By Jacob Stockinger
He is 75.
He was a superstar tenor for decades, often competing with the late Luciano Pavarotti for top honors in the opera world.
Then he became a conductor and now he sings as a baritone since his voice dropped with old age.
But does Spanish-born and Mexican-raised Placido Domingo (below) still have what it takes to be in the top ranks of the opera world?
Here is his review and first-hand account from his blog Slipped Disc:
ALERT: The University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music has announced the winners of the 31st annual Beethoven piano competition. The FREE winners’ concert is this Sunday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall. Oxana Khramova will play the Polonaise in C Major, Op. 89, and Two Rondos, Op. 51; Kyle Johnson will play the Sonata in F minor, Op. 57, “Appassionata“; and Shuk-Ki Wong will play the late Sonata in E Major, Op. 109. There will be a reception after the concert. The judge for the competition was Dan Lyons, a UW-Madison graduate and the pianist of the Madison Symphony Orchestra. Here is a link to more information about the winners and their teachers:
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received the following message:
The “Three for Free” program, features three wonderful contemporary works that have something delightful for everyone.
We’ll begin with “The Hope of Loving” by Jake Runestad – for chorus with a string quartet — a warm, and Romantically phrased work that was premiered by the ensemble Seraphic Fire last year.
It will feature three fine Concert Choir soloists: Kenny Lyons, Talia Engstrom and Eliav Goldman.
Runestad recently received the ASCAP award for composers.
The second work on our program is the 2016 edition of “Llorona,” written for the Concert Choir and guitar by UW-Madison composition Professor Laura Schwendinger (below), who has won numerous awards for her works.
It’s based on a famous Mexican song and tale of a woman who dies with her children; her voice can be heard on the wind.
Our final work is “The World Beloved” by Minnesota composer Carol Barnett (below). It is a “Bluegrass Mass,” which features many Concert Choir soloists and blue grass instruments. (You can hear it in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
The program will be approximately 75 minutes long, including a short intermission.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Wisconsin Chamber Choir (below) will present “Songs In a New Land” on this Friday, April 15, at 7:30 p.m. in Bethel Lutheran Church, 312 Wisconsin Ave., in Madison and on Sunday, April 17 at 3 p.m. at Cargill United Methodist Church, 2000 Wesley Ave., in Janesville.
Admission is $15 for adults and $10 for students.
Advance tickets are available from www.wisconsinchamberchoir.org. They are also available at the door.
The WCC’s concert will celebrate composers who were immigrants from the 15th century to the present, including emigres to the United States from China, Russia, Syria, Germany, Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.
At a time when immigration has become a burning issue in national politics, the WCC’s program highlights composers who emigrated from the country of their birth to make new homes elsewhere. They imported traditions from their homelands and enriched the cultural life of their adopted countries in innumerable ways.
Their reasons for leaving home were varied-some moved voluntarily but many were forced to emigrate for political, economic or religious reasons or, often, a combination of all of these.
While the experience of leaving behind all that is familiar and making a new life in a foreign country was rarely easy, the interaction of old and new influences resulted in some of the most lasting and unique artistic creations in history.
Most of the featured composers were or are immigrants to the United States, but the program opens with a set of Renaissance motets—“Stabat Mater” by Josquin des Prez (below top) and “Domine, Convertere” by Orlando di Lasso (below bottom) — demonstrating that migrant composers have played a major role throughout history.
Some of the more recent composers represented are: Kurt Weill, whose Kiddush was composed for Park Avenue Synagogue in New York City; Chen Yi (below top), represented by “A Set of Chinese Folksongs”; Osvaldo Golijov (below bottom), with an excerpt from his “Pasion segun San Marcos” (Passion According to St. Mark); and 20th-century giants Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky.
Although Schoenberg and Stravinsky were known for their dissonant, modernist works, much of the music they composed in the U.S. was tempered by an effort to communicate with audiences here. During the 1940s, both men ended up settling in Hollywood, along with countless other exiled European artists fleeing totalitarian regimes and persecution at home.
