By Jacob Stockinger
“Sex, drugs and classical music”?
It was easy to underestimate the Amazon comedy sitcom “Mozart in the Jungle” as just a commercial low-brow, rock and roll take on the high-brow world of classical music.
Until two weeks ago.
One award went to the accomplished Mexican actor, director and producer Gabriel Garcia Bernal (below) for the Best Actor in a TV Series, Comedy or Musical. He plays Rodrigo, an orchestra conductor.
The second award went to the show as Best TV Series for Comedy or Musical.
Will any Emmys follow?
The second season has been ready for streaming since Dec. 30. And winning the two Golden Globe awards is sure to spike viewer interest. (You can see the trailer for Season 2 in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
Although there are some fine things to admire in Season 2, apparently it loses steam and gets repetitive.
At least that is the assessment of music critic Zachary Woolfe, who writes for The New York Times.
One interesting sidelight of Season 2 is that several big-name classical musicians make a cameo appearance on the show.
The flamboyant Chinese superstar pianist Lang-Lang:
And mainstream American piano star Emanuel Ax, who will perform with the Madison Symphony Orchestra in March. (NOTE: Ax was to play the Symphonic Variations by Cesar Franck and the Burleske by Richard Strauss. That program has now been changed to the Piano Concerto No. 4 by Ludwig van Beethoven.)
To The Ear, the show still sounds like fun – if you can get past or overlook the endless sense of crisis.
Which, curiously, also just happens to be how one might feel about the real-life, non-fiction world of classical music these days with its focus on declining attendance, fewer recordings, labor strife and programming.
Here is a link to the review:
Tell us in the COMMENT section what you think of either the first season or the second season, if you have already started to watch it.
The Ear wants to hear.
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
Here we are, living and listening to music in America.
So why is it that we hear so few 19th-century symphonies by American composers and so many symphonies by German and Austrian composers such as Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Mahler, Bruckner and Richard Strauss?
To be specific, why have we heard the New York Philharmonic perform so much by Johannes Brahms and so little by composers such as John Knowles Paine (below, in a photo from The Library of Congress), who also headed the music department at Harvard University?
You might think it has to do with the quality of the music.
But that just isn’t so, says Douglas W. Shadle (below, by Steven Green of Vanderbilt University), a musicology scholar at Vanderbilt University. He has just published a long study of the issue. The book is called “Orchestrating the Nation: The Nineteenth-Century Symphonic Enterprise” (330 pages, Oxford University Press, $55).
The Ear would have to hear more American music to believe that argument.
Which makes it a vicious cycle: More American music won’t be programmed until it gets heard and liked by the public, and it won’t get heard or liked by the public until it is programmed more frequently.
What will break that cycle?
Which end gives way first?
Or if it were featured on Wisconsin Public Radio or WORT-FM? Perhaps one or the other radio station could even established an hourlong weekly program of American music — normally highlighted mostly on Thanksgiving — to help educate us about ourselves and our own cultural history, past and present?
Anyway, The Ear found the review of the book in The New York Times to be fascinating and highly informational, even revelatory.
Here is a link to the book review:
And here is a link to a YouTube video of a symphony by John Knowles Paine. I think you will be impressed, as was The Ear:
By Jacob Stockinger
Not many arts figures get to achieve what German conductor Kurt Masur (below) did in his lifetime.
He was credited with turning in great performances of great classical repertoire with many of the world’s greatest orchestras.
He was credited with reviving the artistic stature of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
And he was credited with helping to peacefully bring down the Berlin Wall and reunite East Germany and West Germany.
Quite the legacy!
A week ago, on Dec. 19 in Greenwich, Conn., Kurt Masur died at 88 of complications from Parkinson’s disease, from which he had been suffering for a long time.
That same day, Wisconsin Public Radio played some recordings by Kurt Masur. The Ear praises such news tie-ins and thanks WPR for being so on the ball. It is a model of timely radio programming and makes classic music more urgent and relevant.
Here are two obituaries for Kurt Masur.
The first is from The New York Times:
And here, in a YouTube video, is one of the performances for which he will be most remembered and which seems particularly fitting on his death: The “German” Requiem by Johannes Brahms that he conducted after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
By Jacob Stockinger
Time is running out for Christmas and holiday shopping.
But there may still be time to either find a gift in a local store or to use that gift card you will receive.
The list, posted a bit late in the shopping season this year, runs from early music through mainstream classics to contemporary music, including John Adams‘ Beethoven-like work “Absolute Jest” (the origins of which you can hear John Adams discuss in the YouTube video at the bottom):
You can hear samples on the website:
And here are the previous five gift-giving guides that The Ear has posted:
And an overall gift guide from The New York Times that was published around Thanksgiving on Black Friday:
And the 2015 Grammy nominations:
Even if you don’t use these listings to buy gifts for others or yourself, they will give up some idea of what happened in the world of classical music recordings during the past year.
By Jacob Stockinger
The holidays have started and the shopping days left are winding down.
Here is a link to that listing:
Of course, this is not the first such list or holiday gift guide that The Ear has posted.
And yesterday The Ear published the 2015 Grammy nominations, which also offered some outstanding suggestions:
You will notice that there are some duplications, such as the CD of Daniil Trifonov and Yannick Nézet-Séguin performing various themes and variations by Sergei Rachmaninoff – plus some by Trifonov himself — on a Deutsche Grammophon CD (below).
Such agreement is a good indication that the recording in question is truly outstanding and will appeal to many tastes. The Ear sure likes that particular recording.
Same goes for tenor Jonas Kaufmann’s CD of arias by Puccini, which you can sample through the famous “Nessun dorma” from “Turandot” in a YouTube video at the bottom. What a big, beautiful voice! And he seems as home in Puccini as in Wagner!
You will also notice that each year seems to see an increasing role for new music. Whether that means the new music is getting better or the critics have just altered their priority remains to be seen.
Whatever is the case: Happy Buying! Happy Receiving! Happy Listening!
And be sure to leave your own suggestions from your own listening experience in the COMMENT section.
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
Each year at holiday time, The Ear offers a series of roundups of the best recordings and classical music gifts of the past year. The idea is to use them as holiday gift guides.
Today is Grammy Day.
So far, The Ear has listed choices made by the BBC Music Magazine and the Telegraph newspaper:
And another roundup of book and videos as well as CDs by critics for The New York Times:
Now he adds the 58th annual Grammy nominations of 2016 that were announced this past Monday. The winners will be announced on Sunday, Feb. 15, on CBS television network. The telecast will be live and feature live performances.
The Ear likes to see if he can predict the winners. Outguessing the industry can be a fun, if frustrating, game to play.
He also notices two items of local interest.
The late Twin Cities composer Stephen Paulus, whose works were often commissioned and premiered in Madison by the Festival Choir of Madison and groups at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, has been nominated for several work.
In addition, producer Judith Sherman, who has several Grammys to her credit, is nominated again. She is also the producer of the two recordings of the centennial commissions by the Pro Arte Quartet.
Here are the 58th annual Grammy nominees for Classical Music:
Ask Your Mama: Leslie Ann Jones, John Kilgore, Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum & Justin Merrill, engineers; Patricia Sullivan, mastering engineer (George Manahan & San Francisco Ballet Orchestra) Label: Avie Records
Dutilleux: Métaboles; L’Arbre Des Songes; Symphony No. 2, ‘Le Double’: Dmitriy Lipay, engineer; Alexander Lipay, mastering engineer (Ludovic Morlot, Augustin Hadelich & Seattle Symphony) Label: Seattle Symphony Media
Rachmaninoff: All-Night Vigil: Beyong Joon Hwang & John Newton, engineers; Mark Donahue, mastering engineer (Charles Bruffy, Phoenix Chorale and Kansas City Chorale) Label: Chandos
Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3, ‘Organ’: Keith O. Johnson and Sean Royce Martin, engineers; Keith O. Johnson, mastering engineer (Michael Stern and Kansas City Symphony) Label: Reference Recording
PRODUCER OF THE YEAR, CLASSICAL
Blanton Alspaugh: • Hill: Symphony No. 4; Concertino Nos. 1 & 2; Divertimento (Peter Bay, Anton Nel & Austin Symphony Orchestra) • Rachmaninoff: All-Night Vigil (Charles Bruffy, Phoenix Chorale & Kansas City Chorale) • Sacred Songs Of Life & Love (Brian A. Schmidt & South Dakota Chorale) • Spirit Of The American Range (Carlos Kalmar & The Oregon Symphony) • Tower: Violin Concerto; Stroke; Chamber Dance (Giancarlo Guerrero, Cho-Liang Lin & Nashville Symphony)
Manfred Eicher: • Franz Schubert (András Schiff) • Galina Ustvolskaya (Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Markus Hinterhäuser & Reto Bieri) • Moore: Dances & Canons (Saskia Lankhoorn) • Rihm: Et Lux (Paul Van Nevel, Minguet Quartet & Huelgas Ensemble) • Visions Fugitives (Anna Gourari)
Marina A. Ledin, Victor Ledin: • Dances For Piano & Orchestra (Joel Fan, Christophe Chagnard & Northwest Sinfonietta) • Tempo Do Brasil (Marc Regnier) • Woman At The New Piano (Nadia Shpachenko)
Dan Merceruio: • Chapí: String Quartets 1 & 2 (Cuarteto Latinoamericano) • From Whence We Came (Ensemble Galilei) • Gregson: Touch (Peter Gregson) • In The Light Of Air – ICE Performs Anna Thorvaldsdottir (International Contemporary Ensemble) • Schumann (Ying Quartet) • Scrapyard Exotica (Del Sol String Quartet) • Stravinsky: Petrushka (Richard Scerbo & Inscape Chamber Orchestra) • What Artemisia Heard (El Mundo) • ZOFO Plays Terry Riley (ZOFO)
Judith Sherman: • Ask Your Mama (George Manahan & San Francisco Ballet Orchestra) • Fields: Double Cluster; Space Sciences (Jan Kučera, Gloria Chuang & Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra) • Liaisons – Re-Imagining Sondheim From The Piano (Anthony de Mare) • Montage – Great Film Composers & The Piano (Gloria Cheng) • Multitude, Solitude (Momenta Quartet) • Of Color Braided All Desire – Music Of Eric Moe (Christine Brandes, Brentano String Quartet, Dominic Donato, Jessica Meyer, Karen Ouzounian, Manhattan String Quartet & Talujon) • Rzewski: The People United Will Never Be Defeated! (Ursula Oppens) • Sirota: Parting The Veil – Works For Violin & Piano (David Friend, Hyeyung Julie Yoon, Laurie Carney & Soyeon Kate Lee) • Turina: Chamber Music For Strings & Piano (Lincoln Trio
BEST ORCHESTRAL PERFORMANCE
Bruckner: Symphony No. 4: Manfred Honeck, conductor (Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra) Label: Reference Recordings
Dutilleux: Métaboles; L’Arbre Des Songes; Symphony No. 2, ‘Le Double’: Ludovic Morlot, conductor (Seattle Symphony) Label: Seattle Symphony Media
Shostakovich: Under Stalin’s Shadow – Symphony No. 10: Andris Nelsons, conductor (Boston Symphony Orchestra) Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Spirit Of The American Range: Carlos Kalmar, conductor (The Oregon Symphony) Label: Pentatone
Zhou Long and Chen Yi: Symphony ‘Humen 1839’: Darrell Ang, conductor (New Zealand Symphony Orchestra) Label: Naxos
BEST OPERA RECORDING
Janáček: Jenůfa: Donald Runnicles, conductor; Will Hartmann, Michaela Kaune & Jennifer Larmore; Magdalena Herbst, producer (Orchestra Of The Deutsche Oper Berlin; Chorus Of The Deutsche Oper Berlin) Label: Arthaus
Monteverdi: Il Ritorno D’Ulisse In Patria: Martin Pearlman, conductor; Fernando Guimarães & Jennifer Rivera; Thomas C. Moore, producer (Boston Baroque) Label: Linn Records
Mozart: Die Entführung Aus Dem Serail: Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor; Diana Damrau, Paul Schweinester & Rolando Villazón; Sid McLauchlan, producer (Chamber Orchestra Of Europe) Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Ravel: L’Enfant Et Les Sortilèges; Shéhérazade: Seiji Ozawa, conductor; Isabel Leonard; Dominic Fyfe, producer (Saito Kinen Orchestra; SKF Matsumoto Chorus & SKF Matsumoto Children’s Chorus) Label: Decca
Steffani: Niobe, Regina Di Tebe: Paul O’Dette & Stephen Stubbs, conductors; Karina Gauvin & Philippe Jaroussky; Renate Wolter-Seevers, producer (Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra) Label: Erato
BEST CHORAL PERFORMANCE
Beethoven: Missa Solemnis: Bernard Haitink, conductor; Peter Dijkstra, chorus master (Anton Barachovsky, Genia Kühmeier, Elisabeth Kulman, Hanno Müller-Brachmann & Mark Padmore; Symphonieorchester Des Bayerischen Rundfunks; Chor Des Bayerischen Rundfunks) Label: BR Klassik
Monteverdi: Vespers Of 1610: Harry Christophers, conductor (Jeremy Budd, Grace Davidson, Ben Davies, Mark Dobell, Eamonn Dougan & Charlotte Mobbs; The Sixteen) Label: Coro
Pablo Neruda – The Poet Sings: Craig Hella Johnson, conductor (James K. Bass, Laura Mercado-Wright, Eric Neuville & Lauren Snouffer; Faith DeBow & Stephen Redfield; Conspirare) Label: Harmonia Mundi
Paulus: Far In The Heavens: Eric Holtan, conductor (Sara Fraker, Matthew Goinz, Thea Lobo, Owen McIntosh, Kathryn Mueller & Christine Vivona; True Concord Orchestra; True Concord Voices) Label: Reference Recordings
Rachmaninoff: All-Night Vigil: Charles Bruffy, conductor (Paul Davidson, Frank Fleschner, Toby Vaughn Kidd, Bryan Pinkall, Julia Scozzafava, Bryan Taylor & Joseph Warner; Kansas City Chorale & Phoenix Chorale) Label: Chandos
BEST CHAMBER MUSIC/SMALL ENSEMBLE PERFORMANCE
Brahms: The Piano Trios: Tanja Tetzlaff, Christian Tetzlaff & Lars Vogt. Label: Ondine
Filament: Eighth Blackbird. Label: Cedille Records
Flaherty: Airdancing For Toy Piano, Piano & Electronics: Nadia Shpachenko & Genevieve Feiwen Lee. Track from: Woman At The New Piano. Label: Reference Recordings
Render: Brad Wells & Roomful Of Teeth. Label: New Amsterdam Records
Shostakovich: Piano Quintet & String Quartet No. 2: Takács Quartet & Marc-André Hamelin. Label: Hyperion
BEST CLASSICAL INSTRUMENTAL SOLO
Dutilleux: Violin Concerto, L’Arbre Des Songes: Augustin Hadelich; Ludovic Morlot, conductor (Seattle Symphony) Track from: Dutilleux: Métaboles; L’Arbre Des Songes; Symphony No. 2, ‘Le Double’. Label: Seattle Symphony Media
Grieg & Moszkowski: Piano Concertos: Joseph Moog; Nicholas Milton, conductor (Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern). Label: Onyx Classics
Mozart: Keyboard Music, Vol. 7: Kristian Bezuidenhout. Label: Harmonia Mundi
Rachmaninov Variations: Daniil Trifonov (The Philadelphia Orchestra) Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Rzewski: The People United Will Never Be Defeated! Ursula Oppens (Jerome Lowenthal). Label: Cedille Records
BEST CLASSICAL SOLO VOCAL ALBUM
Beethoven: An Die Ferne Geliebte; Haydn: English Songs; Mozart: Masonic Cantata: Mark Padmore; Kristian Bezuidenhout, accompanist. Label: Harmonia Mundi
Joyce & Tony – Live From Wigmore Hall: Joyce DiDonato; Antonio Pappano, accompanist. Label: Erato
Nessun Dorma – The Puccini Album. Jonas Kaufmann; Antonio Pappano, conductor (Kristīne Opolais, Antonio Pirozzi & Massimo Simeoli; Coro Dell’Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia; Orchestra Dell’Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia) Label: Sony Classical
Rouse: Seeing; Kabir Padavali: Talise Trevigne; David Alan Miller, conductor (Orion Weiss; Albany Symphony) Label: Naxos
St. Petersburg: Cecilia Bartoli; Diego Fasolis, conductor (I Barocchisti). Label: Decca
BEST CLASSICAL COMPENDIUM
As Dreams Fall Apart – The Golden Age Of Jewish Stage And Film Music (1925-1955): New Budapest Orpheum Society; Jim Ginsburg, producer. Label: Cedille Records
Ask Your Mama: George Manahan, conductor; Judith Sherman, producer. Label: Avie Records
Handel: L’Allegro, Il Penseroso Ed Il Moderato, 1740: Paul McCreesh, conductor; Nicholas Parker, producer. Label: Signum Classics
Paulus: Three Places Of Enlightenment; Veil Of Tears & Grand Concerto: Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor; Tim Handley, producer. Label: Naxos
Woman At The New Piano: Nadia Shpachenko; Marina A. Ledin & Victor Ledin, producers. Label: Reference Recordings
BEST CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL COMPOSITION
Barry: The Importance Of Being Earnest: Gerald Barry, composer (Thomas Adès, Barbara Hannigan, Katalin Károlyi, Hilary Summers, Peter Tantsits & Birmingham Contemporary Music Group) Label: NMC Recordings
Norman: Play: Andrew Norman, composer (Gil Rose & Boston Modern Orchestra Project) Track from: Norman: Play. Label: BMOP/Sound
Paulus: Prayers & Remembrances: Stephen Paulus, composer (Eric Holtan, True Concord Voices & Orchestra). Track from: Paulus: Far In The Heavens. Label: Reference Recordings
Tower: Stroke: Joan Tower, composer (Giancarlo Guerrero, Cho-Liang Lin & Nashville Symphony). Track from: Tower: Violin Concerto; Stroke; Chamber Dance. Label: Naxos
Wolfe: Anthracite Fields: Julia Wolfe, composer (Julian Wachner, The Choir Of Trinity Wall Street & Bang On A Can All-Stars) Label: Cantaloupe Music. (Note: You can hear a haunting part of the work that won a Pulitzer Prize in the YouTube video below.)
By Jacob Stockinger
Perhaps it is because it is so popular, especially at holiday time when it has become an annual tradition almost everywhere.
Perhaps it is because it is basically a story about children and the holidays, especially Christmas.
But the truth is that, if you dig into it, “The Nutcracker” is far more complex than most people usually think.
Of course it was meant to be more about dance — classical ballet — than about the music.
Yet it is the beautiful music by one of history’s greatest melody writers that draws so many people to the work.
And according to one writer for The New York Times, of the many mysteries layered in “The Nutcracker,” the music remains one of the biggest mysteries. (In a YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear a 2012 performance by conductor Valery Gergiev at the Mariinsky Theatre in St, Petersburg, Russia.)
It is always especially relevant at this time of the year.
It features the choreography of Madison Ballet’s artistic director W. Earle Smith (below top) and the live music by the WCO under the baton of its longtime music director Andrew Sewell (below bottom).
Here are performance dates:
December 12 | 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday
December 13 | 2 p.m. Sunday
December 19 | 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday
December 20 | 2 p.m. Sunday
December 24 | 1 p.m. Thursday
December 26 | 2 p.m. Saturday
December 27 | 2 p.m. Sunday
Here are links with detail of the performances and the production, including tickets, which start at $14:
And here is a link to a story in The New York Times with some excellent background about various productions and their interpretations:
If you go see and hear “The Nutcracker,” enjoy — and solve or at least appreciate — some of the mysteries in this evergreen holiday work!
By Jacob Stockinger
Today is Cyber Monday, which follows on the heels of Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Small Business Saturday.
Just look at those names of Institutionalized Shopping Days. Are we a consumer society or what?
All the news stories that the Ear hears and sees seem to agree: Online buying is by far the fastest growing segment of the holiday retail market.
In that spirit, here are two links to various gifts guides.
First, BBC Music Magazine and the Telegraph newspaper:
And The New York Times:
But just as important are the local music makers and concert promoters. The Ear thinks that tickets to future concerts make a great gift – especially if you agree to accompany someone and provide companion or maybe even transportation is the person is older.
And you don’t have to buy today.
The important thing is to USE YOUR COMPUTER OR SMART PHONE to browse and shop, to assist you in shopping.
Some of the local groups are even offering major and minor holiday discounts. Or the past several years, the Madison Symphony Orchestra has offered has reduced price tickets. (This year, the MSO tickets sale of seats for $20 or $48 takes place Dec. 12-24.) This year, the Wisconsin Union Theater is waiving handing fees (but not discounting tickets) for the month of December and through Jan. 2. And other deals are likely, given the competitive nature of the performing arts in Madison.
And if you don’t buy them today or the sales come later, at least you can do the research right now and find out what you might want to buy later.
In some cases, as with the FREE Friday Noon Musicales at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, performers and programs are not listed much in advance. And the terrific new ensemble Willy Street Chamber Players won’t announce its new dates and programs until the spring.
The Ear thinks that combining a ticket to a live performance with a recording of the music or a book about music makes a superb holiday gift. And you will be supporting local businesses and local musicians.
So here are some links. But please forgive The Ear if the list is not exhaustive. There are so many classical music groups now in Madison and the surrounding area, it is hard to keep up.
If you want to ask something, please put the name and a link in the COMMENT section. The Ear will be grateful, and so will other readers.
The Ear hopes you find it useful.
A drumroll, please!
Madison Symphony Orchestra:
Madison Opera (a scene from “La Boheme” in a photo by James Gill):
Overture Center for the Arts:
Wisconsin Union Theater:
Oakwood Chamber Players:
Madison Bach Musicians:
Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble:
Middleton Community Orchestra:
Festival Choir of Madison:
Madison Choral of Madison:
Farley’s House of Pianos:
Fresco Opera Theatre:
Live From the Met in HD: