The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Here are seven big things The Ear liked about the latest concert by the Madison Choral Project and two small things he did not like. Go this afternoon and see if you agree.

May 31, 2015

By Jacob Stockinger

On Friday night, The Ear attended the latest concert by the estimable Madison Choral Project. He was very glad he did. It was terrific. You should go hear it.

MCP group 5-15

The concert was called “Music of Our Time” and was programmed and conducted by the legendary Grammy-nominated conductor Dale Warland (below top). Edgewood College professor Albert Pinsonneault (below bottom), who just got a new job at Northwestern University near Chicago and who founded and directs the Madison Choral Project, studied under Warland.

Dale Warland

Albert Pinsonneault 2

It was and will remain a memorable event, and I encourage music fans to attend a repeat performance this afternoon at 2:30 p.m. at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Ave. (Free parking is available two blocks west at the UW Foundation.)

Tickets are $20 general admission; $10 student admission; and $50 for preferred seating to support the outstanding organization.

For more information, visit

Here is The Ear’s review in the form of points he liked and didn’t like:


  1. The program was not too long, yet it featured a wide variety of repertoire, texts and composers.
  2. The chorus sang with seemingly exemplary diction in English, Latin and Russian.
  3. The many a cappella portions were broken up by adding other instruments. UW-Madison professor John Aley (below top) played the trumpet, especially in a haunting finale where he played from a distance. Eric Miller (below bottom) played the cello with energy, sensitivity and lyricism.

MCP John Aley

MCP Eric Miller

  1. UW-Madison piano professor Martha Fischer (below) played with mastery, never too loudly or too softly. She demonstrated the art of blending. Little wonder that she heads the collaborative piano faculty – that is what used to be called the art of “accompanying” – at the UW-Madison School of Music.

Martha Fischer color Katrin Talbot

  1. The chorus showed absolute precision with crisp attacks and unbroken releases. There was no sloppiness to discern. Warland’s hands were expressive “batons” to observe.
  2. The chorus displayed an exemplary mastery of balance. Too many choral performances sound monolithic, with all parts being emphasized pretty much equally when it comes to volume and dynamics. Instead, conductor Dale Warland brought out lines and gave each piece a foreground, mid-ground and background. That added a richness you often don’t get to hear.
  3. The acoustics and atmosphere of the church seem ideally suited as a concert venue for choral or vocal music. You have to love all the dark wood, the color scheme and especially the rows of organ pipes as a metaphor for the human voices and human “pipes.”

MCP church setting


  1. Too many of the songs had the same slow tempo. The Ear loves ballads, elegies and laments as much as — and maybe more than — the next person. But only one piece really jumped out as an upbeat contrast, and that was with very mixed success – as you can see below.
  2. The Ear doesn’t like choruses or conductors that think they have to entertain the audience and do something active besides stand there and sing well. I don’t like it, for example, when singers clap their hands and stomp their feet during spirituals in mock-folk, mock-slave style that comes awfully close to being something out of a minstrel show. Luckily, the singers did not spoil the fabulously beautiful and stirringly poignant version of “Deep River” with such shenanigans.

For that reason, I did not like the chorus waving their hands and turning their heads as if being buzzed by stinging bees in one third-rate song “Of Crows and Clusters” by Norman Dello Joio (below), who used a third-rate poem by Vachel Lindsay. (You can hear it in a YouTube video at bottom, where the University of Southern California singers forego the cliche theatrics.) Yet most of the audience seemed to like the novelty piece a lot, right along with the rest of the program that deserved the enthusiastic reception it got.

MCP audience

But The Ear found it too cute, completely unconvincing and totally unnecessary. The Ear doesn’t do cute -– at least not in music.

Norman Dello Joio

Classical music: This weekend boasts a wealth of 19th, 20th and 21st century chamber music and vocal concerts — all of them FREE.

February 28, 2013

By Jacob Stockinger

This weekend offers a lot of great music, with very varied programs. Plus, all of them are FREE.

But there just aren’t enough days in the week to write separate posting for each of them. So instead, here is a round-up:


From 12:15 to 1 p.m. the weekly FREE Friday Noon Musicale at the First Unitarian Society, 900 University Bay Drive, will feature pianists Vladislava Henderson and Ludmila Syabrenko in piano duets in an unspecified program. (Below is a YouTube video of them playing Schubert‘s beautiful Fantasy in F Minor.)

At 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, University of Wisconsin cellist Parry Karp (below), who also plays with the Pro Arte String Quartet, will perform a FREE recital on the Faculty Concert Series with two of his favorite pianist: long-time collaborator and UW-Madison graduate who now teaches at the UW-Oshkosh Eli Kalman; and his mother Frances Karp.

Parry Karp

The program features the Sonata in F Major (1913) by Giacomo Orefice with Kalman; British composer Rebecca Clarke’s Rhapsody (1923) with Frances Karp; and a cello transcription of Cesar Franck’s popular Violin Sonata with Kalman.

On the coming SUNDAY, the program — with a cello transcription of Ludwig van Beethoven‘s Horn Sonata substituted for Cesar Franck’s Violin Sonata — will also be repeated and broadcast live statewide on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen” from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in Gallery III (below) of the  UW-Madison’s Chazen Museum of Art.



At noon in Grace Episcopal Church, in downtown Madison on the Capitol Square, a FREE program by Grace Presents will offer a program on art songs that also features songs and the “Liebeslieder” Waltzes of Johannes Brahms for vocal quartet and two pianists. (The church’s exterior is below top; the beautiful and acoustically superior interior is below bottom.)

grace episcopal church ext

MBM Grace altar

The program, the order of which is yet to be determined, includes:

Mezzo-soprano Kathy Otterson (below) will sing Reynaldo Hahn’s “To Chloris” and Gabriel Faure‘s “Chanson d’Amour.”

Kathleen Otterson 2

Baritone John Bohman (below) will sing Franz Schubert‘s “Du bist die Ruh” and Robert Schumann’s “Intermezzo” from “Liederkreis” (Song Cycle).  

John Bohman

Soprano Rachel Eve Holmes (below) will sing Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Zingara” and Donoudy’s “O del mio amato ben.”

Rachel Eve Holmes big

Tenor Jesse Hoffmeister (below) will sing Norman Dello Joio‘s “There is a lady sweet and kind,” and Ned Rorem’s “The Lordly Hudson.”

Jesse Hoffmeister

The vocal quartet of Otterson (below top), Holmes, Hoffmeister and Bohman along with pianists Kirstin Ihde (below top) and Michael Roemer (below bottom) with perform all 18 of Brahm’s “Liebeslieder” Waltzes, Op. 52.

Kirsten Ihde

Michael Roemer naritone

All the singers and pianists have extensive educational and performing experience in the Madison area.

On Saturday at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, the Wingra Woodwind Quintet (below) will offer a FREE concert. The group will perform Quintet No. 2 in E flat Major by Peter Müller; “Le Tombeau de Couperin” by Maurice Ravel, joined by UW pianist Martha Fischer; Suite, Op. 57, by Charles Lefebvre; and Dixtuor, Op. 14 by Georges Enesco.

The Wingra will be joined by a student woodwind quintet including flutist Erin Murphy, English hornist Allison Maher, clarinetist Paul Yu, bassoonist Brian Ellingboe and hornist Sarah Gillespie.

Wingra Woodwind Quintet 2012


12:30-2 p.m.: “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen”: see above for Friday’s listing for cellist Parry Karp.

At 3:30 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall (with a post-concert reception in Strelow Lounge), there will be a FREE public recital by the winners of the 7th Annual Duo Competition for Woodwinds and Piano, sponsored by former UW-Madison Chancellor and chemistry professor Irving Shain (below) – an avid classical music fan (and a former devoted flutist) who also started the Beethoven Piano Sonata Competition some 30 years ago.

Irving Shain

Here are the winning and performers and programs: Elizabeth Lieffort, flute, and Sara Giusti, piano, performing Sonata for Flute and Piano, op. 14, by Robert Muczynski; Introduction and Variations on “Trockne Blumen,” Op. 160, D. 802 by Franz Schubert; and Danielle Breisach, flute, and Yana Groves, piano, playing the Sonata for Flute and Piano, op. 14 by Robert Muczynski (different movements); Sonatine for Flute and Piano by Henri Dutilleux; Sonata for Flute and Pianoforte by Erwin Schulhoff, movements I and IV. Honorable mention team of Sergio Acosta, bassoon, and Hazim Suhadi, piano.

Then at 7:30 p.m. Mills Hall, there is a FREE concert by the Contemporary Chamber Ensemble (below top) under UW composer Laura Schwendinger (below bottom).

The program of contemporary and new music, entitled “Heartstrings,” will feature works by Michelle McQuade Dewhirst, Ross Bauer, George Perle and Robert Dick.

Contemporary Chamber Ensemble

Performers include Dan Jacobs, Yosuke Komura, George Rochberg, Roxana Pavel, Erin Murphy, Sergio Acosta and Maxfield Wollam-Fisher.



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