The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The UW Schubertiade last Sunday afternoon explored the influence of Beethoven on Schubert with insight and beauty

February 2, 2020

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ALERT: In early editions of my last post, I mistakenly said that the UW Choral Union and the UW Symphony Orchestra will perform the Verdi Requiem on May 25 and 26. The correct dates are APRIL 25 and 26. The Ear regrets the error.

By Jacob Stockinger

One of the most informative and enjoyable events of the Beethoven Year – 2020 is the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth – came early.

It took place last Sunday afternoon in the Collins Recital Hall of the new Hamel Music Center at the UW-Madison.

It was the seventh annual Schubertiade, and its theme was “Schubert and Beethoven: Influences and Homages.” A classic contrast-and-compare examination of two musical giants who lived and worked in Vienna in the early 19th century, the concert took place for almost three hours before a packed house. (Schubert is below top, Beethoven below middle, and the sold-out audience below bottom)

The annual event is organized by co-founders and co-directors UW piano professor Martha Fisher and her pianist husband Bill Lutes (below, greeting the crowd), who also perform frequently, especially as outstandingly sensitive and subtle accompanists.

They make the event, with audience members sitting onstage, look easy and informal. But it takes a lot of hard work.

The two sure know how to choose talent. As usual, all the singers and instrumentalists – UW alumni and faculty members (below) — proved very capable. The concert cohered with consistency.

Nonetheless, The Ear heard highlights worth singling out.

Baritone Michael Roemer (below) sang exceptionally in “An die ferne Geliebte” (To the Distant Beloved) by Beethoven (1770-1827). His voice brought to mind the young Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in the inviting tone and direct delivery of the first song cycle ever composed. It was also the one that inspired the younger Schubert (1797-1828) to compose his own song cycles, and you could hear why.

Soprano Jamie Rose Guarrine (below right), accompanied by Bill Lutes and cellist Karl Knapp (below center), brought warmth, ease and confidence to the lyrical beauty of “Auf dem Strom” (On the River).

Tenor Daniel O’Dea (below) showed how Schubert’s setting of Friedrich Schiller’s “Ode to Joy” – the same Romantic poem made famous in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony “Choral” – ended up much more lighthearted than the more familiar, serious and intense symphonic version.

Martha Fischer and Bill Lutes, who also sang as well as narrated and accompanied, showed complete blending and tightness in Schubert’s first published composition: “Eight Variations on a French Song.” It was for piano, four-hands – a sociable genre that Schubert favored and wrote a lot of.

Soprano Jennifer D’Agostino (below) sang Schubert’s song “Elysium” in which it is unclear whether it is a pastiche or a parody of Beethoven, who remained a mentor until Schubert died at 31. Could that ambiguity point to Schubert’s maturing sense of himself and his own art as compared to Beethoven’s?

One year after Beethoven’s death – Schubert was a pallbearer — Schubert put on his only formal public concert of his own work. That was when he premiered his Piano Trio No. 2, the bravura last movement of which was played by Bill Lutes with cellist Parry Karp and first violinist David Perry (below), of the UW’s Pro Arte Quartet.

Then all four members of the Pro Arte Quartet (below) – with violist Sally Chisholm and second violinist Suzanne Beia – played the last two movements of Beethoven’s late String Quartet in C-sharp Minor, Op. 131, the work that Schubert requested to hear performed as he lay on his death bed in his brother’s Vienna apartment.

Of course there were other moments that pleased and instructed. There was a set of four songs – one coupling sung by mezzo-soprano Allisanne Apple (below) — in which the same texts were set to music by both Beethoven and Schubert.

We got to hear Beethoven’s final song, “Abendlied unterm gestirnten Himmel” (Evening Song Beneath the Starry Firmament).

Then there was the heart-wrenching “Nachthymne” (Hymn to the Night) by Schubert, again beautifully performed by Jamie Rose Guarrine. (You can hear “Hymn to the Night,” sung by Elly Ameling, in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

So in the end, what were the big lessons, the takeaways from this year’s Schubertiade?

One lesson is that for all his more familiar symphonies and concertos, his string quartets and piano trios, his piano sonatas and his sonatas for cello and violin, Beethoven was also a much more accomplished song composer than the public generally knows.

But for The Ear, the biggest lesson of all is that despite Beethoven’s deep influence, Schubert retained his own special voice, a voice full of unforgettable melodies and harmonies, of lyricism and empathy.

And using a mentor to find, refine and retain one’s own identity is the highest homage any student can pay to a teacher.


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Classical music: This year’s second annual Handel Aria Competition is Thursday night at 7:30 p.m in Music Hall with anpre-concert lecture at 6:30 p.m. in Room 2650 at the nearby Mosse Humanitites Building — and is almost guaranteed to be a sellout.

July 14, 2014

By Jacob Stockinger

This week, in conjunction with the 15th annual Madison Early Music Festival that is running from Saturday, July 12, to Saturday, July 19, the second annual Handel Aria Competition will take place this Thursday, July 17, at 7:30 p.m. in Music Hall, 925 Bascom Mall, at the foot of Bascom Hill on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A free pre-concert lecture will be given at 6:30 p.m. in Room 2650 of the nearby UW-Madison Mosse Humanities Building by John W. Barker, who writes music criticism for Isthmus and for this blog and who is a big and longtime Handel enthusiast.


NOTE: The Handel Smack-Down will NOT take place in Mills Hall, as it did last summer, because Mills Hall at the UW-Madison School of Music, is closed while it undergoes an upgrading of its electrical system.

The Handel Aria Competition was established in 2013 to encourage emerging singers to explore the repertoire of Handel. Founders Dean and Orange Schroeder (below bottom), who own Orange Tree Imports on Monroe Street, are  enthusiasts of the vocal repertoire of George Frideric Handel (below top) and are lifelong supporters of the arts.

Here is a link to the Q&A Dean Schroeder gave The Ear last summer:

Handel etching

Carol %22Orange%22 and Dean Schroeder

An ongoing partnership with the Madison Early Music Festival has helped to continue the program, which is not actually part of MEMF.

This year over 60 singers applied. Seven were selected as finalists who were then invited to compete for scholarship awards to be used toward their professional development as young artists. That number, by the way, is fewer than last year, which should make the concert more manageable and enjoyable for both the public and the performers.

Handel arias Winnie Nieh

Handel arias all applaud

The live competition of the final round is what is being held Thursday.

The finalists for the 2014 Handel Aria Competition are: Nan Li, Sarah Brailey, Daniel Moody, Chelsea Morris, Michael Roemer, Yukie Sato, and Daniel Shirley. (At bottom is a YouTube video of Elisa Sutherland, who won last year’s competition. You can also hear other competitors on YouTube.)

Full biographies are available on the Handel Aria Competition website. Here is a link:

This year’s competition is “new and improved,” it seems. Last year, just a solo harpsichord – finely played by two early music keyboard players — accompanied the singers. This time, they will be accompanied by a consort that includes a harpsichord, two violins, a viol and a viola da gamba.

Judges include faculty members and performers from the Madison Early Music Festival: Kristina Boerger, Drew Minter, Ian Pritchard, and Nell Snaidas. (Below are last year’s judges taking notes.)

Handel judges MEMF 14

Tickets are $10 and are available in advance through Brown Paper Tickets and are online at

You can also phone 1-800-838-3006.

On the day of the show, tickets go on sale in person at Music Hall at 6 p.m. – CASH ONLY — with doors to the theater opening at 7 p.m.

Please note: As the event is in Music Hall this year due to renovations taking place in Mills Hall, seating is limited to 375 audience members. Last year nearly 500 people attended the concert. Advance purchase is highly recommended.

For complete information, including performer biographies and qualifications of the judges, visit


Classical music: Let us now praise retired chemists and classical music patrons Irving Shain and Kato Perlman whose generosity has funded the Perlman Piano Trio concert this Saturday afternoon and the Beethoven Sonata Competition this Sunday afternoon.

April 19, 2013
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ALERT: English Baroque composer Henry Purcell’s opera “Dido and Aeneas” will be performed in a partially staged version this Sunday afternoon, April 21 at 2:30 p.m., at Edgewood College in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive. Edgewood College faculty member Kathleen Otterson (below) will play the sorceress. She will be joined by a cast of Madison-area performers including leads Jennifer D’Agostino (Dido) and Michael Roemer (Aeneas). Edgewood College professor Albert Pinsonneault will conduct the Edgewood Chamber Orchestra. Admission is $7, with tickets available at the door. Proceeds benefit music scholarships at Edgewood College.

Kathleen Otterson 2

By Jacob Stockinger

Before we get to the events I want to talk about, let us get to the people who made them possible.

Specifically, I want to give well-deserved shout-outs to two retired research chemists who love classical music.

And who put their money where their mouths are – or, more specifically, where their ears and hearts are.

I am talking about Dr. Kato Perlman (below), an emeritus professor of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


And I am talking about Dr. Irving Shain (below), a retired chemist at the UW and a former Chancellor at the UW-Madison who was also a talented amateur flutist.

Irving Shain

Each person has funded wonderful programs at the UW School of Music, and both events annual events will take place this weekend on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, putting these two figures and friends-colleagues side by side – which is so appropriate and natural.


On Saturday, April 20, 3:30 p.m. in Morphy Hall, the Perlman Piano Trio will perform a FREE and PUBLIC concert.

Members this year (below in a photo by Kathy Esposito for the UW School of Music) are pianist Jeongmin Lee (first row), violinist Alice Bartsch (second row on the right), and cellist Taylor Skiff (second row on the left). They will perform an all-masterpiece program: the Piano Trio in G Major (“Gypsy Rondo”) by Franz Josef Haydn and the Piano Trio in C Minor, Op. 66 by Felix Mendelssohn.

Then group will be joined by violinist Madlen Breckbill (top row right) and violist Daniel Jacobs (top row left) in a performance of Johannes Brahms’ dramatic and lyrical Piano Quintet in F Minor, Op. 34.  (Below is a photo of all five members.)

(The Perlman Piano Trio Fund provides annual awards for a violinist, cellist and pianist and stipulates that they will present “an annual concert of the great masterpieces of the piano trio (or on occasion, quartet or quintet) literature.”  The selection of students is made under the guidance of faculty from the piano and string areas.  Their concert is the culmination of a year in which they are coached, as an ensemble, by faculty members.)

Perlman Trio plus 2013

Then on Sunday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. — also in Morphy Hall — is a FREE and PUBLIC recital by the winners of the annual Beethoven Sonata Competition (it also allows Beethoven’s Variations and Bagatelles).

The event is now in its 28th year, and each year’s winners seem to get more impressive.

This year’s winners (below in a photo by Kathy Esposito for the UW School of Music) are: Sara Giusti (left), who will play Sonata in E-Flat Major, Op. 31, No. 3; Hazim Suhado (middle), who will play Sonata in F Major, Op. 54; and Evan Englestad (right), who will play Sonata in F-Sharp Major, Op. 78 (at bottom played by Daniel Barenboim in a YouTube video).

Beethoven sonata winners CR Kathy Esposito  2013 Sarah Guisti, Hazim Suhadi, Evan

It is a great event for Beethoven fans and especially – parents and families, Take Note! — for young aspiring piano students who might be looking for inspiration which they are sure to find at the winners; recital. A reception for and with the Beethoven Sonata Competition winners follows the concert.

Want more information? Here are capsule bios of the winners, which impresses one with the high quality of the students at the UW School of Music:

An Indonesian pianist, Hazim Suhadi was born in Bandung, Indonesia. He began piano lessons at the age of seven at Yayasan Musik Jakarta (YMJ) with Yola Mathilde, and later advancing his studies with the late Soetarno Soetikno. He received his B.A in French and Francophone Studies and B.M in piano performance where he studied with Catherine Kautsky at Lawrence University. He also previously studied with Luba Poliak, Dmitri Novgorodsky, and Vadim Serebryany. His other interests include chamber music and collaborating, where he has received coaching with Wendy Warner, Gilbert Kalish and Dale Duesing. He has also served as the opera accompanist and was involved in several productions, including Bernstein’s “Candide,” Chabrier’s “L’étoile” and opera scenes. His recent accomplishments include his winning performance at the LSO Concerto Competition in 2010 with Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos. He also received the Theodore L. Rehl Prize, which recognizes excellence in the performance of chamber music. He is currently finishing his Master’s at UW-Madison with Christopher Taylor.

Evan Engelstad grew up in Eugene, Oregon and graduated in 2010 from Willamette University in Salem with a double major in Music and Physics. Currently a second-year Master’s student in Piano Performance at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Evan enjoys teaching piano lessons and accompanying soloists and ensembles. A student of Professor Todd Welbourne, Evan plans to continue his studies at UW-Madison next year in pursuit of a DMA in Piano Performance and Pedagogy. In addition to his studies, Evan works as the musician at Christ The Solid Rock Baptist Church in Madison. Outside of music, Evan’s interests include nutrition, cooking, and watching college football.

Sara Giusti was born in Italy in 1983. She studied piano for eight years under the guidance of Benedetto Lupo at the Conservatorio “Nino Rota” of Monopoli. She also studied with Lazar Berman, Andrea Lucchesini, Nelso Delle Vinge-Fabbri, Riccardo Risaliti, Paolo Bordoni and Pierluigi Camicia. Sara attended Robert Levin’s course at Gargano International Festival, focusing on Beethoven’s piano works. A prize-winner of several Italian national competitions, Sara was awarded first prize, 100/100, at the 2003 Igor Stravinsky National Music Competition in Bari. She has also been particularly active in chamber music, playing concerts in duo, trio and quintet ensembles, including performances at the Conservatorio of Lugano in Switzerland. In 2013, she was a winner of the Irving Shain Woodwind-Piano Duo Competition at UW-Madison. Sara is currently a first year Master’s student in Piano Performance at the UW-Madison where she studies with Professor Christopher Taylor.

Classical music: This week is loaded with terrific FREE vocal and instrumental concerts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Edgewood College as well as elsewhere.

March 18, 2013
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A REMINDER: The final performance of University Opera’s production of Mascagni’s opera “L’Amico Fritz” will take place Tuesday night at 7:30 in Music Hall. Aldo Perelli and Shannon Prickett (below, in a photo by Brent Nicastro) are featured in starring roles. Here is a link to a review by John W. Barker for Isthmus:

And here is a link to other information including ticket prices, which students sing when, and a Q&A with director William Farlow and some background, including which UW-Madison student sings what roles on what day:

L'Amico Fritz 3 Also Perrelli and Shannon Prickett CR Brent Nicastro

By Jacob Stockinger

I hope it doesn’t feel awkward to lump two competing educational institutions together. But they cooperate more than they compete. Plus, there is so much music this week – again – that it would be hard to fit it all in with each event getting its own post.

So here is a line-up of concerts – all of them are FREE – at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and Edgewood College.


On Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Concert Band will perform a concert under director Mike Leckrone (below). Sorry, but no details yet about the program.



On Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Chamber Orchestra, under the baton of conductor James Smith (below top), will perform with retiring oboe professor Marc Fink (below bottom).

The program features Respighi’s “Three Botticelli Pictures”; Mozart’s Oboe Concerto in C Major, K 314, with Fink as soloist; and Beethoven’s sublime Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92, considered by many, including the composer, the be among his best works.

This program sure seems perfectly suited to the First Day of Spring with the impulsive Beethoven, the sensual Italian Renaissance inspirations and the always graceful and charming aria-like lines of Mozart.


marc fink big


Then on Thursday night, at 7:30 in Mills Hall, UW-Madison conductor and graduate student David Grandis (below top) will conduct the UW Symphony Strings in a all-Bizet concert that features three UW-trained singers; mezzo-soprano Jennifer D’Agostino (below second, who used to be known as Jennifer Sams), tenor Daniel O’Dea (below third) and baritone Michael Roemer (below bottom).

The program includes the “Carillon” excerpt from Bizet’s “L’Arlesienne” Suite (The Woman from Arles) and from Bizet’s opera “The Pearl Fishers.” (Hear the fabulous male duet from the opera in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

David Grandis

SOMMA Jennifer Sams D'Agostino

Daniel O'Dea

Michael Roemer naritone


The weekly Friday Noon Musicale, to be held from 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the historic Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Landmark Auditorium of the First Unitarian Society, 900 University Bay Drive, will feature classical guitarist Jamie Guiscafre, who teaches in Iowa but lives in Madison, performing music by Albeniz, Brouwer and Guiscafre.

Jaime Guiscafre

At 7 p.m. in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood college Drive, the Edgewood College, the Edgewood College Band (below), under the direction of Walter Rich, will perform a concert.

Along with other featured works, the band will perform Franz von Suppe’s Poet and Peasant Overture, Claude T. Smith’s Incidental Suite, and Brian Balmages’ Summer Dances.

This event, like other arts events at Edgewood College, is presented as part of the Year of the Arts at Edgewood College, a celebration of music, theatre and art for 2012-2013. Supporters of our Year of the Arts programming include the Kohler Foundation, BMO Harris Bank, the Madison Arts Commission, with additional funds from the Wisconsin Arts Board, DANE Arts with additional funds from the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation, Native Capital Investment, and the Ahrens-Washburn Community Fellows Program.

Walter Rich  Edgewood Concert Band 2013-3-22-Band


The weekly “Sunday Live From the Chazen” concert, to be held from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in Brittingham Gallery 3 and broadcast live statewide on Wisconsin Public Radio, will feature the pianist Namji Kim, who teaches at the UW-Eau Claire.

The program includes Olivier Messiaen’s “Je dors, mais mon coeur veille” (I Sleep but My Heart Keeps Watch) from “Vingt regards sur l’enfant-Jésus” (Twenty Meditations on the Baby Jesus); Hadyn’s Piano Sonata in E-flat major, Hob. XVI 49; Ravel’s “Alborada Del Gracioso”; and Chopin’s Piano Sonata No. 3 in B Minor Op. 58. 

Dr. Namji Kim

Three Edgewood College Choral Ensembles will perform a concert on Sunday, March 24 at 2:30 p.m. in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive. The Chamber Singers and Men’s Choir (below right and left, respectively) are under the direction of Albert Pinsonneault, while Kathleen Otterson will direct the Women’s Choir (below middle).

Included on the joint program are works by Brahms, Mendelssohn, and Faure, as well as folk songs, spirituals, and selections by Gilbert and Sullivan.

Edgewood Men's and Women's Choirs and Chamber Siungers 3-24-13


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