The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music Q&A: Israeli pianist Inon Barnatan compares great music-making to great acting, and the concert hall to an exciting museum. He makes his MUST-HEAR Madison debut on this Friday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall in a solo recital program of works by Schubert, Barber, Franck and Ravel.

April 17, 2014
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EDITOR’S NOTE: Please note that some reviews of productions last weekend are being delayed to make room for previews of the many upcoming concerts and musical events this week.

By Jacob Stockinger

The prize-winning and critically acclaimed young Israeli pianist Inon Barnatan will make his Madison debut this Friday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall for the Wisconsin Union Theater, which has been closed for two seasons while being renovated.

Inon Barnatan

Barnatan’s MUST-HEAR program is ambitious and appealing; Franz Schubert’ late Sonata in G Major, the one that the young critic Robert Schumann praised so effusively; Samuel Barber’s Piano Sonata, which was premiered by Vladimir Horowitz; the “Prelude, Chorale and Fugue” by the late French Romantic composer Cesar Franck that was a favorite of Arthur Rubinstein; and Maurice Ravel’s dazzling “La Valse” for solo piano.

Tickets are $25 for the general public; $10 for University of Wisconsin-Madison students. For more information about Inon Barnatan and his recital, including reviews, program notes, audio clips and ticket information, visit:

http://www.uniontheater.wisc.edu/Season13-14/Inon-Barnatan.html

You might recall that Inon Barnatan won raves this past winter for his last-minute appearance with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra under Edo de Waart when he stepped in to substitute for an ailing Radu Lupu and played the titanic Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor by Johannes Brahms.

In 2009, he won a prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant, and he has been recognized by the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation.

The Ear has been listening to his recordings: from violin works (the last Sonata by Ludwig van Beethoven and a Fantasy by Schubert) and his impressive readings of the famous last three sonatas and final impromptus and sonatas by Schubert to his performances of “Darkness Visible” by the contemporary British composer Thomas Ades. They all demonstrate his virtuoso technique but also his abundant musicality, subtle interpretations and full tone. Most impressive is his ability to play softly and lyrically. It leaves no doubt: Inon Barnatan is a major poet of the piano.

Clearly, Inon Baranatan is someone to watch, as his career continues to be extremely promising. You can listen to his interview for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in a YouTube video at the bottom. And here is a link to his own website:

www.inonbarnatan.com

And here is the email Q&A that Inon Barnatan did for The Ear:

Inon Barnatan face

You were just named the first-ever Artist in Association at the New York Philharmonic for the 2014-15 season. What plans do you have for that position? How could it affect your career?

What is so special for me about this position with the New York Philharmonic is that it is stretched over several seasons, so I will be performing with the orchestra both in New York and on the road for three consecutive seasons — which enables me to build a real relationship with this great orchestra as well as the audience.  It removes a little of the pressure of the debut– since I know I will be coming back the following season and the one after that.

Of course there is pressure to live up to the expectations and the faith that the orchestra and Alan Gilbert (both below) have shown in me, but it feels wonderful to know that the organization is behind me from the get-go. This appointment has only recently been announced but has already had significant effect on my career. New York is the center of so many things and when the New York Philharmonic does something, people take notice!  I really couldn’t be more thrilled with it.

New York Philharmonic Alan Gilbert

How would you describe your approach to playing and interpreting music? Are there other musicians, and especially pianists, either historical or current, whom you admire and why?

I feel that we classical performers are like actors — we have a text that we try to internalize and bring to life, but ultimately it is not ourself that is being presented, but the character, or, in our case, the music, that is being communicated. A great actor like Meryl Streep becomes whichever role she is playing, embodying it in such a way that she herself disappears and becomes the role.

That is what I think my job as a performer is.  I don’t want an audience to listen to me playing a piece — I would love for them to feel like the piece is being created at that very moment, the same way I would want to believe an actor IS the person that they are playing, not merely reading the text convincingly.

There are great performers, as well as actors, that are compelling not because they disappear in a role, but because of the very force of their personality. There are phenomenal actors and musicians that don’t change much with different roles or pieces, but bring their particular magnetism and virtuosity to every role.

When the performer is great both types can be very compelling, but I tend to gravitate towards the former. (Below is Inon Barnatan performing at Carnegie Hall in a photo by The New York Times.)

Inon Barnatan playing at Carnegie Hall NY Times

Your terrific and critically acclaimed new recording for the Avie label is an all-Schubert recital. But here you will perform a different big work, the G Major Sonata. What do you want to say about that particular work and its place in Schubert’s overall body of works? Why does Schubert hold particular appeal for you, and will you do more recording of his works, perhaps even a Schubert cycle?

