The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Madison Opera’s “Seraglio” stood out for its singing and staging, its local sets and costumes, and provided a crowd-pleasing comic romp in trying times. Plus, Friday brings FREE piano and viola da gamba concerts

February 15, 2018
3 Comments

FRDAY ALERTS: This Friday’s FREE Noon Musicale at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features Eric Miller playing the viola da gamba in a recital of early baroque music by Marais, Forquery, Sainte-Colombe, Abel, Hume and Ortiz. The concert runs from 12:15 to 1 p.m.

Then on Friday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, the critically acclaimed guest pianist Marina Lomazov will perform a FREE recital of all-Russian music that includes “Pictures at an Exhibition” by Modest Mussorgsky. Lomazov’s recital is part of a larger event, “Keyboard Day,” that has a French focus and takes place all day Saturday at the UW-Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music. See tomorrow’s post for more information about Saturday. For more about Lomazov, go to: https://www.music.wisc.edu/event/guest-artist-marina-lomazov-piano/

By Jacob Stockinger

The Opera Guy filed this review of last weekend’s production by the Madison Opera:

By Larry Wells

On Sunday afternoon, I attended the second and final performance of Madison Opera’s production of Mozart’s “The Abduction from the Seraglio” in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center.

This comic romp utilized a beautiful set and wonderful costumes designed and constructed in-house. (Below, Matt Bueller as Osmin peers out the door of the palace, or seraglio, at David Walton as Belmont.)

The orchestra, drawn from the Madison Symphony Orchestra and ably led by maestro John DeMain, was situated backstage. This was an effective novelty, although the sound was somewhat muffled, at least from where I sat in mid-orchestra.

The dialogue was in English while the singing was in German with English supertitles. I looked over the lengthy original libretto and was thankful that it had been heavily abridged for this two-hour production.

It had also been updated to be both hip and politically correct about Islamic culture and Turkey, where the story takes place. But it made me idly wonder what the reaction would be if the music had been likewise updated to be more in tune with the times.

The production was all about the singing.

David Walton’s Belmonte (below right, with Amanda Woodbury as Konstanze) was beautifully sung, particularly in the second act. He has a Benjamin Britten tenor voice with remarkable breath control.

Eric Neuville’s Pedrillo was also admirably sung. Neuville is an accomplished comic actor, as well.

Ashly Neumann’s singing as Blonde (below center, with women of the Madison Opera Chorus) was clean, clear and bell-like.

Amanda Woodbury as Konstanze (below right with Brian Belz as Pasha Selim)  was virtuosic. She displayed vocal fireworks several times and was especially effective in her lament toward the end of the first act.

This quartet’s ensemble work in the second act was a vocal high point. (You can hear the quartet from a different production in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

But to me the most impressive singing and comic acting belonged to Matt Boehler as Osmin. His bass was simply majestic. (Below, from left, are Brian Belz as Pasha Selim; David Walton as Belmonte; Matt Boehler as Osmin; Eric Neuville as Pedrillo; Ashly Neumann as Blonde; and Amanda Woodbury as Konstanze.)

The well-prepared chorus appeared briefly in each act, adding some color and motion to the production.

Musically and visually the production was a success. The audience responded with 19 ovations during the performance – yes, I counted. Every time the orchestra reached a cadence and paused, the audience members applauded as if they were at a musical. With the incessant coughing throughout the performance, I felt like I was at a performance of “South Pacific” in a tuberculosis ward.

The audience leapt to its feet at the end, and this made me wonder what it was that they found so praiseworthy. The story itself is inconsequential and has little relevance to life today.

The singing was very good, but this is not La Scala.

The music itself, with the exception of a couple of sublime moments, does little more than foreshadow the mature Mozart of “The Magic Flute.”

I concluded that the opera is unalarming, unthreatening, and simple. This is perhaps what people long for in these trying times.

