The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Oakwood Chamber Players perform rarely heard repertoire this Saturday night and Sunday afternoon

January 10, 2018
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Oakwood Chamber Players (below) continue their 2017-2018 season series “Journey” with a concert titled Horizon on this Saturday, Jan. 13, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 14, at 2 p.m.

As the group often does, it will present a program of old and new works by composers who are rarely heard or performed.

Both concerts will be held at the Oakwood Center for Arts and Education, 6209 Mineral Point Road, on the city’s far west side near West Towne Mall.

Tickets can be purchased with cash or personal checks at the door: $25 for general admission, $20 for seniors and $5 for students. Visit www.oakwoodchamberplayers.com for more information.

Sunset 1892 by Michael Mikulka is a musical interpretation of a painting by influential American landscape artist George Inness. (Below is another sunset painting, “Sunset Montclair – 1892,” by George Inness, whose work can be found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.)

The pastoral colors are represented musically in an evocative manner by the warm timbres of the clarinet and the viola interwoven with pianistic light and shadow. An emerging American composer, Mikulka (below) saw his piece win the grand prize in a 2008 competition. (You can hear it, and see the original inspiration, in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Serenade for Five Instruments by Italian composer Alfredo Casella (below) was written for a music composition contest in 1927. It nimbly combines the contrasting sounds of the clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, violin, and cello. His musical style is attributed in part to the influence of his avid appreciation for visual art.

This piece was one of the composer’s favorites and is a delightful work with five short contrasting movements that range from lilting to witty to sweetly melodic. Casella studied with Gabriel Faure and was film composer Nino Rota’s composition teacher. (Rota is famous and most familiar for his soundtracks for movies by Federico Fellini, but he also composed a lot of outstanding chamber music.)

Quintet for Winds and Piano by Swiss composer Hans Huber (below) was premiered in 1918 and written for piano, flute, clarinet, horn and bassoon.

Listeners will perceive the influence of Brahms and Schumann in his Romantic style. However, Huber definitely shows individual flair in his approach. The four-movement work is spirited and captivating, and features each of the instruments over the course of the composition with an obvious talent for virtuosic piano writing throughout its entirety.

Guest instrumentalists are Jason Kutz, piano (below); Ariel Garcia, viola; and Halie Brown, trumpet.

The members of the Oakwood Chamber Players (above) are Marilyn Chohaney, flute; Nancy Mackenzie, clarinet; Amanda Szczys, bassoon; Anne Aley, horn; Leyla Sanyer, violin; and Maggie Darby Townsend, cello.

This is the third of five concerts in the Oakwood Chamber Players’ 2017-2018 season series entitled Journey. Remaining concerts will take place on March 10 and 11; and May 19 and 20.

The Oakwood Chamber Players are a group of Madison-area professional musicians who have played with other ensembles such as the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, and who have rehearsed and performed at Oakwood Village for over 30 years.


Classical music: Starting this Friday, the Madison Early Music Festival will devote a week to exploring familiar and unfamiliar Iberian music during the age of Cervantes. Part 1 of 2

July 2, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

This coming Friday, when the Madison Early Music Festival (MEMF) starts its week-long exploration of Iberian music during the Renaissance Age of novelist Miguel de Cervantes (below) and his pioneering novel “Don Quixote,” much will be familiar but much will also be new.

To provide a look at what to expect, the longtime co-artistic directors of the festival – wife-and-husband singers soprano Cheryl Bensman Rowe and baritone Paul Rowe (below) – provided the following overview through an email Q&A with The Ear.

All-festival passes are $90 and tickets to individual concerts cost $20, $10 for students.

Click here to buy online, call 608-265-ARTS (2787), or visit the Campus Arts Ticket Box Offices in Memorial Union or Vilas Hall (click here for hours).

(Note: All MEMF Concert Series concerts and lectures are free for participants in the MEMF Workshop. There is a $4 transaction fee per ticket when purchasing online or by phone.)

How successful is this year’s festival compared to others in terms of enrollment, budgets, performers, etc.? How does this program of MEMF’s reach nationally or even internationally compare to previous years?

We will have about 100 students at our workshop this summer, which has been a steady number for the past five years. Our budget increased to cover the big Don Quixote project by Piffaro, which you can read about below.

We continue to attract workshop participants and performers from all over the United States and Canada, and this year our concert series will present Xavier Diaz-Latorre from Spain. For more information, go to: www.xavierdiazlatorre.com

What is new and what is the same in terms of format, students, faculty members and performers?

The following events are new to MEMF this summer:

The Historical Harp Society will be giving a conference before MEMF begins, from Thursday, July 6 through Saturday, July 8, with classes and lectures that will culminate in a concert of Harp Music from the Spanish Golden Age on Friday, July 7, at 7:30 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall, which is FREE and open to the public. Go to www.historicalharpsociety.org

Master teacher and performer Xavier Diaz-Latorre  will be giving a master class in Morphy Recital Hall on Saturday, July 8, from 10 a.m. to noon. It is free and open to the public.

We have a new partnership with the Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies (LACIS) Program at UW-Madison. LACIS has helped us translate materials and supported MEMF with two grants. www.lacis.wisc.edu

A new display in the Memorial Library foyer will celebrate the 2017 Madison Early Music Festival with a special exhibit of Don Quixote Through the Ages, featuring a selection of books, musical scores, and other materials from the UW-Madison Libraries. While viewing the exhibition, patrons can scan a QR code and listen to a Spotify playlist featuring music that will be heard at the MEMF 2017 Concert Series! This is a MEMF first, created by co-artistic director Paul Rowe.

We worked with several librarians to select the materials: Paloma Celis-Carbajal, Ibero-American Studies and Romance Languages Librarian; Jeanette Casey, head of Mills Music Library; and Lisa Wettleson from Special Collections at Memorial Library (below, in a photo by Brent Nicastro).

Dates: June 26 – August 10, 2017

Location: Memorial Library foyer | 728 State Street | Madison

Library Hours: 8 a.m.-9:45 p.m.

We have several new performers this year.

Xavier Diaz-Latorre, a vihuela player from Spain, and the ensemble Sonnambula from New York. Xavier is a world-renowned musician, and plays the vihuela, a Spanish Renaissance type of guitar, and the lute.

Xavier will perform a solo recital featuring music of the vihuela by composers Luis Narváez, Alonso Mudarra, Gaspar Sanz and Santiago de Murcia. The link below will give you more information about the predecessors to the guitar:

http://www.cs.dartmouth.edu/~lsa/aboutLute/Vihuela.html

Daphna Mor and Kane Mathis will present a program featuring music from the geographic regions of Andalusia, North Africa, the Ottoman Empire and the Sephardic Diaspora. Based on the monophonic music of modes referred to as the Makam, the audience will be drawn to distinct beauty and great similarities of music from the courts, liturgical forms, dance airs and folk music.

Daphna Mor (below top) sings and plays several historical wind instruments, and Kane Mathis (below bottom) plays the oud, a lute type of stringed instrument with 11 or 13 strings grouped in 5 or 6 courses, commonly used in Middle Eastern music.

Percussionist Shane Shanahan (below) will join them. Shane is an original member of the Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma and a Grammy award winner. https://www.stepsnyc.com/faculty/bio/Shane-Shanahan/

And watch Shane play frame drum in the Cave Temples of Dunhuang at the Getty Museum:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQjC3y6CXQ8

Hear and read about Daphna Mor: http://www.daphnamor.com/

You can watch Kane Mathis play the oud at this link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tHrxEohai8

Sonnambula (below), an ensemble of violins and viol da gambas, has performed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and have a regular series at the Hispanic Society of America in New York. It played a sold-out program of Spanish Golden Age works drawn from the over 450 pieces in the Cancionero Musical de Palacio, a manuscript at the Royal Palace of Madrid. This same program will be presented at MEMF on Friday, July 14. (You can hear them perform Spanish music in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

www.sonnambula.org

Why was the theme of the Spain’s Golden Age and The Age of Cervantes and Don Quixote chosen for the festival? What composers and works will be highlighted?