Thank you! Back in 2004 I participated in a Schubert workshop with the great Leon Fleisher (below) at Carnegie Hall, and in some ways that was the start of my love affair with Schubert. I was familiar with his pieces, of course, but delving into the late sonatas as we did, I became intoxicated with the beauty and depth of the music.

Leon Fleisher

The music of Schubert (below), and especially the music he wrote later in his short life, became a staple of my repertoire.  I even curated a project of solo, chamber and vocal music from the miraculous last year — and both the Schubert CDs I’ve recorded so far feature pieces from that year.

That said, the G Major sonata, even though it was not written in the last year but a couple of years before, stands proudly amongst the greatest. It is one of his most lyrical and poetic pieces. It is not played nearly as often as the last three, and I am excited at the prospect of some audience members discovering it for the first time.

As for a possible Schubert cycle, it has been a dream of mine for a long while — perhaps I will keep playing his works one by one until I discover that I have recorded the whole cycle!

Franz Schubert writing

What would you like the public to know about your Madison program, which includes Franck, Barber (below) and Ravel?

This is a very special program to me. The pieces are magical: They manage to be at once very emotional and very intellectual, without compromising one for the other. The pieces all have a sense of nostalgia about them, in different ways.

The composers of the pieces in the first half take Baroque and Classical forms, such as fugues, chorales, sonatas, etc. and imbue them with their own innovation and emotion. The second half has more of a sense of fantasy, a sense of light that by the end of the recital turns to dark. I guess the second half goes from the sublime to the grotesque.

Samuel Barber

How do you think classical music can reach new and young audiences? And what advice would you give to aspiring young musicians and especially pianists?

That’s the million-dollar question. I think there are many things we need to do. It starts with education — putting an instrument in a child’s hand teaches them a lot about communications, listening and a huge variety of other important skills. It also encourages future curiosity about music and culture.

We also need to be more inclusive in some ways, make the concert experience something that would appeal to a young person as well as an older one.  Nowadays, when there are so many ways to consume culture without leaving your home, the concert experience needs to have an energy and excitement to it that is unique to the live experience.

A great museum knows that in order to attract a variety of ages and stay relevant, they need to have not only great art, but great curating.

The Museum of Modern Art in New York, for example, is always teeming with people of all ages, newcomers, repeat visitors, young and old, experts and lay people. They have a collection of some of the great, established artists as well as new exciting art and they are always providing new and interesting ways to look at things. People who go there expect to be challenged as well as be entertained. You may come to see Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” (below) but it’s the new or unexpected stuff around it that keeps you coming back. It’s that combination of edge and quality that makes it cool.

We can learn a lot from that. As performers we need to strive for the highest possible quality of performance, and at the same time try to present it in a context that is interesting, and sometimes challenging or unexpected.

VanGogh-starry_night_edit

 

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Classical music Q&A: University of Wisconsin conductor James Smith discusses the program of Beethoven, Stravinsky and Sibelius that the UW Symphony Orchestra will perform at a FREE concert this Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Also, UW soprano Elizabeth Hagedorn will sing Mahler songs in a FREE concert Thursday afternoon at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, plus a WORT-FM show on Thursday morning highlights the Madison Symphony Orchestra and its music director John DeMain.

September 25, 2013
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TWO ALERTS: On this Thursday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. in the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, UW-Madison dramatic soprano Elizabeth Hagedorn (below) —  filling in for soprano Julia Faulkner, who is on a leave-of-absence this academic year — will make her local debut. The FREE concert features her singing Gustav Mahler‘s moving “Rueckert Songs” with UW pianist Martha Fischer. It is part of the Wisconsin Science Festival that combines science lectures and live classical music  in the SoundWaves program that is organized and directed by UW horn professor Daniel Grabois. For more information, visit the outstanding “Fanfare” blog at the UW School of Music: Here is a link:

 http://uwmadisonschoolofmusic.wordpress.com/2013/09/13/soundwaves9-26-2013/

And here are links to more stories about Elizabeth Hagedorn:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/classical-music-wisconsin-born-and-vienna-based-dramatic-soprano-elizabeth-hagedorn-will-replace-julia-faulkner-at-the-university-of-wisconsin-madison-for-the-next-school-year-but-faulkners/

http://uwmadisonschoolofmusic.wordpress.com/2013/08/19/hagedorn/

Elizabeth Hagedorn 1

ALSO: Blog friend and radio host Rich Samuels (below) writes: “On this Thursday morning, Sept. 26, beginning at 7:08 a.m. on my weekly show “Anything Goes” that is broadcast from 5-8 a.m. on WORT 89.9 FM. I’ll be airing an interview I recently recorded with the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s music director John DeMain (the MSO’s 2013-2914 concert season begins, of course, on this Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoon.

“Maestro DeMain talks about his transition from the Houston Grand Opera to the Madison Symphony Orchestra and about the artistic state of the orchestra as he begins his 20th season on the podium.

“Music for the segment will include selections from DeMain’s 1996 Grammy award-winning recording the Houston Grand Opera made when its production of George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” was playing Broadway.

“Half the segment deals with the upcoming season and some of the younger soloists who will be heard between now and next May. We’ll hear performances by Norwegian trumpeter Tine Thing Helseth, violinist Augustin Hadelich, soprano Emily Birsan and the young Madison pianist Garrick Olsen (not to be confused with pianist Garrick Ohlsson).”

Rich Samuels

By Jacob Stockinger

This is the week of orchestral season debuts. Yesterday, The Ear spotlighted the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s concerts this weekend.

But at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall on this Sunday evening — on what The Ear calls “Symphony Sunday” with performances by the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the UW Symphony Orchestra and the Edgewood College Chamber Orchestra – the University of Wisconsin-Madison Symphony Orchestra will perform a FREE concert under its longtime director James Smith, who also directs the UW Chamber Orchestra and is the music director of University Opera.

Smith recently granted The Ear an email Q&A about the concert:

Smith_Jim_conduct07_3130

You programmed “The Rite of Spring” by Igor Stravinsky (below) because this is the centennial year of its world premiere. How important is that work in the symphonic repertoire and to music history in general?

It is often cited as a landmark work in all respects.  Several faculty members mentioned that we ought to perform it so that the students can appreciate its impact.  At the time, 1913, the harmonies, the savage rhythms and the choreography were all quite jolting to the Paris audiences.

Right from the start, the bassoon explores a new range for the instrument as it sets the stage for the pagan ritual ahead.

Igor Stravinsky young with score 2

How challenging technically is the “Rite of Spring” in general to perform but especially for UW undergraduate students? What makes it such a difficult work?

It is difficult on all levels: rhythmic, technical and tessitura (the comfort range of notes for a specific kind of voice or instrument).. We have performed works by Bohuslav Martinu, Alban Berg, Anton Webern and Gustav Mahler who also posed special difficulties. The students are working very hard outside of the rehearsals so that we can all experience this exciting work. (Below is a photo of the UW Symphony Orchestra performing with the UW Choral Union plus a link to a video by Kathy Esposito, concert manager and public relations director at the UW School of Music, of the UW Symphony Orchestra and conductor James Smith rehearsing “The Rite of Spring” that Esposito posted on Facebook.)

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=632954003411618

UW Symphony w choral-union2

Why did you choose the “Egmont” Overture by Ludwig van Beethoven to go with this program? Are there special thematic or pedagogical reasons?

Simple answer:  It is a great way to start a program, and an opportunity for my graduate assistant to be introduced to the audience.  His name is Kyle Knox (below).  He is also an accomplished clarinetist who is the assistant principal clarinetist of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

Kyle Knox

The Third Symphony is not one of the most famous or popular symphonies by Jean Sibelius (below). Why did you choose to program it and what should audience members listen for or pay attention to?

Good question. After the rather romantic and somewhat conventional First and Second Symphonies, the Third Symphony loses much of the bombast and announces a more austere and restless path. As my teacher one commented, Sibelius became more and more “north” in style and mood: austere and quixotic. (The first movement can be heard in a YouTube video at the bottom as performed by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic.)

sibelius


Classical music: Want to hear great live music during your summer travels and vacations? Here are links to the Minnesota Beethoven Festival in Winona; and to the Green Lake Festival and Door County’s Peninsula Music Festival in Wisconsin. Also, Wisconsin Public Radio starts weekly broadcasts of concerts by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra this afternoon at 2 p.m.

July 7, 2013
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TWO REMINDERS: The 14th Madison Early Music Festival, with the theme “Renaissance Germany,”   tonight features a performance by the viola consort Parthenia (below) at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall on the UW-Madison campus. It will be preceded at 6:30 p.m. by a FREE lecture by Madison Symphony Orchestra trombonist and program note writer as well as UW-Whitewater music professor J. Michael Allsen on “More Than a ‘Theater of Instruments’: The Syntagma Musicum of Michael Praetorius.”  The FREE and public lecture is in basement Room L-160 of the Elvehjem Building of the nearby Chazen Museum of Art. For more information, visit: http://continuingstudies.wisc.edu/lsa/memf/index.html

Parthenia viol consort

ALSO: Wisconsin Public Radio recently announced programming changes. One of them is that WPR will begin broadcasting concerts by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra today and every Sunday at 2 p.m. The MSO has always been terrific, but its current music director Edo de Waart (below) has taken the orchestra to new heights. In the Madison area, tune in to WERN 88.7 FM.

edo de waart conducting

By Jacob Stockinger

It is high summer and that means traveling and festivals.