I do look forward to the Madison Opera’s production of Daniel Catan’s “Florencia en el Amazonas” this spring. Based on repeated hearings of the recording, I guarantee that Madison will be in for a treat. And there is nothing threatening or alarming or complex about the music, despite it being a work of the late 20th century.

Advertisements

Posted in Classical music
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Classical music: After 20 years, the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble still delivers performances to relish of Baroque vocal and instrumental music

November 28, 2017
2 Comments

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 photographs.

By John W. Barker

On Nov. 26, 1997, the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble gave its first public performance.

On Sunday afternoon, exactly 20 years later to the very date, the group (below) presented a concert at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in honor of this distinguished anniversary.

This ensemble is the longest-lasting, still-continuing group in Madison devoted to early music. Despite the arrival three years later of the Madison Early Music Festival, the WBE gave the very first start to building an audience here for this literature. (You can hear a typical concert in the lengthy YouTube video at the bottom.)

Working under Sunday afternoon time pressures, the group offered a particularly rich and diversified program, employing a total of seven performers: one singer, mezzo-soprano Consuelo Sañudo, with instrumentalists Brett Lipschutz (traverso flute), Monica Steger (recorder, traverse flute, harpsichord), Sigrun Paust (recorder), Eric Miller (viola da gamba), Max Yount (harpsichord), and founder Anton TenWolde (cello).

There were nine items on the program.

Sañudo (below) had in some ways the amplest solo role, singing five pieces: a cantata aria by Luigi Rossi; a long cantata by Michel Pignolet de Monteclair; a late villancico by Francisco de Santiago; and two particularly lovely songs by Jacopo Peri.

All these she sang with her usual devotion to textual as well as musical subtleties—making it a little sad that the provision of printed texts could not have been managed.

One solo sonata by Benedetto Marcello was for recorder and continuo, while one double sonata (below), a particularly delightful one by Georg Philipp Telemann for two recorders, and another one by the obscure Jacob Friedrich Kleinknecht rounded out these ingredients.

Along with continuo assignments, Eric Miller (below) played an extensive viol da gamba suite by Marin Marais.

Active in his own varying assignments, Lipschutz (below) bubbled with skill and charm in a set of variations for flute on a Scots folk melody, taken from a published collection credited to a mysterious Alexander Munro.

The program pattern was generally familiar, with each of the performers having a say in the choice of selections, notably their particular solos. In this sense, the group acts as a collective, as TenWolde likes to say, rather than an operation exclusively shaped by him.

As it has been defined and employed over two decades now, this organizational format has given so much for both performers and audiences to relish.

But, to be sure, there is more to come. So we will check back in another 20 years.


Classical music: The Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble celebrates its 20th anniversary with concerts this Friday night in Milwaukee and Sunday afternoon in Madison

November 21, 2017
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

Here, as elsewhere in the U.S. and around the world, the period instrument movement has become more and more mainstream over the years.

The instruments and the historically informed performance practices have expanded.

The repertoire has also grown, extending both back to Medieval and early Baroque music and forward to the Classical, Romantic and even more modern periods.

Historical research into early music, along with performances and recordings, has influenced even modern music groups such as the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, which now sound lighter, clearer and faster when they play Handel operas, Bach concertos and Beethoven symphonies.

Twenty years ago, the Madison Bach Musicians did not exist. Neither did the Madison Early Music Festival or the fully developed early music program at the UW-Madison.

But the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble (below) was there, having grown out of other period instrument ensembles and performers who pioneered the long-lived and now very successful early music revival.

And the WBE, with changes in personnel, continues strong.

This coming Sunday you can help celebrate the ensemble’s 20th anniversary by attending a concert of mixed baroque chamber music.

The concert is on this Sunday, Nov. 26, at 2 p.m. in Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church (below), at 1833 Regent Street on Madison’s near west side. (The Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble will also perform the same program in Milwaukee this Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at the Charles Allis Museum. See the WBE website, below, for details)

Performers are Brett Lipshutz, traverse flute; Eric Miller, viola da gamba; Sigrun Paust, recorder, Consuelo Sañudo, mezzo-soprano; Monica Steger; traverse flute and harpsichord; Anton TenWolde, baroque cello; and Max Yount, harpsichord.

Tickets at the door are $20, $10 for students.

A free reception will be held after the concert at 2422 Kendall Ave., second floor.

The program is:

Luigi Rossi – “Io lo vedo, o luci belle” (I see, O beautiful lights)

Georg Philipp Telemann – Trio Sonata for two recorders and basso continuo, TWV 42:F7 (The two opening movements can be heard in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Marin Marais – Pièces de viole, movements from Book 2  (viol pieces)

Jacopo Peri – “Solitario augellino”(lonely little bird) “O miei giorni fugaci”(O my fleeting days)

Alexander Munro – Bony Jeane, from A Collection of the Best Scots Tunes Fited to the German Flute  (1732)

INTERMISSION

Benedetto Marcello – Sonata for recorder and basso continuo, Op. 2, No. 1

Michel Pignolet de Montéclair – “Les Syrenes” (The Sirenes)

Jakob Friedrich Kleinknecht – Sonata in G major for two flutes and basso continuo

Francisco de Santiago – “Ay, como flecha la Niña Rayos” (Like Arrows, the Girl Rays)

For more information, call (608) 238-5126 or email info@wisconsinbaroque.org, or visit www.wisconsinbaroque.org


Classical music: Early music group Eliza’s Toyes offers a fascinating exploration of the role of music in medicine from Medieval though Baroque times.

May 24, 2015
Leave a Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

Here is a special posting, a review written by frequent guest critic and writer for this blog, John W. Barker, who also took the performance photos. 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

Eliza’s Toyes (below top), the consort of voices and instruments devoted to early music, is led by the formidably talented Jerry Hui. The group gave another of its imaginative programs, this time on Friday night at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery (below bottom).

eliza's toyes 2015

WID_extr11_1570

The theme and title of this program was “Music: The Miracle Medicine.” Offered were 15 selections, conveying various ideas or beliefs about health (both physical and spiritual), illness, medicine, miracle cures and good living.

Toyes medicine motet JWB

Each selection was preceded by the reading of passages from moral and medical texts of various periods. (I wonder if today’s medical and health-advice writings will sound as comical generations from now as do those of the past to us!)

Toyes medicine physician JWB

Fifteen composers were represented in the course of the program, from Medieval through Baroque: Hildegard von Bingen (below top, 1098-1179), Alfonso El Sabio (1221-1284), Thomas Tallis (1505-1585), Cipriano da Rore (1516-1565),Hubert Waelrant (1515-1595), Orlando di Lassus (1532-1594), William Byrd (1540-1623), Lelio Bertani (1553-1612), John Wilbye (1574-1638), Gabriel Bataille (1575-1630), Melchior Franck (1579-1639), John Maynard (15??-16??), Anonymous 17th-Century (2 items), Marin Marais (1656-1728) and John Eccles (1668-1735).

ST. HILDEGARD OF BINGEN DEPICTED IN ALTARPIECE AT ROCHUSKAPELLE IN GERMANY

The selections were mostly vocal, either solo or ensemble. One instrumental selection stood out as probably the one most likely to be familiar: Marin Marais’ excruciatingly detailed “Representation of the Operation for Gallstone” (below top is Marais, below bottom is the introduction to his work) — complete with narrative headings for each section. (You can hear the narration and the music to the unusual piece in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Marin Marais 2

Toyes medicine Marais operation JWB

The performances were earnest and often accomplished. But it must be said in honesty that, in motets and madrigals, the vocal ensemble was not balanced or smooth — the singers clearly need to live with this kind of musical writing somewhat longer. Still, the overall effect was certainly entertaining and thematically fascinating.

Toyes medicine motet 2 JWB

There were no printed programs, but the titles and text translations were projected on a background screen. These projections were fully visible and readable, so they worked well.