We liked the connection with last year’s theme, Shakespeare 400, because, although they never knew one another, Cervantes and Shakespeare (below) were contemporaries and share a “deathaversary,” as they both died on April 23, 1616. They led quite different lives, as Shakespeare was very successful throughout his lifetime and Cervantes wasn’t well known until the end of his life, when Don Quixote was published in 1605.

http://www.dw.com/en/shakespeare-and-cervantes-two-geniuses-and-one-death-date/a-19203237

Also, the Renaissance band Piffaro (below, in a photo by Church Street Studios) — an ensemble from Philadelphia that is well loved by MEMF audiences — suggested we explore this connection to Don Quixote and present their program The Musical World of Don Quixote, a huge project that they have been researching for several years.

They created a musical soundtrack to the novel in chronological order, and their program will open our 2017 concert series. This link from the Early Music America article “Piffaro Tilts At Musical Windmills” will tell you about their project in depth:

https://www.earlymusicamerica.org/web-articles/emag-piffaro-tilts-at-musical-windmills/

www.piffaro.org

The other concerts in the series draw from the music that is mentioned in Don Quixote and from the Spanish Renaissance, known as Siglo de Oro, or the Century of Gold. Many composers from this time period will be represented: Tomás Luis de VictoriaCristóbal de MoralesFrancisco GuerreroLuis de Milán and Alonso Lobo

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_Golden_Age

https://artsinstitute.wisc.edu/memf/concerts.htm

Check out our website for the most up-to-date information and how to get tickets:

www.madisonearlymusic.org

Tomorrow: What makes Renaissance music in Spain different? What composers and music will be featured in concerts?


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Classical music: Beauty is big business and a hard job. PBS’ economics reporter Paul Solman insightfully explores how hard it is to find good jobs for even the most talented musicians and other performing artists. Plus, Madison Opera’s 12th annual Opera in the Park is tonight at 8.

July 13, 2013
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ALERT : Just a reminder that the Madison Opera‘s 12th annual FREE Opera in the Park (below) will be held tonight at 8 p.m. in Garner Park on Madison’s far west side. The outdoor concert will feature guests soloists, the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Madison Opera Chorus and the Madison Youth Choirs, all under the baton of conductor John DeMain. It is a great program that looks forward to next season and includes Broadway theater, and the weather looks to be pleasantly coolish if not exactly perfect. For more information, here is a link: http://www.madisonopera.org/performances-2012-2013/park/

Opera in Park 2012 crowd 2 James Gill

By Jacob Stockinger

Probably my favorite economics reporter these days is Paul Solman (below) of PBS TVI like the clarity and simplicity of his reporting, and the comparisons he makes as well as the original angles he takes on his subject. He comes up with great story ideas and then turns them into great stories. If that isn’t the definition of an outstanding journalist, I don’t know what is.

I love watching and hearing Solman’s reports on the “PBS Newshour.” I also admire him because he continues to work — and love his work — at age 68, despite a brush with serious illness. The Boston-based Solman doesn’t just report for PBS, but he also holds down a second job teaching as a Distinguished Fellow at Yale University. Plus, I like his sense of humor and irony about himself that comes through his stories, and how he interviews himself in a YouTube video at the bottom of this post. 

Paul Solman hat

Of course there are other economics reporters I like and hold in high regard from my political perspective.

At the Wall Street Journal, I like David Wessel, who also makes regular appearances on PBS shows like “Washington Week.”

At The New York Times, I like Joe Nocera, who also does guest spots on PBS; Andrew Ross Sorkin, the articulate author of “Too Big to Fail,” who so clearly documented how The Great Recession came about; the Nobel Prize-winning researcher, columnist and Princeton University professor Paul Krugman (below), who debunks right-wing lies, baloney and mythology with hard facts; and Gretchen Morgenson who appears on a variety of other media outlets.

And I like Zanny Minton Beddows and Greg Ip of The Economist. Both explain complex matters clearly and succinctly as well as fairly.

Paul Krugman

I am sure there are more, but those will do to illustrate the point.

Yet perhaps the reason I like Paul Solman’s reports the most is because he goes at economics from angles that others economists and economics reporters ignore or don’t think are important.

