The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Ear does some more catching up. This time he takes in the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO). Plus, here is more news from Day 4 of WYSO’s tour in Argentina.

July 28, 2014
6 Comments

Here is the daily alert for the tour though Aug. 3 by Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) in Argentina. Here is a link to the latest news from Day 4: www.wysotour2014.blogspot.com

WYSO Youth  Orchestra

By Jacob Stockinger

As I said yesterday, The Ear is finally getting a chance to catch up on some old business, now that live concerts have quieted down a bit for a while.

Here is an overdue review.

MADISON AREA YOUTH CHAMBER ORCHESTRA (MAYCO) EXCELS IN OLD MUSIC AND NEW MUSIC

On Friday, July 11, the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO) performed “Triumph and Delight,” the first of its two concerts this summer. This one was at the handsome new Atrium auditorium, with its bright acoustics, of the First Unitarian Society of Madison 900 University Bay Drive.

Founder and conductor Mikko Utevsky (below), who is currently a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, led the group through an intriguing program that include the Piano Concerto No. 11 in D Major, by Franz Joseph Haydn; the “Reformation” Symphony by Felix Mendelssohn; and the world premiere of a “Experiment No. 1” by his fellow student, composer Olivia Zeuske.

Mikko Utevsky with baton

The soloist in the Haydn Piano Concerto was UW-Madison graduate Thomas Kasdorf (below). The Ear recently heard him in the Romantic and evergreen Piano Concerto In A Minor by Edvard Grieg, played with the Middleton Community Orchestra. And the performance was impressive, so expectations were high.

And those expectations were both met and surpassed in the Haydn.

thomas kasdorf 2:jpg

This was not, thank goodness, period Haydn. From what The Ear heard, Kasdorf made no attempt to scale back his part and treat the piano like some Classical-era fortepiano. Instead this was robust and rich Haydn, an interpretation that made Papa Haydn sound more alive than dead. The humor and tunefulness plus the effective, if sparing, use of dissonance, all came through convincingly and in a contemporary way.

Add in the orchestra’s careful attention to part-playing and to dialogue with the piano, and you had a performance that The Ear loved.

Thomas Kasdorf at FUS MAYCO Haydn

The work by Olivia Zeuske (below) proved highly atmospheric –- not exactly 12-tone or atonal, but not exactly not, either. For the most part, The Ear found it appealing, engaging and attractive.

But for The Ear, who admits to being a “tunes” guy, it could have used some kind of melody or motif that was recognizable and repeated. In addition the piece could use more distinctiveness among the three sections, so the structure guides your listening.

True, the very end did seem to build to some kind of climax, and you knew something was about to happen. But a lot of the rest of the piece seemed to have a tad too much lateral drift. A good statement or speech is not made by a series of “um”’s and “you know”’s and similar filler. And it takes more than sound to make music.

Still, The Ear thinks that she has a future and looks forward to hearing more from Olivia Zeuske.

olivia zeuske 2014

The famous and familiar “Reformation” Symphony by Felix Mendelssohn was not weak except by comparison to the other performances. Some of it seemed a bit muddled, and The Ear wondered if it couldn’t have used more rehearsal time, which more likely went to working with the soloist and the world premiere. Still, the music carries itself in a great way.

Plus, it was set off and spotlighted by a stroke of genius and inspiration in programming. Utevsky opened the entire program with the chorale prelude-type arrangement by Johann Sebastian Bach for orchestra of the hymn by Martin Luther “Ein Feste Burg” (A Mighty Fortress is Our God”). (At bottom, you can hear an arrangement by Leopold Stokowski that sounds a bit Wagnerian and even “Parsifal”-like at the end because of the horns.)

That is the same Lutheran hymn that Mendelssohn, a Jew who converted to Christianity but was nonetheless banned from being performed under the Nazis and Adolf Hitler, used in the finale to his irresistible symphony.

Kudos, then, to this fine group of young up-and-coming musicians, who were warmly applauded by a good size audience of more than friends and family members.