Toyes medicine projection JWB

This is a program that will be offered again, I understand, at the Chazen Museum of Art on July 15, so that it can be caught and savored once more.

Above all, it is one more tribute to the thoughtful, deeply researched and intriguing program skills of Jerry Hui (below).

Jerry Hui

 


Classical music: The Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble performs baroque chamber music this Saturday night in Madison. Plus, harpist Linda Warren performs a FREE concert at noon on Friday.

April 9, 2015
Leave a Comment

ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, which runs from 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the Landmark Auditoriun of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, will feature harpist Linda Warren (below) playing music by Benjamin Britten, Pearl Chertok and Astor Piazzolla.

linda warren

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following note:

The Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble invites the public to a concert of baroque chamber music.

The concert is this Saturday night, April 11, at 8 p.m. in Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church (the exterior is below top, the interior is below bottom), 1833 Regent Street, Madison, on the near west side.

St. Andrew's Episcopal Madison Front

St. Andrew's Church interior

Members of the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble include: Brett Lipshutz – traverso; Eric Miller – viola da gamba, baroque cello; Consuelo Sañudo – mezzo-soprano; Monica Steger – traverso, harpsichord; Martha Vallon – viola da gamba; and Max Yount – harpsichord.

Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble composite

Tickets at the door only: $20 for the public, $10 for students.

For more information call (608) 238-5126 or visit www.wisconsinbaroque.org.

The program includes:

  1. Jean-Marie Leclair – Première Récréation de Musique (You can hear it in a YouTube video at the bottom)
  2. Louis MarchandPièces de Clavecin, Suite No. 1 in D minor (1702) (selected movements)
  3. George Frideric Handel – “Nice, che fa? Che pensa?”
  4. Johan Helmich Roman – Sonata No. 3 for flauto traverso in C minor

Intermission

  1. Michel Pignolet de Montéclair – Ariana et Bachus
  2. Marin Marais – Pièces de Viole, Book 3 (selected movements)
  3. Jacques Hotteterre – Trio Sonatas, Op. 3, No. 1


Classical music news: Holy Wisdom’s “Prairie Rhapsody” environmental benefit concert is this Thursday evening and features an all-Baroque program.

June 25, 2012
Leave a Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

Every summer, the Holy Wisdom Monastery (below) in Middleton (4200 County Road M) puts on “Prairie Rhapsody.” It is a benefit event designed to raise money for environmental restoration and preservation, and features light snacks and refreshments as well as terrific live music.

This year, the event will be held on this Thursday, June 28, with refreshments at 5:30 p.m. and the concert – featuring keyboardist Trevor Stephenson (below) and the Madison Bach Musicians plus special guests – at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets are $50 with $25 being tax-deductible. To sign up just follow the link below or call Mike Sweitzer-Beckman at (608) 836-1631 x124.

The Ear attended last summer’s concert and found it a restorative event. The grounds, full of wild flowers, and the handsome building are beautiful; the refreshments are tasty and plentiful; the socializing and conviviality are easy and welcome; and the music is first-rate and lovely.

Here is a link to the glowing review I wrote and posted last year:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2011/07/19/classical-music-review-music-preservation-and-land-conservation-make-an-outstanding-match-at-the-prairie-rhapsody-concert/

For more information and reservations, visit:

http://benedictinewomen.org/support-our-work/prairie-rhapsody/

Here is the more information about the event and program from Trevor Stephenson himself, who has performed at Holy Wisdom’s “Prairie Rhapsody” several times:

“Holy Wisdom Monastery is a wonderful space — spiritually and acoustically — and a great cause! On the program I’ll be joined by outstanding Canadian-American soprano Erin Cooper Gay from Toronto (who is making her Madison debut!) and the stellar Anna Steinhoff (below, in 2011) on viola da gamba.

“We’ll perform music by Bach, Handel, Scarlatti (both Alessandro and Domenico, father and son), Purcell, Marais and Monteverdi.