I feel close to that same approach because I also took it back n the days when I was an arts reporter at the daily evening newspaper The Capital Times in Madison, Wisconsin.

A lot of money changes hands through the arts. And a lot of economic development takes place through the arts, especially since Richard Florida (below) has popularized the idea of the key role that the Creative Class plays in generating new prosperity.

richard florida

Curiously, though I have found that arts organizations – and even many arts patrons and customers – resist that quantitative economic approach because linking money and the arts somehow seems to dirty the hands of the artists – a really stupid reaction. That kind of knee-jerk elitism, as well as the kind of misplaced and desperate secrecy that arts groups often wrap their financial operations in, does a deep disservice to the big business of beauty.

Of course, non-monetary values are vital, central in the performing arts and visual arts. (Did you know for example that the biggest tourist attraction in New York City is the Metropolitan Museum of Art?) But as many arts organizations have found out, without the appropriate financial backing, that non-monetary message won’t go anywhere.

Anyway, recently Paul Solman explored the problem of young performing artists finding and keeping good jobs. As examples, he even went to some of the most talented performing artists and musicians whom he found as students (below) at the prestigious, exclusive and expensive Juilliard School in Manhattan, where classes are held in dance and acting as well as music.

Juilliard School BIG

Juilliard students

Here is a link to his report. I urge all fans of the arts — participants, audiences or patrons – to look at and listen to the video and not just read the transcript.

Solman’s report is nothing short of eye-opening and helps to explain why so many of the most talented musicians I meet at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music are choosing to relegate music to a secondary role as an lifelong avocation or serious hobby while they pursue degrees and careers in the sciences or technology or some other more lucrative and secure profession. (Below, a UW students performs in Mills Hall.)

Beethoven sonatas 26 Margaret Runaas

It also helps explain why regional symphony orchestras are rising in quality and why recently there were almost 40 applicants from across the U.S. who actually made the final auditions for the open chair of Principal Tuba with the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

Here is the link. Enjoy and think, and let The Ear know your reactions:

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/business/jan-june13/artists_06-27.html

 


Classical music: UW pianist Christopher Taylor gets raves for his performances of Olivier Messiaen’s “Vingt Regards” in Milwaukee and New York City.

December 15, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

Piano virtuoso Christopher Taylor (below) was educated at Harvard, where he graduated with top honors in theoretical math; studied with Russell Sherman at the New England Conservatory of Music; and won a bronze medal at the 1991 Van Cliburn Competition. He has taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music for the past decade, and normally gets rave reviews whenever performs in Madison.

ChristopherTaylorNoCredit

Taylor’s local highlights includes performing the cycle of 32 Beethoven sonatas plus concertos with the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, chamber music with other UW faculty members and the Pro Arte String Quartet (below, with Taylor, performing the world premiere of William Bolcom’s Piano Quintet No. 2 last spring), and his annual solo recitals.

PAQ and Christopher Taylor Bolcom Piano Quintet 2

Still, Madisonians don’t always appreciate the degree to which local talent is also appreciated elsewhere in the country and the world.

Take this past week. Taylor, known for his interpretations of such modern and contemporary composers as Olivier Messiaen (below), Gyorgy Ligeti and Derek Bermel, received raves first in Milwaukee and then in New York City – at the Metropolitan Museum of Arts’ Medieval Sculpture Gallery — for his performances of Olivier Messiaen’s epic and technically demanding sequence of “Vingt Regards sur L’enfant Jesus” (“Twenty Meditations on the Infant Jesus,” an impressive specialty of Taylor.

