The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: On Tuesday night pianist Jeffrey Siegel wraps up his 26th — and probably his LAST — season in Madison of “Keyboard Conversations” with love-inspired music by Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, Debussy and Brahms.

May 5, 2014
3 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

On this Tuesday night, May 6, at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, pianist Jeffrey Siegel (below) will present this season’s last Keyboard Conversation, dedicated to love and love affairs by major Romantic composers, including Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt, Johannes Brahms, Frederic Chopin and the French Impressionist composer Claude Debussy.

According to sources, it will be Jeffrey Siegel’s last season of being sponsored by the Wisconsin Union Theater, which is using Mills Hall during renovations that will end this year when the hall reopens in the fall.

The Ear understands that the WUT tried to turn the declining attendance around for several years, but to no avail. So barring self-sponsorship or a new sponsor this concert is likely to be the last Keyboard Conversation in Madison. After more than a quarter century, that will be the sad end of a tradition.

The program includes the “Allegro non troppo ma enegetico” movement from the Piano Sonata No. 2 in F-sharp minor by Brahms; the Novelette, No. 1, plus “Warum?” (Why?) and “Aufschwung’ (Soaring) from Schumann’s “Fantasy Pieces; “Au bord d’une source” (At the Spring) and the popular “Liebestraum No. “3 (Love’s Dream, heard at bottom in a popular YouTube performance by Evgeny Kissin) by Franz Liszt; the “Minute” Waltz and the “Larghetto” slow second movement from the Piano Concerto No. 2 by Chopin; and “L’Isle joyeuse” (The Joyous Island) by Debussy.”

Jeffrey Siegel 2014

More information is available by calling the Box Office at 608-265-ARTS (2787). Tickets are: $32 for the General Public, $28 for Wisconsin Union Members, UW-Madison Faculty and Staff, and Non UW-Madison Student (with ID); and FREE for UW-Madison Student (with ID).

Buy tickets online here, call the Box Office at 608-265-ARTS (2787), or purchase in person at the Campus Arts Ticketing box office in Vilas Hall, 821 University Ave.

Tickets are required for entry even when free, so please reserve ahead of time.

For more information, including reviews and audio samples, visit:

http://www.uniontheater.wisc.edu/Season13-14/Keyboard-Conversations-Mistresses.html

Adds the Wisconsin Union Theater press release: “Whether you’re a classical music aficionado, a history buff, or just love a good story, Jeffrey Siegel’s Keyboard Conversations will take you beyond the music and into the lives and loves of some of the greatest composers of all time.

“In “Mistresses and Masterpieces,” Siegel introduces us to the romantic inspirations behind many popular works of classical music. While names like “Brahms” and “Schumann” may bring to mind proper-looking gentlemen in oil portraits, these brilliant composers’ lives were often closer to a soap opera than a history book blurb.

“As Siegel will tell you, these men not only loved and lost — they put their pain and passion into incredible works of music that still inspire those emotions to this day. Read more about these affairs in our blog.

“For the 26th consecutive season, Jeffrey Siegel presents his entertaining and informative concerts with commentary. He speaks to the audience briefly and in non-technical language before performing each composition in its entirety. The program will conclude with a Q and A.

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Classical music: Learn about – and listen to Rafal Blechacz –- the talented Polish pianist who is the 2014 winner of the unusual Irving S. Gilmore Foundation. Plus, Trevor Stephenson will play a house concert of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Bartok this Sunday afternoon.

January 10, 2014
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REMINDER: Madison keyboardist Trevor Stephenson writes: “On this Sunday afternoon, Jan. 12, at 3 p.m., I’ll play a fortepiano house concert at my home at 5729 Forsythia Place on the west side of music ranging from Haydn to Bartok. (I know that Bartok is not usual fare on the fortepiano—but the other day I was reading through his Romanian Folk Dances at the fortepiano and was simply stunned by how energetic they sounded—since the style of these comes largely from cimbalom playing (Romanian hammer dulcimer, and the fortepiano is really a hammer dulcimer in a tuxedo). So this really makes perfect sense. The concert will also feature Mozart’s charming variations on “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” Beethoven’s “Pathetique” Sonata, Op. 13, two Mazurkas by Chopin, and Haydn’s waggish Sonata No. 23 in F major. Sweet and savory treats, drinks, and will be wine served. Admission is $35. Reservations are required: email trevor@trevorstephenson.com or (608) 238-6092.

House music 2 in the round

By Jacob Stockinger

It happens once every four years.

The contestants for the unusual Gilmore competition,which is based in Kalamazoo, Michigan, for classical pianists don’t even know that they are in the running. Unlike other major competitions like the Tchaikovsky, the Van Cliburn, the Arthur Rubinstein and the Chopin, in the Gilmore the anonymous judges follow an individual’s career over a period of time and then choose the “winner.”

This year’s winner in the polish pianist Rafal Blechacz (below), who has already won the Chopin competition at 20 – the first Polish pianist to do so in 20 years, he also took all the gold medals in individual categories and was so good that no second prize was awarded. He has recorded half a dozen acclaimed CDs of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Debussy, Karol Szymanowski and Claude Debussy and of course Chopin for Deutsche Grammophon.

Rafal Blechacz DG

The year’s recipient has been all over the airwaves and the web, so here is everything you may want to know about Rafal Blechacz plus his inaugural concert as the winner that was streamed live Wednesday night by famed radio station WQXR-FM in New York City, which then archived it for those of who missed the live event.

Here is the official announcement:

http://www.thegilmore.org

Here is an candid and cordial interview done by Tom Huizenga and NPR’s Deceptive Cadence blog that was broadcast on “All Things Considered”:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/01/06/260276435/cachet-and-cash-for-rafa-blechacz-named-2014-gilmore-artist

Here is the announcement in a story in The New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/08/arts/music/rafal-blechacz-is-chosen-for-gilmore-artist-award.html

Archived video of his sold-out concert Wednesday at the Greene Space that can be found at WQXR. No one listed the program even though it was live-streamed – but instead announced the works AFTER they were played.

That is too teasing for my taste, whether it is done on WQXR or on Wisconsin Public Radio. Can we please have the pieces to be played up front before the performance and then again after the performance?

The program included a Chopin waltz (the soulful valse triste in A Minor, Op. 34, No 2) and the two Op. 40 Polonaises the “Military” Polonaise and one in C minor;  the Largo slow movement Beethoven’s Sonata in D, Op. 10, No. 3, and the scherzo from the same composer’s Sonata in A Major, Op. 2, No. 2;  the spirited first movement from Mozart’s Sonata in D Major, K. 311; and Debussy’s “Clair de Lune.”

All works except the Debussy and the Chopin waltz are available on recordings. (But you can hear a YouTube video of Blechacz playing the three waltzes of Op. 64, including the famous “Minute” Waltz, at the bottom.)

In the broadcast, Dan Gustin, head of the Gilmore Foundation, speaks about the unusual award, as does the last 2010 winner Kirill Gerstein, who uses Skype. Here is the link:

http://www.wqxr.org/#!/story/webcast-2014-gilmore-artist-award-announcement/

Some of the Gilmore winners seem to disappoint and peter out. I keep expecting to hear big things from the very talented Argentinian Ingrid Fliter, for example, but no such luck. Rafal Blechacz, on the other hand, seems more likely to follow the path of  Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, who is perhaps the Gilmore winner who has maintained the highest profile and had the biggest career.


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