The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Prize-winning composer John Harbison has turned 80. In February, Madison will see many celebrations of his birthday, starting this Friday night with the Imani Winds

January 30, 2019
Leave a Comment

IF YOU LIKE A CERTAIN BLOG POST, PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD. FORWARD A LINK TO IT OR, SHARE or TAG IT (not just “Like” it) ON FACEBOOK. Performers can use the extra exposure to draw potential audience members to an event.

By Jacob Stockinger

This Friday night, Feb. 1, a month-long celebration in Madison of the 80th birthday of critically acclaimed and prize-winning composer John Harbison (below) gets underway.

The festivities start with a concert by the Grammy-nominated Imani Winds (below), which will perform this Friday night at 7:30 p.m. – with a pre-concert lecture at 6 p.m. — in Shannon Hall at the Wisconsin Union Theater. The program includes Harbison’s popular Wind Quintet.

Here is a link with more information about the group, the program and tickets: https://union.wisc.edu/events-and-activities/event-calendar/event/imani-winds/

Among America’s most distinguished artistic figures, Harbison is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, among them a MacArthur ”genius grant’ and a Pulitzer Prize. His work encompasses all genres, from chamber music to opera, sacred to secular. (You can hear Harbison discuss his approach to composing in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

He has composed for most of America’s premiere musical institutions, including the Metropolitan Opera, the symphony orchestras of Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle and New York; and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival.

Institute Professor at MIT, Harbison serves as composer, conductor, performer, teacher and scholar. He divides his time between Cambridge, Mass., and Token Creek, Wis., where he co-founded and co-directs a summer chamber music festival with his violinist wife Rose Mary Harbison.

Other local birthday events include a performance by the Madison Symphony Orchestra; several chamber music and choral concerts at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, including one by the Mosaic Chamber Players; an exhibition of books and manuscripts at the Mills Music Library at UW-Madison’s Memorial Library.

There are also several concerts, including the world premiere of a new Sonata for Viola, and a composer residency at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music; and the world premiere of a new motet by the Madison Choral Project.

Harbison will also be featured in radio interviews and broadcast retrospectives by both Wisconsin Public Radio and WORT community radio.

National and international celebrations include other world premieres of commissions, many new recordings and the publication of Harbison’s autobiographical book about Johann Sebastian Bach, “What Do We Make of Bach?”

For more details about the many local celebrations, you can go to the following two links. Schedules, programs and updates – events are subject to change — will be posted at www.tokencreekfestival.org and www.johnharbison.com.

To receive “Harbison Occasions,” an intermittent e-newsletter, write to arsnova.artsmanagement@gmail.com


Posted in Classical music
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Classical music: Here are four for the Fourth.

July 4, 2015
Leave a Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

Yesterday The Ear asked readers for suggestions about classical music that would be appropriate to post and play today, which is Independence Day or the Fourth of July.

American Flag

TETRRF-00024113-001

I got some good answers.

Some of the suggestions were great music but seemed inappropriate like “On the Transmigration of Souls” by the contemporary American composer John Adams. It won the Pulitzer Prize. But it deals with the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and strikes The Ear as a bit grim for this holiday.

So, here are four others for The Fourth:

Ann Boyer suggested the Variations on “America” by Charles Ives, who was certainly an American and a Yankee original. The original scoring for organ was transcribed for orchestra by the well-known American composer William Schuman and it is performed below in a YouTube video by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the baton of the famous composer-arranger Morton Gould, who seems to specialize in Americana:

Tim Adrianson suggested Aaron Copland’s great Third Symphony. It is long but the most famous part of the symphony is “Fanfare for the Common Man,” played here by Metropolitan Opera artistic director James Levine and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. And that seems a perfectly fitting piece of music to celebrate the birth of American democracy:

Reader fflambeau suggested anything by Howard Hanson, but especially Syphony No. 2 “Romantic.” Here is the famous slow movement — performed by Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony Orchestra — that is also the appealing theme of the Interlochen Arts Academy and National Summer Music Camp:

Finally, The Ear recently heard something that seems especially welcome at a time when there is so much attention being paid to matters military.

It is also by Aaron Copland and is called “A Letter From Home.” It was dedicated to troops fighting World War II but it strikes me for its devotion to the home front and to peaceful domestic life, which is exactly what the Fourth of July should be about. Be sure to look at the black-and-white photographs that accompany the music:

And The Ear reminds you that you can hear a lot of American composers and American music today on Wisconsin Public Radio.

Have a Happy Fourth of July and Independence Day, everyone!

fireworks


Classical music: So, what symphony should be next? Maestro John DeMain, guest actors and the Madison Symphony Orchestra score a sold-out triumph with the Beyond the Score presentation of Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony. Plus, read the reviews of John W. Barker for Isthmus and Greg Hettmansberger for Madison Magazine.

January 28, 2014
6 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

On Sunday, we saw the “New World” Symphony in a new light.

I think I can speak for both seasoned concertgoers and novices.

And what I say is no overstatement in describing the triumphant Sunday afternoon multi-media performance of the popular work by Antonin Dvorak (below).

dvorak

It was turned in by the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below top, with the Jumbotron screen behind it) under the baton of its longtime music director and conductor John DeMain (below bottom, in a photo by Prasad), along with guests actors and the inaugural use of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s almost decade-old “Beyond the Score” format.

MSO Dvorak

John DeMain full face by Prasad

In a one-time only performance, the house in the Overture Hall of the Overture Center was sold-out, something that has happened in recent years only with the Christmas concerts. And it was an enthusiastic audience that offered two long standing ovations: the first, after the 60-minute background presentation; and the second, after the post-intermission 40-minute complete performance, which was an exemplary reading that was convincingly dramatic in the fast movements and movingly lyrical in the songful slow movement.

The Ear listened not only to what the actors and players said and did, but also to what other audience members had to say. And the judgment seemed unanimously positive.

Everyone agreed that the multi-media part of the program was very well constructed and very well presented. It was remarkably tight. There were no awkward silences or lapses or pauses. This was not like when the A-V Club used to come to your middle school science or history class and you stared at your shoes while they figured out how to make the technology work.

Instead this was a thoroughly professional presentation that proceeded smoothly from start to finish. It was well researched and well written. It incorporated historical still photos and historical film footage. It used primary sources such as the music’s score and Dvorak’s own letters; and it used secondary sources such as newspaper stories and the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha” and its influence on the impressionable and culturally curious Dvorak and his interest in American Indian music and Negro spirituals.

The orchestral excerpts that underlined the points were precisely played, and such starting-and-stopping is not an easy thing to do unless you are well rehearsed.

The Ear does have one minor concern with this Musicology for the Masses: The “Beyond the Score” format tends to turn all music into program music. Still, there is no questioning that it enhances one’s appreciation of a masterpiece by putting a frame around the painting, by providing a historical context. A specialist could probably pick out small flaws or gaps, but lengthy scholarship was not the point.

All in all, this new format seems exactly what a lot of American symphony orchestras need right now, especially at a time when so many of them are financially troubled and have to figure out a way to attract new and younger audiences.

And this presentation-performance combination sure did that. Remarkably few audience members left at intermission and it was inspiring to see so many, right up to the balcony, filled. Except for an all-Gershwin concert two seasons ago, it has been a few years since such a packed house showed up for a non-holiday MSO concert.

So, who gets credit and whom do we thank? The list is long and, happily, no one got into the kind of postured declaiming that can make it feel false, too staged and overly dramatic. Distraction was kept to a quiet minimum, the characters sitting on stools on the prone of the stage. Theatricality was minimal.

Wisconsin Public Radio host Anders Yocom (below, in a photo by Jim Gill) delivered the goods as a resonant and articulate but calmly expressive narrator.

anders yocom studio  head shot cr Jim Gill

American Players Theater actor David Daniel (below) did an outstanding job of playing the composer without overdoing the Czech accent and using only a bit of a costume suit.

david daniels color

Another APT actor, James Ridge (below), played Dvorak’s son who also commented on his father’s American adventures, but never overshadowed him.

