By Jacob Stockinger
Our friends at the National Summer Cello Institute have informed The Ear about the upcoming programs at the UW-Madison School of Music:
For complete information about “Your Body is Your Strad” Summer Program Events, under artistic director and UW cello professor Uri Vardi, visit www.yourbodyisyourstrad.com
Following the success of five previous seasons, the Your Body is Your Strad summer programs are open for auditors and concert-goers in 2015.
This includes events during the Feldenkrais for All Performers program (May 30-June 3) and the National Summer Cello Institute (May 30-June 12). The programs focus on the connection between body awareness and technical proficiency, artistic expression, effective teaching and injury prevention.
The workshops feature husband-and-wife musicians and Feldenkrais practitioners Uri Vardi and Hagit Vardi (below with a student), with other faculty including Paul Katz of the New England Conservatory and Tim Eddy of the Juilliard School and Mannes Conservatory.
There will also be featured presentations by specialists in Integrative Health, Authentic Performance, Mind-Eye Connection, Stage Anxiety and Improvisation.
All events will take place at the Humanities Building at 455 N. Park St. in Madison, Wisconsin unless noted otherwise.
The following presentations are open for auditors and audience members for a fee of $25:
Saturday, May 30, at 3:15 PM in Morphy Hall: “Master class: focused use of the body” presented by Artistic Director Uri Vardi (below), a performance-based class that focuses on enhancing body awareness through the Feldenkrais method
Sunday, May 31, at 4:30 PM in Morphy Hall: “Seminar with Dr. Deborah Zelinsky: ‘The mind-eye connection'” — presented by Dr. Zelinsky, a specialist of neuro-optometric rehabilitation and visual processing
Monday, June 1, at 2 PM in Morphy Hall: “Master class: focused use of the body” — the second presentation by Artistic Director Uri Vardi, a performance-based class that focuses on enhancing body awareness through the Feldenkrais method
Monday, June 1, at 4:30 PM in Mills Hall: “Seminar with Susan Sweeney: The Imaginative Voice” — presented by Susan Sweeney, Head Voice and Text Coach for the American Players Theatre with extensive coaching experience on an international scale
Tuesday, June 2, at 3:30 PM in Morphy Hall: “Presentation by Dr. Adam Rindfleisch, MD: The Art of Self Care” — presented by Dr. Adam Rindfleisch, MD in the Integrative Medicine Division of the UW Health system
Wednesday, June 3, at 3:30 PM in room 1321: “Seminar with Matt Turner on Improvisation” — presented by Matt Turner, one of the world’s leading improv cellists, who will lead participants in an improv session
Thursday, June 4, at 4 PM in Morphy Hall: “Master class with Paul Katz” — a performance-based master class for participants that will be led by Paul Katz, Professor of Cello at Boston’s New England Conservatory
Friday, June 5, at 2 PM at Capitol Lakes Retirement Center (FREE): “Outreach Concert” — a performance by the participants of the Your Body is Your Strad programs, selected on a national scale through audition
Friday, June 5, at 4:30 PM in Morphy Hall: “Master class: focused use of the body” — the third presentation by Artistic Director Uri Vardi, a performance-based class that focuses on enhancing body awareness through the Feldenkrais method (below is student Micah Cheng, on left, with Uri Vardi)
Friday, June 5, at 8 PM in Mills Hall: “Seminar with Paul Katz” — led by Paul Katz, Professor of Cello at New England Conservatory, who will cover topics of musicianship and wellness
Saturday, June 6, at 9 AM in Morphy Hall: “Master class with Paul Katz” — the second performance-based master class for participants that will be led by Paul Katz, Professor of Cello at Boston’s New England Conservatory
Sunday, June 7, at 2 PM in Morphy Hall: “Master class: focused use of the body” — the fourth presentation by Artistic Director Uri Vardi, a performance-based class that focuses on enhancing body awareness through the Feldenkrais method
Monday, June 8, at 10:15 AM in Morphy Hall: “Master class: focused use of the body” — the fifth and final presentation by Artistic Director Uri Vardi, a performance-based class that focuses on enhancing body awareness through the Feldenkrais method
Tuesday, June 9, at 4:30 PM in Morphy Hall: “Master Class with Tim Eddy” — a performance-based master class for participants that will be led by Tim Eddy (below), Professor of Cello at the Juilliard School and Mannes Conservatory
Wednesday, June 10, at 8 PM in Morphy Hall: “Master Class with Tim Eddy” — the second performance-based master class for participants that will be led by Tim Eddy, Professor of Cello at the Juilliard School and Mannes Conservatory
Thursday, June 11 at 2 PM at Fair Trade Coffee (FREE): “Outreach Concert” — a performance of cello ensembles at the Fair Trade Coffee Shop on State Street
Thursday, June 11 at 8 PM in Mills Hall: “Seminar with Tim Eddy” — led by Tim Eddy, Professor of Cello at the Juilliard School and Mannes Conservatory, who will cover topics related to musicianship and wellness
Friday, June 12 at 8 PM in Mills Hall (FREE): “Final Concert” — the culminating concert of the National Summer Cello Institute, featuring solo performances of the Institute’s talented participants and the NSCI Cello Choir led by Kyle Knox (below).
The program for the final concert is partially set: the first half will be solo performances by participants of the National Summer Cello Institute, and the after intermission will be pieces for the NSCI Cello Choir. The solos will be decided through audition next week, but the rep for the Cello Choir is decided.
The pieces to be included in the public concert (which The Ear heard and loved last year) are:
Johann Sebastian Bach/arr. Akira: Adagio from the C major Sonata for Violin
Astor Piazzolla/arr. Villarejo: “Oblivion” (see the YouTube video at the bottom)
David Popper: Requiem
Kyle Price*: Requiem (movements 4 and 5)
Klengel: Hymnus for 12 cellos
*Kyle Price is the student composer and a Collins Fellow at the UW-Madison School of Music, studying cello as a Masters student with Uri Vardi. He is also an avid composer, and runs a music festival in upstate New York called Caroga Lake. The Requiem to be performed was written in memory of his aunt, a cellist who had attended NSCI in previous summers.
By Jacob Stockinger
Many people are starting to make their summer travel plans.
Those plans could include music festivals, many of which will include the American premiere or even world premiere of a new opera or new chamber music. (Below is Marin Alsop conducting the Cabrillo Festival in Santa Cruz, California, which champions new music.)
Many are well known, such as the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York City, the Bard Music Festival in the Hudson River Valley and the Aspen Festival in Colorado as well as the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina and the Wolf Trap Festival in Virginia, not far from Washington, D.C.
But there are many, many others you may not know.
By Jacob Stockinger
Not a lot of musicians write well. It’s probably because they prefer to let their music-making do their communicating.
But one notable exception is the “minimalist” composer Philip Glass (below), whose new volume of memoirs is being praised for its insights and for its engaging, articulate style. (A good sample of his speaking, composing and playing is in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
Recently, Glass did a 46-minute interview for Terry Gross and her “Fresh Air” program on NPR (National Public Radio.) He discussed his early days composing and performing as well his training with famed French teacher Nadia Boulanger.
The NPR story has the interview plus some highlights from the interview and also some excerpts from the book “Words Without Music.
The Ear thinks that Glass, now 78, emerges as a very thoughtful and perceptive man who is also droll and self-deprecating.
See what you think.
Here is a link to the NPR story:
And here is a highly positive review of the book that appeared in The New York Times:
What do you think of Philip Glass and his music? His memoirs?
The Ear wants to hear.
ALERT: This afternoon at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall is your last chance to hear what may be the best concert of this season by the Madison Symphony Orchestra. The program features UW-Madison virtuoso pianist Christopher Taylor (below) in Keyboard Concerto No. 4 by J.S. Bach and Piano Concerto No. 1 by Hungarian composer Franz Liszt as well as a “landmark” performance of the Late Romantic Austrian composer Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7.
Here is a rave review by John W. Barker, the dean of Madison’s music critics who writes for Isthmus and for this blog:
By Jacob Stockinger
The Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Principal Organist and Curator Samuel Hutchison will mark a decade of memorable performances on the Overture Concert Organ (below) in a recital on this coming Tuesday, April 14, at 7:30 p.m. in Overture Hall, 201 State Street.
The program will include music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Alexander Guilmant, Jehan Alain, Charles-Marie Widor and Charles Villiers Stanford. (You can hear one of the Bach works he will play — the Fantasy and Fugue in G Minor, BWV 542, in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
For the specific works on the program and more information, go to:
Hutchison (below) has presented many recitals in the U.S and in Europe in locations that include the Riverside Church, New York City; St. Paul’s Cathedral, London; and Notre Dame, St. Sulpice and St. Étienne-du-Mont, Paris.
He also performed the complete works of J.S. Bach – himself primarily an organist — in a series of 11 weekly recitals for the 300th anniversary of the composer’s birth in 1985.
Student rush tickets are $10 day of show with a valid student ID see http://www.madisonsymphony.org/studentrush).
This concert is sponsored by Friends of the Overture Concert Organ.
For more Overture Concert Organ information, including recital, hymn sings and community visit http://www.madisonsymphony.org/organseason
By Jacob Stockinger
You may recall that Alan Gilbert (below), the conductor of the New York Philharmonic, surprised the music world when he recently announced he would step down at the end of the 2017 season after only eight seasons on the job.
Speculation about a successor — with Marin Alsop (below top) of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Finnish native Esa-Pekka Salonen (below bottom) former director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, topping the lists — began immediately.
Right now, The Ear leans toward Marin Alsop. It would be great to see a woman in such a high-profile post. It would also be fitting for a protege of Leonard Bernstein to ascend to the podium where American-born and American-trained conductors first made their name. Buy American!
The sensational Venezuelan-born and Venezuelan-trained superstar Gustavo Dudamel (below) seems to have taken himself out of the competition by agreeing to stay longer in LA. But every performer has his or her price, so his story may not yet be over in terms of going to New York.
But Gilbert’s move also raises the issue: What qualities should one look for in a world-class music director and conductor?
These days, it involves a whole lot more than holding the baton and leading the players.
Here is a link to the story:
Read and see what you agree and disagree with.
And also let us know who you think would be a good choice to be the next music director and conductor of the New York Philharmonic.
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
Music critic Andrew Porter, best known in this country for his 20-year tenure at The New Yorker magazine, died in London this week at the age of 86. (Below, he is seen working on “The Magic Flute” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in a Toronto production in 2005.)
In his music reviews for The New Yorker magazine, critic Andrew Porter always seemed a cut above most journalistic critics.
His reviews had enough depth and substance beyond the occasion of the specific performance he was reviewing that they were collected and published in several books — unfortunately many are now out of print — that still provide terrific research possibilities and vindicate his earlier judgments.
Here is a link to a page at amazon.com that lists his essays and libretto translation:
So many of us learned to appreciate classical music in more knowledgeable and sophisticated ways, thanks to Andrew Porter and his wealth of detailed knowledge as well as his superior writing style. (Below, you can see Andrew Porter in the 1970s.)
But I had no idea of his really erudite sides — including his command of several languages and his extensive involvement in the actual performances of music, especially translating opera librettos — until I read his obituaries.
Here is a sampling of the memorial essays about a critic who will go down as one of the greatest critics ever.
Here is a story from The New York Times:
And here is a story, with great background and details, from The Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom where Porter — seen below in 1992 in a photo by Jane Bown — lived in London since retiring from the New Yorker:
By Jacob Stockinger
Yesterday brought an event The Ear has long been waiting for: The opening at Sundance Cinemas of Ethan Hawke’s 80-minute documentary film about the 81-year-old New York City-based pianist, writer and teacher Seymour Bernstein (below).
Bernstein, you might have heard, was a child prodigy and critically acclaimed adult concert artist who, beset by stage fright plus other mid-life crisis-like thoughts, at 50 decided to drop out of the concert life to devote himself to teaching, composing and writing.
Famed actor Ethan Hawke (below left, with Bernstein), who has also struggled with stage fright, met Bernstein at a dinner party and decided to make a movie about this extraordinary man. (At the bottom in a YouTube video you can hear Bernstein play a lovely and well-known Intermezzo in A major — Op. 118, No. 2 — by Johannes Brahms for his new friend Hawke at a tribute during the New York Film Festival.)
And by all standards, the film is an outstanding success.
For example, it gets a rating of 100 percent from the public website Rotten Tomatoes.
I don’t think I have ever seen a 100 percent rating at that particular website.
Yet it is not surprising.
The professional critics for major media are indeed no less unanimous in their praise than is the general public.
I offer proof. Here are samples, each of which touches on certain specific aspects of the film, but all of which praise the film unequivocally:
First, here is a previous post from this blog. It whetted my appetite and maybe yours:
Here is the backstory about Ethan Hawke and Seymour Bernstein from The New York Times:
And here is a five-star review from The New York Times:
Here is another five-star review from Roger Ebert’s website:
“Seymour” also gets high praise from The Wall Street Journal:
And from Rolling Stone magazine:
And here is one from The Denver Post that I like and expect you will too:
That should be plenty to convince you to go see “Seymour: An Introduction.” I don’t know how long it is scheduled to play at Sundance. But if enough people go and see it, it may be kept there for another week or two.
Then The Ear could see it twice.
By Jacob Stockinger
But it is hard to find a better researched or more detailed account of what is going on than the account that was written by the journalist James B. Stewart and appeared in the March 23 issue of The New Yorker magazine.
A graduate of the Harvard University Law School, Stewart (below), you may recall, is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal and currently a columnist for the New York Times. He has also written best-selling books. Such qualifications give him added credibility when reporting on the fiscal state of the arts.
Plus, Stewart got access to documents and records as well as to members of the board of directors. His account is filled with specific details about costs and fundraising that are convincing.
The discrepancy, for example, between what the Met said was the official cost of its recent and controversial “Ring” cycle (below) by Robert Lepage of Cirque du Soleil and what others say it cost is both astonishing and appalling.
In an interview with Jim Zirin, Peter Gelb defends himself and his tenure in a YouTube video at the bottom.
To The Ear, the larger question is whether some of the same criticisms apply to other large performing arts groups, opera companies and symphony orchestras in other cities.
But that is another story for another day.
Here is a link to the story about the Met by James B. Stewart:
By Jacob Stockinger
That is the touchy question that was taken up last week by The New York Times senior music critic Anthony Tommasini in his opening night review of Domingo’s performance in the role of the King of Spain Don Carlo (below, in a photo by Sara Krulwich for The New York Times) in the opera by Giuseppe Verdi “Ernani,” which was based on the play “Hernani” by French writer Victor Hugo.
The production of “Ernani” is taking place at the Metropolitan Opera – hardly a strange stage to the veteran Domingo, who is now 74. James Levine led the orchestra. And Tommasini offered quite specific criticisms to back up his opinion about Domingo.
Here is a link to the review:
Read it and weigh in with your own opinion about whether it is time for the great Placido Domingo to retire.
The Ear wants to hear.
1) In case you don’t already know them, here are the results of last night’s Final Forte: First Prize went to violinist Julian Rhee; Second Prize went to pianist Vivian Wilhelms; and Honorable Mentions went to harpist Maya Pierick and pianist Isabella Wu.
Here is a link to a complete story about the high school concerto competition:
2) This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, to be held from 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the Landmark Auditorium of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Meeting House of the First Unitarian Society of Madison at 900 University Bay Drive, will feature soprano Consuelo Sanudo (below) and pianist Jeff Gibbens who will perform music by Henri Duparc, Claude Debussy, Arnold Schoenberg and Franz Schubert.
By Jacob Stockinger
It has really been a busy past couple of weeks, with so many concerts that The Ear couldn’t even preview all of them. So it’s time to catch up and offer some critical appraisals of what I heard.
Let me begin with some background.
The supremely gifted, articulate and critically acclaimed American pianist Jeremy Denk, who has performed two solo recitals in Madison for the Wisconsin Union Theater, is fond of saying the he strives to make music sound as radical today as it was when it was first composed and first heard.
There is wisdom in that approach, which balances out the other great movement of the 20th-century that opened up our ears to another kind of difference. I am referring to the use of period instruments and historically informed performance practices to recapture how the music originally sounded.
But lately I had two examples that showed me just how exciting such an established “museum” composer as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (below) can be if made to sound and look contemporary and radical to our modern ears without going backwards.
The two examples I have in mind are from recent performances of late works, when Mozart was in full command of his art: The opera “The Magic Flute” as presented by University Opera under the guest stage director David Ronis, who hails from New York City and teaches at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College and the City University of New York as well as at Hofstra University; and the well-known penultimate Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, K. 550, as performed by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra under Andrew Sewell.
THE MAGIC FLUTE
The award-winning David Ronis did several things to The Magic Flute that The Ear really liked and found effective.
He made some judicious cuts in an otherwise overlong work.
He used surtitles for the German text.
He used spoken contemporary vernacular English for the dialogue. That not only made the opera understandable, but also lent drive to push it along and give it momentum as well as contemporaneity.
Most of all, Ronis also used cinematic Bollywood-like dance gestures and choreography (below, in photos by Michael R. Anderson) – along with the bright fusion of East-West hybrid costumes and sets that added such movement and energy, color and humor, to the score.
I mean, don’t we see enough of opera singers just standing still, arms outstretched, with only their mouths moving?
Of course, some people and critics did not like the changes, and found them downright treasonous and disrespectful or just plain wrong.
Silly them. The Ear says the updating worked just fine. Great art is there to experiment with, not just depict. Art lives in time. It is why director Peter Sellars is such a forceful and creative influence in the world of classical music. If only classical music could be less classical and more musical! Entertainment is nothing to be ashamed of. It is, after all, why the performing arts exist.
I also think the changes are one reason why there were four sold-out performances -– not just the usual three -– and why I saw so many young people in the audience. It was, in short, a fun production.
To my eyes and ears, this production — coupled with his production of Benjamin Britten‘s “Albert Herring” in the fall — showed what a smart move it would be to hire David Ronis (below, in a photo by Luke DeLalio) full-time to lead the University Opera. He clearly knows how to get the best out of students, has a very personal artistic vision and is willing to shake things up – which both we and The Great Artists such as Mozart can use.
THE BIG G-MINOR SYMPHONY
As for the Mozart symphony – the big late one in G minor not the little early one — it was just part of an outstanding concert turned in by Sewell and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra with the impressive guest cellist Amit Peled (below) and his unbelievably resonant cello that belonged to and was played by Pablo Casals. Together, man and instrument justifiably brought down the house.
But other parts of the program, which included works by Frank Bridge and David Popper, should not be overlooked or underestimated.
Conductor Andrew Sewell (below) has long demonstrated his ability to work with such Classical-era composers as Franz Joseph Haydn and Mozart as well as Franz Schubert and Ludwig van Beethoven. And here, in a very familiar work, you could hear why.
While Mozart was one of music’s great melodists, Sewell’s interpretation emphasized tempo, rhythm and repetitive motifs even as he brought out the various voices, counterpoint and melodic lines.
This Mozart had drive and pep. (You can hear the familiar first movement, with an interesting abstract graph profile, in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
In fact, the third Minuet movement sounded downright modern – a kind of percussive precursor to minimalism.
This was exciting Mozart, far from the genteel and primly elegant and blandly pleasant Mozart that The Ear refers to as Music-Box Mozart.
This playing by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below) was precise and dramatic. It made you sit up and take notice. It engaged you.
It also showed why Mozart was such an exception to his age –- why his contemporaries and those who followed him so revered his talent and music. He was a radical in his day but we often overlook how he pushed the boundaries of music closer to modernism.
So The Ear offers shout-outs and hearty thanks to both David Ronis and Andrew Sewell for helping us to hear Mozart once again as a contemporary — not just a statically beautiful blast from the past.
Both cases proved to be an exciting and unforgettable experience. The Ear hopes we are in for more of them, particularly in Mozart’s symphonies and piano concertos.
Did you hear the opera and/or the symphony?
What did you think of the approaches to Mozart?
The Ear wants to hear.