau in the U.S. and France.
This concert is part of the school’s year-long retrospective of the work of Rameau. Click here for more information.
By Jacob Stockinger
This weekend brings us three big events: two performances by the Madison Opera of Jake Heggie’s opera “Dead Man Walking” (Friday night at 8 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m.); a one-time performance of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s rarely heard a cappella “Vespers” by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Choral Union on Saturday night at 8 p.m.; and pianist Ryan McCullough in Ludwig Beethoven’s last three piano sonatas at Farley’s House of Pianos on Saturday night at 8 p.m.
But there are smaller concerts for you to consider too, some of which do not conflict with the others.
Tonight, Friday night, at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Wind Ensemble (below, in a photo by Katherine Esposito), under director and conductor Scott Teeple, will perform a FREE concert.
The program include “Profanation” by Leonard Bernstein, arranged by Bencriscutto; ”Concerto for Wind Percussion and Wind Ensemble” by Karel Husa; ”Colonial Song” by Percy Grainger “Raise the Roof” by Michael Daugherty; and ”Symphony in Three Movements” by retiring UW tubist and composer John Stevens (below).
NEW MUSIC FOR BAROQUE FLUTES
On Saturday from noon to 1 p.m., the FREE concert series Grace Presents will present “New and Historic Music for Baroque Flute” with flutist Millie Chang (below) and others.
The concert is designed to be a refreshing break, a parenthesis in time and task, from the Dane County Farmers’ Market, which has started up again. Audiences are invited to bring lunch or food.
The venue is the lovely and acoustically resonant Grace Episcopal Church (below are exterior and interior views), at 116 West Washington Avenue, down on the Capitol Square.
Some of Madison’s most talented classical instrumentalists will perform the short but unique recital for baroque flute featuring compositions spanning three centuries.
Performers include Millie (Mi-Li) Chang and Danielle Breisach (below top), Baroque flute; UW-Madison professor Stephanie Jutt, modern flute; UW-Madison professor John Chappell Stowe, harpsichord; and Eric Miller (below bottom), viola da gamba.
Here is the specific program: David MacBride: “Shadow” for two baroque flutes (1993); Robert Strizich: “Tombeau” for baroque flute and harpsichord (1982); François Couperin, “Concert Royal” No. 2 in D major (1722), which can be heard in a YouTube video at the bottom; University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music composer Stephen Dembski (below top), “Gits and Piths” for modern and baroque flutes (2014); UW-Madison bassoonist, conductor and composer Marc Vallon (below bottom), “Ami” (2014); and Johann Sebastian Bach: Sonata in B minor for baroque flute and harpsichord, BWV 1030 (1736-37).
For more information, visit www.gracepresents.org
The fourth concert of the Kat Trio Chamber Music Series features the Veldor Woodwind Quintet. The concert will take place in Memorial United Church of Christ, 5705 Lacy Road, Fitchburg on Saturday night, April 26, 2014 at 7 p.m.
There will be 30-minute Q&A session before the performance.
Suggested donation: $10 adults and $5 students.
Member of the Veldor Woodwind Quintet (below) are: Barbara Paziouros Roberts (flute), Andy Olson (oboe), Joe Kania (clarinet), Brad Sinner (horn), and Brian Ellingboe (bassoon). They combine educational backgrounds in music performance from the Eastman School of Music, DePaul University, Lawrence University, Luther College, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music with many years of performing experience both locally and abroad.
Now in their fifth year, the Veldor continues to entertain audiences with its dynamic performances of standard and non-traditional repertoire alike.
For additional information, visit www.thekattrio.net/chamberseries
EARLY MONEY SONGS
Then on Sunday, April 27, at 2 p.m., at the Mount Olive Lutheran Church, 110 North Whitney Way, the early music group Eliza’s Toyes (below) is performing a program titled “Toss The Pot: Songs About Money, or the Lack Thereof.”
Writes founder singer and conductor Jerry Hui (below): “Through songs from the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque period, we sing about the age-old problem of money, people’s desire for it, as well as things that are even more precious. There’ll be a “sermon of money” from “Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana”; selection from Palestrina’s “Canticum Canticorum”; a song by Orlandi di Lassus about hungry musicians stealing food; chansons by Josquin des Prez, Sermisy and Le Jeune; and many more.”
Tickets are $15.
By Jacob Stockinger
Since then the MBM has turned in many memorable performances of cantatas and concertos by Bach and other early music on period instruments, including works by Antonio Vivaldi, Arcangelo Corelli and George Frideric Handel.
But this Easter weekend will bring a special treat.
The Madison Bach Musicians, will partner with the Madison Choral Project, under Albert Pinsonneault, to perform Bach’s magnificent and monumental Mass in Minor.
Performances are at on this Friday night at 8 pm. in the First Congregational United Church of Christ. And on Saturday night at 8 p.m. in the Atrium Auditorium of the First Unitarian Society of Madison at 900 University Bay Drive, near UW Hospital.
Advance tickets are $20 for adults; $15 for students and seniors over 65; at the door, $25 and $20, respectively. For more information about how to buy advance tickets, visit:
For more information about the music and the performers, visit:
Stephenson (seen below, in a pre-concert lecture in a photo by Kent Sweitzer), who is a knowledgeable, articulate and entertaining speaker about Baroque music, agreed to an email Q&A about the Mass in B Minor.
Musicians often talk about their “desert island piece”— the work they would most want to have at hand if they were forced to live on a desert island. For me, the B minor Mass has always been my desert island piece. (But if I could sneak in the Well-Tempered Clavier too, that would be great.)
The Passions are incomparable investigations into the relationship between the human embodiment of divine spirit and the dark machinations of this world. The Passions are also Bach’s great statements on the importance of self-sacrifice for the greater good of love. (Jesus gave up his life for love of us, and we should in turn give of ourselves to that which we love.)
The Cantatas are the laboratory where Bach worked out–on a nearly weekly basis–the fusion of musical and textual material toward a spiritual end.
The Mass in B minor focuses more on the relationship between—and really the joining of–the metaphysical and the everyday. Just as an example, as Bach expert John Eliot Gardiner (below) points out in his wonderful new book, “Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven,” look how the opening of the Credo fuses the gravitas, dignity, and mysticism of plainchant (in the voices) with the elegant, bubbling stride of the baroque bass line. And together these elements create a third thing, beyond themselves, a new joy. (At bottom is a YouTube video of the uplifting and joyous “Gloria” movement, performed by Karl Richter leading the Munich Bach Orchestra.)
Why did a devout Lutheran like Bach turn to a Roman Catholic musical form? Is it appropriate to the Easter season, like the Passions and certain cantatas? What kind of liberties does Bach take with it? How does he reinvent it, if he does?
In Bach’s family, the work was often referred to as “The great catholic mass”–precisely because it was not usual Lutheran practice to set the entire Latin mass. The first appearance of the Mass in B minor comes in 1733 when Bach and his family copied out a beautiful set of presentation parts for the Dresden court–which had not only one of the greatest orchestras and vocal ensembles in Europe, but was also a Catholic court.
I’ve always felt that Bach’s Mass in B minor is something of a reconciliation with the Catholic church after the spiritual and political upheaval of the 17th century and the devastation of the 30-years War.
The Mass in B minor, though it is certainly Christian, also points toward a more inclusive picture of humanity’s universal — the original meaning of catholic — spiritual quest. It is hard to quantify, but I feel there is something in this music that speaks to—and really helps and inspires–us all.
Why will Marc Vallon conduct it rather than you?
Marc and I have been working together for several years now. He has played several bassoon concertos with MBM; also with MBM he has conducted symphonies and concertos by Wolfgang Amadeus, Franz Joseph Haydn and Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach.
Marc, who now teaches and performs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, was principal baroque bassoon—for 20 years—with the internationally acclaimed Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra under Ton Koopman. And during that time Marc performed and recorded many of Bach’s Cantatas, Passions and the B minor Mass.
Marc’s tremendous performance background with the Mass, and his infectious enthusiasm for this timeless masterpiece make him perfectly suited to lead the rehearsals and the concerts. I really can’t wait to hear what happens on Friday and Saturday when these amazing musicians and Marc Vallon (below, in a photo by James Gill) and a great audience gather for the Mass in B minor.
What are the special aspects (one-on-one versus larger chorus, for example, or the Madison Choral Project or the period instruments and practices) that you would like to point out about this performance?
The Madison Choral Project is providing a 17-voice choir for the Mass in B minor concerts. In this work, since Bach usually uses a five-part choral texture (soprano I, soprano II, alto, tenor, bass), this comes to about three voices per part, depending on how things are distributed in a particular moment.
In two movements of the Mass (first Credo and Confiteor), we’ll have the soloists sing one-voice-per-part.
The orchestra will consist of 25 players, all on period instruments: 12 strings, 2 baroque oboes, 2 baroque flutes, 2 baroque bassoons, natural horn, 3 baroque trumpets, timpani, and continuo organ, which I what I will play. The balance between choir, soloists and orchestra should work out beautifully. (Below is the Madison Bach Musicians performing the “St. Matthew Passion” in a photo by Karen Holland.)
What should the public listen for in the mass both musically and performance-wise?
I would say notice how Bach contrasts grandeur with intimacy, metaphysical inquiry and prayer with rollicking celebration, and yet makes an exquisitely coherent whole. I think the Mass in B minor is a miracle of form.
Also, these concerts will feature an entirely period-instrument orchestra of outstanding baroque performance specialists hailing from throughout the United States — Madison, Milwaukee, Oshkosh, San Francisco, Chicago, New York City, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
The wonderful thing about playing this incomparable baroque masterwork on instruments that Bach was familiar with, is that the sound becomes fresh and energized in a way that is readily apparent. It really is a way of going Back to the Present!
The 18th-century instruments typically speak faster than their modern descendants — that is, the pitch actually forms more quickly, often by just a fraction of a second. But in music-making—especially very intricate baroque music-making—that fraction of a second can be the critical difference.
Bach’s absolutely amazing counterpoint in the Mass in B minor, which he often weaves effortlessly in 4 and even 5 independent parts is much more transparent when played on period instruments. You can peer more deeply into the infinite world of Bach’s fugues.
Period instruments are also set up to articulate quite deftly, that is, baroque instruments help the players define the shorter musical groupings of connected and non-connected notes. This in turn assists the audience in assimilating the elegant rhetorical shapes of Bach’s lines.
I will also preface both the concerts starting at 6:45 p.m. with a 30-minute lecture on period instruments (below is Stephenson discussing the keyboard action of an 18th-century fortepiano), approaches to singing baroque music, and the structure and history of the Mass in B minor.
Is there anything else you would like to say or add?
I’d like to say a bit about the two venues where we’ll perform the Mass in B minor. “Where is it?” is one of the first questions most people ask when they hear of an exciting upcoming musical event. Because–particularly for classical music–the acoustics really matter. And the feel of the place, the vibe, needs to be right too.
The sound will be rich and the mood will be spiritually focused on Friday and Saturday as the Madison Bach Musicians and the Madison Choral Project collaborate in two performances of J. S. Bach’s monumental masterpiece the Mass in B minor, BWV 232.
The Friday concert will be given in the magnificent setting of the sanctuary at First Congregational United Church of Christ, at 1609 University Avenue, a landmark building in Madison’s cultural life.
The Saturday concert will be in the acoustically brilliant Atrium Auditorium (below in a photo by Zane Williams) of the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive. The performances will feature a 24-piece period-instrument baroque orchestra, 5 outstanding vocal soloists, and a 17-voice professional choir from the Madison Choral Project.
Bach composed the Mass in B minor during the final 18 years of his life; adding, editing, and re-working it into his final year, 1750. The result is about 100 minutes of music that is instantly engaging, highly varied in its variety of ensemble and style, unified to the Nth degree, and structurally perfect. And somehow the Mass in B minor it is at once both magnificent and intimate.
The First Congregational United Church of Christ, with its neo-Georgian design (begun in 1928), captures the 18th-century ideals of dignified ambiance and sonic balance that Bach understood. The sound has tremendous detail, yet everything contributes to the warm cumulative tonal glow.
The much more recent Atrium Auditorium (below), built in 2008, at First Unitarian Society brings out the immediacy of the music-making. The sight lines are direct, and the acoustics brilliant; the audience feels very connected with the performers.
Both venues are absolutely perfect for period-instrument performance, which emphasizes the detail and vitality of the music rather than sheer decibels.
Seating is limited at both venues, so purchasing tickets in advance is highly recommended.
By Jacob Stockinger
Bassoonist Marc Vallon and saxophonist-clarinetist Les Thimmig, who both teach and perform at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, are emerging as two of the most interesting, eclectic faculty members, who display a variety of gifts and talents, at the UW School of Music.
Vallon (below, in a photo by James Gill) not only performs bassoon music from the Baroque and Classical eras, he is also a conductor who will lead two performances later this month of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Mass in B Minor” for the Madison Bach Musicians.
Thimmig plays jazz as well as classics, and recently finished his three-concert exploration of trios by the American composer Morton Feldman.
Here are the details that were sent by Marc Vallon to The Ear:
“I thought I would let you know about my next musical adventure.
“In the 1960s, French composer and conductor Pierre Boulez (below) had a group, called Le Domaine Musical, that played contemporary music mixed with early music by Bach, Dufay and Guillaume de Machaut — unusual music for the time.
“As an homage, Les Thimmig and I are reviving the concept in a FREE concert on this coming Friday, April 4, at 6:30 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall.
The program includes Four Pieces for Clarinet and Piano, Op.5 (1920), by Alban Berg (below top); Twelve Notations (1945, in a piano version performed by Maurizio Pollini in a YouTube video at the bottom) by Pierre Boulez (born 1925); “D’un geste apprivoisé” for bassoon and tape (1997) by Jose-Luis Campana (born 1949); and ) “Sequenza VII” for oboe (1969) by Luciano Berio (below bottom, 1925-2003).
After intermission, we will perform “Kontra-punkte for 10 instruments” (1953) by Karlheinz Stockhausen (below top, 1928-2007); and the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 (dedicated in 1721) by Johann Sebastian Bach (below bottom, 1685-1750).
There will be a presentation of the pieces and an introduction to “Kontra-Punkte” by Lee Blasius (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot), who teaches music theory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.
The performers include: Mi-Li Chang, flute; Kirstin Ihde, piano; Sung Yang Sara Giusti, piano; Kai-Ju Ho, clarinet; Les Thimmig, bass clarinet; Mary Perkinson, Baroque and modern violin; Eric Miller, baroque and modern cello; Joe Greer, trombone; Jessica Jensen, trumpet; Rosalie Gilbert, harp; Ross Duncan, bassoon; Kangwon Kim and Nate Giglierano, baroque violin; Sally Chisholm, Ilana Schroeder and Erin Brooks, baroque viola; Martha Vallon, Anton ten Wolde, Baroque cello; John Chappell Stowe; harpsichord; and Marc Vallon, bassoon.