The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Middleton Community Orchestra and solo trumpeter Jessica Jensen score big with an unusual program

March 2, 2019
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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

Here is a special posting, a review written by frequent guest critic and writer for this blog, John W. Barker. Barker (below) is an emeritus professor of Medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also is a well-known classical music critic who writes for Isthmus and the American Record Guide, and who hosts an early music show once a month on Sunday morning on WORT FM 89.9 FM. For years, he served on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison. He also took the performance photos.

By John W. Barker

The concert by the largely amateur Middleton Community Orchestra (below, in a photo by Margaret Barker) on Wednesday night presented a novel program at the Middleton Performing Arts Center.

In the relatively brief first part, it presented two unusual items.

The first was by Nebojsa “Neb” Macura (b. 1982, below right with conductor Steve Kurr), a local musician of Serbian background, who has been particularly identified with Russian folk music and ensembles. But he also plays viola in the MCO, which gave him this opportunity in the spotlight.

His piece, Polar Night, is quite brief, but in this version for full orchestra (with piano), it is grounded with secure melodic flow, and it unfolds into a tonal picture full of beautiful colors. My only reservation was that I wanted more of it — either more music in this piece or other sections around it.

Macura is obviously talented, and he has a confident sense of orchestral writing. I really look forward to hearing more of him. Indeed, the MCO might well serve as exactly the laboratory in which he can develop new creations.

The second item was only a bit longer, a Trumpet Concerto by Russian composer Aleksandra Pakhmutova (b. 1929, below). Her long career has involved her in jazz, and also in extensive scoring for films. But she has a feeling for Russian traditional song, and that could be heard in this concerto.

It is cast in only a single movement, but it proceeds episodically.  There is certainly much flashy writing for the solo instrument, and local trumpeter Jessica Jensen (below) brought off her role dashingly.

The longer second part of the concert was devoted to the Symphony No. 3, the “Rhenish,” by Robert Schumann. This splendid work was inspired by observation of life along the Rhine River.

It is unusual in being written in five movements, not the conventional four. (Oddly, their individual markings were not printed in the program, but conductor Steve Kurr (below) gave a clever spoken introduction that outlined the score for the audience.)

This is a very extroverted work, calling for a lot of orchestral sonority. I suspect that a little more rehearsal time would have helped the avoidance of some blemishes: rapid passages, especially in the first movement, were roughly articulated, and there were some tiny gaffes all along.

But the players were devoted in responding to maestro Kurr’s rather propulsive tempos. This score gives a lot to do particularly to the horn section, which played with ardent splendor.

As always, then, the MCO earned further laurels for presenting this very adventurous program.


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Classical music: New Yorker magazine music critic Alex Ross names his favorite performances, recordings and book of 2017

January 5, 2018
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By Jacob Stockinger

Many musicologists, musicians and music fans consider Alex Ross (below), of The New Yorker magazine, to be the best music critic in the U.S.

Besides the major awards his two books – “The Rest Is Noise” and “Listen to This” — have won, Ross has a reputation for emphasizing the new, the unknown and the neglected, and for deeply perceptive judgments and original observations.

Now, a lot of other critics, from The New York Times, National Public Radio (NPR) and Gramophone magazine as well as the Grammy nominations have named their Best of 2017.

Here is a link to a posting that contains other links to those different lists:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2017/12/27/classical-music-here-are-some-recommendations-for-post-christmas-shopping/

Yet it seems particularly important and enlightening to consider what Alex Ross has selected for his recommendations for one book, 10 performances and 20 recordings.

Here is a link to Ross’ list, which has many links to samples and reviews:

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/2017-in-review/notable-performances-and-recordings-of-2017


Classical music: The Madison Youth Choirs’ Winter Concerts this Sunday will explore links between science and music. Plus, the UW Wind Ensemble performs a FREE concert Thursday night.

December 10, 2015
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ALERT: Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Wind Ensemble will perform a FREE concert. The program features “Concerto X” by Scott McAllister with clarinet soloist Wesley Warnhoff, adjunct professor of clarinet. It is a work based on grunge music that was born in the heavy metal music of the late 80s and early 90s, including a melody from Nirvana’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” Also on the program is “In Wartime” by David Del Tredici, which was inspired by the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001; and the Second Suite in F Major for Military Band by Gustav Holst.

By Jacob Stockinger

A friend at Madison Youth Choirs writes:

On this Sunday, Dec. 13, the young singers of Madison Youth Choirs (MYC, seen below at the Winter Concert last year) will present the 2015 Winter Concert Series, “Inquiry: Science, Music, Imagination” at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Madison, 1609 University Avenue, near Camp Randall.

Madison Youth Choirs Winter Concert 2014

Over 14 weeks of rehearsals in preparation for the concerts, the 330 young vocalists (ages 7-18) in MYC’s nine performing choirs have been learning to use the tools of observation, experimentation, and analysis to reach a deeper understanding of their choral repertoire.

Students have also begun to recognize the role that resilience plays in both scientific and musical fields, learning how to work through moments of frustration and uncertainty to reach new discoveries.

The choirs will perform a varied program, including works by Benjamin Britten, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Vincent Persichetti; a Peruvian lament, a Spanish villancico, and a newly-created arrangement of the oldest-known surviving English song.

Tickets for each of the three concerts (high school ensembles at 1:30 p.m., boychoirs at 4 p.m., girlchoirs at 7 p.m.) will be $10 for general admission, $5 for students age 7-18 and free for children under 7.

Audience members will need a separate ticket for each concert.

Here is the schedule:

1:30 p.m. High School Ensembles featuring a guest appearance by the MYC-Capitol Lakes Intergenerational Choir

4 p.m. Boychoirs

7 p.m. Girlchoirs

Tickets available at the door, $10 for general admission, $5 for students 7-18, and free for children under 7

This concert is generously endowed by the Diane Ballweg Performance Fund with additional support from the American Girl’s Fund for Children, BMO Harris Bank, the Madison Community Foundation, and the Wisconsin Arts Board. 

Here is a repertoire list for the programs:

1:30 p.m. Concert (Featuring High School Ensembles)

Cantilena

Bel Tempo Che Vola ……………….Jean Baptiste Lully

Weep No More………………………..David Childs

Songbird…………………………………Sarah Quartel

Sound the Trumpet………………….Henry Purcell

When I Set Out for Lyonesse……Keith Bissell

Ragazzi (below in a photo by Karen Holland)

Regina Coeli (sung in Italian)……Gregorian chant, ca. 10th century

Regina Coeli (sung in Italian)……Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina

Song of Peace……………………………Vincent Persichetti

Dulaman (sung in Gaelic) …………Michael McGlynn

Madison Youth Choirs Ragazzi cr Karen Holland

Cantabile

Utopia………………………………………………………..Moira Smiley

Lacrimoso son io (K. 555, sung in Italian)…….Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

The Gods Have Heard My Vows…………………….Thomas Weelkes

Palomita……………………………………………………..Traditional Peruvian lament

Hoj, hura, hoj!………………………………………………………..Omar Macha

Madison Youth Choirs Cantabile

Cantabile and Ragazzi

Apple-Tree Wassail………………………Stephen Hatfield

MYC/Capitol Lakes Intergenerational Choir and Combined Choirs

Forever Young……………………………..Bob Dylan

4 p.m. Concert (Featuring Boychoirs)

Combined boychoirs, Purcell, Britten, Holst, Ragazzi

Intonent Hodie…………………………………..Anonymous (probably 12th century)

Sainte Nicholaes (sung in Latin)…………..Godric of Finchale

Purcell

Singt den Herrn (sung in German)…Michael Praetorius

Who Can Sail……………………………..Norwegian Folk Song, Arr. Jeanne Julseth-Heinrich

Rolling Down to Rio……………………Edward German

Britten (below with Purcell Choir in a photo by Karen Holland)

Rattlesnake Skipping Song……Derek Holman

Tit-for-Tat…………………………….Benjamin Britten

Jerusalem……………………………..Sir Hubert Parry, poem by William Blake

Madison Youth Purcell and Britten Choirs cr Karen Holland

Holst (below with Pucell and Britten choirs in a photo by Karen Holland)

Riu Riu Chiu (sung in Spanish)….Anonymous, from Villancicos de diversos Autores

Anima Mea (sung in Latin)……….Michael Praetorius

The Sound of Silence…………………Paul Simon

Ragazzi

Regina Coeli (sung in Italian)………Gregorian chant, ca. 10th century

Regina Coeli (sung in Italian)………Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina

Song of Peace……………………………..Vincent Persichetti

Dulaman (sung in Gaelic) ……………Michael McGlynn

Combined boychoirs, Purcell, Britten, Holst, Ragazzi

Hava Nashira (sung in Hebrew)……….Traditional Hebrew canon

Madison Youth Choirs boychoirs Purcell, Britten and Holst CR Karen Holland

7 p.m. Concert (Featuring Girlchoirs)

Choraliers

Hava Nashira (sung in Hebrew)……….Traditional Hebrew canon

You’ll Never Guess What I Saw………….Ruth Watson Henderson

Suo Gan…………………………………..Welsh Lullaby, Arr. by Alec Rowley

Tailor of Gloucester…………………..English Folk Song, Arr. by Cyndee Giebler

Con Gioia (below in a photo by Karen Holland)

Donkey Carol………………………….John Rutter

Mid-Winter…………………………….Bob Chilcott

Fancie……………………………………Benjamin Britten

Madison Youth Choirs Con Gioia Karen Holland

Capriccio (below in a photo by Mike Ross)

Sound the Trumpet………………………………Henry Purcell

An die Musik (D. 547, sung in German, heard at bottom in a YouTube video with soprano Elizabeth Schwarzkopf and pianist Gerald Moore)…..Franz Schubert

Palomita (sung in Spanish)……Traditional Peruvian lament, Arr. by Randal Swiggum

Niska Banja………………………….Serbian Gypsy Dance, Arr. by Nick Page

Madison Youth Choir Capriccio CR Mike Ross

About the Madison Youth Choirs (MYC): Recognized as an innovator in youth choral music education, Madison Youth Choirs (MYC) welcomes singers of all ability levels, annually serving more than 1,000 young people, ages 7-18, through a wide variety of choral programs in our community. Cultivating a comprehensive music education philosophy that inspires self-confidence, personal responsibility and a spirit of inquiry leading students to become “expert noticers,” MYC creates accessible, meaningful opportunities for youth to thrive in the arts and beyond.


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