Should you be on the way from Madison, Wisconsin, to the Twin Cities, or vice-versa, you might want to take in something at the seventh Minnesota Beethoven Festival (below), which got started with a free concert by the Empire Brass on July 4 and runs through July 23.

Others artists in the impressive lineup include the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, pianists Garrick Ohlsson and Mischa Dichter; the American String Quartet, the Shanghai String Quartet and the Ariel String Quartet; guitarist Sharon Isbin; the Russian National Orchestra; and Dale Warland and the Festival Chorale.

Minnesota Beethoven Festival 7 2013

Here is a link, with information about artist, tickets, concerts and background, to the seventh Minnesota Beethoven Festival under the direction of pianist Ned Kirk:

http://www.mnbeethovenfestival.org/2013-festival-schedule/

Beethoven big

Also the Green Lake Festival in Green Lake, Wisconsin is fully under way and runs until Aug. 31. Here is a link to concert and events:

http://www.greenlakefestival.org

Green Lake Festival of Music logo

Then there are festivals in Door County including the 61st Peninsula Music Festival, under the direction of conductor Victor Yampolsky (below) and featuring a lot of great orchestral programs, which gets started on Aug. 6 with Beethoven’s  famed Symphony No. 3 “Eroica” (the irresistibly dramatic opening is in a YouTube video at the bottom with Leonard Bernstein conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra) and “Creatures of Prometheus” Overture (which shares a theme with the Eroica) and Benjamin Britten’s Violin Concerto No. 1.

victor yampolsky and Peninsula Music Festival

A lot of Bach, Handel, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Mahler and Shostakovich will also be featured on the programs. Take a look.

Here is a link:

http://www.musicfestival.com/newsite/


Classical music: Native son trumpeter Andrew Balio returns to Wisconsin and Madison this Saturday night with organist Felix Hell; and the Edgewood Chamber Orchestra performs Sunday afternoon.

February 22, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

Two noteworthy concerts will take place this weekend.

On Saturday might at 7:30 p.m. — NOT 8 p.m. — in Overture Hall, the organist Felix Hell and trumpeter Andrew Balio  will perform a recital concert sponsored by the Madison Symphony Orchestra

The recital by acclaimed German organist Felix Hell (below) and trumpeter Andrew Balio, a Wisconsin native and principal trumpet of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, will feature a century-spanning program that concludes with multiple works by Johann Sebastian Bach. The Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) is presenting The Hell/Balio Duo as part of its Overture Concert Organ (below) Series.

To see the full program and see other information, use this link:

http://www.madisonsymphony.org/hell

And here is a sample video from YouTube of Felix Hell playing an organ transcription of Samuel Barber’s famous “Adagio for Strings”:

overture organ

Tickets are $19.50 and are available through the Overture Center Box Office at (608) 258-4141 or online at madisonsymphony.org.

The concert career of Felix Hell (below) began at the age of nine and has included more than 700 recitals worldwide. He has received global recognition for his performances of the entire organ works of Johann Sebastian Bach in three full cycles as well as the complete organ works of Felix Mendelssohn. A frequent guest of American orchestras, Hell gave his debut performance in Boston’s famous Symphony Hall in 2004.

Felix Hell

Wisconsin native Andrew Balio (below) was appointed as principal trumpet of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in 2001. He was previously the principal trumpet of the Israel Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta and the Orquesta Sinfonica del Estado de Mexico. His solo debut, at age fifteen, was with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, performing the Haydn trumpet concerto.

Here is a link to his official and impressive biography:

http://www.bsomusic.org/main.taf?p=4,4,1,1&id=AndrewBalio

Andrew Balio

And here is a sample of Andrew Balio’s playing in a YouTube video:

Then on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. in the St. Joseph Chapel at Edgewood College, 1000 Edgewood College Drive, the Edgewood Chamber Orchestra, under Edgewood professor and conductor Blake Walter (below, in a photo by John Maniaci),

blake walter john maniaci

The Edgewood Chamber Orchestra will perform works include Rossini’s “Barber of Seville” Overture; Beethoven’s Symphony Number 2 in D (at bottom in a YouTube video with Christian Thielemann conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in the first movement); and Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf,” narrated by guest performer John Fields, interim Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Edgewood College.

Admission is $5; free with Edgewood College I.D.


Classical music review: The Middleton Community Orchestra opens its new season with British music by Elgar, Holst and Vaughan Williams that highlights its remarkable talent and high quality.

November 17, 2012
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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 MadisonEarly Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.

By John W. Barker

The season’s opening concert for the Middleton Community Orchestra (below), held last Wednesday night at the Middleton Performing Arts Center, was something of a mixed bag.

The program title, “The British Are Coming” was a little strained. Of five composers represented, one was a German-born naturalized citizen and another a Belgian who never left home (except to concertize). At least the other three were undoubted Britons.

The printed program, too, omitted a lot of significant information. The opening number was not the complete “Royal Fireworks Music” by Georg Frederic Handel, but only its long overture. Played in the full-orchestra version (complete with repeat of the fast middle section), but with too big a group here, the music found the players sounding tentative and not fully comfortable with it, while the pacing by conductor Steve Kurr (below) was stiff and rigid.

Everyone was more at ease with the follow-up, Sir Edward Elgar‘s “Pomp and Circumstance” March No. 4, however at bottom).

Naha Greenholtz (below), concertmaster of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, was soloist for the program. She began with the Second of six Sonatas for unaccompanied violin, by the Belgian violinist and composer Eugène Ysaÿe (1858-1931). Each in the set was dedicated to a great violinist of the day. This one honored Jacques Thibaud, and its four brief movements (not listed in the program) are “Obsession,” “Prelude” “Malinconia,” “Danse des ombres,” “Sarabande” and “Les furies.” This is extremely difficult and virtuosic music, and Greenholtz brought it off with aplomb.

Without a break, she then launched into Ralph Vaughan Williams’ lovely pastorale, “The Lark Ascending,” with accompaniment conducted by her husband, Kyle Knox (below), a clarinetist with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. The elaborate solo part–again performed with skillful precision–is backed by a modest accompaniment from a chamber orchestra, rich in evocation of the English folksong style Vaughan Williams (below) loved, all reminding us how desperately we need to hear more of that great composer’s music.

The real meat of the concert, though, was a partial serving of the blockbuster “Astrological Suite” by Gustav Holst (below). Of its seven movements, the MCO gave us four–if, again, without full identification in the program list. Indicating their number in the complete cycle, and restoring their important subtitles, we heard: 1. “Mars, The Bringer of War”; 2. “Venus, The Bringer of Peace”; 6. “Uranus, The Magician”; and 4.” Jupiter, The Bringer of Jolity.”  Omitted were “Mercury, The Winged Messenger”; “Saturn, The Bringer of Old Age”; and “Neptune, The Mystic.” The last of those requires an offstage women’s chorus, not mustered here. On the other hand, the performance managed to bring off No. 6 without its chilling organ glissando at the climax.

For the full suite, a massive affair often performed and recorded, high playing standards are well established. Against those, maestro Kurr and his brave players made a fully credible showing. They clearly had worked very hard on this music, and displayed a palpable confidence. They roared out the grim menace of Mars with full-blooded power. There was particularly fine string sheen in Venus. The “big tunes” of Uranus and especially of Jupiter blared out with thoroughly British heartiness.

My only regret was that Kurr and his players had not gone whole-hog and tackled the entire seven movements.

Once again, we must marvel at what Steve Kurr has achieved in building so able an orchestra (below) out of a mix of local talents and limited rehearsal time.

Three more concerts lie ahead this season. For information about performances, how to join and how to support the MCO, visit:

http://middletoncommunityorchestra.org


Classical music: The Middleton Community Orchestra opens its new season with an all-British program plus guest artists this Wednesday night.

November 12, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Middleton Community Orchestra (or MCO, below in a photo by William Ballhorn) will present “The British are Coming” at the Middleton Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. this Wednesday night, Nov. 14, when the MCO launches its 2012-13 season with a concert featuring great symphonic works by England’s most renowned composers.

The Middleton Performing Arts Center (below) adjoins Middleton High School. Tickets are $10.  All students are admitted free of charge.

And The Ear wants to add that the last time he went to an MCO concert, which was last spring, he had a terrific time first listening to the fine performances MSO and pianist Thomas Kasdorf of masterpieces by von Suppe, Mozart and Brahms, and then mingling with the musicians and other audience members amid generous free refreshments. Here is a link to the very positive review of that concert and experience, one that might make you want to attend this concert:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2012/06/04/classical-music-review-let-us-now-praise-amateur-music-makers-and-restoring-sociability-to-art-here-are-9-reasons-why-i-liked-and-you-should-attend-the-middleton-community-orchestra/

In addition to fiery excerpts (“Mars,” “Uranus,” “Venus” and “Jupiter”) from “The Planets” by English composer Gustav Holst, audiences will hear MCO Conductor Steve Kurr (below) lead the orchestra in live performances of works by George Frederic Handel (“The Royal Fireworks Music”) and Edward Elgar (“Pomp and Circumstance” March No. 4).

Ralph Vaughan Williams‘ beautiful violin masterpiece, “The Lark Ascending” (at bottom, Hilary Hahn plays the opening on a YouTube video) will add to an already outstanding program. It wil be performed by the new Madison Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster Naha Greenholtz (below top) and with Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Principal Clarinetist and MCO Guest Conductor, Kyle Knox (below bottom).

This powerhouse husband-and-wife team joins the Middleton Community Orchestra as part of our annual Rising Stars initiative, which brings extraordinary young musicians with strong ties to the Greater Middleton Area to perform as guest artists with the MCO.

For more information about attending concerts by the Middleton Community Orchestra; joining it; and supporting it, visit:

http://middletoncommunityorchestra.org


Classical music: American composer Michael Djupstrom wins first Delius award in the UK.

August 2, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

Olympic swimmers and gymnasts aren’t the only Americans winning prizes, awards and medals across the Atlantic these days.

Recently, American composer Michael Djupstrom (below) – a new name to The Ear – was named first prize winner of the inaugural contest that was launched to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of the british composer Frederick Delius. Djupstrom won the award for his composition “Walimai” (at bottom) for piano and viola.

Perhaps the contest for composers will help to bring some attention to Delius (below), whose “English Impressionist” style can seem precious but who has been overshadowed by the 150th anniversary of the birth of the revolutionary modernist  French Impressionist composer Claude Debussy, whose music has been much more influential and much more performed.

Here is a link to a story about the Delius contest:

http://www.gramophone.co.uk/classical-music-news/winner-of-inaugural-delius-composition-prize-announced

And here is a link to the composer’s home website, where you will find a relatively local angle: The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra has commissioned a work from Djupstrom.

http://www.michaeldjupstrom.com


Classical music Q&A: Meet Kartik Papatla, the 16-year-old cellist and concerto competition winner who will open tonight’s first Concert on the Square by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.

June 27, 2012
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ALERT: The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society will perform on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. as part of the Green Lake Music Festival in the Thrasher Opera House (below) near the campus of Ripon College. Here is a link for details: http://www.greenlakefestival.org/

By Jacob Stockinger

Tonight – June 27, 2012  – marks the opening of what for 29 years has been billed, without exaggeration, as The Biggest Picnic of the Summer: The annual Concerts on the Square held by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. They will be held on the next six consecutive Wednesday evenings from 7 to about 9 p.m. (The rain date is Thursday.)

As always, the FREE concerts– complete with food and beverages you bring or buy — are held on the King Street corner of the Capitol Square in downtown Madison. Each concert is expected to draw an average 10,000 or more listeners who picnic as they listen, with the biggest crowd usually coming to the Fourth of July concert.

The format includes classical music, pops music, all kinds of music, performed under the baton of WCO artistic director Andrew Sewell with guest soloists.

For more information about Concerts on the Square, including dates and times, music program, vendor menus and guidelines, visit:

http://wcoconcerts.org/performances/concerts-on-the-square/

Tonight’s opening concert will include Kartik Papatla, a 16–year-old cellist who won the WCO concerto competition for young artists. He will perform the first movement from the popular and beautiful  Cello Concerto in B Minor by Antonin Dvorak (at bottom, with Yo-Yo Ma and the New York Philhamronic Orchestra under conductor Kurt Masur).  Also on the program are Edward Elgar’s “Three Bavarian Dances,” Johann Strauss’ waltz “Tales From the Vienna Woods” and Hardiman’s “Lord of the Dance” with the Trinity Irish Dancers (below).

Papatla (below) — whose name reflects his Indian heritage — recently granted The Ear an e-mail interview in which he introduced himself and discussed the role of music in his life:

What is your name? How old are you and when did you start studying music?

My name is Kartik Papatla and I am 16 years old.  I started studying the cello when I was six years old.

What grade are you in now and what school do you go to? 

I will be a junior at Homestead High School (below) in Mequon starting this fall.

What are your favorite subjects? Do you have other areas of interest?

I enjoy all subjects in school, but my favorites are mathematics and chemistry.  I am also part of the forensics team at my school and I love to travel.

What are your plans for higher education and a career? 

I plan to attend a university to study engineering. However, I will continue to pursue music throughout my lifetime.

Who is your music teacher? 

I study with Scott Cook at the String Academy of Wisconsin.

Do you have a favorite composer and favorite pieces to listen to or to play? 

If I had to choose one composer as my favorite, I would choose Tchaikovsky (below).  What I enjoy about his music is that there is so much organization to it, yet it has a great deal of musicality and emotion.  However, I cannot say that I have certain favorite pieces to listen to and play because it is impossible for me to narrow all classical music down to a select few.

Why is playing music important to you and what does playing music teach you? 

Playing music has been an integral part of my life for close to 10 years.  I immensely enjoy the process of understanding the nuances of a piece, working on incorporating them into my hours practice, and performing the piece. I feel that the many years of researching and understanding the finer points of different compositions and trying to master them has taught me patience, diligence and the rewards of perseverance.

What different kinds of music do you listen to and like? 

Although I mostly listen to classical music, I do enjoy other types of music.  For example, I listen to popular music on the radio and to instrumental and world music.

Was there an Aha! Moment or turning point – perhaps a certain performer or piece — when you knew you wanted to be very serious about pursuing classical music?   

Let me begin by saying that I am very fortunate to have had many great musical opportunities over the last couple of years.  Perhaps the closest thing to a turning point in my music education was when I had the opportunity to perform at the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s Holiday Pops Concerts at the age of 12.

I played a duet with another young violinist, accompanied by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (below) under guest conductor Jeff Tyzik (below).  This was the first time that I played with a professional orchestra and in front of a full concert hall.  It was an exhilarating and rewarding experience.

What advice would you give others, young students and adults, about studying music?  

Practice with the intention of improving your playing and not with the intention of just getting something done. This will make all of the difference in the long run. Also, listen to as many recordings as you can of the piece you are working on, and from each one extract certain things that you would like to incorporate into your own interpretation of the piece.

How important do you think music education is in relation to other areas of education? 

I believe that music education is extremely important to other areas of education because it teaches valuable skills that, when applied to other non-music education, will allow one to excel. For instance, it teaches discipline and concentration, and encourages one to strive for perfection.

What does getting the chance to perform a concerto with an orchestra mean to you and why? 

To perform a concerto with a professional orchestra is every classical musician’s dream.  Having this opportunity is not only a great honor but evidence to me that all of the hard work over the last 10 years has gone toward something that I can be proud of.


Classical music news: Copenhagen, Denmark sure likes Flash Mobs. Just listen to members of the Copenhagen Philharmonic performing Grieg’s “Peer Gynt” and Ravel’s “Bolero.”

May 15, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

I remember a “60 Minutes” story about how the so-called “melancholy Danes” are actually the most satisfied citizens in the world.

True, they pay a lot of taxes. But in the interviews, it quickly became apparent that people like that just fine since such taxation also brings them excellent health care, state-paid higher education, generous maternity and paternity leave, public transportation, and many other social and personal benefits. (And so far, I don’t hear Denmark included in discussions of Europe’s debt problems.)

Maybe that level of public satisfaction also helps to explain why members of the Copenhagen Philharmonic like to stage “flash mob” versions of symphonic music in subway cars and railroad stations

To remind people: Flash mobs are populist in nature;  and though apparently spontaneous and spur-of-the-moment, they are in reality very well planned and synchronized events where music just starts happening outside concert halls or the usual and traditional venues. Some flash mobs are instrumental, but most seem to use group singing, especially for the “Hallelujah Chorus” by Handel.

Do you like the good life? Not for nothing is Copenhagen known as the “Paris of the North.”

Here, for example, are two videos of the flash mob events that have gone viral.

The first one, from last year, is Ravel‘s “Bolero” played in the city’s main railroad station. It has brought over 5 MILLION hits to YouTube. It is also a perfect piece for a gathering flash mob as the repetitive melody and rhythm hop around from one instrument or section to another.

The most recent one, just a week ago, is a version the soaring and stirring “Dawn” movement  of Grieg’s popular “Peer Gynt,” which the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra played in Madison at the Wisconsin Union Theater a couple of season ago. The Danes play it in a subway car full of commuters. So far, that video has brought in over 2 MILLION hits — and brought me to tears. To have such beauty in the amid the hubbub of our daily life and at the beginning of the work day is truly inspired! I expect many more millions of hits to come.

Take a look and listen:

And just to remind you: Flash mobs also happen in Madison at the Farmers Market, the state Capitol and the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. Here is a link to several:

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=flash+mob+Madison&oq=flash+mob+Madison&aq=f&aqi=g3&aql=&gs_l=youtube-psuggest.3..0l3.1596.2088.0.2753.2.2.0.0.0.0.200.270.1j0j1.2.0…0.0.yo3I5hOWatA

What do you think of the flash mob phenomenon in general?

What did you think of these Copenhagen flash mobs?

What make Copenhagen special as a place for flash mobs.

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: Here are the complete classical music Grammy nominations and winners, including producer Judith Sherman who is recording the four world premiere centennial commissions by the University of Wisconsin’s Pro Arte String Quartet.

February 18, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

Well, you won’t find a lot to linger over in this year’s classical music Grammys. After all, the “Academy,” as they call the Industry’s Enforcer, chopped the categories from 109 to 78 for the 54th annual competition. (Classical Music wasn’t the only category to lose a lot; so did quite a few ethnic music categories including Latin Jazz and Hawaiian Music.)

So the really big names in classical music are missing in this year’s bunch of classical Grammys – no Beethoven or Bach, no Mahler or Mozart, although superstar maestro Gustavo Dudamel (below) did win one with an outstanding performance of the Brahms Fourth Symphony in digital download-only release.

NOTE: Today’s “LA Live in HD” broadcast at 4 p.m. at the Eastgate and Point cinemas features Dudamel conducting a performance from Caracas, Venezuela of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 “Symphony of a Thousand.”)

But you will find more contemporary composers than in past years. In fact, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and the Florentine Opera Chorus took home two Grammys for their live performance of Robert Aldridge’s opera “Elmer Gantry,” based on the novel by Sinclair Lewis.

Nor will you find a lot of big name prestige labels, which have been largely replaced by smaller labels with more niche-like focuses.

But you will nonetheless find some great performances and some great music, including arias sung by the great American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato.

You will also find something of great local interest: Record producer Judith Sherman received her third Grammy, the second in a row and the third of seven nominations. And if you look at her long and impressive list of releases, she certainly seems worthy of winning.

Sherman’s Grammy is good news for Madison and for the University of Wisconsin’s Pro Arte String Quartet, which performs a FREE concert at 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 24, in the Wisconsin Union Theater.  That’s because the Pro Arte has hired Sherman (below, in Mills Hall setting up microphones with the Pro Arte Quartet and pianist Brian Hsu  for the December sessions to record composer Paul Schoenfield‘s Three Rhapsodies for String Quartet) to produce the 2-CD set of the world premiere commissions by Walter Mays, Paul Schoenfield, William Bolcom and John Harbison that the Pro Arte is performing during its centennial season.

That could mean that Sherman (seen below backstage at Mills Hall  closely following and taking notes on the Schoenfield score during  mike checks), who is a freelance producer working for Albany Records, might well end up next year appealing to the Grammy trends toward rewarding smaller labels and new music. And that, in turn, means that the Pro Arte Quartet’s 2-CD set might get nominated for a Grammy. Now, that would be grand and well deserved for the grueling 11 – and 12-hour recording sessions that she and the musicians turned in here over two days.

By the way, the program for the FREE March 24 concert by the Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) at the Wisconsin Union Theater, by the way, include the world premiere of William Bolcom’s Piano Quintet No. 2 with UW pianist Christopher Taylor; Anton Webern’s “Langsamer Satz”; Darius Milhaud’s String Quartet No. 7, which was written for and premiered by the Pro Arte (below, today) in 1925.

Also on the program is Mozart’s great and sublimely beautiful String Quintet in G minor (at bottom), K. 516, with guest violist Samuel Rhodes (below, in a photo by Peter Shaarf) of the Juilliard String Quartet.

You would pay a lot of money to hear those same performers in that same program in, say, New York City’s Carnegie Hall. But here in Madison it is FREE and easy to get to. So plan to attend that concert and take along family and friends. And spread the word.

For more information visit www.proartequartet.org

Anyway, here is the classical music list for the 54th annual Grammys:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2012/02/10s/146697992/at-the-54th-grammys-a-short-but-eclectic-classical-list

Want to see who the accomplished and worthwhile “losers” were? Here is a link to all the nominees:

http://classicalmusic.about.com/od/54thgrammyawards/a/54th-Annual-Grammy-Awards-Nominees-For-Classical-Music-2012.htm

And here is a link to the blog post I did around the holidays with all the nominees and the music they performed (plus all the recordings the Producer nominees, including Sherman, worked on):

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2011/12/02/classical-music-news-here-is-a-complete-list-of-the-classical-music-nominations-for-the-54h-annual-grammy-awards-happy-listen-and-shopping/

Here are links to some other analyses and documentaries:

http://articles.boston.com/2012-02-12/arts/31049185_1_classical-album-classical-awards-emi-classics

http://www.stltoday.com/entertainment/arts-and-theatre/culture-club/grammy-awards-the-classical-winners/article_6c153322-55dc-11e1-adfc-001a4bcf6878.html

mozart string quintet g minor


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