By Jacob Stockinger
This posting is both a news story and a holiday gift guide of classical recordings you might like to give or get.
It features the classical music nominations for the 59th annual Grammy Awards that were just announced this past week.
As you can see, several years ago, the recording industry decided that the Grammys should put more emphasis on new music and contemporary composers as well as on less famous performers and smaller labels as well as less well-known artists and works. You don’t see any music by Bach, Beethoven or Brahms this year, although you will find music by Mozart, Handel, Schumann and Dvorak. And clearly this is not a Mahler year
The winners will be announced on a live TV broadcast on Sunday night, Feb. 12, on CBS.
“Corigliano: The Ghosts of Versailles” — Mark Donahue & Fred Vogler, engineers (James Conlon, Guanqun Yu, Joshua Guerrero, Patricia Racette, Christopher Maltman, Lucy Schaufer, Lucas Meachem, LA Opera Chorus & Orchestra)
“Dutilleux: Sur Le Même Accord; Les Citations; Mystère De L’Instant & Timbres, Espace, Mouvement” — Alexander Lipay & Dmitriy Lipay, engineers (Ludovic Morlot, Augustin Hadelich & Seattle Symphony)
“Reflections” — Morten Lindberg, engineer (Øyvind Gimse, Geir Inge Lotsberg & Trondheimsolistene)
“Shadow of Sirius” — Silas Brown & David Frost, engineers; Silas Brown, mastering engineer (Jerry F. Junkin & the University Of Texas Wind Ensemble)
“Shostakovich: Under Stalin’s Shadow: Symphonies Nos. 5, 8 & 9” — Shawn Murphy & Nick Squire, engineers; Tim Martyn, mastering engineer (Andris Nelsons & Boston Symphony Orchestra)
PRODUCER OF THE YEAR, CLASSICAL
Marina A. Ledin, Victor Ledin
Judith Sherman (pictured below with the Grammy Award she won last year. She came to Madison to record the double set of new commissions for the centennial of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Pro Arte Quartet)
Robina G. Young
BEST ORCHESTRAL PERFORMANCE
“Bates: Works for Orchestra” — Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor (San Francisco Symphony). You can hear excerpts in the YouTube video at the bottom.
“Ibert: Orchestral Works” — Neeme Järvi, conductor (Orchestre De La Suisse Romande)
“Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5 In B-Flat Major, Op. 100” — Mariss Jansons, conductor (Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra)
“Rouse: Odna Zhizn; Symphonies 3 & 4; Prospero’s Rooms” — Alan Gilbert, conductor (New York Philharmonic)
“Shostakovich: Under Stalin’s Shadow – Symphonies Nos. 5, 8 & 9” (below) — Andris Nelsons, conductor (Boston Symphony Orchestra)
BEST OPERA RECORDING
“Corigliano: The Ghosts of Versailles” (below) — James Conlon, conductor; Joshua Guerrero, Christopher Maltman, Lucas Meachem, Patricia Racette, Lucy Schaufer & Guanqun Yu; Blanton Alspaugh, producer (LA Opera Orchestra; LA Opera Chorus)
“Handel: Giulio Cesare” — Giovanni Antonini, conductor; Cecilia Bartoli, Philippe Jaroussky, Andreas Scholl & Anne-Sofie von Otter; Samuel Theis, producer (Il Giardino Armonico)
“Higdon: Cold Mountain” — Miguel Harth-Bedoya, conductor; Emily Fons, Nathan Gunn, Isabel Leonard & Jay Hunter Morris; Elizabeth Ostrow, producer (The Santa Fe Opera Orchestra; Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Program for Singers)
“Mozart: Le Nozze Di Figaro” — Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor; Thomas Hampson, Christiane Karg, Luca Pisaroni & Sonya Yoncheva; Daniel Zalay, producer (Chamber Orchestra of Europe; Vocalensemble Rastatt)
BEST CHORAL PERFORMANCE
“Himmelrand” — Elisabeth Holte, conductor (Marianne Reidarsdatter Eriksen, Ragnfrid Lie & Matilda Sterby; Inger-Lise Ulsrud; Uranienborg Vokalensemble)
“Janáček: Glagolitic Mass” — Edward Gardner, conductor; Håkon Matti Skrede, chorus master (Susan Bickley, Gábor Bretz, Sara Jakubiak & Stuart Skelton; Thomas Trotter; Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra; Bergen Cathedral Choir, Bergen Philharmonic Choir, Choir of Collegium Musicum & Edvard Grieg Kor)
“Lloyd: Bonhoeffer” — Donald Nally, conductor (Malavika Godbole, John Grecia, Rebecca Harris & Thomas Mesa; the Crossing; below)
“Penderecki Conducts Penderecki, Volume 1” — Krzysztof Penderecki, conductor; Henryk Wojnarowski, choir director (Nikolay Didenko, Agnieszka Rehlis & Johanna Rusanen; Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra; Warsaw Philharmonic Choir)
“Steinberg: Passion Week” — Steven Fox, conductor (The Clarion Choir)
BEST CHAMBER MUSIC/SMALL ENSEMBLE PERFORMANCE
“Fitelberg: Chamber Works” — ARC Ensemble
“Reflections” — Øyvind Gimse, Geir Inge Lotsberg & Trondheimsolistene
“Serious Business” — Spektral Quartet
“Steve Reich” — Third Coast Percussion (below)
“Trios From Our Homelands” — Lincoln Trio
BEST CLASSICAL INSTRUMENTAL SOLO
“Adams, J.: Scheherazade.2” — Leila Josefowicz; David Robertson, conductor (Chester Englander; St. Louis Symphony)
“Daugherty: Tales of Hemingway” — Zuill Bailey; Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor (Nashville Symphony)
“Dvořák: Violin Concerto & Romance; Suk: Fantasy” — Christian Tetzlaff; John Storgårds, conductor (Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra)
“Mozart: Keyboard Music, Vols. 8 & 9” – Kristian Bezuidenhout
“1930’s Violin Concertos, Vol. 2” – Gil Shaham; Stéphane Denève, conductor (The Knights & Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra)
BEST CLASSICAL SOLO VOCAL ALBUM
“Monteverdi” — Magdalena Kožená; Andrea Marcon, conductor (David Feldman, Michael Feyfar, Jakob Pilgram & Luca Tittoto; La Cetra Barockorchester Basel)
“Mozart: The Weber Sisters” — Sabine Devieilhe; Raphaël Pichon, conductor (Pygmalion)
“Schumann & Berg” — Dorothea Röschmann; Mitsuko Uchida, accompanist
“Shakespeare Songs” — Ian Bostridge; Antonio Pappano, accompanist (Michael Collins, Elizabeth Kenny, Lawrence Power & Adam Walker)
“Verismo” — Anna Netrebko; Antonio Pappano, conductor (Yusif Eyvazov; Coro Dell’Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia; Orchestra Dell’Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia)
BEST CLASSICAL COMPENDIUM
“Daugherty: Tales of Hemingway; American Gothic; Once Upon A Castle” — Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor; Tim Handley, producer
“Gesualdo” — Tõnu Kaljuste, conductor; Manfred Eicher, producer
“Vaughan Williams: Discoveries” — Martyn Brabbins, conductor; Andrew Walton, producer
“Wolfgang: Passing Through” — Judith Farmer & Gernot Wolfgang, producers; (Various Artists)
“Zappa: 200 Motels – The Suites” — Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor; Frank Filipetti & Gail Zappa, producers
BEST CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL COMPOSITION
“Bates: Anthology of Fantastic Zoology” — Mason Bates, composer (Riccardo Muti & Chicago Symphony Orchestra)
“Daugherty: Tales of Hemingway” — Michael Daugherty, composer (Zuill Bailey, Giancarlo Guerrero & Nashville Symphony)
“Higdon: Cold Mountain” — Jennifer Higdon, composer; Gene Scheer, librettist (Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Jay Hunter Morris, Emily Fons, Isabel Leonard, Nathan Gunn & the Santa Fe Opera)
“Theofanidis: Bassoon Concerto” — Christopher Theofanidis, composer (Martin Kuuskmann, Barry Jekowsky & Northwest Sinfonia)
“Winger: Conversations With Nijinsky” — C. F. Kip Winger, composer (Martin West & San Francisco Ballet Orchestra)
ALERT: Tonight at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall is a FREE concert of choral music by the UW-Madison group Chorale under its director Bruce Gladstone. Sorry, no word on the program.
By Jacob Stockinger
This afternoon at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall is your last chance to hear twin-sister, Madison-born pianists Christina and Michelle Naughton (below top) perform a Mozart concerto with the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below bottom). Works by Claude Debussy and Dmitri Shostakovich are also on the program conducted by MSO music director John DeMain.
The program has received fine reviews from the critics:
Here is a review written by John W. Barker for Isthmus:
Here is the review by Greg Hettmansberger for his blog “What Greg Says”:
And here is a review written by Jessica Courtier for The Capital Times:
For more information about the concert and program, go to:
NEW MSO POETRY PROGRAM “COUNTERRPOINTS” DEBUTS TODAY
In addition, as a part of its 2016-17 season offerings, the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) will today launch The Counterpoint Readings, a special event series where poets will respond to a selected symphonic piece, culminating in a reading in Overture Center’s Promenade Lounge the weekend the piece is performed. It is scheduled to start after the performance, at around 4:30 p.m. today.
NOTE: There is a $10 admission charge to the poetry reading, which includes a wine and cheese reception. But because notice was given late, the original deadline of Nov. 10 for reservations will be overlooked.
The first reading focuses on Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 by Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich (below), performed by the MSO as part of its “Paired to Perfection” concerts this weekend. (You can hear the famous finale of the Shostakovich symphony performed by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
The Counterpoint Readings debut will happen following today’s performance, beginning at approximately 4:30 p.m. Eight poets will perform original works— world premieres for each artist.
Coordinated by MSO violist and poet Katrin Talbot (below, writing poetry in a photo by Isabel Karp), the series seeks to expand the audience’s musical experience and bring Madison’s poetry into a new light. Another such music-based poetry reading, to take place in the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, is scheduled for March, according to Talbot.
Katrin Talbot shares her vision of the how the power of words can respond to this significant historical composition, “Stalin is trumpeting out Soviet dominance. Yet somehow, he (Shostakovich) overcame it to generate art. Deception to get his voice heard.”
Among the poets slated to appear include MSO bassist August Jirovec, former Wisconsin Poet Laureate Marilyn Taylor, former Madison Poet Laureate Sarah Busse, Richard Merelman, Eve Robillard, Timothy Walsh, Marilyn Annucci and Rita Mae Reese.
Here is a preview: August Jirovec’s inspiration leading up to the reading:
“If there be meaning in this world askew,
let toils and rhyming gripes slide—disappear
your cross of blood drawn in the dirt austere
and lavish canvases of nascent hue
with brilliant visions! Let your whimsy brew
brash, crazen potions inspired by this tier
of music hefted from chests, as time’s spear
pierces the heart that must love art—through you.”
And here is a link to a long interview with Talbot by Lindsay Christians for The Capital Times:
For more information go to:
The Counterpoint Readings, direct link: http://www.madisonsymphony.org/counterpointreadings
Paired to Perfection concerts: http://www.madisonsymphony.org/naughtons
By Jacob Stockinger
Today is the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
A lot of classical music – requiems, symphonies, chamber music, solo works – could be used to commemorate the event. You can leave your own suggestions in the COMMENT section.
But The Ear wants to post something specific to the anniversary – something well known and something relatively unknown.
First the well known work:
Here is a slide show with the music “On the Transmigration of Souls,” by the American composer John Adams (below), who was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic to compose a work related to 9/11.
The composition mixes sounds from actual events with music, and it won the Pulitzer Prize.
When the Madison Symphony Orchestra performed it many seasons ago, it proved a deeply moving experience.
Here it is:
The events inspired other works too, including two by Kevin Puts (below), who was in Madison this summer for the premiere of a new song cycle and performances of his other instrumental works by the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society.
The Ear sure wishes there was a YouTube performance of the 16-minute work “Falling Dream.”
Here is a description by the composer:
“The piece was written in the months immediately after 9/11. Its composition was initially inspired by news footage I saw in which a couple leaped from one of the burning towers (below) holding hands.
“For months I was incapable of getting the image out of my head. It was so poetic in both its horror and beauty that I almost couldn’t justify a musical reaction to it.
“However I eventually found a way to illustrate the experience in extreme slow motion by creating a counterpoint of two slowly descending melodies, heard first at the beginning of the work. Episodes fade in and out of this slow descent like memories, but the illusion I wanted to create is that the falling never really ceases.
“The last section of the piece is, by contrast, a slowly building ascent that has no programmatic relevance but whose majestic quality functions as a message of hope.”
And here is a performance of Kevin Puts’ Symphony No. 2, which The Ear first heard on Wisconsin Public Radio. It too was informed by the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
Here is what Puts, who was educated at Yale and the Eastman School of Music and who now teaches at the Peabody Institute of Music at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, says about it:
“In the September 24, 2001 issue of The New Yorker writer Jonathan Franzen wrote, “In the space of two hours we left behind a happy era of Game Boy economics and trophy houses and entered a world of fear and vengeance.”
“My second symphony, while by no means a memorial, makes reference to this sudden paradigmatic shift. During the first eight minutes of the work, a slow orchestral build describes the unsuspecting climate pre 9/11, a naïve world aptly described by my mother as a metaphorical island.
“After a brief passage for solo violin, an upheaval of sorts effectively obliterates this opening sentiment and initiates another gradual crescendo which makes use of the same material as the opening, cast this time in darker and more ambiguous harmonic colors.
“Once the entire orchestra reaches the climax of the work, the solo violin returns in a more extended passage than before and subdues the turbulent orchestra. This leads to a reflective epilogue in which a clock-like pulse creates a mood of expectancy and uncertainty, interlaced with hope.”
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear certainly was.
And so was the New York Times critic David Allen.
But rather than wait to go hear van Zweden live, Allen plunged into van Zweden’s discography. The many recordings gave him a very good idea of what the conductor’s strengths and weaknesses are.
It took Allen some 52 hours of listening to do his due diligence and get a comprehensive background and preparation.
But the conclusions he reaches about van Zweden (below, in a photo by Washington of The New York Times) in contemporary repertoire as well as in classic works by Franz Joseph Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Peter Tchaikovsky, Igor Stravinsky, Richard Wagner, Gustav Mahler and Anton Bruckner, among others, are illuminating.
You can hear Jaap van Sweden conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in what seems to The Ear an energetic and forceful interpretation of the Symphony No. 1 by Brahms in the YouTube video at the bottom.
Here is a link. You can judge for yourself what the public can look forward to:
What do you think of Allen’s assessment?
Does it seem fair? Biased?
Does it make you look forward to hearing van Zweden?
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received the following timely and important announcement:
The Festival Choir of Madison (below) and its new artistic director Sergei Pavlov – who teaches at Edgewood College — will close the current season with a special concert this Saturday night, May 7, at 7:30 p.m. at the Christ Presbyterian Church, located at 944 East Gorham Street in downtown Madison.
The performance features one of the legendary American choral conductors, Maestro Joseph Flummerfelt (below right, with Sergei Pavlov). You can hear a long Q&A interview with Joseph Flummerfelt in the YouTube video at the bottom.
The program with the Festival Choir includes music by German composers Felix Mendelssohn and Johannes Brahms, British composer Herbert Howells, Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, Polish composer Henryk Gorecki and Scottish composer James MacMillan. Sorry, no word on individual works to be performed.
Tickets for the evening concert are available at the door and cost between $9 and $15.
Since 1971, Joseph Flummerfelt (below) has been responsible for most of the choral work of the New York Philharmonic, working closely with its music directors Leonard Bernstein, Zubin Mehta, Pierre Boulez, Kurt Masur, Lorin Maazel and Alan Gilbert. Until 2004 he was Director of Choral Activities in the Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey.
Joseph Flummerfelt (below) with the Westminster Symphonic Choir and New York Choral Artists has been featured in 45 recordings, including a Grammy Award-winning CD of the Symphony No. 3 by Gustav Mahler with Leonard Bernstein. His collaboration with the great American composer Samuel Barber includes the Grammy Award-winning recording of Barber’s opera “Anthony and Cleopatra.”
In 2004 Flummerfelt was awarded a Grammy for the New York Choral Artists’ recording of “On the Transmigration of Souls,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning composition written by John Adams in memory of the victims of the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
A master teacher, Flummerfelt’s many former students occupy a number of major choral positions throughout the world. Yannick Nezet-Seguin (below) — the current music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra and guest conductor of the Metropolitan Opera, who, as a teenager, studied with Dr. Flummerfelt in two advanced conducting summer workshops — cites him as one of the two major influences in his life as a conductor. A 2009 New York Times article said, “Mr. Nezet-Seguin called those sessions with Flummerfelt the only significant conducting lessons he ever had.”
Flummerfelt has a special connection with Madison as well. As an undergraduate student in De Pauw University in Indiana, he was deeply inspired by a performance of a visiting choir, and the conductor of this group was Robert Fountain, the legendary Director of Choral Programs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.
Also on Saturday, May 7 at 11 a.m. there will be a question/answer session for all who would like to meet the Maestro Flummerfelt. The host is Edgewood College, and the session will be at the Washburn Heritage Room in the Regina Building. This is a FREE event.
By Jacob Stockinger
World-renowned pianist Garrick Ohlsson returns to the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below) this Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoon.
The program, conducted by longtime MSO music director John DeMain, features dramatic music by Johannes Brahms and Richard Strauss. The concert will also feature a first-ever performance by the MSO of a symphony by the recently deceased Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer Steven Stucky.
Garrick Ohlsson (below, in a photo by Paul Body) will perform one of the best-loved pieces in the Romantic piano concerto repertoire, Johannes Brahms’ powerful Piano Concerto No. 1. Ohlsson impressed Madison audiences in 2008 and 2012 with his thrilling performances of concertos by Sergei Rachmaninoff and Peter Ilych Tchaikovsky.
Steven Stucky’s intricate and intriguing Symphony No. 1 kicks off the concert program, followed by Richard Strauss’ tone poem Don Juan, a work recounting the life and death of the eponymous fictional character through brazenly virtuosic flair matched by tender romantic melodies.
The concerts are in Overture Hall on Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. For ticket details, see below.
Garrick Ohlsson (below) has been a commanding presence in the piano world since winning the Chopin International Piano Competition in 1970. A proponent of chamber music, Ohlsson has collaborated with the Cleveland, Emerson, Takács and Tokyo string quartets. Known for his masterly interpretations of Chopin, Ohlsson has over 80 concertos in his repertoire, including several commissioned for him.
Steven Stucky (below) composed his Symphony No. 1 as part of a joint commission by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and New York Philharmonic, and it premiered in 2012. Described by the composer as “a single expanse of music that travels through a series of emotional landscapes”, this concise work consists of four movements played without a break. Stucky just died on Feb. 14, 2016.
The tone poem Don Juan by Richard Strauss (below) opens in breathtaking fashion with a flurry of strings and brass, as the hero leaps to the stage. Technically challenging and theatrical, the work vividly recounts Don Juan’s exploits, as well as his downfall.
The first major orchestral work, Piano Concerto No. 1, by Johannes Brahms (below) casts the piano and orchestra as equal partners working together to develop musical ideas. Written in D minor, this piece captures the composer’s grief over the breakdown and eventual death in a mental asylum of his friend Robert Schumann. You can hear pianist Emil Gilels play the last movement in a YouTube video at the bottom.
One hour before each performance, Susan Cook (below), the director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and Professor of Musicology, will lead a 30-minute Prelude Discussion in Overture Hall to enhance concertgoers’ understanding and listening experience.
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. 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. Students can receive 20% savings on seats in select areas of the hall on advance ticket purchases.
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.
Major funding for the April concerts was provided by NBC15, Diane Ballweg, BMO Private Bank, and Fred and Mary Mohs. Additional funding was provided by Boardman & Clark LLP; Dan and Natalie Erdman; J.H. Findorff & Son Inc.; Nick and Judith Topitzes; WPS Health Solutions; and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.
ALERT: This Saturday will see the annual Winterfest concerts by the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Some 400 student musicians will take part. The special guest is bassoonist Nancy Goeres (below), an alumna of WYSO from 1966 to 1970, who now performs professionally with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Music by Johann Stamitz, Francois Joseph Gossec, Franz Joseph Haydn, Jean Sibelius, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Emmanuel Chabrier, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Witold Lutoslawski and Duke Ellington will be performed, Here is a link to the lists of impressive programs and performers:
By Jacob Stockinger
UW-Madison faculty members bassoonist Marc Vallon and saxophonist-composer Les Thimmig will lead a FREE musical tribute to the French avant-garde composer and conductor Pierre Boulez (below) this Friday night a 8 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall.
Here is a link with more background about Boulez, including an essay by UW professor Marc Vallon (below, in a photo by James Gill), who worked with Boulez:
Called “Le Domaine Musical,” the event will also feature other UW-Madison faculty members and student musicians.
They include violist Sally Chisholm, violinist Soh-Hyun Park Altino, flutist Stephanie Jutt, organist/keyboardist, John Chappell Stowe, hornist Daniel Grabois, pianist Christopher Taylor as well as cellist Martha Vallon, Micah Behr, Thalia Coombs, Ivana Ugrcic, Joanna Schulz, Dave Alcorn, Kai-Ju Ho, Sarah Richardson, Michel Shestak, Rosalie Gilbert and the Hunt String Quartet (Paran Amirinazari, Clayton Tillotson, Blakeley Menghini and Andrew Briggs)
Here is the complete program:
Pierre Boulez (1925-2016) – Dérive 1 for 6 instruments (1984) — Heard in a YouTube video at the bottom as performed by the same group, the Ensemble Intercontemporain, that Boulez founded and led for many years in Paris.
Pierre Boulez (1925-2016) – Notations for piano (1946)
Anton Webern (1883-1945) Six Bagatelles for string quartet, Op. 9
Anton Webern (1883-1945) – Drei Gesänge (Three Songs) aus “Viae inviae” von Hildegard Jone, Op. 23
Claude Debussy (1962-1918) – Three Poems of Stéphane Mallarmé
Claude Debussy (1962-1918) Sonate for flute, viola and harp (1904). Pastorale: Lento, dolce rubato; Interlude: Tempo di Minuetto; Finale. Allegro moderato ma risoluto
Short Webern style intermission
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 (no marking) –Adagio ma non tanto- Allegro
Pierre Boulez (1925-2016) Mémoriale (…explosante fixe… Originel) for solo flute and eight instruments (1985)
ALERT: This Sunday at 2 p.m., Wisconsin Public Radio (WERN-FM 88.7 in the Madison area) will start a new weekly two-hour broadcast series. It features 13 weeks of live recorded concerts given by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. This Sunday’s music, conducted by MSO music director Edo de Waart, includes three outstanding works: the Four Sea Interludes from the opera “Peter Grimes” by Benjamin Britten; the beautiful Cello Concerto by Sir Edward Elgar with soloist Alisa Weilerstein; and the lyrical Symphony No. 8 in G Major by Antonin Dvorak.
For more information about the series and performers, visit:
By Jacob Stockinger
Just last year saw celebrations of Boulez, on the occasion of his 90th birthday, around the world.
That included one here at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music by bassoonist and Professor Marc Vallon (below, in a photo by James Gill) who studied and worked with Boulez and the famous Ensemble Intercontemporain in Paris.
Professor Vallon generously agreed to write a personal reminiscence and appreciation of Pierre Boulez for The Ear.
Here it is:
By Marc Vallon
I had the privilege to work with Pierre Boulez in the early 1980s, a couple of years after he founded the Ensemble Intercontemporain (below) in Paris, the first-ever fully salaried ensemble devoted to contemporary music.
Boulez was a very demanding conductor (below) and everyone would come to the rehearsals very prepared. If you were not, you would likely take the sting of his sarcastic humor.
I remember a situation when the flutist kept fumbling on a tricky passage in Igor Stravinsky’s Symphony for Wind Instruments. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts, he made the mistake of saying, “I don’t understand, it worked perfectly at home,” to which Boulez replied, “Well then, perhaps we should play the concert in your living room.”
I was involved in the first performance of the work often considered as Boulez’s masterpiece, Répons for orchestra and live electronics (heard at bottom in a YouTube video). It was a fascinating window into Boulez’s compositional process.
During the two-week rehearsal period, the parts would be collected after each session and would come back on our music stands the next day with numerous additions of grace notes and changed rhythms and dynamics. The longer we worked, the more intricate and multi-layered the piece became.
This is not surprising if one remembers Boulez’s definition of good music: It is complex and can be looked at from so many different angles that it ultimately resists full analysis.
Another important contribution that Boulez brought to the French musical scene, and the artistic world in general, was the often explosive radicalism of his ideas.
From “Schoenberg is dead” to “We have to blow up the opera houses,” who else would proclaim the end of serialism or attack the conservatism of established opera houses in such provocative terms?
Boulez’s public aversion to any artistic conservatism was, in the 1970s, a much-needed antidote to an international musical scene that was often too easily tempted to fill concert halls by programming symphonies by Tchaikovsky again and again.
It is still needed today. “Boulez est mort,” but his fight for the endless renewing of musical creation should go on.
For more obituaries and appreciations of Pierre Boulez, who served as music director of the New York Philharmonic and was a major guest conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, here are four sources:
National Public Radio or NPR:
And here is a terrific and insightful personal appreciation of Pierre Boulez, with a link to current issues and events in classical music, by Anthony Tommasini, the senior classical music critic for The New York Times:
ALERT: The influential and controversial French avant-garde composer and conductor Pierre Boulez had died at 90. The Ear will feature more about him this weekend. Stay tuned.
ALERT: The FREE Friday Noon Musicales at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed First Unitarian Society of Madison‘s Meeting House, 900 University Bay Drive, start up again this Friday after a break for the holidays. The concert takes place from 12:15 to 1 p.m. and features bassoonist Juliana Mesa-Jarmillo and pianist Rayna Slavova in music by Gustav Schreck, Eugene Bordeau, Gabriel Pierne and Antonio Torriani.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear can remember when Sergei Rachmaninoff (below, 1873-1943) was treated as something of a joke by serious classical musicians – especially by the 12-toners and atonalists, who were more into R&D music (research and development) than into offering pleasure and emotional connection.
The academic musicians, and some prominent music critics too, thought that the Russian composer’s music was too Romantic — meaning too accessible, too shallow and even cheap. They just didn’t consider Rachmaninoff a major 20th-century composer or artist.
But time is proving them wrong.
Surely The Rachmaninoff Deniers would like such popularity, durability and enthusiasm for their own music.
Because Rachmaninoff had real genius linked to real heart.
So surely The Ear is not the only listener who finds so much of Rachmaninoff’s music -– especially his preludes, concertos, etudes and variations — irresistible and even moving.
And pianist Joyce Yang played the momentous Sonata No. 2 in B-flat Minor at her recital in the Wisconsin Union Theater.
This year’s Grammy nominations also include a whole CD of Rachmaninoff’s solo and concerto variations, including the wonderful tuneful and ingenious Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.
Last year also saw “Preludes,” (below, in a photo by Tina Fineberg for The New York Times) ) a successful play about the young Rachmaninoff — or Rachmaninov — climbing out of a deep depression with the help of therapist and hypnotist Dr. Nikolai Dahl, who helped him compose again and become world-famous with his Piano Concerto No. 2.
Just this fall and winter, the New York Philharmonic with music director and conductor Alan Gilbert and pianist Daniil Trifonov (below), performed a retrospective featuring the complete cycle of Rachmaninoff piano concertos.
And here are some very perceptive and respectful remarks by conductor Marin Alsop (below) about Rachmaninoff’s life and work and about the less frequently played Symphony No. 3 in A minor that she will discuss and conduct.
It comes from an interview with Scott Simon on Weekend Edition for NPR or National Public Radio. The Ear found her remarks about Rachmaninoff’s life in Beverly Hills and his effect on other exiled European musicians working in Hollywood to be especially perceptive.
Indeed, you may recall that Rachmaninoff was offered a lucrative chance to write a movie score and refused. So the moviemakers hired the British composer Richard Addinsell to write a piece that sounded like Rachmaninoff. The result was the Warsaw Concerto and the result does indeed sound a lot like Rachmaninoff.
Here is a link to the NPR story, which has audio samples of the Symphony No. 3, that also features a written essay by Marin Alsop about Rachmaninoff:
I like a Rachmaninoff tune. How about you?
So here is a YouTube performance, made in 1920, of Rachmaninoff himself playing my favorite Rachmaninoff piece — the wistful Prelude in G Major, Op 32, No. 5:
By Jacob Stockinger
Each year inevitably brings losses in the world of classical music.
And 2015 was no different.
Yet it some ways it seems to The Ear that the losses are getting harder to bear.
Is it because The Ear is getting older -– and finds that aging is not as desensitizing to death as he had expected?
Is it because so many of the deaths were high-profile figures like the German conductor Kurt Masur, who resurrected the New York Philharmonic and helped broker German reunification; or the distinguished Czech pianist Ivan Moravec, who also played the music for the Oscar-winning film “Amadeus”?
Is it because one of them, Metropolitan Opera’s weekly radio host Margaret Juntwait, died much too young from cancer?
Is it because of a local link, like the dramatic tenor Jon Vickers (below top in a 1998 photo by Graham Trott; and below bottom, as Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes) who performed in Madison when the Madison Opera was still coming of age?
Is it because it was someone who helped us, who brought us new beauty, as Robert Craft (below top, signing a copy of his memoir for Naxos) did with his championing of Igor Stravinsky? (In the photo below, Craft, left, is seen with Stravinsky.)
And there were others.
SURELY THERE WERE OTHER WOMEN AND MEN WHOM CLASSICAL MUSIC LOST IN 2015, ESPECIALLY LOCALLY, WHO HAVE NOT BEEN NAMED.
IF YOU CAN THINK OF SOMEONE, PLEASE LEAVE THEIR NAME AND A DESCRIPTION OF THEIR LIFE AND WORK IN THE COMMENT SECTION.
And to honor all those who were taken from us, The Ear offers one of the best pieces for grieving he knows, the stately and restrained “Pavane for a Dead Princess” by Maurice Ravel in the original piano version.
It is played below in a YouTube video by the late great pianist Shura Cherkassky.