In the case of Schoenberg (below), even though he is known as “the father of atonality,” and the originator of “12-tone” music, he continued to compose tonal music throughout his life, and often wrote in a more accessible style for amateur musicians. The WCC will present two such tonal works by Schoenberg: “Verbundenheit” (Solidarity) for male chorus, and the folksong arrangement, “Mein Herz in steten treuen” (My Heart, Forever Faithful).
In the American works of Stravinsky (below), the Credo movement of his 1947 Mass was subtly influenced by American Jazz.
Joining the WCC will be Madison organist Mark Brampton Smith, who will accompany several pieces at the organ as well as perform solo organ works by Paul Hindemith and Joaquin Nin-Culmell (two additional mid-century immigrants to the U.S.).
The movements from Stravinsky’s Mass will be performed with Brampton Smith at organ and guest trombonist Michael Dugan (below), who will also enhance Josquin des Prez’s “Stabat Mater” by playing sackbut, the Renaissance ancestor of the trombone.
Guest percussionist Stephen Cherek will enliven several of the Latin American selections, playing a variety of instruments.
Here are some YouTube links to sample performances:
Josquin des Prez, “Stabat Mater”
Orlando di Lasso, “Domine Convertere”
Kurt Weill, “Kiddush”
Chen Yi, “Mo Li Hwa” (“Jasmine Flower” from A Set of Chinese Folksongs)
Osvaldo Golijov, “Demos Gracias” (from La Pasion segun San Marcos)
Arnold Schoenberg, “Verbundenheit” (from Six Pieces for Male Chorus)
Arnold Schoenberg, “Mein Herz in steten Treuen”
Igor Stravinsky, Credo (from Mass)
ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, to be held from 12:15 to 1 p.m. at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Meeting House of the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, Trevor Stephenson — the founder and director of the Madison Bach Musicians — will play harpsichord music by Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel and Domenico Scarlatti.
He will perform on his own four-octave, crow-quilled 17th-century-style Flemish instrument and will talk about the well-tempered tuning of this instrument, the composers’ lives and the concert repertoire. Selections are from Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier,” Scarlatti’s Sonatas and Handel’s “Keyboard Suites.”
By Jacob Stockinger
Some groups perform more in tandem or as adjuncts to other groups than by themselves. This seems especially true of choruses.
But this weekend, the Madison Symphony Chorus, which normally performs with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, will have the spotlight to itself. (You can hear the chorus sing as part of the MSO’s Christmas concert in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
Twice on the same day.
Here are the details:
On this Sunday, Feb. 28, at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., director Beverly Taylor and the Madison Symphony Chorus (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson) will present a “Memories” concert in Promenade Hall at the Overture Center for the Arts.
Taylor (below) is the longtime assistant conductor of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the director of choral activities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.
The concerts will feature an array of musical styles, including classical music selections from Johannes Brahms and contemporary American composer John Corigliano, a collection of Swedish, Norwegian, Scottish and Mexican ethnic tunes, traditional spirituals and gospel music, and nostalgic songs from the Tin Pan Alley era by Cole Porter, George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin, and Fats Waller.
Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) Principal Pianist Daniel Lyons will accompany much of the music.
Tickets are $20, and are available: at madisonsymphony.org/chorusconcert; at the Overture Box Office (201 State Street); or by calling (608) 258-4141.
Formed in 1927, the Madison Symphony Chorus gave its first public performance in 1928 and has performed regularly with the MSO ever since.
The Chorus was featured at the popular Madison Symphony Christmas concerts in December and will join the MSO April 29 and 30, and May 1 for Carmina Burana, the colossal modern oratorio based on medieval Latin songs by 20th-century German composer Carl Orff.
The Chorus is comprised of more than 125 volunteer and amateur musicians from all walks of life who enjoy combining their artistic talent. New members are always welcome.
Visit madisonsymphony.org/chorus for more information about the chorus and the program for this concert.
By Jacob Stockinger
“Sex, drugs and classical music”?
It was easy to underestimate the Amazon comedy sitcom “Mozart in the Jungle” as just a commercial low-brow, rock and roll take on the high-brow world of classical music.
Until two weeks ago.
One award went to the accomplished Mexican actor, director and producer Gabriel Garcia Bernal (below) for the Best Actor in a TV Series, Comedy or Musical. He plays Rodrigo, an orchestra conductor.
The second award went to the show as Best TV Series for Comedy or Musical.
Will any Emmys follow?
The second season has been ready for streaming since Dec. 30. And winning the two Golden Globe awards is sure to spike viewer interest. (You can see the trailer for Season 2 in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
Although there are some fine things to admire in Season 2, apparently it loses steam and gets repetitive.
At least that is the assessment of music critic Zachary Woolfe, who writes for The New York Times.
One interesting sidelight of Season 2 is that several big-name classical musicians make a cameo appearance on the show.
The flamboyant Chinese superstar pianist Lang-Lang:
And mainstream American piano star Emanuel Ax, who will perform with the Madison Symphony Orchestra in March. (NOTE: Ax was to play the Symphonic Variations by Cesar Franck and the Burleske by Richard Strauss. That program has now been changed to the Piano Concerto No. 4 by Ludwig van Beethoven.)
To The Ear, the show still sounds like fun – if you can get past or overlook the endless sense of crisis.
Which, curiously, also just happens to be how one might feel about the real-life, non-fiction world of classical music these days with its focus on declining attendance, fewer recordings, labor strife and programming.
Here is a link to the review:
Tell us in the COMMENT section what you think of either the first season or the second season, if you have already started to watch it.
The Ear wants to hear.
ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, from 12:15 to 1 p.m. at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features classical guitarist Christopher Allen performing music by Abel Carlevaro, Leo Brouwer, Manuel Ponce and Federico Moreno-Torroba.
By Jacob Stockinger
Three upcoming events at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music merit your attention and maybe your attendance.
Two concern racial diversity and the role of African-American composers and performers. It is an issue here and at many music schools around the country.
The third involves a concert by Javier Calderon of Latin American composers who wrote for the classical guitar.
All events are FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.
On Thursday night at 5-6 p.m. in Room 1351 of the Mosse Humanities Building, baritone Emery Stephens of Wayne State University in Detroit will present a lecture-recital titled “African American Voices in Classical Music,” with UW-Madison collaborative pianist Martha Fischer, along with an interactive component for audience members.
Stephens will share brief histories of the composers and their music. The program will include unaccompanied spirituals, spiritual arrangements and art songs by African-American composers.
Works will be by Harry Burleigh (1866-1949), Edward Boatner (1898-1981), Hall Johnson (1888-1970), Margaret Bonds (1913-1972), Charles Brown (b. 1940), and Betty Jackson King (1928-1994). Sorry, specific titles have not been mentioned.
For more about Stephens and his subject, visit:
On Friday afternoon from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in Room 1351 of the Mosse Humanities Building Stephens will present a master class on his Beyond Race Project.
On Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, UW-Madison School of Music professor Javier Calderon will give a FREE faculty concert of guitar music by music of Eduardo Caba (Bolivia), Manuel Ponce (Mexico), and Heitor Villa-Lobos (Brazil).
By Jacob Stockinger
Despite the emphasis on cultural diversity these days, have you heard much of his music in concerts halls, on recordings and on the radio? (You can hear his Symphony No. 2 in a YouTube video at the bottom. Furthermore, YouTube has quite a lot of the music written by Carlos Chavez.)
Judging from The Ear’s own experience, probably not.
But that may be about to change.
Once again the Bard Music Festival -– under the direction of Bard College president Leon Botstein (below) who also directs the American Symphony Orchestra -– is known for taking on neglected composers or neglected aspects of well-known composers.
This year is no different.
Starting this weekend and continued next weekend, the Bard Music Festival will explore the world and music of Carlos Chavez, who was the foremost Mexican modernist.
Like his American colleague Aaron Copland, Chavez (below) helped to free the classical music of both North America and South America from the grip of European music and especially the excesses of late German Romanticism.
Here is a link to the website of the festival, the center of which is the concert hall (below) designed by architect Frank Gehry. Looking at the schedule will give you some idea of the range and quality of the events and concerts that are planned.
Perhaps the best preview appeared in The New York Times:
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 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.
By John W. Barker
Spring is officially over now, for the Middleton Community Orchestra (below, in a photo by Margaret Barker) has given the fourth and last concert of its fifth season — as usual, on a Wednesday night and before a sizable crowd at the Middleton Performing Arts Center.
The opening work was a rarity from the little-known Mexican composer Arturo Marquez (b.1950, below), called Danzon 2. It is a piece that starts with promise of melodic expression, but soon slips into a piling up of the usual hard-driven Latin dance rhythms, for a large orchestra, playing very loudly. A kind of musical refried beans.
This is a very thickly scored piece, placing particular emphasis on the winds. I found myself, as I listened, appreciating more than ever how cunningly Brahms designed the seams and sutures among the instruments, taxing the skills of the players for subtlety. Fortunately, the Middleton musicians faced the challenges bravely and brought off a very sturdy and convincing performance.
After the intermission, it was concerto time.
First, as MCO maestro Steve Kurr (below top) has regularly done, the young concertmaster was given a chance to tackle a solo assignment. Valerie Sanders (below bottom), a new graduate from the UW-Madison School of Music, took on the Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor by Max Bruch, though only its slow movement. She played this lovely music quite sweetly, and one was tempted to wonder how she would have fared in taking on the two bolder wing movements, in the full concerto.
The Big Event was, of course, local pianist Thomas Kasdorf playing the Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. This is a very warhorse of the warhorses, a work that some will be surprised to learn that predates Van Cliburn, whose recording of it was the first classical album to sell one million copies. (Vladimir Horowitz was once the exponent automatically brought to mind.)
It is a colossally demanding piece, technically, and a summit of virtuosic display — as you can see and hear in the popular YouTube video at the bottom.
Kasdorf (below), a locally born, raised and educated pianist and a well-established young Madison fixture of enormous talent and virtuosity, made this his latest entry into the warhorse corral.
Yes, he had the chops to bring it off, in an undeniably exciting performance. But I had the sense that his heart was really in the quieter passages, where he had some ideas of his own.
In the prevailingly bravura writing, by contrast, he was battling for survival. He certainly won the battle, on technical points alone. But this is not a work he has fully made his own—he played from score, rather than memory. It is an interpretation in progress, rather than one securely controlled.
And I hope this is not a career effort in progress. He is too fine a musician to be just a barn-storming, roof-raising virtuoso. He should pursue rather the great variety of roles he as developed, in which he has so much more that is personal and nuanced to offer.
The orchestra, with fewer perils to face than in the Brahms, sounded confident and full-voiced.
All in all, it was a lively and stimulating concert, as we have come to expect from Steve Kurr and his remarkable Middletonians.
By Jacob Stockinger
Our friends from the always unusual and always first-rate Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society write:
Can’t wait for our summer festival in June? Come to Flautistico! The multimedia event will be held this Friday, March 20, at 8 p.m. in Promenade Hall at the Overture Center. All tickets are $25.
Flautistico! is a continuation of co-founder and co-artistic director Stephanie Jutt’s exploration into Latin American, Mexican and Spanish music. (Jutt, below in a photo by Dick Ainsworth, teaches at the UW-Madison School of Music and is also Principal Flute of the Madison Symphony Orchestra.)
This one-time-only concert will feature a wide variety of music from Argentina, Venezuela, Mexico and Spain that has never been performed at BDDS concerts.
Puerto Rican mezzo-soprano Yanzelmalee Rivera, Venezuelan clarinetist Orlando Pimentel, and Madison’s own fantastic collaborative pianist Thomas Kasdorf will join Jutt.
Dance choreographed by Ariel Juarez and performed by Jacques Saint-Cyr and Maria Castello will complement the music of Piazzolla.
An original art installation by UW-Madison artist Carolyn Kallenborn, including her film footage from Day of the Dead in Oaxaca, Mexico, will create a multi-dimensional concert evening.
Photos by Martin Chabi (below) will be projected during the concert.
To purchase tickets from Overture Center, visit: http://www.overturecenter.org/events/flautistico