Olivier Messiaen#1#

Here is an advance conversation with Taylor on WUWM, Milwaukee’s public radio station:

http://www.wuwm.com/programs/lake_effect/lake_effect_segment.php?segmentid=9932

Then here is a review of the performance in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

http://www.jsonline.com/entertainment/arts/messiaen-piano-piece-is-stunning-at-st-pauls-uv7u0go-182669941.html

And here is a review by former Milwaukee journalist, reviewer Tom Strini, who now has a terrific Milwaukee-based blog for Third Coast Digest:

http://thirdcoastdigest.com/2012/12/piano-arts-christopher-taylors-holy-brainy-messiaen/

Tom Strini

And here is the review of Taylor’s performance in the Metropolitan Museum’s Medieval Sculpture Hall (below in a photo for The New York Times by Hiroyuki Ito) by critic Vivien Schweitzer that appeared in The New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/13/arts/music/messiaens-vingt-regards-sur-lenfant-jesus-at-met-museum.html?_r=0

Christopher Taylor at the tht Med Sculture Hall Hiroyuki Ito NY TImes article

Finally, here is the posting that appeared on this blog last week about the out-of-town performances by Christopher “Kit” Taylor”:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2012/12/06/classical-music-acclaimed-van-cliburn-compeititon-laureate-uw-madison-pianist-christopher-taylor-performs-messiaens-epic-twenty-looks-at-the-infant-jesus-in-milwaukee-on-f/

One final word: We will get to hear Taylor in recital for FREE on Thursday, March 14, at 7:30 in Mills Hall. No word yet on the program. But it could well be the Olivier Messiaen, which he has performed excerpts from here, but never the complete and lengthy work in its entirety.

Taking somebody to that performance sure would make a nice holiday gift, along with one of his recordings – say, the “Transcendental” Etudes by Franz Liszt or the Etudes by William Bolcom – that are available from the on-line CD store at the UW School of Music: http://apps.music.wisc.edu/cdstore/cdGrid.asp?categoryID=14


Classical music: Acclaimed Van Cliburn Competition prize winner, UW-Madison pianist Christopher Taylor performs Messiaen’s COMPLETE “Twenty Looks at the Infant Jesus” in Milwaukee on Friday night, then in New York City on Tuesday night. Could a New Holiday Tradition be in the making?

December 6, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

This Friday night, Dec. 7, at 7 p.m. in Milwaukee, the acclaimed University of Wisconsin-Madison pianist Christopher Taylor (below) will perform the COMPLETE sets of  Olivier Messiaen‘s work, “Vingt Regards sur L’Enfant Jésus,” at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church, 914 East Knapp Street.

ChristopherTaylorNoCredit

Tickets are $30 for adults and $15 for students. They are available at the door and online at www.pianoarts.org or by calling 414-255-0801.

In addition, Timothy Benson, organist at Saint Paul’s Church will present a lecture and performance of Messiaen’s work on TONIGHT, December 6 at 7 p.m. at Saint Paul’s. Admission is free with a ticket to the December 7 concert.

Composed in 1944, “Vingt Regards” (Twenty Looks at the Infant Jesus”) by Olivier Messiaen (1908-1982, below) is a collection of 20 short contemplations on the infant Jesus by “God the Father,” “the Mother Virgin Mary,” the angels, wise men, birds from the heights, silence, time, the stars and the cross.

The music is a kaleidoscope of radiant colors, bird songs, mini-orchestral sounds, Christmas bells and Hindu drums. It is a difficult work technically and interpretatively, and is a specialty of Taylor, who won a bronze medal at the 1991 Van Cliburn Competition and can be heard playing an excerpt at the bottom of this posting.

For more information about the Milwaukee performance, visit: http://www.pianoarts.org/performances.html

Olivier Messiaen#1#

Based in Milwaukee, PianoArts’ mission is to foster appreciation and performance of classical music by identifying and mentoring a new generation of pianists with exceptional musical and verbal communication skills and by presenting them to diverse audiences. It also sponsors a major international competition every two years.

This concert is a timely performance of a work that has obvious ties to the holidays, Taylor will also perform the same daunting program in New York City next Tuesday, Dec. 11, at 7 p.m. as a holiday-related concert at the famed Metropolitan Museum of Art, to be performed in its Medieval Sculpture Hall.

For information about the New York performance, visit:

http://www.metmuseum.org/events/programs/concerts-and-performances/christopher-taylor?eid=3770

Could Christopher Taylor performing Messiaen become a New Holiday Tradition?

We could sure use one.

How about a performance here in Madison next year?


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