Mikko Utevsky and MAYCO at FUS

MAYCO audience at FUS July 2014

It makes one look forward to MAYCO’s next concert at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 22. That’s when soprano Caitlin Ruby Miller (below) will join then in Samuel Barber’s “Knoxville, Summer 1915” with words by James Agee and music by Samuel Barber; the Symphony No. 9 in E-Flat Major, Op. 90, by Dmitri Shostakovich; and the Overture to “The Magic Flute” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

caitlin ruby miller

The advertised venue is Music Hall, though the Atrium auditorium and other venues are still being considered, so stay tuned. Tickets are an affordable $7 with students being asked to donate what they can.

The Ear says: Don’t miss it.

 

 


Classical music: On Labor Day, let us celebrate the hard work and cooperation it takes to make and deliver art by listening to the finale of Haydn’s “Farewell” Symphony and by thinking of all the different kinds of people and occupations that bring us music. What music do you think best marks Labor Day? Plus, the Karp Family perform its 36th FREE annual Labor Day Concert tonight at 7:30 at the UW.

September 2, 2013
13 Comments

REMINDER: Don’t forget that tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus is the 36th annual FREE Karp Family Labor Day concert. Usually the best attended concert of the UW School of Music season, the MUST-HEAR event will this year feature three generations of Karps performing music by George Frideric Handel, Ludwig van Beethoven, John Harbison and Felix Mendelssohn with reading of texts by Shakespeare. For more information, including program notes by Howard Karp,  and details here is a link to a story I posted on Friday:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/08/30/classical-music-the-new-fall-season-begins-on-monday-night-with-the-36th-annual-free-labor-day-concert-by-the-karp-family-it-features-three-generations-performing-music-of-handel-beethoven-john-ha/

karps 2008 - 13

By Jacob Stockinger

It’s Labor Day again.

As fans of this blog know from past years, I like to use the occasion to celebrate the hard work that goes into making art – all art, but specifically classical music. The work may seem easy or invisible, but it isn’t.

That means I am talking about not only the composers and the performers – but also the countless people behind the scenes. That means the teachers, the editors and publishers, the stage directors and managers, the lighting people, the sound engineers, the publicists, the administrators, and in opera, the people who design and create sets and costumes, the carpenters and electricians, and so many more.

It means everyone who can claim some credit for music and indeed all the performing arts.

Each year, I also like to ask what piece of music best celebrates Labor Day? You can check past years to see previous choices that have included Aaron Copland (below top) and his “Fanfare for the Common Man”; Frederic Rzewski (below middle) and his mammoth set of piano variations on “The People United Can Never Be Defeated” played by Marc-Andre Hamelin; and Giuseppe Verdi (below bottom), whose “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves” seems more and more appropriate, given the widening wealth gap and low wages in this country.

aaron copland

Frederic Rzewski mug

Verdi 2

But this year I thought I would take the wise advice of an old friend and a loyal reader and features the final movement of the Symphony No. 45 in F-sharp minor, the “Farewell” Symphony by Franz Josef Haydn.

The story, as you may recall, goes that Prince Esterhazy, Haydn’s employer and patron, had kept his palace orchestra in residence for longer than usual and that the musicians wanted to head back to their families in Vienna and elsewhere. (Below is the Esterhazy estate, which you can still visit and where you can still hear concerts.)

WYSO Tour Esterhazy Palace FRASER

So the celebrated Papa Haydn (below) came to the rescue and took up their cause by incorporating it aurally and visually into the “Farewell” Symphony, which has since become of his most beloved and perhaps the mostly frequently performed on his more than 100 symphonies.

During the final movement (in a YouTube video at the bottom), the various instrumentalists get up and leave as the music proceeds until, at the end, there is only one or two violinists are left. They then rise and sometimes leave, allowing their silence to speak loudly.

Haydn

The prince got the message and let the musicians return home.

Talk about solidarity! The famous composer and the nameless musicians helped each other. Too bad our current Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and so many other radically conservative Republicans who want to see a race to the bottom a la Mississippi can’t understand the importance and merits of cooperation and of working together instead of against each other.

Anyway, here is the finale movement, offered here in the recognition and memory of so much hard work in music and the performing arts and in the hope of future cooperation and union solidarity against the selfish big money interests that now increasingly run our government and dictate our lives:


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