“Also, I’ll give a talk about the composers and the repertoire.”

The program features four harpsichord sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti (in D minor, “Pastorale,” K. 9, E major, K. 380, F minor, K. 238, and  F minor. K. 239); Three Spiritual Songs by Johann Sebastian Bach
(“Gib dich zufrieden,” “Ermuntre dich, mein schwacher Geist 
Dir,” and “Dir, Jehovah, will Ich singen”) as well as his Sonata in G major for viola da gamba and harpsichord, BWV 1027; “If music be the food of love, play on (third version) by Henry Purcell; “Quel Sguardo Sdegnosetto” by Claudio Monteverdi; the Air and Variations (“The Harmonious Blacksmith”) plus three opera arias by Handel; the Chaconne for solo viola da gamba by Marin Marais; and a song by Alessandro Scarlatti.

The double-manual harpsichord played in the concert was made in 2010 by Norman Sheppard of Madison. It is modeled on an early 18th-century German instrument made by Mietke of Berlin.


Classical music: Gustavo Dudamel conducts Mahler’s 8th for “LA Phil Live in HD” on Saturday; and the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble continues its long tradition of championing early music in the Madison area.

February 17, 2012
Leave a Comment

Alert: Gustavo meets Gustav again this Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Eastgate and Point Cinemas, when the “LA Phil Live in HD” broadcast features the 31-year-old superstar conductor Gustavo Dudamel (below) with the combined Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra in Venezuela and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, plus soloists and choirs,  performing Gustav Mahler‘s famous Symphony No. 8, the “Symphony of a Thousand.” Tickets are $20 for adults, $16 for children. For information, here is a link to a New York TImes story: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/15/arts/music/gustavo-dudamel-and-los-angeles-philharmonic-hailed-in-caracas.html?pagewanted=all

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 every other Sunday morning on WORT 88.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.

By John W. Barker

The Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble (below) has established such high standards of programming and performance that it is easy to take them for granted.

But their mid-season concert at The Gates of Heaven on last Sunday afternoon, Feb. 12, in the historic Gates of Heaven Synagogue (below) in James Madison Park was another opportunity to appreciate what musical riches they bring to us.

The program was a typical mixture of genres and national styles.

Two works for low stringed instruments provided focal points. One was played adroitly by Anton TenWolde (below, front left): an early example of a cello sonata, by the late-17th century Bolognese master Domenico Gabrielli (no relation to the Venetian Gabrielis: note difference in spelling!). The other was the third of Bach’s sonatas for viola da gamba, given a bracing reading by Eric Miller.

On the vocal side, soprano Mimmi Fulmer and mezzo-soprano Consuelo Sañudo (below) joined in two examples of the small-scaled sacred pieces (with German texts) by Heinrich Schütz, with both blending of, and contrast between, their fine voices. Later, they took turns at the verses making up one of Lalande’s settings of the Latin Lamentations for Good Friday, powerfully emotional expressions of sacred anguish.

Climaxing each of the program’s two halves were demanding chamber works.

From François Couperin, one of the concerts from his set of Les Goûts-réunis (“The Tastes Reconciled”), endeavoring to reconcile the Italian style of Corelli with the French mode of ensemble writing. Violinist Edith Hines (below) had ample opportunity to shine in its eight contrasting movements.

And, as a grand finale, all the instrumentalists joined together (with harpsichordist Max Yount (below), the anchor throughout the entire program) for Marin Marais‘s extravagant fantasy on bell-pealing, the “Sonnerie de Sainte Geneviève du Mont” (at bottom) wherein Hines and Miller brought further virtuosity to bear.

The Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble was, from 1990, the pioneer regional group devoted to exploring early music and historical performance practices.

Its survival this long is one of the demonstrations of Madison’s exciting yet mature nurturing of literature beyond the conventional. We continue to be in the WBE’s debt.


    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,134 other followers

    Blog Stats

    • 1,806,933 hits
%d bloggers like this: