The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Ear gets totally immersed in two-piano music by the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, and loves it. Now he looks forward to “drowning” this weekend in European concertos and South American tangos, then piano trios and works for piano, four-hands.

June 18, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear thinks of it as the Berlitz Method of learning a language, only applied to music.

It’s called “Total Immersion.”

Each June, the Madison-based chamber music ensemble the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society always offers a lot of variety of outstanding music over three weekends, each featuring two different programs in three different venues. (This year’s theme, for the 23rd annual season is “23 Skiddoo.”)

23Skiddoo logo

But one thing I especially look forward to is that usually there is a chance to immerse yourself in a special style or genre or sub-category that you often don’t hear. That allows for added enjoyment and informative comparisons.

This summer’s immersion started this past opening weekend. This coming weekend and the weekend after that promise an immersion in Western European classics, especially concertos, and in Latin American music, especially Argentinian tangos.

For more details and information, including programs and tickets, visit:

www.bachdancinganddynamite.org

Some of that kind of immersion stems from the BDDS programming philosophy. Some of it probably also comes from the fact that BDDS hires guest artists for a weeklong stint and so must seek out repertoire to spotlight them.

In any case, this is the summer not only of Latin American music but also of two-piano works.
This is not to say I didn’t love the outstanding performance of Claude Debussy’s sublime Violin Sonata, his last work, by New York violinist Yura Lee (below) because I did.

Yura Lee in Debussy Sonata BDDS 2014

And I also liked the BDDS debut of Icelandic soprano Disilla Larusdottir (below) in her superb readings of “Five Popular Greek Melodies” by Maurice Ravel and especially contemporary American composer Aaron Jay Kernis’ Renaissance-based “L’arte della danssar” (“The Art of the Dance,” 2011).

Disella Larusdottir at TRaliesin BDDS 2014

I also thoroughly enjoyed the vivacious and captivating Introduction and Allegro for Flute and Piano by Carlos Guastavino with BDDS co-founder and co-artistic director Stephanie Jutt (below), who is also principal flute of the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

Stephanie Jutt in Gustavino at Taliesin BDDS 2014

Personally, The Ear is generally less enthusiastic about harp music, so the Celtic-themed sonata by Arnold Bax left him feeling half-hungry, despite a terrific performance (below) by Stephanie Jutt and the gifted guest harpist Heidi Krutzen. Even the Quartet by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach struck me as not especially inspired, but rather a pretty run-of-the-mill Classical work that, despite a fine performance, has charms but not genius.

Heidi Krutzen at Taliesin BDDS 2014

Stephanie jutt and Heidi Krutzen in Arnold Bax sonata BDDS 2014

To The Ear, the true stand-outs stand-outs of the first weekend were Jeffrey Sykes, the pianist who co-founded and co-directs the BDDS  with Jutt and who teaches at the University of California-Berkley; and guest piano virtuoso and Van Cliburn Competition prizewinner Christopher Taylor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, who has a national and international reputation.

jeffrey sykes

ChristopherTaylorNoCredit

And The Ear, himself a devoted amateur pianist, sure got an earful of great, first-class piano playing through four very difficult works for two pianos.

Such concerts are not easy to stage. To get two pianos on stage at The Playhouse in the Overture Center and the Hillside Theater famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin compound in Spring Green involves a lot of difficult and expensive logistics.

But it was done, and the results were terrific.

Critic John W. Barker thought so too. Here is a link to his review for Isthmus:

http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=42978&sid=2d270176d08b03b104e01230f4e31d17

Two PIanos at Taliesin BDDS 2014

As almost always happens with BDDS, there were pleasant surprises.

I really didn’t think I would love Maurice Ravel’s popular and over-programmed “Bolero.”

But I did.

Jeffrey Sykes was completely right when he said that the two-piano version is drier and more modernistic, more like the work of Igor Stravinsky, than the better-known orchestral version, which has its more old-fashioned charms and colors as the melody bounces less percussively around various sections. (You can see for yourself in a YouTube video at the bottom. Let me know if you agree or disagree.)

On the other hand, it was something to see the insistent rhythms make the always physical and impressively dynamic Christopher Taylor  (below) rock out and to watch how a single repetitive note gradually worked up to five-finger chords.

Christopher Taylor rocks out

There was 20th-century Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski’s biting and percussive Variations on the famous theme by Niccolo Paganini that was also used by Franz Liszt, Johannes Brahms and Sergei Rachmaninoff.

There was Ravel’s “La Valse,” a grandly elegant and overblown nostalgia trip to the society embodied by the waltz as it came to its chaotic end in World War I.

And in the end there were Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances, his last composition that is filled with luscious melodies, infectious rhythms, unusual harmonies and astonishingly virtuosic and precise playing. (The two-piano version was premiered by Rachmaninoff himself and Vladimir Horowitz. Now THAT would have been something to hear and see!)

Jeffrey Sykes and Christopher Taylor at Taliesin BDDS 2014

Now the two-piano part of the BDDS season is over. But The Ear can’t wait for this coming weekend, which will bring a Concerto for Two Cellos by Antonio Vivaldi as well as the lovely Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart plus the great Clarinet Trio by Johannes Brahms and selected tangos by Astor Piazzolla with tango pianist Pablo Zinger (below), who performed with Piazzolla’s band, from Argentina.

Pablo Zinger at piano

During the week there will be piano trios by Dmitri Shostakovich and Antonin Dvorak and performed by the exceptional San Francisco Trio; more tangos by Piazzolla; and works for one piano-four hands by Darius Milhaud and William Hirtz with Sykes and frequent guest pianist Randall Hodgkinson, who teaches at the New England Conservatory of Music.

San Francisco Trio 1

Randall Hodgekinson 1

The Ear intends not to miss any of the four programs in the two coming weekends. And neither should you.

They mean more immersion, even if it is not quite as total.


Classical music: NEWS FLASH — Here are the winners of the Madison Early Music Festival’s first annual Handel Aria Competition. The Madison Symphony Orchestra bestows awards on several of its outstanding musician members.

July 9, 2013
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NEWS FLASH: On Monday night, the first FREE annual Handel Aria Competition was held in Mills Hall as part of the 14th annual Madison Early Music Festival. I will blog about the contest more on Wednesday. But here are the results as decided by the three judges (guest singers soprano Ellen Hargis and tenor William Hudson, plus local music critic and UW Emeritus Profess of Medieval History John W. Barker) and also by the audience. There were eight contestants (below top) and all acquitted themselves very well. First Prize went to mezzo-soprano Elisa Sutherland (third from the right); Second Prize went to soprano Alison Wahl (far left); and Third Prize went to soprano Winnie Nieh (second from the right) who also took home the Audience Prize. (An early version of this mistakenly reversed the second-place and third-place winners. I apologize for the error.)

Handel aria contestants MEMF 14

The festival continues tonight with a pre-concert lecture at 6:30 p.m. in Room L-160 of the Elvehjem Building of the nearby Chazen Museum of Art with a concert  at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall by The Dark Horse consort (below) joined by UW baritone Paul Rowe and soprano Cheryl Bensman Rowe, who are co-artistic directors of the festival. For more information, visit: http://continuingstudies.wisc.edu/lsa/memf/

Dark Horse Early Brass Consort CR  Tatiana Daubek

By Jacob Stockinger

We read, see and hear a lot about the turmoil that many American symphony orchestras are unfortunate;y going through right now – especially labor strife, growing debt and attendance problems.

So positive word about the internal affairs of a specific orchestra is all the more welcome. It is refreshing to hear news about the musicians as well as the maestro.

In that spirit, the Madison Symphony Orchestra last month recognized some of its own outstanding musician members, both paid and volunteer,  for their contributions to the ensemble. Some or even all of  them will no doubt be performing at the Madison Opera’s 12th annual FREE “Opera in the Park” (below) this Saturday night at 8 p.m. (Sunday is the rain date) in Garner Park on Madison’s far west side.

Here is a link to information about that event, from dates and times to performers and the program and even to  arrangements and rules for sitting outdoors in the park and eating:

http://www.madisonopera.org/performances-2012-2013/park/

Opera in Park 2012 crowd 2 James Gill

And here is a link to the Madison Symphony Orchestra and its next season, which will marks music director John DeMain’s 20th year with the MSO. You can also find biographies of the players, including those who are honored below:

http://madisonsymphony.org

Here is the MSO press release:

Madison Symphony Orchestra Recognizes Local Musicians

Local musicians received prestigious awards from the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s (MSO) Board of Directors at its June meeting in recognition of their musical contributions.

Margaret Rupp Cooper Award

The Margaret Rupp Cooper Award is presented in honor of the Symphony’s original harpist, who performed in the first concert in 1926 through the 50th anniversary season.  The award is presented annually to two orchestra members based upon years of service, commitment to the orchestra, and musicianship.  This year’s awardees were Stephanie Jutt, MSO principal flute, and Bill Muir, MSO fourth horn.

Stephanie Jutt (below) is an accomplished international flute performer, recording artist, and educator.  She is currently on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and co-produces the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society summer music festival each summer in which she performs. Jutt has received numerous awards and is a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music.

StephanieJuttNoCredit

In addition to fourth horn duties with the MSO, Bill Muir is also a member of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and Artemis Horn Quartet.  He earned his bachelor’s degree in music education from St. Olaf College and a master of music degree in horn performance from the UW-Madison.

MSO Brass Bill Muir

Marie Spec Award

The Marie Spec Award honors the Symphony’s long-time first violinist, who also played in the first performance in 1926.  The award consists of a fund that provides both the concertmaster and Madison Symphony Chorus accompanist with an annual bonus.  MSO Concertmaster violinist Naha Greenholtz and Chorus Accompanist pianist Dan Lyons received this year’s award.

Naha Greenholtz (below) has now completed her second season as concertmaster with the MSO.  A graduate of Juilliard and winner of the prestigious Concertmaster Academy Fellowship at Cleveland State University, she has held numerous concertmaster positions and has participated in music festivals as both a performer and music director.

Naha Greenholtz profile

A Chicago native, Dan Lyons (below) holds performance degrees from DePaul University and a doctoral performance degree from University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he studied with Howard Karp. He has performed solo, concerto and chamber recitals throughout the Midwest. In addition to serving as the accompanist and chorus manager for Madison Symphony Chorus, he maintains a private teaching studio and continues to accompany throughout the Madison area.

Dan Lyons

Ann Stanke Award

The Ann Stanke Award is presented in honor of the former Madison Symphony Chorus accompanist and manager for her years of excellent service.  This year’s award was presented to chorus member Bennette Harris.

Bennette Harris (below) has been singing with the Madison Symphony Chorus for five years, along with his wife, Susan, and daughter, Emily.  Bennette retired from UW-Whitewater in 2011 after 29 years on the faculty in the mathematical and computer sciences department.  He is currently working as a UNIX engineer with EPIC in Verona.

bennetteharris

The MSO will mark its 88th concert season in 2013-2014 by celebrating the 20th anniversary of John DeMain (below) as music director. The Madison Symphony Orchestra engages a wide range of audiences in classical music through a full season of concerts with established and emerging soloists of international renown, an organ concert series, and diverse educational and community outreach activities.

Find more information at www.madisonsymphony.org

John DeMain full face by Prasad


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

December 15, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

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

ChristopherTaylorNoCredit

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

PAQ and Christopher Taylor Bolcom Piano Quintet 2

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

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

Olivier Messiaen#1#

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Strini

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Classical music: Here are 7 reasons why Madison’s Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society is Big League and The Ear can’t wait for their next season.

July 3, 2012
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A REMINDER: Tonight (July 3) at 7 p.m. in Olbrich Gardens, on Madison’s far east side, the Youth Orchestra (below) of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras, will perform a free concert. (A $1 donation is suggested to benefit the gardens.) The concert is a preview of the group’s concert tour to Vienna, Prague and Budapest July 7-17.

By Jacob Stockinger

Every fall, concert-goers look forward to the opening of The New Season by such big-name local classical music groups as the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Madison Opera, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Wisconsin Union Theater and the University of Wisconsin School of Music – to name just a few of the most prominent.

Over many years, those seasons have become recognizable landmarks in our cultural landscape.

But more than ever, The Ear is convinced that that same kind of reception, that same excitement and anticipation, should await the annual three-week summer season of Madison’s Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society (below, pianist Jeffrey Sykes, violinist Axel Strauss and cellist Jean-Michel Fonteneau perform Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 2 in C Minor ).

With no more than six or eight players on the stage at any one time, BDDS is a small group that makes big and beautiful music.

Between June 15 and July 1, BDDS played six programs in four different venues, and once again proved remarkable for the quality of its programs, performers, performances, venues and audiences.

Everything it did showed that BDDS is indeed Big League, despite being a modestly sized chamber music ensemble and despite performing after the close of the main concert season and the arrival of The Heat of Summer.

So after thinking about the four programs I heard in the past three weeks, let me offer seven reasons why BDDS deserves gets my respect and support, and deserves yours. (You can help by attending, but also by going to the donation site www.power2give.org  and to BDDS’ home page: www.bachdancinganddynamite.org)

1. BDDS takes chances and risks, and so succeeds in allowing listeners to have fun with serious music. Their enthusiasm is contagious.

BDDS advertises itself as offering “Chamber Music with a Bang.” And they mean it.

Sometimes they do it through sheer affability and cordiality. Sometimes they do it through the doors prizes, which this season ran from a gift card for cocktails to homemade pies. Sometimes they use an unusual Mystery Guest like the Yiddish singer Henry Saposnik or the Madison Hoop Team or a black leather jacket cello duo (below) furiously playing a Michael Jackson song.

But even the music they play takes chances. BDDS did its own arrangement (below) of Stravinsky’s popular and jauntily tuneful neo-Classical “Suite Italienne” or “Pucinella Suite,” which is normally heard in a violin and piano arrangement. They used eight players and turned it into a kind of modern-day Brandenburg Concerto, a Baroque concerto grosso in which each “section” or individual got a chance to show off – including twirling two cellos and mixing the modern grand piano and the harpsichord in the same program. Guess what? It all worked superbly. And it is completely within the aesthetic that Stravinsky was shooting for. Igor would be pleased.

2. BDDS gets you to hear music you otherwise wouldn’t hear.

There were many examples this season. Some of my favorites are the orchestral miniatures. They included Salomon’s chamber arrangements of Haydn’s late symphonies, of which they have done three out of 12. (This year’s offering, below, was Symphony No. 85, “La Reine.”) Then there was the Hummel’s similar arrangement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto in D minor. And when was the last time you heard a complete Couperin Suite?

3. BDDS plays masterpieces masterfully. All the untraditional shtick and stuff could serve to compensate for other shortcomings. But that is decidedly NOT the case with the BDDS. If you heard the BDDS perform Schubert’s sublime Cello Quintet or Brahms’ driving Piano Quintet in F Minor (below), you heard fiery and committed as well as subtle performances that rival or surpass any performances you will hear live and even recorded.

BDDS doesn’t need to rely on gimmicks or make any excuses. Just because it chooses to stray from the beaten path doesn’t mean it isn’t a first-rate guide to take you down that beaten path and let you see – and hear – new things about old and familiar music.

4. BDDS takes the music – NOT themselves – seriously and teaches the audience new things.

We went to hear the rarely performed “The Apotheosis of Lully” by Couperin, and ended up getting a mini-lesson in the French Baroque style versus the Italian Baroque style. And pianist Jeffrey Sykes hammed it up just right as the pseudo-pious narrator (below left). The audience listened, laughed and learned.

5. BDDS gets away from the celebrity culture of the contemporary classical music scene and brings us great artists from outside whose names are unknown.

Sure, you can pay $100 or more to hear superstar violinist Itzhak Perlman or cellist Yo-Yo Ma. But I’ll take BDDS. I don’t think any local group does a better job of finding and presenting low-profile but absolutely first-rate musicians than BDDS.

Here are some examples: Harpsichordist Layton James (below) was the principal harpsichordist of the renowned St. Paul Chamber Orchestra for an astonishing 41 years (1969-2010). Animated violinist Carmit Zori founded and directs the Brooklyn, New York Chamber Music Society. San Francisco-based violinist Axel Strauss and cellist Jean-Michel Fonteneau joined pianist Jeffrey Sykes in piano trios performances that are consistently outstanding. Percussionists Dane Richeson (from Lawrence University in Appleton) is as interesting and accomplished to me as the world-famous Evelyn Glennie. And you won’t find a better piano partner than Randall Hodgkinson from the New England Conservatory of music.

And this year The Ear finally got his wish: To hear BDDS co-founder and co-director pianist Jeffrey Sykes (below) perform a solo work, Haydn’s Piano Sonata No. 49. There is no better ensemble pianist than Sykes, but I hope we get to hear him in some solos again in future seasons.

6. BDDS is refreshingly unapologetic and candid in its down-to-earth approach. Because they have fun, we feel we can have fun.

Co-founder and co-director flutist Stephanie Jutt publicly admitted one night that she herself gets bored when she goes to concerts and all there is to watch are the musicians. Wow! She is just like a lot us!

So BDDS commissions on-stage installations and backgrounds to maintain audience interest. They get local artists from the UW-Madison — Carolyn Kallenborn, Teresa Getty and Michael Villequette – to design and construct wondrously beautiful and inexpensive sets of that can be subtlety changed with lights, with little trinkets like plastic glasses and cut-outs, and with pieces of abstract dyed fabric to match different concerts, different moods and different works. The effect is original, welcoming and civilized.

7. BDDS is militantly eclectic and likes to mix it up. You won’t find purism or snobbery here!

Consider just the range of repertoire: from the 18th century, they played works by Couperin, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven; from the 19th century, works by Schubert, Mendelssohn, Brahms and Tchaikovsky; from the 20th century, works by Bartok, Barber, Bernstein, Rorem, Jolivet and Stravinsky; and from the 21st century, a piece by Kenji Bunch.

Put it all together and you realize that, as I said in another recent post, when you go to one BDDS concert, you always end up wanting to hear others.

I can’t wait for next June and BDDS’ 22nd season next summer.

And neither should you.

Do you have COMMENTS to leave about any BDDS programs you heard this season?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: You don’t have to be a drinker to savor the musical cocktails that the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society will serve up this weekend to close its 21st summer season.

June 28, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

It’s closing time!

At least it is for the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society and for its many fans and friends who this weekend will see the summer chamber music ensemble bring the curtain down on its 21st season.

The playful Mixology theme will take the group to the restored Stoughton Opera House (below) – where it will be taped by Wisconsin Public Television on Friday night; The Playhouse in the Overture Center on Saturday night, and the Hillside Theatre at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin compound in Spring Green on Sunday afternoon and Sunday evening. (Tonight at 7:30 p.m., the BDDS will also perform in Thresher Hall at the Green Lake Music Festival in Rip0n.)

Most appealing of all is the repertoire. The two programs offer wonderful contrasts. The “Kir Royale” program (champagne with a touch of black currant liqueur) features “noble” and “aristocratic” works: a Baroque dance suite by Couperin; a chamber version of Haydn’s Classical-era Symphony No. 85 “La Reine” (The Queen, written for Marie-Antoinette, below); and Schubert’s sublime and other-worldly Cello Quintet, perhaps the greatest single piece of chamber music ever composed.

The second program features the “Old Fashioned,” that is – composers who were thought staid or backward looking in their day but are now seen as forward-looking and original. Those works include Igor Stravsinky’s 20th-century Neo-Classical dance suite “Suite Italienne”; Francois Couperin’s “The Apotheosis of Lully” written in 1725; and the titan of Romantic traditionalism by the successor of Bach and Beethoven, Brahms (below) as expressed through his masterpiece the Piano Quintet in F minor.

Add in the guest artists, including harpsichordist Layton James (below), Minnesota Orchestra cellist Anthony Ross and New York violinist Carmit Zori, and The Ear thinks unforgettable treats are waiting.

These are all wonderful works, sure to be given energetic performances and not to be missed.

Of course the whole BDDS season, done in six program and three venues over three weeks, have been that way.

Last weekend, for example, was the nearly sold-out “Manhattan” program, which served up delicious Big Apple concoctions by Leonard Bernstein (“Symphonic Dances from West Side Story” arranged for two pianos and percussion); Ned Rorem (his Flute Trio); Samuel Barber (his gorgeous neo-Romantic Cello Sonata, below); and Astor Piazzolla (three tangos), who learned much of about jazz from his time in Manhattan clubs before returning to his native Argentina.

The superlative guest artists included two percussionists (Lawrence University’s Dane Richeson and UW-Madison’s Tony Di Sanza, both unfortunately concealed from much of the Playhouse audience by the piano lids) plus a local cellist (UW’s Parry Karp) and a guest pianist (Randall Hodgkinson from the New England Conservatory of Music) joined BDDS’s co-founders and co-directors flutist Stephanie Jutt and pianist Jeffrey Sykes. And the hilarious Mystery Guests were two comical bartenders – one for torso and head, the other for hands – who concocted an actual Manhattan (below) to loud applause and riotous laughter.

I am not alone in my praise for it. Here is a link to Greg Hettmansberger’s review of the “Manhattan” program for Madison Magazine and his blog Classical Speaking;

http://www.madisonmagazine.com/Blogs/Classically-Speaking/June-2012/Bach-Dancing-and-Dynamite-Says-Well-Take-Manhattan/

I suppose I should wait until after the coming weekend before speculating about the next season. But you can’t help but wonder: What will be the theme for BDDS’ 22nd season – maybe duets and quartets, maybe animals (as in Noah’s Ark and two-by-twos).

Whatever it is, you have to believe it will be yet another remarkable summer season.

For more information about this weekend, including program notes, ticket prices and reservations, and player biographies, visit:

http://www.bachdancinganddynamite.org/schedule.html

In the meantime:

Bottoms up and cheers!

To your health, BDDS!

A Toast and a Thank You!

You make it an intoxicating summer, no matter what theme and music you choose.


Classical music: University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Christopher Taylor will be the only pianist to play next season at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. But this month he performs in Perm, Russia and in August in Sarajevo.

May 7, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

Two weeks ago, buried in a New York Times review by Anthony Tommasini of a recital by the Turkish pianist Fazil Say – the only solo pianist to perform at the Metropolitan Museum of Art recital series this reason — was news of local interest:

Christopher Taylor, the well-known and widely acclaimed University of Wisconsin-Madison professor and piano virtuoso, will be the ONLY solo pianist on the concert schedule next season at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Here is a link to The New York Times story about Taylor and the Met:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/23/arts/music/fazil-say-at-the-metropolitan-museum.html

Taylor (below) is known for his advocacy of new and modern music. This past semester, he performed the world premiere of William Bolcom’s Piano Quintet No. 2 with the Pro Arte String Quartet, as part of the Pro Arte’s centennial season. He will record that work with the Pro Arte this spring.

At the Met, Taylor – who graduated summa cum laude from Harvard in theoretical mathematics while pursuing piano studies with Russell Sherman at the New England Conservatory of Music — was described as “brilliant” and “brainy” in the Times review.

Taylor — who won the bronze medal at the Van Cliburn International Competition in 1993 — will play one of his specialties: The very long and very difficult work “Vingt Regards sur l’enfant Jesus” (Twenty Meditations on the Infant Jesus) by the French composer Olivier Messiaen (below). The performance — only Tuesday, Dec. 11, at 7 p.m. — will be themed to the holiday season and held near the Met’s Medieval Sculpture Hall.

Taylor performed the same work before in New York City in February of 2001, and the same New York Times senior music critic Anthony Tommasini called it one of the 10 best concerts of the year. And that is against some pretty stiff competition. (A sample is at bottom.)

If you are interested in attending, here is a link with information about tickets and the ocncert:

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

As I recall, Taylor has played parts of the same work in Madison but not the whole series straight through and from memory – an impressive feat, indeed.

Also of related interest: The busy Taylor will NOT be performing at this summer’s Aspen Festival, as he often does.

But he will be busy nonetheless.

Instead he will do a week-long concert tour to distant Russian industrial city of Perm, Russia, near Siberia – it takes some 11 hours to fly the 4,500 miles one-way — where he will play May 17-24.

He has a solo recital of Messiaen’s “Vingt Regards” plus a joint recital a few days later in which his  contribution will be some of the Messiaen; J.S. Bach’s Duetto in A minor; Schumann’s “The Prophet Bird” from the late “Forest Scenes”; and the Ligeti etude “Autumn in Warsaw.” Then there will also be a performance of a new work called “Gereven” by Vladimir Nikolaev, which is scored for an ensemble similar to the one used in Stravinsky’s “Les Noces.”

Then in late August, Taylor will travel to Sarajevo (below) – dates are not fixed yet – to perform a solo recital with the last Schubert Sonata in B flat major, D. 960, and the second book of Brahms’ “Paganini” Etudes plus some chamber music.

The Ear would love to hear Taylor perform that same program here, maybe with some his exceptional Bach thrown in – some duets or a partita: Bach and Brahms, then Schubert. Could it get better?


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