James Ridge

And local mezzo-soprano Jacqueline Colbert (below), who graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and who directs the Mt. Zion Gospel Choir, sang Negro spirituals beautifully in a way that proved less showy and concert hall-like than you often hear today. She sang in a subdued, simple and traditional manner that seemed more authentic, more true to the music’s roots.

Jacqueline Colbert

Even conductor John DeMain got into the act playing the German conductor Anton Seidl, who headed the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and in 1893 conducted the world premiere of the symphony in New York City, with a German accent.

But perhaps the person we have to thank the most is the one whose checkbook made it possible: the Anonymous Donor, who suggested trying the format and who underwrote it financially.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable and thoroughly enlightening event. The Ear hopes it will get perhaps a second performance from the MSO (below in a photo by Greg Anderson) next season if the audience interest warrants it, and that it might even be incorporated into the regular subscription season. (The MSO, by the way, is using an email link to an on-line survey to sample the opinion of those who attended the concert, something i do not trembler them doing before.)

John DeMain and MSO from the stage Greg Anderson

So the question now becomes: What symphony do you want to see done next in the new format?

In an interview I posted last week, John DeMain told The Ear that 22 symphonies have been performed this way in Chicago since the “Beyond the Score” format started in 2005. (At bottom is a YouTube video in which no less a musician than composer-conductor Pierre Boulez introduces, explains and defends the format. And you can find many other videos of Beyond the Score performance on YouTube.) 

So I vote for Beethoven’s Third and Ninth Symphonies and the “Emperor” Piano Concerto; Tchaikovsky’s Fourth and Sixth “Pathetique” symphonies; Shostakovich’s Fifth; Brahms’ First and Fourth; Mozart’s “Jupiter”; and Schubert’s “Unfinished” and Ninth or “The Great.”

Which symphony would you like to hear in the Beyond the Score format?

Tell The Ear.

Tell the MSO.

In the meantime, you can read what some other critics said about the performance:

Here is a link to a review by John W. Barker (bel0w) for Isthmus:

http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=41921&sid=69de797c613436f12703124d949ffd66

John-Barker

And here is a link to the review by Greg Hettmansberger (bel0w) for his blog “Classically Speaking” blog for Madison Magazine:

http://www.madisonmagazine.com/Blogs/Classically-Speaking/January-2014/Madison-Debut-of-Beyond-the-Score-Opens-New-Worlds-of-Dvorak/

greg hettmansberger mug

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Classical music: From farm accident to international violin virtuoso: Augustin Hadelich will solo with the Madison Symphony Orchestra this weekend.

November 12, 2013
Leave a Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear thinks that discovering and then booking young up-and-coming violinists is among the biggest success stories that the Madison Symphony Orchestra and its music director and conductor John DeMain have had over the last 20 years, ever since DeMain arrived in Madison. 

One example is the Austrian violinist Augustin Hadelich, below.

Augustin Hadelich 1

Another is the Norwegian violinist Henning Kraggerud, below.

Henning Kraggerud MSO 2013

Both Hadelich and Kraggerud seem totally natural and complete artists who do exactly what a world-class virtuoso should do: Make the difficult seem effortless without sacrificing musicality.

Hadelich  — who also has a compelling personal back story that involves overcoming adversity — will solo again this weekend with the MSO.

 

Here is the informative press release from the orchestra: 

“How does one goes from a farm accident of severe burns to becoming a violin virtuoso, who enchants millions all over the world?

“Augustin Hadelich (pronounced HOD-uh-lick), a child prodigy with a violin in rural Tuscany, was told he might never play a violin again after he barely survived a farm accident that burned his home and him, including his bow arm at age 15.

From those challenging days, he has emerged as a violinist of international renown, who will return to Madison again to join John DeMain and the Madison Symphony Orchestra for three performances this weekend in Overture Hall.

Augustin Hadelich in park

Hadelich will take the stage in the first half to perform Edouard Lalo’s exotic Symphonie Espagnole, a virtuosic concerto with a lush Spanish flavor that he performed in his 2012 debut with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

The concert will open with the wild and spontaneous Too Hot Toccata, by American composer Aaron Kernis.

The Symphony No. 2, by Sergei Rachmaninoff, is a monumental late Romantic work. It is a lush, unmistakably Russian work, and it will close the program. (The melody-rich work’s third movement — the slow Adagio that can be heard at the bottom in a popular YouTube video with conductor Andre Previn and the NHK Symphony Orchestra of Tokyo, part of the public broadcasting system in Japan  — more than “inspired” the bestselling pop song “Never Gonna Love Again.” Carmen also “borrowed” from Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 for his bestselling song “All By Myself.”)

The concerts are in the Overture Center’s Overture Hall on Friday, Nov. 15 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 16, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Nov. 17, at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall, 201 State Street.

A free prelude discussion by UW-Madison musicology professor Charles Dill (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot for the UW School of Music) will take place one hour before each performance.

Charles Dill  cr Katrin Talbot

For more information, including a link to Augustin Hadelich’s website, critics’ reviews and audio/video samples, visit:

http://www.madisonsymphony.org/hadelich

Here is a link to program by notes by MSO trombonist J. Michael Allsen (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot for the Madison Symphony Orchestra) who teaches at UW-Whitewater:

ttp://facstaff.uww.edu/allsenj/MSO/NOTES/1314/3.Nov13.htm 

J. Michael Allsen Katrin Talbot

“Symphonie Espagnole” remains Lalo’s most popular work.  He composed it during a period when French composers were fascinated with Spanish music, and Lalo (below) tastefully incorporates this culture’s melodic and dance figures into the work. The soaring violin parts require both technical precision and immense musicianship.

edouard lalo

Hadelich is often noted in the media for his “gorgeous tone,” “poetic communication” and “fast-fingered brilliance.” The New York Times wrote, “[Hadelich] has become one of the most distinctive violinists of his generation…he plays with dazzling technique, a gorgeous tone, and penetrating, spontaneous musicality.”

Kernis (below) describes his “Too Hot Toccata” as predominantly “high energy” and “out of control.”  Composed in 1996, the piece excitedly works through a series of furious, oddly-metered and sometimes jazzy ideas.  Multiple players in the ensemble are featured with virtuosic solos, including violin, clarinet, piccolo, trumpet and percussion.

aaron kernis 3

In his Symphony No. 2, Rachmaninoff (below) achieves an unending and beautiful flow of melody, citing a motto from the opening bars throughout the piece.  This is especially impressive given the size of the composition. The 320-page, carefully detailed score rivals the largest of Anton Bruckner’s or Gustav Mahler’s scores in length and breadth. The piece also promises some orchestral fireworks during an hour-long sonic experience.

rachmaninoffyoung

Tickets are $16.50 to $82.50 each, available at www.madisonsymphony.org/singletickets and through the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street or call the Box Office at (608) 258-4141.

New subscribers can receive up to a 50% discount.  For more information and to subscribe, visit:  www.madisonsymphony.org/newsub or call (608) 257-3734.

Groups of 15 or more can save 25% by calling the MSO office at (608) 257-3734. For more information visit, www.madisonsymphony.org/groups

Student rush tickets can be purchased in person on the day of the concert at the Overture Box Office at 201 State Street. Full-time students must show a valid student ID and can receive up to two $12 or $15 tickets. More information is at:  www.madisonsymphony.org/studentrush  On advance ticket purchases, students can receive 20% savings on seats in select areas of the hall.

Seniors age 62 and up receive 20% savings on advance and day-of-concert ticket purchases in select areas of the hall.

Discounted seats are subject to availability, and discounts may not be combined.

MSO playing

The Madison Symphony Orchestra is marking its 88th concert season in 2013-2014 by celebrating John DeMain’s 20th anniversary as music director. The Symphony engages audiences of all ages and backgrounds in live classical music through a full season of concerts with established and emerging soloists of international renown, an organ series that includes free concerts, and widely respected education and community engagement programs. Find more information at www.madisonsymphony.org.

Major funding for this concert is provided by the Steinhauer Charitable Trust, UW Health Burn Center and UW-Madison Department of Surgery, and Rosemarie Blancke with additional funds from DeEtte Beilfuss-Eager and Leonard P. Eager, Jr., and the Wisconsin Arts Board.


    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,186 other followers

    Blog Stats

    • 2,021,488 hits
%d bloggers like this: